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Saturday 30 July 2011

No Ordinary Joes

We haven't posted any soul on here for ages, and it is time to put that right. To kick things off, here are a couple of cracking performances each from two of my favourite singers, Joe Simon and Joe Tex.

"Before The Night Is Over" - Joe Simon

"To Lay Down Beside You" - Joe Simon

"I Believe I'm Gonna Make It" - Joe Tex

"We Can't Sit Down Now" - Joe Tex

And here are some gems from a few lesser spotted Joes.

"Baby If You Were Gone" - Joe Graves

"Is It Worth It All?" - Joe Matthews

"Down And Out World" - Joe Towns

"You Need Me" - Joe Wilson

Today's Joe theme gives me just the excuse I need - not that I normally need an excuse - to dig out a clip by our favourite Joe of all, the Westmeath Bachelor, Mr Joe Dolan

The young lady in that clip is one Kelly Marie. A few years later she swapped the brown polka-dot dress for a jump-suit and came up with this.

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Tokyo Rodeo

If there is a better way to mark the middle of the week than with some Japanese country music I can't think of one. No, don't be like that, it's good stuff, honest.

The first selection is more country-tinged pop than proper country, but it is a catchy little number with a chorus that you don't need to be able to speak Japanese to sing along to. It is from an EP called "Short Piece" released last month by one Kenji Takahashi, about whom I have been able to find out nothing at all - unless he is a former footballer or has a day job as a biochemical engineer.

"Itsudemo Aeru" - Kenji Takahashi

Going a litle further back, Happy End made a couple of excellent West Coast influenced albums at the beginning of the 1970s. They are best known outside Japan for "Kaze Wo Atsumete", which was featured on the soundtrack to "Lost In Translation". This little number is more Nashville than Laurel Canyon and is from their second album, 1971's "Kazemachi Roman".

"Sorairo No Crayon" - Happy End

All very nice. But if you want proper Japanese country music, you have to look to the Daddy of them all, the mighty Hank Sasaki.

"I Am A Japanese Cowboy" - Hank Sasaki

Here's Hank in action in 2008.

Unfortunately I have not been able to establish whether Hank won the Health Spring Silver Stars contest that year, but he was up against some very tough competition.

Monday 25 July 2011

Tsonga Time

It has been a while since we had any Tsonga disco up here so we need to put that right. Today we feature our old friend, and Tsonga stalwart, Thomas Chauke. Thomas is accompanied as always by the Shinyori Sisters (a.k.a. Mrs Chauke, Mrs Chauke and Mrs Chauke - he has quite a few wives, our Thomas).

Strictly speaking Thomas is a traditional Tsonga performer, but these days there is very little difference between them and the Tsonga Disco stars, except perhaps the beats per minute.

These two selections are taken from "Ten Great Songs", a 2009 compilation released on EMI South Africa. It would have been slightly more accurate to have called it "Six Great Songs And Four Pretty Good Ones", which is still an impressive strike rate.

"U Ta Dya Yini" - Thomas Chauke & Shinyori Sisters

"Nwa - Marungana" -  Thomas Chauke & Shinyori Sisters

Without the Shinyori Sisters the overall effect would be greatly reduced, and they deserve as much of the credit as Thomas himself. Without wishing to go over the top, I think they are up there with other great female harmony acts like this lot.

Saturday 23 July 2011

A Clarification

Over the last couple of days I have had a steady stream of irate comments and e-mails from irate Elkie Brooks fans, incensed by some remarks I made in my previous post. A number of these comments pointed out that Elkie is a fine singer.

I agree. I never said she wasn't. What I said was that personally I thought her version of "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" wasn't very good. That's my opinion and it hasn't changed. This on the other hand - from her early days in Vinegar Joe with Robert Palmer - is very good indeed.

"Rock 'n Roll Gypsies" - Vinegar Joe

"Angel" - Vinger Joe

My favourite comment was from a gentleman called Franco, who raised the tone of the whole debate with these remarks: "I could say you look like an old onion with a beard. But I don't need to put anybody down to feel good".

"An old onion with a beard". Like Oliver Onions, perhaps?

"Same Situation" - Oliver Onions

And of course onion, like vinegar, is a popular crisp flavouring.

"Cheese And Onions" - The Rutles

Thursday 21 July 2011

Only Love...

The previous post featured a couple of albums I received via ReviewShine. Another gem that came my way by the same route is "Anybody's Darlin'", an excellent seven track mini-album from Kelsey Waldon. Kelsey is from Kentucky, but now based in Nashville, and has a really appealing voice. The album comprises six strong originals, mostly straightforward old-fashioned country with touches of alt-country and bluegrass (for example on "Whole Lotta Things" which features the stalwart Tim O'Brien), and a very nice cover version of Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart".

I think I may own more versions of "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" than just about any other song. There are eight versions on my iPod, and I am fairly sure there are more tucked away in the dustier corners of my record collection. I assume you all have Neil's original, but here are the other seven. There is a little something for everyone - pop, country, crooning, cod-reggae (with accordions), even a Spanish version. But if I had to pick one I'd probably go for Psychic TV - one of Genesis P. Orridge's finest moments.

"Only Love Can Break Your Heart" - Kelsey Waldon   

"Only Love Can Break Your Heart" - Saint Etienne

 "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" - Psychic TV

"Only Love Can Break Your Heart" - Joe Dolan

"Only Love Can Break Your Heart" - Darling New Neighbors

"Only Love Can Break Your Heart" - Jackie DeShannon

"Only Love Can Break Your Heart" - Joan Bibiloni

There are some pretty dreadful versions out there as well. Take this effort by Elkie Brooks, for example.

I wonder if Elkie Brooks is related to Rebekah Brooks? The same surname, similar hair, both responsible for acts that offend all right-minded people...

Tuesday 19 July 2011

ReviewShine Time

It is that time of the month when we feature some of the artists who have kindly sent me their albums through the excellent ReviewShine service. As always there have been some real gems. Here are a couple of them.

First up are Piñataland, whose new album "Hymns For The Dreadful Night" comes out on 16 August. When I first downloaded it I had it on in the background without really concentrating and it sounded like a pleasant Americana album. Which it is. But when you listen more carefully it becomes a lot more interesting. There is an individuality and intelligence in the songs that really makes them stand out.

According to their own blurb, their "lyrics are about the murkier corners of the American past, and they sound like the lovechildren of Stephen Foster and Kurt Weil, or maybe if Up With People covered Laurie Anderson. The subjects of their darkly romantic tunes include digging up the corpse of Thomas Paine, godless 1670s Brooklyn, and the A-Bomb". Fortunately I didn't read that before listening to the album or I might never have bothered. But I'm glad I did.

Particular favourites are "An American Man" and this one, which borrows liberally from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Chuck Berry. I have no idea what they are on about but I like the way it sounds.

"Hiawatha" - Piñataland

Next up are Butchers Blind (no apostrophe it seems). From what I can gather they are a vehicle for the songs of one Pete Mancini, and while they are a little more conventional than Piñataland they are no less effective. The blurb mentions the likes of Gram Parsons, The Band and Wilco but for me the comparison that sprang immediately to mind was the Jayhawks. Which is no bad thing.

Butchers Blind's new album is "Play For The Films" and it comes out this weekend.

"Brass Bell" - Butchers Blind

Today's final selection is a bit of a cheat as I did not get it via ReviewShine, but it fits very well with the other two and it is too good to ignore - the "it" in question being "Gypsy Summer", the new album by Cam Penner. It is top-notch Americana from start to finish and I would heartily recommend it.

"Ghost Car" - Cam Penner

Now to the clips, which for once I have tried to link to the music. First we have possibly the only other popular song to refer to Hiawatha.

For Pete Mancini of Butchers Blind, here is Warren Zevon with a tribute to his Uncle Boom Boom.

Which leads inexorably - in my mind at least - to this:

Sunday 17 July 2011

Oh What A Circus

This afternoon I strolled down to Arnold Circus, over towards Shoreditch way, to watch some bands play for free in the bandstand there. This was part of a so-called "picnic", and a very Shoreditch event it was too. Half the people there had beards. The other half were women.

The weather was terrible and, as a result, the numbers were low. Both of which were a shame because they had some good acts lined up.

The first I saw was Laura Hocking, a English vaguely folkie type with a very nice line in lyrics. I particularly liked "Strongmen and Acrobats", which she wrote for her autistic brother. It is featured on her new 4-track EP, available on Bandcamp.

"Strongmen And Acrobats" - Laura Hocking & The Long Goodbye

Next up - well after wandering round aimlessly in the rain for half an hour - were the band I had gone down to see, The Head And The Heart. This was by way of a warm-up for their rather more prestigious gig this evening, when they support My Morning Jacket at Somerset House. Although we only got the slim-line version - the full line-up has seven of them rather than three.

Their self-titled debut album is well worth checking out if you like rustic sounds and harmonies. Despite the conditions they were warmly received this afternoon. And the beards went down very well, of course.

"Down In The Valley" - The Head And The Heart 

If you like beards, you could do worse than check out the Ozark Mountain Daredevils.

Saturday 16 July 2011

Ronga Disco?

The last couple of posts have featured musicians from South Africa. Today we hope over the border to Mozambique and veteran performer Xidiminguana. Xidi, as his friends possibly call him (or possibly not), is a marrabenta singer who is now in his early seventies.

Today's tracks come from an album called "Nwa Mungoro", released in 2006 and credited to Vuthu Gaza, Joao Cossa and Xidiminguana. Vuthu Gaza are Xidi's backing band. I have no idea who Joao Cossa is. But it is Xidiminguana you are paying to hear.

"Gijani" - Xidiminguana

"Salani" - Xidiminguana

Regular listeners might fancy they spot some similarities between these tracks - and in particular "Salani" - and our old friend Tsonga Disco. Which is not surprising. Xidiminguana sings in Ronga which, like Tsonga, is one of the Tswa-Ronga group of languages, and Ronga speakers have close historical and cultural links with the Tsonga.

Here is a rather dimly lit clip of Xidiminguana in action in 1986.

Thursday 14 July 2011

Appeal For Assistance

Older readers will know that here at 27 Leggies we are massive fans of the late, great Sotho soul singer, Mpharanyana. When we started off we had a regular "Mpharanyana on Monday" slot before I lost my self-discipline and it ended up going the way of all flesh.

I have now been contacted by Phehello Mofokeng of Geko Publishing, a small independent publisher in South Africa (you should check out their catalogue - there is some very interesting stuff and you can download a few "book teasers"). He has had the excellent idea of doing a book about Mpharanyana's life and work. As Phehello says, his music was a cornerstone of Sesotho culture that has been largely overlooked, and not just since his death. To quote Phehello again, "I cannot ignore the fact that he died broke while some music mogul went home with a full stomach".

So how can you help? Back to Phehello: "You could look for the names of producers, contacts, people, music companies etc that he worked with that I can quote, follow up on and start talking to, LP records artwork, anecdotes inside such records etc - anything that can add colour to the story of this man".

So there you are. If you have any memories or mementoes of Mpharanyana, or anything else that you think might be of interest, please contact me via the e-mail address in the right hand corner and I will put you in touch with Phehello.

Newer readers will no doubt want to know what all the fuss is about. Mpharanyana mainly sang in Sesotho but to "ease you in", so to speak, here are three fine performances in English. They include a particularly nice version of Clarence Carter's "Slip Away" (Clarence was very big in South Africa). But "Soul Man" is not the Sam & Dave hit.

"I Think I Love You" - Mpharanyana

"Soul Man" - Mpharanyana

"Slip Away" - Mpharanyana

If that has given you a taste for more - and to be honest if it hasn't I would be worried about your mental wellbeing - some of the tracks I posted for the "Mpharanyana on Monday" series are still available at this link.

There are no clips of Mpharanyana in action on YouTube, so instead here is a clip of Clarence Carter doing "Slip Away" last year. Still going strong at 74, and rather wasted on the good citizens of Roanoke, Virginia.

Tuesday 12 July 2011

King Koos

It would appear from the scant number of hits received that you lot don't much care about the sounds of young Liege we posted a few days ago. So in a desperate bid to curry favour, and at the risk of alienating those of you who thrive on wilful obscurity, we are going mainstream. Well, as mainstream as Afrikaans underground music gets.

Koos Kombuis is a bit of a legend as far as I am concerned. A writer/performer who is one of the founding fathers of the anti-establishment Afrikaans music scene, he first came to prominence as part of the Voëlvry movement in the 1980s. He has continued to make great music ever since.

Although he occasionally performs in English (such as on "Madiba Bay" here), most of his work is in Afrikaans. If you don't speak the language - and I am guessing most of you don't - you can still enjoy the tunes. And when you have enjoyed them, go and download a load more from Amazon, eMusic etc.

"Madiba Bay" - Koos Kombuis

"Paranoia" - Koos Kombuis

"'n Kaartjie Van Koos" (A Card From Koos) - Koos Kombuis (with Valiant Swart) 

"Lisa Se Klavier" (Lisa's Piano) - Koos Kombuis

 On "Paranoia", Koos talks about paranoia in Parow North, one of the less lovely suburbs of Cape Town. It also gave its name to Afrikaans rapper Jack Parow (who is actually from nerby Bellville). Although musically rather different from Koos, he has very much inherited the Voelvry spirit. In this little number, he bigs up the Bellville massive so to speak, proclaiming that while they may not have the money and so-called style of some of the more fashionable parts of Cape Town - and believe me if he really gets his clothes at Pep Stores as he claims he is in no danger of being mistaken for a lover of haute couture - they are ineffably cooler.

"Cooler As Ekke" (Cooler Than Me) - Jack Parow

Here's Jack.

Sunday 10 July 2011

Startin' Pop Special

I have been on a couple of trips this week. I have just been revisiting my roots down in Dorset. While there we took in the Yetminster Fair at which we met an old school friend of mine, two of the Yetties flogging their old albums (yes of course I did) and a one-armed Oriental clog dancer.

You know they say that people lacking one or more of the five senses compensate by the others being more refined than normal. Well, I don't know if the same is true of limbs but the lady in question was a lot more nimble than most of the others. Whether the same applies to the three-legged greyhound in the final of the dog show I am not sure.

Earlier in the week I was working in Brussels. As usual I managed to pick up a couple of Congolese CDs in Matonge, which will no doubt follow in due course. Also as usual I found something intriguing in the bargain bin of the DVD/CD shop in Brussels Midi station. It is an album called "Startin' Pop 2", released in 2005, and whoever wrote the blurb must have had me in mind. How could I possibly resist something that starts "Startin' Pop is a Belgian collective based in Liege"?

I couldn't. Here is a small selection of leading-edge Liege sounds.

"This Dream's Gone" - Isola

"Play With Me" - Snow Bunting

"Fever" - 7 P.M.

Finally, I have had a request for a clip of Wild Man Fischer in action, as a belated tribute following his death a couple of weeks back. Here he is with a storming version of "My Sweet Little Kathy".

Wild Man's backing band in that clip were Barnes & Barnes, who were of course responsible for this classic.

Wednesday 6 July 2011

Cool In Conakry

Today's selection is a couple of snappy little tunes from Guinean singer/ guitarist Kerfala Kante. I don't know much about him but I know what I like. He has several albums available on eMusic and elsewhere that are well worth checking out.

"Segue" - Kerfala Kante (from "New System")

"I Bake Wala" - Kerfala Kante (from "Senekela")

And here he is sporting a very fetching night-cap.

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Apache Performance

Over the last couple of days I have become a bit obsessed with Apache Indian's "Boom Shack-A-Lak". I know perfectly well it is a blatant rip-off of "Oh Carolina", but what can I do? When something is stuck in your head you can't get rid of it by logic. You just have to wait until it goes away of its own accord.

To share the pain, here it is together with his signature tune. All together now "Wine your body, wriggle your belly, dip and go down in a de new stylee..."

"Boom Shack-A-Lak" - Apache Indian

"Chok There" - Apache Indian

See what I mean?

Saturday 2 July 2011

Oi, Canada (Part 2)

I work fairly close to Trafalgar Square in Olde London. So yesterday I wandered down there on my lunch hour to catch some of the free concert being laid on by the Canadian Embassy as part of the Canada Day celebrations. It consisted of series of short sets by Canadian artists, and the two that I saw were very good indeed.

First up was Lennie Gallant, a new name to me but one who obviously been around a while as he has nine albums under his belt (seven in Englsh, two in French). And he has the Order of Canada as recognition of his distinguished contribution. This is him.

Lennie plays good solid roots music in what might be called a traditional Canadian style - there is definitely a touch of the Gordon Lightfoots about him, with some nice story songs and some choruses you can sing along with. He was also accompanied by a lady fiddler with a lovely smile, with whom I became slightly infatuated.

Next up was Devon Sproule and her band, which was the main reason I had gone down there. They played a very enjoyable set mostly drawn from her latest album, "I Love You, Go Easy". Devon herself was in fine form, and the fact she had recently returned from a trip to the face-painting stall enhanced her "not quite as bonkers as Victoria Williams but heading in the same direction" persona. But as with the first set, I got a bit distracted by the support staff, specifically Devon's pet hippy who flaunted around the stage looking like a cross between two famous Phillips', Emo and John from the Mamas and Papas.

They were joined for one number by Mantler. He does not look like a conventional rock performer, resembling as he does a slightly down at heel Boss Hogg, but the three of them together made quite an arresting sight.

Enough of my holiday snaps, on with the music. Here is a track apiece from Lennie, Devon and Mantler.

"The Coldest Road" - Lennie Gallant (from "If We Had A Fire", 2009)

"The Unmarked Animals" - Devon Sproule (from "I Love You, Go Easy", 2011)

"In Stride" - Mantler (from "Monody", 2010)

To finish off, here is Lennie's sister Patsy with her own contribution to the storytelling tradition.

And I am indebted to my old friend Mister F for drawing my attention to this touching tribute to the city of Vancouver.

Friday 1 July 2011

Oi, Canada!

Today is Canada Day. Yippee! So today's post is especially dedicated to all our loyal Canadian readers. There are 2145 of you at the last count. Or there is one of you who has visited 2145 times. Or somewhere in between.

I had thought of providing a selection of songs by my favourite Canadian performers, but there are far too many of them and I ended up paralysed by indecision. So instead, here are a selection of songs aboot places in Canada, although not all of them by Canadians. Perhaps inevitably there is a bit of a bias towards country and folk sounds, but hopefully there is something here for everyone.

P.S. For those of you whose knowledge of Canadian geography is shaky, Charlottetown is in Prince Edward Island and Logy Bay is in Newfoundland. You should be familiar with the rest of them.

P.P.S. Before we get e-mails from irate Alaskans, I know Hank Thompson is actually singing aboot (sorry, about) the stretch of the Yukon River that runs through Alaska, but the song is too much fun to leave out.

"Quebec" - Leif Vollebekk (2010)

"Moody Manitoba Morning" - The Bells (1969)

"Saskatchewan" - Red Box (1984)

"Squaws Along The Yukon" - Hank Thompson (1958)

"The Star of Logy Bay" - Sliabh Notes (2001)

"Calgary" - Chris Gheran (2011)

"The Streets of Charlottetown" - Chris Stuart & Backcountry (2008)

And finally the catchily titled...

"Chop Yourself Into Little Pieces And Mail Yourself to New Brunswick, Canada For Immediate Reassembly" - Penny Blacks (2011)

And now to the video clip. The capital of Canada is Ottawa. People from Ottawa are called Ottowans (I haven't actually checked that but if it is not true it will bugger up this already rather tenuous link completely so I am sticking with it).You know what is coming next.