Our Pops-Master Mr Villers is taking a break at the moment so no witty commentary sorry but following Trump’s sideways move into out and out fascism this week at that rally, this particular track from Tracy Chapman’s excellent ‘New Beginning’ album from 1995 seemed appropriate: “Who stole your heart who took it away, Knowing that without it you can’t live? Who took away the part so essential to the whole, Left you a hollow body, Skin and bone? What robber, what thief, who stole your heart and the key?”
Elton John, surprisingly to me, declared great respect for Leon Russell as Russell’s career and life were coming to an end. Indeed I felt a bit affronted that the king of tinsel, both visually and musically, could be associated with a talent like Russell. However if you consider John’s early incarnation as an honorary west coast singer-songwriter on albums such as ‘Tumbleweed Connections’ (‘Ballad of a Well Known Gun’, for instance) then it made much more sense. Continue reading “Forgotten artists: Leon Russell”
Moving from the small town in Nebraska in which she was raised to the bustling New York City was the making of Kathy Zimmer. The music of her rural youth has combined with more sophisticated, urban sounds and orchestration to create something new and different: a genre that Zimmer herself describes as ‘cosmopolitan folk’. This conflict between the old and new and between styles gives Zimmer’s songs a clear identity and often provides the subject matter for her lyrics, as evident in ‘I <3 NY’ from recent EP, ‘Sparkling Smile’. American-UK caught up with Zimmer to explore the story of this beguiling song. Continue reading “Studio Life – Kathy Zimmer”
Here’s another voyage into the psyche of our writers and contributors in which we interrogate the (often) unfathomable reasons why we are all such junkies for this Americana stuff. This week self-confessed needle dropper Andrew Frolish documents his journey from the unfashionable to the deeply unfashionable (or fashionable to the uber fashionable depending on who you talk to). As a needle dropper we’re not sure if he’s a junkie, a vinyl junkie or just a rubbish seamstress (but we could probably find out). Continue reading “What Is This Americana Thing Anyway…”
When americana pioneers Uncle Tupelo split in 1994, it was like cutting a worm in half. They both grew new heads. Or tails. Whatever allegedly happens when you cut a worm in half. One of those heads was of course Jay Farrar who went on to found Son Volt, and though their debut ‘Trace’ was always heralded as the classic, 1997’s ‘Straightaways’ has always held a more special place for me in their canon. Apart from anything else it contains the track ‘Creosote’, my favourite song by Son Volt and one of the most perfectly rounded americana songs ever (just listen to those lyrics), at the dawning of the UK bringing the genre to its bosom. Blair should have invited Farrar to Downing St instead of Noel Gallagher. Then again that would have involved good judgement.
Given the way in in which people typically consume music nowadays, all too often the lyrics are sidelined, if not completely overlooked. But great lyrics are often what make the best songs truly memorable. The following is the first in an occasional series about songs with great lyrics. Mark Underwood explains what makes the following 10 tracks so special. Continue reading “Here’s 10 americana songs with great lyrics”
As most of our regular reader(s) will know Americana-UK Towers is based in The People’s Republic of Liverpudlia. That said we do have brethren/sistren outlying communities in The People’s Republic of Birminghemia, The People’s Republic of Mancaphobia and The People’s Republic of Leysestor. Your regular correspondent in all things Politically Pop is from The People’s Republic of Kenilworthonia – however it’s a very small and insular affair, that one, and any visitors are most likely to be met with burning torches and pitchforks. Best avoided to be honest. Continue reading “Pick of the Political Pops: Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper “Jesus At MacDondalds””
I first saw Aimee Mann back in the early 90s twice in Liverpool – once at the Royal Court supporting someone I now can’t remember and once at a jazz club on Hope Street whose name I also can’t remember. Ageing is fantastic. Bob Harris would often play her on his overnight show on Radio 1 – she was one of those artists who started great and just got greater. The pinnacle of greatness for me was ‘The Forgotten Arm’ from 2005 which still stands out as one of the most superbly arranged albums ever recorded – the most americana-tinged of all her records, it tells the story of two characters who run off with each other to escape their problems, but end up in more trouble. The fact that this track wasn’t a hit proves once and for all that there is no justice in this awful world we live in.
This week marks the fiftieth anniversary of The Stonewall Riots. Fifty years, mark you. “Stonewall”, for those who are unfamiliar with the term, refers to The Stonewall Inn in Greenwhich Village, New York. This was a place (by all accounts run by The Mafia) which catered to the (illegal at the time) ‘gay crowd’. To preface things you need to understand this: being gay was illegal, serving gays was illegal and pretty much anything ‘gay’ was illegal. This pivotal moment, whilst not being the beginning or the end of the gay struggle, marked a point at which the gay community decided to stand up and tell the world that they ‘just wouldn’t take this anymore’. In 1969 – easily within living memory for some of us. We could explain all of the story in more detail but we are minded that this BBC link says most of what we want to say.
It was about 10 years ago that I first came across Rhode Island’s Low Anthem in a soggy field (well, garden) in Wiltshire when they played one of their famous End of the Road performances, and like most of the music I love sobbed my way through most of the set. ‘To Ohio’ with its line about every new love being basically just a shadow is a classic example of everything that’s great about the band, and those harmonies you would kill for, let alone die.