Issue 10

Josienne Clarke – A Small Unknowable Thing | Corduroy Punk

A few years ago I was tasked once again with the job of introducing several acts at the Wath Festival, the long running music event tucked away in the Dearne Valley.  One of the eagerly awaited acts to appear over the weekend was a popular duo that I’d been following for some time, which included a young singer whose voice prompted me to announce during the introduction, that it did in fact belong to my current favourite British singer.  “I didn’t know that”, declared the singer in question later in the bar.  Josienne Clarke’s name, without her knowledge or indeed her permission, had been added to a short list of names that already included a Dusty and a Sandy, each British, each female and each very much at the top of their game when they were added to the list and very much at the top of my list of personal favourites.  Several years on and I have no reason to make any counter claims, which is perhaps confirmed by the quality of the performances on Josienne’s latest solo album A Small Unknowable Thing, which has just been released on her own Corduroy Punk label.  From the outset, Josienne states that she’s searching for a tune that she hasn’t sung before, which suggests that there’s still a restless spirit at work and one that aims high, striving for independence and recognition in the face of her own personal struggles.  It feels that many of Josienne’s previous difficulties might finally have been resolved, though some of the songs included here appear to focus on some overdue catharsis and skin-shedding, notably the scathing “Deep Cut” and “The Collector”, from which the album derives its beguiling title.  If Josienne’s wings had previously been pinned, then by the shedding of her label, her former musical partner and now her producer, we see an artist finally emerge in her own right and a performer with something valid to say.  There’s independence written both in and in between each line on this album, more so perhaps than on her previous solo album In All Weather.  “Super Recogniser” provides more than just a glimpse of Josienne’s confidence as an explorative vocalist, as she alternates between straight and scat singing, with one or two lines going off at unexpected tangents.  Her highly distinctive and unique voice stays pretty much at the centre of each song, while the guitars, both acoustic and electric, are in good hands, which should really come as no surprise, certainly to those of us who have witnessed her playing over the years.  Occasionally, Josienne’s voice is suitably up in the mix, notably on “Never Lie”, “Chains” and the beautiful “Out Loud”, where we can feel her presence up close and personal, as we assume the role of her confidants.  The musical range is broad as the material alternates between such gentle fare as “A Letter on a Page”, a love song, to the almost manic, yet rather fantastic “Sit Out”, where Josienne’s saxophone is firmly set to ‘assault’ mode, as if she has temporarily taken her place in Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band circa 1969.  Alec Bowman-Clarke’s delicate artwork and photography only adds to the mystery, with each butterfly placement and each waft of a silk scarf effectively providing an effortless juxtaposition between the ethereal world and Josienne’s very real world of determination, to survive as an artist, further exemplified by the album closer, the delicate “Unbound”, which brings a sense of optimism and perhaps a light at the end of the tunnel?  This is Josienne’s finest work to date.

Sit Out is included on this week’s Vaults radio show and Super Recogniser is included on both the Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show and the Roots and Acoustic Music Show.

In lieu of this year’s Cambridge Folk Festival, which has had to be cancelled once again due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation, the festival has joined forces with the British Film Institute, who have compiled a wonderful collection of folk-related films which you can watch for free.  You will no doubt recognise many artists and performers from over the years. Below, BFI curators William Fowler and Vic Pratt introduce the collection and explain why they picked these gems from the archive. 

Click on the following titles to access the films

Travelling for a LivingThe Adventures of the Son of Exploding SausageThe Bardney Pop Festival 1972

The Story of the Hare Who Lost his SpectaclesGlastonbury Festival and the First Pyramid Stage

Red Red RedByker SongThe Long TraditionIn One End

Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert and Jon Randall – The Marfa Tapes | Vanner Records | Review by Liam Wilkinson

One of the few pleasing consequences of the Covid pandemic has been the return to basics. There’s a growing stack of records in my collection which have been crafted, during the last eighteen months, with little more than a single microphone and a guitar. And for those of us who have always enjoyed stripped-down recordings with all the quirks and blunders left in, there is an unexpected and wholly agreeable sense that music is finally going back to its roots.  The Marfa Tapes is a perfect example of how effective this approach can be, especially when you consider the personnel. This raw and deliciously intimate album features three artists whose previous output has been largely polished, heavily arranged, produced and packaged. It’s a rare delight, then, to hear Miranda Lambert, Jack Ingram and Jon Randall perform these fifteen stunning songs without a single audio effect applied. Indeed, each track was recorded under a Texas sky, with the sound of the crackling campfire and conversation retained.  The songs here are tender, heartfelt and often devastatingly emotional, such as “Tin Man”, “Ghost” and “Amazing Grace – West Texas”. The harmonies are to die for, especially on “Breaking a Heart”, which, thanks to the lovely acoustics, sounds as if it’s being performed in the next room. The highlight for this country music fan, however, is “Homegrown Tomatoes” – not the Guy Clark classic itself, but a tribute to the late singer songwriter who has clearly left his indelible mark on this fine trio.

Homegrown Tomatoes is included on this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

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Adeline – Adeline | Self Release

Accompanied by a sepia shot of the five-piece band in the midst of a blizzard, dressed in full Arctic gear, not unlike a scene from The Thing, Adeline takes to the frozen north for a bit of sore-fingered jamming.  The fifteen instrumentals that make up the debut album by this collective demonstrates in no small measure their individual musical chops, each member drawn from some of the top outfits currently working the Old Time circuit.  John Showman, Chris Coole, Adrian Gross, Sam Allison and Mark Kilianski took to the frozen Ontario Kawartha Highlands, the land of the Anishinabewaki and Mississauga people, to spend just three days music making, while keeping themselves as warm as they possibly could in a seventy year-old cabin along the shores of Beaver Lake, where temperatures outside reached minus 18 degrees.  The five musicians, comprising of two from The Lonesome Ace Stringband (Showman/Coole), one from The Slocan Ramblers (Gross), one from Sheesham and Lotus & Son (Allison) and one from Golden Shoals (Kilianski), had never actually worked together previously, Sam and Mark having never before met.  The results are both enthusiastically tight and dynamic, and at the same time demonstrate a certain hunger for returning to the game after a few months out of action due to lock down.  As with much of this music of an Old Time nature, the feeling of joy is never far away, despite the potential threat of frostbite.

Shelvin’ Rock is included on both this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show and the Roots and Acoustic Music Show.

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Balamaya Project – Wolo So | Jazz Re:Freshed

After five years in the making, the sixteen-piece outfit Balimaya Project are now ready to release their debut album Wolo So, which roughly translates to ‘born at home’.  Led by the British-born composer, arranger and percussionist Yahael Camara Onono, the project focuses on the traditional music and folklore of the Mandé peoples of West Africa, but from a London jazz scene perspective.  Onono is keen to categorise this music as Mandé Jazz, with a specific focus on this particular cultural base.  The seven pieces included are predominantly instrumental, where the drums are heard loudly and often, with sprinklings of strings via the kora and several brass motifs emphasising the size of the outfit and bringing to the music a huge and bold sound.  The Paris-based Malian singer Mariam Tounkara Koné offers her vocal services to the rhythm-laden “Soninka/Patronba”, which brings a welcome embellishment to an otherwise male musical environment.  There’s a sense of ‘brotherhood’ that runs throughout the project, each of the musicians depending on one another throughout.

Balimaya is included on both this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show and the Roots and Acoustic Music Show.

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Carbonhobo – Memoirs From the Crooked Road | Merry Hell Music

Neil McCartney, the fiddle player with the Wigan-based roots band Merry Hell, delivers his debut solo album under the guise of Carbonhobo, released on his current band’s own label.  The songs on Memoirs From the Crooked Road reflect the comings and goings and various peregrinations of a well-travelled troubadour, a singer-songwriter of experience, covering no less than five continents over a three decade period, equipped with an eye for detail and a good sense of melody, which just might run in his blood.  In places, the songs are reminiscent of early Seventies bedsit musings, notably “Warm in the Bed”, which is a little like Brian Protheroe’s memorable “Pinball” in feel.  In other places, the atmosphere has a more Celtic feel, certainly the Bothy Band inspired “The Maids of Mitchelstown”, which could have been recorded on the banks of the Liffey.  Under the moniker of Carbonhobo, McCartney plays everything but the piano, a role he hands over to his son Ben, though there are some key guest appearances here, notably Jeff Higgins on saxophone providing the late night jazz feel on “John Coltrane on Bleeker Street”.  From County Mayo to Montreux, New York City to Wigan, McCartney creates an enviable travelogue of places visited and a life lived, with the sound of the shores never too far away, as clearly heard on the glistening “Seagull” that concludes this fine album. 

The Maids of Mitchelstown is included on both this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show and the Roots and Acoustic Music Show.

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Maartin Allcock – OX15 | Talking Elephant Records

Originally released just before the turn of the last century, Maartin Allcock’s solo album OX15 is named for the Oxfordshire postcode area in which it was made, a location said to be the ‘Folk Rock Belt’ according to the sleeve notes, mainly due to the genre’s leading musicians that reside there.  The twelve songs and tunes cover a broad range of styles, which includes the familiar folk rock territory exemplified in the output of Fairport Convention, the band he left three years earlier to join Jethro Tull, after a good eleven years as one of the band’s cleverest multi-instrumentalists.  Tull’s animated frontman Ian Anderson appears here on Allcock’s first ever song, “Whenever We See the Dark”, which features some of the musician’s trademark flute lipping.  Known for his highly complex time signatures and intricate arrangements, the instrumentals sound just as inventive as they did when they were first recorded over twenty years ago.  Seemingly more comfortable with the instrumentals, Allcock enlists his wife Gill to perform Allan Taylor’s “Chimes at Midnight”, while Najma Akhtar provides an authentic voice for the jointly written “A Dream”, some of which is performed in Urdu.  With a faithful nod to both the Allman Brothers Band and indeed Top Gear, the show for motorphiles rather than Peel’s late night broadcasts of the late 1960s, the highly cheerful instrumental “Jessica” makes an enjoyable mid-album appearance, coupled with the traditional “The Wind That Shakes the Barley”, featuring both Chris Leslie and Chris Haigh duelling on their respective fiddles, replacing Dickey Betts’ iconic guitar riff almost note for note.  A fine reissue in memory of a fine and much missed musician.

Jessica/The Wind That Shakes the Barley is included on both this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show and the Roots and Acoustic Music Show.

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Aidan O’Rourke – Iorram | Reveal Records

Lau’s fiddle player extraordinaire Aidan O’Rourke releases his first soundtrack album, which is chock full of atmosphere as would be expected.  There’s no jigging around the barn in any of these twelve selections, but rather a collection of warm, ethereal and almost contemplative sonic explorations augmented by archive Gaelic voices of the people from as early as the 1940s.  With the title translating to ‘Boat Song’, there’s a sense of the sea placed within each of the compositions, the project itself pertaining to the fishing communities of the Outer Hebrides.  O’Rourke’s fiddle is at the heart of each of the tunes, with further contributions from Lizabett Russo on vocals, Brighde Chaimbeul on Scottish small pipes, Graeme Stephen on guitar, Adam Kinner on saxophone, Thas Gibbs on harmonium and Lucy Railton on cello.  Released in the wake of O’Rourke’s exhaustive 365 tune-a-day-for-a-year project, which spread over the course of 2019-2020, Iorram is an enchanting album of spoken word and delicate, hypnotic and soothing instrumental music.

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Yonder Boys – Acid Folk | Blue Whale Records

The core trio of musicians that makes up the Berlin-based Yonder Boys are the Australian banjo player David Stewart Ingleton, American guitarist Jason Serious and Chilean multi-instrumentalist Tomas Peralta, whose debut album Acid Folk falls somewhere very close to what it says on the tin.  With a cover illustration that brings almost as much distress as sitting through Bambi once again, Acid Folk tears through ten songs, some original, one or two not so, including a haunting version of the traditional “House Carpenter”.  The Beach Boys influenced “The Great American Pussy Grab” carries an explicit language warning on the press release, but is such a hoot for any radio play these days.  The fun continues with “Look at What You Done”, while the harmonica-led “High on the Mountain” provides some inviting toe-tapping moments.  There’s a good portion of attitude, plenty of tight and playful three-part harmonies and an overriding sense of fun throughout this album, just the tonic for these uncertain and doubtful times.

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What Aleph Said – Aeona | Fluttery Records

Based in Lausanne, Switzerland, the four-piece What Aleph Said is a rock outfit whose new album is made up of five lengthy instrumental tracks, each of which attempts to explore a healthy mix of post-rock and stoner-rock, infused with a nod towards their progressive rock influences, yet thankfully avoiding any Hobbit influenced lyrics.  Completely instrumental, the album opens with the title cut, a steadily building rock opus, which reaches the beginning of its climax a good seven minutes in, suitably setting the tone for what follows.  “Nostalgic” has one or two Wishbone Ash moments, with some fine guitar interplay and once again builds to a crescendo of sound after the bass takes over the reins, which would in turn be very much at home accompanying a James Bond action sequence perfectly; there’s just something in its conclusion that echoes “Phoenix”.  There’s also a touch of the Middle East in some of the arrangements, notably “Introspection”, which once again demonstrates the band’s musical range.

Willow Trio – Oystercatchers | Self Release

After the initial release of the lead track “oystercatchers”, the Glasgow-based clarsach trio present their first five-track EP of the same name, which sees Sam MacAdam, Sophie Rocks and Romy Wymer, spread their musical wings for what sounds like a promising musical adventure.  Taking their combined grounding in both classical and traditional musical forms, the trio deliver on their promise to keep this music both sublime and delicate, while expanding their own musical sensibilities.  There are a lot of strings at work here, yet nothing sounds untidy or cluttered, in fact everything is very much in its place, with each note counting and complimenting one another. “What Care I for the Minster” almost breaks into dance mode, though maintains its composure throughout, each harp calling to one another like birds in the trees. The music that the Willow Trio plays is almost celestial in its delivery, like light dancing through stained glass.

What Care I For the Minster is included on both this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show and the Roots and Acoustic Music Show.

Jackson Browne – My Cleveland Heart | Inside Recordings

Drawing inspiration from a driving trip around Northeast Ohio with a pal, possibly back in 2019, when his partner of the road pointed out the place in Cleveland where they actually make artificial hearts, prompting the noted singer-songwriter to respond ‘Oh, I could use one of those’.  This latest single, co-written by Val McCallum and lifted from Browne’s latest album Downhill From Everywhere, features all the necessary ingredients for a Jackson Browne staple, highly melodic, with a notable lap steel guitar accompaniment, courtesy Greg Leisz, which recalls the golden days of the Jackson Browne/David Lindley heyday. Accompanying this release is an entertaining video promo, featuring an appearance by Phoebe Bridgers, who is seen apparently feasting on Browne’s discarded heart as he looks on from the operating theatre bed, rejuvenated with a brand new mechanical heart.  The video, directed by Alissa Torvinen Kouame, adds to the appeal of this single, which once again confirms Browne’s credentials as a first rate songwriter.

My Cleveland Heart is included on both this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show and the Roots and Acoustic Music Show.

Twelfth Day – What’s Real | Orange Feather Records

The two musicians that form Twelfth Day, Catriona Price and Esther Swift, look no different now than they did back in the days they first started out on their musical journey together, some ten years ago.  With a handful of albums and EPs already released under the name Twelfth Day Catriona and Esther continue to take their music further, in terms of their empathetic musicianship and their conscientious song writing.  “What’s Real” follows “Fact of Life”, both songs taken from the duo’s current album release Face to Face, and once again features a bold arrangement that is on the one hand joyful and breezy, yet also imbued with both tension and release, as the violin and harp work together in complete musical harmony.  The accompanying video promo, directed by James Ewen, reflects the duo’s connection with nature, both its optimism and its endless puzzles, with a message of hope in the lyric, for those who just might be experiencing the hardships of what could be described as a dismissive society.  Twelfth Day keeping it real once again.

What’s Real is included on both this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show and the Roots and Acoustic Music Show.

David Hepworth – Overpaid, Oversexed and Over There | Bantam Press

In some respects I wish I’d noticed the Anglo/American playlist at the end before setting about reading David Hepworth’s latest tome, which lists twenty-five albums that effectively form the soundtrack to this engaging story.  Those albums provide an insight into precisely what the former Old Grey Whistle Test presenter and music magazine editor is talking about throughout this highly entertaining book, a summary of the dominance that the British pop music industry had upon the unsuspecting United States of America and just how a small island could possibly have such an effect on a much larger one, thrilling a vast audience made up of people who would find some difficulty in locating the UK on a map.  Adding to the ever expanding splash of orange to one section of my bookshelf, Overpaid, Oversexed and Over There follows the most excellent 1971: Never a Dull Moment, Uncommon People: The Rise and Fall of the Rock Stars, Nothing is Real: The Beatles Were Underrated and Other Sweeping Statements About Pop and A Fabulous Creation: How the LP Saved Our Lives, which once again highlights the privilege of having been born in these times.  The book is peppered with Hepworth’s familiar wit, the writing is both informative and arresting and there’s always the sense of a keen eye for detail as we are taken back to the 1950s, then on through the rise of Beatlemania, to the hard rocking bands of the late Sixties and onward into the realms of Glam, Punk and the New Wave, before favour dwindles with the arrival of Britpop, when America could once again return to its own insular preferences.  Conquering America wasn’t an easy task, though many had tried, most of whom returned with their tails between their legs, their pride damaged and with no small measure of resentment, while others rose to unbelievable heights, prospering both in popularity and in financial rewards.  Hepworth sets the scene with an outline of the relationship between the two nations before and during the second world war, tells of the circumstances that allowed a band such as The Beatles to flourish in the wake of one of the country’s darkest moments and reveals how the British influence eventually faded as other factors entered the fray.  A thoroughly enjoyable and highly readable account by one of our most respected music writers.

Dusty Hill (1949-2021)

Born Joseph Michael Hill in Dallas, Texas, Dusty Hill was best known as the bassist in the popular American rock outfit ZZ Top, who also provided both lead and backing vocals keyboards.  The band that adopted the simple guitar, bass and drums format, released fifteen studio albums between 1971 and 2012 and sold an estimated 50 million albums worldwide.  The band’s almost cartoonish appearance, which featured Hill and fellow bandmate Billy Gibbons sporting beards down to their belt buckles, whilst their drummer Frank Beard, ironically limited himself to just a ‘tash, provided one or two high profile cameos, appearing in Back to the Future Part III for instance, whilst their blues-based sound became familiar on jukeboxes around the world.  It was the band’s third album Tres Hombres, that brought the band to worldwide attention back in 1973, their popularity further enhanced with regular appearances on MTV, taking full advantage of their obsession with gas stations, ‘33 Ford Coupes, furry rotating guitars and extended limbs, with such hits as “Gimme All Your Lovin’”, “Sharp Dressed Man” and “Legs”. Suffering a series of health issues, including hip and ear problems, together with a near fatal shooting accident, Hill remained an active member of the band until the end, effectively handing over ‘the bottom end’ to the band’s trusty guitar tech Elwood Francis.  Survived by his wife Charleen McCrory and daughter Charity, Dusty Hill died on July 27 in Houston, Texas.

Devon Sproule at the Wheelhouse, Wombwell in 2011

Alan Nimmo at the Town Hall, Selby in 2011

Miss Quincy at the Wheelhouse, Wombwell in 2011

61. Bob Dylan – Bringing It All Back Home | CBS 62515 – 1965

Bringing It All Back Home was the first Dylan album I ever heard, though Greatest Hits Vol II was the first one I actually bought a couple of years later.  If my dad’s small collection consisted predominantly of Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller records and mum’s was made up of records by the likes of Eddie Arnold and Hank Locklin, it was through my dad’s brother’s small collection that I was first introduced to the world of Bob Dylan.  Uncle Paddy had two LPs on the shelf that stood out among the jazz records, this one and an old Sonny Terry and Brownie Mcghee LP.  From the opening few bars of “Subterranean Homesick Blues” through to the last few notes of “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue”, I was immediately hooked.  I was just a kid at the time and to me, the sleeve notes made no sense at all and if I’m honest, they still don’t.  I was so young when I first heard the LP, that the stand out moment for me was initially “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream”, simply because of its false start, which was and remains a hoot.  This was the first LP that I attempted to memorise all of the lyrics to, which would lead to boring people to death at parties.  Some would say that Bob Dylan couldn’t sing, but those people were the same who found Frank Sinatra interesting.  I rest my case.

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62. Various Artists – The Age of Atlantic | Atlantic 2464 013 – 1970

This was the year before decimalisation, which saw the appearance of an abundance of sampler albums with ‘99’ printed on the gatefold sleeve.  Carrying this iconic sleeve around the school quadrangle wouldn’t have necessarily gone down too well with an establishment populated by dozens of Northern Soul freaks, a handful of Skinheads, the odd Suedehead, the leftovers of what remained of the Mods, together with the one solitary leather-clad Rocker.  No one at school had ever heard of Led Zeppelin, let alone Iron Butterfly, Vanilla Fudge or indeed Buffalo Springfield.  The Age of Atlantic intrigued me.  I was thirteen at the time of this release and had taken to placing my head between two speakers less than a foot apart, turning the Fidelity Stereo system up as far as it would go.  Dad would be unimpressed with the guitar riff of “Black Hearted Woman” as it seeped through to his domain downstairs as he perused the sports pages.  This was the first sampler album I ever bought and was largely responsible for introducing me to the aforementioned bands as well as to Delaney and Bonnie, Dr John, the MC5 and Yes.

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63. Pentangle – Basket of Light | Transatlantic TRA 205 – 1969

It wasn’t quite as early as 1969, more like a couple of years later, when a young and hip Methodist Youth Club leader and his equally young and infinitely more attractive wife introduced me to Pentangle.  Although I hesitate to refer to myself as the club DJ, I was the kid responsible for changing the records on the Dansette, an irritation to most of the female contingent as I spun records by Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Move, The Kinks, Humble Pie and The Beatles, instead “Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes”, “Sugar Sugar” and the dire “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep”.  The club leader began to tire of “Voodoo Chile” and was looking for something slightly more ‘pastoral’, so the next week he brought in this strange LP for me to play.  “Light Flight” was probably the sweetest thing I’d heard up to that point and I was instantly hooked.  I think the group leader was so pleased that I enjoyed the record so much that he gave it to me there and then as a gift, as if he was presenting me with The Bible.  He’d achieved a conversion!  When I later studied the gatefold sleeve, I realised that the band included Bert Jansch, a musician my art teacher had already introduced me to a little earlier.  This LP opened up a Pandora’s Box of goodies that have stayed with me since.  Seeing the original line up of Pentangle at the Royal Festival Hall in 2011, left a lasting memory that will stay with me always.

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64. Woody Guthrie – Dust Bowl Ballads | Rounder 1040 – 1988

I don’t really know where to start with Woody Guthrie.  I think it might be the legend that surrounds the Oklahoma-born folk singer that interests me more than the actual songs.  I first became aware of him after seeing Alice’s Restaurant as a teenager at the Civic Theatre (or the Arts Centre as it was then known) in Doncaster, in the early 1970s.  There’s a scene where some kindly-looking actor plays a distinctly serene Woody lying still in a New York hospital bed while his son Arlo, together with old mate Pete Seeger serenade him with a few of his songs.  This was nothing like the shaky old folk singer suffering the latter effects of Huntington’s in reality.  I was also aware of some of Woody’s songs through the records of Ry Cooder and Bob Dylan.  Dust Bowl Ballads chronicles the depression era and shows Guthrie at his best, every single word coming over with crystal clarity, despite the poor recording quality, each story told as convincingly as possible.  Hearing the “Ballad of Tom Joad” made me head straight for John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath, both the novel and John Ford’s film classic, both of which I return to now and again.

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65. Richard and Linda Thompson – Hokey Pokey | Island ILPS9305 – 1975

It’s strange to think in these terms now, in a time when just about every type of weird and wonderful voice known to humankind has been fully explored, from Tom Waits to Devendra Banhart, from Bjork to Joanna Newsome, not to mention Tiny Tim or Antony (of the Johnsons fame), but I have to confess, when I first heard Richard Thompson’s voice, I didn’t much care for it.  There was something decidedly odd about it; an acquired taste if ever there was such a thing.  It was therefore a relief when this gifted guitarist and songwriter handed over the tonsil aerobics to his missis. While Bright Lights was hailed as a masterpiece, this second helping from the soon to be converted to Islam hubby and wife team mixed music hall, brass bands and English hymns with some of the bleakest songs so far in the Thompson catalogue. The passage of time has been instrumental in changing my mind over Thompson’s credentials as a singer, in fact one need look no further than his own definitive versions of “Beeswing”, “From Galway to Graceland” or “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” for proof of that.  Still not the greatest voice in the world, but it has a certain familiarity and belonging now.  Of all the Thompson albums up on the shelf, this LP from 1974 is the one that often finds its way back onto the turntable.

61. Nicky Thomas – Love of the Common People | Trojan TR7750 – 1970

Nicky Thomas’s reggae version of the folk ballad “Love of the Common People”, written by John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins, was the only version that held any sway with me back in the early 1970s.  Pop reggae, as opposed to what might be considered the more serious side of the genre, was making a big impact on the UK charts at the time and I tended to stick with the more commercial singles that were around at the time, which included releases by the likes of Desmond Dekker, Bob and Marcia, The Pioneers and Dave and Ansil Collins, not to mention such fine and memorable instrumentals as Harry J. All Stars’ “The Liquidator” and The Upsetters’ “Return of Django”.  Subsequently covered by everyone from Stiff Little Fingers, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Young and even Leonard Nimoy, this version of “Love of the Common People” will always be considered the definitive version, by me at least.

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62. Colin Blunstone – Say You Don’t Mind | Epic EPC7765 – 1972

Orchestrations often get in the way of a good song, unless we’re talking about the likes of “Eleanor Rigby”, “McArthur Park”, “Wichita Lineman” or indeed “Say You Don’t Mind”, where the strings are in fact integral to the arrangement.  There’s something very much appealing about this Denny Laine song, which has a lot to do with Christopher Gunning’s arrangement, which in turn appears to suit Blunstone’s soulful voice perfectly.  Best remembered for his role as the singer with The Zombies in the 1960s, Blunstone subsequently carved out a pretty successful solo career in the early 1970s scoring one or two major hits, this included, before going on to collaborate with Dave Stewart and the Alan Parsons Project.  The opening few bars of this song will always make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, in a similar manner to those other aforementioned songs.

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63. Fleetwood Mac – Albatross | Blue Horizon 57-3145 – 1968

For those who were around at the time of the first couple of albums by Fleetwood Mac, later to become known as Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, mainly to differentiate between the earlier blues band and the later and infinitely more successful rock outfit, the instrumental “Albatross” would have come as something of a surprise.  Gone was the Robert Johnson and Elmore James blues influence in favour of a much more soothing composition, which relates more to the sound of the sea than the urban reality of such earlier songs such as “Shake Your Money Maker” and “Black Magic Woman”.  It was only when the young eighteen year-old Danny Kirwan came onboard that Peter Green was able to complete the composition, having struggled to work with the band’s regular slide guitar player Jeremy Spencer, who didn’t actually play on the single, despite appearing on Top of the Pops at the time miming to the piece.  Played almost constantly on the radio across the UK at the time, “Albatross” holds the distinction of being the band’s only UK number one single.  The tune also gave The Beatles the inspiration for their own instrumental “Sun King”, which would appear on their Abbey Road album almost exactly a year later.

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64. Emmylou Harris – Here, There and Everywhere | Reprise K14415 – 1976

In true Simon Bates fashion (cue sickly saccharine sweet background music), number 64 in this series is ‘Our Tune’, a 45 jointly enjoyed by both Mrs W and I when we first met in the mid 1970s.  Over the years, our mutual music appreciation has differed wildly, yet when our eyes locked in the autumn of 1975, country star Emmylou Harris was heard on the radio singing this old Beatles tune, which prompted this young teenager to go out and buy the single.  Being a huge Beatles fan at the time, it seemed only right to find our mutual ground in McCartney’s lyrics.  They sang ‘her’ and she sang ‘him’, but essentially it’s the same song and (this is where it gets syrupy sweet), whenever I hear Emmylou’s version, I seem to be transported right back to that hot summer, discovering the woman I would spend the rest of my life with, going together here, there and everywhere.

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65. Juicy Lucy – Who Do You Love | Vertigo 6059001 – 1969

Inspired by the name of a character in The Virgin Soldiers, the popular novel by Leslie Thomas, Juicy Lucy were a British blues-based rock band, formed from the ashes of The Misunderstood after their break-up in 1969.  Shortly afterwards, the band immediately enjoyed some success with the first single from their self-titled debut, an LP notable for its cover as well as the hard hitting music.  The single came my way by means of the outdoor record stall on Doncaster market, the 45 being an obvious choice, first and foremost due to the label, the appealing black and white spiral Vertigo label, later to be replaced by the comparatively dull Roger Dean spaceship design.  “Who Do You Love” was a popular song, originally released by Bo Diddley in 1956 and subsequently a staple in the repertoires of such as Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks, Quicksilver Messenger Service and George Thorogood and the Destroyers.

Playlist for Show 01.08.21 (#530)

My Cleveland Heart – Jackson Browne (Single)
Super Recogniser – Josienne Clarke (A Small Unknowable Thing)
A Flea in the Lug – Norrie Maciver and the Glasgow Barons (Songs of Goven Old)
Balimaya – Balimayer Project (Wolo Solo)
Breakthrough – Atomic Rooster (In Hearing Of)
Bargain – The Who (Who’s Next)
What’s Real – Twelfth Day (Single)
The Maids of Mitchelstown – Carbonhobo (Memoirs From the Crooked Road)
Jessica-The Wind That Shakes the Barley – Maartin Allcock (OX15)
The World Is What You Make It – Paul Brady (Transatlantic Sessions 2)
Homegrown Tomatoes – Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert and Jon Randall (The Marfa Tapes)
Harmless Feeling – Ric Robertson (Carolina Child)
One Day The Piper Will Expect To Be Paid – El Misti (All Is Lost)
What Care I For the Minster – Willow Trio (Oystercatcher)
Lonesome Electric Turkey/Peaches En Regalia – The Mothers (Fillmore East 1971)
Sit Out – Josienne Clarke (A Small Unknowable Thing)
Shelvin’ Rock – Adeline (Adeline)
Africa Iyo – Jean-Pierre Djeukam (Single)

The Who – Who’s Next | Polydor 076 176-1 – 1971

It was upon hearing “Won’t Get Fooled Again” for the first time that initially drew me to the Who’s Next album, a rock anthem if ever there was one, which was played often on the radio at the time, albeit in a rather shorter version than the epic album track.  The album’s notorious cover shot of a 2001: A Space Odyssey-styled monolith, which all four members of the band had recently relieved themselves against, brings a certain attitude to the record a good six years before the arrival of Punk.  Although the album appears to be a fully formed finished product, it was in fact cobbled together from remnants of Pete Townshend’s abandoned Lifehouse project, which included the use of synthesisers, particularly on “Baba O’Riley”, the iconic opening track.  All the songs on the album were written by Pete Townshend, with the exception of John Entwistle’s “My Wife”, which doesn’t feel at all out of place.  The album remains one of the milestones of British rock and was re-issued in 2003 as a three-disc LP set, which included live performances at the Young Vic as well as a New York Record Plant session.  Other notable tracks include “Bargain”, “The Song is Over” and “Behind Blue Eyes”.

Bargain is included on this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

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The Mothers – Fillmore East June 1971 | Reprise K44150 – 1971

Recorded on both June 5–6, 1971, with further recordings from an earlier show in Michigan the month before, Fillmore East June 1971 is a live album by Frank Zappa’s band The Mothers, which showcased the band’s bawdy humour, especially concerning the on the road shenanigans of a rock and roll band, complete with groupies, motel rooms and a rare outing of The Turtles hit with a bullet, “Happy Together”.  Perhaps the main focus of this album is the lengthy stage piece “The Mud Shark”, which was a showcase for the sleazy humour Zappa would later be known for.  Once past the fun aspect of the concert and subsequent album release, there are one or two fine musical moments, notably an outing of Zappa’s recent showstopper, “Peaches En Regalia”, the opening track to possibly Zappa’s finest album of his career, 1970s Hot Rats.

Lonesome Electric Turkey/Peaches En Regalia are included on this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

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Atomic Rooster – In Hearing Of | Pegasus PEG 1 – 1971

The British rock band Atomic Rooster first hit my radar in the early 1970s when I was still buying exclusively 45s, which included the band’s two hits on the B&C record label,  “Tomorrow Night” from 1970 and “Devil’s Answer” from the following year.  Formed from the ashes of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, organist Vincent Crane and drummer Carl Palmer, the keyboard player was to be the band’s only constant member in subsequent years, until his death by suicide in 1989.  Following the success of the band’s first two albums in 1970, Atomic Rooster and Death Walks Behind You, In Hearing Of was helped along by the popularity of the single “Devil’s Answer”, despite the song not actually included on the LP until much later reissues, although it was included on its initial US release.  Shortly after the release of this album, John Cann and Paul Hammond left the band, as the band moved ever closer to a more soul/funk sensibility, bringing in Chris Farlowe, Steve Bolton and Ric Parnell for their next record Made in England

Breakthrough is included on this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

Playlist for Show 01.08.21

My Cleveland Heart – Jackson Browne (Single)
Super Recogniser – Josienne Clarke (A Small Unknowable Thing)
A Flea in the Lug – Norrie Maciver and the Glasgow Barons (Songs of Goven Old)
Balimaya – Balimayer Project (Wolo Solo)
What’s Real – Twelfth Day (Single)
The Maids of Mitchelstown – Carbonhobo (Memoirs From the Crooked Road)
Jessica-The Wind That Shakes the Barley – Maartin Allcock (OX15)
The World Is What You Make It – Paul Brady (Transatlantic Sessions 2)
Homegrown Tomatoes – Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert and Jon Randall (The Marfa Tapes)
Harmless Feeling – Ric Robertson (Carolina Child)
What Care I For the Minster – Willow Trio (Oystercatcher)
Shelvin’ Rock – Adeline (Adeline)

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All reviews and features by Allan Wilkinson unless otherwise stated