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Blues Folk Poetry Rock

Bob Dylan breaks record for oldest artist ot top UK album chart

It was reported by the BBC today that Bob Dylan has just broken the record for oldest artist to have a number one album of new, original material in the UK. This is great new for Dylan & his fans. It also comes hot on the heels of his first US Billboard chart number one, with the fantastic new single Murder Most Foul.

At 79 years old, Dylan has overtaken previous record holder, Paul Simon, who hit the top spot in 2006, at the age of 74, with Stranger To Stranger. Dame Vera Lynne holds the record for oldest artist to have a number one album with her 2009 greatest hit’s collection, We’ll Meet Again. She was 92. Maybe in 13 years time, Dylan can beat her too.

This is a significant achievement & I’m happy for DYlan. Check out this great animated lyric video for Dylan’s most recent single, False Prophet.

And while we’re on the topic of Bob Dylan, he’s just uploaded this video to his YouTube channel. An alternative take of If Not For You.

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Blues Folk Song of the Day

Song of the Day (BLM): Lead Belly – Midnight Special

Day 16. Blues influenced Folk singer Huddie William Ledbetter, aka Lead Belly, is one of the most important musicians in American Folk music. Perhaps best known in contemporary times for Nirvana’s cover of his Wheer Did You Sleep Last Night?, Lead Belly wrote or adapted a great deal of songs which have become Blues & Folk standards today. Midnight Special, Goodnight Irene, Pick A Bale Of Cotton & many more.

Well, you wake up in the mornin’, you hear the work bell ring
And they march you to the table, you see the same old thing
Ain’t no food upon the table, and no pork up in the pan
But you better not complain, boy, you get in trouble with the man

Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a ever lovin’ light on me

Yonder come miss Rosie, how in the world did you know?
By the way she wears her apron, and the clothes she wore
Umbrella on her shoulder, piece of paper in her hand
She come to see the governor, she want to free her man

Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a ever lovin’ light on me

If you’re ever in Houston, well, you better do the right
You better not gamble, there, you better not fight, at all
Or the sheriff will grab ya and the boys will bring you down
The next thing you know, boy, oh, you’re prison bound

Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a ever lovin’ light on me

Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a light on me
Let the Midnight Special shine a ever lovin’ light on me

Looking for some great music? Why not check out the Song of the Day (BLM) Spotify playlist?

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Categories
Folk Music

Clara Engel – Hatching Under The Stars

Clara Engel is independent Folk artist who has been recording & performing since the early ’00’s. A quick glance at their Bandcamp page will tell you that they are extremely prolific, with multiple releases most years.

Their latest release, Hatching Under The Stars is a minimal folk album built around live session recordings of voice, guitar & drums. From this minimal foundation, Engel has built up an atmospheric & dark collection of haunting, cinematic ballads.

photo by Ilyse Krivel

The instrumentation is extremely sparse & carves out cavernous spaces with room ambience & reverb. Guitar notes are left to hang in the abyss & the drums seem to reach us from deep underground. Accordions & celtic harps are woven through this spacious soundscape. Electric guitars are utilised as ambient noise generators, adding whale sounds & swelling dissonance to the compositions, creating uneasy atmospheres. Violins & cellos bring their own unique brand of tension & sadness.

Rhythmically, Hatching Under The Stars has a solemn, marching feel to it, lending a spiritual & essence which mirrors the stark & cover art, painted by Engel. The way they threads their vocal melodies through these rhythms almost lends the songs a sermonising, chant-like quality. Fittingly, Engel sometimes describes their music as “minimalist holy blues”, & you can certainly feel that in the spiritual atmospherics of the quieter, moments.

photo by Ilyse Krivel

Popmatters writer Justin Vellucci, in his review, compares the compositions on Hatching Under The Stars to Andy Warhol’s 1964 film Empire, a static shot, slow motion film of an unchanging view of the Empire State Building. The minor things which break the monotony, like a bird passing or a light turning on in an office window provide a sense of fleeting, ephemeral drama which Vellucci likens to Engel’s repetitive guitar figures & the emergence of minor variations within them after several minutes or of new instrumentation arising, unexpected from the deep atmospheres.

Engel’s breathy vocals seem to possess a sense of almost confessional intimacy. This propels the songs forward & takes your hand, gently leading you into the dark, folkloric worlds the soundscapes conjure. There is a sense of the music moving past you as you press on in a kind of journey through a near mythical landscape.

photo by Ilyse Krivel

There is a warmth to Engel’s music which is extremely comforting in these cold & fear filled days. There is always a desire to be led by someone else, for someone to make the difficult decisions for you, when you feel you have no control over your life, & I suspect record numbers of people are feeling like that at the moment. The sense of free fall is almost arrested by the stillness of the compositions & the sense of claustrophobic isolation is almost escaped through their spaciousness. To complete & even continue the sense of immersion which these soundscapes produce, the final sung line on the album is “the mystery will go on without me”. You feel that the universe it both becomes & inhabits, & through which you have been led by the hand, will continue to exist long after you’ve completed your journey.

Hatching Under The Stars is available now from Clara Engel’s Bandcamp.

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Folk Literature Music Poetry

“False Prophet” – Bob Dylan

My review of Bob Dylan’s new single, False Prophet.

With Just A Hint Of Mayhem

Despite late-night speculation over on my Blog a couple of nights ago, Dylan today released a new single, not an album. He did, however, confirm via a Tweet that his new album, Rough and Rowdy Ways, will be released on 19th June.

“False Prophet” follows Dylan’s current trend for sparse, minimal arrangements but the sound palette is very different. Consisting of a snarling, overdriven guitar and more rock-style drumming, “False Prophet” has a sleazy, blues-rock vibe, calling to mind smoke-filled pool halls and bourbon on the rocks.

Lyrically, Dylan seems to be denying that he is the titular false prophet while framing himself as a kind of underdog hero. He declares himself “the enemy of treason” and boldly declares “you girls mean business and I do too”. He’s “first among equals/second to none/last of the best/you can bury the rest”. A sliver of the carefully choreographed arrogance of the early…

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Categories
Folk Literature Music Poetry

Has Bob Dylan just teased his next album?

Edit: initially published 2am, 8th May 2020. Republished after technical issues

Bob Dylan has tweeted what many believe to be the cover art for his impending new album. If this speculation is correct then Dylan’s new album will be called False Prophets. This is presumably a clap-back to when the late Pope John Paul called Dylan “the wrong kind of prophet” in 1997. Obviously, the gutter press at the time printed headlines like “Pope calls Dylan False Prophet”.

If, as some believe, the album is scheduled to drop tonight then we can expect to see it at 9pm Pacific time. This is around 5am here in the U.K. so I’ll be finding out when I wake up tomorrow.

Following the release earlier this year of two new singles, the 17-minute epic Murder Most Foul & minimalist folk ballad I Contain Multitudes, a new album does seem likely.

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Categories
Folk Music Punk

Billy Bragg – Can’t Be There Today

Can’t be there today is a slow and mournful folk ballad with clever and thought-provoking lyrics about the world we currently live in, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. The arrangement is very minimal composed entirely from gently strummed guitar chords, lap steel and Billy’s distinctive voice.

The lyrics mournfully detail the things we are missing out on as result of the lockdown like weddings, gigs, Mother’s Day and other things which we took for granted just a few short months ago. The chorus turns this mournful listing into a positive, stating that “I love you and that’s why I’m going to stay away”.

Can’t Be There Today is a moving request to everyone to please be patient and to think of your loved ones and relatives in this unprecedented time of existential terror and simultaneous boredom.

Here’s the song and I’ll reprint the lyrics below, as they’re so important.

Lyrics:

[Verse 1]
An invite to a wedding
That no one can attend
A poster for a show that never happened
Two tickets for a holiday
I can longer spend
And a gift for Mothers Day I won’t be wrapping
This is all I’m left with
In a world that’s been shut down
I wannna come see you mum
But I fear that thing I might bring in

[Chorus]
So I’m sending you this message
With a heavy heart to say
“I miss you but I can’t be there today
I love you and that’s I’m gonna to stay away”

[Verse 2]
It feels like hope has been postponed
All plans put on hold
Prospects fade and expectations shattered
But all through these uncertain days
I’ve come to understand
Those few precious things that truly matter
Mama you’ve been on my mind
As the world has slipped away
Promise me you’ll do the things
That must be done in the days to come

[Chorus]
I don’t know when I’ll get the chance
To hug you so I wanna say
“I miss you but I can’t be there today
I love you and that’s why I’m gonna to stay away”

[Outro]
The time will come when this is done
And I won’t have to say
“I miss you but I can’t be there today
I love you and that’s why I’m gonna to stay away”

Lyrics courtesy of Genius

As an unrelated bonus to this blogpost here’s a better picture of that beautiful guitar Billy’s playing in the pic at the top.

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