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

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

"Closing Time"


"Private Conversation"

Another from a series of favourite songs and this is exceptional in that whilst the quality of the video may be home spun the sound is excellent and my hero Lyle Lovett is here accompanied by Nanci Griffith

 The last set at Austin City Limits Studio 6a was a celebration and how better to end the thing after 36 years than Lyle singing 'Closing Time'

To finish on an upbeat I started looking to find other favourite Lovett songs and this one is great
live on Letterman in '96 'Private Conversation" I defy you not to choogle your buns!

get them and more here. . . . buy a fistful you won't go wrong, I've got all of 'em and I Love 'em!

Monday, April 27, 2015

 Steve Earle

Just revisiting old classic songs that have a stayed with me through the years like old friends and a good pair of shoes. This is the wonderment that is Steve Earle and I have been following all that he has done since his début album over here the fine fine album 'Guitar Town' which grabbed me by the collar stood me up against the wall and shook me

Here he is doing an all time favourite song that resonates as true now as it did then . . . .

Steve Earle - My Old Friend The Blues

Turn it up and buy the album(s)

Friday, April 24, 2015

Matt Andersen

One of the very great joys of being a member of a music forum apart from the sense of community of like minded shared interests with folk and perhaps only second to them being run by folks who put you in touch with downloads of ROIO's of some fine fine mewsic, is when you get introduced to new talent by other members. People and artists that you have never heard of who then proceed to blow you away. Canadian Matt Andersen is one such as these. (It seems to happen with quite a lot of Canadians!?)

Firstly check out his version of the classic Kris Kristoffersen number 'Me and Bobby McGee'

THen check this from the side bar at Youtube the beautiful 'Drift Away'

Wednesday, April 22, 2015



Getty Images


April 21, 2015: Two weeks after Tidal briefly cracked the U.S. iPhone top 20 download chart, the app has crashed out of the top 700. Apparently American consumers have limited empathy towards Beyonce and Nicki. Soon after the launch fiasco, Tidal's CEO was kicked out in a "streamlining" move.  The new CEO Peter Tonstad, a former consultant for the Norwegian Ministry of Environment, has his work cut out for him.

To make matters worse for Tidal, its main rivals are now surging. On April 20th, Pandora and Spotify occupied positions No. 3 and No. 4 on the U.S. iPhone revenue chart, respectively. This was the first time two music streaming services have hit the top 4 in sales simultaneously. In order to achieve the feat, Pandora and Spotify had to push Candy Crush Saga out of U.S. iPhone top 4 revenue chart, which is a remarkable achievement.

As a matter of fact, something curious can be seen in Spotify's download performance right after Tidal's media campaign started bashing its allegedly meager payouts. Spotify surged back into the iPad top 40 download chart on March 31st, right when Tidal's anti-Spotify invective hit its peak in American media. This had not happened since November 2014.

It looks like Tidal's attacks on Spotify and Pandora actually managed to increase public awareness of the services, boosting Spotify's download performance in particular at the end of March. And now, a few weeks later, the combined revenue performance of the two music apps is hitting a new milestone. To add insult to injury, Beats Music has started cracking U.S. iPhone top 20 revenue chart.

Tidal is now facing no fewer than three deep-pocketed rival music apps and they're all minting money and riding strong momentum. The new CEO must somehow find a way to mop up after the ill-advised March launch and find a way to reposition Tidal in a crowded marketŠ preferably by not trying to make consumers feel bad for multimillionaires. Or giving its rivals extra attention. - bgr.com (click here)



Reports in the April 19, 2015 Daily Mirror suggest that Noel and Liam Gallagher have reached a 'gentleman's agreement' to reform Oasis next year. There has seemingly been a thawing in the pair's relationship lately. Last month saw Liam taking to Twitter to post a photo of himself holding a backstage pass to one of Noel's gigs, who in turn has publicly encouraged his younger sibling to record a solo album. 
The Mirror reported a 'well-placed source' saying: "It's early days in terms of the details, but Noel and Liam are back on good terms and ready to give things another go. Nothing is signed but it's what you might call a gentlemen's agreement between them. Ultimately they're family and whatever has gone on before can be sorted out - they're very close beneath all the bluster."

Which brother is going broke fast?

It has been revealed by Lou Reed's wife that David Bowie thinks her husband's 2011 collaboration with Metallica, 'Lulu', is his "greatest work". During Laurie Anderson's speech at Reed's induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame on April 18, 2015, the late singer's widow said that consensus on the record is changing. "One of [Lou's] last projects was his album with Metallica," she said. "And this was really challenging, and I have a hard time with it. There are many struggles and so much radiance. And after Lou's death, David Bowie made a big point of saying to me, 'Listen, this is Lou's greatest work. This is his masterpiece. Just wait, it will be like 'Berlin'. It will take everyone a while to catch up.'"

Anderson added: "I've been reading the lyrics and it is so fierce. It's written by a man who understood fear and rage and venom and terror and revenge and love. And it is raging." Reed was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame on April 18, 2015.

He lied.


In an interview in Vulture, Albini has raised doubts over Jay Z's TIDAL and calling it a "budget version of Pono", Neil Young's high-definition music player. "Historically, every time there's been a new technological progression, there's been a new convenience format [for listening to music]," Albini is quoted as saying. "So the question is, is it possible for something to be more convenient than streaming? And the answer is obviously yes. If you want your music to play at the push of a button, convenience is going to trump sound quality 100 percent of the time."

"It's for the same reason that if you had a screen that displayed paintings in your living room, very few serious art enthusiasts would care for such a screen despite the fact that it might show you very high-resolution images of artworks. They want to own a piece of art that is a direct connection to the person who made it. Having an HD screen in your house that would display artwork might have a market, but it's not the same market as people who are interested in owning art."

Albini continues that the growing number of streaming services, each with exclusive content, may mean that music fans seek alternate means of consuming music. "The for-pay services are deluding themselves by trying to establish a permanent monetization of something that's in flux. The internet provides access to materials and things. Creating these little streaming fiefdoms where certain streaming services have certain artists and certain streaming services have other artists is a crippled use of the internet. If the internet has demonstrated anything over the years, it's that it has a way of breaking limitations placed on its content."

Last year, Steve Albini called online music sharing the best thing since punk rock. "The single best thing that has happened in my lifetime in music, after punk rock, is being able to share music, globally for free. That's an incredible development," he said.


And this citation earns the local government US$2,000. May the force be with you.


According to the San Antonio Express News, April 16, 2015 do-gooder Joan Cheever was in Maverick Park serving a meal that included lamb meatballs, spaghetti, a garden salad and a vegetable soup, when San Antonio police cited her for violating the city code, because she transported the food to the park in a vehicle other than the mobile truck for which she has a food permit.

"I told the officer that we cook dinner in the truck and then we put it in health-department-approved catering equipment, like every caterer or restaurant-delivery service in this town, and then serve it. And he said, 'You can't do that.'"

David Martin Davies, host of "The Source" on Texas Public Radio, witnessed and recorded Cheever's Tuesday night encounter with the police officers.

"She seemed aware going into it that there was a change in the way the police were acting, and something like this might be coming," Davies said, adding, "She's unabashed. She's not going to back down."

Cheever is scheduled to go before the Municipal Court on June 23, but she remained defiant after receiving the citation, arguing that under the 1999 Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, she has a right to serve food to the homeless because she considers it a free exercise of her religion.  "This is how I pray," she told the local NBC affiliate, "when I cook this food and deliver it to the people who are less fortunate." - Zero Hedge (click here)


"In celebration of 420, here's an interlude from my 8th studio album that I call James Joint."

- Rihanna, April 21, 2015. Listen to James Joint here.

Wikipedia says, "420, 4:20, or 4/20 (pronounced four-twenty) is a code-term that refers to the consumption of cannabis and by extension, as a way to identify oneself with cannabis subculture or simply cannabis itself. Observances based on the number 420 include smoking cannabis around the time 4:20 p.m (16:20) on any given day, as well as smoking and celebrating cannabis on the date April 20." Why, what CAN she mean?!

 Things we have learned this week . . . . . . . .(or have we?)


We (yes I say we . . . . . As a member of the human race ‘we’ . . . . ) OK then Assad's governing forces in Syria are dropping Chlorine Barrel bombs on HIS OWN people!
Syrian towns report chlorine barrel bombs dropped in one night last week at night (7.45, 8.45, 10.30pm) causing death, pain and chemical burns. I thought we collectively had agreed to stop chemical warfare? I thought we had agreed not to use barrel bombs? Let alone on civilians?! Let alone on children?! Russia's Mr Putin asked for proof as to who is dropping them. Who does he think is dropping them from helicopters? Only the Assad Government forces HAVE helicopters!

 >> <<

I read with horror and of a murder trial which has begun into the case of a 15-year-old highly vulnerable girl whose body has never been found but a 60-year-old man appears to have abducted and murdered her after "forcing" an accomplice [then 46] to practice necrophilia on the child's body.
Are we living in the times of Jack The Ripper? The times of child brothels and opium dens? It's so difficult to tell . . . . . . quite how you force someone to practice necrophilia is beyond me but the whole case is extremely distressing. The child's father was murdered himself two years back allegedly over an argument over a twenty pound note it would seem. The perp having groomed this poor girl for some considerable time prior to killing her after he had finished with her but why has it taken since 2007 to bring this to court? I despair and no longer feel like I understand the world around me!
 >> <<

It has also caught my eye that arsonists are believed to be responsible for lighting upwards of more than. 400  fires in Wales during the first two weeks of April!
49 of which in the first 12 hours of the month. 
Worst affected areas for reasons best known to someone else are the Rhondda (Cynon Taff), which has seen 145 fires and the home of my favourite cheese Caerphilly with 58. Welsh rarebit anyone?! 
This is actually no joke and seems astonishing to me. They have cost South Wales Fire Service thus far about £795,000


On an even more serious note perhaps in response to the fact that the Estate of Joseph Goebbels has issued a writ against Random House for using Hitler's henchman's diaries, all of the living relatives of those who perished at the hands of the dread Nazi minister should counter sue for the loss and continued distress such actions engender? Just a thought
The family of Adolf Hitler's minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels, pictured (above) in September 1934, is suing a publisher for royalties over a biography that used extracts from his diaries 

 >> <<


Speaking of little Hitlers, on a lighter note I am intrigued to read my neighbour (sic) Mr Richard Branson is not a fan of the tie and is given so he says, to "carrying a pair of scissors to cut off the tie of any unsuspecting wearer". I am a fan of one of the only sartorial fashion statements we men are able to display some individuality in without breaking the scruff barrier he so casually discards turning up to meetings looking like he is on perpetual holiday in Magaluf and I have tie designs by Raoul Dufy, Andy Warhol, Magritte and MC Escher so if I should bump into Mr Branson wielding a pair of scissors he better look out for he is liable to have them end up sticking out of his sartorially challenged neck!

Drizzle with a Wriggle?

A rain of earthworms has reportedly been sighted in Norway!?
Viewed by some as a precursor to the 'end of days', ("Repent! Repent!") it is thought the earthworms reportedly numbering some several hundred had probably been lifted by tornados and deposited on the snow-laden ground in several locations. Sightings of flying earthworms have been coming in from Lindas, Suidal, near Bergen, and as far a field as Femunden on the Swedish border. 

The household cleaner with the unlikely name of "Cillit Bang!" (sold in some countries as Easy-Off Bam or Easy-Off Bang "Easy Off Bang? Are you sure?!) whose UK advertisements are presented by the legendary "Barry Scott", a brashly enthusiastic shouty man pillock if ever there was one ... . .  I learned today is not his real name but is played by 'actor' Neil Burgess!  You just can't believe anything you see on tele any more! 
Is nothing sacred!?

Monday, April 20, 2015



by his sister

The Independent Newspaper 'i' published an article on Lou Reed this morning by his sister Merrill Reed Weiner
They got it from medium.com which frankly is a really great website for American cultural articles
I found the article from Merrill really touching and having shared the damage and pain ECT can cause people from the same period, empathise with what she tells us here about Lou and the families struggles. It is a heartfelt and affectionate piece that rings with a truth only a loving sibling could know. I was going to lift it piecemeal from the paper but encourage you to check out medium.com so put it as a link . . . . . .
Really worth a 'REED' sorry!

Left: with our beloved family dog, Seymoure. Right: Lou is 21, I am 16

Merrill, Lou and Toby (their Mum) at the wedding of Merrill’s daughter

a favourite early Lou shot - check those guitars! (via Syracuse University Archives)

Thursday, April 16, 2015


This from the excellent weblog site Big O          April 15, 2015 – 3:42 pm
When Iris DeMent wrote Wasteland Of The Free in 1996, it angered conservatives in America, war veterans and some politicians. The five-minute song denounces religious and political hypocrisy and corruption, government and corporate attacks on workers’ wages, the great and growing gap between rich and poor. But the singer was never arrested or charged with any hate crime. Nineteen years later all that DeMent wrote about has probably gotten a lot worst. There’s a YouTube link below where first-timers can listen to the song. By Richard Phillips.

he folk/traditional American music scene has produced powerful social commentators from Woody Guthrie and others in the 1930s and ’40s, through to the numerous folk singers who spoke out in the 1960s against racism, the war in Vietnam and other political and social issues.Today there are few artists within this genre prepared to deal with the social problems confronting ordinary working people or speak out against religious hypocrisy, war or government attacks on democratic rights. Those capable of producing songs that combine hatred of the social ills produced by the profit system with genuine musical creativity and emotional depth are few in number indeed.
Iris DeMent, a 37-year-old singer/songwriter born in Arkansas and raised in California, is amongst the best within this small group of musicians. DeMent cites Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, Jimmie Rodgers, and the Carter Family as some of her principal musical influences.
In 1996, after two critically-acclaimed CDs ( Infamous Angel and the intensely personal My Life), DeMent released The Way I Should, an album containing “Wasteland Of The Free” a blunt indictment of the right-wing political and social agenda dominating in the US. The five-minute song denounces religious and political hypocrisy and corruption, government and corporate attacks on workers’ wages, the great and growing gap between rich and poor, and the imprisonment of tens of thousands of unemployed and poverty-stricken American youth.

‘Wasteland Of The Free’ still has a tremendous ability to provoke serious reflection and discussion about social and political life, not just in America, but around the world.

“Wasteland” derides those claiming the US to be an “advanced civilization” and describes government and media scapegoating of the poor as a “Hitler solution”. The song also attacks US foreign policy declaring: “We kill for oil then we throw a party when we win/Some guy refuses to fight and we call that a sin”. It concludes: “While we sit gloating in our greatness/Justice is sinking to the bottom of the sea/And it feels like I’m living in the wasteland of the free.”
Naturally, conservative radio programmers and DJs would not play the song, and the album was poorly received by most of those critics associated with the recording industry in Nashville.
A year later, in 1997, the song so inflamed Republican State Senator John Grant of Florida that he used it as a pretext to secure government support for a US$103,000 cut in annual state funding to WMNF-FM, a community radio station in that state. Grant cited DeMent’s song and two others - one by Robert Earl Keen, another by Dan Bern - as the pretext for cuts representing almost 17 per cent of the station’s budget.
In a crude, but nonetheless instructive example of how governments censor small independent stations, Grant, citing extracts from “Wasteland Of The Free”, claimed the station was broadcasting adult content and therefore not eligible for funding. He suggested that if the station changed its programming he might be willing to change his position.
The station’s management who immediately told listeners about Grant’s “offer” rejected this. This produced an outpouring of anger against the senator and support for the station. An emergency one-day fund drive saw listeners donate $120,000 to the station.

In a debate over the song’s relative strengths, or weaknesses, a Canadian writer described ‘Wasteland’ as a “damning indictment of unbridled capitalism, corporate and public greed. The Hitler metaphor was pretty strident stuff and came as a bit of shock, but makes sense: the ends justify the means.”

Grant responded by claiming credit for the support and told station management that all they had to do was work harder and raise the $103,000 shortfall each year. It was only after hundreds of protest letters and widespread local media publicity that the Florida state legislature agreed to restore funding but only at three-quarters of the previous allocation.
“Wasteland Of The Free” still has a tremendous ability to provoke serious reflection and discussion about social and political life, not just in America, but around the world. Evidence of this, and a growing understanding amongst sections of the population that something is fundamentally wrong with society, is shown in a series of e-mail exchanges about the song on a Iris DeMent discussion group in early February [1999].
In a debate over the song’s relative strengths, or weaknesses, a Canadian writer described “Wasteland” as a “damning indictment of unbridled capitalism, corporate and public greed. The Hitler metaphor was pretty strident stuff and came as a bit of shock, but makes sense: the ends justify the means.” An American correspondent rejected assertions that the song “lacked balance” and said it told “the truth of what goes on in the States.”
A letter from a disgruntled concert-goer denounced DeMent as “a selfish, non-thinking socialist of the 1960’s sort” and said he would never purchase her CDs or attend her concerts again.
“It’s easy to have all that America provides as long as you don’t have to contribute anything, especially your life. She made references to ‘them’ and ‘the other side’, intimating about people with religious beliefs and who have conservative economic values. I am not a member of any church, Christian Coalition, or anything even remotely connected.

“It is, at its heart, a song about how we need to think about solving problems, not blaming people or ’spinning’ them in a way that supports some other agenda.”

“I came away disheartened by what I had thought was a remarkably talented person. In music yes. In thought, character, honesty and loyalty - NO. She was divisive and certainly deserves no credit for her poor performance.
“In case you want to know. I’m 52 years old, served in Vietnam and Thailand in 1966-67. Believed that and still do that communism is a despotic system. Sure you think I’m an old right-wing crank. Part of that Hilary inspired ‘conspiracy’. Was starting to believe that the Country was, after many long years, coming together again. What I heard from Iris was divisive, revisionist, and in all, of poor taste.”
This letter produced a rash of thoughtful comments, including the following: “I don’t know that it’s so much a song about ‘left wing good/right wing bad’ but a song of tremendous frustration with the world. I think it is simply lack of empathy, honesty and justice in our culture that has Iris angry and it makes me angry and frustrated, too. It is, at its heart, a song about how we need to think about solving problems, not blaming people or ’spinning’ them in a way that supports some other agenda.”
Other readers commented on DeMent’s courage and conviction and confirmed the song’s observations about the profound problems confronting youth in America. “My boyfriend is a NYC inner city school teacher and from what he says and from what I have seen, the song rings true. I really like the song and admire Iris for being so forthright,” another writer said.

Iris DeMent says: “I don’t have all the answers but if my songs make people think more deeply and figure out solutions that I’m not able to, then this is what it’s for. If people get upset and it forces them to stop and think, then the song has done the job.”

Two interesting letters were posted by former Vietnam veterans. The first explained: “Strangely enough I also served in Vietnam and Thailand ‘63-’65 and my opinions on Iris do not mirror our original contributor on this subject.
“Show me a folk singer who isn’t left wing and it would truly surprise me (the exception might be Burl Ives who when asked by the McCarthy committee if he’d identify subversives said ’sure’ and named almost everybody associated with folk music). A folk singer’s job is in some respects to point out shortcomings in our society.”
The last letter said: “I am new to this list, but not new to listening to Iris. I discovered her several years ago when I heard ‘Our Town’ on the closing episode of ‘Northern Exposure’. I was the first person in Baton Rouge (when I lived there) to get a copy of her ‘The Way I Should’. I am a retired Army Officer and Vietnam Vet and I find great irony in her songs. I am not in the least offended. IT’S THE TRUTH! All great folk artists have taken their licks for publicly expressing their opinions… sometimes the truth is a bitter pill. To this end… Right On Iris!!”
Last year [1998] in an interview with the World Socialist Web Site Iris DeMent explained that “Wasteland Of The Free” was a difficult song to perform because it was so direct. “But I can’t keep quiet about these things,” she added.
“I don’t have all the answers but if my songs make people think more deeply and figure out solutions that I’m not able to, then this is what it’s for. If people get upset and it forces them to stop and think, then the song has done the job.”
Three years since the release of “Wasteland Of The Free”, the song is doing its job - forcing people to confront the social ills produced by the profit system, compelling them to critically contrast government and media platitudes about democracy and freedom with social reality. The discussion and questioning provoked by this and similar songs continue in spite of the efforts of Senator John Grant and other big business politicians.
Note: The above was first published at the World Socialist Web Site.
+ + + + +


Wasteland Of The Free
by Iris DeMent
(click here for the song)
We got preachers dealing in politics and diamond mines
and their speech is growing increasingly unkind
They say they are Christ’s disciples
but they don’t look like Jesus to me
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free
We got politicians running races on corporate cash
Now don’t tell me they don’t turn around and kiss them peoples’ ass
You may call me old-fashioned
but that don’t fit my picture of a true democracy
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free
We got CEO’s making two hundred times the workers’ pay
but they’ll fight like hell against raising the minimum wage
and If you don’t like it, mister, they’ll ship your job
to some third-world country ‘cross the sea
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free
Living in the wasteland of the free
where the poor have now become the enemy
Let’s blame our troubles on the weak ones
Sounds like some kind of Hitler remedy
Living in the wasteland of the free
We got little kids with guns fighting inner city wars
So what do we do, we put these little kids behind prison doors
and we call ourselves the advanced civilization
that sounds like crap to me
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free
We got high-school kids running ’round in Calvin Klein and Guess
who cannot pass a sixth-grade reading test
but if you ask them, they can tell you
the name of every crotch on MTV
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free
We kill for oil, then we throw a party when we win
Some guy refuses to fight, and we call that the sin
but he’s standing up for what he believes in
and that seems pretty damned American to me
and it feels like I am living in the wasteland of the free
Living in the wasteland of the free
where the poor have now become the enemy
Let’s blame our troubles on the weak ones
Sounds like some kind of Hitler remedy
Living in the wasteland of the free
While we sit gloating in our greatness
justice is sinking to the bottom of the sea
Living in the wasteland of the free
Living in the wasteland of the free
Living in the wasteland of the free
+ + + + +

Friday, April 10, 2015

Bob Dylan News

Well it's not really news but the hullabaloo about his Musicares acceptance speech was qualified in interview and posted on his website which about clears it up for me. Not that I for one need any clarification. I just found it a shame that no-one had filmed or posted a video of the entire thing on line. Making do with a transcript inevitable meant that subtleties and nuances of speech were left off . . .  .but this is truly fascinating . . . . . . he's never been able to get Subterranean Homesick Blues right?!?! . . . . .  extraordinary! Is he/was he pulling our legs? . . . . . . . again!

A Post-MusiCares Conversation with Bill Flanagan

Yeah, well you had to be there.
It really wasn’t. Most all of them had recorded versions of those songs over the years. Garth had made “Make You Feel My Love” a number one hit. Tom Jones had done an incredible version of “What Good Am I.” Beck had recorded “Leopard skin Pillbox Hat." Bonnie had recorded astonishing versions of “Standing in the Doorway” and “Million Miles." John Doe had done “Pressin’ On” for that movie and that was just a once in a lifetime recording. Los Lobos had also recorded “On a Night Like This,” same thing with Crosby, Stills and Nash. I had heard them do a beautiful version of “Girl From The North Country." So no, it wasn't that hard. I’d even seen Alanis Morissette sing “Subterranean Homesick Blues” somewhere and I couldn't believe she got that so right, something I’d never been able to do. Neil of course, he’s been doing “Blowin’ In the Wind” for a while and he does it the way it should be done and that song needed to be there. Some people called up right away and wanted to be on the show, so Don Was found a few songs for them. But mostly, they were all recorded versions that we were hearing except maybe for Aaron Neville's version of “Shooting Star.” I could always hear him singing that song. He’s recorded other songs of mine, all great performances, but for some reason I kept thinking about “Shooting Star,” something he’s never recorded but I knew that he could. I could always hear him singing it for some reason, even when I wrote it. I mean, what can you say? He's the most soulful of singers, maybe in all of recorded history. If angels sing, they must sing in that voice. I just think his gift is so great. The man has no flaws, never has. He’s always been one of my favorite singers right from the beginning. “Tell it Like it Is," that could be my theme song. It’s strange, because he’s the kind of performer that can do your songs better than you, but you can’t do his better than him. Really, you can’t say enough about Aaron Neville. We won’t see his likes again. I wanted to get hold of Eric, he’s recorded a lot of my songs too, all great versions. But I didn’t want to impose on him, because I don’t think he’s performing anymore. Rod’s done some early songs of mine as well. I just didn’t think to ask him - I probably should have. There were others, Toots and the Maytals, Chrissie Hynde, Stevie Wonder, even the Rolling Stones. But it gets overwhelming after a while and you just can’t get to everybody.

No, not at all, I wasn’t dissing Merle, not the Merle I know. What I was talking about happened a long time ago, maybe in the late sixties. Merle had that song out called “Fighting Side of Me” and I’d seen an interview with him where he was going on about hippies and Dylan and the counter culture, and it kind of stuck in my mind and hurt, lumping me in with everything he didn't like. But of course times have changed and he’s changed too. If hippies were around today, he’d be on their side and he himself is part of the counter culture … so yeah, things change. I’ve toured with him and have the highest regard for him, his songs, his talent - I even wanted him to play fiddle on one of my records and his Jimmie Rodgers tribute album is one of my favorites that I never get tired of listening to. He’s also a bit of a philosopher. He’s serious and he’s funny. He’s a complete man and we're friends these days. We have a lot in common. Back then, though, Buck and Merle were closely associated; two of a kind. They defined the Bakersfield sound. Buck reached out to me in those days, and lifted up my spirits when I was down, I mean really down - oppressed on all sides and down and that meant a lot, that Buck did that. I wasn’t dissing Merle at all, we were different people back then. Those were difficult times. It was more intense back then and things hit harder and hurt more.
Yeah, them too.

Incredible! He did that song like the record, something I myself have never tried. I never even thought it was worth it. Maybe never had the manpower in one band to pull it off. I don’t know, but I never thought about it. To tell you the truth, I’d forgotten how the song ought to go. Bruce pulled all the power and spirituality and beauty out of it like no one has ever done. He was faithful, truly faithful to the version on the record, obviously the only one he has to go by. I’m not a nostalgic person, but for a second there it all came back, Peckinpah, Slim Pickens, Katy Jurado, James Coburn, the dusty lawless streets of Durango, my first wife, my kids when they were small. For a second it all came back … it was that powerful. Bruce is a deep conscientious cat and the evidence of that was in the performance. He can get to your heart, my heart anyway

Yeah, well that’s just Bruce being Bruce. He’s got to remind people that he can play that thing. It wasn't incessant though. It didn’t detract from the song. He brought it in quick and pulled it back quick. He definitely knows when and how to stick something in and then move it back. He’s a great performer all around.

No, not at all, I got no bitterness towards critics. Like Elvis said, “I know they have a job to do.” Some critics are better than others … some know how to write better, think better, some understand more of what they’re seeing and hearing better … some are more experienced in life. There are all kinds of critics … they’re not all on the same level. And sometimes, if they’re not saying bad things about you, you don’t really count. It’s nice to have their support, but then on a lot of different levels, it really doesn’t matter one way or another. The people will decide. Some seem to do a lot of griping for no reason, but you have to be sort of understanding. They don’t have any idea what it takes to be on a public stage and couldn’t do what you do not even for one single second. I particularly don’t like the ones who talk down with that attitude of superiority, like they know and you don’t. It’s nice to have their support, but if you don’t, you can’t let it bother you, they’re not players. I have no bitterness towards any of them, not at all.

I read it in a musicology book. In the 16 or 1700’s there were African tribal wars and instead of slaughtering their enemies like they would do today, the African chiefs roped up their captives and sold them as slaves to Arab slave traders, who were basically middlemen in the slave trading business. Then the slaves had to be marched to where the ships were at the landings; Dutch ships, English ships, Spanish ships, whatever. And that march was a long hard tedious journey, sometime covering hundreds of miles. The Arabs played their violins at night around campfires. And that sound must have drifted into their dreams. A lot of these slaves died before they even got to the boats. When they got to the ports they’d be sold to the sea captains, then they’d make another long journey over the water to the New World. Hard to tell how many of them actually survived from the whole ordeal. Agents in America would buy the slaves from the sea captains, then the agents would sell them to plantation owners. In the new world, they’d hear a lot of minuets played at plantation parties … that’s sort of how it happened according to the book, two different influences, it was so interesting. The 12 bar blues pattern, that's something else. That evidently comes out of field hollers, where one guy sings a line and a whole bunch of others repeat that line and maybe after that there is a third different line. It all gets mixed up. I can’t remember everything in the book, but this one chapter intrigued me. It pertained to the Delta blues and for that type of music it made sense. North Carolina stuff and Georgia and Florida songs are different - have less of a twang and are more melodic, seem to have more of a waltz minuet vibe, maybe because of who the slaves were and what they were exposed to along the way, musically speaking. The Delta blues has always been eerie and suspenseful, middle eastern in tone, so to me it made sense. I’ve always had a feeling for the blues, even back when I was a little boy … before I even knew what it was … mostly the sound of the Delta blues, because it’s probably in my DNA. I guess I must have both Arab in me and waltz time European blood as well. 

I don’t buy what I don’t need, but I see your point. Perhaps mine is more of a pedantic point of view, maybe one I ought not have.
Yeah sure, Willy DeVille for one, he stood out, his voice and presentation ought to have gotten him in there by now.
I think so too.
Yeah they might have rocked like a bastard, and I’m not saying that they didn’t, but put on any one of those records and then put on “In The Heat of the Moment” by Willy or “Steady Driving Man” or even “Cadillac Walk." I’m not going to belittle Steely Dan but there is a difference.

Read a transcript of Bob Dylan's MusiCares speech at Rolling Stone

Wednesday, April 08, 2015


'Second Hand Heart' is the new Dwight Yoakam album due April 14 . All newly-penned songs by Yoakam except for two by other writers. This is Yoakam with lots of rhythm. Go here over at NPR for a first listen to the new album.
I adored that Americana 'New Country' sound that introduced me to Lyle Lovett, [via John Prine as it goes] and Nanci Griffith,  Steve Earle,  Butch Hancock and many others but I have to say I own every Dwight Yoakam album and I really like his acting too. This album is a clear return to his powerful roots and that energised sound we have come to expect. Great stuff!

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Paul Burwell 

24 April 1949 – 4 February 2007

I had a dream the other night in which I suddenly remembered all the artists I had ever met in my life. After working for some 25+ years in the field it is a lot. From Richard Hamilton as a student at art college in Leicester with tutors Gavin Bryars and Fred Orton to people like David Mach and Richard Wentworth who both graciously did installations in Blackwell's Art Shop window for me as did Brian Catling's performance art students from the Ruskin School of Drawing when I ran that shop for a some 11 years. There were hundreds of artists who all seemed to parade through this dream in an oddly short space of time. From Joel Fisher to Jennifer Durrant, John Walker to David Hockney, photographers like Bill Brandt who sneaked in to his own show one afternoon when he thought no-one was looking. From Eve Arnold to Robert Doisneau, people on the Board of directors of MOMA like the most delightful of gentlemen John Piper & his wife Myfanwy to Sir Anthony Caro and Howard Hodgkin. This is not about name dropping it’s about art . . . . 

Paul Burwell from 'The Zoo and Logical Times' (LMS)
For reasons best known to someone else I had awoken with the after taste of this dream echoing around my nogin and immediately called to mind the vivid installation and indelible performance art of the Bow Gamelan Ensemble at MOMA Oxford in the mid eighties. Many if not all the artists I most enjoyed and liked being there through shows curated by the Deputy Director at that time Marco Livingstone. Now Marco may not thank me for being reminded of his period at MOMA in Oxford but he is not only a world authority on Pop Art  so much so that he became good friends with David Hockney and RB Kitaj whose worked I so admired but also he has a strong interest in pop music too (as a student he interviewed people like Phil Ochs and gave me a copy of the first ever press release for The Doors no less!) that abiding interest lead to his arranging many performance art installations. He it was who introduced me to the work of Nick Cave, and much proto and post punk era bands like Wire who not only reformed for a full blown gig at MOMA but an installation by Graham Lewis and Bruce Gilbert with artist Russell Mills. Many happy times are centred around artwork and installations and exhibitions organised by Marco from Duane Michals and Arthur Tress to David Mach and Graham Crowley and then soon to become Ruskin Master Stephen Farthing to name but a few. I took my son Matthew to see the Bow Gamelan when he must have been only still quite young, in single figures for sure and he has never forgotten the experience. Neither have I!

In Paul Burwell, Anne Bean and Richard Wilson, Bow Gamelan Ensemble were quite simply unique in terms of art performance and I became fond of them at MOMA as they prepared for their evening’s performance. Paul was gregarious and a powerhouse of energy, Anne somewhat like the feminine side of Paul's masculine energy, the yin to his yang if you will, and Richard a silent stoic partner seemingly benign and Zen in his quiet grounded centeredness somehow. 

It was with sadness and a sudden sense of loss I discovered Paul had died back in 2007 a fact I discovered by looking him up on the computer so vividly had he resonated in the most peculiar dream

He is rightly described on Wikipedia as a thaumaturge and I salute whosoever described him as such (for some reason this makes me think of David Toop who may have decided upon such a suitable nomenclature). A graduate of the Royal College of Art , student of music and drums in particular he was a unique force of nature who seemed to defy categorisation in art, performance or music but his unerring sense of theatre, musicality drama and joy was without question an energy that defied containment. I found him affectionate, singular and driven above all to create. If the creative life force were a national grid Paul plugged in to it directly. 

Bow Gamelan Ensemble stage

The performance by Bow Gamelan itself has been described elsewhere much much better than I can but that it involved an installation barely contained by the top gallery of MOMA with metal pipes and structures towering with industrial size scaffolding tubes, with flamethrowers inserted devices defying description that really only came to be understood when set to making sound, there were flames and smoke and breaking shattering glass, metal scraping on metal, fireworks and bull roarers, explosions and the smell of cordite or gunpowder. Three figures stood animated throughout setting alight, aflame and struck with sticks or rods, explosions lit, blue touch papers abounding like so many insane Lifeboat sailor men (and women!) sou'wester and oilskin bedecked maniacs straight faced and serious about their business yet with occasional grins and the broad smiles of sheer inescapable joy! The fact that the top gallery had several million pounds worth of painting hung in the top gallery and the guys were hurling those little explosive caps at the walls bothered the director to the point of apoplexy but no one else!

Unforgettable and whilst I went on to really appreciate similar forces conjured up by Richard Wilson's sculptural pieces, the Matts gallery installation of 20:50 a gallery room filled half way (waist height) with sump oil being amongst my favourite works of 20th Century art, not to say the magical impossibility of 'Turning the Place Over' (a huge rotating circle of a tower block (sic!) see below and Anne's sheer physical presence and effort in the performance it is Paul Burwell I will never forget for his enigmatic presence, his grin, his sense of joy and fascination with life in a world packed full of magic

Richard Wilson - Turning The Place Over 1

Richard Wilson - Turning The Place over II

Bow Gamelan on the beloved Thames

A track listing from a typical performance may help
1.Water/Iron/Glass/Gas Burners/Water Jets/Motorised Wire Brush/Metal Plate/Caps/Pipes
2.Pyrophones i)Tapped ii)Gas Jets3.Tumble Dryer with Mixed Contents
4.Motorised Metal Percussion
5.Arc Welder i)Acoustic ii)Electric

1.Whistling Worm Fan/Bagpipes with Dinghy Pump/Hooters and Horns
2.When I Grow Rich ( Extended Version)
3.Steam Whistles/Blow Torches/Siren

David Toop said of Paul

Paul Burwell, percussionist extraordinaire, flambeur, flaneur, bricoleur, fencer/adventurer, publisher, waterman-pirate, catalyst and force of nature, died at around 7.00pm on Sunday 4th February. How exactly can this person be described, circumscribed? Not perhaps exactly as outlined above. Flambeur could be a pyrotechnical chef, and although Paul once portrayed himself in exactly this role, tossing a flaming record in a frying pan, a better word is needed, a word denoting a controller of flame, a person of flame, flamethrower, eater and victim of flame.

From Brian Catling’s wonderful Obituary in the Guardian

The day was gone and the fog closed in. A chalky white bass note shivered the river and stopped the blood. Fast-lapping rhythms echoed and smouldered into a vast and unknown space. Burwell was playing the river. In fact he was playing a fleet of marooned concrete barges. Sticks in hand, jumping between their different pitches, fluttering their cadence with consummate skill. The music was eerie and solid, a combined sounding of place and dream.

There exists a BBC recording of Burwell playing on the Thames. When it was first aired, it so startled the ears of the listeners that it was asked for again and again, so that they might hear once more a resonance so perfect and so generously given. It is the sound of Burwell which endures, the drummer's flux between delicate whisper and furious vibration.