Lockdown Listening Episode 1

Stuck indoors with the rain turning to snow? There’s a limit to the number of football matches and old movies you (or even I) can watch on tv. So, seeking solace in music – as I’m sure you are – let me offer you one or two suggestions for your next online purchase.

Andy Irvine               Old Dog Long Road Vol 2                Self                  Out Now

A double album of lost gems, outtakes and live recordings that span the lengthy career of a man who has been there, done that, and done it better than most.

This is not, as he says in his sleeve notes, intended as a new album, some of these recordings fall a little short of technical excellence. Nonetheless, this is a collection of songs and tunes imbued with the unmistakable Irvine imprint and makes for a very rewarding listen.

From Hobo’s Lullaby, recorded on 10th June 1961 in St John’s Wood at the age of 18, taking in Planxty and Mozaik as well as his solo career, and ending up (as far as this collection is concerned) in Budapest in 2015, it has indeed been a long road. He makes for an engaging travelling companion, and – to name but a few stops along the way – he takes you to a Full Moon Eve concert in Norway in 2005 (Carrowclare), Brunswick Town Hall, Australia in 1989 (Douglas Mawson), Northampton MA, USA in 1992 (Rude Awakening) and a variety of venues in Ireland and the British Isles.

Unable as we are just now to enjoy live performances, this album comes closer for me to that real experience than an online concert or a dvd of one particular night, bringing together as it does memories of time and place, in seemingly random order. Sit back, take a sip from your glass, close your eyes and listen. It’s the music as you would want to hear it.

Fraser Bruce              Every Song’s a Story                        Greentrax                  Out Now

Fraser’s assertion that “folk songs are just stories set to music” is backed up by the selection on his latest album. In addition to five of his own compositions, he has cherry-picked titles from some of the most accomplished writers around, and has done justice to them all.

Among those represented here are Eric Bogle (Now I’m Easy), Dougie Maclean (Dolina) John Watt (John Thomson), and one of England’s finest songwriters, Brenda Heslop (When Times Are Tough), the last of these being well chosen as the album’s opener.

Fraser’s own compositions stand comparison though. His musing on the aging process Oh How They All Grow Older, his account of how he and his buddy missed being caught up in the Ibrox disaster due to being delayed by a session and free beer in the Scotia Bar, and that other New Year disaster of 1919, the sinking of the Iolaire have a poignancy and a feeling for humanity that shines through the darkness of the material.

It’s always a pleasure to listen to Fraser, and he’s excellent company too, with many more stories in his locker. Stories that, indeed may make for songs on future albums.

Footnote:

Having run out of time and space, please let me quickly recommend these to you before I close:

The Chair      Orkney Monster        A monster of an album indeed

Catfish Keith Blues at Midnight      An album of original material from Indiana’s best-dressed bluesman

Fergus McCreadie    Cairn              One of Scotland’s finest young jazz musicians leads his trio on an exquisite second album

Jim Welsh     

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