Thursday, January 23, 2014

European Road Trip: Going To…..

[purchase one of the albums that one of these songs is on]

I went a long time on this blog without repeating bands, but it gets harder and harder to find things to write about without going to the same source, so I sort of gave up on that. I wrote about The Mountain Goats a couple of months ago, but this theme made me think of that band again.

Among the many quirky things about John Darnielle and The Mountain Goats, and there are many, are that they have a number of song series. There is the “Alpha couple” series, the “Orange ball” series, the “Pure” series, the “Song for” series, the “Standard Bitter Love Song,” series, the “Aztec” series and the “Biblical” series. But my favorite is the “Going to” series, which includes more than 40 songs, each entitled “Going to” a place. The songs are, generally, about the feeling of trying to improve your life by going somewhere, although they often are about how that rarely happens.

The series includes songs about places from all over the world, ranging from Marrakesh to East Rutherford, New Jersey, from Santiago to Port Washington. There are a number of songs about places in Europe, and rather than try to delve further into the twisty mind of Mr. Darnielle, I will simply post a few videos, and let you draw your own conclusions. And if you want more information about these and other Mountain Goats songs, check out here and here.

Going to Bridlington:

Going to Utrecht:

Going to Scotland:

And how could I leave out Going to Spain?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


What if we went to Italy: Mary Chapin Carpenter
Purchase it here!

Have to confess the idea of a road trip to europe seems somewhat less exotic an affair over this side of the pond, not least as, I guess, I'm already there. Or is it here? Whatever, avoiding the temptation to go all "one europe" on you, I will bow to the expectation that we talk of continental europe, Le Grand Tour if you will, the cultural fleshpots, predominantly, of France, Italy, Spain. Germany too, I guess, Greece, Portugal. I'm uncertain whether Romania, Luxembourg and the others will get much action, but all this uses up my word count, and I note Turkey has had a shout below.

So what were my options? I seem to have covered many of the artists I could have called upon, so Spain and France were already taken, which is a shame, as they are my two favourite mainland destinations. I've only actually been to Italy perhaps twice, taking in whistlestops of Rome, Venice and Florence, each of which have made me want to spend more time exploring, much more time. I also have very little italian, but I can shrug emphatically, which is often sufficient. And I have seen a lot of Robert de Niro films, so I reckon I'm halfway to fluent.

And it's the food, of course, pasta, pizza, risotto. Who can possibly eat better than the italians? (Well, apart from the french......)

So to the song, whose lyrics seem to expand on a similar ambivalence, accepting that a little love and knowledge is near sufficient to blend in unobtrusively:

                                         "I still can't speak any Italian
                                  But words are replaced under Siennese skies
                                  By nothing so much as a nod, and a sigh, and a wish to be                                           always like this"

 I have always felt that Mary Chapin Carpenter has one of those voices, smooth and warming, with an undertone of honey and molasses. I reckon she could sing the phone book with a conviction that could entrance. This is, it's true, one of her slighter efforts, but take in the tones, listen to the lilt and explore into her still expanding catalogue. I recall a TV show with she, Rosanne Cash and Nanci Griffith playing in turn, the other two being then much better known, but eclipsed by this new kid on the stool. Since then she has ploughed a solid furrow in that hinterland of country and folk, with songs often seemingly tinged with personal regret: the press suggests a life that has had it's share of upset and upheaval.

Does this song make you want to cross the ocean? I don't know, but I would.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

European Road Trip: Istanbul Grey

Robert "One Man" Johnson: Istanbul Grey
[purchase: from Amazon]

I present a one-of-a-kind clip produced just for you here with the express permission of the composer/musician: Istanbul Grey.

If you’re going to do a European Road Trip, you might as well go all the way to the edge. Istanbul: neither East nor West. Neither Europe nor Asia – a unique city that straddles both.

That seems to be part of Robert “One Man” Johnson’s quest: originally from the US, his music encompasses the rest. Robert  Johnson has done more than one “Road Trip”: Asia, Europe, the US. He’s put out a number of albums. More or less on his own. I’d be surprised if you had ever heard of him, but that's your loss: until now.

While in Turkey, he paired with – among others- Erkan Ogur, who plays the fretless guitar solo on this piece.  Here Erkan does an interpretation of a well-known Turkish folk song as part of his his solo. As for RJ: he's been on the road all over and I couldn't name them all: Istanbul, Shanghai, Yanbu, Bangkok ...

Having retired from many years teaching English all around the world  (and using his musical skills to do so), Robert is devoting more time to his music and "Housedogmusic" brand.

The “One Man” moniker derives from his unique ability as a one-man band: simultaneously singing, playing the guitar, percussion (high-hat) and a unique foot piano. All at the same time. Many/most of his instruments are home grown or highly personalized. To learn more, you can check his web site out here.

They call it "full disclosure" : A few years back, I managed to convince him to return to his roots for the Robert College Fine Arts Festival and he did me the return honor of calling me to the stage (here)