Sunday, January 31, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 10 - Erin Rae and The Meanwhiles - Soon Enough

More music from across the Atlantic...

The good people at Clubhouse Records here in the UK have announced that their latest signing is Erin Rae and The Meanwhiles and that the début LP 'Soon Enough' will be released in the UK on 3 June.
Having been told this I felt it incumbent on me to see what I could find out about the artist, band and music. One of the first reviews that I read opined that it was perfect listening for a Sunday afternoon. I also discovered that as it was self-released as a download, as well as vinyl and CD, in the US in September 2015 I was able to listen to it.
I am inclined to agree with that review, which is why I am writing this one grey and windy Sunday afternoon here in southern England.
The first thing that struck me is that Erin Rae has a soothing voice; she doesn't push its boundaries or resort to the histrionic, but that is not to say that it lacks weight or purpose. The songs talk of a variety of themes both dark and light and, while instrumentation associated with "country" such as pedal-steel loom large, it is hard to categorize the music.


The whole LP was recorded live over two days in West Tennessee and it maintains that essence of existing in its own three-dimensional space --- where modern folk, roots and country mingle and in so-doing may become beyond place and time.
That is possibly the greatest achievement of all, and some of the songs do just this.


From that LP this is 'Clean Slate', live in Nashville, August 2015.

Friday, January 29, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 9 - Lucinda Williams - The Ghosts Of Highway 20

Here's another little sneaky listen. I have been waiting upon this LP for some time if I'm to be quite honest.

I'm writing whilst listening but I can share the prospect with you. This live stream is likely time-limited and may not be available in all countries.
I'll be back with you about my thoughts on this, but not until tomorrow.

Thoughts on 2016 festivals...

The snowdrops are out and therefore spring is only a month, or maybe two, away!
It is that time of year once again - time to think about festivals this coming summer. That is not to say that the weather will play nice but what's not to like?




Three pictures from Green Man Festival 2015 and not a programme artist performing!

I've pretty much finalised my festival-going ideas for 2016 but confirmation of the detail remains, as does the vast majority of the artists appearing at all of them. That is something I can take on trust; the ambience is also an important consideration too.
One thing that is already decided is that, despite having a wonderful time at Cambridge Folk Festival 2015, I shall not be returning in 2016.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Aside from the music that I write about, what else am I listening to?

Inspired by a number of inquiries over time, this is a start on answering that question and perhaps it will also provide an insight (for I am not entirely sure about this myself) into the means by which this comes about. One thing that I am sure about is that I have no science, and certainly no formula, for this. The vagaries of each individual human mind are at least for now still way beyond that level of analysis - and indeed I hope they long remain so.

Curiosity, serendipity and sometimes (possibly skewed) memories are the watchwords here. Of course a modest physical music collection allied to the vast resources now available via streaming help with this.

Many of the artists below I have mentioned before; what lead me to chose them in this list and in this order is not remotely clear to me except to say that "it seemed to make sense". There is one thing that I do know and it is that the search for music, new or simply new to me, is addictive:



It is likely nothing other than the advantage of the perspective provided by middle-age, as applied to the teenage-pastime of compiling cassette mix-tapes, combined with the advances in technology that have made the creation and sharing such things possible in a way that at the former time we would never have believed would be possible in our own lifetime.

If you don't like my choices then that is just fine by me and I am always open to comment and criticism. If anyone finds something hereby that leads them into pastures new then that is everything that I could hope for. This is quite simply music I like at the moment and, starting point and a couple of others aside, of fairly recent vintage. I'm minded that 'An anthology of songs #3' will be a retrospective affair by comparison.

Playlists are like blogging in many ways in that they are is widely available (if you are in a 'free' country and a proviso that I much regret that I need to mention). If "shared" social media that has no trace of of that individual's user-generated content, or even their comments on material by others, riles (or roils) then you should do something about it.

Write, publish, use the Oxford comma, and be damned!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 8 - Sierra Hull - Weighted Mind

I just snagged my ears on this courtesy of NPR. It's getting towards bedtime but I couldn't resist listening and posting. It is not entirely like the music that, as a teen-aged performer, she became known for. See what you think.

It is released (Rounder Records) on 29 January 2016.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 7 - Aurora - All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend

Well, now that I'm thinking about festivals in 2016, this memory from Green Man 2015 is worth all the rain and more.
I wandered away from the Mountain stage during a lull in proceedings and took this image of folk making the best of a soggy day whilst on my way...


When you see something live, that you are previously at best only slightly aware of, and it wildly exceeds all expectations you don't need to do anything except be there; you can't do anything about it because it just happens. This was one such occasion for me.


Aurora, Walled Garden stage, Green Man Festival, 23 August 2015.
Running With The Wolves EP started the ball rolling and the title track is on the forthcoming LP. Aurora Aksnes is quite something to behold live.

All My Demons Greeting Me As A Friend (Decca-UMO, 11 March 2016).

She is also good for a cover song from time to time, and I'm not talking Oasis and the John Lewis Christmas 2015 one here, although that certainly garnered much publicity and attention for her. This, although she could not have known it at the time of performance in June 2015, is now far more topical. It is not much short of acapella.

Is There Life on Mars?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 6 - Clay Parker and Jodi James

I had no plans to post today but then again, lists aside, I rarely plan posts to a schedule even when writing about festivals and such. Things just happen for a reason. This was actually released at the very end of last year. Both protagonists have worthy releases individually, which I intend to explore further in due course. This however demanded my attention right now.

This short self-titled album is their calling-card as a duo and it is self released.

Clay Parker and Jodi James
  1. Come Back
  2. What It Knows
  3. Moonshiner
  4. Showboatin'
  5. Meditation Blues
  6. After the Smoke Clears
This live performance of Jodi's own song Kiss Lonely Goodbye goes right back to the start of the collaboration.

It was recorded in Memphis, TN. 1 August 2014.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 5 - Applewood Road

One day in 2014 three songwriters met in a coffee shop in East Nashville. They had not met before but they wrote a song called Applewood Road.
Shortly afterwards the three - Amber Rubarth, Amy Speace and Emily Barker - recorded it and decided to expand the project to a whole LP. In 2015 they had written the whole set and returned to the same place where they recorded that first song. This is that record and what you get is three part harmony and sparse acoustic accompaniment.


It was recorded at Welcome To 1979 Studio in Nashville around a single microphone to two-track tape using all analogue equipment.  The tapes were edited together and mastered at Gearbox Records, again using all analogue process and the acetate masters lathe-cut there too.

Applewood Road:
  1. Applewood Road
  2. To the Stars
  3. Old Time Country Song
  4. Home Fires
  5. Honey Won't You
  6. Give Me Love
  7. Sad Little Tune
  8. Lovin' Eyes
  9. Josephine
  10. I'm Not Afraid Anymore
  11. Bring the Car Round
  12. Row Boat
  13. My Love Grows
It is released by Gearbox Records on 12 February 2016 (vinyl, digital). Here is a little preview:

Friday, January 08, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 4 - Clara Engel - Visitors Are Allowed One Kiss

It is the end of the first full working week of 2016 and for that I am thankful. I opened my mailbox on my return home and behind the weekly Domino Pizza flyer, that went straight into the recycling box as always, lurked a small padded envelope. Today had just taken another turn for the better!
Dispatched from the interesting independent label Paradigms Recordings, based in Kent, UK was this.

Clara Engel - Visitors Are Allowed One Kiss.

My first purchase from the above-label this may be but it is certainly not the first of music from Clara Engel, who hails from Toronto, Canada. Her releases, which might be (indeed often are) described as gothic folk, or possibly folk-noir from time to time, are always interesting and their supposed genre merely a distraction in many ways. They always demand attention - the vocal is sometimes almost spoken-word and the instrumentation apparently sparse yet, at the same time both deeply dimensioned.
I mentioned the Madagascar EP as long ago as May 2011 and the A Little Slander, A Little Lace EP (2015) as recently as last month as part of my reviews of 2015. There is plenty more to find, for she has released eleven albums (I think) but finding physical copies of much of the body of work is at best difficult.
That is indeed a potential issue with Visitors Are Allowed One Kiss - it is limited to just 200 copies on CD - but is still available here. The screen-printed fold-out packaging is a great complement to the recording and a lyric sheet is also included. The track listing is as follows (taken from the back cover of said CD):


There are only five tracks but each of them takes its time to unfold. Neither the individual songs nor the LP, which is a fraction over thirty minutes in duration, ever threaten to overstay their welcome. It is another triumph of the maxim that sometimes less is more.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Ian Tyson - Carnero Vaquero

There is so much 'new music' to be discovered and it is easy to make comparisons that are unwarranted. Then there is the deadly 'genre' debate.
It is not something that I'm inclined to visit anyway but this is one album that tempts me towards that trap even less than most. The best thing is to keep your ears, and your mind, open to all possibilities and see what comes along.

It is a newish release, by Stony Plain Records on 16 June 2015.

Not new at all is the style of music or indeed the artist for that matter. Ian Tyson was 81 years-young when this album was recorded and as well as being an active, touring musician he still runs his stock ranch in a remote part of Alberta, Canada, that is far removed from the bright city lights of Calgary.
You might be interested in his previous recording history too, for it is a long one, but that is not in any way a prerequisite to listening to this. It might actually be better to listen to this first and then, should you be so inclined, follow the trail back through time. Carnero Vaquero comprises ten original vignettes of a life well lived:
  • Doney Gal
  • Colorado Horses
  • Will James
  • Jughound Ronnie
  • Darcy Farrow
  • The Flood
  • Shawnie
  • Chantell
  • Wolves No Longer Sing
  • Cottonwood Canyon
If I were to be snowed-in at home, which is unfortunately rather unlikely, I'd be listening to this sooner rather than later.

Monday, January 04, 2016

My Music in 2015 - Albums - Part 3

Right! Here we go again and for the last time specifically concerning 2015.
This is not a list of odds-and-ends, far from it. Two of the LPs in this list have appeared near the top of many lists, proffered by major news outlets and suchlike, that are supposedly arranged in some order of merit. That consensus approach is not the way I work. All these lists are about what I liked and in particularly the impact that it had on me.

There is so much more that I have liked and listened-to-death that isn't included yet still some say that there is a shortage of new music. This, even were it to be true, is a symptom of the malaise that has beset the industry and the majority of consumers for a long time. It was geared to prescribing to listeners what it wanted them to listen to and for the most part the consumer was compliant.
My introduction to two of the acts in this list goes back a long while - I saw
 them live for the first time at End Of The Road Festival 2009 and 2010 until which point I was completely unaware of both!
I could never have imagined what I suspect, for I do not count listens, would become my most listened-to music of 2015. This is a case of not being led by the nose but blind-sided, in a good way, instead.
This third selection of LPs also includes one of the most harrowing songs that I have ever heard. It is not about some industrial accident or natural disaster. It is about the peculiar failings of humankind and is a rather sad place to end this post. 

Robert Chaney is the author of The Ballad of Edward and Lisa.

My Music in 2015 - EPs and mini-albums - Part 2

I mentioned yesterday that I would conclude my lists of 2015 shortly. I am to do that now. While I was writing yesterday it occurred to me that perhaps there are good reasons to move such activities to the very end of the calendar year as I intended or even, as it has turned out, the very start of the new one. The rules here are exactly the same as with 'Part 1':

Wildwood Kin, Frome Cheese & Grain - 24 October 2014.

Aimée - North Dorset Folk Festival - 24 October 2015.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Goodbye 2015, and welcome to 2016.

Welcome to 2016 and the end of a drought in posts here. 2015 saw me writing more and more often than for some time and so a couple of weeks away seemed to be in order. One of the things I have discovered over time is the longer the time that I do not write for the harder it is to get started once again. The hardest post of all was the very first. I guess that is why I'm still here 1084 posts later and in the tenth year of 'Thoughts on music'.

Plenty of listening has been done however and some new thoughts are ready to be written down. That is after some unfinished business in regards of those lists of 2015.
It is true that 2015 was the year in which I embraced streaming in a big way. That is not to say that I have abandoned physical formats. This is now rather focussed on supporting new artists, often via crowd funding or otherwise buying music direct from the artist.

Not everything is available to stream although it might seem that way. Even if it were I think that I would still want this LP for real. 
This is one of my treasures of 2015. USPS took most of the money to get it from NYC to Frome!

Forty years ago - and the first LP from the first professional all-female bluegrass band.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Time for a change.

After weeks of listmania it is time for a change. All the time spent thinking about my own lists and more recently reading those by others and listening to things thereupon that have piqued my curiosity have, when combined with the infinitely grey and gloomy weather of late, persuaded me to look for things away from the mainstream both new and old (sometimes both at the same time).
What transpired has several catalysts, one being my liking for bluegrass and things derived at least in part from it. If it includes some Appalachian old-time fiddle and banjo, or gypsy influences then that is not bad thing either. Neither is a foundation in the UK and Irish folk sound for that matter.

This post is going to mention some things that I have discovered so far during this ongoing quest. Though it has deep roots in my listening it is only really during this year that I have really taken note of how this adsorption (rather than absorption, though it may happen subsequently) of influences takes place. I define the turning point, for the sake of this post, as taking place on the evening of Thursday 30 July at Cambridge Folk Festival when I saw this band live and failed to take a single usable photo of it.
WTF, Richard? The answer is that I was totally distracted.
That band was Dublin four-piece Lynched. They played between Orcadian five-piece Fara and Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker and despite that there was something special and memorable about the set. Some of it came from their most recent recorded offering that contains some traditional, some dance-hall and some new material. Salonika may be familiar to many, not least from the version recorded by The Dubliners.


Lynched - Cold Old Fire (self released, 2015).

This is music for the coming, press-entitled, "Panic Saturday". It will surely rain again and all retail outlets and travel options are to be avoided at any cost - this is a day that is therefore destined to be spent with good, simple food and maybe a pre-season tipple whilst sat in front of the fire in the company of good music. Not a Christmas pop ditty to be heard; that said, possibly an exception might be made for 'Fairytale of New York'.
Other appealing options are available and I suggest this one from No Depression.com

Go on, treat yourself!

Irish music more generally is another thing that has returned to my attention in the second half of this year and here is an act that I haven't seen live yet, but now I really want to. This five-piece is also from Dublin.


I Draw Slow - White Wave Chapel (Pinecastle Records, 2014).

While this is the Dublin band's latest album I highly recommend its predecessor Redhills (2011) too. In both the American bluegrass/country influence is more apparent than it is on the above-mentioned work by Lynched.
This is 'Goldmine' from the LP Redhills.


Crossing the Atlantic I have already commented on my liking for The Newpart, which is the latest album from April Verch. As well as singing and playing fiddle she often provides clog-dancing accompaniment too. This Ottawa valley bluegrass is a distinct and seemingly thriving scene and I want to hear more of it.
Next is the Seattle based duo, Charlie Beck and Charmaine Slaven, that is Squirrel Butter. The latest full length offering is this and it is heading deep into traditional and old-time territory.


Squirrel Butter - Chestnuts (2015, CD Baby).

A suitable place to end this long ramble is in the rolling Piedmont landscape of North Carolina with the music of acoustic string four-piece Mipso and this little gem of an LP.

Old Time Reverie (2015, Robust Records).

All of this post is an antidote to the madness of the Christmas retail experience.

Monday, December 07, 2015

My Music in 2015 - Albums - Part 2

Here we are again, just over a week after my first foray on this subject. The rules are the same as in Part 1. I hope you find something to like or to argue about.
Critical comments are quite as welcome as positive ones just so long they are not offensive or defamatory. A fact is that a credited post always has more gravitas than an anonymous one and that applies even if the content of both were to be exactly the same. 
I reserve the right to publish comments on this post and will credit them accordingly.

Part 1 was equally divided between acts from the UK and from North America and that only occurred to me after I posted it. This selection is much more UK biased, featuring just two acts from North America and an Australian. Specifically this one...
Courtney Barnett, Far Out Stage, Green Man Festival - Sunday evening, 23 August 2015.

Girlpool, Big Top stage, End Of The Road Festival - Saturday 5 September 2015.

Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin, Marnhull Acoustic Sessions - Sunday 23 February 2014.

The Rosellys, Saloon Stage, Truck Festival - Friday 18 July 2015.

Fara, Stage 2, Cambridge Folk Festival - Thursday 30 July 2015.

You may be wondering why I often use links to my earlier comments in these lists; this is because they often contain more back-links to the artist, as well as to other related topics. It saves listing multiple links all over again.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

My Music in 2015 - EPs and mini-albums - Part 1

Not wishing to get into a debate about what is or is not an EP this category is something of a cop-out. That does however leave an open question concerning quite when does a mini-album become a full-blown LP. In so far as is possible I use the distinction that the artist chooses and if that is indiscernible then I make the decision myself.
In the new order this is however one of the most interesting places in which to dwell: just ten years ago who could have foreseen that the then moribund concept of the EP would find a whole new meaning - whether that be digital only, on CD, vinyl or now increasingly so also cassette. The list is, as usual, alphabetical by artist:


It's a mix of things that have grabbed my attention. In this case I have only seen two of these acts live  - the first and the last. This is the first.


Aurora - Walled Garden stage - Green Man Festival -  23 August 2015.
This was long before the John Lewis Christmas advertisement in which Aurora Aksnes' cover of Oasis' 'Half The World Away' happened. That has certainly bought her a great deal of attention. Her own music deserves more than that.

Clara Engel is a Canadian that is criminally ignored by most. That is a great shame and not least for the would-be listeners. Her music maybe somewhat challenging but it repays the effort many times over and, while the above EP is short, there is a sizeable body of work to discover. Do it.

Francis Pugh and The Whiskey Singers I pretty much summed up in my post back in September. This, for the purists, is a true EP. Three tracks - the first and last are their own with a cover of Hank Williams' 'I Saw The Light' sandwiched between them. Another stalwart of the Oxford roots music scene is likely to feature in part 2 of this thread.

Sound Of The Sirens. a duo from Exeter, has had quite some year. Here they are playing The Lights, Andover back in March.

That was before Chris Evans, presenter of the BBC Radio2 Breakfast Show, was revealed as a fan. One thing led to another and ultimately the duo of Abbe Martin and Hannah Woods played live at the relaunch of his classic late 1990's Channel 4 show TFI Friday.