Salut! Commentary

French music doesn't travel? Try Jain, Imany, Cats on Trees and even Indochine

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It's a perceived wisdom and I have been known to swallow it. French music, and especially pop/rock, may suit a domestic audience but does not easily appeal to the ears of Anglo-Saxons (as the French like to call us). Indeed, there are plenty of French people who would sooner listen to American or British pop and rock.

But recent developments have prompted me to rethink the theory. It may have a little to do with my neighbour Jean-Louis, who plays guitar in a way I'd love to emulate but never will; I could gaze at his lead guitar runs all night. Come to think of it, I already have gazed at them for much of the night. It has more to do with a relatively new phenomenon, French artists making a point of singing in English.

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Salut! Live is on holiday. But catch up on a massive folk and folk-rock archive


"What I love about working with you," The Daily Telegraph arts desk sub-editor said when I wrote about folk music for her section of the paper, "is that when I have query, you just ring up the artist and they answer it."

It was true, and remains so to some extent. I may have been a mere hack but I had the phone numbers of most of the people I wrote about, or at least those of people close to them.

Sometimes, they'd call me.

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The Chieftains: when you can call on friends like Van Morrison

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Bill Taylor's latest contribution is a break from our Cover Story series, charting instead the astonishing range of collaborations between the Chieftains and singers and musicians from most genres. Bill mentions Irish Heartbeat, an outstanding album made with Van Morrison - I saw them perform together and separately at the time of its release in a memorable Royal Albert Hall concert compered by John Peel.

Bill's list of artists who have worked with the Chieftains is, as he says, incomplete. Eleven years after Irish Heartbeat, I wrote about another album, Tears of Stone, on which some notable female performers sang. I interviewed one of the artists, Joan Osborne, in a transatlantic call from a Belfast payphone. The occasion sticks in the memory for another reason; when I belatedly joined friends for dinner and ordered a bottle of wine, the bottom of the bottle broke away at the moment the waitress pulled the cork, leaving my notebook drenched in Algerian red (a fuller account of this appears here).

There have been many exceptional versions of On Raglan Road and Osborne's, for that album (which also featured Joni Mitchell and Diana Krall), ranks among them. Now let Bill delve into his own memory ...


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Newport and Cambridge folk festivals: a marriage made in heaven?

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Not the Joan Baez we usually see - but this was from the 1965 Newport FF

From my old friend Claire Horton, a steadfast folk and roots publicist, comes news of an exercise in town twinning that may well outstrip the link forged by Bishop Auckland and the Parisian suburban town of Ivry-sur-Seine (my parents couldn't afford to send me on the school trips, but I did play badminton there much later while living in Paris). Two of the world's greatest folk festivals - Cambridge (UK university city, not Massachusetts) and Newport (Rhode Island, not IoW) - are coming together in what Claire calls a "historic twinning" that will herald a "unique new transatlantic artistic relationship".

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Live at the Gecko, with apologies to Ralph McTell and the Animals

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London has Ain't Nothing But ..., an unmissable, jam-packed blues bar tucked behind the Hamleys toy store in the West End. And in Le Lavandou, there's Gecko where, night after night in the summer and at odd times earlier and later in the season, good musicians entertain a broad mix of holidaymakers, boat people and locals from teenagers to retraités.

And now, false modesty avoided and the adjective "good" deleted, you can add me to the roster of performers.

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Leon Rosselson, poetry and song: a devastating appraisal of Leonard Cohen. Dylan suffers too

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Buy albums shown here at the Salut! Live Amazon link - click anywhere on this caption

When I previewed, reviewed and otherwise wrote on folk music and its various offshoots for The Daily Telegraph - I worked there for 29 years, mainly on news, without ever inhaling - my admiration for the work of Leon Rosselson was well known. It was even tolerated. The arts desk was quite flexible in any case but one of my devices was to praise his supreme wordcraft while injecting the occasional raised eyebrow at the subversive sentiments found therein. To me, I suppose, he was a great poet who happened to put his poetry to music.

Rosselson and I have occasional e-mail banter to this day. He sent this article to me with the typically challenging thought that I would be unlikely to agree with him on the case he advances - namely that to describe a song as poetry, far from being a compliment, is as insulting as it gets. What follows is a carefully argued but, in parts, hugely critical polemic that calls into question the value of all Leonard Cohen's work and some of Dylan's. Maybe I should stop practising their songs on my new guitar. I won't - but I may come back with a response to Rosselson's arguments ...

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