Friday, November 29, 2013
POG AON OIDCHE EARRAICH : RUNRIG
I'm feeling a bit stuck in this folkie groove, worried whether I should feel worried. But, do you know what? I don't. This is important. Well, I think so.
This is a song, poem, whatever, about Flora McDonald, and it is in gaelic. It probably neither rocks nor rolls, and has a choir singing on it. What's not to love? Well, try it......
The scottish band, for it is they, have legend similar to that "Scottish Play" that dare not say it's name. To invoke their name can lead, I'm led to believe, to untold harm, yet they plough their 40 year farrow, unabated, give or take an occasional change of character. This song stems from what I consider their classic period, when Donnie Munro was still fronting on blood-curdling vocals, yet he scarcely figures in this, beyond background wails. I find the goose bumps rise inevitable on this, perhaps a result of my hebridean lineage, but I can't but be affected by this piece. When my mother died, several years back, this was the obvious choice of music for her send-off, not least as she was a gaelic-speaking native of Melbost, near Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis.
This band came from Skye, I understand, another of the hebridean islands, steeped in history, real and invented. It is another world to the one I live in and know, with a poetry and presence at odds with the elsewhere world. I love it. It is my home from reality, a home from home. Fogive my indulgence. Enjoy the song.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
No, I am not evoking "Disasters" to equate with my sausage-fingered ramblings, that's your job*, but as a sign of my gratitude to Uberdude Darius for pointing out I could sift through the leavings of years other than this. Clearly I remain somewhat of a newbie in these parts, so the choice offered thereby is immense, with all the posts I wished I could have done, before sneaking up the gangplank, now available. Indeed I may multi-post this fortnight. Be warned.
(*This is as good a time as any to hitch some link to the asterisk, pointing your eyes to the upper right of this page. If you are sick of the same old, same old, jump in and jump on. Could do better? Do it then. Can't be that hard, eh?)
OK, then, disasters...... I love a good disaster, me. No, not really, I am not taking pleasure from the world of natural, but the songsmithery, particularly in days gone by, can really hold the mind and have you there.Bear in mind, before newsprint was ubiquitous, and before video feeding killed it, the broadsheet ballad was how the news was transmitted. None of your tweets and sky news e-mail updates, if it was the top of the moment action you needed to hear about, it was down to the tavern and listen to the troubadour de jour.
Now it is true I am a bit of an unreconstructed folkie. I'm keen on ye olde folke rocke. (You've noticed?) Yeah, yeah, not everybodys cup of tea, and I try to be a little varied. But on this one I can't. This is my favourite long and drawn out dirge ever. The Albion Band were the warhorse of ex-Fairport and ex-Steeleye "Godfather" Ashley Hutchings, a varied compendium of styles and strummers over at least a couple of decades, being sometimes a bijou accoustic quartet, and at others a rumbustuous 11 piece electric storm of modern and medieval mixed. "Rise Up Like the Sun" was, for me, their tour de force, and was produced in 1978. I was also lucky enough to see this incarnation on a couple of occasions, in a London slowly coming to terms with punk rock. 2 drummers, 2 guitarists, keyboards, a horn section (including crumhorns), girlie singers and electric fiddle for starters. And the Albion Morris Men to dance onstage. Perhaps the switch to a smaller and less eclectic line-up was inevitable. The album had numerous guest vocalists,as amply demonstrated within this song, despite already having, in John Tams, one of the soundest traditional and warming voices in the genre. It is him in the later verses, with Martin Carthy, the harshly angular doyen of the male folk vocal style, in the openers. The fiddle is by Ric Sanders, long, long ahead of his part in Fairport Convention. In these days he was contemporaneously in Soft Machine. (Yes, I said Soft Machine) Guitars are Simon Nicol, never that far away from any of his old Fairport cohorts, and Graeme Taylor, late of odd chamber folk outfit, Gryphon. Also tucked into the mix is a certain Phil Pickett, on ancient reeds and brass, the afrementioned crumhorn, curtals and shawms, daylighting from his other job as leader of the New London Consort, a respected orchestra of renaissance musics on original instrumentation. Drums were Michael Gregory and the best drummer in the world, in my humble, the estimable Dave Mattacks. Yes, another deportee from Fairport, but whose session history, from Mary Chapin Carpenter, through Elton John, to Paul McCartney, makes stellar reading. Go see
I implore you to take the time and listen to the whole of the song, even if you find the bare harmonium a bit hymnal, and the vocals a bit too, um, specialist. It builds from this relatively simple beginning, through a Coltrane inspired wah-wah fiddle frenzy, thence into some guitar pyrotechnic, before returning to the baseline (bassline?) melody. I love it. You may not, but give it a try. Surprise yourself. It won't be a disaster. (I should add that, because it is a "long track", the good folk at A***** won't supply it outside the whole LP. Dare you???)
Monday, November 25, 2013
The Mountain Goats: Golden Boy
This is one of those songs that inexplicably has grabbed me. If you are not a Mountain Goats fan, please listen to it, and maybe it will grab you, too. Apparently, though, if you are a Mountain Goats fan, “Golden Boy” is considered the “Free Bird” of their prodigious body of work. It is a song about peanuts, and the entire moral structure of society. Both of which are important.
The Mountain Goats started in the early 1990’s as a solo project of John Darnielle, one of the more interesting and productive songwriters around. Much of their/his early work was aggressively low-fidelity—recorded on a boom box with awful sound. Yet, the quality of the songs, and their quirky, yet deep lyrics, based on Darnielle’s twisted view of the world led to a significant cult following. More recently, The Mountain Goats have become a real band, and they have abandoned their lo-fi sound for more conventional production, although their songs continue to be anything but conventional.
“Golden Boy” originally appeared on an EP released in 1998 called Object Lessons: Songs About Products, which included 5 songs by 5 bands (4 of which I have never heard of) about products, including “Grenadine” and “Honeywell Round Thermostat.” It was later included on a Mountain Goats compilation album, Ghana.
The track starts with what appears to be Darnielle telling “Paul” (presumably Paul Lukas, who was behind the Object Lessons EP) that he believes that this take is better than the one he was about to send, because “I have my boots on, which always guarantees a good showing.”
The song then begins with an exhortation to live a good life, and to follow the Golden Rule (do unto others….). This is generally good advice, but in the song, Darnielle does not suggest the moral course because it is the right thing to do, or for a general shot at eternal paradise. No, according to Mr. Darnielle, one should live a good life, specifically so that
When you die
You’ll find Golden Boy Peanuts
Waiting in the afterlife for you
These must be some damn good peanuts.
Further, Darnielle warns about the horrible alternative—
There are no pan-Asian supermarkets down in hell
So you can't buy Golden Boy Peanuts
Clearly, the traditional fire and brimstone, ceaseless pain and suffering, etc. are nothing, when compared to spending eternity without a specific brand of Singaporean peanuts, distinguished by a
Drawing of the young Chinese farmer
The eastern sun behind him smiling at you.
I can’t really explain the charm of this song, but as someone who finds pretty much anything about religion to be ridiculous, maybe the idea that the reason to live justly is to assure an eternal supply of a particular brand of snack just amuses me.
Sugarcane Harris: Where’s My Sunshine
Papa John Creach: Bumble Bee Blues
As the unofficial keeper of Star Maker traditions, I would like to set the record straight on this week‘s theme. Leftovers week is not simply the time to revisit themes from the past year. Any theme we have ever run is fair game. So some of us may choose to revisit themes from the past year, and I may be one of them as the theme continues. But for my first Leftover, I have chosen one of our older themes, from 2010 in this case: Fiddles and Violins.
I am amused whenever I hear the term “jam band“. I grew up in the 1960‘s, and all bands I knew of jammed. It was a badge of honor, and bands that couldn‘t jam well were laughed at. The San Francisco rock bands of the time were famous for it, but so were the British blues rock groups. I can‘t think of Jerry Garcia without thinking of jamming, but Eric Clapton was just as good. It is natural to think of electric guitar players in this context, but there were jammers on other instruments too. The two musicians featured in this post both began their performing careers before jamming was common in popular music. One usually thinks of jam bands as being white, but both of these musicians were black. And both played an instrument that is not usually associated with either jam bands or, especially, with the blues. I’m talking about two fiddlers who achieved fame with rock bands of the 60s and 70s: Don “Sugarcane“ Harris and Papa John Creach.
Sugarcane Harris began his recording career in the mid 1950s as half of the duo Don and Dewey. After the duo broke up, Harris recorded with the likes of John Lee Hooker, Little Richard, and Johnny Otis. By the 60‘s, Harris had come to the notice of Frank Zappa. Harris recorded two albums with the Mothers of Invention, and several more with Zappa. This was followed by a mid-70s gig with a late edition of John Mayall‘s Bluesbreakers. Where‘s My Sunshine comes from a solo gig during the transition from Zappa to Mayall. It is more of an excuse for a jam than a song. But the quality of the jam makes up for that. Harris‘ solos are brief, as this is more of a full band effort, but his playing still shows the adventurousness that would have appealed to Zappa. At the same time, a solid blues foundation, which would have been what attracted Mayall, is also evident.
Papa John Creach began performing in Chicago bars in 1935. Blues as we know it now was still taking shape at that time, and Creach was most likely influenced by the black string bands of the day. Blues fiddlers were far more common in those days. Creach managed to stay in music for the next thirty years, but he never recorded until he met drummer Jon Covington, and became a member of Hot Tuna. Creach would go on to record with Jefferson Starship as well, before finally starting his solo career. Bumble Bee Blues hasan intro that recalls the early roots of Creach’s playing, but it soon turns into a fully plugged in electric blues number. Not surprisingly, Creach’s playing is much closer to traditional blues than Harris’. Together, they offer fine examples of the range of music that “jam bands” were making, long before anyone felt the need for the term.
Sunday, November 24, 2013
Frank Zappa: Whippin' Post
If you're going to focus on the link between Leftovers and Thanksgiving, this first post may seem out of place: we haven't yet celebrated the feast that leaves us with the days' worth of turkey. On the other hand, in keeping with the way that giving thanks carries with it a reflection back on times past, there's no reason not to bring you songs we might have posted during the year but never got around to a few days before T'day.
Flippant, irreverent, baiting, provocative, Frank Zappa had a lot to say, both on stage and off. At times, you find his words so far off-the-wall that you're sure he can't be serious; or in an interview, his politcal views perceptive and well out in front of most of his contemporaries.
This clip could have almost gone into the "Brothers" theme: written by Greg Allman of the Brothers. Here, we've got (I believe) Bobby Martin doing some fine vocal work following FZ's intro banter and later guitar solos.
Would you all like some more-a?