Songs for the apocalypse: The Jayhawks “It’s Up to You”

When Mark Olson left the Jayhawks it felt to me like one of the most beautiful songwriting partnerships since Lennon and McCartney was being torn apart like matchwood. Who knew then that the Jayhawks’ first album sans Olson would be one of the most beautiful records ever recorded. There were many songs that felt like classics but for me it was this one, with its wonderful lines like “Six green olives and a champagne basket/Paid the bill with your boyfriend’s plastic” that stood out the most. 22 years on, every time I hear it now the hairs on the back of my neck go up. Long live the Jayhawks.

AmericanA to Z – Steve Forbert

When he first hit the scene in 1978 someone somewhere decided that labelling Steve Forbert with the “new Dylan” tag was a good idea. Unfortunately, the “new Dylan” arrived just when singer-songwriters playing folk rock on a guitar and harmonica weren’t exactly hot. Never a good idea to call anybody “the new” anything. Well, he did play the harmonica. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – Steve Forbert”

Pick of the Political Pops: 10CC “The Sacro Illiac”

Our eagle-eyed reader (we’ve established that there is one of you) will remember that last week we were somewhat nervous at being summoned unto the company of The Big Boss Editor. Fear not gentle reader – not only did we survive but we came away with a fulsome sense of responsibility, a warm feeling of loyalty and a belly full of gin. Continue reading “Pick of the Political Pops: 10CC “The Sacro Illiac””

Songs for the apocalypse: Jackson Browne “Late For the Sky”

On rare occasions when I used to review albums for AUK I’d think “this is a 10” but before long a creeping thought would always enter my mind – that whatever record it was, it wasn’t as good as Jackson Browne’s ‘Late For the Sky’.  Jackson Browne described the song as being “about a moment when you realize that something has changed, it’s over, and you’re late for wherever you’re going to be next.” So not just about missing a plane, and it has aged not one jot in 46 years. Thank the lucky stars that a songwriter like JB is still around.

Pick of the Political Pops: The Delmore Brothers “Browns Ferry Blues”

This week sees your humble correspondent and his encumbrance being treated to an outing in the wilds of the People’s Republic of Liverpudlia. The Editor, in a highly unusual display of largesse and munificence, has insisted that we sample the cultural highlights of the desolate North (possibly on his dollar but we’ll see about that). Continue reading “Pick of the Political Pops: The Delmore Brothers “Browns Ferry Blues””

Songs for the apocalypse: Fountains of Wayne “Fire in the Canyon”

Fountains of Wayne will always be known for ‘Stacy’s Mom’ which is kind of unfortunate when it means people will overlook absolute gems in their back catalogue such as ‘Hey Julie, The Summer Place’ and this cut from their 2007 album ‘Traffic and Weather’. For some reason the end of it always reminds me of the theme to The Littlest Hobo, a country road song whose jangle guitar belies the foreboding lyrics describing “an eerie kind of sadness on the highway today” and describing hotel rooms as “air-conditioned cable-ready cold padded cells”. More The Band than Weezer, FOW are on a long term hiatus at the moment. If they don’t return, this still lives on in my mind as one of the best country songs ever by a non-country band.

AmericanA to Z – The Delmore Brothers

Before Americana, before Outlaw Country, before Nashville even; there was Jimmie Rodgers, The Carter Family and importantly The Delmore Brothers. From a dirt poor Alabama farming family, these boys fused blues, folk and gospel to create their close vocal harmony sound and help define a genre which came to be known as country music. Unlike their contemporaries, they also mixed in a tenor guitar, giving perhaps the first example of heavy twang – a cornerstone of what we all love about Americana. Continue reading “AmericanA to Z – The Delmore Brothers”

Pick of the Political Pops: The Gourds “Everybody’s Missing The Sun”

Down here in The Bunker at Americana UK Towers we have five lever locks and ten bolts on the door. Mostly this is to keep out the hoi polio – fans who want to snog us and get our autographs, depressed singer/songwriters who want to take us to task for dissing their life’s work, bailiffs who don’t get the joke that not paying the rent is a piece of performance art and politically savvy folk who vehemently disagree with our editorial policy of being politically neutral. Continue reading “Pick of the Political Pops: The Gourds “Everybody’s Missing The Sun””

Songs for the apocalypse: Grant McLennan “Keep My Word”

‘Horsebreaker Star’ came out as a double album back in 1994, the penultimate to be released by the late ex Go-Betweener Grant McLennan and it was a musical jump from his previous work, being recorded as it was in Athens, Georgia with US musicians, and including flashes of banjo and mandolin. “I wanted it to be the kind of record that could be played by anyone, but not too obvious. You know, the London Symphony Orchestra doesn’t have to do the ballads, Johnny Cash doesn’t have to do the country songs. I don’t like to be that predictable. I like surprises,” he said. It was on my CD player for most of the year and this track used to crush me several times a week.