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

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