Thea Gilmore Live & New Album

The cover of 'Small World Turning' which features a painting of a face in profile, with splashes a vivid colour for hair, against a black background.

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!

Winter Solstice

Image shows a stylised black and white drawing of the sun rising over a snow capped mountain and forest

The Winter Solstice is one of my favourite festivals. I’m pleased to know that the sun will be returning but, for me, this time of year is all about embracing the darkness and the quiet. It’s the point at which I draw the last year to a close and start to think about the twelve months ahead.

We were both getting colds, so we didn’t do much on the day, but we managed to give the flat a good clean and created a little altar with a candle. I made a butternut quash gratin by Nigel Slater and served it with a 1970s-style nut roast from my Good Housekeeping book of vegetarian recipes. My partner made delicious chocolate chip cookies.

There are three areas of my life that I’d like to focus on during the coming year.

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Album of the Week: Thea Gilmore, Murphy’s Heart

“Hello my little train wreck”

I was first introduced to Thea Gilmore by a feminist friend back in 2004.  Since then, she’s become a mainstay of my music collection, turning out tuneful and politically astute albums every couple of years.  She has a lovely, pure voice and a refreshingly unaffected delivery.  Murphy’s Heart is her tenth studio album and I think it stands out alongside Rules for Jokers and Liejacker as one of her strongest, balancing her more upbeat folk and pop songs with her trademark mournful ballads, while retaining the political edge.  The opening track ‘This Town’ is a rousing warning against the dangers of getting stuck in a rut, a sentiment I appreciate as someone who grew up in a town where we firmly believed that if you didn’t get out by the time you were 21, you would never get out.  Then there’s the great tune of ‘God’s Got Nothing on You’ and the soaring chorus of  ‘Due South’.  ‘Love’s the Greatest Instrument’ has this amazing sense of speed and movement and is possibly my favourite track on the album.   ‘Automatic Blue’ and ‘Coffee and Roses’ are classic laments.  ‘You’re on the Radio’ is one her forays into more poppy territory and is OK, but I prefer the more folky sound.  ‘Not Alone’ has a relentless, swirling melody and a great brass accompaniment.  The last three tracks didn’t strike me as being as strong as the rest, but were still pretty good.  Overall, I think this is going to become a favourite.

Also playing this week: Frank Black,  Frank Black and (as Black Francis) Svn Fingers, and Kristin Hersh’s Crooked.