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Tuesday 28 February 2012

ReviewShine Round-Up

It is time for our monthly round-up of a few of the new albums sent to me by those lovely folks at ReviewShine. As always, there have been far too many to choose from so, with apologies to the many fine musicians we're leaving out, here come four of the best.

We kick off with the closest thing we have this month to a celebrity - Marvin Etzioni, once of Lone Justice and since then a prodigious sideman, songwriter and producer. Marvin has gathered some of his better-known mates around him - the likes of Richard Thompson, Steve Earle, Buddy Miller and (on today's choice) Lucinda Williams - to help him interpret his songs, some old and some new. Called "Marvin Country!", the album hits the streets on 17 April. It's a double album and, as with most double albums, there is some filler on there that could have been excised. But there is more than enough good stuff to make it worth checking out.

"Lay It On The Table" - Marvin Etzioni (with Lucinda Williams)

We'll stick with the duets. Dylan Guthro is a young Canadian singer-songwriter whose debut album, "All That's True", came out earlier this month. The album as a whole is pleasant if not overly distinctive, but there is enough to suggest he is worth keepng an eye on for when he finds his own style and voice. For me, though, the stand-out track is this duet and co-write with fellow Canadian, Breagh MacKinnon.

"Sing To Me" - Dylan Guthro (with Breagh MacKinnon)

Still in Canada, next up is Brock Zeman. I must admit I had never previously heard of him but his latest album, "Me Then You", is apparently his ninth. I am going to have to start searching out his back catalogue. There is something about his voice and his songs that reminds me very strongly of Chuck Prophet, which can't be a bad thing. The similarity is particularly strong on this little cracker.

"Triple Crown" - Brock Zeman

We finish off with Blue O'Connell. I chose Blue for three reasons: its a good record, she has a bionic ear (I am not sure what that is but I think I want one), and she used to have a radio show called "The Eclectic Woman Show". That sounds like our kind of show. Her album, "Choose The Sky", is her debut but distils over thirty years of musical experience. Half the tracks on the album are instrumentals. Now I am not normally a great one for instrumentals, but I really like these. It could be because there is something ethereal and otherworldly about them. Or it could be because I am an old hippy and they make me think of the Incredible String Band - this one especially.

"Innermission No. 50" - Blue O'Connell

And now for something completely different, as requested by my old friend Mr Jackson.

Sunday 26 February 2012

Sam on Sunday

It's a lovely sunny Sunday morning here in London. And how better to enhance the mood than with the sunshine sounds of Cameroon's Master of Makossa, Mr Sam Fan Thomas.

"Olga" - Sam Fan Thomas

"Mole" - Sam Fan Thomas

As a name, Sam Fan Thomas sounds slightly Welsh. Not as Welsh as this though, from last year's "Can i Gymru" talent contest.

And as a special treat, let's bring back that old Welsh reggae classic, "Gwlad y Rasta Gwyn".

Friday 24 February 2012

Sweetness Is My Weskness

I was lucky enough to be at the Scala last night to see First Aid Kit promoting their new album, "The Lion's Roar". They were absolutely fantastic. I had expected the great songs and beautiful harmonies. What I hadn't expected was their propensity for wigging out, which got more and more pronounced as the set went on.

The album is excellent as well but has already been featured heavily on plenty of other blogs. So rather than repeat what you can find elsewhere, here are some more fine female harmonies of a slightly older vintage.

"Green Rocky Road" - Kathy & Carol

The obvious forebears for First Aid Kit are the 1970s Laurel Canyon set, performers who made sweet and soothing sounds while delicately leading the listener through the minefield of their relationships. They displayed a degree of sensitivity that has probably been unmatched by any artist since. With one very notable exception - Mister O.B. Buchana.

"Lollipop Man" - O.B. Buchana

Following where O.B. has led, here are two other purveyors of confectionery to finish things off for the week.

"Ice Cream Man" - Jonathan Richman & The Modern Lovers

"The Candy Man" - Sammy Davis Jr.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Katya, Rising Star

Those nice people at Hearth Music over in Portland, Oregon very kindly sent me a copy of "Big, Big Love", the newish album by Katya Chorover.

Katya is a new name to me, but it turns out this is her third album. However there was a ten year gap between this and the last one, which might explain her lack of visibility outside the North West USA. I don't have much to say other than its exactly the sort of folk/country mix I like, she has a great voice, some good songs, and the album is highly recommended. As - judging by the free downloads you can pick up at her website - are her two earlier albums. Here is one from each.

"Satisfied Life" - Katya Chorover (from "Big Big Love", 2011)

"Off The Map" - Katya Chorover (from "Off The Map", 2001)

"Blessing Bowl" - Katya Chorover (from "The Clearing", 1998)

There is something about Katya's voice and musical mannerisms that remind me quite a bit of Nanci Griffith. And, as it happens, Nanci's new album called "Intersection" was issued in the UK and Europe yesterday (I think you have to wait until April in the States). I have been a fan of hers since "Last Of The True Believers" came out back in the mid-1980s - it is still one of my all-time favourite albums.

After a fairly lengthy fallow period, Nanci really returned to form with "The Loving Kind" in late 2009. On first listen "Intersection" is continuing in the right direction. Apart from "Davey's Last Picture", a 9/11 song that is a bit too syrupy for my taste, it is good mix of strong originals and well chosen covers, including this Ron Davies number. Her voice is not quite the thing of wonder that it was twenty or thirty years ago - which is not surprising in view of some of the health problems she has had in the interim - but it still does the job for me.

"Waiting On A Dark Eyed Girl" - Nanci Griffith

Here is some vintage Nanci, the live performance of "Love At The Five And Dime" that appeared on her "One Fair Summer Evening" album. The introductory monologue is made all the more poignant by the sad fact that you can no longer visit a Woolworths in London as they went bust a few years ago.

And for you old punks out there, here are some more Woolworths enthusiasts.

Sunday 19 February 2012

It Came From The West

When it comes to download sites I am a big fan of eMusic. Some folks criticise it because it doesn't have anything from the major labels, but for me that is its strength. It encourages you to wander off down musical alleyways that would otherwise remain unexplored.

This month I have used up most of my allocation digging into the reissued back catalogues of the self-explanatory Zimbabwe Music Corporation and Bristol Archive Records. We will no doubt feature some Zim sounds before too long, but today we'll focus on Bristol.

Most of the releases on Bristol Archive Records date from the late 1970s through to the mid 1980s. I was living in the West Country for much of that time and there are some familiar names like Essential Bop, Talisman and pre-Polly Harvey era Automatic Dlamini - who I once saw play in a scout hall in Yeovil at a fund-raiser when the bill was topped by local heroes The Mob. But there is even more that passed me by completely, and a lot of it is top quality.

Bristol has always had a strong reggae tradition and that's what we will mostly be featuring today. The first couple of tracks come from the excellent two-volume "Bristol Reggae Explosion" compilation, and the wonderfully named "Sheepdog Trial Inna Babylon" from "The Best of Fried Egg Records". Sandwiched in between is a track by the Ivory Coasters, from an EP called "Mungaka Makossa" that was originally released in 1982. As far as I can tell it was their only release, which is a real shame as it is a cracker.
"Bristol Rock" - Black Roots

"Robin Hoods Of The Ghetto" - Cool Runnings

"The Bongo That Ate Pik Botha" - Ivory Coasters

"Sheepdog Trial Inna Babylon" - Shoes For Industry

That last one is a natural companion piece to this little oddity from Cherry Red Records that came out around the same time:

"Wuthering Heights" - Jah Wurzel

Jah Wurzel wasn't really a wurzel at all. It was Morgan Fisher (formerly of Mott The Hoople and Love Affair) arsing about. These fellers, on the other hand, are the genuine article.

Friday 17 February 2012

Single Girls

After our tribute to ladyhood at large on Valentine's Day we return as promised with a selection of songs dedicated to single - and indeed singular - girls.

While listening, spare a thought for the "James Bond Girl" who has, perhaps a little prematurely, informed the Cimarons that now she has met Elton John she doesn't need another man - a decision that surely redefines the phrase "unlucky in love".

"American Girl" - Roger McGuinn

"Bahia Girl" - David Rudder

"Bikini Girl" - Mighty Sparrow

"Euro-Trash Girl" - Cracker

"James Bond Girl" - The Cimarons

"Lady Gay Girl" - Danie Ian & The Spades

"Laughing Girl" - Eternity's Children

"London Girl" - The Pogues

"Morning Girl" - Neon Philharmonic

"Post-War Glamour Girl" - John Cooper Clarke

I suppose after serenading a series of single ladies, there was a certain inevitability we would finish up with this.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Valentine's Special

With the post of Mrs Goggins currently going unfilled - applicants please form an orderly queue to the right - we don't have a Valentine's Day dedication to a one special lady. Instead we are spreading the net as widely as we can because, to quote Paul from The Floaters, I like all the women of the world. Which leads us very nicely into our first song, after which we proceed in roughly descending order of magnitude.

"Ladies Of The World" - Flight Of The Conchords

"All You Pretty Girls" - XTC

"Rock And Roll Girls" - John Fogerty

"I Dig Black Girls" - Raw Spitt

"Coastal Girls" - Robbie Fulks

"Southern Girls" - Cheap Trick

"The Girls From Texas" - Ry Cooder

"London Girls" - The Vibrators

"Carolina Girls" - General Johnson

"88 Lines About 44 Women" - The Nails

From 44 we will trim it down by roughly, er, 44.

Next time out we will bring you a selection of single girls, unless I get distracted and forget. But for now we finish off with the true masters of lurve.

Sunday 12 February 2012

One To eVoid

Way back when I started this blog I thought about doing a series of posts featuring the music of my celebrity acquaintances. I got as far as the lead singer of Gnidrolog and then stopped. Three years later we pick the theme up again with Erik Windrich, singer and songwriter with 1980s South African new wave popsters, eVoid.

Erik and I went to school together at the Christian Brothers College in Boksburg, where men were men and so, we strongly suspected, was Mrs Wiese the geography teacher. Where we marched in military uniform through the streets of Boksburg every St. Patrick's Day. And where Father Francis would invite the more attractive boys to join him in the sauna to discuss matters of religious importance.

We also performed together in the school production of HMS Pinafore. Admittedly he took the lead role of Ralph Rackstraw while I was a mere sister or cousin or aunt - being a few years younger and my voice having not yet broken - but I'm counting it. It was about the same time he first performed original material, a series of songs telling the story of the prodigal son.

He then disappeared off the scene, not unlike the prodigal son, only to reappear in the early 1980s fronting eVoid and wearing all sorts of make-up of which the Christian Brothers would not have approved. They had a massive hit with 'Taximan' and their self-titled debut album. Partly to avoid conscription they then relocated to London, as I myself had done a few years before. Their second album, 'Here Comes The Rot' sadly proved all too prophetic and they petered out not long afterwards.   

Listening to them nearly thirty years on, a lot of their songs sound dated and sometimes a bit derivative - you can hear traces of Men Without Hats on the first track below and The Beat on the second. But at the time they really were an invigorating force in South African music, not least for being one of the few white bands that showed any awareness they were from Africa. As you can hear on the excellent 'Civil Servant'.

"Inda-Inda-Indaba" - eVoid

"Kwela Walk" - eVoid

"Civil Servant" - eVoid

It is good to see Erik is still going strong, or at least he was a couple of years back.

And here they are back in their prime.

Look out for another exciting instalment in this series in 2015.

Thursday 9 February 2012


A bit of a treat for all of you today - six of the best from the late, great South African saxophonist and composer, Dudu Pukwana. He started in the 1950s with The Blue Notes, a mixed race band that had to leave South Africa for London in the early 1960s because of the apartheid regime. They split in the late 1960s but kept performing together in various configurations until Dudu and Chris McGregor, the original band leader, both died in 1990.

We have for you three tracks in Dudu's own name, backed by Spear, the first two from his classic 1973 album "In The Townships". Next we have one apiece from Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath and Assagai. Dudu wrote the McGregor track; I am not sure but I suspect he did not write the Assagai track. And we finish off with Dudu duelling with Mike Heron from the Incredible String Band, on a number that proves beyond doubt that hippies got soul!

"Baloyi" - Dudu Pukwana & Spear

"Nobomvu" - Dudu Pukwana & Spear

"Ko-Didi" - Dudu Pukwana & Spear

"Mra" - Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath

"Hey Jude" - Assagai

"Call Me Diamond" - Mike Heron

I could not find any clips of Dudu on YouTube so instead here are a couple of clips with links to another late, great South African sax legend - Bob Holness. Best known for presenting 'Blockbusters', his other claim to fame is playing the sax solo on 'Baker Street'. Sadly they seem to have got a ringer in on this video.

The other interesting fact about Bob - and this one has the added merit of being true - is that his daughter was in Toto Cuelo. Here they are with the hit.

Tuesday 7 February 2012

To Ramona

I have never met Ramona, but she sounds quite a girl.

"Ramona" - Gary Stewart

"Ramona" - The Ramones

"Ramona" - Toro

"Ramona" - Wet Willie

If you go onto YouTube and type in "Ramona", this is what comes up first.

This, on the other hand, doesn't come up at all.

Sunday 5 February 2012

Generation Wow!

I am slowly working my way through a huge backlog of CDs I picked up on assorted travels over the last six months or so. I am regularly coming across things I had completely forgotten buying, which is nice because I get the pleasure of the purchase all over again.

One example is "Generation Gaou", a 2003 pop compilation from Cote d'Ivoire which I acquired in Paris last September. Magic System are probably the best known act on there, but there is a lot of good stuff and it is all pretty jolly. These three examples should help shake the snow from your boots.

"Zuitte Dans Ca" - Cheela

"Clokpa" - Didier Bile

"Sounkraya" - Pacific

For today's clip, here's a little something that came on in the pub last night. We'll dedicate this to Lesley, the finest landlady in this part of the world, on the occasion of her 21st birthday.

Friday 3 February 2012

In The Family Way

A couple of days ago I got sent a copy of "Way Of The Zulu", the debut release by Zulu, due out on Stroll On Records on 5 March. The blurb described them as a "London punk 5-piece". Having fallen for that sort of thing before I was instinctively sceptical, imagining it would be a weedy modern watered-down version of punk. Fortunately I overcame my scepticism and gave it a listen, because this is pretty much the real thing. At 2:44 the free download track, "Sistine Chapel", is one of the longer and more sedate numbers. If you like this, just wait until you hear "Zombies" or "We're Watching You".

"Sistine Chapel" - Zulu

It may not be a coincidence but Zulu's bass player is one Louis Simenon, son of The Clash's Paul Simenon. My mate Mister F is also a veteran of the Punk Wars, although unlike Paul he never made it further than the trenches, and as it happens his nephew is also a bass-player with a band that has recently released its first record. The band is called Gilmore Trail, they are based in Sheffield, and the record in question is an EP called "Circle of Least Confusion". They play in a style that I understand the young people call "instrumental post-rock". It is not the sort of thing I would normally listen to, so I can't judge whether it is a good example of its type, but I quite like it. They may not take this as a compliment, but this track is almost poppy.

"Seven Meadows" - Gilmore Trail

If you like what you hear and want to get hold of the EP, it is probably easiest to contact the band directly at, although you can get a couple of the tracks on Bandcamp.

Sticking with the theme of bass players, we travel over to Minneapolis to bring you something from Fort Wilson Riot. Their bass player is Joe Goggins. No relation as far as I know, but with a name like that he's just got to be good hasn't he? Judging by this track from their recent "Generation Complex" EP, the rest of them aren't too shabby either.

"For All The Little Things" - Fort Wilson Riot

So we have brought you some bass-playing sons, nephews and namesakes. But for Johnny Cash there was only one person who could handle the bass, and that was Daddy.