Search This Blog

Wednesday 29 September 2010

North Of The Border

Last time out we featured some Mexicans. Here are some songs about what happens when they head north.

"Across The Borderline" - Willie Nelson

"California Snow" - Dave Alvin

"Who's Gonna Build Your Wall" - Tom Russell

"California Snow" is a Dave Alvin/ Tom Russell co-write. I prefer Dave's version, but Tom's is pretty good too. As you can see from this clip.

Monday 27 September 2010

Mexican Frying An Egg

So was in the Bronx the other week, strolling up from Belmont to the Fordham Metro-North station, when I came across a man selling Mexican and other latin CDs for $5 a go. I bought a couple more or less at random, never having heard of most of the acts he stocked.

The first CD, by an Argentinian calling himself King Africa, was pretty awful - a South American version of that Austrian who did the dreadful remake of "Hey Baby". The second - a 1995 compilation called "Mas Furia De Los Exitos" - was much better. Released out of Miami on Rodven Records, with one exception it consists entirely of Mexican bands. The exception is the first of today's selections - Los Fantasmas Del Caribe from Venezuela.

"Celina" - Los Fantasmas Del Caribe

"Aguita De Melon" - Fito Olivares

As I say, the CD is pretty good. But I has been hoping for more traditionally Mexican. Like this.

Sunday 26 September 2010

Sandy Sunday

Look - two songs with the same name! The first is by Ramona Jones (nee Riggins), wife of old-timey country star, Grandpa Jones. The second is by Robin Williamson of Incredible String Band fame.

"Sandy Land" - Ramona Jones (1964 single, available on Grandpa Jones' Bear Family box set "Everybody's Grandpa")

"Sandy Land" - Robin Williamson (from "Myrrh", 1972)

On the subject of Sandy, here are Sandy & Papo, the MCs from the Dominican Republic who pioneered the Merengue House sound back in the mid 1990s (according to Spanish Wikipedia).

Saturday 25 September 2010

Arrow R.I.P.

I belatedly learned last night that the mighty Arrow died ten days ago. I was lucky enough to see him perform live in London a couple of times in the late 1980s, once at the Astoria and once at the Hackney Empire. He was at the peak of his powers then, and it was impossible not to dance. Even Mr F was seen to shuffle his feet a little.

Real name Alphonsus Cassell, and one of Montserrat's greatest exports, Arrow was sadly struck down by cancer at the age of 60. Which isn't really a long time at all.

"Long Time" - Arrow

"Columbia Rock" - Arrow

Here he is with the hit.

And as an arrow-related bonus, here is Leapy Lee. I saw him live once as well, when I was about ten or eleven, on a double bill with the New Seekers. Great gig!

Thursday 23 September 2010

Ms Burson In Person

"Silver And Ash" is the new album by Clare Burson and it is thoroughly excellent. I have only owned it for a week or so but already it is shaping up to be one of my favourite albums of the year.

Rob Smith over at Popdose has done a proper review of the album, to which there is nothing I can usefully add. As he explains, the songs are mostly inspired by Clare's grandmother, who fled Germany in 1938 and eventually made her way to America, and her great-grandparents who are presumed to have died in the Holocaust.

You don't need to know the back story to enjoy the songs, which stand on their own merits, but it enables you to appreciate them all the more. And having Clare introduce each one by explaining what inspired it certainly added greatly to the concert held at Joe's Pub to launch the album, which I was lucky enough to catch while in New York last week. It was an utterly mesmerising performance.

Here are a couple of songs from the album, but you really ought to buy it and listen to the whole thing for maximum enjoyment.

"Everything's Gone" - Clare Burson

"Magpies" - Clare Burson

As an encore, Clare performed a lovely rendition of Arcade Fire's "We Used To Wait", which you can listen to here.

One of the other inspirations for "Silver And Ash" was a big slice of ancient cheese, as Clare explains:

And here is another gigantic piece of ancient cheese.

Tuesday 21 September 2010


I have a list of artists I keep meaning to share with you but never seem to get round to. Well today I can strike one of that list. While I was away last week we had our first ever visitor from the Democratic Republic of Congo. As a belated welcome, here are a couple of tracks from one of the greatest Congolese bands, Zaiko Langa Langa.

Zaiko Langa Langa started out in 1970 and are still going strong. The line-up has changed so frequently that it makes The Drifters look stable, but at different times has included many of the biggest names of Congolese music like Papa Wemba and Bimi Ombale. Today's selections are from a compilation called "Les Plus Grands Succes De L'Orchestre Zaiko Langa Langa". The featured vocalists are Evoloko Jocker, Bozi Boziana and Mbuta Otis which - if I have followed the family tree correctly - means they date from 1979 to 1981.

"Femme Ne Pleure Pas Parts 1 & 2" - Zaiko Langa Langa

"Zaiko Wawa" - Zaiko Langa Langa

Here are the lads in action. This one features the late Dindo Yogo on vocals, which dates it to some time in the second half of the 1980s.

Monday 20 September 2010

In Praise Of Pete's

I spent three nights in NYC last week. On two of those three nights I ended up in Pete's Candy Store, an excellent bar/ music venue just around the corner from my hotel in hip Williamsburg (note to self: remember to buy a plaid shirt and grow bad facial hair if I ever intend to go back to Williamsburg).

The music room is tiny - no more than ten feet wide by about forty feet deep - and I doubt you could squeeze more than about 50 people in there, even less if there is a full band as they won't all fit on the stage. There is no entry charge, just a tip bucket passed around occasionally, and the sound system isn't great (though it may just have been playing up while I was there).

But despite all this, it manages to attract a very high quality selection of bands to play there. Over the two nights I saw five acts and they were all worth a listen. The Goggins Prize for most entertaining set went to Sgt. Dunbar & The Hobo Banned, whose musical style I would struggle to describe but were great fun. Here are a few shots of them in action.

Of the other acts special mentions go to Katie Brennan, for achieving the seemingly impossible and manouevring a full-sized harp through the side door and on to the stage, and the Eureka Birds for not being too embarrassed when they realised that half the audience consisted of their parents, some of whom had come all the way from Maryland. That's parental devotion for you.

To help you create the Pete's ambience in the comfort of your own home, here is one track from each of the acts I saw in the order in which I saw them. Pour yourself a drink, adjust the tone control on your music player so you can hardly hear the vocals, turn the volume up loud and off you go.

"Deanna" - The Stone Lonesome (from "Words & Whiskey", 2010)

"Grandpa's Boat" - Katie Brennan (from "Slowly", 2008)

"The Still Life" - Eureka Birds (from "Eureka Birds", 2008)

"Move Your Memories Pt. IV" - Sgt. Dunbar & The Hobo Banned (from "In The Parlor With Sooze", 2009)

"Tigers" - Mia Riddle (from "Tigers", 2008)

On the subject of candy, this one is for the younger members of the Goggins clan in South Salem N.Y., who are very keen on the stuff.

Friday 10 September 2010

New York, New York

This is the last you will hear from me for ten days or so. Tomorrow morning I am off to New York for a week. The first half of the week I will be visiting Cousin Goggins in rural Westchester County, the second half I will be hanging out with the hipsters in Williamsburg and muttering about their dress sense and alarming self-confidence in my usual grumpy middle-aged way. Apart from that the plan is mostly to mooch about and hopefully to catch a few bands.

To get me in the mood, and to tide you over until I return, here is a bumper crop of songs about Le Grande Pomme (plus one about Westchester County, especially for Cousin Goggins).

"Westchester County" - Loudon Wainwright III

"N.Y.C." - Steve Earle

"The Apple Stretching" - Grace Jones

"King Of The New York Streets" - Dion

"Dirty Boulevard" - Lou Reed

"The Lower East Side" - David Peel & The Lower East Side

"Walking Down Madison" - Kirsty MacColl

"Across 110th Street" - Bobby Womack

"In Brooklyn" - Al Stewart

"Rockaway Beach" - General Johnson & Joey Ramone

If the weather is good I was thinking of going down to Rockaway Beach. Can any of our readers in New York advise on whether it is worth the effort?

I was also thinking of maybe heading up to Belmont to get a slap-up Italian meal and pay a small tribute to the streets that raised the man I still consider to be Mr. New York, Dion (although there are a couple of decent contenders for the minor places making cameo appearances in this video).

Wednesday 8 September 2010

Roots Rockin'

Here is a treat for you Americana fans - a couple of mid-tempo gems from Mike Henderson's 1996 album on Dead Reckoning Records, "Edge Of Night". One is the title track - I think you will be able to work out which - and the other is my own favourite track off the album, and indeed one of my favourite tracks full stop.

"The Edge Of Night" - Mike Henderson

"This Property Is Condemned" - Mike Henderson

According to his website, Mike can be found playing the Bluebird Cafe in Nashville every Monday night. But his website does not appear to have been updated for four years, so you might want to check that out before booking your flights.

While you are pondering your holiday plans, here is another song about a home that is no longer in the best nick. This one is from the Welsh Elvis himself.

Monday 6 September 2010

Nice And Spicy

One of my favourite reggae vocalists of recent years is Richie Spice, creator of "Groovin' My Girl", "Earth Ah Run Red" and many other gems. I recently picked up an album of his called "Motherland Africa" for a quid off the world music man in Spitalifields Market. Very good it is too.

Released in 2007, from what I can gather it is a compilation. Frustratingly the track listing on the cover bears absolutely no resemblance to what is on the CD. It is not just a case of the tracks being in a different order, there are some listed that are not on there and some on there that are not listed. So it has not been entirely straightforward working out what it is I wanted to share with you, but I am now reasonably confident that these two crackers are what I claim them to be.

"Drop Top" - Richie Spice

"Honey In Dem Face" - Richie Spice

Someone else who is spicy, and indeed icy, is Icy Spicy Leoncie. Here she is looking even lovelier - and slimmer - than usual with one of her newer tunes, "Teenage Boy In Town".

That is pretty good, and only mildly disturbing (when she rubs her thigh while singing "his trousers hiding something"). But for me it is not quite up to the stratospheric levels of artistry she attained with "Love In A Pub In Essex", "Sex Crazy Cop" - both still available on YouTube - and this smash.

Saturday 4 September 2010

It's Boom Boom Time!

Those of you who got yesterday's clue will have seen this coming. Those of you who didn't are in for a lovely surprise. Here is the mighty Freddy "Boom Boom" Cannon, who is going to take you where the action is.

"Action" - Freddy Cannon

"Tallahassee Lassie" - Freddy Cannon

"Way Down Yonder In New Orleans" - Freddy Cannon

And here is the great man in action. In the second clip he appears to be wearing some sort of dead animal on his head.

Friday 3 September 2010

Malagasy Lassie

Like many of you, I imagine, I have an extensive collection of music from Madagascar. So it took me some time to decide which of the two CDs to feature today. In the end I settled on "Velono" by Jaojoby, released in 1994.

Eusebe Jaojoby, to give him his full name, is the King of Salegy, a Malagasy rhythm that can apparently be traced back as far as the fifteenth century. According to the sleeve notes, Jaojoby himself defines a good salegy as follows: "the voice of a herdsman, the guitar sound of a master vaiiha player [I've no idea what that is], the keyboard feel of traditional accordion, bass guitar playing the four bass drums, and the drummer reproducing all the sounds of a Malagasy village festival with people clapping, shaking kayembes [Malagasy maracas] and stomping their feet". It seems to me these two tracks pass that test, but let me know what you think.

"Amia Rano" - Jaojoby

"Tanora Aza Manambady" - Jaojoby

The Malagasy are known for the length of their names, some of which are almost as long as the description of a good salegy. "Velono" features the likes of Laurent Randrianambinha on the "pitipiti guitar" and Joseph Andriantsiferana and Raviromahafehy Andriamaro on keyboards. The bit of the concerts where Jaojoby introduces the band must go on a bit.

This post is dedicated to Mr Massey and his extended family in Boyle in County Roscommon. And here, with a tribute to that fair town, is the mighty Brendan Shine.

P.S. Yes, I realise that the title of this post makes no sense as Jaojoby is very much a laddie, but consider a clue to what you are getting next.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Up The Frankies

On Monday "little known Japanese performance art troupe", as the BBC rather dismissively refer to them, Frank Chickens won a Comedy God award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival after a public vote. This was mainly as a result of a complaint made by comedian Stewart Lee that the whole idea of getting the public to vote on such things was a pathetic attempt at populism on the part of the Fringe, which rewarded celebrity rather than ability. He cited Frank Chickens as an example of the sort of act that would never get recognised.

It turns out he was both right and wrong. The other winners bear out his theory - surely not even fans of the irritatingly smug Michael McIntyre could consider he had reached God status yet - but in a re-run of the Rage Against The Machine vs X-Factor Christmas Number One battle the Frankies (as nobody calls them) are there as well.

As it happens only a few weeks ago I was in Lewes visiting some hippy friends of mine and I managed to pick up for £1 a copy of the album "Underfloor World", which was released in either 1994 or 1997 depending on who you believe. Passing quickly over their cover of "Johnny Reggae", it is a lot better than I had honestly expected. Here are a couple of selections.

"Different" - Frank Chickens

"Thunderwing" (T. Rex cover) - Frank Chickens

As a bonus, here is their big "hit" from 1984

"Blue Canary" - Frank Chickens

The Frankies are not to be confused with a similarly named comedy/ musical outfit fronted by a shortish woman with a distinctive dress sense, the Krankies.

My mistake!