Three Lancashire bands offering their own individual twists on Americana are uniting for Ukrainian relief efforts two weekends from now, hosting a charity fundraiser at a Preston riverside music venue.
Meanwhile, across the Pennines, a stalwart Leeds post-punk outfit putting their own particular spin on Ukrainian folk for 30-plus years continue to pitch in with their own fundraising efforts.
The Preston event is the brainchild of newly-recalibrated indie trio The Amber List, taking place at The Continental’s Boatyard venue, frontman Mick Shepherd – once of Action Records’ late-‘80s/early ‘90s cult favourites Big Red Bus, and a regular on the solo singer-songwriter circuit – feeling it was time to do something positive in light of ongoing grim news from afar.
“Seeing all the suffering and pain this invasion is causing prompted us to act. We can barely imagine what the Ukrainian people are going through, and putting on this benefit not only shows our solidarity and support, but hopefully will raise money to help those most in need of assistance.”
Having set a date of Saturday, July 2nd, Mick and bandmates Tony Cornwell and Simon Dewhurst – who in four-piece days released debut LP, The Ache of Being to much acclaim last year; its launch party also held at the Conti – asked fellow Lancastrian outfits Red Moon Joe and West on Colfax to join them.
For the latter, bass player Scott Carey, formerly of Madchester indie favourites Paris Angels, said they were only too pleased to get involved.
“We’ve played with The Amber List and Red Moon Joe, featuring both groups on our Americana night at The Continental, so we were happy to help. Anything we can do to help raise funds and unite against this awful war of aggression, will make it feel like we’re trying to do something.”
The Amber list and West on Colfax last shared a bill on South Meadow Lane, Preston, on Leap Day 2020, barely a fortnight before the first coronavirus lockdown. As for their extra guests this time, frontman Mark Wilkinson and his Red Moon Joe bandmates are looking forward to doing their bit.
“We’re delighted to be asked to support such a great cause. It should be a superb night, with three excellent bands, at a fantastic venue.”
The Amber List came to prominence with 2019 debut EP, ‘The Ever Present Elephant’, and were last spotted by this fan across Preston at The Ferret, supporting ‘80s indie heroes The Woodentops, that show their last before Tim Kelly left to concentrate on solo project, Longhatpins.
And this weekend the trio reveal the first fruits of their new, leaner line-up, releasing new three-track digital-only EP, ‘Brick Walls and Hidden Beauty’, tomorrow (Friday, June 17th) via various streaming platforms.
Red Moon Joe, described by Americana UK as ‘up-to-date, relevant, British, Liverpool-produced Americana at its best’, first emerged in 1985, founder member Mark (vocals, electric and acoustic guitar, production) these days joined by Steve Conway (pedal steel, dobro, acoustic guitar), David A. Smith (bass), Dave Fitzpatrick (harmonica, banjo), and Paul Casey (drums).
West on Colfax, meanwhile, have bulked up, numbers-wise, since delivering debut LP Barfly Flew By in 2020 on their Greenhorse Records label, their most recent release, February’s ‘Arc Light’ EP, seeing Scott and fellow co-founders Alan Hay (lead vocals/rhythm guitar) and Pete Barnes (lead guitar) now joined by multi-instrumentalist Ian Aylward-Barton (who joined midway through the first LP sessions), Andy Walmsley (guitar/backing vocals, whose Preston design firm studio is where the band often write and rehearse), and most recent arrival Mark Beynon (drums), who according to Scott is ’adding new flavours to our writing, like calypso and mariachi vibes’. What’s more, they’re currently working on a second LP, hopefully arriving before the year is out.
Moving on from there … across the Pennines, and closer to home in another sense, The Ukrainians have been campaigning and raising funds through their own shows in support of displaced refugees in that war-torn country.
Co-formed by The Wedding Present guitarist Peter Solowka in 1991 and seen as the first prominent band to fuse Western rock with Ukrainian folk and roots music, The Ukrainians last year celebrated 30 years touring internationally. They were borne out of what was envisaged as a one-off project, The Wedding Present adding Len Liggins to their ranks – ‘because he sang, played a scratchy, authentic village-sounding violin and was a student of Slavonic languages’ – to record a session for legendary BBC Radio 1 DJ John Peel.
And The Ukrainians have certainly been busy this year, performing benefits to support refugees of the war in Ukraine, as Peter explained on a tie-in charity page.
“We know that many people want to support this cause but cannot attend the gigs, so we’ve set up this site for donations. We’ll add the money we get from the gigs to reach our total. Like many people born in the UK of Ukrainian decent, my parents were refugees from the Second World War. We know what pain this causes. These funds will go towards a suitable charity that will help refugees.”
The band’s first Peel session led to more, Ukrainian mandolinist Roman Remeynes recruited to play and sing occasional vocals. The first two sessions were then subsequently released by RCA as 10-inch vinyl LP Ukrainski Vistupi V Johna Peela, The Wedding Present then joined by Len and Roman for a UK tour promoting the LP.
That record went on to sell sold almost 70,000 copies worldwide and remains the only Ukrainian language LP to feature in the UK album charts, reaching No.22. And by 1991 the band proper had formed, releasing their self-titled debut LP.
The rest is history, and continues to unfold, a string of live shows in the last few months raising money and awareness – from dates in their beloved Yorkshire at Hebden Bridge Trades Club, Leeds’ Brudenell Social Club, Halifax’s Victoria Theatre and York’s The Crescent to benefits further afield at Birmingham’s Hare & Hounds, Cambridge Junction, and Salisbury Arts Centre. And then there’s the recent collaboration with original Public Image Limited (PiL) bass player Jah Wobble for their joint ‘Ukrainian National Anthem in Dub’ single, produced, arranged and mixed with former Siouxsie and The Banshees guitarist Jon Klein.
Born John Wardle in Stepney in London’s East End in 1958, Jah is seen as one of Britain’s most influential and distinct bass players, apparently given his nickname by Sid Vicious one drunken night; the late Pistol also gifting him his first bass guitar, over time building a reputation for trademark hypnotic, low-end bass riffs, combining world music, reggae, fusion and punk touches.
To this day, he remains as defiant as he is innovative, cutting his teeth during the early years of John Lydon’s post-Pistols legendary outfit, proving integral to the band’s first two LPs, Public Image: First Issue and Metal Box, going on to see his own band, the Invaders of the Heart, nominated for a Mercury Music Prize for debut LP, Rising Above Bedlam in the early ‘90s. He’s also created his own independent label, 30 Hertz Records, and worked with the likes of Primal Scream, Dolores O’Riordan, Sinead O’Connor, Chaka Demus & Pliers, Bill Laswell, and Holger Czukay.
Released through London-based record label Dimple Discs, co-run by Undertones guitarist Damian O’Neill, his collaboration with The Ukrainians continues to sell well, helping raise further funds, support and awareness for refugees fleeing the conflict.
A stirring, inspired version of the besieged country’s national anthem, all sales go towards funding the two main charities helping out millions of refugees forced to flee their homes – the DEC (Disasters Emergency Committee) Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal, and AUGB (Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain) Help Ukraine Emergency Appeal.
The idea and collaboration for the track with The Ukrainians – in which Peter (acoustic guitar/backing vocals), is joined by the afore-mentioned Len Liggins (lead vocal/violin), Paul Weatherhead (backing vocals/mandolin) and Stephen Tymruk (accordion) – came about by pure chance, according to Jah.
“I was introduced to Len from The Ukrainians by Mark, my bass tech. I was very keen to help in any way I could. So I enlisted the help of Jon Klein and Anthony Hopkins, who I run ‘Tuned in’ with, a community music project based in the London Borough of Merton. We have built a recording studio there. Indeed, at the moment, Anthony is involved in the process of the settlement of Ukrainian refugees coming into the borough.
“It was a lot of fun putting the track together. And well done to Len and the rest of the band for initiating this.”
And Jah’s sentiments were echoed by Len.
“We’d like to say a big thank you to Jah Wobble and Jon Klein for creating this fabulous track with us in order to raise much needed funds for Ukrainian refugees. Monies collected will buy provisions, medical aid and clothing for traumatised individuals and families whose situation is desperate beyond our understanding here in western Europe.
“It’s important for us all to keep in mind, too, that as reports of the invasion’s progress slip down the priority list on the national news, a great deal of support will still be needed by these refugees on an on-going basis. Please don’t forget them just because you see less of them on your screens. Please continue to support them. The mass murders, cruel rapes and wanton destruction of Ukraine will continue while the TV cameras are pointing somewhere else.”
You can listen to/buy Jah Wobble and The Ukrainians’ charity single via various digital platforms or via this Bandcamp link.
For more about The Ukrainians, head here, and to find Peter Solowka’s Ukrainian refugee fund, try this JustGiving link. You can also head direct to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal, and the Association of Ukrainians in Great Britain (AUGB) Help Ukraine Emergency Appeal.
Meanwhile, Jah Wobble and the Invaders of the Heart are on tour from August, with details via his website here.