Tag Archives: Chantel McGregor

Touchstone added to Winter’s End bill

Winters End

Touchstone have been added to the bill of Planet Rock’s Winter’s End festival, held on 24-26 February at Sandford Holiday Park in Poole, Dorset. The emphasis is on hard rock and blues, and also features Chantel McGregor alongside headliners The Answer, Toseland and Inglorious.

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Chantel McGregor at The Tropic at Ruislip

Chantel McGregor

Some photos of Chantel McGregor at The Tropic at Ruislip a few days ago, a part-seated gig in a small club in the West London suburbs.

Chantel McGregor

Rather than begin with the usual guitar-shredding fireworks, Chantel opted for a gentle start with the two solo acoustic numbers from her latest album before bringing in the rest of the band.

Chantel McGregor

The fireworks came later, of course. The set combined highlights from her albums, along with a couple of extended instrumental improvisations, one of which had something of the feel of Steve Rothery’s recent solo album. A tantalising glimpse of where Chantel might go next, perhaps?

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Chantel McGregor – Home

A beautiful video by Chantel McGregor for the acoustic “Home”, from the album Lose Control.

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A shoutout on International Women’s Day to some of the inspirational female musicians whose work has featured on this blog over the years, including Chantel McGregor, Anne-Marie Helder, Anna Phoebe, Angela Gordon, Heidi Widdop, Sarah Dean, Diane Fox, Christina Booth, Olivia Sparnenn, Heather Findlay, Kim Seviour, Lisa Fury, Jane Setter , Rachel Cohen, Charlotte Evans, Vicky Johnson, Hayley Griffiths and everyone else I’ve missed.

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Life as a female rocker

Chantel McGregor at Dorking Halls

Interesting interview with Chantel McGregor, Life as a female rocker, in The Daily Telegraph. Though it’s publised in the “Women’s and Lifestyle” pages, it’s still more about music than half the stuff published in The Guardian’s music pages nowadays.

Chantel explains one reason why there aren’t as many female lead guitarists as their should be; many electric guitars are designed by and for men, and are an awkward shape. As she says, “My guitar’s squashed my boobs for as long as I can remember“.

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Chantel McGregor Tour Dates

Chantel McGregor has announced more tour dates, with an extensive trek across the UK through the next few months, beginning at Sedgefield on January 15th and Dorking on February 5th. The tour also takes in Norwich, Bingley, Harpendon, London, Southampton and plenty of other places. Full dates can be found on the tour page of her website.

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2015 Albums of the Year – Part Four

Into the top five, with only the Album of the Year to go. Two or three of these albums could easily been the album of the year themselves. Again, they’re not in any order, consider them all equal 2nd.

Amorphis – Under the Red Cloud

Amorphis Under the Red CloudWhat is it about Scandinavia and metal? A disproportionate number of the most imaginative and innovative metal of recent years has come from Sweden, Norway and especially Finland. Amorphis hail from the last of those nations, and have delivered a quite remarkable record which cannot be pigeonholed in any of metal’s narrow subgenres. There are moments of death metal, folk metal and gothic rock, and the occasional nod to 70s classic rock. It can be piledrivingly heavy at times, but always hugely melodic, with melodies that owe as much to the twin guitars as the vocals. Like the best metal bands they demonstrates superb use of dynamics. Many songs combine clear vocals with death growls, often using one style on the verse and the other on the chorus. As a contemporary metal album this record is absolutely state of the art.

Karnataka – Secrets of Angels

Karnataka - Secrets of AngelsKarnataka’s fifth studio album is a very different beast from 2007′s “The Gathering Light”, as much so as that album was from “Delicate Flame of Desire”. But the three were the products of three very different bands. The newest incarnation of Karnataka with Hayley Griffiths on vocals and Cagri Tozluoglu on keys have come up with a huge-sounding record with more than a hint of European symphonic metal about it, with recurring lyrical themes of adultery and betrayal. The early part of the album is filled with hook-laden potential singles. Then it closes with the twenty-minute title track which combines evocative celtic soundscapes with massive symphonic rock crescendos and features a guest appearance from Troy Donockley. With this record Karnataka managed to take on the likes of Nightwish and beat them at their own game, which is no mean achievement.

Chantel McGregor – Lose Control

Chantel McGregor - Lose ControlIt been four years since the Yorkshire guitarist and singer-songwriter released her début album, but the follow-up not only proved to be well worth the wait, but is a very different sort of record. With a “Southern Gothic” theme it’s heavier, darker and far more song-focussed, with elements of grunge and progressive rock. There’s more emphasis on memorable riffs than on extended guitar wig-outs; she takes a less-is-more approach to soloing. Hard rockers alternate with delicate acoustic numbers, and the album closes with the ambitious kaleidoscopic epic “Walk on Land”.

Bruce Soord

Bruce Soord Solo AlbumThe self-titled solo album by the Pineapple Thief mainman is a thing of beauty, with echoes of Guy Garvey, recent Anathema and Steven Wilson at his less bombastic. It’s an album of soaring atmospheric soundscapes, often semi-acoustic but always hugely melodic, with arrangements varying from acoustic minimalism to richly layered. It takes one unexpected sharp left turn early on with the disco-funk of “The Odds”, but the gorgeously dreamy “Born in Delusion” and “Familiar Patterns” are far more representative of the album. Quite different in mood to The Pineapple Thief, but a very enjoyable record.

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Silver Fragments In The Mind of the Departed

A rather splendid live improvisation from Chantel McGregor’s recent gig in Brighton. Reminds me of some of King Crimson’s work from the Starless and Bible Black era, which starts sounding like tuning up, then a theme develops and builds.

Thanks to occasional commenter Steve Hughes for sending me the link, and Chantel herself for letting me post it here.

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Chantel McGregor – Take the Power

Chantel McGregor’s dark and spooky video for the lead track from her new album “Lose Control”.

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Chantel McGregor – Lose Control

Chantel McGregor - Lose ControlIt’s been four years since Chantel McGregor released her début album “Like No Other”. She’s been working on the follow-up for over a year, and many of the new songs have been lighting up the live set for quite a while.

She describes the concept behind the album as Southern Gothic; while it’s not a full-blown concept album with a narrative, the theme of loss of control in the album’s title recurs across many of the songs. To quote Chantel, she immersed herself in the “sinister, dark world of depravation, magic and voodoo, writing most of the songs from the perspective of the disturbed flawed characters“. It’s all rather different from the first album.

The album starts off with a bang with “Take the Power”, rocking out in a similar vein as the live favourite “Caught Out” from “Like No Other”. The grunge-influenced “Your Fever” has an interesting structure; it starts out dense and claustrophobic with a single battering chord in the verse, then opening out with a spiralling second part. The dynamics and use of strings for colour stand out. The strings even sound like Mellotron at one point; like Nirvana jamming with King Crimson. After that, “Burn Your Anger” is a more conventional driving hard rocker with a brief but very explosive solo.

Then the mood changes with “Anaesthetize”. There’s always been an acoustic side to Chantel’s music, originally expressed through stripped-down covers. This one is an original, a beautiful vocal accompanied with delicate and understated guitar work with subtle use of strings.

Then it’s back to rocking out. “Southern Belle” with it’s bluesy riff and the opening line “I’ve been dancing with The Devil since the day that I was born” is the most out-and-out blues song on this record. There’s also a blues element in the Zeppelinesque serpentine riff of the title track.

After the album’s second delicately beautiful acoustic track, “Home”, “Killing Time” is the hardest rocking track on the album. The spiralling riff has a modern feel, with something of the vibe of contemporary bands such as Muse. Then in complete contrast again, the dark brooding “Eternal Dream” on unaccompanied electric guitar is Chantel’s tribute to the late Jeff Buckley.

The album ends with “Walk On Land”, the most ambitious song on the album, inspired by Steven Wilson’s modern take on progressive rock. It builds from from an acoustic intro, a chorus with complex layered vocal harmonies, an atmospheric instrumental section featuring piano and strings, ending with a superb extended solo, the sole lengthy guitar workout on the record.

The whole album shows Chantel’s growing talents as a songwriter, guitarist and singer. On this record her guitar playing puts the emphasis on riffs, and takes a less-is-more approach when it comes to soloing; the darker, denser sound is more Jimmy Page than Jimi Hendrix. It shows her great versatility as a vocalist; able to belt out hard rockers as well as delicate ballads. The vocals on “Eternal Dream” and “Walk on Land” at the end of the album are especially stunning.

It’s a very different beast from Chantel’s début. That was partly a singer-songwriter record and partly a blues-rock guitar record, and was really more a collection of songs. This one in contrast flows as a coherent album, far more hard rock than blues, though the acoustic numbers add variety and complement the heavier songs. It combines elements of 60s and 70s classic rock with far more modern sounds. And at just over forty minutes in length it doesn’t overstay its welcome; there’s absolutely no filler.

It’s been a long wait for this album, but it’s well worth the wait.

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