King Creosote, otherwise known as Kenny Anderson or KC, is something of an enigma who built a whole scene, in the 1990s, around his record label (Fence Records) and his home stomping ground of the East Neuk in Fife, Scotland. Most notable to come out of the scene were the Beta Band (yes, THAT Beta Band
 Gordon Anderson is his younger brother), and KT Tunstall.

KC is almost as well known for his reluctance to leave Fife as he is for how prolific he is as a songwriter. I’ve had a quick stock check and I have 4 albums by his first band Skuobhie Dubh Orchestra (yes, it’s cod Gaelic and meant to be pronounced like the Hanna Barbera ghost hunting dog); 2 albums by his next band Khartoum Heroes (first band with name change after threatened legal action
 sounds like Cartoon Heroes!); and 42 albums and 4 EPs under his own KC pseudonym
 and I am still missing at least a dozen albums. Themes and tropes abound in the KC back catalogue but, above all, there is some excellent songwriting.

For me, his finest album is ‘From Scotland With Love’ which was written to accompany a documentary film for the Cultural Festival partnering the Commonwealth Games in 2014. It’s not a jingoistic album, in line with popular sentiments in many countries currently, but rather a look at various historical periods in Scotland through the use of archive film footage
 so, no William Wallace then. It’s also unique because it doesn’t focus on the well off who usually had access to early film and photographic technology but, instead, on the everyday people who worked in the shipyards, down the mines, fishing and farming. It also covers key events such as emigration, and also the Battle of George Square, 1919 – the last time the Riot Act was read in the United Kingdom.

The film was premiered on Glasgow Green during the games with KC and a large band (14 piece?) accompanying the film in best silent movie fashion. It was a tremendous event
 free entry, and was subsequently released on DVD and CD/vinyl.

The track above, Miserable Strangers, deals with emigration. Happening not that long, historically speaking, after the clearances. If the words, music and pictures don’t move you I can’t help you. You’re a rock.

Get the album, you won’t regret it. Even better, get the film. Heck, buy them both. The setting and history is clearly Scotland but the themes are universal.

The other night I had reason to hang around the International Arrivals gate at MSP airport for several hours while the person we were waiting for was being hassled by customs agents.

We were sitting near the spot where oversized checked luggage is deposited. A guitar case appeared. Acoustic dreadnought case by the looks of it — sturdy enough to be thrown around the hold of a plane, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Huge stenciled letters along one side: JSONDARA. Soon, a very dapper young man retrieved the case. He wore skinny slacks, short boots, a jacket, fedora. He gathered one or two other items from the nearby carousel and was on his way.

Later, I searched for JSONDARA — which for some reason I had interpreted as an artfully misspelled Jason Dara. Nope: JS Ondara. His website tells me that he’s from Nairobi and that he eventually settled in Minneapolis — because Bob Dylan is from Minnesota.

You can find a selection of videos at his website. (The guitar case from the airport is in the opening shot of the video for Torch Song.) And here’s a spectacular cover of Smells Like Teen Spirit that evokes — and arguably surpasses — Tori Amos’s early and transformative version.

He’s the real thing.

Bob Reynolds is a tenor sax player who has an established track record under his own name, and also plays with Snarky Puppy. This is a gig that was recorded at the last minute, both high quality video and audio, and subsequently released as an album to buy with the video being put on Bob’s YouTube channel.

I ordered the CD which also gives access to high quality MP3s (for the iPod) and a variety of other file formats including FLAC.

It’s not what my wife would describe as ‘crazy jazz’ but is 6 tracks of predominantly mid tempo, blues influenced tracks. Maybe think more along the lines of Kenny Burrell and Grant Green rather than John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins.

He’s joined by his Snarky bandmate Mark Lettieri as one of the two guitar players. In the videos he’s the one with the blue Strat style guitar. The drums and bass are particularly grooving on this album.

Give it a listen. You don’t even have to buy it, just watch the videos on Bobs channel. That said, he’s released this independently and as you can see from his vlog (lots of posts, VERY interesting) the guy’s a working musician so, if you like the music, maybe do him a solid.

Meantime, check out the video of Blues for Charlie

Blues For Charlie

I don’t remember how I became aware of David Toop, he’s not what you’d call a main stream artist. Actually, he’s not even fringe
 or the fringe of the fringe but his career has variously intersected with, amongst others, people like Brian Eno and the British free improv scene that includes people like Derek Bailey, Evan Parker and co. Unlike Bailey and co Toop came via art school.

In addition to performing experimental sound shows over the years he has also written a number of highly influential books on music, the most well known of which is Ocean of Sound. Some of his books I’ve read, some I’ve partly read, and others I’ve yet to read. He’s certainly an interesting individual.

Having also watched a lot of youtube about/involving him he’s definitely an interesting person with a unique take on ‘music’ and so I pre-ordered a copy of his autobiography that was recently published.

It’s not a self-indulgent book coming in at only 199 pages, and it certainly gives you an appreciation for what he has done over the last 40 years, and what he has been trying to achieve. It’s not really about success or failure although I got the impression at various points in the book that it would have been nice to have earned some regular income in the early years. He really seems to have lived a life of penury through the 60/70/80s to enable him to pursue his art.

It’s a fascinating read, especially in these times of [insert nationality here] Idol and the obsession with fame and money. There’s something reassuring about artists with conviction.

You might not care for experimental/art sound/music but the book’s a fascinating read of one man’s singular dedication to an art form through good times and bad.

It was published through Wire Magazine so I ordered it from them, rather than Amazon and was sent a signed copy
 nice!

@matthewlang recently posted a link to a tweet referring to the closure of the Microsoft ebook store and the fact that it meant that DRM’d books would no longer work. A book working
 that in itself is a sentence that causes a double take.

Personally, I never got in to the whole ebook thing. I will read PDFs if that’s all I can get but I don’t have a Kindle, don’t use iBooks, or any other technology of this type. It’s not a philosophical stance, just a preference. I like a physical book or magazine, it’s as simple as that.

BUT
 there is another aspect that is important and that is the control over the content that you have purchased. I have plenty of books and they don’t rely on someone else continuing to grant me access so that I can enjoy them. That, to me, is worth the price.

The same applies to music. Continue reading

As a long time fan of Nice, I am surprised that this one got away from me at the time, but is now available through Burning Shed.

Remastered 3CD set featuring the one and only Refugee album from 1974.

Formed in 1973 by Lee Jackson and Brian Davison – both former members of The Nice – alongside future Yes keyboard virtuoso Patrick Moraz, Refugee quickly established itself as a Progressive powerhouse.

Featuring the studio album and two complete concert recordings, this 2019 edition of Refugee provides a dazzling document of the brilliant but short-lived group.

Pre-order for 30th August release.

Then again … maybe not!

There are no certainties and no absolutes in life, so I would be going out on a limb to say mainstream western popular music is dull and uninteresting. It’s a fair generalisation but just occasionally my teenage daughters introduce me to new music that I find exciting and engaging.

When I look at my favourite music from 2019 — I see English hip-hop, Sudanese and Scandinavian jazz, re-imagined folk music, love songs by a Syrian-American, classical music from Poland and music inspired by Orkney. I really enjoy just how much easier it is to discover new music now.

Just as a sample, here is the video for the song Everybody by Sinkane.

There is quite a number of people who do metal covers of songs that are not. But this one, which I discovered just today had me (and the singer in my cover band) go OMG! Check out the cover of Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi by Exit Eden.

Their channel has some more clips from this cover album of theirs, so go and explore.

And if you’re not familiar with Nightwish and their former singer Tarja Turunen, that’s some more homework for you. Or material for another post.