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Christopher Rees - JPop.com
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Christopher Rees

Christopher Rees

Christopher Rees


San Francisco may sound an unlikely place for a young guitarist, singer and songwriter from Llanelli (South Wales) to start his musical career but that’s where the story begins for Christopher Rees. In 1994, after playing guitar and developing his song writing skills during his time at Cardiff University he packed his bags and like his hero John Cale bought a plane ticket to New York. A period of self discovery followed with a Zen-like summer Read more on Last.fm
San Francisco may sound an unlikely place for a young guitarist, singer and songwriter from Llanelli (South Wales) to start his musical career but that’s where the story begins for Christopher Rees. In 1994, after playing guitar and developing his song writing skills during his time at Cardiff University he packed his bags and like his hero John Cale bought a plane ticket to New York. A period of self discovery followed with a Zen-like summer spent teaching Kayaking and Canoeing on the lakes and rivers of Vermont before a Kerouac-inspired journey across America. It was on his travels from The Big Apple through Chicago (where he quite literally bumped into Blues legends Buddy Guy and Otis Rush playing pool!) to Montana, Seattle, San Francisco and everywhere in-between that he acquired the anonymous confidence to perform his own songs in public. Making his solo debut at a low key hippie hangout on Haight-Ashbury, he was so encouraged by the response that he went on to make other memorable performances in bars and coffee houses all over Southern California. Sleeping rough or on the floor of people who had come to see him play he even woke up one morning to find himself having breakfast with acclaimed LA keyboard player Dave Palmer (Fiona Apple, Chris Isaak, AIR) and Austin drummer Earl Harvin (Richard Thompson, The The). Constantly searching for the experience and inspiration that influenced so many of his heroes (from Jack Kerouac to John Cale, Neil Young to Nina Simone and Tim Buckley to Tom Waits) it was a time of enlightenment for Rees who quickly realized what it was he wanted to do with his life. Upon his return to Wales he immediately launched himself onto the fledgling Cardiff music scene where after only his first local gig was spotted by a senior producer of BBC arts programme ‘The Slate’ which led to television appearances alongside Stereophonics and a number of radio sessions. Without the support of a band he gigged his way around the country as he had done in America feeling more comfortable effectively stripped bare on stage with just his battered acoustic guitar and passionate voice to depend on. Slowly but surely he began to expand his musical palette seeking out musicians one at a time who could compliment and enhance his material.

It began with a cello, growing steadily piece by piece to include violin, double bass, slide guitar, piano and finally drums to complete a powerfully dynamic and highly textured 7 piece line up. His exciting development did not go unnoticed attracting the attention of Cardiff label FFvinyl who released the critically lauded ‘Kiss Me Kill Me’ EP in December 2001. Hailed by the NME as “Seriously amazing stuff”, he was nominated for ‘Best Male Solo Artist’ at The Welsh Music Awards 2001 alongside the god-like Tom Jones. After being nominated once again in 2002 it proved third time lucky for Rees as he won the title in 2004. He became the first and only act in over a decade to support former Velvet Underground legend John Cale during his 2001 UK tour and has performed a number of national radio sessions for the likes of Janice Long on Radio 2 and Radio 1’s Evening Session. Fuelled by the spirit of independence he set up his own recording studio in 2002 and established a film music production company and record label called Red Eye Music with fellow composer, pianist and band member Dave Stapleton. After two painstaking years of refining his musical vision and technical skills he finally produced the debut album he always wanted to make with The Sweetest Ache in 2004. An extremely ambitious, profoundly passionate, bombastic and sophisticated record The Sweetest Ache marked the arrival of a truly exciting and unique voice in British music. His second album Alone On A Mountain Top (The Ty Bach Twt Sessions) was a very different story. Recorded entirely alone in a beautiful little 200 year old cottage in the mountains outside Aberystwyth in just six days, it exudes a very different sound to that of his critically acclaimed debut album The Sweetest Ache as lavish strings are replaced by rustic resonator slide guitar, wailing blues harp and country banjo. Reflecting his love for Blues and Country artists like Son House, Townes Van Zandt, Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley it represents another distinct side to him that is made all the more engaging, immediate and exciting in such a stripped down manner. To his suprise and delight Alone On A Mountain Top received even more acclaim than it's predecessor and opened the door to a liberating solo period of touring both throughout the UK and internationally as the album picked up distribution in Canada, New Zealand, and Europe.

A MOJO Magazine sponsered UK tour ensued alongside American acts Willard Grant Conspiracy and William Elliott Whitmore as well as dates in Canada with Freakwater and Kelly Joe Phelps. Detroit's Deadstring Brothers and New Mexico's Nels Andrews also invited him on tour. Christopher Rees returns with his third and finest album ‘Cautionary Tales’ on September 3rd, preceded by the single Bottom Dollar on August 27th Following the epic orchestral intensity of his 2004 debut The Sweetest Ache, “Seriously amazing stuff” (NME) and the rustic warmth of 2005’s Alone On A Mountain Top, “Deliciously raw and spellbinding…A wonderful homespun triumph” (MOJO), Cautionary Tales combines the string-laden sophistication of the first with the intimate, rootsy qualities of the second to stunning effect. The surprise success of Alone On A Mountain Top, which charmed and won audiences around the world from Cardiff to Canada and New York to New Zealand, has honed Rees’ skills as a live performer and song writer. Touring extensively with kindred spirits William Elliott Whitmore, Willard Grant Conspiracy, Freakwater, The Deadstring Brothers and Kelly Joe Phelps amongst others has also empowered him on stage and in the studio. Once again recorded and produced by Rees himself, mostly in an isolated mid Wales mountain retreat, Cautionary Tales is culled from a prolific list of over forty songs. The result is an inspiring showcase of the diverse depths of his impassioned song writing, spanning everything from soulful country and banjo driven Appalachian folk to raucous delta blues/rock and sublime string-soaked ballads. Sharing the microphone for the very first time with an illustrious cast of guest singers, Cautionary Tales features a rare appearance from much-loved American heroine Victoria Williams who contributes her inimitable charms to the duet Bottom Dollar, while Belgian siren Charline Rose (Calexico, Giant Sand) exudes ‘that’ breathy French sensuality on closing track Until Love Comes Around Again.

Becky Newman (The Hot Puppies) also provides a significant and seductive female presence on several songs including the jaw-dropping murder ballad Mary Lee. For an artist who has already been highly acclaimed for ploughing his own unflinching furrow through matters of the heart with devastating beauty, Cautionary Tales is by far Rees’ most comprehensive and cohesive collection of songs yet. As the title suggests it’s a record filled with well-lived tales of life, love and death as he traverses a gamut of emotions and human behaviour. Each of the seven deadly sins is illustrated in the beautiful 16-page booklet and addressed in song. Opening track Bucket Full Of Holes tackles gluttony and the perils of promiscuity, How Did You Sleep Last Night rages with envy, It Won’t Come Easy deals with sloth, A Cautionary Tale - dangerous blind lust, Mary Lee - anger, A Sinner’s Serenade - greed and Don’t Let Your Heart Grow Cold - defiant pride. You could call Cautionary Tales a twisted love album but that would be to miss many of the subtleties at play in this lyrical tour-de-force. For as much as Rees explores sin he also touches upon love’s redeeming virtues of faith, hope and charity with equal poignancy, and takes the listener on a revealing journey through a heart that is bruised but unbeaten, brutal yet beautiful and as world-weary as it is wilful.

Sometimes contradictions make perfect sense. And if that wasn't enough, he already has another two albums in the bag. One stripped down predominatly acoustic and banjo laden country blues based collection and another fuller formed band album which reinforce Christopher Rees' growing reputation as one of Wales’ most prolific, engaging and talented artists. What the critics said about, 'Cautionary Tales' "From the first backwater banjo intro, it's a genuinely roots affair that moves through songs of death and danger to wonderfully tender and totally melodic ballads that seems to hang on the most fragile of backdrops. A release that reveals more of itself each time it is reprised Cautionary Tales deserves to be admired". Fred Dellar (MOJO) "Some of the best songs he’s recorded to date. Rees has a voice that brims with powerful emotions, and when combined with soft petal-like tones of Victoria Williams (Bottom Dollar) or the sweet chimes of the Hot Puppies’ Becky Newman (Mary Lee, It Won’t Come Easy) it’s like Rufus and Martha Wainwright have converted to the church of country blues". (MAVERICK) "Predominantly a country blues record, Rees hasn't stuck rigidly to the formula but instead let his songs call the tune.

‘Bottom Dollar’ cried out for lush Stax horns and a swelling string section. The song is a luxuriously emotional tour de force that further boasts duet vocals with none other than American country legend Victoria Williams. Passion and conviction for all his subjects is the stock in trade for this intimate writer and whether we learn by his mistakes or not, Cautionary Tales is a rich experience.". (DROWNED IN SOUND) "Wales wouldn’t be the first place you would look for a banjo-playing, story-telling troubadour whose brand of Americana sits somewhere between the backwoods debauchery of Willard Grant Conspiracy and the vocal confidences and melodic understanding of Ryan Adams. You haven’t looked hard enough then have you? Rees has delivered a mighty fine record.

There is a bit of everything here for the discerning roots fan - the stark, brutal banjo led balladry of “Bucket Full Of Holes”; the catchy, Whiskeytown-esque “Bottom Dollar”(featuring Victoria Williams); the dark hillbilly grind of “Cautionary Tale; and the storytelling prowess of vintage Violent Femmes on “Mary Lee”. Overall Cautionary Tales is a excellent offering from a musician who I am sure will be breaking through in a major way sometime soon.". (AMERICANA UK) "Rees has a fine voice as well as being a very able guitarist and banjo player. Listen to the lyrics, they make interesting sense. An enjoyable set of songs from an extremely talented young man". (BLUES MATTERS) "This time he’s taken his heavenly voice in to (very) mellow slowcore Americana and flirting with country banjos and (very) mellow guilt infested bluegrass and gospel and melancholy (cold) heartbreak and the seven deadly sings (through a pin hole camera).

Torch songs and duets with sirens and sublime jazzy blues and empty beds. Soulful country and restrained banjo driven Appalachian folk and sinking in to shades of blue and Nick Cave and Tindersticks and Michael J Sheehy and Willard Grant Conspiracy and buckets with holes and comfort from the kindness of strangers. He made another fine and rather beautiful album, he keeps doing it".". (ORGAN MAGAZINE) What the critics said about, 'Alone On A Mountain Top' (The Ty Bach Twt Sessions)... "Deliciously raw and spellbinding...A wonderful homespun triumph". Phill Alexander (MOJO) "A compelling set of vocal theatrics and spectral blues communion". (UNCUT) "A pretty outstanding feat If anyone sold his soul at the crossroads it was this guy right here".

(MAVERICK) "A thrilling performerwho doesn't hold anything of himself back. Unflinching and venomous...A truely incredible talent". (BIG ISSUE) "From that first track (Hold Off Goodbye) I was hooked. To me it's about his delivery. There's a lot of post-Buckley angst around these days but Christopher is completely head and shoulders above that.

He's not just another one of those irritating modern singer songwriters. There's a depth to what he does. He has a roughness that goes with that melodic suss. Maybe he gets it from listening to people like Johnny Cash and Neil Young? "To me the thing that's encouraging is the fact that he's even better live.

That and the fact that Alone On A Mountain Top is actually just another step along the way as he learns his craft. In the next few years I think he'll develop even more. And when you bear in mind where he's at now, that's pretty scary." Phil Alexander (Editor in Chief - MOJO) "Raw, hypnotic and at times dangerous, Rees sings as if his life depends on it". (OTTAWA EXPRESS) "Breathtaking and spiritually uplifting". (TORONTO SUN) “An aching, soulful and gritty album”. (UNDERRATED MAGAZINE - NEW YORK) What the critics said about, 'The Sweetest Ache'... “It’s not easy to achieve noise metal god status accompanied by a cello but Christopher Rees makes an awesome, bloody fist of it.

Pumped up and snarling but managing to wrench beautiful tunes out of the wreckage. This is seriously amazing stuff”. (NME) “Moody and magnificent”. (TIME OUT) “An emotionally charged, world class singer songwriter”. (JANICE LONG, BBC RADIO 2) “Intense and absolutely mesmerizing”. (HUW STEPHENS-BBC RADIO 1) “A record so sonically powerful and epic in proportion it should be from U2 or Radiohead-or certainly their production budget. A record so cinematic it should be marketed as a Bond film.

And a record so calamitous, Starsailor, Embrace and Muse should hang their heads in shame. One of 2004’s most ambitious and accomplished debuts”. (MAVERICK) “The sort of pomp and circumstance that it’s ok to swoon histrionically to. The Sweetest Ache is roughly what Slint would have sounded like if they’d been opium-smoking tortured souls of the late 18th century.

A Mammoth piece of musical vision”. (BIG ISSUE) “Gleefully overwrought rock’n’roll theatrics, chock full of fearlessly excellent Jeff Buckley-meets-Last-Night-At-The-Proms melodrama”. (NME) “Like Bob Mould joining Tindersticks and Godspeed You Black Emperor! in Valhalla. If only everyone had Christopher Rees’ way with a bad mood”.

(NME) “The first act from Cardiff’s FFvinyl imprint to really make your jaw drop. Frankly it makes many of todays over reverent Buckley clones sound rather wanting. A complete debut and a quite staggering feat”. (SOUND NATION) “Could he be the bastard child of David Lynch favourite Angelo Badalamenti and musical misfit Tori Amos? These are seriously accomplished songs of a celestial nature, full of fired up ferocity and thundering strings”.

(BIG ISSUE) “Surrounded by up to fifteen musicians, nestling anything from soprano sax, trumpet, string quartet and a ‘massacred piano’, it’s evident that something different is about to happen. At times like this, I’m left thinking why the fuck do I put up with all the mediocrity that boasts of thrills and excitement but always fades away with the dawn? This puts so much out there to shame”. (DROWNED IN SOUND) “Christopher Rees is probably the only person in the musical world to end a set with a viola-trashing frenzy. Something the London Symphony Orchestra could do well to bear in mind for the future, perhaps”.

(PLAYLOUDER.COM) “String drenched lush melodies with explosive noise”. (WORD) Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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