PHILIP SAYCE THE WOLVES ARE COMING Released – 23rd Feb2024
Atomic Gemini/Forty Below Records
Rock and blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter Philip Sayce is excited to announce the release of his highly anticipated studio album The Wolves Are Coming.
Born in Wales and raised in Toronto, Philip’s love of the guitar started early. As a teen, Philip was plucked from the Toronto blues scene by the legendary Jeff Healey, who took the young guitarist under his wing and showed him the ropes, touring the world and recording as a member of Healey’s band. From 2004 to 2009, Philip toured internationally and recorded with Melissa Etheridge.
Backstory, my favourite song on Begins Here is Overwhelmed and I had NEVER seen it live. Back in the early 2000s, whenever I bumped into a band member, which happened quite often, I would consistently ask for them to perform it live. The guys could frequently be found at Brisbane bars that showed support for the local music scene. Considering how often I attended their shows in Brisbane, Gold Coast, and the Sunshine Coast, one can only imagine how many encounters I had with them. The response was always along the lines of ‘not tonight’, but always delivered in the most polite way, no matter which band member I interacted with, even though I was sure they were getting sick of this girl asking to play Overwhelmed. Can you imagine my excitement when the Begins Here tour was announced, with the album to be played in full. This was it, 20 years of waiting and I would finally get to see the song which resonated with me then and still to this day. Stick around to find out how the night unfolded.
London-based guitarist / vocalist Jack J Hutchinson has continued to develop his hard-hitting blues-laden hard rock style over the past 5 years, and has followed up the epic The Hammer Falls record from 2021 with an altogether classier collection – just as heavy, and with riffs to burn, but seemingly a little more polished around the rougher edges.
Australian hard rockers, Palace Of The King, have marked the end of a triumphant decade filled with multiple European tours as headliners and guests with the mighty Airbourne, three visits to the USA, and relentless touring across Australia as headliners and alongside iconic acts such as Rose Tattoo, The Angels, The Screaming Jets, Baby Animals, The Tea Party, Endless Boogie, Kingswood, The Quireboys, and many more.
BERNIE MARSDEN –WORKING MAN Released – 24th Nov 2023 Conquest Records
There has been a huge outpouring of loving tributes to Bernie Marsden since he passed away peacefully, surrounded by his family on 24th August 2023 at the age of 72. I was lucky enough to see Bernie as part of the classic Whitesnake line up in the late 1970s and early 80s, and also got to meet him a couple of times at shows, and he was the most un-pretentious person you could hope to meet.
Jackson Dean / Tori Forsyth – FACTORY THEATRE Sydney – Oct 18th 2023
Jackson Dean is just 23 years old, hailing from Maryland in the US, and now based, like all the rest, in Nashville, having released his debut album, Greenbroke, in March 2022. He has been brought over to Australia for the Groundwater Festival on the Gold Coast, and has managed to fit in a couple of side shows in Sydney, and next week in Melbourne (CORNER HOTEL, Oct 25th).
Opening act for both the sideshows is Tori Forsyth, a singer from country NSW who debuted in 2017with the evocative single New Wall and the acclaimed EP Black Bird. Forsyth’s highly anticipated 2018 debut album Dawn of the Dark was hailed as one of the strongest country records of the year in Australia, its powerful song writing underpinning Tori’s gritty and expressive vocals. It planted Tori at the forefront of country in Australia, earning three Golden Guitar nominations and landing Tori on stages across the country and beyond. Not one to follow a predictable path, Tori’s second album Provlépseis (2021) was a stunning swerve away from traditional country – a bold and bruising rock record that pushed her out of her comfort zone and became a favourite with fans.
The set on Wednesday was a mix of both, some straight-up country, and some darker, heavier rock songs, delivered with intensity, backed by a really tight band.
We got some old and new songs, including the new single, Sometimes, and all in all were left with a sense that with the right support and exposure, Tori could really make a name for herself.
Jackson Dean will be on the bill at CMC Rocks 2024, and has been picking up exposure over in Australia in the past 12 months, so this was a must-see show, and Sydney turned out in force at the Factory Theatre to welcome him Down Under. A generally more switched on crowd, without the usual cries for a Shoey, and highly receptive to the top quality songs and delivery from Jackson and the band.
Jackson plays and interesting pair of Takamine guitars with custom carved finishes which I’d love to get the story of, and has a superb, solid tight backing band who built up a real head of steam as the show developed. It was all quite low key to start with, and little fuss about this being his first show in Australia, and he played a bunch of songs from Greenbroke, and treated the crowd to some really well chosen covers and a smattering of new songs from his upcoming follow-up album, due for release sometime in mid 2024, which were terrific.
Opening and closing the set with well-known songs Trailer Park and Red Light, Dean took charge of the stage with the power of his vocals. In-between these two we got Big Blue Sky, Don’t Take Much and Keep the Wolves away (Uncle Lucius cover). Then it was Train, and a couple of new songs in Heavens To Betsy, featuring the first of a handful of searing lead solos from guitarist Brandon Aksteter, and the hard-driving Blackout which was a real trip to the dark side…… a crunching riff in the chorus, with a stripped back verse. Jackson’s voice has really warmed up as the set goes on, and he takes the time mid song to thank the crowd for turning up! This has a bit of Gods Country about it with an awesome epic feel to it. In between these new ones we got What’s Up? From 4 Non-Blondes, with some crowd participation teed up at the start, and overall an interesting choice of cover song. Jackson gives it a Chris Stapleton workout and lets the crowd take the chorus, which they do in style.
49 Tons. (Fred Eaglesmith cover) is driven along by the bassline and drums, topped off with a gritty and powerful vocal line and a ripper solo, from the guitar hero who delivers with a hint of fiddle, and some rumbling Toms giving us the sound of the locomotive on the tracks. Fearless is up next, and is yet another example of this rich vocal tone delivering a more powerful sound than on the recordings. After the pulsating Blackout, Jackson did yet another cover, this time Ryan Bingham’s Hallelujah, which showcases more of this powerful voice accompanied by acoustic guitar in the verse, and then soaring over a heavy country rock beat for the chorus . A nice breakdown section letting lead guitarist show off a little, which turns into a lot!
The last two songs of the main set were 1971, the first song the band ever wrote together, and is a rollicking track driven by drums and with more of the fiddle effect on the guitar, before the drum intro to Don’t Come Lookin’ and the guitars kicking in. 100 mobile phones in the air and a few hundred voices singing the chorus back to him to close the set.
An encore was inevitable, and before the rousing Red Light we got the epic ballad of Wings – which again just highlights this young man’s extraordinary voice.
This was a bit of a slow-burner of a set, but Jackson was able to demonstrate what a powerful vocalist he is, and a couple of the unreleased tracks from the next album bode well for the development of his songwriting, and the growing maturity of the performance – assuming his voice holds out! This is a really appealing mix of quality country and southern rock that works so well when done well, and Jackson and the band really delivered on this. This may end up being one of those shows that down the track many hundreds of people claim they were at, as his first show in Australia – those of us who were actually there know the truth!
Morgan Evans Life Upside Down Tour Palais Theatre St Kilda Thursday, September 14th, 2023
Morgan Evans is on the last leg of fourteen sold-out shows across Australia, including two at the Sydney Opera House and a record-breaking crowd at Queensland Gympie Muster. For those of us lucky enough to follow the career of this Newcastle-born, now Nashville resident, they would have witnessed the best part of fifteen years of hard work and commitment. As a Newcastle local, did I feel proud to be there and watch this? Dam right I am.
From the onset, one night at Gympie was not enough. We arrived early Thursday afternoon to find the forest bulging. Campers were forced into overflow areas due to record ticket sales. For the first time in history, the four-day passes were sold out before the event started, and the number of attendees was estimated to be over 45,000, which is incredible given the oversaturation of festivals in 2023. Gympie has always been on the musical fans’ bucket list with a line-up dominated by country. The vibe from the onset was one of relaxation and fun. The transition into the camping area was done with ease; a massive shout out to the volunteers who were pinnacle in making this happen.
LUKE COMBS / CODY JOHNSON / LANE PITTMAN Spark Arena, Auckland 9th August 2023
A full house at Auckland’s Spark Arena on a chilly Wednesday night saw a big slice of New Zealand’s country crew fly and drive in to catch the opening night of the AU/NZ leg of the massive Luke Combs World Tour.
Brad Cox Live at the Dalrymple Hotel Townsville Queensland – 2 July 2023
I had an opportunistic chance to see Brad Cox’s show in Townsville on Sunday night. The venue, the Dalrymple Hotel, a pub in the centre of Townsville on a steamy night, was packed, yet another sellout on this national tour. Nearly 600 “Coxheads” packed the venue tonight to see what has quickly become the hottest act in Australian country music.
LUKE MORLEY – SONGS FROM THE BLUE ROOM Released – 23rd June 2023 Conquest Music
Luke Morley has stood at the very heart of UK rockers Thunder since 1989 as their guitarist, chief songwriter and producer.
He’s been a lynchpin in their 14 albums’ success and served a crucial role in building up these rock heroes’ loyal fanbase and enduring popularity, helping Thunder enjoy 7 UK Top 10 albums and 18 Top 40 singles: impressive metrics, but there’s more to Luke than most know or expect, and his new solo album Songs From the Blue Room brings other less well-known aspects of his talents into the limelight.
Mike Ross, whose album we recently reviewed, doing a low key solo show as part of the Jimmy C Blues Sessions at the Princess Alexandra in Crouch End – just him, a left-hooker with a bunch of guitars, one 12 string acoustic and two steel resonators, and showing his versatility with the rawness of the performance.