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Thursday 28 February 2013

Anastacia cancels tour after breast cancer returns

Sad to hear that Anastacia has been diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time.

The 44-year-old singer, who previously beat the disease back in 2003, has been forced to cancel her European tour after receiving the tragic news.

Explaining her disappointment over the cancellation in a statement, Anastacia said: ‘I feel so awful to be letting down all my amazing fans who were looking forward to It’s A Man’s World Tour.

‘It just breaks my heart to disappoint them.’

Anastacia’s tour had been scheduled to kick off in London on April 6, but the singer has been instructed by her doctors to cancel all performances and not travel from now until further notice.

The I’m Outta Love star will, however, continue with the recording and writing of her new album, and is hoping to at some point in the near future schedule in another tour.

The statement continued: “Now more then ever, she is determined to live by her motto “Don’t ever let cancer get the “Best of You!”

“A born survivor, Anastacia has one goal and that is to make a full recovery with the support of her family, friends and everyone around her.”

Speaking previously about her successful battle against breast cancer, Anastacia blamed the stress of being a world-famous singer for her contracting the disease, as there was no history of breast cancer in her family.

In an interview in 2008, Anastacia said: “More and more women today are getting cancer which is not gene related. I’m sure it was stress which caused mine.

“I’m not really made for this business. I don’t really know how to be the star my record company always wanted me to be.

‘None of it feels natural to me. I can relate to girls in this industry who have gone off the rails like Amy Winehouse and Britney Spears. I think I could only cope with it at all because I was a lot older than them.”

Get well soon.

Saturday 23 February 2013

Emilia Mitiku : I Belong To You review

She is the pop songbird who ended the nineties with a worldwide hit in bohemian Big Big World.

Fourteen years later Emilia Mitiku is older and wiser, no longer needing to be everybody’s darling, and with little or nothing to prove.

“That was important back then,” says the 35-year-old, who first found chart fame simply as Emilia.

“When you’re young, you feel you have to win the approval of everybody.

“But not now.

“I’ll always be grateful for the success I had but it’s only now that I can look back and make some sense of it all. I’m not that person anymore.

“If you’re going to ask for people’s time, you have to be honest.”

Cue a return to the music Emilia heard on the record player of her Swedish mother and Ethiopian jazz singing father, Teshome Mitiku.

“I gew up immersed in the music of Etta, Ella, Eartha and Billie,” she says. “Going back to that music happened so naturally, albeit slowly.

“These melodies were probably always there; they just took their time getting out. I’ve always sung this way, though it’s taken me until now to represent that on an album.”

Complete with a moody sleeve makeover, I Belong To You comprises mostly self-penned songs in classic jazz-pop style and a clutch of covers, some of them strictly unnecessary.

Not that it sounds dated. Both So Wonderful and You’re Breaking My Heart are throughly contemporary, the latter with Mitiku’s R&B vocal backed by jangly guitar, whistling and subtle soprano sax – a hit single in the waiting, perhaps.

Lost Inside could be a swampy Tony Joe White song given a polished paint job, and Ooh La La is playful piano boogie brought up to date.

The title track is late night jazz, all piano, softly brushed snare and a vocal nod to Billie Holiday. You’re Not Right For Me would have been right for Diana Ross, too.

Mitiku even manages to keep a straight face on the delightfully daft Zou Bisou Bisou, the French pop song that left Don Draper so unimpressed during Mad Men.

But the cover of Dream A Little Dream adds nothing to the Ella Fitzgerald original and Doris Day’s Again is filler.

Still, a good album on which even the new songs sound as if they were 50s and 60s classics you always knew.

Saturday 16 February 2013

Lindi Ortega : Cigarettes & Truckstops review

She has been described as the new Dolly Parton – but that’s to do Toronto troubadour Lindi Ortega a cotton-picking injustice.

You wouldn’t find rhinestone Dolly singing back-up for Killers frontman Brandon Flowers or opening for punk powerhouses Social Distortion.

And you certainly wouldn’t find la Parton rocking out with an unpredictable abandon that would give Nick Cave a run for his money.

Although she’s just moved to Nashville, Ortega is equally at home on the Coachella and T In The Park stages.

Bagging and tagging is not an option here, however strong the temptation. Just calling her country is a glib getout.

Ortega deserves better.

That said, title track opener Cigarettes & Truckstops does travel country roads, with a sweet soprano vocal that, indeed, invites comparison with Parton (and even name-checks the Tennessee icon and her hit Islands In The Stream en route).

Heaven Has No Place For Me is grown from country seed, too, but with bluesy backing boasting grumbling guitar.

Elsewhere, both Demons Don’t Get Me Down and Use Me are teasing and playful in equal measure; Don’t Wanna Hear It is bar-room rock and roll; Every Mile Of The Way a dream-like retro reverb ballad.

The Day You Die is a dark tune about a loveless marriage, although you might at first miss that amid the deceptive lively shuffle.

Despair and hopelessness also run through Lead Me On, a double entendre tale of unrequited love as sad and gritty as anything from the classic heartache handbook.

But it’s Murder Of Crows that will have the hair on your neck bristling.

A rootsy take on the murder ballad genre that would surely delight Robert Plant, it’s a chilling tale which – quite literally – hides a guilty secret buried in the tracks down by a field of cornrows.

Backed by bottleneck dobro, it’s an eerie slice of skewed Americana.

Lindi Ortega is on her way to the humble surrounds of the Hare & Hounds pub in Kings Heath, Birmingham on Wednesday February 27.

Better be there. She knows where the bodies are buried ...

Wednesday 6 February 2013

Gin Wigmore : this gin's a tonic! - Gravel & Wine review

She hollers like a veteran rock and roller, and plays the blues as if she was born in the USA.

Born down in a dead man town.

All of which is a little unsettling, given that 26-year-old Virginia Wigmore is a chart pop songbird from, er, New Zealand...

It’s just that she loves cowboy movies, has a hankering to star in a Tarantino film, and opens her shows with A Fistful Of Dollars.

“I decided I wanted to make a blues record,” she grins. “My management said ‘But Gin, you don’t know nothing about the blues!

“What are you, just some little white girl going to sing the blues? Go and learn about it, for God’s sake.

“So I went on this trip by myself and cruised around the Mississippi, Alabama, Nashville, Memphis...

“I learned about Elvis, went to the Stax Museum, learned about all those artists and wrote with people along the way. And from that I just built my stories and had an adventure.

“The music was laid down live withas few takes as possible. It’s all recorded with a bunch of musicians from Georgia, a quite southern mad bunch of dudes. So, yes, it’s different.”

The road trip built on the influences of her childhood, Gin confesses.

“I guess I’ve always been listening to music and stealing my parents’ record collection.

“I was 13 or so when I picked up the guitar Mum had bought for Dad. I managed to make sense of it and wrote some ditties to deal with my angsty teenager things going on!”

There’s no angst on the album. It’s a sassy, swaggering, self-confident affair which works well both as a rock set and a pop party. It’s gritty but there are singalong hooks galore.

Gin’s vocal is a ‘love it or loathe it’ decision. It sneers and sizzles, even occasionally smoulders, like a 21st century Eartha Kitt.

There’s a bit of Amy Winehouse ion there, a dash of Macy Gray. Above all, it’s feelgood, fiery and fun. You’ll wear a wide grin after just one listen.

Man Like That (the music from the Heineken 007 ad) is like the Puppini Sisters on steroids; Devil In Me sounds like Gwen Steafni’s No Doubt starring in a spaghetti western, complete with that guitar from The Good, The Bad & The Ugly.

If Only is the sort of 60s-styled ballad that sounded nostalgic even back in the sixties, Sweet Hell a sweet country ramble with co-writer Butch Walker, and Black Sheep a semi-biographical stadium chant.

“I wasn’t born a beauty queen but I’m okay with that,” she sings. “Maybe radio won’t mind if I sing a little flat.

“I wear my boots to bed, hang a cross up on the wall to save me from a shallow grave that wants to take us all.”

Yet when she turns the volume dial down for the stripped back Singin’ My Soul, there’s a surprising vulnerability about her.

Make mine gin, this one’s a tonic.

Saturday 2 February 2013

Pure Love : Anthems - a wolf in sheep's clothing

I confess my heart sank when the laptop pinged, announcing the arrival of ‘Pure Love Anthems’ in my inbox.

There’s only so many times you can stomach Whitney Houston et al giving it some welly. And don’t get me started on Simply Red ...

But wait. Despite an album sleeve that looks like a building society advert, love is not all around. There’s no sign of Wet Wet bloody Wet.

Pure Love turns out to be the new band fronted by Gallows frontman Frank Carter, the British artist formerly known as tattooed and angry.

Gone is his strangled punky metal shouting. “I learned to sing,” shrugs Carter, who has teamed up with US guitarist Jim Carroll – he of Hope Conspiracy credentials – in the band.

“We’ve always liked big, hook-filled rock songs. I was brought up on The Beatles, Bowie, Pink Floyd, and Led Zeppelin. Now I’ve found my voice.

“The intention is to write honest rock songs that are about love and death and sex. But to sell some records and have the big show, too.

“There isn’t anything like this out there – that’s why we did it. We need to shake things up. We want to put it all out there – blood, sweat and tears. But we also want to have fun.

“Everything is in place to do that essentially. And so far, so good.”

If the debut album is anything to go by, he’s right. Titled Anthems as a bit of a joke, the eleven songs on offer defy expectation by living up to the label. They’re anthems one and all.
Opening with the credible garage band guitar of She, the album motors through a radio-friendly setlist. Bury My Bones boasts almost a Darkness-style riff, Handsome Devils Club mixes Smiths jangle with rock and roll, Morrissey on steroids.

Burning Love lives up to its title, an intense drama of a song which threatens to explode, while Beach Of Diamonds has Beatley backbeat and a slice of 60s on the side.

Scared To Death gives Foo Fighters a run for Dave Grohl’s megabucks, and Anthem is deceptively docile before building into a rock and roll frenzy.

Best are Riot Song, with its irresistible stadium chant, and March Of The Pilgrims, with marries a U2 dynamic with the densely layered guitars of, say, 30 Seconds To Mars.

Absolutely the only pure love anthems album you’ll need this year.