Saturday, June 30, 2012

Alejandro Escovedo & The Sensitive Boys, Kelly's, Galway, 29/06/12

Man, what a gig!

I've just come in the door from the most raucous and raw rock 'n'roll gig I've been to in a long time. Alejandro Escovedo & The Sensitive Boys absolutely tore it up tonight. I'm a very recent convert to this guy's work, so most of the songs I heard were unfamiliar - but they were so well played, so assured, that I'm mad to hear them again.

Escovedo led his band through a set that took in all the vistas that loud guitar music has to offer. Hey, pull over! It's the blues! Look out the window, it's punk. Stop the car, it's....(screech this)... rawwwwwwwwk 'n' rollllllll!

Lyrics that spoke of heartworn highways, lives lived - but I can't quote them 'cos, like I said, I've just heard them. But they'll be living in my headphones tomorrow. A highpoint of the set (though the show was a series of consecutive ones) came when Alejandro played Sensitive Boys, a song he wrote for his brother. This melancholic tune held the room, and then Escovedo tore into a ripping number that most have put the drumkit in danger. It was the hallmark of a player who understands the dynamic of a gig - you can see why Springsteen is a fan.

Alejandro invited two members from support band The Mighty Stef (who played a great show) to join The Sensitive Boys for a run through Waiting For My Man. With The Velvet Underground acknowledged, they then launched into The Stones' Beast Of Burden. Escovedo was tipping his hat to the music that inspires him, but this was no nostalgic finale.

Rock 'n' roll is a pure, visceral thing, where the glorious din of the present trumps the past. Every time. Turn it up, Alejandro. Long may you run.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cover Me, Day Seven : Love Is A Stranger - Martha Wainwright

Some head-scratching has been done for the final day of Cover Me.  I wanted to pick something that's a bit of craic, that gets the toe tapping. So Lucinda Williams singing a Greg Brown song didn't make the cut, as brilliant as it is. The same goes for Elbow's version of Running To Stand Still - it'd be like saying 'thanks for reading the blog, here's a lovely song about heroin, wah-hey!'

Instead, I've gone with Martha Wainwright's giddy take on a Eurythmics classic. Martha comes from a family of gifted songwriters who sometimes write about each other in eviscerating but always brilliant ways. They are also interpretive singers of some note. Rufus recorded a version of Hallelujah for a little-seen art-house film called Shrek. Martha Wainwright joined Rufus and their parents for a sublime version of Irving Berlin's What'll I Do. It appears on an album called The McGarrigle Hour that's well worth hunting down.

And then there's Martha Wainwright's suite of Edith Piaf songs - what a voice! I was lucky enough to see her sing a few of them at a show in Sligo, accompanied by just her husband on piano and bass. An amazing performer - if Martha's ever in your town, don't miss her.

This version of Love Is A Stranger appears at the end of Wainwright's second album  I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too - surely a contender for best album titles. It's the work of a fan who just so happens to have vocal chords to match Annie Lennox. A tune to turn way up, to lep around the room to, to blast out your car stereo. Whatever you're doing, enjoy this one.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Cover Me, Day Six : Once In A Lifetime - Kermit The Frog

The Muppets have really excellent taste in music. Blondie tore through One Way Or Another on the show, and Johnny Cash also made a memorable appearance. The Man in Black is smiling throughout, he looks like he's about to burst out laughing. Then there was the appearance Joan Baez made, singing a song by The Band that just looked like a proper session.

But I'm going with the frog. Kermit's take on Once In A Lifetime graced The Muppets Tonight, which ran during the nineties. It had me in knots and now forms the basis for my so-so impression of Ms.Piggy's paramour.  He seems to be freaked out by lines like 'this is not my beautiful wife' and 'well, how did I get here?' Or maybe I'm reading too much into it.

Can a talking frog have an existential crisis?

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Cover Me, Day Five : You Will Miss Me When I Burn - Soulsavers

Mark Lanegan is one of my favourite singers. His voice sounds like it was carved out of a cliff face, it's all rough edges and resilience. I first heard him sing on the Screaming Trees album Dust. That band imploded but in college a friend of mine gave me a copy of Whiskey For The Holy Ghost, Lanegan's second solo album. This song makes me think of walking on the Dyke Road, Galway with Lough Corrib to my right.

In the years since, Lanegan has kept himself busy, releasing more solo albums and becoming the go-to guy for bands who want to add a bit of mystique and edgy blues-ness to their music. He's appeared on several Queen Of The Stone Age albums and has also worked with UNKLE.  The two albums he made with Isobel Campbell are essential; have a listen to this gem, then go from there.

I first heard Soulsavers' version of You Will Miss Me When I Burn when I was driving out the Curragh Line. It was on Dave Couse's Today FM show (he picks some great stuff) and I would've pulled over, only that particular road out of Galway has no hard shoulder.

It's simply a song that knocks me out. Lyrically, it's very bleak but the music and Lanegan's voice combine to make, I think, a thing of beauty. There's real power in this singing, real life. You might only play it once in a while, but it'll always make an impact.

What do ye make of it?

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Cover Me, Day Four : Gimme Shelter - Merry Clayton

Prometheus didn't really float my boat, but the rest of the evening did. So the blog may a little short this evening - but there'll be no compromise with the quality of the choons!

This isn't a cover so much as a singer reclaiming a song she helped to define. Merry Clayton's incendiary vocal on Gimme Shelter is a revelation every time you hear it. You can listen to the vocals isolated here - god bless the internet. The part where Clayton's voice soars comes at 2:49.

Clayton's own version shows her range as a singer. It's the type of song I could imagine hearing at Shake in Galway years ago, a night of soul and hip hop. Turn this one way up, it's an absolute belter.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Cover Me, Day Four : Danny Says - Tom Waits

One day, when I was living in Dominick Street, my friend and flatmate Stevie came in the door. Tom Wait's Blue Valentine was playing. Stevie looked from the stereo to me, and back again. He looked concerned. 'Jimi,' he said. ' For fuck's sake - it's July!'

Which brings me to today's cover. The Ramones' original is upbeat, with its bright guitar sounds and catchy 'oh-oh' chorus. The lyrics, though, reveal Joey Ramone's weariness with life on the road, and Waits' version emphasises this sentiment. It sounds like he's missing home too, especially when he sings 'it ain't Christmas if there ain't no snow.'

Hold on! Snow? Jimi - it's June!

Seasons aside, this is a lovely, sparse cover. It's the work of a Ramones' fan, someone who sees past the 'hey-ho-let's-go' to a band who wrote great songs.