Ali, Barbara and the Rest of the Best Music of January…
What a start to the year! The music that was released in January was plentiful, beautiful and often surprising. Music that came from the north, south, east and west; from the future, and from the past. And as we’re now 10 days into February, I can exclusively reveal, that this is set to continue for the foreseeable future, namely next month’s roundup.
There’s collaboration, solo material, two long missed pseudonyms, a completely new to me discovery who has made my month, new material from old friends and archive material from the woman some call ‘the third Ronnie’. Here we go…
The Pictish Trail has released the second volume of Secret Soundz. The first listen reminded me of the first time I heard Bon Iver’s For Emma or Beck’s Sea Change, gorgeous and rich while at the same time brittle and even painful. On the recent podcast with Jo Mango I got a little metaphysical about the sound of pain. At times Secret Soundz explains what I meant more eloquently than I could ever manage. This is a short film from Fence about the making of the record:
One of the outstanding things about Arab Strap is they made great records together, but have continued to make great records apart. That is pretty rare when you think about it. One of my favourite albums of the early years of this century was was made by Aidan Moffat’s ‘Lucky Pierre’, Hypnogogia. Over the years there have been various sightings of L. Pierre, and last month was one of them. If the Aidan Moffat solo albums and collaborations are the place for him to showcase his incredible command of language, L. Pierre is where he can explore some sonic extremes. The album is called The Island Come True and this is the opening track KAB 1340:
I have a feeling many of you may know about Abagail Grey already but she is knew to me, and if she’s new to you you’re in for a treat. I picked up her new EP Snowflake and when I saw who was involved with the recording and playing I had a hunch it would be for me. The music reminds me, perhaps unsurprisingly, of the early, fondly remembered, solo albums of Isobel Campbell before that scary Mark Lanegan whisked her away. There is lots of lovely playing here, and Claire Campbell (for she is she) has a stronger voice than her near namesake. A lovely record. have a listen for yourself:
Next up is the first solo album from a man named Rick Anthony who is red of beard. Rick Redbeard has taken time away from the Phantom Band to make No Selfish Heart, and whisper it, but I think this is the best thing he’s been involved in. It’s certainly one of the most moving records I’ve heard in a long time. This is Rick playing Now We’re Dancing, one of the album’s singles:
Some of you may be thinking ‘cheer up, man’, and it’s true I am always drawn back to sad songs (‘they say so much’, as Reg once said), but I do still like a quality bit of noise, and I’m very excited about Dundee band Fat Goth. On the basis of their album Stud I can see them joining PAWS and the sadly missed YAK among my favourite Scottish ear botherers. Here’s a song called Creepy Lounge:
On which other blog will you find Fat Goth followed by Barbara Dickson? Probably Nicola Meighan’s actually, but not many others, I would suggest. I picked up a copy of Barbara Dickson; b4 seventy-four: the folkclub tapes, which are recordings of her early years as a folk singer, simply because she has one of the best voices to come out of Scotland . You may know here best as duetting with Elaine Page or following a Ronnie Corbett tall tale and have trouble getting past the big hair and frocks, but it’s all about the voice and few have better. This is where her home is; in amongst the folkies. This is Fine Flowers in the Valley:
And staying in the arena of quality folk, it’s the return of Alasdair Roberts and he has brought his friends. Together they have recorded an album together called A Wonder Working Stone. As much as I love Roberts solo albums this collaboration seems to given him a new lease of life and includes a wider breadth of influences. There are the astonishing guitar playing and distinctive vocals that we’ve come to expect, but this is a richer sound. From the album this is Brother Seed:
Pure quality, and that’s just the best of the Scottish stuff. You can add new albums by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Johnny Marr, Richard Thompson, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Eels and Caitlin Rose and you can understand why I’ve only been leaving the house when I absolutely have to. Right, can someone lend me a tenner…?