Anda jaleo, jaleo!

I know…

It’s been a busy few weeks, to be fair. The Boy moving out of his flat and shipping off to the Smoke; some mostly self-induced stress at one of my jobs, a couple of new projects and a couple of torrid afternoons with the rugby football at Castle Grim. Not a moment to spare, I tell you…

But I’m here now and that’s what counts, no?

Although I’m sure there’ll be a good few sidling off pretty quickly when they see that for this post, I’m once again indulging my Spanish fixation…

I can’t remember if I’ve written about Josephine Foster before, I suspect not, chiefly because I blow a bit hot and cold with her fairly distinctive style and delivery – its feverish brittleness to the point of mania can be a bit of an “ask” at times. I can think of a few hysterical females and lugubrious males that repel and fascinate in equal measure whose appeal is fleeting but echoing (CocoRosie, Joanna Newsome, David Thomas Broughton, Alexander Tucker, I’m thinking of you…). Sometimes, I just can’t be doing with all that nonsense and others, well, fetch out the sackcloth, Miss Havisham…

And right now, I’m there.

Josephine Foster & the Victor Herrero Band

American guitarist/harpist, Josephine Foster has a bunch of pretty idiosyncratic projects under her belt, some of which I know and others I’m still tantalised by, including a psychedelic rock album and a collection of interpretations of the poems of genuine Mad Woman in the Attic, Emily Dickinson. From 2011, however, she spent some years living in Andalusia, studying the songs of Federico Garcia Lorca and digging deep into the sounds of Flamenco music.

Flamenco is still pretty much a closed book to this punter, (it’s hard not to remember the heyday of the Spanish package holiday in the seventies and the resulting “spots” on variety shows that dominated Saturday night viewing as a child), but the resulting two records, coming out jointly with her partner Victor Herrero, are honestly gorgeous affairs. The instrumentation is simple but, I suspect, technically brilliant and there is liberal use of clacking heels, abrupt stops and (FFS) even maracas.

But I’m strangely OK with all these much used Spanish tropes, mostly I imagine because of the keening, distraught style of Forster’s own vocals. It’s beguiling. I have a friend who started learning Spanish purely because of how beautiful the language sounded, and listening to these songs, I can really see it. (His own Spanish – way better than mine – is not quite as beautiful, drenched as it is in his broad Glawster tones…)

Here’s a video of Foster talking about her stay in Spain, which is illuminating and contains a few of her songs:

 

The song she sings from about 6:50, “Anda Jaleo”, is my personal favourite, and it’s more than a little frustrating that it is broken into a couple of times by further interview.

It’s one of the songs she’s reinterpreted from the poems of Lorca and although I can’t find a version of Foster and Herrero performing it, there are many more traditional versions online, most of which are, well, pretty hard to listen to.

There is though, this proper old-school version, recorded in the thirties by Encarnación “La Argentinita” López, which incredibly enough actually includes Lorca himself playing piano. Considering the man’s position in Spanish folklore and literary history, and his death at the hands of Nationalist militia during the Civil War, it’s astonishing that recordings of him exist. That we can have this gossamer-like thread to a very distant Spanish past is frankly jaw-dropping.

 

And here’s Foster and Herrero’s version which having none of the gravitas and rumpty-tumpty grandness of this original, fares pretty well, by stripping and slowing the song down, bringing it closer to the scrub and dust of its Andalusian pedigree:

 

I’m very fond of this version.

But saving the best till last… maybe you want to go full-blown seventies Viva España? Perhaps you’d like to see some proper package holiday Flamenco? Groups of dancers dressed like Manolito, in a full-on percussive duel which descends into a proper Guys and Dolls-style rumble?

 

C’mon, people, rise up!