But god damn it, Amanda… oh god damn it all.

Currently doing it for me..

I know all about your new man, your new, older, old man

And I heard that he’s married, ah, you be careful, Amanda

Yeah I found a new friend too, and yeah, she’s pretty and she’s small

But god damn it, Amanda… oh god damn it all.

If I’m talking to you, Mister, then you best be writing down what I say

Seems like everywhere I look at the moment, I see posters and tweets asking me to vote for our very own Guildhall as small venue of the year. I can’t be arsed to vote in things like this of course, but if I could I wouldn’t be voting for the Guildhall, love it though I do. My favourite small venue is, without doubt, Thekla.

Monday night was still only my third visit to Thekla, but it’s definitely one of the coolest places I’ve been to for music. I like the fact it’s a boat, I like the tiny little balcony that’s barely six feet above the main floor. I like the sound and the clumsily decorated industrial walls and pipes. It’s all very functional, but someone, somewhere is booking all the right bands there. If it was on my doorstep, I’d be there every night…

Phosphorescent

This night it was Alabama’s finest troupe of rednecks, Mathew Houck and the latest incarnation of Phosphorescent. I bought Pride a while ago and recently bought the new record but found it hard to link the two, very different pieces; so I was intrigued to see how the two sounds worked.

I needn’t have worried. Strolling loose-limbed onto the stage looking like a 21st century Flying Burritos they ran through 12 slices of bluesy country that had me grinning inanely for an hour and a half from start to finish. They played most of this year’s Here’s to Taking it Easy, played a few from Pride and few earlier songs I hadn’t heard. One of the encores was aNickCave song I didn’t know, called “Right Now I’m a-Roaming”. It was fine stuff, with Houck’s soul-filled vocals and languorous guitar style accompanied by a nice line in finger pointing and languid gesticulating. His Taking It Easy Band were great too; from the showy keyboard work of Scott Stapleton to the accomplished beardy guitar of Jesse Anderson Ainslie, they played an effortless seventies-inspired backdrop to Hauk’s lyrics. They clearly listen to a lot of Little Feat, the Allmans, Gram Parsons…

You may have detected a certain impatience over the last few posts with my old iRiver bootlegging set up. Well the old feller’s now Taking It Easy in a home for senile gadgets and has been replaced by a spanking new Zoom H1, which made its debut on Monday, and I’m glad to say had a good start. I recorded the whole set and it’s come out pretty well, doing some justice to a stonking set.

It’s Hard to be Humble (when you’re from Alabama)

Mermaid Parade

I am not a Heel / Wolves

Right Now I’m a-Roaming

Phosphorescent, Thekla, May ’11, p1

Phosphorescent Thekla, May ’11, p2,

A great evening, one of the best this year…

Don’t Break the heart that Needs You

Lord have mercy!

A very, very nice evening in Bristol last night…

I’ve been casting impatient looks up at a pair of Laura Cantrell tickets pinned to our notice board for a while now; but when it came to it, what with Easter, Royal Weddings and a raft of bank holidays and long weekends, the awaited day came on me suddenly. Aside from a hastily assembled mix tape for the journey down, I hadn’t really done any catching up or re-listening. But in the end, that all worked in my favour, and I came to the evening with no expectations or preconceptions.

St Bonaventure’s is a strange place – less a gig venue and more a community centre, with plastic chairs and upholstered arm chairs, and a tiny stage at little more than floor level. On the plus side, there were whole teams of friendly volunteers around the place (I counted eight behind the bar at one point…).

And Laura Cantrell blended into the friendly, unassuming environment as if she’d been playing there for weeks. With a couple of multi-skilled helpers (whose names escaped me, I’m afraid to say – they were excellent) on guitar, mandolin and Hawaiian guitar, she ran through a whole bunch of 16 songs and chatted easily between each one. Not The Tremblin’ Kind was well represented; there were three songs from the new Kitty Wells Dresses record and a couple of completely new songs. It was all delightful stuff- sung and performed with the skill, restraint and class her catalogue deserves. I beamed like a fool throughout…

My retirement age recording device did me proud and I’ve caught the whole lot. I’ll post a few highlights here, and a zipped file of the rest.

Don’t Break the Heart (live)

Nothing Came Easy but the Tears (live)

Churches off the Interstate (live)

Not the Tremblin’ Kind (live)

Laura Cantrell @ St Bonaventure’s, May ‘11

A trip to the Laura Cantrell website reveals an extraordinarily generous 19 (that’s nineteen) free tracks for download. She also mentioned a project she’s involved with called Radio Free Song Club where there are further downloads of new songs available.

A lovely evening…

Busy making merries, and picking wild mountain berries

Didn’t realise I’d how much been missing Lambchop, until I heard Kurt’s resigned tones on this. Good to know he’s been keeping himself busy.

This is a great sounding record, songs of sadness, regret and cheating, all classic country covers, and most of them duets with Cortnay Tisdale. Fantastic stuff.

And while we’re at it, here’s the original, “Picking Wild Mountain Berries by Conwat Twitty and Loretta Lynn.

[Watch out for the pedal steel guitarist, complete with cast on his arm,”Hee Haw” jauntily stenciled into it]

You come from up country, I can tell ‘cause you wear your shirt, collar, hat in a different way

I’ve got a few things to write about over the next few days – this month’s Emusic haul has been fruitful…

The Radar Brothers

The Radar Brothers are from LA, do not appear to involve any brothers at all (crazy, huh?) and are chiefly the vehicle of guitarist Jim Putnam. They have a strong alt country feel to them, all smoky vocals, slow punchy guitars and sweet harmonies. It’s no surprise to me to learn that they’ve just finished supporting Teenage Fanclub on their American tour – they could be some sort of rhythm buddies in truth.

Now, I’m not usually first person onto a new band (and not this time either), but even by my standards, I’m pretty slow on the uptake here. This years’ LP Illustrated Garden is actually their sixth one, the first having been released fourteen years ago…  There was some sort of hiatus and regrouping, which you can read about here on the Merge site (You can also get three mp3s there from older records…).

Reading some of the criticism of the new record over the months, a regular theme seems to be that all the songs sound the same. I’m not fussed about that at all – far too many artists feel they’ve got to “evolve” and forget what it was that they did well in the first place.

I’m quite looking forward to working backwards through this catalogue…

Do this for me one last time, I promise I will keep my clothes on, never ask you again

Oh Lord.

I feel like some sort of elaborate but cruel time trick has been played on me (probably involving Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd). I refuse to believe it’s been almost a month since I last post.

Lordy…

I’ve not been idle in this time though, readers, (well, clearly I have, but…) a lot of music has been listened to and slow progress has been made on a side project I shall be talking about another time.

Probably the best album I’ve bought recently is this one by a Montreal band called Valleys.

Valleys

This lot do a rather nice line in dreamy, Americana-styled pop which is rather more-ish. Lots of pedal effects and languid banjo-esque stringèd instruments, the sort of things that carry my heart away with much too much ease. But there’s also keening vocals and lyrics that I find quite touching.

Signed to Semprini Records, they have an album out which is about a year old, called Sometimes Water Kills People, and I believe there’s an EP out in the next few weeks which I shall be looking out for.

There’s not a lot out there to give you on Valleys, a few not really legal mp3s and (incredibly) just about nothing on YouTube (some sort of record), so I’m going to put up a track originally hosted by now-defunct blog Hero Hill, called “Heavy Dreamer” and my favourite track off Sometimes Water Kills People, Tan Lines. Heady stuff.

Heavy Dreamer

Tan Lines

Seems a shame there’s not more noise about this band over the airwaves. The randomness of it all…

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