Posted in Folk and Blues, Music

Surfin’ the 60s

I’ve become somewhat addicted to Amazon Prime Music. I know, I know, corporate monolith and all that, but I’ve been having fun with it.

I came of age in the 1960s and grew up listening to The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, the Kinks and all those guys. I had black light posters and at one point owned a fringed jacket with a matching head bank. Hey, I was a teeny-bopper. My sister and I had pictures of our favorite rock stars in our bedroom, much like the teens of today. No iPhone, though. No email and no blogs, either. But the Rolling Stones? Yeah, man.

picture of band Steeleye Span
Folk-rockin Steeleye Span. Groovy, man. Good thing Maddy Prior and Martin Carthy are in there.

Then the 1970s rolled around and I discovered British and Irish traditional folk music. I’ve been on that train ever since, although I don’t listen as much as I used to. These days I’m groovin’ to African blues and up-to-date, ever-so-slightly rocked up folk. I have a limited tolerance for loud electric guitars, but some of those guys were something else. Not so much a problem with the British folk, unless you count Steeleye Span and their ilk. I’m willing to put up with the electric guitars and drums just as long as I can hear Maddy Prior above it all.

So, I’ve spent the afternoon and evening revisiting old music and feeling my heart go pitter-patter. The rock music is probably preserved, but a lot of the great folk artists have a lot of vinyl that never got transferred to anything else. Take Nic Jones for example. Nic who? He was a brilliant guitarist and fiddle player who got slammed by a truck in the early 1980s. He survived, but his bones and brain had the worst of it. He’s still around, just not performing. I was crushed when I heard that.

Nic has some other stuff that has stood the test of time and is still available (and yeah, it’s gory and bloody, but that’s the genre for you). But, you have to be a real folkie like me. Otherwise, you’ll probably just be bored (sigh).

Posted in African Blues, Folk and Blues, Music

NOW What Is She Listening To?

I’ve been on this African blues kick for the last year or so, particularly the popular music of Mali in Western Africa. Unfortunately, it’s gained a certain notoriety of late, with al Qaeda Islamist militants over-running the north of the country and then threatening the south. France has intervened (thank God it’s not us this time) and has sent the militants packing, at least for a little while.

Mali has an extremely musical culture. It was raided extensively for slaves in the early days and a lot of them were taken to the Americas. These transplanted Africans lost their home and their culture, but bestowed on this hemisphere some of the best music in the world. Now isn’t that gratitude for being kidnapped and treated like a sub-human animal? It makes me sick.

I love the music, primarily because its connection to American music like the blues. It’s amazing that way. Slaves were shipped to the Americas, who gave us our national music, who then influenced the musicians in Mali. Now that’s a cross-Atlantic trade I approve of.

Given all this media furor over Mali, I’ve had the chance to find more musicians and more music. When the Islamists rolled in, they banned music (among other things). Musicians were arrested and threatened with amputation of their fingers if they played music anywhere. What a horrible thing to do. France, at least, has got the music going again although who knows what’s going to happen over the long term?

If you’re game, here’s an example of some of the stuff I’m talking about. The first, Lulla, is from a band from the north of Mali called Tinariwen (plural of “desert”). It’s middle eastern and bluesy all at the same time. Amazing.

These guys have had a very hard life, but their music is absolutely incredible. Here’s a description of what I mean by hard:

The thirty-year musical and social history of Tinariwen is a fascinating and inspiring tale. Initially a loose collection of displaced Touareg musicians centred around Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, who, although born in Mali, grew up in the refugee camps near the Malian border in Algeria and later around the southern Algerian city of Tamanrasset following the suppression of the Touareg people by the new independent Malian government in the early 1960’s.

Coming together in the late 1970’s with a shared passion for everything from traditional Touareg music & poetry to western rock and pop artists such as Hendrix, Santana, Bob Marley and Led Zeppelin, the collective steadily built their reputation in and around the Sahara desert.

I like this song, too. It starts out a bit rough (actually, they all do) and suddenly you’re in the middle of transcendent blues, right there in the middle of the desert:

Okay, this might not be for everybody, but at least on this side of the Atlantic I can well understand why this music is so popular.

And that’s only the beginning.

Posted in Folk and Blues, Music

British Blues Sister

I first came across the music of Jo-Anne Kelly in the 1970s. She was one of the British blues singers, folks from across the pond who – for whatever reason – fell in love with traditional American blues from the 1920s and 1930s, mostly. Acoustic, scratchy, full of power and pain. Beautiful stuff, once you got beyond the scratchy, early-recording technique parts of it.

A lot of folks back then played this music, but only Jo-Anne Kelly left you wondering where the ghost of the singer was, she was that good. I understand she was very small, but the voice that came out was like thunder on an otherwise quiet and overcast day.

This is the only video I’ve seen of a live performance, a year before she died (in 1990). I’d completely forgotten about her until I came across this video. Amazing woman, and so sad that she’s been gone for so long now.

Posted in Folk and Blues, Music

Sadness in Song

I just found a sad, engrossing song via a music sharing service called SoundCloud. The poetry is lovely and the melody is captivating, or so I think. Have a listen and tell me what you think:

If the link’s busted, go here:

Here are the lyrics:

Words by Shane Partington

One word’s spoken
One word divides
Can’t starve the centre
Can’t hold the highs

To leave, to lie, to hate, to stray, to need, to sting, to take…..
To be, to hurt, to hunt, to love, to crave, to cling, too long, too much….
Too late

One word divides
One word’s all