Thursday, December 17, 2015
I must admit I had never heard of Connie until a couple of weeks ago. I discovered her music purely by chance on the same day I found Sibylle Baier on Youtube. I was looking for a song by Anne Briggs at the time. I stumbled across Connie and listened to one song which aroused my interest and I ordered a CD called How Sad, How Lovely which is the title of one of her songs. The package arrived today and I must say it is a most attractively designed album as well. It contains a really nice booklet which includes contributions from her brother and also the man who first recorded her songs.
I'll just tell you briefly what I know about Connie. She was born Elizabeth Eaton Converse in 1924 in New Hampshire into a strict Baptist family. At School she was quite brilliant and won a scholarship to Mount Holyoake College but dropped out after two years and moved to New York City where she lived in Greenwich Village which was the centre of the Bohemian world in 1950's America. It was here that she acquired the nick-name Connie because she came from Concord. It was at this time that Connie first began to write poems and songs and accompanying herself on guitar. She came to the attention of Gene Deitch who is a famous animator who recorded Connie's songs at his home in the mid-50's. She failed to attract any commercial interest though apart from one appearance on a TV Show presented by Walter Cronkite. In 1961 the year that Bob Dylan arrived in New York she left Greenwich Village and moved to Ann Arbor Michigan. I think that was a shame because a year later the whole world was following the Folk Scene in New York and she could have been part of it and got the attention her music deserved. Anyway, well over a decade after she dropped out of college Connie returned to academic life and worked her way up to being Managing Editor of 'The Journal Of Conflict Resolution'. Her only music interest was playing for family & friends. By the early 1970's though she was suffering with depression and her employer and friends pooled together to send her on a six month sabbatical to England. Connie described this trip as one of the only times in her life she was allowed to have 'unproductive fun'. I wonder where she went in this country and who she met?. Finally in 1974 she made her decision to disappear.
After I had read the booklet I played the CD and I must say now after listening to it twice I am very impressed indeed. Nine of the eighteen tracks are the recordings she made with Gene Deitch and you can hear little snippets of conversation between the songs. Connie sings in a very formal style. This is the 1950's you must remember, before singers started slurring the words and calling everyone Babe etc. It is the subject matter though of hanging around in bars, playing poker and being taken home by strangers that makes the songs ahead of their time. White middle-class women didn't sing about these subjects before. Although a lot of the songs sound quite jolly you can sense an underlying sadness below. There is no other singer like Connie Converse. Just on a couple of songs I could hear vague echoes of Dory Previn, another great singer who came along a lot later who I really like as well. A lot of the songs began life as poems and you can hear that in the very poetic imagery of a lot of the songs. I'll have put one song below so you can judge for yourself.
There is some sort of a happy ending to the story because in 2004 Gene Deitch who had recorded Connie 50 years before was invited onto a radio show. He played one of her songs. Two listeners of the show Dan Dzula and David Herman were inspired to track down her recordings. Gene Deitch was happy to collaborate. Also they found a filing cabinet at Connie's brother's house containing further treasures which Connie had left with him all neatly filed and labelled as if she meant them to be found. The album which I received today was finally released. The legend of Connie Converse is finally beginning to grow.
What actually happened to her though? If Connie was still alive today which is very unlikely she would be now 91. I find it hard to believe that she took her own life. If that was true why did she pack her car so meticulously?. I have wondered if she returned to England where she spent a happy six months. We shall probably never know but I am really pleased that her music is finally after 50 years getting the recognition that it deserves.
Sunday, December 13, 2015
Anyway, I recently discovered another fabulous female singer who I want to tell you about. I found her on youtube whilst looking for something else and I listened to one song which I thought was great and on the strength of that I ordered her album called Colour Green. Her name is Sibylle Baier. As soon as I put the CD in the music machine in my kitchen I knew I had stumbled across something quite wonderful. The sound of her voice is so intimate and crystal clear that you would almost think she was there in the room. Her restrained guitar playing in the background is just perfect. I immediately thought of the early Leonard Cohen albums as a comparison. Sibylle is German but to me she doesn't sound as Germanic as the only other female German singer that I am familiar with which is Nico. Sibylle's English like most German people I know is perfect. I looked on the Allmusic site to find out more about this album and words they used to describe it include calm/peaceful, dreamy, insular,light, springlike, sweet, wistful, delicate, gentle, intimate, bittersweet, earnest, melancholy, poignant and reflective. I couldn't agree more and that has saved me having to think up my own adjectives !. It is a rainy Monday afternoon as I am writing this story and listening to the album and I must say it is perfect rainy day music. I can't be bothered to discuss the whole album song by song but I have put one song below for you to listen to.
I haven't been able to find out much biographical information about Sibylle. All I know is that she was born in Germany in 1950. As well as singing she was also an actress and was discovered by film director Wim Wenders and she had a major role in his road film Alice In The Cities. Between 1970 and 1973 she recorded some of her songs at home on a reel to reel tape recorder. She lost interest in acting and singing and gave it all up to concentrate on bringing up her children. Thirty years after she made the tapes her son Robby discovered them and made cd's for family and friends. He also gave a copy to J Mascis of the band Dinosaur Jr. He realized what great music it was and passed it on to Orange Twin Records who released the album in 2006. Since then Sibylle's reputation as one of the great singer-songwriters has steadily grown although apparently she can't understand what all the fuss is about. There is an interesting footnote to the story. In 2008 Wim Wenders who hadn't heard from her in decades was in a record shop and was astonished to find an album by Sibylle Baier. He contacted her and asked her to write a song for his film Palermo Shooting which she did. Since then though nothing else has been heard from her so I don't think she has any intention of singing again. We will have to be content with her one brilliant album which is Colour Green.
Sunday, December 06, 2015
The show was about fifteen minutes late starting because of the traffic chaos causing delays. They decided to give everyone a chance to take their seats. Finally Kate and her band took the stage. She looked great in her sparkly dress. Kate said jokingly that she was trying to look like a human mirror-ball. The first song was called Bradfield. I think in Yorkshire the various versions of Christmas carols are named after the places where they originated. Apart from Yorkshire the other area of the country that has the tradition of wassailing at Christmas time is Cornwall so the second song was called The Cornish Wassailing Song. The next song was Hark, Hark, What News?. This was really good and then Kate introduced her band who are Arran Jones, Nick Cook, Duncan Lyle, Stevie Iveson, and her husband Damian O'Kane.
During the interval I met someone I knew from Westbury called Norman who was working there on security and I asked him if he could inquire for me with the manager if I could have the large poster from outside. I didn't hold out much hope of getting it though. I bought a t-shirt at the merchandise stall and returned to my seat.
The first song of the second half was called The Frost Is All Over which is the title track of Kate's new Christmas album and is great. Kate said she was inspired to write it after taking her dog Doris for a walk on Christmas Day last year. Here We Come A Wassailing was next followed by The Dilly Carol which is sung to the tune of Green Grow The Rushes O'. Mount Lyngham was next which is a mixture of two versions of While Shepard's Watched Their Flocks By Night. Kate then had a break and left us in the capable hands of the boys in the band who performed three tunes called I think Swonk Fing, The God Daughter and Castlerock Road which I think is in Coleraine where two of the band come from. Kate then returned and sang the brilliant To Drive The Cold Winter Away which was followed by her equally great version of Walking In A Winter Wonderland. I really enjoyed Sweet Bells as well from her previous Christmas album which I bought last year after seeing her Christmas show in 2014. If you scroll down I have put a video of this song below which I found on youtube. All the band and Kate took a bow and left the stage but soon returned for an encore. I had put my notebook away and I know they did The Holly And The Ivy which was great but I can't remember what the very last song was.
In the foyer on the way out we met Norman again who gave me the poster. Good old Norman. That deserves a pint next time I see him. I'll get that poster framed and put on my living room wall as a great souvenir of a really good night out. Thank you very much Kate Rusby, the band, the brass section, the sound man, all the crew and the Bath Forum for a memorable show.
Saturday, November 14, 2015
The first track is called Light And Shade and written by Tony. He is an excellent guitarist and sings the lead vocals on this track. I am pleased to say that all the songs on this album are original. There are no cover versions which shows how clever they are. The next song was a collaboration of Rhiannah & Tony called My Bones Belong In This Place which demonstrates what a good vocalist Rhiannah is. The following song Cold Lonely Nights was written by Rhiannah and is one of my favourite songs on the album. It is quite up-tempo and driven along by Tony’s guitar work. The next four songs were all written by Tony. The first of which is Suzanne Vega’s Eyes. Tony sings this one and the lyrics are quite humorous. Rhiannah’s vocals are very soulful on the next track, My Man Blues. Her bluesy voice also excels on All The Colours which to begin with reminded me of ‘Motherless Child’. It is a complete change of mood when Tony takes the lead on Bought And Sold. The quite angry social commentary of the lyrics show what a good songwriter he is. The next track was written by Warm/ Cunningham and shows that like Van the man Rhiannah can sing any genre of music with the country flavoured Texas Plates. This is a very enjoyable pop song and probably the most immediately accessible song on the album. The final song is their homage to Belfast written by Kenna/Mannah McMeeken called Belfast, City Of Life which ends the album on a very optimistic high note.
I must say I have really enjoyed listening to this music on a dark rainy Saturday afternoon and if you ever get the chance to see Rhiannah Warm & Tony Floyd Kenna at a folk club or a festival then I urge you to go along. I certainly would.
You can see a video below if you scroll down. Also, you can visit Rhiannah & Tony's Facebook page here-
To order the album you can contact them on Facebook or visit the website here-
You can see a video below if you scroll down. Also, you can visit Rhiannah & Tony's Facebook page here-
To order the album you can contact them on Facebook or visit the website here-
Friday, November 13, 2015
Sunday, August 09, 2015
This year I went with my friends Chris, Chrissie and Sasha. It was a beautiful summers evening when we arrived. Already there were about 15,000 people there enjoying picnics in the sunshine.It seemed even busier than the crowd for Robert Plant last year. We had to walk all the way across to the far side until we found a nice spot with a good view of the stage. When we arrived there was already a band on-stage called 'The Drystones' who had been drafted in at the last minute because Joan Armatrading had pulled out due to acute Laryngitis. It will be interesting to see if she makes her next gig in Scotland on Tuesday. The Drystones are a local folk group and the crowd seemed to quite enjoy them. The most memorable song for me was their version of Plastic Bertrand's 'Ca Plane Pour Moi'.
We tucked into our picnic after that. As usual we had brought far too much food so I will be living off picnic food for the next few days. We had also brought copious amounts of wine, cider and beer. The next band on were 'The Shires'. They are an English country duo of Ben Earle & Crissie Rhodes. After only one album they have attracted a lot of attention and are the first English Country band to be signed by a major Nashville label. I though they were quite pleasant but compared to other Americana influenced bands such as 'First Aid Kit' I don't think they are that great. The most memorable songs for me were their versions of 'Dreams' by Fleetwood Mac and 'Islands In The Stream' by Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton.
It was up to Ray Davies and his band to make the night really memorable and I must say he was on great form and delivered a brilliant set of songs which included 'I'm Not Like Everybody Else', 'Tired Of Waiting For You', 'Sunny Afternoon', 'Dedicated Follower Of Fashion','Dead End Street', 'Victoria/20th Century Man', 'Till The End Of The Day', 'Misfits', 'Come Dancing', 'Long Way From Home',' Rock N Roll Cowboys', 'Oklahoma USA', 'All Day And All Of The Night', 'Days', 'Waterloo Sunset' , 'Lola' and 'You Really Got Me'. I think there were a few other songs as well but I didn't know what they were called. I was a bit disappointed that he didn't do Village Green Preservation Society but there can be no doubt that Ray Davies is one of the greatest songwriters in the history of British popular music. Easily up there with Lennon, McCartney, Jagger, Richards etc. He is 71 now so it was a privilege to see such a great artist performing so well.
The evening ended with a spectacular fireworks display and then we packed our stuff up and headed homeward after a brilliant evening. Thank you very much Michael Eavis for organising the event
I don't know about any of those other musicians on that list but the only one that I can think of to celebrate in song the fact he was born in 1945 is Van Morrison in his song Wild Children on his seventh album, the very underrated Hard Nose The Highway released in 1973. It also features on the greatest live album ever made called It's Too Late To Stop Now.I don't know if Van's dad was in the army during the war because he worked in the Harland And Wolff shipyard and was probably kept busy building ships but that is beside the point. Wild Children is probably my second favourite song on the Hard Nose album after Warm Love , (You can listen to the song below if you want) and is about the influences on the kids of 45 growing up in the 50's and the people who inspired them such as Marlon Brando and James Dean, films like On The Waterfront and the plays of Tennessee Williams. Anyway at the concert in Cyprus Avenue on Van's birthday I think as well as the song Cyprus Avenue he should include Wild Children in his set-list. I have never seen him perform it live so that would be great. Roll on August 31st!.
Tuesday, July 28, 2015
My friends Jacky & Bill arrived at my house in Westbury on Wednesday and Thursday afternoon we loaded up the car and headed for the festival site which is only five minutes away. We collected our wrist-bands at the entrance and soon found Margaret, Wayne, Hannah, Sam, Ellen, Daisy and the one and only George. Hannah's brother Paul joined us on Saturday to complete our gang. As well as their tents they had also brought an event shelter which was great when it rained and was the envy of the camp-site. Lots of people asked where it came from and with a long table,lots of chairs and Sam's music machine we partied in there every night. The festival didn't officially start till Friday evening so after a couple of hours at the club house we chilled out most of the night back at camp. Outside the club-house though I got talking to a lady from Kent who was playing the violin in some band and it turned out that she is a good friend of Rob & Alison who were my mates on the litter-picking at Glastonbury. What a small world it is.
Friday morning I was rudely awaken by the sound of rain on my tent. Jacky, Bill & I went back to my house for breakfast and the rain got heavier. Apparently a months rain fell in one day on the Friday. We were in no mood to hurry back so we didn't return on-site till about 5.00. At about 7.00 I decided it was time to hear some live music so I wandered down to the White Horse Stage and caught some of Jez Lowe who I thought was really good. I discovered him years ago listening to Mike Harding's radio show.
Saturday was the best day. It was sunny all day long. We went back to mine and after breakfast Jacky & Bill went up to the White Horse for a while and I went to bed for a couple of hours and walked back to the site in the afternoon. I found all the gang up by the main stage. It was incredible after all the rain how quickly the ground dried out and you could actually sit on the grass and listen to the music. I can't remember who we were listening to on Saturday afternoon because we spent a lot of time outside chatting and telling jokes. I know Saturday evening I saw Polly Barrett on the White Horse stage who I had never heard of before. She comes from Cork and I thought she was great.
The rain returned on Sunday but I really enjoyed the day. Jacky & Bill love walking so on Sunday afternoon I took them to Lake Shearwater and we had a nice walk round it. It was raining but we had all the wet-weather gear so it didn't matter and stopped off on the way back to site at a nice pub called the Angel Inn. That's the great thing about the Village Pump Festival if you don't want to be on site all the time there are lots of nice places to visit nearby.
I got back in time to catch the end of a performance by Keith Christmas. He is a great singer-songwriter and guitarist who I have seen a few times now. I think Keith was the first act ever booked for the Village Pump Folk Club at the Lamb Pub in Trowbridge in 1970 so it is great to see him still going strong. I particularly liked the final song called 'If The Kids Won't March' which is a new song and shows Keith is still writing topical relevant songs. I'm looking forward to a new album soon from Keith.
At the main stage I just had time to hear some of a great set by a Welsh band called Calan. Then I dashed back to the White Horse Stage because I wanted to see two legends of folk music Martin Carthy & Dave Swarbrick. I have been a fan of Swarb' for about 45 years,ever since he joined Fairport Convention and he has survived some terrible health issues in recent years so it was great to see him still playing his violin and he still has his great sense of humour. I last saw Martin playing in a band called Imagined Village with his daughter Eliza at the Cheese and Grain in Frome a couple of years ago. I think their set was the musical highlight of the weekend for me.
I crawled into my sleeping bag about 2.00 in the morning and next day we had the tents down and packed and left by about 9.00. It had been a brilliant weekend despite the rain. Thank you very much John Alderslade and all the team for all the hard work in creating such a great festival for us all to enjoy. Long may it continue. See you next year !
Tuesday, July 14, 2015
'Just Wanna See You So Bad'. ( Written by Lucinda Williams)
'Return Of The Grievous Angel' ( I first heard this on a Gram Parson's album about 42 years ago which my friend Fred had. Gram co-wrote this song with Emmylou I think. Really nice pedal steel guitar on this one.)
'Pancho And Lefty' ( Written by Townes Van Zandt)
'Till I Gain Control Again' ( Sung by Rodney)
'If You Needed Me' ( Also written by Townes Van Zandt I think. Really nice accordion playing on this song)
'Invitation To The Blues' ( A Roger Miller song)
'Red Dirt Girl' ( Emmylou at her best)
'The Houston Kid' ( Rodney sings one of his own songs)
'Love Hurts' ( Brilliant classic song)
'Back When We Were Beautiful' ( Wonderful song from one of their duets albums)
'Bring It On Home To Memphis' ( Another great duet)
'Travelling Kind' ( I think they said this was written by Cory Chisel)
'You Can't Say We Didn't Try'
'The Weight Of The World' ( Really nice keyboard playing on this song)
'Chase The Feeling' ( I think this is a Kris Kristofferson song)
'Dreaming My Dreams'
'Leaving Louisiana In The Broad Daylight' ( Accordion gives this song a nice Cajun feel)
'We Are Counting The Stars'
'Old Yellow Moon' ( One of the highlights for me, a really nice duet)
'Stars On The Water'
'Even Cowgirls Get The Blues'
'Boulder To Birmingham' ( Fabulous song, my all time favourite Emmylou song which she wrote in the aftermath of the death of Gram Parsons)
I think I might have missed a couple of songs where I didn't know the title of the song so didn't write anything down. A big hand for Emmylou, Rodney, their excellent band and especially the road crew for getting the show from Spain to Bristol. What a great night it was.
Monday, June 29, 2015
Storm Emma has been and gone and the Beast from The East has gone back to Siberia. On the news it was all about a Russian spy and his da...