An Interview with James Cole

The Classic Rock Show is rolling into Edinburgh

Hello James – can you tell us where are you from & where are you living today?
I am originally from Southport, I moved to Liverpool in 2007 when I went to LIPA and I’ve been here ever since.

What are your first musical memories?
My early memories of music are of going with my dad to concerts he was promoting in the mid ‘90s. I particularly remember a Nils Lofgren concert at the Milton Keynes Stables & The Crazy World of Arthur Brown at Southport Art Centre.

What instruments do you play?
I mainly play electric and acoustic guitar. If someone’s desperate, I can jump on the piano (but we try and avoid that!)

Jesse Smith – lead singer

You’ve got three famous rockers from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starters, mains & dessert?
Starter – Little Richard a Tutti Frutti
Main – Don Mclean an American Pie
Dessert – Led Zeppelin a Custard Pie

You’re currently a part of THE CLASSIC ROCK SHOW – how did your involvement begin?
The Classic Rock Show was created alongside CMP’s other shows, Brit Floyd and Rumours of Fleetwood Mac. We wanted to create a show which celebrated a vast array of music – almost as if the audience are coming into our home and having a look through our record collection.

The show has developed over eight years now and we believe every year it just gets better and better. The musical talent on stage this year is just amazing, the best yet.

Who else is in the band?
Tim Brown – Drums
Wayne Banks – Bass
Pete Thorn – Electric Guitar
Henry Burnett – Keys
Rudy Cardenas – Lead Vocal
Jesse Smith – Lead Vocal
Jess Harwood – Lead Vocal

How do you select the songs for the repertoire?
A dictated democracy!

Which are your favourite songs in the set?
It genuinely changes each night, depending how the audience reacts to a song. As you would expect the guitar heavy songs are great for me as they are a challenge. My catchphrase is… if in doubt play Quo (Status Quo) – an instant crowd pleaser.

You are currently ploughing through your 39-date tour – how is at all going so far?
Genuinely fantastic – audiences have been amazing, each night has a different feel and no two nights are ever the same. The set-list is ever evolving so we can’t wait to see how the shows continue to develop as the tour progresses.

You’re playing some pretty big venues along the way – the popularity of what you’re doing is without question – what are the keys to the show’s success do you think?
Credibility, detail, passion, love of the music. You can’t fake that and the audience would know if we all didn’t enjoy what we were doing. We are all fans of the music, like the audiences. We just want to come together and celebrate this music.

We’re gonna try & catch you guys in Edinburgh – have you played here before, & if so what do you think of the city?
We have been to Edinburgh a few times and played the Queens Hall (which is a fantastic venue). We are so happy to be moving to the bigger venue this time – the Usher Hall. I guess that’s a good sign for us that everyone is enjoying what we are doing.



She Drew The Gun

Louisa Roach: guitar & vocals / Anna Donigan: bass

The Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh

Now this is a band that are not unknown to Divine. A formidable talent that are making waves within Scotland’s creative arts scene, “She Drew The Gun” delivered a stripped back, unplugged(ish) evening. Louisa Roach is a very talented lady indeed, with a loyal following that had flocked to the Voodoo Rooms, packing the place to the rafters. The She Drew The Gun experience brought to us an evening of splendid poetry, Louisa’s fine lyrical prowess describes one woman’s quest to document her inner struggle with the systems of this world in which we live.

These songs of protest are finely crafted and performed with creative passion and expert musicianship. Louisa’s performance was like a brief insight into her life, that left the audience yearning for more. Pertinent rebel songs set to fine melodies were complemented by an incredibly infectious groove from the brilliant rhythm section of Anna Donigan on Bass and electronic wizardry. Together, She Drew The Gun presented a hard-hitting performance, whose passion was infectious. Rock ‘n’ Roll grace in action.

The audience was so eager to hear what Ms Roach had to say, our collective heart resonating to the honest social commentary. A truly exceptional performance, and She Drew The Gun presented, what I perceived to be a taster of great things to come.

Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert

Native Harrow

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Voodoo Rooms Speakeasy

Halfway through the set of this folk/alt rock/art tweed/Zep tastic (that’s enough Ed.) Yank exile Brighton based rockers Native Harrow, some exuberant hippy, moved, no doubt, by the reasonably priced Tenants and the emotive music shouts.

‘Write some more love songs’

To which Ginger Bapped multi-instrumentalist Stephen Harms replies

‘Everything is a love song to life’

I wish I’d written that.

As it neatly sums this duos oeuvre up.

And I could go to bed.

Promoting their fifth LP

‘Old Kind of Music’ (Loose Records) London.

This evening’s entertainment Native Harrow swanned up in the Voodoo Room’s Speakeasy (Fat Sam unavailable for comment)

Voodoo Rooms being one of Edinburghs remaining decent venues.

As it is owned, run by, and for, rockers hepcats and people who like music.

A quick swizz at the rest of the venues on this 2023 tour and it seems that this wasn’t luck. As it is a where’s where of credible venue grooviness.

They employed at least 8 instruments between the pair of them. Plus voices.

And a dodgy 50khz hum from the sound system.

(Kyles I’m looking at you here mate)

This was only audible because the reverential audience were sat in cult like silent stupor.

This pair swing from Neil Young to John Martyn via Joni Mitchel past Zeppelin with a bit of Motörhead on smack.

And a bit of Floyd.

And Patti Smith

and (enough already, Ed.)

Proper funky folk music.

The afore mentioned Mr Harms gives it some Sly style funk on a Rickenbecker, keys, 6 string electric Floydery, and Garfunkelary backing vocals.

Providing a mossy glade of melodious mellifluous music ship to set the sails for partner Devin Tuel to let the spirits out. (last warning mate, Ed.)

Devin Tuel a songstress possessed of a voice that would possibly have made Robert Flak decide to take up that plumbing apprenticeship strums a Gibson F hole absentmindedly while her voice flie.

A perfect marriage of soaring vocals and accomplished musicianship.

Get a room

Adam McCully

Mickey 9s in Dunfermline

PJ Molloys, Dunfermline

In the modern age, when it comes to dating, there’s a growing tendency to just have one-off hook-ups, & never see your ‘just add-water’ instalover again after one of them nights. The same spirit applies to my role as a reviewer. I don’t go & see bands twice – except, that is, until I saw Mickey 9s for the first time last Autumn – I’m like, fucking hell, these guys are shit hot! Returning to my metaphor, they’re like one of those one-off hooks up ya have, who get reyt under your skin , & you just have to start messaging again!

So, 2023 comes along, & I hear they’re playing a gig in Dunfermline, where one of Mumble’s weapon’s grade comedy reviewers lives. So, off to Dunfermline I went, was more than warmly received by Ewan & his missus, Claire, then off to PJ Molloys we strutted. As we progress’d thro ancient streets of Scotland’s ultimate royal burh, I could see their Mickey 9s cherries all ripe & rave-ready hovering somewhere over their devachanic auras, wating to be popp’d. They didn’t have a clue what was coming – I did, it was gonna be great.

Photo: Robert Adam

The venue, PJ Molleys, is quality. Just off the street, spacious, & slightly below ground, with cheap beers & reyt friendly staff, it’s a superb addition to the Caledonian live music armoury. The audience was healthy & up for it, including a few folk I knew from Edinburgh (thanks for photos Anne), & a very appreciative local crowd – they know their music in the kingdom, you can tell.

‘With ease they dropped Public Enemy lines and LCD Soundsytem cultural storytelling into a set of seriously danceable and, joyfully genre defying, ‘instant favourites’, each one chanted along with at a Hampden level uproar by a partisan and euphoric crowd’

Ewan Law

As for Ewan, it took him about half a tune to bounce off into his own unique element, declaring Mickey 9s were the best new band he’d seen in 12 years, among other superlatives he managed to eagerly slip into the night’s fabric between pulling his moves.

As for me, I genuinely feel happy to the see the band – they’ve got some proper beltin’ disco vibes going down, including their diamond-sharp new track, Straight White Male, I think its call’d. So much so, I’m hoping they can get over & play a gig on Arran in September this year, where I live – I want to keep on this current acolytical trip a bit longer, & spread their joys to world! The idea it would be the third & final final part of my personal Mickey 9s tryptych – part one Glasgow, part two Dunfermline – which was rocking by the way – & part 3 Arran, so lets see how the year rolls.

Words: Damian Bullen
Photography: Anne McIntosh, Ewan Law & Robert Adam

Scott Mickelson

13th Note, Glasgow

I love Glasgow, me, in the heart of which city there is a bubbling fountain of musical talent, the waters of which draw numerous performing pilgrims to sup the ambrosial elixir like poets to the Castalian Spring. Last night I went to see one of those pilgrims, a certain Scott Mickelson, a California, & a moving exemplar of how to blend styles, create something brand new, & yet tapping into traditionality, all the same.

I didn’t know his music before-hand, but that’s the way I like it, to enjoy a fresh dish from an exotic land, to taste the flavours for the very first time. My initial instinctual response was that Scott’s mind is a smooth-flowing river, whose thought-waves oversaw the music like some martial arts sensei.

For some reason Scott’s band (bass, drums, keyboard) are all from Britain, & last night saw them comblended upon a tour of the island, supporting Big Hogg at the 13th Note. Together they epitomise precision – very tight-, & I was blown away by the extended, elegant, opiate instrumentals that accompanied half the songs – showing the Doorsiness of 60s West Coast vibes are still alive & well in the Golden State. The very cool penultimate jam especially conjur’d Leprechauns & Angels & an entire Fairy Host in my mind – & I wasn’t even tripping.

It was an especially pleasant mix of sonical auras, sometimes, Scott would spangletwang his banjo on his todd, sometimes there’s be a cacophony of creativity, & all the while melodies rippl’d from Scott’s aforemention’d river of thought. A lovely vibe from a widely & globally appreciated artist, it was inspiring, actually, & really nice to see some quality art within the songcraft medium. I will definitely be listening to Scott’s oeuvre from now on.

Damian Beeson Bullen

Amy May Ellis & Maranta

Amy May Ellis

Oran Mor
5th Feb, 2023

On a busy day up Glasgow’s Byers Road was to be held a somewhat gala day of Celtic Connections music. It had been a while since I had been at the Oran Mor, a pleasure to be back. The day (which will still be ongoing) had been split into its upper hall and its venue in the basement. I was there to see the lovely Amy May Ellis a songwriter busy in the throes of the music industry recording and performing her soulful heart out and Maranta a synthpop band!

Amy kicked off the day in the resplendent upper hall of the old church building, a place with beautiful art fairly high ceilings and an inspiring setting for Celtic folk music by Amy. She played her classical guitar to perfection with quietly wonderful vocals, songs of faith and love, a welcome to the party seemed to take hold, in a kind of open house.

Amy’s show was to a house well received, I think she was busy with a band on tour and she kind of snuck a performance at the 10 years of Lost Map event. Lost Map are a Record Label enjoying their 10 year existence and 8 Artist were to play at Oran stretching from mid afternoon till late in the evening, a time that gave it a most well done festival feeling, after Amy we shuffled down the stairs to the basement.

To a crowd now well welcomed the atmosphere had a certain excitement to it; it’s amazing what welcoming can do. I was there to review the second of my two acts so down stairs on came a cool couple called Maranta (I think is a house plant). They both worked their synthpop boxes to give out some wavy tunes. Coming from Edinburgh they are known for their electric music well rooted in the 80’s but they brought it out brightly with fresh licks and unending changed in the sound they bent and warped.

Also bringing a great taste of experimentation in just about every aspect of their music; offering a lifting experience and a jive of positive vibes. Smiles were everywhere in the room that spreads a bar sideline seats or the jovial standing and a stage that has its deep hold there. There was just a sweet scent there, a wholesomeness to celebrate the British record label whose support of many kinds of music from dear folk to delicate country.


So the vibes enjoyed a treat of live music to end the 2023 Connection’s Festival with redolence and a good mood for the year’s music to come with a busy schedule. A gala of music written and performed by artists who couldn’t do what they do without being very good at it, I’m sure the flow of today’s showcase has now reached quite a height of grateful gratitude for all involved.

Daniel Donnelly

Stina Marie Claire & Raveloe

Stina Marie Claire

CCA, Glasgow
3rd Feb, 2023

Raveloe took to the stage at the CCA Glasgow to give a well written performance of her songs (all her own writing) that we were lucky to catch because of the covid restrictions. Kim Grant started her musical life in 2019 as a solo artist and ended up recording during these restrictions. Her band looked great on electric guitar like a rock band in set up, and her music had transformative powers and the lyrics were close to her heart, their togetherness and tightness had us glued. It rolled around with a feeling of suffering stories and painful things but put to a kind of Celtic rock with grace. She stood tall and ready, leading the band and the audience through her songs.

The room at the CCA was a nice space with about 144 capacity so there was a warmth of intimacy; allowing for the music to find an easy conveyance travelling very well. Stina Marie Claire (which I think was an alias) was followed on by her band Honeyblood who were all in white, playing, violin, cello, guitar, drum and keyboard. She did very well talking about herself and the group.

Music for her was an obvious necessity, and her voice had an epic, enjoyably sad tone to it as she opened her throat. Her stories were founded on that sadness, an advocate of crying during pain, let it out she said. She began with a song called ‘The Human Condition’, a name somewhat cutting edge in music.

There was a variety in the performance not only of genres but also instrument swapping. As she announced that the evenings sway would be all or some or none. Written fresh from her EP the tales she told were of solitude, suffering but from a point of personal (ongoing) experience, all in some kind of loss.


It stepped up and up as the songs grew great flesh and they started chopping things up. With great rhythms strong, broad and eventful. She even got the band to quit the stage a couple of times leaving her to perform some solo numbers on guitar and piano. There were many things that were a first for her. One being that it was the most musicians she had played live with.

She came across stronger and closer to us, reeling us in to a world of hurt, grief and night terrors (that can be pretty heavy). So she had presence, and another worldly style sharing her burden and asking us for at least acceptance as a character still in love. She created a changing persona that by the end we saw happen before our eyes, in her last songs she simply sat at the piano to sing in a now prevalent sadness, another thing new to her.

I felt as gently as I could when taken up by this page who signalled some great craft with no little naivety on what she would do and say onstage. And her listeners paid due attention offering outcries between songs and great whoops of support.

The all in white stage presence and innocently looking dress she wore had some kind of comment to it (all details ticked), maybe of that innocence or some kind of clinical appearance. After all she commented that the evening was more about therapy than a live music show (though of course it was for both.)

She came on, held out her hand, as music felt its physical presence grow, her voice become more and more profound and went on until we were in her hands just as she was. She put a broad story into place, she suffered in her experience and she brought it all on with only about an hour’s worth of music. We left with a treasure in our hearts and some alleviation from our heads. Not to mention her outreach for sordid things too many still suffer. Great music to be picked up and allow yourself an insight into how you may be feeling yourself, on the open stage of the 2023 Celtic Connection.

Daniel Donnelly

Anna Meredith and C Duncan

Tramway, Glasgow
2nd Feb, 2023

At the Tramway last night in the South Side of Glasgow we walked into a large space with a most generous stage. Quietly the first act came on a C Duncan and his band began things with some softly melodic music full of pearls and lyrics that held the same. He is a young and modern composer but he uses music from any time he may like.

It was hard to pinpoint exactly what his influences might be (which is a good thing) but his general style was ever continuous. His light and husky vocals offered a kind of sacred sound familiar and new, bending notes that at will fitted perfectly to the stage. Nice rolling music that visibly and in plain sight warmed the room making that great acceptance.

We hit the heights when headliner Anna Meredith began her set that was nothing less than the gods coming home (tarrah). May I first comment on the instruments involved in this out of the park music; drums, whose tempos came out of nowhere, a tuba (a remarkable choice, especially when looking at the kind of music owning among other things a celebration of techno.), cello to the right and plenty of variations when swapping tools.

Totality was at hand, with levels that almost could have terrified but thundered together to all corners of the room. They used their instrument to create some great crescendos I had to internally ask how these musicians had come together, because it worked in blowing us away with every song and turn.

There was a fan presence, or at least there must have been seeing the scale of enjoyment. I hung out in a corner just taking it in, what a view where I couldn’t quite see those onstage. It was artful with stunningly and beautifully captured moving images for the high backdrop. She sang as if with the heart of a saint, one who could race in exuberance followed in enhanced music that was eye opening. Carefully placing gentleness, in the back of the room replacing with rave like frenzy. Again I comment on the classical instruments involved, they took a new place and gave up nothing less.

Triumphantly joyful, a parade of music good enough to cause a parade in the house (a term I use endearingly where I mean the audience). It opened up a crack in the sky formed to develop skills beyond belief; lyrics from the heart and music from the last few decades perhaps even liking punk or other things pre techno. Anthems, distortions, evocation and an obvious will, unafraid.

It was amazing to experience such abandonment where no harm is done, not for anger but not to hide her words either. A banging night a banging room, stage and an evening to enjoy this queen like and to blow cobwebs away to strip you of everything but your eyes and your ears. There should have been camp fires because the people started to sway in dancing circles. I can’t praise their music more than saying that the gratitude levels were of marvel. Well done and congrats and may you play to many more stages and bring this important music for the future to come.

Daniel Donnelly

The Willow Trio: The Swan of Salen

A CD popp’d thro my letterbox the other day, & with Burnley Football Club not having a midweek game, I finally found some time to listen to it. So, The Willo Trio, & their ‘Eala Shailein,’ which means the Swan of Salen. Overall it is an mixture of instrumentals from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake & traditional Scottish pieces with Gaelic names whose melodies have been drawn by singers such as Julie Fowlis & Flora MacMeil. Among the fifteen tracks of this transcreation, you might also get Hungarian & Spanish dances, so cool & eclectic is The Swan of Salen.

All pieces have been arranged and performed by the Willo Trio, Sam MacAdam, Sophie Rocks and Romy Wymer; who will be releasing the album on February 17th, which you can pre-order now on bandcamp.

Two days after that, on February 19th, at 4PM and 7PM, there’ll be a performance in front of a ballet film, tickets to which you can get here. What you’ll see is a unique blend of Tchaikovsky’s music and traditional melodies played live on three clàrsachs, and a brand new choreography by Deborah Norris ( projected behind the musicians.

It is a bit of a concept album really, a story set on a small tidal island on the shore of Loch Sunart, where lie the ruins of the iron age fortress call’d Dùn Ghallain. Recorded, mix’d & master’d by Luigi Pasquini at Dystopia Studio (Glasgow), Eala Shailein is a really versatile & lovelily flowing selection of highly crafted, well-wrought musical pieces. For me track 4’s blend of cascading finger picking over the ‘Waltz from Swan Lake / Spanish Dance’ was inspirational, while track 12’s ‘Danses des Cynges’ pluck’d the most emotion from my soul. For track 4, I even got up & did an elegant boogie with an imaginary dance partner – I was pullin’ some reyt moves.

Damian Beeson Bullen​

An Interview with Amber Arcades

Amber Arcades is heading to Glasgow for Independent Venue Week

Well, hello Annelotte de Graaf – or should I say Amber Arcades. So, where did your stage name come from, what’s the back-story?
To be completely honest, I was just hanging out with my friend (Maartje, who played bass in my band waaaaaay back) and we wrote down a bunch of words that “sounded cool”. And these two sounded extra cool together! Then later I thought of what it could mean and I linked it to this story of Godfried Bomans about a man in the woods who thinks he lives in a castle. I know that doesn’t sound very romantic, but honestly I’m not fully against meaning being bestowed on things in retrospect. I feel like the meaning of many songs I write also doesn’t fully sink in until months after.

What are your first musical memories?
My mum playing a cassette tape of Koyaanisqatsi by Philip Glass. That super low voice used to scare me so much. Also a tape of Bhagwan songs, my parents had friends who were in the commune. I can still remember the lyrics: Bhagwan your love is an invitation, to live a life of celebration, on the wings of love we fly with you. At the time of course I had no idea what this meant.

Who has been your greatest musical influence over the years?
Oof… Too many! If I have to pick one I’d say Sharon van Etten. Her songs really helped me back when I was just starting out to discover a way of using my voice that felt very natural and easy.

So… desert island, solar powered CD player, 3 albums – what are they?
Elliott Smith – Either/Or for when I’m feeling sad that I’m on an island all alone.
Arthur Verocai – Arthur Verocai for when I’m chilling at the beach.
Mort Garson – Mother Earth’s Plantasia for when I am trying to befriend the local flora population.

How did you find, & then reconcile, juggling a legal career in Utrecht with your love of music?
I like being able to move in and out of both worlds. Both careers have given me so much in terms of knowledge, experience and insights. I’m very lucky that my job lets me take time off when I need to for my music so it’s possible to keep doing both.

Where do your songs come from & how do you shepherd them into existence?
It’s a very associative process. Most of the time I start with a small piece of a melody that pops up in my head when I play a certain chord and see where it wants to go. Each added note implies some options for the next one. But anything can be a starting point and evolve in something else entirely. Sometimes I’ll take the chords from an already existing song, find a new melody for them, and then change the chords again, so in the end it’s a completely new song. I’d say it’s quite a playful process where I don’t really filter myself a lot, at least in the initial stages.

Ten years into your Amber Arcades journey, how have you evolved as a songwriter?
I feel like I allow myself to be more playful while I simultaneously have more control over the process. I guess that sounds almost mutually exclusive, but that is how it feels. Playful in the sense that there’s no taboos or constraints while writing, any idea is welcome. And more control in that I have a better understanding of and feeling for song structure and how to build and craft melodies.

You’re about to release ‘Barefoot On Diamond Road’, on Fire Records, next month – can you tell us all about it?
It’s the greatest record I’ve made so far! Although I think that of every new record, haha. And then in hindsight I love them all equally! But honestly, this one feels very special and “true” in a way, like I’m getting closer to myself and accepting what I’m finding there. It feels like I’m finally recognizing stuff that was a big part of me all along, like my love for nature and certain sci-fi aesthetics, and putting them at the front of this record, like, this is me, hello!

What’s it like being signed to Fire Records?
Wonderful! They’re truly excellent people who are so full of love for music.

You have a tour coming up with Fire Records, can you tell us about it?
As a part of Independent Venue Week I’m touring together with Hater and Thala through the UK. It’s going to be very special I think, I feel very lucky to be out with such a good group of people and musicians! Musically I think it’s a great match and who knows, maybe we’ll even find a way to do something special together for the shows.


You’ll be coming to Glasgow, have you been to Scotland before, & if so how did it go?
I’ve been a couple of times, to play shows in Edinburgh and Glasgow. I absolutely love Scotland. Even just driving through it. It’s just so incredibly gorgeous. One time we had a day off after a show in Glasgow and drove up to Loch Lomond for a hike, it was stunning. Also the cities themselves are amazing, such great venues and food.

How is the rest of 2023 looking on all fronts?
My record is coming out on February 10 and I can’t wait to finally share it completely with the world. It’s been a while in the making and like I said, this one truly feels very special. We’re heading to SXSW in March. Other than that I can’t reveal too much yet, but I’m confident it will be a year full of beautiful moments with music, nature, food and people.