Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Maya Angelou - April 4, 1928 - May 28, 2014

Mourning Grace

If today, I follow death
go down its trackless wastes,
salt my tongue on hardened tears
for my precious dear times waste
along that promised cave in a headlong
Will you
to mourn for

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Drive In Menu - Latest Listening

I've been busy finishing the English textbook I have been writing, and today I fly to Manchester to begin the GCSE examining period. I haven't therefore been posting as often as I'd like, and won't for the foreseeable future. So here's a summary of what I have been listening to in lieu of fuller details and celebrations:

Claudia Schmidt - New Whirled Order: proper singing
Damon Albarn - Everyday Robots: such a genuine talent
Dwight Yoakam - South Of Heaven, West Of Hell: film score so less commercial [not that this has ever been a problem for this fan]. Will refer later to an excellent covers album of his songs too.
Engelbert Humperdinck - Engelbert Calling: I know. But strangely enjoyable here and there. And he was a favourite of my Mother so that counts for loads
Habib Koité - Soô: quite beautiful at times
Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes - The Very Best Of: my goodness, I Miss You, pt 1 is utterly sublime. Listen to those plaintive wailings. Glorious
London Grammar - If You Wait Remixes: will always be interesting, but it's the vocal that soars
Michael Jackson - Xscape: snatches of the genius he was, often in the production love
Nils Petter Molvær - Swicht: trumpet and pedal steel, such a sweet combination
Sturgill Simpson - Metamodern Sounds in Country Music: sounds classic and is classy
The Delines – Colfax: must review the whole album, the storytelling is so empathetic to the everyday in Vlautin's Ray Carver style - though also so clearly his own - and the music empathises as much
VA - The Songs Of Dwight Yoakam - Will Sing For Food: great covers, and reminds us of Yoakam's talent too
Warren Zevron - My Ride's Here: have always loved this album and been listening to much of his work recently, this album of course recorded as he was dieing, and it's title redolent with his wonderful wit, and the songs upbeat as well as, understandably, reflecting in an honesty that hurts

Monday, 12 May 2014

The Renegades - Eagles Club, Medford, Oregon, April 2014

Twilight Clarity

One of the many highlights of my recent trip to the States was to visit twice the Eagles Club in Medford to see my sister dance and listen to the music of Jim Lane's The Renegades.

The Eagles Club [or Lodge I think] is a freemasonry institution - and, though not sure, if it is linked to the Fraternal Order of Eagles it has an altruistic history and sense of service, but I don't really know - and in addition to the generous measures of alcohol served which I definitely enjoyed, it is an oasis of ordinary folk enjoying the twilight of its windowless interior and, in many cases, their years.

Eagles Club, Medford

The two nights I attended were dance nights, so the evening ambiance may have been further engineered by the dimmed lights whereas other activities could well be brightly illuminated, and the dancing clientele was mixed though certainly thoroughly peopled by those long into retirement and the simple pleasures of continuing.

This post isn't about my sister - a relative spring-chicken in the context of that clientele -  though her dancing was outstanding and it was a joy for a brother to see. I performed some classic dad-dancing myself, and literally with my daughter on the second visit, but the swing, cha-chas, waltzes and all other recognised routines with professional adjectival descriptors were brilliantly performed by my sister and her partner as well as the other experienced movers.

The band on both nights I attended was The Renegades, led by Jim Lane on guitar and keyboards. Playing an eclectic set on both nights, the band was predominantly country rock though this ranged from covers of Santana to Roger Miller's King Of The Road, as well as on my second visit an enjoyable rendition of Old Crow Medicine Show's Wagon Wheel. I had the pleasure of speaking with Jim on a couple of occasions, and here is the epitome of the journeyman musician: someone who has played for pleasure and beer money for most of his life; the epitome of the accomplished professional who never made it 'big' but whose clear and broad love of music exudes its eclecticism, expertise and absolute work ethic in the context of this everyday dance life. I loved it. And Jim is one of the humblest, nicest guys I have ever had the pleasure to meet.

Jim on far left. Photos of band by AF

As I typed this I have been listening to The Renegades' Lost Country Rock of the 70s cd, my two favourite tracks being opener Mustang Sally with backing horns, and Black Magic Woman as it is a great song but I also heard it played live twice. And it is hearing this band live in this club with these people simply having fun in this twilight of clarity that is now a cherished memory.

Ryley Walker - All Kinds of You

The Anxiety of Influence

As I recall, Harold Bloom's memorable book took deconstruction and other critical literary theories into rich realms of exploration, and his text was also influenced by its precursors, but whilst the 'anxiety' of its title was playful if also exact, I use it here to apply more to myself than in this case a 24 year old from Chicago who plays under the obvious influence of Bert Jansch and Pentangle.

I seem to so often reference preceding musical touchstones when writing about contemporary music and do wonder if this does a disservice to those current artists. I offset this by claiming such references to be a compliment, and I mean this completely, but I am expressing the anxiety here that it wouldn't be received as such.The fact Walker cites these influences provides balm in this particular case!

Listening now as I write to eighth track On The Rise, the echo of Jansch is thundering - and brilliantly so. Walker's guitar work is anchored firmly to the Davey Graham lineage taken up by Jansch and Renbourn, and the influence here is such a pleasing celebration of that history. There are instrumentals on this album to highlight the proficiency, but it is in the whole and Walker's vocal that also invokes Bert's which delights so much. The string work that prevails as accompaniment throughout this fine debut  [eg viola by Whitney Johnson on beautiful Blessings] gives it some singularity, but the overall impact is in the reflections of late 60s/early 70s British folk.

You can hear it streamed here as well as read Walker's track by track commentary, these observations laying engaging claim to their rooting in the here and now as well as America as the other dominating influence.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

The Golden Grass - The Golden Grass

Golden But Green

Another retro-rock trio - 'powered' perhaps, but I think that's an overstatement - yet certainly dealing in golden-oldie rock revisitings and, to embrace the graminoid metaphor, as green as that rock grass has always been. On a first listen of the streamed album [you can find it here] I like the opening track Please Man best with its tinge of Steamroller, and second Stuck On A Mountain has some fine dual guitar work. By third One More Time the lyric 'easy rider woman' wears its generic inclinations a little overtly on its psychedelic sleeve, but you shouldn't be listening if you're expecting more than this sonically sartorial sixties show.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Joan As Police Woman - Paris, 21st March 2014

Unnecessary But Welcome Reminder

Not that I needed reminding, but this recording of Joan Wasser's performance in Paris one month before her gig in Exeter which I had to miss is ample evidence of the talent she is. A wonderful set - largely comprised of the whole of her recent album The Classic, but including tracks like my favourite The Ride - you can get it here if you like as a bootleg of the FIP radio broadcast. Excellent band.

Monday, 5 May 2014

2nd Avenue Records - Portland, Oregon

Vinyl Fix

Just returned from a trip to the States to visit with my family. First stop was Portland, Oregon, and after the breakfast fix at Mothers for biscuits and gravy - see below - I visited the excellent 2nd Avenue Records shop on the day before Record Store Day to get my vinyl fix. Great price on the small selection in the photo, and it was a shop in which I could have spent much more time.

Inside the store - photo by AF

Vinyl is increasingly hard to find at a good price here and abroad, people obviously discovering its value it would seem. What I mean is the record shops have raised prices, and charity shops don't seem to get loads in as in the past. I can't argue with people trying to get what vinyl can earn, but the pleasure of finding albums I don't have was always augmented by bargain prices.

More inside - what a treasure trove. AF

Down in Ashland and Medford I did visit the one Goodwill shop I always peruse when there, partly as pilgrimage - my Mother worked in one in Ashland and would occasionally grab an LP for me - and on that off-chance of discovering that bargain. It wasn't to be, though I got a copy of Boz Scaggs' My Time which I didn't have.