After Ricky and I climbed down from the view, it was dark and the festival was over. Placebo had left the stage. We walked onto the space where we had both just played. Where the hordes of people had just stood was now a carpet of cups and bottles, with the smell of ashes, sweat, french fries and ripped-up dirt.
We trudged through it with no snow-shoes, wondering who is going to pick this up before tomorrow, when it starts all over again. Immigrant workers, punching, punching, punching sticks into these cups at a rate of 2, cups and six euros an hour?
I remember when it seemed like staying in a hotel was a huge luxury. Now the fists pound on the door. Thwok, thwok, thwok, thwok, thwok. Shoot that heroin, my friend in the next dressing room. There's always somewhere out there a little less well off, isn't there? Bombs could be dropping, I could be OD-ing: there are much worse things out there than not getting your solitude.
Solitude is a fucking modern phenomenon, anyway. They didn't have it back before the 1 s. It was invented by da Vinci. Every famous singer I meet gives me that knowing 'you sucker' sympathetic look when you tell them you're been on the road for six weeks and don't have much of a break for the next six months.
But they can't do much to help you. They know you know the way they knew when they were that sucker. That's what the wink they give you says: "Then where are you headed? Then back to the States? Then Japan? Then Europe for another while? Good, good. New single coming out? This is the push, you know! Someday you won't have to be this sucker.
We all talk about how we can't complain, because it's Just Wrong, when there are bands in vans playing to 12 people and children starving in China. And we all sit there, mumbling black ego humour to ourselves, cooking at a slow roast in the dressing-room trailer behind the tent, triumphantly safety- pinning another green continent to our electric-blue leotards.
Grinning that toothless grin of empty accomplishment. Stealing jealous sideward glances as the boxers around us punch into the air. This psychotic brilliance comes courtesy of Box Codax, otherwise known as Alexander Ragnew that voice!
Locking them together in one time and place proves impossible, but taking each separately allows us to Scarecrow - Dominic Waxing Lyrical - Woodland Casual (CD together some sort of puzzle. Although the simple question of how they met offers up more questions. So far, our rule has been: maximum one day for one song.
Most of it is done on the road, in unreal places. Nicholas: "Only God and Ragnew know that. I can only speak for myself, 'We have been to the Swiss Alps, the German Alps and also the French Alps together' I took a bus to Glasgow, even though I hate public transportation - but somehow I felt it was important to go. Anyway, after my arrival we started recording in his flat's closet, out of pure curiosity.
His flatmate got a bad headache from our creations so we had to stop. All this is part of the incarnation of Box Codax, and in fact some of those songs are on the album as well.
A well-oiled friendship is the perfect start to a musical relationship. It really sucks. But I know how to copy and paste. Their influences prove difficult to pinpoint " I would say all good and bad music has an influence on Box Codax - from Bach to Bananarama, ' Nicholas tells mebut with music this free and odd it hardly matters. I'm left feeling good and strange about this thing they're doing and, short of swimming with otters myself, there's nowhere else I should go.
There's nothing sexier than someone who can't be saved, or so we say. Her opening words were cigarette smoke exhaled on visitor-room-partition glass. There's nothing cuter than love poems carved with a flick- knife. I guess it was love, I guess. I look at the only photo.
Three girls in high- school-blouse gang colours, two staring through you with cold imperiousness, the other gazing resentfully at something off camera - all carrying coiled ropes, all wearing white boots. The Whyte Boots. Man, The Whyte Boots were so tight you couldn't slide a switchblade between 'em.
No one ran where Rhonda, Page and Kathy ran. She knew. She knew what she was getting herself into. The Whyte Boots only got one single out before the big house called. She did take my Bobby away.
Puttin' medown. Showin' everybody his ring. Well, I thought I'd like to scare her a little. But I never meant to hurt. You can win! Get her! Push her to the ground! The aggressors' shrill screams are like knives and cat-claws and Reign In Blood solos. Where The Shangri-Las skirted expertly around big, There's nothing cuter than love poems carved with a flick-knife unsaid Bads - parental rejection, teen pregnancy, and even harrowingly rape-The Whyte Bootsjust stuck the knife in quick and let the remorse bleed.
Obviously, 'Nightmare' was a huge hit. Go magazine ran a tour diary with the band. In it, Page, Kathy and Rhonda giddily recounted shopping trips, swimsuit fashion shows and hunky army guys. It didn't read at all like the words of the cobra-eyed waifs in 'Nightmare'. This couldn't be the same girls - could it? It wasn't. The Whyte Boots never existed. The real Whyte Boots were Connecticut-born Lori Burton nee Dolores Diana Squegliathe wife of a recording engineer - deemed too 'ethnic' to be a pop singer - and Pam Sawyer, an Essex housewife who relocated to New York with her musician husband.
Through their marital connections, the pair met and began writing songs - penning A-sides for Lulu, The O'Jays, Patti Labelle and more. It worked. Mercury signed Lori, releasing a stomping, soulful LP, Breakout.
The album led to a dream deal with Motown, but the label's grinding bureaucracy stalled their output. Lori was the first to drop out, disillusioned, concentrating instead on raising hertwo children.
Breakout was reissued last year by Rev-Ola, cementing its reputation as a forgotten gem. The single's background story is fascinating, but the real enigma in 'Nightmare' is the vicious fantasy that the song conjures, reining the listener in as a key component: the voyeur, the part of the make- believe that makes it work. They were standing around me. The distant, untouchable Whyte Boots -too fast to live, too young to die, too good to be true.
Justin Timberlake 'Cry Me A River' Mega-famous popstar does creepy revenge fantasy against ex-girlfriend and somehow gets the world not only on his side but more in lust with him than before. The band's comedy- yob-punk credentials were raised when Bob Geldof starred in the movie. However, by the time their next album came out 's The Final CutI knew that this wasn't the sort of album I'd buy.
Pink Floyd were like Supertramp and Asia and Yes; file under 'wrong haircut'. But somehow, I became aware that there was an earlier, odder, gentler, slimmer, better Floyd. We listened to 'Scarecrow' and 'The Gnome' and tried to replicate the effect with a cheap tape recorder and his sister's violin. We were aware of the hills and fields and wheat and sheep around us, but they suddenly looked and sounded and smelled and tasted different.
Since the strongest substance we had to hand was cider, the record must have been powerful stuff indeed. I got the solo albums, but maintained a disdain for post-Syd Floyd. Pink Floyd, in any meaningful sense, had ceased to be with the final notes of 'Jugband Blues' on Saucerful Of Secrets.
There was a sense of wilful otherness about being a Syd fan; the whole damaged outsider schtick, like being into Roky Erickson or Skip Spence or Brian Wilson or Daniel Johnston. But stabbing through the madness was this truth, this knowledge, the feeling that Syd knew something we didn't.
Even at the bleakest moments, there was always a smile curling at the corner of his mouth. But there was also a paradox. Syd didn't want to be a star any more; moreover, he didn't want to have been a star.
The obsessives who knew where he lived, who followed him to the Cambridge shops, who pretended to be from the gas board to get past his front door; they were as dangerous to his wellbeing as Mark Chapman had been to Lennon. It was OK to listen to his music, but to take it any further was to contribute to the pain. But since the pain had, in part, spawned the music.
It was tough. Tom Stoppard's new play, Rock 'n'Roll, crams Cambridge, Prague, sex death, a couple of revolutions and lots of smashed vinyl into its two acts. But hovering over the whole thing is the spirit of Syd. He's first seen singing 'Golden Hair'; he later appears offstage, fat, bald and buying loo roll. One of the last scenes involves a tutorial about Plutarch, dealing with the death of the god Pan. Sheffield Yorkshire, UK. A quartet of music loving Victorians Thee Reverend, Tiffin The Tea Boy, Missy Tassles and The Baron stare with incredulity at the police phonebox that stands before them emanating a mysterious and slightly unnerving sound.
As if by magic The Doctor appears from within: "Children Of Victoriana, come with me to the 2 1 st Century in search of garage, surf, electronica, art-punk and indie-pop. On arrival in said 2 1 st Century, our aforementioned foursome quickly form rock'n'roll and pop'n'stuff type groups with names like Chuck and The Motherfuckers.
Quickly realising that no one in their right mind is going to offer them a recording contract, the gang rapidly set about devising fiendishly clever schemes to commit their ideas and talent to vinyl and in some cases, CDs too! And as if this impressive range of products and services were not enough to earn them multiple knighthoods the next time The Queen has a birthday, Thee SPC also work tirelessly protecting the good name and cultural heritage of Sheffield not just an IvorNovello- shaped statuette with a plaque reading 'Human League' -or a velvet-lined box set of fine cutlery -or a gang of lads singing about mobile phones, acne and ASBOs by releasing kicking compilations 'I couldn't give a flying shite.
It's our music that's the important thing - and we know we're right good! Hats off and for any Timelords reading this, scarves too, please to Thee SPC and their ever-present spirit of independency. It was cheap! Go and do it! Vive la DIY! Our fabulous four have been delighting the gentlefolk of the Sheffield and Hallamshire district and beyond for some three years now with quality releases from a diverse roster including the likes of: Monkey Swallows The Universe, Champion Kickboxerand Smokers Die Younger.
A fantastic acoustic five-piece who write beautiful and beguiling songs about love, jealousy, apathy, imaginary friends and pirates. A Half-Man Half- Biscuit-dunking four-piece who have attracted hate mail and derision after naming their group after one of their favourite songs: Oliver 19 -vocals: "It's daft. I mean, that Preston bloke doesn't get grief for naming his crap band after a Morrisseysong, does he? Support Your Indie Music Store www. Despite his inebriated state, he belted out the words as though singing this ode to his city was an honour of the highest order.
This is the effect that Chicago has on people. Whether you've been here your whole life, or whether you're searching for a new place to call home, Chicago has an enigmatic hc5ld that is undeniable. Just as this city impelled Johnson to write a song about it all those years ago, there is rock skewed with the strutting arrogance of rock 'n' roll.
Their self-released record, Showbiz Witch, got them some recognition in renowned Chicago based DIY bible Punk Planet, and they just took their confrontational live show on tour around NYC, threatening to fight any East Village hipster kids who dared not to dance. Sterling's prowling and cacophonous epic instrumentals could soundtrack a Dario Argento movie. Featuring hard-hitting drummer Tony Lazzara Milemarker, Atombombpocketknife and local underground celebrity Al Burian Make Believe were playing a Christian youth venue when their drummer wrung out his shorts on the audience a well of talent in Chicago's musical underground clamouring to pay the place its due.
A couple of weeks back, I saw Pit-er-Pat play at a friend's surprise birthday party in the dimly lit confines of guitarist Rob D's attic space. Fairy lights littered the floor and ceiling while Fay's moody vocals seared with propulsive drums and clinking keyboards rendered the audience silent. Meanwhile, Mannequin Men make galvanic, mischievous punk basswho writes legendary punk rock fanzine Burn Collector, this quartet moulds the heavy metal meanderings of Slayer into precise and terrifying soundscapes.
Six piece noiseniks Coughs make irascible and jarring avant big beat that sounds like Lightning Bolt covering The Raincoats. A woman screams demonically while a maelstrom of trumpet, and guitar reverberates to create a sound akin to a glass greenhouse collapsing into a million shards. I spent as much time on those as the music.
I formulated lots of questions about aesthetics and identity, about fashion and the attempt at least to control how you're perceived, express yourself without the media rerouting and diluting it.
None of the things you mentioned had anything to do with why we started Dandi Wind," read the reply, and I was ashamed. OK, then. I know a good angle when I see one. Let's roll. DAY: A sealed room where the rules of nature don't apply, where there's no such thing as an inanimate object, the supernatural is just the far side of the spectrum, detritus flickering across the floor in stop-motion, haunted frames where our heroine has her hair pulled by telekinetic wires.
The music is auto-destructive, feverish synth shivers and beats that fake the sound a rivet shot into an iceberg might make. DAY: A black catsuit in digital light, pixellating as the.
They underscore faint heavy metal impulses with tight, meticulous drumming and guitar and bass lines that swell and explode with each layer of sound. Each member of this trio plays his instrument with such ease; closely pre-empting each others' moves with the heightened awareness that only comes from genuine camaraderie.
A month or so ago, I saw Make Believe play their last show for a while at the Fireside - Chicago's bowling alley turned punk rock venue - before their drummer, Nate Kinsella, went off to prison for two months in Oklahoma.
Make Believe were playing a Christian youth venue when Kinsella wrung out his shorts on the audience. As unhygienic as this may be, it hardly warrants a prison sentence; but indecent exposure is punishable with up to 1 years in prison in this Bible Belt state. Make Believe's bristling and danceable pop tinged indie rock would graft a release onto Discord if they were a DC band. I was out at Chicago's Empty Bottle the other night for an Erase Errata show, a couple of days after sending the first draft of this article off to Plan B.
Supporting Erase Errata were guitar-drum duo Voltage, whose instruments resemble some kind of advanced science project. Guitarist Todd Bailey and drummer Erik Schwartz whose album Building The Bass Castle Vol 1 came out on Flameshovel last year construct these Franken- instruments themselves, playing a vacuum-based synthesiser controlled by a modified guitar and a multi-faceted drum kit utilising a glockenspiel and battery-operated motors.
Voltage warranted writing about; luckily I was Scarecrow - Dominic Waxing Lyrical - Woodland Casual (CD to add them before my words became condemned to print.
Yet over the coming months, Chicago will undoubtedly reveal more of its shimmering musical talent in some dank punk rock basement, while the El train rattles overhead.
No disaffected yawn of a vocal for Dandi, no period Euro stylings or clipped computerised phrasing - she chants and wails, screams up her throat, recalling nothing so much as the protest pacesetters of a street demo. She turns hipsters to Cro-Magnons with a rabid anti- cheerleader stomp, voodoo sounds like stones hitting the sides of APCs, riot-police panic attacks, a seared burger on a fast-food hotplate. Dandi Wind. Hyper-alienated digital primitivism meets Brit Grit social activism for snuff muzak afterparties everywhere.
The popped gum-bubble of late capitalism. I hope we got that clear. If you do not understand this simple rule of thumb then you haven't lived, my friend, and you'll probably never understand up-and-coming sludge titans Humanasaur.
More's the pity, because this West Philadelphia band play the truest, purest filth rock since King Buzzo crawled out of an Aberdeen ditch and belched "Yeah, I'm depressed sometimes," admits Mike, flatly. Me too. The raw honesty of the lyrics reminds me of early Eighties hardcore like Black Flag, Blight and Flipper. Rich is flattered: "Some of the best music ever made. Are they happy with the way it turned out? Humanasaur's debut CD Bedlam Easy Listening is one bleak motherfucker, only made approachable by the way in which it seems to offer a slimy paw to the listener as if to plead for a minute or two of your time, before coughing stinky vapours into your face and regaling you with uplifting tales of abjection and woe.
I wanted to interview Humanasaur Rich on drums and vocals, Mike on guitar because their music gave me the impression of having been made by good-hearted people with few pretensions and enormous reserves of creativity unrestricted by their lack of means. Rich's explanation of the Humanasaur concept tells of an epiphany derived from the most innocent of circumstances.
I like the way you call us 'filthy' as a compliment. Is the visual side of things important to you? Exceptions are the drawing of a devil in a dress by Erick Waugh, and the photo on the disc by Ruth Beth Allen. I also wanted to get out from behind the drums and do some hari-kari, psycho frontman stuff.
Rob got Steve in as a replacement. Steve brought in Tim on bass. Steve also drums for a kickass band called Scribbler. Lastly, if nature calls and you don't answer, you'll be full of shit.
Peace, love, and annihilation. Lines of a story trail over the front and back in bold. No really- it is: the niece of drummer Peter Nolan. Can you imagine their conception of a cradle rocking? So, the four songs here arequieterthanany otherthing they have recorded, quieter than last year's Future Crayon album. More silence is let in and more corners are touched in the process. Yes, it could be a baby's hanging mobile, but one with binaural mics connected to a manipulated cassette player, and of hometowns and origins.
They make use of every difference in each place they visit, finding a balanced sense of identification with others: there is a global, networked community of noise-makers thatthe trio acknowledge and take inspiration from. And this is twinned with a willingness to take risks with the unfamiliar. Only one track on For Sada Jane has been made in their traditional formation. New rhythmic and textural ideas brought into the fold, the result is a gentle provocation - completely outside the sphere of noise in What do you want, the creator or what he creates well-thumbed ephemera replacing fuzzy, textured shapes.
I'm glad this is the sound of The Magik Markers now. This version of them makes more sense. Listen again and repeat: this album is not going to brazenly destroy like their others, nor is its inclination to stun, as with their performances. These songs earmark their third state being drawn out and searched: that of lateral tonal experiments and whispers and shifted arrangements-theirchronicle of recording at home. When we meet in London, their stories are all about displacement, but more importantly about finding newthings in new places, which they channel in and out of the music which changes each night.
Fetishism of the guitar: isn't that a dull idea now? Is anyone scared? Could you look at the fretboard and see something that isn't there? Is this fetishism really sadistic? With The Magik Markers, such questions aren't worth answering: brutality is but a small fraction of what they toy with. If you choose, point at reference points: Eighties hardcore. Is it necessary? Where it stands now is thus: there is so much free music being made and exalted. And then noise festivals and all- dayers and tapes and tours in faraway places.
What makes The Magik Markers' variation important is that any notion of indulgence is eradicated by their openness -their output plan b 1 That anyone can attempt it is not even part of the equation. Those Scarecrow - Dominic Waxing Lyrical - Woodland Casual (CD remind me of the things The Magik Markers do.
In 's 'Conical Intersect', Clark carved a hole all the way through an abandoned 17th Century apartment block in central Paris. The hole is tornado-shaped, spiralling out. Exploding through various layers of yellowing wallpaper and bricks, Clark makes impossible views of the city available, and every angle is rich and beautiful.
He had good words to say, about it being an esoteric hidden work in the history of inaccessible projects. And that there is no one vantage point that gives you a sense of depth and complexity of it - it's almost undocumentable. This sliced space is a physical equivalent of what Elisa, Leah and Pete do. There is a fierce, shared preoccupation with decay and the messiness of urbanity: an obsession that links all free musicians.
Like Clark, they're crafting temporal visions out of voids; and building anti-monuments to them. All varieties of uninhibited rock rush mashed into just over 30 minutes of inspirational brilliance and beauty.
And 'inspirational' is the key word. With a little luck, this here document will fall into the hands of those unwittingly seeking a key to their own creativity, to the noise caught between every ache and throb of their not-yet-brave but hopeful hearts. For Sada Jane has the potential to be the Kiss Alive!
I'm serious, you fucker. Don't doubt me. Don't ever doubt me. The Magik Markers don't make granite-faced, indifferent noise, fuck that, they make rock music which is exhilarating and free, rock music that makes you cry at how liberated it makes you feel, rock music accessible enough to demand your participation. For Sada Jane isn't just important for what it is - though of course, what it is will leave you weeping joyous tears and twitching in a pool of your own cum - it's important for what it represents.
That is: the floodgates bursting open, a tidal wave of ecstatic soul, the final victory of the repressed and the possibility of this shining alternative universe tearing a hole in our own and pouring through unchecked, obliterating our enemies and establishing a new order of the ages. They might mingle in the same circles as Sunburned Hand and their unwashed, uninspired ilk, but the Gods may descend from Olympus to taste mortal sweat once in a while.
Would you begrudge them that? But wait, fuck, they're not Gods. Olympus has fallen. They're us. Elisa Ambrogio, Leah Quimby and Pete Nolan are you and me, standing on the corner with a can of Ubik in our hands, waiting for the signal, except the Markers got tired waiting and started spraying without anyone's permission. Magik Markers make music in defiance of the demiurgic forces that would enslave us out of blind bitterness.
Ignore them, and stay shackled. Of NY nip. THtty a ir. The fact that most of Turner's sentences end with an infectious giggle is indicative of the enthusiastic way in which the Seattle band have sustained themselves for 1 8 years.
These days, Turner, drummer Dan Peters, bassist Guy Maddison and frontman Mark Arm actually enjoy being Mudhoney, now that it's no longer a full-time occupation. I mean, right now, I'm looking at the dinner table and there's 1 5 friends sitting together in an Indian restaurant, drinking wine. And we're about to play a show, " sighs a satisfied Turner.
The night that we speak, the band had just finished soundchecking for what turned out to be a triumphant London show at Shepherd's Bush Empire. The following day, they played All Tomorrow's Parties where they were honoured with the task of curating a day. Often regarded as grunge slackers who never lived up to their true potential, Mudhoney's latest album, the sprawling, acerbic, Under A Billion Suns, has seen their fortunes turn around in terms of critical acclaim.
Turner's trademark fuzz guitar and atonal slashes burn brightly alongside a cleverly orchestrated horn section. Combined with Arm's nihilistic lyrics, the album's a dense, apocalyptic creation. However, with a batch of solo acoustic shows under his belt as a side-project, Turner rarely tussles with the prospect of progressing into muso territory. But you can't help but get better and, by playing so many acoustic shows by myself, I know I have done.
With Mudhoney, I try and forget most of my knowledge. I just try and dumb it down, and I don't mean that cynically. It's great to get lost in the sound and not think about it too much. Shortly afterwards, relieved of their contract with Reprise Records, bassist Matt Lukin amicably left the band. We outstayed our welcome, basically. So that wasn't really an issue. Me and Mark did the Monkeywrench record and started a Sonics cover band, but we just didn't really think too much about Mudhoney- we had to get over the loss.
It was briefly suggested by Mark that we change our name, but that just seemed silly. Getting Guy [Maddison] in on bass was a breath of fresh air. Mudhoney is something that we all believe in enough to make it work. We dug in our heels a little bit and thought, 'We don't owe anybody anything, we can still play and it's not our career anymore'.
That was a big change too. When I'm working these days, I'm generally a gardener, although I also sell rare records on eBay. We've all being doing a lot more music since it stopped being ourjob," he chuckles mischievously. I definitely felt freed up the year that we all went back to work. It's quite a handy position considering the band is back on the label. However, jet lag and tour fatigue have left him a little dazed and it's only when I broach the subject of All Tomorrow's Parties that he lights up.
They're two bands who I don't think have played out of their own town. Being able to bring them to 36 plan b the UK and watch people get into them was a total joy.
You have an affection for every band that's playing, and a lot of them know each other too, so there isn't the suspicion that sometimes happens at festivals. Like if you've got The Fall right next to Coldplay, or something. I guess the only regret that I have is that The Flesh Eaters played the slot that they were assigned, because they were downstairs and they were on in between Black Mountain and us.
So a lot of people stayed upstairs because they didn't want to lose their spot on the floor. Maybe his sneering, sarcastic way on record isn't too far removed from his cynical worldview. With Under A Billion Suns, much was made of his politicised lyrics - despite the fact that he cut his teeth on the notoriously principled hardcore punk scene of the early Eighties.
However, it would seem that the most noticeable difference on Mudhoney's last two albums is the freedom with which the band now experiment musically. It's as if their kinship with Comets On Fire has moved from mutual admiration to a point where Mudhoney could tentatively be termed Krautrock. When I put this to him, Arm laughs, clearly not impressed. Krautrock is one of those catch-all phrases that is somewhat meaningless but also defines some bands from a particular country at a particular time.
It's like the catch-all phrase 'grunge'. All it means to me is that English is a second language. Don't Look Back series of concerts last September, where they performed their 1 album Superfuzz Bigmuff, confirmed that they've stamped their sloppy, boisterous footprints onto plenty of people's psyches over the years. Not so much from a musical point of view but a lyrical point of view, I was thinking, 'Oh my god, I was an idiot'! Like 'Need', I just can't handle that at all.
It's just so melodramatic and it's not funny or poetic. It's just stupid. But no one was really analysing the lyrics of 'Here Comes Sickness' - thank god! Check my new book - ET] If Arm is slightly embarrassed by his past, there's no need to be. We meet them after a long day of interviews, and when they complain about boring journalists, we decide to arm ourselves by finding out what they least want to be asked and swiftly deleting it from our little notepad.
So what has been the most boring question that you've been asked? A unanimous grizzly roar: " 'What are your influences? We've thought of inventing one cause there're always bands making up these outlandish stories. Is your music related to a kind of search for authenticity?
Ed: "I kinda like it to be truthful, yeah. We have plenty of amusing anecdotes that are for real so we don't have the need to come up with fake ones. I am so sick of all these freaky people talking about being raised by dwarves or whatever. Everybody kept saying how much they hated all the hipsters coming in Hipsters say that. It'sso retarded - it's like saying, 'I hate that I see a lot of myself all of a sudden. It's just a matter of who is able to pay for the property.
A very ordinary English gentlemen who stands in a street corner in Seventies Harlem and shouts, "Nigger"? Today, the bravest man on earth would stand in a coffee shop in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and shout, "Hipster! But a mere mention of it to Brooklyn-based Grizzly Bear got us off to a bad start.
We didn't immediately like Grizzly Bear's music. But the name keptsurfacing. We saw Tyler Coburn's delicately beautiful video for the band's fragile ballad 'Deep Sea Diver', and then a casual Myspace acquaintance turned out to be the band's French manager. By the time we finally gave the band a proper listen, 'Deep Sea Diver' sounded so familiar, both heart-rending and cosy, that we thought it was surely used in some super-dramatic ending sequence on The OC, even though we could find no proof of this.
We got our hands on the Grizzlies' debut album, Horn Of Plenty, and devoured it over a late- winter weekend in Devon, where the old woods acted as a perfect stage for their trippy lo-f i and cracked, cocoa-bitter and honey-sweet folk. Ed: "I wouldn't self-advertise, but if anything, being gay, I'd say I'm a gipster. Album) constantly get called a gay band, even though it's just me, but people assume since I wrote all the songs for the first album that we all are.
Yellow House is far shinier and sparklier, more outdoors-joyous than bedroom- introverted, if only because of the vocal harmonies, shared writing duties, extra electronic and analogue instrumentation and lavish production contributed by Dan and the two Chrises. The interview is cut short by a Vashti Bunyan gig, which is overwhelming -too pretty, too dreamy, too delicate, like it belongs to a totally different era, before folk could freak or lie or do anything remotely dark or sinister.
We step out into a warm summer evening. The band are sat on the pavement next to Owen Final Fantasy, to whom we're courteously introduced. Owen: "So you're Pil and Galia, huh? When I read the magazine, I imagined you as old and ugly, but you're cute. Owen: " I was really excited about doing the interview with Plan B, because I thought the magazine was serious and passionate about music.
Then the interview was all about dishing the dirt. Oh dear They' re playing a gig. It starts to kick in with 'Dreams', where the density of sound information released transforms the city into a frame around them and traps us in its landscape.
We rush through their apocalyptic romances and humanist laments. There's a purity in 'Little Whirl', while 'Young Liars' is fuller and riper than ever, like gospel fit to burst: terrifying testifying. Then 'Wolf Like Me'. Beyond awesome. The band are unleashed, vocalist Tunde Adebimpe jumping, throwing shapes- and the world doing likewise. Then 'Ambulance', and I come close to having someone call me one. Something's wrong with me. I'm leaking water from my eyes.
There's no need to have any allegiance to a style or anything that's happened before, but to feel free to mix it up and to see what the true nature of my journey is.
I don't think there are any rules. It's a more coherent work after the patchy but the patches were verdant oases in which you could live and thrive first album proper, Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes, but it probably still doesn't quite fulfil the promise shown by the 'Young Liars' EP.
David Bowie's on it, if that matters to you. When I ask about it, they're laconic, rolling out a prepared answer they've clearly said a million times before. They continue to sing about the political and the personal. They continue to mix relatively abstract avant-rock backdrops with totally human dual-part harmonies.
They've expanded from a trio to a five-piece, with drummer Jaleel Bunton and bassist Gerard Smith recently joining them as members proper. They're currently in love with the new Liars record. The form most influential in my life: the sonata, with its different movements and kaleidoscopic narratives. I also am very influenced by the musical rhythms of poetry: the tortuous narratives of the metaphysics like Donne and Marvell, the unsparing eye of Larkin, the visceral beauty of Hughes.
Bands I grew up to and were seminal for me never affected my music: The Go-Betweens and The Chameleons have stayed with me but do not influence my writing. My biggest musical influences? The band I play with. They bring a panoply of different styles, references and influences to bear on the songs I write.
Massively talented. They generally have a free rein when it comes to what they play. The strangest gig? Being arrested by the police en masse five musicians, a dancer and two shade-wearing faux bouncers for performing on the roof of Ladbrokes on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh.
At the police station they searched us and I was mortified that they discovered that I was wearing a bra. I tried to explain that it was to unsettle the audience… They kept us for the maximum six hours and the Procurator Fiscal banned us from appearing on rooftops for seven years.
Are any of the songs on the album autobiographical, e. All of the songs are based on personal experience. But I would say that they have autobiographical elements. I would say that all the biographical elements are influenced by recurring themes.
BM understands that you live in Edinburgh. Music Maker page for Etta Baker. The first album, Mercy, sought to address the blast and the random manner in which some died and others lived. InPretty World offered meditations on gratitude, obligation and beauty. Now comes the final part, an exploration of the price of forgiveness and the cost of clinging to anger, told through songs that pivot around the homeless and helpless, and of love found, lost and held together with tape.
On the bluesy title track we meet a field hand hoeing cotton "for the rest of my life" like the father that walked out on his family in despair, Mennonite tells of a religious kid from Mexico who, wearing his new 'pearl snap shirt', found love dressed in a "short short skirt' in a bar room and left the Lord behind, while, Palestine II and its prequel Palestine I unfolds the tale of a marriage that began with teenage passion in a travelling preacher's tent and has had to hold together through a tragic accident, hard times and history repeating itself with their daughter running away "with the boy selling bibles.
Speaking more than singing his narratives, Baker's dust and gravel voice variously recalls John Prine, Dylan, Steve Earle, Tom Waits and John Trudell, his sparsely arranged American songbook music hewing to southern backwoods folk disarmingly beautiful on the two step fiddle call and response swayer Who's Gonna Be Your Man and Texan country in the vein of Van Zandt and Kristofferson.
Opening with a brief snatch of Dixie, sung in the round by a female voice its 'look away' refrain returning to bring bitter resonance to the dark night guilty secrets of Moon and closing on the poignant Snow with its metaphor about being lost and emotionally frozen in a drift of your own making, it is both melancholic and life-affirming.
It's hard not to be touched by the snapshots of the disenfranchised and losers who populate Signs, by the Waits-like Angel Hair where, on Christmas Eve, the singer recalls a fatal traffic accident on black ice a decade earlier, or by the unwanted pregnancy of Not Another Mary and the girl who "could not say I love you too. But, at the end of the day, between the tears, Baker reminds you that, even if you're only getting by, life is worth persevering with and far better than the alternative.
When musicians appear at one of our Mr Kite Benefits, I often ask about what they are listening to and who they would recommend. So, you might imagine that his ears are well tuned to fine music. So, it was that I was recommended to Sam Baker. I believe Bob Harris also had his ear bent about Sam too.
Indeed, if your ears don't get wrapped around his music soon, I'll be mightily surprised. Guests like Kevin Welch and Joy Lynn White lend their support on this first record suggesting that he's already attracting the attention of the great and good.
But, it's the music that is the star attraction. From the opening track, 'Waves', with its vivid imagery of walking down to the sea and writing a loved one's name in the sand just to see it washed away, I'm hooked.
Sam's lyrics are painting pictures like this all the way. From 'another bunch of boys, another blue sky' as he contrasts a baseball game and a war zone to the car 'full of baby junk' that sit on the backseat of a homeless mum's car.
There are 'barbers with no nose', 'drunk cops', men 'in their underwear drinking beer', 'skinny boys with their rifles fighting door to door' and characters galore in his stories In fact, there is so much colour in his lyrics that the one word song titles are enough.
Hear one song and you'll be drawn in to hear the rest. Sam's voice adds to that colour with its gravely lived-in drawl reminding you of John Prine or Todd Snider. As my wife says, you'll be immediately won over if you're a sucker for the gravely voice. Put that next to those lyrics that present social commentary whilst painting all sorts of pictures in your mind and I'll be very surprised if a major label doesn't pick up this record.
Steve Henderson, March www. Long John Baldry - Remembering Leadbelly Stony Plain Records "Most of the songs in this collection have been part of my life since I first started singing in the mid's. Because they are so familiar to me I was able to record my vocals and guitar work in one 'take' for most of the tracks.
K - something he tends to be very self-effacing about, as those who have seen him live at any point will recognise. I know of no other headliner who gives his sidesmen such accolades whilst backing off from centre stage himself. This character trait is reflected in the bonus interview track on the very end of this CD, and the liner notes acknowledge Chris Barber and Lonnie Donegan and a host of other influences As to the content of the CD itself, well, I was amazed at the number of the tracks I knew so well whilst not having any Leadbelly in my record collection, nor, indeed, in compilation blues CDs - something I need to rectify but meanwhile LJB manages to cover this void magnificently.
This album is worthy of repeated playing, which may well have something to do with the sparseness rather than the 'over production' tendency found on so many of today's CDs.
This is a tribute CD, acknowledging the input of Leadbelly, but with the unique Baldry interpretation. His vocals going from the deep huskiness, for which he is so well known, to the lighter, smoother shades of his marvellously rich voice. There were, for me, moments of goose bumps when he sounded like Alexis Korner - but then they both inspired each other way back when. LJB's voice is a musical instrument in it's own right. His guitar playing needs no accolades.
What amazes me is how perilously close he came to the possibility of not being able to perform anymore. That was back in October Having not seen him for about 20 years I was taken to a gig by a friend on a whim to The Mill at Banbury.
John was not well. He managed the first half without anyone realising the levels of pain he was experiencing. He then nearly collapsed during the second part.
We took him to the hospital where they had great difficulty believing that he had played a concert that night. His finger joints were severely swollen despite being soaked in a bowl of water with all the ice from the bar during the interval. The promoter at the venue was prepared to pay back any punters the cost of their tickets. Not a single one did. A case of 'actions being stronger than words'. John has every intention of returning to UK and Europe again next year. At the moment he is about to go on the road in Australia and New Zealand.
Catch him if you can. This CD has been played with great frequency since I got it when LJB toured the UK with the Manfreds back in June,but I still find it virtually impossible to point the listener to any particular track. The only solution is to just play the whole CD again and again. Just go order the CD for yourself and you can decide! Deep Purple, Fairport Convention, you get the idea - that's where my allegiances lie.
So, let's improve my position a little. I'd been privileged to meet John twice, on the occasion of his sadly aborted UK Tour. A close friend of mine knew John during the sixties, hadn't seen him since he'd moved to Canada, persuaded me to take her to the opening night in Banbury and I ended up putting this particular blues legend in hospital.
If you're really interested, mail me and I'll tell what is, at best, a very dull tale. That evening, musically the gig bored me intensely. Sure, the guys were all very proficient, technically adept at what they were doing, but I just didn't get it; Long John's style of blues just ain't for me. So, I find a copy of Johns Hypertension release ' Evening Conversation ' before me, requiring a review.
I'm not exactly the best person for the job because, as I've said, I just don't buy this particular style of music. The man, however, I like a great deal; he is hysterical and great fun to be with. We only spent a couple of hours in each others company and I was gratified to learn that, when he was in the UK towards the end ofhe inquired of said friend as to my whereabouts.
Needless to day, I was chuffed that he remembered me, and more than a little peeved that when he was in my home town, I'd opted to be in Hong Kong following folk rockers Little Johnny England. And having a damn fine holiday with my daughters. Oh well, some things are just not meant to be. I've had this release on the go for a while now, and I'm almost embarrassed to say that it has not grated the nerves once. Either I'm getting old or this music isn't quite as bad as I'd first feared.
On first listen I recognised only one tune - Morning Dew. It took a while, but I finally twigged that this was the number opening the sixth Blackfoot LP some 20 odd years previously; a quick dive into the archives confirmed the authors as Tim Rose and Bonnie Dobson.
Yep, it's the same piece, wake up ears. It just sounds a little different, like the difference between the late John Lee Hooker and Black Sabbath although, to be fair, Blackfoot were closer to Lynyrd Skynyrd and the lead guitarist of the former is now a member of the latter. Many of the songs are Baldry arrangements of numbers written by that most classical of composers, Trad Arr.
I think that, if you're a fan, you'll enjoy this release. You may well have a lot of the numbers already in the studio, but this is a live album, and there is always something that little bit different - special? I'm sure that you won't be disappointed by your purchase.
Am I converted? Well, I just don't know, but I'll be playing CD this some more. If he comes close enough to home that is. Denis Bird www. One of a pair of new releases from Scottish songwriter and storyteller Jackie Leven, this is a disc of monologues rather than songs, and is conveniently split into two sections.
These vary from gently observed vignettes to some more overtly amusing tales of provincial life and newspaperdom, and are delivered in an initially quite low-key and diffident manner but also with evident affection; within them we meet the various characters that people the new town of Glenrodent and its newspaper offices and gain a whimsical insight into their lives and preoccupations.
The episodes are punctuated with brief but attractive piano interludes composed by Michael Cosgrave and inspired largely by Scottish dance forms. The second section of the disc brings three choice stories of Jackie Leven's own concoction: the first of these, the infamous Sting's Dead, was recorded live in front of an anything-but-humourless German audience, while the second, Stupid Local Boasts, is culled from the double album of the two-hander show at the Edinburgh Festival which united Jackie with author Ian Rankin the latter playing the role of straight man.
The final tale, Sex Tourist, was recorded at a club in Sydney in It matters not that all three of these tales have been released previously albeit the first and third only on not-easily-available Haunted Valley label discsfor they well complement the storytelling of the Jackie Balfour episodes.
Even so, I'm not sure there's a particularly wide audience in terms of potential record sales, I mean for this aspect of Jackie Leven's art, beyond the "occasional entertaining listen" status that inevitably accompanies spoken-word recordings, however good.
A Scottish folkster with a jazz family background, Bancroft's explored both fields in her previous albums, not to mention experimenting with electronica. There's jazz blues flavours here on the musically flirty Occasional China where she slips into scat backed by Amy Geddes providing gypsy fiddle, the breathy No Smokin with a percussion rhythm that sounds like the bellows of an electronic lung, and the skittish Dented with Tom Lyne's double bass groove.
Mostly though she channels her jazz raising into folk intimacy, delivering the rippling, bluegrass flecked Supersize Me with its laments about the lack of community and childhood in the modern age, the waltzing I Carried Your Heart's age-enduring love song and, also touching on a theme of passing years, the sparse wood-smoked When The Geese Fly South. Written four years back, Boo Hewardine guests on co-penned closing track Caroline, a 3am jazz cellar piano blues account of an unconsummated drunken one night stand and subsequent self-questioning while, underscoring the classiness of the project, the album's co-produced and mixed by Mark Freegard whose extensive credits include Maria McKee, Manic Street Preachers and, more pertinently for that sultry jazz vibe, Swans Way.
Probably more one for the Ronnie Scott's crowd than your local folk club, but certainly worth the exploring. Produced by Ray Wylie Hubbard and mastered by Gulf Morlix both of whom also guest along with Stephen Brutonit's fairly blueprint southern barroom rock country with pumped up guitars, mouth harp, swaggery rhythms and bluesy acoustic honky tonk ballads.
They're not doing anything new, but they're as reliable and easy to slip into as an old pair of shoes. Band of Two is exactly what it says on the tin - a band comprising two musicians. The pair in question are Croydon man Pete Fyfe and Garry Blakeley, from Hastings - two musical souls who met by chance ten years ago, discovered an affinity in their tastes and have built a great rapport and a catalogue of songs, jigs and reels that guarantees a great evening's entertainment when they play live.
Decadethe duo's second album, is packed full of high-quality songs and tunes, all played with an obvious love of the material and an infectious enthusiasm that will put a smile on your face and have you singing along. With a distinct leaning toward the Celtic end of the British musical spectrum, it's not surprising they elect to kick off with "Farewell to Ireland", a no-holds-barred instrumental workout that immediately displays the fine fiddle-playing of Blakeley and some furious strumming on the guitar by Fyfe - a tremendous opener.
Fyfe relishes the lyric, giving his vocal a menacing edge as Blakeley's fiddle ducks and weaves around it and the guitar. One of Van Morrison's best-known songs gives Blakeley his first chance at the mic, his voice a pleasing contrast to Fyfe's deeper tones.
Fyfe's playing on "Have I told you lately" comes to the fore as he overlays deft mandolin fingerwork on Blakeley's guitar. A sparser arrangement than Morrison's original but all the better for it - lovely. One of the several stand-out tracks is the pair's reading of "Fairytale of New York", the original of which featured another child of Croydon, the late Kirsty MacColl.
Two people could never, of course, hope to make a bigger noise than The Pogues at their best, but, like the Morrison song, this version loses nothing for its simplicity - well, it's such a good song, how could it fail? Ireland gets a look in again when the pair tackle the old standard, "Danny Boy" and the delightful "Blarney roses".
You might remain tight-lipped through "Irene goodnight" but your resolve will begin to slip during "Comin' round the mountain" and, by "Worried man blues" you'll be singing along as it segues into a "Pick a bale o'cotton", "Swing low, sweet chariot", "It's a long way to Tipperary" and "Pack up your troubles" before the set's wound up with "Knees up Mother Brown".
It may sound a little naff but, believe me, it works. Two nicer blokes you couldn't hope to meet and "Decade" is an album they are quite rightly proud of. It's a belter. Following six independent releases, the hirsute ashram-friendly psych folk Venezuela raised, California based singer-songwriter finally makes his major label debut with a collection that, produced by Paul Butler from A Band of Bees, is eclectic while remaining firmly rooted in the Scarecrow - Dominic Waxing Lyrical - Woodland Casual (CD folkster landscape.
Can't Help eases you into proceedings with marimba ripples and a tropical island sway that might make Jack Johnson sound like explosive punk before his Incredible String Band affections rear their head with Angelika where his phrasings echo the young Robin Williamson before the song suddenly mutates into a jazzy piano led bossa nova and Banhart apparently turns Puerto Rican.
There's a Latin blood in the veins of Brindo too, another bossa nova croon only this time sung - or rather seductively whispered - in Spanish. Skipping around the influences, Baby varnishes a Smokey Motown soul groove with a light reggae hiccupping and a suitably playful lyric that talks of choo choo trains in a manner that recalls Jonathan Richman. Then it's a trip down to Graceland with the easy lilting kwela tinged folk Goin' Back To The Place while the more intimate moods of Paul Simon - and the lost soul purity of Jeff Buckley - would also seem to cast their shadow over the melancholic building piano pulses of First Song For B and its immediate acoustic guitar accompanied sequel Last Song For B which sounds like a musical close companion of Bookends.
He does like to keep your ears on their toes. Will it see him embraced by a wider, mainstream audience? Probably not, but his devoted following is certainly going to be passing round the pipe in celebration. With a sleeve photo that suggests you're in for an expanded version of the Polyphonic Spree, the bearded Banhart's fourth outing sees him building on his past foundations of 60s harmony pop, trippy dippy Indian drones, bossa nova and blues.
Fleshed out into full band arrangements but retaining his eccentric whimsy I assume he's being whimsical when he sings of being a lonely sailor ogling young lads on the frankly barking Little Boyshe recorded this in Woodstock, clearly on a creative roll since it features no less than 22 tracks.
As such, it can prove a tad wearying if you're not totally submissive to his merry skewed charms as evidenced on something like the bizarre The Beatles which starts out namechecking Paul and Ringo and then inexplicably finds him crowing in Spanish while folk whoop it up behind him. But if you're prepared to pick around for favourites then the tripped out sitar drenched latter-day Donovan meets Bolan blues of Lazy Butterfly, Album), the soft whispery Queen Bee, lollopping jugband Some People Ride The Wave, guitar instrumental Sawkill River, the lazy warbling driftalong Koreak Dogwood and, in his Spanish mode, the sun kissed Santa Maria Da Feira and a melancholic cover of Venezuelan Simon Diaz's moody Luna De Margarita repay the effort of juggling with the skip and play buttons.
A bunch of four track recordings came to the attention of former Swans frontman Michael Gira who released them as is through his Young God Records, thereby setting into motion a growing cult following. Recorded in the same sessions as the previous Rejoicing In The Hands, this 16 track collection pretty much sums up everything you need to know.
He plays acoustic guitar, has a high pitched, quivering vibrato that makes him sound several decades older than his 23 years and which prompts regular comparisons to Tyrannosaurus Rex period Marc Bolan and the early days of the Incredible String Band. Oh and of course, Syd Barrett. Deliberately naive in his sound, which straggles warbling folk, ragtime, bluegrass and blues but here embracing arrangements that involve brass, piano and strings in addition to trusty guitar, his narratives frolic cheerfully in the fields of playful whimsy with lyrics that include tales of psychedelic squids and the cloven hoofed offspring of a man and a pig.
Dotting around at random, you'll find a bluesy reading of Ella Jenkins' folk song Little Sparrow, fingerpicked spooked lullaby Ay Mama with its mournful trumpet, the arpeggio folk blues tumbling Little Yellow Spider about, well take a guess, a vaguely pop inclined At The Hop no, not Danny and The Juniorsan ominous Horseheadedfleshwizard where he sings about hosing down the dead before they die, backporch good timing The Good Red Road and the closing drunken swayer round the summer evening Hawaiian bonfire strummer Electric Heart.
Taken en bloc it can get a touch wearying, but sampled at intervals you'll be convinced his people really were fair and had sky in their hair. Primarily built around their twin guitars, it's a simple acoustic affair, with no ambitious productions, but it leaks honesty and a passion for the music they make.
As in Bushbury days, American bluegrass back porch mountain music remains an influence, most evidently so on the naggingly catchy Mousetrap, a jug band of a number with Bannister on mandola that could have slotted easily into the Oh Brother soundtrack without anyone suspecting anything out of place. But there's more than hillbilly going on.
Opening track Long Slow Day is a gorgeous tropical lilt designed for laying back and watching the sky while the spellbindingly lovely I Will Go With You brings to mind the better, less bombastic moments of Chris De Burgh and mixes it with Art Garfunkel. Not sure about the closing number, a bluesy Superman's Lasergun that doesn't really come off, but otherwise this can only serve to further boost Bannister's reputation among the faithful as one of the most distinctive voices and writers on the UK roots scene.
If you've not yet encountered the wonderfully original music of this perennially dynamic and talented young Whitby-based trio, then now's the time to start, and this new album, taken together with Galata Bridgeshould provide the perfect starter pack. The band have taken their recent cautious experiments in layering of sound textures from Galata Bridge and the Bluebells EP on to new levels of accomplishment, and this is strongly in evidence on the trippy opener Go To Dreamsbut to their credit this aspect is never overdone, and the defiantly individual characters of the three individual musicians is always foremost, with the quality of the recording attaining a new level of engineering expertise here.
Quiet Fire is a truly beautiful creation, with Dave Moss's sinuous, enticing vocal line poignantly inhabiting the idyllic landscape of Bluebells. Other songs show Dave's increasing penchant for the more pensive turn of thought, ranging widely from the eerie, economically-expressed pacifism of The Fight and the compelling title track to the quasi-catechism of Bless with its curiously effective neo-calypso setting. The instrumental tracks that punctuate the songs on this album are sensibly sequenced to follow them, in that like the Eastern European dance-forms on which they're modelled they often begin slowly then build in tempo or intensity.
They can therefore appear slow-burners by comparison with some of the band's earlier, wilder efforts, though it still takes a fair bit of digital dexterity to get your feet round the almost wilfully complex time-signatures! As ever, Tim Downie's guitar work which, admirably, is clearly audible throughout is a model of subtlety and embellishment that might come as quite a surprise if you've ever witnessed his string-breaking exploits in live performance!
My only minor complaint about this release is the near-unreadability of the text on the neat digipak sleeve, due to insufficient contrast - that latter tag certainly doesn't apply to the varied music on display on this exhilarating album.
This disc has been long in coming, but hey, it's been worth the wait. It's a natural confluence of two of our finest singer-interpreters who have discovered an equally natural kinship; they have much in common, not least some important formative influences. Each of them has a background to die for - both were "kid folkies in the proverbial sweet shop", growing up being involved in, and understanding and appreciating, folk music.
For them, standards were set at an early stage, and both were introduced to major figures on the folk scene at a tender age almost as a matter of course. They met and became friends quite early on, but then for several years they followed independent courses: Mike mostly singing with his siblings in The Wilson Family group and Damien launching his own professional solo career after attaining the finals of BBC's Young Tradition Award inthen going on to mastermind the groundbreaking Demon Barber Roadshow.
They'd talked about trying some songs together, but it was not until around four years ago to my recollection that this idea bore fruit on a tentative foray into the clubs armed with an embryonic joint repertoire developed under the influence of the generous folk artists whose own repertoires form the thread that now binds this disc together. The folk artist whose figure looms largest over the whole set, inevitably but entirely justifiablyis the mighty Peter Bellamy whose own performances provided the inspirational source recordings for several of the songs chosen for the discclosely followed by Ewan MacColl and Dick Gaughan.
The vital combination of attitude and respect is an essential one for any song carrier worth his salt, and it's one which Damien and Mike closely share and keenly display throughout their work together. Each of them is passionate and distinctive as a solo singer, with a rich-toned and sturdy delivery. Mike here employs quite a bit of decoration in his solo passages, while not getting in the way of Damien's trademark throbbing vibrato, and the two voices sit well together generally not always the case with two voices which share a roughly similar range.
It's important, therefore, to retain plenty of textural variety during the course of a joint CD, and this is managed by virtue of Damien varying the accompanying instrument between English concertina seven tracks and guitar threethe remaining brace of tracks being performed acappella. In the latter category we find one of the disc's highlights, a particularly enterprising choice and the only item not associated with any of the previously notified "influences" : the cryptic and elusive A Fable From Aigge, composed by Nick Burbridge and taken from the brilliant McDermotts vs Levellers album Disorder.
The second acappella item is a runthrough of Shiny O, a shanty obtained from Stan Hugill. Damien's deft, rhythmically inventive guitar playing provides an ideal foil for Mike on three contrasted songs including The Green Linnet and MacColl's My Old Man, while his concertina provides sterling accompaniment for both solo and joint vocal outings as well as a notably poignant counterpoint to MacColl's Joy Of Living.
The actual form the "duo act" takes can vary in approach: five songs are performed solo by Mike with Damien accompanying these include Joy Of Living and Now Westlin WindsAndrew Rose sourced from the singing of Tony Hall has Damien solo with Mike joining him on the chorus, whereas other songs like On Board A 98 and Nostradamus are taken "turn and turn about" alternate verses each, with both harmonising on the choruswhich by and large works well although Down The Moor feels a tad overloaded and its intimacy thus mildly compromised, and some of the harmony work seems a mite tentative at this stage.
The "odd track out" is Jim Jones, which is a solo performance by Damien with concertina. Yes, both in terms of repertoire and performance style, Damien and Mike have chosen well for representing their duo activities on this CD. Finally, an honourable mention for the disc's presentation: a keen and attractive digipack package, its design embracing a montage of related relevant memorabilia and enclosing within a well-coordinated booklet wherein Damien and Mike each provide a nicely discursive personal reminiscence in chummy conversational mode spiced with the occasional did-you-know biographical nugget for example, that it was Peter who originally bequeathed the nickname The Demon Barber on Damien!
Influences and inspirations are freely acknowledged, generously granted and openly encouraged in my turn, I've been well "under the influence" of both Damo and Mike, and "The Family" ever since I myself started singing.
Sure thing, Mike and Damo have done themselves proud here, and it'll be interesting to see how this musical partnership develops in due course - let's hope we don't have to wait five years to find out! This Canadian songstress singer-songwriter to you! She played over here in the UK last autumn as part of the Twisted Folk package tour along with Tunngand is set to return for a handful of dates next month including the Green Man Festival.
Jill's been tagged "alt-cabaret", and listening to For All Time, her second record, it's hard for me to get that tag out of my mind. I think it's her singing style and the tonal quality of her voice more than anything else that justifies that tag: smooth and velvety-sensuous, with an impressive quality of assurance that not all singer-songwriters can command.
In its gentle energy, this album has a direct, up-close feel which reflects the method of its actual recording live-off-the-floorwith individual instruments perfectly selected and balanced within the overall spare-but-rich sound-picture.
The canvas is quite broad as far as instrumental colours are concerned, with almost every one of the eleven songs being differently scored: guitars, mandolins, piano, vibes, organ, harmonica, violin, cello, bass, percussion, even a mellotron at one point.
You might find the album easier to get into after the first three tracks, which aren't really typical; the opener Just For Now is a chunky old-style ballad with a torchy country-gospel feel, then Don't Go Easy is easygoing steel-driven country, and When I'm Makin' Love To You is a cheeky swing-jazz piece set to a perky clarinet and piano backing.
Ashes To Ashes is both delicate and stately, a measured and considered reflection, Hard Line has a subdued funkiness in its driving Motown vibe. Variety and contrast notwithstanding, the standouts for me are the title track and Goodnight Sweetheart, both good examples of the kind of beautiful, simple little time-honoured love songs that you feel you've always known, and Legacy, whose generous, measured pace allows full rein to Jill's expressive vocal qualities.
Jill's probably at her tremulously confidential best on the closing Starting To Show, while on some of the other songs, like the tender Two Brown Eyes, Jill reveals herself to have a sexy vocal presence akin to Cowboy Junkies' Margo Timmins. On the evidence of this CD, I can understand why Jill has made such an impression thus far, and can imagine her special brand of intimacy working much to her advantage live.
Brighton-based duo Kevin Barber and Mark Taylor are one of those totally-together acts that sound for all the world like they've been playing and singing together almost from birth. Typically they play an attractively melancholy brand of acoustic-based, guitarsome bluegrassy Americana, with around two-thirds of their material self-penned and the remainder made up of respectable if not consistently outstanding covers of on this, their third CD songs by Albert E.
Brumley, Woody Guthrie and Paul Simon gripe: it's a shame they didn't choose some more appropriate covers like the Gillian Welch and Iris Dement stuff they perform liveand Robert McCreedy his Two Seconds, the best by far of the covers here.
But I liked this record a lot, and even though it's primarily the vocal harmonies and tight arrangements that make the impact on first hearing the songs stand up to scrutiny and grow on repeated listening.
Generally there's a very satisfying ambience about the duo's music, and it's couched in an accomplishment that's easy-going yet not without a quality of thoughtful depth and immediacy of inspiration. With top-flight recording quality reflecting the duo's close, intimate yet dynamic live presence, this is a treasurable release that deserves wider recognition.
Lazzarella - Carlo Savina And His Orchestra - Holiday Abroad In Rome (Vinyl, LP), Bakwetu - Papa Wemba - Au Japon (Vinyl, LP), Visionary - Playa Pimp - Compilation Vol.1 (CD, Album), Tai Tai - Electrodomésticos - Grandes Exitos (CD), Babylon - Diary Of Dreams - One Of 18 Angels (CD, Album), Kinetic Distortion - Mic Check (File, MP3), Love Me Like A Flower (2-4 Grooves Remix) - Sun Connection - Love Me Like A Flower (Vinyl), All The People Sleep - TOPS (3) - Picture You Staring (Cassette, Album), La Science Des Rêves - Daz-Ini, Tismé - Dream Big (CDr, Album)