On his Freak Zone a few weeks ago, Stuart Maconie asked for recommendations of “alternative country records”. This got me thinking: what country records fall within the parameters of the Freak Zone? Then, by some YouTube algorithmical kismet, via a recommendation in an Alan Jacobs’ newsletter, I heard Abigail Washburn & Wu Fei. I’d found my first recommendation.
Sam Pulham – Willy O’ Winesbury
It’s a mystery why some music you just fall for; why, even though I’ve listened to numerous musicians with guitars playing old folk songs, when I heard Sam Pulham’s EP The Merry Green Wood last Friday, (maybe it makes a difference when and where you first hear the music? The context? Maybe it made a difference that it was a slightly overcast morning, that I was tired and little hungover?), something in the music resonated with me.
Made a trip to Broadstairs, Kent:
It was the weekend of the week-long folk festival.
In The Chapel on Albion Street (a bar I’ve heard being disparaged but that I like for the fact they sell beer, very good cider and books) as well as discovering The Prodigy I bought this book:
I bought it for that title really. And the aforementioned cider might have, at first, influenced my decision, but my mind was made up when I saw this great photo inside:
Charlie Parr – Cheap Wine
Every time I listen to a live recording of Charlie Parr it sounds like the most fun you can have at a gig with just one man and a selection of guitars on stage. At its best Parr’s music – the fast stompers or the slower songs – deeply involve the listener with the characters that populate them: like the liquor store owner narrator of ‘Cheap Wine’, his customers: the old ladies who “ain’t no better than all these bums”, and the kid, in the wrong place, who “wasn’t so bright, drunk all the time”.
Richard Thompson – Shenandoah
I’m allowing myself to be led by data this week. For according to Spotify this version by Richard Thompson of the traditional folk song ‘Shenandoah’ is my most played song of 2016. I’m not surprised. It does feel like I’ve listened to it quite a bit. That I was trying to learn to play it might have swelled the figures somewhat. But that aside, it has become one of those songs I return to repeatedly.
Kimber’s Men – Bully In The Alley
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post from the folk festival in Broadstairs. I mentioned attending the sea shanties on the pier. This is one of the highlights of the festival for me. The set-up is this: a singer steps forward to take the lead on a song, everyone is invited to join in the chorus.
While sheltered from the wind and sun (no rain for the last couple of years at least), kids behind you defying the lifeguards by jumping off the pier into the swell, drinks being imbibed, there is something very affecting singing communally these sometimes centuries old songs. ‘Bully in the Alley’ was one of the songs we sang. It was led by Kimber’s Men who were this year’s guests.
Charlie Parr – Walk Around My Bedside
modern, buoy us up
though I am faithless.
Denise Riley, ‘When we cry to Thee’
King Creosote & Jon Hopkins – John Taylor’s Month Away
I’m in Broadstairs this weekend for the town’s folk festival. Among other activities, I’ve been listening to the band Hot Rats stood outside an extremely busy The 39 Steps Alehouse, and listening to sea shanties on the pier. All of which has me think about (not all the time but at certain moments) playing music for the joy of it and the very act of singing.
Has any of the above anything to do with this song by King Creosote & Jon Hopkins? Well, it was the song (and album) I was listening to before setting out for here, so it feels like it does. But my friend is meeting me in 5 minutes in the above mentioned pub so I haven’t time to figure it out. So this week you’ll just have to take it on trust.