Saturday, November 16, 2019


Pick a colour, any colour. Well, from the three offered, and, bang, into my I Tunes search in goes yellow, coming up with the delightfully unwoke title above. Good as any, say I, little dreaming the deep and rich seam of history associated. And not a little fantasy/phantasy, as I soon learnt. So, just because I starting with Kacy and Clayton hipster central, don't for a second feel I am going to not immerse you in the full trad.arr.

Kacy and Clayton seem to have hit a rich seam of late. Having started off as mere celebrated Canadian folkies, by dint of association with Jeff Tweedy, he producing their last two recordings, and, before you know it, they are on trend and turning up on Aquarium Drunkard's esteemed Lagniappe Sessions. And good for them, say I. Gypsies comes from their earlier (and well entitled) 2015 debut, Strange Country. The song? Much earlier. A staple of the british folk song tradition of landed ladies running off with ne'er do wells and scoundrels, it has existed in many forms and has had many names. With yellow a colour I have never necessarily associated with either the romany or irish itinerant gypsy populations, the song also comes in as raggle tangle, as well as may other descriptors or titles. Here is a pretty good synopsis, even if it fails to mention some of the more mainstream connections, which is my job. So, no surprise, it has been covered by the great and good of the UK folk tradition, any variation of Watersons and Carthys, to the great and much missed Nic Jones (the definitive version, IMHO). But you may not have appreciated also the selection of more mainstream artists who have either also covered it, or used it as a starting block:

OK, so maybe not such a stretch, Mike Scott oft ploughing a rich seam of celtic into his big music, especially in the Spiddal years, but this is the closest to pure and unadulterated fiddle-dee-dee in his repertoire, his vocal shifting from his usual mid-irish sea amalgam to the pure scots of his Edinburgh birthplace.

Yup, Black Jack Dav(e)y  is another variant of the song, the lyrics and bits of the tune the same message. The White Stripes strip it back and amp it up, but it is all there. Tucked away on the b-side of a single, it's worth the search.

A pretty straight version here by Hooray For the Riff Raff, another Black Jack Davey. Now more an overtly americana act, this earlier piece sounds way more appalachian than any doo-wop loving child of the Bronx should ever produce.

Well, a bit different, and perhaps not what you's expect from the voice of Yazoo, orchestral and cod-operatic. Back to the (w)raggle taggle, I don't think it is one I'll seek out again.

That's much more like it. I confess I had never heard this version before, despite loving all of his work. Possibly put off by the running together of black and jack into blackjack, I had never seen it as being the same song, assuming a gambling and drinking connection, not unheard of in his song choices and writing.

Finally something completely different, ol' Taj here seems to be channeling Sam Cooke over an acoustic skank. It shouldn't work, but, o my, it does, it does. "My man Black Jack Davey" indeed.

That's seven. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5(!), 6, 7.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Red, Yellow or Orange: J Geils Band

purchase [Orange Driver ]

I'm guessing that there aren't too many of you who have heard of the J. Geils Band. I think you need to be of a certain age. Jay Giles passed away last year at the age of about 71. The man was originally a jazz trumpet player who later switched to guitar and went on to set up his own band - eventually naming it the J Geils Band. Although the band broke up in the 80s, they sporadically got together for reunion concerts after that.

The J Geils Band is classic blues - in fact it was originally named the J Geils Blues Band. Their first album brought them some notice with the song "Wait" - some nice blues "harp" from Richard Salwitz (aka Magic Dick) along side Geils' solid guitar and vocals from Peter Wolf.

Perhaps the band's next notable hit was Orange Driver, with essentially the same lineup and style: blues all the way.

Orange Driver's lyrics don't include many hints as to why the song carries the title it does. In fact, I challenge you to find any link to colors or fruit of the citrus variety in the words or the music. I couldn't. But that doesn't detract from the power of the song. Or the fact that it is named such that it fits our current theme.

If you're gonna listen to J Geils, you might also want to check out this one (Angel in Blue) from the 80s: