Album Review: Neko Case – Hell-On

On the startling front cover of her new album, Neko Case’s head is covered in cigarettes and she starting to catch fire. It is somewhat alarming on first inspection, especially considering her house actually burnt down recently, but maybe using the violent imagery is her way of accepting such an unlucky fate. Hellion is a word for a rowdy or mischievous person and you feel that spirit and don’t give a fuck energy radiating out of her very core. Hell-On was mostly recorded before the fire so don’t except songs to directly reference that incident but Case has always made art out of life’s disasters and these songs continue in that vein. Produced by Neko herself, with Bjorn Yttling, this album offers no simple narrative and makes no concessions to genre or trends. Because of this sense of originality, Hell-On feels like a vital addition to her already impressive discography.  Continue reading “Album Review: Neko Case – Hell-On”

Under Her Influence: Songs Inspired by Bobbie Gentry’s ‘Ode to Billie Joe’

Since it’s the 3rd of June I thought we’d take a walk down to Tallahatchie Bridge and contemplate the influence of Bobbie Gentry’s ‘Ode to Billie Joe’ on country music and beyond. I wrote about this song, and Bobbie herself, at length last year in my post ‘Bobbie Gentry and the Power of Mystery’ but today I wanted to focus on how she has inspired the songwriting of so many others.

Continue reading “Under Her Influence: Songs Inspired by Bobbie Gentry’s ‘Ode to Billie Joe’”

On Chvrches & The Problem With Negative Reviews

This week Lauren Mayberry from Chvrches responded to a negative review the band’s new album received from Stereogum by posting a long reply on social media. In the post she discussed her own experiences as a critic and expressed her frustration at the writer’s condescending take on the album, before asking ‘If you shit on something and the people who make it, then ‘pin’ it to your profile what does that say about you?’ As a blogger that question, and also a recently published anonymous article about the mental health of artists, got me thinking about the role of the critic and the problem with negative reviews. Continue reading “On Chvrches & The Problem With Negative Reviews”

Music Book Club: ‘Shout, Sister, Shout! The Untold Story of Rock-And-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe’ by Gayle F. Wald

Before I started reading ‘Shout, Sister, Shout’ I’m ashamed to admit that I knew almost nothing about Sister Rosetta Tharpe, except that she was important, influential but ultimately overlooked by music history. In this biography Gayle F. Wald, a professor at George Washington University, explores her subject in an academic but accessible style. Such respect and consideration of this remarkable woman and her music career has been long overdue. Continue reading “Music Book Club: ‘Shout, Sister, Shout! The Untold Story of Rock-And-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe’ by Gayle F. Wald”

Why Thelma Houston’s ‘Sunshower’ Still Shines

In the late sixties Jimmy Webb had just written Wichita Lineman for Glen Campbell when he began working with Thelma Houston, a woman he declared to be ‘the most prodigious talent I have ever encountered.’ Now mainly remembered for her disco hit Don’t Leave Me This Way, Thelma Houston’s performance on the Sunshower album shows a singer of distinctive depth, who was willing to experiment with style and genre. Webb’s music was a mix of gospel flourishes, lush orchestral arrangements and yes even a hint of country music. This album remains an underrated and overlooked classic which displays the ambitious nature of both songwriter and singer. Continue reading “Why Thelma Houston’s ‘Sunshower’ Still Shines”

Sweet Ride: My Life As A Belly Fan

I still remember the exact moment when I fell in love with Belly. It was summer 1995, a time that feels like yesterday and a lifetime ago in the same breath. I was 13 and already an obsessive music fan, listening to britpop and guitar bands in my every waking moment. Yet something was missing. Oasis, Blur, Pulp etc were all great but they were bands I liked because I knew they were cool and because other people told me I should. Finding your own favourite band is another thing altogether.

So when I sat down to watch the TV coverage of Glastonbury festival that year I didn’t know what I was looking for exactly but as soon as Belly came on screen I knew I’d found it. Sure, I was naturally drawn to any girls playing guitar, but there were others that year too who could have won my heart – Veruca Salt, Sleeper, Elastica – instead Belly were the one. They spewed venom in a way that was sweet and brutal at the same time. Whatever the combination of musical energy and mysterious force they had, I was instantly hooked. Continue reading “Sweet Ride: My Life As A Belly Fan”

How To End the Ticket Resale Madness For Good

The problems with ticket touts/scalpers have been well documented – fans are getting ripped off and shady people are profiting big time. The government may be ‘investigating’ these companies and some acts may look like they’re trying to fight back but in reality things are getting worse, not better. The ‘Sold Out’ sign by a tour date is now utterly meaningless and everyone knows it.

What frustrates me most is that there is already a proven way to stop ticket touts/scalpers but NO ONE is willing to use it because the current system is the easiest and most profitable for both the ticket companies and the artist. As long as the tickets sell the artist benefits, sure there might be some empty seats but the money generated is the same. And now that companies like Ticketmaster own secondary sites they can almost instantly sell the same product back to the consumer at a higher price and get away with it.

The solution to this madness is staring us in the face and has been for over ten years. Glastonbury festival have eliminated ticket touts and secondary reselling, by overhauling their selling system to ensure that fans do not get ripped off. Emily Eavis herself has called for others to follow their lead. In my opinion this system should be adopted by all major artists and festivals to ensure fair and safe ticket buying for the consumer.

Here are the basics of Glastonbury’s system, with some thoughts on how it could work for other events. Continue reading “How To End the Ticket Resale Madness For Good”

On ‘Libba’ & How Folk Musician Elizabeth Cotten Inspired Laura Veirs

Acclaimed singer songwriter Laura Veirs is a longtime fan of the music of Elizabeth Cotten, the folk musician known as ‘Libba’, who is the subject of her beautiful picture book published by Chronicle Books. Cotten’s story is astonishing – a self taught guitarist who was only discovered in later life due to an unexpectedly wonderful twist of fate. Continue reading “On ‘Libba’ & How Folk Musician Elizabeth Cotten Inspired Laura Veirs”

Most Anticipated Music of 2018

At this moment it’s hard to believe that 2018 could be as good a year for music as 2017, such was the breadth and depth of brilliant albums released by female artists. Still this time last year I hadn’t even heard of many of the acts who ended up on my favourite albums list so I’m hoping for more hidden gems to surprise me over the next few months. Read on to find out who you might be listening to this year. Continue reading “Most Anticipated Music of 2018”

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