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May 31, 2009

May Music

Where the pavement ends_ Moulton Morris Men_ Amazon.co.uk_ MP3 Downloads.jpgUK handspun folk label Talking Elephant have a load of new releases out. Mostly rarities, repackages and so on I think. I have picked up Hard Works by Phil Beer, which combines his albums "Hard Hats" and "Works". I also got Fairport Convention's Airing Cupboard Tapes 71-74, which as you might expect is rarities (from 1971-1974) originally compiled by Dave Mattacks. Lots of interest here, but a lot of it sounds like it was recorded in an airing cupboard.

But my main haul from Talking Elephant was various Morris stuff. Now, they've been repackaging some of the Morris material, and so some of the stuff on Sweeps, a compilation for Rochester Sweeps, includes things by the Albion Band, the Morris On Band and others. But tucked in there is a Tickled Pink track I don't have, and several tracks plucked from 'Cobbled Together', an album Simon Care did with the Moulton Morris and others. From the Moulton Morris Men more directly comes Where The Pavement Ends. This was recorded by Simon Nicol and Dave Pegg, possibly some time ago -- but has been released in time for May Day and is full of wonder and delight.

Simon Care, one of the leading lights of Moulton Morris, has released a second anthology album, Oh What a Caper,
showcasing all the fantastic work he does with other people. Tracks here from Whapweasel, various incarnations of Albions, Edward II, Tickled Pink and so on; mostly demonstrating how Care, as well as being a thoroughly nice bloke, is the undisputed master of the driving melodeon beat.

No relation to Talking Elephant is acid croft live favourites Elephant Talk I discovered that they have a newish album out, Natty Loon, that I didn't know about, so I bought it. But really, their brand of somewhat-celtic trance is best experienced late at night at a festival.

johnalot.jpgMy 'back catalogue special' this month was John Renbourn's Sir John Alot. This was obviously filling a gap. Amazon says "Recommended for people who can't stand John Renbourn's voice", because it's entirely instrumental.

Giles Lewin is a fiddler and piper with the Carnival Band, and for a while with Bellowhead, and one of Maddy Prior's band (no, not that band). The Armchair Orienteer is a brand new solo outing, and the title refers to music's ability to transport you to all manner of places. Most of the tracks on the album, although they play with a wide variety of international musical styles, were penned by Lewin "on location in my shed". The English ones, however, draw on themes from Playford. The playing is extraordinarily accomplished and it's fantastic fun to listen to Lewin producing tunes from so many different musical styles. My one concern is that the arrangements are very precise; the styles that Lewin reflects are typically gutsy, driving folk music, but this album makes me think of the drawing room rather than the campfire. Several times I thought 'ah, this is a pause, the next bit will be where he takes the tune and really lets rip' only to find it was the end of the track. But these are great tunes and the album's well worth listening to.

Steve Knightley has re-recorded his 1999 solo album "Track of Words" to produce Track of Words: Retraced. I suspect he felt that the 'radio-friendly' original wasn't showing off his songwriting to the best degree possible, and rather than re-release that, he's chosen to re-record it in a more acoustic way. I don't find these tunes as compelling as his work with Show of Hands, though that isn't really a criticism given how fabulous "Witness" is. His other solo album, "Cruel River", has grown on me over time, too.

honey moon.jpg
The Handsome Family have a new album out, Honey Moon. As a celebration of their twentieth wedding anniversary, this is an entire album of love songs. You wouldn't expect the sentiments to be trite here, and indeed they're not. It did remind me rather of the Magnetic Fields though, but as my main complaint about 69 Love Songs was that there weren't 169 love songs, that's not really a problem.

Walthamstow Folk Club continues to inspire my listening. I saw the fine interpreter of ballads Chris Foster there, and picked up his new album Outsiders. I was feeling a bit strapped for cash that night, or I'd have bought everything he had with him. There are several streaming tracks on his MySpace; highly recommended.

I totally failed to buy any CDs by Bill Caddick when I saw him at the Cellar Upstairs; he didn't have any for sale. Not on his website either; I do think this is an almighty mistake for a singer/songwriter. We did spend the entire evening going 'gosh, did he write that one', though, so you'll know his songs.

Another great friend of the folk club is Anne Lister. I won her most recent album in the folk club raffle, and set about picking up the rest. So this month I have got Singing On The Wind and Root, Seed, Thorn and Flower. Quirky, unusual songs, beautifully sung.

Finally, the nice people at Proper sent me a copy of the 2009 Folk Awards compilation album so I could review it on Amazon. I did, and commend it; thirty tracks from established and new folk bands, including several of the 'song of the year' winners and nominees, all for £9. Can't go wrong really.

Examples of many of the musicians and songwriters mentioned in this post are included in my May Music Spotify playlist.

Posted by Alison Scott at 12:19 PM | Comments (0)

May 26, 2009

The Glories of Spotify With Worked Example

Spotify Logo I'm pretty excited by Spotify, though with so many of these things I do not understand its business model. Or rather, I understand Spotify's business model, but I am not sure why labels are happy with Spotify but not with other free all you can eat music services. The free version of Spotify is ad-supported (I am listening to some ads now). You can get rid of the ads for 99p for a single day, or £9.99 for a month.

The lovely thing about Spotify is that it finally delivers a workable modern form of mixtapes. I can tell you how wonderful a band I'm listening to is, and link to a Spotify playlist that includes their music. You can listen to all the tracks I've chosen in full, and then use Spotify to explore further. I am not sure what its reach is yet (in particular, I'm not sure it reaches the US). Even better, there are collaborative playlists that several people can edit.

As an example of this, I've complied a short list of tunes and songs in five time -- A Bunch of Fives. You'll need to have Spotify to play it of course. Do add the tracks I've missed (though not 'other weird time signatures' please, just fives). For the benefit of people who can't get Spotify, this currently includes Dave Brubeck's "Take Five", Mawkin Causley's "Ye Mariners All", the second movement of Tchaikovsky's 6th symphony ("Pathetique"), Shirley and Dolly Collins' "Searching for Lambs", "When Your Mind's Made Up" from the film Once, Jethro Tull's "Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow", "Everything's Alright" from Jesus Christ Superstar, the Mission:Impossible theme (Lalo Schrfrin), "River Man" by Nick Drake, and "Mars: the Bringer of War" from Holst's Planet Suite.

Here's a second collaborative playlist -- at present with no tracks in it. Recommend music for me here.

Posted by Alison Scott at 10:30 AM | Comments (2)