I first heard of Thea Gilmore sometime back around 2003 when my friends were sharing round a copy of The Lipstick Conspiracies (2000). I didn’t really get into her music until I heard the album, Rules for Jokers (2001), which I loved. Since then, she’s been putting out consistently excellent albums.
Thea Gilmore has a beautiful voice and writes catchy, melodic, socially aware folk/rock songs in the tradition of people like Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Sandy Denny and Billy Bragg, but with very much her own distinctive sound.
There’s been quite a lot of buzz about her new album, Small World Turning and I finally got to see her play live last week. The gig was as good as I expected. New songs featured heavily, with ‘Cuttleslowe Walls’, ‘Glory’, ‘Don’t Dim Your Light for Anyone’, ‘Grandam Gold’, and ‘The Revisionist’ all being highlights. She also played ‘Saviours and All’ and ‘This Girl is Taking Bets’ from Rules for Jokers, and ‘Old Soul’ from Liejacker. There was a lovely cover of ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ and a great song I hadn’t heard before, ‘The New Tin Drum’.
I’ve listened to Small World Turning a few times since the gig and I think it’s one of her best albums, a gorgeous collection of songs for our time. This is even more of an achievement when you realise that Gilmore did almost all of the work herself after three record companies pulled out.
Here’s to another seventeen albums!
January has been pretty quiet.
The second week saw both the anniversary of our civil partnership in 2011 and our first proper date back in 2007, so we decided that was worth celebrating and went out for a nice dinner at a little French bistro near where we live.
We went to one gig. It was supposed to be folk legends John Kirkpatrick and Martin Carthy, but Martin had flu and had to pull out. John Kilpatrick managed to get a set together at the last-minute and it was a really fun gig, with all the joy of watching a tuly consummate performer. Plus he sang one of my favourite songs by Fairport Convention, ‘Crazy Man Michael’.
I finished and wrote a post about Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers.
I also read Star Nomad the first in a series by Linda Buroker which was fun (CN for rape threat though).
We went to see The Favourite and seem to be in disagreement with pretty much the rest of the universe because we didn’t like it! I won’t get into the reasons here because it would take an entire post.
We watched Lucy Worsley’s series History of the Home which was fascinating. I love social history.
Imagine, if you can, almost every lesbian in South Wales and a fair few from the South West and London, crammed into a small wood-paneled venue and you have something approximating the experience of seeing Patti Smith play at the Coal Exchange in Cardiff. Andy and I were quickly scooped up by a group of fifty-somethings from London who seemed to think we were very young and sweet, and that they ought to support us through our first Patti Smith gig.
I never really thought I’d get to see Patti Smith play live and didn’t believe it was going to happen until she actually appeared on stage. I think I would have paid the ticket price just for the opener, ‘Dancing Barefoot’, but that was followed a generous set of favourites: ‘Free Money’, ‘Beneath the Southern Cross’, ‘Redondo Beach’, ‘Ghandi’, ‘Peaceable Kingdom’, a fist-pumping rendition of ‘Because the Night’, a very long (and even better for being a bit messed up) sing-along version of ‘Gloria’, ‘Babelogue’ and ‘Rock N’ Roll N****r’.
I can’t remember who introduced me to Gillian Welch, but she’s become one of my favourite folk artists, an incredibly talented singer-songwriter whose expressive, world-weary voice is perfect for reinventing the appacalian and bluegrass traditions that she draws on in her songs. So I was extremely pleased to get the chance to see her play live in Manchester last month with her long-term musical partner, David Rawlings, even if the tickets did require my spending the money I’d set aside to buy new work shoes.
Last night I ticked the “See the Throwing Muses play live” item off my ‘To Do’ list and they were awesome. I can hardly believe I was standing about ten feet away from Kristin Hersh all night, and I’m not sure the band could believe they’d been put in a position quite so up-close-and-personal with the good people of Cardiff. Kristin asked at one point if anyone could “smell Dave” (drummer David Narcizo) because apparently the band members were all a little ripe from travelling. They also seemed a bit overawed by the venue – The Gate in Cardiff, an old church which has been refurbished and turned into a strangely posh community centre. “It’s so beautiful here” said Kristin, “This isn’t going to go well, we’re not beautiful”. But it was great and I think they’re all gorgeous.
Last night we went to see The Indigo Girls. This lesbian band has been going since 1985 and the audience at last night’s gig showed a good percentage of older lesbians, but I have to say, I have never seen such a wide range of lesbians in one place at the same time. It would probably take K.D. Lang to better it. There were even mullets.
The audience’s reception was incredibly warm and the band seemed a little bowled over by it, not having visited the UK for some years. There were a few complaints from the Welsh cohort who wanted to know why (oh why) they weren’t playing Cardiff. I don’t think Emily or Amy had the slightest idea where Cardiff is and seemed a bit foggy on the concept of there being two nationalities in the audience. They blamed their agent.
Amy was looking very hot in white shirt, black vest and black pinstripe trousers. Aside from having slightly smaller hair than she had in her early youth, Emily hasn’t changed that much since 1985 — I mean, flannel shirt over CND T-shirt.
It was a real feel-good gig. They played several songs from their new album, but relied mainly on favourites from their back catalogue and encouraged much singing-a-long. In terms of performance, they were absolutely professional and seamless, making it all appear effortless.
I can’t remember the set list in order, but from the new album they played:
What are you like?
Love of our lives
Second Time Around
Fleet of Hope
And from the back catalogue they played:
Power of Two
Three Hits (my favourite)
Closer to Fine
Johnny Rotten (from one of Amy’s solo efforts)
She’s Saving Me
Get out the Map
Hand me Downs
Fill it up Again
I first saw Mary Gauthier in 2002 in a small crammed cafe bar playing from her Drag Queens in Limousines and Filth and Fire albums. She was funny but subdued and I was delighted to discover a lesbian country singer. One of the women I was with called it “sad songs about dead dogs”, but she was pissed off about something else. The woman sitting next to me kept crying. I didn’t know why at the time, having only just joined this particular crowd and being oblivious to underlying drama, so I just went on and drank as much wine as I could hold. I’ve never forgotten the hangover I had the next day at work.
I can’t find the tear-stained ticket stump from my second Mary Gauthier gig in 2005. I usually keep these things, but perhaps it dissolved. Needless to say, by the time I saw her again I was myself deeply embroiled in the drama. She sang mainly from her album Mercy Now which I think is her saddest and, to this day, I can hardly bear to hear even though I think ‘Wheel Inside the Wheel’ and ‘Mercy Now’ are two of her best songs.
In 2008, entirely by accident, I saw Mary again in St Louis. My girlfriend and I booked tickets to see The Cowboy Junkies and she just happened to show up as the supporting act. I was on THE big decision-making trip to the US and it seemed both appropriate and a little portentous to find Mary at yet another juncture in my lesbian life. And, like me, she was a lot more chipper this time around, playing songs from Between the Daylight and the Dark with raucous good humour and delight. We bought a signed poster.
I saw Mary for the fourth time in the North of England last week and of course I’m at another crossroads in my life. She was on very good form, still seeming happy, telling hilarious stories about hobos with laptops, medicine women who recommend books by Harvard psychiatrists and staying in the kind of motel where the folksinger has the best car in the parking lot (so you know it’s not a family place). My girlfriend and I were a little perturbed to find ourselves the youngest people in the place and that no one wanted to sit next to us, but we had a ball nonetheless.
Roll on next time.