Songs for the apocalypse: Loudon Wainwright III “Pretty Good Day”

In 1999 Loudon Wainwright released an album which was comprised of various topical and satirical songs, originally produced for National Public Radio and based upon then-current issues and events, such as the Tonya Harding scandal, the O. J. Simpson murder trial, and the lead-up to Y2K. The last track on it was perhaps the most evocative and it hit me like a ton of bricks the first time I heard it, a satire on the ordinariness of life without war which many in the West take for granted: “I turned the tap, there was cold there was hot. I put on my coat to go to the shop. I stepped outside, and I didn’t get shot. It’s a pretty good day so far.”  It still resonates today, perhaps more than ever in these frightening times.

Van Life – William the Conqueror

West country trio William The Conqueror have been making steady inroads on the Americana scene for a few years now with their latest album ‘Bleeding On The Soundtrack’ just released on Loose Music. Headed by singer-songwriter Ruarri Joseph, who released a number of albums ten years ago under his own name and was quite a favourite on the folk scene, William The Conqueror are altogether a different beast.  Blues-driven riffs, building beautifully to full-on glorious crescendos, this is a band that utilises all three musicians to their full potential. Their sound is simple yet completely mesmeric. There is a certain bond between these guys that has clearly been built on the road. Americana UK asks Joseph how things shape up as the miles pass.  Continue reading “Van Life – William the Conqueror”

AmericanA to Z – Indigo Girls

Even within such a broad church as Americana, “whatever that is”, as No Depression magazine accurately put it aeons ago, some may be exercised as to whether or not Indigo Girls qualify or should instead fit into folk, folk-rock, alt.something or other or whatever the latest pigeonhole is called.  As far as this writer is concerned however Indigo Girls are Americana; what particular flavour is for discussion by those who enjoy dancing on the head of a pin. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – Indigo Girls”

Pick of the Political Pops: The High Llamas “Checking In and Checking Out”

“It’s been a quiet week in politics and we don’t really have much to say…” …said no one ever. When the ‘leader’ of a ‘government’ suffers two of the three most catastrophic defeats in the history of Parliament one would probably expect them to resign. Not so PM Terry Might. Here is a person who has had two years to come up with a decent agreement to leave the European Union but couldn’t manage it. Continue reading “Pick of the Political Pops: The High Llamas “Checking In and Checking Out””

Songs for the apocalypse: Fruit Bats “From a Soon to be Ghost Town”

Occasionally, very occasionally, you come across a song where the first time you hear it you know it’s going to be one of those Desert Island Disc tracks which stays with you for the rest of your life. I first heard this song by Chicago’s Fruit Bats only 2 years back in the middle of a very wet field in the Brecon Beacons, and almost wept for joy at the melody and arrangement which had echoes for me of the Jayhawks at their best. As the line goes, “It’s hard to be a queer one in a place with no queer ones, At least none who’d admit that they were.” Which made me think, where has this track been all my life?

Pick of the Political Pops: Sparklehorse “Knives of Summertime”

It would appear that PM Terry Might is conducting the political equivalent of fiddling whilst Rome burns. There are of course many problems facing the country – there always are – but one particular bête noir of the moment is knife crime. We don’t have knives here at Americana-UK Towers because we can’t be trusted with them (except plastic ones) but news has filtered down to us that attacks featuring the use of knives are on the rise. It appears that the conversation round this has gone something like: Continue reading “Pick of the Political Pops: Sparklehorse “Knives of Summertime””

Songs for the apocalypse: Paul Kelly “Keep it to Yourself”

Finding my way to americana was a long journey through the eighties but the beginning of the next decade on the other side of the world gave me a rush of music I’d never come across before. Principally among this was the now legendary Aussie singer-songwriter Paul Kelly whose 1991 album ‘Comedy’ covered a spectrum of genres from folk to indie to country. I couldn’t get enough of it, and this song in particular was as good an example as any of the humanity with which PK deals with relationships: “I don’t want your honesty or descriptions blow by blow; Keep it to yourself, Baby I don’t want to know.”

AmericanA to Z – Nanci Griffith

With twenty albums under her belt Nanci Griffith is by no means an unknown artist; singing what she classes a folkabilly, she writes with a confessional style, and with her voice, which is made for folk music. It is a perfect combination for a true Americana singer. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – Nanci Griffith”

Pick of the Political Pops: Ry Cooder “How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live”

Down here in The Bunker we have a simple sort of justice which applies when one of our number is accused of doing something wrong. They are questioned and then allowed a right of reply. For example: (Q)“It was your turn to take the rubbish out – why didn’t you?” (A) “I am in the process of taking the rubbish out but there was a lot of it and I couldn’t carry it all” or (Q) “You drank the last of the gin – why didn’t you replace it?” (A) “I am en route to the supermarket to replensish supplies” or (Q)“You are a rascist anti-Semite – how can you live with yourself?” (A) “I am a life-long campaigner against racism in all its forms including anti-Semitism”. Continue reading “Pick of the Political Pops: Ry Cooder “How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times And Live””