April 10, 2009

When I cross over, I will shout and sing...

I will know my Saviour
By the mark where the nails have been

By the mark where the nails have been
By the sign upon his precious skin
I will know my savior when I come to him
By the mark where the nails have been
A man of riches
May claim a crown of jewels
But the king of heaven
Can be told from the prince of fools

By the mark where the nails have been
By the sign upon his precious skin
I will know my savior when I come to him
By the mark where the nails have been

On Calvary Mountain
Where they made him suffer so
All my sin was paid for
A long, long time ago

By the mark where the nails have been
By the sign upon his precious skinI
will know my savior when I come to him
By the mark where the nails have been

By the Mark
Gillian Welch


From the hands it came down
From the side it came down
From the feet it came down
And ran to the ground

Between heaven and hell
A teardrop fell
In the deep crimson dew
The tree of life grew

And the blood gave life
To the branches of the tree
And the blood was the price
That set the captives free
And the numbers that came
Through the fire and the flood
Clung to the tree
And were redeemed by the blood

From the tree streamed a light
That started the fight
'Round the tree grew a vine
On whose fruit I could dine

My old friend Lucifer came
Fought to keep me in chains
But I saw through the tricks
Of six-sixty-six

And the blood gave life
To the branches of the tree
And the blood was the price
That set the captives free
And the numbers that came
Through the fire and the flood
Clung to the tree
And were redeemed by the blood

From his hands it came down
From his side it came down
From his feet it came down
And ran to the ground
And a small inner voice
Said "You do have a choice."
The vine engrafted me
And I clung to the tree

And the blood gave life
To the branches of the tree
And the blood was the price
That set the captives free
And the numbers that came
Through the fire and the flood
Clung to the tree
And were redeemed by the blood

From the hands it came down
From the side it came down
From the feet it came down
And ran to the ground...

Johnny Cash


I hope everyone has a wonderful Easter...

March 18, 2009

In eighteen hundred and forty-six and on March the eighteenth day...

...We hoisted our colors to the top of the mast
And for Greenland sailed away, brave boys,
And for Greenland sailed away.

The lookout, in the crosstrees he stood
With spyglass in his hand;
There's a whale, there's a whale,
And a whalefish he cried
And she blows at every span, brave boys
And she blows at every span.

The captain stood on the quarterdeck,
The ice was in his eye;
Overhaul, overhaul! Let your gibsheets fall,
And you'll put your boats to sea, brave boys
And you'll put your boats to sea.

The harpoon struck and the line played out,
With a single flourish of his tail,
He capsized the boat and we lost five men,
And we did not catch that whale, brave boys,
And we did not catch that whale.

The losing of those five jolly men,
It grieved the captain sore,
But the losing of that fine whalefish
Now it grieved him ten times more, brave boys
Now it grieved him ten times more.

Oh Greenland is a barren land
A land that bears no green
Where there's ice and snow, and the whalefishes blow
And the daylight's seldom seen, brave boys
And the daylight's seldom seen.
Greenland Whale Fisheries

Sometimes things seem to connect with a past they don't actually belong to, but perhaps maybe should have. The Neil Gaiman/Charles Vess masterpiece Stardust seems as though it were the work of a nineteenth century disciple of William Morris. The iconic British Ploughman's Lunch conjures visions of medieval farmworkers relaxing from their heavy toil over a wholesome and filling mid-day refreshment, but it was apparently conjured up by the English Country Cheese Council in 1960.

Red Roses For Me (absolutely my favorite Pogues album), with its organic marriage of Shane MacGowan's brilliant compositions and rowdy performances of traditional Irish drinking songs and rebel balladry seems to embody hundreds of years of Ireland's musical history.

This astounding debut appeared fully-formed and gloriously unique, preceded only by their single “Dark Streets Of London” (in a slightly different version to that on the album), its surface shambolics belying a solid musical and lyrical depth and maturity. Red Roses For Me was produced by Stan Brennan, who ran Rocks Off Records in West One, where Shane sometimes served behind the counter. It was his long term mission to get the band off the ground, and he managed to pour the Pogue magic, unspilled and distilled, into the flagon at Wapping's tiny Elephant Studios.The former Shane O'Hooligan is the first to acknowledge his debt to the poets Brendan Behan and James Clarence Mangan, and musically to the Dubliners – not that a Dubliners record would ever be mistaken for one by the Pogues. The Anglo-Celtic sound of the Pogues, fermented in London's King's Cross, is a mixture of pub and punk - both Shane and Mancunian Maestro Jimmy Fearnley having been veterans of punk band the Nips - but played with an exuberance and an excellence that proved nearly impossible to resist (despite the rising tide of New Romanticism which threatened to overwhelm the London music scene of the early eighties). There were/are a number of the old guard Irish purists who despised this hybrid sound which they thought perpetuated the stereotype of the drunken Irish paddy…to be fair, it is rumoured that Shane likes a drink.

From the opening sounds of "Transmetropolitan" you're transported to the seedy underbelly of London, and its landscape of broken bottles and broken dreams, inhabited by folk even the dredges look down upon, and Shane McGowan channels each and every one of them. He does it with such conviction that whether the character is living in 1983 or 1843, you swear he was there and that he's recounting the story first hand. There is so much pain in his voice as he sings "The Auld Triangle" over guitar and tin whistle, that it's impossible to ignore, "Poor Paddy" could be his own old man working on the railway, and Shane is a bard in the most traditional sense of the word, as he retells the story within "Greenland Whale Fisheries."

It's not too hard to imagine McGowan and Company floundering amidst "Streams of Whiskey," or stirring things up with "The Boys From The County Hell," or wandering "The Dark Streets of London," accompanied with his band of merrymakers and miscreants. Despite the desperation, there is an attitude of defiant charm in the delivery these songs. The Rhino reissue embellishes the album’s original songlist with six vital bonus tracks. “And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda”, Eric Bogle's chilling account of Gallipoli, was revisited on Rum, Sodomy And The Lash, but this is the original flipside of their debut single, “Dark Streets of London” - you may know the song as performed by Eric Bogle or maybe June Tabor, but not like this. “Repeal of the Licensing Laws” was the B-side of the (cleaned-up) “Boys From the County Hell”. The band returned to Elephant in 1985 to record the B-sides “Whiskey You're The Devil” and “Muirshin Durkin”, both for the single “A Pair Of Brown Eyes”, and “The Wild Rover” and “The Leaving Of Liverpool” backed up “Sally MacLennane”.

Whether they're new interpretations of traditional tales, or original compositions, Shane is able to channel the spirit of a fighter and a survivor struggling against destiny and the drink while his bandmates provide the perfect musical accompaniment: a whirlwind assembly of banjo, tin whistle, acoustic guitar, rapid-fire percussion, and accordion, that is the equivalent of a punch in the face, a kick in the arse, and a raw shot of whiskey.

The Pogues
Red Roses For Me (reissue)
(2007 – Rhino Records)
1 Transmetropolitan
2 The Battle Of Brisbane
3 The Aud Triangle
4 Waxie's Dargle
5 Boys From The County Hell
6 Sea Shanty
7 Dark Streets Of London
8 Streams Of Whiskey
9 Poor Paddy
10 Dingle Regatta
11 Greenland Whale Fisheries
12 Down In The Ground Where The Deadmen Go
13 Kitty
14 The Leaving Of Liverpool (Bonus Track)
15 Muirshin Durkin (Bonus Track)
16 Repeal Of The Licensing Laws (Bonus Track)
17 And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda (Bonus Track)
18 Whiskey You're The Devil (Bonus Track)
19 The Wild Rover (Bonus Track)

Watch Greenland Whale Fisheries (Peel Session)…

Click HERE to download two Peel sessions from 1984…

March 06, 2009

Ladies of Grace, and Ladies of Favour, and Ladies of Merciful Night...

...to Lily and all the other blueberry girls out there, happy international women's day!

This was written by Neil Gaiman nine years ago for a friend who was expecting a long-awaited baby girl. As word of this lovely poem spread, Gaiman found himself doling out copies to many other mothers-to-be who could see the magic and kindness of it. Eventually, his friend Charles Vess (artist extrordinaire) read it and fate took over.
The result - now it's a beautifully illustrated book that all can enjoy.
The publisher has put together a wonderful video that combines Vess’ images with Gaiman’s reading of the text…the beautiful words almost sound like a magic spell.

If you plan to be in New York this Saturday (March 7) Messrs Gaiman and Vess will be signing copies at Books of Wonder between 1:00pm - 4:00pm…

If you (like me) can’t be there, you can order a signed copy

February 26, 2009

and the whirlwind is in the thorn-tree...

The Man in Black

Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow every day,
And tell the world that everything's OK,
But I'll try to carry off a little darkness on my back,
'Till things are brighter, I'm the Man In Black.
- Johnny Cash

He'd always been there. A brooding presence emanating from radios and televisions that bore witness to all the evil that people could do to each other. Even when he was a younger man, you swore he'd lived hundreds of years already. The black hair couldn't belie the creases and lines on that face or in a voice scraped raw from shouting at the devils that pursued him night after night.
Yet, I look at pictures of him in the last years of his life; the hair has gone white, his hands are gnarled and twisted by age as if he'd become a grand old oak tree that weathered many a storm, and the years have been stripped away. If some of us are born young to age and gradually be beaten down by the world, he was born old to learn innocence and to find his way home.

Johnny Cash's black clad figure has been as much a symbol of rugged American individualism as any other man in the last hundred years. Unlike other figures that have let their image be co-opted by various political movements or philosophies, he was never brought into any fold.
The music establishment in Nashville wanted nothing to do with him, but couldn't ignore the fact that he appealed to more people around the world than most of their other acts combined. They would try to claim him as one of their own, but the reality was that as they stretched out one hand in welcome they used the other to try and shove him under the rug.

I have often wondered what they used to say behind June Carter's back about her relationship with Johnny. I doubt if anybody would have dared say anything to her face, but I'm sure there were things said along the lines of "How could a girl from such a good family…" or "He's only with her because of who she is".

June was the hand that reached out and brought Johnny back to safety when he was drowning in a sea of drugs and fame. But even she wasn't enough to keep all his demons at bay.
I wouldn't presume to assume I know what demons possessed him, and it's none of my business anyway. But I know that when I look at photos from certain points in his life the smiles seem to be hiding desperation. The unguarded pictures, the ones not posed or planned, transmit heartbreaking pain. Fatigue that goes beyond the physical emanates from every line etched on his face and tells more of his life's story than any biography ever could. Finding solace in drugs isn't a solution to anything, but when you feel like you have nothing else, it's an easy out…but it’s not the only way to find a measure of peace.

How well I have learned that there is no fence to sit on between heaven and hell. There is a deep, wide gulf, a chasm, and in that chasm is no place for any man.
- Johnny Cash
Johnny gained victory through the redemptive power of his personal faith. But when Johnny talked of redemption, you understood what he meant and you knew he was sincere.
He never talked about it like it was a treat that could be taken away from you if you didn't behave, or that it was only available if you sent in your box tops and twenty-five dollars. Not only was he seeking to redeem himself in the eyes of God, he seemed to spend his whole live trying to redeem himself to the man who looked out at him from the mirror everyday.

You also knew that the only person that Johnny would ever sit in judgment on would be himself. He didn’t seem self-righteous or holier than thou. His faith gave him strength and offered him a way home. Peace for a troubled mind is sometimes salvation enough that the additional promise about saving your immortal soul is almost too good to be true.

When listening to Johnny sing a gospel song, I always feet a bit like I’m intruding upon a personal conversation, eavesdropping on a man's personal prayer. He wasn't singing to impress anyone or to convert them. He was genuinely giving thanks.
I never met Johnny Cash; I listened to his music, I saw him perform live one time and I watched him on television over the years – I knew of him but I didn’t know him. Most of the time all I ever would see of him was the carefully presented image of The Man in Black. It's only been in recent years, the almost three since his death on Sept. 12, 2003, and the couple of years before that when he was recording those last amazing records with Rick Rubin, that I began thinking about who he was beyond that cut-out figure of the lone gunman.

It's truly amazing how just because someone is a public figure we think we know them personally. We refer to them by their first names when we either talk about or write about them, and we make casual assumptions about what their opinions on matters would be. We act like we have an intimate association; even though it's more than likely we've never even met them or exchanged a single word of conversation

No human being is so one dimensional that we can claim to know them just by what is presented as their public face. We can know facts and tidbits of information that will allow us to draw conclusions, conclusions that stand as much chance of being wrong as right, but nothing that justifies our proprietary attitude towards them.

On very rare occasions an artist comes along who allows little pieces of their soul come through in their work, but even then, we aren't privy to their innermost thoughts and dreams, their fears and joys.

Johnny Cash was one of those who bared quite a bit of his soul through performance, song writing, and his willingness to talk about himself and his life with a great deal of honesty. But last night as I watched the documentary “Johnny Cash’s America”, for the first time, I realized (for all my familiarity with his work) that I didn’t know him at all, really.

He was cool and tough and sang songs about real life and real people. He was an outlaw and a patriot and a man's man and no one wanted to know anything different…and that's a real pity because he was also a husband and a father, he was a farmer and woodworker, he made ridiculous mistakes and he had remarkable triumphs, he was just like you and me.

Johnny Cash was born on February 26th, 1932 and died September 12, 2003. His wife of thirty-five years, June Carter, preceded him in death by four months. They are together and at peace, forever.
They deserve it.

2009 should see the long-awaited release of the sixth (and final) album from Johnny Cash's remarkable "American Recordings" sessions which he recorded in the final years of his life, right up to just a week before he died. The first five albums are rightly regarded as masterpieces, as is the subsequent 5 cd box set "Unearthed", which is a collection of other tracks recorded during the same sessions. The rumoured track listing for American VI is:

• San Antonio
• Redemption Day
• Here Comes a Boy
• That's Enough
• 1st Corinthians 5:55
• I Can't Help But Wonder
• Nine-Pound Hammer (the old Monroe Brothers song)
• North to Alaska
• His Eye is on the Sparrow (great old hymn)
• If I Could Hear My Mother Pray Again (another great old hymn)
• The Eye of an Eagle
• Don't Take Everybody for Your Friend
• Belshazzar
• Loading Coal
• A Half a Mile a Day
• Flesh and Blood
• I Am a Pilgrim (another great old hymn)
• Beautiful Dreamer
• Ain't No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down (another great old hymn)
• Family Bible (another great old hymn)
Watch a video for the song “When the Man Comes Around”…

Watch an excellent biography produced by mars hill church

His studio albums are legendary, but his live shows were just incredible – the way he and the audience would feed off of the emotional content of the music elevated the experience to the sublime… For your edification and enjoyment here's a wonderful live set from the Newport Folk Festival, 1964 – the American recordings era wasn’t the first time that Johnny connected with America’s youth…
buy his recordings...

February 12, 2009

In your eyes there's a sadness enough to kill the both of us...

Oh What Joy! Oh What Bliss! A Brand New Camera Obscura song!

This morning started out on a gloomy note, but you know, there's nothing like a little dreamy twee-pop to get you through one of those days…and no one makes music dreamier than Glasgow’s Camera Obscura. Once again, vocalist Tracy Anne Campbell manages to make sadness sound sweet and romantic in a way that most of her contemporaries just can't match...

Entitled My Maudlin Career, this is the band's fourth studio record, and will see release on April 28. By all accounts, it promises to pick up where Let’s Get Out of This Country (2006) left off…and I can’t tell you how happy that makes me.

The song-list for the album is as follows:
1. French Navy 2. The Sweetest Thing 3. You Told A Lie 4. Away With Murder 5. Swans 6. James 7. Careless Love 8. My Maudlin Career 9. Forest And Sands 10. Other Towns And Cities 11. Honey In The Sun

The advance track, "My Maudlin Career", is a wee bit of wistful melancholy, filled with all those deliciously layered sound-scapes that make their music pure pop perfection.
Who knew that persistent despair could be so charming and cute!

watch the video for the song "If Looks Could Kill" from Let's Get Out of This Country...

February 05, 2009

and I wanna dive in an ocean of pink tourmaline...

Come tell me your story to unload your glorious grief
Where you are the valet of honour and I am the thief
And don't ever mention the stains that you left on my track
How from a beautiful girl I became someone ruined and wrecked
It was all in your back
All in your back

So I spin in the dance of your absence and put on a show
But why do I smile baby, you of all people should know
The one that you loved
Died a long time ago

You can't do me wrong with charity until
You'll exhaust your lies and remedies, you will
But with your voice and melodies you kill, you kill
Your version of glory is dark and it's covered with sin
And I wanna dive in an ocean of pink tourmaline
I've seen the pure souls they exist and they fly
I think I could live with it, I know I can now

You can't do me wrong with charity until
You'll exhaust your lies and remedies, you will
But with your voice and melodies you kill…you kill

It's funny how now that I'm not in the palm of your hand
You're still running blindly to save me again and again
But I don't need a friend
No, I don't need a friend

You can't do me wrong with charity until
You'll exhaust your lies and remedies, you will
But with your voice and melodies you kill…you kill
--In Your Back, Keren Ann
Romance...now certainly the French culture didn’t invent the notion of romance, but their pop music tradition has perfected the art of infusing romantic music with just enough melancholy to stir an emotional response that lingers long after the song is over. Jane BirkinFrancoise HardySerge GainsbourgEdith PiafFrance Gall…the legacy of these artists, and others, bear out this premise quite clearly while the work of Berry, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Benjamin Biolay, Emilie Simon, etc. all promise that this tradition will continue to flourish, and that’s a good thing. For me, this notion of romantic music nears perfection in the work and the voice of Keren Ann Zeidel.

Legions of indie-pop boys around the world have a Texas-size crush on Keren Ann. As for me, let me assure you, I’m merely appreciative of her music and have nothing but respectful admiration for Mlle. Zeidel, she of dual passports (French and Dutch), she of French-Russian- Javanese- Dutch- Israeli descent, she of softly cooed ballads on landmark albums like Not Going Anywhere, Nolita, or her 2007 eponymous masterpiece. However, there is a good reason for all this fan-boy fervor. She’s a refreshing presence in the pop music world - her musical persona is feminine in the perfect way: She’s smart, not frivolous…attractive, not arrogant…vulnerable, not insecure…creative, not boring or pretentious.

When I first heard her sing four or five years ago, I was immediately struck by the power and beauty of her voice. As I’ve pointed out before, her music works like a tonic for those times when the stresses of life are working hard to bring you down. Her dreamy songs, sometimes barely rising above a whispery voice and a delicate melody, will compel you to stop and listen and join her for a few moments.

Keren Ann has one of the most beautifully emotive voices I’ve ever heard. The world kind of melts away when she starts to sing, each song lulling you into a pleasantly dreamlike state…drifting into moments both beautiful and genuine, but vaguely unreal. Her music is infused with a gracefulness that is both soothing and seductive all at once - her words float through your body and hit you in the heart…she can break your heart or mend it with one shift of her voice.


So many days have been away
that I once abandoned Keren Ann for her straight power which reached my heart.
But When I come back I find that I'm still in love with her.
She comforts me, yes she did. And her voice was my safe harbor.
I hided myself in the cold winter night on my bed with her music
that I was sure I was not afraid of any separation.
Will the days come back again? Let me kiss myself with those pains.
And dying in the music.

Keren Ann not only writes beautifully, she inspires beautiful writing…I stumbled across this poem several months ago - I’m pretty sure it was originally written in mandarin and then processed through google translate or something similar.

Here’s a video for In Your Back (live)…

Visit Keren Ann at myspace
Click here for a short live set…Click here to shop for her music…
...and this post completes the epic Valentine's Trilogy...and in record time!

February 04, 2009

life is ever changing, but I will always find a constant and comfort in your love...

Sometime over the past couple of years, The Avett Brothers became my favorite band, and I mean “favorite” on a level I haven’t felt towards a band since my angsty years in high school with the Clash and REM. Their songs will bring you laughter, heartache, love, or rage, sometimes all in one song.

The Avett Brothers (Seth and Scott Avett with childhood friend Bob Crawford) are a band from Concord, North Carolina and they play a combination of old-time Appalachian, bluegrass, punk, pop melodies, folk, rock and roll, hard country, and ragtime. No, really I’m serious – you can hear elements of all these genres on all of their albums…The Washington Post has described their sound as “post civil-war modern rock”- the Avetts themselves prefer to be unlabeled, feeling that “none would do the music the justice. It's simply left up to each person to extract his or her own account from the Avetts music.” Mainly, their music is simple and honest. They offer up both confession and advice. They lament over love, but emerge defiant against apathy. They rejoice and celebrate the small things in life, but they’re not afraid to address the big questions.


Over the years, the Avetts have developed several topics that they return to again and again in their songwriting – they like to sing about family…they explore the consequences that come with making choices…they stress the importance of personal responsibility…and often they combine some or all of these themes in a series of songs written to pretty girls. Click here to try out a few of my favorites - a compilation of the songs to pretty girls, and then go get Emotionalism or maybe Mignonette …aw, just go ahead and get them all!

Watch a live video for the song Pretty Girl from Chile…

Check out the Avetts on myspace
This has been part two of a monumental three part Valentine’s special…I hope I can get the third one finished up!

For more information on the main image, visit the photographer’s website - Robert Doisneau

My original intent for this post was for it to be a brief overview of the Avetts that would, hopefully, peak someone’s interest in what has become my favorite band…but I’m gonna head off down a rabbit trail for a bit, so bear with me – it’s a fairly short one, as rabbit trails go…

Getting up in the morning can be tough sometimes, most especially when I've spent the latter part of the night tossing and tumbling from one strange dream to another – not really bad dreams, just unsettling ones. Tucked away amongst these fleeting dreams, sometimes, is the song of the morning, a melody that’s persistently strumming away in the back of your mind from the moment I first awaken. Maddeningly, I don't always realize what song it is. Sometimes I don't even hear it clearly – and then suddenly the chorus comes crashing in while I'm shaving or the final few chords will be whispered softly as I take a final turn around the house before I leave for work, wondering what I've forgotten to do this morning. Sometimes it's hours later before I figure out what the song is, when I hear it playing on my computer at work while I’m sunk chin deep in paperwork and reports. This is just what happened this morning with the Avett’s beautiful ballad "Murder in the City". As the first chords came out of the tiny speakers, it was like having cold water dashed in my face, and as I listened to the song that I’d been humming all day I was struck by the truth captured in this quiet pop song. Sometimes it's not enough to simply get up in the morning and go through the day taking care of the duties and responsibilities that have fallen to me for resolution. Some days it’s good to wake up and engage a more personal set of obligations, ones we tend to take for granted all too often. I don't want to ever take the people in my life for granted...not ever.

Now watch the video for Murder in the City – this is why I love the Avetts so much…

February 03, 2009

…drifting…drifting…and floating around through chocolate bubbles

I may as well admit it - I'm a closet Anglofile with a sweet tooth for for sixties-inspired, super-cute go-go pop. if you have leanings in that direction, let me introduce you to a former chambermaid who is the holder of the musical grail - Angela Faye Tillett . As the bubbly British voice behind the groups Lollipop Train and Death By Chocolate, Angie leads the way through an enchanted world of childlike imagery, bubblegum singalongs, and giddy psychedelia - kinda like the Yellow Submarine on a detour through Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory.

Angie clearly has a fondness for sweets, which evoke powerful sensory memories for her -- as do colors, letters, breakfast cereal… She recites these reminiscences of pop culture, in the bored voice of a British schoolgirl delivering a report before class, while giddy pop keyboard lines bubble and eddy around her. In addition, she offers '60s spy movie instrumentals, quirky bubblegum psycedelia, and a few unusual covers, including a decidedly twee version of Cat Stevens's "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out."

Lollipop Train – Junior Electric Magazine
1. strawberry ?
2. i want it now
3. junior electric magazine
4. johnny shopping
5. banana milkshake
6. mr. bizarro
7. janet´s birthday party (hipster)
8. holiday in malta
9. theme from "daisies"
10. wowie zowie
11. presents prizes sweets & surprises
12. johnny johnny
13. let´s imagine
14. variation on a keyring

Death By Chocolate – S/T
1. mustard yellow
2. magpie
3. sky blue
4. the land of chocolate
5. orange
6. my friend jack
7. daddy's out of focus
8. olive
9. ice cold lemonade
10. the is bumble bee
11. a b & c
12. red
13. rainbow with a underneath & an elephant
14. who needs wings to fly? (from the flying nun)
15. the salvador dali murder mystery
16. if you want to sing out sing out
17. is bumble bee (the bee is coming)

Death By Chocolate – Zap the World
1. vox wah wah pedal
2. zap the world chorus
3. while i´m still young
4. bentley corniche
5. cutoutgirlscout
6. lime green fitted blouse
7. a b & c- part two
9. bridgit riley
10. artplay
11. cinammon grahams
12. bibi gin
13. the togetherness marriage bureau
14. zap the world
15. quite quite fantastic
16. swinging london
17. guru indian takeaway
18. john steed swordstick

Sadly, Angie must have lost her inspiration following the release of Zap the World (or else she just grew up and got a real job), and so it seems that there won’t be anymore daydreamy, poetic meanderings or pretty little pop songs full of charmingly inspired mania…


Try a little sample – download some extra chocolate love (a tracklist may be found in the comments)

a nice fansite - here

here's a video for the land of chocolate...images are from flickr


This is the first of a (hopefully) three part special that takes its inspiration from the three things that have always made Valentine’s Day fun for me: chocolate, pretty girls, and a little bit of romance…I hope you enjoy them all!

December 30, 2008

and he met a Warsaw girl, with lips as red as cherries dipped in wine…

Starting the new year with a new band to love - what joy…what fun…what bliss…lucky me (and you, too)!

Here’s how it happened…
I got home last night and was greeted by the sounds of Radio Hanukkah – Kelley and Lily had been surfing Direct TV’s XM channels and they had struck gold – fiddles, accordions, clarinets, and trumpets all swirling wildly together like the dream of some mad Dervish…and I had never heard of any of the musicians - The Klezmatics, The Cracow Klezmer Band, Beyond the Pale, Veretski Pass, and what has instantly become one of my favorite bands: Golem.

What do you get when you combine the exotic instrumentation of Gogol Bordello, the frenetic energy of the Squirrel Nut Zippers, and the instincts of Django Reinhardt with the energy of ’77 era punk? You get New York’s Golem – a decidedly non-traditional Jewish Klezmer band. I don’t know a whole lot about them, but here’s the biography from their website…

Contrary to popular belief, Golem is neither a towering Jewish Frankenstein who defended the Jews of 17th Century Prague, nor a creature from “Lord of the Rings.”

Golem is a 6 piece Eastern European folk-punk band.

Fronted by Annette Ezekiel Kogan - singer, accordionist, and 5-foot powerhouse; and vocalist, tambourine player, crazy-man Aaron Diskin; violin virtuoso
Alicia Jo Rabins; trombonist extraordinaire Curtis Hasselbring; elegant upright bassist Taylor Bergren-Chrisman, and unstoppable drummer Tim Monaghan, Golem’s sound evokes wisps of old-world elegance filtered through the successes and disappointments of new-world dreams. Spending nights in Lower East Side immigrant-owned bagel shops and summers in Eastern Europe, Annette collects Jewish, Gypsy, and Slavic folk songs, and, with Golem, rewrites, adds, edits, and rearranges them along the way. These are the songs to which Eastern European grandparents danced over a century ago, and now Golem has its unwrinkled fans moshing to the same pulsing beats.

Unrequited love stories? Check. Drunken dances? Check. Warnings to future sons-in-law? Check. Dysfunctional families forcing kids to sell bagels on the street? Their songs have ‘em all. And they may be in Yiddish (or Russian or French), but when Golem wails that the rent is too high, everybody understands

learn a little more about the Klezmer revival…
visit Golem at myspace
listen to an interview with the girls of Golem…
download a five-song sampler
buy their incredible album, “Fresh Off Boat”…

watch their great video for Warsaw is Khem…

Happy Hanukkah (sorry, just a little bit late!)

December 17, 2008

...kisses, sweeter than milk

Sunny-sounding Oh Susanna, she of the girlish giggle and warm personality, likes her literature dark and, when possible, slightly morbid - when she takes you down to the river it's less likely to be about tea and oranges than moonshine and murder.
Oh Susanna is actually Suzie Ungerleider, an American-born, Canada-raised Concordia graduate who's upping the ante on '80s cowpunk by taking dramatic inspiration from the sombre songs of the old West, rural Appalachian ballads and the public domain tunes of Americana. And while Oh Susanna is "punk" only in D.I.Y. spirit, there's something decidedly contemporary amid her straight-up strumming and spare acoustic arrangements.

From her stark debut, a superb seven-song EP from 1997, through 2003's self-titled gem, Suzie has always made her home in the arms of emotionally searing material. Her fifth and latest album, Short Stories, is no less harrowing, though its inspiration came from a variety of sources, some of them terribly unlikely: Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Carl Sandburg, oral historian Studs Terkel and documentary maker Michael Moore.

One of my favorite songs on the album, Filled With Gold tells about the bond between teenaged lovers and their determination to build their life together – like many of the songs on Short Stories, it is concerned as much with what’s not being said. The idea of being young and broke and in love, and that somehow that partnership carrying you through - it's a very romantic idea. A lot of times that doesn't work, but sometimes it does.

Elsewhere, she relied on previously published work as a framework for her own lyrics, which are by turns both heart-breaking and heart-warming. The inspiration for Beauty Queen came from a poem by Sandburg, It's a first-person narrative of a girl who married a guy, a brute, and he came at her one too many times, so she knifed him. At the end, she's sitting in prison, defiantly unremorseful.

Her songs speak of an America that exists down the backroads and blind alleyways frequented by Tom Waits and Neko Case, but Suzie follows her own vision - she tells her stories like no one else.
forever at your feet
A locket on a chain
a bow that's made from rain
a briar grows entwined with rose
I've come to be forever at your feet.

A blossom pages pressed
a knocking at my chest
Oh winding road please take me home
I long to be forever at your feet.

And I hope that you won't mind, my dear
when you see my eyes are lined, my dear
It's because I've waited all these years
for your kisses sweeter than milk

and your touch that's softer than silk
for your treasures I will be
forever at your feet.
download a selection of Suzie’s wonderful songs… (tracklist in comments)

listen to a couple of newly-recorded Christmas hymns…

watch a video for the song "right by your side"