Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Lockdown playlist no28: Rhythms of Mexico

May 26, 2020

When I was researching my book, I learned two things. Mexican music currently enjoys huge popularity in the United States. And there’s a great deal more to Mexican music than what’s generally served up to Americans.

Son de Madera – La Bamba (Son de Mi Tierra 2009)

Lüla Reyna – Deja que salga la Luna (Madre Mestiza 2014)

Alejandra Robles – San Pedro Hermoso (La Sirena 2013)

Natalia Cruz y Banda Regional Istmeña – El Chileatole (Saa Xquidxe / La Fiesta de Mi Tierra 2018)


Lila Downs – Son de Juárez  (Salon Lagrimas y Deseo 2017)

Las Hermanas García – Lágrimas Negras feat Reynier Limonta (Single 2020)

Los Cojolites – El Colibri (Rema, Rema 2019)


Banda de  Los Hermanos Angulo – La Zandunga (Fiesta Istmeña 2009)

Flaco Jimenez, Max Baca & Los Cenzontles – Carta Jugada (Carta Jugada 2017)

La Original Banda el Limón – Besame Mucho (La Original y Sus Boleros de Amor 2019)



Lockdown playlist no27: Freewheelin’ revisited

May 24, 2020

Happy birthday Mr Bob Dylan !

Freewheelin’ was recorded in 1962 and released in 1963. In the recording sessions Dylan performed many great songs which didn’t make it onto the album, most of which later appeared on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (1991).

I’ve always found it curious that Blowin’ in the Wind became so celebrated. It’s not even one of the better songs on the album. One of things that makes the album so special for me is the way a lot of the songs sparkle with character and attitude. Which is why, of the many masterpieces on the album, the greatest of them will always be Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.

We shall revisit the songs in the same order in which they appeared on the original album. There’s a few songs here which have been covered hundreds if not thousands of times, and a few others that are rarely covered at all – especially the talking blues numbers with their stream of consciousness character. You’ll see from my notes that Dylan ‘borrowed’ many if not all of the tunes, but the final product is startlingly original. If you’re a fan of the album I’d recommend checking out the song critiques on the Object History youtube channel (links supplied) – they’re really interesting.

Neil Young – Blowin’ In The Wind   – song critique

“Blowin’ in the Wind has always been a spiritual. I took it off a song called No More Auction Block—that’s a spiritual and Blowin’ in the Wind follows the same feeling.”

Roy Harper – (Girl From The) North Country   – song critique

In December 1962 Dylan met English folk singer Martin Carthy, who played him a song called Scarborough Fair, which became the inspiration for this.

Ed Sheeran – Masters Of War   – song critique

Dylan was successfully sued by Jean Ritchie for nicking her version of the melody to the folk song Nottamun Town.

George Thorogood – Down The Highway   – song critique

This song shows the young Dylan’s romantic attachment to the troubadour lifestyle, guitar in hand, always on the move. While he would soon embrace a more conventional lifestyle, as a songwriter he’s always kept moving, encompassing an ever increasing range of human experience.

Ewan McLennan – Bob Dylan’s Blues    – song critique

Apparently the song was improvised in the studio. That’s all the more remarkable given that on the same day – July 9th 1962 – he recorded seven other songs, and this was one of four takes which made it onto the album.

Edie Brickell & New Bohemians – A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall   – song critique

The song structure was taken from the folk song Lord Randall, of which there were several recorded versions that Dylan may have known. This song more than any other established Dylan as a prince among folk singers: no one else had attempted to write anything of such complexity and poetic quality.

Indigo Girls – Don’t think twice it’s all right   – song critique

Inspired by a Paul Clayton song, Who’s Gonna Buy You Ribbons. Clayton also successfully sued for plagiarism before the two folk singers, reconciled, toured together in February 1964.

Rick Robbins with Rory Block – Bob Dylan’s Dream   – song critique

The melody for this was taken from Martin Carthy’s version of the traditional folk song Lord Franklin.

Tim O’Brien – Oxford Town   – song critique

This is by far the most topical song on Freewheelin’. All of his Greenwich Village audience would have been familiar with James Meredith’s story. Dylan though avoided making any weighty statement. The song is light toned and nimble footed, it doesn’t even mention Meredith’s name, and it’s over almost before it’s started.

Matt Rivers – Talking World War III Blues   – song critique

As with A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall, Dylan is again thinking about apocalypse, but this song couldn’t be more different. The talking blues format (taken from Guthrie) offered free rein to improvisation, and this fanciful, humorous number was at least partly improvised in the studio. Matt Rivers gets into the spirit, making a few clever little alterations to the lyrics.

Cara Dillon – Corrina, Corrina

An adaptation of a well known folk song. Even on this, Dylan makes the song his own. “I’d never heard Corrina, Corrina exactly the way it first was, so that this version is the way it came out of me.”

Henry Thomas – Honey, Just Allow Me One More Chance    – song critique

This 1927 recording by Henry Thomas gave Dylan his song, but his is no cover version: he didn’t keep a lot more than the chorus line. Gone is original mistreated woman theme. Dylan’s narrator reveals nothing about his misdeeds. His sardonic devil-may-care attitude to love is reminiscent of Don’t think twice it’s all right. 

Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly & Friends ~ We Shall Be Free   – song critique

This 1940s recording features Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Sonny Terry and Cisco Houston. Each verse is like a miniature social commentary, roguishly interposed into the spiritual refrain. Dylan’s song goes off in another direction altogether. It’s rambling, surreal, irreverent and funny. Some critics hated it, but I love it.



Lockdown playlist no26: new in punk

May 23, 2020

My picks of the new releases, focusing mainly on garage punk, and excluding the more shouty hardcore stuff. It’s no accident that three Aussie bands make it into the list. Punk music is thriving in Australia, other bands there I’d recommend are Amyl & The Sniffers, Stiff Richards, Concrete Lawn, and The Chats.

Dropkick Murphys are the only big name here. Most of these bands are just amiable alcohol swilling hopefuls who’ll have taken a hard knock because of lockdown. Please support them if you can by buying their music.

Dropkick Murphys – James Connolly (Massachusetts)

Spam Risk – Comfort Food (Chicago, Illinois)

Axetone – Emotional Dishes (Miami, Florida)

Dogtown Rebels – Tears of a Nation  (Norwich)

Sniffany and the Nits – Girl Factory (Brighton)

OHMNS – III  (Liverpool)

Deaf Chonky – X-Ray Baby  (Tel Aviv, Israel)

Mini Skirt – Brigantine St  (Byron Bay, Australia)

Cold Meat – Women’s Work  (Perth, Australia)

M.S.O.L – (I’m a) Drone  (Perth, Australia)



Lockdown playlist no25: free jazz

May 20, 2020

You know what – the Sixties were alright, weren’t they ? Imagine living in a time when it seemed that anything was possible, nothing was off limits. And by the way, a fair number of free jazz ensembles were also multi-racial, which was no small achievement in itself back then.

Disclaimer: I’m pretty new to this music, I’m certainly no expert. None of this of course is music intended for the singles market, so I’m very much trusting my own instincts in making the track selections. I reckon I’ve made some decent choices, let’s see if you agree.

Ornette Coleman – Chronology  (The Shape of Jazz to Come 1959)

Charles Mingus – Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me (Pre Bird 1960)

New York Contemporary Five – Consequences (Archie Shepp & The New York Contemporary Five 1963) 

Eric Dolphy – Mandrake (Iron Man 1963)

Albert Ayler Trio – Spirits (Spiritual Unity 1964)

Cecil Taylor – Steps (Unit Structures 1966) 

Peter Brötzmann – Responsible (for Jan Van De Ven)  (Machine Gun 1968)

Sunny Murray – Red Cross (Sunshine 1969)

Art Ensemble of Chicago – Thème de Céline (recorded 1970, released on The Pathé Sessions 2002)

Julius Hemphill – Dogon A.D. (Dogon A.D. 1972)



Lockdown playlist no24: The Art of Songwriting

May 18, 2020

To give this list a bit of cohesion, no pop, rock or hip hop is included. It’s all what you might call country, folk or Americana, and it’s all by American artists. The bar for inclusion was set very high. These are all songs with exceptionally good lyrics, and I’d strongly encourage you to listen to them all (with tissues to hand).

Mary Gauthier – I Drink (Mercy Now 2005)

She’s not the only country singer to have been an alcoholic, but surely no other has wriiten so poignantly about the experience. Co-written with Crit Harmon.

James McMurtry – Ruby and Carlos (Just Us Kids 2008)

“James has that rare gift of being able to make a listener laugh out loud at one line and choke up at the next. I don’t think anybody writes better lyrics.” – Jason Isbell

Zoe Muth – You only believe me when I’m lying (Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers 2009)

I play it cool and act as cold as ice / It’s the only way I know to make you look twice /’cause you only believe me when I’m lying

Otis Gibbs – Something More (Joe Hill’s Ashes 2010)

Songwriter with an air about him to make you believe that he’s lived every minute of all the many stories that he tells.

Ashley Monroe – Two Weeks Late (Like A Rose 2013)

At the age of 17 she got herself a deal as a Nashville songwriter. She’s now a star in her own right, and as a member of the all girl band Pistol Annies. Co-written with Shane McAnally.

Chris Stapleton – Whiskey and You (The Traveller 2015)

Chris was earning his crust as a Nashville songwriter when he penned this number, first recorded by Tim McGraw. Later, as a performer, “over time it became a song that I was rarely allowed to leave the stage without singing. We went through several versions of recording this song until I finally decided it was best to present it in its original form: me, a guitar and one microphone.” With his performance he made it into a country classic. Co-written by Lee Thomas Miller.

Brandy Clark – You Can Come Over (Big Day in a Small Town 2016)

Brandy Clark is yet another who paid her dues as a Nashville songwriter, writing hits for other artists, before embarking on her own career. “You’d stay just long enough / To leave me again / So you can come over / But you can’t come in.” Co-written with Jo Dillon & Mark Narmore.

Margo Price – Hands of Time (Midwest Farmer’s Daughter 2016)

A lot of this song is autobiographical. Margo found Nashville a “tough place to be discovered.” She spent a number of years there in low paid jobs during which she and her husband had to pawn most of their possessions, including her own wedding ring. Now at last she could start to think about doing things like buying back her daddy’s farm which he lost when she was two years old.


Hayes Carll – I Will Stay (What It Is 2019)  

The song and its refrain “I will stay” was Hayes’s message to his fiancée, singer Allison Moorer. They married just after the album’s release.

Gill Landry – I Love You Too (Skeleton At The Banquet 2020)

Gill is a former busker and former member of Old Crow Medicine Show. He tells us that “I Love You Too is about a man who’s not in touch with himself.”



Lockdown playlist no23: UK grime & hip hop

May 15, 2020

Was a time when you wondered what’s the point of UK rap. It felt very much the poor relation of American hip hop. Well, not any more. Over the pond today a bunch of insanely wealthy hip hop superstars compete to prove who has the most swagger. Behind all the noise and the razzmatazz, there’s fewer real innovators around than in the early years of hip hop; and all too many songs are depressingly amoral, celebrating materialism or violence. Of course the commercialism is there in Britain too, but it doesn’t run so deep, and alongside it exist a number of small independent labels working with young creative producers and MCs well grounded in their working class roots.

In this list I concentrate on a few of the younger, less established artists taking the music in new directions. It’s fantastic to see so much creativity, and the best of it is, each track sounds totally different. As a special treat, I finish with a couple of new cuts by AJ Tracey and Little Simz.

C4 & Lady Leshurr – Block & Delete Remix  (Single 2018)

East Man & Saint P – Can’t Tell Me Bout Nothing (Red, White & Zero 2018)


Pitch 92 – I Need That feat Dr Syntax, Harleighblu & Dubbul O (3rd Culture 2019)

Mcabre Brothers, Lee Scott & Milkavelli – Inabit (Single 2019)

Illiterate & Vitamin G – The Juice (Illitamin G 2019)


Loyle Carner – Looking Back (Not Waving, But Drowning 2019)

Mr Key & Greenwood Sharps – That’ll Be the Day (Green & Gold 2019)

FFSYTHO – Mad (Single 2020)

Riz Ahmed – Fast Lava (The Long Goodbye 2020)

AJ Tracey – Dinner Guest feat MoStack (Single 2020)

Little Simz – You Should Call Mum (Drop 6 – EP 2020)



Lockdown playlist no22: Newfoundland folk songs

May 13, 2020

I knew that Newfoundland wouldn’t let me down – but it’s surpassed all my expectations. Not only are there ten fabulous songs here, but almost all are performed by local artists, and I’m sure that the locals won’t object to a guest appearance by the great Stan Rogers.

Newfoundland has a population of half a million, a large proportion of these being of English, Scottish or Irish stock, and this is reflected in the music. The island has a strong sense of community, and of its own separate identity. The pride of its people is summed up for me in the immortal words of Tom Cahill –

“We haven’t got money or riches to spare
But we can be thankful of one small affair
Thank God we’re surrounded by water.”

Joan Morrissey – Thank God We’re Surrounded by Water

written by broadcaster and playwright Tom Cahill


Stan Rogers – Cape St. Mary’s

written in 20 minutes by Otto Kelland, who’s remembered in this lovely article

Shanneyganock – Mussels In the Corner 

Wikipedia tells me that in 2005, 989 musicians gathered in the capital St John’s to play this tune on accordions to set a world record for simultaneous accordion playing

Great Big Sea – The Night Pat Murphy Died  

Generally attributed to Newfoundland songwriter Johnny Burke (1851 – 1930), though this is in question


Ron Hynes – No Change In Me

Ron Hynes is Newfoundland’s most decorated songwriter. I prefer this ballad to the better known Sonny’s Dream

Dick Nolan – Cod Liver Oil

Another Johnny Burke song

Elymer Boucher – The Rubber Boots Song 

The cheeky lyrics were apparently written by Fred Northcotte

Ryan’s Fancy – The Ryans And the Pittmans

Newfie version of the well known shanty Spanish Ladies

Richard Woodrow – Kelligrews Soiree 

Third and final song by Johnny Burke

Simani – Music & Friends

Beautiful anthem wtitten by Bud Davidge