Soundtrack to a Week in the Country

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We spent last week in rural Mid Wales.  There was a crispness on the air and the scent of wood smoke as the local pubs started lighting up their fires. You could feel winter moving in.

Time to break out the folk and Americana.

Recent Listening

The Butchies, Make Your Life (2004)

This album is SO much fun. It’s just catchy, dumb, lesbian pop/rock tunes from beginning to end.

 

Image shows the album cover which is a red and black painting, showing a stylised man and woman at the centre with black plant designs around the edges

Tanya Donelly, This Hungry Life (2006)

I love everything Tanya Donelly’s done. This album feels less innovative than most of her other work, but it’s lovely.  Top tracks: “Kundalini Slide” and the title track, which makes me think of my grandmother for some reason.

This hungry life won’t let you out whole
But you can change a thing or two
Before you go
This hungry life
Might not leave you with much
But you can change your story
And throw a hand up from the mud

 

The album cover features a close-up photograph of PJ Harvey's mouth with smeared lipstick on the lens

PJ Harvey, Dry (1992)

I first heard this when I was about nineteen, which is the perfect age for it. It undid my brain and is probably still in my top twenty albums ever. Powerful, emotional and totally uncompromising. Top tracks: Dress and Sheela-Na-Gig.

The album cover features a widescreen photograph of the lead singer, Beth Gibbons, with a blue filter.

Portishead, Dummy (1994)

I remember my housemates at university listening to this when they broke up with people. Personally, I prefer the second album, but this wears well and still sounds classy. Top tracks: Roads and Glory Box

The album cover shows a sepia photograph of a naked man lying on a bed below an opened window.

Suede, Dog Man Star (1994)

Completely over the top and, yeah, maybe pretentious, but I like Dog Man Star. It’s an album to wallow in. Top tracks: This Hollywood Life and The Asphalt World.

The ablum cover features a collage of small black and white photographs

Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street (1972)

It’s a good time. Top track: Shine a Light

The album cover features a large pink flower with a yellow iris with orange flowers on the left and below

Lucinda Williams, Essence (2001)

Beautiful, melancholy songs and one of my Dad’s favourite albums. Top track: Blue

Soundtrack to last week

Image shows the cover of Lauryn Hill's album The Miseducation of Lauryn hill. The cover features a sepia headshot of the artist

Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)

I hadn’t listened to this for years. The production is amazing and it still sounds incredibly fresh and vibrant, but you can also hear the influence its had on a lot of artists since it was released. A classic album. Top track, Ex-Factor

Image shows the cover of the Bonnie Prince Billy album, Ease Down the Road. It is a photograph of an empty green field on a cloudy day

Bonnie Prince Billy, Ease Down the Road (2001)

This isn’t one of my favourite BPB albums, but I like it. It’s mostly about sex and is fairly upbeat for Will Oldham. Top track, At Break of Day

Image shows the cover of Pulp's album Different Class. It is a photograph of a wedding party with a black border

Pulp, Different Class (1995)

Woah! This was a nostalgia trip and a half. Some of the lyrics seem a bit dated and immature now, but these are still great songs. I saw Pulp live twice, once when they played the entirety of their grim This is Hardcore album, and a second time when they were a lot more friendly! There was nothing like a storming ‘Common People’ encore. Tops track, Something Changed (because I am a sap).

Image shows the cover of Morcheeba's album Big Clam. It is a photograph of a blond white woman relaxed in a chair listening to a record player in a red room.

Morcheeba, Big Calm (1998)

I’d forgotten how much I like this album. It’s warm and comforting and lovely. I saw Morcheeba live once too and they were brilliant. Top track, Part of the Process 

Image shows the cover of Mary Gauthier's album Drag Queens in Limousines. It shows a blurry, sepia toned photograph of the artist reflected in a mirror

Mary Gauthier, Drag Queens in Limousines (1999)

I first saw Mary Gauthier live back in 2003 in a tiny coffee shop. It was incredible, everyone was crying and I was so drunk. I’ve seen her three times since and she’s always fantastic. This is a great album, sad but full of life and compassion. I love every song, so it’s very hard to pick a fave, but I’ll go with Our Lady of the Shooting Stars

Image shows the cover a greatest hits collection. The cover features three black and white photographs of Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin, Respect: The Very Best of

I had to listen to some Aretha #RIP

Grey Hair Goals

One of my ambitions in life is to have amazing grey hair.  I stopped dyeing my hair three years ago, but the result cannot yet be called “amazing”.  It’s …. on a journey I guess, an interesting one which I would like to write more about at some point.

When I feel insecure about it, I’m going to look at this picture of Natalie Merchant from the cover of her retrospective collection.

Image shows a black and white photograph of the songwriter Natalie Merchant. It is a head and shoulders shot with her long, grey hair tumbling down her shoulders as she looks directly into the camera.

This is everything and I’ll be happy if I can get my hair to look half as good.

Gillian Welch’s hair is looking awesome these days too

 

Soundtrack to the Week

Image shows the cover of the Be Good Tanyas album Blue Horse. It is a painting of a steam train travelling through a dark night

The Be Good Tanyas, Blue Horse (2000)

This is an old favourite full of lovely covers and interpretations of traditional songs. It was one of the first albums I bought when I started getting into Americana. Top tracks, The Coo Coo Bird and Light Enough to Travel

Image shows the cover of Joan Baez's album Diamonds & Rust. It shows a photograph of Baez in a black v-neck blouse with the sun behind her.

Joan Baez, Diamonds and Rust (1975)

I generally prefer Joan Baez’s later work, but I really like this album of covers and her own compositions. The title track is just one of the best and most beautiful break-up songs ever. Top track, Diamonds & Rust

Image shows the cover of Ferron's album Phantom Center. It is a black and white photograph of the artist sitting on the ground leaning against a tree

Ferron, Phantom Center (1990)

You probably won’t have heard of Ferron unless you’re into niche lesbian music (like my partner is), but she’s big in the women’s music festival circuit and has influenced songwriters like Ani DiFranco and Mary Gauthier.  Top track, White Wing Mercy

Image shows the cover of First Aid Kit's album Ruins. It is a black and white photograph of the artists faces and hands

First Aid Kit, Ruins (2018)

Beautiful album that drew me into First Aid Kit fandom. Each of their albums has a distinctive feel and I think this one is the most country-influenced. Top track, Rebel Heart 

Image shows the cover of Ani DiFranco's album Red Letter Year. It shows a photograph of the moon on a plain red background

Ani DiFranco, Red Letter Year (2008) 

Confession: I’ve never managed to get into Ani DiFranco. I’m not sure what it is because I can hear the amazing talent there. I’ll keep trying and maybe one day I’ll get it. I do like Red Letter Year, which is her (relatively) happy “I’m in a good relationship and had a baby” album. Top tracks ‘Emancipated Minor’ and ‘The Atom’.