Issue 13

Audrey Spillman – Neon Dream | Self Release

Neon Dream is the second full length solo album by the Nashville-based singer-songwriter Audrey Spillman, the title of which appears in a lyric less than a minute into the lead song “Austin Motel”, a song that recalls an important and special time in the singer’s burgeoning relationship with fellow singer-songwriter Neilson Hubbard.  In a way, this location might very well bring to mind Spillman’s role in the film Wheeler, which also features fellow singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson, in which the title character (played by Stephen Dorff), leaves the farm for the bright lights of Nashville on a make or break mission to make a name for himself in Music City.  If country music is at the heart of Neon Dream, then it doesn’t really deter Spillman from taking the occasional dusty side road detour into jazz, turning in a sultry reading of the old Gershwin standard “Summertime”, with steady horn and guitar interplay, which helps wipe down the sweat from the heat.  Spillman acknowledges that the sound she strives for is pretty much based on the music she has always been drawn to, with her voice serving as its main ingredient.  Songs like “Beyond the Blue” and “Red Balloon” are fine examples of how this artist uses her distinctive voice and makes each syllable count.  Produced by Hubbard, the album stands almost as a diary of Spillman’s last five years, with some key rites of passage covered, such as getting married and starting a family, though balanced with grief and loss at the same time.  “Breakthrough” might provide Spillman with an opportunity to vent Adele-style, yet it’s with the ballads that Audrey Spillman really excels.  “Little Light of Mine” is both sweet and tender, yet manages to keep just on the right side of sentimentality, while “Go On and Fly” closes on an optimistic note, albeit together with a touch of sadness, the song being performed by request at her late stepmother’s funeral, a difficult thing to do one imagines.  The album version here features a fine harmony vocal by Garrison Starr.  It will be interesting to see where Audrey Spillman’s muse will take her next.

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

K-MUSIC – London’s Festival of Korean Music

Wed 6 Oct: ADG7 – Kings Place (Hall 1)
Sun 17 Oct: Kyungso Park & Soona Park with Angharad Jenkins – Purcell Room, Southbank Centre
Fri 22 + Sat 23 Oct: Dongyang Gozupa + Sinnoi – The Coronet Theatre (Notting Hill)
Thurs 28 Oct: Black String & Nguyên Lê – Grand Junction Paddington
Sat 6 Nov: Dal:um – Purcell Room, Southbank Centre
Mon 8 Nov: Dal:um – Norwich Arts Centre
Weds 17 Nov: Soojin Suh Coloris Trio & Camilla George – Purcell Room, Southbank Centre

K-Music concerts at the Southbank Centre include Kyungso Park and Soona Park, two gayageum masters (12-stringed zither), from south and north Korea, performing for the first time with fiddler and singer from Wales, Angharad Jenkins, for an intriguing encounter between eastern and western strings (17 October) and Dal:um, (photo: Kim Shin Joong) who, on gayageum and geomungo (silk-stringed zither), move into soundscapes that are modern and mellifluous, focusing on the silence and space between the notes (6 November). Their highly-acclaimed new album ‘Similar & Different’, was released on Glitterbeat’s label imprint tak:til earlier this year.

The final Southbank Centre concert features experimental drummer Soojin Suh leading her new trio Coloris and Nigerian-born, London-based saxophonist Camilla George as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival (17 November).

K-Music concerts at the Purcell Room are part of the Southbank Centre’s Purcell Sessions – a series allowing artists to present new material and collaborations to an intimate audience in this prestigious London venue.

The K-Music Festival opens at Kings Place on 6 October with internationally-known 9-piece band ADG7 and continues until 17 November.

K-Music 2021 is produced and directed by the Korean Cultural Centre UK and Serious. For more Korea-related events visit

Throughout her successful solo career, Eddi has released consistently great works, including highly acclaimed albums such as The Songs of Robert Burns and last years Cavalier.  She has won Brit Awards, been awarded four honorary degrees, an MBE, sung to millions on some of the world’s greatest concert and festival stages and collaborated with a host of stars across a myriad of genres including Folk, Jazz, Pop, World, Punk and even Classical work with various orchestras.   In 2019 Eddi was invited to be a special guest with Jools Holland’s Rhythm & Blues Orchestra for an extensive tour, she released her Starlight EP, played sold out headline shows and recorded a programme for BBC Radios’ Classic Scottish Album series about her Robert Burns recordings and appeared on BBC Television’s Songs of Praise and as part of Billy Connolly’s  Made In Scotland series.

Eddi Reader will be appearing at CAST in Doncaster on Thursday 16 September at 7.30pm.

More Information here

Frank Carline Live | The Roots Music Club, Doncaster | 10.09.21

The eagerly anticipated new season at the Roots Music Club has been a long time coming, a good eighteen months in fact since Bronwynne Brent played a hasty final gig before heading home unexpectedly at the outbreak of the dreaded virus who’s name we won’t mention.  The Mississippi singer was forced to cancel the rest of her tour in the process, at a time affected by uncertainty and fear, with none of us really knowing what was just around the corner.  Tonight though, we managed to put the past behind us as soon as the doors at the Ukrainian Centre were re-opened, the stage dusted down, the  lights checked, the beer barrels changed and the sound system checked, albeit in its new place, effectively bringing things back to order at one of Doncaster’s premiere acoustic music venues.  With these familiar surroundings, comes a familiar face, a face that was last seen on this stage a good twenty months ago, battered black and blue after a nasty cycling accident, an episode referenced in the stage props tonight.  Local singer, songwriter and guitar player Frank Carline surrounded himself with the contents of his shed, the name of the art installation that stands as a reminder of some of the important things in life, from the blue road bike behind him, with an amplifier attached to rack above the rear wheel, a self portrait propped upon an easel to his left and no less than three acoustic guitars to his right, each of which would come in useful over the next couple of hours. 

Almost completely recovered and rehabilitated from his accident, Frank took to his centre stage stool, wearing a bandana, which replaced the obligatory pork pie hat, a sawn-off denim jacket straight from the wardrobe of Sons of Anarchy, while sporting an impressive goatee, and launched into “Brand New Automobile”, both familiarising himself with his surroundings once again and seemingly enjoying every minute of it.  It’s not difficult to take a liking to Frank Carline, whose good-natured attitude people instantly warm to.  He doesn’t disappear into a back room or make himself aloof to his audience but rather mingles among friends.  To be honest, many in the audience tonight were in fact his friends, a loyal following that has followed him around for decades.  Perhaps Frank is best known for his treatment of the blues, especially when paying homage to such heroes as Muddy Waters, Big Bill Broonzy and Robert Johnson, turning in a fine reading of Johnson’s “Come On In My Kitchen”, complete with bottleneck slide.  It’s not just the blues though that keeps Frank’s music alive, he also puts pen to paper with some fine songs of his own, often reminding himself of his own background, of listening to the Irish music found in his mother’s record collection, such as those by The Dubliners; “Don’t Think I’ll Get Over It” evokes some of these early memories.  Towards the end of the night, Frank invites Stuart Palmer up on stage with him, the singer/guitarist who opened the night a couple of hours earlier, with a handful of songs such as Jackson C Frank’s “Blues Run the Game”, Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” and the late Greg Trooper’s “They Call Me Hank”.  For tonight’s finale Frank and Stuart performed a couple of songs that included “Goodnight-Loving Trail”, which served as a fine conclusion to an enjoyable opening night at the Roots Music Club and a great start to the new season.

Come On In My Kitchen is included on this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

Tim O’Brien – He Walked On | Howdy Skies Records | Review by Liam Wilkinson

There’s a handful of artists who can be relied upon to upholster our ears with consistently agreeable music, each of them seemingly incapable of producing a duff record.  Tim O’Brien is one of them and, whether it’s with Hot Rize, Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers, with his sister Mollie or as a solo artist, his albums are always reliably satisfying.  He Walked On – his eighteenth solo album – is one of O’Brien’s best.  The LP finds this fine singer songwriter in contemplative mood, with songs that touch upon such subjects as immigration (“Sod Buster”), race (“Can You See Me, Sister?”) and technology (“Pushing On Buttons (Staring at Screens)”).  These are tales of American life told by a man who, like Twain and Hemingway, has the ability to lay out the truth in a singular and alluring light.  Unlike those great writers, however, he is a darn good musician, and has gathered a group of eminent players for this record including bassist Edgar Meyer, guitarists Chris Scruggs and Bo Ramsey, drummer Pete Abbott and keyboardist Mike Rojas.

Pushing On Buttons (Staring at Screens) is included on this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

*** *** ***

Ada Lea – One Hand on the Steering Wheel the Other Sewing a Garden | Self Release

The second album release by the Montreal-based singer-songwriter Alexandra Levy, otherwise known professionally as Ada Lea, features eleven songs with a folk/pop angle, often using one word titles; “Damn”, “Hurt”, “Violence” and “Oranges” are such examples. It’s strange then that the album title is so garrulous.  One Hand on the Steering Wheel the Other Sewing a Garden might be a mouthful, but the songs strike a less portentous balance, with one or two surprising moments, “Saltspring” for example, which is a fabulous acoustic number in the vein of a Laura Veirs or the criminally underrated UK singer Katy Bennett (KTB).  Apparently inspired by personal experience, of daydreams and reading Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, the songs appear to relate to the seasons, some of which evoke the snowy Montreal wintertime, some inspired by springtime and others related to the heat of the summer and the golden glow of autumn.  Much of the album was developed during a period spent in Banff, Alberta as an artist in residence, which was then uprooted and replanted in Los Angeles, with engineer Marshal Vore at the helm.  A lovely album.

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

*** *** ***

Ana Egge – Between Usda Lea | Story Sound Records

It’s hard to believe that Ana Egge has been making records for twenty-four years now and for her twelfth, the Canadian/American singer-songwriter teams up with Irish singer-songwriter Mick Flannery for eleven quality songs, some of which are inspired by dreams, while others concern troubled relationships and grief.  Engaging in a few regular two-hour FaceTime sessions, the two musicians worked through their ideas during the lockdown period, creating some fine songs in the process.  Produced by Lorenzo Wolff, whose work on the Judee Sill tribute album Down Where the Valleys Are Low so fascinated the singer, Between Us shimmers with such highly personal songs as “Lie, Lie, Lie”, “Sorry” and the heartbreaking “We Lay Roses”, a eulogy for her late nephew.  With a conscious endeavour to work with a more diverse gathering of musicians, Ana calls upon the help of such musicians as Corey Fonville on drums, Michael Isvara Montgomery on bass, Jonny Lam on guitars, Jon Cowherd on keyboards and Anh Phung on flute, none of whom the singer had previously worked.  Ana’s seven year-old daughter also gets in on the act, creating the sound effects on the funky “Want Your Attention”.  

Wait a Minute is included on this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

*** *** ***

The Bean Pickers Union – Greatest Picks | Self Release

The Bean Pickers Union has been active now for a good fifteen years, a loose collective under the watchful eye of multi-instrumentalist, singer and songwriter Chuck Melchin.  A fitting time then for an eighteen-track retrospective (fourteen songs from the back catalogue, together with an additional four bonus tracks), collected from recordings made at several locations during that time period, including Cambridge Massachusetts, Gaysville Vermont and Chester Connecticut.  There are twenty-two musicians involved in the making of these tracks, and each have put their own stamp on proceedings over the years, yet the album has a continuity that makes it all fit together well.   Opening with the bluesy “16 Pounds of Mary”, with its shimmering bottleneck guitar intro, the album pivots between various styles, from the gentle acoustic leanings of songs such as “Strange” and “Sometimes I Just Sits”, to such country rock-laden groovers as “Glory”, “I’m So Sorry” and among the bonus tracks, “Bulletproof Man”.  The past is referenced in the bluesy porch song “Reaper”, which opens with the static crackles of an ageing shellac disc, bringing some authenticity to the song and a reminder of what is essentially ageless music. 

I’m So Sorry is included on this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

*** *** ***

Justin Bernasconi – Sleeping Like a Maniac | Mountain King Music

Following in the footsteps of Justin Bernasconi’s two previous albums, Winter Pack (2014) and Wonderland (2017), the UK-born, now Melbourne-based singer, songwriter and guitar player returns with Sleeping Like a Maniac, which consists of a dozen songs steeped in the tenets of Americana, yet are further inspired by a recent visit to Bernasconi’s European homeland, where he and his partner Cat Canteri, who plays drums throughout the album, breathed in the cultural delights and deep history of the continent before returning to Australia to begin this project.  Bernasconi takes his guitar playing and indeed his guitars seriously enough to include the make and model of each instrument used in the sleeve notes, which includes the intriguing Martin HD-28, complete with that all important seventh string, which he uses on three of the songs.  The guitarist’s steady finger-picking is demonstrated from the off, with the hovering “Blank Page”, before things are brought down to earth with the almost spoken first few bars of “Lady in the Field”, which once again points to the guitarist’s informed chops.  The influences are pretty much worn on his sleeve as Bernasconi pours Delta Blues, British folk, Bluegrass and contemporary song-smithery into the pot. 

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

*** *** ***

Kondi Band – We Famous | Strut Records

The three-piece Kondi Band consists of the blind thumb piano genius Sorie Kondi, the LA-based producer Chief Boima and London’s Will LV, who between them traverse a rich musical landscape that encompasses dancefloor anthems, Afropop rhythms and disco beats, with just a little help from their friends.  “It’s God’s World (So Don’t Do Bad)” for instance, not only features Sorie’s easily recognisable vocals, but also an almost commanding bassline courtesy of Sweatson Klank, that fits dovetail-like with the pulsating beats and the ever-present waterfall cadences of Sorie’s thumb piano.   Fellow Sierra Leone singer Mariama Jalloh brings to life “She Doesn’t Love You” with a fine contribution, delivered in English, while duetting with Kondi who shows no shortage of finesse.  We Famous was recorded over four years during breaks from touring, and demonstrates some consistent musicianship and group unity.

Shake Your Tumba is included on this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

*** *** ***

Monsieur Doumani – Pissourin | Glitterbeat

There’s a lot going on here, with some immediately engaging rhythms, as the Cypriot trio launch into the opening “Tiritichtas”, a lively workout that fuses traditional elements with contemporary beats.  Meaning ‘total darkness’ in Turkish, Pissourin appears to maintain the spirit of darkness through the night, while contradicting itself with one or two moments where the light shines through.  With Demetris Yiasemides on trombone, Andys Skordis on guitars, percussion and loops and Antonis Antoniou on tzouras, synthesizers, electronics and stomp box, each of the three musicians also provide their voices over the course of these nine single word titles.  The opening song appears to cover some ground, beginning with some pulsating beats, then almost psychedelic Cypriot melodies and by the end, sounding almost Quebecois in their energy-driven foot-stomping chorus.  There’s a sense of different worlds colliding in these arrangements, something the trio has striven for since their formation a decade ago.  We need look no further than “Alavrostishiótis” to find the album’s disparate elements.

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

*** *** ***

RB Morris – Going Back to the Sky | Singular Records

Lucinda Williams apparently refers to RB Morris as the greatest unknown songwriter in the country, and with good reason too.  Morris writes quality songs that evoke the open road, traversing the landscape like a speck of dust.  “Red Sky” name checks several locations before we’ve actually settled into our seats, providing us with a road map upon which to navigate.  This is the same red sky of the sailor’s delightful proverb, yet we feel pretty much landlocked with the Dustbowl never too far from view.  Morris actually refers to this album as his Dustbowl record, reminiscent of the dusty roads once traversed by Woody Guthrie some seventy years earlier, with songs providing the key to the highway.  There’s roadweariness, nostalgia, memorable characters and poetic storytelling wrapped around these songs like a warm blanket, with “One Copper Penny”, “Six Black Horses and a 72 Oz Steak” and “Missouri River Hat Blowing Incident”, providing some great moments.

Old Copper Penny is included on this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

*** *** ***

Tim Grimm – Gone | Cavalier Records

If there’s one short word that directly stirs the emotional turmoil of the last eighteen months with little in the way of frills, then such a word might be Gone.  There’s a tendency to shy away from the true impact of the nightmare we have all experienced during these last few months, but we all accept that many things have now indeed gone, whether they be family members, friends, colleagues, neighbours or some of our musical heroes.  In the case of this singer-songwriter, John Prine is notably absent, and referenced in the title cut.  Michael Smith, Eric Taylor and David Olney are also now absent, each of who served as major inspirational figures for this songwriter and each mentioned in the poignant “Dreaming of King Lear”.  It’s not just the human loss that qualifies as gone though, but also the experiences we might have had, all the gigs we could have played or indeed all the gigs we could have attended, as well as the loss of faith perhaps?  “Cadillac Hearse” could easily have been written by Guy Clark, a song so close to the earth you can taste the dust, hear the rooster crow and smell the beans a-cookin’ on the stove.  Tim Grimm had no plans to record anything during this time, but felt compelled to write something meaningful and significant and these eight songs serve as a chronicle of these times, mostly self-penned, with the exception of Eric Taylor’s haunting “Joseph Cross”, which features a harmony vocal by Taylor’s widow Susan Lindfors Taylor.     

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

Rachel Garlin – The State That We Are In | Self Release

This five track EP has a surprising conclusion, with the singer performing an acoustic version of “Layla”, in much the same manner as its writer on his Unplugged album almost three decades earlier.  I dare say that if this had been the first such take on the rock classic, we would be sitting more to attention.  With this in mind, it’s easy to allow this song to slip to the back of the EP without any further thought.  More interesting are the other songs, certainly the superb opener “The State That We Are In”, a topical song delivered with a conservationist’s passion, which has an immediately accessible feel, a tight arrangement and a fine vocal performance from this California-based artist.  “Seashells” also jumps out as a highly melodic song with an instantly memorable refrain, something for the radio perhaps?  It’s such an uplifting sound, despite the thunderclouds and the pebbles in the shoes.  Oh, wait a minute, I see at the foot of the press release that Layla is the name of Rachel’s wife.  Ah, I get it now.  I’m now thinking that Layla might actually appreciate the full seven-minute rock opus, complete with wailing slide guitars and Jim Gordon’s gorgeous piano coda.  Well, it’s worth thinking about.  I look forward to hearing more from this artist.

The State That We Are In is included on this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

Karine Polwart and Dave Milligan – Heaven’s Hound | Hudson Records

As the release date for the eagerly awaited Still As Your Sleeping album draws ever closer, the Scots singer-songwriter Karine Polwart, together with her friend, neighbour and now musical collaborator Dave Milligan, release a second single.  “Heaven’s Hound” is a gentle song written by fellow Scot Michael Marra, a song that appeared on the songwriter’s final EP Houseroom, a collaboration itself with The Hazey Janes, a combo that included Michael’s children Alice and Matthew.  Almost a seasonal carol in its feel, the song wouldn’t be out of place as the soundtrack to putting up the tree in December, yet the story itself is more universal, a story inspired by the Mississippi travels of Marra’s long-time friends from Kintore.  The performance from both Polwart and Milligan is nothing short of beautiful, a fine homage to the late songwriter.  

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

*** *** ***

The Screaming Orphans – Mary From Dungloe | Self Release

There’s something instantly punchy about the Screaming Orphans’ new single “Mary From Dungloe”, like some of the best Celtic stompers that close festivals up and down the land.  This follows the release of “Every Woman Gardens”, both taken from the all-sister band’s current album Sunshine and Moss. Recorded in their childhood home in Bundoran, County Donegal, while utilising basic equipment during the lockdown, the songs are deliberately positive and uplifting, songs recalled from their earliest of memories, including “My Grandfather’s Clock”, “Eileen Oge” and this single, each delivered in the siblings’ rich Irish vernacular.  Engineered, mixed and mastered by PJ Cardinal in New York, this single and the album are guaranteed to raise a smile in these difficult times.

Mary From Dungloe is included on this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

Bob Dylan – Shadow Kingdom | Film

For an artist whose tour never ends, the lockdown period must have been an extremely difficult time.  Bob Dylan made positive inroads with his fans a few months ago with the release of the quite remarkable Rough and Rowdy Ways, preceded by the surprisingly well-received seventeen-minute “Murder Most Foul”, which was premiered online prior to the album release.  Now, for those who have been eagerly awaiting something new from Dylan during this recent lockdown period, an intimate stripped-down gig might come as a pleasant surprise, especially in view of the fact that Shadow Kingdom, a fifty-minute performance, filmed in atmospheric black and white, reminiscent of that memorable footage of Big Bill Broonzy performing in some darkened off the beaten track Belgium bar in the 1950s, contains multitudes of older, and more importantly, actually recognisable numbers.  In places, the film is also reminiscent of something David Lynch might shoot for an update of the Twin Peaks yarn or even perhaps Eraserhead, complete with arty chequered monochrome flooring.  Hopefully, this doesn’t bring back any unnecessarily disturbing moments.  Each of the song titles are displayed in bold white screen-filling caps before each performance, with Dylan either strumming a small acoustic guitar, or standing centre stage using a microphone stand as his solitary prop.  With no between song patter, as might be expected from the elusive mystery man, Dylan growls through a set made up of early songs as the film’s subtitle suggests, beginning with “When I Paint My Masterpiece”, a song from the basement.  The question of whether the band is actually playing live or miming is answered almost immediately; there’s a harmonica, but it ain’t me babe, as Dylan might say.  The fact that this is more an arty film with pre-recorded songs doesn’t spoil the fun, it’s Dylan in lockdown and that’s better than nothing at all.  Another tell-tale sign of the times is the fact that all of Dylan’s bandmates are suitably masked up, whereas the mask-free Dylan himself disguises himself only in the subdued light.  Directed by the Israeli-American filmmaker Alma Har’el and produced by Har’el along with Christopher Leggett and Raphael Marmor, the performance features some old favourites, each performed well and without having to listen hard in order to identify each song.  “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” is abbreviated simply to “Baby Blue” for which its author and the band attempt to disguise further by washing away much of its original melody, which is the second most important thing about the song really.  No matter, we have that song tucked away on Bringing It All Back Home, which can always come out to play on any rainy day.  Joining Dylan for this feast of fun are Alex Burke, Buck Meek, Shahzad Ismaily, Janie Cowan and Joshua Crumbly, together with one or two well placed female company, just like the Broonzy film that came before it.

Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues is included on this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

Michael Chapman (1941-2021)

Michael Chapman first rose to prominence in the late 1960s and soon became a notable figure on the burgeoning folk music scene, going on to produce several critically acclaimed albums on the progressive label Harvest, memorably Rainmaker (1969), Fully Qualified Survivor (1970) and Wrecked Again (1971).  Chapman was born in Hunslet, Yorkshire midway through the second world war, going on to attend art college in Leeds before teaching art and photography at Bolton College in Lancashire.  Becoming a regular face on both the London and Cornwall folk music circuits alongside other notable troubadours, Roy Harper, John Martyn and Ralph McTell, Chapman followed his own idiosyncratic musical path, which set him apart from his contemporaries.  It was while living in Kingston upon Hull that Chapman recorded the memorable string of records for EMI’s progressive label Harvest, which went on to garner the interest and attention of such influential movers and shakers as John Peel and Charles Shaar Murray, which was followed by appearances on the popular music magazine TV show The Old Grey Whistle Test, where Chapman could be seen performing such songs as “Wellington the Skellington”, “Among the Trees” and “Deal Gone Down” and much later on Later with Jools Holland, performing “Sometimes You Just Drive”.  After a varied career in music, Chapman enjoyed something of a renaissance as a live performer, while gathering a large following among a new generation of younger performers.  Michael Chapman died on 10 September 2021.  He was 80.

Among the Trees is included on this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

Po’Girl at Old Moor, Barnsley in 2011

Slaid Cleaves at the Henry Boons, Wakefield in 2011

Rod Picott at the Greystones, Sheffield in 2011

72. John Lennon – Walls and Bridges | Apple PCTC253 – 1974

By 1974 John Lennon had pretty much disappeared off the scene, only to pop up now and again in the tabloids, raising hell in LA with Harry Nilsson during his now legendary ‘Lost Weekend’ period, with May Pang by his side like a conjoined twin.  I was sort of hanging out with a pal’s sister at the time and our general meeting ground was the ongoing argument between who was more important musically, Lennon or McCartney.  I was of the mind that McCartney was the better composer but Lennon was the more interesting Beatle.  I recall many nights dissecting lyrics, mourning the end of the Beatles and reading poetry, until Christmas Eve 1974, when she said enough is enough and our musical exchanges became a thing of the past.  Notable songs “#9 Dream”, “Steel and Glass” and “Whatever Gets You Through the Night”, featuring Elton John and Bobby Keys on sax.  The album also features a young Julian Lennon on drums on Lee Dorsey’s  “YaYa”.  Walls and Bridges always bring those memories back vividly whenever I play it.  Just seventeen and just starting out, to the soundtrack of Lennon; it was all bound to end in tears.

*** *** ***

73. Lowell George – Thanks I’ll Eat It Here | Warner Brothers BSK 3194 – 1979

I have to confess from the start that I never actually got to see Little Feat live, despite considering them to be the tightest little combo in music at the time.  When the band appeared on the Old Grey Whistle Test in the early 1970s with Lowell George looking as cool as it gets (well, as cool as anyone can be wearing a sweater over their shoulders, as if they’d just posed for a Freemans’ catalogue photo shoot), singing about a rock and roll doctor and a fat bloke in the bathtub, I was immediately hooked.  Unfortunately George was dead before the decade was out but he just managed to squeeze out one solo album in time.  Interestingly, the cover painting was by Little Feat’s regular designer Neon Park and features a picnic scene based upon Manet’s Le déjeuner sur l’herbe, which sees an unusual gathering of Bob Dylan, Fidel Castro and Marlene Dietrich, with a copy of Ginsberg’s Howl over by the hamper.  Of the songs included, Allen Toussaint’s “What Do You Want the Girl To Do” is a standout, as is George’s reading of Rickie Lee Jones’ “Easy Money”, while his own “20 Million Things” is the album’s notable acoustic number.  I actually prefer George’s solo version of “Two Trains” on this album to the Dixie Chicken original.

*** *** ***

74. Pretty Things – Freeway Madness | Warner Brothers K46190 – 1972

I was always amused by the moniker this bunch chose for their band name; a less pretty bunch you could not possibly imagine.  They were still going strong when I met up with Phil May back in 2011, confirming that age had done nothing to enhance their aesthetic credentials.  Despite this small detail, I’ve always enjoyed the band’s music from their early blues days through their adventurous pop opera period and on through their early 1970s rock albums.  I was aware of the Pretty Things back in the late 1960s when they released SF Sorrow, boasting the release of the first rock opera, a few months before The Who’s Tommy.  The first song from this 1972 LP I heard was “Onion Soup”, which was played on the John Peel show around the time of its initial release.  Judging by the scribble on the dust sleeve, I picked up my copy in 1973 and it still comes out to play every now and then.

72. Wilson Pickett – Land of 1000 Dances | Atlantic 584039 – 1966

Occasionally, a certain sound comes along, whether that be Liverpool’s Merseybeat, the Phil Spector Wall of Sound, famously of the Gold Star Studios in Los Angeles, the country sound of Nashville, Tennessee, or Detroit’s very distinctive Motown sound, each location is almost defined by its sound and the same can be said for Muscle Shoals in Alabama.  Muscle Shoals was the home of the late Rick Hall’s FAME studios, located on East Avalon Avenue in Muscle Shoals, FAME being an acronym for Florence Alabama Music Enterprises, which opened for business in the 1950s.  Artists such as Percy Sledge, Arthur Alexander and Solomon Burke cut their teeth at the studios and producer Jerry Wexler brought in some of Atlantic Records’ soul stars such as Wilson Pickett and Aretha Franklin, in order to rekindle some of the fire in their music, both of whom cut some defining records at the FAME studios, backed curiously enough by white session musicians such as Chips Moman, Jimmy Johnson, Spooner Oldham and Roger Hawkins amongst others.  Duane Allman persuaded Wilson Pickett to record the Beatles’ “Hey Jude”, which at the time would have been considered madness.  It was also during his time in Muscle Shoals that Pickett recorded one of his best remembered songs, “Land of 1000 Dances”, which went on to become Pickett’s biggest pop hit, reaching number one on the Billboard Hot Rhythm and Blues Singles charts in 1966.  If you can’t quite place the song, it’s the one with more ‘na na’s than the aforementioned Beatles song.

*** *** ***

73. Upsetters – Return of Django | Upsetter US-201 – 1969

When the Upsetters hit the UK charts with this infectious instrumental, few really knew much about the band.  Reggae was still in its infancy as a notable presence on British culture and singles such as the Harry J All Stars’ hit “The Liquidator” and Dave and Ansil Collins’ “Double Barrel” were seen pretty much as novelty tunes.  Reggae wouldn’t really take off until Bob Marley arrived a few years later with The Wailers.  Formed by the late Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry, Upsetters also included bassist Aston Barrett and his brother Carlton on drums, both who would go on to join The Wailers.  This tune was also featured in a popular chocolate commercial at the time, directed by Terry Gilliam, whose animations were widely known through the Monty Python’s Flying Circus television show.

*** *** ***

74. Johnny and the Hurricanes – Red River Rock | London HL8948 – 1959

The Toledo-based instrumental band Johnny and the Hurricanes had a penchant for re-arranging familiar traditional songs from the past, effectively ‘rocking’ them up for the then current pop market of the late 1950s and early 60s.  With a sound pretty much dominated by the organ and saxophone, Johnny Paris and his band were well known on the early Sixties music scene, playing headline shows at the Star Club in Hamburg with the then unknown Beatles opening for them.  “Red River Rock” is a reworking of the old traditional song “Red River Valley”, and along with the later single “Rocking Goose”, which honked and squawked throughout, the single became a constant presence on the Dansette in our front room for its novelty value if nothing else.

Playlist for Show 15.09.21 (#533)

I’m So Sorry – The Bean Pickers Union (Greatest Picks)
Tiritichtas – Monsieur Doumani (Pissourin)
Austin Motel – Audrey Spillman (Neon Dream)
Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues – Bob Dylan (Shadow Kingdom)
Come on in my Kitchen – Frank Carline (Black Crow Blues)
Wait a Minute – Ana Egge (Between Us)
Vas Dis – Wishbone Ash (Pilgrimage)
Everdance – Curved Air (Second Album)
Joseph Cross – Tim Grimm (Gone)
Mary From Dungloe – Screaming Orphans (Single)
Pushing On Buttons (Staring at Screens) – Tim O’Brien (He Walked On)
Don’t Blame Me – The Everly Brothers (Both Sides of an Evening)
Saltspring – Ada Lea (One Hand on the Steering Wheel)
The State That We Are In – Rachel Garlin (The State That We Are In)
Old Copper Penny – RB Morris (Going Back to the Sky)
Bygone Blues – Justin Bernasconi (Sleeping Like a Maniac)
Shake Your Tumba – Kondi Band (We Famous)
Heaven’s Hound – Karine Polwart and Dave Milligan (Single)
Among the Trees – Michael Chapman (Window)
Toussaint L’Overture – Santana (Santana III)

Santana – Santana | CBS 69015 – 1971

Most of us first became aware of Santana after their storming set at the Woodstock festival in 1969, or rather just the one number “Soul Sacrifice” and later with the iconic Abraxas LP from the following year.  Now on a roll, by 1971 came around, the band delivered their third album, which was the last to feature the Woodstock line-up of Carlos Santana, Gregg Rolie, Neal Schon, David Brown, Michael Shrieve, José ‘Chepito’ Areas and Mike Carabello.  Recorded at Columbia Studios in San Francisco, Santana III featured their hit single “Everybody’s Everything”, which sees the band joined by the Tower of Power horn section, giving the song a Blood, Sweat and Tears/Chicago sound, both popular label mates.  Perhaps the most striking thing about this release is the psychedelic artwork, featuring the outstretched hand of an inter-galactic male figure.  Very 1971. 

Toussaint L’Overture is included on this week’s Northern Sky Vaults Radio Show.

*** *** ***

Wishbone Ash – Pilgrimage | MCA MDKS 8004 – 1971

In the words of the mighty Greil Marcus “What is this shit? a colourful phrase that could quite easily have been applied to the reaction of some Wishbone Ash fans when they first dropped the needle on the band’s eagerly awaited second album Pilgrimage back in September 1971.  The opening track “Vas Dis”, a cover of a Brother Jack McDuff jazz workout, complete with convincing scat vocal, would have sent fans reeling, especially those anticipating more “Phoenix” and “Lady Whiskey”.  The challenging opener is followed by “The Pilgrim”, which soon brought fans back into the fold, with a return to form, its familiar twin guitar motifs courtesy of Andy Powell and Ted Turner are well placed for those eager for the rock riff.  Once again though, the vocal continues along scat lines and now at thirteen minutes in and not one single lyric delivered, the fans began to worry.  No matter, the third track brings the band back to the form they first explored on their debut album of the previous year with “Jailbait”,  a Rory Gallagher type blues rocker, which would remain in the band’s set for some years to come.  For those still unfamiliar with precisely what this band looks like, the album offers no less than sixty-four black and white photographs of the band on the inner gatefold sleeve.  Despite the album’s jazz leanings, Pilgrimage remains a much played album, with some memorable moments.   

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

*** *** ***

Curved Air – Second Album | Warner Bros K46092 – 1971

Released at a time when promotional gimmicks were perhaps a sure fire way of selling product, Curved Air’s second LP came wrapped in a complicated sleeve design that once eventually unfolded, revealed not only the actual record, but five black and white photographs of the individual band members, plus a topless group shot of the band, with Sonja Kristina cleverly tucked away at the bottom, revealing nothing but her face, a clever maneuver on the part of the photographer.  The band’s previous album also came with some disappointment, when it was released as an early picture disc, which was almost unplayable, despite its aesthetic value.  The big hit from this album was “Back Street Luv”, which reached number four in the UK charts, backed by the almost Yoko-esque “Everdance”.  Second Album wasn’t the critically acclaimed album the band expected it to be, which was probably due to the band members pulling in different directions with no solid band unity to speak of.

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

Much more can be found in our extensive archive by clicking on the panel above
All reviews and features by Allan Wilkinson unless otherwise stated