If I am going to be totally shallow, as if there is an “if” there. I have always had a massive crush on Anne Briggs since I was a mere teen and being all pretentious with records under my arm walking through school as if I was in on some secret others only guessed at. The whole image of the hard drinking, hard living young woman in her slouched sweater sitting on the floor smoking and keeping pace with those aging folkies as they were put to shame by her pure voice is captivating.
Anne Briggs is something of an enigma, she burned bright and then essentially disappeared, dissatisfied with her own recorded singing. She still lives in obscurity refusing to record and she is represented by approximately 30 songs she recorded in her short career. There is always the what ifs out there, but the records are maybe enough.
She managed to influence almost every folk-rock, folk band and singer, her recordings have continued to influence musicians to this day. The Decemberists released an entire album named after her first e.p., Richard Thompson based the song Beeswing on what he knew of her character, which was mainly through Sandy Denny’s friendship and his ex-wife Linda, her version of Blackwaterside was influential to Bert Jansch who had the melody stolen by Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page for Black Mountainside, go figure.
So this has 12 songs, almost half of her catalogue, I suppose now I should just buy them all as that is all there will ever be.
Browsing the records at the library I think I chose the most innocuous and boring album cover I could find, that homely brown color with the guys on the front that look like they were extras from The Good The Bad and the Ugly, maybe the band playing in the corner of the saloon.
Riding home on the bus I had no idea my musical palette was bout to be changed
“Bring your children down to the river side…’
I remember sitting in my bedroom in the early 80’s and trying to understand what I was listening to, I had been on a strict diet of Beatles, Quo, Hawkwind, Deep Purple, Blue Oyster Cult and Uriah Heep, and any number of 80’s metal bands.
“I ask about your turtle…”
What the fuck is this about, sounds like a cowboy movie with some wacked out psychedelic lyrics, what’s going on my minds is confused. Honky Tonk piano, fiddles what is happening.
“It’s dog eat dog and cat eat mouse…”
This is not The Beatles man.
“In the winter of 65, we were hungry just barely alive..”
Now it’s freaking Gone with the Wind. Only this is dirty and “frankly my dear I don’t give a damn” may be the most polite thing said in this version of the uncivil war.
“Nah nah nah nah etc…”
“sat upon my grandpa’s knee…”
These are values that the sixties did away with, respecting our elders and listening, damn what’s going on here? Thats some old time tradition going on, where did this come from?
“when you wake you will remember everything…”
“I got a date with the captains daughter…” now we are talking man.
Now there’s funk shit going on, with some strange funky keyboards.
“when I get off this mountain…”
Oh the joys of co-dependancy , gambling drinking, and rowdiness, thats more like it man.
“if I spring a leak she mends me…”
This is something I can get behind. And now we yodel, yes, let’s go crazy.
Time to settle down it seems.
“thats just enough to get inside…”
Wow that vocal will tear you up, what the hell is going on. Where are the guitar solo’s?
“wishing for the rains…”
Flip that shot over.
Now we rock.
“I lock the door grab my shirt…”
Let’s go out and get crazy and dirty apparently, there’s the guitar and horns and a real strut, Jagger wishes he could sound this bad man.
“now there’s only one place that was meant for me…”
Time to relax, retire and remember the good old days.
“there’ll be thunder in the hill”
Now we have storms and threatening weather, guitars and pianos and a bit of a stomp along.
“three times loser you’ll never learn…”
Some preacher man singing going on, then we stagger around again with the bump and grind going on.
“we won’t be complaining..”
Kind of like coming down, that’ll mess with your mind after all the roustabout stuff.
“I work for the union, cos she’s so good to me…”
I think this covers just about every sound the early 70’s had to offer in sensitive songwriting.
“The smell of the leaves from the magnolia trees in the meadow King Harvest has surely come…”
Every so often you have to play Zeppelin if you are of a certain age.
It’s just a matter of which iteration of Zeppelin you want to go with. This evening there was a journey to Zeppelin and it all makes sense.
A little more Godspeed You! Black Emperor with Luciferian Heights, I think this is in preparation for the new album that should be traveling my way now.
The consternation this album caused in the brain caused me to reach for Topic Records excellent collection of an Introduction to Shirley Collins. Shirley Collins is not that far from Godspeed You! Black Emperor if you are in a certain frame of mind.
The drones and discord of these two albums naturally to my mind led to Led Zeppelin 3 with its mixture of folk, blues and some drones of it’s own. It’s also the only Zeppelin album my wife is able to sit through all of the way which is an added bonus.
It also kicks off with the Viking wails of the anguished on the way to Valhalla.
There is the also the joy of playing with the little wheel in the front cover to see which little picture will poke through the hole this time.
It alI seems a little less focussed and more honest than later releases, a bit messier and less calculated and there is also something that sounds like a banjo in there somewhere.
I drove down the road being passed by big raised up trucks flying American flags, they are mostly diesels that belch great angry clouds of smoke as they downshift.
It’s not a parade, it’s a statement. It’s letting us all know they are there. The flag waving good ole boys. Or is that my own bias coming out there.
I was tailgated by a Kia, it was blue and the woman driving was probably half my age, she eventually passed me flipped me off and the bumper sticker proudly proclaimed her desire for a love of the god and the flag.
On the corner there is a Trump sign, its been there for years, it looks a bit run down leaning into the weather, red letters on a grubby off-white background. It must be six feet square.
I watched a man on TV tonight calling for us to unify, to come together, to get back on track, at no time did he talk of what divided us, the lies, the racism the abuses of power.
I realized that unity is almost impossible if you are not aware of how we got here, the small lies that got bigger, the fear and scapegoating that ended with the biggest of all lies.
I watched the numbers of sick getting higher and higher, almost a thousand a day in Oregon and I thought maybe we really have fucked ourselves as a race.
So I played Godspeed You ! Black Emperor and fell into the drones and the violence and cathartic dissonance and beauty of the music. It’s almost magical how every now and then the melody cuts through the noise.
Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress, it’s almost cataclysmic in its scope, crushing.
I planted some flowers in an old washing machine we found in the woods, the previous owner used it to pump water to irrigate his marijuana grow.
I also planted some peas and beans and tomatoes, along with corn and sunflowers.
It’s been hip for a long time to heap adulations on Steven Wilson. He has been the darling of the prog world, he has remixed almost every 70’s album anyone would let him near and now he is invading the pop world, as well as being in more bands than one man has a right to be in.
Steven Wilson’s Hand Cannot Erase tour was the greatest tour my youngest child ever saw, well that and Alice Cooper but there ya go.
My wife truly dislikes Porcupine Tree’s music, you can’t hold that against her though she also hates Hawkwind, Pink Floyd and Motorhead and barely tolerates Tangerine Dream, she does however love Fairport Convention and Neil Young, although not the long loud songs, so there is still hope.
I think I had Up the Downstairs on some sort of cassette that Gooey taped for me for the flight to the USA in 1994, or maybe it was the On the Sunday of Life album. Either way that badly recorded cassette with no track titles on it was my soundtrack for that flight from the UK as we headed out to our new life in the USA.
It rattled around in the pick up for years, it seemed to always be that tape that was in the cassette player whoever you got in the truck, that and Green by REM and a Roy Harper self released tape that goes for silly money if I still had it. Eventually they all got stolen with the cassette player from the truck, the joys of living in the rougher end of town I suppose.
If I am honest and I do try to be, okay every now and then there is an embellishment for dramatic affect I am from Liverpool after all, I really prefer Steven Wilson’s Porcupine Tree when he was a spotty kids recording his tunes in his bedroom, and sending them off to Nick Salomon, well thats how I like to think of it, some homemade recording and a lot of acid.
Up the Downstairs is a gentle psychedelic ramble though the foggy dreams of young Mr Wilsons mind, yes reminiscent or Floyd, Genesis and Tangerine Dream with several truly dodgy lyrics along the way, it’s the musical passages that are really the highlight though. Obviously Steven was and is a fan of 70’s psychedelic/prog and rock music and was not afraid of the long song.
It ticks all the boxes, long songs/tunes, disliked by at least one family member, not too demanding late at night.
Bonus is that there are lots of guitars.
There you go damned by faint praise as my dad would say.
There’s always been a connection between psychadelic music and folk music, maybe it’s the thought of all that frolicking through the woods in May being pursued by faerie queens to procreate under the shimmering sun until the rising of the moon.
Or maybe there is really no connection other than all those psychedelic types were too out of it to write their own songs so they raided the Childe ballads and Roud collections.
I like to think it is the connection to otherworldliness and and an attempt to explain the unexplainable. Of course what to do I really know?
Maybe it’s the idea that folk music is the music of the people and their wish to have fun.
Not sure where I am going with this other than The Trimdon Grange Explosion are pretty darn good, they are loud irreverent and manage to capture folk without being too attached to the form. Plenty of depth and they are not afraid to be loud which is often the big mistake for-rock-psychedelic bands make. Folk music is not a twee form it is robust or it would never have lasted and most of the tunes are for dancing at the end of the day.
The band came to fruition out of the Eighteenth Day of May, released as single, then disappeared for several years before releasing an album. Go figure:
Over here, “hey nonny non” Bruce at Vinyl Connection described Alan Stivell as providing some “elvish hey nonny non.”
This got me to thinking about the ogreish side of the nonny non. Bruce suggested some Sabbath and other options, however I really feel like this deserves some real Celtic feel so here is my suggestion the Irish band Lankum provides a really beautiful complex and engaging sound usually however here on the Pride of Petravore they provide a terrifyingly harrowing track.
Here is my suggestion for the “ogreish hey nonny non” by the way I love it.
I am a bit obsessed with Lankum right now so here is more:
I’ve been listening to Neil Young for most of my life. I can pretty much find something worthwhile in all his twists and turns, we have been in the ditch together, had our classic moments, rusted and gone all folky and even dabbled with country together and tied on our blue suede shoes in a big fuck you to David Geffen as we tipped our pork pie hat.
There is however a period that is classic, those first four albums and the CSNY album Neil was pretty damn incapable of messing up an album. Following this he still managed to create the ditch and all it’s glory but he has been consistently dragging us through his psychedelic miasma, making rash decisions, abandoning albums, releasing the wrong album at the right time and in general being all ‘neil’ about things.
So this month we have been in the rust bucket and now we are all acoustic, the two polarities of Neil Young in one month. Young Shakespeare is similar to the Massey Hall release, the show was recorded three days later. It is exactly what you think it should be a flawless live album in the brief period of time between the release of After the Goldrush and before Harvest, all on acoustic guitar and piano. Neil is in a fine mood laughing with the audience and doing his best Bert Jansch impression at times on guitar.
I think I am in Neil Young overload a bit with five live L.P.’s to digest in one month, it may take some time and then I went and signed up for the Rust level on the archives that gives me access to all those movies he has made as well as being able to listen to the archives. I have it feels like been listening to nothing but Neil, maybe time for a change of diet.
There is something special about the A Man Need A Maid/Heart of Gold medley that elevates both songs.
There has been a not unsurprising resurgence of the introspective album recorded in isolation, we used to call that getting it together in the country, now we call it normal life.
Olivia Chaney has created a truly beautiful isolation album that merits listening to again and again and doesn’t disappoint each time.
Shelter is three years old in June, recorded in then voluntary isolation in North Yorkshire in what sounds like a half falling down house. It is however not a claustrophobic album, it is introspective and obviously very personal, in the way many of Joni Mitchell’s are at once personal and universal.
I am not doing well at putting this in words, I find this to be a compelling album that draws you in to it’s own world. She has a beautiful voice that is up there with the finest of English folk singers and her songwriting is empathetic and affecting.
Too few times is there a moment any more when you can just rock in the Covid world. Welcome to 1976 when rock was still played by manly men chugging whisky and beer and smoking cigarettes and objectifying everything whether it was cars, rocks or whatever rolled past their eyesight as they gently curled there chest hairs.
I am not sure if Nazareth ever made the big time, yes Love Hurts was a hit and the Nazgul covered Hair of the Dog managed to convince the metal loving Tolkien fan to buy it for the cover alone. Play’n’ the Game However does not have the luxury of a sweet fantasy styled album cover. It has the four members of the band gathered around a table smoking and drinking Heineken, which in 1976 was the fancy lager.
Now this is a bluesy funky heavy album of strutting and rolling slinky drinking and womanizing songs. It’s one that just rolls along in a befuddled manner, some rockers some funkers and some ballads, all of which have the amazing vocals of Dan McCafferty. It’s the blues as filtered through the Stones and Otis Redding via a healthy dose of Deep Purple.
There are no secrets here, just the truth that in life sometimes you will act reckless, fall in love and have your heart broken and you will never learn to do that differently. Also the answer to all these problems is to do it all again because that’s what rockers do damn it.