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November 2017

Cover Story: (30) Beeswing flies again. Galway Street Club, Maeve Gilchrist and crying for help

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I am proud of much that appears at Salut! Live, hoping my efforts and those of occasional contributors may help to spread word and sound about what is so good about folk, roots and associated musical genres. It can be rushed, even sloppy at times, a function of available time. But it is a labour, essentially, of love.

When someone bothers to post a comment, be it a friend, relative or stranger, I am chuffed to bits. If the stranger happens to be an artist I have mentioned (see recent comments from Jon Boden and Tim Van Eyken), so much the better. It is encouraging if people buy using my Amazon links, knowing that it will help - albeit only a little - towards paying for the site's upkeep.

All the same, it is hard to argue against readership figures that, even after a recent slight upsurge, refuse to climb to any significant extent. If I cannot measure the readership in hundreds, it begins to feel like wasted effort.

I recently highlighted - and supported, to the tune of £50 - the fRoots crowdfunding appeal. It's a great magazine that absolutely deserves to survive whereas Salut! Live seeks little more than a reason to exist with a meaningfully sized audience.

You are here. So if you feel like helping, please do so. If you like what you see and hear at the site, spread the word however you can - by sharing with like-minded friends, linking to Salut! Live on social media, mentions on other relevant sites. If you have ideas on what I should be doing or should not be doing to make the site more attractive, share them. Appeal over ...

Galway Street Club - 1
Salut1 Live's Cover Story series has been running for some time. If you are new to it, the idea is to compare different versions of the same songs. It is not a competition though I express my preferences and so do readers who reply. I believe it is a useful project but hope visitors drawn by it to this site will also find much else to read.

Back to Beeswing, discussed earlier in the series. I have always loved the song. Recently it has become an obsession. I want to learn to play and sing it, however badly, and I love coming across unfamiliar versions. Many give the title as Bee's Wing, which is correct but not what Richard Thompson called his song.

In that earlier instalment of Cover Story, I confessed to a slight preference for the Christy Moore version rather than Thompson's original. Then I delved deeper.

The two Beeswing interpretations I offer now could hardly be more different.

Maeve Gilchrist, Edinburgh-born but living in Brooklyn, NYC, is an accomplished player of the harp, has a beguiling, expressive voice and a serene stage presence. The simplicity of the arrangement, captured live in Massachusetts, perfectly complements Gilchrist's warm, confident delivery.

Galway Street Club are a raucous bunch of Irish west coast blow-ins plus maybe a couple of locals, a band of varying size and nationalities - buskers, students and adventurers who came together by accident and somehow make a great noise.

Their live version suffers from a curious decision to shorten the song, losing key sections [but see Comments below for an explanation]. We are left with a song stripped of some of its soul and a performance consequently to be judged chiefly as a sound. And what a sound it is, James Dillon's rough and ready vocals spot-on and the throbbing accompaniment more viable ensemble than anarchic cacophony.

True comparison of these two versions, or between either of them and the Richard Thompson original or Christy Moore cover, is difficult if not impossible. It is simply a matter of personal taste.

If I opted for the technical superiority of Gilchrist, I would still look out for an occasional fix of the street club's boisterous charm. And I shall be looking up other examples of their work as well as Gilchrist's.

* Check out Maeve Gilchrist's recorded work at the Salut! Live Amazon link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B01K8MKUP4/salusund-21

** The Galway Street Club Facebook page is here; Maeve Gilchrist's site is here


Cover Story: (29) Libertango/I've Seen That Face Before. Grace Jones, Kirsty MacColl or Ástor Piazzolla

The more I listen to Libertango, also known as I've Seen That Face Before, the more I wonder whether it is possible to make a bad recording of it.

Continue reading "Cover Story: (29) Libertango/I've Seen That Face Before. Grace Jones, Kirsty MacColl or Ástor Piazzolla" »


fRoots: saving graces

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Here's a confession. Yesterday, I received a slightly unexpected £50 payment for advertising at the site I run for supporters of, mention the name sparingly, Sunderland AFC. It was one of those necessary evils, a dropped link to a betting site. Helps pay the bills - the site server thumped me for a £200 renewal only the other week - and also enables me, in the absence of a sponsor, to offer prizes in the regular Guess the Score competition.

But the £50 didn't on this occasion go towards the upkeep or the site or a mug/print/book for a winning entrant (which usually means someone who first thinks of the score by which Sunderland go on to lose).

Continue reading "fRoots: saving graces" »


Cover Story: (28) The Croppy Boy. Anne Byrne or the Dubliners

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Walking home
with my granddaughter from her primary school, we chanced upon a sight that fascinated her, appalled me.

Someone had just detached the nameplate of my favourite Indian (Nepalese if we are to be pedantic) restaurant in Ealing, west London and was at that moment dropping it unceremoniously into the back of a truck.

Continue reading "Cover Story: (28) The Croppy Boy. Anne Byrne or the Dubliners" »


Dipping into the Past: John Mayall's part in my journey from blues to folk

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November 2017 update: a former colleague, Bill Stock, wrote this at Facebook the day, prompting me to trawl through the Salut! Live archives and reproduce - from 10 years ago - the little piece that follows ...


"Met my all-time UK blues hero, the legendary John Mayall, at his gig in Southend tonight. Bought a couple of signed CDs before the show (see next photo) and told John I first saw him at Bishop’s Stortford, Herts in the late 60s.

What an amazing gig. After playing non-stop for nearly two hours he and his fab band were given a well-deserved standing ovation by fans. Bear in mind that Mr Mayall was called up for National Service, served in Korea and has been playing the Blues since the Fifties, he sounded as fresh and sprightly as ever. His multi-skilling abilities amazed me. On some numbers he played Roland or Hammond keyboards with his right hand, played a harmonica held again a microphone in his left hand while singing a few verses in between. He also played superb rhythm and lead guitars. No wonder he was made OBE for services to music. And at the end of the show John and the whole band met fans in the foyer to sign more CDs and programmes and pose for more photos. Brilliant."

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Dipping into the Past: Eddi Reader and Burns, bawdiness and romance

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November 2017 update: as I browse the extensive Salut! Live archive for gems from the past to share with a (slightly) expanding audience, live reviews are not obvious choices. I make an exception for Eddi Reader and this corker of a review, by my great friend Pete Sixsmith, of the night he saw her in Durham. Eddi is one of many outstanding artists who were initally and inexcusably omitted from my recent spot of fun with Best Females Singers.

Eddi herself tweeted various names to me: Annie Briggs, Sandy Denny, "the lassies Unthank", Liz Fraser, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Anita O’Day, Siobhan Miller, Amy Winehouse. "Joanna Carlin, also known as Melanie Harold, my personal folk hero", Rachel Sermanni, Bonnie Raitt, Judee Sill and Linda Ronstadt ("Stone Poneys era"). Sandy Denny and one of "the lassies Unthank", Rachel, did head my two main lists and I have also found room for Amy Winehouse (and, belatedly, Eddi). When I told Eddi I had fond memories of her appearance at the Union Chapel in North London - "one of the best gigs I have ever attended" - some years ago, her reply was a classic: "I'm better now."


So here, from Easter 2011, is Pete Sixsmith's review. It passes the test of time with flying colours ...


Continue reading "Dipping into the Past: Eddi Reader and Burns, bawdiness and romance" »