Pre-war Mississippi Delta Blues ahoy. We're on a barge on the Lagan, getting enthused about Cara Robinson - her voice, the drums, the fife, whistle, washboard and a nautical outfit that she bought in an Australian vintage store. It's a great combo and the tight little audience is loving the novel flavour of it all.
Cara has her roots in Portaferry and Millisle, but she's now a native of Oz and this European tour is a valuable chance to see how she's getting on. She's accompanied by Hat Fitz, the guy who persuaded her to shift continents and who plays resonant slide blues with a passion that belies his deadpan style.
It's a dynamic act and the physicality of the music is thumping around the bulkheads. They make their tributes to Bessie Smith and Skip James while the bawling ghost of Son House is summoned in their version of 'John The Revelator'. Between songs, they tell stories about their ex partners and bicker with gusto. And while Thirties America is plainly an inspiration, Cara also plays Celtic motifs on the whistle that fit into the scheme with no apparent effort.
Plenty of acts can recreate the technical aspects of this old time music, but Cara and Fitz relate so much of the fun, the sensuality and the visceral thrill of it all. From the songs of one ancient river to another, they let us go with the flow.
Has Ry Cooder ever put out a duff record? I expect not. He has served with Captain Beefheart and he hipped Keith Richards to the open tuning that has been his trademark since 'Let It Bleed'. His work with Buena Vista Social Club and Ali Farka Touré are also landmarks. On his new record, he sings the old time depression blues but locates it in the severe present. The outlaw Jesse James considers the behaviour of the financial sector and his simple mind is blown.
BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Mondays, ten - midnight
The Undertones - Got To Have You Back (Sire)
Arctic Monkeys - The Hellcat Spangled Shalala (Domino)
Justin Townes Earle - Harlem River Blues (Bloodshot)
Ry Cooder - No Banker Left Behind (Nonesuch)
Smith Westerns - End Of The Party (Weird Stuff)
Kowalski - Outdoors (white)
Dawes - Time Spent In Los Angeles (Loose)
The Stanley Brothers - Rank Strangers (Righteous)
Summer Camp - Better Of With You (Apricot)
William Elliott Whitmore - Field Song (Anti)
The Horrors - Changing The Rain (XL)
Leela James - Miss you (Sanachie)
Rolling Stones -Emotional Rescue (Rolling Stones)
Steve Mason And Dennis Bovell - Dub Outside (Domino)
The Animals- San Franciscan Nights (Spectrum)
Dawes -Coming Back To A Man (Loose)
Ry Cooder - Dreamer (Nonesuch)
Primal Scream - Star (Creation)
Pete And The Pirates - Half Moon Street (Stolen)
Justin Townes Earle - Christchurch Woman (Bloodshot)
Jolie Holland - All Those Girls (Anti)
REM - Nightswimming (Warner)
Blitzen Trapper - Love The Way You Walk Away (Sub Pop)
PJ Harvey - Let England Shake (Island)
The Hot 8 Brass Band - E Flat Blues (Tru)
The Horrors - Wild Eyed (XL)
Ry Cooder - El Corrida De Jesse James (Nonesuch)
I've been talking about Amy Winehouse on a few radio programmes since Saturday. Having opinions about music is my job, and in a situation like this, I try not to be mawkish or phoney. Nor should I pretend to know more about the artist than I have reason to.
William Crawley rang me on behalf of Sunday Sequence. I was on the forecourt of a service station in Draperstown, just down from the cold Sperrins and a day of the Glasgowbury Festival. When the news broke on Saturday, we had all jabbed at our phone screens and supposed it was one of those festival moments when a dumb rumour gets misrepresented. But by early evening, the worst assumptions were true and Katy Richardson gave Amy a namecheck from the Eagle's Rock Stage, the audience murmured in unison, glad to acknowledge the moment.
During my days at the NME, I'd been tasked with editing the obit issue of Kurt Cobain. I'd also written the farewells to Richey Manic and some other casualties. On each occasion, there was a bit of a moral quandary about the colliding demands of grief, respect, commerce and cash-in. Where was the line? And how to discern it?
So when William Crawley asked me if there was some kind of a parable that the Sunday Sequence people could work with, I remembered some of those old notions. About the myth of Prometheus, the original fire-starter. Or those guys with the waxy wings that melted in the sun. Or the archetype of Ziggy Stardust, who made love with his ego, and then sucked into his mind, man.
But on the chill Sunday morning, I couldn't think of any redemption in the Amy story. A couple of albums, a mass of headlines, an addictive temperament, some bad tattoos and maybe an underlying illness. The same old song, or maybe a similar refrain. We've lost another one.
Thanks to everyone who contributed to the conversation about musical sequels – particularly those Facebook pals who put in some illuminating ideas.
This then, is how were will map out the sequels show on July 11. Every song is paired with something that takes the story onwards. From the old girlfriend who gets wed to the wrong guy, to the mythical spaceman, the punk, the fallen ghetto child and the wibbling riddles of John Lennon. Some of the sequels are frankly awful, and I think my co-host Reggie Chamberlain King has ruined Where Do You Go To My Lovely forever, noting that it reads like a bad Jeffrey Archer book.
We finish with a five part study of Waterloo Sunset, the most resonant song about two lovers, the Thames and time's fading moments. We know it won't be bettered, but it didn't stop Bob Geldof, Suggs and John Wesley Harding for having a try. Even Ray Davies was encouraged to go back there, with sadly indifferent results.
Buddy Holly - Peggy Sue
Buddy Holly - Peggy Sue Got Married
David Bowie - Space Oddity
David Bowie - Ashes To Ashes
The Ramones - Judy Is A Punk
The Ramones - The Return Of Jackie And Judy
Diana Ross - Love Child
Diana Ross - I'm Living in Shame
The Beatles - I Am the Walrus
The Beatles - Glass Onion
The Kingsmen - Louie Louie
Paul Revere - Louie Go Home
Peter Sarstedt - Where Do You Go To My Lovely
Peter Sarstedt - The Last Of The Breed
Chuck Berry - Johnny B Goode
Chuck Berry - Bye Bye Johnny
Them - Gloria
Belfast Gypsies - Gloria's Dream
Bruce Springsteen - Wild Billy's Circus Story
Bruce Springsteen - The Last Carnival
Graham Parker - White Honey
Graham Parker - Black Honey
The Kinks - Waterloo Sunset
John Wesley Harding - In Paradise
Madness - 4am
Bob Geldof - Love Like A Rocket
Ray Davies - Return To Waterloo
I remember Rigsy in those innocent days before he was a broadcaster, DJ, scenester and bachelor of the most eligible kind. Back in 1997 he was an effervescent kid from Newcastle called David O’ Reilly. He used to enter all the Across The Line competitions, he virtually stalked Mike Edgar and he introduced himself to me as the guy who was gonna bring the Chemical Brothers to a huge gig in the shadow of the Mourne Mountains.
I thought he would eventually calm down, but I underestimated the chap and his supplies of innate fizz. On another occasion, he wrote me a letter, wanting to know if he should follow his dream by way of a post-grad journalism course. I’ve had a few of these letters over the years and sometimes, to my shame, I have forgotten to respond. But a few days after the O’ Reilly note, I sent him back an answer, suggesting that if he wanted to bum a ride on the rock and roller coaster, he might as well just improvise and busk the necessary skills along the way.
And so he put in his time with Colin Murray and Paul McNamee on Blank magazine, became more embedded in ATL, played in a few bands and started up a club that was named after something I wrote in a music column. I should have taken out shares in thon Sketchy enterprise.
Anyway, Rigsy was deputising for the Alan Simpson Show on Tuesday afternoon and he gave me a birthday shout on the airwaves. It was a kind and respectful message, although he made me sound like a retired Wing Commander. And then he played Design For Life by the Manic Street Preachers, which is a kind of theme song and a most cherished blast of sentimentality. He got me.
It's a significant birthday for me today. It essentially kicked in the very second that my radio show finished at midnight. In those final moments, the Facebook notifications were fluttering in, as good friends and casual connections greeted the moment with one-liners and fine sentiments.
The idea was to make the finale of the show reflect something that happened in music when I was born. Unfortunately, 1961 was not a rocking year. Eddie Cochran was dead and so was Buddy Holly. Elvis was out of the army but into the ballads and sorry films. Jerry Lee and Chuck Berry were disgraced and replaced by simpering articles like Bobby Vee and Bobby Vinton.
However, there was Roy Orbison. Putting all of the human condition into those glowering tunes. Over-reaching passion and bottomless dread. The vulnerable sting and the redeeming swoon. On Running Scared he's flitting around town, terrified that the rival guy will show and take his love away with him. And so the song is like some ritualized Latin dance, signifying danger and life-defining moments. But at the end of the tune, she turns on her heels and leaves with the singer. Mercy. And so Roy escorted me to my birthday, tremulous and wild. Thank you, big man.
BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Mondays, ten - midnight
Aztec Camera - Somewhere In My Heart (WEA)
Cashier No.9 - Flick Of The Wrist (Bella Union)
Aaron Shanley - Here Without You (Love Gum)
Paul McCartney - Oo You (Starcon)
Jim White - Rambler (Loose)
Paul Westerberg - profile
The Replacements - Alex Chilton (Sire)
The Replacements - Androgynous (Restless)
Paul Westerberg - Dyslexic Heart (Epic)
Paul Westerberg - Only Lie Worth Telling (Vagrant)
Paul Westerberg - Ghost on the Canvas (Dry Wood)
Tyrone Taylor - Cottage In Negril (Love & Inity)
Jason Isbell - Never Could Believe (Lightning)
Lila Downs - Cumbia del Mole (Narada)
Bjork - Crystalline (One Little Indian)
T Rex - Rock On (Edsel)
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - The Body (PIAS)
Steve Earle - Waiting On The Sky (New West)
Kowalski - Outdoors (white)
Jenny And Johnny - Animal (Warner)
Salt Flats - Sweet Minerva (white)
Nguuni Lovers Lovers - Cheza Ngoma (Dream Beach)
Culture - Love Shine Bright (Virgin)
The Lambing Season - Orchard (white)
Gillian Welch - Silver Dagger (Acony)
Robbie Robertson - When The Night Was Young (Fontana)
Ciaran Lavery - Call Me Back (white)
Shaolin Afronauts - Journey Through Time (Freestyle)
Roy Orbison - Running Scared (Monument)
On a couple of occasions, I've sat down with jazz legend Jackie Flavelle and listened to his stories about Ottilie Patterson. She was the singer from Comber with a Latvian mother who found herself in the centre of the UK jazz boom in the Fifties. She toured with The Chris Barber Band and shared stages with Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Sonny Boy Williamson and Muddy Waters. I could never imagine how much of a culture-quake that must have been.
A few years ago on this blog I mentioned some of the amazing youtube clips of Ottilie singing live and how much grit and authority was in her voice. Her version of Baby Please Don't Go was long before the Them recording and it demonstrated that the blues had impacted in Northern Ireland a generation before.
I had somehow assumed that I would get the chance to meet her, but Ottilie passed away on June 20 at a care home in Ayr. There wasn’t any fuss about her passing and the internet is strangely quiet. Someday that will surely be rectified. In Northern Ireland terms she was a ground-breaker, as important as Ruby Murray, perhaps even more so. On Monday night's radio show, I shall bring in my copy of That Patterson Girl and give it an airing.