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January 28, 2006

Wintergreen Video

Not quite my sort of music, but I love the video for WIntergreen's "When I Wake Up". You can watch it online, or download a version suitable for your iPod or PSP. And the comments are full of people saying "durr, Atari covered them in concrete." Which is so not the point.

Posted by Alison at 08:09 AM | Comments (0)

January 22, 2006

A couple of record companies and a reminder

I was reminded that some of the bands I've linked to have concerts in the Internet Archive. Notably Billy Bragg and Carbon Leaf.

Tim Walters wrote to tell me about his record label Doubtful Palace. Things of interest include Conjure Wife, who play 'morbid British folk songs'. Try The Silkie which they quite accurately describe as 'girl meets seal, girl gets seal, everybody dies'. Pledge Drive mixes folk with a wide variety of modern elements and Tim's own songs. Shenandoah is probably atypical of this band, but shows off Rebecca Marculescu's lovely voice.

And a mention for Fat Cat records, a UK label with two very interesting sub-sites. DIY Resource has a load of case studies and links for people thinking of self-publishing music or setting up a small label. And Demo Archive, music from 'bands that are good enough that we'd sign them if we only had more time'.

Finally, I still can't find any official mp3s for Waterson : Carthy, but there are some videos for download on their website (tucked into the members' area of the forum I fear).

Posted by Alison at 12:04 PM | Comments (0)

January 21, 2006

Musical Bits and Pieces

Return of the Dancehall Sweethearts, the Horslips DVD, is great. You can get it from Irish Music International for £19.99 postpaid worldwide. The Maurice Linnane rockumentary sets the Horslips in the wider context of Ireland in the 70s. It intersperses musical clips with interviews with the band and many other Irish music professionals. But as well as the rockumentary, you get a second full DVD, with 19 tracks from live performances as TV appearances. Delight at the music. Marvel at the clothes. Listen to famous people explaining that the first n gigs they ever saw were all the Horslips. Marvel at the clothes some more. It's brilliant.

Meanwhile, Coth Records seems to be to be an exemplar for a website for a small record label. Pages for each band make it clear what sort of music they play, make it straightforward to buy CDs, and include sample mp3s. There's a newsletter and a gig list. There's very little flash, no irritating music players, and only a few of the samples are short. I was after the 'noisy band', Graft, who describe themselves as 'either heavy folk, or English traditional rock'. You might try Polly (Put the Kettle On).

Posted by Alison at 04:31 PM | Comments (0)

January 20, 2006


There is a baby whale swimming up the Thames. It swam right past my office; if I'd been at work today rather than at Warwick Business School, I could have joined the crowds of people gawping.

And the Horslips DVD, Return of the Dancehall Sweethearts, arrived while I was away. It's a two DVD set with the documentary, and a second DVD with many full tracks and other delights. It includes the full version of the clip I linked to on my music page.

Meanwhile, in a totally random sample of successful senior public sector managers who took a mock of CIPFA's Strategic Business Management exam (one of the final parts of the CIPFA qualification), only five out of twenty-one passed. What conclusions would you draw about (a) the calibre of public sector management, (b) the content of the SBM syllabus and exam? (6 marks). In our defence, we had had no teaching on it whatsoever; our tutors were testing the theory that we'd all pass by miles without help. I gloriously achieved the lowest score in the entire class; the first time in my entire life that this has happened to me in any subject not involving a ball. By contrast, on our very first go at the other part of the final exam, the designed-to-simulate-real-life case study, one of our number (sadly not me) had a score higher than the highest national score when that exam ran for real.

Posted by Alison at 06:20 PM | Comments (0)

January 15, 2006

Alison's Potted Music

This is a special blog entry with its own right hand side link, and which will be updated over time. Updated 31 July 2007, fixing or removing broken links, and adding Faustus, Jez Lowe, Mawkin and Tiger Moth. It lists mp3s that bands I like, or their agents, managers, or publishers, have put on the web as samples of their work.

These are links to mp3s on other people's sites. If you're one of the people who has made this material available, and you don't want me to link to it, please let me know. Alternatively, if you're a band and you'd like me to link, let me know where your mp3s are. It has to be music I like, in complete tracks (I hate 30 second samples), and it has to be downloadable mp3s or, at a pinch, videos. No streams. Readers should send recommendations, tell me about broken links, and buy music by bands that you like, go to see them live, and buy their merchandise.

My manifesto: it is a good thing for bands, particularly those who are not well-known, to put mp3s of their songs on the web. Not short or low quality samples (though low quality is much better than short). I tell if I like bands by sticking music on my iPod and seeing if it registers. I can't do that with half a track, or a stream. Don't put up every track on the album; that would be daft. One or two songs from each of your albums, up to a maximum of five songs in total should be plenty. The effect you want is to let your potential fans to work out whether or not they like your music, but not give them so much that they don't feel the need to buy more.

Since I first wrote this page, Myspace has become universal. Again, I'd suggest that if you have a Myspace page, you offer at least one track for actual download, for the reasons mentioned above. Plus, if your Myspace page actually causes my eyes to bleed, I am unlikely to link to it. Or my ears; an astonishing number of Myspace pages launch more than one audio stream simultaneously when you launch them. Myspace downloads can be linked to directly, and I do so below in some cases, but they break even more than average for mp3s.

Bellowhead is an astonishing 10/11 piece folk big band, fronted by Spiers & Boden. Only an EP so far but an album promised for 2006. Travel to see them live.
Rochdale Coconut Dance
Fire Marengo (live)

The Blue Horses
They describe themselves as 'fiddle-driven Celtic rock dudes'. They have two more full tracks in Ogg, and a promise of more downloads if you register on the forums, which I don't seem to be able to do.
Billy Boy

Billy Bragg
There are three free downloads on his website but you have to checkout through his online store (without using a credit card) to get them.

Laura Cantrell
Delicious alt.country, and she has 19 mp3s for download on her site. Here are some of my favourites.
Churches Off the Interstate
I Lost You (But I Found Country Music)
When the Roses Bloom again

Carbon Leaf
Carbon Leaf has 41 mp3s online. I discovered this US folk-rock band on hearing the recommendation "If you like Carbon Leaf, you ought to check out the Oysterband".
The Boxer
Desperation Song
A Life Less Ordinary (live)
Seven Brides for Seven Sinners (live)

Lots of legal and illegal downloads on their site. Chumbawamba are signed to a copy-control-only-label, but insisted that their new album was released without copy control. Good for them.
Bella Ciao
Buy Nothing Day
Fade Away
Pass It Along (MP3 mix)
Song on the Times

The Demon Barbers
The other band you should definitely travel to see live. There are lots of videos on their website, plus if you register on the website you can download their entire first album for nothing. Go for it.
The Black Swan Rapper Firedance Video (video)
Katy Cruel

The Devil's Interval
New band singing unaccompanied harmonies of traditional songs. This is yet another band that's a product of the Traditional Music course at Newcastle University, and I learn from fRoots that they hate being described as 'products' of the course. Oh well.
Silver Dagger

Utterly triff trio of Benji Kirkpatrick, Saul Rose and Paul Sartin, playing English songs and dance music. No album yet so we'll have to make do with samples.
Acre of Land
Betrayed Maiden
Brisk Lad

David Ferrard
Mid-Atlantic singer-songwriter. You get a bit fed up of singer-songwriters at folk festivals, because of the number who can't sing, can't play, and have nothing to say. David Ferrard has a nice voice, catchy, interesting songs, and a political heart. Highly recommended.
Without A Daddy
One Hell of a Ride
Hills of Virginia

Julie Fowlis
Winner of this year's Horizon Award at the Radio 2 Folk Awards. Delightful young Gaelic singer who also works with Dòchas.
Òganich Uir a Rinn M'Fhágail

Great Lake Swimmers
Moody band whose first album was recorded in a grain silo. Singer thinks he's early Neil Young.
Moving Pictures, Silent Films

MJ Hibbett and the Validators
This band had a massive Internet Meme when their song Hey Hey 16K was given a great flash video. Hibbett is a poet. And, clearly, a programmer. They've got a new single out, Better Things To Do, which you can download from MySpace.
The Symbol of our Nation
Programming is a Poetry for our Time

The band I most regret never seeing live. Five live tracks on their website, from The Belfast Gigs.
Dearg Doom (but this version doesn't really do their signature tune justice)
King of the Fairies
The Man Who Built America
Trouble (with a capital T)
To get a sense of what the band looked like (quote: "we were The Darkness"), you can download a video clip from The Old Grey Whistle Test of the first minute of Dearg Doom and I can honestly say I have never seen its like.

Great French-style dance band that have sadly decided to split now.
Fill the Tankard/ Xiga de Mudreiros
Muineria de Froxan/ A Camposa

Si Kahn
American singer-songwriter and grassroots activist, who I'm familiar with because he wrote the song "Mississippi Summer", covered by the Oysterband with June Tabor. He has a dozen anti-war songs to download on his website.
Children of Poland
Send Me Back to Georgia

Benji Kirkpatrick
This is solo; he also plays with (ex)Dr Faustus, Bellowhead and Oysterband Big Session, and with his dad.
The Gypsy Laddie

Seth Lakeman
2005 Mercury Award nominee in the token folkie slot. Urgent and determined new and old folksongs and fiddle, backed by an enthusiastic band mostly comprising his brothers. Previously of Equation; these boys have been around awhile. One track available in return for registering; a Polly Vaughan.
Setting of the Sun

Jez Lowe and the Bad Pennies
Real favourites of mine since we saw them at Cropredy a few years ago. There's a download from Jez's new solo album on Myspace, but I couldn't find a Bad Pennies track.
Black Trade (direct download)

Essex instrumental four piece who are practically a Walthamstow local band; eg playing annually at the pub nearest our house. Notably scruffy.
La Mas Noyers Woods' (direct download)
Schottish Vermoux (direct download)

Ben Murray and Rosie Doonan
Nominees for the Horizon Award 2006; Ben Murray was previously in the very wonderful Tarras.
The Lusty Smith

Anglo-Aussie collaboration, beloved Cropredy regulars
Refugee (Have Mercy)
Get There From Here
Somethin's Cookin'

Karine Polwart
Fine Scots singer-songwriter. Won everything at last year's Folk Awards.
Follow the Heron

Alasdair Roberts
Scottish singer-songwriter who sings traditional stuff and excels with original material with unsettling folk-like themes
Carousing (live session)
Farewell Sorrow (live session)
I Went Hunting (live session)
Lord Gregory (live session)
What Put the Blood on Your Right Shoulder, Son? (live session)
When a Man's in Love he Feels No Cold (live session)

Michelle Shocked
Glorious East Texan singer/songwriter. Her website has one, non-representative sample mp3.
Carrickfergus/The Water is Wide

Show of Hands
All oddities and outtakes, but they also have a donationware download of Crooked Man on the site.
Armadas (Pt. Isaac)
Blackwaterside (India)
The Blue Cockade (Sidmouth)
My Death (Gosport)
Seven Yellow Gypsies
Tall Ships (Pt. Isaac)

Another band too new to have produced an album. Which is sort of a shame, because after hearing these tracks I was leaping for the 'buy now' button. Prog folk, and the lead singer thinks she's Maddy Prior.
Black is the Colour
Cold Haily Windy Night
Copshawholme Fair
Ye Jacobites

Spiers and Boden
John Spiers is quite the most exciting melodeon player at the moment, and Jon Boden is quite the most exciting intense broody singer.
Bold Sir Rylas
Blow the Winds
Sportsman's Hornpipe

Richard Thompson
A dozen mp3s and many streams available on his website
She Said it Was Destiny
Sights and Sounds of London Town
Vincent Black Lightning 1952 (live)

Tiger Moth
Fabulous, legendary ceilidh band, with great taste in album cover artists. One track on Myspace to download, not entirely representative.
New Pony (direct download)

Vienna Teng
US singer/songwriter/pianist.
The Tower

Twm Twp
Welsh/Breton ceilidh band with folk melody instruments and brass. They ran the fabulous Welsh music and dance workshop at Towersey 2006, where I played melodeon for dancers for the first time.
Priodas, a set of hornpipes.
Bore Da, a set of jigs.
Mympwy Llwyd, a set of hornpipes.

Rachel Unthank & the Winterset
Their album was Mojo's Folk Album of 2005
Tar Barrell in Dale

The Wailin' Jennys
A recommendation from Erik Olson, this.
Beautiful Dawn
Come All You Sailors
Beautiful Dawn (movie)

Lively Americana; feels very unlike most newish bands I'm hearing here. This is Patrick Nielsen Hayden's band.
Black and Blue

Roger Wilson
Recommended by Piers Cawley

And some relevant links
eMusic I mention eMusic all the time, but it is by far the best way to buy this sort of music online. Tracks in bulk cost about 12p each, minimum length of membership is 1 month (40 tracks) but with your first 50 free, and it includes music by Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, Oysterband, Show of Hands, Kate Rusby, Alasdair Roberts, Bert Jansch, Ewan MacColl, Joe Strummer, June Tabor, Martyn Bennett, Nic Jones, Richard Thompson, Steve Earle, the Watersons, the Poozies, Thea Gilmore, They Might be Giants, and many, many, many more. Not sure how to use your 50 introductory tracks? I've made a suggestion.

Trad Tunes and Woven Wheat Whispers are legal download services that offer mp3 downloads and are focused on traditional music. Trad Tunes in particular has some interesting material that's not on eMusic, including albums from Fellside. If you register on Trad Tunes there's a rather fabulous free album of music from the Scottish highlands & islands. Woven Wheat Whispers has three free compilations of available music, together with an entire page of sampler EPs.

Radio Britfolk is a subscription based radio station, with both a rather good rotating payola playlist, and several new themed shows a week. Subscribers get access to the archives, including tutorials on many of the commoner folk instruments; I found the beginners' melodeon tutorial very helpful.

SXSW, which not only has a ton of cool bands playing at its festival, but also manages to solicit an mp3 from most of them. I mean, who'd have thought there'd be a complete mp3 of the Kaiser Chiefs' I Predict a Riot or Bloc Party's Banquet online for free download?

MySpace, as well as being a social networking site for teenagers, has a page for nearly every indie band in the world. Nearly all have streaming tracks and many have downloads. Following links in MySpace is a very good way to find bands you like; and to start you off, here are my friends.

PlayTagger, which is the javascript that is producing all those cute little play links in this post and other posts of mine with music linked from them. Possibly the single best thing on the entire web ever, and I learnt about it from Kevin Lim.

Posted by Alison at 09:33 PM | Comments (8)

Just Venting Briefly

One of the things I did in pursuit of the entry I haven't posted yet on places you can find mp3s of bands I like, was visit Amazon.com's free downloads. Where I discovered that the most frequently downloaded song in the "Traditional British & Celtic Folk" section is a tooth-puckering version of "In the Bleak Midwinter". Here's my review:

OK, this might not actually technically be bad. I mean, it's an out-of-tune and overwrought version of the beautiful carol, but some people like that sort of thing (cf Eva Cassidy). What it isn't, not even a little bit, is "Traditional British or Celtic Folk", which is the category it's been put in, and is the highest rated song in. She's not a British singer, she's not singing in a British style, it's not a traditional tune (it's Holst), they're not traditional words (they're by Christina Rossetti) and frankly, you might as well file Green Day under Gregorian Chant.

Posted by Alison at 04:37 PM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2006

Queen Mab's Music

Oddly, sometimes agents have mp3s and photos on their site even when the artists don't. No, I don't understand it either. Anyway, Queen Mab's Music represent some of the UK's best folk bands, and if you're wondering what all the fuss is about, there's a full mp3 from each tucked away under the 'resources tab'. Delights include the Demon Barbers' Katy Cruel, The Lusty Smith from Horizon Award nominees Ben Murray and Rosie Doonan, and bellowhead's amazing version of the Rochdale Coconut Dance. Go grab before they change their minds, though you probably have to be considering booking them or something.

Over at the Show of Hands website, the band have released the single Crooked Man as honesty-ware. You can download it; if you like it, go back and pay them 79p. Separately, a double album from Show of Hands has turned up at my very favourite legal mp3 site, eMusic. It features many of their 'popular hits' -- you know, all those songs that everyone at the festival knows every word of. Good trick that.

Posted by Alison at 08:49 PM | Comments (0)

Limited Edition Tardis Box

Marianne, for her birthday, is getting the Tardis Box Set of Doctor Who. I peered at the box. That's nice packaging, isn't it! But hey... it's a 12 rating. "Unsuitable for those below the age of 12" it says. That's mad! It was on telly at seven in the evening, both my kids loved it, half its target audience was below the age of twelve...

Steven frowned. "Perhaps it means that once you're twelve you're allowed to sit on the sofa."

Posted by Alison at 09:23 AM | Comments (0)

January 11, 2006

Things I've learnt recently

Having a cat washing your hair is very interesting.
The real name for the theme tune of Captain Pugwash is the Trumpet Hornpipe.
Do not get me started on the Narnia Movie.
I clearly missed a memo; Rachel Unthank & the Winterset are brilliant, and have just won Mojo Folk Album of the year. Which is a bit like an award for "Best West Midlands Beach". But there we go. And luckily, they have a song you can download: Tar Barrell in Dale.
Having dithered for months about whether to buy a Nintendo DS, a Sony PSP, or a GameBoy Micro, I couldn't be happier with my DS. I have an incredibly cute beagle puppy and a passable pinball machine in my pocket.
I actually like bosses in pinball! Who'd have thought it? I have never liked any game bosses ever. But there's something satisfying and somehow pinball like about setting up chains of shots to hit a boss.
If I'm going to keep a blog, I'd better update it.

Posted by Alison at 12:58 AM | Comments (2)

January 06, 2006

Two Quick Things

I really like parent hacks, and in particular the suggestion that if your child is currently obsessed with, eg, dinosaurs, you should visit Flickr's dinosaur slideshow. Instant happy toddler, for sure.

And yesterday, I went swimming for the first time at Oasis, which is about 10 minutes from my work, has a heated 25m outdoor pool, and was absolutely fantastic. A swim is 3.30, plus 20p for the lockers. It was exactly like swimming in a hot tub; by the time we went (6pm) it was really dark, and cold, and you could see the steam coming off the pool.

Posted by Alison at 09:15 AM | Comments (0)