Thursday, December 17, 2015

How Sad, How Lovely. The Disappearance Of Connie Converse.

The story of Connie Converse is one of the saddest in the history of music. Over 40 years after she disappeared music fans around the world are beginning to realize her importance in the history of modern music. In the summer of 1974 she wrote farewell letters to family and friends saying that she was leaving to start a new life. She waited for the news that Nixon was finally resigning as President and then packed her belongings in her Volkswagen Beetle and drove away never to be seen again. So who is or was Connie Converse and why is she so important?. She is important because she was years or decades ahead of her time. Connie Converse was the first ever in the genre of female singer-songwriter and she left a small but brilliant legacy of music behind.

                                                                                 I must admit I had never heard of Connie until a couple of weeks ago. I discovered her music purely by chance on the same day I found Sibylle Baier on Youtube. I was looking for a song by Anne Briggs at the time. I stumbled across Connie and listened to one song which aroused my interest and I ordered a CD called How Sad, How Lovely which is the title of one of her songs. The package arrived today and I must say it is a most attractively designed album as well. It contains a really nice booklet which includes contributions from her brother and also the man who first recorded her songs.
                                                                                 I'll just tell you briefly what I know about Connie. She was born Elizabeth Eaton Converse in 1924 in  New Hampshire into a strict Baptist family. At School she was quite brilliant and won a scholarship to Mount Holyoake College but dropped out after two years and moved to New York City where she lived in Greenwich Village which was the centre of the Bohemian world in 1950's America. It was here that she acquired the nick-name Connie because she came from Concord.  It was at this time that Connie first began to write poems and songs and accompanying herself on guitar. She came to the attention of Gene Deitch who is a famous animator who recorded Connie's songs at his home in the mid-50's. She failed to attract any commercial interest though apart from one appearance on a TV Show presented by Walter Cronkite. In 1961 the year that Bob Dylan arrived in New York she left Greenwich Village and moved to Ann Arbor Michigan. I think that was a shame because a year later the whole world was following the Folk Scene in New York and she could have been part of it and got the attention her music deserved. Anyway, well over a decade after she dropped out of college Connie returned to academic life and worked her way up to being Managing Editor of 'The Journal Of Conflict Resolution'. Her only music interest was playing for family & friends. By the early 1970's though she was suffering with depression and her employer and friends pooled together to send her on a six month sabbatical to England. Connie described this trip as one of the only times in her life she was allowed to have 'unproductive fun'. I wonder where she went in this country and who she met?. Finally in 1974 she made her decision to disappear.

                                                                                  After I had read the booklet I played the CD and I must say now after listening to it twice I am very impressed indeed. Nine of the eighteen tracks are the recordings she made with Gene Deitch and you can hear little snippets of conversation between the songs. Connie sings in a very formal style. This is the 1950's you must remember, before singers started slurring the words and calling everyone Babe etc. It is the subject matter though of hanging around in bars, playing poker and being taken home by strangers that makes the songs ahead of their time. White middle-class women didn't sing about these subjects before. Although a lot of the songs sound quite jolly you can sense an underlying sadness below. There is no other singer like Connie Converse. Just on a couple of songs I could hear vague echoes of Dory Previn, another great singer who came along a lot later who I really like as well. A lot of the songs began life as poems and you can hear that in the very poetic imagery of a lot of the songs. I'll have put one song below so you can judge for yourself.

                                                                                 There is some sort of a happy ending to the story because in 2004 Gene Deitch who had recorded Connie 50 years before was invited onto a radio show. He played one of her songs. Two listeners of the show Dan Dzula and David Herman were inspired to track down her recordings. Gene Deitch was happy to collaborate. Also they found a filing cabinet at Connie's brother's house containing further treasures which Connie had left with him all neatly filed and labelled as if she meant them to be found. The album which I received today was finally released. The legend of Connie Converse is finally beginning to grow.

What actually happened to her though? If Connie was still alive today which is very unlikely she would be now 91. I find it hard to believe that she took her own life. If that was true why did she pack her car so meticulously?. I have wondered if she returned to England where she spent a happy six months. We shall probably never know but I am really pleased that her music is finally after 50 years getting the recognition that it deserves.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Colour Green: The Story Of Sibylle Baier.

For quite a few years now I have been bored with the modern music scene. It is very rare that I hear any new music these days that interests me. What I like to do is to look back to the past and find music that was overlooked at the time and is only now being discovered. People who fit into this category that I have written about previously include the likes of Karen Dalton, Anne Briggs, Vashti Bunyan, Linda Perhacs and Shelagh McDonald. You will notice that all the people I have mentioned are female singers. Maybe the reason that a lot of great female singers disappeared from sight is that they weren't so concerned about the trappings of fame and fortune as male singers or maybe in a male-dominated industry where hustle is the name of the game they just didn't get the support or couldn't be bothered to compete.

 Anyway, I recently discovered another fabulous female singer who I want to tell you about. I found her on youtube whilst looking for something else and I listened to one song which I thought was great and on the strength of that I ordered her album called Colour Green. Her name is Sibylle Baier. As soon as I put the CD in the music machine in my kitchen I knew I had stumbled across something quite wonderful. The sound of her voice is so intimate and crystal clear that you would almost think she was there in the room. Her restrained guitar playing in the background is just perfect. I immediately thought of the early Leonard Cohen albums as a comparison. Sibylle is German but to me she doesn't sound as Germanic as the only other female German singer that I am familiar with which is Nico. Sibylle's English like most German people I know is perfect. I looked on the Allmusic site to find out more about this album and words they used to describe it include calm/peaceful, dreamy, insular,light, springlike, sweet, wistful, delicate, gentle, intimate, bittersweet, earnest, melancholy, poignant and reflective. I couldn't agree more and that has saved me having to think up my own adjectives !. It is a rainy Monday afternoon as I am writing this story and listening to the album and I must say it is perfect rainy day music. I can't be bothered to discuss the whole album song by song but I have put one song below for you to listen to.

 I haven't been able to find out much biographical information about Sibylle. All I know is that she was born in Germany in 1950. As well as singing she was also an actress and was discovered by film director Wim Wenders and she had a major role in his road film Alice In The Cities. Between 1970 and 1973 she recorded some of her songs at home on a reel to reel tape recorder. She lost interest in acting and singing and gave it all up to concentrate on bringing up her children. Thirty years after she made the tapes her son Robby discovered them and made cd's for family and friends. He also gave a copy to J Mascis of the band Dinosaur Jr. He realized what great music it was and passed it on to Orange Twin Records who released the album in 2006. Since then Sibylle's reputation as one of the great singer-songwriters has steadily grown although apparently she can't understand what all the fuss is about. There is an interesting footnote to the story. In 2008 Wim Wenders who hadn't heard from her in decades was in a record shop and was astonished to find an album by Sibylle Baier. He contacted her and asked her to write a song for his film Palermo Shooting which she did. Since then though nothing else has been heard from her so I don't think she has any intention of singing again. We will have to be content with her one brilliant album which is Colour Green.


Sibylle Baier - Tonight

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Review: Kate Rusby's Christmas Show At Bath Forum 5/12/2015

Storm Desmond was battering Britain on Saturday evening as I headed for the Railway Station where I met my friend Dave. Luckily there was no travel disruption in our area and we caught the 17.46 train for the short journey to Bath. The city was bustling with Christmas shoppers as we made our way to the pub for a pre-show drink. The Lion & Lamb was so crowded it was impossible to get to the bar and we gave up and left. All this bustling was getting on my nerves. We tried another pub called The Cork and managed to get served and sat outside. The wind had died down and it was very mild weather so I cheered up. Then it was time to go to the Forum.
                                                                                         The show was about fifteen minutes late starting because of the traffic chaos causing delays. They decided to give everyone a chance to take their seats. Finally Kate and her band took the stage. She looked great in her sparkly dress. Kate said jokingly that she was trying to look like a human mirror-ball. The first song was called Bradfield. I think in Yorkshire the various versions of Christmas carols are named after the places where they originated. Apart from Yorkshire the other area of the country that has the tradition of wassailing at Christmas time is Cornwall so the second song was called The Cornish Wassailing Song. The next song was Hark, Hark, What News?. This was really good and then Kate introduced her band who are Arran Jones, Nick Cook, Duncan Lyle, Stevie Iveson, and her husband Damian O'Kane.
I hope I have got everyone's name right. Then they sang Little Jack Frost which is a song that Kate wrote for an animated film which I think is on the telly this Christmas so I will have to look out for that. As I Sat On A Sunny Bank  was next and is another song from Cornwall. Kris Kringle was the next song and featured Gary Wyatt on trumpet. As well as her regular band the Christmas show features a brass section. When they are playing there are eleven musicians on stage. There is no expense spared with Kate. It must cost a fortune to keep this show on the road so you have to admire her for that. Cranbrook  was next sung to the tune of  On Ilkley Moor Ba Tat. Kate informed us that Cranbrook is actually in Kent so the Yorkshire national anthem originated in Kent. It is very educational going to a Kate Rusby concert. The first half ended with a fabulous rendition of  Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem. The brass section on this song were absolutely wonderful.
  During the interval I met someone I knew from Westbury called Norman who was working there on security and I asked him if he could inquire for me with the manager if I could have the large poster from outside. I didn't hold out much hope of getting it though. I bought a t-shirt at the merchandise stall and returned to my seat.
                                                                                  The first song of the second half was called The Frost Is All Over which is the title track of Kate's new Christmas album and is great. Kate said she was inspired to write it after taking her dog Doris for a walk on Christmas Day last year. Here We Come A Wassailing was next followed by The Dilly Carol which is sung to the tune of Green Grow The Rushes O'.  Mount Lyngham was next which is a mixture of two versions of While Shepard's Watched Their Flocks By Night. Kate then had a break and left us in the capable hands of the boys in the band who performed three tunes called I think Swonk Fing, The God Daughter and Castlerock Road which I think is in Coleraine where two of the band come from. Kate then returned and sang the brilliant To Drive The Cold Winter Away which was followed by her equally great version of Walking In A Winter Wonderland. I really enjoyed Sweet Bells as well from her previous Christmas album which I bought last year after seeing her Christmas show in 2014. If you scroll down I have put a video of this song below which I found on youtube. All the band and Kate took a bow and left the stage but soon returned for an encore. I had put my notebook away and I know they did The Holly And The Ivy which was great but I can't remember what the very last song was.

         In the foyer on the way out we met Norman again who gave me the poster. Good old Norman. That deserves a pint next time I see him. I'll get that poster framed and put on my living room wall as a great souvenir of a really good night out. Thank you very much Kate Rusby, the band, the brass section, the sound man, all the crew and the Bath Forum for a memorable show.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Review: Rhiannah Warm & Tony Floyd Kenna, Live And Acoustic.

I met Rhiannah Warm in Belfast at the end of August when she and her friend Christine Robinson kindly gave me a lift from Van Morrison’s concert on Cyprus Avenue to the post-gig party at the Park Avenue Hotel. I knew Rhiannah was a musician so a few days later out of curiosity I looked on youtube and found a video of her and her friends playing in O’Donaghues in Dublin in the very seats where I had been sitting just a few days before. I liked what I heard and recently Rhiannah told me they had a new CD coming out so I ordered a copy which arrived two days ago. I must say it is a most enjoyable CD as well. On opening the package the first thing I thought was that I really liked the artwork by John A Rubery which is very attractive. The sleeve notes tell us that the album was recorded live at Ram Alley Studio in Belfast in September. There is practically no post-production so I would imagine that this is exactly how they would sound if you heard them live in a club.

The first track is called Light And Shade and written by Tony. He is an excellent guitarist and sings the lead vocals on this track. I am pleased to say that all the songs on this album are original. There are no cover versions which shows how clever they are. The next song was a collaboration of Rhiannah & Tony called My Bones Belong In This Place which demonstrates what a good vocalist Rhiannah is. The following song Cold Lonely Nights was written by Rhiannah and is one of my favourite songs on the album. It is quite up-tempo and driven along by Tony’s guitar work. The next four songs were all written by Tony. The first of which is Suzanne Vega’s Eyes. Tony sings this one and the lyrics are quite humorous. Rhiannah’s vocals are very soulful on the next track, My Man Blues. Her bluesy voice also excels on All The Colours which to begin with reminded me of ‘Motherless Child’. It is a complete change of mood when Tony takes the lead on Bought And Sold. The quite angry social commentary of the lyrics show what a good songwriter he is. The next track was written by Warm/ Cunningham and shows that like Van the man Rhiannah can sing any genre of music with the country flavoured Texas Plates. This is a very enjoyable pop song and probably the most immediately accessible song on the album. The final song is their homage to Belfast written by Kenna/Mannah McMeeken called Belfast, City Of Life which ends the album on a very optimistic high note.
I must say I have really enjoyed listening to this music on a dark rainy Saturday afternoon and if you ever get the chance to see Rhiannah Warm & Tony Floyd Kenna at a folk club or a festival then I urge you to go along. I certainly would.

You can see a video below if you scroll down. Also, you can visit Rhiannah & Tony's Facebook page here-

To order the album you can contact them on Facebook or visit the website here-

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Review: Glastonbury Abbey Extravaganza 2015

The annual extravaganza at Glastonbury Abbey was a huge success despite the disappointment of the non-appearance of Joan Armatrading. I think this is the 19th year that the great Michael Eavis has organised this event in the ancient setting of the abbey grounds. This is the 5th time I have been since 1999 when Michael was kind enough to send Kim and I two free tickets to see The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra play here.

 This year I went with my friends Chris, Chrissie and Sasha. It was a beautiful summers evening when we arrived. Already there were about 15,000 people there enjoying picnics in the sunshine.It seemed even busier than the crowd for Robert Plant last year. We had to walk all the way across to the far side until we found a nice spot with a good view of the stage. When we arrived there was already a band on-stage called 'The Drystones' who had been drafted in at the last minute because Joan Armatrading had pulled out due to acute Laryngitis. It will be interesting to see if she makes her next gig in Scotland on Tuesday. The Drystones are a local folk group and the crowd seemed to quite enjoy them. The most memorable song for me was their version of Plastic Bertrand's 'Ca Plane Pour Moi'.

  We tucked into our picnic after that. As usual we had brought far too much food so I will be living off picnic food for the next few days. We had also brought copious amounts of wine, cider and beer. The next band on were 'The Shires'. They are an English country duo of Ben Earle & Crissie Rhodes. After only one album they have attracted a lot of attention and are the first English Country band to be signed by a major Nashville label. I though they were quite pleasant but compared to other Americana influenced bands such as 'First Aid Kit' I don't think they are that great. The most memorable songs for me were their versions of 'Dreams' by Fleetwood Mac and 'Islands In The Stream' by Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton.

           It was up to Ray Davies and his band to make the night really memorable and I must say he was on great form and delivered a brilliant set of songs which included 'I'm Not Like Everybody Else', 'Tired Of Waiting For You', 'Sunny Afternoon', 'Dedicated Follower Of Fashion','Dead End Street', 'Victoria/20th Century Man', 'Till The End Of The Day', 'Misfits', 'Come Dancing', 'Long Way From Home',' Rock N Roll Cowboys', 'Oklahoma USA', 'All Day And All Of The Night', 'Days', 'Waterloo Sunset' , 'Lola' and 'You Really Got Me'.  I think there were a few other songs as well but I didn't know what they were called. I was a bit disappointed that he didn't do Village Green Preservation Society but there can be no doubt that Ray Davies is one of the greatest songwriters in the history of British popular music. Easily up there with Lennon, McCartney, Jagger, Richards etc. He is 71 now so it was a privilege to see such a great artist performing so well.

                                                                   The evening ended with a spectacular fireworks display and then we packed our stuff up and headed homeward after a brilliant evening.   Thank you very much Michael Eavis for organising the event
and thank you to Ray Davies for a great show.

The Wild Children ( Born in 1945).

 We were the wild children born 1945
When all the soldiers came marching home
Love looks in their eye
Tennessee, Tennessee Williams
Let your inspiration flow
Let it be around when we hear the sound
When the spring time rivers flow, when the rivers flow
Rod Steiger and Marlon Brando
Standing with their heads bowed on the side
Crying like a baby thinking about the time
James Dean took that fatal ride, took that ride.
I'm going to two concerts in the next few months of artists who are celebrating their 70th birthday this year which means they were born in 1945. In May I am seeing the great Christy Moore in Bristol just three days after his birthday.and in August seeing Van Morrison play on Cyprus Avenue, Belfast on his actual birthday. Both these events will be memorable.
 I just looked on Wikipedia to see what other musicians were born in 1945 when the soldiers came marching home from war. The list is quite astounding. Stephen Stills, Rod Stewart, Bob Marley (R.I.P), Elkie Brooks,Arthur Lee of the group Love (R.I.P), Mickey Dolenz and Davy Jones (R.I.P) of The Monkees, Eric Clapton (Birthday today), Lowell George of Little Feat (R.I.P), Richie Blackmore and Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, Stu Cook, Doug Clifford and John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Bjorn & Anni-Frid of ABBA, Hugh Hopper of Soft Machine (R.I.P), Tammi Terrell (R.I.P), Rita Coolidge, Bob Seger, Keith Jarrett, Pete Townshend, Gary Brooker of Procol Harum, Gladys Horton of The Marvellettes (R.I.P), Gordon Waller of Peter & Gordon, Benny Gallagher of Gallagher & Lyle, Carly Simon, Debbie Harry,Kim Carnes, John Lodge of The Moody Blues,Al Stewart, Pigpen of The Grateful Dead (R.I.P), Doug Ingle of Iron Butterfly,Jose Feliciano, Dee Dee Warwick, Bryan Ferry,Don McLean, Donny Hathaway (R.I.P),Brian Connolly of The Sweet (R.I.P), Melba Moore, Neil Young, John McVie, Bette Midler, Peter Criss of Kiss and Lemmy of Motorhead. If you know of any more let me know. I make that 45 well known musicians including a lot of legendary figures. I just looked at 1955 by way of comparison and I could only find about 12 musicians that I have heard of so I think 1945 must have been a vintage year for great musicians to be born.

                                                                        I don't know about any of those other musicians on that list but the only one that I can think of to celebrate in song the fact he was born in 1945 is Van Morrison in his song Wild Children on his seventh album, the very underrated  Hard Nose The Highway released in 1973. It also features on the greatest live album ever made called It's Too Late To Stop Now.I don't know if Van's dad was in the army during the war because he worked in the Harland And Wolff shipyard and was probably kept busy building ships but that is beside the point. Wild Children is probably my second favourite song on the Hard Nose album after Warm Love , (You can listen to the song below if you want) and is about the influences on the kids of 45 growing up in the 50's and the people who inspired them such as Marlon Brando and James Dean, films like On The Waterfront and the plays of Tennessee Williams. Anyway at the concert in Cyprus Avenue on Van's birthday I think as well as the song Cyprus Avenue he should include Wild Children in his set-list. I have never seen him perform it live so that would be great. Roll on August 31st!. 


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Review: Village Pump Folk Festival 2015.

We had a great time at the Village Pump Folk Festival this year despite all the rain. This is what happened.
                                                                            My friends Jacky & Bill arrived at my house in Westbury on Wednesday and Thursday afternoon we loaded up the car and headed for the festival site which is only five minutes away. We collected our wrist-bands at the entrance and soon found Margaret, Wayne, Hannah, Sam, Ellen, Daisy and the one and only George. Hannah's brother Paul joined us on Saturday to complete our gang. As well as their tents they had also brought an event shelter which was great when it rained and was the envy of the camp-site. Lots of people asked where it came from and with a long table,lots of chairs and Sam's music machine we partied in there every night. The festival didn't officially start till Friday evening so after a couple of hours at the club house we chilled out most of the night back at camp. Outside the club-house though I got talking to a lady from Kent who was playing the violin in some band and it turned out that she is a good friend of Rob & Alison who were my mates on the litter-picking at Glastonbury. What a small world it is.

                                                                                       Friday morning I was rudely awaken by the sound of rain on my tent. Jacky, Bill & I went back to my house for breakfast and the rain got heavier. Apparently a months rain fell in one day on the Friday. We were in no mood to hurry back so we didn't return on-site till about 5.00. At about 7.00 I decided it was time to hear some live music so I wandered down to the White Horse Stage and caught some of  Jez Lowe  who I thought was really good. I discovered him years ago listening to Mike Harding's radio show.

Then on the main stage were a great band from Wales called Up The Creek. I suppose they could be described at Bluegrass music but they did some great cover versions of all sorts of genres of popular music. They are really nice people as well because we had a little chat with them later on. The Broonzies were on next and they are a super-group of legends from the folk world comprised of Jez Lowe, Rod Clements, Ian Thompson, Maggie Holland and Chris Parkinson. They were excellent. The last band I saw on the main stage on Friday night were Willie And The Bandits. I think they come from Cornwall and I find it very difficult to describe their music. Some of it sounded like progressive rock. I only listened to about twenty minutes of their set because I lost my friends after I went to get a pint. I found them again listening to Barbara Dickson at the White Horse Stage. I thought she was really good especially a song from the play Blood Brothers which she was in . After that the night was a bit of a blur. It stopped raining about 1.00 in the morning and we partied till about 2.30 listening to Van Morrison, Christy Moore, Dylan, Neil Young and lots of other stuff.

                                                                             Saturday was the best day. It was sunny all day long. We went back to mine and after breakfast Jacky & Bill went up to the White Horse for a while and I went to bed for a couple of hours and walked back to the site in the afternoon. I found all the gang up by the main stage. It was incredible after all the rain how quickly the ground dried out and you could actually sit on the grass and listen to the music. I can't remember who we were listening to on Saturday afternoon because we spent a lot of time outside chatting and telling jokes. I know Saturday evening I saw Polly Barrett on the White Horse stage who I had never heard of before. She comes from Cork and I thought she was great.
The Carrivick Sisters were really good as well. On the main stage we caught some of the Roving Crows, Show Of Hands who were excellent and recorded their set for a live album available only to the festival goers and Edward 11 a great reggae and folk influenced band. The last band I saw on Saturday were Treacherous Orchestra who are a Scottish band hard to define. I thought they were great at first and there is no doubt they got the crowd dancing but after a while I started to get a bit bored. Like the Peatbog Faeries last year, without songs as such it starts to sound a bit samey to me. I went back to camp and found my friends. One of the great things about Saturday had been meeting up with some local friends such as Andy & Alex and quite a few others.

                                                                                 The rain returned on Sunday but I really enjoyed the day. Jacky & Bill love walking so on Sunday afternoon I took them to Lake Shearwater and we had a nice walk round it. It was raining but we had all the wet-weather gear so it didn't matter and stopped off on the way back to site at a nice pub called the Angel Inn. That's the great thing about the Village Pump Festival if you don't want to be on site all the time there are lots of nice places to visit nearby.
                                                I got back in time to catch the end of a performance by Keith Christmas. He is a great singer-songwriter and guitarist who I have seen a few times now. I think Keith was the first act ever booked for the Village Pump Folk Club at the Lamb Pub in Trowbridge in 1970 so it is great to see him still going strong. I particularly liked the final song called 'If The Kids Won't March' which is a new song and shows Keith is still writing topical relevant songs. I'm looking forward to a new album soon from Keith.
                                                                                                                                                   At the main stage I just had time to hear some of a great set by a Welsh band called Calan. Then I dashed back to the White Horse Stage because I wanted to see two legends of folk music Martin Carthy & Dave Swarbrick. I have been a fan of Swarb' for about 45 years,ever since he joined Fairport Convention and he has survived some terrible health issues in recent years so it was great to see him still playing his violin and he still has his great sense of humour. I last saw Martin playing in a band called Imagined Village with his daughter Eliza at the Cheese and Grain in Frome a couple of years ago. I think their set was the musical highlight of the weekend for me.
 Later that evening we saw Jenna Witts followed by the Kelston Cobblers Club who were a last minute addition to the bill after the Strawbs had to pull out. They were great. Another great performance was The Oysterband  who really set the place alight. We went back to camp then to see what was going on but after a while me and Sam went out for another walk and caught some of Mad Dog McRea and finally ended up in the club house. I don't know who the band were but they were doing cover versions of all sorts of hits which had the place jumping. It was a great atmosphere.

                                                                                                                I crawled into my sleeping bag about 2.00 in the morning and next day we had the tents down and packed and left by about 9.00. It had been a brilliant weekend despite the rain. Thank you very much John Alderslade and all the team for all the hard work in creating such a great festival for us all to enjoy. Long may it continue. See you next year !

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Review: Emmylou Harris And Rodney Crowell, Colston Hall Bristol July 12th 2015.

It was 1975 when I first bought the album 'Pieces Of The Sky' by Emmylou Harris and fell in love with her pure crystalline voice. Another reason I liked her was she was really nice looking. (I got into Linda Ronstadt at about the same time for the same reason !) In all the 40 years since I had never seen Emmylou play live so I was really looking forward to Sunday's concert. I took my friend Jacquie along with me. I didn't know much at all about Rodney Crowell except that he wrote  'Till I Gain Control Again'  which is my favourite song on Van Morrison's Pay The Devil album. They had played in Spain the night before so they must have been tired but Emmylou, Rodney and their excellent band were all on fine form. Here is the setlist but please let me know if I have made any omissions or mistakes.
'Just Wanna See You So Bad'. ( Written by Lucinda Williams)
'Return Of The Grievous Angel'  ( I first heard this on a Gram Parson's album about 42 years ago which my friend Fred had. Gram co-wrote this song with Emmylou I think. Really nice pedal steel guitar on this one.)
'Pancho And Lefty'  ( Written by Townes Van Zandt)
'Till I Gain Control Again'  ( Sung by Rodney)
'If You Needed Me' ( Also written by Townes Van Zandt I think. Really nice accordion playing on this song)
'Invitation To The Blues' ( A Roger Miller song)
'Red Dirt Girl'  ( Emmylou at her best)
'The Houston Kid' ( Rodney sings one of his own songs)
'Love Hurts'  ( Brilliant classic song)
'Back When We Were Beautiful' ( Wonderful song from one of their duets albums)
'Bring It On Home To Memphis' ( Another great duet)
'Travelling Kind' ( I think they said this was written by Cory Chisel)
'You Can't Say We Didn't Try'  
'The Weight Of The World' ( Really nice keyboard playing on this song)
'Chase The Feeling' ( I think this is a Kris Kristofferson song)
'Dreaming My Dreams' 
'Tulsa Queen'
'Leaving Louisiana In The Broad Daylight' ( Accordion gives this song a nice Cajun feel)
'We Are Counting The Stars'
'Old Yellow Moon' ( One of the highlights for me, a really nice duet)
'Stars On The Water'
'Even Cowgirls Get The Blues' 
'Boulder To Birmingham' ( Fabulous song, my all time favourite Emmylou song which she wrote in the aftermath of the death of Gram Parsons)

                                                                         I think I might have missed a couple of songs where I didn't know the title of the song so didn't write anything down. A big hand for Emmylou, Rodney, their excellent band and especially the road crew for getting the show from Spain to Bristol. What a great night it was.


Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Review: Duke Special At Glastonbury 2015.

One of the highlights for me on Friday at Glastonbury was seeing Duke Special on the Acoustic Stage at 4.25. They had only allocated Duke a short slot of less than an hour but he certainly made the most of it. After Stornaway's performance it began to rain quite heavily so a lot of people took shelter in the huge marquee of the Acoustic Stage so I think Duke was fortunate to have a larger audience than he might have had otherwise and I think a lot of them would have left as fans because his set was great.
                                                                                                                                                    I have seen him twice before, In Bristol and at a friends party and have two of his albums but I wouldn't say I was an expert on his music. I promised a couple of friends who are big fans of Duke that I would write a review of his performance but it was nearly two weeks ago now so you will have to forgive any mistakes or things I have forgotten.The previous occasions I have seen Duke it was just himself and a piano but at Glastonbury he  also had a drummer and a guitarist with him.The drummer looked a really interesting character with the drums adorned with all sorts of strange gadgets on them.

                                                                                              The first song that Duke performed was Going In A Field  by the late great Ivor Cutler. It was originally on Ivor's 1967 album called Ludo.I think Duke must be a huge fan of Ivor because I have heard him sing other songs of his. I remember seeing Ivor myself at a festival in Cornwall called The Elephant Fayre back in the early 80's. That was followed by Nail On The Head from Dukes new album Look Out Machines which I haven't heard yet. The next song was called Hand Of Man and Duke said it was about a train. It is from the album Under The Dark Cloth. An album inspired by the work of pioneering American photographers. One of my own personal favourite songs of Duke followed, Last Night I Nearly Died, But I Woke Up Just In Time. I think Duke was driving home from a gig one night and fell asleep at the wheel which inspired the song. Another song from the new album was next and Duke said it was about Belfast and was called In A Dive.I must get that album because the songs sound great. Next up was Duke's version of Alabama Song also known as Whiskey Bar which was originally a poem by Bertold Brecht and set to music by Kurt Weill. It was originally sung by Lotte Lenya I think and has also been recorded by The Doors and David Bowie. Anyway I really liked Duke's version. Duke then made a little speech about the importance of everyone being creative in what ever way they can. I have certainly took it to heart because I haven't stopped writing since I got home from Glastonbury. Then he sang a song which I think is called Salvation Tambourine. I put in my notebook, " Fecking great", so it must have been good !.The great song Freewheel was next. Then there was a short silly fun song where the drummer came to the front of the stage and played a weird instrument that I suspect he made himself and Duke sang lyrics like 'Glastonbury, Glastonbury, we're so happy to be here' or something like that.

                                  Duke finished his set with the great Digging An Early Grave. At the end of the song he leaned the piano over further and further till it finally crashed to the floor sending his plastic bottle of wine flying. Then he jumped off the stage, climbed the barrier and threw himself into the audience who held him aloft and carried him around until finally returning him to the stage. What a great ending. The set wasn't really long enough but I thought it was brilliant and I'm sure Duke made quite a few new fans after that performance. Hopefully I might get the chance to see Duke again when I go to Belfast in August. I'll look forward to that.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Review: Glastonbury Festival 2015, Part 4

When my alarm clock woke me up at 5.00 Sunday morning the urge to just turn over and have another ten minutes sleep was almost overwhelming but I knew I couldn't risk it so I forced myself out of the sleeping bag  and pulled on my wellies. There was light rain on Sunday morning but I didn't mind that because I had my raincoat and I found the rain on my face quite refreshing. It helped to wake me up and the forecast said it would clear by mid-day. Sunday was to turn out to be one of the best days in all the 36 years I have been to Glastonbury.The best litter-picking team of all knew exactly what to do by now and the work went really smoothly. We reached The Glade by 10.30 and Jeremy got the word from HQ that we were to help out cleaning up the roadway known as the old railway track and proceed along there towards the Sacred Space. We knew something special was afoot because the road was closed to all traffic. Then we got the word that His Holiness The Dalai Lama was to speak in the Peace Garden at 11.00. This was brilliant that we had arrived here purely by chance (Or was it karma?) At the entrance to the field they were giving out pictures saying 'I LOVE TIBET' and pictures of The Dalai Lama. Jeremy let us have a quick break to listen while he awaited further instructions. I couldn't see because there was no stage there and the crowd was so big but I could hear what he had to say and he made a speech all about the importance of religious tolerance and other matters. You can't really call it a speech because he doesn't read from notes, he just says whatever comes into his head and he goes off on tangents but it all makes wonderful sense. One thing I like about the Dalai Lama is his great sense of humour and one thing he has in common with me is that he laughs at his own jokes. What a great man he is and there is not one jot of bitterness in him after having his country ransacked and forcing him into exile. That might be karma as well though because it has enabled him to take his message to the whole world. He makes the so-called world political leaders look quite pathetic in comparison.

 "They would have to to get The Pope here to top this", I said to Rob, "That wouldn't top this in my book", replied Rob and I had to agree with him. Having the Dalai Lama at Glastonbury is the ultimate. After he finished speaking I was so moved that I bought a TIBET hoody sweat shirt from a stall. It looks great and also kept me warm that night. I was to cross paths with his holiness again three hours later.
                                                                  There was some divine intervention as well because when the Dalai Lama appeared the rain stopped, the sun came out and it was a glorious afternoon. In more ways than one, I might add. After lunch I headed to the Pyramid Stage and caught some of 'Hozier's' set. I have his album at home and have only played it twice. I must give it another spin because he was really good. The previous year he had been on the Acoustic Stage and I hadn't bothered watching because I had never heard of him. Now here he is gracing the Pyramid Stage. What a difference a year makes at Glastonbury. I left after 'Take Me To Church' because we had arranged to meet up at Bread & Roses again. Wayne had his doubts about seeing Patti Smith but I insisted to him that she would be great but even I didn't realise how great her performance would be.

                                                                                    Unlike Kanye West Patti was blown away by appearing on the Pyramid Stage. I think this performance was to be the highlight of her whole illustrious career. Patti had been on tour for six weeks and her voice was shot away but she promised to give the audience every bit of voice she had left, which she did. She only did nine songs because she had given up part of her set for a very special reason. Those nine songs were amongst the best I have every heard on the Pyramid stage. They were, 'Privilege, (Set Me Free)','Redondo Beach','Ain't It Strange','Beneath The Southern Cross','Pissing In A River','People Have The Power','Land', 'Gloria', and 'My Generation'.Not only is Patti a great singer she is also a writer and Poet as well and in the middle of her set she read a poem she had written to celebrate the 80th birthday of the Dalai Lama. "That's nice of her", I thought to myself, not realising what was to happen next. Michael Eavis's daughter Emily led on the Dalai Lama to the cheers of about 80,000 people. He greeted Patti and all the members of her band. Then they wheeled on a birthday cake and the whole crowd sang 'Happy Birthday To You'. Then he spoke for a few minutes and joked that Patti had white hair but she moved with the energy of a teenager and he wished he had her energy. Then he talked about how friendship is the most important thing in the world because we are a social animal and friendship is based on truth and honesty which is very true.
 I think when he left the stage the whole audience felt better for being in his presence. Then Patti carried on with her set. It was great to hear her singing her version of Van Morrison's 'Gloria'. I have seen Van on this stage on Sunday afternoon seven times but not for ten years sadly. Patti finished with a frenzied version of The Who's 'My Generation'. During this she got over-excited and climbed down to be nearer the audience but when she tried to get back on the stage she fell over. She said, " I just fell on my f**king ass at Glastonbury and I don't give a f**king s**t". She said something else as well which was even more outrageous but I won't repeat it here. For me musically Patti stole the whole show at Glasto. She was great. After that we needed a drink and sat outside the bar opposite the Cider bus for a while before going our separate ways. 'Lionel Richie' was on next but for me that would have been a come-down after what I had just witnessed so I wended my weary way back to camp for a rest before the evening. Later on I didn't really care what I saw. The festival had already peaked for me but there was something I had been meaning to do since Tuesday but hadn't got around to and that was to go and visit Sophie in the Green Crafts field. So I went on a slow walk there. On the West Holts stage there was a band on called 'FKA Twigs' who I had never heard of but they sounded really good to me so I listened for a while. Finally, I reached Sophie's place but sadly it was all closed up. I had left it too late. On a stand outside though she had left some leaflets so I took one so I could contact her again.I hope Sophie is here next year.
This whole area was quite deserted. Everyone was down at the main arenas. On a small stage I saw a girl playing to an audience of about 3 people. I felt sorry for her so I listened for a bit and took a picture.
             I have known Donovan's music since 1965 but never seen him so I decided to check him out. That was a mistake. He began his set with about ten minutes tuning up and sound-checking. When he did sing some songs it was alright but in between the songs he kept talking all this quasi-celtic mystical bollix which got on my nerves. After I heard 'Catch The Wind' and 'Colours' I moved on because The Who were on the main stage. I hadn't seen The Who since 1974 when they were at the height of their powers and in those days I thought they were the best live band in the world. I watched at Glastonbury from the top of the hill where the whole view behind the Pyramid Stage looked spectacular. I did get a bit bored at certain points in their show but when they did songs like 'Behind Blue Eyes','Pinball Wizard' and 'Won't Get Fooled Again' I thought they were great. Roger Daltry's voice is more restrained these  days and Pete Townshend is the same as ever but overall I thought they were good. I think though over the 40 years since I last saw them my music tastes have changed. While watching The Who I got chatting to this nice police lady who was enjoying the festival as much as anyone else. The police had behaved themselves really well this year and there was no trouble whatsoever. If only every town in Britain was like Glastonbury.

Back at the camp-fire I felt quite sad that the festival was nearly over. As I gazed into the flames I reflected on all the great Glasto's I had been to before. With  Kim in 2005 we had stayed in the very same faithful little tent in Tom's Field that I was still using. "I'm not here all week any more mate", I said wistfully to the lad who had kept the fire going all week.  What nice people they were around that campfire.
                                        Next morning we had one more shift to do before we could head home. We were brilliant as usual and at the end we were drafted in to help Park and Greenfields team. We had one lucky break. The riggers were already dismantling Arcadia so we weren't allowed near that on health & safety grounds. Jeremy sent us in to clean up 'The Rabbit Hole'. This is a venue where normally people have to crawl in on their hands and knees to experience it but today we got in through a gap in the fence at the back. Inside there were lots of revellers who were still partying although it was 11.00 in the morning and the sun was blazing down. " Just ignore them, do the work and get out", advised Jeremy. It was mad in there. One person had appointed himself King of the Rabbit Hole and was wearing a crown. They obviously had no intentions of going home yet. I was glad to get out of there. It was weird.  Finally all the work was done for 2015 and we were all signed out. I walked back to camp with Rob and Alison. It was quite sad to say cheerio. I hope they come back again.

                                                                         Margaret and Wayne were waiting and itching to get home but I had one last thing to do before I took my tent down. I really wanted to say cheerio to Odele. I hadn't seen her since the party on Thursday night. I had just assumed that I would see her again but it hadn't happened. I ran across to where I knew her tent was, tripping over guy-ropes as I went but all I found was a sad little patch of faded grass where her tent used to be. She had already left town. Never mind, she only lives 20 miles from me so hopefully I won't have to wait another year before I see Odele again.

                                                                         We left Tom's Field at about 1.00 and amazingly I was turning the key in my front door in Westbury by 3.00. I had never known it so easy to get out of Glastonbury. Other years I have known it take 5 hours to get home. Meanwhile, back on Worthy Farm the real clean up was about to begin. An army of workers would move in and go over all 700 acres with a fine tooth comb. They even use huge metal detector machines to remove every piece of rubbish.It will take about 6 weeks before Daisy & Buttercup and all the other 398 dairy cows are released from the Mootel once more to munch their way across the lush pastures of Worthy Farm. I hope I am spared to return next year and as Van the Man might say, 'We'll walk down the avenue again and sing all the songs from way back when, and roam across the fields and stay out all night long and listen to the rock n roll because baby you know how it feels when the healing has begun'.
                          There is no need to say another word.
                                                             THE END.