Fact is, he’d already been round the block before going solo : left school at 16, became a father, juggled family life with playing in bands while holding down a series of jobs. Music though was his driving passion. To some, going from being in a band to one man and his guitar may seem like a retrograde step, but for Robert this was all about finding his own musical direction – “I’ve done the whole thing of trying to be what people want me to be.”
So he reached back to his musical roots, to the Emmylou Harris and Waylon Jennings songs that he listened to as a kid from his father’s vinyl collection. His style’s been described as folk country; many of his songs have a classic, timeless feel; but they are also imprinted with his own individual stamp. The focus is on the words and on Robert’s soulful voice : these are mature songs, often drawing from personal experience.
That emotional maturity is already there is his debut album, 2013’s Life In Easy Steps, which led to a series of accolades. James Blunt invited him to play support in a show at the Liverpool Echo Arena; Bob Harris awarded him an Emerging Artist Award for Americana music. I’ll Make The Most Of My Sins seems set to further consolidate the Liverpool songwriter’s growing reputation. There’s a danger with country-tinged ballads of falling into a false sentimentality, but Robert is far too precise and reflective a lyricist to fall into this trap. Listen for example to the slow burning closing track, the seven minute Hand to Hold, which is addressed to his own children.
I’m very grateful to Anne-Marie Sanderson for sending me this. And I’m mightily interested in hearing from more of you with links to songs that you or others have written which express your thoughts or feelings about living in Trump’s America. They don’t necessarily have to be protest songs, though protest songs are very welcome. Just leave a comment on this post or email me, and then sometime toward the end of 2017 I’ll put together a compilation for y’all.
Anne-Marie Sanderson – Red Giant
“It’s taken me a while to process what’s happened and what could happen as a result of November’s election. For quite some time I, like so many others, was shocked beyond belief, lost for words, lost in despair. But sometimes inspiration and hope pop up from the unlikeliest of places. In her eloquent Golden Globe acceptance speech (the one where she slams Trump without ever saying his name), Meryl Streep quoted the immortal wisdom of Carrie Fisher: “Take your broken heart and make it into art.” Such a simple turn of phrase, almost cliche, and yet it resonated so strongly with me. So, that’s what I decided to do. Although I wasn’t able to take to the streets in protest this past weekend, this song and video are my own response to Trump’s inauguration and the looming shadow of his presidency. This is my first (and perhaps not my last) protest song.”
I’ve resisted the temptation to include songs about homelessness as well. These are songs with strong lyrics and a linking theme. I understand that the Alistair Hulett and David Rovics songs are about actual historical struggles, but please do leave a comment if you have background to any of these songs. If you have similar songs that you want to share, please leave a link if you can.
Fred Hellerman – Pity the Downtrodden Landlord
Stan Kelly & Leon Rosselson – Greedy Landlord
Malvina Reynolds – The Faucets Are Dripping
Mike Rawson & Rob Rosenthal – Talking Tenant Blues
Duke Ellington & His Orchestra – Raisin’ the Rent
John Lee Hooker – House Rent Boogie
Mercy Dee Walton & Thelma Walton – Rent Man Blues
The Mersey Wreckers – Back Buchanan Street
Charlie Poole – Moving Day
Jimmy Collier – Rent Strike Blues
The Pogues – Boys From The County Hell
Public Order Act – Pay Your Rent
Alistair Hulett – Mrs. Barbour’s Army
David Rovics – Landlord
Rory McLeod – Defending Our Homes
It would be wrong of me not to give a passing mention to the recently discovered Woody Guthrie song Old Beach Haven Ain’t My Home, written when he was a tenant of Donald Trump’s father Fred Trump. Sadly no recordings exist as far as I’m aware, but we can get the gist from the lyrics : “Beach Haven looks like Heaven/Where no black ones come to roam!/No, no, no! Old Man Trump! Old Beach Haven ain’t my home!”
On Wednesday 27th January this site will pass 2 million hits.
To mark the occasion, I’m giving some free songs away. If you email me at email@example.com before midnight Wednesday, I’ll send you two or more songs from any country in the world of your choice. The only restriction is that it can’t be a country where you’ve ever lived.
My music of the world project is still in the works : you can read about it here – https://foreverycountryasong.wordpress.com/about/ .
… you just need to look in the right places. These guys got the rhythm and they got the blues. All from albums released in the last 12 months (a couple from December 2014, so they just qualify).
Boubacar Traoré – Hona
Malian blues. “He was the first to play Mandingo-based music on electric guitar, long before his junior, Ali Farka Touré.” In 2015 Kar Kar still has that rhythm.
Charlie Parr – Empty Out Your Pockets
Folk blues by perhaps the greatest bluesman in America today.
Dead Sara – Mr Mr
Californian blues rock, fronted by Emily Armstrong and Siouxsie Medley.
Fiona Boyes – I Done Quit
Aussie blues. “I ain’t never heard a woman finger pick a guitar like that since Memphis Minnie.” – Pinetop Perkins
Holly Golightly – As You Go Down
British blues rock, by a former protégé of Billy Childish.
Ironing Board Sam – Baby You Got It
Rhythm & blues. “This is the time when in my life it seems to be that I’m at my best because I know more on how to write music, know more how to play it, know more how to get it to the audience, know more about everything. I’m 70 years old. It took this time, you know.”
JD McPherson – Mother Of Lies
Okie blues. Getting fired from his job as a teacher “had to happen at that exact time or I wouldn’t have done it. Because I had a wife and kids. I’m not gonna tell them, ‘Hey, daddy is gonna quit his steady job just out of grad school, and I’m gonna go get in a band and play.”
The Josh Garrett Band – Goodnight, Goodnight
Southern blues. “I’m drawn to all things Louisiana, it’s my culture and I try to embrace it.”
Left Lane Cruiser – Tres Borrachos
Hard rockin’ blues. “The core group of songs on this record were written at soundchecks during a nine-month period of touring the U.S. and Europe. After a long drive, we would get to the club. Burn one down. Fuckin’ jam at soundcheck. Then we had a new tune. It went on like that for a while. This album was written entirely under the guidance and influence of marijuana. No dirty spliffs were used in the making of this record.”
Lou Shields – Little Town
Chicago blues. “Lou is a solo performing artist; he sings, plays National Guitar, Banjo and harmonica. He sits on top of a stage riser built from reclaimed materials and can reproduce that front porch sound anywhere he goes. Lou uses a bass stomp on his left foot and a broken skateboard with bottle caps nailed to it on his right foot.”
Parvathy Baul – Apon Moner Baghe
Indian blues ? The Bauls are a Bengali sect who pass down teachings, philosophy and folk music from generation to generation. Some like Parvathy choose to commit themselves to a life of asceticism, renouncing family and possessions, becoming travelling minstrels and living off alms.
The Reverend Shawn Amos – Joliet Bound
Harmonica blues. This is a Memphis Minnie song.
Seasick Steve – Barracuda 68′
Beardy blues. Cool video.
Songhoy Blues – Soubour
Malian desert blues. “Though their music bears elements of contemporary rock and hip hop, at its heart is Songhoy Blues‚ deep attachment to the homegrown songs and dances of Mali‚s Songhoy people as well as such iconic West African guitar heroes as Baba Salah and Ali Farka Touré.”
The Vaudevillian – Luke’s Blues
Canadian stringband blues. Purveyors of old-time music.
Wild Billy Childish & CTMF – What Is This False Life You’re Leading
Punk blues. “Billy Childish is an international cult figure, painter, poet and novelist. He has released over 120 independent albums and influenced a vast range of musicians from Kurt Cobain, Beck and Mudhoney, through to Jack White, The Hives, The Strypes and Kylie Minogue. ”
Many of the best drop-down-dead dance rhythms this year came from South America. Here’s a sample. Most of it’s cumbia based, but Sonora Carruseles demonstrate that there are still bands around who know their salsa.
Lagartijeando – Congo Ya
Sonido Guay Neñe – Dejala Llorar
Chico Trujillo – Malgeniosa
Señor Chancho – Momposound
Arrabalero – Kumbia Aguacero
La-33 – Te Lo Voy A Devolver
Lucho Campillo feat. Daniel Leon – Cafecito Colombiano
Magin Díaz y el Sexteto Gamerano – Yo me voy con tigo
Paito – La Cumbia Islena
Sonora Carruseles – Como Baila Micaela
Tomborato – Negra Rosa
Totó La Momposina – La Candela Viva
because the South American beats are also big in Mexico