The new sounds of Liverpool

September 29, 2020

Fourteen of the best recent releases by local bands. Ian Prowse apart, virtually all are new and emerging bands – this wasn’t planned, it just happened naturally. That’s where all the energy and excitement is coming from right now. The other thing that comes across very strongly is how many of these songs are driven by melody. This is what makes Liverpool’s music special.

Across Merseyside, Covid19 is resurging, and the authorities are doubling down on restrictions. Everton and Liverpool fans can’t go to watch their teams, both riding the crest of a wave. And for anyone in the local music industry, the future looks grim, as the doors of music venues remain firmly closed, in some cases never to reopen. Please support these artists in any way that you can.

Ian Prowse – Here I Lie (Here I Lie 2019)

Jamie Webster – Common People (We Get By 2020)

Eyesore & the Jinx – Nightlife (The Exile Parlour EP 2020)

Ali Horn – Guiding Star (It Wears Off – EP 2019)

Ben Burke – The Life I Left Behind (2020)

Esme Bridie- Sensitivity (2020)

The Kairos – Teetotal (2020)

The Mysterines – I Win Every Time (2020)

The Heavy North – Bring Me Love (2020)

She Drew The Gun – Russian Doll (Trouble Every Day EP 2019)

Barry Briercliffe – Peculiar (One Step Forward 2020)

Michael Robert Murphy – Out Of Sight (2020)

Cow – All My Friends Are Dead To Me (All My Friends Are Dead To Me – EP 2019)

Sallow Pillow – Part Time Parisian (Wince Meat – EP 2019)


Lockdown playlist no40: a playlist for 2020

July 4, 2020

This is the last lockdown playlist. The playlists will have a permanent home here.

Today I’m taking a look back at this strangest of years. Only extraordinary music can do justice to a time that’s taught us so much about who we are as human beings. A handful of these songs are directly inspired by the lockdown experience. Most of them are just songs that spoke to me in different ways. Some make me excited, open my eyes to new musical horizons. Others have a stillness, an almost meditative quality, that seems very appropriate.

How many of these will make my year-end list ? I’ve no idea. You’ll have to check back here in six months time.

Anderson .Paak – Lockdown  (Single)

Porridge Radio – Sweet (Every Bad)

Circuits – Wingwalker (Nervous System – EP)

Gill Landry – I Love You Too (Skeleton at the Banquet)

Hannah Rarity – Losing You (Single)

The Jellyman’s Daughter – I Won’t Be Going Anywhere (Single)

Kevin McKay – Vanishing Point (Quarantine Compilation Jams Volume One)

Laura Marling – Song For Our Daughter (Song For Our Daughter)

Evan Greer – Emma Goldman Would Have Beat Your Ass (Single)

The Wind-up Birds – Water Boarding (Summer Haunts)

A Tribe Called Red – Land Back (Single)




Lockdown playlist no39: Pride

June 29, 2020

We’re on to the penultimate playlist in this series. Essential criteria were that songs had to be affirmative, upbeat, and dancefloor friendly. So I suppressed my usual instincts to go for darker songs. It’s still very much my own list though, which is why you won’t see too much pop music in here.

Labi Siffre’s song was inspired by a documentary on apartheid South Africa. And the ‘Freedom’ that George Michael was singing about was his own artistic freedom as he took on his record label and tried to reinvent himself as an artist. But the lyrics are also very much informed by their lived experiences as gay men.

Labi Siffre – (Something Inside) So Strong (1988)

George Michael – Freedom 90 (1990)

Clivilles’ & Cole – A Deeper Love (A Deeper Feeling Mix) (1992)

Hercules & Love Affair – Blind (2008)

Sara Bareilles – Brave (2013)


The Internet feat. KAYTRANADA – Girl (2015)

Kehlani – Honey (2017)

Domo Wilson – Bisexual Anthem (2019)

Joesef – Kerosene (2019)


Shea Diamond — I Am America (2020)


Lockdown playlist no38: Irish folk & acoustic

June 26, 2020

The buzz in 2020 is about Irish alternative rock music. Irish hip hop and electronic music are also thriving. The Irish folk scene, meanwhile, by its own very high standards, has been quiet. High profile new releases have been few and far between so far this year. I had to do a bit of digging to unearth these tracks – hopefully though you’ll agree that it’s been worth the effort. Here are ten fabulous tunes and interesting songs from north and south of the border.

Varo – As I Roved Out (Varo)

“We first heard this song sung by Christine Dowling from Belfast, who originally heard it from a recording of Sarah Makem of County Armagh”

Brigid Mae Power – Head Above The Water (Head Above The Water)

Atmospheric closing track to the album, with echoes of Sharon van Etten

Caroline Keane – The Roscommon Reel / The Ballymahon Reel / Father Newman’s (Shine)

Concertina music

Arborist | Malojian – Good Things Follow You

I co-wrote a song with my label-mate Malojian a while back which we recorded during lockdown. It is released today in honour of, and with all proceeds going to, the Rollercoaster Records shop in Kilkenny. Pay what you like. Enjoy.”

The SíFiddlers – Hudaí Gallagher’s March, Humours of Whiskey / James Byrne’s (SíFiddlers)

The SíFiddlers are a group of 13 female Donegal fiddlers. Their first album, recorded in the hills of Donegal, is due out July 1st

Muireann Nic Amhlaoibh – Tá na Báid go Doimhin sa bhFarraige, Sios Cois na Trá agus Amach Chun na Farraige (Thar Toinn / Seaborne)

“I’m obsessed with the ocean and our cultural connections to it. The name Muireann actually means Sea Maiden. There are three mermaids on the Mac Amhlaoibh coat of arms and I’ve grown up on islands and in the west part of Kerry and get into the sea every chance I get so obviously I’ve really enjoyed bringing my two passions together for this project.”

Daoirí Farrell  – When the Breakers go Back on Full Time (The Lockdown)

“This is a single released during the Covid19 pandemic. The songs were recorded live from Daoiri’s kitchen/living room as a result of the success of his live Lockdown live streaming concerts (The Covid Corner Sessions) that have taken place every Sunday, viewed by thousands of people every week.” This song, previously recorded by Frank Harte and Dónal Lunny, takes on a new relevance in these times.

Joel Harkin – No Recycling  (Never Happy)

“Purchase my lovely vinyl record and have a lovely new Tshirt designed by Deirdre Anna Rose Kelly or the old faithful “Joel Harkin Makes Me Cry” tshirt while you wait for it!”

Colum Sands – Just An Oul” Thing That’s Going Around (Song Bridge)

Not Covid related ! “I had the idea for this song whilst involuntarily overhearing exchanges in a doctor’s waiting room in whispers which included the timeless though rather vague diagnosis, ‘It’s just an oul’ (old) thing that’s going around!’ I happened to be reading a newspaper article at the same time about the recent explosion in factory farming and the reckless use of chemicals to force growth in the food chain. Wonderful as the work of modern medicine can be in dealing with illness, it occurred to me that much important preventative work could be done by taking more care of the environment which takes care of us all.”

Caoimhín Ó Fearghail – Lá ‘le Pádraig (Uilleann Piping from County Waterford)

Uilleann pipe music


Lockdown playlist no37: “You’ve seen the great world and you’ve seen the small”: new in Americana

June 23, 2020

I don’t think Bob Dylan’s ready to accept yet that he’s recorded his final album, but he’s certainly thinking about his legacy. I Contain Multitudes is written about himself; Black Rider is a dialogue with Death; and Murder Most Foul is a 17 minute tour de force in which he returns to that defining moment for his generation, the assassination of John F Kennedy.

And that’s just one of several major new releases happening this month and next across the pond, including a few that were put back a few months because of lockdown. The over 60s may seem over-represented on my list, with Steve Earle, Seasick Steve and Ray Wylie Hubbard also present, but as ever the songs are all chosen on merit (I could equally have gone for Willie Nelson, Neil Young or Lucinda Williams).

American Aquarium – A Better South (Lamentations)

Bob Dylan – Black Rider (Rough and Rowdy Ways)


J.S. Ondara – Isolation Boredom Symdrome (Folk n’ Roll Vol 1: Tales of Isolation)

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Only Children (Reunions)

Larkin Poe – She’s A Self Made Man (Self Made Man)

Ray LaMontagne – Strong Enough (Monovision, release date June 26)

Ray Wylie Hubbard – Outlaw Blood feat Ashley McBryde (Co-Starring, release date July 10)

Seasick Steve – Carni Days (Love & Peace, release date July 24)

Shawn Pittman – Make it Right! (Make it Right!)

Steve Earle – John Henry was a Steel Drivin’ Man (Ghosts of West Virginia)

Town Meeting – A Goddamn Song (Make Things Better)



Lockdown playlist no36: America in revolt

June 20, 2020

Something amazing and unprecedented is happening right now in America. Never before have so many important protest songs been released all at the same time, and with such speed. Among the new tracks that didn’t make this list are major statement songs by Beyoncé and Alicia Keys, not really my cup of tea, but I’m so thoughtful that I’ve put in links for you.

Many of these tracks were released on the same day. June 19th – Juneteenth – marks emancipation from slavery and is widely celebrated particularly among African American communities. Its importance has been amplified in 2020 because it links in with the goals of the Black Lives Matter movement.

The list is dominated by hip hop. I hadn’t been planning to post more hip hop so soon, but that’s where the real action is. Forget 1968 – every revolution comes with its own soundtrack. Rock music feels largely irrelevant to what’s happening now, not just because it’s predominantly white, but because too much of it feels like your parents music: it’s not reinvented itself for a new generation.

Run the Jewels – Walking in the Snow

RTJ4 entered the Billboard chart last week at number 10. It’s grabbed the imagination of thousands of people who feel like howling with anger against the system. Vocalist Killer Mike has been on America’s TV screens as a voice of the riots. And on this track recorded well before the death of George Floyd, it’s like he’s foreseen what was going to unfold : “And you so numb you watch the cops choke out a man like me / And ’til my voice goes from a shriek to whisper, ‘I can’t breathe’ / And you sit there in the house on couch and watch it on TV The most you give’s a Twitter rant and call it a tragedy.”

Lil Baby – The Bigger Picture

Currently number one on the Billboard chart is 25 year old Atlanta rapper Lil Baby. This song doesn’t appear on his album – it’s brand new. Proceeds from the new single will go to The National Association of Black Journalists, Breonna Taylor’s attorney, The Bail Project, and Black Lives Matter.

Anderson .Paak – Lockdown

Juneteenth single release by the Grammy award winning Californian rapper. The cast and crew of the video donated their salaries to Black Emotional and Mental Health collective (BEAM), Dream Defenders and Color of Change. .Paak House also made donations to Action Bail Fund LA, Atlanta Solidarity Fund and Albany Bail & Safety Fund for Black Lives.

Public Enemy – State of the Union

Since the riots and protests began, streaming networks have reported a big uptake in militant protest songs such as Public Enemy’s 1989 release Fight the Power. Juneteenth saw the release of a new Chuck D anthem. “Our collective voices keep getting louder,” he says. “The rest of the planet is on our side.  But it’s not enough to talk about change. You have to show up and demand change. Folks gotta vote like their lives depend on it, cause it does.”


The music platform Bandcamp are donating 100% of their share of all sales on Juneteenth to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Credit to them, and also to the many labels and artists who’d already been there and pointed the way. Among all the recent fundraising compilations we’re starting to see the odd compilation of new songs written for the occasion.

From the home of R.E.M., Athens GA Hiphop In Solidarity contains 24 original tracks by local artists, available on a ‘name your price’ basis with donations going to the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement. Here’s two of the tracks:

FreakNiq, Ishues, LG, Elite Tha Showstoppa, Vision da Poet, Duddy Ken – Feet Don’t Fail Me Now

Stella Groove feat LG – Pray For Peace

Released yesterday, Voices: Songs of Protest, Peace, Outrage, and Unity is a 34 track compilation with proceeds split between Black Lives Matter, Campaign Zero, and NAACP Legal Defense Fund. We’re told that these are diverse artists from across the nation, “uniting to raise their voices and stand up against racism, against oppression, and against the abuse of power displayed by police and the justice system”. The label however is based in Fort Worth Texas, and the two tracks below both appear to be by Fort Worth artists.

Taylor Pace – Trouble On The 7th Street Bridge

Dflo – When We See It

Wyatt Waddell – FIGHT!

“This song is me looking at what’s happening and what I’d tell the people protesting.” Wyatt’s already raised more than $1,000 from the song, which has been distributed between Chicago Community Bond Fund, Black Lives Matter Chicago, and the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

Rhiannon Giddens feat Yo-Yo Ma – Build A House

Another Juneteenth release, this one with real class. “This song came knocking about a week ago and I had to open the door and let it in. What can I say about what’s been happening, what has happened, and what is continuing to happen, in this country, in the world? There’s too many words and none, all at once. So I let the music speak, as usual. What a thing to mark this 155th anniversary of Juneteenth with that beautiful soul Yo-Yo Ma. Honored to have it out in the world.”



Lockdown playlist no35: Downtempo hip hop & spoken word

June 16, 2020

This batch of new releases limber loosely between genres. Hip hop and spoken word poetry rubbing off against downtempo electronica and neo-soul – and neo-soul repaying the compliment. It’s a good space to be in, it has possibilities, to explore modes of expression. And it places more value and more focus on the lyrics, which for me is a plus.

Brandon Wint – In This Room (Against Loneliness EP)

Dua Saleh – windhymn  (ROSETTA – EP)

KeiyaA – Negus Poem 1&2 (Forever, Ya Girl)

R.A.P. Ferreira – Noncipher  (Purple Moonlight Pages)

Armand Hammer – Frida feat Quelle Chris & Fielded  (Shrines)

80’s Babies – News Flash II feat Thaione Davis  (unLEARN)

DJ Obeka, Jahday Ford – We See You Now

Robalu Gibsun – Unpredictable  (Beyond Measure)

Liv.E – Lessons From My Mistakes​.​.​.​but I Lost Your Number

Imelda May – Becoming  (Slip Of The Tongue)




Lockdown playlist no34: New in Country

June 12, 2020

Gay Country

The world needs more gay country songs !

Indigo Girls – Country Radio (Look Long)

Fatherhood country

When men show their vulnerable side.

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit – Letting You Go (Reunions)

Addiction country

Country artists know all about hard livin’ and hard drinkin’.

Ashley McBryde – First Thing I Reach For (Never Will)

Caitlin Cannon – Deliver (The TrashCannon Album)

Jessi Alexander – Mama Drank (Decatur County Red)

In and out of love country

J.J. Willis – It’s Alright  (Single N Lovin It)

Tyller Gummersall – What If It Was That Easy  (Tyller Gummersall)

Jess Jocoy – Love Her Wild (Such a Long Way)

Singalong country

Once you’ve heard this a few times, you’ll be singing too.

Norma MacDonald – Some Days (Old Future)

Video contest country

Pharis and Jason Romero started a video contest back in March. They asked fans to send in homemade music videos for an unreleased track on their new record. The winning video maker would receive one of their coveted homemade gourd banjos. 60 entries came in from around the world, showing people being creative during lockdown.

“We were blown away,” says Pharis. “Choosing a winning video was nearly impossible. But in the end, we were drawn again and again to a journey of a family canoeing up to northern Canada in the 1960’s, following their adventure in a way that was engaging, beautiful, and perfectly reminiscent of the spirit of the song”.

Pharis and Jason Romero – Roll On My Friend (Bet On Love)


Lockdown playlist no33: new in English and Welsh folk

June 8, 2020

There’s only one place to start, and that’s with Shirley Collins, who was a vital part of the English folk revival from its earliest days. She’s back, she’s got a new album coming out soon called Heart’s Ease, and this is the first song released from it. She first heard the song at a Sacred Harp Convention in Alabama in 1959 : she was there with Alan Lomax, and they made a recording of it. “Songs are stored in my memory for a great many years,” she says, “and suddenly it seems the right time to bring them out again.”

Shirley Collins – Wondrous Love

Jamie Webster – Something’s Gotta Give

Meanwhile Jamie is preparing to bring out his debut album. He’s a mad Liverpool supporter, but I might just forgive him that if he carries on making songs like this.


Sallows – Monday Morning

I absolutely love this song, written by Cyril Tawney and first recorded by the High Level Ranters in 1971. This is taken from a compilation out this month raising money for migrants in Liverpool who have no access to support from public funds during lockdown.

Brazen Thieves – The Flash Lad

Another cover: this is a traditional song with a complex history (it’s seen a good few incarnations). A lovely arrangement by the London trio.

Michael Walsh – The Visitor feat Mike Garry

Quarehawk is the debut album by 53 year old Mancunian flautist Michael Walsh. He was moved to make it following the death of his father Patrick. Quarehawk (crafty, clever, a bit odd, a bit strange) is an Irish slang term that Patrick used to use. This is a poem written and recited by Mike Garry, set to music.

Naomi Bedford & Paul Simmonds – The Wind Brings the Rain

This little anti-Trump number is on an EP of four new songs. I’m hoping that there’ll be more on the way soon, as these two always deliver.

Olion Byw – Bachgen Bach o Dincer – Nyth y Gog

From a five track EP by the Cardiff based duo to celebrate Calan Mai – the arrival of summer.

Stacey McNeill & Jonathan Smith – Between the Lines

North Wales duo, just formed a few months ago, only to be cruelly separated by lockdown. But during lockdown they’ve been hard at work and have managed to record an EP, due out soon, and to film this video.

Jack Sharp – Good Times Older

Jack Sharp has spent the last decade fronting psych rock band Wolf People. This is his debut solo album, very folky, and rooted in his home county of Bedfordshire.

Elizabeth & Jameson – I Will Wait

Also from Bedfordshire funnily enough, Hannah Elizabeth (formerly of Said The Maiden) and Griff Jameson (from folk-rock band Fred’s House) have just released their debut album.



Lockdown playlist no32: New in world music

June 6, 2020

The best in new global rhythms. If you enjoy the music here, please check out my website https://aroundtheworldin575songs.com/ where you can listen to streamed roots based music from any country of your choice.

Les Frères Smith – Histoires de Dingue

Afrobeat band from Paris. Dance the night through to their retro sounds.

Tio – Black Butterfly

I can’t begin to tell you how much trouble it was to find representative music for my book project from the tiny island nation of Vanuatu. If only I’d known about the talented Tio.

Asma Omar – Raga Kaan Ka’Eegtow (You Are the One I Love)

Djibouti is a little different – it’s a country that does have a fine music heritage, but one that’s been almost totally inaccessible to western audiences until now, with the hugely successful new album The Dancing Devils of Djibouti.


DNGDNGDNG is an alias for the Peruvian electronic duo Dengue Dengue Dengue.

Siti Muharam – Alaminadura

The taarab music of Zanzibar combines East African, Arabic and Indian elements. Siti Binti Saad, active a century ago, is revered as the Mother of Taarab. On this album her great granddaughter Siti Muharam pays homage to her musical heritage.

David Walters – Pa Lé (feat. Ibrahim Maalouf)

Walters, a Parisian living in New York, returns to his Creole heritage. “Le créole pour moi, ça reste la langue des racines. J’ai perdu ma grand-mère il y a deux ans et je crois que c’est ce qui a déclenché l’écriture de cet album. Ecrire dans la langue de ma grand-mère, pour moi c’est important, c’est elle qui m’a initié à cette langue. C’est une langue de tradition orale, c’est une langue qui est jeune, avec très peu d’écrit.”

Emmi Kujanpää – Kuutar – The Goddess of the Moon

Finnish folk singer, kantele player and composer.

Myrkur – Ella

Danish musician Amalie Bruun, previously known as a black metal artist, has released a folk album exploring Scandinavian folk cultures.

Luciana Jury – Señora Mónica Pérez

Singer, guitarist and songwriter from Buenos Aires.

Tamikrest – Amidinin Tad Adouniya

Just in case any of you haven’t yet bought the brilliant Tuareg band’s latest offering.