And I know Mr Roosevelt in the White House can’t deliver no comfort down here

(Can’t believe how long it’s taken me to get this post out…)

If your idea of a good night out is to watch some lanky chap stand on a bar stool and play banjo, well, I’m afraid you missed a corking evening in Cheltenham last week. Me, I love this sort of thing (as I suspect you’ve guessed by now), and fortunately I was one of a large group of punters crammed into Slak to see a stonking set from New York City’s Curtis Eller.

Turned out, the evening was part of the Cheltenham Literature Festival, so there was, I’m afraid, a certain amount of performance poetry, but as this is a family Blog, we’ll pass a discrete veil over those proceedings and move on…

Curtis Eller
He’s a funny character, Curtis Eller, singing a mixture of songs about Richard Nixon, Buster Keaton and his daughter, and supplementing his banjo playing with a series of back-cricking high kicks. To avoid boredom (although I’m not sure whose) he also took to strolling around the tables, blowing out candles as he played, and at one point disappeared into the Gents.

And there was yodelling too. (Lord, that man can yodel.) Maybe not in the Jimmy Rogers class but still a new sound to me, and one that I’ll bet is not often heard in these parts. And he got the audience yodelling too. I’m not usually big on “audience participation” but to be honest he’s such a charming character, that before long I was yodelling like a good’un too.

It was easy, however, to let his sense of fun and charm over-shadow the fact that he’s actually a pretty good song writer. One of the numbers he got a hearty sing-a-long response from was the remarkable “Save Me, Joe Louis”, a song about what were reputedly the last words of a teenage black man, who died in the gas chamber in 1936. Sombre stuff…. You can watch it here (the sound and quality are not the best, but…).

I’m afraid I can’t find any mp3s from Eller on the net but you can buy his most recent album, “Wirewalkers and Assassins” here, (including the Joe Louis song). But in any case, it was really all about the performance; I haven’t bought the record yet but I don’t think it’ll capture quite the magic of the evening.

Instead, there’s a host of Eller videos on YouTube, all of them worth viewing. Here’s one which includes a feller called “Joebass”, whom the more eagle-eyed viewers of this Blog may well remember from another posting….

Answers on a postcard (or in the comments page, at least)…

So he turned the corners of his mouth up to the sky…

This month’s Acoustica was a bit of a mixed bag.

Some good (Bethany Porter playing some beautiful folk songs and playing cello), some bad (Sorry, Nuala and the Alchemy Quartet) and some well, ugly, is perhaps a bit strong. You’d have to say, though, that Stanton Delaplane is a little strange and this being the Blog that this is, you can guess where we’re going here…

Stanton Delaplane

I know, loop pedals are pretty much de rigeur these days, but they certainly make for a great way for a single artist to vary and enrich his strummings. I am still heartily in favour of the loop pedal.

Mr Delaplane pretty much depends on it to lend his rather odd series of songs a certain eerie nonconformity to them. I couldn’t begin to understand quite what was going on in the lyrics or where on earth he’s coming from, but I rather liked it. I still get a bit of a thrill when someone does something different on stage, and so as far as I was concerned the evening was a success, when it became clear that I could tick “euphonium” off from my list of never-seen instruments. A simple soul am I.

Although Mr Delaplane has a Myspace page, Myspace has had a revamp and now doesn’t seem to allow downloads from pages any more. So, no music, I’m afraid. This is all the more galling, because there was a free CD to be had on Friday, but I missed it as I fled guiltily to the bar half way through the Alchemy wotsit set. (I’m again forced to conclude that a real blogger…)

So anyway…

In my more po-faced moments, I like to think that by doing this Blog I am occasionally giving young bands a bit of a boost up. You know, cupping my hands and helping a deserving artist over the wall into the … er… cider orchards of success.

Passing swiftly over the unfortunately over-extended metaphor, I generally try to find new artists just on the way, as it were.

But when I’m doing this I often come across other people who’ve been around for ages and who basically don’t need any help from another small Blog. Nonetheless, there’s some great music coming from them. Here’s three tracks, I’ve really liked in the last few months that are well worth a listen…

Alastair Galbraith

This bloke’s been around for years, apparently, and is some sort of national treasure in his native New Zealand. Here’s his Wikipedia entry. And here’s the track that I found on the Emperor Jones site. Lovely wonk harmonies and complex guitar work, it reminds me of Alexander Tucker.

Bellbirds – Alastair Galbraith

United Bible Studies

Here’s another bunch who again have made a beautiful record that I really like, but which certainly needs no plugging from me. Again, donkey’s years.

Lowlands of Holland – United Bible Studies

The Anomoanon

And finally, this track is from a band that includes Ned Oldham, brother of Will, who hardly needs any publicity, but nonetheless is making good music. Read about him here.

Mr Train – The Anomoanon

By the time I’m clean this prairie will mean nothing to me

I’m not a big Tom Petty fan myself, and I’m guessing not many of us are these days. In fact it seems a rather strange name to drop in as one of your influences on your Myspace page. C’mon fellers!

But. I really like this lot.

The Lonelyhearts

The Lonelyhearts are two blokes who come from Iowa and California and who make some really haunting, Psychedelia-tinged records that also lean heavily on a kind of Burritos-esque country sound.

There are songs about addiction, loss and self loathing., and unsurprisingly the tempo is pretty slow and deliberate. It’s good music for Autumn really, fair bit of rain, fair bit of wind, all pretty desolate, if the truth be told. But I’m OK with that. Some times I’m quite happy listening to people whose outlook on life is considerably more miserable than my own. It all makes for a fascinating almost guilty listening pleasure. Even the promisingly named “This Year Is Shaping Up To Be Awesome” starts:

“The fountain dried up years ago.”

and finishes

“Put the cash in my hand, put the gun back in your pantsPut the car into gear, drive our love away from herePut the past in the groundThese everglades are haunted and I want them to burn down.

Don’t know why we even try…”

Wonderful. Olympic standard gloom…

New Virginia, Iowa


This Year Is Shaping Up To Be Awesome

The Lonelyhearts’ second album is available from Emusic here and includes a free track “Harlequin Bands” (there are a couple of other releases available there too). In fact, the Lonelyhearts are pretty generous in these increasingly mean-minded times with a good few other tracks available for free download from their website.

Pour yourself a drink and try to forget…

(Tom Petty, that is…)