REVIEW: Paul Rhodes’s verdict Steve Gunn and Brigid Mae Power, Rise @ Bluebird Bakery, Acomb, York, November 1

Steve Gunn: “Dexterously employing delay and effects, he was able to inject variation and other sound dimensions into otherwise attractive acoustic composition”. Picture: Paul Rhodes

THIS wildly popular Acomb café proved the perfect setting for Steve Gunn and Brigid Mae Power to kick off a tour as part of Bluebird Bakery’s rapidly expanding Rise programme of evening concerts.

The intimate surroundings put everyone at ease, the abstract art by York artist Rosie Bramley providing the ideal backdrop for the performers to slowly weave their magic.

Steve Gunn is one of the most talented acoustic guitar players (as well as a serial collaborator and producer), so it is credit to Joe Coates at Please Please You for enticing the New Yorker to Acomb.

With jetlag tapping Gunn on the shoulder (as he put it), it took a while for him to work his way into his set. By dexterously employing delay and effects, Gunn was able to inject variation and other sound dimensions into otherwise attractive acoustic compositions. At one point during Way Out Weather he risked tinnitus for us, by crouching right down to his speaker to get the (challenging) sound he was seeking before bringing us back to the safety of the original refrain.

Gunn’s approach is subtle, songs take time to perform, and, in truth, time to work their charm on the audience. On The Way and Morning River, both from his 2021 solo album Other You, occupied the first 25 minutes of the set. More memorable was Wildwood, a number about a place on the New Jersey coast that holds a special connection to him and his family.

Brigid Mae Power: “At their best, her songs are heart stopping, emotive fragments seemingly ripped from a diary”. Picture: Paul Rhodes

Gunn is touring with Brigid Mae Power in support. This Irish singer is justly a critical favourite, known for her heartfelt songs and beautiful voice. “Singing around a cough”, she spluttered while tuning, but she still sounded in fine voice.

Without the imaginative studio backings, Power’s material seems simply constructed and varies little. At their best, however,  they are heart stopping, emotive fragments seemingly ripped from a diary. Some Life You’ve Known was wonderful and perhaps the best song of the entire evening.

Running it close was Gunn’s cover of the late Michael Chapman’s Among The Trees. Chapman wrote this elegiac number before he was 30, and the melancholy for summer’s past was more universal than Gunn’s pieces. It was nevertheless a treat to see two talented performers up close and be able to hear and appreciate every note.

Review by Paul Rhodes, 1/11/2023

N.B. A launch Party for A Yorkshire Tribute To Michael Chapman, a compilation album curated by Henry Parker for release on the Tompkins Square label, will take place is at The Crescent on Friday,  December 1. Taking part will be Andrew DR Abbott, Chris Brain, Holly Blackshaw, Bobby Lee, Dean McPhee, Henry Parker and Katie Spencer. Box office:

On the Rise stage: Steve Gunn performing against the backdrop of Rosie Bramley’s paintings at Bluebird Bakery, Acomb. Picture: Paul Rhodes

REVIEW: Paul Rhodes’s verdict on Rose City Band, The Crescent, York, June 3

Ripley Johnson leading Rose City Band at The Crescent. All pictures: Paul Rhodes

MUSIC that struck just the right chord with the time and place. With the sun still singing in the York Pride smiles, Rose City Band put on the perfect concert to celebrate a long summer Saturday.

The five-piece from Portland, Oregon, the creation of Ripley Johnson (who also helms Wooden Shjips), made it look almost effortless. Such was their empathy for one another that one glorious groove followed another.

Like the Grateful Dead’s golden early Seventies’ period (the lysergic spirit of Cumberland Blues hung over proceedings, although Frank Zappa may have also been in there somewhere), Rose City Band play extended country rock songs full of wonderful moments that merge into one overall whole. While their studio albums are beautiful slow burns, this is music made for performing live.

Rosali: “Played an excellent opening set”

Playing a well-chosen selection that took in the highs from Summerlong (one of the best lockdown albums) and their new Garden Party release, the combined musical nous of these musicians lifted Ripley’s creations into the memorable.

His clean guitar lines (with none of the fuzz that surrounds Wooden Shjips) were consistently glorious, and Ripley’s interplay with Paul Hasenberg on keyboard were high flying indeed. Ripley eschewed any rock god guitar moves while Hasenberg was a more animated figure, coaxing a range of songs from his mellotron and keyboards; giving it all for the performance.

The tone for the night had been set with North Carolina’s Rosali (full name Rosali Middleman), who played an excellent opening set. She unveiled material from her freshly recorded new album (although given how slowly the industry’s wheels turn it may not be out for some time).

Rosali playing with Rose City Band

Taking proceedings at her own tempo, she commanded the stage not unlike a younger Lucinda Williams, and shares Williams’s emotional directness. Accompanied by pedal-steel guitarist Zena Kay, it was a treat to see this instrument in the spotlight.

For her closing two songs, the rest of Rose City Band came out,and in turn Rosali took centre stage for the final four numbers of their set. In full flight these tunes were a real treat, “only on the road” musical moments that can’t be streamed.

The full house was grinning from ear to ear, many eyes closed, mesmerised as they soaked in the tunes. It was a gloriously uplifting, life-affirming show.  Thanks to Joe Coates’s Please Please You, the Crescent hosts many fine concerts, but it is hard to believe this one won’t be right up there among the year’s best.

Review by Paul Rhodes

Ripley Johnson: “His clean guitar lines were consistently glorious”

REVIEW: Paul Rhodes’s verdict on Richard Dawson/Gwenifer Raymond, 21/9/2021

Throwing a light on his guitar playing: Richard Dawson at The Crescent on Tuesday night. Pictures: Paul Rhodes

Richard Dawson and Gwenifer Raymonde, The Crescent, York, September 21

MANY were wearing a smile simply to be out enjoying live music again. Thanks to Please Please You, the musical calendar has been quietly hotting up and is now starting to hit its stride.

Support act Gwenifer Raymond is an interesting character, a Brighton-based tech director by day/guitar fiend by night. Sitting barefoot, Raymonde called her style “guitar abuse”. Others have called it “American primitive” or “old time folk”.

Pretty and delicate it wasn’t, nor was it the high and lonesome sound of one of her influences, Roscoe Holcomb. Raymond threw lots of drama into her set, running through compositions (these aren’t really songs) from her 2021 sophomore release Strange Lights Over Garth Mountain.

Barefoot guitar fiend: Gwenifer Raymond in her York debut at The Crescent

Talking afterwards, she describes how she plays from memory. It was certainly impressive, if a little samey, but an auspicious York debut performance nevertheless.

Richard Dawson was the cause of Tuesday’s show being sold out. He’s another unlikely character. His erudition might suggest a permanent chair on Loose Ends while his Bill Bailey airs, hair and comic timing could take him almost anywhere.

He is known as a formidable, uncompromising modern folk performer – like Raymonde, defiantly not pandering to a crowd. He underlined this by starting with a 12-minute a cappella account of the life of a 16th century quilt maker.  Later on, his first-hand telling of seeing a child off to university showed he has lost none of his power to stop his audience dead.

There have been many changes since this reviewer last saw Dawson play at the same venue while touring his Peasant album. Fortunately, the drone instrumentals he produced in lockdown stayed away. With his last long player, Dawson showcased a pronounced shift towards a more conventional rock sound, and the single from his forthcoming LP with Circle suggests more of the same.

Formidable modern folk performer Richard Dawson and polyrhythmic drummer Andy Cheetham performing at The Crescent

Dawson is, however, one of the fortunate few whose audience expects him to lead them on a merry dance, so there were no boos or “Judas” cries. Quite the opposite, despite some of this new material being frankly a bit forgettable, those lovely words muffled in bombast, it was all lapped up by young and old alike. The wonderfully polyrhythmic drumming of Andy Cheetham kept things from metal parody.

While Joe The Quilt Maker would never trouble even the most abstruse singles charts, Black Mark or the superb Jogging could easily find a larger audience, with actual riffs and choruses – all without sacrificing Dawson’s attention to detail and wit. Jogging’s focus on anxiety brought his music squarely up to date.

Dawson was never less than entertaining. At one point, he had a reading lamp brought on as he “couldn’t see his dots” on his guitar. He claimed that he would undercut any momentum in the set, but actually it all hung together well, with a powerful finish, coming full circle to end with the more folk-based Ogre.

The audience’s smiles were broader still as they left.

Review by Paul Rhodes

Support act Gwenifer Raymond called her playing style “guitar abuse” at Tuesday’s gig

Musicians’ art show Super Cool Drawing Machine heads to The Crescent

The Super Cool Drawing Machine T-shirt on sale in the exhibition gift shop

SUPER Cool Drawing Machine, Yuppies Music’s touring exhibition of musicians’ “other” work, will run at The Crescent community venue, York, from Thursday to Sunday.

This celebration of art created by international touring independent musicians is billed as a “much-needed exploration of FUN stuff”, on show each day from 11am to 9pm with Covid-secure measures in place.

Under social distancing restrictions, attendees will have to book in advance, choosing a specific time slot to view the exhibition. Consequently, only a small number of tickets are available at £5 for each time slot at

“Over the moon” to be supported by Arts Council England, Yuppies Music and York music promoters Please Please You will present works by renowned musicians from alternative, experimental, jazz, folk, rock, soul, ambient, indie backgrounds.

Among them will be trailblazing saxophonist and figurehead of the British jazz scene Shabaka Hutchings; Mercury-nominated Welsh singer/producer Cate Le Bon; experimental folk musician Richard Dawson; African-American experimentalist Lonnie Holley and drummer/composer Seb Rochford, plus members of This Is The Kit, Mammal Hands, Haiku Salut, Snapped Ankles and more besides.

On display from May 27 to 30 will be paintings, photography, drawings, ceramics, digital instillations, recycled arts, sculpture and furniture, adding up to “colourful and interactive arts for the open-minded and curious”, complemented by a gift shop.

The full listing of artists is: Bex Burch, of Vula Viel; Bryony Jarman-Pinto; night flight: Cate Le Bon; H. Hawkline; Tim Presley; Cloudshoes; Daisuke Tanabe; Ed Dowie; Francois & The Atlas Mountains; Haiku Salut; Holysseus Fly; Ichi; Jeffrey Lewis…

…Leafcutter John; Lonnie Holley; Mammal Hands; Peter Broderick; Poppy Ackroyd; Rachael Dadd; Richard Dawson; Rhodri Davies; Rozi Plain; Seb Rochford; Shabaka Hutchings; Snapped Ankles; Tara Clerkin; This Is The Kit; Yama Warashi and Yumi And The Weather.