Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Tournament Gallery

Yarm School have added a two-page gallery of photographs from Saturday's chess tournament to their main site.

Monday, 29 September 2014

20th Yarm Chess Championships

20th Yarm Chess Championships
From the Yarm School press release...

Youngsters at Yarm Preparatory School have played host to local primary schools at the 20th Yarm Chess Tournament.

The championship saw 24 teams in action, battle their way through five highly competitive rounds in the Under-9 and Under-11 titles.

Competing schools included Errington, Ings Farm, Brambles, Throston, Whale Hill, Westgarth and John Emmerson Batty. Over 100 children took part in the tournament, which was organised by Sean Marsh from Chess in Schools and Communities (CSC.)

Yarm School A won the Under-9 section, just ahead of Whale Hill and Throston who were second and third respectively. Yarm School A were also successful in the Under-11 section, scoring a very impressive 18.5 points out of a possible 20. Errington School B came second and there was a three-way tie for third place, between Westgarth A, Westgarth D and Throston.

Bill Sawyer, Headmaster of Yarm Preparatory School, said: “It was a fantastic day for everyone taking part. Teams of boys and girls came from all over Teesside and everyone improved their game and gained valuable experience while also having a lot of fun. I would like to thank every pupil who took part as well as Chess in Schools and Communities for organising the tournament, which we were, as ever, delighted to host.”

Mr Sawyer added: “Extra-curricular activities are important to any student, and as a school we value them very highly. Tournaments like this one, deliver an opportunity for students to hone and demonstrate their skills, as well as providing them with valuable experience for future contests.”

Sean Marsh from Chess in Schools and Communities said: “It was great to see so many players from so many different schools enjoying playing chess, making new friends and enjoying the experience, whether they became champions or not.”

Yarm School regularly offers a range of extra-curricular opportunities to students, with clubs, societies and activities available at lunch times and after school for pupils.

As part of the 20th tournament celebrations, Sean Marsh signed copies of his recently launched book, The Batsford Book of Chess from Beginner to Winner.

And to finish with, here are some photos from the prizegiving. All players received certificates and teams finishing in the top three places received extra certificates as well as books and medals, supplied by the CSC.




Erja Lyytinen: The Sky is Crying

The Sky is Crying
Erja Lyytinen
Erja's new album is (in her own words) ''a raw and down to earth blues album.'' It also a tribute album, designed to celebrate the world and sounds of the Mississippi blues guitar. Consequently, all songs bar two - Erja´s Contribution To Jazz and King of the Slide Guitar - are covers.

The presence of Blind Willie McTell, Robert Johnson, Fred McDowell and Son House can all be freely identified on The Sky is Crying but the biggest influence is without doubt Elmore James - the King of the Slide Guitar. Erja, a.k.a Finland's Queen of the Slide Guitar, last appeared here at Marsh Towers back in January 2013. On this new album she takes nine of Elmore's songs and stamps her own unique style all over them, throwing in two of her own compositions for good measure.

Track List

1. Person To Person
2. Baby Please Set A Date
3. It Hurts Me Too
4. Erja´s Contribution To Jazz
5. The Sky Is Crying
6. Got To Move
7. The King Of The Slide Guitar
8. Sho´ Nuff I Do
9. Something Inside Me
10. Hand In Hand
11. Dust My Broom (live)

The songs certainly get the performance they deserve, with the band utilising a large range of instruments - including a welcome horn section - to fill out the sound.

Erja Lyytinen: Vocals, slideguitar, guitar
Davide Floreno: Guitar, backing vocals
Roger Inniss: Bass
Miri Miettinen: Drums
Harri Taittonen: Piano, hammond, accordion
Abdissa Assefa: Percussion
Jukka Eskola: Trumpet
Petri Puolitaival: Tenor sax, baritone sax

Erja's vocal delivery is more than up to the task of keeping these old classics alive but the absolute star of the show is definitely her slide guitar, which has to be heard to be believed.
Among the album's many highlights, it the live version of Dust My Broom (recorded in September, 2013) that stands out more than any other. Running to just over nine and half minutes, it allows plenty of scope for exemplary solos and no opportunity is left unused.
''Blues will cure your soul'' sings Erja on The King Of The Slide Guitar. Whether that is literally true or not, it's got to be worth a try - so just slip The Sky is Crying into your player, sit back, relax, and take the cure.
For the latest news and tour dates, head over to Erja's official website.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Yarm Chess Championships

The 20th Yarm Chess Championships took place yesterday.

A full report will follow soon. Suffice to say the event was a terrific success, as was the post-tournament book signing session!


Thursday, 25 September 2014

Flyer Revisited

Don't forget to use the code on this flyer to obtain a discount on The Batsford Book of Chess: From Beginner to Winner, when ordering directly from Batsford.

Use the code to get a 20% discount
 Signing sessions have started! Stay tuned for further details.

A signing session at school

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Dreamboats and Miniskirts

Dreamboats and Miniskirts
Civic Theatre, Darlington
Having seen Dreamboats and Petticoats at the Civic Theatre a year ago, it seemed natural to head back to catch up with the characters in the sequel, Dreamboats and Miniskirts.

The plot is thin but that doesn't matter much, as the hits from the 1960s come thick and fast - all played and sung live by the hard working cast. Some of the ground covered is similar to that of Cilla, the current ITV series featuring the music and times of the same era (the early 1960s). Even The Beatles make an appearance.

It's all easy going stuff, with an inevitable happy ending. The trick is just to sit back, accept the undemanding nature of the plot and simply enjoy the whole crazy scene.

If you liked Dreamboats and Petticoats this sequel is a must.
The tour stretches into 2015

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Keith Thompson Band: Catch The Fire

Catch the Fire 
Keith Thompson Band
Catch the Fire is Keith Thompson's eighth album. The band, featuring Roy Adams and Neil Simpson, has been touring extensively on the festival circuit, all the way from Croatia to the USA. Keith has also served serious time as a session musician and his work has even appeared on computer games, such as Grand Prix 2 and Over the Hedge, providing ample evidence to support his versatility as a musician.

Track List

Angel Fire - Alpha
Paid My Dues
Burning The Playhouse Down
Don't Come Running To Me
She's Too Hot
Getting Ready For The Burn
Access Denied
Little Wing
Send Your Fire
Wrong Side Of The Bed
Keeper Of The Flame
Angel Fire - Omega

All songs were written and composed by Keith, with the solitary exception of Little Wing (Jimi Hendrix).

Fire is a recurring theme throughout the album, as the song titles will happily confirm - all the way, in fact, from Alpha to Omega. There's lots of great riffs on display and there's a good mix of fast, rock-blues (starting with Money) and slower numbers (such as Crazy).

Highlights include the sax-enhanced toe-tapper Don't Come Running To Me and Getting Ready For The Burn, featuring a blistering guest appearance from the Laurence Jones. Buddy Whittington also makes a brace of welcome guest appearances, on Burning The Playhouse Down and Restless - both of which can safely be marked down as further highlights.

All in all, Catch The Fire offers a considerable slice of feelgood blues with a good range of tempi. Fans of riff-driven blues should definitely give it a try.

The Keith Thompson Band are currently on a tour of the UK. Check out the tour dates and other news over at Keith's official website.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

1984 (York)

Theatre Royal, York
Having enjoyed this new version of 1984 while on a recent trip to London, I was pleased to be able to see it again, this time a little closer to home.

I was interested to see if the play, employing it's various devices  designed to wrong-foot the audience and confuse the senses, would be equally effective with a repeat viewing. A front-row seat gave a different perspective on the play (I was seated much further back in the stalls in London).

In a nutshell, 1984 was every bit as powerful, shocking and thought-provoking this time as it was the first time around. There was even an unscheduled ''breaking of the fourth wall'' when a temporary technical fault brought a member of the behind the scenes crew centre stage to announce a break in the action while the problem was sorted.

Highly recommended - but definitely not for the faint hearted - 1984 is an impressive reworking of the classic story. Find out more about the play and keep up to date with the tour over at the official website.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The Pierces

The Pierces
The Sage
The Pierces are back!

Following on from the success of their popular 2011 album - You and I - they have just released Creation.

A rare UK tour to support the new album brought them to The Sage tonight, and to the intimate setting of Hall 2 to boot. It was packed out.
Songs from the two aforementioned albums dominated the setlist and very powerful they were too.
Head for the official website for the rest of the UK tour dates and for all of the latest Pierces news.

Mike Zito And The Wheel: Songs From The Road

Mike Zito and The Wheel
Songs From the Road

Ruf's popular Songs From the Road series continues with a double disc release from Mike Zito. Mike's work has been featured here before (here, here and here if you'd like to catch up).

The series typically offers a double dose of live music, with one CD and a DVD covering the same performance (usually with a couple of changes in the respective track lists, for the sake of variety).

''This DVD and live album were recorded on January 10th, 2014, at Dorsey Dee at The Woodlands, TX, to a sold-out crowd of crazy Texans'' says Mike. ''The audience was on fire from the first note. The band played with such energy and passion. I was overwhelmed many times throughout this performance by the sheer energy of love that poured out of every soul in that building. It was a truly magical night, one I will never forget.''


Mike Zito: guitar and lead vocals
Jimmy Carpenter: sax and vocals
Scot Sutherland: bass and vocals
Lewis Stephens: piano and organ
Rob Lee: drums and percussion

Mike is keen to point to the teamwork aspect of the band. ''With the guys in The Wheel, we're all on the same page. We're not interested in solos, we want to pay together.'' True enough, the band are very tight unit and work very well together. It's good to play both versions of the concert, as the audio experience, followed by the visual, brings out different aspects of the performance. The DVD is nicely shot, with the camerawork bringing home just how intimate the venue was. Watching the disc is like taking the best seat in the house.

Track-wise, this is a showcase of Mike's best songs from the albums mentioned above, plus a a couple of covers.

Track List


Don't Break a Leg
Little Red Corvette
Rainbow Bridge
Pearl River
Hell on Me
C'mon Baby
Judgment Day
Dirty Blonde
Subtraction Blues
Gone to Texas


Don't Break a Leg
I Never Knew a Hurricane
Hell on Me
Pearl River
Dirty Blonde
One Step at a Time
Subtraction Blues
Judgment Day
Gone to Texas
Let Your Light Shine on Me
Natural Born Lover
Texas Flyer

The DVD of the concert lasts just over one hour and 20 minutes. There's some bonus material in the form of fan interviews and three additional videos of Mike Zito in action.

It's a very entertaining package. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the music.

Mike is currently touring the UK. Head for his website for further details.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

20 Ruf Years

20 Years Anniversary
Ruf Records
Founded by Thomas Ruf in 2004 with the aim of giving legendary Chicago bandleader Luther Allison a platform to release some of the best albums of his career, Ruf Records has gone from strength to strength over the course of two action-packed decades.

This excellent two-CD set showcases the extraordinary array of talent on their books. Most of the featured artists have been reviewed here at Marsh Towers (judicious use of the search box will be of help there).

The first CD presents some of the finest cuts from Ruf's Girls With Guitars and CD2 focuses on the Guys With Guitars. Despite the nostalgia-fest, Ruf keeps one eye on the future, with a formerly unreleased song by their latest signing, Eliana Cargnelutti.

There's no point in trying to pick out highlights from this bumper collection; they are all highlights! It's an ideal set to enable listeners to ''try before they buy'' from the extensive Ruf catalogue. Simply slip a CD into your player then sit back and relax.

Track List

CD 1: Girls With Guitars

1.       Fish, Taylor, Wilde: Bitch – 03:38
2.       Dana Fuchs: Bliss Avenue – 02:58
3.       Joanne Shaw Taylor: Can’t Keep Living Like This – 05:12
4.       Samantha Fish: Down In The Swamp – 04:13
5.       Dani Wilde: Shine – 04:44
6.       Meena: Try Me – 04:59
7.       Ana Popovic: Love Fever – 04:27
8.       Eliana Cargnelutti: Stranded in Memphis – 03:29
9.       Joanna Connor: Never Been Rocked Enough – 03:26
10.     Erja Lyytinen: Skinny Girl – 03:05
11.     Sue Foley: Show Me – 03:31
12.     Candye Kane and Laura Chavez: Toughest Girl Alive – 02:40
13.     Foley, Coleman, Potvin: In The Basement – 03:26

CD 2: Guys With Guitars 

1.        Thorbjørn Risager: If You Wanna Leave – 04:12
2.        Royal Southern Brotherhood : Rock And Roll – 04:56
3.        Walter Trout: Livin’ Every Day – 04:41
4.        Oli Brown: Speechless – 04:27
5.        Laurence Jones: Temptation –04:15
6.        Mike Zito: Voices In Dallas – 04:3
7.        Bart Walker: Waitin On Daylight – 04:33
8.        Spin Doctors: Some Other Man Instead – 04:33
9.        Lister, Lyytinen, Parker: Blues Caravan – 02:43
10.      Jeff Healey: I’m Torn Down – 05:03
11.      Cyril Neville: Swamp Funk – 04:3
12.      Devon Allman: Homesick – 03:32
13.      K Simmonds and Savoy Brown: Nuthin‘ Like The Blues – 04:55
14.      Albert Castiglia: Bad Avenue – 07:00
15.      Luther Allison: You Can’t Always Get What You Want – 04:38

Incidentally, we will have reviews on new albums by Mike Zito, Devon Allman, Robbie Hill, Keith Thompson and Erja Lyytinen over the course of the next couple of week - so stay tuned.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Jennifer Crook: Carnforth Station

Carnforth Station
Jennifer Crook
Earlier this year, we reported on the successful pledge music campaign that was set up to fund Jennifer Crook's new album. Now there is more good news; today sees the release of Carnforth Station. It's been over three years since Jennifer's last album, Merry-Go-Round, was released (we reviewed it here), so a sequel was definitely due.

Carnforth Station offers 11 brand new songs, all written by Jennifer.

Track List

Long Drive Back Home From Love
Carnforth Station
I've Forgotten Everything
Black Fly
The Net
One More Day
Angel in Disguise
Only the River
For You

The range of instruments allows plenty of scope for a fresh range of sounds, with the harp and accordion in particular standing out and giving the songs significant extra dimensions.


Jennifer Crook: Lead singing, harp, acoustic guitar, banjo
Beth Porter: Cello, fiddle, harmony singing
Mike Cosgrave: Acoustic guitar, accordion, harmony singing

Additional Personnel

Kevin Brown: Weissenborn, lap steel, electric guitar
Miranda Sykes: Double bass, harmony singing

Readers may already be familiar with the real Carnforth Station and its significance in the story of Brief Encounter, with its themes of broken love and journeys (of more than one type). Similar themes inform the songs of this new album, from the very start, with Long Drive Back Home From Love. It's a very strong opener, detailing the dual-level journey (geographical and emotional) away from an unsuccessful relationship.

The title track continues the theme, with its ''graveyard of trains'' and ''carriages carrying high expectations'' which are ''left out to rot in the rain.'' This is all very potent material and it will undoubtedly strike an emotional chord with the vast majority of listeners.

There are several divergences from the central themes along the way, including the medieval-like Apples and the tempo-lifting, Gospel-tinged I've Forgotten Everything, which could well provoke an audience sing-a-long when played live, evoking, as it does, When the Saints Go Marching In.

Black Fly is one of the album's highlights, offering a slice of darker folk with a mystical slant featuring a wise old man and a choice of paths to take. It's not so easy to banish fear in the darkness.

The album comes full circle with For You. This closing song returns to the theme of broken relationships but sees the subject concluding her journey - having emerged a much stronger person - with a sugar-coated poisoned message to her former partner, the sort of person who was always right, left to ''act like you don't care.''

Carnforth Station is, without any shadow of doubt, Jennifer's finest work to date. The new songs are all set to be fully unleashed during an imminent tour.

Head for Jennifer's official website for further details on Carnforth Station and her 2014 tour dates.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

London Chess Classic 2014

The schedule for the 6th London Chess Classic is now available and it can be found here.

We will post more on this as we approach December.

Thursday, 11 September 2014


Get The Batsford Book of Chess: From Beginner to Winner with 20% (if ordered directly from the publisher)!


Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Roland Gift

Roland Gift
The Sage, Gateshead
The second Sage gig of the weekend, following hard on the heels of Lisa Stansfield, was a rare appearance by Roland Gift, ''The Voice of Fine Young Cannibals''.

This was a great coup by The Sage as Roland played just four venues on this mini-tour (the others being in Birmingham, Hull and London) as he limbers up for the release of a new album, Return to Vegas.

Hall 2 of The Sage provided a very intimate setting for this fabulous show. It's been a very long time since Fine Young Cannibals enjoyed their golden years and Roland has performed very sporadically since then. With a new six-piece group (guitar, bass guitar, drums, keyboards and two backing singers), all of whom were clearly enjoying the evening just as much as we were, Roland delivered a masterclass performance.
From the raw emotion of What Do You Mean, through the finest cuts from the Fine Young Cannibals' albums up the finale of Blue, Roland projected a magnetic stage presence and a demonstration of raw emotional that threatened to blow the lid off Hall 2.

It was a serious, intense set punctuated by just the occasional burst of humour. Early on, he asked ''Does anybody like punk rock? Do you love punk rock...? Well, here's some reggae'' before launching into a storming Ever Fallen in Love.

The audience was in a very responsive mood throughout the gig and the biggest cheer of the night was reserved - predictably - for Suspicious Minds. Elsewhere, he still hit the high notes in She Drive Me Crazy, which had the audience singing along from the start.

The encore started with The Prisoner, a recent song based on themes explored by the famous TV series of the same name, with key line ''I am not a number; I'm a free man!'' belted out very convincingly.

Set List

What Do You Mean
Ever Fallen in Love
Girl Like You
Johnny Come Home
It’s Only Money
Good Thing
Suspicious Minds
Around the World
She’s Not You Girlfriend
She Drives Me Crazy
Broken Heart
I’m Not The Man I Used To Be


The Prisoner

This was undoubtedly one of the best gigs of the year. Here's hoping the new album appears sooner rather than later and that a full tour will follow, with the same band.

Here are a few more photos with which to conclude.


Monday, 8 September 2014

Lisa Stansfield

Lisa Stansfield
The Sage, Gateshead
The weekend saw two trips to The Sage for a brace of very contrasting shows.

First up was Lisa Stansfield, who drew a capacity audience to the beautiful surroundings of Hall One.
The tour showcases Lisa's latest release, Seven, and, of course features highlights from all across her highly successful career.
The majority of the audience in the stalls was up and dancing right from the start of this very entertaining show.
The whole band were on great form too. It was a real feel-good evening, enjoyed by all.
Follow the latest Lisa Stansfield news and tour dates over at her official website.