portrait of this blog's author - by Stephen Blackman 2008

Monday, September 30, 2013

  Nic Jones

[ . . . . this week I are been mostly listenin' to . . . . ]

Nic Jones - Canadee-I-O [from the album Penguin Eggs] 

Thanks to the extraordinary BBC 3 programme on Nic Jones this week (tipped off by my very good friend and colleague Sandy Sims) I have been checking my Nic Jones and don't think I have mentioned him on the blog before. This programme by  Michael Proudfoot was a heartfelt and indeed heart rending but inspiring film profile that, if nothing else, made everyone sit up and appreciate that not only is one of the living legands of 'folk' still very much around post his terrifting accident back in the 80's in which he is said to have broken very bone in his body barr his spine (he thinks!) but shows great optimism as his son and the sons of others indeed as it features Eliza Carthy, the daughters too are continuing to carry a torch into this darkness time by singing Nic's songs tunes and arrangements

Nic Jones and Son - Canadee-I-O

Nic Jones - (live) Wanton Seed

Thursday, September 26, 2013

BBC's "Peaky Blinders" - I was going to give this new series the benefit of a couple of more weeks before reviewing and summarising my reactions and thoughts but once the laughter clearly showed no signs of letting up I felt compelled to write while I can still hold my hand steady. Where everything looks like a 80’s pop video, why even the dirt looks choreographed, the puddles look staged and the scenery like something from a local theatre production of Ali Baba. The leading man is prettier than the women in it and the horses prettier than him! The men’s hairdressing appears to have been done in the one & only barber who laughably only has one style, some perverse kind of short back and back left long on top. Pudding basins all round but be sure to leave something for Cillian Murphy to flourish and flick out of those steelie blue mincers.

Speaking of pop videos the music is strangely disturbing if not distracting here and doubtless some misguided attempt at a modern twist to appeal to the younger audience by occasionally having The White Stripes interspersed with Puccini behind the more laboured attempts at drama. It’s a bit like having Red Hot Chilli Peppers do a D.H. Lawrence film soundtrack. Why even Nick Cave has been used as the theme! No attempt at historical accuracy here as indeed there doesn’t seem to be anywhere.

The chorus line . . . . . .
The d├ęcor too are mainly laughable not least for their studied grime that looks like it’s been applied with a make-up brush with a colour range from varicose vein blue to tubercular brown to consumption grey but the set is laughable too. The factory appears to do no actual work at all as the steel drums that were there last week appear to be in exactly same place. Aesthetically placed by the shooting sparks and bursts of flames that shoot with no apparent purpose but at least in time with the soundtrack. ‘Make sure the rust looks evenly painted for pities sake you lot!’ All very theatrical and I was thoroughly expecting the ensemble to burst into ‘Mack The Knife’ or ‘Whiskey Bar’ any second. Someone took their degree in set design by watching ‘Once Upon a Time in America’ and nothing wrong with that except that this is Birmingham England and the B.S.A factory not New York in the 20’s. The only thing in come appears to be both feature opium dens – ooh, how exotic!

It is the acting that beggars belief though! The accents alone are given to sliding around as if recorded weeks apart. Mind you the combination of Brummie and Irish is somewhat of a challenge. Sam Neill’s accent slides from scene to scene but is largely dreadful despite his protestations that it is based upon that of his father, the clipped vowels and broad attempt slips around like so much fish on a plate. Poor Mrs Helen-Homeland-Lewis-McCrory has to struggle to maintain the broad Brum her character requires but she is underused here in general so there would appear to have been little time for her to master it.
It would appear worth sticking with if only to see if the laughter level increases but “tough epic gangster drama” this ain’t!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Should we send in UN troops!?


More people have been shot dead within the borders of the USA than in any armed conflict overseas since the sixties!. We might be forgiven for expecting America’s adversaries to be rolling around helpless with laughter as the self appointed ‘global policeman’ is responsible for killing more of its own people than by any other means, terrorist or otherwise! I have a reputation for expounding the figures of those killed by our main means of transport (more people have been killed by the automobile that in all the world wars put together) this is about to change in the grimmest way imaginable as America has begun challenging it’s road safety in recent years and the number dead from handgun crime is for the first time about to exceed those killed by their means of getting to the shopping mall![1]

This from Henry Porter and The Guardian newspaper in recent weeks:

“Guns do not make a nation safer, say US doctors who have compared the rate of firearms-related deaths in countries where many people own guns with the death rate in countries where gun ownership is rare.

Their findings, published Wednesday in the prestigious American Journal of Medicine, debunk the historic belief among many people in the United States that guns make a country safer, they say. On the contrary, the US, with the most guns per head in the world, has the highest rate of deaths from firearms, while Japan, which has the lowest rate of gun ownership, has the least.

That 212,994 more Americans lost their lives from firearms in the last 45 years than in all wars involving the US is a staggering fact, particularly when you place it in the context of the safety-conscious, "secondary smoke" obsessions that characterise so much of American life.

The annual toll from firearms in the US is running at 32,000 deaths and climbing, even though the general crime rate is on a downward path (it is 40% lower than in 1980). If this perennial slaughter doesn't qualify for intercession by the UN and all relevant NGOs, it is hard to know what does.

One more figure. There have been fewer than 20 terror-related deaths on American soil since 9/11 and about 364,000 deaths caused by privately owned firearms. If any European nation had such a record and persisted in addressing only the first figure, while ignoring the second, you can bet your last pound that the State Department would be warning against travel to that country and no American would set foot in it without body armour”

[1] US Road deaths 32,036 – Gun crime death rate 32,929).

Monday, September 16, 2013

Bryan Howard Smith


I am shocked and saddened to learn from my local paper of the passing of one of my oldest pals from school. Howard Smith was simply one of the nicest people it was ever my privilege to meet. We met occasionally over the years since school days and he was unerringly friendly warm and affectionate toward me. Genuinely interested in what I was doing and always solicitous of my well being. I first bumped into him after I returned to Oxford in the late seventies when he dropped by the Museum of Modern Art where he had come to install CCTV and he acknowledged me immediately and we spent the next few days he was installing systems there chatting and catching up. I learned with joy he had married his childhood sweetheart, Mandy, and this somehow seemed right and I told him so.  I last saw him over a year ago, after last Easter I think, and it was, as ever, a delight to bump into him. He shared he had dropped by 'the blog nobody reads and enjoyed reading whatever I had rambled on about, which was kind and in tribute to him and our happy school days I posted this a year ago now and it was a tribute to my friend, Bryan Howard Smith:
"I bumped into Howard in my local Sainsburys over Easter and he is a sterling fellow, loyal, friendly, a true yeoman, the sort of man you could trust with pretty much anything. He married his childhood sweetheart Mandy, though I was saddened to learn they are divorced now but they were as youngsters the ideal couple, both good looking and both as  nice as it’s possible to be and I wasn’t surprised to learn he was on his way round to see her when we bumped into each other. We were childhood school friends, he was the year below me at school here in Oxfordshire and we had many a happy summer dawdling about the village where he lived. Islip is just North of Kidlington which itself is some 5 miles north of Oxford.
There were three pals from that village who came to be schooled in Kidlington; Howard, or Bryan as he was introduced to me and still to this day people will call him Bryan but he chose his other first name and earnestly asked us to call him Howard from then on, which most of us managed tho’ it still plagues him, which made all his pals laugh (thought him, not so much!), close friend Trevor Timms and Kevin Gunston or the legendary “Gunner” (of course! ED). I was infatuated with Trevor’s breathtakingly beautiful sister and Gunner’s mum ran the local pub, the Red Lion

I have an indelible memory of summers spent in Islip, learning to row in Howard’s little boat on the beautiful river of Islip, a tributary of the Cherwell itself a tributary of the Thames. Bucolic days of sunshine and oars dipping in the river and his energetic little Jack Russell ratting down every available nook and cranny of the riverbank. I reminded him of this and he even recalled how much that little rowboat had cost him all those years ago. £17! All that happiness for seventeen quid! Another friend, Leon, when informed I had bumped into our erstwhile pal, has memories of playing in Howard’s family shop and playing pea shooters as there an inevitable endless supply of dried peas on hand in the store room!
Aaah the peashooter! Never mind your Playstation 3 and your Wii, we had fun those days, sitting around the playing field learning how to roll cigarettes and playing peashooters in the cold store of the village shop.

Howard, sir, I salute you.
I do salute him now as I did then and know I am not alone in saying that I shall miss him. My thoughts go out to his friends, his family and all those who knew him

Thursday, September 12, 2013



have been in touch (via the email subscription nothing fancy) to remind us about their new album 


Emily Barker
"Now living in the UK, Emily grew up in Bridgetown, Western Australia. With her releases over the last six years, she has proven herself to be a compelling singer-songwriter. Emily and her band, The Red Clay Halo, have carved out their own style, seamlessly blending classical, rock, country and folk influences to stunning effect. Together they have released three critically acclaimed albums, played a string of sold-out UK dates, performed with Frank Turner at the London 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony and written the Bafta and Ivor Novello award-winning themes to hit BBC dramas Wallander and The Shadow Line. Dear River is a major landmark that will surely take Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo to a whole new level."
Emily Barker 'Dear River'

I love her voice and quirky songwriting, ethereal voice and curious lyrics. I think she is another of those bands I found through the tv and the Wallender show soundtrack made me say "Who IS this!?" and we haven't looked back. I have bought everything since, highly recommending Almanac which has hardly been off the decks and I await the new album with anticipation. Meanwhile there is a free 3 track sampler download for those in need of encouragement!


Thursday, September 05, 2013

Bob Dylan News Update and the Americanarama Tour

Just that it struck me as truly EXTRAORDINARY this Never Ending Tour has turned into another jamboree band of gypsies style Rolling Thunder on The Mountain Review!
 I had thought it was going to be of 'Americana' but the permanent fixtures are WILCO and My Morning Jacket! Here in Memphis the set opener appears to be Richard Thompson, followed by My Morning Jacket who are joined by John Prine!!!!
 Now avid readers (there are none! Don't kid yourself. ED) will know my passion for all of these and I am reeling here trying to get my head around how this conceivably came to pass
Guests appear to pop up at will depending on where he is and who is invited I would guess but Richard Thompson has appeared more than once, presumably joining the tour if it coincides with where he just happens to be!? The poster gives the clue in that it seems Wilco and Morning Jacket are the fixtures and then others drop by presumably at the drop of a hat (hats are still big on this tour!) Now this video is not great quality but it shows what's going on a treat! Doesn't help me understand it any more but it does show something of the variety . . . . . . Note Bob has added Duquesne Whistle to the set here! A favourite from the last album and excuse to post the vid again . . . . . I LOVE IT!

Bob Dylan Americanarama tour 07 02 2013 Memphis by dylanjames67


Duquesne Whistle

Incidentally whilst we are on about all things Bobness the new Bootleg Series Vol 10 Another Self Portrait is worth getting.........the deluxe set has a remix of the Isle of Wight set with the Band and hasn't been off the turntable. Wonderful stuff! Not for everyone I guess the remastered Self Portrait is not to everyone's taste (I'd rather not have been Greil Marcus who's "What is this shit!" has gone down in time as the dumbest journalese and one he is likely to be remembered for!) but for me it's great to have it all like this . . . . . . .