Monday, August 24, 2015
Fairport, RT, and Me
These Dog Days instead are a perfect time to check out the music, new or old, being offered at your local CD store, Download site, or Amazon supplier-subordinate. I've been especially song-conscious (see why below); here are five of my current favorites, lifted from five different albums:
Leading off--but dating from the fifteen-years-gone centenary, "Kurt Weill 2000," celebrated 'round the globe--is Karen Kohler and her version of "River Chanty," the
The Weill piece sounds like a 19th century folk tune, while Martin Simpson's astringent new love song "Dark Swift and Bright Swallow" (from Topic TXCD591, Murmurs as by super folk trio Simpson-Cutting-Kerr) could have come from any alert Romantic poet, and been written down at any time in the past 300 years.
April sun on Slapton Ley, between the lagoon
and the haunted sea,
I was thinking of war and cruelty when
Spring's first Swallow split the sky
swung through the salted air,
Come from Savannah and desert and sea to
mark another year for me...
And for you my Love and Eternity.
Love, death, war, two birds of Britain, and a birthday ditty too; at awards time this one should win song and performance of the year.
One remarkable sidebar of the British invasion of 1964 or so was the "trad arr": out-of-the-distant-past discoveries rendered 20th century-friendly by real green-fields, Blessed Isles Folk/Rock groups like Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span. Fairport will soon celebrate 50 years together; only Simon Nicol remains from the original group whose list of important ex-Fairporters includes Richard Thompson,
Just a day another day, beneath a Belgian sun
Past grave on grave, row upon row, until I see the name John Condon...
And all around the harp and crown, the crosses in the ground
Stand up in proof, the bitter truth, the waste of youth that lies forgotten...
Heroes that don't come home
Sing out for all their souls
Here they lie in Belgian fields and Picardy.
Bitter, resigned, Simon quietly nails the coffin lid shut.
No lack of originality and brilliance on any album by the great Richard Thompson ("RT" to his fans); and his new one, Still (Proper PRPCDX131), offers solo guitar
I don't blindly love the new album yet, but here's one folk-related gem, its opening track, "She Never Could Resist a Winding Road," which has the melodic familiarity and Scottish "drone" that anchor his finest songs in the patented RT "doom and gloom":
In the old cold embers of the year
When joy and comfort disappear
I search around to find her
I'm a hundred miles behind her
The open road whispered in her ear
She never could resist a winding road
Maybe just around the bend
The rainbow waiting at the end
She never could resist a winding road.
The last song that's been tugging on my aural sleeve is, I confess, a ringer. Over the course of 40 years, I've written a handful of songs (the lyrics, that is) with Bruce Lofgren, my guitarist/big bandleader friend living in L.A., and Bruce has just released the latest album, Wind and Sand (Night Bird NB-4), featuring his terrific Jazz Pirates band, playing six originals, two covers (a great version of Bronislaw Kaper's
Still, I can't get them out of my head, so here's a sample of the words to the frisky, some would say racy "Sheet Music":
My daddy's a master musician,
He rocks and rolls me right,
With close harmony,
Sweet sheet music every night...
Jazz me, Papa, that bed time song,
Rhythm followed by blues.
Write me some inner chorus
I can put vocals to.
Dot my sweet half-note, baby,
I'm treble and bass for you.
And further deponent sayeth not.