Friday, August 26, 2011

Acoustic Moon - 25 August 2011

Yesterday evening was the inaugural edition of a new acoustic event - Acoustic Moon - and I was delighted to be there. The venue is The Full Moon pub in the village of Rudge, just a few miles from Frome and within the same orbit lie Warminster, Westbury and Trowbridge. The nearest planet providing all means of life-support is generally perceived to be Bath.
The next question is where to start. I don't want to make enemies and since the long dead can't Twitter, or I least I hope not, I shall follow the advice of the court: start at the beginning, continue to the end and then stop.
I've never envied the position of an opening act or artist; head-liners may disappoint, spectacularly and in front of a tens-of-thousands of fans at a festival, but the few can be worse than the masses. If you have ever seen a pub band suffer that fâte, and you probably have, then you know exactly what I mean.  My photography was rubbish. You must make an exception for that. My report said that, if I tried harder, I might do better next time.
Please don't let that make you think any less of the artists, or their music, for they were all amazing. The unenviable task of launching Acoustic Moon, just weeks after the final Space Shuttle flight and in the week that saw the abject failure of a multi-million-costing unmanned Russian space mission that launched nothing at all, fell to Saravian.
Mission accomplished. Acoustic Moon is now in earth orbit.
There are some things that I have an uncanny knack of doing and one of them is managing to miss Mark Abis when he is is playing live in, or around, Frome. He does so often and yesterday I finally failed to do this too.
Mark Abis - Acoustic Moon 25 August 2011.
I don't know if he'd agree with me about this but, in the week that the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary finally included Americana as a noun describing a specific genre of music, he is an extremely good UK purveyor of it.  He might not like this either - one of the songs he played reminded me so much of Jack Johnson that, had I heard it played unannounced on the radio, I would have simply assumed by default that it was.
The next to feature were special guests Linda and Mark and, while following the lead, this was in no way Americana; rather five songs from the combined songbook of the great US female vocalists of the mid-twentieth century and should you think that the set-up violates the 'acoustic' moniker then I can reassure you that the Nord keyboard was firmly in piano mode. 
It was certainly dangerous vocal territory carefully navigated.
Next to perform was Brighton-based, but Dorset bred, Emily Baker.
There is something that immediately defines but does not confine her and many others, and to an extent her self-written songs too, which has nothing to describe it adequately that appears in the dictionary (Concise Oxford English, of course): There has been much soul-searching for a 'label' for some time and, while I only first heard it a month or so ago, Anglicana will have to do for now and it is certainly a whole lot better than most of the others that have been attached to such things. This music is not entirely traditional, nor is it obviously Celtic inspired, and she is very good at it indeed.
Emily Baker - Acoustic Moon - 25 August 2011.
Just don't ask about the Sturminster mutants... it was all part of the patter, and audience banter, between songs and that genuine and unforced connection is something that very many artists lack.  If you haven't heard the 2011 album 'House Of Cards' then you need to. If you have then you need this, her 2009 début EP, too...
This and the album are available, in real physical format (CD), direct from her website.
The evening was completed by duo Jacquelyn Hynes and J Eoin. This was certainly celtic music at its most inventive and yet also often very traditional. The tunes from the ongoing 'Lost in...' project were particularly interesting.
This one was taken when they returned for an encore.
There was not a great deal of light to take pictures but, and this is my personal opinion, using a flash would have ruined the atmosphere.  On the other hand can you believe that this much amazing live music is available to you for just £5?
The next Acoustic Moon is at the same venue on Thursday, 29 September and at the same price and I believe that now includes tickets purchased on the door too.
You can now just decide to go on a whim and not pay a premium.  I have actually seen most of the acts appearing at the next event - I'm certain to be going and I don't think that you will be disappointed.
See you there.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Don't Stop Singing - a mixed case of folk - Part 3

There are some people whose work rate never ceases to amaze me. Thea Gilmore is the queen of them. Covering the entire Bob Dylan album 'John Wesley Harding' (1967), taking that as a "live and complete" performance to London's Union Chapel, as well as finishing touring the 2010 original album 'Murphy's Heart' would be enough for most people in one year.
I saw her live at Latitude in July, on the Sunrise Stage, and here she is.

Accompanied by her husband Nigel Stonier and both just hoping that their second child didn't chose an inconvenient time and location for its first festival appearance.  So you might think that would be the last one would hear of her in 2011.  Think again.  And this makes even the aforementioned 'John Wesley Harding', of which the great man wholeheartedly approves, apparently, almost seem less brave.
It really is a mixed case of folk: at the behest of Sandy Denny's estate she agreed to attempt to write music to go with the unrecorded song lyrics that Denny had completed before her untimely death in April 1978 and thus some eighteen months before Thea herself was born. I find it hard to imagine how anyone might feel when asked to commit to a project of that nature. Apart from the task of writing, and assuming it was done successfully, who might they then ask to collaborate on the recording let alone possible live performance of the work?
'Don't Stop Singing' is released in the UK on October 24. I don't think it is going to be the easiest release of which to contemplate listening. At least not for the first time but then, if there are any capable of pulling it off, it is certainly in the right hands. The first chance to hear any of it, and performed live, will be at the 4th Words and Music Festival, Nantwich, Cheshire, 5-9 October 2011.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sad Thoughts On Music.

It has been a rotten couple of weeks for music of all kinds and across continents. Strictly in date-order: PIAS fire (commercially speaking), Indiana State Fair and now Pukklepop.

My sympathy goes to everyone who has lost family, friends and their livelihood as a result of these events.
Music is, however, just too important to buckle under this and I think the victims would not want it to do so. All of us, from casual music radio listeners to festival-goers, owe it to the victims and all others concerned that it does not.
It has to be a promise. Forever.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

New Music 2011 → Canada → EOTR 2011

"My brain is speeding faster than my mouth can move."
Strange but, to purloin a lyric from an EOTR artist in 2010 (not a Canadian one as it happens), it currently applies to my writing too. It isn't something that, for better or for worse, happens all the time.   
I'm not sure where to start and have no idea where it might end but here goes anyway. In one sense it is a little like 'The Mad Hatter's Tea Party' but, unlike a rather different Tea Party, shockingly liberal-minded.

OK, that's just plain silly so let us start with the act that takes its name from the study of tea leaves, or if you prefer it coffee grounds, as a means to divine the future. From Canada, based in Toronto but raised in Halifax and formerly known as Ghost Bees (2008-10), it is still twin sisters Romy and Sari Lightman. In 2010, reflecting the changed nature of their music to include diverse new influences, they changed their moniker to Tasseomancy (word definition).
They release their début album under this name, Ulalume, on Toronto-based independent label  Out Of This Spark on August 30, 2011 in Canada. That it is also the title of a poem by Edgar Allan Poe, who was never the most conventional and cheerful of souls, should serve as due warning.  We might well be looking at a 2011 take on 'New Albums For Autumn' here - and quite possibly a premature trip into Halloween play-list territory too.
On the face of it this might seem to have little to do with End of The Road 2011 but that may not be the case.  Two bands, both of which I want to see live for the first time, are booked to appear at EOTR 2011. The first of them is Austra, which is touring the electronic-biased album 'Feel It Break'.
Creep On Creepin' On - Timber Timbre (2011)
The Lightmans are an integral part of Austra's touring line up and Timber Timbre, that produced and also guested on Ulalume, is also performing. Are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

New Music 2011 - A mixed case of folk - Part 2

To continue the theme from yesterday I shall add that one long-term characteristic of folk music is the permutations and combinations game. Jon Boden and John Spiers may be two elevenths of Bellowhead - indeed the founding ones - but that does not mean the resulting endeavour has subsumed them (or indeed the other nine members).  They have also been performing as a duo - more or less - for a decade now, releasing several LPs in that time, so perhaps some kind of simple 'Greatest Hits' is in order?

Not at all. 'The Works' (Navigator Records) has been released instead and it throws some surprises not least of which include the guests: Eliza Carthy, Maddy Prior, Martin Simpson and many others. Available now, it was released in July 2011.
This is the track list:
  1. Tom Padget
  2. Horn Fair
  3. Gooseberry Bush/Laudanum Bunches
  4. The Birth Of Robin Hood
  5. The Cheshire Waltz
  6. Brown Adam
  7. Rochdale Coconut Dance
  8. Old Maui
  9. Haul Away
  10. Bold Sir Ryles
  11. Prickle-eye Bush

This next album in this post is another collaborative compilation and will be released by Shrewsbury Folk Fest on September 5, 2011.
You will no doubt spot the theme here: some artists link the LPs mentioned in this and yesterday's post.  It is to be an 18-track CD - accompanied by an 18-track DVD - and I believe the price is going to be quite reasonable.
This is the track list:
  1. Mining For Songs
  2. Mother England
  3. Jeff Sturgeon's / I Like You, You're Common / When Lenny Met Andy Met Patsy
  4. Cecil's Greatest Hits Vol.1
  5. Dear Kimber
  6. Lover's Lament
  7. The CooCoo Bird
  8. Meadows of Dan
  9. Ol' Groundhog
  10. Black Mountain Lullaby
  11. Child's Song;  Barbara Allen
  12. Aunt Maria
  13. Beautiful Maud
  14. Veggie In The Holler
  15. Earl Brand
  16. Ghost Of Songs
  17. The Great Divide
  18. Maud & Cecil
Shrewsbury Folk Festival 2011 takes place from 26 - 29 August and, looking at the line-up, my ideas on which festivals to consider for next year are looking more complicated with each passing week.

Monday, August 08, 2011

New Music 2011 - A mixed case of folk - Part 1

A few of the LPs (I still like to call them that, whatever their format) that I am to mention here might have appeared in these pages before, if only in passing.  Many of the artists most certainly have been mentioned and, for those that only recall the 1960s/1970s blossoming of folk and new folk, there are some returnees too.

I shall start with the latest LP, 'Saturnine' by Jackie Oates. It is her fourth solo recording unless I am mistaken. It immediately caught my attention because I am listening to her previous one 'Hyperboreans' (2009) so frequently at the moment. It will be released by ECC Records on September 12, 2011.

Whilst it has a great deal of influence from the south west of England, where she is now based, I can't imagine that the final song 'Fortune Turns The Wheel' is anything other than a version of that traditional song from the north east of England.

I have definitely mentioned this next LP in passing. It is already released.
'Adelphi Has To Fly' - Lucy Ward (Navigator Records, 2011)
This is her début album, at least commercially, and is a mixture of new songs and brave interpretations of older ones and its creator comes from the vicinity of Derby.  The fact that it is released by Navigator Records says quite a lot about it in my opinion.

To be continued, probably in several parts --- but with it comes a thought on continuity:

Back in the days of the aforementioned first folk revival there was a label that was a huge part of it. It is still going strong three decades down the line; it is Topic Records.