Category Archives: blues

One for The Week…Low

This week I rediscovered some slightly cumbersome Sennheiser headphones I bought about ten years ago and was too self conscious to wear on the street plugged in to my ‘portable CD player’. The quality, perhaps therefore due to restricted use, is still great and the first thing I listened to on them was the new Low album, The Invisible Way.

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You need to know

It’s the tenth album in twenty years from the Sub Pop signed Low, who hail from a place called Duluth Minnesota. An emotional, often poignant journey based on writing and recording strong, beautiful songs I’d possibly say it trumps all of the others. We’ll see how it stands the test of time.

Top Tracks

‘So Blue’ is absolutely beautiful – listen!

The previously released ‘Just Make it Stop’ and closer ‘On Our Knees’ are more of my favourites.

Listen when

You have time, as soon as you have time in fact.

Arbitrary Add

For a sporadic history read an interview from 1996 here, a site which has lots more random press on the band.

It was also the year that Low’s SXSW performance was overpowered by a neighbouring hardcore band, Ramones fans rioted in Argentina after queueing overnight for free tickets falsely promised by Coke a Cola and  David Bowie’s ‘Telling Lies’ was the first song to be released as a digital single.

Rating

As I only feature music I generally like I’ve decided rating releases is pointless. It has a mighty Play a Song For Me seal of approval!

Listen Up!

It’s Friday and instead of doing anything practical or useful I decided to make a list of songs I have on rotation for you. Kidding, this is probably the most practical and useful thing I could do with my time! Enjoy some great tracks, freebies and the beginning of your weekend.

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Sparrow and The Workshop – Shock Shock 

The first single from Sparrow and the Workshop’s upcoming album Muderopolis, out on Song, By Toad this May.  You can download entirely for free via the Glasgow band’s sound cloud link. It’s really very good.

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The Twilight Sad – Tell Me When We’re Having Fun

There’s something about The Twilight Sad, they’ve been around for the a decade and although I’m not a fanatic there are moments when sinking in to their semi-dark, progressive Scottish rock is incredible. This tune is another one you can get for free, via the band’s label Fatcat 

Low – So Blue

I like Minnesota’s Low. Their stunning new album The Invisible Way will be released literally in days from now, you can listen to it in advance via NPR and in the meantime check out this heartily beautiful new track So Blue.

 

The Postal Service – Tattered Line of String

Perhaps the appeal of the new Postal Service track is that it reminds the more mature amongst us of listening to them the first time around? Thoughts on a postcard please.

 

Howlin’ Wolf

I started listening to Blues maestro Howlin’ Wolf by accident this week, and have since been working my way through his back catalogue. A new animated video of ‘Evil’ and live performance for your eyes and ears.

Radio Silence

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Hey there music fans! Over the last month things have been so busy that everything I have been meaning to post has just ended up in as sporadic notes on my computer, instead of here for you all to read it.

It’s one of the great thing about being a blogger: you don’t have deadlines, there’s no recompense due if you don’t file something on time or the word count’s over – the downside being it’s too easy to put things on the back burner, the longer you leave it the easier it is to let things pile up.

Enough of my prattle – here are some things to get your ears wholly stuck in to.

Eliza and The Bear

There are certain festival’s whose line up I will always have a good rummage through, as they are sure to possess great up and coming talent. Brighton’s The Great Escape is one, where I discovered folkish ruffians Eliza and The Bear. Listen to the single Brother’s Boat below, which you can also download as a freebie.

 

Cloud Boat 

On the subject of boats here’s a second one I plucked from The Great Escape’s sea is electronic duo Cloud Boat, this track I Left For a Reason (It Escapes Me Now) is certainly bewitching stuff.

 

Biffy Clyro 

The band’s new double album Opposites is a collection of standout rock rooted tracks that are a happy progression from the pop friendly Only Revolutions – more a move back to the band’s glory days. Surefire hit ‘Biblical’ will leave you wanting more, while the bluesy ‘Trumpet or Tap’ and the eighties tune melancholic ‘The Fog’ are highlights. All round there’s a compelling narrative and the trio’s drumming and guitar riffs alone make it a winner. Succumb now.

 

Joy Formidable 

Wolf’s Law is the title track from the Welsh act’s recently released second album and it’s incredibly purty. Overall catch the whole record, out on Atlantic, for upbeat beginnings, a gorgeous vocal from frontlady Ritzy Brian and scattered, emotional strings.

Adam Stafford Plays…Tommy Johnson

I never know what people are going to suggest when I ask them for something new or rare that they’d like to share: it differs from band to musician and it’s generally – and importantly – nothing like I’d ever expect. Most of all I love the stories, getting to know how a track or an artist which could easily have been missed is discovered and becomes important to someone.
Adam Stafford is a musician and filmmaker from Falkirk, known for his experimental and often hauntingly beautiful solo work, as well as being the singer songwriter in Y’all is Fantasy Island. I discovered his music through random chatter and I’m glad I listened. Here’s what the man himself had to say about one of his favourite songs…

Tommy Johnson – Cool Drink of Water Blues
The first time I heard Tommy Johnson’s Cool Drink of Water I was eighteen and it hit me like a brick. It came during an intense period of discovering and listening to the pre-war blues of Blind Willie Johnson (no relation) and Skip James, me – a perpetually stoned teenager sulking about Falkirk as it was The Delta of Central Scotland. I suppose it was like that for a lot of white middle class British kids, then and now. I bought a slide and invented a new genre: thrash blues, a hybrid of Willie Johnson and Nirvana. We would lie on the roof of an abandoned hospital on weekend nights, getting drunk on red wine, endlessly smoking cigarettes while arguing about who was better – Dr. Dre or Slint.
 
Through these hissy, primitive, archaic blues recordings though, we heard a truth and authenticity that punk rock could only scratch the surface of. Voices so raw and disenchanted and haunted they were practically unlistenable. Out of the whole Delta Blues cannon, what is it about Tommy Johnson’s song that sits above the rest? It must be his ghostly falsetto, the melancholic chords and funeral pace of the song, the tremolo solo over the verses, the allusion to Satan or being lost and far from home. But probably most of all it is the fact that it sounds like music from another world, intangible and alien rising slowly through a dimension from somewhere absolutely forgotten.
 
Not much is known about Johnson other than he was an alcoholic who made bad decisions in the music industry, was the possibly the first guitarist to play behind his head and he gave Canned Heat their name (after one of his songs). It is also reported that he sold his soul to the devil to gain prowess on the guitar – a tale he would gladly tell others, perhaps to enhance his stage persona. This myth was later inherited by Robert Johnson’s legend, who bore no relation to Tommy. He was loosely portrayed by Chris Thomas King in the Cohen Brother’s film O’ Brother Where Art thou? in 2000.
An incredible slideshow of images, set to Cool Drink of Water Blues:

 

Adam Stafford’s most recent release is a split single with Rick Redbeard of Phantom Band fame and released on Gerry Loves Records…listen to ‘Vanishing Tanks’ really loud, it’s all spurts of air and cut through vocal – ‘Russian Glass’ is a cinematic, straightforwardly stunning song.

 

Stafford’s solo album Build a Harbour Immediately should be listened to on rotation, swooping from upbeat vocal loops – see ‘Shot-Down You Summer Wannabes’ – to delicate melodies – ‘Build a Harbour Immediately’ – and poignant lyrical work  – ‘Fire and Theft’ and ‘Temple of the Holy Ghost’. I guarantee it will take you by surprise.

 

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