Friday, 28 December 2012


We'll finish off the year with a quick run-down of my recorded and live music highlights of 2012. Bear with me, folks, while I pretend you are interested and not just after the freebies.

Best pop single of the year - and, to be honest, one of the few I heard - was "Sawa Sawelegn" by Ziggy Zaga and Teddy Yo, which ruled the airwaves when I was in Ethiopia a couple of months ago.

Best album of the year by some distance was "I Like To Keep Myself In Pain" by Kelly Hogan. Now, Kelly is one of my favourite singers of all time and we have had to wait eleven years for a new album, so to be honest she could have released a tribute to the Teletubbies and it would probably have made my top ten. Fortunately she rejected that option and instead treated us to the best album of her career.

The rest of the top ten, in alphabetical order only (and allowing for the fact that half of them would probably be different if I did this again tomorrow) are:

One Day I'm Going To Soar - Dexys
The Lion's Roar - First Aid Kit
Depending On The Distance - Jimmy Lafave
Traveling Alone - Tift Merritt
Leaves From The Family Tree - Polly Paulusma
Temple Beautiful - Chuck Prophet
Ghosts Of Browder Holler - Chelle Rose
Harmony Springs - Snowgoose
The Bravest Man In The Universe - Bobby Womack

Gig of the year is a much tougher choice, because 2012 has really been a vintage year. After much thought, I have decided I can't split first spot, so it goes jointly to two soul legends and long-time heroes of mine who I got to see for the first time this year: Betty Wright at the Jazz Cafe in July and Bobby Womack at the Forum last month.

Honourable mentions go to Chuck Prophet at Dingwalls, Trembling Bells with some promising support acts at the Victoria in Dalston, First Aid Kit at the Scala, Selda at the South Bank, Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat at the Applecart Festival, and Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby in a tiny room above a wine bar 100 yards from where I work. And I could easily have added half a dozen more.

We'll sign off for the year with a selection from some of those mentioned above. As well as the four winners I have added Chuck Prophet and First Aid Kit as they appear in both lists, and two acts that did not get the attention I felt they deserved - Chelle Rose and Snowgoose. All tracks were released this year with the exception of Betty Wright, which was on last year's "The Movie".

There are then - forgive the self-indulgence - a few of the more acceptable photos I took at gigs this year, before we finish off with a topical clip from another fine gig I was at, courtesy of one Phil Oxus.

"Sawa Sawelegn" - Ziggy Zaga featuring Teddy Yo

"Sleeper Awake" - Kelly Hogan

"Whatever Happened To The Times" - Bobby Womack
"Grapes On A Vine" - Betty Wright

"Temple Beautiful" - Chuck Prophet

"In The Hearts Of Men" - First Aid Kit

"Caney Fork Tennessee" - Chelle Rose

"I Will Wait For You" - Snowgoose

Photos: Josh T Pearson at the Applecart Festival; Sir Richard Bishop at Cafe Oto; Betty Wright at the Jazz Cafe; and Rodriquez at the Royal Festival Hall.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

If I Had A Hammer

Today I bring you the latest in the intermittent "Single Song Sunday" series, in which you gets lots of versions of the same song. On a Sunday. This time round it is Tim Hardin's much-covered classic, "If I Were A Carpenter".

This is also doubling as the Christmas post. What, you may ask, have loads of versions of "If I Were A Carpenter" got to do with Christmas? Well, Jesus was raised by a carpenter, and we have managed to dig out TWELVE different versions - one for each day of Christmas. That's good enough for me.

We'll start off with the original, followed by the two hit versions by Bobby Darin and the Four Tops, before gradually descending into chaos. Country, soul, heavy rock, reggae, sax solo, Czech pop - it's all here.

 "If I Were A Carpenter" - Tim Hardin

"If I Were A Carpenter" - Bobby Darin

"If I Were A Carpenter" - The Four Tops

"If I Were A Carpenter" - Johnny Cash & June Carter

"If I Were A Carpenter" - Bert Jansch

"If I Were A Carpenter" - Lee Dorsey

"If I Were A Carpenter" - Chicken Shack

"If I Were A Carpenter" - Emmylou Harris & Johnny Hallyday

"If I Were A Carpenter" - Winston Groovy

"If I Were A Carpenter" - King Curtis

"If I Were A Carpenter" - Los Buenos

"Kdybych já byl kovářem" - Petr Spálený

We'll be back between Christmas and New Year with a brief "Best of 2012". Until then, on behalf of all us at 27 Leggies Productions, let me join with some other Carpenters in wishing all our readers a very soppy Christmas.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Still Here

Bloody Mayans! I was so convinced the world was going to end yesterday that I never bothered buying any Christmas presents. Needless to say, I'm now in a bit of a panic.

On balance, though, it is probably a good thing that the earth was not shattered by earthquakes or consumed in flames or whatever it was that was meant to happen. So here are some tunes to celebrate yesterday's non-event.

 "The World Still Turns" - Ukulele Jim

"World Come Back To Life" - Scritti Politti

"Anew Day" - Mary Margaret O'Hara

"New World In The Morning" - Roger Whittaker

"Beginning Tomorrow" - Joy Of Cooking

"Worlds They Rise And Fall" - The Incredible String Band

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Unlucky Dip

Last week I was in a second-hand record shop - not in itself an unusual experience, it must be said - and they had a selection of "lucky dip" bags. For 50p you could acquire, sight unseen, 20 seven inch singles. I thought to myself, "well, whatever I get, that has to be a bargain".

It turns out I was wrong. I now have more Shakatak singles than I could ever want (one), and Neil Reid's "Mother of Mine" must have been sitting on the shelves for the best part of forty years before being palmed off on me.

These three are a pick of a not very inspiring bunch. They are OK. Apologies about the condition.

"Playground Romance (demo)" - Bakery Girls

"All The Myths On Sunday" - Diesel Park West

"Gold Rush" - Geezers of Nazareth

Amongst the other top hits I received was "Sit And Wait" by Sydney Youngblood. While searching for that on YouTube I came across his, er, reinterpretation of an old Etta James standard. Oh dear, oh dear. I feel I owe Elkie an apology. Compared to this, her disco version of "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" is a stone cold classic.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Crackers From Conakry

Here are a couple of tunes from an album I picked up in Paris a year or two back. It goes by the name of "Guinée 40ème Anniversaire Syliphone Vol. 1" and it was originally released in 1998 to mark forty years of independence (you probably worked that bit for yourself). The Syliphone label was most active in the 1970s, and I am guessing that is when these tracks date from.

"So I Si Sa" - Super Boiro Band 

"Lalaba" - Kaloum Star

Internationally, Mory Kante is probably the biggest musical star to come from Guinea. Here is a clip of him gigging earlier this year to promote his new album.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y Night

It's Saturday night and you have so many options. Personally I'm off down the pub with Lord Snooty and his Pals, but whatever you are doing have a good one.

"Let's Kill Saturday Night" - Robbie Fulks

"Saturday Night" - Pacific Express

"Saturday Night" - Suede

"Dancin' On A Saturday Night" - Barry Blue

"Saturday Night At The Movies" - The Drifters

"Tennessee Saturday Night" - Ella Mae Morse

"Lookin' For The Heart Of Saturday Night" - Dion

"One More Saturday Night" - Nils Lofgren

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Message From Ethiopia

It is time for another CD from the bumper bag of goodies I brought back with me from Ethiopia. This time out it is "Alhedima", the brand new album by Messengers.

Messengers are Abiy Yilma Tokichaw and Mulalem Shiferaw. Apart from that I know nothing about them. They produce shiny modern Ethiopian pop. I am not generally a fan of shiny modern pop on its own, but if you have a good strong Ethiopian element in the mix then it works for me, and these lads do exactly that.

Here are two of the stronger tracks from the album plus, as a bonus, one featuring their old mate MC Jacko. While I'm not sure I would want a whole album's worth of MC Jacko he is OK in small doses. But the real reason for posting this track is to ask whether you can confirm that, about three and a half minutes in, he does indeed claim that "Lincolnshire a be the place to be".

 "Robulo" - Messengers

"Tey Tey" - Messengers

"Tamagn Yetal" - Messengers (featuring MC Jacko)

One of the many famous people to hail from Lincolnshire is Rod Temperton. This proud son of Cleethorpes made his fortune working with another, slightly more famous Jacko - writing "Thriller" and "Rock With You" amongst others - but first made his name with this. That's our Rod on the keyboards.

This one goes out to the Spalding Crew and the Skegness Massive!

Monday, 10 December 2012

Mr Brown Gets Down

I have just finished reading "White Rooms & Imaginary Westerns", the autobiography of Pete Brown, which first came out a couple of years back.

It is a bit of a mixed bag. The first part of the book is pretty entertaining, particularly his tales of the beat and poetry scene in the late 1950s and early 1960s. But towards the end, as we approach the present day, there are a series of chapters each dedicated to a calendar year which read rather like those round robin letters you get at Christmas - a list of things the sender has done that year that are usually of more interest to them than they are to you. 

Pete's music, by contrast, is always interesting and always worth a listen. Here are some selections from his various collaborations (no Cream or Jack Bruce - these are the collaborations where he is singing, not just writing).

"Twisted Track" - Pete Brown & His Battered Ornaments (1968)

"Station Song Platform Two" - Pete Brown & Piblokto! (1970)

"Lost Tribe" - Bond & Brown (1972)

"Dark City" - Pete Brown & Phil Ryan (1993)

"Union Street" - T Mandrake (2009)

Here's another Mr Brown getting down.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

ReviewShine Time

I expect this will be the last round-up this year of goodies that have come my way courtesy of the good folks at ReviewShine. That will upset some of you, I know. And the purists among you might be even more upset when I tell you the first act up have nothing to do with ReviewShine. They came to me via a nice man called Bryan and are just too good not to include.

"They" are Birds of Chicago, a duo made up Allison Russell of Po' Girl and JT Nero of, well, himself I suppose. Their self-titled debut album came out in October and is a bit of a gem. They turn their hands to all sorts of things - there's some soul, some torch songs, and a funky French number as well as the rootsy stuff - and it works very well when they put it all together. Favourite tracks after a couple of listens include "Cannonball", which has a sort of Delaney & Bonnie feel about it, and this one, which reminds me a bit of "Traffic From Paradise" era Rickie Lee Jones.

"The Wide Sea" - Birds of Chicago

Musically, Birds of Chicago bear some resemblance to our old friends Dolly Varden, who are up next (and who are themselves from Chicago, fact fans). The Dollies have always had a bit more of a pop element in the mix though, and its present and correct in this track from their new album. "For A While" is their first album for five years and comes out next month on Mid Fi Records. If you liked their previous albums - and any right-minded person would - you will definitely want to get the new one.  Other stand-out tracks include "Saskatchewan to Chicago" and "Thank You".

"Walking The Chalkline Again" - Dolly Varden

Next we have a couple of female singer-songwriter. I had never heard of either of them before. My loss.  Rebekah Pulley's fifth album "Tralala" came out last month. Jesse Lafser is only on her second. It is called "Land In Sight" and it came out in October. Both albums are well worth checking out. While you are doing that, I'll be looking into their back catalogues.

"The Drug Song" - Rebekah Pulley

"Pale Afternoon" - Jesse Lafser

We finish up with an old favourite of mine, Mr. Junior Brown. "Volume Ten" is a six-track EP and his first new music in absolute ages. Fans will be pleased to know that the twang and swing are there in good measure. There is also some blues and this rather endearing number about faded glory.

"The Phantom of the Opry" - Junior Brown

Here's some bonus Brown, from 1998's "Long Walk Back". The lyrics make more sense when you know it is an old Connie Francis hit.

"Lookin' For Love" - Junior Brown

Speaking of Connie...

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

That's Mah Girl

Some midweek mellowness from Mali, courtesy of Mah Damba.

"Djeli Baba" - Mah Damba

"Doudiya" - Mah Damba

Apparently whenever the locals hear a bad cover version of either of those tunes, they turn to her and say "What have they done to your song, Mah?".

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Soul Brothers

It's my baby brother's birthday tomorrow so, as a tribute to him and a treat for the rest of you, here are nine sets of soul brothers, and the Soul Brothers.

"Throw Away The Key" - The Bell Brothers

"Can't Change My Heart" - The Cate Brothers

"Love, Peace And Happiness" - The Chambers Brothers

"You Got Me On A String" - The Freeman Brothers

"To Make A Love Story Short" - The Holmes Brothers

"Behind A Painted Smile" - The Isley Brothers

"Ouch! Oh Baby" - The Kelly Brothers

"You Are Funny" - The Soul Brothers

"Sweetest Thing In The World" - The Turner Brothers

"I Need Someone" - The Wallace Brothers