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January 18, 2007

Bells and Whistles

I have, rather experimentally, added Snap Preview Anywhere to the blog. Opinions clearly vary about this feature -- let me know what you think.

Posted by Alison Scott at 08:20 AM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2007

Got Vermin?

Inspired by Dr Plokta, I wonder about cataloguing the local wildlife in Walthamstow. I suspect such a list would end up something like...

1. Common house mouse
2. Deformed London pigeon
3. Urban fox
4. eight hundred Canada geese menacing my local park
5. Was that a rat? Perhaps it was a water vole? Nope, it was a rat.

PS... is this thing on? I haven't had a comment since October, not counting all the people helpfully telling me that I have a great blog and they have an excellent source of viagra.

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

January 05, 2007

A Murder Ballad

One of the reasons I think that I like the Steeleye Span 'Official Bootleg' so much is that it includes a live version of "Sir James the Rose"; I have only two other versions of this Child ballad; the studio version of the Steeleye track (on Rocket Cottage), and an unaccompanied field recording from Orkney of the other major thread of the ballad.

The Steeleye version was incredibly influential on my musical tastes. It's possible to listen to 'All Around My Hat' or 'Black Jack Davy' without getting the sense of exactly what sort of song it is that resonates across centuries. But even the densest child cannot fail to notice that the plot of Sir James the Rose is not the sort of thing you tend to hear on the radio. Briefly, if you don't know it, we start in media res. James is on the run because he's killed someone, he asks his lover for help, she hides him out on the moor, the posse following him ask her where he's gone (and torture her in some versions), she tells them but asks them to kill him in his sleep. Instead they wake him up, cut out his heart and give it to her. Steeleye stops there but in most versions she then kills herself and no bloody wonder frankly. I love the wildness and tragedy of the song, and the way it places itself so securely in moorland. It's very well matched too with its lavish rock treatment. And ever since then I've had a particular fondness for love songs that end very, very badly.

Having said that nobody ever plays songs like this on the radio, I did hear snatches of a murder ballad on the radio a couple of months ago; a modern song in which the singer is walking through a park or woodland when he sees a beautiful girl asleep with a hat over her face. It's only when he tries to rouse her that he realises she's dead. I have absolutely no idea what it is; it was very freaky indeed. Any ideas?

Posted by Alison Scott at 01:49 PM | Comments (0)

December Music

"Darling," I said, as we walked down the street, one day in November. "I've just had a very interesting eMail from the Apple Store. Turns out that if you go onto their website and order an 8Gb (Product) RED iPod Nano, it's possible to engrave it free with a message for your loved one!"

That's what subtle hints look like in the Kittywompus household. And it is lovely. Happy as I am to support anti-retroviral treatment and (Product) RED in general, careful readers will know that I would have bought an 8Gb nano months ago if only it had come in any colour other than black. Red is fine, electric blue would have been even better.

As I suggested, this month's eMusic downloads were all Topic.

Tarras: Walking Down Mainstreet I have the other Tarras album, Rising, so I was glad to get this. Ben Murray of Tarras is now working with Rosie Doonan; I am not sure what has happened to the rest of them. A good mix of traditional and contemporary.

Multiple Watersons and Carthies: Bright Shiny Morning, by Norma Waterson, A True Hearted Girl, by Lal and Norma Waterson, and Heat, Light and Sound, by Eliza Carthy. I still have lots to get here; another month. The appearance of the Topic catalogue on eMusic really underlines the breadth and range of output of Britains 'Number One Folk Family'.

Brass Monkey: The Complete Brass Monkey (a CD release of their early material) and Flame of Fire. There's not that much John Kirkpatrick on eMu, but he and Martin Carthy are driving forces behind this early folk/brass fusion. Unsurprisingly, I prefer the box-heavy tracks to the brass-heavy ones, and the whole affair is slightly sedate compared with, say, Bellowhead. Still, well worth having.

June Tabor: A Quiet Eye, Aleyn and A Cut Above. I have always been a fan; I know lots of people who don't like Tabor's delivery (including my Dad) so you might not want to download all dozen albums on eMusic all at once. On the other hand, you might. Anything from the last 15 years or so is a good place to start. A Cut Above is early material, which has more in common with the Silly Sisters than it has with Tabor's mature work. She's at an age now where people are starting to check her delivery for signs that her voice is fading. And no, no it's not. The most recent album is At the Wood's Heart.

John Tams: The Reckoning. This album won 'album of the year' at the Radio 2 folk awards. Tams' work repays more careful attention than I have been able to give it over Christmas, and I'm not properly familiar with it yet. Yet I already know that I'm underwhelmed with the much-vaunted cover of 'Man of Constant Sorrow'. I am sure I would have found it fine had I not first heard of it when it was nominated for best original song. I am a prisoner of raised expectations.

Martyn Joseph, Steve Knightley and Tom Robinson: Faith, Folk and Anarchy. I have had this on an eBay search since the dawn of time. It came up and I bought it, only to discover that you can download the entire album free on the web. Amazing. You can also get a pile of Tom Robinson albums free on his website. Go on, fill yer boots. If I could edit my Potted Music page I would certainly have added both of these to it. Probably time I did a new version of the entire thing.

The Gift of Music: Celtic Airs and Ballads. Another of the Gift of Music CDs that features Spiers & Boden amongst the musicians, and I got it cheap on eBay. I'm not as fond of this as of Sea Shanties; the material is less to my taste and I find the voice of the female singer rather wearing. There are some great individual tracks though.

Bellowhead: E.P.Onymous. I know, I know, I really should have bought this years ago. In my defence, I already had four of the five tracks -- three on fRoots or BBC2 anthologies and one download. The one I was missing was Prickle Eye Bush (I did have a live recording) and eventually I caved; £8 for one track? That's not too much, surely. (When S&B came to Walthamstow, they finished saying "...and this one's a chorus song. The words for the chorus go 'Oh, the prickle eye bush {pause for huge cheer}...' oh, so maybe you know it?")

Steeleye Span: The Official Bootleg. A very strange thing, this: it was free to those who bought a pair of tickets to the Palladium concert on 13 December 2004. We were there (and the tickets were a - for me mindblowing - £28), and we didn't get this CD. I seem to recall some discussion at the time about why we hadn't. At any rate, Reinhard Zierke, who used to maintain the world's best folk website, bought one of my copies of "Sea Shanties" on eBay and then sent me his spare copy of this CD in exchange for some, er, rarities. I've been saying for sometime that Steeleye sound as good live at the moment as they ever have, and this CD provides the appropriate evidence for that claim.

Reinhard also sent me a copy of "Folka" by Swedish band Kalabra; another album that I don't really have the measure of yet.

I acquired some more music at Christmas, but I think that needs to wait for January downloads.

Posted by Alison Scott at 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

Happy New Year

Over Christmas people started spamming the blog, so comment notification is turned back on. Meanwhile, I'm getting 500 errors on key page rebuilds. I find that the prospect of rebuilding Movable Type again fills me with gloom and is unlikely to happen till March at the earliest. So I cannot edit the Potted Music page. Meanwhile, Spiers and Boden have a new website, and all the links to music from their site have now broken. Joy.

The correct links are:
Bold Sir Rylas
Sportsman's Hornpipe

and for Bellowhead, Fire Marengo.

Mad Spiers & Boden fans should also note that I 'quite often' have a CD of sea shanties on which Spiers and Boden appear for sale on eBay.

The Tate Modern slides may or may not be art, but the level 5 slide is the largest slide in Britain and they are free. Höller argues that slides combat depression and improve mental health; I think what he means is that it's great fun. Go, but go early in the day; we picked up timed tickets for noon and 12:30 at about 10:45am, but TM warns that late-arriving visitors will not be able to get tickets. I was so excited by the experience of sliding that I almost forgot I'd brought my stereo camera with me. They could do with recycling arrangements for the tickets of those who wimp out on the higher slides; the top slide in particular was notably under-subscribed.

Posted by Alison Scott at 10:21 AM | Comments (0)