Archives for March 2012

The Tipping Point

Stuart Bailie | 09:34 UK time, Friday, 30 March 2012

Bob Dylan had no direction home but Gene Piney lost it a mere 24 hours from Tulsa. Glen Campbell's girl didn't figure much out when he'd got to Phoenix and it was only when he'd reached Oklahoma that the tears started. So whither Barry Tipping, he of the cracked vocals, the lonesome sound and the compass that points to the essence of heartache?
The answer is a project called Six Miles North and a set of songs that plot out an evocative trail. It's the sublimation of many years in pursuit of rock and roll. High times, bum steers and unfortunate timing. It might have tapered off altogether but a severe illness put the Armagh boy onto a new mission. No more big gestures. Instead a deal of introversion and pared-down tunes to compare with Paul McCartney's first solo record. Or maybe Elliott Smith, laureate of awful pain, sweetly defined.
There would also be a series of instrumentals, allied to the same notion, but additionally a gift to film soundtracks and the needs of the ever-demanding film synch business. So there's a forward facing element to Barry's new work. He may not make it to the top of an increasingly redundant record sales chart, but there are other ways to connect with the people. Way to go, fella.

Playlist 26.03.12

Stuart Bailie | 16:06 UK time, Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Mick Jones was on my show last night, talking over a crackling mobile phone in Soho. Needless to mention, I was made up. During his Clash days, he recorded many rock and roll classics and he later served with distinction in Big Audio Dynamite. Some of my best ever gigs featured Mick on stage. And this Saturday, he will play at the Spring & Airbrake, Belfast, with Pete Wylie and the Farm. It's the Justice Tonight tour and special moments will occur. I'm only half joking when I say that I'll be taking a roll call on the night. If you ain't at that gig, you're not punk rock. Simple as.
The Chiffons - He's So Fine (EMI)
Mull Historical Society - Must You Get Low (Xtra Mile)
Conor Mason - In The Doorway (Armellodie)
Paul Weller - The Attic (Island)
Ren Harvieu - Open Up Your Arms (Island)
Dan Mangan - As Helpful As You Can Be (City Slang)
The Clash - Stay Free (CBS)
Mick Jones interview
Bombay Bicycle Club - How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep (Island)
Gareth Dunlop - Fool's Desire (Moraine)
Beth Jeans Houghton - Atlas (Mute)
Jeb Loy Nichols - countrymusicdisco45 (Decca)
The Associates - Love Hangover (V2)
The Faces - Cindy Incidentally (Warner)
She And Him - Don't look Back (Double Six)
Paul Weller - By The Waters (Island)
Conor Mason - Lights (Armellodie)
John Doe - Pressing On (Columbia)
JD McPherson - Northside Girl (Rounder)
Stefan Cush - Meadowlark (Kodiac)
Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs - Don't Get Above Your Raisin' (Manteca)
Marvin Etzioni, Lucinda Williams - Lay It On The Table (NMR)
Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong - Under A Blanket Of Blue (Verve)
Tu Fawning - Anchor (City Slang)
The Magnetic North - Betty Corrigall (Full Time Hobby)
Marvin Etzioni - There's A Train (NMR)
Hot Chip - Flutes (Sony)

Playlist 19.03.12

Stuart Bailie | 09:43 UK time, Friday, 23 March 2012

The Magnetic Fields have their fans and I'm generally happy to play their tracks. Stephin Merritt is the author of many fine ones, including the most excellent '69 Love Songs' set. Just ask Neil Hannon or the writer Daniel Handler - who guests occasionally on accordion. I did a phoner with the guy in 2006 around the time of the 'Showtunes' record, when we discussed the might of the ukulele and the emotive essence of Chinese Opera. He wasn't massively amenable, to be honest, and my questions were often met with seeming distaste. He was like Morrissey's scornful nephew. That tone is reprised on his new record, which musters up the synthesisers and casts a pallid eye on love's unreliable parade.
BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Mondays, ten - midnight

Joey Ramone - What A Wonderful World (Sanctuary)
Wonder Villains - TV (No Dancing)
Alabama Shakes - Hold On (Rough Trade)
The Contours - Baby Hit And Run (Universal)
Jack White - Sixteen Saltlines (XL)
Pete Wylie - Sinful (10)
The Clash - Armagideon Time (CBS)
Howler - I Told You Once (Rough Trade)
Bruce Springsteen - We Take Care Of Our Own (Columbia)
The Magnetic Fields - I'd Go Anywhere With Hugh (Domino)
Dorothy Moore (Misty Blue)
Lost In The Trees - Red (Anti)
Jimmy Cliff - Many Rivers To Cross (Island)
Bruce Springsteen - Tenth Avenue Freeze Out (Columbia)
M83 - Reunion (Naïve)
Kathleen Edwards - Chameleon / Comedian (Zoe)
Kris Kristofferson - Hemmingway's Whiskey (Music Road)
John Cale - Whaddya Mean By That (Domino)
Dexys - Nowhere Is Home (white)
Etta Baker - One Dime Blues (Tradition)
Paul Thomas Saunders - A Lunatic's Guide (IG)
Magnetic Fields - The Only Boy In Town (Domino)
Bruce Springsteen - Land Of Hope And Dreams (Columbia)
Josh T Pearson - Country Dumb (Mute)
Terry Allen - Old Friends (Music Road)

Shakes: Rattle And Soul

Stuart Bailie | 19:57 UK time, Tuesday, 20 March 2012

You will hear a lot about the Alabama Shakes this year. Listeners to my radio show will already know the tremendous 'Hold On' track from the February playlists. Throbbing soul with a gut-bucket dynamic. Rightfully grabbing the attention of the Twitter collective at the sxsw festival in Austin, a chorus of enthused souls, all shook up.

Alabama Shakes

I saw them twice in one day. Once on the Radio Stage of the Convention Center, which was a little polite, but still edging towards awesome. Brittany Howard doesn't look particularly rock and roll. In another context, she might be about to give you a hefty fine for your overdue library books. So she scowls a bit, but then Brittany starts to sing, her voice roaring over the registers like Otis, Aretha, maybe even Janis. Blimey.
Meantime the band fits into that loose-but-supple rhythm that seems to be the birthright of southern rock bands. Robbie Robertson used to say that you knew you were in the American South because the audience clapped on the off-beat. Ergo, the Alabama Shakes.
Later I was outside in the balmy evening at Stubb's Bar-B-Q on Red River where the scheme was even more apparent. Brittany can move and swing those vocals to enhance the mood. Just imagine what it will be like when the multitudes are embracing the words and carrying the songs. Which is why their upcoming album, 'Boys And Girls', will be your dearest friend, why no decent music fan will remain unstirred.

Bruce On The Loose Part 4

Stuart Bailie | 18:26 UK time, Friday, 16 March 2012

Ten Remarkable things about the Springsteen gig at the Moody Theater, Austin Texas, 15.03.12.

1. His guests include Jimmy Cliff, Eric Burdon, The Arcade Fire, The Low Anthem, Joe Ely, Tom Morello, Alejandro Escovedo and Garland Jeffreys. You might say it's a remarkable night.
2. It's the culmination of a long day of Bruce action at the SXSW festival, starting with the keynote speech. This was his love letter to rock and roll, and tonight's show is the practical expression of this. He delivers and he convinces.

Bruce Springsteen

3. Springsteen is fit as a butcher's dog. He is undimmed energy for two-and-a-half hours. He can still bounce and twist and fall on his knees like James Brown. The charisma rebounds off every corner of this lovely venue. The band is drilled, the brass section is on it and they call all respond to the moment.
4. We miss the dear, departed Clarence Clemons. Sure, Bruce has another sax player, but he's not into the fiber of the story, not iconic or adored. Every time a famous solo is due, your heart gives out. During the moment in 'Tenth Avenue Freeze Out' when the lyric mentions "the Big Man joined the band," the music cuts and the crowd applauds for several moments. The singer wills us to feel and to grieve and to remember.
5. He plays a bunch of tunes from the new record. Some fit perfectly with the aggrieved mood of the era. Others may still have to earn their keep.
6. I like 'Thunder Road'. We all like 'Thunder Road'. What an astonishing song. Never disappoints.
7. During the keynote speech, Bruce mentioned Eric Burdon from The Animals. A couple of tweets later and he discovers that Eric is in town. So they duet on 'We Gotta Get Out Of The Place'. Slightly embarrassing when they start in different keys, but it improves rapidly.
8. This is a revival show. Trying to pump our spirits with music, with sentiment and with messages. It's not political in a big way. Perhaps this isn't the time, maybe better to use stealth in the run-up to the US elections, or to look for a different key. But the tone is still strident, and we all sense it.
9. Jimmy Cliff singing 'Many Rivers To Cross'. Oh mercy.
10. The finale of 'This Land Is your Land'. Giving out for Woody Guthrie. All those faces on stage. Us singing along. Actually, we still believe in the promised land.

Bruce On The Loose Part 3

Stuart Bailie | 22:19 UK time, Thursday, 15 March 2012

He walks on and everyone in the room stands up and does the traditional Springsteen salutation.
He looks well, although possibly daunted at the idea of a keynote speech and certainly rattled by the early hour. The guy gets a disclaimer in early, claiming that we've not been united about popular music since Elvis Presley. For every excited fan or high-thinking critic, there's a sneering rebuke. "He sucks!" says Bruce, in his best Butthead impersonation.
He can remember when rock was young, when he'd play a cover of 'Mystic Eyes' by Them, just before a doo wop band with elegant pompadours would take the stage. Now the proliferation and the dissipation makes your head spin. To make a point, he rattles off a hundred musical genres, and looks perplexed at the notion of "Nintendo Core". Eh? "It's overwhelming".
Wisely, Bruce avoids the normal discussion stuff about digital culture and downloading and the industry's decline. Too many rooms of the Austin Convention Centre have been full of this during South By South West and frankly it's been a dull process, populated by self-serving panelists with hollow catch-lines. What Springsteen will do is pretty much analogous to his bold delivery in 1975 of 'Born To Run'. He's gonna talk about faith in the middle of a bewildered age. He will remember the soaring tunes of the past. And he'll send his audience away, freshly inspired by the awesome narrative of rock and soul.
That means Elvis and Roy Orbison, Phil Spector and The Beatles. He sells it all so well, relating it to his personal ride but knowing that we can all connect. He is hilarious about the sexual promise of doo-wop and the let-down that a New Jersey boy felt on the way home from another unsuccessful dance. He remembers that The Animals were immense because they were "full-blown class conscious" and that unlike The Beatles, there were no good looking members. Eric Burdon might have had the voice, but he looked like "a shrunken daddy with a wig on". To illustrate the influence, he plays a snatch of 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood' and follows it with 'Badlands". Point taken.
He makes the case for Dylan and James Brown, he explains the eureka moment when he finally got Hank Williams, but he was also looking for the social critique in country music. Why did your bucket have a hole in it?
Springsteen got that from Joe Klein's biography of Woody Guthrie, the ultimate ghost in the machine, the conscience in popular song. That particular folk singer didn't play arenas or cultivate the big markets. The point remains though, and the . "Things that come from outside, they make their way in".
Thus, Bruce holds and excites an audience for a full hour. His charisma is tangible from the fifth row. He totally overturns the relativism, the disbelief and the sense of slow surrender that tends to accompany music industry meet ups. He's still engaged and he's urging the young creatives to do likewise. It's about the ability to hold contradictory ideas in your head without going mad.
"Have iron clad confidence, but... doubt. It keeps you awake at night. Stay hard, stay hungry, but stay alive."
As he leaves, Springsteen tells the audience that he's off to listen to some black metal. We know otherwise, that there's a special live show tonight at the Moody Theater. We're off to pick up our passes, our hearts more full than before. More to follow.

Bruce On The Loose Part 2

Stuart Bailie | 17:27 UK time, Thursday, 15 March 2012

It's 12.10pm in Austin, Texas and the Springsteen keynote speech has yet to begin. Still, the wait has been beautifully spent in the company of Jimmy LaFave, Eliza Gilkyson and Colombian artiste Juanes. The uniting factor is their love for Woody Guthrie, 1912-1967, one of the most formidable songwriters in the American canon, whose opinions, humour and anger still ring out in the year of his centenary.
Here's Norah, Woody's daughter, introducing the event, explaining how they will take her dad's message back across the States, from California to the New York Island. And then Jimmy and Eliza demonstrate the awesome value of the work, summoning up the perennial plight of the immigrants, the exiles and the victims. Jimmy puts a verse back into 'Oklahoma Hills', remembering the five Indian tribes who endured the Trail Of Tears'. Eliza summons up 'Deportees' and it's an astonishing piece of emotion and dread. She puts a fresh mention of Monsanto into 'I Ain't Got No Home' but that's fine. You can take a few liberties. Nora is cool about this.
"She doesn't get all folk-noncy on you," says Jimmy.
"Nor Mighty Wind", says Eliza.
We all get to sing 'This Land Is Your Land'. I see the smiling profile of Nora and she looks so like her dad. Further left, Miami Steve from the E Street Band is smiling. No Bruce yet, but hey, we'll not complain for now.

Bruce On The Loose Part 1

Stuart Bailie | 15:56 UK time, Thursday, 15 March 2012

Here we are at the Convention Centre in Austin Texas. It's just gone 10.30am and there's another hour and a half before the Bruce Springsteen keynote speech. We joined the queue at 9am and we've just been ushered into the hall. Row five, bang in the centre. This is fun. There are guitars on the stage, which is also promising.

Around 30 minutes ago I got an email from the South By South West organisers, letting me know that I'd been successful in the ticket draw for the Speingsteen gig tonight at the Moody Theatre. I'm with Kyle, an old music biz friend from Belfast and Barry from Six Miles North. We've all got tickets for tonight, so that's another bonus. Schedules have been wiped and considerable excitement is on the agenda. I'll keep y'all posted.

Busting Into Austin

Stuart Bailie | 21:53 UK time, Tuesday, 13 March 2012

The Wonder Villains are in a rocking club in Austin, Texas, filling the space with their signature amazement. Yes, its a cool American gig, part of a showcase of Northern Ireland's talent. And indeed, they are performing 'Calgary 1988' on the same continental land mass that inspired the song. And just to make the delight all that more perceptible, Eimear and the gang are delivering those effervescent tunes to a packed venue, to faces that are reflecting the joy right back at them. How could you not be affected by this loop of soaring humanity?

Wonder Villains

They play well, they seem untouched by music industry ceremony and as the splendor of '33' spins out, there are hulking Americans in the audience with their hands in the air. And at that moment, you realize that Wonder Villains are exportable cheer, potentially big in Boston, major in Milwaukee, tops in Tokyo.
The event that brings us to the Latitude 30 club is a night called ni@sxsw. It's an annual chance to show the creative goods, to feel a bit proud of our artists. This year, the event also sits on the convergent schedules of the film, interactive and music sections of South By South West, so it's perfectly fine to show everyone a teaser from the upcoming movie, Good Vibrations.
We see around four minutes of the film, but it's enough to suggest that the finished item will be very important. There are scenes inside Belfast most famous record store, historic thrills with The Undertones, paramilitary thuggery and powder-snorting fever. Every emotion is invoked. Terri takes a vicious kicking on the floor of his shop, soundtracked by The Teddy Bears and 'To Know Him Is To Love Him'. My word.
Foy Vance makes a case for the voice, the invention and a career that's freshly focused. It's hardly a bad thing that he's on the soundtrack to Terry George's 'The Shore' and Oscar success. Foy takes a run at 'A Change Is Gonna Come' and hits a few technical difficulties with his audio loops on a song intro. But ten minutes later and he exits a room that is singing and supporting him.
Cashier No 9 alert the new listeners with a combination of 'Goldstar' and 'Lost At Sea'. While the expanse of that debut album is familiar to some of us, it's plainly a wake-up to the Latitude crowd, and none of us is disappointed to hear 'When Jackie Shone' and its vintage flicker.
There's a similar development at work with General Fiasco. New tunes like 'Waves' indicate the expanse of the new ambitions, but equally, 'Ever So Shy' is a baby picture that's no embarrassment.

Normally at this stage of the night, the fickle punters would have moved on, leaving the final act with just a core attendance. But tonight holds good, possibly because of the media convergence, or simply because the stage has been well served. Whatever, And So I Watch You From Afar ramp up the noise and the frequencies, jack-knifing and roaring, alternately delicate and fierce. The spring air of Austin receives all this with empathetic grace. Result.

Playlist 13.03.12

Stuart Bailie | 10:25 UK time, Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Come Back' is a reliably passionate tune by Pete Wylie, aka The Mighty Wah! His business was all about anthems, over-reaching soul and a Spectoresque rush. The record went top 20 in 1984 but there's an alternative version that appeared on an NME cassette, 'Department Of Enjoyment', shortly after. This is an imagined conversation between Pete and his record company, who offer him all kinds of inducements to stay. "We'll get you on the Sooty Show', they announce, as the song soars and the venal suggestions get even worse. It's in the great tradition of songs like 'EMI', 'Complete Control' and 'Paint A Vulgar Picture. I love it, and not just because I worked for the same company a few years later.
Don't forget, Pete will play Belfast with Mick Jones, The Farm and special guests on March 31, Spring & Airbrake. It's the 'Justice Tonight' revue and you really should not miss.

Jerry Lee Lewis - Baby Hold Me Close (Mercury)
Simone Felice - You And I Baby (Reveal)
Spiritualized - Hey Jane (Double Six)
The Mighty Wah! - Come Back (Castle)
Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, Anders Parker, Yim Yames, - Old LA (Rounder)
Brianna Corrigan - 13 Wonderful Love Songs (white)
King Creosote, Jon Hopkins -Third Swan (Domino)
Depeche Mode - See You (Mute)
Mint Julip - To The Sea (Village Green)
Jimmy Cliff - Hard Road To Travel (Island)
Jeb Loy Nichols - Hard Times (Mayhem version) (Decca)
Soul Rebels Brass Band - Sweet Dreams Are Made Of This (Rounder)

Second Hour (songs and lyrics that gave other bands their names)

David Bowie - The Jean Genie (EMI)
Simple Minds - No Cure (Virgin)
Prince Buster - Madness (Trojan)
Lou Reed - Walk On The Wild Side (RCA)
Roxy Music - Ladytron (Virgin)
Muddy Waters - Rollin' Stone (Chess)
Prince - Raspberry Beret (Warner)
The Jook - Ooo Ooo Rudi (RCA)
The Smiths - Shakespeare's Sister (Rough Trade)
Talking Heads - Radio Head (Sire)
The Kinks - Johnny Thunder (Castle)
Bing Crosby - Deep Purple (Decca)
Leonard Cohen - Sisters of Mercy (Columbia)

The Band, The Name, The Song

Stuart Bailie | 10:40 UK time, Monday, 12 March 2012

Does everybody know the connection between Bing Crosby and heavy metal? Why of course, the pipe-smoking crooner had a famous hit with a song called 'Deep Purple'. A bunch of English long-hairs settled on the title after a short-lived dalliance with the name Roundabout. Apparently Ritchie Blackmore's grandmother lived in hope of the boys playing a version of the Bing tune. Alas, no.
In the second half of tonight's show, Reggie Chamberlain King and myself will uncover the tradition of bands naming themselves after a famous lyric or song title. David Bowie helped to deliver The Kooks, Simple Minds, Warzawa (early Joy Division) and possibly David Sylvian. Lou Reed was godfather to The Waterboys and Holly Johnson. Famously, Muddy Waters sang about being a Rollin' Stone and Leonard Cohen was strangely complicit with the Sisters Of Mercy.
My favourite is probably crypto-glam act The Jook. They had taken their name from Gene Chandler's 'Duke Of Earle' and in turn, their minor hit 'Ooo Ooo Rudi' was a perfect throwdown for the most excellent Belfast punk band Rudi. Round and round it goes...

Punt's Not Dead

Stuart Bailie | 14:43 UK time, Thursday, 8 March 2012

Art of Fielding book cover

I won't claim to know much about baseball, but it does feature in a couple of my favourite books. Philip Roth delivered tremendous humour with 'The Great American Novel', the saga of an absurd team. Meanwhile, Don DeLillo used a legendary 1951 battle between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants to set up his monumental work, 'Underworld'. So I was decently inclined towards 'The Art Of Fielding' by Chad Harbach, a debut novel with a ten year incubation and a bunch of notable fans, including Jonathan Franzen. The book's reputation has been rising since its US release late last year. And sure enough, it's a fine read. As with DeLillo, there's a moment in the game that resonates beyond the outfield. The start of the book deals with sporting discipline and the challenges of academic life. The campus even hosts an imposing statue of Herman Melville, chronicler of the big quest. By the end, our supposed champions are confounded while the unlikely lads are doing well. Chad Harbach is an avowed fan of Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace. That book gave us a forensic, uneasy picture of the college tennis regime. More information than you might ever need, but also a creeping discourse on the human condition. It's no crime that 'The Art Of Fielding' isn't on that level, but you would suppose that the follow-up will pitch it with even more panache.

Playlist 05.03.12

Stuart Bailie | 15:22 UK time, Tuesday, 6 March 2012

I saw Justin Townes Earle at the Boogaloo Bar in north London last July. He had dropped some weight and the hint of disorder hung around his tattooed frame. But still he had the poise to cover for the lack of personnel and enough weight in the songs to make the best of his 'Harlem River Blues' collection ring out. Before the final song, he said that he was going to celebrate the end of his London show by smoking an exotic cigarette. And sure enough, that's what the guy did. We had a brief chat and he seemed happily in tune with the music. So despite the perilous lifestyle and the errant history, it seemed that Justin was getting on with his muse.
Which is why I've been taking extra pleasure from his new record, 'Nothing's Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now'. He may be based in New York, but he's set his creative compass towards Memphis and that humid vernacular of southern soul. All of the major emotions are dealt out, and Justin sings like a soul that's been to every extreme on that spectrum.

BBC Radio Ulster, 92-95 FM
Mondays, ten - midnight

Beck - Sissyneck (Geffen)
Sharon Jones - New Shoes (Daptone)
Bruce Springsteen - Easy Money (Columbia)
Jane Bradfords - Judicial Duel (white)
Profile - Alan Lomax
St Etienne - Tonight (Heavenly)
Todd Snider - Brenda (Aimless)
Francois And The Atlas Mountains - City Kids (Domino)
Bruce Springsteen - Death To My Home Town (Columbia)
Alex Butler - Come Out Of Your House (white )
Django Django - Storm (Because)
Wings - Nineteen Hundred And Eighty Five (Parlophone)
Roberta Flack - We Can Work It Out (Sony)
Justin Townes Earle - Look The Other Way (Bloodshot)
Dodgy - Only For A Heartbeat (Strike Back)
Marvin Etzioni - You Possess Me (NMR)
Todd Snider - In Between Jobs (Aimless)
Bruce Springsteen - Land Of Hope And Dreams (Columbia)
Geoff Farina - Scotch Snaps (Damnably)
Justin Townes Earle - Lower East Side (Bloodshot)
Ryan Vail - Turning (white)
Marvin Etzioni - You Are The Light (NMR)
Spoek Mathambo - Let Them Talk (Sub Pop)
Talking Heads - The Great Curve (Sire)

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