The Self Help Group launched their album ‘Not Waving, But Drowning’ at the Prince Albert pub last night, ably supported by Fiona Sally Miller.
Fiona Sally Miller hasn’t been seen out and about much over the last year which is a shame as she’s one of the most engaging singer-songwriters around town. Simple little riffs set the scene for her personal songs sung in a warm voice that engrosses you like a hug. If you see her on a support bill, make sure you get there early. At this gig she was accompanied on some songs by a cellist, and gave an outing to her old goldie ‘I’m Going to miss you smiling at me like that’.
The Self Help Group album launch was a bit of a party for family and friends friends, starting off with them getting the whole audience to turn around to watch their video Needles played on the back wall. The launch got even more shambolic, with the band talking as much between themselves as to the audience, losing the banjo on one song and limiting their nervous wit to a strange bit of banter about their song about Birds. Not women, the ones with wings. Odd thing to say to any audience, let alone a Brighton one.
But we needn’t have worried. The thing about Self Help Group is the music, beautifully played, and Mark Bruce’s excellent songs, and the gorgeous twin vocals of sisters Sarah and Clara Wood. The thing is, this is just a truly great band and once they get going you forget about the fluff and hesitation and just get swallowed up by this wave of really wonderful fol rock Americana.
The album is very good indeed. Reviews refer to that Laurel Canyon soft-rock early-70s sensibility but if there’s one band they remind me most of it’s possibly Fleetwood Mac, with the charming female vocals, some sweet guitar and meaty rhythm section but mainly that wonderful mix of west coast Americana with English self-aware folk-blues.
Mark Bruce joked about the lack of happy songs last night – the album is full of songs about death and murder and stories of grim times – but the thing is they don’t sound depressing these songs, they are heart-warming and rich stories that bear repeating. And they have a song about murmuration. What’s not to love?
The final song Sand was a perfect ending, with its closing refrain of
“You must take the steps towards what you want and make things better“
sending us home with a lovely inner-glow.
Oh, and our interview with lead Groupie Mark Bruce is here https://brightonmusicblog.co.uk/2013/01/28/interview-with-the-self-help-group
Review and Photographs by Jon Southcoasting