Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band - Big Machine, album review


This is a great album, the inherent power of traditional and contemporary folk songs enhanced by Carthy’s personal expertise and that of the band collective, including guest vocalists.

There’s probably a genre to please all hinted somewhere in the album, from rap in You Know Me to funk [well, sort of, in Devil in the Woman], but the folk base – with superb instrumentation – and Carthy’s vocal and fiddle drive it all with a force.

Opener Fade and Fall [Love Not] is its template of large, a pulsing accordion note, Carthy’s fulsome singing, a big band imperiousness of sound, and a chorus. Fourth Jack Warrels [excerpt] / Love Lane is essentially a rousing instrumental, with rising strings and a Ventures guitar riff. Fifth is Hug You Like a Mountain, very much a favourite as favourite Teddy Thompson joins Eliza in the singing. Mrs Dyer and Baby Farmer is made extra plaintive by the wail of fiddle, and then there is the deeply emotive I Wish That the Wars Were All Over, with Damien Dempsey, Carthy singing with the intensity that is entirely her own but also reminds me of the beauty Sam Lee brings vocally to his musical interpretations – the violin and muted trumpet a similar element of clever development.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Wreck Music 6

Incredible String Band - Hard Rope and Silken Twine [1974], album review

Less Assured in the Leaving

The final album before the band split, [reforming briefly 5 years later] this opens with a Mike Heron song Maker of Islands which is orchestral and gorgeous, followed by a live Robin Williamson song Cold February with sweet flute/recorder, organ and Robin’s unique vocal. Two gems. Then there’s Dumb Kate, a hillbilly pastiche, though perhaps not as intentionally ironic as one would want as an excuse. Fuel for those critics [read previous on Earthspan]. So the other main interest apart from the two openers is closer Ithkos at 20 minutes of initially Greek-sounding instrumental that becomes electric and folkprog and marginally heavy at one point and then into familiar acid folk but with some more heaviness, this time an amped violin, but continuing to chop and change across these signaled movements:

Sardis (Oud Tune)



Aegean Sea

Dreams Fade

Port Of Sybaris

Go Down Sybaris


Hold My Gaze

It is an experiment not all that experimental in reality and perhaps signaled the ending of the band in an elegiac way as, midway in, Dreams Fade sweeps through peacefully and prettily, though it moves out of this again swiftly into the riff rich Port of Sybaris, and so on.

Incredible String Band - Earthspan [1972], album review

Better Late Than Never Ever

Dissonant and distinctive, also swelled with sweet harmony, this moves across folk always, as we know, and jazz and opera, as we know. This is the first time I have heard the album and I am completely taken by its playfulness, experimentation [not in any way more than usual] and the rich range of instrumentation, for example on The Anchor as I listen to it now. Beautiful soothing flutes, for example. Just for a moment, within the broader movements of a typical ISB song, it seems. The opening My Father Was a Lighthouse Keeper is beautiful, soaring idiosyncratic vocals completely uncaring of convention. Banks of Sweet Italy hits the highest notes, in so many ways one suspects. I have enjoyed reading reviews of this today, from adoring to attacking: what more can such a distinctive band/sound desire? To be of the time – again – and paraphrase, I am digging what I hear.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Ralph McTell and Wizz Jones, live at The Beehive, Honiton, 10th February, 2017, gig review


Ralph McTell and Wizz Jones each have their individual legendary status, and playing together there is such a depth of talent and experience to provide. And they did. In summary, the two hours of performance were delivered as a charming, anecdotal narrative of their individual and shared musical roots and experiences, illustrated then by the songs, either independently or shared. Each continually conveyed genuine humility as well as mutual appreciation, and at this purely personal/personality level, the two were engaging, warm, humorous, and also instructive about musical history, from songwriting and songwriters to guitar techniques.

One pervasive impact from the night, for me at least, was a sense of history and context. Without overstating – indeed, far from it – a few of the songs reflected poignantly, and sadly, on current events, for example the performance of Willy Guthrie’s Deportee about Mexican migrants working in the USA and then sent back home once their hard work and exploitation of that had been completed,

The sky plane caught fire over Los Gatos Canyon,
A fireball of lightning, and shook all our hills,
Who are all these friends, all scattered like dry leaves?
The radio says, "They are just deportees"

Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To fall like dry leaves to rot on my topsoil
And be called by no name except "deportees"?

Another, Pete Seeger’s He Lies in American Land, tells the story of an immigrant man, husband and father, who travels on his own from Europe to work in Pennsylvania, in McKeespot making steel, but dies before his wife and family arrive to join him. As McTell and Jones didn’t need to extrapolate further to make the broader, contemporary relevance, I won’t, but when this Seeger song was song, the weight of current events made the performance resonate with sadness, and more,
Ah, my God what is this land of America?
So many people travelling there
I will go too for I am still young
God the Lord will grant me good luck there

Wizz Jones at 77 still plays a mean guitar, and this came to the fore on his solo of Mance Lipscomb’s ‘Bout a Spoonful [which made me recall my comments here on Dixon’s song performed by Cream], an authentic sense of the blues brought alive in his playing. Another sweet song he played was Night Ferry, and he also played When I Leave Berlin, recounting then and throughout the gig his and Ralph’s time playing in Germany, and also recounting how Springsteen played this at his Berlin gig in 2012, without acknowledging Wizz as the writer. He did so with a laugh, and I think it was a genuine dismissal from a genuine great.

Ralph McTell at 73 also played some gorgeous guitar, a great blues on his The Ghost of Robert Johnson, and once on his 12 string. The highlight of his on the night, and I am astonished I didn’t know the song – but I do now, and throughout this morning with repeated listens – was the beautiful From Clare to Here. McTell’s voice has over the years settled to a resonating bass and it was wonderful to hear the fulsome delivery live. Both he and Jones told anecdotes of how they came across songs of theirs [as with FCTH] in songbooks stated as traditional Irish songs. Again, in that shared humility which ran throughout the night, they expressed complete satisfaction with this.

A memorable night.

Scroll down just beneath this for videos of two great performances.