Songs you cannot get out of your head: from Linda Thompson and Sandy Denny to Dolores O'Riordan, Nic Jones and Kate Rusby
Author: Colin Randall
We all have them, songs or tunes we just cannot get out of our heads. A friend who is fairly contemptuous of Ed Sheeran - I am not, incidentally, and like him if selectively - was furious about not being able to shake off one of his hits (I have forgotten which).
Naturally, our personal choices for such lists are liable to change, on a whim or after coming across new or newly remembered sounds. I am restricting my own, current selection to music that is on my mind because I like it ...
In no special order, my dozen:
Richard and Linda Thompson: Dimming of the Day
I have always adored Linda's singing and her ex-husband's supreme writing and guitar-playing skills. This combines their gifts. I remember an after-hours session in a Belfast hotel bar when, requests among the small crowd invited, I suggested Mary Black might sing this song. She did so/does so beautifully; Linda, as even a musician closely associated with Mary once confided to me, gets one pace ahead. But it's not a contest, just a case of two wonderful artists doing it their way.
See Linda's work at https://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00005BCFC/salusund-21
Sandy Denny with Fairport Convention: Fotheringay
I could have chosen from countless songs Sandy Denny sang that frequently occupy my thoughts. Just thinking of her moistens the eyes. This is as good as any ...
Kate and Anna McGarrigle: Complainte pour Ste-Catherine
The song, dating from 1974, that really got me hooked on the Irsh-Quebecoises sisters McGarrigle. Catch this recent Salut! Live item which includes a lovely interview with Kate, conducted a few months before she began her long and ultimately losing battle with cancer. And check Anna's flirtatious half-smile at 0:50 in the clip.
Steve Earle with Sharon Shannon and friends: Galway Girl - not the Sheeran song of the same name. Has everything for me: strong vocals, good song, great accompaniment.
Galway Street Club: Bee's Wing, often written as Beeswing
Logically follows on from Steve Earle. This is not the best version of the Richard Thompson classic - it misses out key lyrics, as does even an extended version of theirs to which they referred me - but the exuberance of the large Galway Street Club ensemble and the rough power of James Dillon's vocals are fixed in my mind.
Bellowhead: Broomfield Hill
At Twitter I fell out, quite mildly, with the (now defunct) band's John Spiers, over Jeremy Corbyn. I'm leftish but even when I overlook the authoritarian, censorious and sometimes anti-Semitic nature of the way Labour has drifted, cannot see merit in anything it does as long as it acquiesces in Brexit. John sees bigger battles of social issues and Corbyn as the man to win them (though I'd say Brexit will cripple the UK to such an extent as to make that impossible). But I love Bellowhead and this interpretation of a gripping ballad.
Paul Brady and Andy Irvine: Arthur McBride
No press gang/recruiting party song is better and no version of Arthur McBride is better than this. I have sidelined the 1970s version, Brady's 70s haircut and all, for this more recent clip.
The Unthanks: Here's The Tender Coming
Not far behind Brady and Irvine, another forced recruitment song, this time from North-eastern England. Rachel and Becky get the wonderment and the despair so well.
When a favoured artist dies, especially when the death is as unexpected as Dolores O'Riordan's at 46, it is natural that something from his or her work should instantly invade the consciousness and stay there. Dolores deserves to be remembered, and will be, for towering contributions to Irish music (genre unimportant). I chose Salvation - not their best song - because I have had the main riff fixed in my mind since watching a small French girl belting it out in a Mediterranean seafront bar many years ago.
Kate Rusby: Who Knows Where The Time Goes?
Choosing Fotheringay above made it easier to select my Kate Rusby entry in this list. My friends and fellow Sunderland supporters Bill Taylor and "Jake" prefer Rusby to the Sandy Denny original(s). That's a bold choice, but this is a mighty interpretation and when the song floods into my mind, it is her version of it that does so.
Nic Jones: Little Pot Stove
Most of us know of the tragedy of Nic Jones, struck down by a terrible car crash when at the peak of his performing powers. That he has survived so well, and rebuilt his life, is wholly admirable. But some of his earlier work won't let go ...
Cara Dillon: Spencer the Rover
We've exhausted our mischievous talk of Cara, from near Derry City, finding Rotherham a difficult place name to pronounce (she does it as Rother Ham). This remains a wonderful reworking, with husband Sam Lakeman applying subtle accompaniment, of a great traditional song.
Mary Black: Annachie Gordon
Choosing Mary means leaving out others, but they shall return and dominate the next instalment of this series, if it becomes one. This is a gorgeous Scottish ballad - the familiar theme of daughter forced to marry someone other than her own choice - and Mary sings it exquisitely.