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October 2017

Dipping into the Past: the beauty and power of English folk yields a personal top 10

Bellowhead Image of Bellowhead by Candy Schwartz, Boston USA



OCTOBER 2017 Update: this eloquently presented list of one man's favourite 10 pieces from the vast reserves of English folk music deserves another airing. I still disagree with him about Steeleye Span. The article first appeared here in the second half of 2013 and I am adding a couple of clips ...


Another guest writer, another fellow Sunderland supporter. No apologies there. Guest contributors are always welcome, even if they support Newcastle United but have something interesting to say about the music covered here. Andrew Curry, who first posted this at his own site Around the Edges - https://aroundtheedges.wordpress.com/2013/10/06/a-dozen-great-english-folk-records/ - knows I disagree with him about Steeleye (read on) but have no quarrels with his choices, some of which would be in a similar list of my own ...


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Cover Story: (26) Joan of Arc. Leonard Cohen with or without Jennifer Warnes

Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans. Is this the song, maybe one among many, that confounds my electronic (and previously slow-mail) friend Leon Rosselson, a master songsmith, and his stern view of Leonard Cohen? Read the linked piece at your leisure but the key extract is this: "The range of [Cohen's] subject matter is remarkably small. In fact, his interests as expressed in his songs can be narrowed down to one: himself. He had no imagination. He was incapable of making up stories, of inventing characters which are the warp and weft of song."

Rosselson's case against Cohen may or may not be coloured by a sharply differing outlook on the Israel-Palestine conflict. His broader point is that poetry makes for poor music; he suggests Cohen viewed songwriting as a lesser art, to the extent of making do with half-rhymes and line endings that don't rhyme at all ...

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Dipping into the Past: the Irish Troubles and music

October 2017 update (a further update appears below as a footnote) ...: I believe Salut! Live's archive deserves a wider audience, not for any merit in the writing but because it brings great music to those who stray into these pages. That is why I occasionally reproduce items from the past, as now with some reflections from 2007 on musical by-products of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Brexit, the Irish border questions and and continuing problems that arise when two political parties with utterly opposing philosophies share power (power-sharing is currently suspended and there is a risk of direct rule from Westminster being imposed), may not make a return to violence on the scale of the Troubles likely. But they leave some of us less optimistic than when this article first appeared 10 years ago. Otherwise, I stand by all that I wrote then - and you'll find I have added clips of the songs mentioned ...

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Cover Story: (25) Blueberry Hill. Fats Domino or Johnny Hallyday and Celine Dion

Fats domino - 1

It is another of those off-piste moments for Salut! Live and the Cover Story series comparing the same song, different versions.

First of all, join me in saluting the memory and achievements of Fats Domino, who has just died aged 89. He was one of the artists whose work I most enjoyed when I started listening to music, and Blueberry Hill was among the first records I bought back then. It may still be in the loft along with greatest hits LPs by the Everly Brothers and the Shadows.

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Cover Story: (24) The Bells of Rhymney by John Denver. A welcome discovery

The little world of Salut! can be an incestuous place. The football corner of it, as many but not all readers will know, is Salut! Sunderland, the name giving newcomers a clue to the sad, troubled but - for those of us hooked - much-loved club whose occasional up and multiple downs occupy its thoughts.

In the most recent instalment of an exceptional series on the first time he saw each team Sunderland play (or their stadium), my friend Pete Sixsmith recalls watching and listening in horror as visiting supporters of QPR produced a drum and started to bang it. It does not appear until tomorrow (Friday the 13th no less), when it will be available at this link but has Pete declaring "I have a view on drums at football matches. You can probably imagine what it is" before wishing all manner of ills to those clubs with offending fans.

That, up to a point, summed up my view of John Denver. I was convinced that here was a man with a smooth voice and a repertoire stuffed with iffy songs. I mocked another good friend who is a great admirer of Denver's work, safe in the knowledge I would never relent, not even out of sympathy when the singer was killed in an accident while piloting his own light aircraft at the age of just 53 in 1997.

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Dipping into the Past: The Unthanks ... The Testament of Patience Kershaw

In my constant campaign to draw attention to gems from the Salut! Live archive, now that the site attracts a more respectable number of readers, here is piece of music that combines compelling artistry and painful social history. It recalls an age when young children, girls as well as boys, were sent into the mines of Britain to endure the laborious, disfiguring process of helping in the production of coal. As a reporter, I met men in the 1960s who, on the closure of their own pits, could hardly be happier that their fully grown sons would not have to work in the conditions they had known for decades. My friend and Salut! Live contributor Bill Taylor was mesmerised when he first heard the song while visiting my home in France.

I have added a couple of other Unthanks clips to show just how good they are (or how good I think they; there are dissenting views). One is another of the press gang songs I mentioned yesterday, the very moving Here's The Tender Coming, and the other is a grittier rendition of Annachie Gordon than you will encounter from most of the artists who have recorded the song. This is how I wrote about the Unthanks back in 2014 but you will also find a footnote with links to an interview conducted longer ago .. .

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