Calexico and Iron & Wine Americana/alternative country rockers Calexico and folk singer-songwriter Iron & Wine (aka Sam Beam) released the LP 'Years to Burn', their first collaboration together since their 2005 EP, 'In the Reins', in June this year and have been touring it pretty much non-stop since then.


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Lankum I hadn’t heard of Lankum until a few weeks ago, when I read a five star review of their latest (and third) album ‘The Livelong Day’ in a music magazine. I checked-out some of their songs and they sounded great: I also found some more rave press reviews, all of them four or five star. So I’ve grabbed the opportunity to see Lankum live at Leeds.


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Sharon Van Etten Sharon Van Etten’s (SVE) four piece band (drums; bass; two keyboards) take the stage and a stark drum beat sets the scene for a minute or three. The cool promise of ecstasy fills the air before Sharon appears with just microphone in hand and belts out the line: ‘our love’s for real’. Everything about her is unrecognisable from when I last saw her seven years ago at the Queen’s Club in Sheffield. She’s embraced the classic rocker look - think Chrissie Hynde - shorn black hair; tattoos, red lippy and leather pants but what is remarkable is the confidence, swagger and sheer energy that she brings to the performance. Her moves are positively Jagger-esque (‘touching your face’) and tightly choreographed as she poses for the cameras and commands eye contact. The sound is bigger, darker, keyboard heavy and mostly guitar free.


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Fairport's Cropredy Convention Everyday there is a cavalry charge at Cropredy when the gates open. But these aren't your standard gig junkies wanting to plant their elbows on the stage. These are regulars with camping chairs and picnic blankets looking for the best seated view half-way up the slope in front of the mixing desk. If you never felt more like sitting the blues this Oxfordshire festival is the one for you.


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Boat To Row The Castle and Falcon is undergoing something of a renaissance within the Birmingham music scene. Its industrial brick walled cavern of a gig room has played host to artists such as Cloud Nothings, Boy Azooga, Deap Vally and Yak, in the past year alone. The thought of heading down for my latest fix of music in one of Birmingham’s more intriguing venues really pulls me through an arduous day of work. Boat To Row will headline proceedings, with the undercard being Katherine Priddy and Faux Palms. I must say, I've not seen any of them live before but let’s see what I’m in for.


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Graham Nash Opened in 1901 the Victoria Theatre provides a splendid venue for Graham Nash’s visit to Halifax. Now aged 77 years Nash’s trim figure and bone-white mop of hair puts all of his former collaborators and most of tonight’s audience to shame. He has aged well. More importantly the voice has barely changed… he hits the high notes on ‘A Day in the Life’ in a way that McCartney and Young can now only dream of.


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Jonathan Wilson Jonathan Wilson has not played here before but some of his pals have rightly endorsed the venue. Wilson is much smitten by the surrounding topography which he likens to his home in Topanga Canyon, Los Angeles, albeit without the bobcats, coyotes and mountain lions. There are plenty of sheep in Hebden Bridge as a consequence.


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Frank Turner Frank Turner is definitely an old favourite of mine, so when I spotted he was bringing his unique brand of folk-punk to Coventry, I jumped at the chance to go and see him again. Fresh off the Glastonbury stage, he came to Coventry to help raise money for Way Out Arts, an arts programme in Sierra Leone that changes the lives of street, vulnerable, and conflict affected young people through the arts. It’s a very worthy cause, so go check it out!


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Piece Hall, Halifax This weekend saw some incredible live music in one of the most spectacular settings you could imagine as Futuresound Events hosted 4 days of music at the iconic Piece Hall in Halifax. We were there for 3 of those days and we witnessed an anthemic hometown show from Embrace, massive party sets from Terrorvision and The Levellers as well as an astounding show from Elbow.


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Sheryl Crow Sheryl Crow doesn’t come to the UK nearly as often as I would like her to, but whenever she does it’s an absolute pleasure to be in the same room listening to her and the incredible band perform some of the greatest songs of the last 25 years. She’s been one of my top 5 go-to artists for the last quarter of a century and has sound tracked some of my most favourite moments with some of my most favourite friends.


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Billie Marten Billie Marten with some ethereal vocals on show in Leeds, her 2nd album ‘Feeding Seahorses by Hand’ gets a rapturous welcome at her homecoming show at The Wardrobe.


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The Unthanks The Trades Club is a socialist members cooperative in alt.Yorkshire’s Hebden Bridge... a hip, chilled out mill town noted for its liberal vibe and motley mixture of artists, alternative practitioners, New Age activists, LGBTs and urban commuters in search of the good life. This cosy venue is a natural home to The Unthanks who’ve played here on several occasions; indeed, as Becky remarks, she once lived here in the town.


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Gwenifer Raymond When it comes to spotting interesting new artists, for me it often starts with hearing something on the radio then following it up with an album purchase or a live gig. Going to a gig is often a great introduction to an artist as you get to experience their personality and body of work, all providing context to the music. So it is with Gwenifer Raymond, a new talent who burst onto the music scene last year with her debut album, ‘You Were Never Much of a Dancer’.


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Skinny Lister Skinny Lister are on the road again on the back of critically acclaimed 4th album ‘The Story Is…’ 30 dates covering the UK and mainland Europe before heading off to the States, then back for festival season. There’s a reason they’re touted as one of the hardest working bands out there.


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