• My Greenbelt 08 experience

    26 Aug 2008, 13:03 by hdickins

    Fri 22 Aug – Greenbelt Festival 2008
    Greenbelt - wow. A fixture in my calendar if ever there was one. Well, the weather wasn't so good, and I didn't get to see nearly as many bands as I would have liked - but here's a quick list of the noteworthy ones:

    [dweeb] - brilliant, uncompromising and yet with a quirky sense of humour too.

    Foreign Slippers - I knew I wanted to recapture that first viewing (from last year's festival) and Gabrielle did not disappoint - Gabrielle's otherworldly voice is beautiful and I love that mix of instruments - bouble-bass, guitars, sruti-box (a small reed-organ from India) and fiddle. She even had Beth Rowley as a backing singer for her last two numbers.

    We also stumbled on Toxic Federation - a group of young lads playing heavy-metal with such skill and spirit that anyone who saw them had to be impressed. They sounded like an early Iron Maiden. It's not what I normally listen to these days - but these guys rocked!

    And lastly the quirky rag-time/ska antics of Tankus the Henge - I'm so glad I saw their set - sharp punchy brass riffs in a bouncy and anarchic sweaty dance-fest - and yes - they should be on the main stage next year!

    There was so much more to see too - but these few really stand out.

    If you were there too - what did you think of the festival this year?
  • Ambridge Acoustic Revue

    2 Aug 2008, 14:48 by jystewart

    The first of our little musical get-togethers at St. Luke's went so well that we're planning to make them a regular fixture under the name "Ambridge Acoustic Revue."

    The next one will be on August 30th and if all goes according to plan will feature Julie Lee, Lobelia Sabo and Aaron Roche. And of course it will once again be ably hosted by Iain Archer.

    For those of you who are planning to attend Greenbelt you can think of it as a little afterglow from the festival, and for those who aren't... well, we suspect it'll be a highly enjoyable evening of music.

    If you're so inclined you can let us know you plan to attend on the event page.
  • Two free albums from me

    31 Mar 2008, 11:42 by SoloBassSteve

    Oh yes, you read that right, TWO delicious free albums - volumes one and two in the 'Lessons Learned From An Aged Feline' series.

    Part 1 can be had from by clicking here

    And for Part 2, you have to go to my Reverb Nation Page - and sign up for the mailing list there, then you can download all of that one too!

    Anyway, that's about two hours of lovely tunes for you!

    Why am I giving them away? Have I suddenly decided that paying for music is a bad idea? Is it that I think they're too bad to be worth selling? Perhaps there's a third option - I released 10 full length CDs on Pillow Mountain Records since 2000 - 7 completely solo ones and 3 collaborative. Four of them were very limited edition CDs - only ever 100 copies made on CD - which were given away at the time to people who pre-ordered the CD they accompanied. The three that I did with solo albums were called 'Lessons Learned From An Aged Feline' Pts 1, 2 & 3. The title came from my love of all things Cat - I had a very old cat during the time I recorded the first two volumes, and two elderly cats by the time of the 3rd, so just chose titles for the tracks that were inspired by the cats. And a few other silly things thrown in.

    The tracks themselves were largely things that were recorded at the same time as the album they came with, but just didn't fit within the flow of the record. I tend to record up to 3 or 4 hours of releasable material around the time of an album, and so can often get a double album of CD-worthy stuff. The LLFAAF series gave me a chance to put some of that out, without it breaking the continuity of the 'proper' releases. I've had some emails from people suggesting they prefer some of the Lessons Learned tunes to the stuff on the CDs...

    Anyway, they were free to start with, but limited. Many years have gone by, they're available via my webshop for cheaps, but their value as a way of getting people who have maybe heard of me but not bothered to buy anything to have a listen is greater than the few quid a year I make by selling them. It's also the case that the versions that are free to download are, I think, 128k MP3s. I'm going to switch everything on my webshop to 320K VBR files pretty soon, so if someone wanted the hi-res versions, they'd still have to get them there.

    So these are either a way to get people listening (and in the case of Pt 2, to sign up to my mailing list via my Reverb Nation Page) or they are a thankyou to the people who've been buying my stuff all along and are patiently waiting for my long-overdue next solo album. Here's some stuff to fill that gap.

    And of course, if that's still not enough to satiate your need for Steveness, then head to and click on any of the album sleeves at the top of the page to go to the shop to buy downloads or CDs, or head to iTunes or eMusic and search for me - CDs and downloads are always available to buy. I particularly recommend the EP with Lobelia - the songs with here are definitely among the best musical things I've ever been involved with. And it's only £3.50 :o)

    Then, feel free to post reviews, links, tweets and spread the word - that's what I'd like from you in return. It's not compulsory, I shan't be checking up on you. I'd just be grateful.

    So there you go. Free stuff from me. Enjoy!
  • Using Twitter to recommend non-mainstream music...

    26 Feb 2008, 02:36 by SoloBassSteve

    I've just set up a Twitter account purely to post links to new music, much of it here on

    It's called 'To The Left Of The Mainstream' and can be found at

    If you're on Twitter, please click the 'follow' button to keep track of the posts. If you're not, there's an RSS feed on the page that you can add to google reader, safari, netnewswire or whatever...

    The stylistic remit is pretty broad, in that it's anything I really like (do check out my listening here to see if you're likely to find anything of interest in the feed - there'll be plenty of , , , , , , and probably a smattering of stuff from right across the /// spectrum. :)

    I'll be adding a to artists that have been featured, so it'll eventually be easy to keep track of who's been on there, and also listen to a radio station of all the artists together!

  • Anathallo at Water Rats

    22 Feb 2008, 14:45 by jystewart

    Tuesday night saw us heading to Water Rats to see Anathallo, friends from the US on their first UK tour. They'd been in the country for a while, opening for Manchester Orchestra, but this was their sole headline show of the trip. We were pleasantly surprised to see the small venue packed with people and, like the band, a little taken aback to hear quite so many people singing along.

    Anathallo's on-stage identity revolves around their high energy performances, so it was worrying to hear that several of them were suffering from strep throat. Obviously the enthusiasm of the crowd worked its magic as their energy levels were as high as I'd ever seen them. Whether it was growing maturity or a matter of venues, the melodies and percussion seemed in better balance than last time we'd seen them.

    The band are hoping to be back in the UK later in the year and are well worth seeing. Either way, I highly recommend taking a listen on their page
  • Billy Bragg & KT Tunstall at HMV

    22 Feb 2008, 14:41 by jystewart

    London is Free is a great source not only of ways to save a little cash, but also to find out about a number of events that could easily be overlooked. That's where I stumbled across the news that Billy Bragg and KT Tunstall would be performing together in HMV on Monday lunchtime.

    Steve's written it up in much more detail than I will, but it's fair to say that initial disappointment that they wouldn't be playing any of Billy's own songs gave way to considerable entertainment as the pair botched their way through covers of songs from the past five decades of British rock and pop.

    Not having had the chance to see KT play before I only knew her material from remarkably over-produced records, and this performance wasn't exactly a chance to get much of an impression of what her own songs would be like outside of that Sony-inflicted sheen. But her willingness to look rather foolish up on stage, hamming her way through songs they both admitted they'd mostly learned by watching videos on youtube, certainly left a good impression.

    With a scrum of photographers gathered in a roped off area in front of the stage it was hard to get close enough for clear shots, but you can see those photos that felt worth sharing over on flickr.
  • New videos up on YouTube

    13 Feb 2008, 15:43 by SoloBassSteve

    I've had a Youtube uploading frenzy in the last couple of days - here they are -

    This one is a Pat Benatar song, with a twist. :o)

    This one is a track that's featured on the Steve Lawson and Lobelia Live in Nebraska EP, though this was recorded at a house concert in California - it's called I'm Lost -

    And this one is a The Police Song...

    Enjoy, and check out the Steve Lawson and Lobelia pages for more on what we do solo...

    And if you like the vids, please rate or favourite them - we're currently climbing the UK music 'most rated' and 'most favourited' and 'most viewed' charts on youtube, which is nice, so if you want to help us out, that'd be lovely...

  • A few favoured albums (2007)

    29 Jan 2008, 15:55 by jystewart

    Every year I intend to write a top 10 records blog entry. I put it off until some time in the middle of January so I can catch up on a few releases I'd missed around the end of the year, and then either forget about it, or realise it's too hard to reduce the list.

    The easiest way round that would be to just link to my listening charts for the past 12 months here on But right now those are rolling charts (so if you look at them six months after I write this, they'll have changed) and they're also skewed towards records that came out early in the year. There are certainly a few highlights in there (including Neon Bible, The Reminder, Grinderman, Volta, In Rainbows and Person Pitch) but there are also several missing. So perhaps it's easiest to just throw up a few notes, and then let go of this angst for another year?

    Four of the releases that have occupied much of my listening over the past few years come from women who live just across the road from each other. Sarah Masen's three new EPs have lived with us for most of the year, and between Kari singing with her at Greenbelt and just thinking they're great, we've both listened to them a lot. Further proof that sometimes recording in a friend's house can yield results just as satisfying as any costly production process. Julie Lee's latest took a little longer to grow on me, and marks a bit of a change of direction since her last release, but the more I listen, the more I enjoy.

    The Battles album Mirrored and Burial's Untrue are often mentioned together. Between their similarity in name and sharing the general territory of "electronica" it seems like there's a fair bit in common. In reality, they're very different records, and both very satisfying in their ways. I find it hard to dispute Burial's place at the top of metacritic's charts for 2007.

    Of late I've been very taken with Yeasayer's All Hour Cymbals and am very much looking forward to seeing them at the ICA in a few weeks. At times they remind me of Anathallo (who are also going to be in the UK very soon and are well worth an evening of your time) and they're connected with the Brooklyn scene, but there's more texture to their sound and better use of space than you find with most of the indie bands kicking around at the moment.

    And of course there's St. Vincent, Spoon's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Of Montreal's Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?, Dirty Projectors' Rise Above, Ry Cooder's My Name Is Buddy (not as wonderful as Chavez Ravine, but a real grower), Low's Drums and Guns and a whole host more than I have time or space to do justice to even without mentioning earlier releases I only just discovered.
  • St. Vincent

    6 Dec 2007, 10:42 by jystewart

    We first stumbled across St. Vincent by accident when she opened for John Vanderslice at one of the last Calvin concerts before we moved away from Grand Rapids. While Mr. Vanderslice put on a fine show, I couldn't help but feel that St. Vincent upstaged him with a much more striking set of songs, culminating in a near-perfect cover of Jackson Browne's These Days.

    Since then she's been touring extensively and quite a buzz has built, as evidenced by her sold out London appearance in September and an opening slot at Shepherd's Bush Empire in November. By the time she reached Bush Hall last week all that touring had clearly paid off with a more commanding stage presence and a band who were clearly enjoying playing off each other.

    Like her fellow Sufjan Stevens-alumnus My Brightest Diamond, St. Vincent brings her classical training to bear on her pop songs but the result is generally a less dense sound than that of MBD, with the focus on creative arrangements and rhythm. She's at her best indulging in quirky indie-pop with slightly off-kilter rhythms that regularly defy expectations. With the help of a few stage gimmicks (like a manikin arm with embedded electronic drums, occasionally used as an over-large guitar pick) and of course a strong set of songs from her debut album Marry Me, she has the crowd in the palm of her hand.
  • I've been waiting for this...

    10 Oct 2007, 09:55 by hdickins

    I've just heard the first recording from Foreign Slippers - a band I saw at Greenbelt this year. I've been eagerly awaiting this for a while now, and it's beautiful!

    Have a listen on their MySpace page...

    Foreign Slippers