In the hot and dark basement of the Sebright Arms on a Thursday evening, three people take the stage: the Weather Station, led by Canadian songwriter and guitar player, Tamara Lindeman. She is joined tonight by a bass player providing tuneful and sensitive support and the subtlest, quietest drummer ever to give accompaniment to a song. That is some skill in a small place. Anywhere really. But the centre of attention is the singer, delivering a lovely set that draws on “Loyalty” her new release but includes the wondrous “Came so Easy” and many other early songs. Many people in the audience – me included – have clearly been in love with these pieces for a while but have not had the chance to see her. This is playing, singing and writing of the very highest quality. Skilful, moving, honest. Not the usual chords or structures and not the usual lyrical ways and means. Earlier in the evening, the support band, Oh Sister, were at the beginnings of this kind of journey. They will learn a lot from watching and listening to this playing and this writing. Tamara is very possibly tired of the Joni Mitchell comparison, in fact I know she is because of the interview on the excellent Line of Best Fit site. But the tone and sweep of her voice does bear that weight. And yet the lyrics are not easily comparable to anyone – they have a highly original depth and range with an eye for the intimate detail and strangeness of particular moments. This is a wonderful talent who will not be playing places of this size for much longer. In fact, she is supporting the Mountain Goats in the cavernous (by comparison) Shepherds Bush Empire in November. The songs the singing and the playing are an easy match for the space. I hope The Weather Station come back soon in their own right…
Rickie Lee Jones is sometimes wrongly associated with a certain lazy, easy listening late 70s west coast sound – perhaps owing to the pristine nature of her first two immaculately produced albums, the eponymous first and the second, Pirates. But dig deeper into these albums and you find songs which are little worlds in themselves, the slow drift along a night road of Last Chance Texaco, the childhood memories of Saturday Afternoons in 1963 and so many others. Even the song which made her famous, Chuck E’s in Love, has a richness to the storytelling absent in many of its contemporaries on the atrophying LA scene of the time, a love of the details of dialogue and scene-setting. And in Night Train, she may have written one of the great songs of the late twentieth century, a portrait of a single mother threatened with losing her child to the social worker, set to the most beautiful, slight, almost not-there musical backing.
So here we were thirty years after the events at the Royal Festival Hall to see her perform the two first albums in their entirety, mixed in the running order as it turned out. And there she was – now into her fifties performing these songs of her youth and recalling troubled times, break-ups and the long strange road to recovery from heroin abuse. If this description makes you think the music itself was anything less than uplifting, then I’m sorry – that’s not at all what I mean. Backed by seven musicians of outstanding quality and sensitivity (showy solos were allowed sparingly only during those numbers which most approached the potentially indulgent jazz area), she gave a fantastic performance. Whether it really was some kind of final exorcism of bad times long ago (As she hinted by the end) or not, there was an intensity to this singing and dancing by this strange un-categorisable performer which was moving in the extreme. You simply don’t get this from the hundreds of hastily reformed acts from years gone by who are going through the motions. Every line was delivered like it was written yesterday and not all that time ago…By the end she was tearful in the face of the standing ovation something really special in the way of live music had just happened.
See www.rickieleejones.com too – there’s more than just the old songs going on for her
Until last year I was only dimly aware of them. But my friend Neil dragged me along to see them at the Borderline. I've been hooked ever since. Darren from Hefner produced the new album Beer in the Breakers and he knew exactly what to do about that. Basically roll the tapes and let them play. This is a band who are completely simpatico and telepathic with one another. Maybe it's a feature of three-piece bands. But the playing, and the writing, and the performing find them all locked into their own little world. The guitar player and main songwriter David draws much of the attention. His playing is just beyond belief and his singing, and writing with lots of images of ordinary life sketched and held up for a closer look are just great. Allied to wonderful tunes and heartfelt playing. There's an atmosphere of celebration and warmth and you come out from a wave pictures show feeling better somehow. The drummer Johnny and the bass player Franic are just as good and deliver the spine of the music on which David Tattersall's words and playing dance. I do not understand how it is possible for this band not to be so much better known. Greatness beckons. Hopefully.
With King Creosote having provided the most amazing live music moment of the previous year, it was going to be difficult to beat that. He played at the Union Chapel with John Hopkins. Performing their diamond mine album in its entirety and a bunch of gorgeous encores. The atmosphere was intense and reverential because here whether real hard-core fans hanging on every note and every smile and every gesture from Kenny, John Hopkins and the guest players from geese. His most ardent fan was there as before calling out and whooping after each song. We had seen this guy last year in the slaughtered Lamb. But here the sense of occasion and the overwhelming atmosphere of wanting to hear the music overcame even his most fanatical follower. He played everything I wanted to hear and more, including a lovely version of nothing compares 2U which has been helpfully uploaded to you Tube. He played Leslie and he played And the racket they made.
There was nothing else I could have asked for.Atmospheric, unrepeatable and wonderful.
Appropriately enough I am with one of my oldest friends from back in the day in Leeds. Familiar faces are all around. It's almost like some gathering of the ancient clans. They have heard the call but the are Mekons are in town and they are gathering, one more time. Inside the venue we stand near a couple who are making a video. John Langford announces that after 38 years they are having a documentary film made about them. This makes little difference to the way they go about things. Apart from, after messing up two new songs when Langford says why should I care after 38 years have I written enough songs. Everyone is on great form. My favourite songs still come from fear and whiskey and me cons rock 'n' roll. Down the front of the stage a new generation of me cons are having the time of their lives and slowly and gently staking their claim and pushing aside the older never been in a riot fraternity. A great night as always
I had seen M Ward play before. But never at the union Chapel. It was a first for him as well. He makes the most beautiful, timeless sound from his guitars and it all look so effortless. Like it has always been easy for him. But this particular skill is hard one and not as simple as he makes out. The union Chapel is packed and hushed. The atmosphere is warm and Sunday night. So many of my favourites are played, including the Sandman the brakeman and me from the monsters of folk album. He plays a Nick Drake song, Place to Be, and his immaculate cover of Let's Dance both songs performed because he is in England. There is no new material but when you have been as prolific as he has at turning out atmospheric beautiful music for more than a decade you don't need to have new material. A short but beautiful set.
He had a picture of one of his daughters on his guitar.He had some great younger musicians with him. He played those beautiful songs which I loved from the album A town called amen.
And even though Jailbird did not go quite according to plan it was still very beautiful.
Again, how is it that this man is not so much more well known?