There was too much work and not enough writing, I fear.
October will bring a wonderful crop of live gigs, with Ahab, Coal Porters, Tunng, Roy Harper and Black Twig Pickers already booked, so I need to do a bit of catching up before that gets underway.
There have been some very interesting records released in the last few weeks...
I'm warming up for Roy Harper's concert at the Royal Festival Hall in the best possible way: listening to his glorious new album Man And Myth. One usually has to make some allowances with a seventy-year-old hero's new releases, but there's absolutely no need here. Roy's singing is virtually indistinguishable from his classic seventies records and the writing, arrangements and playing all have a real creativity and vigour. He even maintains his tradition of working with some amazing lead guitarists – Jimmy Page, Dave Gilmour and Chris Spedding amongst them – by adding Pete Townsend to the roster.
Fire, flow and drive from one of the real greats - who I last saw on 6 July 1975 at Blackpool FC's ground, touring the wonderful HQ album with Kevin Coyne and Steeleye Span sharing the bill. I feel old now, even if Roy doesn't.
Fighting for listening time with Roy just now is Bill Callahan's latest, Dream River. It took me a while to get Bill - my daughter was a huge Smog fan but I was rather dismissive, in that annoyingly superior paternal sort of way. 2009's Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle was the turning point for me. I still sometimes think he pushes too hard in avoiding normal song structures and seeking to sound conversational, but then I tune in properly to what he's doing and it really works.
The first track on the new album, 'Sing', is a fine case in point – beautifully textured violin and electric guitar against emotional-when-you're-least-expecting-it vocal delivery, in classic Callahan style:
The only words I've said today are beer and thank you
Beer... Thank you... Beer... Thank you
In contrast, I'm finding Cloud Control's long-awaited second album, Dream Cave, pretty disappointing so far. I loved the lift and life and West Coast echoes of 2010's Bliss Release and wasn't expecting the poppier approach of its successor. There's an odd disco sound at times and most of the songs just haven't grabbed me yet. Of course it's not their fault that they haven't met my particular expectations. I'll keep trying, because their harmonies and musicianship clearly haven't gone away, and 'Moon Rabbit' at least has something about it... Watch this space for further updates.
Final quick plaudits for a couple of rather different record labels:
- well done to Music On Vinyl for a vinyl re-release of Daniel Lanois's lovely second solo album, For The Beauty Of Wynona. A well-pressed, heavyweight version in its striking original sleeve, which I think was censored in North America first time round. This is one of those early nineties albums released when the CD format had conquered most of the western world and just a few vinyl copies trickled out in Germany which now fetch silly prices on eBay. A good honest repress has to be the sensible alternative;
- and congratulations yet again to the splendid Art Is Hard for another aesthetic triumph. They chose to mark Cassette Store Day (yes, I know, just go with it...) with a twin-tape retrospective compilation, Bleed In Gold, packed in a golden tobacco tin and limited to 100 numbered copies. Collectable or what? And it features another appearance for Gum's wondrous Cherryade. Well done, chaps: my copy is definitely not for sale.