Posts Tagged ‘Richard Thompson’

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This incarnation of Fairport Convention comprising lead vocalist Sandy Denny and newcomers Dave Swarbrick and Dave Mattacks, together with founder members Richard Thompson on lead guitar and some vocals, Simon Nicol on rhythm guitar and Ashley Hutchings on electric bass, rehearsed and put together the album “Liege & Lief” over the summer of 1969 at a house in Farley Chamberlayne, near Braishfield, Winchester, launching its material with a sold-out concert in London’s Royal Festival Hall on 24th September that year. Liege & Lief  was the fourth album by the English folk rock band . It is often credited, though the claim is sometimes disputed, as the first major “British folk rock” album, It is the third album the group released in the UK during 1969, all of which prominently featured Sandy Denny as lead female vocalist (Denny did not appear on the group’s 1968 debut album). 

Gone were the covers of songs by Bob Dylan and others, replaced by electrified versions of traditional English folksongs (“Reynardine”, “Matty Groves”, “The Deserter”, “Tam Lin”), new compositions by band members but with a “traditional” feel (“Come All Ye”, “Farewell, Farewell”, “Crazy Man Michael”), and the first of a long line of instrumental medleys of folk dance tunes driven by Dave Swarbrick’s violin playing. The virtuoso fiddle and mandolin player Swarbrick, was a little older than the rest of the band, had already been in a successful duo with guitarist Martin Carthy. After his appearance on Unhalfbricking, he joined Fairport full-time. Much of the traditional material had been found by Hutchings in Cecil Sharp’s collection, maintained by the English Folk Dance and Song Society, although Swarbrick has elsewhere claimed credit as the source of the traditional material used.

Also rehearsed and/or recorded, but omitted from the final album, were versions of The Byrds’ “Ballad of Easy Rider”, the traditional ballad “Sir Patrick Spens” with Sandy Denny on lead vocals, and “The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood”, a Richard Fariña lyric he had set to a traditional Irish melody, the last two of which were to appear in different arrangements on later albums by Fairport Convention and Sandy Denny, respectively.

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Liege & Lief is composed of two Middle English words: liege meaning loyal and lief meaning ready. The cover, a gatefold in grey and purple, featured cameo images of the band along with track listing and credits. On the inside of the original gatefold cover, a set of illustrated vignettes told the story of ten different aspects of English traditional music and folklore, including notes on customs such as pace-eggers and the Padstow hobby-horse, as well as collectors such as Francis James Child (of “Child Ballads” fame) and Cecil Sharp.

The band toured the UK for several months, also visiting Denmark, performing the Liege & Lief material before recording it in the studio (also including a performance recorded for BBC radio’s Top Gear). However, in November 1969, even before the album was released on 2nd December, both Hutchings and Denny quit the band: Hutchings to further pursue traditional music in a new band Steeleye Span, and Denny to form her new venture Fotheringay, with more emphasis on her own original compositions.

 “Liege and Lief” won the award for Most influential Folk Album of all time.

In 2007 a double album “Liege and Lief Deluxe Edition” was released; the second album consisted mainly of BBC radio live performances and two stylistically uncharacteristic outtakes, the great American songbooks standards “The Lady Is a Tramp” and “Fly Me to the Moon”.

The Band:
Sandy Denny – vocals
Dave Swarbrick – fiddle, viola
Richard Thompson – electric & acoustic guitars, backing vocals
Simon Nicol – electric, 6-string & 12-string acoustic guitars, backing vocals
Ashley Hutchings – bass guitar, backing vocals
Dave Mattacks – drums, percussion

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In November 1986; the month that this Double Live album was recorded Erasure, Duran Duran, Kim Wilde and Swing Out Sister were topping the UK Pop Charts; yet Richard Thompson’s music has aged much better than any of them. It’s not that his music; in particular his songwriting hasn’t evolved in the intervening 34 years; but if he turned up at your local concert hall with the same band of musicians in tow and played this set note for note; you would still be thrilled and satisfied at an evening and money well spent.
Arguably recorded at the height of Thompson’s ‘Commercial success’ this album was originally a radio show so the production is far clearer than a bootleg or two that I own from the same era; and the intricacy of his sublime and inventive guitar playing shines through every song. Starting with a huge roar that greets Thompson, the first song Man in Need (from Shoot Out The Lights) gets the evening off to a fantastic start; combining as it does, Thompson’s trademarked Folk sensibilities with his Electric guitar ……. showing that Folk Rock really could and still can R.O.C.K!

Although promoting the “Daring Adventures album at the time Thompson also dips daringly into his back catalogue; breathing new life into the likes of “Calvary Cross, Two Left Feet” and a personal favourite of mine; “Tear Stained Letter” …… which are still regular parts of his current concerts.

As you’d expect from a Richard Thompson concert there are surprises around every corner; and just when you’re not expecting it he drops in the Whitefriar’s Hornpipe/Shreds and Patches medley; featuring the dexterous accordion playing of John Kirkpatrick; and while not my first musical love proves to be a real toe-tapper.
There’s plenty here for part-time fans most especially You Don’t Say with Richard and Clive Gregson trading verses and harmonising like Folk’s answer to the Everly Brothers; plus I’d totally forgot that Thompson supplied the theme tune to Life and Loves of a She-Devil; and Christine Collister’s vocals and Thompson’s spooky tune.

It’s a long time since I played the album; but I don’t remember Shoot Out The Lights or Al Bowly’s in Heaven sounding this dark and dangerous, here both sound almost Gothic in tone.
For a Favourite Track I’m not sure whether to go for the tried and trusted in Wall of Death  or something brand new to me; in this case The Angels Took My Racehorse Away (from 1972’s Henry The Human Fly) which blew me away the first time I heard it but I’m going to compromise with the fabulous Nearly In Love; a song I loved way back when, from the Daring Adventures because Thompson proves what a skilled craftsman he was with storytelling and song construction; plus his guitar playing throughout shows why so many people rate him as one of the most innovative guitars players of all time. Apart from Richard Thompson’s voice being a tad smoother and more excitable than it is today; these songs and the man himself don’t appear to have aged a single day in the intervening years on this marvellous live set from my hometown Nottingham.

Recorded Live At Rock City, Nottingham, November – 1986

Named by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the Top 20 Guitarists of All Time, Richard Thompson is also one of the world’s most critically acclaimed and prolific songwriters. He has received Lifetime Achievement Awards for Songwriting on both sides of the Atlantic – from the Americana Music Association in Nashville to Britain’s BBC Awards and the prestigious Ivor Novello.

In 2011, Thompson was the recipient of the OBE (Order of the British Empire) personally bestowed upon him by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. Most recently, the Americana Music Honors & Awards nominated him for ”Artist of the Year”.

Tracklist:
1. Man In Need (Live) ( 3:56)
2. When The Spell Is Broken (Live) ( 7:31)
3. Two Left Feet (Live) ( 3:53)
4. Jennie (Live) ( 5:28)
5. A Bone Through Her Nose (Live) ( 6:33)
6. Calvary Cross (Live) (10:23)
7. Al Bowlly’s In Heaven (Live) ( 6:33)
8. Whitefriar’s Hornpipe Shreds And Patches (Live) ( 4:53)
9. You Don’t Say (Live) ( 5:02)
10. Wall Of Death (Live) ( 3:53)
11. Fire In The Engine Room (Live) ( 3:54)
12. The Life And Loves Of A She Devil Theme Tune (Live) ( 7:46)
13. The Angels Took My Racehorse Away (Live) ( 4:41)
14. Shoot Out The Lights (Live) ( 6:46)
15. Nearly In Love (Live) ( 4:38)
16. Tear Stained Letter (Live) ( 7:56)

Was there really a time when guitar maestro Richard Thompson was still struggling to establish himself as a solo artist? Yes. Was there a time when he wasn’t a preternaturally commanding solo artist? Seemingly not.

As one of the greatest guitarists of his generation, Richard Thompson has played with some of the world’s most accomplished rock and folk musicians, starting, of course, with his first band, Fairport Convention. But of all the outfits Thompson has led during his sterling, post-Fairport, solo career, perhaps the finest was the unit he took out on the road with him for his 1985 tour supporting his then-current studio release (and first for the Polydor label), “Across A Crowded Room”. While the album’s recording sessions had featured Fairport Convention stalwarts Simon Nicol and Dave Mattacks on rhythm guitar and drums, respectively. For the tour Thompson enlisted the considerable talents of Any Trouble leader Clive Gregson and his creative partner Christine Collister, whose haunting harmonies (and occasional songwriting contributions) beautifully fleshed out the band’s live sound.

The double live album “Across a Crowded Room – Live at Barrymore’s 1985” documents an electrifying Ottawa performance from a period when the world’s greatest living guitar stylist , not to mention one of the finest songwriters the 20th century ever spat out.  Thompson was still a relatively unknown quantity without his erstwhile musical and matrimonial partner Linda, at least outside his native England. There was an abortive first stab at a solo career represented by 1972’s commercial disaster Henry the Human Fly, but 1985’s Across a Crowded Room was only Thompson’s second post-duo album. And Thompson himself has stated that it wasn’t until he partnered with Capitol Records a few years later that his tours stopped hemorrhaging currency.

But even the most cursory of listens quickly reveals that Thompson’s touring band for these shows supporting Across a Crowded Room was a crack outfit capable of deftly supporting the boss man’s superlative material and mind-melting guitar work. Some of his old Fairport convention buddies pitched in on the album but were apparently unavailable for touring. Instead, another U.K. folk-rock stalwart, Gerry Conway of Pentangle and Fotheringay (and later Fairport) took the drum stool. Rory McFarlane stepped in on bass. But possibly the most important additions to the band were singer/guitarists Clive Gregson and Christine Collister.

Clive Gregson had recently disbanded his British power-pop band, Any Trouble; he and Collister were then just about to launch themselves as a duo more than a little influence by Richard and Linda. When they lent their well honed harmonies to Thompson’s tour, they gave him arguably the finest vocal blend he’s ever achieved onstage, giving the songs an extra push over the top.

Not that any band where Richard Thompson has a guitar in hand needs any extra assistance. Though his reputation as a guitar hero would grow even greater in the years to come, Thompson was already worshiped as a six-string superhero by his hardy cult following by this point. And he approaches his instrument with the requisite amount of magic here. “Shoot out the Lights,” which would become probably his most famous guitar showcase, was still a relative new song in his repertoire at the time, but Thompson brings as much danger, mystery, and mastery to it here as ever. With his instrument alternately rattling, roaring, murmuring, and howling, he leaps far outside the convention language of the guitar (or any other instrument, for that matter) to bring the gloriously creepy, foreboding tune to its climax.

Thompson brought the bulk of his new album onstage, which is an almost entirely positive development, since songs like the bittersweet “When the Spell is Broken,” the feverish “Fire in the Engine Room,” and the explosive “She Twists the Knife Again” are all in the top tier of his work. And while audiences in ’85 were forced to sit through the turgid, endless (and thankfully anomalous) “Love in a Faithless Country,” contemporary listeners can simply skip to the next track.

Besides all of the aforementioned plus sharpshooting versions of Richard & Linda staple classic’s like “Wall of Death,” “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight,” and “Withered and Died,” the Barrymore’s set includes a trio of tunes never heard on any other official Richard Thompson release that will catch the fancy of Thompson trainspotters (and you’d best believe he’s got his fair share of those in his audience).

Gregson and Collister each take a turn up front, the former singing “Summer Rain” from his contemporaneous solo debut album, Strange Persuasions and the latter delivering “Warm Love Gone Cold,” a song she recorded for a BBC TV adaption of Fay Weldon’s novel The Life and Loves of a She-Devil. But if hearing Thompson accompany somebody else doesn’t spark your plugs, the closing track undoubtedly will. Things end with a balls-out rockabilly rave-up on another tune unique to the Thompson catalog, a riotous cover of “Skull and Cross Bones” by little known ’50s rockabilly singer Sparkle Moore, serving as a reminder that in his impressionable years, the king of British folk rock spent his fair share of time soaking up American rock ‘n’ roll.

Across a Crowded Room—Live at Barrymore’s 1985 is an essential addition to the Richard Thompson discography and offers enduring testimony as to the kind of magic the man can conjure on stage.

words, thanks to rockandrollglobe.com

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This week my most awaited LP of 2018 thus far coming from the inimitable Low on their shadowy electronic masterpiece, ‘Double Negative’. There are synths akimbo on the new one from MCR up-n-comers Pale Waves, reminding me of a more youthful Kristin Kontrol (if only everyone loved that LP as much as I did), or a less saccharine Tegan & Sara. In fact, it’s a very electronic week on the heavy hitters, Those of you who love a good guitar can do FAR worse than The Goon Sax’s new outing on the ever-reliable Wichita Recordings, absolutely brimming with lyrical fire and melodic cleverness, and with the propulsive slacker vibes the Aussies do so well.

Low

Low  –  Double Negative

In 2018, Low will turn twenty-five. Since 1993, Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker—the married couple whose heaven-and-earth harmonies have always held the band’s center—have pioneered a subgenre, shrugged off its strictures, recorded a Christmas classic, become a magnetic onstage force, and emerged as one of music’s most steadfast and vital vehicles for pulling light from our darkest emotional recesses. But Low will not commemorate its first quarter-century with mawkish nostalgia or safe runs through songbook favorites. Instead, in faithfully defiant fashion, Low will release its most brazen, abrasive (and, paradoxically, most empowering) album ever: Double Negative, an unflinching eleven-song quest through snarling static and shattering beats that somehow culminates in the brightest pop song of Low’s career.

To make Double Negative, Low reenlisted B.J. Burton, the quietly energetic and adventurous producer who has made records with James Blake, Sylvan Esso, and The Tallest Man on Earth in recent years while working as one of the go-to figures at Bon Iver’s home studio, April Base. Burton recorded Low’s last album, 2015’s Ones and Sixes, at April Base, adding might to many of its beats and squelch and frisson beneath many of its melodies.

This time, though, Sparhawk, Parker, and bassist Steve Garrington knew they wanted to go further with Burton and his palette of sounds, to see what someone who is, as Sparhawk puts it, “a hip-hop guy” could truly do to their music. Rather than obsessively write and rehearse at home in Duluth, Minnesota, they would often head southeast to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, arriving with sketches and ideas that they would work on for days with Burton. Band and producer became collaborative co-writers, building the pieces up and breaking them down and building them again until their purpose and force felt clear. As the world outside seemed to slide deeper into instability, Low repeated this process for the better part of two years, pondering the results during tours and breaks at home. They considered not only how the fragments fit together but also how, in the United States of 2018, they functioned as statements and salves.

Double Negative is, indeed, a record perfectly and painfully suited for our time. Loud and contentious and commanding, Low fights for the world by fighting against it. It begins in pure bedlam, with a beat built from a loop of ruptured noise waging war against the paired voices of Sparhawk and Parker the moment they begin to sing during the massive “Quorum.” For forty minutes, they indulge the battle, trying to be heard amid the noisy grain, sometimes winning and sometimes being tossed toward oblivion. In spite of the mounting noise, Sparhawk and Parker still sing. Or maybe they sing because of the noise. For Low, has there ever really been a difference?

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Toy  –  The Willo

Since 2010, Toy have earned a reputation as a band of integrity, virtuosity and taste, with Tom, Maxim, Dominic, Charlie and (joining in 2015) Max creating a sound that is embedded in the underground tradition, yet distinctly their own. Now here comes a two-track twelve-inch on Tough Love, a foretaste of a forthcoming album in January 2019, which marks a new dawn for this most singular of bands.

‘The Willo’ is a dreamlike, seven-minute glide, redolent of a forest at sunset and just as pretty, but not without hints of malevolence. Maxim’s fingerpicking acoustic melds with electric twang from Dominic, and a whirling organ from Max Oscarnold gives this elegant creation an extra layer of disorientation and depth. “People appear to have seen Will-o’-the-wisp, a mysterious green-blue light, over the centuries. It generally means something ominous is about to happen”, says Tom.

Then there is ‘Energy’, which lives up to its name with thunderously metronomic drums from Charlie Salvidge and a ferocious guitar from Dominic O’Dair. The lyrics, culled from a story written by Max about a nighttime ritual, are obscured by the barrage-like forward momentum of the music.

The twelve-inch, recorded and mixed by the band between Oscarnold’s Stoke Newington flat and a south London studio, is the first release for Toy on their new label Tough Love, representing the latest stage in the evolution of the band. Since their inception, they have released the acclaimed albums Toy (2012), Join The Dots (2013) and Clear Shot (2016), and toured everywhere from Serbia to China, while holding onto that youthful, magical moment of discovering strange new worlds of innocence and experience.

Goonsax

The Goon Sax

The Goon Sax are James Harrison, Louis Forster and Riley Jones from Brisbane, Australia. Still in high school when they made their first album Up To Anything in 2016, their brand of awkwardly transcendent teenage guitar pop took earned them wide-spread critical acclaim.

For album number two, they flew to Melbourne to record with James Cecil and Cameron Bird, respectively former/current members of Architecture In Helsinki, and ‘We’re Not Talking’ shows how much can change between the ages of 17 and 19. It’s a record that takes the enthusiasms of youth and twists them into darker, more sophisticated shapes. Relationships are now laced with hesitation, remorse, misunderstanding and ultimately compassion.

Drummer Riley Jones really comes to the fore here, joining Louis and James in singing lead and writing songs for the first time, making the band the musical equivalent of an equilateral triangle (the strongest shape in physics).

Delivering brilliantly human and brutally honest vignettes of adolescent angst, The Goon Sax brim with personality, charm and heart-wrenching honesty. ‘We’re Not Talking’ is a record made by restless artists, defying expectations as if hardly noticing, and its complexity makes ‘We’re Not Talking’ even more of a marvel.

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Dilly Dally – Heaven

Heaven highlights Dilly Dally’s rough edges in all their ragged glory, drawing every potent ounce of energy from the foursome’s swampy tones, raspy vocals, and volatile rhythm section. While the music is undeniably ferocious, there’s uplift woven into the fabric of every track. The album opens with the dreamy “I Feel Free”, which begins as a floating, untethered soundscape before transforming into a soaring anthem for a world that’s ready to finally turn the page on all the darkness and disillusion the last few years have wrought. The inexorable “Believe” insists on self-confidence, while the driving “Sober Motel” celebrates the lucidity a clear mind, and the lilting “Sorry Ur Mad” makes a case for releasing yourself from the prisons of anger and resentment. Heaven carves out its own atheistic religion to get through the day, a faith that validates our pain as real but responds with a beaming light of hope. [Limited white colored vinyl pressing also available.]

Slothrust the pact

Slothrust  –  The Pact

Slothrust is principal songwriter, guitar player and unrepentant aesthete Leah Wellbaum, with drummer Will Gorin and bassist Kyle Bann. On their fourth full-length album The Pact, Slothrust constructs a luscious, ethereal cosmos perforated with wormy portals and magic wardrobes, demonstrating more clearly than ever the band’s deft shaping of contrasting sonic elements to forge a muscular sound that’s uniquely their own. Bizarre and mundane, tender and confident. The awkward duality of the forever outsider, rightly reclaimed as power. This is The Pact. Produced and engineered by Billy Bush in Los Angeles (the band’s new home base), Slothrust’s new album is a confident journey across 12 songs that oscillate between a quietly reflective tenderness and a slick, sleek confidence; balancing playful innocence with ballsy swagger. “This is the most fun I’ve ever had making a record,” Wellbaum confirms. “We were able to take risks. I’m saying yes more than no these days.”

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Pale Waves  – My Mind Makes Noises

After signing a record deal with Dirty Hit in 2017, Manchester’s Pale Waves released their debut single “There’s a Honey”, followed by “Television Romance”. The following year, the band were ranked fifth in the BBC Sound of 2018 poll and won the NME Under the Radar Award at the NME Awards. They now return with their debut album which features the singles ‘There’s A Honey’, ‘Television Romance, ‘Kiss’, ‘Eighteen’ and new single ‘Black’.

Pale Waves are Heather (vocals, guitar), Ciara (drums), Hugo (guitar) and Charlie (bass).

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Richard Thompson – 13 Rivers

Richard Thompson’s new album is his first self-produced record in over a decade. It’s a minimal and spacious recording which, according to Thompson, is a projection of current events in his life. “This has been an intense year for myself and my family, getting older doesn’t mean that life gets easier! There are surprises around every bend. I think this reflects in the immediacy of the stories, and the passion in the songs. Sometimes I am speaking directly about events, at other times songs are an imaginative spin on what life throws at you. The music is just a mirror to life, but we try to polish that mirror as brightly as possible.” 13 Rivers spans thirteen tracks. It is an album as much about growth as it is about reflection. Says Thompson, “I don’t know how the creative process works – I suppose it is some kind of bizarre parallel existence to my own life. I often look at a finished song and wonder what the hell is going on inside me. We sequenced the weird stuff at the front of the record, and the tracks to grind your soul into submission at the back.” [Limited black and cream colored vinyl pressing also available.]

Firstaidkittenderofferings

First Aid Kit – Tender Offerings

“Technically, Tender Offerings are the four songs that did not make it onto Ruins. For these ladies, these precious songs did not fit the bombastic folk-nature of the album. Instead, they truly felt like tender offerings; too sweet and soft in scope to be fluidly aligned with their other tracks. Once, you hear such gorgeous tracks like, “I’ve Wanted You” and “All That We Get” you will understand their point. Instrumentally, you feel every hook, melody, and chorus was precisely and clearly made as a cloud creates a raindrop. This duo turn their guitar melodies into field of amber strings dancing in the suns of their voices like grains move with daylight.”

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Paul Weller – True Meanings

To put it simply, True Meanings, the fourteenth Paul Weller solo album and the 26th studio album of his entire career, is a record unlike any he has ever made before. It’s characterized by grandiose-yet-delicate, lush orchestration: an aesthetic to which Weller’s better-than-ever voice, singing some of his most nakedly honest words, is perfectly suited. A dreamy, peaceful, pastoral set of songs to get lost in, it’s both an album that his faithful audience has been wanting him to make for a long time, and an album that many new people outside of that audience will relate to.

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The Doors – Waiting For The Sun [Reissue/1968]

50th Anniversary reissue. This double-CD and single-LP collection features a new version of the album’s original stereo mix on both CD and 180-gram vinyl LP, which has been newly remastered from the original master tapes by Bruce Botnick, the Doors’ longtime engineer/mixer. The CD set also includes a second disc of 14 completely unreleased tracks: nine recently discovered “rough mixes” from the album recording sessions and five live songs from a 1968 Copenhagen show.

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Joni Mitchell – Both Sides Now: Live at The Isle of Wight Festival 1970 DVD

Directed by Academy Award winning filmmaker Murray Lerner, Both Sides Now: Live At The Isle Of Wight Festival 1970 features new interviews with Joni, discussing her recollections of the event intercut with festival footage, both onstage and behind the scenes, offering a fascinating insight into a now legendary concert from the artists point of view and putting the events of the day into context.

When Richard Thompson performed at Delfest in May, he confronted the dilemma he faces at almost every show: How long can he ignore the calls from the audience for his best known song, “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” before he gives in and plays it? he gave in early and played it halfway through the set.

Performing solo-acoustic at the big outdoor stage within the racetrack on the north bank of the Potomac River, Thompson said, “I’d like to thank Del McCoury for popularizing this song in the United States. He sang some different words,” Thompson added with a cryptic smirk, “but that’s okay. This, however, is the only version of the song you’ll hear today in B-flat.” McCoury, who has dominated 21st-century bluegrass in both awards and reviews, had taken this British musician’s song about a British motorcycle and British geography and made it a favorite of bluegrass and Americana audiences across the ocean.

Thompson, is a huge fan of older American music, had deliberately set out to write a song about an outlaw who rides a motorcycle rather than a horse, and to make the story as British as possible. The motorcycles mentioned aren’t American models but British: Vincents, Indians, Nortons and Greeves; the only place name in the song is Box Hill, a summit in Surrey’s North Downs and a popular cycling destination. McCoury changed the journey’s destination to Knoxville, but he left the names of the motorcycles alone Harleys are never mentioned—and yet the song has become a bluegrass classic.

“It’s important to make music that incorporates elements from where you come from,” Thompson added, “so you’re contributing something of yourself into the music. If you’re from England and you’re writing about the Mississippi Delta, there’s something missing. You can be a good imitator, but what are you bringing to the process? The early British Invasion bands really came to life when they stopped doing covers of American songs and started doing original tunes.”

“’Vincent’ started with the frustration of coming from Britain and wanting to reflect British culture,”said Thompson  “It’s hard to find mythological elements from my lifetime to build a song around, because American culture has been so dominant. The mythical places are Laramie and Cheyenne. ‘Going Back to Lancaster’ doesn’t have the same ring to it.”

Thompson recorded the original version of “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” on his 1991 album Rumor and SighIt’s a beautifully constructed song. It opens with some fast and tricky acoustic-guitar picking, a catchy phrase that ends on a high note, then on a low, back and forth, till it descends into the lower register. The same motif provides not only interludes between verses but also the coda.

“’1952 Vincent Black Lightning’ is a song I reinterpret every night,” Thompson said. “I play around with the instrumental part; it’s a Scottish rhythm but other things creep in. In terms of structure, it’s quite similar to a Scottish ballad from the 17th century, but that’s probably a good thing. It’s a structure with which I’m familiar, and it’s a structure that works. It encourages an economy of language and a power of language. It hasn’t been surpassed.”

For all its roots in Scottish folk music, “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” is quite innovative in its narrative structure. Most folk and pop songs are monologues by one speaker; even dialogues are rare. But Thompson’s song has four characters: Red Molly (a teenage girl attracted to motorcycles and the boys who ride them), James Addie (a young, low-level thief whose prized possession is the titular vehicle), Sergeant McRae (the cop pursuing the young thief) and an unnamed narrator. Each role has a fair number of lines, and the result is more like a play than a poem.

“In the context of popular song,” Thompson pointed out, “where you got three verses in three minutes, it helps to cut to the chase by jumping into the middle of the story. You don’t have to set it up so elaborately or end it so carefully. I often amuse myself by starting a story without knowing where it was going. You finish it and you realize that it’s you or someone you know. But it doesn’t matter whether it’s about you or someone else; it’s only important that it works as a song and says something about humanity.”

In the second act, James gives Molly an engagement ring along with a warning: “I’ll tell you in earnest, I’m a dangerous man. I’ve fought with the law since I was 17, and I’ve robbed many a man to get my Vincent machine.” The warning is fulfilled when Sergeant McRae comes looking for Molly to tell her that her fiancé took a shotgun blast during a robbery and it doesn’t look good at the hospital. (The song’s one flaw is the cop’s name; “Sergeant McCree” would make a much better rhyme with “armed robbery.”)

In the third act, Molly is at the hospital bed, where James is hallucinating about supernatural motorcyclists: “Angels on Ariels in leather and chrome swooping down from heaven to carry me home.” With his last breath, he presses the keys for the Vincent into her tear-dampened hands.

“It surprised me that it’s become such a popular song,” Thompson said, “because it’s a ballad with eight stanzas. I’m surprised that people have the attention span. ‘Vincent’ is my most requested song, and ‘Beeswing’ is the second, which is another story song with even more stanzas. In some communities many years ago, such songs were the only process for communicating the news, but it surprises me that it still works. People like stories in the context of a TV program, a stage play or a movie, but it’s surprising that it works in pop music. Maybe there’s an element of escaping from your own life into someone else’s.”

As he mentioned above, Thompson keeps messing around with the song, especially the instrumental interludes, and the song continues to evolve. As good as the original studio version, the versions on his various live albums (most notably Live from Austin TX) are even better.

Unhalfbricking front

“Unhalfbricking” was the third album by the British folk rock band Fairport Convention and their second album released in 1969. It is seen as a transitional album in their history and marked a further musical move away from American influences towards more traditional English folk songs that had begun on their previous album, What We Did on Our Holidays and reached its peak on the follow-up, Liege & Lief, released later the same year. 1969 was a roller-coaster year for Fairport Convention. In January of that year they released their second album What We Did On Our Holidays, the first with singer Sandy Denny. In May they hit rock bottom with a tragedy that killed two people including one of its members. Miraculously they recovered and released the album that defines the British folk rock revival of that period, the iconic Liege and Lief. By December Sandy Denny and bass player Ashley Hutchings had left the band to form Fotheringay and Steeleye Span and the classic Fairport Convention lineup was no more. And that was not all, for these events book-ended one more album that the band managed to record and release during that prolific period, One of the classic records from that era, “Unhalfbricking”.

The band was going through a Bob Dylan phase at the time, resulting with three covers of his songs on the album. Dylan’s version of Million Dollar Bash, later to appear at the Basement Tapes album but at that point not yet released, came to the band through producer Joe Boyd’s song publishing company which had access to Dylan’s new recorded materials. The great mandolin accompaniment is courtesy of Dave Swarbrick, who made a number of excellent recordings with Martin Carthy between 1965 and 1968, and was called by  Joe Boyd to guest on a number of songs on Unhalfbricking. Another Dylan cover was for a relatively unknown song, If You Gotta Go, Go Now. Dylan recorded it in 1965 for his Bringing It All Back Home album but decided not to include it in the album, instead releasing it as a single in the Netherlands in 1967. Manfred Mann covered the song soon after Dylan recorded it in 1965. Fairport Convention gave it an interesting twist by singing it in French, translated to Si Tu Dois Partir.

Fairport Convention 1969

Fairport Convention was playing a gig at the Middle Earth and thought it would be amusing to do Dylan’s song in French Cajun style, so the band called for volunteers from the audience to help with the translation. Richard Thompson: “About three people turned up, so it was really written by committee, and consequently ended up not very Cajun, French or Dylan.” The studio version is a better attempt at the Cajun style, featuring Dave Swarbrick on fiddle, Richard Thompson on accordion and Trevor Lucas, who later formed Fotheringay with Denny, on triangle. The band was quite inventive when it came to producing interesting sounds in the studio. Joe Boyd, from his book White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s:Martin created the Cajun washboard sound for “Si Tu Dois Partir” by stacking some plastic Eames chairs and running his drumsticks along them. The percussion break was supposed to feature an empty milk bottle lying on the topmost chair, but when the time came it fell and smashed on the floor. I signaled frantically to keep playing. The crash of broken glass was absolutely in time and worked perfectly, a good omen for the session.” The song was released as a single, reaching #21 in the UK singles chart, and got the band its only appearance at Top of the Pops on August 14, 1969.

Of the three Dylan covers Percy’s Song, recorded by Dylan in 1963 for his third album The Times They Are a-Changin‘. The song did not make it into the album and was released some twenty years later on the Biograph collection. The song lyrics are a futile plea to a judge to reconsider a harsh sentence given to a driver in a fatal car accident. Sandy sings a beautiful harmony with Ian Matthews who left the group after their previous album had been the band’s male vocalist Matthews left during the recordings for Unhalfbricking to make his own album Matthews’ Southern Comfort, after recording just one track, “Percy’s Song”, and her interpretation is the best I know for this lesser known Dylan tune. Guitar player Simon Nicol said this of Denny’s vocal on the song: “It needs a voice like Sandy’s to get the shades of emotion across, from moodiness to compassion to outright fury. There’s not many singers can do that.”

One song on Unhalfbricking points to the direction that the band will take on their next album. A Sailor’s Life is a traditional song brought to the band by Sandy Denny. The song, indexed as Roud 237 in the English Folk Dance and Song Society, was previously covered by Judy Collins on her album A Maid of Constant Sorrow in 1961 and by Martin Carthy on his second album from 1966.
Fairport Convention’s version is a milestone in British folk rock, maybe the first time a serious rock interpretation was given to an old ballad. Sheila Chandra, who was inspired by Sandy Denny’s delivery of the song and later covered it herself, found similarities to Indian music in Fairport Convention’s version: “The track is actually a microcosm of 2,000 years of Indian music – it goes from Vedic chanting on two or three notes right through to full improvisations on a fixed note scale. All in one take. The band have realized that all folk music is based upon a drone, and shares a common root. For instance, the way the violin comes in with an insistent repeat of the drone note is reminiscent of the Indian wind instrument the Shenai, and its distant relative the shawm in Irish music. It all connects.” That violin is played by Dave Swarbrick, his finest contribution to the album.

Fairport Convention’s version of this poignant traditional song marks a pivotal point in the development of folk-rock, representing as it does a brilliant fusion of a traditional form with all the dynamic, exploratory approach of modern rock playing. The song had been a part of Sandy Denny’s repertoire when she joined Fairport. As a traditional song it had been known in many forms. A Sailor’s Life starts as a plaintive lament on the fickleness of sailors and the agonised waiting endured by their sweethearts until their return. The terrible irony of her rather bitter condemnation of the sailor’s life as ‘merry’ is brought home by the subsequent tragedy. The singer extols her beloved’s virtues before she sets off to find him. She hails a passing ship and is told that he is feared drowned. Beside herself with grief and despair, she runs her boat against a rock. This could be seen as a metaphor for another tragedy as she takes her own life. The song then echoes the stormy course of the bereaved woman’s grief, as it takes off into a passage of terrific ensemble playing, all instruments interweaving, building to an overwhelming intensity, before settling to a sombre resolution. There are echoes of everything from dirges to hornpipes in an extraordinary composition. The Unhalfbricking album, from which A Sailor’s Life comes, foreshadowed the more overtly folk-rock album Liege & Lief, often considered a classic of its kind. The title Unhalfbricking was taken from a word Sandy Denny came up with in the word game Ghost. The track A Sailor’s Life was done in one take.

Fairport Convention

John Wood, who was the principal sound engineer in the studio, recalls the recording of the song: “Richard and Sandy came in and said “we really think we can only do this once”. They already got Dave Swarbrick in to play on it. We put Sandy in a vocal booth (she had an awful cold that day too) and everybody else in a big semicircle. When you want to cut that sort of track, its not easy for people to work if its all sectioned off, so it was very open and that was it, one take, done. No overdubs.” Dave Swarbrick was given no specific instructions as to what to play on the song other than to just come in when the singing stops. He had fond memories from the session as well: “Sandy had a great band to soar over and a great bunch of musicians who were sympathetic. Richard and Sandy worked closely together. Richard was awesome, of course. That should be his middle name. But the band was cohesive and so special, the chemistry worked and the line-up was sensational.”

Who Knows Where The Time Goes hand written lyrics

I have two favorite songs on this album, and one of them is Sandy Denny’s Who Knows Where the Time Goes?. Denny wrote the song early in her career with the original title The Ballad Of Time. She was not yet 20 years of age when she wrote the mature lyrics about the passage of time. She sang it during her short stint with the Strawbs in 1967,  accompanied by Dave Cousins on guitar. Judy Collins gave the song an interpretation in 1968 on her album of the same name and as a B-side on her single Both Sides Now.
The song became one of Denny’s most enduring and beloved songs, and in 2007 it was voted by BBC Radio 2 listeners as their favorite folk rock track of all time. It was the last song to be recorded for “Unhalfbricking”, and the last drummer Martin Lamble will ever record with the band.

The album was recorded in the early months of 1969 at Sound Techniques and Olympic Studios in London. Sound Techniques was a go-to studio for many great psychedelic, rock and folk British acts of the time, including Nick Drake (Five Leaves Left, Bryter Layter), Incredible String Band (The 5000 Spirits Or The Layers Of The Onion), Jethro Tull (This Was), John Martyn (Solid Air), Pentangle (Cruel Sister), Pink Floyd (Arnold Layne), Steeleye Span (Parcel Of Rogues) and Fairport alumni Richard Thompson and Sandy Denny. John Wood assembled a roster of first-class musicians who acted as the house band for a great variety of recording sessions. Not surprisingly, many of them were associated with Fairport Convention, including Dave Mattacks and Gerry Conway on drums, Danny Thompson, Dave Pegg and Pat Donaldson on bass, Richard Thompson, Jerry Donahue and Simon Nicol on guitars.

“Unhalfbricking” was released in July of 1969, several weeks after the fatal accident on the M1 that killed drummer Martin Lamble and Jeannie Franklin (“Genie the Tailor”, who designed clothes for west-coast pop and rock elites), Richard Thompson’s recent girlfriend. The event questioned the band’s resiliency, and was followed by an amazing period of recovery that gave birth to Liege and Lief. Franklin was immortalized a month later when Jack Bruce dedicated his debut solo album Songs for a Tailor to her, and Elton John’s Tiny Dancer is likely about her as well with the telling lyrics “Blue Jean Baby, L. A. lady/Seamstress for the band”.

Fairport Convention accident news clip

“Unhalfbricking” climbed to a respectable #12 in the UK album chart, its name penned by Sandy Denny who came up with the made-up word in a game of Ghost the band was playing while traveling in their beat up van to shows. Uncharacteristic for its time, the front cover features a single photograph with no indication of the band or album name. Two people, Sandy Denny’s parents, are standing in front of their house on Arthur Road, Wimbledon in the autumn of 1968. In the background we can see the band lounging in the front yard. Even more uncool is the back cover with a picture of the band engaged in the domestic task of having a meal. The whole package smells of looking back at days of yore, keeping a distance from current trends.

A&M Records, who distributed the band’s albums in the US, found the album cover’s concept abnormal and instead decided in a curious creative burst that the average American consumer’s palate might appreciate a photo of three dancing circus elephants with a girl dancing (balancing?) on top. Underestimating the American record buyer’s tolerance to the unknown, the band and album titles were slapped on the US album cover.

The B-side on the single Si Tu Dois Partir went unnoticed at the time but over the years became one of Richard Thompson’s favorite performance songs. It is also my favorite tune on the album, achingly sang by Sandy Denny. It is one of the first in Thompson’s career-long strike of beautiful melancholic songs, the album opener Genesis Hall. Thompson on the topic of the song: “Genesis Hall was the name of a building in London that was occupied by squatters. The police went in and were far too brutal in evicting the people. My father was a policeman at the time, and although he was not involved in this operation, I could see the situation from both the squatters’ and police’s points of view. This was conflicting for me, and I tried to express that.”
The August 1969 issue of the underground newspaper International Times mentions an incident that took place in the Drury Lane Bell Hotel involving police and squatters. It happened in March of that year, when Fairport Convention was in the process of recording Unhalfbricking:  Thompson covers the song from time to time on his live shows, giving it a fantastic acoustic version. A great example is from the first episode of the BBC Songwriter’s Circle series from 2010.
Several reasons why this song moves me: The lyrics, again so mature for a 20 year old who has not written too many songs up to that point. The sad yet somewhat detached mood in which Sandy Denny sings them. The part where the whole band is soaring with her when they sing “Oh, oh, helpless and slow”. The dual guitar work by Richard Thompson and Simon Nicol. Martin Lamble’s drumming, sadly not discussed too often, demonstrating his ability to play very interesting patterns behind the melody as if he was playing a melodic instrument himself. Only a month after the band finished recording the album Lamble died in that car crash. The band went through a rough period of mourning and healing and came out on the other end with the album that defines British folk rock. Check out Richard Thompson’s biography, written by Patrick Humphries. A great resource for Thompson’s fans and an interesting chronicle of Fairport Convention during the time Thompson was with the band.

Ashley Hutchings said in relation to the album cover photograph:

My memory of it is bound up with the terrible car crash. On the back cover we’re all eating around a table. The shirt and the leather waistcoat I’m wearing are what I had on when the crash happened. I can clearly remember them being bloodstained. You don’t forget things like that.

Martin Lamble, a talented musician, died in 1969 in a crash while returning from a gig, aged 19. Dave Swarbrick, a highly influential fiddle player, has had health problems but joined Fairport on stage for a number in August 2010. Simon Nicol has been the band’s lead singer and guitarist since 1975. Ashley Hutchings, an outstanding bassist, has been a major force in music and helps make folk accessible to younger listeners. Richard Thompson has composed many acclaimed songs and tours regularly. He appears in many polls for the greatest guitarists of all time. Sandy Denny composed many great and enduring songs. One of the greatest of English folk artists, she died 21 April 1978, aged 31, following a fall.

Unhalfbricking back

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Universal Records will issue a seven-CD Fairport Convention box set in July that features ‘key album tracks’, non-album singles, radio sessions and previously unreleased live recordings from all of the classic line-ups

This collection celebrates Fairport’s first 10 years, beginning with their eponymous debut for Polydor in 1968, through all of their albums for Island Records and finishing with tracks from their two albums for Vertigo, The Bonny Bunch of Roses and Tippers Tales.

Out of the 121 tracks included almost half (55 to be exact) are previously unreleased, including alternate takes, live recordings, single mixes and TV performances and the like. As well as the aforementioned album tracks, box highlights include single B-sides, BBC Radio Sessions, five songs from the French TV programme, ‘Pop 2’ (December 1970), five songs from the Television show, ‘The Man They Couldn’t Hang’ (1971) and the audio for an entire concert at The Fairfield Halls, Croydon (December 16th 1973) and more.

Completists may scoff at this not including every last note that the seminal English folk-rock group from recorded during the first decade of its existence, but what is compiled on this seven-CD set is a near-perfect overview of what Fairport Convention has been doing for 50 years. The cream of the collection is previously unreleased live material and radio sessions where guitarists Simon Nicol and Richard Thompson were able to stretch out and show off their copious abilities. The box is also a testament to how sturdy the group’s sound has been as it endured various personnel changes through even its earliest incarnations.

Sleeves notes for this release come courtesy of writer Patrick Humphries. Come All Ye: The First Ten Years will be released on 28th July 2017.

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The Weather Station  –  The Weather Station

On her fourth (and tellingly self-titled) album as The Weather Station, Tamara Lindeman reinvents, and more deeply roots, her extraordinary, acclaimed songcraft, framing her precisely detailed, exquisitely wrought prose-poem narratives in bolder and more cinematic musical settings. The result is her most sonically direct and emotionally candid statement to date. The most fully realized statement to date from Toronto songwriter Tamara Lindeman. Self-titled and self-produced, the album unearths a vital new energy from Lindeman’s acclaimed songwriting practice, marrying it to a bold new sense of confidence.

CD – Digipack.

LP – Deluxe 140 Gram virgin vinyl LP features heavy-duty board jacket with full lyrics, full-colour inner sleeve, and high-res Download Card.

Yak yala! cover

Yak  –  All I Need Is Some Sunshine In My Life

Limited to just 300 Copies on 7″ Vinyl. Renowned for the ferocious intensity of their live shows, Yak are back with the new single All I Need Is Some Sunshine In My Life. Recorded with Tame Impala’s Jay Gum Watson in Kevin Parker’s studio in Perth, the track is Yak’s claustrophobic interpretation of The Dixie Nightingale’s cult gospel classic. “A loved one departed and on the way out sent me this song, so we ended up recording a delirious version in the blistering heat of Perth,” says Yak frontman Oli Burslem. “I love the original Dixie Nightingales’ version, it reminds me of songs like Wendy Rene’s ‘After Laughter’, which I imagined was recorded in the same studio with maybe even the same people playing.” On the b-side is Yak’s take on Lee Hazelwood’s Wait and See.

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Weaves  –  Wide Open

It’s been almost exactly a year since Weaves released their acclaimed self-titled debut LP, lauded internationally for its exuberant approach to guitar pop and recently nominated for this year’s Polaris Prize. It was a whirlwind year for the band who spent a nearly uninterrupted 12 months on the road, playing festivals across the globe, and touring with their fellow 2016 breakout artists Sunflower Bean and Mitski. Propelled forward by their own momentum, which they corralled like the barely contained energy of their explosive live sets, it was a life changing-experience, and upon returning home to Toronto the band’s leaders, singer Jasmyn Burke and guitarist Morgan Waters, found themselves possessed by an irrepressible burst of creative energy.

Burke and Waters half-jokingly refer to the album as their “Americana” record, and while the statement is made with tongues placed firmly in cheeks, the album, without discarding the punky pyrotechnics that defined their first LP, displays an expansive and anthemic quality in songs like the opener #53 and the sweeping Walkaway, that makes the joke ring half true. The record sees Burke extend herself as a performer – moving more frequently to the center of arrangements and revealing new facets of her unique and powerful singing voice – as the band find ways to interpret the growing diversity of her expression. From the glammy Saturday night strut of Slicked, to the stripped-down, pedal steel abetted torch song Wide Open, to the searing Scream, a warped duet with Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq that likely constitutes Weaves’ wildest recording to date, the album captures a band for whom exploration is a compulsion making a self-assured step into the unknown.

LP+ – Limited White Vinyl housed in Gatefold Sleeve with Download.

In 2017, the musical term “electronic” is nearly obsolete given the ubiquity of computerized
processes in producing music. Even so, the prevailing assumption is that musicians working
under this broad umbrella must be inspired by concepts equally as electrified as their
equipment. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith has demonstrated in her still-blooming discography that this
notion couldn’t be further from the truth, and that more often than not, rich worlds of synthesized
sound are born from deep reverence of the natural world. Smith (who by no coincidence, cites
naturalist David Attenborough as a contemporary muse) has embodied such an appreciation on
The Kid in as direct and sincere a way as possible by sonically charting the phases of life itself.
The album, which punctually follows up her 2016 breakthrough Ears, chronicles four defining
cognitive and emotional stages of the human lifespan across four sides of a double LP.
The first side takes us through the confused astonishment of a newborn, unaware of itself,
existing in an unwitting nirvana. Smith’s music has always woven a youthful thread befitting of the
aforementioned subject. Here she articulates it in signature fashion on the track “An Intention,”
which serves not only as a soaring spire on The Kid, but on her entire output. There is playfulness
here, but it’s elevated by an undertone of gravity into something compelling and majestic that is
fast becoming Smith’s watermark. The emotional focus of side two is the vital but under reported
moment in early youth when we cross the threshold into self awareness. The subject is profound
enough to fill an entire album, but rarely makes its way into a single track, indicating Smith’s
ambition to broach subtler and deeper subjects than the average composer. This side offers up
another highlight in the form of In The World But Not Of The World which serves its subject well
with epiphanic, climbing strings and decidedly noisy textures over a near-Bollywood low end
pulse. Side three emphasizes a feeling of being confirmed enough in one’s own identity to begin giving back to the formative forces of one’s upbringing, which is arguably the duty that all great artists aim to fulfill. This side ends with the exploratory album cut Who I Am and Why I Am Where I Am recorded in a single take without overdubs on the rare EMS Synthi 100 synthesizer. This humble piece of sound design serves as a contrast to side four’s verdant orchestral moments, all written and arranged for the EU-based Stargaze quartet by Smith herself. This final side represents a return to pure being, the kind of wisdom and peace that eludes most of us until the autumn of life. On To Feel Your Best this concept is voiced in the bittersweet refrain “one day I’ll wake up and you won’t be there” which Smith intended to be a grateful acknowledgement of life rather than a melancholy resentment of loss. The song has both effects depending on the mood of the listener, and both interpretations are equally moving. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith belongs to an ilk of modern musicians who are defined by their commitment to creating experiential albums despite the singles-oriented habits of modern listeners, and here she represents her kind proudly. The subjects on The Kid are not simple to convey, and yet through both emotional tone and lyrical content, Smith does just that. There is a similar gravity to both birth and death, and rarely is that correlation as accurately and enthusiastically mapped as it is here. Alan Watts, another logical inspiration of Smith’s, once expounded that people record themselves to confirm their own existence, and as such, echoes and resonance are reminders that we are alive. “You’re not there unless you’re recorded,” Watts muses, “if you shout, and it doesn’t come back and echo, it didn’t happen.” The Kid speaks to this idea directly. As Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith explores her existence through music, she guides us in gleefully contemplating our own.
2LP – Double Black Vinyl.
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Yumi Zouma –  Willowbank

Following last year’s lauded debut LP, Yumi Zouma return to Cascine with their sophomore album, Willowbank, a collection of dreamy, disco-indebted pop tracks. The album’s namesake is a wildlife reserve in the band’s home base of Christchurch, NZ, a community on the mend in the wake of a devastating earthquake in 2011. The Yumis, whose four members are scattered across the globe, reunited in New Zealand to write and record Willowbank. The result is an album that channels both the tight-knit togetherness and the unparalleled beauty of their native land. Willowbank is also some of Yumi Zouma’s best work to date, refining their effortless, windswept songwriting sensibility, while also exploring a new pallet of sounds and textures.

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Cults  –  Offering

Cults made their name in black and white. A pair of film school dropouts who burst onto the New York scene with a perfect single and a darkly retro sound, the band’s first two albums play like noirish documentaries on a lost girl group. Four years after Static, Cults returns with Offering, an exciting collection of songs bursting with heart, confidence, shimmering melody and buzzing life. The time off has given the band new energy and new ideas–Cults are working in Technicolour now. The core duo remains the same. Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion, both 28, still live in New York. They still finish each other’s thoughts and still share a love of catchy music and black humor (this is a band that sampled cult leader Jim Jones on their first hit). But the pair have put some blood on the tracks since their breakout debut: they’ve toured the world, built a devoted audience, survived a breakup, grown up in green rooms, parted ways with their old label and made a home of their new one.

Pains album cover

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – The Echo Of Pleasure

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart have long set the benchmark for big-hearted, idealistic pop songs. With The Echo of Pleasure, The Pains push beyond their many inspirations and embrace their role as indiepop heroes in their own right. Showcasing the deft songwriting of frontman Kip Berman, The Pains‘ fourth album is their most confident and accomplished. After three critically-acclaimed records, 2009’s The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, 2011’s Belong and 2014’s Days of Abandon received praise from The New York Times, Pitchfork, The Guardian and Rolling Stone, they have put together a collection of songs that possess a timeless grandeur, deeper and more satisfying than anything the band has done since their iconic debut.

It’s an album that reflects the band’s most joyous moments while maintaining Berman’s candid and critical lyricism, free of the self-abasing insecurity of youth. “The album is loving. The music is heavier, more expansive,” he says. “To me, songs about love shouldn’t be thought of as light. Love is big- sometimes it’s emphatic, overwhelming or simple – other times it’s tense, anxious or just exhausting. But at its best, it makes you want to be something better.”

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Miracle Legion  –  “Annulment”

First ever live album by Miracle Legion, Annulment was recorded during the band’s 2016 US reunion tour. Most of the album comes from a show at Codfish Hollow, Iowa plus tracks from the Bellhouse, Brooklyn show. Double CD with 25 songs

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Richard Thompson – Acoustic Classics 2

A continuation of the Acoustic Classics series, this collection features acoustic renderings of classic songs from the Richard Thompson catalog, including some previously recorded by other singers, some only available in a band format, and some only existing as cover versions.

3LP – Triple Gatefold Vinyl comprising Acoustic Classics II and the Acoustic Rarities albums.

Richard Thompson

Celebrated guitarist and songwriter Richard Thompson will release Acoustic Classics Vol. II on his own Beeswing record label, distributed via Proper, on August 11th. Richard will play Cropredy Festival in August, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Fairport Convention and tour the UK in October.

On the heels of the success of Acoustic Classics in 2014, Acoustic Classics Vol. II will feature acoustic renderings of classic songs from the Richard Thompson catalogue, some previously recorded by other singers, some previously available only in a band format. A second album Acoustic Rarities will be released later in the year featuring new recordings of some of the more obscure songs in the Thompson catalogue, some previously existing only as cover versions.

Terrific close-ups of Richard Thompson playing and Linda Thompson singing.The drummer is Michael Spencer Arscott
A short-lived touring combo of Richard and Linda Thompson, Dave Pegg, yours truly and Michael Spencer-Arscott playing up a nice steady storm behind the kit. He doesn’t seem to be on FB but members of his family are, back at his home in Bermuda, where he is still in music, seemingly producing but hopefully still keeping his playing chops up.
There are some interesting items in the repertoire, many of which have sadly not been seen or heard since. Hard Luck Stories, Sunnyvista, Don’t Let a Thief etc etc. Simon Nicol should apologise for my stage outfit. I was being post-ironic, channeling my inner Golf-Club Secretary. Honest.
Recorded live at Rockpalast, Markthalle, Hamburg, Germany, 10th January 1980. Richard Thompson, guitar; Linda Thompson, vocals; Simon Nicol, guitar; Dave Pegg, bass; Michael Oscar, drums.

1-1 For Shame Of Doing Wrong
1-2 Strange Affair
1-3 Hard Luck Stories
1-4 Crying In The Rain
Written-By – Carole King, Howard Greenfield
1-5 You’re Gonna Need Somebody
1-6 Pavanne
1-7 Sunnyvista
1-8 Don’t Let A Thief Steal Into Your Heart
1-9 Lonely Hearts
1-10 Sisters
1-11 Civilisation / Pipeline
1-12 Night Comes In
2-1 I’m A Dreamer
2-2 Borrowed Time
2-3 I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight
2-4 No Particular Place To Go