Presenting Sam Lee…and Elizabeth Fraser!

(l-r) Jo O’Keefe (violin), Josh Green (percussion), Bernard Butler (producer), Elizabeth Fraser (guest vocalist), Sam Lee, James Keay (keyboards), Misha Mullov-Abbado (double bass)

Yes! That Elizabeth Fraser, former lead singer of the Cocteau Twins and one of the most amazing voices to ever grace this earth and she’s on this new track from Sam Lee, which dropped into my inbox this morning.

Produced by Bernard Butler (another legend round 17 Seconds Towers), it is taken from his forthcoming album Old Wow which is due out on January 31, 2020 via Cooking Vinyl.

Fraser and Lee bonded over a shared love of traditional music, and she attended several of his gigs. Of the song he says ‘The song originated as an English Gypsy Christmas Carol taking root at least as far back as the 1700s, and was collected almost exclusively from the Gypsy community. It has all the hallmarks of an ancient proto-religious song that has more recently shed lots of the more Christian meanings to connect in with a more animistic relationship to the winter solstice time’.  Fraser’s contribution contains a traditional Scottish song ‘Wild Mountain Thyme.’

Sam Lee is on tour in the New Year:

29 January 2020     Glasgow Glasgow Royal Concert Hall (Strathclyde Suite)

31 January 2020     Newcastle Cluny

01 February 2020   Manchester Night and Day

03 February 2020   Nottingham Rescue Rooms

04 February 2020   Leeds City Varieties

05 February 2020   Birmingham Glee 

06 February 2020   Exeter Phoenix

07 February 2020   Bodmin St Petroc’s Church

08 February 2020   Lyme Regis Marine Theatre

10 February 2020   Cambridge Junction 2

13 February 2020   Brighton St George’s

15 February 2020   Canterbury Gulbenkian Theatre

16 February 2020   Norwich Open

17 February 2020   London EartH

19 February 2020   Bristol St George’s 

21 February 2020   Cardiff The Gate

Christmas Posts 2019 part 3

I’m not religious – but I do enjoy a fair amount of what might be termed religious music. As well as choral works, singing Christmas carols is kinda fun, just as much musically part of Christmas to me as much of the music I have posted here over the last few weeks.  And my absolute favourite Christmas carol of all is ‘Silent Night.’

There’s an article over on Wiki about how the song was first written and performed in Austria on Christmas Eve 1818, by a priest, Father Joseph Mohr, and Franz Xaver Gruber. Mohr had first written the words in 1816, which makes it just over 200 years old. (I idly wonder how much of the music I have featured on the blog over the last thirteen years will be listened to in 200 years’ time.) Written in German, the original version is Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht. According to Wiki, during the famous Christmas Day Truce in 1914, it was sung by both British and German troops simultaneously as it was one carol both sides knew.

It has been performed by many, many artists over the years. Sinead O’Connor, above,  recorded a version for the 1991 TV film The Ghosts Of Oxford Street.

The carol has reportedly been translated into over forty languages, and that includes Gaelic. Enya originally recorded a version in Gaelic in the late 1980s:

The quintessential Christmas record of the last twenty years is Low’s Christmas album (though a close second for me is Tracey Thorn’s Tinsel And Lights). It could almost have been written with them in mind…

Sufjan Stevens’ version is as ethereal as Low’s but more trippy:

Can recorded a version in the 1970s:

A few weeks ago, in London’s Rough Trade store, Mrs. 17 Seconds and I picked up a vinyl re-issue of The Temptations’ Christmas Card. A new video has premiered for it, and while I could clearly post a different version of the track every day for a year, I’ll leave you to enjoy these:

Interview – Robert Forster

Robert Forster. Photo credit: Martin Godwin for The Guardian

Ahead of the release of a second Go-Betweens boxset released this week, 17 Seconds tracks down mainman Robert Forster for a chat…

17 Seconds: Hi Robert! Great to talk with you. You’re about to release G Stands For Go-Betweens Volume 2, which kicks off with your fourth album as a band, Liberty Belle. Did this feel like a new chapter in the band’s story?

Robert Forster: Yes. We had learnt lessons, particularly from the rather rough and involved process of recording our third album ‘Spring Hill Fair’. The feeling in the group was, we have to take control of our recordings. We have to be ourselves. Sounds easy, but  can be hard to do under the pressures of the music business.


17S: You signed to Beggars Banquet at this time. Did this offer stability and did you feel a good fit for the label?


RF: They gave us stability, financially and in their enthusiasm for our music. We also enjoyed being signed to a label, that at the time, had a reputation as a ‘goth’ label. [Bauhaus, Gene Loves Jezebel, The Cult.]

17S: You were based in London at this point. How did you find living there – and where were you living? I’m assuming that after Australia the weather was terrible but what else did the city have to offer?

RF: Times were tough. Money was in very short supply, and the winters were long. We were there for our career and our proximity to Europe, which we loved touring.


17S: Amanda Brown (violin and oboe) joined the band in 1986. Is it true the band met her busking their songs in Sydney?


RF: No, she wasn’t busking. She was playing in a cafe with an old friend of ours from Brisbane, from the late seventies. They did a number of originals that our friend had written, and a version of ‘Draing The Pool For You’ that I had written. Amanda’s talent on the violin was immediately clear.

The Go-Betweens in 1988


17S: Before recording 16 Lovers Lane the band returned to live in Australia. What impact did this have on the band as a unit and individuals?


RF: Sunshine. Ease of life. No more home sickness. Sense we had done our time in London and it had done our career and our music a service. And it was time to be in a new town. Bands need new things, new challenges to survive.


17S: What do you recall about the break-up of the band? Is there anything you would have done differently?


RF: Not really. The band had run its course. We were tired, in debt and unhappy. Grant told me he wanted to leave the band, and I told him I felt the same.


17S: Can you pick a favourite album and/or single from this period?

RF:Danger In The Past, my first solo album.

17S: Can you give us any clues about the third volume?

RF: Lots of unknown songs. Plenty of surprises.


17S: Do you speak to any members of the band these days?


RF: Yes. I am in contact with all of them. We live in different cities around the world, but stay in touch.


17S: What music do you listen to now?


RF: Aldous Harding. Bill Callahan.

G Stands For Go-Betweens Volume 2 is released by Domino on December 6

Christmas Posts 2019 part 2

There is the theory of six degrees of separation, which suggests that is how far we may be separated from another human being. There is also the theory that around Edinburgh it’s about two degrees of separation. When Frightened Rabbit’s frontman Scott Hutchison took his own life last year, there were many people that I knew who did know him, and the impact on the music scene here in Scotland was felt very deeply. In his memory his family set up the Tiny Changes charity, which you can find about here.

‘It’s Christmas So We’ll Stop’ was first released in 2007, and then again the following year. There are several versions floating around on the net, so give these two a listen, and remember the work of a great musician.

…and the ‘choir’ version, very evocative.

Christmas Posts 2019 part 1

This is a repeat of a post I did last year. Having picked up a copy of his fabulous 1978 Avocet album (on vinyl, obvs) this afternoon, it seemed only fitting to repost this. In the coming weeks I will post albums and tracks of the year. I know some people are posting albums and tracks of the decade, I’m still trying to puzzle those out. Not because I haven’t heard lots of amazing stuff over the past decade, but because I’m overwhelmed by it all…

Bert Jansch is one of many folk artists that I’ve discovered over the past decade or so, along with Fairport Convention, John Martyn, Sandy Denny – and of course, Richard Thompson. His version of Christina Rosetti’s poem ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’ is gorgeous. It can be found on his 1974 album LA Turnaround.

It was originally set to music written by Gustav Holst; and the setting by Harold Darke a few years later in 1911 was judged the best carol in 2008. The Darke setting below is performed by King’s College, Cambridge. Funnily enough, while I’m not religious, there is still something incredibly Christmassy to these ears about hearing the Christmas Eve services – and as much a part of Christmas to me as offerings from the Pogues, Slade and Frightened Rabbit. Similarly, I do like the sound of a Salvation Army band playing carols, it’s part of the ambience I associate with Christmas.