• Miss Olivia Kennett, Moving Pictures and Maryse at the Toadstool, Peterborough NH

    20 aug 2010, 20:38

    A couple of weeks ago, Denise and I went to the Toadstool bookstore to hear some music in a series that has included psych-folk, electronic and experimental performers. This was live performance at its best, and can't be reproduced on a CD or a DVD. The highlight of the evening for me was Miss Olivia Kennett, (http://www.myspace.com/missoliviakennett/) about whom more will be said below.

    The headliners were Moving Pictures (http://www.myspace.com/mopicsnh/), a band I had heard and been impressed by on the internet: they do some intricate meditative blends of feedback in their music, but I didn't expect the high-volume rock sound that came from the keyboards and guitar, which was too much for my 60-something ears. The lead singer wore two twigs in her hair, intended to look like deer antlers. They kept getting in the way of her guitar strap and falling out of her hair, so that at one point she remarked that she had started out as a 5-point buck but ended up as a 2.5 point, but still a buck. The performance was intriguing. At certain points, the musicians seemed to go into trances and look at the floor intently; this was probably partly in order to operate the foot-level electronic devices that allowed the feedback and buildup effects to happen, but partly, it seemed to be a transformation from one state of being to another. At one point the lead singer slumped over her keyboard, seemingly dying, and controlled the sound by sliding her hands heavily over the keys. At the end of the set, she promised that if we returned to see them the following Friday, she would be a completely different animal.

    The second band, Maryse (http://www.myspace.com/marysesmith), from Burlington VT, played mostly mellow songs very well. The lyrics and melodies seemed to have been written by the eponymous lead singer, and most were reflective, melancholy songs about breakups of love affairs. I highly recommend this band for its sound and obvious musical talent. This group is the one I would have sought out if I had known more about the bands that were playing, but I'm glad I didn't know in advance.

    I didn't think I'd ever heard Miss Olivia Kennett before, and didn't know what to expect, but it turns out I'd seen her last year in a previous "incarnation" as an anti-folk singer with patched jeans and an acoustic guitar. At that show she had said it was her last such performance and that she was doing more electronic experimental music from now on. She certainly lived up to her promise. I recommend seeing her in person if you can, since the songs on her MySpace page and, I think, on her CD, are not like what I heard and saw that night, and the visual aspect of the performance is absolutely central. She has designed and built a sound-controller the likes of which you have never seen before. It is a modified dressmaker's mannequin with electronics in its guts and light-sensitive (and -emitting) diodes mounted at strategic points. An electronic oscillator generates waveforms and she modulates these by shining a flashlight on the light-sensitive diodes. The Mannequin's left breast is covered with dozens of bright-colored sensors. The right breast has a single white sensor as its "nipple", and the belly-button and armholes seem to also contain sensors. The speed of motion of the flashlight, the direction of the beam made for a stockhausen-like concert of jagged sound, which, combined with Miss Kennett's provocative and purposeful embracing and encircling motions, suggested erotic arousal. Denise found the timbre of the sound reminiscent of power tools and therefore annoying, but I felt it as the static of a shortwave radio, which has always had positive associations for me. Listeners will bring different baggage to the performance, and they will take away different memories, but the performance is a tour-de-force. I assume that she improvises differently each time she puts on a show, so what you see and hear may be totally different. The closing number was performed on what appeared to be a variable-speed cassette player, which she manipulated continuously while it played a surrealistic fairy-tale. The voice on the tape may have been her own or someone else's but the variable speed made it sound like it was being recited alternately by a man and a woman. The recitation sort-of told the story of a person (woman) who dived into a frozen river and floated downstream, growing scales and becoming a fish, while another person (her lover, her killer) lamented on the shore and spoke of a life of "raising my axe to the sun" and killing trees, and of the hopeless search for the lost one. This was another unique and impressive performance. Miss Kennett wore dramatic striped stockings and a simple plain cotton dress this time, a fascinating combination of rebellion and demureness that was also reflected in the qualities of the performance.
    (cross-posted from my MySpace blog)
  • Radio Interview with Jude Cowan June 23, 2010

    27 jun 2010, 19:50

    I had the great pleasure of interviewing Jude Cowan on the radio last Wednesday. You can hear it (for a while at lteast) at http://halfredhouse.biz/wordpress/2010/06/23/wuml-interview-with-jude-cowan-2010-06-23/. Also, Jude now has a blog independent of MySpace at http://judecowan.blogspot.com/, and since MySpace has a cold war going on with blogspot, she hasn't been able to share the link there, so I'm sharing it here :)

    Two tracks from an album entitled North Acton 18/09/08 are freely playable on last.fm. Track 3 is really an early solo recording of Doodlebug Alley, and Track 2 is an early solo recording of Club Apache.
  • Doodlebug Alley, by Jude Cowan

    17 apr 2010, 14:05

    Doodlebug Alley, by Jude Cowan

    This is an album that will amply repay every bit of attention given to it. Each song is a short-short fiction, densely packed with , and allusions. All but one are original, and that exception, She Sits at the Window, is actually not a song at all, but a poem in the form of a duet with musical accompaniment. Each song stands alone.

    As with most new music worth listening to, this album defies genre classification. All the songs are . This is music to listen to and absorb. It is music in the sense that the themes are drawn from popular literature and the experiences of some of "the people", but it is also akin to . While there are a few repeated themes, there are no choruses to sing along with and no sustained danceable rhythmic passages.

    Like any works of fiction worth their salt, these songs are and unpredictable. Some of them are sung (or spoken) in the voices of unsympathetic characters who take some time to get used to... first impressions are not to be trusted. I have a deep sense that none of these characters is really Jude Cowan's core self, as she is sensitive and polite, if somewhat tongue-in-cheek, when corresponding with her many loyal friends on the internet. Schooled as a historian, she brings more background to each song than she has scope to make explicit; the ambience of each song is thus made rich and convincing.

    The name "doodlebug" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doodlebug) is filled with connotations. Not being well-versed on the subject of the London blitz, I didn't know the term referred to a type of bomb until I looked it up, but I had been aware of the use of the term to describe a snubbed-nosed railroad car used in Colorado and knew that the doodlebug was the larval stage of the ant-lion. The front cover of the album has a large of a woman with a , done in a style I associate with the illustrations of Carl Sandburg's or maybe the stories of L. Frank Baum, both of which series include bugs as characters. The back cover includes a doodle for each song on the album.

    Jude Cowan's vocal stylings are impossible to describe to anyone who hasn't heard them. My first impression on hearing The Lure of Paris was that she was floating through the air just behind my head doing a kind of backstroke as she sang. That song is about a wife, who, fed up with Putney and her boring banker husband, plans to run off to Paris and become a debauchee in the style of 's vision. The passion for Paris is balanced with violent passionate disdainful anger at the husband.

    Cowan accompanies herself on a , tuned one half-step lower than the standard tuning, on most of the songs. On various tracks, she is backed up by Nicky Bendix (http://www.myspace.com/nickybendix), Steve Cox, and Tom Fawcett. A series of videos recorded last year and available on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/solarisqs) is very much worth watching for the insight they give into both her instrumental style and her vocalizations. Two of these videos are early bare-bones versions of songs that ended up on the album, and the viewer can see how she makes some of the unusual vocal effects. As she sings, she repeatedly raises her eyes as if to an inner sky where her inspiration lives. The strings seem to just play themselves.

    In the title track, Doodlebug Alley, she makes the word "boom" sound like a dull thudding explosion or a heartbeat (both, actually). The song is about an ecstatic and illicit love affair in the London of the , told in the voice of the woman, who has a husband fighting the war but nonetheless feels justified in abandoning herself to the passion of the moment, with the bombs providing the percussive theme.

    In She Sits at the Window, Nicky Bendix's Eric Satie-like composition floats around and under a telephone conversation between two women (both played by Cowan) about a third woman, whom they are watching. The implied story of , loss, and has the potential to expand into a novel.

    Liberty is an with themes related to consumerism and boredom. The intense passages feel like ghosts circling around the singer's narrative.

    [track srtist=Jude Cowan]Jolly Roger[/track] is sung in the voice of a young woman who has conceived twins in an affair with a roving , and it works in every possible reference to related themes in the songs of the last three centuries. The ending is frighteningly bloodthirsty.

    Nations Nations is a medley of what sound like sickly-sweet Victorian British children's songs about the Queen, Jesus, and the virtues of the Mouse. In its center is placed the desperate plea of a daughter to her father not to get drunk and beat Mother. I don't know if the songs are made up from whole cloth or just assembled into a coherent medley, but the effect is powerful.

    I think Naughty Daddy is the closest to a political song on the album. It seems to be about taking sadistic revenge on one of the financiers that got us into "the late unpleasantness".

    Navaho Joe is about a boy who is ostracized in school and grows up to love horses rather than women. His mother tried to raise him right, but obviously failed. Somehow he dies and goes to heaven along with his beloved palomino, and they ride together into an eternal sunset. The song is a collage of put-downs and the associated is a horse's hindquarters.

    track artist=Jude Cowan]Club Apache[/track] talks of a doomed love affair in alternately sensuous and brassy tones. Lady Chatterly's Dream takes a moment from the D.H. Lawrence novel and expands deliciously on it.

    Francois Villon's most famous about facing his own anticipated death by hanging forms the kernel of Remember Sinners with Cowan chanting hauntingly while Tom Fawcett sings Villon's lines (as re-imagined by Cowan).

    The final song on the album is a song, Alien Folk Valediction. I can relate to this song. A lot of us living on this planet know we belong to a different place, an alien place, an aesthetically and emotionally valid home where, when we return there, our "molecules will have release" and our "soul will explode".

    I'm listening to every one of her songs that I can, and I strongly urge you to listen, too.
  • Anais Mitchell and the Hadestown Orchestra in Marlboro VT

    12 apr 2010, 12:31

    (cross-posted from my LiveJournal blog)
    We took a leisurely trip to the Marlboro College in the Green Mountains of south-central Vermont on Saturday and saw Anaïs Mitchell, Michael Chorney, and several of the brilliant musicians from the current production of her folk opera . While on the newly released CD Greg Brown sings Hades in his deep bass voice , Ani DiFranco sings Persphone and Justin Vernon sings Orpheus to Anaïs's Euridice, in Saturday's production, Anaïs sang all the parts. The opening act was a young singer-songwriter and Marlboro alumna, Helen Hummell, accompanied by a fine saxophonist and drummer Toby LaRoche. For us aging Quakers and peaceniks who had traveled to see this show, the starting time was a bit late, but as soon as the began, all eyes and ears were riveted to the stage. I strongly recommend listening to the CD of this opera, and if you can make it to upcoming performances in Vermont, Rhode Island and at Passim in Boston, that you make some effort to do so! Some performances of the songs from the last year or so are available to watch on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=hadestown+anais+mitchell&aq=0), mostly from Anaïs's British tour last year and from the previous production of the show. Once you have heard the songs and seen Anaïs perform some of them, you may want to know more of the background, and this MySpace blog entry (http://blogs.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=blog.view&friendId=21533191&blogId=530270552) is an excellent way to learn more about it. Since the story is based on two Greek myths ("Orpheus and Euridice" and "Hades and Persephone") and also includes elements of American culture along with echos of our current economic, social and ecological dilemmas, it reaches into our collective unconscious as and as a brilliant artistic response to the forces of our emerging world order.

    Winding down the treacherous night-time mountain switchbacks toward Brattleboro, we found that the music we had just heard echoed through our heads and snatches of songs kept bursting out.

    Anais Mitchell,Hadestown,Righteous Babe
  • Kim Guy - Wednesday's Child - Review

    19 mar 2010, 20:54

    Kim Guy has been part of many musical formations over the years, but until last month, she had not put out a CD in her own name Her debut album, Wednesday's Child, is a collection of covers of s and a selection of mostly songs by other songwriters, all arranged, played and sung in a distinctive style that is hard to describe in words. Nevertheless, since words are all that we have, here goes.

    In most versions of the nursery rhyme, Wednesday's Child is full of , and Kim describes herself as “looking at the world through woes-colored glasses.” It is her ability to give authentic voice to melancholic thoughts and gloomy emotions in song, coupled with a delightful tendency to wordplay and historical references that makes it such a joy to be in the presence of this album and this talented musician.

    My first thought on unwrapping the CD was “What is that on the cover?!” It seemed to be a sideways picture of an ancient effigy of a frog or maybe a green bird with one bloodshot eye, and the pupil of the eye looks like a blood-engorged ant. She explains that it is a museum piece, a canopic jar from Egypt, whose top was the head of some totemic animal. The rest of the album art is equally interesting, consisting of sepia-toned color montages of pressed plants, photographs and gravestone markings. There is only a minimum of writing on the CD packaging: just track lists and credits. The most intriguing part of the text is the “special whatnots” section, which includes “The Mighty Theobroma” (I looked it up... did you know that chocolate is the food of the gods?) The credits also let me know that Kim is wholly responsible for the sounds on the album, with extensive and indispensable production, mixing, mastering and artwork help from Paul Dye.

    Listening to the album is something that should be done in a leisurely way over a period of time, preferably with good earphones.. This kind of music has to soak into you like good bath salts.

    The first song is the traditional “Rolling of the Stone”, which includes, as most such ballads do, a tragic mishap leading to a death. In this case the heroine is skilled in magical charms and manages to revive her dead lover, so that all ends happily (I think). The instrumentation includes thunderous percussion and electronically-generated chimes. At certain points, the music creeps inside my gut while I'm listening and thumps me in a place where I can't ignore it.

    Next comes a recent rock tune by Roland Orzabal of the group Tears for Fears, called “Watch Me Bleed”. This song may have been popular at a time when I was not paying attention to the hits, but for me Kim's version is the one and only version I have heard, and I was surprised to discover that she had not written it herself, since its querulous take on suffering fits the album's theme perfectly. I was sure that “Heaven comes to She Who Waits” was her turn of phrase. On this song Kim plays a meditative with some synthesized organ-like accompaniment.

    I was a great fan of Simon and Garfunkel in the 1960s, but “The Sparrow” was one song that I seem to have lifted the needle over while wearing out the grooves of other tracks on the same album, so that, once again, Kim's version is the first and best one I have consciously heard. The song tells the story of a little dying bird asking the rest of nature to take pity and getting none. Finally the Earth promises to see to his eulogy, as she does for us all. This was the first song on the album I fell in love with and played over and over. She accompanies her echoing self-harmonies with a very simple and beautiful guitar melody.

    The Neil Young song “Like a Hurricane” follows. It is a moody song, and Kim plays it well on guitar with a synthesized drone and a rainstick.

    “I Come and Stand at Every Door”, otherwise known as “The Dead Child of Hiroshima” is one I'm well acquainted with. It is sung in the persona of a child who dies in Hiroshima, pleading to those who are still living for peace. The guitar accompaniment on this one is also simple and appropriately full of foreboding. Kim's voice is altered to sound like an echoing whisper.

    “He Moved (Through the Fair)” is a recasting of the traditional ballad in which a dead betrothed wife comes back as a ghost. The title of Kim's version implies that the dead betrothed one is male, but the song itself is completely instrumental. The introductory themes are, according to Kim, taken from a Jewish funeral service, but I initially heard them as a minor-key rendition of “I'm a Little Teapot” and the old soviet national anthem. The core of the song is the traditional melody of the ballad, played on flute and drone with the thundering percussion mentioned earlier.

    The very core of the album is one of my favorite Richard Thompson songs “The Dimming of the Day”, which is an absolute joy to listen to, sounding folk-like with guitar and self-harmonies.

    Steve Knightley's song “Exile” continues the mournful tone, with a well-constructed multi-instrumental accompaniment.

    Next comes an eastern-european dance-song with modern lyrics called “Blood and Gold”, a powerful anti-war song. Kim delivers it strongly with more of the thundering percussion and some bulgarian-style choral that can't be beat.

    My favorite version of “The Unquiet Grave” had been Joan Baez's. Kim's phrasing of the song is completely different from Joan's, and at the moment, I can't say which I like better. The sounds of moaning winds enhance the effect of the song.

    The album closes with John Bramwell's (of the group I Am Kloot) song “Avenue of Hope”. The lyrics remain mysterious to me after quite a few listenings. Kim delivers it with a persistent walking guitar accompaniment and pecussion that remids me of inexorable footsteps.

    Though you will find Kim's efforts at self-promotion humorously self-deprecating, pay her no mind and order this album forthwith (http://www.myspace.com/wyrdguy). Then put it in your best CD player and prepare to be (quite literally at some points, but not in a bad way) “blown away” into a wonderful sepia-toned world. You won't regret it!

    -Jim Giddings
  • Sandwitch - New CD Going 4th - Review

    19 mar 2010, 01:27

    Sandwitch (http://www.myspace.com/sandwitchfolk) is a -based living in , consisting of Buddy Freebury and Andrea Freebury. They've been making music together and in other configurations for many years and just issued their fourth CD, Going 4th ........ On to New Horizons, after a few years of being largely outside the music scene.

    This is a rather long review, so let me make it clear before I start (over-)verbalizing that I absolutely love this CD and strongly urge everybody to get hold of it.

    I first encountered them when Red Shoes (http://www.myspace.com/redshoes1), one of my favorite musical duos, started exchanging messages with them on MySpace. After I had visited their page and expressed appreciation for their homemade videos (including a definitive version of “The Burning Times”), they invited me to be their friend. Like Red Shoes, they generously share their creativity in a raw form, sitting in their kitchen and singing to the accompaniment of , or ,

    Ever since hearing their version of Bernie Parry's “Soldiers' Peaches” (http://www.bernieparry.com/1982-playing-words.htm) with its haunting chorus, “War never teaches, War only kills, Come see the soldiers' peaches, Growing on the hill”, I have felt that these two people were long-lost kin and longed to sit down and talk and sing with them. I looked forward with great impatience to the release of the CD “Going 4th …. On To New Horizons”. When it came out last month, it did not disappoint.

    The album starts out with a spirited rendition of the old union song, “The Blackleg Miner”. The is great, and the anger implicit in a song about scabs who sneak into the workplace under cover of darkness and steal the livelihoods of honest working miners comes through.

    A Karine Polwart song, “The Dreadful End of Marianna for Sorcery follows, with Andrea turning the name “Marianna” into a musical sculpture that is different in detail each time she sings it. This song speaks passionately about the fate of a young woman who is courted by a rich powerful man and spurns his advances. She is subsequently accused of witchcraft, persecuted and tortured at the instigation of the wealthy man. Sandwitch has an obvious affinity for witches, which comes across not only in their choice of a name and in some of their song choices, but also in the design of the album cover, where a witch's hat and a black cat figure prominently.

    In “My Father Was A Hero”, Andrea tells the story of how her gifted father suffered all his life from the trauma of his tragic experience of war, but managed to provide his children with a loving, supportive home, and how it was this loving kindness and sacrifice that made him a true hero, rather than the fact of being a soldier. The heartfelt passion in Andrea's singing of this song is comparable to that of Carolyn Evans in her singing of “My Father's Green Beret”.

    The title song of the album is musically and structurally an energetic “we” song, full of exhortations to move forward into the future with energy and passion, but it is a very personal song (a dual-”me” song?) about the real risks and rewards of movement and change, and the recent experiences of Buddy and Andrea, who found themselves cut off from former musical collaborators when they moved to rural Wales. Financially pinched, they took “day jobs” and stopped making music. Then “recession brought us to our knees”, and they took to busking in the streets. It was then that they made contact with new friends, including Red Shoes and got back into the studios to record this new album.

    Their recording of Dick Gaughan's version of the traditional song “Both Sides of Tweed” is the smoothest and most compelling I have heard. Buddy's rough-edged low harmony perfectly complements Andrea's melodic lines.

    Buddy's trilogy “Aonach Eogach”, an instrumental set of tunes, reminds me of Turloch O'Carolan and of the whistle tunes of T. G. Febonio, It is apparently based on the experience of a mountain hike.

    “The Taming” is an upbeat song about a Welsh who loves his homeland more than he loves his vocation of terrorizing its inhabitants, and who makes an unusual arrangement with the magicians and rulers of the land to become, not only completely tame, but invisible in order to be allowed to remain in the place he loves.

    “Just Another Gray Day” may be intended to be the upbeat anthem of the disc, comparable to Red Shoes' masterpiece “Ring Around the Land”, though in some ways that designation belongs to the title track.

    “Seasons” is one of those songs that sounds as if it's always been in existence, like it couldn't have been written last year, … but I guess it was. It is a delight to listen to.

    “The Death of Queen Jane” is a ballad that I am used to hearing sung with a darker tune than the one Sandwitch chooses here. Framed with “Greensleeves” at either end, the tune feels stately and uplifting in spite of the doom implicit in every line of the lyrics.

    Buddy is a true master of a large variety of instruments, including flute, percussion, bass, , and electric guitar, but I find myself most impressed with what he does with the : it sounds like a bombard a lot of the time, and it adds up a sense of antiquity when it appears in “Going 4th”. The 12-string guitar in “Dark Marion” is another stylistic triumph.

    I heartily recommend the CD for the strength of the singing, the playing, the quality of the arrangements, and the songwriting, but also for the sincerity and genuine heart these two have put into it.

    -Jim Giddings
  • A Poem/Song for Copenhagen Climate Summit

    7 dec 2009, 12:56

    Here's a poem about what might happen at the Copenhagen Climate Summit by my friend Elizabeth Barrette. I set it to music (it was a rush job, because this is what Ani DiFranco calls an "urgent napkin poem") and you can hear it here: All The Sleeping Heroes
    (http://www.last.fm/music/Jim+Giddings/Less+than+350+PPM+CO2/All+The+Sleeping+Heroes) in Jim Giddings's album Less than 350 PPM CO2. See http://www.last.fm/group/350+Songs+About+Global+Warming and http://www.350.org for more information.

    All the Sleeping Heroes
    by Elizabeth Barrette
    (For the improbable but necessary success of the Copenhagen Climate Summit)

    They came from their caves all together,
    a great army of heroes
    roused from their legendary slumber:

    Frederick Barbarossa, outraged that
    ravens no longer flew around his mountain;

    Finn and the Fian warriors,
    their wooden blown by the wind,
    Scotland’s sky gone mad with storm;

    The Knights of Ållaberg, riding their
    twelve fine horses, golden armor
    wet with sweat in the warm winter;

    Holger Danske, shaking the crumbs
    of his marble table from his beard,
    demanding to know if his dreams
    of rising water in Denmark are dire truth;

    King Arthur and his Court,
    the Knights of the Round Table,
    rising up to rescue England
    from the fevered weather;

    And Beauty, too, no longer Sleeping,
    crowned with thorns and raging
    about her slain roses.

    Into the heart of Copenhagen they rode,
    their silver-shod steeds
    kicking sparks from the air,
    a whole army of heroes.

    The world leaders who had convened
    all looked at each other
    and hurriedly excused themselves.
    The scientists looked at the legends,
    looked away, and pretended devoutly
    that they had seen nothing.

    Then Merlin stepped forward and said,
    “Well, lads, show us the problem!"

    It was the youngest intern
    who straightened his glasses,
    slammed his report on the long table,
    and laid out the threat of climate change.

    Beauty slipped alertly into the chair beside him,
    saying, “I’ll take the forests.”

    Frederick Barbarossa said,
    “And I’ll mind the mountains.”

    Holger Danske tossed his beard over his shoulder
    and declared, “I’ll keep an eye on the oceans.”

    So the heroes divided the Earth
    amongst themselves
    and made plans to protect it
    and did all the hard things
    that no one else would do.

    When they were done,
    the agreements were posted
    far and wide,
    and the people cheered.

    The former leaders were discovered,
    when someone finally bothered to look,
    in their assorted palaces and mansions
    sound asleep and unwakeable.

    The people planted rosebushes
    all around the borders,
    then walked away without looking back.
  • Wendy Arrowsmith - Seeds of Fools - A (rave) Review

    24 aug 2009, 01:46

    I am delighted finally to have received Wendy Arrowsmith's new CD Seeds of Fools in last week's mail. This has been another case (along with that of Red Shoes's CD Ring Around The Land) of watching an album come together gradually on MySpace and take on a concrete form that is even better than the initial bright sparks of song heard in the player had led me to expect.

    I don't remember whether she befriended me on MySpace or I befriended her, but as soon as I heard the songs in the music player, mostly from her first album, Now Then?, I was an instant fan. Her award-winning song "The Visitor", about a midwinter shipwreck rescue, even wormed its way into my dream life during the cold New England Winter. "Skipio", a historical song like the Visitor, tells of an African who landed on the shores of Scotland in the 18th century and was adopted by one of the leading families of the country. Skipio broke a fair number of hearts and fathered a fair number of babies; he may even be one of Wendy's ancestors.

    Slowly, more and more songs that were to be part of the new CD began to appear on the music player. The title song "Seeds of Fools" is a powerful exposition of how prejudice in all its forms can be either reinforced or minimized by a parent's actions. When I first heard the album version of this song a couple of days ago, I was overwhelmed with the power and controlled emotion of Wendy's voice as she switches from a sweet expository mode to a deep firm demand that mothers "...love your children... help them sow the seeds of love, not reap the seeds of fools..." When I first heard "Sleep Well 'Till Morning" I thought I had heard it before, but it is an Arrowsmith original, a traditional Scottish ballad snatched directly from the Akashic record perhaps? Her version of Steve Bailey's "Holy Ground", which has been covered by numerous Irish and American singers, is the best I've heard. "Counting Dolphins" is one of those children's songs that delight all generations. "Gaza to Argyll" is a good topical song that celebrates the role of quietness and diplomacy in the freeing of a journalist held hostage in Gaza. For her version of Lady Nairne's "Land of the Leal", she chose to write a new tune, which is every bit as good as the original, and more folk-like.

    To me, the high point of this album is her "Archie and Daisy", a fresh new addition to the canon of 19th-century "Songs of Happy Love", with a strong, loving heroine.

    Get hold of this album. You'll not regret it! http://www.wendyarrowsmith.com or http://www.myspace.com/wendyarrowsmith.
  • Finding Bok, Muir and Trickett

    23 aug 2009, 23:50

    There is a wonderful harmony-based trio that has been recording gentle folk music since the 1960s.I have some of their LPs and CDs, but the good news is that you can hear a lot of ther best tracks here on last.fm. The bad news is that finding them is still a major headache. Here is a description I wrote for one of the umpteen artist profiles they have on last.fm, and it might help you find some of their music if you're persistent :)
    Gordon Bok, Ann Mayo Muir and Ed Trickett are three musicians with their own separate and successful careers, who have been getting together to sing and record harmony-based albums since 1961. They have been performing together as a trio since 1975. Their repertoire draws from all the inhabited continents of the world,from traditional folk and contemporary material. Most of their recordings have been on the Folk Legacy label (http://www.folk-legacy.com/store/scripts/prodList.asp?idCategory=25). More information, including a discography, is available at this Wikipedia page (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Bok).

    Some of the tracks from two of their albums are free to play at: http://www.last.fm/music/Gordon+Bok%2C+Ed+Trickett%2C+Ann+Mayo+Muir/Language+of+the+Heart/ and http://www.last.fm/music/Gordon+Bok%2C+Ed+Trickett%2C+Ann+Mayo+Muir/Harbors+of+Home

    On last-fm, their works are catalogued under a bewildering number of variants on their names:
    Bok, Muir & Trickett
    Bok, Muir and Tricket
    Bok Muir Trickett
    Bok, Muir & Trickett
    Bok, Muir and Trickett
    Bok, Muir, And Trickett
    Bok, Muir & Tricket
    Bok, Muir, & Trickett
    Gordon Bok, Ann Mayo-Muir & Ed Trickett/Ed Trickett/Gordon Bok
    Bok, Trickett, Muir
    Bok, Trickett & Muir
    Bok, Trickett and Muir
    Gordon Bok, Ann Muir, Ed Trickett
    Bok/ Trickett/ Muir
    Gordon Bok, Anne Muir, and Ed Trickett
    Gordon Bok, Ann Mayo Muir & Ed Tricket
    Gordon Bok, Ann Mayo Muir & Ed Trickett
    Gordon Bok, Ann Mayo-Muir & Ed Trickett
    Gordon Bok, Ann Mayo Muir, Ed Trickett
    Gordon Bok, Ed Trickett, Ann Mayo Muir
    Ann Mayo Muir, Ed Trickett, Gordon Bok
    Ann Mayo Muir/Ed Trickett/Gordon Bok
    Ann Mayo Muir; Ed Trickett; Gordon Bok
  • Ring Around the Land by Red Shoes

    19 jun 2009, 15:23

    Red Shoes are Carolyn Evans and Mark Evans of Birmingham, England, and they are a whole lot more. Returning to the music scene after an absence of a couple of decades, they discovered that the way music is produced and distributed has changed radically. Nevertheless, in less than two years they have assembled original material and put together a CD (http://www.last.fm/music/Red+Shoes/Ring+Around+The+Land) that is a true triumph, both technically and artistically, with the help of a large group of friends they didn't know they had before they set off on this adventure. Carolyn's youthful dream had always been to work with Fairport Convention, the fountain of 1970s British Folk-Rock. She writes:

    It's been a funny old couple of years since we put our demos up on MySpace. ... we had retired from the circuit to bring up a family and do what you have to do. . . . . family always come first. What started as a few home made recordings on MySpace and YouTube videos on our sofa, ended up with us being introduced to some fabulous musicians [who have a presence on MySpace]. Not only have we met many in person but some we have become close friends with, and what a blessing. Years ago you had to bang on A&R men's doors and wait in anticipation that they may and a big may, listen to your songs. With the advent of MySpace anyone can produce music and share it with others. More wonderfully, it has introduced us to wonderful writers, painters and photographers, whose talent astounds us. They have been giving their time for free to all of us to see and we are truly blessed to have them as friends. How wonderful it has been for us to share our journey with these people and how grateful we are for their support. We are not young but have achieved all that we could wish for, we ask no more apart from that we continue to share our thought's and talents with each other. Thank's to all of you who have supported and shared our friendship. (from http://www.myspace.com/redshoes1)

    The duo's name is, of course, based on the movie of The Wizard of Oz, but the design of the album revolves around the statue of the "fine lady" at Banbury Cross.

    Ride a cock-horse to Banbury Cross, To see a fine lady upon a white horse; Rings on her fingers and bells on her toes, And she shall have music wherever she goes.

    The visual design of the album alone is wrth the price of the CD. In the picture on the CD, the cock-horse is wearing pink toenail polish; there is a closeup of the fine lady's face showing a mysterious spiderweb tatoo on her cheek, and there are photos of the musicians bundled up on a cold winter day doing a sort of Morris Dance around the statue. Another visual bonus is the inclusion of two of Bobbie Cook's paintings of angels.

    As to the songs, they are all wonderful. Some I have been listening to for months and love like old friends: The Two Sisters, Carolyn's updating of a well-known Child Ballad is one of those. Another is Carolyn's "My Father's Green Beret", which tells the story of the life of her war-hero father who died in the indignity of a poorly-managed NHS nursing home. Others of the songs are new to me as of yesterday, and of these, I am most impressed with the title track, an upbeat "we" song if ever I heard one, ending in a bit of the traditional Morris tune Shepherd's Hay. To do the other tunes on the album justice, I'll need to listen a few more times, so maybe there will be further comments on them later, Carolyn's fine folk voice and Mark's guitar are enhanced by the support of numerous other voices and instruments in ways that it's hard to describe in written words. Just get this album and listen to it!