Courtney Marie Andrews and Will Oldham cover “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free”.

Blabber’n’Smoke doesn’t normally post press releases  but this is so good we just had to share it.

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Started in conjunction with Secretly Group and 30 Songs, 30 Days, Our First 100 Days aims to raise funds for organizations supporting causes that are currently under threat by the Trump administration. Today we’re happy to be able to share the new duet from Courtney Marie Andrews and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s Will Oldham. Andrews and Oldham trade vocals on Simone’s civil rights anthem, the hope seeping into every lyric and flourish. You can check it out on Consequence of Sound and head over to Bandcamp for the whole list of artists including and here for information on the project.

Andrews and Oldham had this to say about choosing this specific song to fit our times:

Courtney Marie Andrews says “”I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” is an amazing gospel tune that the incomparable Nina Simone covered and it became an important song for the civil rights movement in the 60s. A lot of these issues are still relevant today and I wanted to sing a song that had a palpable voice for those issues. I’ll never know what it was like to walk the rocky path that Nina did, but her power and unyielding strength was and is something to aspire to. “

“We figured to make a song that would keep folks’ minds, tongues & fingers in motion. James Baldwin: ‘This is not the land of the free. It is only very unwillingly & sporadically the home of the brave.’” – Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy

For more information on 30 Songs, 30 Days, Our First 100 Days see here

Five Years of Gravy: Celebrating 5 years of Fluff and Gravy Records

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Portland-based Indie label, Fluff and Gravy Records, is turning 5 years old. What started as a one off vehicle to release a record for a friend has come of age, with 36 releases under its belt and an international roster that includes 20 artists. They  celebrate with the release of Five Years of Gravy (cd/download). The collection of songs is not just a retrospective, but a compilation of new/unreleased tracks from 17 artists over the course of the label’s history. Standout tracks include “No Regrets” from Fernando Viciconte, “Run” by Nick Jaina (featuring Henry Ratcliff), “All Along” by Anna Tivel, “Shattering Sun” from Mike Coykendall, and the sure to go viral “It Ain’t Gay (to love Jesus)” by The Git Rights Gospel Revue. Five Years of Gravy is a sepia tone family snapshot, documenting a moment in time to preserve for the next generation.

Proceeds from this cd directly benefit The Jeremy Wilson Foundation, a musicians’ nonprofit health and services organization supported by friends, family and fans. Making it easy to directly assist individual musicians and their families during medical emergencies.

The album can be purchased on their Bandcamp page, as well as the usual (iTunes, Spotify, etc)

Website

Maiden Voyage Recording Company

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All aboard the Skylark…

It’s not every day that a new record company starts up. Even rarer when you hear that the cigar chomping head honchos behind the desk are folk you know. Maiden Voyage Recording Company is the brainchild of Danny George Wilson of Danny And The Champions Of The World (firm favourites of Blabber’n’Smoke and probably the best live band in the UK these days) and legendary PR man Del Day (who is responsible for alerting Blabber’n’Smoke to many of the artists we review). With their very own maiden voyage set for launch this week as they release their first album,  Blabber’n’Smoke spoke to Del and Danny about the label.

First of all. Why set up your own record label? Aren’t there enough to go around and surely it’s a major task.

Del: Well I’ve worked in all just about every aspect of the music industry over the last 20 odd years, retail, marketing, distribution, PR, promoting and run a booking agency.  So it was only a matter of time I guess before I dipped my toe into the dangerous waters of running a record label. e4c8778786e5b91f46063c4602c6ebd5_400x400

Danny: I love making music because I love records and it seems like another great adventure to be a record company guy too. The best thing about finding great records is sharing them with your friends and this is all just an extension of that. danny-champ-in-warren-tee-shirt

Del: I’ve known Danny  for a few years now. Initially as a fan of his band which then developed into a great friendship. We both share an insatiable love of music and spend most of our time together either listening to records, sharing tracks and just chewing the fat I guess. So starting a label together seemed both hugely exciting and, in a weird way, the obvious thing to do.  Maiden Voyage Recording Company was conceived over many drinks at The Betsey Trotwood in London on a rainy Wednesday night.  We see the whole venture as an expansion of those drink and music fuelled nights, a way of sharing our love of music from all genres with likeminded people and musical explorers.

Danny:  When I was a teenager me and my pals would get on the bus to Beanos’ record shop in Croydon. We’d spend all our money and then read the liner notes and credits in those gatefold sleeves all the way back. I’d buy anything that James Burton played on or anything on the Stax labeI. I went through fads that covered everything from Delta Blues to Prog to Hip Hop to Jazz to Country music, my mind was literally crammed with useless but brilliant information. It still is although it’s just a little harder to summon nowadays! Later I worked in a famous London second hand record shop and played poker with my work mates deep into the night trying to win more staff vouchers to spend on that Big Youth or Big Black album…good times.

I’m presuming that you’ve named the label after the Herbie Hancock album of the same name given its seagoing theme? 71xlqirvzyl-_sl1300_

Del:  Indeed we did. We are both huge fans, well jazz fans in general

And all set to sail this Friday with your first release?

Del: Yes. The label’s first record, Henry Senior Jr’s Plates Of Meat. It’s a wonderful instrumental pedal steel album that flits between country, jazz, funk and Allman Brothers’ jam band wonderment. Henry is of course the pedal steel wizard for The Champs so it was the obvious first release for us both in terms of working with musicians who are friends and musicians we both respect and love. ed7b30_241646c3551142ac890d5843cb2a2de2mv2_d_2000_2000_s_2

I’ve had the privilege of hearing Plates of Meat and it’s really rather good. Funky pedal steel driven tunes that reminded me of bands like The Meters and Barefoot Jerry, two bands that probably aren’t too often lumped together. Wonderful as it is it’s hard to imagine that a record like this would get much attention from more established labels despite an obvious audience of music obsessive’s like us who can appreciate the album itself and its antecedents. I’m wondering what you have up your sleeve for future releases?

Del: It’s hard to say really.  Danny and I drew inspiration from the likes of Light In The Attic and Honest Jon’s, record labels who consistently release albums that excite and surprise. Those labels appear free form any sort of genre categorisation, and we like that. We will be releasing albums and hopefully singles for all genres in all sorts of formats. We will be doing a 7″ singles club next year and we’re also looking to release some old reissues that we feel have laid dormant for too long. We do have two definite releases, both ‘concept’ albums if I can use that phrase. First off there’s I Want Blood by the London-based band The Suburban Dirts. It’s an ambitious piece set in Kentucky circa 1800 that borrows from the legend of The Harpe Brothers who are infamous for being America’s first serial killers.  It’s just stunning. We will also be releasing Moondogs And Mad Dogs by Donald Byron Howard Wheatley, an album that’s been 15 years in the making.

To be honest the love of music in all its weird and wonderful forms is what keeps me alive and it’s also the one and only guiding factor as to how we want to run the label. It really is a label of love and one that we hope people will keep an eye out for. MVRC will hopefully become a mark of quality, that’s the aim. The first three records already feel like dusty relics drawn from some second hand bin and Danny and I love that! 

Danny: And we should say that Maiden Voyage Recording Co’s online shop is now up and running! You can pick up copies of ‘Plates of Meat’ on both 180g gatefold vinyl and CD or one of our super cool t-shirts!!

As Danny says, the shop is now open while Henry Senior Jr’s album has been picking up airplay already before its release on Friday. Blabber’n’Smoke certainly wishes Del and Danny well in this venture and we look forward to hearing what comes next. You can keep up the news on their website here

And here’s a taster from Henry Senior Jr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Billy Bragg & Joe Henry. Shine A Light: Field Recordings From The Great American Railroad. Cooking Vinyl.

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The Iron Horse, star of many a Western and a staple of American frontier culture, forging ever westward leaving in its wake communities enriched or split asunder. In cinema able to be the source of ribald humour as in Blazing Saddles or a carriage for depression era desperation as portrayed in Preston Sturges’  wonderful Sullivan’s Travels. Kerouac rode the rails, a brakeman for a time and Jimmie Rodgers was the singing brakeman. The Grateful Dead tooted along with Casey Jones, a far remove from the kiddie TV series starring Alan Hale, a series that was still being shown in the UK well into the late sixties. Did Billy Bragg watch this as a toddler? That we don’t know but Bragg certainly has the railroad bug, his love of Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly and Lonnie Donegan setting the points for this railroad Odyssey on which he is accompanied by his celebrated fellow hobo, Joe Henry.

Bragg and Henry, both keen to explore the tradition of railroad songs decided the best course for them was to hop on a train, guitars (and recording equipment) in tow and see where it took them. In this case they embarked in Chicago for a 2,728 mile ride to Los Angeles, a 65 hour long trip stopping at St. Louis, Fort Worth, San Antonio, Alpine, El Paso and Tucson. At the stops they hopped off, set up and sang, on platforms, waiting rooms and concourses, then hopped back on. A great idea and one that is faithfully captured here, ambient sounds and all. Bragg and Henry both sound great and they work well together, in harmony or in support of one another, even Bragg’s yodelling on Waiting For A Train passes muster. The 13 songs, all plucked from an Americana railroad gazetteer (if such a thing can be said to exist) roam from pining ballads to raucous skiffle like numbers, from the familiar to the obscure. Rock Island Line and Midnight Special rub shoulders with Railroad Bill and Waiting For A Train. There are songs a century old and newer ones such as Gordon Lightfoot’s Early Morning Rain, the latter the last song recorded as the disembarked in LA at 4:30 am with the dawn chorus heard chittering in the background.

Not a polished album but all the better for that with the recordings clear as a bell, audio verite if you like and a fine salute to those pioneers in song and ultimately the spike drivers and others who built these iron roads.

The  website has an interactive map that discusses the songs recorded at each station along the way.

 

Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival 2016

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Blabber’n’Smoke had a very pleasant afternoon at the official launch for this years Scottish Mental Health Arts & Film Festival (SMHAFF) which takes place from 10th until the 31st October. It’s the tenth anniversary of this ground breaking festival which uses various artistic platforms (including theatre, film, spoken word, dance and music) to promote the importance of mental health issues for all in the community while drawing attention to the struggles and successes of people living with mental ill heath. With over 300 events across Scotland this year’s festival is the biggest yet with submissions for the International Film Competition reaching over 1,600 entries with the winners to be announced at the awards ceremony on 11th October at Glasgow’s CCA.

In terms of music the big news from this years festival is actually a play, the first commissioned by the festival, written by award winning playwright Alan Bissett. One Thinks Of It All Is A Dream is an account of Syd Barrett’s brief tenure in Pink Floyd before he was ousted due to his erratic behaviour. A brief preview I attended some month’s back had a scene with Barrett being taken by his band chums for a consultation with RD Laing, a plan scuppered by Syd refusing to leave their car. The play looks at the then attitudes to mental health and Barrett’s reputation thereafter. Was he a “casualty,” a victim of drug use, a sane man in an insane world? The play will be performed in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen throughout the festival while there is a 70th birthday tribute to Barrett hosted by music journalist Nicola Meighan which will feature the writer Alan Bisset, broadcaster and Barrett historian John Cavanagh and Barrett’s nephew Ian Barrett. A multimedia event it will feature discussion and insight into Barrett’s work along with video and artwork from Barrett.

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One Thinks Of It All As A Dream

Elsewhere Rick Redbeard and Admiral Fallow are appearing while there are various events across the country featuring local music groups and a showcase at Glasgow’s Barrowland in conjunction with Music On Prescription and Nordoff Robbins Scotland for unsigned bands.

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As for the launch itself, aside from introductions to various strands of the festival, the attendees were entertained with a couple of songs from Rick Redbeard and were greatly amused by the excellent performance poet Harry Giles.

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You can see a list of all festival events here

Website

My Darling Clementine Tour and Album news

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Blabber’n’Smoke is mighty pleased to report that My Darling Clementine (Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish) are returning to Scotland in September, their first dates here since their successful stint at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe where they performed their Americana mystery tale, The Other Half with crime writer Mark Billingham. An intriguing blend of Billingham’s narratives about characters whose lives revolve around a small time bar in a small time town and My Darling Clementine’s songs the show and accompanying album (review here) were acclaimed and the trio performed the show across the UK until the end of last year. While plans are afoot for their next album My Darling Clementine are playing six dates in Scotland starting in Edinburgh on 6th September and two of the shows (Glasgow and Stirling) will feature Billingham as they again perform The Other Half. You can  read about the genesis of this multi media show in this interview from last year.

MDC dates

On the recording front My Darling Clementine confirm that they are recording their next album which will be one step removed from the classic country duet style that informed their debut How Do You Plead? and its follow up, The Reconciliation. There were hints of a more Memphis based sound on some of the songs on the latter and on the new album, provisionally entitled The 3rd and Final Testament, the pedal steel and fiddle give way to horns and funky guitar, more Delaney & Bonnie than George & Tammy apparently. With a due date of March 2017 we can only patiently await the release but in the meantime the tour offers the opportunity to see the pair who have, according to Country Music People,  recorded the “greatest UK country record ever made”

My Darling Clementine

The Other Half

Mark Billingham

 

 

iMTV: Rob Ellen’s independence Music TV

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How best to support your favourite acts and artists? I’m sure that Blabber’n’Smoke readers do more than their fair share, buying records, going to gigs, funding Kickstarters and such.  Now music promoter Rob Ellen, who is based in the Highlands, has a new concept which he announced on July 4th, Independence Day of course for those in The States.

To call Rob a music promoter is to sell him short. His Medicine Show umbrella covers all sorts of activity. He promotes artists, organises tours and house concerts, has a syndicated radio show and an online webzine carrying album and live concert reviews. In addition, he is one-half of The Slim Panatellas playing tea chest bass with cigar box guitar genius Don Jack. Now Rob has set out on perhaps his most ambitious project, iMTV, an innovative attempt to showcase music, offer folk an opportunity to become a patron and hopefully put some money into the pockets of the featured artists. It’s fully explained on his website but essentially Rob is setting up a music video channel which will carry music content such as tour documentaries, streamed concerts and the like, all unique and filmed and recorded by Rob. To facilitate this he has vowed to spend the next year touring the UK converted Hymer Mercedes motor home which is now a mobile TV studio, The Medicine Music Moose Mobile.

Rob Ellen Photograph by Gair Fraser

It’s early days. The 4th July declaration was the curtain raiser for a fund raising drive asking for a minimum £10 donation for a year’s subscription to iMTV once it’s up and running. In addition musicians will have a members page on the iMTV site and will receive 50% of  subsequent subscriptions made through their page. The initial fund raising page is here. It’s a bold venture so Blabber’n’Smoke spoke to Rob about the idea, his hopes and expectations and we started by asking him why he was doing this.

It’s a couple of things. I got frustrated sending out my artists’ CDs to DJ’s and writers. Many of them are good enough to play some songs or write about the music but it’s getting harder and harder to establish an artist, it’s the same worthy crew who play the songs. There’s a lot of resources thrown into trying to get on the radio and I thought, well why not set up a TV station?  If we can attract people to that it will be a whole lot better than just one or two radio shows playing the music. And I also wanted to come up with a plan that can reward the artists themselves, affiliated artists will get 50% of any profits that come in.

Why do you think a TV concept will be more effective than a radio play?

I think that if you offer music in a video in these days of instant interaction then people will be more likely to remember it. I want to capture a moment and then share it with people on the video channel and also via social media.

You’ve got a mobile TV studio which you’ll be using to record shows and events.

Yes, I’m out on the road right now, I’ll be doing this for the next year, collecting content, spreading awareness and trying to raise the funds we need. So the Moose mobile will touring the country, filming and recording and we’ll be trying out the results initially on the House Concert TV channel.

I’ve given myself a year to see if we can get fully funded to see if we can do it properly. There’s a fundraising page which has started off really well but I need to keep up the momentum. So far it’s mostly folk I know that have contributed but I’m hoping that word will spread. I hope that people will see it as an investment of sorts, it’s only £10 I’m looking for and for that tenner anyone who contributes might eventually make some money if it all works out.

So what’s the current state of play with you on the road?

Right now I’m on the road with Chuck Hawthorne who’s on his first tour of the UK. He’s playing gigs, house concerts and festivals and I’m recording and filming all of it. I’m also going to try some live streams directly from the Moose mobile which will go on to Facebook, we’ll call it Chuck in the truck! It’s great to be starting off with Chuck as he’s got such an interesting back-story and hopefully we’ll get some footage of him recounting it and it will all go up on the Moose Mobile Facebook page. At the end of the tour I’m hoping to edit what we’ve got into a documentary. I think that Chuck is as important an artist as I’ve worked with for a long while and also it will be nice to get a capture of the current UK Americana scene as seen through his eyes.

Will you plan to do more documentaries once iMTV is up and running?

I think it will be more live streams, bang, bang, as it happens, captured warts and all allowing you to interact with the artist as it happens and then archived so that you can revisit it, share it and such. As the project progresses I’m hoping to install cameras in a couple of our regular concert spaces which will allow us to edit some concerts afterwards for a really professional showpiece which will be available to watch time and again.

So at the moment we are trying it out, getting to know the equipment and seeing what we can with it so that when iMTV is good to go we will be up and running from day one.  It’s a steep learning curve but I’ve got a team of folk back home helping me set it up.  This time next year we hope to have enough money to man it all and to entertain a target of 60,000 subscribers.

So if you want to get in on the ground floor you can send in your tenner to Rob’s Go Fund Me page. In addition it would be a tremendous help if folk can share this using the links we’ve included or by just sharing and mentioning this page. It’s a vision we can all participate in after all.