Saturday, June 29, 2019


Summer days, a holiday, time on your hands, so where does that take you? Yup, quite possibly here, happy juice, the water of life, the scourge of society that keeps us loose at the edges. Context clearly is all, so here's my disclaimer, but I'm off to Turkey today, where, so far, the grog is still legal. So some unashamed odes to the results of overdoing it. (Kids: just say no.............)

Why is it always country music that is the first thought for hooch ditties? Probably on account the inescapably deep well of inspiration the drink has offered the singers and writers, from Hank through, well, Hank Jr, Hank III, everyone really. This old staple, 'Drunkard's Dream' comes from the well worn hand of trad.arr. and was popularised in the 1920s, via an initial transit from the folk songs of old england. (Original title 'Husband's Dream', surely casting a slur on the effects of matrimony.) This version comes from an excellent 1972 recording by Gene, not Gram, Parsons, although he too was both a Byrd and a Burrito.  Covering all tropes in the country diaspora, 'Kindling' is a record that still gives me pleasure.

But before I forget, a message from our sponsor. No, don't do that neither, but I make this point, together with an instrumental version of this Stevie Wonder classic to avoid the wisecracks around don't drive blind, inevitably greeting the song as Steveland sung it. O my aching sides. Not. In the N'Awlins marching band tradition, the Dirty Dozen Brass band come over as no strangers to an ice cold pitcher.

A hit for Johnny 'Guitar' Watson before he was Johnny 'Guitar' Watson, this 1953 toe-tapper was billed as being by Young John Watson, only shortly after he ditched playing piano for guitar. With a vast catalogue behind him, in blues and, later, in jazz, he was hitting his 40s as he reinvented himself as a sharp-suited and booted funkateer. Sadly, on the crest of yet a 3rd breakthrough, he died, on tour, in 1996.

It's back to country, this time to the dynasty of Cash/Carter. Actually daughter of June, she was step-daughter to Johnny and step-sister to Rosanne, learning her chops on the road from an early age, in the family band. Arguably a wilder child than her near sibling, she ended up in London after a couple of failed marriages, cutting an album with Graham Parker's Rumour on backing duties. a year or so later saw her hooking up with Rockpile, married to the bass player, Nick Lowe, once of Brinsley Schwarz, producer to Elvis Costello and later (and still) a name in his own right. This track comes from 'Musical Shapes', the album arising out of that relationship, never as much of a success as it deserved to be.

The title of this charming song possibly comes ahead of the last one, as, if you can remember what you failed to accomplish, that implies memory. In the real world, or so I am reliably told, being TDtF, is, however, more often relegated to the wastes of TDtR, few being upstanding enough to joyfully recall such peccadilloes with honesty or candour. Upstanding perhaps the wrong choice of word. I find the original of this song, by the Dead Kennedys, a little too full on for my taste, this gallic take offering a more sophisticated european stance on blotto.
Brewers Droop were a UK blues-rock band in the early 70s.

Well, that's what any self-respecting drunk, if that is not an oxymoron, would say, don'cha think? Actually written by the devoutly teetotal Richard Thompson, apparently his avoidance of alcohol came more through his personal experiences on the road with the famously convivial Fairport Convention*, rather than his later conversion to Islam. (*It's number 4.) Norma Waterson is from the fabled folkie family, the Watersons, mother of Eliza, husband to Martin Carthy. Mean nothing? Go check.......

We're back in N'Awlins again, via Sweden, where this bluesman was born. I suspect he knows here what he was singing about, struggling with his own demons of addiction until a decade ago, now channeling many of his efforts into 'Send Me a Friend', a charity/self-help group to help musicians struggling with similar.

Ha! You know you can't have the above, like the Dubliners who provided the portal for this piece, without some form of payback. Squeeze, themselves no strangers to the odd ditty round the manifestations of a life liquoric , or rather Difford/Tillbrook, the writing team, actually pitched this song to Frank Sinatra, laughably thinking the subject matter might be up his street. Sadly, he declined, but that doesn't matter now.

I hope your heads will be fine after this tribute to Bacchus and his many and varied gifts.
And plink plink fizz.
Imbibe away.......

Thursday, June 27, 2019


I don't know about you, but I love playing with words, adding and subtracting the prefixes that conjure up meaning, sometimes discovering more about the derivation of the meaning in a more nuanced way. This can creep up on you in a most insidious way, itself making me wonder why sidious isn't used more often, or ever, as its opposite. (Which led me again further to an interesting website which, in turn, has me wondering why no Darth Depende, but that is another story.)

OK, the/a state of independence aside, let's drill down into what there is to celebrate. Over here, of course, we don't, July 4th being just the day the state of dependency on this nation was lost. (It would be a holiday here every day, were a party thrown every time the once pink parts of the map changed colour.) And, as the recent ghastly kowtowing to Trump demonstrated, perhaps is not now the parent state now dependent on the child? And, in terms of folk to rely on, leading the country and all that, child really is begetting on the man......... If the picture above says anything, surely it is that. Anyhow, that's yer ten pennorth of politics, let's talk Santana.

Just how many of the Woodstock class of '69 are still performing, and, possibly, still performing at the top of their game? Carlos Santana has just brought out another record that seems to be suggesting he is doing just that. At a time and an age when merely to issue a new release can herald automatic fanfares of a return to form, often more, its true, in hope than in anticipation and reception, he may well have cracked it. Of course, there are a number of Santana's, the frantic percussion heavy latino rock that burnt the stage alive at Max Yasgur's farm, the mellower and jazzier mid period, morphing into a mystical fusioneer and, latterly, the elder statesman pumping out largely lacklustre material, "enriched" by special guests. I am a fan mainly of the first period, up to and including 'III', 'Caravanserai' onward, through 'Borboletta' and the John McLaughlin diversions sometimes failing to hold full interest. (The 'Caravanserai' mob here announce my soon to be arranged period of pillory, but I have tried, really, I have tried.) I think that once he had that hit with the fella from, FFS, Matchbox 20, I knew the rot had set in, and 'Guitar Solos' seemed to cement that, even if the conceit of that project, in my opinion, was no worse than any other vocalist thrashing through an album of covers. Santana's voice is, after all, his guitar.

I had high hopes for Santana 'IV', the old band brought back after their own stab at recreating thatt same time period, but both it and 'Abraxas Pool' disappointed. The next outing, hand in hand with the residual Isley Brothers, 'Power of Peace', was better, if seeming a vehicle more for they than he. So why should this one, 'Africa Speaks,' be any different, as they too were acclaimed as the rediscovered grail? Could it be the presence of Rick Rubin, the catalyst behind many a revitalised career, from Johnny Cash to Neil Diamond? Or is the presence of one Concha Buika, a veritable powerhouse of afro-flamenco influences? I have been following her career for some time, marvelling at her vocal prowess in several genres. Santana has never much used a female voice to any great extent, if Flora Purim will forgive me, and, if it has taken Rubin to sow this seed, well done that man. Listening to this record has had me excited about Carlos Santana for the first time in many a long year. OK, it is arguably a Buika vehicle with added Carlos, but the namecheck will boost the sales no end, the hopeful ever hopeful. It is outside SMM's usual structure to put up any video from music so new, and I am not going to change that now*, but here is some Buika to whet any appetite.

So, when you ain't got no one to depend on, when your old heroes are all out to pasture and recycling processed self-parody, who are you going to call. I'm thinking Rick Rubin might be your man. Not bad for an old hip-hop producer, say I

*Go on, then, no one's looking.....

It's speaking, you listening?