Friday, March 31, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 15 - The Secret Sisters - You Don't Own Me Anymore

It was only last weekend that I was discussing the impact that new music can have on me, particularly when blind-sided by something unknown and therefore quite unexpected. It has happened quite a few times now, most often at festivals, and it is a thrill that doesn't seem to diminish with each incidence thereof.
This is about one such act that I mentioned here and one that I am happy to report has resurfaced after a very challenging time that involved being dropped by their record label and various other soul-destroying events. This is one of the very few pictures I took then and long before all that happened to them:

The Secret Sisters - Garden stage, End Of The Road Festival, 5 September 2011.

I mention this because The Secret Sisters are back! Laura and Lydia Rogers had been writing songs in a desultory fashion and with no real expectations until towards the end of 2015 when Brandi Carlile coaxed them to play support for her in her native Pacific Northwest.
Then she 
told them that she was producing their third LP (that wasn't even written) in collaboration with her own co-producers the Hanseroth Twins.

This re-focussed the songwriting; the experiences of the previous few years becoming material for whole new set of songs and this is the result.

The Secret Sisters - You Don't Own Me Anymore (New West Records, 16 June 2017).

The Secret Sisters - You Don't Own Me Anymore
  • Tennessee River Runs Low
  • Mississippi
  • Carry Me
  • King Cotton
  • Kathy's Song
  • To All the Girls Who Cry
  • Little Again
  • You Don't Own Me Anymore
  • The Damage
  • Til It's Over
  • Flee as a Bird
That is the playlist and this is the opening song. I can't wait to see them live once again.

Friday, March 24, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 14 - Holly Henderson - Opium Drip EP

So this is another 2016 release that I missed. No surprise there I suppose, but what a fail this was. 
Holly Henderson has history as a guitarist known as 'Kitty Vacant' in all-female punk group 'The Sex Pissed Dolls'. I realise that this isn't getting me off to a promising start when it comes to enthusiasm for the artist, who hails from Maidstone, Kent. In terms local to here Maidstone evinces the same kind of sympathetic condescension as Trowbridge. Both are very forgettable county towns.

She decided to break away from the outright noise [although she now also plays with Los Angeles-based multinational hard rock outfit DORJA --- about which I shall mention more very soon] to record solo stuff that shows that she is a sensitive guitar player and
 also a fine songwriter too. The result is this, which she regards as an EP but at seven tracks and almost 33½ minutes in length is at least a mini-album. She is entirely responsible for the cover artwork too.

Holly Henderson - Opium Drip EP (self-released, 30 August 2016).

This is the playlist:
  • Breakdown
  • Life Has a Bug (I Fell Ill)
  • Side Streets
  • Your Hands
  • Cold Cold Heart
  • Opium Drip
  • The Game
A full LP is to follow soon and apparently the only track from the EP to appear on it will be the song 'Opium Drip'. If it is as good as the EP then it will be quite something.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 13 - Oka Vanga - Dance Of The Copper Trail

Thanks to many people, not least the band, this is the next in a series of posts about new music that has grabbed my attention for all the right reasons.

Oka Vanga - Dance Of The Copper Trail (Crazy Bird Records, 31 March 2017).

Oka Vanga - Dance of The Copper Trail:
  • The Wicken Tree
  • Capercaille
  • Ashes To The Wind
  • She Moved Through The Fair
  • Don't Let The Clouds Roll In
  • The Devil's Tide
  • Song of the River
  • Rose of the Hill
  • My Sweet Guitar
  • Out Of The Fire
  • This Train
The heart of this duo is husband and wife Angela Mayer and William Cox, the former from South Africa and the latter from London, but what you get here goes far beyond anything that those facts might begin to reveal. This is their second LP, following 'Pilgrim' of 2014 that was instrumental. If songwriting and singing talent was hidden under a bushel then, neither is the case any longer! This album also features Patsy Reid from Scotland on fiddle and Oliver Copeland on double bass. The variety in the songs is just about perfect.
'The Wicken Tree' is a new revelation of many an old theme; 'She Moved Through The Fair' is a song about as venerable as any that can be reliably traced - the air is likely of mediaeval origin and may have origins in the music of south-eastern Europe. Regarded as of Irish tradition numerous versions, yet still recognisable as such, are to be found throughout the folk canon of the British Isles and especially so in the Romany communities of Ireland as well as further afield, particularly in North American tradition.
The lyric is usually adapted to fit the place and circumstance so it is probably rather recent by comparison. It has been serially adopted by players and singers wheresoever they have found themselves, often far away from their native home, and this elective mutability is another key attribute of folk tradition.
You could 
sing about the hardships of cod fishing on the Newfoundland Banks when stuck in drought-stricken Oklahoma during the years of the dust bowl and depression, if only for the sake of remembrance. Most likely you would still sing but about things more immediate and pressing.

One of my particular favourites, given just a couple of listens through the whole album so far, is 'The Devil's Tide'.
I'm wondering if this has subconsciously to do with the fact that last week was the fiftieth anniversary of the disaster that was the wreck and foundering of the oil tanker 'Torrey Canyon' off the SW coast of Cornwall on 18 March 1967. The French called the shoreline pollution that the spill caused "la marée noire" - the black tide.  It is in fact about a quite different peril 
on the high seas - piracy -  and in this case a female pirate from Co. Cork, Ireland!

Here is the aforementioned 'She Moved Through The Fair' performed live:

There is also a song about the plight of coal miners 'Rose Of The Hill' and one about railways 'This Train', so that has most of my folk interests covered.
This is the variety you get here and it is well worth your time to explore it. Oka Vanga is well and truly added to my list of acts to see live.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Imaginary Appalachia - a road trip through Americana.

These posts are the hardest kind to write but, perhaps because of that, also some of the most interesting and rewarding to attempt.  I was never one for writing fiction when at school and I doubt that I could do it convincingly now.

We start this trip, the title of which is inspired by the title of his 2015 EP, with Colter Wall, a native of Saskatchewan, Canada. His first LP 'Colter Wall' is coming soon.
Colter Wall - Colter Wall (Young Mary's Records/Thirty Tigers, 12 May 2017).

This is a live version of 'Kate McCannon' from that LP, recorded in 2015. He supports Margo Price on her US  spring tour.

This next artist isn't from Appalachia either and is not so well known in her own right as perhaps the songs and certainly the artists for whom she has written or co-written. This collection is about the place, quintessential rural America, which she remembers as the home of her grandfather in Puxico, Missouri. It is all her own but the supporting musicians and the production (by her husband Mike Wrucke) are absolutely top class.

Natalie Hemby - Puxico (GetWrucke Productions, 13 January 2017).

In this next record we are finally approaching Appalachian territory; Rayna Gellert, a co-founder of Uncle Earl, is a traditional fiddle player with roots deep in mountain and string band territory.

Rayna Gellert - Workin's Too Hard (SoundStory Records, 20 January 2017).

She is also a fine songwriter and this, following 'Old Light: Songs From My Childhood and Other Gone Worlds' (2013), is the second release in her pursuit of that space. Her desire in this is that innovation need not be, and indeed should not be, stifled by the desire to preserve tradition. Both outcomes can co-exist to the benefit of all.
Of the seven tracks here five are written or co-written by Rayna Gellert. The other two are interpretations of the traditional songs 'Oh Lovin' Babe' and 'I'm Bound For The Promised Land'.

This next record is a paean to the value of the journey itself rather than the knowledge of its ultimate destination.

Julie Byrne - Not Even Happiness (Grapefruit Record Club, 13 January 2017).

If you like finger-picked acoustic guitar and contemplative lyrics, as I do, this might be right up your street. Originally from Buffalo NY she has travelled and lived across much of the continental USA in places as far removed from each other as New Orleans and Seattle. Sometimes she briefly heads to Europe too. If all goes as planned then our paths will cross in August as Julie Byrne plays Green Man Festival 2017.

The journey's end is this album, likely  the best known artist/album of the five as a result of her work with Carolina Chocolate Drops and then her 2015 LP 'Tomorrow Is My Turn', which was all covers and now this that is not.  Whilst the record was quite certainly planned, conceived and recorded before the denouement was known, the title and subject matter could hardly have been more prescient.

Rhiannon Giddens - Freedom Highway (Nonesuch Records, 24 February 2017).

Rhiannon Giddens playing fretless banjo, Stage 1, Cambridge Folk Festival  -  1 August 2015.

Well that's it for this post. Five albums, one soon to be released and four already released in 2017 and we're only just approaching the Ides of March!
There is certainly no shortage or variety of new music that a little exploring can't uncover. The only problem with trips like this is that as soon as one is over the bug bites again. It is time to start planning the next.
The question is should it be Antipodean or Scandinavian?

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 12 - Threaded - Of What We Spoke

First off,  this is their début album from 2015, so not 2017. The reason I am including it here is that having managed to avoid discovering it for eighteen months or so and I'm guessing I might not be the only one.
Secondly, I really like it and I feel that it is too good not to share. Suffice to say 'Threaded' is another act on my list of priorities to see play live.

All classically trained at the Birmingham Conservatoire, Threaded comprises:
  • Jamie Rutherford - vocals, guitar
  • Ning-ning Li - violin
  • Rosie Bott - clarinet
Their music is contemporary folk, both tunes and songs, not least for the inclusion of clarinet. As far as I am aware these are all new compositions but if I'm wrong about that please let me know.  This is the track list:
  1. The Living Room
  2. Left Off
  3. Captain Markham
  4. A Secret Charm
  5. Dreamfire
  6. Mr. & Mrs. Jones
  7. Drafted
  8. The Courtyard
  9. Flat 71
  10. Return to Penpole Wood
  11. Crosse/Parrack
  12. You Will Always Be The One
This is a taste of what to expect.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

New Music 2017 - Part 11 - All Our Exes Live In Texas - When We Fall

Sometimes, maybe it is that time of year, I awake to the idea of Spring, albeit as yet unrealised, and some ideas of silliness that befit the March Hare. This is exactly that - the band name is stupendously unhinged - and  it comes from Australia;  Sydney for the most part.
This is just pure delight --- unadulterated and un-adult-rated. reckons that it is rock while reckons it is pop and that only shows that it's not so obvious that it can be pigeonholed. I'll just say that it's a whole lot of fun because it is easy to take music too seriously and there is no real need to do that. The album art effortlessly rolls back four decades and then some, into the bargain.

All Our Exes Live In Texas - When We Fall (self-released/Whirlwind Entertainment LLC, 3 March 2017).

When We Fall - All Our Exes Live In Texas:
  • The Devil's Part
  • I'm Gonna Get My Heart Cut Out
  • Boundary Road
  • When the Sun Comes Up
  • Tell Me
  • Parking Lot
  • Candle
  • Sailboat
  • Oh Lover of Mine
  • Don't Cry
  • Childhood Home
  • Cadillac
Modern folk-harmony anyone. If anything at all it has echoes of The Pipettes (at least to me) and on the other hand it is rather less cynical. Does it really matter when it sounds this good and that Pipettes album is now ten years old? Of course it doesn't!

These acoustic sprites are:

Hannah Crofts  ---  vocals, ukulele
Georgia Mooney  ---  vocals, mandolin
Elana Stone  ---  vocals, accordion
Katie Wighton  ---  vocals, guitar

Just something to make the coming week seem a little better and remind one that there is always so much new music out there waiting to be discovered, enjoyed and championed.