Back in June last year I wrote a blog about what has influenced my musical taste through the years. This was accompanied by a radio show on 16 June where I played tracks from a number of artists who have been important to me and helped open my ears to a whole range of other music that I may not otherwise have stumbled upon.
With the stop-start, probably more stop to be honest, of last year with covid-19 I didn’t ever get to do that second show. So this is what I would have played.
Pierce Pettis Leonardo from Great Big World (2004 Compass Records. I think I must have first heard Pierce’s music on Bob Harris’s much-missed Saturday night show. Subsequently I heard him play at The Stables in Wavendon near Milton Keynes, a venue at which I’ve enjoyed many gigs over the years. Lots of Pierce’s songs to choose from but this one is a perennial favourite.
I got to subsequently interview Pierce in the late evening/early hours of the morning at The Musician in Leicester along with another great Irish singer songwriter Brian Houston.
Al Stewart Time Passages from Rhymes in Rooms – live (1992 EMI Records. I originally heard this on the Time Passages album but having seen Al play live many times I came to prefer this acoustic version that became part of his repertoire and found it’s way onto the Rhymes in Rooms album which also features Peter White.
Damon Albarn and Mali musicians Spoons from Mali Music (2002 Honest Jon’s Records). I came to really enjoy world music as it’s become known often discovering new artists via the eclectic booking policy of the Cambridge Folk Festival which had a very broad notion of folk for which I was very grateful. The album I found a real game changer was the Mali Music album and I’d also say Toumani Diabate came into this category too. Reflecting on playlists over more recent years I think I need to consider including more world music on the show again.
John Martyn Fine lines from Inside Out (1973 Island Records). I couldn’t not include a John Martyn song and this is the one I always come back to. I saw him play at the Cambridge Corn Exchange in his later years.
Mary Chapin Carpenter Stones in the road from Stones in the road (1994 Sony Music). It was through Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Come On, Come On album that I first encountered her music. It’s a good album without doubt however it has been the records that followed it, especially Stones in the Road that made a big impression on me. The appeal of her music has stayed with me and grown with her latest The Dirt and the Stars remaining one of my favourite releases of 2020.
Steve Earle John Walker’s Blues from Jerusalem (2002 Warner Brothers). As I mentioned in my earlier blog post I came upon the music of Steve Earle through the new country concept. Steve was never really part of that to be honest which is most likely one of the reasons I liked him, but for some inexplicable reason he was categorised at the time as being new country! I’ve selected one song that has been an influence and this is it.
Eric Bibb Kokomo from Painting signs (2004 Manhaton). I saw Eric Bibb, along with the equally superb contemporary bluesman Keb Mo, on the stage of the Cambridge Folk Festival a number of times and developed a great liking for his music. This is so good that I used it on a promotional ident for my show that was played on HFM for years.
Robert Cray Band Right next door (because of me) from Heavy Picks: best of (1999 Mercury Records). I first heard this track on the evening show on the independent local radio station in my area in the days when presenters had an influence on the music they played. I’ll stop there as that’s a whole other blog (and soapbox!)
Richard Thompson You don’t say from Across a crowded room (1985 Polydor Records). Richard Thompson has become one of my all-time favourite artists yet it was on the same show I discovered Robert Cray that I first heard RT’s music. In fact the presenter was playing a segue of great guitarists and segued Robert Cray and Richard Thompson and it just sounded perfect to me.
Loudon Wainwright III Sometimes I forget from History (1992 Virgin Records). I’ve seen Loudon Wainwright III play live on festival stages and venues through the years I hope to be able to do this again at some point! The album of his that served as my entry point to his music though was History. Think it was the song Men from that album or may have been Talking New Bob Dylan Blues. It’s a truly superb album. Yet if I were to select one song I find myself going back to again and again it’s Sometimes I forget. Possibly one of the finest songs about loss that I’ve heard.
Martha Tilston Space from Bimbling (2004 Squiggly Records). It was a Saturday night if I remember correctly at Broadstairs Folk Week. I alway liked to book tickets for artists that were new to me and Martha I hadn’t come across before. I was so glad I booked those tickets and have followed her musical escapades ever since.
Linda Ronstadt Talk to me of Mendocino from Get Closer (1982 Elektra/Asylum Records). Linda Ronstadt just has a fantastic voice. She also has a knack of choosing excellent songs to record on her albums. I love the original of this from Kate and Anna McGarrigle however Linda’s version is my favourite take on this beautiful song.
Emmylou Harris Diamonds (are a girl’s best friend) from White Shoes (1983 Warner Brothers. Of course Linda Ronstadt has recorded with Emmylou Harris and the Trio albums with Dolly Parton. They are wonderful too and well worth checking out. The first song I heard from Emmylou though was this cover of a song that was popularised by Marilyn Monroe. I really like the albums that came before this one and those that have followed, and hopefully more to come. But Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend is the one song I keep returning to again and again.
Nick Drake Cello Song from Five leaves left (1970 Island Records). Yep, he had to be in there. It may be predictable that he is. I think it may have been the Heaven is a wild flower compilation that led me to his music.
The Be Good Tanyas Light enough to travel from Blue Horse (2001 Nettwerk). I seem to recall it was a combination of the Cambridge Folk Festival and Bob Harris who introduced me to The Be Good Tanyas. I’ve played this on the radio a few times over the years. I love the harmonies on this song and it’s something of an ear worm too.
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band & Bruce Hornsby The Valley Road from Will the circle be unbroken Vol 2 (1989 Universal Records). I’ve always liked Bruce Hornsby and his most recent album recorded with Justin Vernon (Bon Iver) is incredibly good and quite different. I’d been aware of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band but not really delved into their catalogue until I heard the Will the circle be unbroken Vol 2 record and particularly this Bruce Hornsby song done differently.
Phil Burdett and the New World Troubadours Change the meaning from Diesel Poems (1993 Demon Records). It must have been circa 1991/1992? I was at the Derngate Theatre in Northampton to see Judie Tzuke, or Judie Tu-Zuke who I’d once heard her referred to on a radio show! I didn’t realise there would be a support act. A man comes wandering onto the stage with a guitar and a can of Old Jamaica ginger beer. I immediately thought, great taste in ginger beer. And then he started to play. A bluesy voice, kind of Tom Waits and Van Morrison by way of the Basildon delta! I loved it. I really wanted to buy an album but it took a while for Phil Burdett to get a record deal, which led to the Diesel Poems album. Now Judie Tzuke was great too, but I knew I liked her music. Phil however was however a revelation, the real highlight of the evening. I’ve continued to play his music ever since.
Van Morrison A sense of wonder from A Sense of Wonder (1984 Exile Productions). I suspect Phil Burdett has Van Morrison albums in his collection. The first one I had was probably Avalon Sunset and then maybe Enlightenment. In fact I saw him play again at the Derngate in Northampton and I remember lots of songs from Enlightenment. What can I say, musically a great gig. Atmosphere wise and artist engagement with the audience/? Hmm, think I’ll pass on that.
John Prine Lake Marie from Lost dogs and mixed blessings (1995 Oh Boy Records). I think it was the Cambridge Festival where I first heard John Prine. I think I was intrigued to listen to his music after Loudon Wainwright in his song Talking New Bob Dylan Blues referred to himself, JP and Springsteen being marketed as ‘new Bob Dylans’. Lots of albums to choose from but it’s Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings that always has a great appeal to me.
The Roches Losing True from Keep on Doing (1979 Warner Brothers Records). I really like the vocal harmonies of the Roches. Now I could have equally opted for Hammond Song and almost did. Losing True though was the first song from The Roches I listened to so if push comes to shove that has to be the one I go for.
Leonard Cohen First We Take Manhattan from I’m Your Man (1988 Sony Music). I think Leonard Cohen is a wonderful songwriter. I like his early albums right though to his final record. I do though like the sound of his voice from the late 70’s onwards perhaps better than his earlier years. I’m Your Man was the first one I bought and I’ve loved it ever since. Could have equally gone for Tower of Song or the album’s title track.