Monthly Archives: November 2018

Record Of The Week # 53

November 10, 2018

Jamie Lin Wilson – Jumping Over Rocks

A stand out release from the steady stream of new music is Jamie Lin Wilson’s second solo album Jumping Over Rocks. Ten tracks of Country Americana include nine original compositions, several in collaboration and one remarkable cover: more of that later.

From the first notes of “Faithful & True” you know you’re in the presence of something exceptional. You’ll find a crystal clear voice with pure and sweet tones. However, it’s drenched in heartfelt emotion.This slow ballad tells the story of her relationship with its frailties and failures containing a plea for her lover to accept her for what she is.

“The Being Gone” seems autobiographical with the opening line “Well I’m headed back from Dallas two days gone and gone to hell”: a weary travelling musician with home on her mind. The track, and album, sound beautifully produced (Scott Davis) and a tribute to the band’s talent is that it was all recorded in four days in Austin, TX. All tracks were cut live which will drive listeners to check out her touring plans.

Lyrically it’s all observational and confessional, and often delivered in a conversational style. She says that she’s made music and toured forever but stopped at regular intervals to have and raise children. Predictably with such a background there is a lot of maturity and confidence – not unlike Amanda Anne Platt. Similarly each song relies on an excellent melody and arrangement.

If you’re going to pick a cover then Guy Clark’s 1975 “Instant Coffee Blues” is a great choice. Wilson captures Clark’s tired and lost delivery of empty lives charting a downward trajectory. Jack Ingram takes a verse as the man “she took home for reasons that she didn’t understand.” Sparing pedal steel keeps them company. (One for my end of year compilation album).

“Death & Life” took Wilson four years to write and hinges off the story of a premature death and how the mourners (mother and son) coped. A beautiful lyric that address the gaps that occur when such events happen and how the survivors clamber back into light. With a slow and atmospheric backing driven by Charlie Sexton’s guitar 

As always I wonder how such a talent is not headlining the Grand Ole Opry but in fairness there’s such a long queue of hard working, yet seemingly invisible, troubadours ahead of her. 

I truly love this album. You need to hear it or own it.

Record Of The Week # 52

November 8, 2018

Cory Morrow – Whiskey & Pride

I fell in love with contemporary Country music at the start of the millennium, when a whole raft of artists I’d never heard of like Pat Green, Dwight Yoakam, Eve Selis, Sara Evans, Clint Black and Gary Allan moseyed into my life. I found tremendous musicianship, great tunes with uplifting choruses, stories about life that I could relate to and seldom a duff track out of twelve.

Cory Morrow might not, in my opinion, be worth the ‘legend’ status his website ascribes him but he’s a Texan delight and this album transported me back to 2000 with its 13 tracks of exceptional Country. You’ll find a tight band able to produce note-perfect upbeat songs and words that encompass love, life and the spiritual. Morrow has been around since the start of the millennium, and is clearly no newcomer as (according to a brief Google search) he has an apparent net worth of $2 million! (no doubt his accountants are unaware of any figures like this). His adult life has been through the admitted usual mire of substance abuse and hard-living, but he’s well on the other side as songs like the uproarious Christian “Revival” testifies (Oh Lordy!)

The title track and single, “Whisky And Pride” comes with a splendid video where our recalcitrant loser receives another shot of fire water from the bar man, whilst the live honky tonk band bait him from behind. They suggest that he should swallow his pride (rather the whiskey) and head home to the missus. (Spoiler alert – a quick check of his mobile at the end suggests he does.) It’s here the craft of the album is demonstrated with a great tune, splendid wordplay and the type of rhythm driven by an accordionno less, that will have you shuffling your feet.

Lloyd Maines is another Texan with sensational producer credits, probably best known for his work with his daughter’s band – the Dixie Chicks. His production here regularly lets acoustic guitar come forward in the mix and the quick and beautifully picked lines are melodic and dove tail perfectly with Morrow’s attractive and achy baritone.

“Top Of My Heart” is a reflective and tender love song with the narrator trying to look within to find the ability to commit to the right woman. Country music on occasion professes to be the white man’s blues and “Blue Collar” extols the virtues of hard work, modesty, paying one’s dues, being charitable, being humble and not least being satisfied with your lot. I’m not sure I’m convinced about all that but it is a familiar Bible Belt mentality revisited even if it does emanate from a little further South.

Eleven of the 13 tracks are composed by Morrow and there isn’t a misstep to be found. It’s this kind of Country music which first sparked my interest in the genre and I urge you to invest and to wear this out. It’s the real thing.

Satsumas, Oldsmobiles and Chainsaws – Week 44 : 2018

November 7, 2018

There was a strange smell in the car. As opposed to something that you could identify easily it was a chemical smell that might have been screen wash? I couldn’t see anything and expecting something expensive to resolve. The car was booked into the garage.

I handed across the keys but was shortly invited into the workshop to inspect the car. The mechanic had peered beneath the front passenger seat and found a satsuma. Clearly it had advanced to be decomposed in the extreme. The trip was a great waste of my time and there is a running family joke is that no one is allowed to eat in my car! See the image on the left!

Two trips to London were part of the week. The first was as a trustee of the Moores Furniture Group Pension Scheme. With the other trustees we were selecting a fiduciary manager for our investment of the funds. I seldom wear a suit and in fact it is quite a pleasure once in a blue moon: nostalgia overcomes me for cuff links, ties and polished black shoes. So sat on the train I take my spectacles off to scrutinise something closely and put them in a pocket. On eventually restoring them to my face the arm fell off! So I turned up at a meeting to discuss the best deployment of £93 million by first asking if someone had any cellotape.

The second trip, at the weekend, was to stay with Katrina and Matt. However we really visited to see some veteran cars. These are motor cars made before 1905. In fact a large number look like ‘horseless carriages’. After exhibiting themselves on Regent Street on the Saturday they then participate on the Sunday in the London to Brighton Veteran car Run of 50 miles.

In the scheme of things then leaving central London and driving to Brighton by 4.30 pm doesn’t sound difficult but it is. They set off from beside the Serpentine lake in Hyde Park, from around 7.30 am. These cars were only ever expected to make short distances and they are chronically unrelaible. I think we take for granted the reliability of modern day machinery. Amusingly then from where they started were pools of oil and water. When diesel and petrol engines are banned, in a couple of decades time, these cars will still be allowed to run with all their pollution.

Even if I dwell on my 1965 Triumph Herald then it had a load of faults that came with cars of the era. For these veteran automobiles the major challenge is not only moving forward but also braking. The brakes are inefficient and you need quite a lot of space to come to stop. Back in the day there wasn’t as much traffic on the road and therefore plenty of space to slow down. Nowadays the roads are crammed. Michael, one of the owners and drivers (to the left in his 1904 Oldsmobile and deer stalker) ruefully talked of cars nipping into these gaps as they approached lights.

I mentioned nostalgia above and never is the subject more alive than on a newstand with the publications that revisit times gone by. I’m usually looking for Country music magazines but the tractor one caught my eye. Back in the day I spent a lot of time buying several items that were originally fitted to this tractor. I was at Ford Motor Company between 1978 to 1984 and bought, during that time, all the electrics, hydraulic tubes, tyres, some cabs, castings and forgings (used on the tractor and in the engine) and other things I forget. Also during this time I bought items and services that were necessary to run the plant and various departments. I bought print and artwork that mainly concerned the manuals that were supplied with each tractor. To think now about air brushing and printed materials is to step back to another century. Today a bright operative sat at an iMac could do the job in a fraction of the time and then publish it all digitally.

Into every life a little rain must pour they say. A deluge arrived when looking out across the trees from our front garden I saw a 15 metre high pole. We were delightfully secluded without any other buidlings or similar in view. This pole is shortly to be adorned with satellite dishes and electronic gubbins. This mast will enable broadband signals to be received from about 4 miles away and then be beamed elsewhere locally. Myself and other neighbours are not impressed at this erection.

So we have got the Council involved who are scheduled to visit to see if it conforms with Planning law and other relevant agencies have been engaged. Needless to say the neighbour who’s allowed this monstrosity to be placed on their land has been spoken to and told that he’s the spawn of Beelzebub. I got a lot of waffly disclaimers back about it not being his responsibility to consult with his neighbours about this pole. Not mentioned is the lucrative contract (thousands of pounds per annum) he’s signed with the company that owns the mast. Anna, when passing by my chair, was signalling for me to calm down as I got more vocal on the ‘phone. We’ll see where our complaint goes. 

One neighbour suggested resolving the problem with a chainsaw. Watch this space. “Timber…”

Picnics, Car Keys & Motorbikes – Week 41 : 2018

November 2, 2018

So I typed most of this on the veranda of a whitewashed villa in Playa Blanca. Yes, gruelling, I know. We departed to an island just west of the Morrocan coast: Lanzarote en famille. Please note the daughters’ Ryanair ‘in flight’ picnic packs (beautifully packed by yours truly).

Now you could be forgiven for thinking that two mature (old) people were being supervised and entertained by their energetic millennial daughters. Both sprogs turned up with no resemblance to Duracell Bunnies and by 8pm seemed broadly to be behaving like they did as 8 year olds – slumped in front of the TV but protesting to be wide awake and not remotely ready for bed. They did eventually get to staying up later and one of the party did go for a jog/fast walk with her mother most morning whilst the other transferred from her bed to lie prostrate on the veranda furniture!

Despite our sojourn to a hotter climate then York continued to be a hive of visitors in our absence. The inevitable Chinese photographers clutter the main thoroughfares and whilst I would encourage them to devour our architecture and heritage I have visions of some unfortunate relatives on the 18th floor of a tower block in Shanghai having to sit beside someone whilst they flick through c870 photographs.

York also attracts blokes on elderly motorcycles and hundreds of BSAs, Vincents, Triumphs and more recent Japanese models flooded the streets. If the bikes were gleaming then I was impressed with the riders who donned clothing to match the era of the bike. This often entailed 1950s tweed sports jackets and shirts and ties. I would have loved to get a photo of those who motored along with pipes in their mouths.

Anna  and I love our sport and have taken in major events when we can. Leeds United has not been deemed a ‘major event’ due to the club in recent times being run like an implausible soap opera; the football being awful and expensive to watch. Given the recent upturn in form we were lured to watch them despatch Preston North End 3-0, marvelous. Howerver it all matters too much and once we opened ourselves up to the reckless hope that they could continue this form it started to dominate our lives. We have been to concerts and spent a lot of time checking the scores in the dark whilst those seated around us wonder what these ‘saddos’ are doing. I have confidence that by Christmas we will be heading for mid table obscurity.

Lanzarote offered some great cycling with bright hot sunny days and well surfaced roads with light traffic. I ventured out and did 54 miles in up to 35˚C heat and climbed no less than 1100 metres. Feeling fairly pleased with myself I ambled through Playa Blanca back to our villa and overtook a couple on urban bikes who were weaving along the road looking at the surroundings. I then hit a steep hill and found that any ‘legs’ I had were now gone. To ruin a great bike ride these two cyclists then powered by (to prove a point, I think). I am researching contract killers on the island – I’m sure there must be some Russian or Saudi residents here.

So the holiday went well but there was excitement well until the end.

…it was rancorous amongst the family as we passed through Security to the Departure Gate at Lanzarote Airport. All four of us rose successfully at Stupid O’Clock for our 7:05 flight to Leeds Bradford. However, the major challenge of returning the rented car to the Airport with a full tank of fuel loomed. Having done this successfully before then it shouldn’t be a problem to find a petrol station open early in the morning?

Wrong! We’d stayed too far from the Airport to replenish the tank the night before to be able to return it full. No fuel could be found on our drive in. The proverbial last throw of the dice was finding fuel at the large Airport complex. No joy. 

So I’m contemplating heading back out onto the main road in search mode when the other three loudly remonstrated about simply paying whatever cost the car rental company would impose for the shortage and therefore enabling the ‘passengers’ to successfully get to the flight in a relaxed timely fashion. Very grumpily I acquiesced, parked up in a dark deserted car park and dropped off the car keys at the closed car rental counter via a letterbox in the Terminal.

So near the Gate I looked for my wallet to buy a coffee. At this point I remembered that it was left in the hire car. I’d put it beneath the dashboard for when I found that petrol station. Crisis – the wallet contained cash, credit cards, my driving licence, my EU health card etc. Future communication on my return to the UK with the car rental company would be hopeless. I’d already suffered at their hands on earlier calls when the car needed replacing earlier in the holiday – poor English, unsympathetic and short staffed.

So I decided to try and go and retrieve the wallet. Getting back through Security proved easy but could I get the key back out of the letter box?

No, I couldn’t. My hand was too fat to slide through the box to retrieve the key lying tantalisingly on view. I had tried and forced my hand into the box until it hurt the back of my hand badly. Nightmare. Fortunately a lady was depositing keys at an adjacent counter. I asked would she kindly see if her hand fitted? Let’s face it I could have simply been a thief needing an accomplice? It did. The key was retrieved.

Another sprint into the dark car park hoping that we’d got the correct key. We had. Door opened and the wallet grabbed. Another dash to the counter to post the car keys and then back though Security to the Gate to join the depleting queue at Gate 4 as Ryanair loaded the ‘plane.

I think I need another holiday to recover.