Sunday Morning Coming Down

Many thanks to all the well-wishers who got in touch following my recent post about looking for somewhere to live.

I’m very pleased to update you all by advising that I’ve secured a place to live, and I’ll be moving in over the next two weeks – so expect my posts on here to be even less frequent than they have been for much of this year.

To mark the moment, a song which I’ve previously posted a cover version of here, but this is the original, performed by a chap so resolutely unsexy on the album sleeve it’s unbelievable. To me, he looks more than a little like the Jimmy Carr clone that has been raided for the hair-transplant the comedian recently had:

Tom Paxton – Leaving London

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

More death this morning, I’m afraid.

This one I was alerted to by way of a comment from Charity Chic last weekend: at the age of 84, Don Everly has gone off to resume hostilities with his brother Phil in that great argument in the sky.

The Everly Brothers are one of those acts that it’s easy to dismiss, because of their ubiquitousness – they’ve just always been there, even if they weren’t speaking to each other for most of the time (a template followed many years later by the Gallagher siblings).

You hear many bands mention how important The Everly Brothers were, how they influenced them, and yet they have never really seemed to have been given their dues in the wider circle.

Over the years, I’ve seen many a country artist site them as an influence, but I’ve never really understood that connection: to me they bridged the gap between skiffle and early rock’n’roll, and if I had to pin my colours to the mast then I’d describe them as an early rock’n’roll duo.

But then, a few years ago, I heard the Foreverly album by the somewhat unlikely duo of Norah Jones and Green Day’s Billie Jo Armstrong and then it suddenly clicked:

Billie Joe Armstrong + Norah Jones – Silver Haired Daddy of Mine

Strong recommends for that album, by the way.

Here’s my favourite song by The Everly Brothers, a record my parents owned on 7″ single, and if ever you needed an example of how sibling vocals work so well together, then this is it:

The Everly Brothers – Cathy’s Clown

RIP Don.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

It’s been a tough week in the world of celebrity deaths; on Thursday it was announced that comedian Sean Lock had died – more on him later – and earlier in the week, with much less fanfare here in the UK, I learned when scrolling through Twitter that Nanci Griffith had passed away.

At the time of writing, at her own behest, the cause of death has not been announced, but Griffith had previously beaten both breast and thyroid cancer, so chances are that bastard has scored another heart-breaking victory.

Griffith was born in Seguin, Texas, and her career spanned a variety of musical genres, predominantly country, folk, and what she termed “folkabilly”. Although she was probably best known on this side of the pond as being the writer of Bette Midler’s 1990 smash-hit From a Distance, which went on to win the Grammy for Song of the Year in 1991, she also won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Folk Album in 1994 for her 1993 recording, Other Voices, Other Rooms.

As a mark of the high esteem she was held in, she also record duets with the likes of Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Don McLean, Jimmy Buffett and Willie Nelson (to name but a few), and she contributed If These Old Walls Could Speak to the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Country, a song which she co-wrote with the legendary Jimmy Webb.

I happened to pick up her (Grammy nominated) 1986 album The Last of the True Believers on vinyl a few weeks ago; it’s a thing of beauty, and I’d been meaning feature something from it ever since.

Griffith’s lyrical style is often story-telling, and nowhere is that more evident than here, on Love at the Five and Dime, lifted from the aforementioned album:

Nanci Griffith – Love At The Five And Dime

Another great one gone.

RIP Nanci.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Yes, yes, I know I’ve posted this song before, and I imagine you all know this song anyway (and if not, why not? Listen to it, godammit it!). But it’s such a beautiful record, I’m not going to make any apologies for the repeat, especially when I have a kinda new way to present it to you.

This is a live version which was brought to my attention (not just me, but also the attention of all his other followers on Twitter) by comedian Robin Ince the other day.

Now: imagine you’re a young sibling folk duo from Scandinavia, who have written a song about the beauty of singing with someone you love. You mention four famous Country music artists (two duos) in the lyrics: Emmylou Harris & Gram Parsons, and Johnny Cash & June Carter.

Imagine you name the song after one of those people.

Now imagine you have achieved a degree of international success, and you are invited to perform said song at an international music prize ceremony, celebrating the power and importance of music.

And that person you named the song after is not only the only one of the four still alive, but she’s in the audience, and she’s there because her life’s work is being celebrated.

Enjoy (but have tissues at the ready):

First Aid Kit – Emmylou (Live at the Polar Music Prize 2015)

Gets me every time I hear it.

No you’ve got something in your eye.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

If you’ve seen the unedited version of Ken Burns’ docu-series Country Music, you’ll already know the extraordinary story of how this morning’s song came about.

Kristofferson relates how he went with friends to a church service; he had never thought of needing help, but he was at a low point in his life. When the pastor asked the congregation, “Is anybody feeling lost?” “Up goes my hand,” Kristofferson says. The Pastor then asked, “Are you ready to accept Christ? Kneel down there.” “I’m kneeling there,” Kristofferson continues, “and I carry a big load of guilt around…and I was just out of control, crying. It was a release. It really shook me up.” Kristofferson later said, “It was just a personal thing I was going through at the time. I had some kind of experience that I can’t even explain.”

Shortly afterwards, he recorded this Larry Gatlin composition, which appears as the closing track on his 1973 album Jesus Was A Capricorn, and features Gatlin and soon-to-be Mrs Kristofferson, Rita Coolidge, on backing vocals. It went on to be his biggest ever selling song, and is just stunning, irrespective of your views on religion:

Kris Kristofferson – Why Me

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

When I last posted something by The Handsome Family, it was Far From Any Road, the theme tune to TV drama True Detective and was rather well received by y’all.

‘Bout time I posted something else by them, then, so here goes. This from their 2006 album Last Days of Wonder, which sounds like it’s going to be quite an upbeat, summery record until the lyric “Why do you leave a trail of death? Air turns brown, trees fall down” catches your ear and focuses the mind. Yes, we’re in gothic Americana territory here:

The Handsome Family – Our Blue Sky

I’ve recently *coughs* acquired pretty much their entire back catalogue, so you can probably expect them to pop up more frequently here once I’ve had chance to check it all out. Early signs are that I may be in love with them.

More soon.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Here’s something newish, which I know is a bit out-of-kilter with the kind of stuff I usually post here.

This is Phil Hooley, who used to be in The Woolgatherers (not to be mistaken for The Woolpackers, the soap off-shoot/cash in on the line-dancing phenomenon who managed to have a hit in 1996 with Hillbilly Rock Hillbilly Roll).

No, this is from Hooley’s first solo album, Songs From The Backroom, which I think is rather fine. He reminds me in places of John Prine, Don Williams and Mark Knopfler; doubtless you’ll have your own opinion as to whether that constitutes a recommend or not:

Phil Hooley – Learning to Be Still

More soon.