Citizen, Duncan Eagles, Ropeadope

From January 2019. US fans via his new label Ropeadope will probably get to know Eagles for the first time and he is a talented player who first came to notice jamming in Streatham club Hideaway at the beginning of the 2010s. A sober studio affair …

Published: 16 Nov 2019. Updated: 23 months.

From January 2019. US fans via his new label Ropeadope will probably get to know Eagles for the first time and he is a talented player who first came to notice jamming in Streatham club Hideaway at the beginning of the 2010s.

A sober studio affair on which Eagles is joined by guitarist David Preston, pianist Matt Robinson, Eagles’ erstwhile Partikel bandmate bassist Max Luthert, and drummer Dave Hamblett, the style falls in a no man’s land. Compositionally strong, although the writing is oblique, the title track that opens proceedings has good cohesion and interplay between the solo line passages and the rhythm section underneath, and its bustling momentum displays a lot of energy.

It is pretty earnest stuff and a little dry, though! On the plus side, however, the tracks that follow offer plenty to admire and the album is beautifully recorded, a soft texture to the listening sheen has somehow been fashioned by the engineers, a harsh abrasive listen this certainly is not.

Luthert leads off ‘Conquistador’ which again shows how well the bass has been recorded but there is an airy spaciousness here rather than a spiritual glow to the style which sucks the momentum out of the record and it is pretty short on really strong melody lines which is slightly frustrating given that the album is pretty melodic at least in inclination. ‘Shimmer’ with its accessible style comes closer and the airy ‘Folk Song’ is even more direct but Preston’s role is overcooked and the tune really didn’t grab me that much but I think it probably will work better live and turn into a bigger feature.

The track certainly has more drama to it than most of the other numbers. ‘Taxco’ is the sort of track you will hear Swiss trio Vein tackle and certainly there is a maturity here that can be a scarce commodity when you hear a lot of party-jazz bands out there just relying on groove and quirky effects to get the crowd going. Citizen is not that kind of record. There is a lot of improvising content and again live I am sure this will be even more evident. Certainly as a muso band Eagles has cracked it but to civilian listeners will his appeal be as strong?

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2019 Highlight: Amanda St John

Launching Muscle Shoals at the Green Note in London’s Camden Town, Amanda St John was with Paul Tierney on guitar – her co-writer of among other material, ‘Walk Away.’ Stevie Watts on keyboards completed the “acoustic” line-up on this occasion St …

Published: 16 Nov 2019. Updated: 12 months.

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Launching Muscle Shoals at the Green Note in London’s Camden Town, Amanda St John was with Paul Tierney on guitar – her co-writer of among other material, ‘Walk Away.’ Stevie Watts on keyboards completed the “acoustic” line-up on this occasion St John explaining that the rest of the band had not been able to make it over from Ireland so “Stevie was drafted in.”

Completely at ease on stage, a warm presence, her voice is nothing less than a soul experience. In addition to her new songs ‘Grow’ from her back catalogue was a feelgood stand-out and got the healthy sized turn-out singing along with her as she walked into the middle of the room.

St John also delivered stirring versions of ‘I’d Rather Go Blind’ synonymous with Etta James but much earlier it was her accomplished take on Mary Gauthier’s ‘Mercy Now’ covered in recent years by Liane Carroll that indicated her power and passion and the songs tumbled along one after the other – the dice landing in what turned out a winning streak as the set wore on.

St John, from the north coast of Country Antrim, recorded the album at FAME in Alabama with Tierney and some of “the Swampers” among the personnel at the studio where Aretha Franklin made history. St John told us how you could smell the sound and how the place had hardly changed in years – “manky carpets” and all.

Blessed with a simply superb voice, she has brilliant stage presence and delivers her audience chats with grace and no little humour. She took off her shoes after a while joking that her stiletto could have fallen through a hole on the stage. The songs have a validity and authenticity to them borne out of a huge amount of turbulence in the singer’s life.

It is only once in a blue moon that a singer as credible in this soul seeking style as St John comes along. To conclude she owned the room: everyone should hear her. Grasp any opportunity to do just that. SG