recent listening. When the haar rolls in by James Yorkston


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To complete a trio of folky delights I’d like to pick up on this stunner that I have ommitted to share with you dear reader.

I have been growing deeper in love with this record every time I hear it for over a year now and it is sublime.  The standout track is almost unclassifiable; Tortoise Regrets Hare puts the hairs on the back of my neck up every time I hear the stunning harmony that Yorkston creates with Nancy Elizabeth (or is it Elizabeth Nancy I wonder).  Its structure is bemusing and its lyrics, to say the least, are unconventional.  Basically I think it’s about jealous love.  But it is so, so beautiful.

Here it is.  Please watch.

Anyway, the rest of it is also amazingly poignant, beautiful, affecting, sad, lyrical, compelling, emotive.  I’ll stop.  I like it.  I like it very much and I think you owe it to yourself to like it too.

I would be very pleased if you did.

As would Mr Yorkston.

Oh, and by the way.  What a cover!  (Mark Bannerman)

recent Listening. The Spinning Top by Graham Coxon


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Graham Coxon has many iterations.  There’s the cheeky chappie BritPop Blur guitarist, there’s the post Blur thrasher (not appealing) then the new lighter post punk pop that frequented his latter two (brilliant) albums.  And now there is this.  Coxon does folk.

He opens as Nick Drake, closes as Robert Wyatt and picks up a bit of Bert Jansch and even Cream in between.

The list of instruments that he and his excellent loose band of musicians (including Robyn Hitchcock) get through is quite amazing;  electric guitar, soprano saxophone, drums, percussion, harmonica, retaliation guitars, bass, sompoton, barcarole concertina, farfisa compact organ, and lorenzo chord organ are Coxon’s contribution.  But you can add to that; esraj, diruba, jori, taus, double bass, glockenspiel, chromatic creeping electric guitar, congas, drums, flute, indiscriminate fire electric guitar, sonar electric guitar, buoy bell and piano.

That all makes it sound like a bit of a mess.  It isn’t.  Far from it.

Because what drives it all along is the astounding acoustic guitar which dominates the mix throughout.  In fact it’s a largely acoustic album despite that panoply of electrical gizmos.  And it’s beautiful.  Probably Coxon’s finest hour.  Of course it will barely sell enough to cover the week’s groceries.  But that’s not a problemo.  He has a reunion tour with Blur coming up to pay for everything else.

His style of fingerpicking is quite remarkeable (for a thrash guitarist) and the lightness of the record is very redolent of late 60’s and early 70’s when British folk was arguably at its height.  It’s poerhaps no surprise then that he dedicates the record to John Martyn.

recent listening – Fleet Foxes


I’ve been under some peer pressure to love this album.  Both K and K have slavvered over it and it comes with an 88 rating on Metacritic.com.  Essentially it is the cognescenti’s album of the year so far.  Add the fact that it is on the sublime Bella Union Record label and it can’t fail.  Can it?

Yes, actually it can.

It’s a wee bit Midlakey (Even Mrs G spotted that) and a big bit My Morning Jacket.

The trouble is, despite its beautiful angst and moody reflectiveness, taught playing and good melodies something just isn’t clicking.  Is it trying too hard I wonder?  Is the lead singer’s oft falsetto voice too irritating?  Is the overuse of echo by the production team trying to make it too ‘important’?

I think it’s the latter.

It suffers from kinda pompous production.  Rather than making it a cosy, fireside, modern-day folk record it turns it into some sort of bombastic minimalism. (I know, that’s paradoxical but it’s true.)

The production, for me, sucks.

It’s a good enough record.

But album of the year?

No way Jose.

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Ian D gave me a copy (sorry, I’ve only spent £500 on music this year) of this guy’s much lauded album this morning and I’ve listened to it all day (between phone calls).  I can’t honestly say that it’s the album of the year so far, but it is very interesting

The story behind it; man loses girl and goes off weeping into the outback to rant about it makes for a good creative schticke.

The critics are, of course, mutually masturbating.  I think it’s rather good but time will tell…

Here’s a wee taster.

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recent listening


This is a bit different. A modern take on folk as a kind of folk supergroup. They could have called themselves Sky Ba’tat!

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Led by Martin and Eliza Carthy and featuring Sheila Chandra, Benjamin Zephania, Paul Weller, Trans-Global Underground, Billy Bragg, The Copper Family and Tuung it maybe shouldn’t work, but it does.

However, even though it’s a new take on folk if you don’t like folk you won’t like this. If you’re ambivalent it might just swing it for you.

They are The Imagined Village. What’s most interesting is when they meld olde English Folk with ‘World Rythms’ so that the percussion can be really interesting and exciting, particularly on the song “Cold Haily Rainy Night.”

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The other thing that’s heavily rotating on the car stereo is the soundtrack from Juno featuring a bunch of quirky off-beat stuff. “A bit kooky” would, I suppose, sum it up and no better demo of that is the Velvet Underground’s “I’m sticking with you” which is, for those of you that know it, is not typical Velvets.

In addition it features Dearest by Buddy Hololy which is really rather good and A Well Respected Man by The Kinks, thereafter you’re into Belle and Sebastian territory with a couple of contributions (Expectations and Piazza. New York Catcher). But the real backbone of the album is a bunch of college bands from the US that I’ve never heard of but would like to find out more, principally Kimya Dawson, but also Barry Louis Polisar, Antsy Pants and The Moldy Peaches.

Here’s some Kimya…

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It’s all good fun, feelgood stuff.

Well worth a tenner.

Shine by Joni Mitchell


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I love Joni Mitchell!

Fact.

Although, I feel I am too young to be this devoted.

After all, she is old enough to be my mother. That said, you can’t ignore class. The Beatles coulda been my Grandads; the Stones too.

Jimi?

Well, he’d just be a badly influential uncle.

Joni is pure and utter class. And she has ‘classes’ of fans, her folk fans, her Jazz fans, her in-betweeni fans.

I’m one of them. The inbetweeni.

And this is one of those albums. Closest call in her past life? Hejira!

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The album opens with a two chord piano riff that takes your breath away. It is possibly the perfect opening stance. Two aces in a Texas Hold ’em.

The song (well it’s an instrumental) recalls a beautiful summer day and it is the best piece of music I have heard this year, bar none. The fact that it is instrumental is, I think, a brilliant holding device because how will Joni sound when she finally sings after a self imposed ten year retirement from the music scene?

Growly, gruff, mature, wondrous. That’s how she sounds.

The album is self assured, beautiful and flawed. Her 21st century take on Big Yellow Taxi that is the centrepiece of this great album doesn’t work for me, because it lacks the youthful rebellion of its inception.

‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling is given an interpretation that I think comes off, just.

But, overall, if I was 65, retired 10 years and making a comeback, this is how I’d like to do it.

Think Eric Cantona Playing for Man Utd in the Champions League and scoring a hatrick.

Then again. Think Joni Mitchell at the top of her game.

5 star. No doubt.

And, you know what. This confirms that Canada is music country of the year. If you are in any doubt check it out here.