Thursday, December 29, 2016

New Music 2017 - Part 2 - Hurray For The Riff Raff - The Navigator

In my opinion there is never a bad time to welcome a new album from Hurray For The Riff Raff but, as it happens, early 2017 seems an especially propitious one for a number of reasons. Alynda Lee Segarra and her band are always ready to take on social, cultural and political challenges in their songs and there is no reason to think that things will change at least in that respect, this time around.

'The Navigator' - Hurray For The Riff Raff (ATO Records, 10 March 2017).

The Navigator - Hurray For The Riff Raff:
  • Entrance
  • Living In The City
  • Hungry Ghost
  • Life to Safe
  • Nothing’s Gonna Change Girl
  • The Navigator
  • Halfway There
  • Rican Beach
  • Fourteen Floors
  • Settle
  • Pa’lante
  • Finale
The lead track is Rican Beach, about which some reviewers have expressed surprise at the direction of the sound. I like it and even if that were not so I wouldn't be overly concerned. I'd actually be rather more worried if it just sounded like an out-take from an earlier LP and to that end I have pre-ordered the album. I have trust in certain artists, festivals and labels. Hurray For The Riff Raff is most definitely one of the former.

Rican Beach

My Music in 2016 - EPs and mini-albums:

In a decade of writing this blog few things have pleased me more than the relentless rise of the EP and the mini-album: the format, from vinyl to digital, doesn't matter a fraction as much as the use it has seen in releasing small bodies of completed work to a wider audience. Not only does it allow the artist, new or established, to provide rapid exposure to new material it is also bite-sized for the diminished attention span of many consumers in the digital age. With that in mind here are just six such that have grabbed my attention in 2016.

All six are female led; four from the UK and one each from Ireland and the US. I have seen all the UK-based ones live at one time or another, but neither Wyvern Lingo (Ireland) or Lily Mae (US).

Janileigh Cohen, Rising stage, Green Man Festival, 21 August 2016.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

My Music in 2016 - Albums - Part 2

Seconds away; round 2.
The rules are exactly the same as before and in no way should you think that this list is 'second fiddle'. One of the featured acts would soon disabuse you of that notion simply because of its four members three play fiddle, almost always concurrently!
In addition, this list includes an entry for which the primary language is not English.

Anian - 9 Bach
Applewood Road - Applewood Road
The Black Feathers - Soaked To The Bone
Cale Tyson - Careless Soul
Fara - Cross The Line
The Honeycutters - On The Ropes
Joanne Shaw Taylor - Wild
Kelsey Waldon - I've Got A Way
Margo Price - Midwest Farmer's Daughter
On Dead Waves - On Dead Waves

This post is entirely me fighting my own corner as concerns the kind of music that I like. The links above might have indicated that. It includes one of the two US artists that I most wanted to see live in 2016 and I did so.

Margo Price and Jeremy Ivey, wife & husband, Woods stage, End Of The Road Festival, 2 September 2016.

The other US artist I really wanted to see live in 2016  was Jason Isbell and I did that too, at Green Man Festival 2016. The above list also includes two of the US artists that I would most like to see live at a UK festival in 2017 - The Honeycutters and Kelsey Waldon. It's looking promising.

This is from the Saloon Bar stage at Truck Festival in slightly challenging circumstances.

Applewood Road, a capella. 15 July 2016.

The few invading troublemakers - they were not merely drunk and disorderly - were soon removed without any further fuss by Security. This is the first time in ten years of festival-going that I have ever been in a situation like this and it was reassuring in the way that everyone reacted to it. Such things happen in many towns each weekend, more is the pity. Ten minutes later everything had returned to normal, but with even more camaraderie.
This is the 'Saloon Bar Stage' after all, so perhaps it isn't such a surprise?

Should you wish to attempt to prefigure 2017 then there is this. Its title is 'Powerplant'. I'm not saying much about it because crystal-ball-gazing is not my thing and look where professional pollsters led us in 2016! I would be lying if I were to deny that there are a couple of items that are interesting prospects indeed. The second album from this duo is one of them.

Girlpool, Big Top stage, End Of The Road Festival, 5 September 2015.

Monday, December 12, 2016

New Music 2017 - Part 1 - Holly Macve - Golden Eagle

A break from lists and an opportunity to start looking forward to 2017 releases.
I actually started to write this about a fortnight ago when the schedule became clear but I soon ran into a problem. I saw Holly Macve live during the summer but could I find the photos? No!
I knew they were not amongst a few lost to a faulty memory card because the issue was resolved by that time. Just now I had an
 idea - by this time I was using two cameras interchangeably, one much more than the other and it was the first time that I had such luxury. It turned out that these pictures had been taken with 'the other one' and I hadn't looked for them where they were to be found even though I had downloaded all the images from both devices. Mea culpa.
With that little mystery solved here she is. As I said ten years ago, when this blog project commenced, I don't have the time or the inclination to review things that I don't care for. My listening tastes may have changed over time but that is a completely different matter. 

Holly Macve, Garden stage, End Of The Road Festival, 4 September 2016.

Her début album 'Golden Eagle' is released by Bella Union on 3 March 2017 and this is the track-listing.

White Bridge
Corner of My Mind
Heartbreak Blues
All of Its Glory
No One Has the Answers
Golden Eagle
Sycamore Tree

Taken from the album, this is 'No One Has The Answers'.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

My Music in 2016 - Albums - Part 1

It is time for the first of several lists of my favourite albums of 2016. As ever releases are alphabetical (articles, whether definite or indefinite, are included in the list entry but ignored for alphabetical purposes) by artist within each list and inclusion in a given list implies no preference over ones in a later list.
Artists that I have seen live tend to feature highly in these lists and it is true that this applies just as much in 2016 as in previous years. In order to try to prevent that bias affecting opinion I have decided that this first list will include only artists and acts that (performing as such) I have not seen live this year or previously. The result of doing that has, as it turns out, transformed into something of a 'wants-list' for 2017 festivals!
Be that as it may, and with no way of knowing how it might pan out, here it is:

Billie Marten - Writing of Blues and Yellows
Case/Lang/Veirs - Case/Lang/Veirs
Dori Freeman - Dori Freeman
The Drive-by Truckers - American Band
Elizabeth Cook - Exodus Of Venus
John Moreland - High On Tulsa Heat
Layla McCalla - A day for the hunter, a day for the prey
The Moon and You - A White Light That Shines
On Dead Waves - On Dead Waves
Red Moon Road - Sorrows & Glories

All but two are acts from North America but this isn't actually an accurate reflection of my listening in 2016, be that live or otherwise. I think that my subsequent lists will make that clear. Indeed if you know me then you will likely have already spotted a few very glaring omissions of North American artists that have released LPs in 2016 from from this list. What is certainly true is that it has focused my attention on artists that I would very much like to see live in 2017.

[This is just the bare outline of this post but having started just earlier and on a whim, I decided I wanted to get something published this evening. More details, links (those other than to my own comments) and so on will follow shortly. If you find some music new to you and that you like then I'm a happy bunny!]

Comments are always welcome.
They are moderated only for reasons of law, order and decency.

Friday, December 02, 2016

My Music in 2016 - Live albums

Ten years ago I mused about the resurgence of the EP and have never regretted that comment. Occasionally I have mentioned the interest that I have in live music recorded. I mentioned that my 2016 End-of-Year list would have a new category and this is it. Just two entries in this, at least for now.  I think it interesting not just for their obvious differences but, at least to me, because both are by artists that I have been following from the very first time that I heard about them. It is particularly appropriate because in both cases my first experience of both was actually seeing them play live!

I first came across Northumbrian band Lanterns On The Lake at End Of The Road Festival 2010 and I have seen them play live several times since.

Lanterns On The Lake - Truck Festival 2011.

The music is often almost subconscious in its beauty - bleak yet optimistic. This collaboration is a perfect match and in order to maintain the tension it had to be recorded live. This was the result.

Lanterns On The Lake with The Royal Northern Sinfonia - Live in Concert (Bella Union, 25 November 2016).

This next is a rather different beast. The Black Feathers is a duo comprising husband and wife Ray Hughes and Sian Chandler. I have written about them a few times before now; this was in anticipation of their début studio album Soaked To The Bone.
This next was, by popular request, recorded live at The Convent, South Woodchester, Gloucestershire earlier this year. 

The Black Feathers - Live at The Convent (Bird In The Hand Records, 2 December 2016).

It comprises eleven songs, most of them are original compositions but there are a few covers too. This isn't one of them nor is it actually featured on Live at The Convent! It is a live version of an original song from Soaked To The Bone.

'Down By The River, Under The Apple Tree session, 2016.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Elyse Weinberg - Greasepaint Smile (and recorded music time-travel)

I am often surprised by the time between recording and release of an officially sanctioned album but this really takes some beating: approximately forty-six years! What happened and what do we get?
The album had been recorded and even the album artwork completed; then the label Tetragrammaton Records went bust with the album still unreleased. With no release - I am unable to find a code allocated to the title - the LP was effectively orphaned and then eventually almost forgotten. Tide and time played a part and so eventually this happened.

Elyse Weinberg - Greasepaint Smile (Numerophon, 18 September 2015, LP, CD & d/l).

Greasepaint Face is now widely available and it should have been her second release for Tetragrammaton. This was the first.

Elyse Weinberg - Elyse  (Tetragrammaton T-117, 1968).

This was released to considerable acclaim but is now more tricky to find although re-released by Orange Twin (LP, CD & d/l) in 2005 but is still almost impossible to find in the UK. An original example of T-117 might be my Christmas present to myself. The equivalent in 2015 was at least as improbable!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Lists of 2016: It is that time again.

This year I have been listening to more new music than ever and the list business will start at Advent. Maybe I should have made a musical calendar? Thinking about it maybe I will.
I could choose a track for each day regardless of the lists of LPs, EPs and such. It would be a way to shine a spotlight on things that I have caught my attention but that otherwise might not have featured at all. If I do it is going to have to be done on the fly as 1 December is close.

That aside things will proceed much as they did in recent years and the rules will be the same. As I did last year the final list may not appear until early January. This not only combats the tendency of forward-creep but it also allows the possibility of including late releases. The cut-off for my consideration will be Friday 2 December. There will also be a new list category this year.

I imagine that you can guess a number of my favourite albums of 2016 and I'm sure some will appear on many other people's lists. I'd like to think that I will also include some surprises that are worthy of the attention of your ears.

Update: 1 December-
The first list will appear tomorrow evening. It will be the new category and also a very brief list but you might find it interesting nevertheless.
I'm still thinking about the song-a-day Advent calendar. It might start with a introductory group of songs at the weekend. I'll just have to see how much time I can devote to it.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 57 - Frida Hyvönen - Kvinnor och barn

I have posted about my forays into listening to music sung in foreign languages a few times in the past. On the other hand I don't think that Swedish (a language that I don't understand a word of) has ever before been one of them.
Frida Hyvönen the artist I was well aware of through her three English language LPs:

In addition to songwriting and singing her principal instrument is piano and this album is no exception. One thing I have discovered is that its title 'Kvinnor och barn' translates as 'Women and children'.

Frida Hyvönen - Kvinnor och barn (4 November 2016).

 The twelve tracks are as follows:
  • Sjön
  • Imponera på mig
  • Balkongmannen
  • Förlotat dig
  • Alla vet att det är vakert i Paris
  • Vänner i vardagen
  • Kommer du?
  • Drömmer om dig
  • Min stad
  • Kvinnor och barn
  • Fredag morgon
  • Amors förkastliga pilar
I have as yet been unable to divine the label by which it is released (on vinyl, CD and d/l) but it is available to stream on Spotify (here in the UK, at least at the time of writing).
Sometimes not understanding the lyrics allows one to appreciate the melody and structure of the music more easily. This was one of those times for me and I very much enjoyed it. It has also reminded me that I really must revisit all the earlier albums. 'Silence Is Wild' tackles some rather unusual subjects in popular music, if I remember correctly.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 56 - Will Varley - Kingsdown Sundown

In some ways 2016 has been a long and tiresome year. Will Varley has put words to it far better than most could ever have hoped to do. His name might not be on the tip of your tongue but that is no matter.
Kingsdown Sundown is dense, dark and yet ultimately hopeful. It was recorded in the basement of a pub in Deal, on the coast of Kent, but written on tour in only the way that an itinerant artist can; raw and not compromised by home comforts.

Kingsdown Sundown - Will Varley (xtramile Recordings, 4 November 2016)

Taken from it, this is 'To Build A Wall'.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 55 - Fara - Cross the Line

I have been waiting for this ever since I saw Fara play Cambridge Folk Festival 2015. One of the first acts that I saw simply blew me away...  and I'd never even heard of Fara before.
That it was a was a wake up call for me is an understatement. I knew that I had been caught blind-side as soon as they started playing Stage 2 on the Thursday evening.
That was then. This is now. A young four-piece from Orkney it comprises Jennifer Austin (piano) with Kristan Harvey, Jeana Leslie and Catriona Price on fiddle.

Cross The Line - Fara (Fara Music, 28 October 2016)

Cross The Line is their first full LP and it is a treat for lovers of fiddle music in the tradition of the Northern Isles. The majority of the eleven tracks are tunes. Some are old and some are new, such as the playful 'Cheeky Vimto'. The opening one 'The Dragon' gives early warning of what to expect.
There are five songs with vocals (v) of which 'Games People Play' is the least traditional in both its sound and lyric. 'I've Endured' is a sad song that is sung a capella in close-harmony. It provides a memorable point on which to end what is a very fine album indeed.
  • The Dragon
  • Three Fishers (v)
  • Whisky You're The Devil (v)
  • Bright Grey
  • Changing Plans
  • My Heart's in the Highlands (v)
  • Cheeky Vimto
  • Games People Play (v)
  • Billy's Short Leg
  • I've Endured (v)
Since I already know that Fara is exceptionally good live, it is high on my list of bands to see again. I suspect larger stages and audiences await in 2017.

This was an impromptu performance in the bar tent. Cambridge Folk Festival 2015.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 54 - Yola Carter - Orphan Offering

Another post and another perspective.  This is released next week and the excitement around it is as deserved as it is palpable. What it is not is the sudden appearance of a new artist.  A change of moniker, yes, but still the star that she always was.

Yolanda Quarty as she was then known is a singer and, very importantly, a song writer from just outside of the Bristol metropolitan area of the UK. Far enough outside the city, which is significantly multicultural, to be a real problem. She toured the world as vocalist with Massive Attack, playing to crowds numbered in the tens-of-thousands, but that was no outlet for her song-writing.  She also became the lead vocalist and songwriter of a band called Phantom Limb. Yes they were good, very good indeed.

I first saw Phantom Limb live when they played The Griffin in Frome one Sunday afternoon in August 2008 playing to an audience of tens (just a few tens). I wrote about that here. They recorded two studio albums, Phantom Limb and The Pines (2012) as well as Live in Bristol (2009).

Now Yola Carter is the new best thing. This is her, writing for herself, with a band chosen to make that what she wants it to be. 
My first comment is that it is amazing. It doesn't really matter if you have or have not heard the earlier works but you might well find them interesting. There are some stunning songs on both LPs and the live versions certainly don't disappoint. In fact that is the way to seek them. Yola Carter is therefore very much towards the top of my list of artists to see live in 2017.

Yola Carter - Orphan Offering (Ear Trumpet Records, 1 November 2016).

Yola Carter - Orphan Offering:
  • Home
  • What You Do
  • Orphan Country
  • Heed My Words
  • Dead and Gone
  • Fly Away

Orphan country, live at The Golden Lion, 244 Gloucester Road, Bishopston, Bristol.
I'm not sure who is playing percussion here but that aside, l - r, this comprises Nuala Honan (guitar), Kit Hawes (guitar), Yola Carter (lead vocals), Beth Porter ('cello) and Aaron Catlow (fiddle).

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 53 - Red Butler - Nothing To Lose

Red Butler is shortly to release its second LP and the follow-up to 2014's 'Freedom Bound'. In that time the Brighton-based four-piece has been garnering fans and acclaim both in the UK and further afield. I first saw the band live here in Frome, as part of the Blues, Rhythm and Roots festival in May 2016. It proved to be my favourite act on the day.

Guitar tomfoolery was adeptly done, but that alone is not enough to really make an impression.

Red Butler still did that however; this band writes most of its songs as a co-operative outfit and occasionally also reinterprets a cover in a very interesting way.
It's the real deal, clinched by the distinctive but wholly appropriate vocals of Jane Pearce.

Red Butler, Cheese & Grain, Frome - 8 May 2016.

Most of this set was taken from their début album 'Freedom Bound' (2014) but a few new songs were included too and we were told that they were to be included on their second LP and that this was to be produced by Wayne Proctor, who also happens to be the drummer for King King. These songs sounded very promising indeed. I would travel to see this band live once again - no doubt about that at all. This is an album that I really want to hear. Gone, it seems, are the days when beyond the start of October the only releases were those aimed at the Christmas market. That is something for which we should give thanks and spend some cash.

Red Butler - Nothing To Lose (self released, 11 November 2016).

Saturday, October 15, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 52 - Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker - Overnight

I have seen a great deal of live music in 2016 and this is the latest release from one of the highlights of those endeavours. I know that this duo is a Marmite thing in UK folk circles. I make no apologies. I'm totally on-board here.

Overnight - Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker (Rough Trade Records, 14 October 2016)
  • Nine Times Along
  • Something Familiar
  • Sweet the Sorrow
  • Dawn of the Dark
  • Dark Turn of Mind
  • Weep You No More Sad Fountains
  • The Light of His Lamp
  • Sleep
  • Milk and Honey
  • The Waning Crescent
  • Overnight
  • Light of Day

'Dark Turn of Mind' is a Gillian Welch cover but what you are really hearing here is the pushing of boundaries. Most of these songs are originals. Most of them are tales of loss and regret. Therefore there is a clear bond with traditional folk themes.

This is the Garden Stage, End Of The Road Festival 2016.

Seeing the duo play live is something else. Josienne is quite the compère spinning the miserabilism and self-deprecating threads, between the songs, to the point that it becomes impossible to divine reality from construct. Then there is her voice.

'Something Familiar'

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Bob Dylan - A Nobel Laureate

I have to admit that when today dawned I could say that my knowledge of the works and the authors that have been deemed worthy of the Nobel Prize for Literature was very limited indeed. I had no reason to expect that situation to change any time soon.
What I certainly did not expect was to end the day listening to (original) vinyl, that I already own, written by a Nobel Laureate. This was astonishing development in a world seemingly so weighed down with rancour and atrocities of almost every kind imaginable.
It is recognition not only of the lyrics Bob Dylan has actually written, many though they are, but also for all those that he has inspired others to write.

There is nothing more for me to write; I'm going back to listening.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 51 - Bel Blue - Our Places

Not very often does this happen. I'm delighted to share it when it does. This is self-released on Wild Dog Rose and all nine tracks are self-written. It is almost entirely acoustic, a smidgen of electric guitar features on two tracks, but more importantly it is astonishingly whole.
This time last week I'd never even heard about Bel Blue or, if I had, I had forgotten all about it. Hearing three songs from it on Monday evening made me think that the latter scenario is very unlikely indeed.
It was bought to me by the twin powers of local radio and the worldwide access to it via the internet. In this case the distance between Hailsham FM (in Sussex, England) and my location in Frome, Somerset, England is barely 125 miles. The result was I purchased the LP there and then - on that slightly old-fashioned format that is CD. Royal Mail delivered it to my door today.

Here it is:

Bel Blue - Our Places:
  • Longing's Gone
  • Our Places
  • In Its Time
  • Waterfall
  • Wild Dog Rose
  • River of Dreams
  • Somewhere
  • Nant Ddu
  • Along the Way
  • Our Places (live by the River Ely)
  • In Its Time (radio edit)

Bel Blue - In Its Time (radio edit, official video).

It is a début album but I suggest that if I had told you otherwise then you might well have left the fact unquestioned. It is also independently released. I'm not, although a few may think otherwise, out to denigrate major labels. They have made a few steps to attempt to rescue their tattered corporate reputation but thus far only a fraction of what might be required, if that is indeed possible.
That is not what really excites me and makes me want to go to certain festivals. This sort of music is exactly the kind that does.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

I've been quiet for a reason...

I haven't written a post for ten days now, which is not actually particularly unusual. Indeed I am saving some festival commentary for the long evenings of autumn and there is more than one reason for that.
I have been making an inevitably incomplete long-list of the recordings - LPs, EPs and those that fall somewhere in between - that I think might be worthy of  inclusion in my end-of-year consideration. Needless to say there will be some yet to be released (I have a watch list for those too) but nevertheless the list is long. Longer indeed than ever before.
I have previously listened to each item all the way through at least twice after long-listing and before making the decisions and I intend to do the very same once again. With the list likely to reach an estimated 160 items, each with an average length approaching 40 minutes, that is set to be a Sisyphean task, at least in endeavour if not necessarily ultimate futility. One thing is guaranteed: it will, of necessity, be accompanied by really good music.
Some items will be well known to many and more to those that have read these pages. I hope that there will also be some surprises for everyone.

Here is one of the recent additions to the long-list:

Elizabeth Cook - Exodus Of Venus (Agent Love Records, 17 June 2016).
  • Exodus of Venus
  • Dyin'
  • Evacuation
  • Dharma Gate
  • Slow Pain
  • Broke Down in London on the M25
  • Methadone Blues
  • Cutting Diamonds
  • Orange Blossom Trail
  • Tabitha Tuder's Mama
Country, blues, soul, rock.
Please arrange these descriptors as you see fit depending on the song and your reaction at the particular time of listening. Needless to say her band are totally on the ball but not overpowering. The same is true of the production.
It even includes a paean to that English nightmare that is the M25 motorway (freeway is a word that it has rarely, if ever, deserved) 
that orbits London at a distance of approximately 20 miles from the centre!

Saturday, September 24, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 50 - Billie Marten - Writing of Blues and Yellows

Many have been hailing Billie Marten for some time now and with good reason I might add, based on a few EPs and her live performances. On the other hand I think that this can put unrealistic pressure of expectation for a debut LP on the shoulders of the artist in question. All the indications are that at least in this case it hasn't.
I listened to this start-to-finish three times yesterday evening and, as well as not having tired of it eventually I got tired myself instead and retired to bed. Sometimes I woke up briefly and the songs were still playing in my head. 

Billie Marten - Writing of Blues and Yellows (Victor/RCA, 2016).

What I have concluded is that it is the perfect record to spend an early autumn weekend at home with.
  • La Lune
  • Bird
  • Lionhearted
  • Emily
  • Milk & Honey
  • Green
  • Heavy Weather
  • Unaware
  • Hello Sunshine
  • Live
  • Teeth
  • Untitled
  • It's a Fine Day
It's far from easy to chose any clear favourites, which is a good sign too. The penultimate track, over six minutes long and with it's non-committed moniker, is rather interesting to my mind.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 49 - Lady Maisery - Cycle

'Cycle' is released on 28 October 2016 and the third LP from English folk-harmony trio Lady Maisery that comprises Hannah James (piano accordion and foot percussion), Hazel Askew (bells, concertina, harp) and Rowan Rheingans (banjo, fiddle). The first was 'Weave and Spin' in 2011. This is all the more remarkable because all three members are also members of at least one other active group, but that is how folk tends to work.
Lady Maisery records and performs songs and ballads, both old and modern. The name actually derives from an old Anglo-Scottish ballad Lady Maisry (it is Child Ballad 65) and it appears in a new guise on second LP Mayday (2013). The traditional variations are many and varied but the outcome is always far from happy.

The upcoming release will be tremendous musically but to be quite honest I want it on vinyl just for the art nouveau cover alone! It also a cycle of the seasons, which is very appropriate as we head into Autumn because it is in the middle.

Lady Maisery - Cycle (Rootbeat Records, 28 October 2016).
  • Sing for the Morning
  • Quiet Joys of Brotherhood
  • Honest Work
  • Season I - The Sun Returns
  • Bagpipers/Sheila's 70
  • A Father's Lullaby
  • Season II - Beautiful Leaves
  • So Far
  • Diggers' Song
  • Eostre
  • Order & Chaos
  • Land on the Shore
When people try to tell me that things were all far better in some unspecified former time then I'm inclined to treat that with dose of perspective reality. I think that, at least in some ways, music has become more accessible than before. One sense in which that is particularly true is that genres have broken barriers in a way that the old hegemony worked to, if possibly not deliberately so, stifle.

Monday, September 19, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 48 - Seth Lakeman - Ballads Of The Broken Few

This is not perhaps what you might have expected Seth Lakeman to do next. All I can say is that I am mighty glad that he did. I did wonder if his focus on music about or from the South West of England might have run it's course. Well now we don't know, at least for now.
Seth and his band toured the UK in 2015 with Devon trio Wildwood Kin, whose own music is acoustic Americana folk with much UK influence, as his primary supporting act. This is the musical development of that.

Seth Lakeman featuring Wildwood Kin - Ballads Of The Broken Few (Cooking Vinyl, 16 September 2016).

This is certainly no lash-up. The two acts seem to have bought the very best out of each other - that is Seth Lakeman was tempted into Appalachian territory and Wildwood Kin self-deployed in three-part-harmony heaven on nine of the eleven tracks. So who might buy into this vision? 
Ethan Johns produced the record, much of it was recorded as live takes, and that says a great deal. There is a single cover song - and a surprising one - for it is 'Anna Lee'. Written by Laurelyn Dossett it first appeared on Levon Helm's 2007 album 'Dirt Farmer'.

Ballad Of The Broken Few - live at Torre Abbey, Devon.
Some of the other videos were recorded in the rather ramshackle parts of Poltimore House in East Devon. As well as all that Wildwood Kin is recording its own début album but that's for another post...

Sunday, September 18, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 47 - Gitta de Ridder - Feathers

Feathers is the debut LP by Gitter de Ridder - now London-based but hailing from the Netherlands and between which she regularly commutes.

Gitta de Ridder - Feathers (Little Memories Records, 21 September 2016).

Following her earlier live performances and the Come Find Me EP (2015), which largely showcased finger-picked guitar and delicately sung, self-penned songs relating themes close to the artist comes a ten-track full length record that also includes her (almost entirely acoustic) four-piece band. If you have a burning need to file it in some pigeon-hole then modern folk will suffice, at least for now.
I'd rather leave it on a pile of things that are to be played on rotation.

This is a live version of 'Stay A Little Longer', recorded in London in May 2016.

I hesitate to say it but this could easily meet or indeed surpass that which I hoped a few fairly recent albums might have achieved if only (what I imagine to be) interference with the artists' intentions had not intervened at some stage or other. We shall see.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

New Music 2016 - Part 46 - three doses of garage rock

I feel like a change from narrating my thoughts on festivals because I haven't written a post on new music for what seems like an age (it's about four weeks in truth) and I mentioned female-fronted garage rock in relation to Seratones at End of The Road Festival 2016. This is about that sort of thing.

The first is the only one of the three albums released as of today but all three are by bands that I have seen live.

The band's latest LP is 'Get Gone' (Fat Possum Records, 6 May 2016).

Released tomorrow is this from the Californian duo of Lindsey Troy and Julie Edwards. It is their second full-length release following 'Sistrionix' (2013) and a change of label.

Deap Vally - Femejism (Cooking Vinyl, 16 September 2016).

Towards the end of the year Scottish duo Stina Tweedale and Cat Myers pitch in with their own second album. The first, released in 2014, was self-titled.

Honeyblood - Babes Never Die (FatCat Records, 4 November 2016). Vinyl, CD and d/l.

Babes Never Die - Honeyblood
  • Babes Never Die
  • Ready For The Magic
  • Sea Hearts
  • Love Is a Disease
  • Walking at Midnight
  • Justine, Misery Queen
  • Hey, Stellar
  • Cruel
  • Gangs

I imagine all the smallish people had a lot of fun playing the parts in this!

Three bands (two from the US and one from the UK) released on three different independent record labels (one from the US and two from the UK). Track listings, more details and live pictures to follow soon.

Monday, September 12, 2016

End Of The Road Festival - Part 2 - The Woods Stage

Two three-day music festivals in quick succession, as I recently attended, do two things. The minor one concerns sleep patterns. That is no revelation, it lasts just a few days and is basically tiredness compounded by a lack of routine.  The less obviously explicable one, and it doesn't kick in for about a week, is that it totally messes with all idea of what recorded music I wish to listen to.

This doesn't particularly predispose it towards or away from artists that I heard live; rather it induces some kind of restive state that requires me to jump from one artist or genre to another. This is handy in some ways as it helps with listening to new releases as well as old things. Streaming services are a boon here with almost limitless instant access to all kinds of music at the standard monthly charge. Equally likely however is that I will dive into my collection of vinyl and CDs for something that I had long forgotten (but was reminded about by hook or by crook) or something by an artist that I have just heard.
In some cases it is actually that I want to play it for real - from a physical thing - simply because I can and that is illustrated perfectly by this, an artist who certainly wasn't one of the stand-out acts when originally announced, unless one happened to know otherwise for she was then only about to release her début album. All credit to the EOTR team for this.

Margo Price, Woods stage, Friday afternoon.

That LP is Midwest Farmer's Daughter (Third Man Records, 2016). I'm making no secret that it will be up there amongst my albums of 2016. Now it is mid-September it is time to start thinking about such things and not least because there are so many to consider (some of which may not yet have even been released)!

One thing that I certainly have is a very poor record of watching main-stage headline acts at festivals. In that regard I was really rather diligent at EOTR 2016. There is a specific reason for that, at least in part. The genesis of this blog is inextricably linked with the Saturday headline act at End Of The Road and that is Bat For Lashes. To find that, ten years later, I am writing this today... well what happened there?
Before Saturday evening came around several people whose thoughts and integrity I very much respect had said that they were surprised that Bat For Lashes had been chosen to headline the main Woods stage when Ezra Furman was playing the Garden stage. Luckily I had at least seen that potential clash coming and headed it off at the pass by catching Ezra Furman play at Green Man a fortnight earlier. One thing I could reliably inform them that he was absolutely on-fire then. I was told a couple of hours later, when we reconvened in the Tipi tent, that he still was.
So was Natasha Khan.
Bat For Lashes, Woods stage, Saturday evening, End Of The Road Festival 2016.
There is another thing about all of this. It is not at all uncommon to that I come across an act that quite unknown or not blows me away playing live. I'm pleased to report that it has happened a number of times this summer. What is truly rare is an artist and song (both absolutely new to me) that do that simultaneously. It happened at Green Man 2016.

A topic of discussion in recent times is that, taken together, festivals apparently favour male artists over female ones and especially near the top of the bill, on any given stage. End Of The Road has certainly never been this way and this year only served to underline that.  I just mention this because having written and included pictures of seven EOTR 2016 acts, so far, all of them female fronted. Is that therefore an indication that I am guilty of sexism in my photography?