Tag Archives: Chantel McGregor

Congratulations to Chantel McGregor for winning not one but two awards in the 2013 British Blues Awards. Not only has she won Best Female Vocalist again, but best guitarist as well. As anyone who’s familiar with Chantel’s music will know, both are well-deserved.

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Chantel McGregor – Grenade

While Chantel McGregor has made a name for herself playing guitar-shredding electric blues-rock, there’s also a gentler acoustic side to her music. Here’s her beautiful cover of Bruno Mars’ “Grenade”, a version which will be familiar to anyone who’s seen her play live recently, since it’s been a regular feature of her set.

Chantel has also launched a new blog.

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Mostly Autumn with Chantel McGregor in October

Chantel McGregor at The Bullingdon Club Oxford

Chantel McGregor (above) will be supporting Mostly Autumn as a very special guest in October. So far two dates, at Holmfirth Picturedrome on the 4th, and Islington O2 Academy on the 5th have been announced by the venues, but I’m given to understand there are more dates in the pipeline.

I’ve always thought Mostly Autumn and Chantel McGregor would make a great double bill, two contrasting acts, but with enough in common to appeal to each other’s audiences. It’s not the first time Mostly Autumn have shared a bill with a blues-rock act, American band P.A.U.L supported them for a couple of dates in the West of England back in 2010.

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Chantel McGregor at the Bullingdon Club

Chantel McGregor at The Bullingdon Club Oxford

I’ve uploaded some photos of Chantel McGregor at The Bullingdon Club in Oxford a couple of weeks ago. As is always the case with Chantel, it was an great gig, her two-hour set mixing original songs from her album “Like No Other” with incendiary takes on blues standards, and covers ranging from Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” to the “Würm” section of Yes’ “Starship Trooper”.

If you haven’t seen Chantel live, you really should get yourself to one of her gigs. She’s a phenominal guitarist as well as a great singer-songwriter, with music that goes from blues to pop to hard rock. Not many people can cover Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile” and have the audience forget that it’s a cover. And her own songs are impressive too, by no means overshadowed by the standards in the set.

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Chantel McGregor, The Flowerpot, Derby

Chantel McGregor at The Flowerpot Derby in December 2012A few photos from the fantastic gig by Chantel McGregor at The Flowerpot in Derby at the beginning of December. If you haven’t seen Chantel live before, her guitar-shredding mix of blues and rock is not to be missed.

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The Cambridge Rock Festival

My review of the weekend is now up on Trebuchet Magazine, here are a few of my photos from the weekend.

Virgil and the Accellerators at the 2012 Cambridge Rock Festival

Virgil and the Accellerators were an early highlight, playing some guitar-shredding electric blues.

The Heather Findlay Band at the 2012 Cambridge Rock Festival

Heather Findlay played her first full band gig on a big stage since November last year, and went down a storm.

Sankara at the 2012 Cambridge Rock Festival

Sankara, fronted by Gareth Jones, formerly of The Reasoning played the CRS stage, and made a strong impression with their mix of hard rock, metal and AOR.

WInter in Eden at the 2012 Cambridge Rock Festival

Winter in Eden, fronted by Vicky Johnson, played an absolute blinder as special guests on the CRS stage.

SIlverjet at the 2012 Cambridge Rock Festival

Silverjet. Because first thing in the morning, some back to basics rock and roll is what a festival needs.

Stolen Earth at the 2012 Cambridge Rock Festival

Stolen Earth were another band who rose to the big occasion to play one of the best sets they’ve ever done.

Panic Room at the 2012 Cambridge Rock Festival

Panic Room did what Panic Room do, which was to blow everybody away. They really should have been far higher up the bill.

Chantel McGregor at the 2012 Cambridge Rock Festival

Chantel McGregor delivered another incendiary set, great songwriting and some spectacular guitar pyrotechnics.

Flanborough  Head at the 2012 Cambridge Rock Festival

Flanborough Head played some delightful old-school prog. There is nothing quite like a flute solo backed by Mellotron.

Mr So and So at the 2012 Cambridge Rock Festival

Mr So and So impressed me a lot, they came over a lot better than last year.

Touchstone at the 2012 Cambridge Rock Festival

The mighty Touchstone stormed the stage to deliver an impressive high-energy set.

Olivia Sparnenn of Mostly Autumn

Mostly Autumn, special guests on the Sunday night and playing their first gig since the end of last year did not disappoint.

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Top Ten Albums of 2011

2011 has been an incredible year for new music. In fact, I can’t remember another year when I bought so many new release, which makes the traditional end-of-year list especially hard this time round.

So, after much deliberation and consideration, here’s my completely personal and subjective list of ten best albums released in 2011.

10: Uriah Heep – Into the Wild
70s veterans Uriah Heep have undergone something of a renaissance in recent years. Even if this album doesn’t really break any radically new ground for them, with their trademark combination of searing guitar and Hammond organ they rock far harder than any band in their fifth decade of existence has any right to.

9: Steve Hackett – Beyond the Shrouded Horizon
Much like Uriah Heep, the former Genesis guitarist has hit something of a purple patch recently, with his third album in two years. It’s a rich, ambitious album that combines some heartfelt songwriting with his distinctive symphonic liquid guitar style that has rightfully made him the godfather of prog guitar.

8: Anathema – Falling Deeper
A largely instrumental set by Liverpool’s Doom-metallers-turned-proggers, containing radical orchestral reworkings of material from their earlier metal years. It’s an album for which you should sit back and let the huge atmospheric soundscapes wash over you.


7: Touchstone – The City Sleeps
The rising stars of the British female-fronted progressive rock scene deliver a strong third album, with a highly melodic mix of prog, hard rock and metal than builds on the success of their previous album “Wintercoast”.


6: Within Temptation – The Unforgiving
In which the Dutch band opt out of the symphonic metal arms race in favour of a far more rock-orientated album that emphasises Sharon den Adel’s incredibly powerful vocals over overblown arrangements. More varied than previous albums, there’s an emphasis on big anthemic choruses that ought to have a lot of crossover potential.

5: Chantel McGregor – Like No Other
Chantel’s debut album proves she’s far more than just a virtuoso guitarist, and far more than just a blues artist. It’s a hugely varied album demonstrating her talents as a singer-songwriter who can do hard rock, folk and pure pop as well as she can do blues-rock guitar wig-outs.

4: Dream Theater – A Dramatic Turn of Events
The band which more or less invented prog-metal deliver their best album for years, proving that Mike Portnoy’s departure, far from finishing the band, has given them the kick up the backside they needed, with more emphasis on composition than instrumental showboating.

3: Liam Davison – A Treasure of Well-Set Jewels
The solo album from Mostly Autumn’s second guitarist was an unexpected surprise, with some great songwriting and big atmospheric arrangements reminiscent of the early years of Mostly Autumn. Great guest performances from supporting cast including Iain Jennings, Gavin Griffiths, Anne-Marie Helder and Heather Findlay, but none steal the spotlight from Liam’s own contributions.

2: Steven Wilson – Grace for Drowning
With his second solo release, Steve Wilson has taken a step away from the metal stylings of recent Porcupine Tree albums in favour of swirling Mellotrons and spiralling saxophones. The resulting jazz-tinged album sounds like a cross between 70s King Crimson, Canterbury-scene prog, and the ghost of Porcupine Tree past.

1: Opeth – Heritage
Sweden’s finest drop the death metal growls and go all-out prog with perhaps the most musically ambitious album they’ve done to date. Far more varied than their earlier non-metal “Damnation”, it manages to sound both gloriously retro and absolutely contemporary at the same time.

With such a strong year, there are many more great albums that would have appeared in many years’ top tens, so honourable mentions for Also Eden’s progtastic “Think of the Children” Magenta’s excellent “Chameleon”, Matt Stevens unclassifiable instrumental “Relic”, very solid releases from veterans Yes, Journey and Megadeth, and Mastodon’s “The Hunter”.

I’ve also made the decision to exclude live albums, but I will mention Mostly Autumn’s powerful “Still Beautiful”, Heather Findlay and Chris Johnson’s beautiful “Live at the Café 68″, and The Reasoning’s hard rocking “The Bottle of Gettysburg”.

And there are a few albums I’ve yet to hear, and since it’s too close to Christmas to be buying albums for myself. So the reason for the absence of Nightwish’s “Imaginaerum”, Kate Bush’s “50 Words for Snow” and Morpheus Rising’s “Let The Sleeper Awake” is not that I don’t think they’re good enough, only that I haven’t heard them yet. Perhaps, for the purposes of end-of-year lists, the year should run December to November, so that late-year releases count as next year?

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Chantel McGregor, The 100 Club, London

I first saw Chantel McGregor very low down on the bill at the Cambridge Rock Festival back in 2010, when she wowed the crowd with a blues-based set featuring some amazing guitar pyrotechnics, and left me wonder how someone so young could learn to play guitar like that. Her début album, “Like No Other”, released earlier this year, showed she could stretch beyond blues to hard rock and even pure pop. Now in the middle of an extensive club tour taking in venues throughout the UK, she came to London’s legendary 100 Club on Thursday night.

Fronting a classic power-trio with Richard Richie on bass, and Martin Rushworth on drums, Chantel cuts a diminutive figure on stage. But one thing I immediately noticed is now much more stage presence she has compared with a year ago. She’s not just playing dazzling guitar, although there’s never any shortage of that, but she’s now putting on a highly entertaining show too.

Her two hour set covered all the varied styles from her album, her take on some classic blues standards, and even extended to a prog interlude with a very heavy take on the closing “Worm” section of Yes’ “Starship Trooper”. Her guitar playing was as superb as I’d come to expect; the extended workout on Robin Trower’s “Dreams” was utterly mesmerising, and some spectacular one-handed playing reminded me of the late Randy California. Despite her obvious technical skill, there’s more than enough fire, soul and passion in her playing too. But it wasn’t all shredding guitar. The acoustic interlude that including her cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon” was beautiful, and certainly had something of an Odin Dragonfly feel about it.

Chantel is now far more than just a virtuoso guitarist, and far more than just a blues artist. The original material shows the work of a talented singer-songwriter who can write and perform in a host of diverse musical styles. And seeing her on stage it’s clear she’s rapidly developing into a confident and charismatic live performer too, a big smile on her face, exchanging between-song banter with the crowd all evening making for a great atmosphere, and rising above a few niggling technical problems to deliver an electrifying show.

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Cambridge Rock Festival 2011 – Part Two

Saturday started with some semi-acoustic blues from Cherry Lee Mewis, with an energetic and enjoyable set, backed by a tight band including a stand-up bass and largely acoustic guitars, followed by The Steve Boyce band, who I found a bit generic, but did have a great guitar sound.

Ebony Tower impressed me a lot. With a female lead singer who reminded me a little of a young Sonja Kristina, and electric violin as a major element of their sound, you might have expected something like Curved Air. In fact they sounded nothing like that at all, bits of prog and goth, and a lot of rock and roll. Certainly a band to watch out for in the future.

There was a lot of anticipation for Stolen Earth, formed from the ashes of the much-loved York band Breathing Space. With four members of the final incarnation of that band on board including lead singer Heidi Widdop, it was clear that a lot of the spirit of Breathing Space was still there, and to me it felt less like that debut gig of a brand new band that Heidi’s debut fronting Breathing Space did on the same stage exactly a year before. Great to see some keyboard player John Sykes with some vintage instruments on stage including a big wooden-bodied organ.

Aside from the two new songs “My Lips Are Too Dry” and “Silver Skies” which had been in the set for the short-lived final lineup of Breathing Space, all the songs were new, and suited Heidi’s soulful voice. They sounded if anything a little more proggy than Breathing Space, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. “Tuscany Sun”, released as a teaser on YouTube, came over very well live. Other highlights were “Unnatural Disaster” with it’s incessant bass groove, and “Perfect Wave”, backed by a huge wall of Hammond organ. Every bit as good as I’d expected them to be, and a band I’m sure we’re going to be hearing great things from in the coming months and years.

Swans in Flight were another discovery of the day, with some great melodic hard rock. They threw in a cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Stone Cold” mid-set, the Hammond organ backing making it sound more like a Deep Purple song than anything else. With much of the crowd sunning themselves outside the tent, playing a familiar song was a smart move and encouraged a few more people to listen to their own songs.

What can I say about Panic Room? I’ve already seen this Swansea band five times this year, and this was well up to the very high standard of their gigs throughout the year. Opening with the as yet unrecorded prog-metal epic “Song for Tomorrow”, the played a their high-energy mix of rock, pop and prog drawing from both their albums, plus their superb swamp-blues cover of ELP’s “Bitches Crystal”. With another new superb and quite epic new song “Promises” in the set, their next album is already something fans are eagerly anticipating. As I’ve said before, Yatim Halimi and Gavin Griffiths are possibly the best rhythm section in any band in their scene. Paul Davies’ plays some shredding solos and melodic fills, and his playing really seems to have come alive in the last year. Jon Edwards’ keys add swathes of colour, and frontwoman Anne-Marie Helder is a genuine star who fully deserved being voted best female vocalist last year by the readers of Classic Rock Presents Prog. They laid down the challenge to the rest of the bill, “top that”.

Aireya 51 couldn’t really follow that. I wasn’t over-impressed with them last year, and they weren’t really any better this time. Without Keith’s more famous brother Don to help them out this time, I found their set rather dull. Sure, Keith Airey is a talented guitarist who played some shredding solos, but he lacked both the songs and the charisma to stand out from the crowd.

Not so with Chantel McGregor. She’d wowed the festival last year with a slot very early on in the day. Now much higher up the bill she seemed almost overwhelmed by the huge size of the crowd, and delivered a superb set, mixing blues standards with some of the rockier songs from her debut album “Like No Other”, including her mesmerising extended take on Robin Trower’s “Daydream”. Just how does someone that young get to play guitar like that? Her playing isn’t just technically skilled, but dripping with emotion too, and she’s more than talented as a singer and songwriter too. I think she’s going to be making a big splash in the wider world in the coming years.

Larry Miller blew the roof off with one of the hardest-rocking sets I’ve ever seen from a blues artist. He was great last year, this year he was even better. The high-energy blues-rock of his opening numbers reminded me a lot of Rory Gallagher. Then he slowed things down with an extended slow-blues workout with some brain-melting soloing. Finally he ended with his take on some classic standards, a medley beginning with “All Along the Watchtower” and ending with Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll”.

Finally, headliners The Quireboys. Although for me at least they were nowhere near as good as Larry, Chantel or Panic Room earlier in the day, their brand of no-nonsense party rock with echoes of bands like The Faces and The Rolling Stones was still a great way to end the evening.

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Chantel McGregor – Like No Other

I first saw the young blues guitarist Chantel McGregor at the Cambridge Rock Festival last summer, when she appeared low on the bill fronting a blues-rock power-trio, and simply blew everyone in the crowd away.

Her long-awaited debut album is not quite what I expected. While her talent as a virtuoso guitarist ought to be clear to anyone who’s seen her live, this album shows just as great a talent as a singer-songwriter. It’s hugely varied record; with nine original numbers and three covers, she doesn’t just do blues, but also does hard rock, delicate acoustic work, and some quite catchy pop-rock with choruses that get stuck in your head after a few listens.

The production is quite stripped down, giving her voice and guitar a lot of space. with subtle and sparing use of Hammond organ and cello to add additional instrumental colour. Some of her vocals remind me of Heather Findlay, with a similar natural warmth, beauty and earthiness. There’s certainly an Odin Dragonfly vibe with the acoustic numbers. The guitar playing, as expected, is fantastic too; enough spectacular pyrotechnics to satisfy any fan of great lead guitar, but like all truly great musicians, she also knows exactly when to rein it in and keep things simple.

Of the original numbers, the rocky “Free Falling” really deserves to be a hit single, and I love the angry “Caught Out”, a song for which I can definitely identify with the lyrics. The instrumental “Cat Song” is great fun too with slide guitar imitating the meowing of a cat. Another standout for me is “Screams Everlasting” which starts at as at atmospheric acoustic number and ends with a magnificent slow-burning electric solo. Two of the three covers are vehicles for extended guitar workouts, with the version of Robin Trower’s “Daydream” clocking in at not far short of fourteen minutes. But the third is a stunningly beautiful acoustic interpretation of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon”.

This is an album which ought to have something for everyone who appreciates great music played by a real musician. It’s about as far from Simon Cowell’s karaoke factory is it’s possible to get.

It’s available direct from Chantelmcgregor.com.

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