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Previous Journal Entries

"The cords of all link back...strandentwining cable...

"Hello...put me on to Edenville... aleph, alpha: nought, nought, one"


An explanation

Just in case anyone is wondering about the breaking of radio silence...

Braden Gates' new album is certainly worth talking about, plus the talented young man was kind enough to send a CD to me.

Otherwise, I haven't heard or seen anything new or transformational since I lasted posted here. In the absence of new discoveries, I can recommend some strong and enjoyable records from folk I already knew had it in them - such as Hiss Golden Messenger's Lateness of Dancers, Steve Gunn's Way Out Weather and Robert Plant's Lullaby & The Ceaseless Roar.

In that category,Thurston Moore's The Best Day deserves special mention for housing some strong and varied music in a lovely sleeve. 

There have been some excellent archive releases too, notably Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's 1974 boxset and Paradise of Bachelors' repressings of early 70s Mike Cooper albums. And, of course, 6 CDs' worth of the Complete Basement Tapes will land with a substantial thud on Dylan fans' doormats tomorrow...

Not much on the gig front to report: Neil Young excellent for tens of thousands in Hyde Park, Harry Manx similar for tens in a Brighton pub. James Taylor doing his thing with commitment and grace, for those whose boats he floats...

Onward and upward.


Braden Gates: Whyte Avenue Revisited

The assured, level gaze with which Braden Gates meets the camera on the cover of his second album was definitely reminding me of something and I went flicking through the record racks. My first thought was Jesse Winchester, facing the world down on his first record - and that is a pretty good, and not inappropriate, pedigree for this fine young singer-songwriter.

Then I was reflecting on how rooted in place much of Braden's writing is - you can often see and hear, and occasionally smell, his stomping ground in Old Strathcona, Edmonton's art-and-nightlife-and-lowlife quarter. (All the best towns have one of those - check out The Hold Steady's 'The Sweet Part Of The City' if you need further directions.) I was looking at the picture of the Commercial Hotel on the CD and visualising the panhandler Gates was bringing to life in a song:

Old man Jason Lee

On the corner of Whyte and 103

Says 'Hey Braden, you got a buck

And an extra smoke for me?'

and I was definitely revisiting Whyte Avenue, Old Strathcona's main drag. So then I pulled out Dylan's Highway 61 and, yes, there's definitely some shared lineage in that stare and the set of their jaws.

Gates has enough talent and potential to make these sorts of comparisons more than fanciful. He's made real progress since his first release, the engaging Break It To Me Gently. While that was essentially a solo recording, the new one, Ferris Wheel, adds friends on bass, piano and harmonica, as well as backing vocals. Importantly, Braden has also overdubbed fiddle on some tracks. Live, his songs are either guitar or (less frequently) fiddle based and it's great to be able to hear the two together. He's a very accomplished picker but, for me, his fiddle playing is in another class, with an attack and verve that raises a song's energy level as soon as his bow bounces on the strings. There are a couple of essentially live fiddle songs on the new record, 'Bound To Win' and the title track, with Braden keeping a stompboard rhythm under pizzicato verses and bowed breaks - very much in the manner of the wonderful 'Gator's Gym Girl' on the first album. They work well, but there is only so much you can do with that format. So it is nice to have the variation of a violin twining around other instruments on songs like 'Holding On' and 'Ocean Blue'.

 I'd heard 'Life's A Picture' live last year, introduced with a wry account of the meeting with the drifter who inspired it. Gates risks putting that spoken story to music and I am happy to say that 'The Story Of Chicago Bob' comes off well and stands up to repeated listening.

But for me, the stand-out song of this strong set is the final one, 'Song For Casper'. Inspired by a friend being arrested for public intoxication, it starts from a description of the party life they are leading but is somehow undercut simultaneously with melancholy, wistfulness and hope. The repeated hookline

now is the time to be free

is strangely moving, combining an appreciation of the transient here-and-now with a yearning for something else. On the record, the arrangement is particularly fine, with Ken Stead's piano adding strongly to the emotional heft in combination with Braden's fiddle.

Some nights you'll end up wasted

Some nights you'll end up bruised

Some nights you'll end up lonely

Just howling at the moon.

It works pretty well as a solo performance too, as you can see here:


All in all, a strong recommendation for Braden Gates and for Ferris Wheel. You can download or order CDs from Braden's Bandcamp page.


Eden off the line

It's coming up to 4 years since I launched this site and now, having taken on some new commitments elsewhere, I've decided that it's time to take a break.

I've said most of the things I wanted to say when I started and there's clearly no shortage of music criticism available elsewhere. So I'll shut up for a bit.

Many thanks to everyone who has visited, read and commented so far - it has been fun.

Au revoir.


Guest review: A Tale Of Two Shows

By popular request, legendary guest reviewer Rob Zanders is back with an account of two rather different blues shows. You can read it here.


New music isn't everything

Taking a break from being sniffy about 2014's new releases, I'm knocked out by the first vinyl outing for Lucinda Williams' 1998 classic Car Wheels On A Gravel Road.

I find I don't make enough time regularly to listen to the really great records. And this one definitely is great. Strong songs, spot-on arrangements and sympathetic playing, and Lucinda in consistently wonderful voice.

I could single out virtually any of the songs on it, but take a listen to the spare lyricism and lazy erotic charge of the opener, 'Right In Time'.

Well done to Music On Vinyl for a clear and solid pressing: every home should have one.