We check out Chris Buck, A Blaze Of Feather, Yonaka, Katie Von Schleicher, DeWolff [pictured] and Charly Bliss...
1. Chris Buck
A new UK blues rock hope? The crowd goes Buck wild.
When guitarist Chris Buck was a child growing up in south Wales he began his playing career in stolen moments with his dad’s treasured US Strat. Years later, he would secure his own guitar - a Tele - but fate still seemed against him.
“The memory of that day is my old man being pulled over for speeding,” laughs Chris. “I’d been told, ‘Don’t take the guitar out until you get home’, but I had it across my lap, when these blue lights came on behind us. I was convinced that we’d been pulled over because playing the guitar in the back of a car was illegal!”
After that, Chris and his guitar were inseparable. An early flirtation with The Offspring soon gave way to Slash and full-blown GnR worship before a couple of YouTube videos led to a complimentary email from Alan Niven (GnR manager, ’86-’91) and, in turn, Chris’ appearance onstage with Slash in Birmingham in 2012.
“Luckily, there’s a video because I can remember almost nothing about it!” says Chris. “I remember looking up and Slash standing two feet away from me and it suddenly dawning on me, ‘He’s the reason I play guitar!’”
Most 21-year-olds might struggle to hold their own in that scenario, but not Chris. He has an astonishing ability to wring supremely soulful bends, overdriven jangle and exhilarating leads from his Strat. Now managed by Niven, Buck & Evans - the band Chris started with vocalist Sally-Ann Evans - is quickly garnering fans, plus there’s a debut album on the way.
“Guitar was the only thing that I ever felt that I had a level of natural aptitude for,” reflects Chris of the journey. “I’ve got to stick at it, because I can literally do nothing else!”
For fans of: Stevie Ray Vaughan
Gear: Fender Highway One Strat
2. A Blaze Of Feather
Weather-worn atmospheric post-folk
A Blaze Of Feather is the nom de plume of (Ben Howard collaborator) Mickey Smith - or rather his collective of South Western musicians. Howard features in this new line-up, as does co-guitarist Nat Wason.
“I feel lucky to have this connection as a band,” says Mickey. “Everyone of us has been through the mill and it’s a pretty rare feeling when we’re all in the flow playing - it gets way out there amongst the cosmos.”
A Blaze Of Feather’s self-titled debut picks up where Ben Howard’s I Forget Where We Were left off. The album evolves windwhipped guitar lines to astonishing peaks and troughs, all interwoven with Mickey’s mumbled vocal output. “The songs just kept coming through,” concludes Mickey. “We just thought, ‘Let’s get this down before it’s lost in the ether.’”
For fans of: Ben Howard, Daughter
Gear: Gibson ES-335, Fender Tele
Raucous, riff-rousing Brighton rockers
It takes the opening 20 seconds of Wouldn’t Wanna Be Ya to like Yonaka. Their indie riffing recalls the distorted hip-shake of early Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the aforementioned single is, frankly, stonking.
“I love people that push guitar to another level,” contemplates guitarist George Edwards. “But that can then turn around and hit you with a riff so heavy and nasty it’s like getting glassed with a pint of Marmite.”
George and his ES-335 are capable of a Marmite glassing. Their racket has already attracted Atlantic Records and Reading/ Leeds beckons. It’s all looking rosy, then, but we would counsel calm. After all, George confesses impatience is his worst enemy as a guitarist. “I tend to spaff myself in the face with Sibella when I get too jumpy and excited,” he says. Mind your eyes, George…
For fans of: Royal Blood
Gear: Gibson ES-335, Fender Deluxe and Twin Reverb
4. Katie Von Schleicher
Who: Brooklyn-based guitarist/songwriter
Sounds like: Exceptional pop melancholia for people who are sad about not being exceptional
For fans of: Sharon Von Etten, Emma Ruth Rundle
Gear: Rickenbacker 620, Fender 68 Princeton, Analogman Beano Boost
Who: A Dutch master known as guitarist Pablo van de Poel
Sounds like: Heavy psychedelic blues rock with a social conscience. Deceit And Woo is a Trump-bating masterpiece.
Gear: 2007 Gibson Firebird V with Lyre Vibrola, Marshall Bluesbreaker
For fans of: MC5, Rival Sons
Hear: Deceit And Woo
6. Charly Bliss
Who: New York guitarists Eva Hendricks and Spencer Fox
Sounds like: Heartfelt gravel pop. Stands in the tube socks of your fave 90s college rockers
Gear: Spencer - Fender Johnny Marr Jaguar, ’65 Twin Reverb. Eva - Fender ’73 Mustang, Hot Rod Deluxe
For fans of: Weezer, Veruca Salt