Maximum Volume Music - Shed Sessions Volume One & Two - by Andy Thorley
When someone says “shed” to me, here’s what I think of (it would really help at this point if you could imagine these words in an exceptionally broad North Staffordshire accent). When my parents got married, my Grandad on my dad’s side apparently told him: “get theesen a shed, son. That way they’st alwees got somewhere to get away”.
Probably not the reaction Chantel McGregor thought she was going to get with The Shed Sessions, but still they have their roots in a kind of family and escape. Every Saturday in lockdown she got in her shed and did a live stream.
That was the inspiration for these albums, the first – an acoustic one – was recorded while she was living in the North of England, and the second, was down south with Jamie Brooks on piano and Chantel recording her vocals in a wardrobe.
Both are (mostly) covers records and they show the breadth of her taste – as well as her talent. Some of them I knew, a couple of Neil Young songs on “vol 1” for example (and there’s a brilliant fragility to “Needle And The Damage Done”) there’s some I didn’t – “Morning Song” originally by Jewel, and which sounds like the most contented thing you ever did hear.
Then there’s the ones I didn’t like before Chantel got her hands on them. And the prime example here is “Sledgehammer”. I will be honest here, I can’t abide the Peter Gabriel song. Slowed down here and stripped of the bombast, its pretty cool. Although, I’ll maintain to the day I shuffle off, that nonsense about fruticakes in the second verse? It’s the most baffling in pop history.
We can all agree that John Prine can use words like no one else, right? And “Angel Of Montgomery” is simply beautiful wherever its done. Likewise Bonnie Raitt’s “Love Has No Pride” is shot through with a dark pathos and a certain desperation. The acoustic take on “Voodoo Chile” finds something fresh to say too, while another that I didn’t know “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (another of Raitt’s) is brutally bleak.
The last one on Volume One though – that is astonishing. Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” stripped to the barest of bones is mighty, it really is.
The second set of tunes is a different side to the same coin, almost. And credit to McGregor for a couple of things. The beauty of her voice shouldn’t be overlooked, but on a personal note, she’s made me like a Radiohead song. If “Creep” had been like this in the 90s, I might have enjoyed it.
Jewel is back on the agenda for the twisted love of “Foolish Games”, and there’s a couple of absolute gems. Steven Wilson’s “Drive Home” is arguably better than the original and the guitar work is sensational.
Then there’s those of her own. “Walk On Land”. Turned into something even more special and evocative here, and another of her songs “April” has always been brilliant. This version is too.
What this collection is made for though, is what happened to me when I heard “Uninvited” and you go, “oh isn’t that….wotist” and you Google it to find it was indeed Alanis Morrisette, but that our Chantel is owning it here – like she does on Joni Mitchell’s “River”.
There’s more Steven Wilson on the epic sounding “The Raven Who Wouldn’t Sing”, and it still sounds epic here, even if McGregor isn’t competing with the original, more finding a niche for her style in the song.
That’s sort of what she did in “Shed Sessions” all round and they are the work of a gifted artist with a need to create, even when she couldn’t be onstage (which is where she truly excels). If I say that I fervently hope that 2022 means the end of “lockdown albums”, then hopefully everyone will understand, but as an example of the genre these shine like a beacon.
Docteur Blues - Shed Sessions Volume One & Two - by Pete Feenstra
Chantel McGregor describes The Shed Sessions Volume 1 & 2 thus: ”A selection of songs that I’ve played on the live streams, some of the requests people have asked for, and a few that I just love!”
It was recorded in the bedroom using a wardrobe for a vocal booth and mixed and mastered by Wayne Proctor.
The result is arguably one of the best stop-gap album releases in recent times.
I say stop-gap, because apart from being shaped by the lockdown, it represents her first album since 2019’s ‘Bury’d Alive’, and 6 years since her last studio album called ‘Lose Control.’
It’s forged by an inquiring musical mind, and it’s beautifully realized via a consistent sonic presence and a fluid playing style that conjoins different musical genres.
‘Shed Sessions Volume One’ is acoustic guitar-led material, while ‘Volume Two’ is based round electric guitar flourishes and Jamie Brooks piano which breathe fresh life into some classic covers and stripped down self penned songs.
You could call this a cross over album that takes in singer-songwriter material, prog, rock, blues and folk. The double album stretches an acoustic into electric set and showcases a classy musician fired by unfettered creativity and a bluesy heart.
And it’s that consistent emotional connection that gives the album its coherence.
If you find it hard to overcome “cover material fatigue” you may be pleasantly surprised by this 2 set album of fan requested songs. Chantel ultimately triumphs because of a deep feeling for the material she plays.
And while her impeccable acoustic and electric guitar playing always primarily support the songs, it’s her intuitive vocal phrasing, timing and at time breathy emotive timbre that draws the listener in.
She’s arguably best when evoking the lyrical imagery of Jewels ‘Morning Song’ – delivering the; “Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin” line, as if living the part, while her clear diction and evocative phrasing bring a new dimension to Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer’.
Perhaps her biggest challenge on ‘Volume One’ is tackling the brace of Bonnie Rait covers. She digs deep to uncover soulful and sensual abilities on ‘Love Has No Pride’ and ‘I Cant Make You Love Me’.
She also makes a good account of Neil Young’s opening ‘Needle & The Damage Done’, even though she’s self evidently divorced from the song’s lyrics in terms of experience and time span.
She’s also adds a lovely introductory riff and close to the mic phrasing on Young’s acoustic ‘Harvest Moon’, as her deft acoustic and warm vocal gives her the ability to get inside both songs.
Her version of Winwood’s ‘Cant Find My Way Home’ is about the 5th I’ve counted in the last 12 months, but again she triumphs by stripping it down to the bones, letting her voice and acoustic ring into the ether.
In sharp contract the inclusion of Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Chile’ is arguably a mistake, as despite her energetic percussive acoustic attack, her almost conversational vocal is out of step with a song that should breathe voodoo mysticism and wonder.
She’s far happier talking on the kind of Stevie Nicks material that will be familiar fare for her fans, while her version of Metallica’s ‘Nothing Else Matters’ is a shining example of what she’s capable of, both in terms of her interpretive abilities and guitar playing abilities abilities abilities.
Volume 2’s play list looks to be less essential and more randomly connected with her own musical persona, but again she surprising us by gluing everything together with her own musical vision, particularly so on Radiohead’s ‘Creep’, which she turns into something special (pun intended).
Jamie Brooks’s lingering piano lines and Chantel’s warm vocal on Jewel’s ballad ‘Foolish Games’ evoke the feel of unrequited love perfectly, while the slow building piano synth and belated anthemic solo stick of Steven Wilson’s ghostly ‘Driving Home’ reaches for an intense electric guitar resolution .
Her own ‘Walk on Land’ is the equal of either of her Wilson covers and gives us some indication of her own song writing abilities and proggy musical vision.
The opening volume swells and chiming guitar of ‘April’ leads her into a beautifully crafted piece, cushioned by piano and synth and a solo of pure expression.
It’s juxtaposed by the beautifully poised version of Joni Mitchell’s ‘River’ on her voice moves from reflection to outright exhilaration as she swoops into the clouds.
Everything is perfectly book-ended by her second Wilson cover ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’, on which a combination of subtle echoed guitar, synth and piano gently evoke the yearning at the heart of the song.
In this age of isolation overload, The Shed sessions are a timely reminder of the highest musical standards inspired by a need to connect.
Music News - Shed Sessions Volume Two - by Andy Snipper
The first Shed Sessions album was wonderful, just Chantel with an acoustic guitar playing her favourite covers. After the early sessions she began adding piano and occasional electric guitar and the result is even more intense and all-enveloping.
I found myself turning the volume up just to get even further into her renditions of tracks such as Radiohead’s ‘Creep’ or the fabulous ‘Walk On land’.
Every track is a gem. Chantel’s vocals are pure and carry the emotion of the songs brilliantly, while her guitar shows that she is one of the best musicians on the UK scene today.
‘Creep’ is chilling. Really carrying the sense of self-disgust and shame. What this lady can do with just voice and piano is shocking.
Jewel’s ‘Foolish Games’ continues the form and she manages to keep that sense of damaged and lost soul perfectly.
McGregor’s guitar makes an entrance on ‘Drive Home’ (Steven Wilson) and the song takes on an anthemic feel – you can almost see the lighters in the crowd.
There really isn’t a weak moment here but there are a couple of favourites: ‘The Raven That Refused To Sing’ (Steven Wilson again) has a magnificent ‘flatness’ to it, her vocal almost emotionless but her playing quite the opposite and her version of the classic ‘Summertime’ is simply gorgeous.
Wayne Proctor has done a great job in putting all this together.
It is going to be fascinating to see what she does in a real live environment after these two albums.
All About The Rock - Shed Sessions Volume 1 & 2 - by John Deaux
Blues Rock phenomena Chantel MacGregor kept herself busy during lockdown by treating her fans to a weekly live session in her shed. These shows went down surprisingly well and by popular demand she has laid down some fan favourite requests along with a few she loves.
Only a mad musician would even consider the idea of release 2 albums within a month of each other let alone following it through. Thankfully, Chantel is that bonkers.
The only real similarity between the 2 albums is that both of them were recorded in a bedroom where a wardrobe was used as a vocal booth (genius).
Volume 1 is acoustic and features all cover versions. Tracks from the likes of Stevie Nicks, Peter Gabriel, Steve Winwood and METALLICA. With this album Ms Macgregor has managed to pull off an incredibly rare feat and made every track her own. Sledgehammer by Peter Gabriel is a prime example of this.
Volume 2 is a slightly more eclectic affair but just as sublime. Tracks by such artists as Jewel, Radiohead and Tori Amos get the Chantel treatment as well as her own material.
Chantel own music takes on a slightly different form from previous recordings. Walk On Land taken from the Lose Control album, is stripped bare of the fancy effects of the original, proving that a good song is a good song. I actually prefer this version. Where as April (which is lifted from the Bury’d Alive record) has reigns attached and feels like a completely different animal, but it’s still just as amazing.
Both albums showcase Chantels talents perfectly. Ms McGregors voice is sublime on these recordings with many frisson inducing moments. Summertime (the guitar tone alone is ridiculous)from Volume 2 and Fire and Rain from Volume 1 immediately spring to mind. Then there’s her take on Steve Wilsons The Raven That Refused To Sing which is just mind melting.
Both of these albums are infused with Chantels infectious, effervescent personality which makes these an absolute blast to listen to.
Thank you Chantel for making the Corona virus lockdowns of 2020/2021 just that little bit easier at 5pm on a Saturday for a live session and for producing both of these albums as a keepsake.
Music News - Shed Sessions Volume One - by Andy Snipper
Last year, in common with a great many musicians who were trapped by the lockdown, Chantel McGregor started a weekly livestream - it was originally intended as a one-off but … - from her garden shed.
Purely acoustic to begin with, it grabbed her passionate fans and proved to be a massive success in keeping McGregor in touch with both her fanbase and a gradually widening audience.
This set of covers is from the early ‘deep lockdown’ where travel was banned and will be followed by a second set from after the restrictions were eased and she came south to work with a ‘bubble’ of musicians and added some electricity to the mix.
The album was produced by Wayne Proctor and he has created an incredibly intense and focused sound for her.
She has a delightful, sweet and almost naïve, voice and while she is predominantly a dynamite electric guitarist she has shown over the years that she plays a mean acoustic: her psychedelic acoustic passages are a favourite of her live shows.
From opening with Neil Young’s ‘Needle & The Damage Done’, through John Prine’s ‘Angel From Montgomery’ and into Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Gold Dust Woman’ and even Hendrix ‘Voodoo Chile’, her performances are heart achingly emotive and really fine performances of classic songs.
I approached the album looking to remind myself of some enjoyable Saturday nights spent watching her livestreams but found that the album appealed to me on a deeper level and I just listened for the sheer pleasure of some great songs being sung and played by a young lady with real empathy for the material and a huge amount of feeling and talent.
Personal favourite is her version of Bonnie Raitt’s ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ but for real chutzpah, closing the album on Metallica’s ‘Nothing Else Matters’ takes it.
Music Street Journal - by Gary Hill
This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) in Music Street Journal: 2020 Volume 4. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2020.
I have put this album under heavy metal. That's mainly because of the guitar sound. I can see people disagreeing with that label. The thing is, this really does feel like a lot of the blues-oriented early metal out there. There is a real jam band quality at times, too. This is a live set featuring what is essentially a power trio led by Chantel McGregor who provides both the guitar and vocals. It's quite an interesting set that never feels redundant. The guitar really shines as the most powerful aspect of every song, but there is more to the picture than that, too.
Take The Power
A slow moving metal jam brings this into being as the show gets under way. There is some killer riffing that rises up as the number builds outward. The vocals join after the introduction, and we're in a bluesy rocking mode. The guitar solo section is purely on fire.
Fierce metal stomping brings this into being. It still has plenty of that blues rock thing on display, too, but with the emphasis on the "rock" end of that equation. I'd consider this a lot like a more metal Led Zeppelin. There are a couple changes along the road here, and this is a powerhouse tune.
Like No Other
They bring things down here for a balladic cut. I like this, and appreciate the variety it brings, but it's not one of my favorites here. They do rock it up a bit after a time, turning it into more of a power ballad as they do. The guitar solo section is great, too.
We're back into the metal zone as this powers up out of the gate. The vocal section brings more of that hard-edged blues rock approach. This is meaty and mean. The riffing is exceptional.
This number is an epic, weighing in at over nine minutes of music. While this is another mellower tune, I'm not sure that I'd call it a ballad. It's more of a psychedelic, proggy rock tune. The tune gradually builds upward, but doesn't really get into what I'd call metal territory until after the half-way mark. When the crunch returns, it's delivered over an arrangement that remains slow moving and psychedelic. While the screaming guitar soloing demands a lot of attention, pay attention to the killer bass sounds, as well during the extended instrumental movement that makes up the rest of the piece.
Fiery blues rock meets metal, this is screaming hot. It's a real powerhouse.
This cut is over twelve-and-a-half minutes long. It starts in a mellower zone and gradually grows upward as a ballad. Again, pay attention to the bass work on this piece. Bassist Colin Sutton really gets to show off a bit here. I love the expressive guitar soloing that comes in rather sedate around the five-minute mark and gradually builds upward. By around the six-minute mark it really brings the cut back into metallic territory with screaming hot guitar sounds. It makes its way back down to an almost fusion-like jam eventually. The interplay between the bass and guitar is so cool. Then the track starts getting more into metallic zones by intensifying the sounds of that section. This thing is purely on fire, really.
A stuttered metal chording opens this number. The track stomps out in the midst of the first vocal section to more of a full on blues metal screamer. This is on fire for certain. There is a great instrumental section that features both prominent bass work and fierce guitar soloing.
This comes in with an echoey, understated element that has some definite psychedelia in the mix. It leans toward proggy in some ways. The tune gradually builds outward from there. Over eight-minutes long, it has plenty of room and McGregor and her band use that time wisely. It eventually screams out into metallic zones as it continues. This thing really builds out into some powerhouse jamming. Again, miss the bass work at your peril. The guitar is in your face, but that bass is so cool. This instrumental is a killer.
Walk On Land
Another killer tune, the blues rock and metal merge in style on this screamer. Again, the guitar soloing really takes it to a new level, but it's a powerhouse even without that consideration.
Fast paced metallic jamming is on display as this fires out of the gate. The cut drops back after the introduction to a more droning approach for the entrance of the vocals. The tune continues to evolve and grow from there. The instrumental section later features some more of that exceptional bass work along with the smoking hot guitar soloing you expect
Get Ready To Rock - by Pete Feenstra
‘Bury’d Alive’ is an album that celebrates honesty, integrity and intensity.
It’s honest because what you hear is what went down on the night. It’s full of integrity because Chantel McGregor champions new music and the intensity is at the heart of how she transforms her own songs into something different from what they were originally.
The combination of her own scintillating guitar playing, intuitive band interplay and Wayne Proctor’s cool set of ears means ‘Bury’d Alive’ is a great live album without the hype.
It’s also a real power trio album, as her rhythm section of improv bassist Colin Sutton and muscular drummer Thom Gardner push her to new heights.
And while it’s tempting to dwell on the highlights, it’s an album in which everything contributes to the greater whole. The subtly built set is like slowly climbing a mountain path which gets just that bit steeper with each turn.
And as she leads us to the summit we come across tracks like ‘Walk On Land’. Arguably a career highlight, here it feels more like the perfect fit in a musical jigsaw that reveals more each time you play the album.
It can also be seen as a macro version of her solos which build a tension and finally resolve themselves with a mixture of contrasting tones, shreds and a keen sense of dynamics.
Listen for example, to the way she finishes ‘Land’ with single note, or the way she attacks the magnificent instrumental ‘April’, as she moves from an eerie opening via a little echo to a fatter tone to sound like 2 guitarists. There’s a drop-down which curiously garners no response from the crowd who appear to be transfixed by it all.
And if there’s one minor criticism of the set, it’s simply that for a live album there’s no real sense of a connection with her crowd. The album title pun comes from the Bury St Edmunds Apex theatre. Everyone seems attentive, but a perhaps a little hampered by the surroundings.
No matter, ‘Bury’d Alive’ explores her Gothic lyrical imagery within a rock framework, think grunge, metal, alt. rock, prog, melodic rock and rock-blues influences.
She opens with a hint of grunge on ‘Take The Power’ on which she works hard to find her vocal range before soaring on the hook. She then ups the tempo with some feverish riffing on ‘Killing Time’ which builds to a pounding finale.
And as if to highlight a perfect exercise in sequencing, we’re levered into the marvellous ‘Like No Other’. The significance of the song title resonated from the moment it was chosen as her debut album title. It’s also a perfect example of her craft, from her well chosen lyrical themes to her music which draws us into the sudden push and elevated hook.
Colin Sutton’s imaginative bass lines also come to the fore, as he provides the perfect foundation for Chantel to build her solo impressively with a fuzz guitar tone.
Her shred on the Metal influenced ‘Caught Out’ is an influence that pops up again on both the AC/DC style opening riff on the drone laden ‘Your Fever’ - complete with a signature Blue Oyster Cult guitar line – and a Thin Lizzy influenced intro to the flowing ‘Freefalling’, which mirrors the title.
The wide ranging musical melange always supports the song. She never wastes a note and when she does step out and test the venue’s acoustics with some climatic solos it’s always to either emphasize lyrical bite or to resolve what has gone before.
Everything comes together at the half way point, when she plays Jeff Buckley inspired ‘Eternal Dream’, which showcases her ethereal vocal on the back of an early Pink Floyd style drum pattern. And having got inside the emotive lyrics, she soars with a gnawing into jangling guitar solo that perfectly wraps thing up.
She uses contrast cleverly with an acoustic featherbed opening to ‘Inconsolable’, anther standout track full of poetic lyrics and a scintillating solo that builds and builds and leads a member of the crowd yelling out a primal scream, or perhaps he had a heart attack?
Undeterred she focuses on her vocal and intricate playing with her rhythm section in an almost waltz like feel before picking up the pace at the 9.20 second mark, as only a road band tested can, on what the yanks call a bad ass jam.
And still the set builds until we come to the guitar-led instrumental called ‘April’ – an extended new song on which her playing is simply raw gut emotion.
It’s after a track like that any reservations about her choice of a theatre for a live recording go out the window, as both her lyrics and solos demand serious listening.
Her combination of noirish lyrics and fiery playing may draw comparisons with Samantha Fish, but on the evidence of this album she’s forged her own direction. Most of the material may be more than 4 years old, but the band and the material has grown organically.
‘Bury’d Alive’ answers any lingering questions about her musical direction. Both her more introspective moments and the contrasting barn burning solos emotionally project her beyond her lyrical ideas into the stratosphere. For a musician of her talent it’s the only place to be and ‘Bury’d Alive’ is our ticket to the same destination.
Rock and Blues Muse - Tom O'Conner
For my money, the best release this month was the September 6th drop of Chantel McGregor’s Bury’d Alive produced by Wayne Proctor of House of Tone at Superfly Studios. So much more than yet another up-and-coming blues chanteuse, in addition to her ethereal vocals, McGregor brings some certifiably ferocious guitar work to every track of this energetic and transporting live album.
Bury’d Alive is a potent mix of hyper-tight musicianship from a road-tested, dialed-in trio and a bit of the magic that only occurs in live performances. I’ve rambled on before about the mind-meld possible in a good trio, and this group is a textbook case. All three musicians; drummer Thom Gardner, bassist Colin Sutton and guitarist/vocalist McGregor, are capable of almost anything on their instruments, from full-on hard-rocking bombast, to nuanced prog-rock explorations, and they can handle any dynamic shift in between the two. Combine that with the alchemy of a live set, and anything is possible. We’re all lucky it was captured on tape.
Chantel McGregor throws down the gauntlet right from the get-go with a full minute, riff-laden instrumental that leads into rocking opener “Take The Power.” She also immediately impresses with her first, soaring lead break. After some applause, the band casually launches into “Killing Time,” which I’ll put up against anything Motley Crue ever recorded. After impressing listeners with all that fiery guitar brimstone, McGregor & crew dial things waaaay down on “Like No Other,” this only further showcases McGregor’s way with a power ballad vocal.
Ballad mode doesn’t last long as “Caught Out” hits the gas again with a big fat central riff and a tale of coming out of the other side of bad times with new strengths. Adding in the best wah-soaked lead break I’ve heard in a long, long time and a rave-up ending and this song rocks as hard as anything I’ve heard in 2019… by anyone. The band then challenges their audience with a nine-minute version of “Eternal Dream,” which originally clocked in at a little over four minutes on an earlier studio album, that a lot of people are going to think is still too short. It takes some serious guts, in a live setting, to hand your audience a dreamy, slow-moving tune like this one, but both Chantel’s vocals and her wide-ranging guitar technique make it a risk well-taken. The extended lead break, again with plenty of wah-wah, is a real emotional journey, on par even with Santana at his most untethered.
The band goes back to meat-and-potatoes hard rock with the oddly angular riffs of “Lose Control” which proves they’re a band capable of both extended nine-minute prog-rock journeys and hard-hitting three-minute rockers like this one. Did I say nine minutes? Imagine keeping your live audience enthralled with a nearly thirteen-minute excursion like “Inconsolable.” Again showcasing Chantel McGregor’s remarkably emotive singing and the kind of guitar work from her that you might expect from some kind of Mark Knopfler meets Prince hybrid. After soaring with the angels all that time, the band gets earthy again with the menacing “Your Fever.”
Clocking in at barely eight minutes “April” seems almost stingy in comparison to the album’s previous prog-rock expeditions. That said, this is my standout track for reasons I can’t quite name. This extended instrumental is at turns chiming and hypnotic then strident and brain-melting. If anyone has recorded a better guitar track this year, I sure haven’t heard it. Next up, you can almost see an arena-full of lighters held aloft, or I guess in 2019 it would be glowing phone screens, as the gorgeous and spare “Walk on Land” slowly unfolds. The album closes with “Freefalling,” the kind of furious riff-rocker that would be a great set opener, and that hits as hard as anything you’ll hear this year short of Death Metal.
Re-reading this review I realize I’ve compared Chantel McGregor’s playing to male guitarists and bands. She does, of course, rock as hard as the Wilson sisters with a bit of Lita Ford thrown in as well. I think, and it is unfortunate, that if you asked someone to listen to any one of these tracks blindfolded, their initial response would be along the lines of “her vocals are amazing, and who is the guy on guitar?” …and as I said, that is unfortunate. As immense as McGregor’s talents are, and as the accolades for her vocals continue to pour in, I’m guessing it will still take her longer to receive full acknowledgment for her remarkable guitar playing than it would for some long-haired guitar dude. Know what I mean? This is a full-bore and potential-loaded hard rock trio that plays like a house on fire, regardless of guitar-player gender. Period.
I’ll be shocked if this album isn’t in nearly everyone’s “Top Ten” for 2019.
Bluesdoodles - Tom Dixon
At the outset, I admit to being a long-time fan of Chantel McGregor… I bought her two previous albums direct from her web site (I always do this if possible as it means more money for the artist to enable them to go on and make more great music) and as an elderly fanboy, bought the deluxe editions with t-shirts and signed photos….all on display in my music room (OK, dining room with all of my CDs and memorabilia.) She is a bit of an enigma to many as, in numerous people’s minds, guitar heroes do not wear floaty dresses…well, personally, I think she looks comfortable and, when she plays, from the first chord you know she can wipe the floor with many, many guitarists whose image suits the less imaginative. I mean, who else could have had a song written about her years before her birth…I am referring, of course, to the Big Bopper song from 1958…”Chantel in Lace”. Apart from the ponytail it nearly works if a little convoluted: look it up and I apologise for my weird sense of humour!
Following on from two very good blues/blues-rock albums (2011’s Like No Other and 2015’s Lose Control) she has just released a live album recorded at one of her favourite venues, The Apex in Bury St Edmunds, and cunningly called it Bury’d Alive. If you’re familiar with her albums and incendiary live shows, then you will be delighted with this genuinely live recording and if you haven’t heard her yet, this is a damn good place to start. It was all captured on one night with no cutting from multiple shows, and no studio trickery just a true power trio playing a great set. OK, there’s no between song chatter nor are there any Trower, Hendrix, SRV or Bonamassa covers (there is one less known cover…more of which later) but she still communicates that remarkable ability to be able to sing and play like an angel or, just as easily, sing and play like a demon to suit the song in question and if you’ve seen her do Purple Rain, then you know I’m right. I know she has quite a few guitars, but the cover shows her trusty Ernie Ball MusicMan in, I think, Petrucci signature garb…lovely guitar but I prefer my Morse signature version…whatever, in Chantel’s hands even a knackered old Kays catalogue copy would sound great!
On to the performance and Chantel opens her set with Take The Power and she does just that, ably backed up by Thom And Colin who are psychic in their support and genius in the way they add flourishes to the drums and bass. The studio version has bite and imagination…this version is stellar. With a slow build and chords and plectrum slides all before the main riff cuts and the vocal may seem downplayed but she blossoms on the chorus. The solo is subtle, clever, innovative and worth the entrance fee alone…it is playing that sends shivers down the back even if it is far too short. Next song, Killing Time is also off Lose Control, and keeps the levels high with a great blues-rock riff and subtle chorus. The bridge is rock solid and returns neatly to that rapid-fire riff…no real solo, but the playing of all three keep you enthralled. Like No Other starts quiet and the bass behind Chantel’s sweet picking is brilliant. Her voice is on point as she pours emotion into the first verses and then the guitar joins in properly with equal emotion. The solo is a joy to hear with not too many notes as she uses runs and hammers to evoke the pain in the lyrics. Caught Out ups the pace and power again as Chantel belts out a riff any guitarist would be proud of…yes, it has a touch of the Joey B’s about it but with an almost indefinable edge that makes it unique. The solo intro is nearly all chords and just so clever and then the wah pedal solo shows dexterity I can only dream about (it didn’t last long enough!)
Whilst, Eternal Dream is a lovely four-minute song on Lose Control…live, it extends delightfully to a nine minute plus, free flowing piece that, after the slow first half, the band obviously enjoy and put everything in to. It has a majesty about it, the way her angelic vocals and subtle picking build to an extended piece of guitar playing that could have lasted for the whole album…it is that good and I’m guessing the audience were even more mesmerised than me. The short, sharp rock of Lose Control returns to riffs and choruses that draw you in and the staccato inserts before and during the short solo show three people totally at home and on form. The next track is the near thirteen minute Inconsolable…the only cover on the album, starts fairly faithful to American folk & rock singer-songwriter Jonatha Brooke’s original, (no, not a misprint: Jonatha is an American singer/songwriter. She has around a dozen solo albums available and her music features in such places as Disney and, as with this one, on the original film, Buffy The Vampire Slayer.) Chantel’s reading is entrancing as acoustic guitar and heavenly vocals give way to electric, on the extended (but not by enough!) instrumental section. Listen also for further evidence of the quality of the bass and drums as they stay nailed to the rhythm but still find room for some brilliant flourishes behind that gorgeous lead. We are treated to slow carefully picked notes from across the fretboard as well as the high bends and rapid runs…it all fuses together to provide a solo that many guitarists (male or female) out there would do well to listen to…this is how it should be done.
Your Fever stays mostly true to the album version but still rocks like a rocky thing, without losing that blues base. It is looser and the short solo is evocative of the dust and sand in the lyrics…somehow. April is a new song and, throughout its eight minutes, shows (perhaps) that Chantel’s next album is underway and will be a further development of blues based, intelligent rock. It starts slowly with volume controlled notes and cymbals and rolls resonating before clear picking brings the main melody around echoed notes that will suggest prog to some, but it is blues-rock and a rather astute example of it. This instrumental is enchanting throughout and as I am running out of superlatives for Chantel’s playing, it’s damn good will have to do. Walk On Land has the same lovely sway of the album version and adds some bite in the glorious solo….now that is what I call sustain! Closing the set with the wonderful Freefalling from Like No Other is a good choice…it’s a rock song of quality and the trio add some grit and make into an exuberant song to end what must have been one hell of a night.
This is an album that is best enjoyed in one sitting so that the full impact of the melding of styles and the contrasts of blues, rock and, yes, prog can be fully realised. Equally the individual tracks can be welcomed and enjoyed…but remember, this was truly live and there are only three of them. The odd mistake I did hear just added to the atmosphere and the whole thing provides one of the best-paced and accessible live albums you are likely to hear this year. From the first note to last, I was ensnared by the skilful and emotional playing that Chantel brings to every song…wonderful stuff. Buy this and then buy her two previous albums if you don’t have them already. You won’t be disappointed…after all, anyone who can make the Fluffy Mac song, Rhiannon, sound better deserves to be heard.
Down The Front Media - Paul Monkhouse
Nothing quite beats the visceral excitement of a live gig, the best of them offering that “oneness” between artist and audience, an instant give and take between both parties, where things just exploded into once in a lifetime moments. Capturing that lightning in a bottle on record is a very tough thing to do but there have been several live albums recorded over the past fifty years or so that have become career-defining moments, snapshots of acts at their peak, showing that they could more than cut it outside the sterile confines of the recording studio. Everyone can list their favourites, much loved and much played and, in ‘Bury’d Alive’, CHANTEL MCGREGOR has produced an album that will be added to that roll call by many discerning music fans.
As with the best live albums, this single performance recording contains no studio tidying up and is presented very much as it happened on the night (although the lack of between-song banter possibly indicates that this was exorcised to include as much music as possible). Brilliantly produced by ‘go-to’ all-round good guy and multi-talented guru of drums and mixing desk Wayne Proctor, the power trio of McGregor on guitar and vocals, Colin Sutton on bass and Thom Gardner on drums are on fiery form, the almost telepathic connection between the three musicians forged from serious roadwork together.
The aptly named ‘Take The Power’ opens and hits hard straight away, its climbing riff perfectly complimenting McGregor’s sweet but tough vocals, the song finishing on a short but scorching solo. The trio are so good that they make everything seem almost effortless on ‘Killing Time’, quick-fire guitar and swinging percussion showing both skill and feel filling the air as the audience gets swept away with the sheer joy of the performance. ‘Like No Other’ seduces the listener, a truly passionate song that is impossible not to fall in love with, such is its siren call.
After being caressed, the monstrous riff of ‘Caught Out’ comes along all attitude and defiance. Both the lyrics and the instrumentation nail the theme of being hurt but coming out stronger and, as the song reaches its tumultuous end, you can be in no doubt that Ms. McGregor is the victor in this particular fight. Thus far all the tracks have been about average length, getting in, saying what they needed to and then getting out but the nine-minute ‘Eternal Dream’ lets the band stretch out and really pulls you in. Free-flowing at the start, it’s otherworldly and delicate vibe changes midpoint as the distortion pedal is hit and the song takes off to guitar solo heaven.
Fan favourite ‘Lose Control’ rocks hard, the heaviest track on the album it keeps both audience and band on their toes and shows the trio can really get down and dirty when they want. Switching things around again, ‘Inconsolable’ is another lengthy track that conveys aching beauty, McGregor, Sutton and Gardner showing that they are equally adept with some pitch-perfect delicacy on their instruments before flipping between hard and soft playing, a true mastery of touch. More of the darkness comes in the form of ‘Your Fever’, a track dripping in menace and this is followed by ‘April’, that, despite the pastoral title, is a full-blooded instrumental that gives everyone the chance to let loose in no uncertain terms.
Penultimate number ‘Walk On Land’ is a thing of beauty, winding and swaying with a natural ease of both the guitar and vocals that marks McGregor out as one of the Queens of the Blues in this much-lauded and deserved current revival of the genre. There couldn’t be a more perfect song to follow than ‘Freefalling’ which absolutely seals the deal, a triumphant and bold rocker that feels like a victory parade and is the perfect way to end the set. ‘Bury’d Alive’ can proudly stand alongside some of the classic live releases; raw, exciting and vital. The only thing missing was you, but you can say you were there and who’s to know?
All About The Rock - Matt Denny
It’s been 4 years since Lose Control, but Chantel McGregor makes her welcome comeback with a bombastic live album, recorded in Bury St Edmunds at The Apex and aptly titled, Bury’d Alive.
Straight from the off the album kicks in with Take The Power from Lose Control and is already demanding to play this album LOUD.
Even the softer moments such as, Eternal Dream and Walk On Land you’ll want to play LOUD too.
There are a number of highlights on this album for me. Your Fever (which is a personal favorite of mine) is quite possibly the best version I have heard of this track live. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end and I had to pick my jaw off the floor.
But there’s also the new tracks Inconsolable which is a little shy of 13 minutes. This is a track that will continually take on a life of its own live. The musicianship of Thom Gardner, drums and Colin Sutton, bass follow Miss McGregors arrangement sublimely.
Although this is heavy blues mixed with elements of prog, it reminds me of when The Doors used to jam. Manzarek leading Krieger and Densmore in subtle nuances and feeding off each others energy. Chantel is doing the same with Thom and Colin.
The other new song on the album April , runs just over 8 minutes and is as prog as Chantel gets. This sounds like the track she’s been trying to write for years and has finally pulled it off. An incredibly ridiculous and over the top instrumental. I love it.
Bury’d Alive is raw, passionate and perfectly shows off what level of musicianship you’d get from one of her shows. This truly is one of her shows. It’s not cobbled together from several nights or overdubbed in a studio. This is a 100% live recording.
The mix is outstanding. The audience is at a perfect level in the mix and it puts you slap bang in the middle of the venue. This is EVERYTHING you’d want in a Chantel McGregor live album and lots lot more.
Rush On Rock - Simon Rushworth
Midway through this emotive live set Chantel McGregor hits a genuinely affecting high. A dreamy vocal and understated fretwork elevates the blues queen to a dizzying new level. The track? It’s Inconsolable. And you will be if you don’t get your hands on a copy of this essential insight into a truly special talent.
Of course the multi-talented McGregor can do soulful just as well as she can do brooding, ballsy blues rock. And the riff-laden passion underpinning the perfect opener – Feel The Power – proves the point as the accomplished singer songwriter lets rip. Your Fever comes a close second as an example of McGregor at her bullish, unbridled best.
Those seeking to lose themselves in a soaring solo should skip straight to Eternal Dream where pure instinct appears to kick in. McGregor is on fire as she reinterprets a true classic from 2015’s aptly titled Lose Control.
Then again the solo is a staple of this standout set from start to finish. And on April an inspired McGregor manages to get even more out of her trusty six-string, squeezing every last note out of a Skynyrd-esque winning streak. Truly remarkable stuff.
Bury’d Alive is a blues resurrection. Celebrate while you can.
Music News - Andy Snipper
It’s been fascinating to watch Chantel McGregor grow as an artist over the last few years. Starting out as one of the slew of Blues chicks (albeit one of the better ones) who emerged in the last 10 years and developing her own style and personality as she progresses. This live album clearly shows that she is a mature and confident rocker with some fine guitar chops and a singular vocal style that really works for her. Her last album ‘Lose Control’ shook a lot of people up with its dark and gothic feel – very different from her debut album ‘Like No Other’ which was far more Bluesy and less focused.
This live album, recorded at the Apex in Bury St Edmunds, draws from both those albums and adds ‘April’ which has been a fan favourite live track for a while but never recorded previously.
So, what does ‘Bury’d Alive’ give the listener?
For one thing, the music comes across with real power and confidence. None of the ‘little girl in the headlights’ of her early performances. Chantel is backed up by Thom Gardner on drums and Colin Sutton on bass and they create a powerful backdrop to her guitar and vocals.
The album was mixed and mastered by Wayne Proctor at Superfly studios and he has managed to get a really tight and focussed sound throughout – he seems to be the Mixer of choice these days and this album shows why.
The mix of tracks from the first two albums works better than expected as they fit well together in the new, harder-edged, style and show different sides to Ms McGregor.
The set opens with ‘Take The Power’ and she is straight into her stride with powerful guitar riffery and hammering drums from Gardner, then turning the wick up with a brilliant ‘Killing Time’ where her sweet vocals sound perfectly miscast against her massive axe play.
She varies the tone and pace throughout the set, delicately picking on ‘Like No Other’ or taking the crowd on an acid-tinged stretch on ‘Eternal Dream’ while ‘Lose Control’ suggests that she is anything but losing it.
‘Inconsolable’ is magnificent, a 12 minute odyssey starting on acoustic against some standout bass work from Colin Sutton and developing with beautiful guitar playing – it could so easily drift but she brings it together with some really emotional playing. ‘April’ is another piece that stretches out, really giving the music room to breathe.
Chantel is one of Britain’s best young live acts and this album clearly demonstrates just why she is so popular. Thoroughly recommended.
National Rock Review - Adam Kennedy
Many would argue that music is an art form which is best appreciated live.
You just can’t beat the feeling you get from witnessing your favourite musicians in concert. The buzz of hearing a treasured song played out, the roar of the guitars, the beat of the drums, or basking in the unique atmosphere in a crowd full of like-minded folks are special experiences for sure.
Concert albums have long tried to capture those sounds and stir those emotions once again. They also act as a time capsule to a previous time or place. The likes of Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous, The Who’s Live at Leeds or Cheap Trick at the Budokan all act as a permanent reminder of each of these legendary bands at their peak.
Having been touring relentlessly since the release of her sophomore album Lose Control, British singer, songwriter and guitarist Chantel McGregor felt that now was the right time in her career to record her first-ever live album. Having always been fond of The Apex theatre in the Suffolk town of Bury St Edmunds, McGregor decided this would be the perfect spot for her forthcoming release which is aptly titled – Bury’d Alive.
Producer/drummer extraordinaire Wayne Proctor has once again done a sterling job of producing, mixing and mastering the record, ensuring that there is a lasting record of the magic that occurred at the Apex Theatre on the night of the 29th March 2019.
With this record, Chantel presents key cuts from her first two studio albums along with previously unreleased material.
Bury’d Alive opens with a pair of tracks from McGregor’s last album in the shape of Take The Power and the ferocious Killing Time. Each of these tracks put forward a heavier side to Chantel’s playing which we witnessed on the second album Lose Control.
Whilst the faster tracks on the record may well showcase Chantel’s lightning-quick fingers and blistering fretwork, the slower numbers such as Like No Other highlight McGregor’s beautiful voice. The infectious melody and heavy riffs of Caught Out pick things back up, with a further favourite from Chantel’s debut album.
Unquestionably Chantel McGregor’s music has evolved within the live setting and this record certainly chronicles that evolution. After all, the stage provides an environment where the artist has the freedom to truly express themselves in a way that might not necessarily be possible in a studio. A perfect example of this would be on the Lose Control record where the Jeff Buckley inspired number Eternal Dream is merely four and a half minutes long, whilst on the live album, it is over nine minutes. This is largely thanks to a majestic guitar solo in the latter stages of the song.
Heartfelt ballad Inconsolable encapsulates differing sides of Chantel’s playing. Starting as a gentle acoustic ballad, the track builds throughout its thirteen-minute duration via an emotive and fully electrified guitar solo. Chantel’s passionate playing during the latter stages of the song puts her in a league of her own.
A fiery and somewhat thunderous recording of Your Fever features towards the end of the record. Whilst Chantel’s atmospheric composition April highlights her progressive-rock influences. This epic instrumental is worth the cost of the CD alone, and presently only features on McGregor’s latest live album.
Bury’d Alive captures the Yorkshire guitar slinger in her prime, firing on all cylinders and at the top of her game whilst simultaneously putting forward the very best of her first two albums and more.
FabricationsHQ - Ross Muir
With an acoustic album in the pipeline and a full, new studio album scheduled for 2020 (the long awaited follow up to 2015’s powerful, Southern Gothic influenced Lose Control), a live release from singer and exceptional rock guitar talent Chantel McGregor is well timed, an exclamation point and wrap-up statement to the last four years of Lose Control performances before heading for acoustic and studio album pastures new.
It also showcases and captures just how good Chantel McGregor and her band, the tight and flexible rhythm section of drummer Thom Gardner and bassist Colin Sutton, truly are.
But then you have to be percussively expressive and fluid with the bass lines, given Miss McGregor’s penchant for taking songs into semi-improvised, different-each-night territory (take your deserved round of applause, 'Eternal Dream,' a song that shares musical DNA with the late Jeff Buckley and, live, allows McGregor and her band to journey down a more progressive, blues-fusion road).
Similarly, and even more notable, is the near thirteen minute 'Inconsolable.'
The only cover to feature, the song starts fairly faithful to American folk & rock singer-songwriter Jonatha Brooke’s original, but Chantel McGregor’s acoustic guitar is soon swapped the electric, as she takes lead on an extended, free flowing instrumental section.
With the guitarist losing herself in ever-rising six-string cries and howls Colin Sutton (who fills the space with some sinewy four-string lines) and Thom Gardner keep one ear on their rhythm and presumably one eye on their leader to see where she might go next.
Recorded in March of this year at the Apex in Bury St Edmunds, Bury’d ALive (I see what you did there) is about far more than just those extended excursions and guitar-play that flits between the finessed and the furious (such six-string extremes are to the fore on the nine minute, slow-build instrumental 'April').
The opening Lose Control salvo of the heavyweight 'Take the Power' and riff rockin’ 'Killing Time' positively bristle with Southern Gothic energy; 'Caught Out,' from debut album Like No Other, hides its middle-eastern motifs under heavier clothing, putting it slap bang in the American South alongside its Lose Control cousins.
Equally impressive are the short, sharp and riff driven 'Lose Control' and 'Your Fever,' a grungy, mid-tempo slice of heavy blues that incorporates interesting melodic threads.
Recorded by engineer Ben Sitch and given full-sounding live life courtesy of Wayne Proctor’s first class production, mixing and mastering job, Bury’d ALive is an 11 track, 68 minute encapsulation of an artist on top, expressive form and one who will no doubt always be wanted for questioning by the Blues Police.
Long may those traits continue.
Maximum Volume Music - Andy Thorley
To this day, I love the radio, way more than I like TV. When I was a little lad of about eight years old, my Gran brought me a portable radio. It opened up a whole word of possibilities. Not least every Friday night when Tommy Vance told me about rock n roll.
One night he played some of a Kiss live gig. They’d played Portman Road, Ipswich FC’s ground, and the way Paul Stanley flounced out on stage (ok, it was radio, but you just know he flounced….) and said: “Well, good evening, Ipswich!!” like it was one of the music capitals of the world, always stuck with me.
Radio is evocative like that; music is evocative like that. And the reason for that reminiscing is “Bury’d Alive”. The brand new Chantel McGregor live album was recorded in Bury St Edmunds, and there is something perfect about that.
McGregor has all the talent in the world, two fabulous records, and a stage presence that marks her out as absolutely lovely (there is no better way of putting it). But she sort of ploughs her own furrow – and the idea of recording a live album in Suffolk is somehow in keeping with the ethos.
The music contained in this wonderful – and that word is genuinely meant here – hour and a half of “…..Alive” deserves this to have been done in the Hammersmith Apollo (where the two best live albums ever were made, right?) because “Take The Power” and “Like No Other” alone belong in Rock’s Premier League.
Note “rock” not “blues” because – to me anyway – what we are dealing with here is one of the finest rock talents we have, when I listen to her music, I always have comparisons like Jared James Nichols running through my head rather than Bonamassa, but maybe that’s just personal.
Whatever, there is a stunning breadth of stuff here. “Caught Out” has a riff that wouldn’t be out of place on a Pearl Jam record, and the way it’s delivered, you can only feel sorry for whomever it is about. Mess with a Yorkshire lass at your peril, and don’t mess with this one.
She can play, too. Goodness me! But only three times here does she elongate the songs. Many who are this good like to prove it every track (Zakk Wylde, I am looking at you here….) but the best know when and where to do it. Here, there is a glorious slow building “Eternal Dream”, a real special acoustic jam on “Inconsolable” and the new song, “April”, which she’d played when I saw her the other night with the preface “shall we do that big one we do?” Understatement, seeing as this one is enormous, and set to be part of the live set for years.
Ending as ever, with the screeching “Freefalling” with its groove big enough to shake the foundations, this is a special live album from a very special artist.
“Bury’d Alive” proves that, but surely she could have said “Good evening Bury St Edmunds!” in her best Paul Stanley voice, just for old times sake, like.
Blues Enthused - Iain Cameron
Here are three things I know about Chantel McGregor. First, she won a couple of British Blues Awards back in 2013. Second, she's not really a blues artist. And third – that’s fine.
It’s fine, because in the course of over an hour on Bury’d Alive (so titled because this live album was recorded in Bury St. Edmunds - ouch!), McGregor and her show mark out their real territory with total conviction. Some hard rocking, some progginess, and some hints of jam band – these are the essential ingredients they whip together to damn good effect.
The hard rocking is evident from the start, as the opening ‘Take The Power’ features a winding guitar riff, leading into a staccato rhythm and punchy vocal on the verses, a first bout of guitar and bass harmonising, and a sweeping chorus amid ringing guitar chords, before McGregor gets into a brooding, semi-distorted solo. There’s an even more aggressive, crunching riff on the following ‘Killing Time’, underpinned by driving bass and rock solid drums, en route to a stuttering bridge.
There’s lots of tension too, for example in ‘Caught Out’, with its buzzing riff and choppy drums giving way to surging guitar and bass over a steady rhythm. McGregor tops that one off with a flickering, wah-wah solo ahead of a sprint to the finishing line. And the closing ‘Freefalling’ is another gutsy, energetic affair, with its appropriately twisting and plunging riff, strident chorus, and yet more surging guitar chords and bubbling bass.
These tracks do a good job of maintaining the momentum and energy levels, with ‘Caught Out’ in particular carrying echoes for me of latter day guitar-driven Rush, circa Vapor Trailsperhaps. But McGregor is even more effective when she gets into more expansive realms.
‘Like No Other’ lays down a marker for this more reflective sound, with its delicate guitar opening counterpointed by patient bass notes, before taking off into heavier realms, with an ascending bass line from Colin Sutton, over subtle guitar textures from McGregor, reinforcing its appeal. But they really hit paydirt with the excellent ‘Eternal Dream’, its mellow strummed and picked opening recalling Wishbone Ash for this old git, while McGregor’s singing is clear, pure and feminine, underlining the song’s distinctiveness. It’s suspenseful and dream-like, and indeed borderline ethereal as it approaches the halfway mark of its nine minutes and sets off on a sparkling instrumental exploration.
Is that the standout track on the album? Difficult to say, what with similar treats being offered up by ‘Inconsolable’, a cover of a song by American folk-rocker Jonatha Brooke with a shimmering, acoustic sounding opening, and some lovely, lilting vocals from McGregor. Sutton weighs in with dipping and darting bass notes over sparse, controlled drums from Thom Gardner, before McGregor gets into some dynamic, sustain-heavy guitar work, and they play around with various themes, but without descending into the dreaded aimless noodling. This is prog with a sense of purpose.
And one can’t ignore ‘April’ either, a previously unreleased instrumental heralded by weeping guitar notes over rumbling drums and tinkling cymbals, leading into piercing guitar lines over a click-clack rhythm and pulsing bass and then picking up pace as they apparently jump off into jam band territory, the three of them bouncing off each other beautifully, even if its does get a bit manic towards the end.
I could go on, as there are other pleasures to be appreciated on Bury’d Alive – and with the crystal clear production and mixing by Wayne Proctor, giving the instrumentation well-nigh perfect space and balance, you won’t have to listen too hard to catch them.
Eschewing keyboards, Chantel McGregor and co deliver a singular style of guitar-led proggish rock that’s imaginative but focused. Methinks the lady knows very much what she’s doing, and she stands apart doing it. There’s a Scottish poet who wrote about the need “To be yersel’ and mak’ that worth bein’”. With Bury’d Alive, Chantel McGregor is living up to that maxim.
We Bleed Music Media - Dave Martin
The first time I saw Chantel was at HRH blues a few years back and I was immediately impressed with not only her incredible guitar playing and voice, but also the way she shared stories and banter with the crowd. Sadly this is missed from this live album and therefore the full live show is slightly missing, never the less I was excited to hear about this album and also to know it was produced by legendary drummer/producer Wayne Proctor made me even more eager to hear it.
This was recorded at the Apex, Bury St Edmunds leaving the interaction of Chantel behind and concentrating more on the music and her vocals. He has done an incredible job of mixing and mastering this to perfection, the sound is absolutely crystal clear which on so many live albums is often muffled, every instrument and nuance can be heard beautifully which just enhances the listening pleasure.
I called Chantel a female Hendrix on one of my reviews and this kicks off with one of my favourites from her Lose Control album the hard and heavy TAKE THE POWER. The moment you hear this you will first want to turn it up loud, second move to the groove, and third just listen to her guitar playing and you will know why I gave her that title. Thom Gardner’s hard and heavy drumming and brilliant cymbal work, then Chantel lets rip and her guitar prowess takes over: absolutely stunning and this is just the first song,
And it doesn’t let up: more incredible axe playing on KILLING TIME, Thom and bassist Colin Sutton providing a great backdrop to her performance.
The beautiful ballad ETERNAL DREAM shows the sweeter side to Chantel’s voice, this one where you can just drift away into the guitar solo, pure class.
INCONSOLABLE is nothing short of a piece of magic: the audience are treated to just under thirteen minutes of guitar heaven. This comes in like a lamb, sweet vocals and a lovely mellow sound, gradually developing into a blistering lion of a track. Chantel teasing the audience with some little guitar moves and getting some whoops from the crowd, then she just goes into her Jimi mode and never lets up. I could listen to this over and over and it displays more than anything how much this lady deserves the accolades thrown at her. The brilliant rhythm section of Thom and Colin at the back beat: an absolute classic of a number.
APRIL an eight-minute gem, this is a guitar playing masterpiece. I challenge anyone to hear a better instrumental this year, the pure musicianship of this young lady is phenomenal and I can’t wait to see her perform it on the road somewhere.
The penultimate song WALK ON LAND is a beautiful ballad with a wonderful sway to it, till the middle eight when Thom’s drums get hardier and heavier introducing another scorching guitar attack from Chantel.
The final song and one to shake the Apex roof off: FREEFALLING. This is a great rocker and a brilliant way to end any show, or album, all the band’s talents shine on this, it’s a belter and what would it be without another tremendous solo from the lady herself.
This has to be up there with one of the best blues/rock albums of the year, it showcases Chantel’s first two albums and extras to the limit, and gives you the feel of a live Chantel Experience, be it without the cheeky chat.
Without a doubt this young lady is heading for stratospheric heights and if this album isn’t up for awards along with Chantel this year I will be very surprised.
Metal Discovery - Mark Holmes
There comes a time in most bands and artists’ careers when they decide to dip their toes in live album territory. Sooner rather than later for some. In the case of Chantel McGregor, she’s been a presence on the scene for many years now, and has evidently deemed the time to be right for showcasing her musical talents via ‘Bury’d Alive’; the audio from a show at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds on 29th of March this year.
While Chantel can’t claim a recorded prolificacy, with only two studio albums to her name thus far - 2011’s ‘Like No Other’ and 2015’s ‘Lose Control’ - she’s emphatically made her mark on the live circuit, in the UK and beyond, with countless tours, festival appearances, etc. So it’s apposite, in this sense, that her seemingly four year gap between albums has seen her deliver a live one in 2019. And it’s a corker!
Minimalist in terms of constitution, with just a bassist and drummer joining her on stage (Colin Sutton and Thom Gardner), there’s nothing stripped down about a Chantel McGregor live experience. An amazingly full, resonant sound, we’re in the realm of power trios here, and this triumvirate of musicians deliver on all fronts. Some songs have a greater rock vibrancy than their recorded counterparts (such as ‘Take the Power’ and ‘Killing Time’), while others reach even greater sublime heights than ever before (notably, ‘Eternal Dream’).
While Chantel’s made what seems to be an indelible impression within the blues scene, her music is so much more beyond just blues, and certainly transcendent of any traditional notion of the genre when it can be construed as blues. Her love of prog and rock shines through her compositions, and even some metal levels of heaviness, which can be heard on ‘Bury’d Alive’ in the most organic of ways. Organic because of her natural abilities, via voice and fretboard, that come to the fore in a live context. Her guitar work continues to impress me immensely; proving herself on ‘Bury’d Alive’ to be amongst the very finest of naturally gifted UK players currently out there in the scene. Her ability to express a whole ton of emotional profundity through her solos is breathtaking.
It’s also worth noting that it states within the packaging: “There are no overdubs or electronic trickery”. No overdubs?! Wow. Now this makes ‘Bury’d Alive’ an even more impressive achievement and release. I’ve always been in favour of live albums entirely free from overdubs, even if mistakes can be heard. After all, it’s our mistakes that make us human, right? And it’s always refreshing to hear music that sounds human. Some bigger bands will release live albums that are overdub-free but are an amalgam of several live shows, and the best, glitch-free performances of each track are cherry-picked from recordings of multiple gigs. I've always kind of regarded that as cheating in one sense. That’s not the case here. It’s glitch-free to my ears, and from one show, without any post-gig tampering. Respect! To Chantel and her band. No safety net whatsoever. Go girl!
It’s been four years since I last covered a Chantel McGregor gig and the overwhelming feeling I’m left with after listening to this marvel of live albums is that I need to get to another one asap! As a snapshot of a moment in time of where Chantel’s at as a live performer in 2019, this is proof she’s a musical force that deserves to be much wider known than she currently is. Phenomenal stuff.