New book praises Birmingham’s music scene

Brum Bastion champions the city once more.

King City – Adventures Into Birmingham’s Diverse Music Culture is the latest release from Stephen Pennell, author, critic and recently voted Brum Bastion at the 2020 Birmingham Music Awards for his work in championing the local music scene.

A couple of years ago he wrote a pretty scathing review of a book about Digbeth, saying it had failed to capture the spirit of the place he knows and loves. The publisher got in touch asking if he thought he could do any better and he said he’d have a go. King City is the result.

Drawing largely on his writing for Birmingham Press and Counteract, it was originally meant to be a compendium of reviews, but then lockdown struck and Stephen has included some insightful interviews as well as lots of stunning images courtesy of some of the best gig photographers in the business.

This book is a collection of the best and most significant features, the criteria for inclusion being that there has to be plenty of Birmingham references. Stephen isn’t only a music writer, he’s a novelist as well and he’s bought all this to bear by capturing not just the performances, but the essence of the artists’ appeal, some of the city’s remarkable story, the genuine warmth between the stars and their audience, and most of all the life that happens around the events.

He’s included a few reviews of more established artists from here and elsewhere to hold the interest of the reader, although the reviews are entertaining and informative whether you’ve heard of the subject or not.

If you’re unfamiliar with some of these artists, read on anyway. You will still be going on a cracking night out in and around Birmingham. The book is part autobiography (all art is self-portrait), part travelogue, Stephen’s wife, his battle-rapping kids and his music industry mates star in some of the stories, but every piece relates in some way to the place he calls home.

Read about the author rushing back from Dublin for a gig in the Irish Quarter, and panic along with him on the journey back from the Coronation Street tour for a gig back home on Peaky Blinders turf. Largely dispensing with chronology, the book meanders like Spaghetti Junction and is beautifully presented, so it’s well worth ordering the hardback.

Included are features on UB40, The Twang, B-town behemoths Peace, Swim Deep and Jaws, Lady Leshurr, Mahalia, The Clause, the 4 tops, the Temptations, Weller and his Moseleyite sidekick Steve Craddock plus dozens of other up-and-coming acts.

Some of the proceeds to Birmingham Children’s Hospital and the family of Paddy Dalton, a friend of the author, who took his own life late last year.

You can pre-order the book here.