Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Catchy Indeed

Currently enjoying Jonathan Coe's very British and wickedly funny recent novel Middle England. In it, one of the book's protagonists talks to a journalist about his love for quirky seventies Canterbury Scene ensemble Hatfield and the North. "For instance, on their first album there's a piece called Aigrette, which was written by the guitarist, and if you listen carefully, not only is the time signature changing every few bars, but it goes through these extraordinary modulations, these key changes, and yet the tune is really catchy, really attractive on the ear..." Listen for yourselves.
Hatfield and the North - Aigrette

Monday, March 18, 2019

Wave Goodbye

Just got the sad news that Dick Dale has left us. The legendary king of the surf guitar, a pioneer of the Fender Stratocaster, was 81. Miss him.
Dick Dale - A Run For Life

Friday, March 15, 2019

Good Question That

Going warp factor 2 today with the Spizz consortium. Never was much of a trekkie, but of course one doesn't have to be a fan of Spock & co to enjoy this whimsical British new wave wonder from '79. John Peel called it 'the only Star Trek tribute worthy of the Enterprise's jukebox' and as usual, the legendary dj was spot on. "The time warp in space made a change in me, for I was the captain and the captain was me..."
Spizz Energy - Where's Captain Kirk?

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Take Them Home

Released last week on what would have been the late great's 75th birthday, these recordings from a '73 session in Atlanta prove a treasure trove for Townes fans. Not bootlegged before as far as I know, Sky Blue provides a mix of known classics, rare covers and even two fine unknown originals, with the unnecessary productional flourishes so often found on his regular studio albums mercifully absent. Good times indeed, my amigos da musica.
Townes Van Zandt - All I Need

Monday, March 11, 2019

Suomi Calling

Yet another new band begging to be checked out further, and not only because the charming Leaves ends with some genuine bird song. Kiki Pau's got that certain je ne sais quoi, if you follow my drift. The mighty 22 Pistepirkko will always remain my fave Finnish combo, but these new kids from Helsinki are contenders for sure. Fresh pop for now people: hurraa!
Kiki Pau - Leaves

Friday, March 8, 2019

Good Question That

Let's start off a new mini-series with one of the eternal questions. Blind Alfred Reed posed it back in 1929, and it's as relevant now as it ever was of course. One of the first protest songs, too: "We can hardly get our breath, taxed and schooled and preached to death..." Hard times and a deadpan delivery. Ry Cooder would revisit this song 4 decades later, and Bruce Springsteen would add his two cents after 77 years, but this version remains the real deal.
Blind Alfred Reed - How Can A Man Stand Such Times And Live?

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Lucky Star

Peter Hammill all inspired by an old Dylan classic? Sure seems like it. An intense performance this, proving that Mr. Van Der Graaf hasn't lost that magic touch. "And just like that, she's gone..."
Peter Hammill - Girl To The North Country

Monday, March 4, 2019

Born To Roam

Growing old gracefully. Michael Chapman's warm and wistful True North features youngster Steve Gunn as a second guitarist, which only goes to show the British folk septuagenarian still has his finger on the pulse. And their interplay sounds lovely of course. Nothing more to give? Don't you believe it. Chapeau.
Michael Chapman - Full Bottle, Empty Heart

Friday, March 1, 2019

Break It Up

Currently reading Wayne Kramer's funky autobiography The Hard Stuff: Dope, Crime, the MC5 and My Life of Impossibilities. Here's a cool anecdote on the Motor City's finest recording Skunk, one of their hottest tracks. For the horn part, the band invited trumpeter Charles Moore, who wrote a chart and brought some jazz cats along to play it. As Kramer tells it: "The engineer and I were alone in the control room. 'Look, Wayne,' he said conspiratorially, 'I hear what you guys are going for, but these guys aren't cutting it. They're playing the wrong notes. I could bring in some union guys after the session to play this stuff right, in one take.' The engineer was old school, and couldn't hear what Charles had written. The parts weren't traditional harmony, they were written to be dissonant. We wanted biting, extended chords, and that was exactly what we were getting from the musicians. (...) I thanked the engineer for the suggestion and went back to work. The track came out marvelously..." Amen to that, brother Wayne.
MC5 - Skunk (Sonicly Speaking)

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Swaying Round

Good to hear that Nicky Hopkins ('44-'94) finally got his well-deserved memorial. Most famous for his work with the Stones (She's A Rainbow, Sympathy For The Devil, Exile On Main St), the session musician par excellence also helped out the Beatles, the Kinks, Jeff Beck, The Who, and the Jefferson Airplane (on stage at Woodstock no less). Even if you don't know his name, you'll have heard him playing keyboards on a couple of your favourite records. Tip: buy the man's '73 solo effort The Tin Man Was A Dreamer: a highly enjoyable record.
Nicky Hopkins - Speed On

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Walk On

A true raga from '66, even featuring authentic Indian tabla drums. Hypnotizing as hell.
Peter Walker - White Wind

Monday, February 18, 2019

Swaying Softly

A psychedelic mouthharp dirge that gets under your skin. As Endless Boogie singer and record collector Paul Major writes about this track in the liner notes to his often intriguing Feel The Music compilation, 'the blue lightning does strobe-like flashes and you feel even more alone..."
Joint Effort - Blue Lighting

Friday, February 15, 2019

Sawadee, Guys

The exotica factor can't be denied of course - how many bands from Thailand do you know? - but Khana Bierbood (or คณะเบียร์บูด, meaning Strange Brew) doesn't deserve to be dismissed as just another weird-ass gimmick from the Far East. Their garagy tunes are simply too infectuous for that. Short, surf, and fun, out now on the hip Guruguru Brain label.
Khana Bierbood - Plankton Bloom

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Just Light Up

Crazy afro rhythms, bopping saxes, and way out wahwah guitars, coming to you from Milan, Italy. Stoner madness supreme. Belissima!
Al Doum & The Farids - Light Up

Monday, February 11, 2019

Devils & Ghosts

The blues according to Masaki Batoh. As the former Ghost mastermind titled it in English but sings it in Japanese one has to guess what he's on about exactly, but you'll catch his drift I guess. Intriguing stuff from Nowhere.
Masaki Batoh - Devil Got Me

Friday, February 8, 2019

Broken Glass

Sleazy lofi rock your guilty pleasure? Got the hots for that Trux meeting the Horse in Exile sound? In that case, let me introduce you to David Nance, a homie of Simon Joyner, who's got that lowdown dirty sound down pat.
David Nance Group - 110 Blues

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Jah Pride

And yet more reggae sweetness, my brethren, as the Soul Jazz label just came up with the third volume of its excellent Black Man's Pride compilation series. Irie stuff from the Studio One vaults as usual, with the relative unknowns once again managing to steal the show from the big names, which is no mean feat considering that we're talking Freddie McGregor, the Gladiators, and the Wailing Souls amongst others here. Dig this hard hitting roots anthem by the aptly named Nightingales to see what I mean.
The Nightingales - Jehovah

Monday, February 4, 2019

Pressure Dub

Pressure Sounds, always on top. The long-lasting reggae reissue label upped the ante yet again by re-releasing two incredibily rare dub albums from '77 (Conflict Dub) and '82 (Dubbing In The Front Line) as one set. With the Aggrovators playing, Bunny Lee in the producers chair and Prince Jammy as engineer, what can possibly go wrong? You know what to do, my brethren.
The Aggrovators - Skilful Dub
The Aggrovators - Babylon Dub

Friday, February 1, 2019

True West

Hot on the heels of Steve Gunn, his pal William Tyler delivers the goods as well. The Nashville native recently upped and left for sunny California, and said move gave this Brad Cook-produced record its title of course. With his deceptively simple style of picking Tyler never ceases to amaze, and featured  track Rebecca even reminded me of brother Duane's Little Martha a bit. Yup, that lovely.
William Tyler - Rebecca

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Move Along

That new Steve Gunn album sure is lovely, my amigos da musica. Solid songs that go pop, Gunn's trademark guitar work, lyrical yet groovy, backing vocals by the one and only Meg Baird: what more can one ask for? Definitely his best yet. For further reading: here's a fine recent profile on Philly's golden boy in the Guardian.
Steve Gunn - Vagabond

Monday, January 28, 2019

Get By

Treating you to a cool acoustic Go-Betweens ditty today, an acoustic demo for a song that would eventually end up on 16 Lovers Lane. Back in the days I thought these Aussies were just one good band out of many. Only now, since rediscovering them last year, do I realise they were true greats.
The Go-Betweens - The Devil's Eye

Friday, January 25, 2019

Sensory Mind

Flashing back with yet another sonic Bear journal. In the magical summer of '69 in Santa Rosa, LSD and sound pioneer Owsley 'Bear' Stanley recorded a gig of Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady (of Jefferson Airplane and future Hot Tuna fame of course) together with drummer Joey Covington. A pristine tape was only recently rediscovered, and if solid experimental jams in power trio mode, obviously inspired by the Hendrix Experience, sound like your thing, you know what to do.
Jorma Kaukonen & Jack Casady - Star Track

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Cooled Me With A Fan

A cold day like today calls for two heartwarming old chestnuts by bluegrass Jerry, recorded long before he became known as Captain Trips.
Jerry Garcia - Roving Gambler
Jerry Garcia - Sugar Baby

Monday, January 21, 2019

A Thousand Pelts

Neil's ole Brando, Pocahontas and me trip, as interpreted by Gillian Welch. Simply stunning.
Gillian Welch - Pocahontas

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

To Find, To Be

Spun Terry Reid's River ('73) last night. Good decision, as it remains a wonderful album from start to finish, airy and funky. Strange though that the rest of Reid's output, the odd song notwithstanding, leaves me rather cold.
Terry Reid - River

Monday, January 14, 2019

Purifying Beam

"Your eyes will turn to glass..." If you're curious about what's going down in Jane's garden, turn up this spooky Britfolk gem from 1970.
Trees - The Garden Of Jane Delawney

Friday, January 11, 2019

Pass The Time

Nick Drake? Nope, Dave Evans. Good vibes.
Dave Evans - City Road

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Behind The Sun

In search of a good read? Musician Peter Case peels back some layers of the onion and proves in a personal memoir that he's a true member of the Incredible Stringband appreciation society. Fun fact: even Bobby D. dug their October Song. "I met a man whose name was Time, and he said, I must be goin'..."
The Incredible String Band - October Song
Peter Case - Entella Hotel

Monday, January 7, 2019

Come Lately

Johnny come listen again, as we present another musical six pack of Johnnys. Artwork as usual by the fabulous Tinca. "Old Johnny vowed that he would never, ever end up like the rest..."

Friday, January 4, 2019

Destination Egypt

A lovely slice of contemporary cosmic dubjazz, courtesy of veteran sun king Idris Ackamoor & his Pyramids. "Planet needs healing..." Indeed.
Idris Ackamoor & The Pyramids - Land Of Ra

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

On The Border

Ringing in the new year with some authentic norteño sounds from the wonderfully named Pingüinos del Norte. Rubén Castillo Juárez and co sure knew how to set a cantina on fire.
Los Pingüinos Del Norte - Yo Soy Norteño
Los Pingüinos Del Norte - Corrido De Luz Arcos