Why Cattle and Cane are Dancing for Joy on Cleveland Hills

There was some good news in a grim week for Teesside when leading local band Cattle and Cane’s second album, Mirrors, broke into the midweek charts. The band celebrated with a “secret gig” at Hit The Bar in Middlesbrough.

Mirrors made no. 53 in the national charts, no mean feat for an unsigned band. Sales at venues on the band’s current UK tour do not count towards chart positions, so it has all been achieved through genuine sales.

The follow up to the band’s popular long playing debut Home was launched at an In Store event at world renowned Stockton vinyl store, Sound It Out Records. Siblings Joe, Helen and Fran Hammill performed  acoustically between the record racks for a shop full of fans.

I caught them last week on the north eastern leg of the UK tour at the wonderful Sage music venue in Gateshead. As it happens I was in good company as it appeared a very high percentage of the audience were Teessiders on an away day. There were more than a few familiar faces, like retiring Boro FC Academy Director, Dave Parnaby as well as former band members James and Vin Hammill.

The band were on top form and revelled in both the superb acoustics offered by the venue and the very welcome respectful silence from the audience. This allowed the Thornaby band the luxury of being able to play more sensitive songs in the encore. It has to be one of the very best shows I’ve ever seen the band stand and deliver.

We need a big push now to keep Mirrors in the charts announced at the weekend. So, with that object in mind here is a quick interview with singer Joe Hammill, which he completed in his gig dressing room mid tour in Manchester.

Q: The second album is notoriously difficult but you seemed to have been playing songs from Mirrors before you had even released Home.

Joe: The second album wasn’t quite as difficult as it could’ve been. We had a lot of the songs already written for a while and had road tested quite a few of them.

Q: You have come a long way in recent years. There have been line up changes. And does Fran prefer sitting down in his more mature years?

Joe: Yeah the line up has changed but the core of me, Tom Helen and Fran is still there. I think with the band we are okay to have a fluid approach to interchanging/having guest members.

With each album we write and produce the sounds will change and working with other musicians is a very positive thing. Fran is thrilled to be sat down these days! What a doddle! He’s the elder statesman of the band and it’s only right he has a chair.

Mirrors sees Cattle and Cane’s sound pushing out in different directions. There is a lot of innovative production including unusual vocal harmonies and rhythms.

Q: You have been exploring a lot of different aspects of music. There are a lot of different directions and influences on Mirrors. You have also spread song writing duties and working with others too – do enjoy this process?

Joe: We’ve definitely experimented with different sounds on this album. That’s a lot to do with Luuk the producer, whose background is electronic/dance. We totally embraced that. I love co-writing – so I’ve been writing with lots of people recently. Lucy Spraggan, Alice on the Roof, Norma Jean Martine, Sivu.

Q: There is a lot of interesting, exciting production also with unusual vocal harmonies and rhythms etc do you enjoy exploring new roads. Would you describe your sound as having gravitated more from folk to pop?

Joe: I guess our sound on this record is more pop than folk I guess the songs for this album lend themselves to a more pop sound.

You are obviously still influenced by folk and your roots. People may not be aware that Joe you won a Graeme Miles Bursary a couple of years ago, awarded as part of the legacy of the great, late Teesside song writer. The wonderful Tonight We Dance on Cleveland Hills seems to spring from this tradition. Your Teesside roots are obviously still important to your music.

Q: You achieve so much as an unsigned band but does this give you an advantage of being closer to your audience with fan pledges of money for albums etc?

Joe: In terms of being unsigned we’re quite content doing everything ourselves. We have a fan base that sustain us by coming to gigs and buying our music.

Q: How delighted are you to have charted with the album? Maybe you will all have to follow Helen now that your music is being played on Made in Essex and Chelsea.

Joe: I’m delighted that we’ve made the charts. It’s all down to the people who have pledged and supported months before the album was released! I was so chuffed when we found out yesterday!

Q: What is next? A Boro promotion song?

Joe: If Boro come straight back up we’ll write a song!

Photos top by Tracy Hyman – Sound It Out Records, Stockton.

Bottom from Louise Wilkin at Hit The Bar, Middlesbrough

How to buy Mirrors

PledgeMusic: http://po.st/PledgeMirrors
iTunes: http://po.st/iTunesMirrors
hmv: http://po.st/HMVMirrors
Google Play: http://po.st/GoogleMirrors
Amazon: http://po.st/AmazonMirrorsCD

Or in store at Sound It Out Records in Stockton or nationwide at your local hmv.

 

 

 

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The Purnells Final Curtain

Teesside favourites The Purnells play their final gig this weekend on Saturday night at the Georgian Theatre, Stockton. It will be a sad but doubtless unforgettable night as one of the area’s most exuberant live bands calls it a day. A great stage to bow out on also, the revamped Georgian is a fantastic venue now. With support acts of Be Quiet Shout Loud this show is not to be missed.

Singer Stu tells us that he may have some new masks up his sleeve, so expect theatrics and expect high emotion.

But hang on a minute, before the show I thought I would ask that, there Stuart Blackburn a few questions about the life and times of The Purnells.

Q: Do you remember The Purnells first gig?

Stu: Our first gig was at The Sun inn, Stockton. It was set up for new bands by Kingsley Chapman and we supported Be Quiet Shout Loud, so it’s great to be doing our last show with them.

Q: Is it important to you to really put on a show?

Stu: Massively important, who wants to see people just standing there? You have to go for it every time.

Q: There is real drama in the music as well live theatrics. Is that a key element to The Purnells?

Stu: I suppose it’s always just been something that comes out, a little bit of drama is always a good thing.

Q: You enjoyed working on the videos too didn’t you?

Stu: Very much so, it’s always been a regret we didn’t do more.

Q: Most of the band stayed together throughout. Did the different bass players add facets to the sound and direction?

Stu: Definitely, every bass player has brought something exciting to the table, I mean we liked Ian so much we let him stay!

Q: What was it like playing festivals?

Stu: Personally festivals have always been my favourite, maybe for the outdoor atmosphere but mainly because it’s not your crowd and you have to fight to grab and hold their attention.

Q: You must be very proud of the recordings. Some fine songs and great albums. Any personal favourites?

Stu: I’ve always loved the more bluesy ones, mainly because that’s my thing. I can’t really pick a favourite song, but if it’s dark and bluesy I’m probably a fan! I’m proud of all the albums we’ve done, I think Half Step Into the Shadow is my fave in a way because I’m proud of a lot of the lyrics on that album.

Q: You personally love putting your acting skills to the test on and off stage?

Stu: Again, it just kind of comes out, I do enjoy a bit of drama.

Q: What are you going to do with your masks now?

Stu: I may set up a museum in my garage! I could play the albums on repeat and serve chip butties or something; I think it’d be a winner.

Q: The album launches have always been special events. Very enjoyable to watch but must have been enjoyable to prepare and perform?

Stu: Very enjoyable to perform certainly, and we are at home when we play the Georgian. Enjoyable to set up? Not really, it is weeks of worrying if folk will turn up and alienating everyone with constant harassment to buy tickets. I don’t know how promoters do it everyday.

Q: Will there be excitement but also sadness for you all with the last show?

Stu: It’s very sad, as ten years is a long time. I think it’ll kick in on the night. I’m going to really miss it!

Q: Any plans for a Purnells tribute band in 10 years time?

Stu: We could form our own tribute band, there are many who say we have already! Why wait ten years? I’m free after Saturday!

The Purnells Final Gig – supports Serinette + Be Quiet Shout Loud – Sat 29 April Georgian Theatre – tickets £6 advance

Photos Tracy Hyman

Details and Tickets

 

 

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Christmas Come Early with Cattle and Cane

In a year when so much has gone wrong for so many there has been a beacon of hope shining like a Wilton fare stack from the Tees, the very wonderful Cattle and Cane. On Thursday night they chose to give out their Christmas presents early when they invited Teesside to a special festive party at The Empire. The grand old Victorian theatre has seen many illustrious performers over the years but the Hammill family (and friends) brought the “snow” and the house down on a night and an event that warmed the hearts and minds of an enraptured capacity crowd.

cattleandcane-frontTo sell out the 1100 capacity venue is no mean feat and testament to the popularity of a band that have inspired Teesside and now successfully taken their musical message out on a debut national headline tour. The home fires were burning for Cattle and Cane in the gorgeously tinsel-ated and fairy lit gilding of the old Empire. The band sparkled sumptuously themselves.

Cattle and Cane are now poised like the giant Christmas tree suspended from the ceiling of The Empire, poised to kick on nationally and internationally next year when their second album should propel them onwards and upwards. But first came the Christmas party and fellow T-T-Teessiders Cape Cub kicked things off in style and pop panache.

It is a polished sound, with exhilarating, high wire guitar, propelling the big, big choruses up beyond that Christmas tree to the gods. The marvellously christened Chas Male has a soaraway voice to cap it all off. The sound is maybe epitomised by the anthemic single All I Need and the moody, magnificent Keep Me In My Mind. The line from the latter “take me north bound back to home,” seemed to sum up the mood.

capecubIt was Santa hats and Boro shirts on for a big festive finale; Stay Another Day seemed to stay about hundred days at number one after Christmas for East 17. It warmed us up nicely.

While Cattle and Cane were wired for sound up on stage, below on the totally rammed dance-floor there was a roar, flutter and flurry of anticipation and excitement. Helen Hammill was on lead vocals to start off. This is an exciting time to see a band in transition, between local and (inter)national, between first and second albums and perhaps edging from folk to more pop orientated. There was an even a different set up on stage with Fran Hammill taking over on keyboards, a new electric guitarist as well as an additional percussionist to beef out the sound and Helen to the fore on hands free vocals alongside Joe on acoustic and vocals.

The band wasted no time in serving up recent mouth watering single 7 Hours with its strident harmonies and smooth pop stylings. Joe’s awesomely crafted love song to the Cleveland Hills already sounds like it will be a highlight of next year’s second album.

cattleandcaneIt has some of the same burning local and vocal passion as the stirring Infant Hercules, which Joe began solo before the band joined in to the rousing finale message of hope.

Then came the first spine tingling moment as the band embarked on a gorgeous rendition of the timeless classic of White Christmas the snow came tumbling down from the heavens onto the audience. Wow.

We were all suitably festive now and no one at all held back from a massive Teesside singalong into Sold My Soul, an early standard by the band from what must be six or so years ago now. Pull Down The Moon received the same rapturous response. Fran reverted to (slide) guitar for another old favourite, The Poacher. For Come Home it felt like we were all family.

The next single Saviour was given its Teesside premier and it was very much a thumbs up from the crowd.

cattleandcane2-snowThe audience demanded encores. What seasonal delights would they stand and deliver? Except for Fran of course still sitting on ceremony. It was a fantastically festive Feed The World with snow cascading down once again and Cape Cub up alongside them belting out the Bono high bits. More singalong, organised this time by Joe for the bouncy Fool For You. In fact the singalong continued well after the song was completed and so there was absolutely no getting away from Cattle and Cane returning again for yet another encore.

cattleandcaneandcapecubA special night then as Cattle and Cane served up a slice of musical magic at Christmas.

words Robert Nichols – photos Tracy Hyman

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James Kruman – Twitch Album Launch

Tomorrow night (Saturday 10th December) is a proud night for Teesside troubadour, James Kruman, it marks the launch of his debut album, Twitch at The Westgarth Social Club. If ever there was an album launch worthy of your support then this is it. An outstanding singer songwriter on the local scene and beyond over the last few years James has released one of the albums of the year in Twitch.

james-krumanThey say to never judge a book by its cover he cover of the album but from its enigmatic scientific diagram drawn on a black surround it is quite clear that Twitch is no ordinary affair. This is a debut full of dark mystery and rare beauty. It demands your full attention. There are shades and layers of meaning here contained within songs that almost entice you in and trap you with deadly venus fly trap barbs. Either the songs devour you whole or you are caught up in their spell. I haven’t put the thing down since it arrived through the post a couple of weeks back.

I was so intrigued that I contacted James to ask him a few questions regarding the album, his music and what we might expect from this weekend’s launch. He is always a compelling performer, with his distinct look, and a voice that harks back to 60s folk and psychedelia and yet is very much of the here and now.

Backed up by the irresistible Broken Broadcast and Hartlepool’s Bob Dylan, Danny Devon this should be an amazing show to end the year.

You  can a preview of the album here on James bandcamp account.

So, here are a few questions and some amazingly insightful answers from James.

Q: You go for a very big start with Barrel Bomb – did you want to take us into the deep end straight away?

JK: I identified Barrel Bomb as being the biggest indicator of how my music has evolved over the last few years, and it seemed important to let the audience know this from the start. I think the mood in Barrel bomb encapsulates the overall mood of the album and I too think that this was important to let the audience know.

Q: I hear hints of Dylan, Donovan and maybe Syd Barrett and psychedelia in your work – are you drawn to great and maybe off the wall song writers?

JK: Bob Dylan was probably the catalyst in my need and obsession to first write music. I have always been drawn to the abstract images portrayed by those artists.

Q: There is a dark beauty to the album Twitch – even the cover – do you feel drawn to a darkside?

JK: I have always been drawn more to the macabre, depressive elements of the human existence. I feel I write more fluently about the dark existence that one can feel.

Q: Your songs draw the listener into great ideas, words and stories. Do you enjoy storytelling in your work?

JK: It’s great that I have been asked this again, because I feel like my songs are far too abstract and narratively warped to tell a story. I genuinely love the way that people take a story from them as it breads another dimension in the song that even I did not realise..

Q: You are hard to pigeon hole but I would say that you like to take an oblique, unusual angle on things, maybe from a long way above the ground. Is that fair?

JK: I think that is fair indeed. I have always felt like an outsider, and I wish to stay an outsider! I do indeed prefer to create the more unusual angle on themes. If I think a particular lyric is too straight and literal I try my best to distort it. I guess it’s like throwing a tin of paint over a blue print.

Q: This is a departure at times from your acoustic live persona did you enjoy working with different instruments and production?

JK: I indeed enjoyed the departure from my conventional set up, but more so, this departure was overtly necessary to create the soundscapes and propel the intended moods to the level that fit the content of each song.

Q: What was the process like of writing, recording etc?

JK: I knew it was time to make the album, I had been toying with ideas of sounds and lyrics for a while and these are the bulk of Twitch. The whole album was recorded in my damp spare bedroom. It used to get so cold in there you could see my breath bouncing off the microphone. I hope this can be imagined in many of the songs, its certainly a winter album! I discovered a new approach to writing music for this album in that in some of the songs on Twitch the music came first and they were left baron and without lyrics for a great while. I have never previously considered myself a musician before as I felt my lyrics were the real fundamental of the song, and the music came second.

Q: There are diagrams and gadgetry on the cover and in the songs, are batteries included in this package?

JK: The Diagrams were re-designed from an old book I found in my parents attic. It was called something like ‘The Young Engineer’, and it was presented to my father in the 1950’s for an achievement at school. I was fascinated by the beauty of the line drawings and how archaic the language was.

Q: Please say anything you want about the album and your recorded work in general, I think you should be very proud of such a great piece of work. Tell us a bit about your album launch and what we might expect from you and the other artists?

JK: The ‘Twitch’ album if nothing else is a mirror image of where I am now in my creative life. I am truly excited for the album launch, it has been a work in progress for the last 9 months, and it is the cause of a worsening insomnia that I have developed recently! I feel privileged to have the Broken Broadcast on the same bill. The Broken Broadcast have a sound and atmosphere that I have not heard elsewhere, they are my favourite band in Teesside, after Journey South. Danny Devon is opening the show, and I have become close with Danny over the last couple of years. His raw live energy coupled with his real life poignant folk songs will be the perfect start to the evening.

James Kruman releases his debut Album called Twitch on Saturday (10th December) at Westgarth Social Club, Middlesbrough.
Ably supporting James are
The Broken Broadcast and Danny Devon

Tickets £5.50/5.00

Buy Tickets seetickets

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GEORGIE at The Empire

Exciting, emerging rock’n’soul singer-songwriter Georgie is heading to Middlesbrough Empire tomorrow evening (Wednesday 7th December) supporting the wonderful Blossoms.

Her stunning debut single Company of Thieves has certainly been turning heads and ears inside out. Tipped to be a new soul sensation, Georgie has been snapped up by Columbia records where she has been working with the excellent Matthew E White – surely one to watch for 2017! You can watch her tomorrow night at The Empire supporting Blossoms.

georgieStockport indie band Blossoms were on the BBC’s Sound Of new music list for 2016. They supported Stone Roses in their gig at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium, being hand picked by Roses singer Ian Brown, a fan of the band. Cover stars of the NME in August this tour was pretty much sold out as soon as it was announced. That is how red hot they are at present.

Back to Georgie, she is a twenty-one year old singer-songwriter, a distinctly new and unique talent with an incredibly rich, dynamic and expressive voice. She hails from Mansfield, home of former Charlton’s Champions Boro skipper, Stuart Boam, 6 foot 2, eyes of blue…

Please have a look as well as listen to this “striking” video to Georgie’s debut single Company of Thieves HERE

“Company of Thieves” was produced by studio wizard Matthew E White at Spacebomb studios in Virginia. He originally heard Georgie on a trip to the UK and instantly wanted to work with her. A few phone calls later and Georgie was on her way to Virginia and came back with four stunning tracks, with “Company Of Thieves” the first to emerge.
Georgie’s gritty northern sensibility with its searingly honest and fiery songwriting perfectly complement the brilliant, soulful production that comes from Spacebomb’s in-house band on “Company Of Thieves.”

With more from this session to come, it sets Georgie apart from the crowd instantly. Matthew E White has himself said that the production on “Company of Thieves” owes a debt to “There’s A Riot Goin’ On”. His label Spacebomb will be releasing the track in the US.
Live, Georgie has already got a performance at Glastonbury under her belt, with the BBC marking her out as one of the acts to watch over the weekend. She also appeared at the Great Escape in Brighton earlier this year.

Georgie has been touring throughout the UK with Jake Bugg and Blossoms, two of the outstanding gig tours of the autumn.

Georgie returns to Spacebomb in the New Year to finish what will become her debut album.

“With a voice like a cup of freshly brewed black coffee, Georgie is an inebriating presence, backed here by devious basslines and subtle electronic nuances.” – STEREOGUM

“A BBC Introducing artist not to be missed.” BBC INTRODUCING

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