Toby Parker Self Titled EP

Toby Parker is a roots musician from the frustratingly tranquil rural idyll of Herefordshire.  He now lives and gigs in Liverpool where you can spot him perched upon a suitcase he thumps away at with a switch-reversed bass drum pedal whilst tapping a foot tambourine, twanging his guitar, blowing harmonica, and singing over the top.  He really is rather dextrous.  I bet he never had a problem patting his head and rubbing his tummy at the same time or whichever way round that old challenge goes.

            He still visits Hereford with regular gigs, but when he’s not where you are it is possible to pretend he is by purchasing his new EP. Code-named The Many Moods of Toby Parker, it shows his love of Americana, which was furthered through a pilgrimage from Nashville to San Francisco.  The true sound of the road…

 

Toby Parker’s recently released five track EP presents a pleasingly vital and authentic spread of self-penned songs rooted in the American folk tradition.  Influences abound from Robert Johnson’s delta stomp to the Dylanesque balladeering of the lyrical and timeless Flying for the Sun.  His literary interests are in evidence as much as the hours of practice fingerpicking steel strings. 

            Toby has a rich and characterful vocal style that suggests experience as well as expertise.  There is something post-modern in the appropriation of non-indigenous styles and structures in the hands of someone so quintessentially English, but their usages are derived through passion for the genre and provide a nostalgic and escapist counterpoint to the majority of contemporary music, while continuing to explore enduring themes.  His proficiency is undeniable as is his dedication to performance.  The years of playing live in bands and as a busker have done wonders for his dexterity and almost throwaway technicality.  Toby has one of those gifts for music that makes it look easy while more scrutiny reveals a complexity in both form and delivery that is impressive and admirable. 

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(Illustration by Johnny Burrage)

Rapping and the TAZ: Lord Crunkington III twitter interview

TWITTER INTERVIEW: lord crunkington III ‏@postcrunk

Gravity: Twitterview commence.

Q1. How long have you been spitting and where did you pick up the habit?

Lord Crunkington III: since i was 7, i guess. my grandfather and great uncle were writers. words are in my blood.

Gravity: Q.2: could you explain your album title?

Lord Crunkington III: technology, imperialism, and conspicuous consumption.

  Gravity: Q.3&4 how do anarchy and non-violence cohabit effectively towards change? what’s your favourite drink?

Lord Crunkington III: violence is a tool of the state. we should be in autonomous communities formed by mutual goals, not economic circumstance.

Lord Crunkington III: and orange peach mango juice. i call it “OPM”

Gravity: that sounds great.

Gravity:  Q5. Is twitter the temporary autonomous zone? and is it true what they said about Hakim Bey or was he a victim of slander?

Lord Crunkington III: twitter is a global temporary autonomous zone. i wasn’t aware there was a scandal associated with him.

Gravity: don’t know if its known enough to be a scandal but he’s been allegedly associated with a campaign to banish the age of consent…

Lord Crunkington III: oh, weird. i think good ideas remain important despite possible personal failings

Gravity: yes I think I agree. an idea is somewhat separate to the personal life of an individual, which is their own responsibility.

Gravity: Q6&7: on an aside, what’s the difference between rap and poetry? who’s your favourite poet and who’s your favourite rapper?

Lord Crunkington III: lyrics and poetry are essentially the same. just different intentions. poet: allen ginsberg. and lil b defined internet rap.

Gravity: and finally, what do you program your beats on and cut your samples? and do you know LA’s Thuggee Cult

Lord Crunkington III: i’ve been using fruity loops since i was 13, haha. and no.

 

 

Her Wikipedia Tears Are Blood Diamonds is available for your ears at Bandcamp: http://postcrunk.bandcamp.com/

Live: Blackberry Wood – The Barrels – 21st June

Blackberry Wood are two guys and two girls from Canada who together form a tornado.  They turned up at the Barrels with an eclectic spread of instruments, from glockenspiel to ukulele.  Difficult to categorise, but theirs is a playful and lively melding of pantomime mariachi, cabaret infused jazz, and gypsy inflected time altering stop-start spins on country, blues and other popular standards from the last century.   Their irresistible arrangements of Johnny Cash classics put a unique stamp on a familiar sound, and could be the soundtrack to a piece of Dadaist Western cinema where moustached cowboys fight Russian bears with musical instruments.

The band were dressed in black and white striped theme and they had the vibe of a group who knew each other well.  The gig was cracking – a foot-tapping, hip-shaking, skankathon.  The inter-song banter from frontman Kris Wood was infective and charming: the band’s energy and ramshackle finesse stirred up a wee storm.  Kris Wood played amplified nylon strung guitar with aplomb.  There was a battle of the horns where the saxophonist Jen Charters and trumpeter Shelder battled in vaudeville skronking abandon.  Shelder’s theatrical villainy could have been influenced by witnessing Mexican wrestling whilst on musical sabbatical south of two borders.  Ryan Trigg meanwhile played with creativity on a minimal kit and held the rhythm together through a vigorous accelerando or two.  The overall effect was charged, brilliant, and performed with panache and a vibrant and edgy bravado.  Needless to say, a rollicking good night was in universal evidence.  An expertly executed performance that made rocking out in an unconventional and apparently casual fashion look as easy as it did compelling.

Strong Man vs Russian Bears is available from http://www.blackberrywood.ca

album review: LOW – the invisible way

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It has been nearly half my life now that Low have been a gentle but glittering star on my radar.  I heard them first on a Peel Session which I recorded on minidisc and fell asleep to almost nightly.  I loved the anecdotal punk rebellion of playing slowly and quietly during the grunge era.  I loved the sensitivity and poetry of the music, the integration of the lyrics but their paradoxical standing out.  This album review is starting as a love letter, but perhaps that is apt for such a charming band.
    Any Low album is great as far as this reviewer is concerned, and The Invisible Way is a great Low record.  From the onset there is a spectrum of emotion contained in the controlled outpourings of the band.  
    The opening track, Plastic Cup is poignant, more so for its throwaway ending.  “Well maybe you should write your own damn song and move on” sets the story about a youthful party person being outlived by the titled drug test cup that future generations speculate “this must be the cup the king held every night, as he cried”.
    Jeff Tweedy from Wilco produced this album, and described by Alan Sparhawk as “a formidable and eclectic producer”.  The instrumentation on the album is traditional – guitars, bass, drums, keys, vocals – but the delivery and arrangements far from obvious.  This is not wilful experimentation, but a band who remain vital and fresh despite having been going for longer than most bands you can think of.
    Mimi takes the lead on tracks 3 and 4, most powerfully on the latter, Holy Ghost, but the real magic is when they harmonise; the pair blend their voices like a perfect bartender’s cocktail, for want of an adequate analogy for the rich, profound, and resonant beauty of what happens when these two sing together.  It is this capability that makes them so special, as much as the feted ‘slowcore’ approach, an understandable but simplistic term which the band themselves have been uncomfortable being labelled with.
    The album as a whole is breath-taking; heart-breaking and warming in equal measure.  Teleportation exists, and Low are evidence of this.  The music takes you away into the outer reaches.  It is spiritual music, but grounded in reality.  Low show how music can transcend whims and trends through their timeless songcraft.  Their music is beautiful and I believe it will last forever.

G R A V I T Y

Gravity Serpent has been going as a blog for some time.  We were once a fanzine, and shortly, the spinoff sister magazine GRAVITY will be hitting the shelves.  Which shelves those will be are yet to be discovered, but it will exist and that is the important thing.  Contributions have been flying in and the whole thing is being tied up as we speak.  Keep your ears to the ground and your eyes peeled.  The whole thing will be up online at somepoint too.

“A troubadour? Well it’s slightly more flattering than a busker…”

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Gravity Serpent turned up to see rakish troubadour Toby Parker perform at Ledbury’s lovely Shell House Gallery.  The event was a festive affair with mince pies, mulled wine by the ladle and music and art in plentiful enough supply to satisfy the hungriest eyes and ears.  Toby rattled through a strong set of songs from his new self-titled EP with a confident command of his instrument and echoes of Robert Johnson and his beloved Bob Dylan.  Gallery owner David Savager was called up on a couple of occasions for cowbell duty, but most of the time Toby played any percussion one man band style with a foot tambourine or good old fashioned stomping.  The finale was a rendition of Fairytale of New York with one of the other singers from the night, who had previously poached the song for his own set.  We are glad they were coaxed by the crowd into playing it again.

After the gig he was good enough to talk to us about busking and the blues…

Gravity Serpent:  Hi Toby.

Toby Parker:  Hello.

GS:  Thank you for the gig, very much enjoyed it. Good to hear the new songs

TP:  Thank you

GS:  What’s your favourite key?

TP:  Probably G. I think it’s a lot of people’s.

GS:  Notice you play a lot of what people call the blues. Could you tell us what the blues is?

TP:  I think the blues really explores emotions. The songs are about the grey areas people have, jealousy, anger and sadness. It explores the bits imbetween.

GS:  Do you think there’s a sort of strength in it?  From the bottom of the well so to speak.,,

TP:  Yes I do, and it certainly has a lot of bearing on other music.  It’s the root of popular music in its modern form.

GS:  What’s your favourite blues musician at the moment?

TP:  I’ve been listening to a lot of Eric Clapton recently –  Derek and the Dominoes, Layla and other assorted love songs.  I’ve been caning that.

GS:  Would you describe yourself as a troubadour?

TP:  A troubadour?  Well it’s slightly more flattering than a busker.  In the sense of being a musician and a troubadour, you have to be flexible, and as such if somebody asks you to do a gig in Scotland in two days you can do that and that whole tradition does flow into what a modern solo musician does.  I’ve been in bands before, everything’s by committee.  You have to discuss it with everyone, whether something is a good idea, whether you think they’ll paint us in a good light, everything else.

GS:  Do you miss being in bands or do you prefer being solo?

TP: I did feel a great sense of freedom when I decided to seriously go solo.  I did reservedly perform about a year ago but I thought, I’m going to do this, because it’s what I wanted to do.  I did have this ambition to be a band leader, but I didn’t feel I was technically where I wanted to be.  Now if I’m in a band I could still have that option of doing the solo thing.

GS:  Would you recommend being a busker as an apprenticeship for a solo recording and gigging artist?

TP:  Yeah I really do.  I really, really do.  But you have to be careful, because busking is seen to be a money-spinner by a lot of people, and I suppose it is, but I don’t see it that way.  I see it as a means to an end.  A lot of people identify what makes the most money, which is I suppose more muzaky stuff.  I talk to ‘real’ musicians who say I made about 200 quid that day but I was really whacking out the cheese, tears in heaven on accordion or something.  But I think it’s a really good apprenticeship.  I did acoustic busking for a long time, which teaches you to project your voice and to play with a good energy.  It makes you a lot tighter.  I personally have taken quite an all or nothing approach, pursued it almost bloody mindedly and busked for less than minimum wage.  I wouldn’t ask everyone to do that but you do get the practice in.  People say you have to have another trade, be a teacher or something, it’s scary to some people but you can just go out on the street and play, make a living.

GS:  What do you hope next year will bring for you as a musician?

TP:  I want to get into a band situation again, and I want to travel round more.  I’ve been very local.  Going to towns is great fun but it’s unsustainable.  I went to London in October and I got my travel paid but you can blink and be swindled in London.  You’re always out of pocket.  If you’re out of pocket you’re really fucked because you don’t earn that much to begin with.

GS:  Well Toby, thanks for talking to Gravity Serpent and we wish you all the best with your ambitions for 2013.

TP:  Cheers.