Saturday 31 December 2022

New Year Waltz

Christina Alden and Alex Patterson spent much of the past year on the road, touring the UK relentlessly in support of their wonderful 2021 album 'Hunter', taking their folk-baby Etta along for the ride. In the Autumn they released a stand alone single named after Etta, which garnered considerable critical acclaim, not least from Chris Difford, who played the song on his Radio 2 show in November, sandwiched between Richard Thompson and Joni Mitchell no less! I didn't get to many concerts in 2022, but I made sure to catch Alden & Patterson whenever they were playing nearby and already have tickets for three 2023 shows pinned to my noticeboard.

Wishing friends old and new all the very best for the coming year.

Christina Alden and Alex Patterson - New Year Waltz

Monday 19 December 2022

Monday Long Song

All being well, there'll be one more pre-festivities post on Thursday, but just in case that doesn't come to pass, enjoy James White's jolly tale of 'Christmas With Satan' from the reloaded edition of the Ze Christmas Record, an album that also contains one of my very favourite seasonal songs, 'Christmas Wrapping' by The Waitresses.

James White - Christmas With Satan

Friday 16 December 2022

Friday Photo #31

We may have dodged the heavy snow that blanketed so much of the country over the past week, but my little corner of Suffolk nevertheless felt the sharpness of winter's arrival. The temperatures have been hovering around zero and there was a severe hoar frost on Sunday that made everything look stunningly beautiful, though I'll admit that beauty hasn't been at the forefront of my mind at 5.15 every morning as I've hacked away at my ice encased car.

The river that forms the border between Suffolk and Norfolk flows 100 yards from my front door and I spend a lot of time over there, clearing my mind and keeping my eyes open for any interesting wildlife that might be about. Kingfishers are a regular, if fleeting sight, whizzing by a couple of feet above the water in a silver blue blur. On Sunday, however, set against the heavily frosted trees, these remarkable birds lost their usual camouflage and I was able to observe several of them quite extensively, sitting on overhanging branches gazing into the glass calm river and occasionally diving in to make a catch. I use the word too often I know, but the whole experience really was magical. Today's photo was snapped on Sunday, from one of my vantage points on the Norfolk bank. Unfortunately my trusty camera phone simply isn't powerful enough to actually capture a decent shot of a Kingfisher.

Cabane (featuring Kate Stables) - Now, Winter Comes

Wednesday 7 December 2022

This Life is Mine

Quietly chuffed with this shot I managed to capture from my front row seat 

Overall, 2022 has been a pretty quiet year for me on the live music front, though it's finishing with a flurry of folk gigs, the penultimate of which was last weekend when folk royalty visited the area in the shape of Peter Knight and John Spiers. 

At 47, John Spiers is generally acknowledged to be the foremost melodeon player of his generation, performing over the years with Bellowhead, Gigspanner, Eliza Carthy and Jackie Oates. On Saturday evening he bought five different melodeons and a concertina to the stage - not for nothing is he known affectionately as Squeezy. Outside of music he's a fervent allotmanteer, with much of his social media presence being given over to plants, crops and recipes.

Peter Knight is a classically trained violinist who was an integral member of Steeleye Span for the best part of 40 years. These days, in addition to the duo work, he leads the various iterations of Gigspanner. The dexterity and creativity in his playing belie his 75 years and it was a mesmerising privilege to witness this music at such close quarters.  

Knight and Spiers have been playing as a duo since 2016 and in performance communicate on an almost telepathic level, via a series of barely perceptible raised eyebrows, nods and smiles. It really is a joyous traditional music masterclass. As always, bottom lips wobbled and eyes moistened when Peter stepped forward to sing his wonderful 2014 composition 'From a Lullaby Kiss'.

Peter Knight - From a Lullaby Kiss

Monday 5 December 2022

Monday Long Song

Fronted by Everton Dacres, cousin of Barrington Levy, The Majesterians released a clutch of singles between the late 1970s and mid-1980s, before disappearing from view. 'So Many Times' was recorded in 1979 at The Black Ark, though with band member Phil Mathias at the controls rather than Lee Perry. Bud Beadle, who played sessions for everyone from T.Rex to Otis Spann and Suzi Quatro to Alexander O'Neal, in addition to being a fully paid up member of Ginger Baker's Airforce, contributes flute to the tune.

The Majestarians - So Many Times

Monday 28 November 2022

Monday Long Song

Many years ago, when this 'ere blog was in its infancy, I had an idea for a post, a kind of Desert Island Discs if you will, but in my case allowing for ten personal favourite tunes rather than the traditional eight. I mulled my selections over for ages, whittled them down and then ultimately declined to put up the results, realising that I could get ten individual posts from this idea, rather than a single overwhelming one. True to my word, some of those songs have made appearances on theses pages, here and there, over the ensuing years and today I'm featuring, if push comes to shove, my ultimate all-time favourite piece of music. It's a bold claim I know, but I find it difficult to put into words just how many hours of pleasure Circle in the Round by Miles Davis has given me.

Circle in the Round was recorded in December 1967 with Miles' core band of Ron Carter on acoustic bass, Wayne Shorter on Sax, Herbie Hancock on keyboards and the magisterial Tony Williams on drums. The crucial additional factor in the session was 21 year old electric guitarist Joe Beck . The resulting epic piece was ultimately shelved, bafflingly remaining unissued for 12 years and then only is the abbreviated 26 minute form shared here today. The full 33 minute session finally saw the light of day a further 19 years later, in 1998.

If you're expecting to hear a straight jazz tune, you won't. If you're expecting some kind of jazz-rock freak-out, you'll be disappointed. Circle in the Round is unique in the Miles Davis canon, completely unlike anything else he recorded. Heaps of tension, very little release and a recurrent theme that will stay with you for days. Hell, I've spent over 40 years trying to describe this piece of music and I'm not getting any closer to the truth of it today. 

Do me a favour, mute all your other devices for a while and get an earful of this.

Miles Davis - Circle in the Round

Friday 25 November 2022

Friday Photo #30

The first two or three years seemed to pass slowly, perhaps because I was concentrating so much on Mum's health and wellbeing back then, but suddenly it's 15 years ago today that Dad died. Who knows where the time goes. He'd not been in great health for a number of years, though the end came very quickly and unexpectedly. I won't go into it all again now, but I wrote about that day in some detail here

The family archive contains many photos of me as a youngster as well as plenty of me with Mum and other relatives. Photos of me with Dad are less plentiful for the simple reason that he was the family photographer. Here's a fun one though, of us in 1964 on a seaside miniature railway, no doubt taken by Mum as she shouted at Dad to make sure I held on! That's us two thirds of the way back, with Dad obeying Mum's instructions to the letter and me smiling at the camera like butter wouldn't melt. 


Spencer Krug is a prolific Canadian musician, one of those artists whose output, across several simultaneous bands, is a devilishly tricky business to keep up with. I have nothing in the collection by Fifths of Seven or Moonface for instance, but I do own fine albums by Frog Eyes, Sunset Rubdown, Swan Lake and these guys. If you know only one song by Wolf Parade, it's probably this corker. 

Wolf Parade - You Are a Runner and I Am My Father's Son

Wednesday 23 November 2022

Instagram Favourites #1 - Soviet Bus Stops

Instagram is the only social media gaff you're guaranteed to find me hanging out in these days. True, every now and then I'll check into Facebook or Twitter, usually to research a gig, band or some such, but increasingly the experience leaves me feeling utterly despondent about the state of humanity. My own Instagram posts generally consist of photos and minimal text, with walks, records and old family snapshots being the regular fare, much the same as this place come to think of it. Over there I also follow a variety of creative artists and sundry other special interest accounts. One such special interest account is that of photographer Christopher Herwig, whose Soviet Bus Stops project morphed directly from his earlier and equally fascinating documentation of Soviet Metro Stations. If you're at all interested in art, architecture or social history, take a gander at this remarkable, still growing resource. Attached are a few of his shots to give you the general idea. 

The New Mastersounds - Bus Stop No.5

Monday 21 November 2022

Monday Long Song

Chances are, that if you or I were ever fortunate enough to unearth a decent guitar in a skip, we'd be happy enough with that. In the early 1990s however, Sudanese musician Noori Jaber took his own lucky junkyard discovery home and promptly welded a traditional four string tambour to it, thus creating a unique hybrid instrument, the electric tambo-guitar.  

Jaber is from the Beja community, based along eastern Sudan’s Red Sea coast and the music he makes with The Dorpa Band expresses the struggle to keep his culture alive. The Beja lineage can be traced back to ancient Egypt where the nomadic people were depicted in hieroglyphics and the roots of the tunes on the recently released 'Beja Power! Electric Soul & Brass From Sudan's Red Sea Coast' have been passed down from generation to generation.

Noori & His Dorpa Band - Daleb

Friday 18 November 2022

Friday Photo(s) #29

I've just returned from my longest visit to London in some years. My cousin from NYC was in town and I had the week off work, so we were able to enjoy a decent catch up with each other and of course with her Mum, the elderly aunt who's often mentioned on these pages. It was a good break, much less of a rush than my usual trips down the M11, allowing me the opportunity to spend several hours on Monday afternoon, wandering off the beaten track around the backstreets of E1 and E2. While ambling, I fired off a few shots with my trusty phone. I couldn't decide on just one to feature, so here are a handful of my favourites. Click on any of them to enlarge.


'London Is Swinging By His Neck' is the only physical thing I own by London born, New Zealand based musician Roy Montgomery. He's played in a number of bands over the years, though his solo work is more often than not lo-fi instrumental in nature. This particular tune however, features a spoken word vocal from writer/actor/director/singer Kirk Lake.

Roy Montgomery & Kirk Lake - London Is Swinging By His Neck 

Monday 14 November 2022

Monday Long Song

Nik Turner, original saxophonist, flautist and van driver for Hawkwind, died last Thursday at the age of 82. Turner was a crucial element of the band between 1969 and 1976, rejoining them for a further two year stint in 1982. Outside of Hawkwind, Nik was involved in more projects than you could shake a stick at over the years, working, at one time or other, with artists as varied as Jello Biafra, Steve Peregrine Took, Damo Suzuki, Sting, Genesis P-Orridge and reggae star Alton Ellis.

My immediate thought was to feature an early Hawkwind classic in tribute, 'Brainstorm' or perhaps 'You Shouldn't Do That' - seek them both out forthwith if you're not familiar with them. Instead I've gone even earlier, back to the very beginning. From Hawkwind's 1970 self-titled debut, here's the wonderfully bonkers 'Seeing It As You Really Are'. Rest easy Nik.

Hawkwind - Seeing It As You Really Are 

Sunday 6 November 2022

Mimi Parker

It's Sunday afternoon and the heartbreaking news of Mimi Parker's death has just been announced by her partner in Low and in life, Alan Sparhawk. Mimi was only in her mid-50s and had been living with ovarian cancer for two years. I was very fortunate to see Low live in 2013, a wonderful concert that remains fresh in my memory all these years later. I wrote a little about the spellbinding nature of that evening here

Monday 31 October 2022

Monday Long Song

Afrobeat heavyweight Orlando Julius lead a number of his own bands as well as working with the likes of Fela Kuti and Hugh Masekela over the course of a 50+ year career. There's a slew of top notch compilations of his music out there, on labels such as Ekosound, Vampi Soul and Strut, all worthy of investigation. In 2014 Julius collaborated with The Heliocentrics to record 'Jaiyede Afro', from which the fabulous 'Be Counted' is taken. My only gripe with the tune is that it fades after 11 and a bit minutes - it should've been twice as long. Do yourself a favour and check out the whole album here

Orlando Julius passed away at the age of 78 earlier this year.

Orlando Julius & The Heliocentrics - Be Counted

Friday 28 October 2022

Friday Photo #28

Apologies for the longer than usual radio silence this end. I recently hit a wee bump in the road that temporarily knocked me off course, but today you find me freshly returned from a whirlwind trip to the smoke, where I caught up with my Aunt as well as two nights of Mr D's Palladium residency. Irritatingly, my car began misbehaving just a couple of days before I was scheduled to motor South, requiring a hasty change of travel plans on my part. Long story short, I fired up my digital senior person's railcard for the first time since journeying North for BlogCon '22 in Edinburgh and let the train take the strain. Attached is a quick shot I took early doors, while waiting at a railway station with a ticket for my destination.

Today's soundtrack is provided by Chris Barber's Soul Band, who are joined on this very groovy 1965 single by legend of the Hammond organ, Brian Auger.

Chris Barber's Soul Band - Morning Train

Friday 14 October 2022

Friday Photo #27

Heavy rain on Monday morning made the prospect of a decent day-off walk unlikely, but the weather had miraculously improved by lunchtime, so I was belatedly able to get out and stretch my legs properly for the first time since being knocked sideways by Covid. I took a stroll on the common. It's one of those walks that can be cut short if necessary, or easily extended if desired, by means of a series of looping and inter-connecting footpaths, stiles and gates. The common is vast and there was nary a soul around - it was bliss. The skies cleared completely, it became very warm indeed and, as is my wont, I documented bits of the walk with my phone. Honestly, my cloud storage is chock-a-block with endless shots of big skies and footpaths disappearing off into the distance. I managed 5½ miles, followed a well deserved pint at the end. 


Watty Burnett was essentially a session vocalist for Lee Perry in the 1970s, on standby for whenever a Scratch production required a baritone harmony in the mix. This was exactly how he came to appear so prominently on one of the very greatest albums produced at the Black Ark, 'Heart of the Congos'. Indeed, Burnett's voice became so fundamental to The Congos' sound that by the time of the album's release he was a fully fledged member of the band. In 1977, immediately prior to his adventures with The Congos, Scratch produced a solo single for Burnett, a cover of Brook Benton's 'Rainy Night in Georgia', re-titled 'Rainy Night in Portland'. Remarkably, the masterful 'Open the Gate' was originally hidden away on the flipside of that tune, only gaining a full issue in its own right in 1980. 

Watty Burnett - Open the Gate

Monday 10 October 2022

Monday Long Song

Cosmic Ground is the solo project of Electric Orange keyboard wiz Dirk Jan Müller. Electric Orange have been creating a krautrock noise since 1992, indeed the band's 7th LP, released in 2009, is memorably titled 'Krautrock From Hell'. The music of Cosmic Ground, however, is based around pulsing analogue synths, bringing to mind the early 1970s period of the mighty Tangerine Dream. There's a shed-load of music available to sample on the Cosmic Ground Bandcamp page, but to give you an idea of what we're talking about here's 'Engrained', a 17½ minute slab of the good stuff from the recently released double LP 'Isolate'. After an introductory 3½ minutes of dark ambience, the rhythm gradually takes hold and from then on we're in classic Tangs territory. 

Wednesday 5 October 2022

Fares Please.....

A couple of my oldest mates paid me a visit the weekend before last. It's pretty terrifying to think that I've know one of those guys for 47 years - 47! That's over 75% of my life. The other Johnny-come-lately has, however, only been a member of my inner circle for a mere 44 years - bloody newbie. In days of old we would have retreated forthwith to the nearest hostelry to spend the day drinking our own respective body-weights in alcoholic beverages. To be fair, we did neck a couple of pints later in the afternoon, but early doors we headed out to a local transport museum, where many of the usually static trolley-buses and trams had been pressed back into service for an open weekend, offering free rides to one and all. I'll admit that the trip to the museum wasn't my idea originally, but as one ride followed another the years fell away and I had a whale of a time.


Skinny's 1998 debut LP 'The Weekend' was a downtempo favourite in the latter days of my shop and I enjoy it still. While prepping this post, I was surprised to find that the band released a second record, 'Taller', in 2001, which I must track down and check out.

Skinny - The Bus Song

Monday 3 October 2022

Monday Long Song

German quartet КОМВУИАТ ЯОВОТЯОИ recently released a second volume of  their 'Dickfehler Studio Treffen' recordings, following on from Volume 1 which arrived in the Summer of 2020. Like the first volume, the new LP consists of four long improvised sonic explorations, or, as their record company blurb would have it '... Krautrock grooves that smoothly evolve from outer-space spheres into psychedelic and stoner-rock vibes and back to Krautrock...' Physical copies of the record are still available here, while an abundance of further aural digital delights await you on КОМВУИАТ ЯОВОТЯОИ's Bandcamp page. In the meantime take a listen to the lugubrious 'Fehn', the tune that closes 'Dickfehler Studio Treffen II'.


Monday 26 September 2022

Monday Long Song

Albert Ayler once memorably noted that in terms of the saxophone '...John Coltrane was the father, Pharoah Sanders the son and I am the holy ghost...'  Coltrane left us at 40 in 1967, Ayler himself died in mysterious circumstances aged 34 three years later and the final link in that holy trinity, Pharoah Sanders, passed away in Los Angeles on Friday, just three weeks short of his 82nd birthday. In a 60+ year career, Sanders collaborated widely with artists such as Coltrane, Sun Ra, McCoy Tyner, Don Cherry, Jah Wobble and, most recently and memorably, with Floating Points & the LSO on the fabulous 'Promises' LP. 

Today's tune goes back to 1969 and the album 'Jewels of Thought'. The hypnotic 'Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah' features the vocals of Leon Thomas (who himself worked with everyone from Louis Armstrong to Santana) and the legendary Lonnie Liston Smith on keyboards.

Pharoah Sanders - Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah

Tuesday 20 September 2022

Red Gold & Green #34 - Junior Byles

It's a long held belief among a couple of my closest friends, that I'd been unwittingly clobbered by Covid very early on - here in fact. I never saw it myself and until now I'd always put my physical and mental collapse at the very end of 2019 down to the aftershocks of the personal annus horribilis I'd just endured. Today though, as I emerge blinking and bewildered into the daylight following a 100% guaranteed, 10-day bout with the aforementioned C19, I'm forced to re-evaluate that earlier illness. My main symptoms in each case were virtually identical - a complete loss of appetite, mad, feverish dreams (to the point of doubting reality) and incredible amounts of sweating (seriously, where does all that liquid come from?) So perhaps my chums were right all along and I was indeed among the first of us to have had a brush with this dreadful virus three years ago.

Here's the great Junior Byles, produced by the legendary Lee Perry, back in the halcyon days of 1972.

Junior Byles - Fever  

Monday 5 September 2022

Monday Long Song

Roy Orbison's 1960-64 imperial phase is the stuff of legend - 'Only the Lonely', 'Running Scared', 'Pretty Woman', 'In Dreams'...the list goes on. Roy didn't reduce his prodigious work rate as the hits became less frequent, releasing a steady stream of singles and albums during the remainder of the 1960s and right through the 1970s. There are some terrific, unjustly overlooked nuggets scattered throughout those later years, a few of which will hopefully feature in an ICA I'm currently tinkering with. 

Then there's 'Southbound Jericho Parkway'. You can search high and low in every corner of Roy's extensive catalogue and you won't find anything else remotely like it. Tucked away on the b-side of 1969 single 'My Friend' and heavily indebted to the previous year's 'MacArthur Park', the song was written by Bobby Bond, otherwise best known for penning more conventional material for the likes of George Hamilton IV, Waylon Jennings, Don Gibson and Crystal Gayle. Extraordinary.

Roy Orbison - Southbound Jericho Parkway

Monday 29 August 2022

Monday Long Song

It strikes me that though I've shared tunes from a couple of the many Kungens Män offshoots in recent months, I've neglected to feature anything from the band themselves for some time. Their latest release, 'Kungens Ljud & Bild' (The King's Sound and Image), was released digitally in May, though the vinyl only arrived fairly recently. The opener 'När Piskan Viner' (When the Whip Wins) blasts out of the gates in spectacular style. Check out and/or purchase the whole album on their Bandcamp page here.

Kungens Män - När Piskan Viner

Friday 26 August 2022

Friday Photo #26

My mate and I have been going to FolkEast for several years now and, creatures of habit that we are, we always pitch our tents next to each other in the same location, backed right up against a wire fence, facing out across the sea of canvas and campervans. It's a good spot to be in, on the very edge of the site a decent walk from the hustle and bustle of the arena, within reasonable staggering distance of a block of toilets and showers, but far enough away from them that we aren't affected by the inevitable occasional queues and smells. When we arrived on site last Thursday afternoon, on a whim I suggested that we pitch in the usual place, but facing the other way for a change. I don't quite know why it's taken all these years for one of us to make what in retrospect seems such a glaringly obvious suggestion, but the glorious view that greeted us as we crawled, bleary-eyed, from our respective tents on Friday morning ensured that we'll never pitch facing into the camping site again.

King Tubby - Dub With a View

Wednesday 17 August 2022

Version City #75 - Jackie Oates sings Longpigs and The Cure

You find me momentarily pausing in my attempts to chuck every permutation of clothing into a bag while simultaneously rummaging through cupboards in search of my inflatable mattress. Tomorrow morning I'm off to FolkEast, my annual brief concession to what Evan Dando memorably described as being the outdoor type. I'll be sleeping under the stars (well, under canvas under the stars to be precise, but you get my drift) for three nights and catching as many bands as possible at my one festival of the year. Somewhere near the top of my 'to see' list is a rare set by The Imagined Village, the ever-evolving, genre-bending supergroup featuring Martin & Eliza Carthy, Billy Bragg, Simon Emmerson of Afro-Celt Sound System, sitar player Sheema Mujherjee, tabla percussionist Johnny Kalsi and drummer Andy Gangadeen. Also in the line-up (I hope) will be Jackie Oates, someone who I've wanted to see in concert for a very long time. True, on this occasion she'll just be part of the band, but I hope she gets to step forward for at least one or two numbers. Jackie is about to release her eighth solo album and she's made others in tandem with fellow artists such as Megan Henwood and John Spiers. They're all recommended and many of them are available to sample on her Bandcamp page (here).

For the purposes of this feature (the first new instalment since January 2021!) here are a couple of absolutely breathtaking covers by Jackie. The Cure's 'Untitled' was recorded for 'Life's What You Make It', a compilation of  various folkies tackling 1980s hits, while 'On and On' will appear on that new solo album I mentioned, 'Gracious Wings'. Steel yourself for these.

Finally, as a little light relief after those jaw-dropping beauties, here's a stripped down line-up of The Imagined Village from ten years ago with Martin and Eliza to the fore, tackling Slade's 'Cum on Feel the Noize'. 

Monday 15 August 2022

Monday Long Song

My flying visit to London last weekend was a real treat. The way things transpired I had just one full day with the whole family, but we made the most of it in spite of absolutely sweltering conditions. By midday on Tuesday I was on the motorway heading home and back to work. My aunt loved catching up with her grandchildren for the first time in five years, even if she found their accents a little difficult to decipher with her failing hearing. They all got together several more times throughout the week before the American contingent flew back to New York on Saturday afternoon. 

Today apparently marks the end of this current heatwave, with cooler conditions due as the week progresses. I'm relieved to hear it, as from Thursday I'll be spending my annual three nights sleeping under canvas at a local folk festival.


On April 30th 1976, exactly a year to the day after my family relocated from London to Ipswich, I paid the princely sum of £1.75 to see The Sensational Alex Harvey Band in action at the local Gaumont Theatre. The band's 1974 LP 'The Impossible Dream' was a key record in my youth and they performed the whole of 'The Hot City Symphony' from it that night. After the show me and my gig-buddy hung around at the stage door and met Alex...and what a diamond geezer he was. Alex seemed quite old to us kids, though in actual fact he was only 41 at the time, but tragically had less than six years left to live.

The Sensational Alex Harvey Band - The Hot City Symphony Part 2: Man in the Jar

Friday 5 August 2022

Friday Photo #25

It's April 1967, that's me on the right, sporting a pudding basin haircut and a Batman badge on my tie. In the middle is my cousin, she was three years younger than me then...and still is. On the left is her mum, the aunt I often mention on these pages. My aunt turned 93 two days ago and still lives alone in East London, as she's done since my cousin moved to New York in 1988. This weekend though, the family flies in for a belated birthday celebration and tomorrow evening I'll be driving down to reunite with my cousin, her husband and their three kids, all of whom have grown up considerably since we last saw them in 2017. In fact in the interim, the eldest two have graduated from college, while the youngest starts college herself later this month. Their trip was a relatively last minute affair and though they'll be staying in London for the whole week, I only have a couple of precious days with them all before I have to head back for work. It's going to be emotional.

Sparks - In My Family 

Wednesday 3 August 2022

A Series of Brief Obsessions #8 - Bedroom Walls

California's Bedroom Walls traded between 2001-2007, releasing an EP and two albums, only the first of which, 2003's 'I Saw You Coming Back to Me', sits in my collection. It's another of the many CDs that we acquired around that time from stacks of cardboard boxes buried at the back of grimy, dimly lit and now sadly long gone New York record shops. What fun we had, venturing forth from my cousin's apartment in the morning carrying empty backpacks and arriving home many hours later with filthy hands from scrabbling around in the dust, backpacks bursting at the seams with CDs, all purchased for a few cents each. Admittedly we picked up a fair amount of old tosh on the way that didn't even make it back across the pond after a quick listen on my cousin's stereo, but conversely there were other discoveries that ultimately became popular favourites in our house.  

Bedroom Walls described their music as 'romanticore' - it's wistful, melancholy pop, but with occasional sprinklings of humour, as evidenced in song titles like 'I've Been Thinking A Lot About The Dots On The Wall', 'Do The Buildings And Cops Make You Smile?' and 'Landlord! Watch! Coffin! Angels!'.

Bedroom Walls - Winter, That's All

Bedroom Walls - More "Real Cats"

Friday 29 July 2022

I Really Don't Know Life At All

There are a growing number of musicians, legends if you will, who are either hurtling towards, or are currently on their respective journeys through their ninth decade on this planet and depending on the artist in question, we watch in awe, bemusement or horror as they potentially add to, besmirch or trash their respective legacies with each release or public pronouncement. Regardless of our opinions though, there's no doubt that they are trailblazers of a sort and you can be sure that there are a few artists in their 40s, 50s and 60s looking on and taking notes for future reference.

Last weekend provided two examples of fabled singer/songwriters confronting the aging thing head on, when Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon each played unannounced sets at the Newport Folk Festival, in Joni's case her first live performance of any kind in 20 years. She may be physically diminished after long periods of illness, but as the 78 year-old Mitchell hesitantly felt her way through 'Both Sides, Now', the emotional response was palpable. Similarly, when the 80 year-old Simon, his voice little more than a hoarse whisper, stepped to the microphone and sang '...hello darkness my old friend...' the couplet was clearly open to quite a different interpretation in 2022 than when he wrote 'The Sound of Silence' way back in 1964.

I've watched both of these remarkable performances a number of times over the past couple of days and still struggle to make it all the way through either of them without welling up.

Monday 25 July 2022

Monday Long Song

I've felt a little all at sea these past couple of weeks. The small pile of records I picked up while in Edinburgh last month (including one generously gifted by our mutual chum Charity Chic) sit untouched and unplayed upstairs, awaiting my eventual attention. Half a dozen books lay scattered around the place, each with just a few pages thumbed through. It seems my powers of concentration have taken themselves off on an extended summer holiday. What do I traditionally do in these circumstances? I walk. But even this innocent activity has been curtailed somewhat in the recent blistering heat. 

The music I have been playing around the house is lengthy and largely instrumental - tunes to get lost in. Like this piece from Miles Davis, which was recorded on the final day of the 'In a Silent Way' sessions in February 1969, but bafflingly remaining unreleased until 2001. 'The Ghetto Walk' is a dense, humid, eerie meander of a thing, stifling and oppressive, much like several of my own recent local wanderings, photographic evidences of which are attached.

Miles Davis - The Ghetto Walk

Wednesday 6 July 2022

Imaginary Compilation Album Plug

I'm very grateful to our mutual friend and blogfather of this parish, JC, for publishing another of my very occasional Imaginary Compilation Albums over at his place. This one concerns the music of Micah Blue Smaldone, a fairly obscure artist it's true, but one who means an awful lot to me. Check out the ICA here.

By necessity Micah's early retro country-blues recordings were raw, stripped back affairs, though his later albums are darker in tone and fuller in sound. As I mentioned in the ICA post, I saw Micah just once in concert, on a brief 2014 European tour in support of  his fourth and still most recent LP 'The Ring of the Rise'. The album boasts the backing of a full band, but that evening it was just Micah and his 12 string guitar, together completely captivating the pin-drop silent audience. This super-intense performance of 'A Derelict', segueing into the instrumental 'New Orleans Bump', was filmed during the very same European jaunt. 

Monday 4 July 2022

Monday Long Song

Hastings based James Blackshaw has been releasing his primarily instrumental music since 2003, initially self-distributed before landing a deal with the hugely respected Tompkins Square label. Blackshaw is best known as a guitarist, though the piano also features in his recordings. He kicked off off his career at a prolific pace, already releasing seven albums by the time I caught up with him playing an instore show in Sound Fix, a Williamsburg record store in 2008. The performance took place in a small bar/function room accessible through an anonymous door at the side of the building, where the cyclical patterns and repeated phrases of the long tunes created a hypnotic drone within the wood-walled space, gradually shushing the general hub-bub of whispered mutterings and clinking glasses.

Here's the title track from Blackshaw's 2014 album, 'Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death'. 

James Blackshaw - Love is the Plan, the Plan is Death

Wednesday 29 June 2022

A Series of Brief Obsessions #7 - Nad Navillus

Chicago born Dan Sullivan's solo project Nad Navillus (Dan's name mirrored) released a self produced and self-titled instrumental CDr in 1999, a largely acoustic album, 'Show Your Face', in 2001 and and another with a full band, 'Iron Night', in 2002. Other than a couple of compilation tracks and a brief resurrection of the moniker for a split 7" single in 2014 (itself actually recorded ten years earlier), that's unfortunately the extent of the catalogue.

Sullivan spent some time playing with Songs:Ohia in the early noughties and at times his voice bares an uncanny similarity to that of his late friend Jason Molina. 'Your Good Side' from 'Show Your Face' was my introduction to the music of Nad Navillus, when I stumbled upon the song online, nearly 20 years ago. 

Nad Navillus - Your Good Side

Monday 27 June 2022

Monday Long Song

Edinburgh Waverley Station, 8.45am June 17th 

The journey back from Blog-Con '22 in Edinburgh the Friday before last began comfortably enough, with temperatures hovering around the 16/17° mark as I made my way to Waverley station for the 9am southbound train. It was difficult in those moments to believe the forecast I was reading on my phone predicting highs of over 30° nearer home. Fortunately though, I did heed the warnings and packed everything possible into my case, wearing only the lightest clothes available for the trip. The first leg was relatively uneventful, save for a rowdy group necking early morning tinnies en route to York races, the views from the train across Berwick and Durham were spectacular and the air conditioning kept things manageable. By the time we rolled into Peterborough though, the aircon was starting to struggle and as I stepped from the train I discovered why - it was beginning to get very warm indeed. My expected 45 minute wait for the connection eventually extended to nearly an hour and when the Norwich bound train finally rolled in I was concerned to see that it consisted of just two carriages, which were already virtually full. The platform was pretty chock-a-block too, so you can probably imagine the chaos that ensued as we tried to board. Long story short by the time I got on it was standing room only - and when I say standing room I mean bodies squashed together standing room, for two hours, in increasingly stifling temperatures. My phone flicked between telling me that it was 32/33° outside, but who knows what it must've been on board. Oh and did I mention that the train was not blessed with aircon, nor windows that opened? 

By the time I disembarked, fell to my knees and kissed the platform at Norwich, I and everyone else in that hellhole of a train were completely soaked through with sweat and gasping for breath. I had a 15 minute uphill walk followed by a 45 minute wait for a bus, both of which were uncomfortable in the conditions, but by then I didn't care. I was just pleased to be outside, free from the combined body odours of a couple of hundred clammy sardines in a can. Our mutual chum C started her own journey south a couple of hours after me and had to travel across London on her way home. I can't begin to imagine what that must've been like. In retrospect we were incredibly lucky with our timing for the glorious bloggers meet-up though, as had it been a week later our plans may well have been scuppered altogether in light of  the RMT industrial action.

Anyway, all that whinging was just an excuse for me to dig out this beauty from the great Junior Murvin, produced by the legendary Lee' Scratch' Perry and featuring a toast from another prominent reggae name, Dillinger, who turned 68 years of age just a couple of days ago.

Junior Murvin - Roots Train

Friday 24 June 2022

Friday Photo #24

A couple of phone shots from my Edinburgh wanderings (click on either to enlarge)

Last week's Edinburgh blogging meet-up was an overwhelming experience for someone whose life these days usually revolves around either working, walking or sitting in a room listening to records. The whole trip has already attained a mystical status in my mind and I've thought of little else since arriving home. Half a dozen bloggers of this parish and a couple of their respective partners, the very finest of company one and all, some coming face to face in the real world for the very first time, others renewing old friendships. It really was was an absolute joy from start to finish. Then there's Edinburgh itself - what a magical place. I'd only visited the city once before, very briefly, about 15 years ago and had always wanted to return, though even with this longer stay I feel I've barely scratched the surface.

The Fall - Edinburgh Man

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