Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Runaway's Diary - revisited!

To revisit an album on its day of release might seem a rather strange thing to do. Here is why I am doing it. I mentioned Runaway's Diary only a couple of months back. It was released only this week but Amazon has been bombarding me with the suggestion that I should buy it...
This was more correct than Amazon could know. I have had it for much of the last week, it cost slightly less but probably more of that went to the artist. Here it is (the digipack CD version).

It is signed too, but musically it is everything hoped for and that matters much more.
LaVere has over the course of her four solo LPs not been the most prolific of songwriters but when she does it tends to work well. Cupid's Arrow from the 2007 LP 'Anchors and Anvils' is a good case in point, but so is the title track. Rarely are they cheerful songs but that is of little consequence.
There are five on this disc and two co-writes with Tim Regan and they don't suffer by comparison with the four covers, one of which is Townes Van Zant's 'Where I Lead Me'. This also makes a point that I wish to raise, which is that like several other Americans of her generation, she is a fine interpreter of the songs of others. My first impression is that I like 'Runaway's Diary' more than the LP 'Stranger Me' (2011) that was released between these. I think however that I must now revisit that.
I never did get to the end of the lyric of the song Anchors and Anvils although I promised to. That's not a problem with Runaway's Diary as the CD comes with a lyric booklet.
Finally, you need to read a review written by somebody far more knowledgeable. The one that I proffer is this.

Monday, May 26, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 16 - Ethan Johns - The Reckoning

I first saw Ethan Johns live as a solo artist at End Of The Road Festival (EOTR) 2013, shortly after the release of his first solo album 'If Not Now Then When?' Here he is on the Saturday afternoon, playing the Garden Stage.

As I mentioned then I was already much acquainted with him as a producer of other people's music. I was amazed that he had found much time for his own work, good though it indubitably is.
It would seem that he has made time for more, and in a time scale that is astonishing.
It is released, on vinyl, CD and d/l by Three Crows Music on June 2, 2014.
What he certainly has done is to walk away from producing it. It was a deliberate volte-face. Ryan Adams, with whom he has long worked as producer, takes on the desk duties here. This article, about the reasons and the reckoning, is well worth sharing I think.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 15 - Candy Says - Not Kings

Candy Says is the band that opened proceedings at Truck Festival 2013. Regular readers will already know the importance that I attach to seeing support acts and, in particular, festival openers. Here is Candy Says at Truck Festival last July:

Ten months down the line the début album 'Not Kings' is ready for release and, for lovers of pop-chic, here is a selection from it:

'Not Kings' is released on 28 May 2014 and is available in almost any format you could desire, including both vinyl and limited edition cassette tape. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 14 - Bridie Jackson and The Arbour

Something else to listen to...  is a feature I have decided to add to the side-bar of my blog. It will be just a picture and a link. Yours to explore or not...
It is about music that is new, but not necessarily new in time or place. It might be something old that is new to me and perchance others too.
It will be at the top of the side-bar, except when some other event is featured there, and I'm intending to update it approximately weekly. I might, as I am now doing, expand my comments on it into a post. 

The first to appear here was a four-piece from Newcastle-upon-Tyne - Bridie Jackson and The Arbour. I had heard some songs on Amazing Radio but this official video was bought to my attention only very recently.

It is taken from their second self-released album, 'New Skin'. I want to hear and see them live.

Whilst on the subject of gritty Tyneside artistes, I get the impression that Beth Jeans Houghton and her co-conspirators are cooking up some new music too... and that can't come too soon.
#TBT  Go listen to 'Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose' (2012) and see her live with her band. Here is an example of that.  Now that I think about it I may possibly add a little gallery of the various performances that I have had the pleasure to witness over the last few years.

Just five weeks today Glastonbury Festival 2014 will be revving up and therefore I might mention that Bridie and The Arbour was the winner of the 'Glastonbury 2013 New Emerging Talent' competition.  Here's how the resulting visit to Worthy Farm panned out. 

Something else to listen to... has now moved on to pastures new - the rule is that you cannot be in both places at the same time - and back across the Atlantic, therefore more transatlanticism I suppose. Never fear, it shall return to these shores sooner than you know.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Live Music 2014 - Martin and Eliza Carthy

These are my thoughts on Saturday evening just gone, spent at The Cheese & Grain in Frome. I have long liked traditional folk music. Although that is no secret it was often one not mentioned in public, more kept to a circle of like-minded friends and family.
The support act was Amelia Orgill and The Teazle Folk Ensemble and my attempts at photography got off to a curious start.

I had no prior knowledge. I suspect they may not have seen themselves in a psychedelic light.

This was entirely down to a lack of forethought on my part although, looking on the bright side, less of a disaster than a flat battery. I had forgotten to reset my camera after using it outside in brilliant sunshine earlier in the day. It was nothing that, with a little thought and a pint of Milk Street Brewery '15' (it's just had a birthday!) on hand, I couldn't quickly overcome. Here is Amelia Orgill and The Teazle Folk Ensemble in the real world and indeed an unusual case of two bands that include father and daughter on the same bill.

I can't even start to imagine how terrifying this must have been. To open for one of the heroes of the first folk revival would be hard enough; add a heroine of the second and it is uncharted territory. I could hide, largely unseen, behind my camera whilst they could not and I was very aware of that. 
There is little that I can say about the Carthys other to say that it was a object lesson in traditional folk. The stories about the songs and where, by and from whom, they were collected might prove tedious to some --- too many tales of violent bailiffs, starvation and mining disasters.  
A certain northern sense of humour might help. They have it, and it is humbling.
Martin Carthy was born in St. Albans, which is not notably northern, in 1941.

 Eliza spent many years in Scotland. I think she said fourteen and it matters, as it so happens.

She sat out the occasional song, leaving her Dad alone on guitar and vocals.
The LP that much, but certainly not all by any means, of this set came from is 'The Moral of The Elephant'. That song is a warning that judging anything, based on just a part of the whole, is likely to be flawed.

This is another album, released 2 June 2014, that I feel is likely to make the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards list in 2015 and neither Martin or Eliza Carthy would be strangers to that.

This is a very interesting, yet concise, guide to the thinking behind the album.

Friday, May 16, 2014

New Music 2014 - Part 13 - The Best of British

The principal feature that these four acts have in common is that I have seen all of them live at least twice and therefore, although only one of the albums has already been released, I reckon I have a pretty solid grounding in what to expect.

The first is the début LP from Dorset-based acoustic duo Ninebarrow.

'While the Blackthorn Burns' is the only one that has had a full release (26 April 2014, on the band's own Ninebarrow label) and the only one that is acoustic folk, both original and traditional songs. In the few weeks since release it has garnered much attention and praise; I have it on good authority that a track from it will feature on Mike Harding's Folk Show this coming Sunday (18 May, but also available on-line 24/7/365). I would not be surprised to see it nominated for BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards 2015 in due course.
Bold Sir Rylas is one of the traditional songs, seen performed at Purbeck Folk Festival 2013. This version is from the sold-out album launch at The Lighthouse, Poole.
Bold Sir Rylas has much in common with the song Matty Groves, although the details as to how the the working man is betrayed and the names of the Noble Gentleman are many and various. Alela Diane has recorded a stunning version of Matty Groves and I commented on it here, having seen her perform it live with Alina Hardin at EOTR 2009. It was also released on a six-track 33 rpm 10" vinyl EP, 'Alela & Alina' (Family/Names Records, FAM001, 2009) that I have.
While it certainly is good, Bold Sir Rylas is not what is going to make the reputation of 'While the Blackthorn Burns'. The new and original songs will do that.

The second LP on this list is also a début.

'The Midnight Novel' is the work of singer-songwriter Chl0ë Warren from Somerset and is released to the world on 2 June 2014. It is not folk. Bits and pieces can be found on-line, including Chloë with her previous band South Divide. I saw South Divide play in Frome late last year and was impressed enough to mention that here. For that matter I took some pictures too.

Voice aside, her instrument of choice is keyboards and 'The Midnight Novel' will be no exception.
The next two, although not released yet, are not début albums and so it becomes easier to judge them by previous releases. This is not always a good plan, because things can change for better or for worse, but in both these cases I feel that the omens are very promising indeed.
This next is a very good example of just why festivals matter so much to me. I was heading from one "must see" act to another one on a different stage and arrived just in time to see the last five minutes of a set by a band that was simply not on my radar. My thought, within seconds, is that something special is going on here. I was right, as it happens; it turned out to be The Moulettes.

My opportunity to make amends for this came at North Dorset Folk Festival 2012 - the first of its kind.

'Constellations' is their third LP and it is released by Navigator Records on 2 June 2014.

Completing this musical journey is an album for which I currently have no cover image available but, and please believe me here,  the music will not disappoint.
This will give a taste of the theme, however, of the forthcoming album by Jennifer Crook Trio.
Westbury Station, Wiltshire, 2013.
It does not have the iconic clock, nor the 'Brief Encounter' association.
The album 'Carnforth Station' will be released in the early autumn of 2014. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Thoughts On Music - plans for 2014 and beyond.

I have taken a fortnight-long break from posting, something I just need to do from time to time. In the meantime I have still been listening and reading, no doubt about that, but also doing a little plotting and planning. It is now a few years since 'Thoughts on Music' has had anything other than organic changes, some of which simply reflect my interests in that time. Well, while there is nothing wrong with that I think it might not be all that is worth changing.

The first change is actually a reversion to something I did for a long time until the feature became frustratingly unstable.
As of about five minutes ago you should see the return of the "link list" to the top of the side bar. It has been a "simple list" for a year or more and, while I'm quite sure you can use well known search engines every bit as well as I can, this reinstates my ability to link to the particular reason I am listening and therefore a quick route to the stuff of the moment that is catching my attention.  If I haven't provided a link to an item in this list you will see <about: Blank> and should hit the 'Back' button. I'm currently unconvinced that running two lists, one for items with links and separate one for those without, would be any more helpful. If I can find a way of combining the two, along the logical line of 'if no link given then don't try to go there' then I will and all hints and suggestions to that end are welcome!

Beyond that all feedback, positive and negative equally, is very welcome and so are suggestions. I have some other changes in mind but they will take more expertise in the way of implementation than I currently have, and so may take more time. There is nothing wrong with planning or dreaming and I'm quite sure that there are plenty of ideas that have never even occurred to me at all.
The only constant remains, as I said at the start, that I shall only review music that I like. I will not wallow in destructive criticism: I shall use negativity very sparingly, so as to make a comparative - there is too much to like for me to spend resources of whatever kind in doing otherwise. You might very well persuade me to try new music, and I hope you do just that, but you will almost certainly fail to dissuade me from that which I already do, even if it is done differently...

For some reason I have recently given much thought to the subject of cover versions and what I think they might add to the canon. My view on this has evolved very much over time and not least because I am now far more aware of songs that are actually cover versions but that I didn't realize previously!
This is one, that I did know from the original, and that I had the good fortune to see live, in 2010 when it was one of the first times they played it. Somewhat later, with Jack White and Third Man Records, it was recorded live.

I don't actually buy many 7" singles these days but this is the latest addition to my collection.
I'm not saying that this a blueprint for a new direction, radical or otherwise. The many shades of transatlanticism has possibly already told you that.

This evening, whilst thinking some more, the theme continues, about how much traditional music Europe  exported to the US, then Canada and elsewhere directly or otherwise, over the last four centuries. It is important - we would have lost much had that not happened and that is why Cecil Sharp (1916-18, in particular) and others headed west across the Atlantic in the early 20th century. On the other hand it would be astonishingly vain not to admit that what we have received in return is every bit as generous, and quite as remarkable...

Then there are the influences that came from the east and particularly from Asia Minor via south-eastern Europe. That all started with the Celts themselves a couple of thousand years ago because it is thought that they expanded west and north; only subsequently to be marginalised in the far west of Europe.

Much more recently the bouzouki took a similar trajectory: it had certainly reached Greece, again probably from Asia Minor, and was common there by the start of the 20th century. Sixty years later and it was widely used in modern Celtic folk music in the UK and, particularly so, in Ireland.
Of course all these things intermingled over time, and in vicarious ways, before some of it was than taken, in a many-stranded form and over a long period, to the Americas by people of diverse origins. What we tend to forget is that the interesting muddle that is English folk music has age-old influences but it too incorporates influences that more recent immigrants bought with them and once again from eastern Europe: Romani and Klezmer are just two that come to mind.