Another Blabber’n’Smoke favourite who’s appearing at Celtic Connections is Heidi Talbot. Irish born she was a member of America’s Cherish The Ladies before returning to the UK and hooking up (professionally and personally) with John McCusker. With a new album, Angels Without Wings, set for release she plays the Old Fruitmarket on 27th January, sharing the bill with Paul Brady. We haven’t heard all of the album yet but the four songs on display below show that she’s building on her fine 2010 debut , The Last Star which found her finding her own songwriting skills. Angels Without Wings was recorded in the Gorbals Sound Studios with her regular team of Ian Carr (guitars), Phil Cunningham (Accordion), Michael McGoldrick (flutes/whistles) James Mackintosh (percussion), Boo Hewerdine (acoustic guitar) and Ewan Vernal (bass). It features guest spots from Mark Knopfler, King Creosote and Karine Polwart.
When we reviewed The Last Star we thought that there was a similarity in the sound and feel to Richard and Linda Thompson’s early recordings and the title song of the new album confirms this as the accordion and brass would sit easily within Hokey Pokey. When The Roses Come Again meanwhile has that heartaching quality that Linda Thompson was so good at conveying.
Proper Records have autographed copies of the album for sale at http://www.propermusic.com/product-details/Heidi-Talbot-Angels-Without-Wings-Ltd-Autographed-Edition-146125
It’s coming up for Celtic Connections time again and as usual there’s a hefty wallop of Americana music on show. Blabber’n’Smoke aficionados will already be familiar with some of the acts appearing. John Murry whose album, The Graceless Age, was our No. 1 release of last year appears along with the Cowboy Junkies at Kelvingrove art gallery while another of our top ten faves Petunia & The Vipers hit the Old Fruitmarket accompanied by Woody Pines. A Blabber’n’Smoke night to savour we think. Others we’ve previously mentioned here include the Heritage Blues Orchestra at the Royal Concert Hall, The Lost Brothers(supporting Glen Hansard), again at the Old Fruitmarket and finally a show that promises to be a doozie, Otis Gibbs at the Glasgow Art Club. Gibbs’ Hard As Hammered Hell was another album in our top ten releases of 2012.
This list only scratches the surface of course and it’s serendipitous that all of the above were mentioned here last year. We thought we’d take some time to mention a few others whose albums have fallen into our lap recently and who are also appearing.
The curiously named Leon Hunt n-Tet will be the must go gig for any music loving mathematicians as the n-tet suffix denotes a number that is liable to change (in layman terms they can be a duo, trio, quartet etc) and it’s likely that only boffins will get this. If so the boffins will be rubbing shoulders with bluegrass fans as Mr. Hunt is reckoned to be the UK’s premier 5-string banjo player and can be heard on numerous collaborations with a stellar array of transatlantic musicians. Here he’s promoting his tribute to the late Earl Scruggs. Farewell Blues (Remembering Earl Scruggs) sees him teamed up with three other UK exponents of the high lonesome sound (Jason Titley, Guitar, Ben Somers, Double Bass and Joe Hymas, Mandolin) and it’s pretty much what you’d expect from such experienced hands. The playing is impeccable, vibrant and joyous as they wheel through 12 cuts which range from the whirlwind Foggy Mountain Special to the ragamuffin roll that is Deep River Blues. It’s a joy from start to finish and in a blindfold test you’d swear these guys were raised on a porch on momma’s moonshine liquor. They play St. Andrews In the Square on 26th January supporting Sarah Jarosz
The Two Man Gentleman Band are a different kettle of fish although they also base their sound on a vintage American sound, in this case the very cool, hip and voutereeniest man ever, Slim Gaillard. Gaillard was a blast in the past, hobnobbing with Hollywood royalty and recording some of the daftest and deftest music ever. Most popular in a twin setting (as Slim and Slam then Slim and Bam, perhaps the chaps should rename themselves for Celtic Connections as Slim and Tam) he appeared in movies and was as popular as Louis Jordan. Playing guitar accompanied by double bass Gaillard scatted and jived about food, drinking and at times just nonsense in his invented language, vout. The Two Man Gentleman Band don’t share his language but they do sing about food (Pork Chops, Tikka Masala, Cheese and Crackers) and drinking (Chocolate Milk, Wine, Oh Wine!, Please Don’t Water It Down). What they do manage is the sense of fun, the joy of goofing off on a riff and the almost absurd (think Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes and Bugs Bunny) worldview that on record is engaging but should go down a storm live. They’re at the Glasgow Piping Centre on 26th January.
Don’t think we’ve done this before but it looks like everyone in the world this year has come up with a “best of” selection. So, here’s our tuppenceworth.
1. John Murry The Graceless Age. Bucketful of Brains
A narcoleptic diary of hard times that shimmers with a beautiful heat haze.
2. Cahalen Morrison & Eli West. Our lady of The Tall Trees. Independent
Songs carved from old wood and turned into objects of beauty
3. Dan Stuart. The Deliverance of Marlowe Billings. Cadiz Music.
Back from the almost dead with a vengeance
4. Deadman “Take Up Your Mat and Walk” Blue Rose
An Americana primer, they gather in their influences and forge a fresh sound
5. Otis Gibbs. Harder Than Hammered Hell. Wanamaker Recording Company
A solid set of songs of the working man that packs a Southern punch.
6. Nels Andrews. Scrimshaw. Independent
A delicate and impressionistic set of tales from New York
7. Giant Giant Sand. Tucson. Fire Records
Expanded and emboldened Howe Gelb delivers a country rock opera as only he can
8. Petunia & the Vipers. Petunia & The Vipers. Trapline Productions
Left field country pop and rock with yodelling and guts
9. The Illegitimate Sons. American Music. Independent.
Bourbon soaked rootsy rock delivered with panache
10. Sacri Cuori. Rosario. Décor Records.
Italian band delivers some superb instrumental Americana that channels Calexico and Ry Cooder
Chuck Prophet. Temple Beautiful,
For Fear the hearts of Men Are Failing. The Wonderful Clatter
Mark Lucas. Uncle Bones,
Malcolm Holcombe. Down The River
Richard Hawley. Standing At The Sky’s Edge
Michael Rank and Stag. Kin
Heritage Blues Orchestra. And Still I Rise
Ry Cooder. Election Special
Neil Young & Crazy Horse. Psychedelic Pill
Marvin Etzioni, Marvin Country!
Lincoln Durham. The Shovel vs the Howling Bones
Grant Peeples, Prior Convictions
Hat Check Girl. The Road To Red Point
Woody Pines. You Gotta Roll
Hurray For The RiffRaff. Look Out Mama
Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three. Live In Holland
Bristol/Winchester based quartet Polly and The Billet Doux are fast making a name for themselves as an act to watch out for. On the back of their debut album and recent EP along with appearances at Glastonbury, The Big Chill and the Cambridge Folk Festival their star is indeed in the ascendancy. No wonder as a listen to their Hold Fast EP released earlier this year confirms their talent. While Polly Perry’s attractive smoky vocals are the band’s focal point the four songs here allow them to display their versatility. Hold Fast is a nautical song that sounds as if they were tooling down a highway instead of hoisting main sails. With sinewy guitar and a driving beat it’s a cracking little song. Factory Whistle continues in this upbeat fashion with a faux Bo Diddley rhythm married to jazzy guitar runs. Hymn Song applies the brakes as the band hunker down and break out the acoustic guitars. As the song progresses a string section and electric guitar sneak in while the mallet work of drummer Ben Perry recalls folk rock of yore. This folk rock jazz interface comes to the fore on the closing Fortune Of War that is reminiscent of Pentangle in their most incandescent moments. Light and airy with high harmonies and scintillating guitar arpeggios it reeks of the sixties and ends far too soon.
With a short UK tour commencing in November we’re able to offer two tickets to one of the shows for a lucky reader. Simply email us at paulk.blabbernsmoke at gmail.com with Polly and The Billet Doux as the subject and the show you wish to attend by Sunday 28th October. Winner will be selected from a virtual hat.
Tour details below and here’s a taster of what you might see.
09-Nov PERTH Twa Tams
10-Nov THURSO Newmarket Bar
11-Nov INVERNESS Hootananny
12-Nov LEEDS Oporto
13-Nov BIRMINGHAM Kitchen Garden Café
14-Nov LONDON The Wheelbarrow
15-Nov NORWICH Waterfront
16-Nov YORK The Basement
17-Nov BRISTOL Thekla
18-Nov CARDIFF 10 Feet Tall
24-Nov OXFORD The Cellar
09-Dec WINCHESTER The Railway
Not often we get asked to mention a Bahraini/Austrian/Londonian duo but stranger things have happened. Straylings are Dane Zeera (the Bahraini/Austrian half) and Guitarist Oliver Drake (from London indeed) and they have come up with a fine sound that harks back to the old Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra days with a scuzzy Mazzy Star feel. They’re playing London’s Barfly this Saturday 14th. No sign of any Scottish gigs so far but have a listen to the single, Carver’s Kicks and enjoy.
Craig Finn of The Hold Steady announced in July he was recording a solo album. “I had written a bunch of songs that were outside of the norm for The Hold Steady, a little quieter and perhaps more narrative,” says Finn. “I wanted to gain some experience and insight into the process of making a record by working with new people.”
Here’s the first result, a limited edition single released for the USA’s “Black Friday” commerce fest. You can listen to ‘Honolulu Blues’ below. Going by this the album should be well worth a listen.
Light of Life I think it says. When Blabber’n'Smoke met Howe Gelb back in January of this year it had only been a few days since the crazy and tragic shooting incident in Tucson which targeted their representative Garbrielle Giffords (who survived ) and killed six others. Now some Tucson musicians have gathered together to record an album whose proceeds will go towards helping those affected. Here’s the Giant Sand song that appears on it and the link to buy it if you so wish.
Hemifran is a music label and distribution company based in Sweden and is responsible for marketing and shipping many of the Americana releases you read about here and on other publications. The artists they push and promote range from household names (well, in my household) to independent spirits who’ve managed to conjure up a disc’s worth of music and offered it to the world.
Like most labels Hemifran occasionally gather up a handful of tunes and paste them into what one used to call a sampler. Their two previous offerings, “I Like It Better Here – Music From Home” and “I Like It Better Here – Some More Music From Home” have featured artists such as Jackson Browne and Graham Nash along with some lesser known but at times tremendous artists. Despite their releases being chock full of contemporary acts these two discs did display an engaging love for the singer songwriter feel of the seventies and this carries on with their third in the series. “That Thing That’s a Whole Lot Bigger Than This – Hymns From Home” is a lovingly crafted artefact based on a suggestion by Greg Copeland that the third compilation consist of “secular hymns,” or songs that “have to do with “That Thing That’s a Whole Lot Bigger Than This.” To this end we have a selection of songs that in the main delve back to the likes of Townes Van Zandt, Steve Young, Steve Goodman and others of that ilk. Copeland himself appears twice while Steve Noonan, Jack Tempchkin, JD Souther and Judy Collins all get a piece apiece. Finger picking story songs predominate with several styles on show but with the likes of I See Hawks in LA and the power pop presence of Anthony Crawford’s On The Hill this is not a simple folk album. JD Souther’s On The Day Nobody Likes You glides from a Bo Diddley beat to glossy Boz Scaggs like soul shuffle while Judy Collins offers a hymn like paean to the power of song that evokes celestial choirs.
As to the theme of secular hymns all is revealed in the liner notes where each performer explains their choice. You can read these on the Hemifran website. Better still they have very kindly offered five copies of the album to give away here. If you want a copy all you have to do is let me know via the comments below with a promise to come back and tell us what your favourite song on the album was and why. First five to respond with a cast iron promise get the album.
I See Hawks In LA – If You Lead I Will Follow
Branden Barnett is the singer, guitarist and main writer in Ghostshirt, a Columbus, Ohio band who last year embarked on a project to record a song a week and offering them for free download. Some of the results can still be bought here. This project and the band were heartily supported by Post Card From Hell, an online community originally dedicated to the music of Uncle Tupelo, now an energetic group of folk, mostly American, who discuss music, food, beer (and music) and, importantly, support their favourite bands with an intensity that is sometimes frightening, they’ve even pitched in to help with the costs of repairing broken tour vans. Their relationship with Ghostshirt is such that the band played at a mini festival held at the home of one of the members of the Postcard group.
Having joined the email list Branden stated “ I was trying to figure out a way to say thanks to all of you for supporting my band and my life the past couple of years and here is what I came up with. What songs would you all want to hear me cover? Come up with a list on here and I will pick ten or so, record them and release it for free.”
He was immediately inundated with suggestions and within a matter of days the first three songs have been recorded (he plays all the instruments) and posted for download.
Blabber’n’Smoke thought that this is a great example of musicians and fans interacting using the Internet and modern technology, demolishing some of the traditional barriers. With projects like Kickstarter fans have an opportunity to support musicians’ projects that goes beyond buying albums and attending gigs and this type of project can only help the artist gain more listeners and hopefully a bigger audience.
So kudos to Branden for his generosity in sharing some music. He’s OK with it being shared outwith Postcard. So have a listen and if you like it head to the Ghostshirt site and investigate them, a good band indeed.
The first three songs are
01 King of Carrot Flowers Part I (Neutral Milk Hotel)
02 Every Little Thing (Beatles)
03 When I Write the Book (Nick Lowe)
Available here, the link only lasts 6 days so grab it while you can. I’ll post the next links as they come up.
The tribute band for those who don’t like tribute bands, Jericho Hill play the songs of Johnny Cash with a keen eye and ear firmly pointed at his early rebel outlaw image. Not the tux clad family TV show host nor the older statesman of American music but the snarling, angry finger birding punk who was pilled up and seemed like a train wreck waiting to happen.
These two persona collided in 1968 when Cash and his entourage filmed and recorded a concert in Folsom Prison in California. Cash had been performing in prisons since 1957 but Folsom and its inmates had a unique place in his history being the inspiration for his early hit Folsom Prison Blues. The resulting album was a hit and cash repeated the exercise in San Quentin a year later producing another hit album. Of the two Folsom is rawer and it’s fitting that Jericho Hill (remember them) plan to reproduce the album live next week at Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry. When Blabber ‘n’ Smoke has seen them Jericho Hill have been great fun with rip snarling renditions of Cash songs everyone knows and generally the audience gets off on the sheer energy they transmit. Whether they can maintain this song by song on an album that has its moments of humour and pathos remains to be seen but they will perform their usual set after the Folsom Prison section.
Taking place next Thursday, 24th February, two days before the great man’s birthday this promises to be a fine night. Tickets are available via Ticket Scotland and in the spirit of the night the audience are asked to turn up wearing some form of stripes.
Back in July 2011 we reviewed Rod Picott’s fine album Welding Burns so it was a nice surprise to see that Slaid Cleaves revisits two of the best songs on that album (which he co-wrote with Picott) on his latest effort. We tagged Picott as a “blue collar” songwriter back then and Cleaves backs this […]
Regular readers will know that at Blabber’n'Smoke we’re suckers for good old fashioned, dust blown, gulch dry twangy Americana. Throw in some mariachi horns and we’re salivating. Maybe it stems from formative years and time spent watching cowboys and Indians on the screen while John Wayne ruled the roost as far as my old man […]
The first thing to strike one about this Tennessee quintet is the source of their name. Led by married couple Dorothy Daniel and Ben DeBerry they amalgamated their surnames to baptise the band. The second and more important note is how good they are. The opening song of this album, Here We Go Round would […]
When I reviewed Diana Jones‘ previous album, High Atmosphere I said it simultaneously sounded sixty years old and contemporary. Her careworn voice and superb ability to author heartbreaking tales of hardship and woe had a deep affinity to pre-war country recordings while the delivery by a stellar bunch of musicians led by producer Ketch Secor […]
Bit late in mentioning this as several of the gigs have been and happened but Texas twosome The O’s are hurtling around Scotland right now and there’s word of an album coming out on the Electric Honey label. Remaining dates are below and their website is here June 12 – Aberdeen, SCOT – Cafe Drummond […]
Blabber’n'Smoke’s favourite junkerdash (psychedelic swamp-shack rags) band Hillfolk Noir attack the UK on three fronts this month with these two releases and a tour that commences today and which packs in 18 shows in 19 days including a sweep through Scotland. Perhaps the finest proponents of old time jugband, folk and blues songs around these […]
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Liverpudlian Kete Bowers delivered a fine album with his 2011 release Road which featured the great BJ Cole on pedal steel. Introduced to American music by his Scottish grandmother who played Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Jim Reeves and Jerry Lewis on the family turntable he turned in a set of wearied songs that […]
San Francisco based Tiny Television released their fine debut, Mission Statement, back in 2009. A dusty Dobro driven slice of classic Americana its weathered well and still gets played in the Blabber’n'Smoke habitat. Four years down the line and one successful Kickstarter campaign later Just This Side of Everything crawls into the light of day […]
Most folk probably think of Appalachian mountains and woods or fetid Southern climes when it comes to the rootsiest Americana music. Charlie Parr, who comes across as a dyed in the wool backwoodsman reminds us that the frozen north, home of strip mining and decaying industrial landscapes has its own history. Duluth, Minnesota is his […]