Cover story

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 ...

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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:

** 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.

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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" »

Cover Story: (27) Seduction, witchcraft and sometimes savagery on Broomfield Hill - Bellowhead or Dr Faustus

    If this site were a little more erudite, we would probably talk a lot more about the Child ballads.

    The phrase itself evokes a rural scene in which, perhaps, an earnest Oxbridge don called Child humours farm labourers, factory workers, trawlermen, huntsmen and other toiling folk and records, one way or another, the songs they sing.

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

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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.

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