Last Friday night, I played three tracks from a new album by The Spook Of The Thirteenth Lock. They're a Dubln act that's making bold combinations with trad folk and American left field. For the sake of shorthand, let's say they're a bit Horslips and a smidgeon of Will Oldham. Which is naturally a momentous thing.
There's a mythology thing going on, with hares and warriors that recalls 'The Tain'. It's kind of fearless and pretentious in all the right ways, and the Nick Cave references are also quite apt. I own my discovery of the band to Jim Carroll's blog, which routinely divines good music and pokes at the Dublin establishment with a pointy stick.
The announcement that Ennio Morricone will be playing the opening night of the Belfast Festival at Queens (October 17, just shy of his 80th birthday) was a great incentive to dig out the Mission soundtrack.
There was a customary bit of blarney with Joe Lindsay at the end of the show. I'm winding down and he's revving up for his after midnight performance. We tend to burble, but the last few exchanges have found us talking about the attractions of the mature woman - Philomena Lynott, Emmylou Harris and even Emmylou's mother. It's curious enough, but then again, the conversations before this were getting a bit homo-erotic. We both have understanding wives, y'all.
BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Fridays, ten - midnight
Thin Lizzy - Rosalie (Vertigo)
Ry Cooder - Fernando Sez (Nonesuch)
The Spook Of The Thirteenth Lock - In Country Dark (Transduction)
The Weakerthans - Tournament Of Hearts (Anti)
Teddy Thompson - In My Arms (Universal)
Nathan Abshire - Offshore Blues (Ace)
The Wolfmen - Jackie Says (Damaged Goods)
My Morning Jacket - Touch Me I'm Going To Scream (Rough Trade)
Dr Feelgood - She Does It Right Grand)
Willard Grant Conspiracy - The Pugilist (Loose)
Mulatu Astaqe - Yekermo Sew (Manteca)
The Wild Beasts - The Devil's Canyon (Domino)
The Prodigy - Ghost Town (Independents Day)
The Neville Brothers- Yellow Moon (A&M)
The Wave Pictures - Just Like A Drummer (Moshi Moshi)
Teddy Thompson - One Of These Days (Universal)
The Spook Of The Thirteenth Lock - Pimlico (Transduction)
Agnostic Mountain Choir - Stop That Thing (Ball The Jack)
Ry Cooder - 5000 Country Music Songs (Nonesuch)
Ennio Morricone - Gabriel's Oboe (Virgin)
Freedom And The Dream Penguin - The Duke Out On The Ocean (Well Maybe Next Year)
Shout Out Louds - Tonight I Have To Leave (Weekend)
Thin Lizzy - Are You Ready (Vertigo)
The Spook Of The Thirteenth Lock - The Hare (Transduction)
The Allstars Collective - All About The Music (Specific)
Thirty years ago, Thin Lizzy ruled. Their 'Live and Dangerous' album was number two in the charts - cruelly denied the top position by the Grease' soundtrack. Their tour was intensely successful, and their arrival at the Ulster Hall on June 14 was a proper triumph.
The night before, we'd been to see the Boomtown Rats at the same venue and Phil had strolled on for the encore, looking impeccable in a black Crombie, his Fender Precision bass (aka The Lone Ranger) slung over his shoulder while he bashed out 'Route 66' with Geldof barking in tandem. It was like a changing of the guard and now the city was officially Phil's.
It was the classic era for the band. Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson on guitars, lashing out triplets while splaying their legs and shaking their hair. We even tolerated a drum solo from Brian Downey. Meantime, the band delivered the hits from 'Jailbreak' and 'Johnny The Fox', giving it total energy and seemingly unconcerned that punk rock was making rude noises elsewhere.
So tonight I think I'll play a few tunes from that album. For the sake of sentiment and also because they still sound unbeatable on the radio. A shame that old Philo isn't around to take his dues.
One of these weeks I'll put together a cool radio show full of songs about local landmarks. These will include 'Napoleon's Nose' by St Vitus Dance, 'Sailortown' by Energy Orchard and of course Van Morrison's 'Cypress Avenue'. Given that there have been two bands called Colenso Parade, there's the chance for a Holy Land reference, while Therapy's 'Six Mile Water' is just about essential. And if there's anything you can recommend, kind readers, please feel free with your suggestions
Another recording that I can't pass on is 'Macosquin, Coleraine' by The Sleeping Years. This is the work of Dale Grundle, a man who grew up near that parish, whose music is quietly exceptional. He was once in a band called The Catchers, who were raved over by the UK music press, were big in France and who seemed like the equal of that other literate combo, The Divine Comedy.
The song looks back to the old place with a painterly care. He observes the stillness and also the religious tension, the coloured kerbstones and all. It's tinged with many years of exile and the regard of a proper artist. It's like Dylan Thomas, hauling Llaryggub over to County Antrim for a sentimental excursion. There a charming video here.
His debut album, 'We're Becoming Islands One By One' is made of similar stuff. He's also cares about the way his music is packaged, and if you can track down those previous EPs, you'll be delighted with his style. So hopefully, Dale won't always be such a stranger to us.
It's August 25, 1992 and I'm in a San Francisco diner with Tom Waits. He's just as I hoped he would be, with the pork pie hat, the grifter goatee, the three button hand-me-down and the engineer boots. He's ruminating about his life out on the farm out in Sonoma County, where he builds his own instruments out of scrap iron and where the rough fever of the 'Bone Machine' album was recently birthed.
Owing to some wonky communication I actually stood the guy up a week ago. I had to see a priest about my impending wedding in Manchester and Tom didn't get the message until very late. But he seems to have forgiven me and he's even brought along his wife, Kathleen Brennan, to say hello. She's a cool artist and a writer, and they met on the set of 'One From The Heart'. They married in 1980 and took a honeymoon to Sligo. Kathleen perks up when she hears my accent and I give it some extra sparkle with the eyes. Just a few hours previous, I had bought my wedding suit in a vintage clothes store on Haight-Ashbury - a lovely piece of tailoring that had once belonged to the singing cowboy, Gene Autry. It's been a tremendous day, thus far.
Tom has picked up a copy of the Weekly World News, which makes the National Enquirer look classy. Only eighty five cents, though. The cover story has imagined an Elvis wedding to a 30 year old waitress in Mississippi. That's Tom's excuse to unspool a few yarns himself, and pretty soon I don't know where the truth of the story may be. Hilariously, it doesn't matter.
He's riffing about ancient police station logs, and the weird old crimes recorded therein. He tells me about his mother and the religious tracts she sends him. And he reveals a rare admiration for Keith Richards, who features on the new album. It's only when I mention a few recent law suits that Tom becomes restless and our meeting comes to a civil end.
On the way out, he grabs a pen and draws a moustache and a beating heart on the Elvis cover of the newspaper. And then he signs his work: "best wishes, Tom Waits". He flashes me a conspiratorial wink. "There ya go... it's worth forty dollars now."
Stevie and Jonathan from Cat Malojian were on the show on Friday, talking up their self-titled album, defending the banjo, bigging up Nick Drake and getting enthused about the Glasgowbury Festival, July 26. We've been playing their music for 18 months or more and it's a delight to know that they can sustain it over a full collection.
Jonathan was raised on bluegrass music, but he seems to be in denial these days. Stevie keeps urging him to go back into that place, to unleash a full-on Earl Scruggs moment, but it may have to wait until album two. Instead, they hired a cottage in the Mournes, got their producer friend Mudd Wallace to fetch the microphones, and then recorded the sedate fun. Extra marks for the clarinet playing and while Stevie isn't a full-on fan of Harry Nilsson, he recognises a kinship in the halting voice and all that emotion, quietly stated.
You may have read plenty of enthusiastic reports about the Seattle act Fleet Foxes. We've been road-testing the songs for a month now and they hold out beautifully. Huge harmonies and awesome aspects.
BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Fridays, ten - midnight
Doris Duke - the Feeling Is Right (Kent)
Pete Molinari - Adelaine (Damn Good)
Fleet Foxes - Ragged Wood (Bella Union)
Cat Malojian - Couldn't Be Better (Bad Paw)
Nick Drake - From The Morning (Island)
Cat Malojian - Pettigoe (Bad Paw)
Paul Weller - Push It Along (Island)
Panama Kings - Young Blood (We Collect Records)
Weezer - Heart Songs (DGC)
Tom Rush - Sunshine Sunshine (Elektra)
Sigur Ros - Festival (EMI)
Ash - A Life Less Ordinary (Infectious)
Manu Chao - Politik Kills (Radio Bemba)
Fleet Foxes - He Doesn't Know Why (Bella Union)
Otis Clay - Piece Of My Heart (Ruf)
Republic Of Loose - The Steady Song (Loaded Dice)
Gene Vincent - Back Up Baby (Poppy Disc)
Sinful Psalm - Other Boy's Fathers (white)
My Bloody Valentine - I Only Said (Creation)
Port O' Brien - I Woke Up Today (City Slang)
Benny Green - Down By The Riverside (Blue Note)
The National - Mistaken For Strangers (Beggars Banquet)
Crystal Castles - Vanished (PIAS)
The Dramatics - Thank You For Your Love (Stax)
It's been a while since David Holmes released a stand-alone, solo record, so 'The Holy Show' is an important one. And this time it's emphatically personal. The album gets its title from an old drinking club in the Markets area of Belfast, a boozer with the walls covered in religious icons. It was a preserve for the working men of the quarter and when the place finally closed down, each of the regulars tucked a picture under their arm and brought it all home.
The memory of the place connected David to his recently departed father, who spent much of his youth in the Markets before heading up the Ormeau Road with his growing family. The soul of Jack Holmes and his late wife Sarah is deeply meshed into the new recordings, a meditation on place and meaning and bloodlines. David had problems finding a singer who could reflect all of this, so he did the right thing and he sang much of it himself.
An online quote in today's NME site explains it further: "I had always wanted to make a record about my life in Belfast and all the things attached to that - family, friends, loss, love and starting a family of my own. All the stuff that shapes the person you become."
To some this might seem terribly sentimental, but fans of the Kevin Rowland school will appreciate that the personal can also be powerful and universal. Thus 'The Holy Show' hits you hard and it demands all of David's art to make it register. He is joined by the likes of Foy Vance, Tanya Melotte and Danny Todd from Cashier No. 9. It's a record that he clearly needed to made and which most of us ought to hear.
A friend of mine once reckoned that Frasier was the funniest thing since Molière, the French playwright and rip-snorter who expired in 1673. Certainly both parties delivered a multitude of punch lines, ridiculed modern manners and gave us characters who were resplendently daft in every way.
Frasier had reached his best long before brother Niles had his love requited, but even in the final series, there was reason to guffaw. The story may have been wilting, but there was always reason to admire the plaid shirts and workwear of father Martin, a robust style icon to men of a certain age.
When Kelsey Grammer returned with a new series, Back To You, we hoped that mirth would follow. And indeed there were moments in the pilot show when the man's self-regard was pure comedy.
This time he's a TV anchorman, Chuck Darling, returning home to Pittsburgh after the glory days out west, wearing his disgrace like a foul-smelling albatross. Problem is, it's not quite funny enough and the situations are cheaply contrived.
Fans of Ron Burgundy will not be overly swayed. And neither, it seems were the TV bosses, who axed the first series before it was done. While we're on the subject, does anyone else see the physical resemblance between Radio Ulster's glowering hottie Ralph McLean and the mighty Kelsey, beaming to bust?
Friday night's radio show was the chance to unload some of the marvellous parts of a new box set, 'Just Look Them Straight In The Eye And Say Pogue Mahone'. For veteran Pogues fans, this is a prime archive - over 100 tracks on 5 CDs, containing demos, collaborations and haphazard rehearsals.
The early recordings are amusing and slack, but very quickly the players assumed a nonchalant skill, fluent in waltzes, polkas and other rumblethump varieties. You remember with a jolt how tender Shane MacGowan sounded in the days when he could still form consonants, and how a hitherto 'lost' song like 'NW3' could chart his youthful times in north London, defiant but also displaced and sad.
I settled in north London in 1985, just as the Pogues delivered their peerless second album, and soon we were also supping in the Devonshire Arms and finding our thrills around the Celtic triangle of Camden, Kentish Town and Archway. They sold Galtee bacon and Tayto crisps in the grocery stores and the jukeboxes really did feature Ray and Philomena bleating out 'My Elusive Dreams'.
The Pogues played immigrant music and we were numerous back then, looking for better job prospects and searching for errant fun in the dark streets of London. This is pretty much how the era sounded.
BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM, 1341 MW
Fridays, ten - midnight
The Pogues - If I Should Fall From Grace With God (Ryko)
Sigur Ros - Inní Mér Syngur Vitleysingur (EMI)
Billy Bragg - The Beach Is Free (CV)
Rachel Austin - Dear Love (white)
Smashing Pumpkins 1979 (Hut)
Rachel Austin - Love Won't Fall From Heaven (white)
Brass Construction - Moving (Liberty)
The Pogues - Do You Believe In Magic (Ryko)
Steve Wynn - When We Talk About Forever (Blue Rose)
Sigur Ros - Með Suð í Eyrum (EMI)
Tony Joe White - Run with the Bulls (Munich)
Tim Buckey - Nighthawkin (Warner)
The Pogues - NW3 (Ryko)
Neon Neon - I Told Her On Alderaan (Lex)
Martha Wainwright - You Cheated Me (Drowned In Sound)
Steve Young - Rock Salt And Nails (Edsel)
Joan As Policewoman - Start Of My Heart (Reveal)
Chatham County Line (Whipping Boy)
Sigur Ros - Góðan Daginn (EMI)
Emmylou Harris - Kern River (Nonesuch)
The Jack Stafford Foundation - Cedar Room (Independent)
The Pogues -Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah (Ryko)
I was out the other Thursday with a lively fella called Ryan. He had consumed some refreshing drinks and was working out his energy on a little upstairs dancefloor in the Cathedral Quarter, Belfast. It wasn't anything to rival Gene Kelly, and the timing was a little sloppy, but the guy was funny, he smiled the whole time, and he took a series of charming office girls up for a whirl. It was one of those situations that's entirely changed by one person's happy demeanour, and he infected everyone at the tables around him.
Suddenly, one of the bar staff came over and spoke in his ear. Apparently, he was dancing in "an "inappropriate manner" and he was asked to either cool his jets or to take himself elsewhere. And with that miserable little command, the tone of the evening plummeted. We were perplexed. Wasn't a night such as this supposed to be fun? Who alerted the dance police?
If anyone should have been arrested, it was this writer and his clumsy manoeuvres to an old Dexys tune. But no, I got off without a caution, and soon after, Ryan took his leave. Is this a signal that our coolest cultural quarter is becoming absurdly bourgeois? Do we all need to qualify for a dancing proficiency test? And is Bruce Forsyth somehow to blame?
For more than 40 years now, we're been preparing for the idea of Mick Jagger in his dotage, looking across the evening of the day and feeling a big sense of loss. He prompted this notion in 1964 when he wrote 'As Tears Go By' for Marianne Faithful, a young person's idea of old age that has steadily overtaken him.
Well, sort of. Mick Jagger is about to turn 65. His face hangs in a peculiar way and his once pneumatic lips have deflated over time. But he still has the waist of a young boy, and he can shimmy with the authority of someone who learnt the art from Tina Turner and the Ikettes, back in the day. So if Mick is feeling remorse, then he doesn't reveal it on the Scorsese film, Shine A Light.
The director has lit the Beacon Theater event like a film set, rather than a gig. So everything is bright and sharply focussed, even the audience. The cameramen are shooting over the musicians' shoulders and the intimate moments are there. Charlie Watts is plainly tired, but then again he's just gone 68. Keith and Ronnie lumber to their own boogie-down agenda, and you smile often when you watch it. And the director mutates the sound so that the volume levels are akin to watching from the drum riser, the pit or behind the backline. A simple but an exciting way to convey the many dimensional thrills of a rock and roll performance.
When Mick sings 'As Tears Go By', the light is especially unforgiving. It's like a transmission back from a Mars probe, as every pit and crevice is revealed. It may well be their twilight hour, but here's an up-close history of how it was, when the riffs were royally loose and the players were still at it with affection. Now ain't the time for your tears.
(This is an edited version of last night's talk at the QFT in Belfast, introducing Shine A Light)
I was joined on Friday night by Ricky Warwick, sometime member of The Almighty and errant son of Newtownards. He's a rush of tattoos, enthusiasm, LA lore and he strums an acoustic guitar that's been autographed by Jake Burns from Stiff Little Fingers.
When he's residing in Los Angeles,the guy hangs out with Billy Duffy from The Cult and some veterans from Guns N' Roses. But what really shook him was a recent gig at the Ivy Bar - his first hometown show in 20 years. There was family in the house and he was nervous.
The new Ry Cooder album, 'I Flathead' is another steely narrative. Meantime, Dubliner Adrian Crowley is good value and he plays the Black Box with Velvetier, Monday, June 9.
BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Fridays, ten - midnight
Gene Vincent - Blue Jean Bop (Capitol)
The Little Ones - Morning Tide (Heavenly)
Ry Cooder -Pink O Boogie (Nonsuch)
Ricky Warwick - Johnny Or Elvis (live session)
Big Audio Dynamite - Just Play Music (CBS)
Ricky Warwick - Belfast Confetti (live session)
The Charlatans - Mis Takes (CV)
Bon Iver - Skinny Love (4ad)
Emmylou Harris - Take That Ride (Nonesuch)
Stone Roses - Shoot You Down (Silvertone)
Tegan And Sarah - Back In Your Head (Sire)
Kathleen Edwards -I Make the Dough You Get The Glory (Rounder)
Paul Weller - Song for Alice (Island)
Leonard Cohen - Dance Me To The End Of Love (CBS)
Oppenheimer - Cate Blanchett (Fantastic Plastic)
The Zutons - Little Red Door (Deltasonic)
Ry Cooder - Philipino Dance Hall Girl (Nonsuch)
Those Dancing Days - Run Run (Wichita)
Nils Lofgren - Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Hypertension)
James McMurtry - God Bless America (But MacDonald's Must Die) (Blue Rose)
Jonah and The Whale - 5 Years Time (Mercury)
Jape - Phil Lynott (V2)
Mississippi Singers - He'll Never Let Go Your Hand (Dejavu)
Adrian Crowley - Brother At Sea (Tin Angel)
Emmylou Harris - Shores Of White Sand (Nonesuch)
Liam Finn - Fire In Your Belly (Transgressive)
CSS - Left Behind (Sub Pop)
There nothing glamorous about Seventies snapshots. They were mostly shot on cheap cameras with plastic lenses, using budget film. Over time, the pigments have all degraded and the colours look dreary. That's before you even get into the fashion crimes of the era and the background scenery of woodchip paper and Formica-covered radiograms.
Well, that's the snob's version of it anyway. The other approach is to celebrate the connection in the photographs, the shy smile between the subject and the family member with the camera. Snapshots and Polaroids often have a deal of trust, a kindness in the face that's readily shared. They are generally taken on special occasions, on summer trips and Christmas gatherings, so there are party clothes, fancy hairdos and old relationships being revived.
I'm thinking about all this as I see the exhibition from Joanne Vance. She has shipped everything back to Belfast, giving us the chance to see the pieces that were previously featured on the Foy Vance album, 'Hope'. As a reference to the family's freewheeling history, she calls it 'Hope (and Homeless)'. You can feel the affection, pulsating though the eccentric colour schemes and the dazzle of flash bulbs. Ultimately, the pictures have soul.
Here's me and Damian O' Neill from The Undertones, backstage at the Mandela Hall recently. I wish there was a Photoshop filter that could erase idiotic, squiffy expressions, but sadly it's not been sorted yet.
I first met Damian around 1986 when he was on his second career lease with That Petrol Emotion. We were assembled at an epic French festival called Transmusicalles, which involved lots of media moochers in the lovely town of Rennes. The Petrols were joined by Zodiac Mindwarp and his Love Reaction, The Mission, Test Department and sundry desperadoes. The hotel scenes were shameful, but the music rocked and The Petrols were just starting to become great.
Back at the Mandela, and I asked Damian about the forthcoming TPE appearance at Electric Picnic. He said he was looking forward to the reformed team, and was only a little sad when he revealed that brother John would be absent from the line-up. Still we're all looking forward to seeing Steve Mack, returned from his new media adventures, leaping and bawling with some of that former gusto.
Joe Lindsay comes bounding into the studio around 11.40 on Friday night to personally rebuke me for playing some of the new Paul Weller album on the show. If there's one thing he hates more than Wellah, it's the unquestioning fans and the dreary media pundits who insist on calling him 'The Modfather'.
Essentially I feel the same way, and I'd submit that about three quarters on the man's output is essentially dull. And yes, if you ask me nicely some time, I'll recount the story of him offering me out for a fight after I gave 'Heavy Soul' a duff review. But still, I feel somehow obligated for those early Jam albums and for his stubborn dimensions.
His new album, '22 Dreams' is sounding rather good on the early listens. So I dutifully played some of the tunes. And next week, I'll probably cue up his fine homage to Alice Coltrane. Joe will forgive me, in time
BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM, 1341 MW
Fridays, ten - midnight
Primal Scream - Moving On Up (Creation)
Paul Weller - All I Wanna Do (Island)
Beth Rowley - Beautiful Tomorrow (Universal)
Bobby Bland - Let's Get Together (Soul Jazz)
Cara - No Man's Force (live session)
Dirty Pretty Things - Tired Of England (Vertigo)
The Hold Steady - Sequestered In Memphis (Rough Trade)
Edwin Collins - Home Again (Heavenly)
Sigur Ros - Gobbledigook (EMI)
Cara - Lovely (live session)
Paul Weller - Empty Ring (Island)
Ben Glover - Things Haven't Started Happening Yet (Mr Jones)
Adverts -Bored Teenagers (Anchor)
The Mighty Steff - Death Threats (The Firstborn Is Dead)
Pop Levi - Dita Dimone (Counter Culture)
David Bowie - When You Rock And Roll Wit Me (EMI)
Goldblade -Jukebox Generation (Captain Oi)
Paul Weller - 22 Dreams (Island)
Micah P Hinson - When We Embraced (Full Time Hobby)
Beth Rowley - Oh My Life (Universal)
Dr John - Time For a Change (CV)
Joe Echo - Break Away (white)
Love - Bummer In The Summer (Elektra)
Emmylou Harris - All That You Have Is Your Soul (nonesuch)
Isobel Campbell, Mark Lanegan - Who Built The Road (V2)
Paul Heaton - Mermaids And Slaves (W14)
Martha Wainwright - Bleeding All Over You (Drowned In Sound)
Radiohead - Exit Music (Parlophone)