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October 14, 2006

October's eMusic Downloads

I got this idea from Ortho_Bob. But my selections are less weird than his. Perhaps.

Show of Hands: Backlog 1987-1991, Covers, The Path and Lie of the Land. A ton of Show of Hands turned up and I took the opportunity to pick up all the stuff I didn't already have. Show of Hands are Phil Beer and Steve Knightley. Knightley writes songs and sings and plays several instruments very well, and Phil Beer sings and plays loads of instruments very well indeed. They regularly win awards for 'Best Duo' (although there are often three of them these days) or 'Best Live Band', and they're massive festival favourites. The core of their music is songs by Steve Knightley, telling tales of the West Country, often political. But they're quite careful about this; they're never so determined about their rural England politics that it might turn off their large town audiences. Nevertheless, they're one of several bands that are wildly popular with festival crowds but get zero radio play, and we assume that's because they're too political for the BBC to have any truck with them. They normally sprinkle in some more historical songs, the odd traditional song, a cover or two and some instrumentals.

Lie of the Land is the odd one out here; it's a perfectly ordinary studio album that I just happened to miss in my long habit of buying Show of Hands. The Path is an instrumental concept album; the sights of the South West Coast Path depicted in music. Backlog 1987-1991 consists of the best tracks culled from their early cassettes. I'm a bit grumpy about this sort of thing. As with the Oysterband's Before the Flood, I'd be much happier if they released this material complete. But I understand that these 'best of our juvenilia' compilations are much more likely to work commercially. Finally, Covers is just what you expect. Some of these songs, like Tom Robinson's "Rigging it Up, Duncannon" or Billy Joel's "Downeaster Alexa", feel very like Knightley's songwriting; contemporary tales of men at work.

Värttinä are not a heavy metal band, despite the ümlauts. They're a Finnish folk band who have broken away a little from the tradition of women singing unaccompanied. They came to my attention because they played with Eliza Carthy at Wychwood last summer. I didn't see them there, but friends did. Iki is a fairly recent studio album, and I found it on eMu by seeing what else had been issued by Westpark, Bellowhead's record label. Reviews of this album say 'they've shed their frantic edge', so I suspect I may have to go and find some earlier stuff; I do like frantic edges.

The Handsome Family, of course, played with the Big Session at the Bush Hall recordings. The Oysterband fans find them weird, but I quite liked them; modern songwriting and reinterpretations of the American versions of the murder ballads. But not quite enough to buy full price, and there was only a live set on eMusic (which I have). But eMusic UK is not the same as the original eMusic, and the Handsome Family is one of the acquisitions. Unusual this; the girl writes the songs and the boy sings. Last Days of Wonder is their new studio album. Over at their website (which they do themselves), the 'news' page gives you helpful Halloween advice on the discovery and capture of witches.

We saw Jo Mango supporting Alasdair Roberts at the Luminaire a year or so ago; she had only an EP then but I marked her as one to watch. This is her first album, Paperclips and Sand: sweet, fragile music.

Another band we've seen live is Old Crow Medicine Show; at the Cambridge Folk Festival, and they didn't really make much of an impression. Big Iron World is their new album, and I've downloaded it to give them another chance. I think they play lively, bluesy bluegrass, but, as I said, they didn't make much of an impression. Lots of people I respect rate them though.

Finally, two songs each from This is the Kit, who we saw supporting Jim Moray, Kris Drever of Lau, and free downloads from Tom Waits, in advance of his new album.

Posted by Alison Scott at October 14, 2006 08:17 PM


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