There were two sisters
walkin’ down the stream
Oh the wind and rain
The one behind pushed the other one in
Cryin’ oh the dreadful wind and rain
‘The Wind and The Rain’ by Red Clay Rambers
There’s nothing like a good murder ballad to make an audience pay close attention! We were busking in Helsinki on a cold, windy November when Ingrid noticed that the crowd was not paying attention to us. (And I was quite tempted to head to the nearest warm pub!) So she, who has a fine singing voice (of course I’m biased), suggested a song to catch their attention, to wit ‘The Wind and The Rain’, one of several variants on ‘The Cruel Sister.’ It certainly got the attention of the shoppers and we both decided that it was a fine song to end on.
One of my favourite versions of this Child Ballad is done by the Old Blind Dogs so here they are doing ‘The Cruel Sister’ at McCabe’s Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, California on the 11th of November 1994 which isn’t long after they first formed.
Iain’s off skiing with the Several Annies, his Library apprentices, out to the Nine Standing Stones which are in the Wild Wood as a break from their Icelandic language lessons that Gutmansdottir, our resident expert on the Wild Wood, is immersing them in for a full year. Mind you since Gutmansdottir going along with them, they’ll get plenty of Winter botany learning. And that means you get an all music outing this time!
I reviewed Mark Cunningham’s Horslips: Tall Tales, The Official Biography: ‘Horslips were, and in many ways still are, the Irish equivalent of Steeleye Span and, to a lesser extent, Fairport Convention, as they blend English and Irish traditional material and a rock and roll sensibility into what was the first Irish folk rock group.’ Did they get ft hey deserved? Oh yes.
Tommy James’s rise to fame was engineered by a New York Mobster who was the inspiration for a character on HBO’s The Sopranos, according to a book Gary reviewed: Me, The Mob And The Music. James co-wrote this autobiography, the story of how James rose from his beginnings in garage bands in Niles, Michigan, to a series of Top 20 hits from 1966 through 1969. ‘The book chronicles the way James cranked out hit after hit for Roulette and never saw a cent,’ Gary says.
Larry Kane’s Ticket to Ride is about a slightly better known (and paid) group, but who’s Larry Kane? ‘He was the only American journalist in The Beatles’ official press group on their groundbreaking 1964 U.S. tour,’ Gary says. ‘The tour changed the way rock ‘n’ roll concerts were played, it changed a lot of people’s minds about The Beatles, and it changed Larry Kane’s life.’
Robert takes us in a different direction altogether, with a review of Allan Marett’s Songs, Dreamings, and Ghosts — The Wangga of North Australia: ‘First, a brief demurrer: “Ethnomusicology” can be a really scary idea, drawing together, as it does, the formal study of music and its forms, history, anthropology, sociology, psychology, and possibly a couple of “ologies” that I’ve overlooked, all discrete disciplines in Western thought and each by itself incapable of leading to any real understanding of cultures.’
Gary was quite taken with the DVD of The Richard Thompson Band’s Live At Celtic Connections, from that Glasgow festival in 2011. It featured a big band doing numbers from Thompson’s 2010 release Dream Attic plus a second set drawn from his 40-some-year career solo and with former wife Linda. ‘This was not an average night, with a good crowd of Glaswegians, a road-tested band and the charged atmosphere of Celtic Connections. This one is a must-have for any Thompson fan,’ Gary says.
A labor of love is how Gary describes the making of the DVD about the great jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli: A Life in the Jazz Century. The film purportedly contains all known footage of Grappelli’s partner Django Reinhardt, as well as footage of Grappelli ‘making music with the likes of Yehudi Menuhin, George Shearing, Duke Ellington and others. Many other figures from his life contribute interviews, and rare clips of Art Tatum, Joe Venuti and Eddie Lang, and Gregor and the Gregoriens are included.’
Los Lobos’ Live at the Fillmore film defied everything that David expect of a concert film including DRAMA! but he still loved it. Read his review to see why this was so. I could tell you but he does it so well, so I won’t!
He also looked at and loved Festival Express which essentially a lot of Rock and Rollers on a train crossing Canada and stopping every so often to do a concert. I’m sure there were also sex and drugs, so presumably they has as good a time as he did experiencing them having a good time!
Down From The Mountain and Grateful Dawg rounded out the films he looks at this time. Down From the Mountain is a film celebrating the music from the movie O Brother Where Art Thou; the other as David puts it is ‘is a home movie which tracks the 30 year partnership of the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia and “newgrass” pioneer David Grisman, inventor of “Dawg music”.’ Given David, how could he not love them?
Our single food and drink review this outing is Randy Armstrong’s Dinner On The Diner which has the dubious honour of being the first recording that got legal action threatened by the artist against us for defamation. Big Earl, a Canadian baker, just wasn’t pleased with either the music or the recipes in the booklet. And no, we didn’t get sued and so here’s the review for you to read!
The late Josepha Sherman was once asked what her favourite tune to play was: ‘OK, my dear: I play the folk harp a wee bit (I’m sadly out of practice) and of the older songs, I like ‘Sumer is icumen in,’ ca. 1260 or so, by our old friend, Anonymous. I like it both for the melody and the words, which are cheerful and alive with the image of animals jumping about for the joy of it. It also makes for a cheerful round for several voices. For the earliest songs, though we don’t have the melodies, alas, I love some of the Ancient Egyptian love songs, which are downright modern — such as the one about the girl who sees her boyfriend and rushes out to meet him with half her hair still undone!. She went on to note The Ancient Egyptians had our concept of romantic love, btw, clear in their songs. There’s even a sadly fragmentary one of a wife undressing her husband, who’s passed out after what was clearly too much drinking at a party, and how she loves him even so.’
Another band from the Sixties that lasted a long time, the Grateful Dead, is well-favoured by So Many Roads (1965-1995), of which Brendan says ‘So often dismissed as a anachronistic hippie band that would somehow never die, the Grateful Dead actually formed a keystone of sorts between the traditional forms of American roots music and the rock music of the 60s. Looking past the psychedelic trappings and bizarre skeleton images, one can easily see that foundations of the Dead’s music consist mainly of the American Musical Triumvirate: jazz, blues, and country, with of course a healthy dose of rock and roll to keep things interesting.’
Deborah has an epic title, “Trad Boys, Trad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do….? Liege & Lief remembered”, to with an equally epic look at English folk music in just one year, 1969. Need I say more? I think not.
Iain reviews an opera based on a a Grimm story: ‘Philip Glass, one of my favourite composers, and his fellow composer Robert Moran, whom I had not encountered before, collaborated magnificently in equal measure on the composition of The Juniper Tree. Each Glass scene is followed by a Moran scene, with transitions composed by each. The result works a lot better than I expected, though the styles of each composer are quite different and neither surrenders anything of his own identity. If you like Glass, you’ll want to hear this opera.’
Peter says of the legendary Bothy Band’s Old Hag You Have Killed Me recording that ‘I liked this album a lot. I have to admit, I had forgotten how good the Bothy Band really are.’
Robert takes us on a tour of the music of the East, beginning with an album from fabled Japanese drumming troupe, Kodo: ‘Kodo is one of the best examples I’ve ever found of the idea of tradition in art, especially in music, as an ongoing event. Akatsuki brings this home in many ways, from the origins of the songs themselves to the troupe’s openness to new idioms.’
And he got to see them on their 2011 world tour: ‘As one might expect, seeing Kodo live is a vastly different experience than hearing them safely ensconced on a compact disc, or even a DVD: they take command of the space in a way that few performers can manage.’
The next stop is Indonesia, specifically Java, where Robert takes a look at Javanese gamelan, then and now: ‘Gamelan of Java is a new series from John Noise Manis, who produced the landmark series, Gamelan of Central Java. Volume I features two gamelans from the court of Surakarta. . . . Volume II, Contemporary Composers, offers six works by six contemporary musicians.’
And now we circle up to India, where Robert finds a recording of a couple of classical Indian ragas with a difference (all you sitar fans take note): ‘Amjad Ali Khan is among the most widely recorded and heard performers of Indian classical music, having appeared at festivals and concerts worldwide. He claims as an ancestor the inventor of the sarod, and has become widely identified with that instrument, producing innovations in technique and style that have become standards of Indian performance practice.’
A new release presents Romani music by the premier Balkan singer of the 1960s and ’70s, as interpreted by a young American singer who grew up in Santa Cruz, California and now lives in Brooklyn. Gary says, ‘Lema Lema: Eva Salina Sings Šaban Bajramović is an amazing recording of Balkan Romani (Gypsy) music that’s filled with contradiction and paradox.’ You can read his review to see if you agree.
Gary takes a look back at some of his favorite music of the year that just wrapped up. ‘ … This list isn’t about ‘best,’ it’s about what affected me the most,’ he says. It runs the gamut from jazz to English folk rock to Appalachian folk to indie-rock and more. You’ll find Gary’s Top 10 of 2015 here.
The world of Celtic music and those who enjoy it is a little bleaker this day as Andy Stewart of Silly Wizard fame died recently. I’ll leave you this time with him as lead vocalist singing ‘Queen of Argyle’ as performed by Silly Wizard at Canon University, Atlanta, Georgia, on a November evening some thirty years ago.