Kimmo Pohjonen: The great Finnish accordion driver

Saturday, 7 December, 2013 0 Comments

Taking an accordion down to the farm and mixing its output with the sound of agricultural machines might strike many people as a bit far-reaching, but it’s the kind of thing Kimmo Pohjonen relishes. His “Earth Machine Music” project is a series of live events featuring farms, farmers, balers, tractors, accordion and related noises. For some Finns, the earth moves when he plays.

Winter Trees

Saturday, 30 November, 2013 0 Comments

Emily Staveley-Taylor, Jessica Staveley-Taylor and Camilla Staveley-Taylor from Hertfordshire are The Staves. Music journalist, James Christopher Monger, wrote: “clear, confident, and classy, the Staves know that their ability to harmonize (or just sing in perfect, familial unison) is their calling card.” Their debut album, Dead & Born & Grown, was released in November last year, and from it here’s the perfectly seasonal Winter Trees. “And I lost myself on that November night / White winter trees / Covered in snow.”

Red, White, and Blue

Sunday, 24 November, 2013 0 Comments

In September last year, the American rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd appeared on stage without the Confederate Flag as their backdrop. The controversial emblem had for years been part of their concert show, but they decided to abandon it, arguing that they didn’t want to be associated with “extremists” who had adopted it as their own. […]

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How does it feel to be on your own?

Saturday, 23 November, 2013 0 Comments

In all, there are 16 television channels to be surfed, from “The Price is right” to Pawn Stars. Others include a classic rock, a news and a sports station. There’s even video taken from a CCTV camera showing the pained victim of a mugging singing, “How does it feel…?” It’s Vania Heymann, the 27-year-old Israeli viral video director of Like A Rolling Stone, the latest visual masterpiece from Bob Dylan. This is not the first time, though, that Dylan has merged music with film to challenge convention. In 1965, in the “Dont Look Back” documentary by D.A. Pennebaker, he performed Subterranean Homesick Blues while flipping cue cards with words from the lyrics as the song plays. The potential of the music video clip was revealed and now Dylan is pushing the limits of the medium again.

Like A Rolling Stone is one of the most important of Dylan’s works and one of the greatest rock songs ever written. It tells of a young woman from a good family who immerses herself in the counter-culture of the 1960s but then falls from grace. As she questions her choices, Dylan appears ambivalent about her dilemma. It’s hard to tell if he has pity on Miss Lonely or is secretly pleased with her distress.

“Princess on the steeple and all the pretty people
They’re drinkin’, thinkin’ that they got it made
Exchanging all kinds of precious gifts and things
But you’d better lift your diamond ring, you’d better pawn it babe.”

The urban Mitchell

Saturday, 16 November, 2013 0 Comments

“Night in the city looks pretty to me / Night in the city looks fine / Music comes spilling out into the street / Colors go flashing in time.”

In March 1968, Joni Mitchell released her debut album, Song to a Seagull. The A side was titled “I Came to the City” and the B side, “Out of the City and Down to the Seaside”. From the A side, here’s Night in the City, a celebration of nightlife and its promises. “The young Joni sometimes sounds cloyingly virginal, and the flowery mooncalf affectations grate, but her unique sense of rhythm and melody is already blooming,” wrote Taylor Parkes. Music critics were literate, if somewhat condescending, back then.

If you’re feeling a little lost

Saturday, 9 November, 2013 0 Comments

When the composer and cellist Arthur Russell died of AIDS in New York City on 4 April 1992, aged 40, Kyle Gann of The Village Voice wrote: “His recent performances had been so infrequent due to illness, his songs were so personal, that it seems as though he simply vanished into his music.” Arthur Russell was a peculiar talent and his abilities extended far beyond “conventional” composition and performance. His experimental work was a huge hit in the New York disco scene of the early 1980s and tracks such as Is It All Over My Face, which was recorded on stolen studio time, was a commercial hit, a staple in the club scene and a formative influence on Chicago house. Here, Nat Baldwin of the Dirty Projectors performs Arthur Russell’s beautiful A Little Lost.

The wrought iron sound of Richard Warren

Saturday, 2 November, 2013 0 Comments

“Operating at the interface of rhythm and noise as punk-primitive, clearly finding his true self in the blues.” That’s what The Independent said of Richard Warren. And there’s this from “The sound is stripped down to a wrought iron core, revealing an intriguing collision of country soul and primitive apocalyptic blues, Southern Gothic and English Romanticism.” Richard Warren’s new album, Rich Black Earth, will be released on the coming Monday, 4 November.

Jesus time

Saturday, 26 October, 2013 0 Comments

A quick look at the New York Times Bestsellers earlier in the week — Hardcover Non-Fiction — showed Jesus topping and tailing the list. In first place was Killing Jesus, an account of the life, times and crucifixion of our Saviour by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, and in tenth position, Zealot, a biography of the revolutionary Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan. And there was even more faith in fourth position with I Am Malala, which is about a Pakistani girl who was shot by the Islamist Taliban, while in fifth place was My Story, in which Elizabeth Smart tells of being kidnapped from her Utah home in 2002 at age 14 by a couple noted for their “religious idiosyncrasy”.

All this brings us to Amos Lee, whose fine new album, Mountains Of Sorrow, Rivers Of Song has come into our possession via iTunes. Although the name may not be familiar to all, Lee has built a sterling reputation by touring with Adele, Willie Nelson, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan. Along with composing his own songs, he’s a superb interpreter and his version of Fred Neil’s A Little Bit of Rain is splendid. This is from the Mission Bell album.

Where no one stands alone

Saturday, 19 October, 2013 0 Comments

Loretta Webb was born in 1932 in coal-mining country: Butcher Hollow, near Paintsville, Kentucky. When she was 15, she married Oliver Vanetta Lynn, Jr. It was tempestuous relationship but it inspired songs about philandering husbands, domestic violence and blue-collar work. Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind), Fist City and Coal Miner’s Daughter are typical Lynn titles. She knew whereof she wrote.

In 1953, on their sixth wedding anniversary, Oliver Vanetta bought his Loretta a $17 Harmony guitar and she taught herself to play. Loretta Lynn cut her first record (Honky Tonk Girl) in February 1960 and Nashville beckoned. To date, she has sold some 50 million albums worldwide.

“Like a king, I may live in a palace so tall
With great riches to call my own
But I don’t know a thing in this whole wide world
That’s worse than being alone.”

Elvis Presley sang this gospel hymn on his 1967 Nashville album How Great Thou Art.

Anna Calvi deconstructs lounge pop

Saturday, 12 October, 2013 0 Comments

“Artist’s vocals are enveloped by a dreamlike mix of distorted riffs, insistent rhythms and ornate orchestrations.” So wrote the Financial Times about One Breath, the new album from Anna Calvi. That’s fine as far as it goes, but the core Calvi fan won’t be satisfied with what the “Pink’un” has to say. This Is Faked DIY delivers the goods to the base: “Teaming her dark, sultry torch-singer side with something more personal has worked wonders. One Breath is a beautiful, atmospheric triumph.”

The original Lisa O’Neill

Saturday, 5 October, 2013 1 Comment

To celebrate the release of her new album, Same Cloth or Not, Lisa O’Neill will play a headline show at Whelan’s in Dublin on Saturday, 19 October. O’Neill started writing songs and music in her native Ballyhaise, County Cavan, and then moved to Dublin for a full-time career in music. She’s on the way.