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.

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’.

Soundtrack to the Week

Album of the Week

Image shows the cover of Janelle Monae's album Electric Lady. It depicts Monae and five identical women dressed in black and white stripes. There is a skull in the lower left hand corner.

Janelle Monae, Electric Lady (2013)

I’ve been listening to this a lot recently. It’s a life-affirming joy of an album. There are so many great tracks here (‘Given Em’ What They Love’, ‘Q.U.E.E.N’, ‘Electric Lady’, Dance Apocalyptic’, ‘Ghetto Women’), it’s hard to pick a fave, but right now I think I’ll go with ‘We Were Rock and Roll

Image shows the cover of Ladytron's album 'Light and Magic'. It features an abstract design with purple and pink lines on a black background.

Ladytron, Light and Magic (2002)

I can’t say this one does a lot for me, but it’s fun electronica. I usually have it on in the background when I’m doing something else. Top track: Seventeen

Image shows the cover of the album Raising Sand. It features a black and white photograph of Robert Plant (L) and Alison Krauss (R) standing in a desert, both looking away to the left

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Raising Sand (2007)

A lovely collaboration from two brilliant vocalists, plus a fantastic production from T. Bone Burnett, results in a very satisfying listen. Top track: Please Read the Letter

Image shows the cover the Townes Van Zandt compilation album Drama Falls Like Teardrops'. It features an oval sepia toned photograph of Townes on a white background.

Townes Van Zandt, Drama falls like Teardrops (2002)

Epic compilation with almost forty tracks. I love Townes Van Zandt, but I have to say, this album is a lot of Townes in one go and I find it a bit of a slog to get through.

Image shows the cover of the collaborative album Case/Lang/Veirs. It features an abstract image that conveys a sense of icebergs, seas and mountains

Case/Lang/Veirs (2016)

This is a regular listen for us. It’s a beautiful work from three amazing vocalists and songwriters. I particularly like how you can tell who led on the writing of each song, but it’s still a coherent album. Top track: Atomic Number

 

Soundtrack to the End of Winter

The last couple of months have been quite challenging, as well as cold and dark, so I’ve been looking for music to accompany cups of tea and introspection.

I love Joan Baez’s Gone from Danger (1997). All except one of the songs were written by younger artists (Dar Williams, Sinead Lohan) and Baez brings a rich maturity to the material. As you’d expect, there’s a political undercurrent, with songs about immigration, child abuse and environmental issues, but it’s all comforting somehow.  The collector’s edition features a live bonus CD of performances in which Baez is joined by some of the songwriters.

I’ve never really been into Dar Williams. This may be a British thing, but the extreme earnestness of her lyrics makes me feel a bit uncomfortable.  However, I’m getting beyond that and Promised Land (2008) is growing on me.  Apparently this is one of her more poppy albums and frowned on by some fans of her earlier, more acoustic sound. I have no opinion on that at this time.

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Soundtrack to the Summer of 2013

The voice of the summer was probably Marianne Faithful. I picked up her albums Vagabond Ways(1999) and Kissin’ Time (2002) in a secondhand record shop a few months back. One of Faithful’s strengths as an artist is her ability to choose fantastic people to collaborate with. Her albums are so well produced and, despite the wide-ranging material and song styles, retain a distinctive sense of identity. Vagabond Ways is sort of a cabaret album produced by Daniel Lanois.  It features her version of Tower of Song which is one of my favourite Leonard Cohen covers. My other favourite track on there is ‘File it under fun from the past‘ which is so bitter, melancholy and defiant. Kissin’ Time is perhaps a little more edgy, with songs produced by Beck, Jarvis Cocker and Billy Corgan.

Earlier in the summer I bought Collected by Massive Attack which is a great anthology.  My favourite Massive Attack song is ‘Angel‘. I hasn’t been off my mp3. player in at least 5 years.

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