Thursday, 23 February 2017

"Big Machine" by Eliza Carthy and The Wayward Band

It begins with a distinctly electronic buzz sound followed shortly after by an accordion. Well, this is folk music, isn't it? Then the brass picks around the end of the first chorus and you then know,  especially when the background singers pipe up that this is not your run-of-the-mill folk at all. If anything, when labels are applied this is prog-folk. I don't like that term, though. Doesn't seem right. That by the way, was song one on the album, "Fade and Fall (Love Not), a powerful song that speaks for women everywhere. No brushing off issues under the carpet here. 

Song two also has an electronic fade-in-out of a buzz before a very sounding Rock guitar swaggers in followed by a chorus of female voices. The fiddle (mustn't call it a violin - it's folk init?). "Devil In The Woman." Robust, lively, a jig played out as if a slap around the face will shortly follow.

"The Fitter's Song" decides itself as it staggers out of the bierkeller slapping its thighs filled with Kurt Weil music then that brass again, a guitar solo that stings like a flotilla of bees before a trumpet solo, all too brief, adds a curious mix to the melody; a melody sung by the mistress of this hefty ensemble with her lusty voice that boasts such a range. Fades out and into...

Fourth song up and I am wondering whatever next? "Jack Warrell's Hornpipe (excerpt) Love Lane. Now that reads like a proper folk toon.  Well, that gaggle of female voices accompanied by a violin might be folk, sort of, but the pace is all wrong and besides it's over as soon as it begins as it mutates into what is very much a hornpipe. Yes, neat. Oh hell, the drum banging away introducing that guitar again, almost Hank Marvinesque, then what sounds like a string section as it settles (?) back into a wild and woolly reel. Blimey. Don't stand still long do these Wayward Band people.

Track five, "Hug You Like A Mountain," begins with Eliza Carthy singing unaccompanied. That is a delight in itself, what follows takes delight beyond delightful as teddy Thompson (son of Richard) joins in. Their duet is staggering on its own but the music that lays the platform from which they sing over has all the drama and potency of any and all great ballads which it probably isn't but who cares. Brilliant song. Should be a single. Don't think Simon Cowell would agree.

"You Know Me" yet again starts with the deceit of having an electro introduction before accordion and a snappy, smart smack of a drum rides the song along inviting those wonderful girl singers to rise in support of the song and then MC Dizraeli does his rap but not one of those fuzzy fictional raps that pop stars often think they need to show how current they are, the real deal. Excellent.

But enough. No one wants to read an appreciation listing song-by-song, track-by-track. Do they? Well, they aren't gonna get one.

So many good songs. Such a good album with sinuous thread linking each track. Not a concept album as such, no, nothing like that, but connected somehow. Probably my favourite song/track is "I Wish That The Wars Were All Over." Such great, great singing by Eliza Carthy and Damien Dempsey. Simply beautiful.

This is not just a thoroughly entertaining album riddle with some amazing songs.Nor is it what many might expect, a folk album stiffly adhering to the traditions of that genre. This is an album that dares. It dares big. It goes places few folk bands go and, if you are willing, it'll take you there too.

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

1984 - 2017


Orwell's satirical novel, 1984, now seems preferable to the life we all have to lead. Slaves to the wage in a neoliberal society.

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

"Apple Tree Yard" - The TV Show

The end came close to spoiling this excellent TV series. The fact it didn't says more about the series as a whole than two minutes of television frippery. Throughout the four episodes, each one of which I looked eagerly forward to viewing, the tension was neatly layered drawing the audience in, mounting tension - sexual and psychological, teasing our intellect.

Emily Watson as Yvonne Carmichael provides a perfect performance as the cool, calculating Doctor of science. She is the limpid pool of which Zen and Tao practitioners practise to be. Nothing appears to ruffle those waters. Her marriage the absolute epitome of liberal intellectualism. Extra-marital sex is not a thing that requires instant divorce but a subject to be discussed AND with mutual understanding. This is a lady, if not in total control of her life, has her hands firmly on the wheel of her own destiny.

Ben Chaplin as Mark Costley deceives us all into thinking what a sincere gentleman, if a little perverse, he really is. Attentive, caring and somewhat of a super stud in the sex department. Notably performing a penny upright in public places.

Having given a presentation to members of the House of Commons Yvonne inadvertently bumps into a mystery man (Ben Chaplin) who witnessed her performance. He asks if she'd like a guided tour of the secret Chapel of St  Mary Undercroft which lays underneath the House of Commons. The couple visit the chapel which Yvonne finds beautiful before Mister X (he does not at this point reveal his name) suggest they take a peek at the cupboard in which suffragette Emily Davison once hid. Inside, as the two marvel at the courage of Emily Davison, their eyes meet, a certain frisson ignites between the two of them and they end up having sex. So starts an illicit relationship.

Then, at a party with colleagues, Yvonne is offered to share a taxi home with George Selway who suggests they go to his office to collect his coat and things. Once in his office, Selway brutally assaults Yvonne before raping her.

She does not inform her husband of what has transpired for fear that Selway might reveal her affair and the nature of their couplings. Instead, she turns to Mister X. A grave mistake as it turns out. He gets her to drive him to Selway's home where he kick's him to death. Unfortunately, for her, she is witnessed in the car and is therefore seen as his accomplice. 

The court case that follows aptly and accurately describes how unbalanced the law is when it comes to female cases of homicide. For murder is what Yvonne is charged with not Mark Costley. His plea for diminished responsibility is taken seriously. The law is set somewhere back in the forties when it comes to judging female cases. All manner of evidence is unearthed and flung at the defendant who does her best in telling the truth. The truth though is not what the prosecution is interested in. They want her hide nailed to the door.

The rape scene is as horrible as a rape scene should be. It's depiction realistic and disturbing. Violent. Brutal. Uncompromising. The journey home in the cab is chilling. The fear and trembling of the raped, the smug smile on the face of the rapist inferring 'you enjoyed it really.' The whole thing made me feel uncomfortable, guilty simply of being male.

Having seen a marriage free-falling into some sort of limbo it was touching to see how husband, played by Mark Bonnar, Gary steadfastedly stands by his wife.

Yes, a great story from Louise Doughty (from the novel of the same name which I haven't read). And a great TV series. Shame about that two minutes at the end.

Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Words From President Donald Trump 2


Er...what happened?

  • A man set himself on fire at Sergels torg, a plaza in central Stockholm. He was taken to the hospital with severe burns. There is so far no information on his motives but the intelligence service is not part of the investigation.
  • The famous singer Owe Thörnqvist (?) had some technical problems during rehearsal for the singing competition ”Melodifestivalen”. (However, the 87 year old singer still managed to secure the victory the very next day.)
  • A man died in hospital, after an accident in the workplace earlier that day in the city of Borås.
  • Due to harsh weather in the northern parts of Sweden the road E10 was closed between Katterjåkk and Riksgränsen. Due to strong winds and snow in the region the Met office also issued an avalanche warning.
  • Police officers initiated a chase for a fleeing Peugeot through central parts of the Swedish capital of Stockholm. The pursuit ended in police officers ramming the suspect at Engelbrektsgatan. The driver is now accused of driving under the influence, traffic violation and car theft. ***

***Many thanks to Aftonbladdet
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

"Umbrella Weather" by Led Bib

Tight as the knot of Cordium yet loose as the knicker elastic of Nell Gwynn,; a  bit Zapperish in its delivery but fresh enough to be different. Frenetic at times, full on fast and furious whilst retaining a melodic emphasis. Cyclonic, devilish, a whirlwind of Jazz notes blown at a frenzied pace. It is music to make punk look positively calm by comparison. This is "Umbrella Weather" by Led Bib.

Who are Led Bib you may well ask?

Apart from having a slightly retro feel with their collective appellation, a nod to the past perhaps in terms of approach, they are nothing at all like the famed Rock legends.  Led Bib are a jazz combo. I like that word, combo, it has a distinctly fifties flavour which is possibly misleading as Led Bib are very much of the now.  They are contemporaries of Polar Bear. Another highly rated, creative group who surf across various musical genres their art to pursue.

Led Bid are a five piece group consisting of Mark Holub, Liran Donin, Toby McLaren, Pete Grogan and Chris Williams. The following image is from the groups Facebook page. Its a bit fuzzy unlike their music which is sharp as the proverbial knife.

This is also from their Facebook page and is less fuzzy...

Image may contain: 5 people, people standing and stripes

In reality Led Bib, like the aforementioned Polar Bear, defy neat categorization. They appeal to a cross-section of tastes even having folk aficionados buying their stuff. It isn't surprising really for the sounds they make, they speed at which they make them, the riffs they choose to frame them all make for a diverse and complex mix.  

Yes, its jazz but it also rocks. And if it is jazz then it is a powerful, potent brew. Pick up your umbrella and try some Led Bib. It really is worth a listen. 
 Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.