Songs for the apocalypse: The Jayhawks “Smile”

My good friend and longstanding AUK comrade Keith Hargreaves and I had a debate recently about the best and worst of The Jayhawks. To be fair, there was agreement that there wasn’t much “worst” but of the best alas the waters between us got choppier. For me, ‘Smile’ is a patchy album but one with some of the best songs the band ever recorded – ‘Better Days’ and ‘A Break in the Clouds’ being two such examples, but the title track too for me just has a melody and arrangement that 20 years on from the first time I heard it still feels magical. “Wake up, put your shoes on, Take a breath of the northern air – And rub those eyes” – the song’s opening lines which are essentially my average day. And in a strictly Northern sense, it’s perhaps a more Beatlesy album than anything that came before or after it, but no bad thing for that. Chin up.

From one chord wonders to three chords and the truth: 10 artists who went from punk to country

I like to think that I’ve come to know Ramona well. Indeed I’d probably go so far as to say I’ve got a bit of a crush. Who wouldn’t carry at least a small torch for someone identifying as a ‘no-show Jones in Skateboard world’? It feels like she’s had a journey similar to mine, like we’ve made the same moves, thrashed around in the same mosh-pits, and used the same cheap eye-liner, badly. Continue reading “From one chord wonders to three chords and the truth: 10 artists who went from punk to country”

AmericanA to Z: Marah

It’s an age-old story; idealistic young things are awe-struck by the rhetorical and transformative power of rock n roll, which fills their head full of dreams and raises their eyes to the skies. They form a band and, with a burning belief in their own ability to communicate and connect through music, set out on their mission to conquer the world. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z: Marah”

Classic Americana Albums: Indigo Girls “Swamp Ophelia” (Epic, 1994)

Sometimes, arriving late to something like a previously unknown band or a music genre or perhaps an album that everyone seems to have owned and played forever is not always a bad thing. It provides the exciting opportunity to trawl through a back catalogue, to seek out live performances online and best of all to track when a newly discovered artist is touring locally. Living and working in Boston in about 1999, a colleague was playing songs in the office by a group unknown to me on her cassette player (young ‘uns….look it up). Upon enquiry, I was informed it was The Indigo Girls, the tracks being ‘Closer to Fine’ and ‘Hammer and a Nail’. My introduction to the musical delights of Emily Saliers and Amy Ray was complete. Continue reading “Classic Americana Albums: Indigo Girls “Swamp Ophelia” (Epic, 1994)”

Classic Americana Compilations: Various Artists “Songs for Slim: Rockin’ Here Tonight – A Benefit Compilation for Slim Dunlap” (New West Records, 2013)

If you remember the 1980s – and I can think of several reasons why you wouldn’t, not the least of which is the ever-expanding possibility that you weren’t even alive yet – then you probably remember The Replacements. As a fan of Americana music, you might be wondering why I bother to bring up a “punk” band on these pages. ‘The Mats’ certainly earned their reputation as a wild and unpredictable live performance, but their sound and sensibilities changed over time. Continue reading “Classic Americana Compilations: Various Artists “Songs for Slim: Rockin’ Here Tonight – A Benefit Compilation for Slim Dunlap” (New West Records, 2013)”

VERSIONS – “Senor (Tales Of Yankee Power)”

Here we are again with “VERSIONS” – our look at the songs, the performers and the interpretations by performers of the songs. This time around Martin Johnson casts his eye over over ‘Senor (Tales of Yankee Power)’. Anything that you didn’t know about this tune is cleared up here: Continue reading “VERSIONS – “Senor (Tales Of Yankee Power)””

Forgotten Artists – Hal Ketchum

Welcome to another feature in the FORGOTTEN ARTISTS series, where we take a look at some of the Americana musicians that may just have dropped out of people’s memories or who, perhaps, never received the appreciation their contribution to the genre deserved. This time I’m taking a look at the career of singer/songwriter Hal Ketchum. Continue reading “Forgotten Artists – Hal Ketchum”

AUK’s Chain Gang: Wilco “Via Chicago”

The previous Chain Gang offering was Dale Watson’s ‘Tucumcari Here I Come’ which required a search to learn was on ‘More Songs of Route 66: Roadside Attractions’. The choices available to link to songs relating to US routes and highways in Americana must be almost infinite. Obviously one option would be to revisit Highway 61 but even if you choose to stick on Route 66 then you have a choice of classics like ‘Well I’m Standing on a Corner in Winslow, Arizona’ which now has a park dedicated to it. Continue reading “AUK’s Chain Gang: Wilco “Via Chicago””

Americana Roots: The Dirty Grass Players

Americana Roots highlights the freshest and most original Americana and bluegrass from across the pond in the US.  It covers everything from brand-new, just out of the box bands, to cult favourites, to established acts who have yet to reach the UK’s shores. The Dirty Grass Players, from the bluegrass hotbed of Baltimore, Maryland, are an innovative, forward-thinking band who maintain a deep connection to the traditional sounds of the past, while delivering it with a loose, rock ‘n’ roll swagger. Continue reading “Americana Roots: The Dirty Grass Players”

Pick of the Political Pops: Pete Seeger “Freiheit”

This week we have been pondering the Spanish Civil War which broke out in July 1936. It was and, for political historians, remains a fascinating conflict the complexities of which present a head-scratching challenge to the best of us. Essentially at its core it’s a good old story of the fight between right and left (we say ‘good’ but somewhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000 souls perished so not that good). Continue reading “Pick of the Political Pops: Pete Seeger “Freiheit””