Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Festivals 2014

This is no long discussion of the many and varied music festivals this summer. I'm simply thinking that this coming long weekend is the time when I really ought to finalize what I intend to do and when so that, as well as getting tickets, there can be a working timetable of sorts. I have some ideas, not all of which are mutually compatible, and I have already ruled several things out due to those to which I have already committed. While pondering I have, of course, been listening to music and also perusing some of the many photos that I have taken at festivals past, and not exclusively last year.
This one is prompted by the release of the recent collaboration between London three-piece Daughter and musicians from The Northern School of Music, Manchester around songs from the 2013 LP 'If You Leave'.
Daughter - The Garden Stage - End of The Road Festival - 31 August 2013.
This was memorable especially for its sense of fragility -  that something might just shatter for no apparent reason. Reworked, with an orchestral backing, the songs are every bit as remarkable. This is 'Amsterdam'. The five-song EP is currently available to purchase on download from the usual places; a limited version on 12" vinyl is released on 26 May.
As for the second album from Daughter - if and when it happens - the band has certainly made their first a tough act to follow!
You might think I have become distracted from my purpose here, but that is not actually the case. I have to chose just one or possibly two festivals to go to, out of a fistful that I might like to go to, so aspects of what make a festival special to me are very much on my mind. End of The Road (EOTR) has many of those features, and I'm going in 2014, so it is a benchmark of kinds.
One possibility is to travel the road of Roots and Americana to its home festival in the UK (I am ruling out foreign sorties in 2014). This is another picture I took at EOTR 2013, also on the Garden Stage, the previous evening.
Diana Jones - The Garden Stage - End of The Road Festival - 30 August 2013.
She was touring her 2013 LP 'Museum of Appalachia Recordings' that, despite its title, consists entirely of new songs.

[to be continued soon]

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 11 - The Cadbury Sisters

I wasn't really planning on a new post so late tonight but then these things just demand attention - now.
It is becoming clear that Bristol sibling trio The Cadbury Sisters is garnering much attention for their acoustic harmonies but not just because of them. Much inspired by Laura Marling they say, but also by artists that are much older than either her or them. The first place I heard their music played, although I was already faintly aware of them, was on Amazing Radio, where Kathryn Tickell has been on the case for some time now, hence the session below. So have others, including the likes of BBC6 Music.

It is three-part harmony but quite unlike The Staves and certainly not like Haim either. Their latest EP 'Close' is released by Bristol-based label and live event promoters Fear of Fiction in June. The Cadbury Sisters are appearing at many festivals and suchlike during the summer and it would be a mistake to miss the opportunity to see them live on a small stage.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Cyclical thoughts on music

This post started with a comment I wrote on Facebook yesterday. That was itself born out of a question somebody asked me the day before and, therefore, put me in mind of something that I had half-remembered a few months ago. In some ways it has to do with the forthcoming Record Store Day 2014 (19 April) [RSD] too:

I've just been exploring the dark (often only metaphorically but sometimes also musically), dusty depths of my music collection. I have found plenty of dead woodlice and even more albums that I had forgotten that I owned. This is good - the albums that is, not so much the moribund crustaceans.
To tell the truth a few of the albums would have better remained forgotten in the sense that ignorance (or merely forgetfulness) is bliss and I shall not dwell on them. Libraries should not work on that principle. 
Some of the LPs I was truly glad to discover again; 'Songs About People I Know', Stricken City's 2009 début album, was just one. The small dead spider stuck to the playing face of the CD was easily removed. It really shouldn't have gone there anyway. It did make me wonder, when listening to the CD after its removal, what has happened since the band split in 2010...
That is also how new things are found.

Whilst I am thinking about the direction this theme is heading, be aware that the direction of music was never very predictable  when observed in retrospect. With RSD fast approaching, consider this article - 1o UK independent record shops to visit before you die. Of course I was going to mention this; one of the ten, Raves From The Grave, has its original store in my home town of Frome. It has more recently opened stores in Warminster and Bath too.
To be quite honest I got bogged down with this post for a couple of days but, just now that problem evaporated when I remembered about this. It also reminded me about just why the small stages at festivals, as well as support bands in general, are always at the top of my list of things to see. This is Oklahoma City based band Horse Thief playing End of The Road Festival 2012; Cameron Neal on guitar and vocals.

The début album, Fear In Bliss, is released today by Bella Union and Horse Thief is booked to play at End of The Road Festival 2014.
It is, of course, available on vinyl.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 10 - Roots and Americana

I have been listening to all kinds of music lately and as you might have guessed that has included much that goes under the heading Roots and Americana. I'll start with three forthcoming albums that have come to my attention but perhaps I should add that I already have all the previous albums by these artists; to some extent I am therefore a convert already.

Jessica Lea Mayfield - 'Make My Head Sing', released on 2 June 2014 in the UK.
This is the third album by the Ohio native who first came to my attention at End Of The Road Festival 2010, playing the Tipi stage and previously quite unknown to me. Her albums thus far are 'With Blasphemy, So Heartfelt' (2008) and 'Tell Me' (2011), both released by Nonesuch Records, and were produced by Dan Auerbach. I'm not sure about the details of this one yet, as I have only recently found about it, except to say that it is released by ATO Records. This label is snapping up many artists in this broad music space including Caitlin Rose and Hurray For The Riff Raff who have peppered this blog over the last few years.
It is certainly a dramatic and very deliberate departure from the aforementioned albums. An interview in which she explains how it came about, and the history behind it, is here:

The appearance here is true of this next artist Amy LaVere too, but she is the only one of the three that I have never seen play live.
'Runaway's Dream' is released by Archer Records on 26 May 2014 in the UK.
It is a concept album but, before you click elsewhere in fear and loathing, be aware that this has been done before to some acclaim: In my book Anaïs Mitchell's 'Hadestown' (2010) is a case in point.
This one is however loosely based on the story of Seasick Steve, with whom she toured extensively as support, and also her own few days as a teenage runaway. To that list I shall add another bridge - Alynda Lee Segarra of Hurray For The Riff Raff and in particular the song Ramblin' Gal from the album 'Watch Out Mama' (2012). Their new LP 'Small Town Heroes' was released in the UK, again on ATO Records, on 31 March 2014. It isn't one of the three included in this post because I have mentioned it already.

The last of the three is this and the only one by non-American artists but like its predecessor, The Lion's Roar (2012), it was made with Mike Mogis at his studio in Omaha, NE. It is all a far cry from the time I first saw First Aid Kit live in the old-style Tipi stage at End Of The Road Festival. That is no bad thing because the potential was clear for all to hear.
'Stay Gold' is released by Columbia on 9 June in the UK.
It remains to be seen if First Aid Kit can sustain the momentum that was generated by 'The Lion's Roar'. One thing that I can say with certainty, having seen them play again on the Garden Stage at EOTR 2012, is that First Aid Kit certainly does not disappoint live.
Maybe I need to buy a ticket to Green Man Festival in August - I've never been before, so that would tick another box.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A thought from St. Patrick's Day.


As down the glen came McAlpine's men with their shovels slung behind them.
It was in the pub that they drank their sub or out on the spike you'll
find them.
We sweated blood and we washed down mud with quarts and pints of beer.
But now we're on the road again with McAlpine's Fusiliers.

I stripped to the skin with Darky Finn down upon the Isle of Grain,
With Horseface O'Toole I learned the rule, no money if you stop for rain.
For McAlpine's god is a well filled hod with shoulders cut to
bits and seared.
And woe to he who looks for tea with McAlpine's Fusiliers.

I remember the day that the Bear O'Shea fell into a concrete stair.
What Horseface said, when he saw him dead, well it wasn't what the rich
call prayers.
"I'm a navvy short," was his one retort that reached unto my ears,
When the going is rough, well you must be tough, with McAlpine's Fusiliers.

I've worked till the sweat near had me beat with Russian, Czech and Pole,
At shuttering jams up in the hydro-dams, or underneath the Thames in a hole,
I grafted hard and I got me cards and many a ganger's fist across me ears.

If you pride your life, don't join, by Christ, with McAlpine's Fusiliers.

I quite like the idea of learning this song, of which this is only a part. It commonly includes a narrative element at the start that sets the scene.

In so far as I am currently aware this first appeared recorded on the LP 'Finnegan Wakes' (sic) in 1966 as Transatlantic Records (TRA 139).

The song went on to become a staple of The Dubliners' live performances and therefore it appears on many live and compilation albums since, which is how I came to know of it, as well as many cover versions. Here is a live version by The Dubliners, sung by the late Ronnie Drew.

Much later, on the 1983 studio album 'Prodigal Sons' (Chyme Records, CHLP 1030), The Dubliners recorded another Dominic Behan song on the subject of the trials and tribulations of itinerant construction workers - Building Up And Tearing England Down.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 9 - Denmark and New Zealand

This post on new music changes tack slightly. While both artists are primarily female singer-songwriters any direct connection with Americana is absent. In neither case is the album the first. I have already seen one of the two live and would much very like to see the other live too.

This is the new album (although it was actually released in 2013), Aventine, by Agnes Obel. Whilst she has been resident in Berlin for some years now she is from Denmark and her 2010 début album 'Philharmonics' is five-times 'platinum' in her home country but still, with worldwide sales approaching one million, she remains surprisingly unknown. Her début LP was a far cry from Scandinavian pop and this is even more so.

It is spacious, minimal, and sometimes very dark but not in any way depressing.

If one were to mention female artists from New Zealand, at the moment the most likely to come to mind would be Lorde (Ella Yellich O'Connor) and her album 'Pure Heroine'. That incidentally, in my opinion, is also one of the most inspired album titles and it is a fine album too, but not the one I intend to feature here. 
 'Brightly Painted One' is released (in the UK) by Bella Union on 31 March 2014.
This is acoustic, almost lighter-than-air, music but I know that it works because I have seen Tiny Ruins live at No Direction Home 2012, until which point I had no knowledge whatsoever. Suffice it to say that I hadn't forgotten about that.
Hollie Fullbrook, Electric Dustbowl stage, No Direction Home 2012.
Tiny Ruins is confirmed for End Of The Road 2014.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 8

While my recent posts about live music have a very obvious UK (indeed English) folk bias, and the next live act that I'm going to see is Spiers and Boden, that is not the case with the ongoing posts on new music which, even if the artists are UK based, draws heavily on US traditions and that is certainly true of both the artists featured in this post.
Both are 2014 releases by US-based independent record labels and both are by female artists. These are not country, alt-or-otherwise, but neither are they country rock either. They are not an incomprehensible change but, ultimately, they are what they are. I like them, which matters more than anything, and that is why they are here.

Angel Olsen - Burn Your Fire For No Witness - Jagjaguwar Records, 2014.
Slightly more challenging is this next, released by Bloodshot Records and an album perhaps inadequately described as 'country punk'. It is a demanding listen, no doubt about that, but it is well worth any effort that this involves.
Somewhere Else - Lydia Loveless - Bloodshot Records, 2014.
If you are left stranded, wondering what that might sound like...

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Live, local and multifarious folk

If one were to spend the start and also the end of a weekend with live music, as I did this weekend just gone, I really think that I could not have chosen better. This was Friday evening and a fifteen minute walk from home.

Olde Boston Tea Party, a bluegrass tinged quintet from the borders of Devon, Dorset and Somerset, played as support for Oysterband. The music was excellent.
My photography, unfortunately, certainly wasn't.
The best thing I can say is that, come Sunday evening, I could drive just twenty miles, albeit in the pouring rain, and start all over again as if nothing had happened. This should have been a more frightening prospect but, even though the village hall was turned about-face, it wasn't.
As well as being one of the best modern folk songwriters, Steve Knightley is one of the best narrators about, and between, songs. This applies just as much to those of often mysterious tradition as it does to his own.
 I didn't realise, or indeed even think about that, until I was driving home afterwards.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Marnhull Acoustic Session - Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin

This is an important update on my previous post concerning Marnhull Acoustic Sessions and the event this coming Sunday (23 February). Ninebarrow are still supporting and Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin are still headlining but the big change is that the latter have just been awarded the 2014 BBC Radio 2 Folk Award for 'Best Duo'. That was in The Royal Albert Hall this evening but, if you are quick, you could see them play live in Marnhull Village Hall (capacity ~100) this coming Sunday evening. Litotes is self-defining.
Tickets, while they last, are £6 + £0.60 booking fee on-line and delivered by e-mail. I wouldn't bet on getting one on the door (£7). See you there!

Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin the first time that I saw them live...

Acoustic+, Frome, Cheese and Grain, 25 March 2011.
This an older song, Queen Gwendolen, but none the worse for that.

Phillip on dobro and Hannah on fiddle and vocals here.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 7- Hurray For The Riff Raff

Hurray For the Riff Raff has been around for a few years now, with once-itinerant Alynda Segarra at their steady helm. The third LP, Small Town Heroes, has recently been released by ATO Records in the US.

The UK release is the end of March but it is too good to wait for.
I'm expecting that I will see them at a festival in the UK at least once this summer and I can't wait...
Hurray For The Riff Raff live at End of The Road Festival 2012.
A track from the new album is 'Blue Ridge Mountain'.
This is another one to watch in 2014.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Record Store Day 2014 - old favourites

I thought I'd go back to the future with my thoughts on the forthcoming Record Store Day 2014. What are your thoughts, perhaps from RSD past, and what you would like to see in 2014?
To take it all back a step, what are the possibly unusual records from years ago that you own and treasure? There is no need for these to be rare or valuable... I own 5 copies of Thin Lizzy's - Black Rose (A Rock Legend) on vinyl but the one I am listening to right now is Vertigo 60 63 169. It sounds just the same as any other but is, in fact, the original Spanish release (1979).
To own a few curiosities, even if they have no particular pecuniary value, is appealing for some of us.

Rather soon after I went away to university, in the autumn of 1983, I was exposed to much new music some of which I liked and some not. Some of both still always reminds me of that time. Another factor is that time more or less coincided with the renaissance of Radio Caroline. As I was in North Kent and MV Ross Revenge was not that far away the station was almost receivable with the radio turned off! 
It also had, and still does, the tendency to play albums. It is arguably, along with my decision to go to festivals from 2007, one of the defining moments of my music-listening life. I credit it with, amongst others some of which I did not appreciate at the time, introducing me to the work of Bob Dylan.

I don't recall this album from that time, maybe it was deemed old even then, but I doubt that was the reason as I certainly remember the station playing Free, which was again largely new to me but just as old.
I actually have some rather strange memory-evidence for this assertion. Another artist that Radio Caroline introduced me to was Jimi Hendrix and while I well remember hearing his version of 'All Along The Watchtower' back then it was probably twenty-five years before I actually realized that it was a Dylan cover, from the aforementioned album of course. How naïve was I?
You could reasonably pin a great deal of my musical taste on that which I heard in my time at University. I still hate Phil Collins' music, for example.

This is becoming rather more "Thoughts On Music" than I planned (because I didn't actually do any planning for this post) but I'm rather enjoying it. None of this endeavour was planned anyway, and I did say that in the event that I reached 100 posts I would retire.
I'm sorry. I changed my mind: this is the 838th.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Record Store Day 2014 - A Prelude

It is now just a couple of months until Record Store Day 2014, an event that seems to be gathering momentum with each passing year. To set your mind thinking about the changes, in both the music industry and the marketing strategies involved, here is an inner sleeve from forty-six years ago and of which I took a photograph just now.

It is interesting to consider what were the perceived threats back in 1968.
Equally so, what the marketing people would have thought about vinyl in 2014.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Marnhull Acoustic Session - Tom James & Pip Mountjoy

The new season of Marnhull Acoustic Sessions kicked of this evening in fine style with a double headline bill of Pip Mountjoy and Tom James. I have quite literally just returned home and downloaded my pictures and there seemed no reason not to write while it is still fresh on my mind.
Both artists indicated that new releases are in the pipeline - a third EP from Pip and Tom's first album and the follow up to his Green + White EP (2011).

Both artists played solo sets and then collaborated busking-style for a few tracks to finish off the evening in an interesting and very successful fashion so I shall start with that.

Oh Carolina.
The contrast in their respective song writing and acoustic styles was fascinating and just the kind of thing that an intimate gig  such as this shows to best effect.
Whilst Tom laid aside his acoustic for electric guitar on a number of songs Pip down-sized to ukelele, something that I do not recall from the time that I saw her at Deer Shed Festival 2012.
Marnhull Acoustic Sessions returns on 23 February with a celebration of its first anniversary. Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin will be headlining with Dorset-based Ninebarrow as support. The former are nominated for 'best duo' at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2014, that take place earlier the same week and so a double celebration is to be hoped for.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Marnhull Acoustic Sessions 2014

Parts of Somerset and Dorset are indeed flooded, with no end to the deluge in sight, but please don't think that the rich musical life of both counties has suddenly vanished. Far from it indeed and the new year of Marnhull Acoustic Sessions starts this coming Sunday with two fine singer-songwriters as a double-headline show and I have seen both live just once before.
Tom James is from Falmouth, Cornwall and played at North Dorset Folk Festival 2012. To choose a cover here, rather than one of his own songs, might seem a strange choice. To cover Bonnie Raitt is a mark of bravery...

Can't Make You Love Me.
Pip Mountjoy is from Richmond, North Yorkshire and I first saw her live at Deershed Festival, near Thirsk and also in North Yorkshire, in 2012. She was "down south" last June, performing on the BBC Introducing Stage at Glastonbury Festival.
The Killing Kind.
She has released two EPs, 'Louisiana' and 'My Skeleton' and this track is not on either of them. This Sunday should be very special.
Tickets are £6 + £0.60 fee booked here with instant e-delivery (no need to worry about the post) and £7 on the door at Marnhull Village Hall, if any are still available at this most intimate of venues.
On Saturday 25 October 2014 it will also be the home of the third North Dorset Folk Festival and you wouldn't want to miss that...
There are only a couple of festivals for which I will book a ticket on trust, with no prior knowledge of the line up: End Of The Road Festival is one and this another.