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March 13, 2007

February Music

I am currently watching two Martian television series -- Veronica Mars and Life on Mars. Both have very poor websites. That, combined with my normal pre-Easter collection of too many commitments and not enough time mean I can't blog very much. So just a quick run through last month's new music.

I saw Jez Lowe at the Plough -- I nearly said 'the folk club' but although the pub was the same the event was different, promoted by the pub not the club. He was triff and I bought three albums -- Bede Weeps, Doolally and Live at the Davy Lamp. I discovered that his song 'Greek Lightning' won a Radio 2 contest for 'saddest folk song' but they decided it was so wrist-slitting that they didn't play it on the radio, making Jez officially 'too sad for Radio 2'. Right. His song 'Dover, Delaware' is covered by the Dukhs on their first album -- the one my daughter loves so well.

I picked up the first two volumes of Topic's splendid collection of authentic British folk recordings, Voice of the People, now available from eMusic. There are 20 CDs, and I intend to get one or two a month from here on in. eMusic has now priced Booster packs past the point where I'm likely to use them unless I can't bear to wait till the end of the month, but the albums I want and don't have are stacking up.

I gave up waiting for Nic Jones' "Game, Set, Match" to turn up on eMusic and bought the CD. It has of course now appeared on eMu for that is the way these things work. Again, this is a collection of live versions, rarities and outtakes from when Nic was active.

Clive James' folk music collaborator Pete Atkin also played at the folk club, and I picked up CDs by Pete and by Pete & Clive; "Live in Australia", "The Lakeside Sessions" and "Winter, Spring". We'd been tipped off by Piers Cawley that Pete was a must see, and so it proved. A really terrific night, enhanced by winning the folk club raffle for the first time ever. (Yes, it's a proper folk club. We sing along with choruses, we have a raffle in the interval, and the pub brings out a nice plate of sandwiches). My prize was 'any CD from this box' and I grabbed John Kirkpatrick & Chris Parkinson's "Sultans of Squeeze", a CD I'd sort of been planning to buy when I got around to it. My kids were particularly amused by the rendition of the Who's 'Squeezebox', a song that it had never previously occurred to me might be about a melodeon.

Rather naughtily, I bought one of 22 copies of the new Oysterband album Meet You There being sold illicitly on eBay by someone who'd got them from the German record company fully two months before release. Somebody mentioned it on the Oysterband list and a day or so later they'd all sold. The band were not particularly pleased but didn't begrudge the list members their early copies! You can buy the album before the formal release from the Oysterband website, too. I'm pretty excited by this album; the songs grow on me with each listen, and those that I've heard live are very much more exciting live than on the album. I guess I'm just hoping to go to the secret launch party and sing along with all the songs.

My father turned up with a CDr of a cassette tape he found of a small string trio I was in when I was about fourteen. We weren't very good but again, this caused much innocent family amusement. As did the copy of "Tijuana Nursery Rhymes" by "The Torero Band" (actually Alan Moorhouse) that I got by the technique of asking nicely over at Vinyl Vulture. This was a favourite album when we were children; for some reason my Dad got rid of it, perhaps by accident. I want to be able play these jazzed-up nursery rhythms on the melodeon, too.

I already had the splendid album by The Devil's Interval, but I did pick up Jim Causley's solo album when the trio came to sing at the folk club. That really was a good night, with them doing most of the songs from the album plus loads of others. They do a workshop at festivals where they get kids to write new verses for "The Two Magicians"; the verses the kids write are so good that they've stopped singing the original ones and just do the new ones. Some of which are inadvertently amusing in ways the kids don't perhaps intend.

Fellside Records (label of my heroes Spiers and Boden) has appeared on eMusic. Obviously I already have all of the S&B, but I did pick up some other delicious bits and pieces; Frankie Armstrong's collection of Child Ballads "Till the Grass O'ergrew the Corn", which features Maddy Prior and John Kirkpatrick, "Strands of Gold" by Nancy Kerr and James Fagan (who are coming to the folk club in a few weeks, and who I saw with Tim van Eyken at the Royal Opera House a couple of months ago) and a selection from the Penguin Book of English Folk Songs. Not the Bert Lloyd one (which I also have), but a newer one featuring amongst others 'John Bowden' -- who I believe is Jon Boden but actually nothing on the web says so and some pages say explicitly not.

Finally, there's "The Bird in the Bush", Topic's collection of 'traditional songs of love and lust'. Originally released as an EP of songs by Bert Lloyd and Anne Briggs, this was later extended to CD length. I do have all the Anne Briggs material on other albums, but there's other interesting stuff here too. Many of these songs are in the identical genre to 'Squeezebox', interestingly; the song that purports to be about some innocent activity but is actually about sex, with a double entendre per line and a couple more in the chorus. The classic version is about an occupation of some kind; weaver, ploughboy, poacher and so on; the bloke is about his business when he runs into a pretty young maid, he offers to demonstrate the tools of his trade to her, and she's generally pretty pleased about the tidy way he makes use of his skills. After hearing a few of these in a row I get a bit tired of them, but it's clearly an authentic folk tradition that continues into modern times. A very good modern example of a song of this kind is "Telephone Man" by Meri Wilson; I'm sure there are others.

Posted by Alison Scott at March 13, 2007 11:44 PM


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