My ‘rambling’s on one of my favourite bands, ‘Red Sky July’…

I have been a fan of Shelley Poole (below, centre) for a very long time, ever since she was one half of Alisha’s Attic in the 90’s, through her solo career, to her current incarnation as one of the members of her latest band, Red Sky July (RSJ). As a teenager I was a huge fan of Alisha’s Attic and I wish I’d seen them live, but the only gig I could’ve attended unfortunately took place during a planned vacation. Luckily for me her new band, with Charity Hair (below, right) and her husband Ally McErlaine (below, left) from Texas (the band, not the place), have given me a chance to keep up to date with her endeavours and to enjoy what she is currently doing. And what they are doing is pretty fantastic!

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So, right off the bat I would say that everything RSJ has done is worth your time, though I obviously have personal favourites. RSJ make country music, but not American chart Country music, this is real country music, stripped down and beautiful. Their first, self-titled album is gorgeous, with ‘Morning Song’ (they happily tell fans at gigs  that this was their first collaboration and the reason the band began) and ‘Loving You’s Easy’ as stand out tracks, though you may struggle to find a physical copy as I think it has sold out. It is, however, available digitally (http://tinyurl.com/zzv8ejr). Their second album, Shadowbirds (http://tinyurl.com/h28w3kl), is superb and is mine and my wife’s favourite album of the three and songs like ‘Renegade’ and the title track stand out.

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Their third, ‘The Truth and the Lie’, aims more for the mainstream audience and succeeds in changing their sound for this market, though I personally prefer the more stripped down versions when we see them play live. Standout tracks include ‘Sway’, which is stunning, ‘Jetrails’ and the title track. They then returned to what they do best with ‘Voyager’, a six track EP available online only (http://tinyurl.com/jk2e637). I would say that their albums now rank among my wife and my favourites of the last few years and make for great driving music too! Shelley’s solo album, Hard Time for the Dreamer (http://tinyurl.com/j555c5k), is also an absolute gem but, like with their eponymous debut, you might have a hard time finding it for a reasonable price.

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Seeing these guys live is an absolute treat though, unlike some of their truly dedicated fans, I have only managed to see them at the Green Note in Camden. This tiny little café can’t hold more than a few dozen people and my wife, my family and I have seen them play several times in this most intimate of settings. They are sat on a small stage literally a few feet away from the crowd and they engage and banter with the audience in an incredibly intimate way. The only other time I have ever come this close to a band was seeing Powderfinger at the Birmingham Carling Academy, who filled stadia back in Australia, and being in the second row in the audience. Like that, seeing RSJ in such a remarkably small space is a true delight.

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The other thing that I love about RSJ is their attitude towards their fans. You will never see more fan service than their gigs at the Green Note, especially their wonderful Christmas gigs, where you’ll also hear their lovely Christmas song, ‘Save Christmas Day For Me’ (http://tinyurl.com/ho3bth2). Shelley, Ally and Charity will happily sign anything you ask, they’ll take photos with you and Shelley also takes an interest in her fans, getting to know their lives. The one disadvantage that I am at is that my parents have become bigger fans of RSJ than my wife and I, as we were at somewhat of an disadvantage living in Canada from 2010 to the end of 2014. My mother and father saw them many more times during that period than we were able to and so now have a closer relationship with the band than I do. Grumbles!

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If you have any interest in great music, if you like supporting wonderful bands, or you simply want to see a superb live show, then I would recommend you give Red Sky July a go. Tickets for the Green Note shows disappear astonishingly quickly so act quickly if you want to see them there. Otherwise check out their albums and gigs at other venues! Cheers!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers. It’s sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My review of Alastair Reynolds excellent sci-fi novel ‘Revenger’…

I have been a fan of Alastair Reynolds for a really long time and I would say that he is a strong influence on my science-fiction writing. I first picked up a copy of ‘Revelation Space’, which I absolutely loved, in a charity shop when I was a student at university, tore my way through it, and since then I have eagerly awaited each of his new books. I have my favourites (I’ve always really liked The Prefect) and I felt that one or two haven’t quite maintained the high standard of his best work but I still eagerly await each new release and dread the period immediately after I devour the latest for I know the wait for the next will be long indeed. And I am glad to say that I thoroughly enjoyed  his latest, ‘Revenger’.

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Revenger is, in the simplest possible terms, pirates in space. Think Firefly meets Ocean’s Eleven and you’re in the right ball park. These characters live on ships that travel through space using massive sails that allow the vessels to be pushed along by sunlight and visit the worlds where they seek their treasure. In my mind the ships resembled the lightship that Ben and Jake Sisko build in the ‘Explorers’ episode of Deep Space Nine. The crew then attempt to break into these worlds that contain vast, unseen treasures from an age gone by and each member has a different skill set and speciality including someone who can read the ‘augries’ (I hope I spelled that right) which is knowing when a ‘bauble’ will pop open, a crew member who can assess the worth of the treasure and a few others. But the most important is the ‘Bone Reader’ and that’s our protagonist, Fura Ness, someone who literally ‘reads’ a giant skull that she plugs into. All of this works to build the work that Reynolds is creating as does the language of the novel where a man is a ‘cove’ and money is ‘quoins’ all contributes to the world building that Reynolds is undertaking.

Now, I don’t want to say any more about the actual plot, for I would rather you go away and read the book for yourself, but it is safe to say that the title is a good one for this is a story about revenge, legacy and how the choices that the characters take shape the course of their lives. One of the aspects that I like most about this particular tale is how quickly it moves along, not lingering to settle the character’s into their lives, but quickly upending them and forcing them to deal with the events that occur. Oh and, at times, it’s brutal with a particularly gruelling segment about a third of the way through that I did not see coming at all! But this brutality seems fitting, given the life that they lead, and it forces our protagonist to take control of her life and her story and chose the path that she will take. For that is what a good protagonist should do in the opinion of this reviewer.

I thoroughly enjoyed Revenger and would recommend it to any and all fans of quality science-fiction writing. The book also ends well, closing out this origin story, and providing ample room for a sequel should Reynolds choose to write one. I really hope that he does for I would like to see the next adventure of Fura Ness and her sister. He also leaves a nice, juicy mystery hanging (and his reveals are usually very good!) and I hope we get to find out the secrets of this Universe and visit it again. And thus begins the long wait for the next Reynolds story sometime in the not-too distance future. Until then!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers. It’s sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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