Five Things: Wednesday 27th March

If Rooney Mara was the lead singer of a band, it would be Minnesota’s Poliça. With her alt-Dusty Springfield arm gestures Channy Leaneagh seems – in the words of Daughter – to be the flamboyant conductor of this little orchestra that consists of a bassist and two drummers (the Independent’s critic thought the same). Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishman tour had two drummers, as did Steely Dan’s ’73 roadtrip and there’s something wonderful and thrilling about the thump and paradiddle of synchro’d drumsets, especially when they control the beat as much as Ben Ivascu and Drew Christopherson. Chris Bierdan’s bass half holds the bottom end, half dances around the ghostly, swooning melodies of Leaneagh’s auto-tuned, layered and reverb-ed vocals. Even though she seems out of sorts for the first half of the set, the sounds coming off the stage are monstrous. The third number’s juxtaposition of solo vocals and pulverising drum breaks is nothing short of astonishing. Their set is a perfect length – 60 minutes – and for an encore there’s a ghostly solo version of the old folk song ‘When I Was a Young Girl’ followed by a new rollercoaster thumper. Fabulous!

Davidoff’s Cigar Shop, Jermyn Street


Youth In Revolt. The last sentence is not made up.
“British rap star Professor Green refused to let sub-zero temperatures freeze his secret gig at a bus depot on Saturday night. “I have got a lot of powers, but unfortunately controlling the weather isn’t one of them,” the ‘Read All About It’ singer joked to fans at the Kings Cross garage in London. Instead the star raised the temperature by ordering fans to thrash around to his tracks in order to beat the big chill. Meanwhile Pro’s stunning girlfriend, Made In Chelsea star Millie Mackintosh, was also in attendance to see her beau on stage. Millie proved she’s just like the rest of us as she was also seen enjoying a greasy pizza and bottle of beer to help keep warm at the exclusive gig. Professor Green was performing in celebration of Barclaycard Contactless now being accepted on buses.”

Arthur Rothstein, dust storm in Cimarron County, Oklahoma, 1936
Snowbound at my friend Kwok’s. We’re talking about Elliot Erwitt and his photos of Yukio Mishima, when he pulls this beautiful print out to show me.


I know it as the covDustbowler to Folkways’ Dust Bowl Ballads Sung By Woody Guthrie. Arthur had wanted Kwok to have it – he was given it by Eve Rothstein, Arthur’s daughter on November 11, 1985, the day that Arthur passed away.





Philip Larkin, Garrison Keillor and Bob Dylan go antiquing
I loved this drawing when John Cuneo did it in 2011, and this week it gets blown up and put over a whole wall at the Delaware Art Museum. Roll On, John!


FTIS&HTW: Wednesday 20th March

The fever dream that was Beasts of The Southern Wild led me back to Kate Campbell’s “When Panthers Roamed In Arkansas” – first heard on a CD accompanying the wonderful Oxford American magazine’s Music Issue, maybe ten years ago. The small girl at the centre of the film sees giant aurochs – ancestors of domestic cattle – astride the landscape, a result of the ecological disaster that’s befalling them. Kate Campbell, with a Nashville twang but a Memphis musical sensibility, kicks off the song with a fast “Ode To Billy Joe” vamp, before the horns storm in:
“I miss Elvis in the movies,
With his dyed black hair…
Wish that I could find an ice-cold
Double Cola somewhere,
If I had a time machine
I’d go back when panthers roamed in Arkansas
And buffalo made their home in Tennessee”

The great last verse tips its hat to ecological disaster, too:
“Frogs are disappearing
Through the ozone hole,
I can’t find one song I like
On the radio…
They didn’t have these problems
Way back when panthers roamed…”

From Mick Brown’s great piece about the Discreet Charm of Nando’s in the Sunday Telegraph Magazine
“The most tireless contributor to Rate Your Nando’s [a website for devoted fans of the Chicken chain] is Ryan Wilson, who has eaten more than 1,000 meals in 139 branches across the country. Wilson lost his Nando’s virginity, so to speak (‘Actually it was more enjoyable than losing my virginity. There was some conversation at least’), about 11 years ago at the Birmingham Broad Street branch… He had been taken there by a friend from work named Dylan Wesleyharding. ‘I think,’ Wilson said, ‘his dad got a bit carried away in the 1960s.’ ”

At One Point, Five Cowbells

He's waited over twenty years for this… a happy, happy fan

He’s waited over twenty years for this… a happy, happy fan

Trouble Funk, Islington Assembly Rooms. The DJ plays go-go. As Mark says, we’re about to see ninety minutes of go-go, PLAY SOMETHING ELSE! Big Tony on Earthquake Bass. A beat so relentless it shakes the beer in your glass into a flat, flavourless liquid. “Uptown, Downtown, Around Town, All Aboard!” They do, indeed, Drop The Bomb. And it was great to see the legend that is Bill Brewster, after all these years.

Whatever Happened To Shea Seger?
Watching Cameron Crowe’s We Bought a Zoo (yes, yes, I knew it wouldn’t be up to much) I noticed a familiar name in the credits. The name was Shea Seger, a Texan who – transplanted to London – made a great album, May Street Project, in 2001 featuring a great single, “The Last Time.” I went online to see if anyone else had spotted it. And of course someone had. Kristian Lin in the Fort Worth Weekly, last April: “Even though I didn’t care for the movie when it hit theaters last December, I was intrigued by a minor mystery about it involving Fort Worth singer-songwriter and recent Weekly cover subject Shea Seger. [Early] in the movie a woman hits on Matt Damon. [She’s played by] an actress named Desi Lydic. This character is never named in the film (and indeed never appears on screen again), but in the closing credits, she’s identified as “Shea Seger (Lasagna Mom)”. Given how knowledgeable Cameron Crowe is about music, it seemed inconceivable that this could have been a coincidence. I sent inquiries about this to 20th Century Fox, but nobody there seemed to know [anything]. This week, we got an answer from the filmmaker himself. The writer-director of Say Anything… and Almost Famous tweeted us: “may street project… truly great album. there was an outtake from our elton john doc where he was raving about her too.” No word yet from Shea Seger herself about Crowe associating her with sex-hungry moms, crushes on Matt Damon, or lasagna, but if she gets back to me, I’ll let you all know.”

Nigel Kennedy interview, The Guardian
I wonder why Linda Nylind’s picture looks strange. When I catch it on the Guardian website I realise. Someone’s said, he’s upside down, we can’t have that!


Do you care about fame?
It’s useful: it’s given me choice about what music I play. And of course it’s more heartwarming to play to a full concert hall. I remember one concert in Dublin, when I was 19 and completely unknown. About 50 people turned up to a hall that could hold 5,000. I said, “Look, come round the pub, I’ll do it there.” So that’s where we all went.

Is there anything about your career you regret?
Not getting a band of my own together earlier. When I started playing my own stuff, people in the classical world would say: “Who does he think he is, writing his own music when he could be playing Beethoven?” I should have realised sooner that that’s not the point. No one has to be Beethoven: he’s been dead a fair amount of time now.

FTIS&HTW: Wednesday 13th March

Alabama Shakes, Always Alright
Best moment in the very ho-hum Silver Linings Playbook (a film fatally scuppered by having Robert de Niro play the father, so the whole thing just reminds you of Meet The Whatevers, but with a less likeable male lead). Jennifer Lawrence is great – the Juliette Lewis du nos jours, but the film less than the sum of its parts. Always Alright, however, is a keeper. Great lyrics, great vocal, a driving Stax-like beat topped with a bendy guitar riff, and I think that it’s still a free download at the Shakes site.

Bill Frisell: Two Hands, A Guitar, Minimal Amplification, Just Like A Woman
Don’t you wish that you could play guitar like Bill Frisell? I know I do, every time I see him. There’s just something so human about his playing. I always think of him halfway along a scale from Joe Pass to Derek Bailey. Here he is, on a small platform, could be an arts centre. There’s the door to the toilets just behind him. The crowd sounds small, maybe fifty people. Cars go by outside on rainy streets. He plays the song, taking his time, taking the melody through a series of thoughtful stages. There’s always a little Reggie Young in his playing, rooting him in the Southern musics – here there’s a little Wayne Moss or Joe South, too, whichever of the two Blond On Blonde guitarists it was that invented the lovely filagree’d guitar figure that breaks the verses of the Nashville original of Just Like A Woman.

One Night In Nashville (Just Off Carnaby Street)
…or, two hours in the company of some great folks from Nashville, promoting the Opry and the Country Music Hall Of Fame (one of my most favourite museums). Steve and I learn that there are few country songs about – or references to – cats (unless you count Nashville Cats and Kitty Wells, of course), that the glorious Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue was inspired by songwriter Richard Leigh’s dog, and that Vince Gill is officially the nicest man in Nashville, as well as a killer musician and singer.

Reich & Glass Removals
Alexis Petridis on Steve Reich, The Guardian: “Well, I take the Chuck Berry approach,” he smiles. “Any old way you use it. In other words, music has to have legs. You could walk into a coffee shop and hear the Fifth Brandenburg Concerto. Well, it’s perfect for just sitting down and having your coffee and making the atmosphere more pleasant. But you could take that same music home and play it on your headphones and take out your score and say: ‘My God, this is the most unbelievable counterpoint I’ve ever seen in my life.’ Anywhere you put it, any way you orchestrate it –Wendy Carlos, Glenn Gould, you name it – if the notes are right, the rhythms are right, it works.’ After completing his studies in composition at Julliard in his native New York and then at California’s Mills College, Reich famously declined to continue in academia, preferring to support himself via a series of blue-collar jobs: at one point, he and Philip Glass started their own furniture removal business, which these days sounds less like something that might actually have happened than the basis of a particularly weird Vic Reeves sketch.

Just As We Move Our Office from Edgware Road…
An interesting-looking exhibition about to open around the corner at Lisson Grove. Pedro Reyes. Musical instruments made from illegal weaponry.


FTIS&HTW: Wednesday 6th March

Bruno Mars, Jonathan Ross Show, ITV
I started this blog because I watched Bruno Mars at the Brits a year ago, and loved the performance of his bass player so much that I wanted to write about it. It was these non-headline moments that I found interesting, and no one seemed to be writing about them. This week Bruno does the promo round for his next tour and turns up at Jonathan’s with a piano player, an organist and a pretty good gospel/r&b song. He’s very slick and can really sing, but what’s great is the interplay between his voice and the stripped-back accompaniment, and it makes a change from the usual banal “just like the record” performance.

Almost Finishing Michael Gray’s fine Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes: In Search of Blind Willie McTell
“… McTell comes storming through here, fusing great feeling with an intimate looseness of delivery that he has never captured on record before. It is thrilling to hear—and this is what he keeps up as he moves on to the marvelous Savannah Mama, where, right from the magnificent opening moments, his guitar work is so concentrated and precise, so felt and so assertive (this is what inspired the Allman Brothers’ slide style), while his vocal lines flow across all this precision with the grace of heartfelt risk-taking. He sings with an experimental mannered fluidity somehow freed from artifice by open ardor.”

Noma Bar’s Time Out London Rock ’n’ Roll Cover
As always, brilliant.

NomaWest Of Eden?
Kanye West to Paris’ Le Zenith crowd: “There’s no motherfucking awards or sponsorships or none of that shit that can stop the dedication to bringing y’all that real shit.” He continued: “No matter how they try to control you, or the motherfucker next to you tries to peer pressure you, you can do what you motherfucking want. I am Picasso. I’m Walt Disney, I’m Steve Jobs.”

There’s Something about Kodachrome and New York Summer Evening Light in the Seventies
From Robin Aitken in Scotland: “I am in the process of writing an article about the Dobell trip to the first Newport Jazz Festival in New York which was attended by ten of us—Myself, Rick Antill, Micky Brocking, Jack Armitage, Ray Bolden, John Kendall. Doug Dobell, Ginger (can’t remember his name), Lou Watkins and Jimmy Reid with occasional appearances by Albert McCarthy… I took some photos in New York using Bill Colyer’s Konica 35mm camera which he had just bought and lent me for the trip—a typically generous gesture. I have attached one of my favourite photographs, which I took outside Jim & Andy’s at West 55th Street in late June 1972—the last incarnation of that famous musicians’ bar.”
Doug’s in proto-Tom Wolfe mode, and how cool is Ray Bolden? I loved working for the legend that was Ray—the man who ran the Blues side of Dobell’s— and friend to BB, Muddy, Wolf and the whisky makers of Scotland and Kentucky.

Dobell's NY

Left to right: Richie Goldberg (jazz drummer), John Kendall, Ray Bolden, Scoville Brown (clarinet and alto, who recorded with Louis in 1932 and played with many bands thereafter—check the Buck Clayton Quartet sides recorded for HRS in 1946) and, of course, Doug Dobell.

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