Saturday, 31 March 2012

Hopeland (Notes from Corsica) 19. A Pocketful of Stars

* You might recognise parts of this; I recently edited some of it as an intro to a Mighbrow post; '1969'.

"The Past: Our cradle, not our prison; there is danger as well as appeal in its glamour. The past is for inspiration, not imitation, for continuation, not repetition."
Israel Zangwill 

When I was a kid the arrival of Uncle Mike was always a time of great excitement; he was a maverick presence in a fairly regimented household, more like a boisterous older brother than the uncle that he wasn’t. Mike was a great friend of my parents; a navigator on the same squadron as my Dad; a confirmed bachelor always on the lookout for a free meal, even my mum’s cooking couldn’t deter him.
My parents Betty and Terry were difficult together in those days. They had met whilst my father was on RAF training in Canada, Dad had proposed and whisked mum back to London where they began their married life in a small room at my grandparent’s house. Betty was nineteen and soon pregnant with my sister Kerry. In a claustrophobic environment the luster of London soon palled; she missed her parents and the frivolities of a Canadian teenage life and soon became homesick. Deprived of the possibilities of a presumed life in Winnipeg she came to blame Dad for everything that she wouldn’t become. Terry did his best but was tied to his career. He’d come from humble roots; a Battersea boy, the son of a bus driver, he had to scrap for his education, eventually winning a scholarship to the prestigious Emanuel school before gaining entry into Cambridge University. After graduating he joined the Air Force to do his National service. As a junior officer he loved the easy camaraderie of the officers’ mess and the obvious career path offered by the hierarchy of that protected environment. He was fiercely competitive, driven, I’m sure, by a chip on his shoulder, his eyes fixed of the next run of the ladder; rank was everything, his family would benefit eventually. I see all of this now and love him all the more for his vulnerabilities, but at the time saw him as mostly absent. Terry had lost his front teeth as a child and his parents couldn’t afford the luxury of trivial dentistry. I think that shaped him as much as anything. Sure, he’d throw his head back and guffaw but dad didn’t smile easily. Mike on the other hand was full of easy mischief. He had none of the weighty family responsibilities that burdened my parents. He was the instigator of cushion fights and the master of Chinese burns. I adopted his nonchalance. In those quirky early teenage years my mother would often round on me and say “that’s your uncle Mike talking” and I’d think ‘please God, yes.”

Mike’s family house was in Cleveleys, just down the coast from Blackpool and sometimes, as a treat, we’d be invited there at the weekends. It was a parent free zone, just us kids and, on occasion, just me. I loved those times the most. I was allowed to do all of the things I couldn’t do at home: make tea, chop wood, stay up late. There I was introduced to classical music and the joys of cooking, two things that still give me pleasure everyday. We’d blast out Mahler and chop onions. If this was the adult life it wasn’t daunting; it was fun. I remember Mike taking me to the Tower Circus where I got to shake hands with Charlie Caroli, the world’s most famous clown. We went to the Opera House Theatre in the Winter Gardens to see the singer Josef Locke whose voice was so loud that he needed no microphone, pretty impressive, even for a ten year old. On the same bill was Jimmy Clitheroe, the ‘Clitheroe Kid’. I laughed so hard that I thought I would choke. Under lustrous skies we rode a rusty tram, wolfing fish and chips from newspaper with our fingers and explored the Golden Mile where I shot the heart out of the Ace and won Mike his money back. Later we climbed and counted every step of the Tower to see the illuminations in their full gaudy glory.
When I was at boarding school Mike would arrive unannounced in his light blue Volvo and whisk me off to the cinema or for a mid afternoon feast at the local Chinese restaurant. There is a love that isn’t duty and, outside of family, Mike was the first person that I knew I loved.
He retired from the RAF in his early forties and trained to become a math teacher, he always loved to be by water and ended up in Felixstowe where he developed a passion for sailing, becoming a leading light at the local sailing club and introducing many a wayward youth to the pleasures of sea and sail. After reluctant retirement he entered his seventies in fine health. We stayed in touch and I visited occasionally; no worries, Brian Mike Tehan ‘Biscuits’ would always be there. He was bulletproof.

The phone rang one evening in our Corsican dining room. It was my Dad.
“Bad news, Trev.”
Mike had been diagnosed with cancer. It was well developed.
At first the treatments didn’t affect him much, but as the chemo became more invasive he chose to give up all therapy and opted for quality of life over discomfort, he couldn’t be bothered with medication and doctors. His faith was strong and he was happy to trust in ‘the man upstairs’. The specialists gave him two months. Eight weeks. A few months later it appeared that his charmed life would continue, he seemed impervious to pain.
“Doesn’t it hurt?” I asked him.
“Just the odd bit of tummy ache. Nothing much to moan about.”
I spoke to a doctor who said that without morphine ‘the pain should be excruciating’. Gradually the disease took its toll; Mike lost his appetite, couldn’t drink his beloved ‘Adnams’ Bitter and reluctantly turned to cheap red wine. “It all tastes the same to me now” he said on my final visit to his house. He had lost too much weight and sat like a bag of bones beneath a blanket, while I poured us both a glass, wincing at the vinegar bouquet.
“Do you remember the first meal I ever cooked? It was a fish curry. How sophisticated was I?”
“Nope. Wrong. It was ‘Cod a la Romana’. The recipe’s right there”, Mike looked beyond me to his bookshelf and pointed to a row of tiny white books “go and find me the one with the fish recipes.”
As I reached for the book a flash of guilty memory struck me; forty years ago I had spilt sauce on an open page.
“It’s near the back”, said Mike “easy to find as the pages are stuck together. I suspect a nervous chef…”
Later we drove around Felixstowe in my convertible, roof down; Mike in an ancient anorak, hood up, wearing gardening gloves. He was always cold these days. We stopped at the sailing club for a swift half and were immediately surrounded by salty sea dogs and spotty students. We returned home much later, a couple of pints over the limit. Mike made himself comfortable with the Telegraph crossword in front of his two bar electric fire, while I repaired to the kitchen.
I softened my onions with red peppers and garlic and then, substituting the ‘Baccala’ with plain cod fillets, gently poached the fish in milk and chicken stock. It all seemed a little bland to me but I diligently followed a recipe that I had revealed with great care and a little steam from the kettle. I scattered the obligatory parsley and dished up with some wild rice, taking two trays into the living room. Mike had fallen asleep in his chair to the sounds of a Beethoven sonata, a smile on his face. I looked at his crossword, all done. 
I sat opposite Mike in the threadbare chair that I’d made mine all of those years ago and stuck a fork into my ‘Cod a la Romana’.
It was disgusting.
I ate both portions.

Two weeks later I got a call from my sister Katy.
She was in Felixstowe.
Mike had been taken into a hospice and was struggling.
“They say that he hasn’t got long. He keeps drifting in and out. The last time he was lucid he asked for you.”
I got there just in time to look him in the eye and whisper a promise or two.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Lovesong: Sigur Ros: Valtari: Ekki Mukk

I had back ache last night.
Couldn't sleep, popping horse pills, no relief.
Opened an email from Nick Baker which included this.
On the 3rd listen the pain was the last thing on my mind.
The power of music eh?
The video is so bleeding simple.
Can you take your eyes off it?
I love it.
The new album is due May 28th.
Click here for full screen video: SIGUR ROS: VALTARI

Thursday, 29 March 2012

My Top 5: Phil Duncan

Toronto Tim issued a challenge: 
Name your top 5 Miracle Mile/Jones songs.

Phil Duncan is a massive fan of MM and... Manchester Utd.
Speaking of 'massive': is that a full litre glass or is Phil a half pint?

Phil: OK, here’s my Top 5:-

1.       Guggenheim
2.       Blue Sea White Dog
3.       Walking John Wayne
4.       Starwatching
5.       Lights Of Home

God, that was hard!



Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Vulture: Incendies

The truth?
Sometimes it's better not to know...
This was a real surprise to me; I hadn't heard about it so was unprepared for the twists and turns of this remarkable film from Canadian Director Denis Villeneuve.
The acting is excellent, the drama devastating, the cinematography quite beautiful. The only slight false note for me was the use of Radiohead which jarred a little, against the otherwise cadent soundtrack of composer Grégoire Hetzel;  it just seemed too familiar a voice and... mis-placed.
I don't want to say anything that might give you any expectations. I think it best to come to this brilliant film without out any pre-conceptions; other than maybe this brief synopsis from IMDb and a peek at the trailer:
A mother's last wishes send twins Jeanne and Simon on a journey to the Middle East in search of their tangled roots. Adapted from Wajdi Mouawad's acclaimed play, Incendies tells the powerful and moving tale of two young adults' voyage to the core of deep-rooted hatred, never-ending wars and enduring love.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Lovesong: The Blue Nile: Flags and Fences

This is footage from a long lost BBC documentary on the Blue Nile's 1990 American tour, around the time of 'Hats'.
30 minutes worth...
The quality is not great but worth enduring.
There's a lovely, revealing moment where a radio DJ asks PB "have you been writing on tour?" and he deadpans, "Just postcards."
It's also interesting to note how much the songs have slowed down since those giddy times; the early stuff was pretty pacy; poptastic even.
Buchanan's in fine voice and looks like a real 80s pin up, even with his slight, Duryesque gait.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Ghost of Song: Reviews: NetRhythms

With 'Ghost of Song' currently riding high at 81,661 in the Amazon charts, I thought I might try and drum up some business by featuring recent reviews.
They seem to be a bit thin on the ground these days.
I don't know if this is down to the competition for column inches from the ever increasing number of releases, or to my diminishing talent...
As you can see, it's got me thinking about hitting the bottle (again) but, where to start?
Thanks to those who have written Amazon/iTune or any other reviews; you've all been really positive.
Should you wish to add a review why not go to Amazon now.
A top 50,000 placing surely beckons.
Seriously though, the Amazon and iTune reviews really do help.
Good or bad.
Get sharpening those pencils.
Many thanks to Mike Davies for the following...

Jones - Ghost Of Song (MeMe)

For those already devotees of Miracle Mile's Trevor Jones, this is, disappointingly, not a new album in the sense following up Hopeland and Keepers. Rather it's a compilation of songs from both of them.
When originally released, each featured spoken word poetry between the musical numbers, delivered by Jones with a tender world-weariness. However, looking to explain why sales were so disappointing, he came to the conclusion that for those not familiar with his other work - and indeed for some who were - the spoken word elements were a barrier to making an audience connection.
And yet both albums feature some truly wonderful songs that he rightly felt deserved to be heard. So, he decided to come up with what is, in effect, a sampler, a selection of songs that he felt worked together to create a sustained mood, sharing what he described as a 'warm, yet woozy feel'. The sort of songs you slip into of an evening when you're looking to unwind or perhaps wallow in reverie a little. As such, he was reluctantly obliged to leave off several personal favourites because they didn't suit the sonic 'balm' for which he was aiming. Nevertheless, the result both as good a Best Of as a fan might wish for and an irresistible introduction for the uninitiated.
Hopeland yields the first six tracks, opening with the aching beauty of its title number, one of several that conjure a vocal mix of Cat Stevens and Martyn Joseph, and proceeding dreamily through the pastoral shades of Homeward, Girl On A Bridge, Bluer Skies Than This, the lovely piano ballad To Tell You The Truth and Something Resembling Love.
An album that saw him dealing with a loss that had cast a dark cloud over his reborn optimism, Keepers provides the final four numbers, five if you get the Linn remastered 24 bit version which adds Fatherless Son as a bonus.
The bluesy acoustic I Deny starts the final stretch, followed by the sad but forgiving farewell of Folding Sheets, My Last And Latest Chance (to be honest, I'd have gone with Nothing Between Us But Air) and the hymnal, piano accompanied I Showed You The River with its line about 'a darkening deep inside me' and a melody line that echoes Candle In The Wind.
When he started the compilation he thought he was weaving together melancholy, but on listening back found he was actually shaping romanticism. Listen to his ghosts and they will haunt your heart forever.

Mike Davies March 2012

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Lovesong: The Slow Show: Brother

Apparently I'm on BBC radio today (BBC Bristol, Gloucestershire, Somerset, and Wiltshire) 1-2pm.
Johnny Coppin is playing 'Hopeland' and judging from the playlist that he sent me it should be at around 1.25pm. If you'd like to listen 'live' you could do it online:
I'll post a link tomorrow also, you can review the show for a week...
Meanwhile, I heard this on the radio yesterday and it stopped me in my tracks; that doesn't happen often these days.
I think it's the sound as much as the song.
What do you think?

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Hopeland (Notes from Corsica) 18. Friends Applaud, the Comedy is Over

The island life had stirred my creative pot, culminating in a productive year that had seen a potent change in the way I thought and wrote. The resultant album ‘Hopeland’ had been bathed in optimism’s glow after the retreat to Corsica had gifted me clarity of thought and a sense of well being that was startling. I had previously written about the journey, but offered no answers, just questions. With ‘Hopeland’ I had actually arrived somewhere; destination achieved. I unpacked. I was home.
The plan was to stay, but my furrowed brow kept moving me forward, beyond the bliss. What followed was no drastic regression, just an unsettling feeling that those peaceful waters were about to be disturbed. At the end of a perfect day there is still darkness and the inevitable notion that the following dawn would bring disappointment. I was in full song yet full of clumsy contradiction, each thought subverted the previous one. Where I had previously danced serenely through my days I was now walking on hot coals; I wanted to draw lyrical breath but was invariably rendered breathless, dizzy and dumb by the savage, intoxicating beauty of the island.
Closer to home, anything that was fleetingly familiar was reduced to homily, which I paraded in songs and poems as freshly minted wisdom.
Did these words even qualify as poems?
I continued to put pen to paper, hoping that the chaos might be revealed as a series of telling moments; my aim was true, but my hands were shaking, grasping at shadows. I found myself reaching for things that were no longer there, or whose influence had become diminished.
There was a constant humming in my head.
Maybe I’d had one drink too many.
I actually sat and wrote these two ranting emails to my friends:

Rant 1

I seem to be disappearing by the day, weaker by the week.
The new year didn’t start well; I couldn’t shake off the bug that seems to have afflicted us all; couldn’t shake off the effects of the Xmas lubrications; something I’ve never had a problem with before, and my feet hurt so much that getting from bed to bog was becoming a major issue.
Di complaining about me waking up smelling like a ‘shitty brewery’ was a sure sign that something needed to change.
Having been off the booze for 3 days now I can confidently say that I feel absolutely no difference other than an ever present thirst and a newfound ability to say ‘Unique New York’ 3 times really fast, particularly after that third cup of (now sugarless) coffee.
In further steps towards betterment I’ve stopped taking sugar in my tea and started watching documentaries about animals and trees.
That should help me sleep.
I think I’m missing Corsica.
We haven’t been for a while.
It reminds me of quote from W. H. Murray:
“In short withdrawals from the world there is to be had unfailing refreshment. When his spirit is burdened or lightened, the natural movement of a man’s heart is to lift upward, and this is more readily done in the wild, for there it is easy to be still.”
Usually when I’m in a funk I can sit down with my guitar and create something, or simply play. I was now getting nothing from this; the canvas was blank with no lead in the pencil.
Step two of any revival is normally the taking of a bath.
Sitting in the suds I have the choice of reaching for Flaubert’s ‘A Sentimental Education’ or last month’s Esquire magazine.
I opt for an article on how to throw a tomahawk, throw a perfect 180 at darts and throw flaming Sambuca from my mouth. There’s a piece offering a five-day detox (“what can you achieve in 5 days? Even God only got as far as the birds and fish.”) I learn how to do a ‘McTwist’ on a surfboard, mix a perfect martini, dismantle an AK-47 and how to avoid capture behind enemy lines: “Lie on a north facing slope and keep still. This is very difficult. You will develop sores. You will nearly go crazy. And remember, you have to demoralize the dog-handler, not the dog.
I’m instructed on how to start a football chant (apparently if you are a Borussia Monchengladbach fan this involves not saying “Give us a ‘B’…”) and then move on to the eco-friendly wisdom that “recycled toilet paper’s like taking a cheese grater to a bullet hole”, before drifting off into a dumb, numb slumber.
I wake up in cold water; everything is shriveled and my magazine lies at the bottom of the tub. I can just about make out a piece on ‘Famous Last Words’. There’s Bogart’s “I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis” and Beethoven’s “Friends applaud, the comedy is over.
This gets me thinking about the possible benefits of ‘getting serious’ and the diminishing returns of ageing.
Is this really the best I’m ever going to feel again?
With this question in mind I resolve to enrich what remains of my life with genuine intent; there’ll be no more parading and postulating about court sprints and investment in World Music.
I need to do some real gardening; plant a thought and watch it grow, rather than just moving on to another lofty deliberation.
So, here goes: In endeavouring to prevent myself from weakening by the week I’m making some changes in an attempt to embroider that rich tapestry.
This week my attention is on:
-    a daily regime of (yes) press ups; 50 in the morning, 50 before bedtime. I’m wobbling at 25…
-    Continuing in the refining of my drinking career. Fridays and Saturdays only.
-    The serious study of the later music of Scott Walker, which has previously been as appealing to me as spinach, oysters and anal sex. I’m referring to ‘Climate of the Hunter’ ‘Tilt’ and ‘Drift’, in which Scott famously got his percussionist to punch a dead pig for rhythm and sang about the underworld and afterlife in a voice akin to Donald Duck.
I’ll keep you posted on my progress.
Any advice will, of course, be considered and ignored.
You could always try…
You might not recognize me at the bar, but if you do, be kind and don’t offer me a drink.
Baby steps, as they say.

Rant 2 (two days later I start regarding myself as some twisted Agony Aunt. A Sunday Times column surely beckoned…)

Somewhere south the weather’s warmer. I know that because the birds are leaving, flying towards greener grass, warmer climes, towards something better.
As obligation, duty and responsibility fracture our modern lives, it’s easy to overlook the core values of a happy life: spontaneity, joy and love. In trying to mend or heal this damage our senses get so bombarded and overloaded that we risk living in a cycle of hope, fear and regret, inevitably reaching for the comfort blanket of crap food and credit cards. This can keep the wheel of false hope spinning; we are always one new pair of shoes away from happiness.
Often we focus on work for fulfillment. ‘Career’ is a greedy monster that can feed on itself, a bigger job means a bigger car; ambition can be a stick that we beat ourselves with. Of course I’m not suggesting that work is bad, I’m saying; make it better, because, yes, you do deserve it. But how do we make things better? The answer is unique to all of us. I guess we could stop relying on others to fix things and trust ourselves to do it.
There are many comforts in modern life, but not too many freedoms. For me, life is about reclaiming the lost freedoms of childhood, where the possibilities were endless. Every civilization looks back to the ‘golden olden days’ where things were better because they were… simpler. There is investment to such nostalgia because the past is tried and tested. We can cherry pick the bits that worked and use them to improve our future.
Why not strive towards self-perfection, beauty, truth, and goodness. It may sound blithe but why not aim high? You’re a long time dead and, as we’re oft reminded, it’s a dangerous world; terrorists and muggers are everywhere. Do we really need protecting from our anxieties by invasive CCTV cameras and suffocating regulations? Has ‘Health and Safety’ stopped us from climbing trees?
Don’t be a passive receiver, don’t stare at screens. Stay off the underground, sit upstairs on the double-decker, look, and enjoy the ride. Better still cycle, it’s almost as dangerous as climbing a tree.
Act for yourself, accept that life is absurd and have a bit of a laugh:
-    Try dancing with a dog.
-    Put on ‘Goodbye to Love’ by the Carpenters really loud and play ‘air guitar’ to that solo. It’s one of the best ever. Seriously!
-    Stop consuming and start producing.
-    Play the office Ukulele.
-    Smell a horse then gently blow up its nose.
-    Try saying “Unique New York” 3 times fast!
Good cheer and good company is the stuff of life. Don’t be “too busy” to make things better. Address your creative spirit. Get practical. I know of a tuba player who learnt how to plaster. He now makes a happy living from both. Make stuff. Make things happen. Make some mistakes. Make some jam, bake bread, play the piano badly. Plant some bulbs. I did last year and forgot about them. The pleasure I got when the tulips came out this spring out was immeasurable. I fell to my knees and literally smelt the flowers, my flowers. Fight boredom, not with ‘leisure time’ but with life, vital life. Don’t reach out for comfort food, go for quality. Have a drink but make sure it’s a good vintage. Decide what your favorite whiskey is. Paul Newman famously said “why fool around with hamburger when you can have steak at home?” I know it’s out of context but, buy some steak.
Find something you’ve always wanted to do and do it. 
What’s stopping you? 
Fire those arrows of freedom, surf the waves of indifference, strum away the stress, run with the hounds of hubris and capture the moment in perfect digital clarity. 
Then, do it all again. 
It will become you.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Treat It Like It's All We Have

Music, art, celebration, community...
Thanks to Toronto Tim for inspiring this post.
It's interesting when folk who have made a life's work of music, talk about their craft.
There's plenty of verbiage in these two clips so I'll keep it brief.
Two 'lumpy' and slightly crumpled artists, one struggling, the other a superstar, both totally engaged in what they've committed to and still having the juice to inspire and be inspired.
They work their craft as if it's all they have...
First up is Martyn Joseph; the post isn't about quality (it's a home gig) but integrity so, please, hear him out; particularly when he starts to deconstruct the song after about 3 minutes. He's an intense fellow but if his line "kick that darkness 'til it bleeds daylight" doesn't get you, maybe you need another cup of coffee.

Then watch and wonder at the object of his affection...

Thursday, 22 March 2012

The Glow Diaries: 1

After the 'Limbo Diaries' I thought that you might be interested in the 'Glow Diaries'.
We put together a fairly luxurious package for this album, which included Barry Cross's first involvement with MM.
Nick Reddyhoff designed the album cover and booklet; Bazza worked on the diary booklet.
Each CD cost nearly £4 to produce.
The album's currently selling here on Amazon for £3.99...
The first installment (as designed by Barry) is below.
Click on the page to enlarge and read.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

My Top 5: Lucinda Drayton

Lucinda Drayton is an extraordinarily talented and successful songwriter and performer, as well as an enthusiastic musical collaborator and spiritual guru (she'll hate that word)Luce runs her own record label and walks her dog Willow and her boyfriend Marcus everyday.... Her best known song is probably 'One Hundred Thousand Angels', which you can listen to hereI'm going to make her the feature of a forthcoming blog so won't bang on too much now; suffice to say that she makes Mr Cliffe very happy and has taught me to love vegetables (that's not a reference to Marcus; Luce is a Vegan...)
If you'd like to see how Luce lives a typical day, click here.

Lucinda Drayton's Top 5 MM songs:

Because it always lifts my heart and reminds me of  driving down the M25 in my Mazda sports car to see Marcus. Broken Clouds will indeed do! 

The Dust Will Shape Your Sins
Because it makes me cry and I covered it on 'Both Sides' (Luce's brilliant solo album of covers that Marcus produced) and loved singing it. Just a gorgeous melody and it says so much without being obvious.

Walking John Wayne
I just love the rhythm and feeling.

Sister Song 
This is just poignant and totally authentic. Like the heart is speaking to that soul who has moved on to become a star... just so moving.

Pink Jesus 
The chilling context of this song gives it it's power. I think its a brave artist who bares his soul in this way and writes of something so close and so painful in such an amazing way. 
I also love the backing, subtle and full of heart.

I that hope this is ok Trev. 
This photo is blurry but it's so sweet; a lovely moment in LA just after we got engaged.
Big Love,
Luce xxxx

Solotastic: Ry Cooder: Prince

So, Bazza Cross is advocating the 'return of the solo' in pop songs.
I'll need some convincing so, bring 'em on.
If we're honest I think that we would all have to confess to a few childhood hours 'wasted' in front of the bedroom mirror, tennis racket in hand, head thrown back in cross eyed ecstasy, throwing shapes to 'Stairway to Heaven' or 'Freebird'; gurning like Joe Walsh as we bent the high notes...
Suggestions don't need to be refined to guitar; I think that my favourite rock and roll solo ever is Clarence Clemon's mighty, emotive sax break on 'Jungleland'.
I'll get things going with two solos that tick the boxes at both ends of the barometer. The first is concise and beautifully phrased, the tone exquisite; Ry Cooder's sublime playing on John Hiatt's fabulous 'Lipstick Sunset', from the brilliant album 'Bring the Family' that you can buy here for next to nowt.
Click here to listen to LIPSTICK SUNSET.
The second is bombastic and bonkers but quite brilliant; Prince strutting with some supergroup (is it the Travelling Willbury's?) playing 'While My Guitar Gently Weeps'. Gentle it ain't... indeed when I was polishing my tennis racket way back when, I think that this was what I had in mind...

Lovesong: Paul Buchanan: My True Country

OK, two posts in a day is pushing it but I just got this news via Max Malagnino of 'Rainsound' fame.
The new Paul Buchanan album Mid-Air is due soon and if you click on this link you can not only pre-order the album but download a free track now.
It's called 'My True Country' and it's a beauty.
For those who are not able; just click the link below.


Paul Buchanan, mainstay of Glaswegian soulful pop perfectionists The Blue Nile, will release his debut solo album ‘Mid Air’ on May 21st 2012 on Newsroom Records via Essential. ‘Mid Air’ will feature 14 songs written, performed and produced by Paul Buchanan and was recorded at home, at a friend's house on the East Coast of Scotland, and at Gorbals Sound in Glasgow, a new state of the art studio in Glasgow. Tracklisting is below
1. Mid Air
2. Half The World
3. Cars In The Garden
4. Newsroom
5. I Remember You
6. Buy A Motor Car
7. Wedding Party
8. Two Children
9. Summer’s On Its Way
10. My True Country
11. A Movie Magazine
12. Tuesday
13. Fin De Siècle
14. After Dark

"I think if I'd tried to make a record that sounds like the band I'd be quite nervous, but this is more of a record-ette. It's quite small in stature and the songs are very brief, but don't get me wrong - it kept me awake at night."

The album will be made available in a number of different formats. A standard 14 track version of the CD & 180 gram vinyl (w/ download) will be available in your local stores. There will be a digital version, with the option of 320kbps MP3, FLAC or Apple Lossless. Lastly there is a deluxe 2CD boxset, limited to 2000 numbered copies, which will only be made available from Paul's website This version features a 20 page 7" booklet with photos taken by Paul and lyrics. More importantly there is a 2nd CD with 10 tracks that are not available anywhere else. The tracklisting to the 2nd CD is below.
1. Have You Ever Been Lonely?
2. My True Country (Piano)
3. After Dark (Instrumental)
4. Two Children (Piano)
5. Lost
6. Tuesday (Instrumental)
7. Half The World (Demo)
8. A Movie Magazine (Instrumental)
9. Mid Air (Demo)
10. God Is Laughing

For those who want a teaser from Mid Air, 'My True Country' is available as a free download from If you choose to access it, there is a an honesty box in the form of a link to the British Heart Foundation for donations of any size so that we can all help a good cause.

Thank you to all who've pre-ordered the record so far and thank you for your support.

Sprout Shout: 'Jordan; the Comeback'/Doo Wop in Harlem/Appetite

No pretenders here; just the Real McCoy.
This was highlighted by Barry Cross (right); a double whammy of PS from The Late Show in 1991.
The first 30 second's quality is terrible but then it all comes into beautiful focus for 'Jordan' followed by 'Doo Wop in Harlem'.
I've followed it with a video of the band (ok, miming) 'Appetite' on an Italian TV show.
(Check out the presenters).

Monday, 19 March 2012

My Top 5: Earnie Seiler

Earnie has been a MM friend since way back; I remember our initial contact well.
Here are his top 5 MM songs:

Earnie Seiler's Top Five:
I recall reading a note in Uncut comparing Miracle Mile to The Blue Nile so I hopped online and hunted down MM... eventually stumbled into an email exchange with the nicest guy on the planet, Trev and have picked up everything they have put out.  
I find my favorites shift from mood to mood but I keep going back to some songs again and again:

Wilful... Perfect vocals over a great guitar and the most true message of all "you don't know what I do", summarizes all the issues.
Also from Alaska: Weatherwise... hope in a song.
God Knows... on the way home from work this chorus always makes me smile, ambivalent personal struggle with the gods... plus cool subtle backing vocals.
An Average Sadness... catchy clap as percussion and presence in person of our protagonist... protection with real expectations
Scars... the slide is perfect, the story real.
I'll stop at 5... only because without a limit the mind will just keep running.
I'll also throw a THANK YOU to MM; TJ and MC, you have enhanced life and added to growth
Earnie Seiler
Melbourne  FL USA

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Hopeland (Notes from Corsica) 17. Ennui on the Mountain

Life in England was now in stark contrast to Corsica. The everyday realities of commuting into London to an uninspiring job had started to chip away at Di’s newfound joie de vivre. Working as a ‘size model’ for various high profile high street designers seemed a glamorous career to folk looking in. The humdrum reality was different. A cross between a mannequin and a fashion technician, she laboured long hours in cramped conditions with designers, buyers and technicians who stuck pins into her, bitched and moaned and invariably forget that she was there; she was but a living breathing template. Di withdrew and could feel nothing but diminished by her windowless working day; the pay was excellent, the payoff was an increasingly derelict soul.
Life was pretty good for me; I was working for a large international school in central London, as Director of the extra curricular activities. In the summer I ran the school’s summer camp. The school, a successful independent, provided a privileged environment for wealthy families, mainly Americans. As such it was an easy place to be; the problems of most inner city schools did not raise their ugly heads there. I was surrounded by an intelligent, urbane faculty whose sole motivation was the well-being of a happy, healthy student population.
I loved the company of the lower school kids, aged between four and ten; it was a constant reminder of the wisdom of children and the joy that their lack of cynicism can bring. If you’re ever feeling jaded just sit with a group of five year olds and ask them about the colours inside their heads. I learnt to trust children. I wish I could invest my writing with their sense of wonder and clarity of thought; they encouraged me to keep gazing at the stars whilst staying focused on ‘the bleeding obvious’.
Gradually this side of my life was deviating me from my expected route, that of a recording songwriter. I needed to work to fuel the fire but, where once I could happily wear the two hats, it now felt a misfit. I was marking time instead of fully committing to the muse; still creatively inspired but feeling vocationally impotent; I lacked luster; perhaps work at the school offered too much of a comfort zone. Contentment kicked in alongside a vague ennui; if this was my lot I wasn’t too unhappy in my underachievement.
I started to drink; not to excess, just more regularly and more eagerly, eventually turning to single malts to give some culture to my craving; just to loosen things up and blur the edges a little. This of course dulled any edge that I had. Di wasn’t happy and let me know it, wincing at the sound of the ice machine; she’d be spending another evening in my compromised company.
“Whiskey makes you sour.”                                    

Increasingly it seemed that we were at our most relaxed in Montemaggiore and for a while we thought seriously about selling up and moving to Corsica. The short lived plan was to invest any meager savings that we could realize, alongside profit made from selling our cottage, into a property near Calvi. Initially this would be as a holiday let, but possibly as an alternative to Chez Diane, should we find that life in the valley beckoned us down from the mountain. Di would develop her passion for photography into something more lucrative, and I would sit atop the mountain and write my songs. We had Lisa Cottage valued and were set for a life change This, in turn, set us towards some serious soul searching. We eventually recognised that our happiness was founded on having the two bases; one ‘ideal’ enhanced the other. Only then did we truly count our blessings; in England we had good friends and a lovely home on a village green, where we woke to birdsong and the footfall of horses in the meadow behind us. Buckinghamshire offered up what pleasures remained of ‘Olde England’, with easy access to the excitements of London. 
The pleasures of Corsica were obvious. 
We had two good lives; why not make the best of both worlds?

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Lovesong: Mary Chapin Carpenter/Gretchen Peters

"It were not best that we should all think alike; it is difference of opinion that makes horse-races." 
(Mark Twain)

"The majority have no other reason for their opinions than that they are the fashion." 
(Samuel Johnson)

I was indulging in some verbal sparring recently with a couple of 'virtual' mates about my love of James Grant, but general indifference to Grant's previous band Love and Money.
Tim threw the quotes above at me; love the quotes Tim. Are you still thinking about that book?
We don't always think alike but the interesting thing about folk who are drawn to these blogs is that we generally cut from similar cloth; like minded enough for me to trust their judgements; I know that Tim and Dave Ashley love the L&M stuff, so maybe initially I was too dismissive and have missed out...
Interesting how our tastes can change with time: spinach and Sinatra anyone?
I remember going to see Shawn Colvin supporting May Chapin Carpenter way back.
I loved Colvin; just her and an acoustic, taking us all on and winning hands down.
Carpenter's band was great, she just came over as too earnest and lost me completely. I then saw her on BBC 4 in a songwriting circle with Colvin again, Nancy Griffith and Rosanne Carter. She sang 'The Moon and St Christopher' (posted below) and we (Shawn, Rosanne and me)  were all weeping. It made me go back to her stuff and I now love it; mainly for its earnestness...

It led me on to other female writers of a similar ilk; just this side of saccharine; earnest as hell; but folk who just nail an emotion; translating the unspoken (or unspeakable) mediocrities of everyday life for us. It also got me reading Anne Tyler.
One of those new discoveries for me is Gretchen Peters who writes about domestic scenarios with a keen eye and a strange disinterested passion; removed enough to be moved by those shades of mundanity...
I've posted her song 'Breakfast at Our House'
which always gets me... moist.
It also got me reaching for a quote; this from Oscar Wilde I believe:
"Only a fool cannot change his mind".