Karl Culley’s rare local gigs

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KATANA bar on Union Street in Harrogate held the first of a regular series of rock gigs last Friday night.

Marshalled by Lex of local band Lobo, the packed crowd in this stylish venue enjoyed a great double bill including the new line-up of the funky Scapegoat Kelly and the incredibly-inventive alt-pop band The Birdman Rallies whose melodic invention saw their perennial, stop-start, harmonic favourite You and I go down an absolute storm. Catch them supporting Super Furry Animals’ leader Gryff Rhys at Harrogate Theatre on July 18.

In the meantime, there’s a reminder from Lex that The Regency in Harrogate where he’s had a weekly Thursday jam session launches its Battle of the Bands competition next Wednesday.

Any bands wishing to play in The Regency Battle of the Bands should enter at the pub or email: Diverseat@hotmail.co.uk

LIVING the dream. . .oh yes.The UK Foo Fighters are certainly living the rock n roll life by Harrogate band standards.

Last weekend saw Jay Apperley and co playing a summer ball with Feeder at Bangor University.

Highlights of an action-packed night saw them meet Radio 1 DJ Zane Lowe, though their live appearance in front of more than 1,500 students didn’t take place until 4am after Feeder’s set was disrupted by venue evacuations (fire alarms) and PA explosions (equipment malfunctions).

You can catch these impressive sons of Dave Grohl tonight, Friday at Fibbers in York.

IT’S one of the fun-est (great word!) rock/metal nights of the year, traditionally, and it’s back this Sunday night at Rehab in Harrogate.

It’s annual Princess & Pirate night at DJ Trev’s Bottom of the Bottle and it also includes a great live line-up featuring headliners Saints Remedy plus new, upcoming band Under the Gun plus York’s Crave.

ONE of Harrogate’s most popular indie-rock bands D’Nile play live at a brand, new Harrogate nightclub tonight, Friday called Boutique. I say new, it’s actually the revamped Cardinal Sins on Station Parade. Catch Liam Gray and the boys from 8pm.

ONE of the best unsigned singer-songwriters in the country, Karl Culley is back from Poland this week for a couple of local appearances.

The brilliant acoustic musician from Harrogate plays the Blues Bar next Tuesday night and The Basement at City Screen with The Birdman Rallies next Thursday night.

RIPLEYBlues promoters’ next show is another cracker. Held, as always, at Ripley Town Hall, on Saturday, June 11, the double bill includes acclaimed young blues band Hokie Joint who were described by Blues Matter magazine as a “theatrical cross of Tom Waits and Ian Dury” with support from Mr Dave Acari who has received praise by none other than Seasick Steve. www.ripleyblues.com

SOMETHING I should, perhaps, have mentioned more in Gig Scene, is that Vin Garbutt, one of the greatest current performers on the folk music scene today, is playing Henshaws Arts & Crafts Centre in Knaresborough tonight.

WELL-travelled singer-songwriter Simon Widdowson has been a busy man since returning to Harrogate. Gigging regularly across Yorkshire, he now plays a new intimate acoustic residency from next week at the Harrogate Brasserie. It takes place every Wednesday and Thursday between 7pm and 9.30pm.

FOR proper fans of alt and indie music, there’s a few great shows coming up in Leeds next week. On Monday at The Cockpit, the Constellations promoters present the mighty Battles live.

The same venue has Yo La Tengo next Wednesday. Last, but certainly not least, All Mankind play tomorrow, night, Saturday upstairs at Milos. This fast rising band have already been compared to Coldplay and The Killers.

CD REVIEW

Karl Culley: The Owl. (album)

IT’S a sign of the progress he’s made that the term ‘singer-songwriter’ sounds too restrictive for Harrogate acoustic musician Karl Culley these days.

Try putting this extreme romantic’s intimate moans and “ai-eees” in any pigeon-hole and see how they wriggle free.

Neither John Martyn nor Bert Jansch nor Paul Simon nor Robert Johnson nor Jake Thackeray nor Bob Dylan nor Pavement but somehow all of them and none of them.

The Owl is his biggest leap forward to date, helped by tasteful contributions from regular accompanist on double bass, Ash Johnson and various members of excellent alt-pop band The Birdman Rallies.

On what must be his third album at least, Culley’s delivery is more measured, his singing more confident.

He’s gradually learnt to sit in the pockets of his quietly haunting songs rather than galloping for the finish line.

Asides from the opening pair of jaunty, rambling tracks, Bed at Sea and Stars, he’s mostly left behind the frenetic, percussive finger-picking style of the days when he was like Bert Jansch on speed, sprinting not strolling down that country-blues highway.

This 11-track album has at least five different styles of song writing, from the breezy modern Americana of Bound for the Ground and Shady Woods, two of the most deliciously catchy songs he’s ever written, to the hypnotic darkness of Never Desert A Dying Horse, the exquisite lightness of Nothing Moves On The Mountain and the intense atonal disonnance of Psalm.

As always with Culley, his emotions swing wildly, one minute a bountiful warm thrum, the next a deathly hush.

He suffers through love, he soars through love, explaining, perhaps, why his lyrical motifs veer regularly between sky and ground.

What makes him different from a million other acoustic talents peddling the usual mix of folk and pop and blues, is that it often feels like his very soul at stake in his music.

Like the bluesmen of old without actually sounding like them, Culley sounds like his heart is being tossed around in the wind of a spiritual dust bowl, never knowing quite where it will land.

A searcher of wisdom, he appears to find some on the wonderfully calm and understated Star-Like Bead, his thoughts rising like gossamer balloons in the clouds.

Excitingly Karl Culley is now a small strum or two away from meeting the sort of standards set by the famous names which first inspired his switch from indie rock to acoustic-based music nearly a decade ago.

With a smidgeon more boldness and a couple more classic melodies, he will get there.

www.karlculley.co.uk