Thursday, November 29, 2012

2012 In Music - Albums - Part 1

No real change in presentation here from the last two years; two lists of a dozen albums each and both strictly in order alphabetical by artist. In no way is this intended to be a balanced list, far from it in fact: It is quite utterly biased to what has caught my attention in a lasting way in 2012.  It is vastly influenced by artists that I have seen live, either this year or somewhat previously, and I make no bones about that fact. Here it is:

  • Alabama Shakes - Boys and Girls
  • Awna Teixeira - Where The Darkness Goes
  • Bex Marshall - The House of Mercy
  • Boy - Mutual Friends
  • Cowbois Rhos Botwnnog - Draw Dros Y Mynydd
  • Ellen and The Escapades - All The Crooked Things
  • First Aid Kit - The Lion's Roar
  • Hurray For The Riff Raff - Watch Out Mama
  • Joanne Shaw Taylor - Almost Always Never
  • Karine Polwart - Traces
  • Phantom Limb - The Pines
  • The Tatsmiths - Curiosity Shop
  • Trailer Trash Tracys - Ester
Please feel quite free to add comments, queries, suggestions or questions. It is what this is all about, whether negative, positive or simply mystified!  All comments are moderated (by me alone, so you know that I read them) and while I prefer it that you can put your real identity to your piece, because you should believe in what you are saying and be prepared to stand up and be counted, I will sanction the publishing of "anonymous" comments. Comments that are defamatory, offensive or totally irrelevant will not be published.
I don't bite either. I'll attempt to answer questions and comments either in comments of my own in reply or in a more general 'round-up' post.
I intend to post the second of these lists later this coming weekend. I am intending to add links to related content in both the above mentioned posts as soon as I can.  It is my intention to deal with the ever more interesting category of "EPs and mini-albums" in the meanwhile and I'd like to do that as a post complete with such links from the get-go.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The lure of the 'Live LP' returns...

The season of 'lists of 2012' is almost upon us but, before I get into that gambit, here is something that I've been getting increasingly excited about for a couple of years now.
Back-in-the-day plenty of live LPs were released (often but not always on double-vinyl) that were recorded during at most a couple of public tour gigs and were not then messed with too much (in the sense of over-dubs and such like).

They largely disappeared with the advent of the slick-as-film 'live' DVD offerings. Now the tide is just starting to turn and, at least in my opinion, very much for the better.
I'm going to mention just three for now and the first was recorded in England in 2011. It is also the only one of the three not to be recorded anywhere near the artist's home patch (Rock City, IL) but at the Shepherd's Bush Empire, London.

Ever since the time of her 2009 EP 'Why You Running' Lissie had been touring the UK, starting in really dive venues. By the time of the release of her début LP 'Catching A Tiger' in 2010 she was playing small stages at some well regarded UK festivals. The album made the top ten of The Official UK album chart. She put in the hard work and the affection was mutual. This live album is testament to that and is a 2-disc set: CD and also full concert DVD. Lissie is expecting to release her second studio LP in 2013 (late Spring?).

That 2-disc CD/DVD format applies to the next artist too. This 2012 release was recorded at the Savoy Theatre in her home city of Helsinki.
In this case the DVD is more extensive than the CD, as it contains several extra tracks, but as long as you can play the audio through a decent system there is nothing to complain about there. Erja Lyytinen is touring the UK in the first half of 2013 and I'd like to think that a new studio album might be the reason. Neither of the above are currently available, or known to become available, on vinyl --- unless you know otherwise.
I have not seen either of these artists live as yet. On the other hand you will soon see that my 'Best of 2012' lists are heavily influenced by those that I have.

There is a slight problem with the third item in this list. It is another 2012 'live LP'. I could have it in a minute or two (as legal mp3), on Wednesday morning on CD (if I wished to pay for express delivery) but I'm not doing either. It is already on its way to me but, as there is no known UK release date for it on vinyl it is, as I write, making its way to me from the US on 2 x 12" vinyl.
I'm expecting it any time in the next ten days or so - when Christmas will come a little bit early. As well as being the only one of the three available on vinyl as of the present it is also one by a male artist (and band).

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Live Music 2012 - A Weekend in Frome (Part 2)

This may seem illogical to you but not to me. I decided to divide the six acts that I saw over Friday and Saturday evenings into two groups of three. For a reason I have decided to do this - the result is that, having counted Acoustic+ backwards in order of appearance, it was time to do the remaining three in running order. That the first was on a different stage fully 24 hours before the others is merely a spatial and temporal quirk of fate.

I shall start with the first artist to appear at Acoustic+ on Friday evening. I have always felt for anyone who opens a show and I'm sure that it can never be more nerve-racking than when performing solo.  This may have been the Cheese and Grain but rather larger stages beckon (sooner rather than later)...

Molly Ross solo and performing her self-written songs.
I started with that for a very good reason. TV talent shows do turn up talented artists and the key to lasting success is quite possibly not winning. Think about it. 
Sam Kelly didn't win 'Britain's Got Talent 2012' but in the process he earned himself a solid support base and, judging from his performance with a band at Rook Lane Chapel yesterday evening, it is very well deserved. The combination of traditional, covers and self-penned songs was very well judged and, best of all, they looked like they were really enjoying themselves.
And it was quite handy for my meagre photography too.
The next photo is from towards the end of yesterday evening's performance. 
Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman - a duo recently short-listed for BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2013 but certainly no newcomers to the performance scene - a 'cello, three fiddles, a flute, two guitars and a keyboard liberally plastered in kids' stickers, with Patsy Reid joining them on fiddle and 'cello...  and have them play in a Grade 1 listed building that is currently also home to the 155th Royal Photographic Society Exhibition of Prints.
That pretty much sums up Frome.

Live Music 2012 - A Weekend in Frome (Part 1)

When I decided to live in Frome, back in 1995, I can't honestly say that the town's music scene was one of the factors involved. More likely the considerations that made the town so appeal to me are in some intangible way connected with those that have led to the enviable situation we currently enjoy. Long may it thrive.
Here is a glimpse of the six live acts that I have seen this weekend, all within fifteen minutes walk of home.
Friday evening at the Cheese and Grain saw the latest edition of Acoustic+. This is an event that takes place approximately 8 times each year.
The final act of the evening was Gren Bartley and one who, although he had appeared at the first Frome Folk Festival back in February, I had not actually seen because of the inevitable clashes across three main venues.

Back then (1995 and some time thereafter) goodness knows; you might have tried to persuade me about some of what has now become Americana but anything that approached country influences... NO!  How times and I have changed.
Griff Daniels (R) and Richard Kennedy (L) took the Americana-influenced road but with new songs and Richard's style of guitar playing, of which I am a big fan.
I find it hard to describe adequately - there is just something gritty and authentic to it.
While I don't think that I had ever seen Griff Daniels live before that was not true of Richard Kennedy. Neither is it true of Kimwei, who hails from Exminster, Devon and whom I saw playing as part of Acoustic+ at the Frome Festival Food Feast in 2010.
Her song-writing and playing style is no less unusual; but convention changes nothing.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

New Music 2013 - Part 4 - Funding For Something to Happen

We all know it. Music costs - illegal music costs us all more - but that aside making it is far more expensive than buying legal recorded music. There are various options, rarely ever open to new and aspiring artists until recently, to harness the enthusiasm of music fans to directly fund a project they want to reach realization. One such, that has recently rolled-out in the UK, is Kickstarter. I have previous experience with it in its US version and that was without issue (a US based project that was very successful).
As is all such speculative investment it is not without risk but there are upsides - the investment can be small (from £5 typically, but that may be proportional to the sum required for the project), a definitive end date for the appeal for funding and no penalty if the desired target is not reached. Funds are only taken and then released to the appellant upon successful attainment of the target - if it isn't reached you lose nothing.
OK I thought, when I heard Kickstarter was coming to the UK; I won't go looking. I'll wait and see what comes along and grabs my attention although it was never likely to be anything other than music...
This, though I didn't know it at the time, proved to be that appeal. About five weeks ago I attended the first North Dorset Folk Festival. It was a great day and one of many acts was Cloudi Lewis.

I have reviewed it briefly.
So why did I choose to support this? Well, quite simply that performance was wonderful. A band doing what they want to do and if that is the current vogue then that's all to the good. If it wasn't then, hell, they'd probably do it anyway. That, to be honest, is the attitude that the music industry needs even more of right now. I'm prepared to put a small sum of money behind that dream...

There are green shoots, as the old saying goes, but they still need feeding and encouragement to survive.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

New Music 2013 - Part 3 - Waiting For Something To Happen

What I suspected would be the case after hearing them play several new songs live at festival performances last summer has come to pass. Veronica Falls' second LP 'Waiting For Something To Happen' will appear, again on Bella Union, on February 4, 2013.  It will be available on vinyl and this, I believe, is the album cover artwork:
The lead song from it is one that was played both times that I saw them perform live last summer, which makes sense, and is 'Teenage'. I remember taking note that all the new songs were arresting.
Here it is...
...and also 'Teenage' performed live at No Direction Home 2012.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

New Music 2013 - Part 2 - The Stand-In

February 25, 2013 (UK and Europe, Names Records) and March 5, 2013 (US & Canada, ATO Records) sees the release of the second LP from Caitlin Rose, 'The Stand-In', and the follow up to the 2009/2010 début 'Own Side Now'. I shall be disappointed to a huge extent if this new album does not feature on the lists that I will be writing this time next year... that is a measure of the weight of expectation I attach to the twelve tracks on this release.  Is that unreasonable? In the circumstances I believe not.
More to follow soon - in the meantime here is a picture of the artist in question that I took on the smallest stage at End of The Road Festival 2010.

The lead song is 'No One To Call'.  Here, if I've got the code embedded correctly, is a link to a stream of it:

Here is a thought: she is playing Bristol 'Fleece' on February 26.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Looking Forwards :: Listening Back

Yes. It is true that I have just had the better part of three weeks away from posting.  That does not however mean that I have lost interest in music or even writing about it.  I have also now gone three whole weeks without seeing any live music! There comes a point where, in order to assimilate that which I have seen and heard in the last few months of new music, both live and recorded, I have to pause :: rewind.  I need to listen to it again, when I can, think about it, read other people's thoughts (something that the internet has totally revolutionized) before I can establish some kind of personal equilibrium with it.

This is important for several reasons.  Like it or not the end of the year is approaching and with it come those "Best of" lists which, to be honest, I love thinking about (my own) and reading (those of others) and also, of course, what to expect in 2013!

There are of course many albums/artists that I have wanted to listen to but have failed to do so for one reason or another. A few of the most obvious ones that I have come to notice in the last fortnight are however currently winging their way to me in time for possible inclusion and one of them falls in a category that I'm not going to include in such a list, because my selection is going to cover the period from 2010 onwards, the renaissance of which I'm detecting and a genre of recording that I'm delighted to see coming to attention again. The proper 'essentially single concert' live LP (with minimal editing and over-dubs). This conveniently has some cross-over both with my own "Best Of" lists and also new music that I am anticipating the arrival of in 2013.

While writing this it is all too much like complicated to listen to new music. I have instead been listening to a slice of wax released forty-two years ago this month in the UK as CBS S64087 ---  Abraxas - Santana. It contains another recently discussed topic, that being an example of a cover version that widely becomes assumed to be the original. This is something that I have been guilty of on many occasions but not, as it happens, this one: Peter Green's 'Black Magic Woman' (1968) is the case in point here. 

Very early on in this adventure, in 2006, I mentioned that I had no particular wish to review things that I don't much like, especially to the extent of acquiring them for that purpose. I have, however, just succumbed to something rather akin to the opposite - buying an album by an act that I saw live this summer (and have mentioned in a post here) because of the negative review that it was given in The Guardian a fortnight ago today... Either things went very pear-shaped on the album or the review was harsh --- I shall let you know my verdict in due course. (That is enough information to work out the identity, if you want to try!)