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.