Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Glen Campbell: Still within the Sound of his voice

I can’t remember when I first heard Glen Campbell sing. It’d be the early 1970’s and maybe before that. I do remember that my first long playing record purchase was an album entitled ‘By the Time I get to Phoenix’ on the Music for Pleasure label. And so, started a love of Glen’s voice and his song interpretations that lasts through to his death and no doubt beyond. Not long after that first LP I got a copy of another album entitled ‘Wichita Lineman’ again on the Music for Pleasure. Both albums gave me a mix of Glen’s back catalogue, both were compilations headed by huge worldwide hits. 

Not long after that I received a present of Glen’s album ‘Reunion: the songs of Jimmy Webb’ which was and is a wonderful collection of some of Webb’s most introspective songs plus a wonderful song from Webb’s sister Susan the incredible ‘About the Ocean’ and a cover of Lowell George’s ‘Roll Me Easy’. These non-hit songs showed a young teenager music with more shadows that the bright widescreen hits that I was used to from Glen Campbell. His performance on this album is a testament to his interpretive powers. They might be Jimmy Webb songs but after Glen had wrapped his voice around them they became his.

It was this talent for spotting songs and then through his interpretation and recording of them getting inside them and inhabiting them as if they were his life-force that mark Glen Campbell out as one of the greatest popular singers of his time.

An example of that talent with a non-Jimmy Webb song came with his worldwide smash and comeback hit ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’, a song by Larry Weiss that Campbell took to and breathed his magic into. I have the original Rhinestone Cowboy album on cassette, now unplayable through constant use over four decades. Another was his last big hit ‘Southern Nights’ an Allen Toussaint song. Like ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ Campbell took an already exceptional song and added to it setting the standard by which any other version would be judged.

When he found a song and there are many examples – John Hartford’s ‘Gentle On my Mind’, Randy Newman’s ‘Marie’ or Webb’s ‘The Highwayman’ those songs became his. His voice was remarkable and gave those songs an identity and strength that made those records so compelling.

Many of the songs that Glen Campbell inhabited so well spoke of enduring loneliness and longing with huge cinematic canvasses that touched people the world over. I’m glad I found my way to his music early and that it has endured and enriched for so long. Thanks for the songs Mr Campbell.  

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

I am the audience - Ned Roberts at Leith Depot

It was one of those cold winter nights in early spring that Scotland is famous for with added hail. Wednesday night too. However that really is just an excuse and a lame one at that. But I'll get back to that.

I first heard of Ned Roberts when he was playing support for Anais Mitchell a few years back and he'd impressed me with his songs and his voice. It being the modern age I downloaded an e.p. to my iPod and listened for a while before other more insistent voices and music made my memories of this engaging singer fade.

Fast forward a bit and somewhere I discover that Ned has a new album coming and that he's touring. even better he's playing in Leith!

Now back to that audience. You see Ned was playing Leith Depot on a night organised by local singer songwriter Kat Healy and there was support from a local singer called Purdie. I turn up two songs from the end of Purdie's set. There's not a huge crowd and it's early I say to myself. As the evening continues through Kat's set of finely observed songs of relationships I begin to piece together who the groups of people in the room are. Purdie has a group of friends with her who are thankfully settling in for the night (it's Baltic outside so who could blame them). Over by the bar is a group who are with Kat. So that leaves me and three other people.

The headliner takes to the stage and works his way a mesmerising mix of his old and new songs. He's got a rich voice that works well on his well crafted songs like 'Drifting Down' 'Hazy Days' 'Angel Station' and 'Lights on the River'. There's some nice guitar playing and that rich deep voice works well with the songs that recall Nick Drake, James Taylor, Leonard Cohen and a bit of Dylan (a
fair bit of moothie accompanies the playing and singing).

Of course he's not a household name but you can't help thinking, well I can't help thinking that after playing a full Pleasance Theatre a few years back albeit supporting the more established Anais Mitchell he should be pulling in a few more punters.

For now I feel like I'm glad to be part of the small group who came along to see him. I have to say he doesn't disappoint and would say unreservedly that you should seek out his music and certainly his gigs. There's room.




Kat Healy

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Playing Old Games - Erin Rae and the Meanwhiles, Hug and Pint Glasgow

I'd only listened to a couple of songs by Erin Rae McKaskle before going to see her. Those songs 'Playing Old Games' and 'Clean Slate' gave me enough to guess that a full set would be more than rewarding.
Good guess! I lucked out. In the dark and cramped basement of the Hug and Pint Erin Rae's songs shone. She worked her way through a wonderful set of old and new songs. All show a refective thoughtfulness and keen insights into the human longing, frailty, joy and loss.
What made the sound of Erin Rae's high clear voice even more stunning were the harmonies provided by her two bandmates. They echoed old time bluegrass country but were altogether modern and truly sublime.
Erin Rae and the Meanwhiles are playing small venues on this tour, building their audience. Should you join that audience you won't be disappointed.

Leith Depot - the next night.

On my home turf I just could not miss catching Erin Rae again. It was a similar sized venue and size of audience. The set was familiar and again I was struck by the quality of the songwriting and how the themes are well trodden there seems a particular insight that Erin Rae brings to her songs. 'Playing Old Games' remains my favourite but I am liking 'Wild Blue Wind', 'Futile Attempts' and 'Monticello'. Good news too that there is a new album in the offing with a number of new songs being showcased on this UK tour. This is a singer songwriter who is building up a body of work of high quality and is one to watch.

Wild Blue Wind live video

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Promised Land Sound – Sneaky Pete’s 4/02/2017

Nashville’s Promised Land Sound are a band that are hard to describe. Don’t get me wrong they have a ‘sound’ big, compelling, and distinctive. And that’s it – distinctive – I struggle to find them like anything else I’ve listened to.

I’d heard the comparisons to the Byrd’s and Big Star but never really got that despite the soaring harmonies. What good are comparisons anyway when you’re listening to a band as good as Promised Land Sound?

Showcasing songs from their new album ‘For Use and Delight’ they cook up a muscular and sophisticated sound topped with high harmonies and squalling guitars. At times driving and then languid as on ‘She Takes Me There’ the band create their own sound.

The crowd in Edinburgh’s postage stamp sized venue/club Sneaky Pete’s were treated to an evening of melodic effervescent rock from a band that rocks out when it suits and throughout display a range of colour and tone that suggest that there is more to come, much more to come from this young band.

Catch this band if you can, they will repay your attention.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

An Evening with Miss Margo Price

Oran Mor, Glasgow 24 January 2017

It was in either December 2015 or April 2016 that I first became aware of Margo Price the honky tonk country force of nature who is carving out a reputation as one of country music’s best new singer songwriters. I have her fellow contemporary country singer Caitlin Rose to thank for that introduction.

From the get go Margo’s honky tonk voice and songs reminded me of that pioneer woman country singer and songwriter Loretta Lynn. Both her voice and songs link directly back to that straight talking real life subjects and lyrics of Loretta. It is perhaps no surprise that Margo Price finds herself debut album released on Jack White’s Third Man Records – White produced and collaborated with Loretta Lynn on her ‘Van Lear Rose’ comeback in 2004.

Like Loretta the songs come from hard bitten experience and deal with the grittier side of life. This is not a moon in June, hearts and flowers songwriter. These are songs that are inspired by hard times, hard living, and redemption. Above all they are infused with her own life experience which thanks to the sheer quality of her songs connects with audiences because of the honesty of the tales they tell. The music harks back to classic country but serves up a bite often lacking from machine modern country.

I got hold of her album ‘Midwest Farmer’s Daughter’ as soon as it came out and it has been on my regular playlist ever since so when I heard she was making her first visit to Scotland to play as part of the annual Celtic Connections Festival getting tickets was a no brainer.

Live Margo Price and her band cook up full tilt honky tonk country rock’n’roll with a panache and warmth that connects straight to the audience.  Opening with ‘How the Mighty Have Fallen’, then taking the show through the many highlights of the album. Stand outs including ‘Hands of Time’, ‘Four Years of Chances’, ‘Weekender’ and ‘Hurtin’ on the Bottle’ adding covers of Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’ and an inspired workout on Kris Kristofferson’s ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ Margo showed us all a great time.

She says it took her thirteen years to get to the point of releasing her debut album and on the strength of the new song she featured at Oran Mor ‘You Told me with Your Eyes’ and another new song not performed ‘All American Made’ she’s got more to share with her, rightly, growing audience.
As much as I’m looking forward to future recordings from Margo I can’t wait to catch her live again, real soon.

Find out more about Margo Price 

Listen to her session on KEXP