Album Review – Cowboy Junkies

Cowboy Junkies – ‘All That Reckoning.’ (Proper)

It may come as a bit of a surprise to realise that Cowboy Junkies has released over fifteen albums over the course of their career. This year marks thirty years since the release of their second album The Trinity Session, which, though recorded on single microphone, went on to sell over a million copies. Though there are many bands who combine blues, folk and country, this Canadian band’s approach remains unique, and still beguiling. It may start with Margo Timmins’ voice – but that’s just part of the picture.

Like one of Canada’s other great musical exports, Neil Young (whose song ‘Powerfinger’ the band covered on their third album, 1990’s The Caution Horses), there’s something very affecting about the use of the opening song, ‘All That Reckoning’ re-appearing in far more electrifying form towards the end of the record (see what Young did with ‘Rockin’ In The Free World’ on 1989’s Freedom). Though the opening is a slow and heavy blues, the ‘Part 2′ version’ continues at the same speed but with an intensity that evokes Sonic Youth or Dinosaur Jr, maybe even Swans, without sounding anything like those acts, and somehow manages to sound utterly contemporary.

It’s their first album since the four part Nomad series that appeared in stages at the start of the decade. Like many other acts, looking what is happening south of the Canadian border, the album takes a personal and political stance. On ‘The Things We Do To Each Other’ they deliver one of the most potent lines of the Trump presidential era: ‘Fear is not so far from hate, so if you get the folks to fear, it only takes one small twist to kick it up a gear.’ Gulp. Along with the next two songs that follow on the album ‘Wooden Stairs’ and ‘Sing Me A Song’ the band remind you that, actually, they know how to rock, too, thankfully without resorting to cliché. Should you be looking formore of a mellower sound, ‘Mountain Stream’ and the closing ‘The Possessed’ offer it in spades.

So, yes, it’s definitely a Cowboy Junkies album. It’s certainly not trying to make another album in the vein of one of those aforementioned records from their earlier years. It’s a record which shows that a band who have been together without a lineup change since before their first album can continue to innovate and explore. As anyone who likes to savour albums might hope, successive listens reveal more strands of what is going on below the surface. It’s never been easier to ‘find’ albums, so put this on your priority list.

****

All That Reckoning is out now on Proper.

Track of the day #58: Waterboys

So, yesterday, I got one of many contacts from people about new music. However, this one was from one Brother Paul, keyboardist for The Waterboys. He’s just produced an album coming out on August 10 Jimmie Smith plays tribute to Jimmy Smith, about which more anon.

as much a showcasw for Brother Paul as Messrs Wickham and Scott.

Track of the day #57: The Twilight Sad

The Twilight Sad have recently signed to Rock Action, Mogwai’s own label. There are hints of new events happening, but first up, they have unveiled a new track, entitled ‘I/m Not Here [missing face].’ As you might expect, it’s rather fab. As I have noted elsewhere, the single sees the band marry the motoric of German progressive rock to the classical Piano work of Erik Satie. As the band’s Andy MacFarlane explains:

“I was attempting to play ‘Ogives’ by Erik Satie, but I’m really shit at the piano so it didn’t happen, but I came up with the music using those chord shapes. So from my perspective, it’s a bad cover version of that piece of music.” The tracks can be streamed below.

 

The band’s tourdates can be found here.

Album Review – TT

TT -‘Lovelaws’ (Caroline)

TT is perhaps better known as Theresa Waynan, singer and guitarist with LA indie band Warpaint. Having given us three albums and an EP, she now unveils her debut solo album.

It’s perhaps not unreasonable to ask how it compares to Warpaint. This record sees her explore a more keyboard driven sound than Warpaint, closer to electro-pop than indie guitar and it is mostly a one-person affair. Bandmates Jenny Lee Lindberg and Stella Morzgawa help out on bass and drums respectively.

In its favour, the songs hang together to produce a coherent atmosphere that evokes the likes of Goldfrapp and Bat For Lashes. There are some solid songs – particularly ‘Mykki’ and ‘Too Sweet’ which bookend the album. The problem is that whilst the album is perfectly pleasant, even repeated plays fail to get the songs to linger once they have come to an end.

It’s certainly not a complete failure as a record, but it needs to have more substance to elevate it beyond being merely very pleasant.

**

(yes, I know this album has been out for a few weeks now…I am trying to catch-up with a number of records!)

Interview – 20 Questions with Cecil

The Berkshire singer has made one of 17 Seconds’ favourite tracks so far this year in ‘Black Maria’ – so she agreed to submit to 20 questions…

1. Where are you and what’s the weather like?
In my flat in London just about to go out and find some outfits for the upcoming festivals! The weather is looking a bit overcast with the sun poking through occasionally.
2. What’s your favourite record of all time – and why?
‘Strawberry Swing’ by Coldplay. I love this song because it gets me into such a positive emotionally reflective mood.
3. What’s the best thing about Berkshire?
I’ve lived in London for the past few years but I do still go back home when I can. It’s a bit of a contrast as my life in London is busy and all go go go, so when I go back home it’s nice to see family and friends and just chill out a little
4. What are your favourite films?
When Harry Met Sally, Phantom Of The Opera, Beauty And The Beast (Animated version)
5. What are your favourite books?
A Lotus Grows In The Mud – Goldie Hawn’s autobiography, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and The Collector by John Fowles.
6. What are your favourite TV shows?
Fraser, Friends and Sex And The City.
7. What was the first record you bought and where did you buy it from?
Green Day – American Idiot Album from an HMV store!
8. When did you last embarrass yourself?
I am such a clumsy person I’m always tripping up everywhere I go, so embarrassing myself is a daily occurrence!
9. Do you believe in God?
I am spiritual.
10. Which living musician would you most like to work with?
Working with Chris Martin, the lead singer of Coldplay would be a lifelong dream made!
11. Do you have any pets?
Sadly not at the moment I’m dying to get another dog!
12. What’s the strangest thing that’s ever happened to you at one of your own concerts?
Carrying on playing at the piano whilst a fight broke out and having to duck flying bar stools!!!
13. Who would you like to play you in the film of your life?
Gemma Arterton!
14. When was the last time you cried?
Last Saturday.
15. Have you ever been starstruck?
Yes! When I shared a stage with Mel C (Sporty Spice) at Pub In The Park in Marlow;  childhood dream made! #spicegirlsforever
16. What were you like at school?
I was quite shy and didn’t really feel like I fitted in.
17. If you hadn’t become a musician, what would you be doing?
A Crime Scene Investigator.
18. What is your culinary speciality?
Spaghetti bolognese –  my mums recipe!
19. Who or what is the love of your life?
Music, family and friends!
20. What are your plans for the rest of 2018?

Performing at some amazing festivals including Hampton Court Festival supporting Jools Holland! Carfest North and South, Pub In The Park Knutsford supporting Gabriel Aplin and Toploader! And finishing recording my album!

Track of the day #56 – Mogwai

Mogwai credit: Brian Sweeney

I pointed out last month that Mogwai have another soundtrack coming out. This is, as always a cause for rejoicing around 17 Seconds Towers. As of today, you can stream the second track to be unveiled from the album, entitled ‘We’re Not Done.’ This is taken from KIN: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack. Mogwai are no strangers to soundtracks, and the two tracks unveiled so far suggest that they continue to keep up their impressively high standards into their third decade. It is their first feature film soundtrack, though they have also given us scores for documentaries including Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, Before the Flood (co-written and performed with Trent Reznor, Atticus Ross, and Gustavo Santaolalla) and Atomic, Living in Dread and Promise. They also provided the soundtrack for the acclaimed Canal+ French TV series Les Revenants.

According to the band’s website, ‘KIN, a pulse pounding crime thriller with a sci-fi twist, is the story of an unexpected hero destined for greatness. Chased by a vengeful criminal (James Franco) and a gang of otherworldly soldiers, a recently released ex-con (Jack Reynor) and his adopted teenage brother (Myles Truitt) are forced to go on the run with a weapon of mysterious origin as their only protection.’

…and, just in case you missed it, this is ‘Donuts’ the first track to be unveiled:

 

 

 

An unsettling pop video for today: Introducing Vilde

Photo Credit: Elin Ghersinich

Stockholm-based, Australian-raised Vilde’s video for ‘Warm Milk’ arrived in my inbox yesterday. It’s arty-pop, compelling and strangely unsettling – and that’s before you watch the video.

It’s taken from his new album, Thud, which will be released on July 13. He’s a talented man, not only did he shoot the video himself, but he has written, performed, produced and mastered the entire record himself, which also features ‘Flash In The Pan.’

Known to his parents as Thomas Savage, he says:

 ”I hadn’t any idea for a theme in the beginning, the conscious element in the process is quite limited. It’s mostly reliant upon feeling resonance in the words rather than a specific line of thought. Sometimes I bring in some more conscious thinking, but if I really succeed, they somehow manage to fall into linear coherency. I’m in it for the feeling of experiencing what poured out of me afterwards, rather than attempting to express any sort of certainty. If I was certain about something I suppose it’d be better as a novel.”

Having merely given it a listen, I’m now finding my appetite whetted for the album…

Track of the day #55 – Cecil

OK, so family connections shouldn’t affect who I feature on the blog. However, the fact that Cecil takes her name along with a heavy amount of inspiration from pioneering broadcasting producer Cecil McGivern, her Great Uncle who’s responsible for the screenplay for the original 1946 version of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, one of 17 Seconds’ favourite films EVER is slightly special, to say the least.

Hailing from Berkshire, Cecil’s just released a new track entitled ‘Black Maria’ which is really very special indeed. The PR’s email about Kate Bush meeting Lana Del Rey was a bold claim, that turned out to be entirely justified. If you like Lorde and Goldfrapp, indeed sophisticated pop, you should be listening this way. I’ve played this song about six times already in the past hour…

Not only that, you should check out her earlier tracks, which confirm she is no one trick pony.

 

Cecil plays the following dates over the next few months:

14 June – Hampton Court Festival, Hampton (supporting Jools Holland)
15 June – Eroica Festival, Buxton
16 June –  Eroica Festival, Buxton
17 June – Oceanfest, Devon
12 July – Henley Festival, Henley (supporting Grace Jones)
14 July – Readipop, Reading
29 July – Carfest North, Cheshire
26 July – Carfest South, Hampshire
8 September -Pub In The Park, Knutsford
21 September – Looe Festival, Looe

The return of Low

Low: Photo credit Shelly Mosman

Low were one of the very first bands I ever posted about here on 17 Seconds, nearly twelve years ago. They are shortly to release a new album, Double Negative, which will be released on the mighty Sub Pop, on September 14. Sure, that’s three months away, but there’s nothing like whetting your appetite, is there?

The first thing to be released in support of the album is a video Triptych of the first three tracks from the album ‘Quorum,’ ‘Dancing And Blood’ and ‘Fly.’ The electronics may through some off at first, but persevere: it all makes sense…

That album tracklisting is as follows:

1. Quorum
2. Dancing and Blood
3. Fly
4. Tempest
5. Always Up
6. Always Trying to Work It Out
7. The Son, The Sun
8. Dancing and Fire
9. Poor Sucker
10. Rome (Always in the Dark)
11. Disarray

The band will begin a world tour in the UK next week:

19 Jun – Leeds, UK – Brudenell Social Club
20 Jun – London, UK – Queen Elizabeth Hall (Robert Smith’s Meltdown Festival)
23 Jun – Duisburg, Germany – Traumzeit festival
25 Jun – Munich, Germany – Ampere
26 Jun – Dresden, Germany – Beatpol
29 Jun – Bialystok, Poland – Amphitheater of the Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic (Halfway Music Festival!)
20 Sep – New York, NY – National Sawdust
21 Sep – New York, NY – National Sawdust
29 Sep – Lisbon, PT – Lisboa ao Vivo
01 Oct – De Compostela Santiago, ES- Sala Capitol
02 Oct – Madrid, ES- Sala But
03 Oct – Barcelona, ES- Fabra i Coats
05 Oct – Milan, IT – Teatro Dal Verme
06 Oct – Zurich, CH- Bogen F
08 Oct – Leipzig, DE- Conne Island
09 Oct – Berlin, DE – Festsaal Kreuzberg
11 Oct – Brussels, BE – Orangerie (at Botanique)
12 Oct – Amsterdam, NL – Paradiso
13 Oct – Paris, FR – La Gai?te? Lyrique
15 Oct – Bristol, UK – Trinity
16 Oct – Manchester, UK – Manchester Cathedral
17 Oct – Dublin, IE – Vicar Street
02 Nov – St. Paul, MN – The Fitz
03 Nov – Davenport, IA – Daytrotter
05 Nov – Detroit, MI – El Club
06 Nov – Toronto, ON – Great Hall
08 Nov – Montreal, QC – La Sala Rosa
09 Nov – Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall
10 Nov – Philadelphia, PA – Underground Arts
12 Nov – Washington, DC U Street Music Hall
13 Nov – Pittsburgh, PA – The Funhouse
14 Nov – Cleveland, OH – Grog Shop
16 Nov – Chicago, IL – Rockefeller Chapel
17 Nov – Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon

Album Review – Angélique Kidjo

Angelique Kidjo -‘Remain In Light.’ (Kravenworks Records)

OK, let’s try and take this record at face value. It’s a record that sees American and European music meet African music, coming together to produce a record that shimmers with infectious rhythms, singalong choruses and a general feeling of euphoria. On those terms alone, this would be a pretty damn good record.

The reality is that face value really doesn’t begin to do justice to this album. Remain In Light is Angelique Kidjo’s version of the Talking Heads’ seminal 1980 album of the same name, which was produced by Brian Eno. The final record of a trilogy he produced with the band, it is still an astonishing record nearly forty years after its release.

See: if the original album drew on West African rhythms, particularly the  Nigerian afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, then this album actually takes the album back to Africa. Leaving behind her native Begin in the 1980s after a communist dictatorship, Ms. Kidjo found herself in Paris, where she encountered the music of Talking Heads, and recognised that this was music with its roots in Africa, something the Talking Heads were always open about.

Let’s be upfront about it: this is not simply a cover of the original album. It’s an album that takes it by the hand and travels with it to Africa. It’s not admonishing it, rather explaining where its original roots come from. The songs are all re-interpreted, and even if they are in the same order as they appear on the original album, they sound radically different. Album opener ‘Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On)’ comes across as a call to arms. The song for which the album is best known ‘Once In A Lifetime‘ is celebratory in tone, and the haunting ‘Listening Wind’ is even more hypnotic than the original, its lyrics even more appropriate in the near forty years since the album was first released.

This is an album that stands in its own right as a key work. With an impressive team on hand, including legendary drummer Tony Allen, her longterm guitarist Dominic James, percussionist Magatte Sow, as well as Blood Orange and Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig, this is more than a tribute.

Outstanding. A serious contender for album of the year. I’m off to listen to it again.

****1/2

Remain In Light is released on June 8 on Kravenworks Records

 

Stream the album in its entirety ahead of its release over at NPR