Salut! Commentary

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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Drever, Stewart, Guthrie honoured, Trump's dad 'remembered', Tony Blackburn revealed as folkie

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The younger Tony B in more familiar guise: credit BBC

He irritates some, amuses or entertains others. I did see him once, deejaying at an old cinema in Ealing that's now a Christian centre. Whatever thoughts I've had about him (he does what he does and seems to do it well enough), I never had him down as a lapsed folkie. Learn about Tony Blackburn and the Swinging Bells, courtesy of this report of the BBC Folk Awards, which he presented ...
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Presenting Al Stewart with a lifetime achievement honour in BBC Radio 2's annual folk awards this week, Tony Blackburn made the startling announcement - confession? - that he is a recovering folkie.

His choice of occasion to "come out" was apt. It was with Stewart that he performed briefly in Tony Blackburn and the Swinging Bells. The name would surely have been enough to put him off, as it would have done me.

But no. "He was a wonderful guitarist except that he was so loud that he drowned out my voice totally," the DJ said. "[But he] seems to have forgotten I was the one who gave him his chance".

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Salut! Live's Christmas Salutations

Enmore Theatre lorry - free Christmas cake to each child, Sat. matinee 24 Dec 1938 / by Sam Hood

The caption at Flickr reads: Enmore Theatre lorry - free Christmas cake to each child, Sat. matinee 24 Dec 1938 / by Sam Hood

Salut!’s little sites – Salut!, Salut! Live and Salut! North  - hardly amount to an empire, even once you add the much bigger and more widely read Salut! Sunderland.

If I have been known to use the term, please be assured it was with light-hearted intent.

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