Mike Scott – was the singer in The Waterboys (see W), and I have just one solo album of his; which is strange, as it really is great. I will make a note to myself to keep an eye out for him. Bring ‘Em All In – 1995 is a pleasure to listen to – a classic singer-songwriter, mostly acoustic and fabulous songs – and oh, that voice, full of emotion and a lilting Scottish (almost Irish) accent. Best songs – the title song, ‘Edinburgh Castle’ and ‘A Long Way To the Light’ – but really not a bad song on this record.
Scritti Politti – I have Louise to thank for this record, which she played almost constantly – and what a record; Songs To Remember 1982 was such a different and remarkably clever album; almost too clever for the music critics who struggled to pigeon-hole them. They came out of the late punk scene but leaned more towards pop and what would become indie. Lead singer and songwriter Green Gartside was truly an intellectual and littered his songs with references too obscure for more to fathom – but somehow they worked. This was their debut album, delayed for a year because he had collapsed on stage and needed to recuperate. Well, all the songs on this record are great, I cannot help singing along to them. Fave songs – ‘Assylums In Jerusalem’, ‘Lions After Slumber’ and ‘Rock-A-Boy Blue’. They made a couple of later albums but I have never really been tempted.
Scouting For Girls – despite the ambiguity of their name, I quite like this recent Indie group. A nice positive vibe, slightly reminiscent of early Squeeze (see S). They had a minor hit with ‘She’s So Lovely’ and I like opener ‘Keep On Walking’ and closer ‘James Bond’ with it’s hidden ode to Micheala Strachan. But sometimes just one album is enough….
Seasick Steve – was a strange phenomenon who popped up a few years ago and was a minor sensation….a completely unreformed old bluesman, hillbilly who played on homemade guitars – or maybe not, but who cares – he was quite a character. He interspersed his songs with a narrative about surviving on handouts and riding trains etc;. First up is the cleverly titled I Started Out With Nothing And I Still Got Most Of It Left (2008) – This was his breakthrough album I think, and the first one I got. It was very novel at the time, and I like the roughly mixed raw sound of the blues and mostly underproduced single guitar sound, his voice as rough as gravel on sandpaper he seemed very different. Best songs – the title track, ‘Happy Man’ and the long mostly spoken ‘My Youth’ – however, these long monologues pall a bit the more you hear them. I then went back and bought his debut Cheap (2004). Well – not so different really – a bit grungier maybe. And having listened twice, I can’t really pick out any favourite tracks. Much the same must be said about his next album Dog House Music (2006). Not that there is anything wrong with it, it just doesn’t grab me. I haven’t kept up with him since.
The Senators – (not to be confused with an American band of the same name) were a duo from Scotland who emerged in early 80’s. I discovered them via a couple of CD singles. I have 3 albumsand they are excellent…actually that was all they ever recorded. I don’t know much about them, they aren’t on Wikipedia. As far as I can make out they were two vocalists who sang on most of the self-written songs – they may have been Scottish. They have an uncluttered sound where the voices are clear and you can hear every word. Anyway, I really liked them, though they only made 3 albums before calling it a day. Welcome to our World (1988) was their first. A great collection of songs; best are ‘One More Chance’, ‘Little Italy’ and ‘Love and Small Talk’. Their second was Hopes and Bodies (1990); the same template – delicate and catchy songs beautifully sung – best are ‘Good Morning World’, ‘Crying Wolf’ and an excellent cover of Van Morrison’s ‘Brown Eyed Girl’. Their final album Lovely was released in 1992 – again the songs are great, if anything a touch sadder – best are ‘Forty Nights’, ‘Hosing Down The Strand’ and ‘Another Love Song’. Hard to know why some bands are successful and others are not. A pity, as I believe these boys had real talent, but then – when was talent the main determinant.
September Songs – The Music Of Kurt Weill. A secret passion of mine, these are songs from the Thirties and Forties which many musicians have loved ad much as I have. This collection was produced by Hal Wilner in 1997 and featured Nick Cave, Sting and many more and Elvis Costello among others. Some brilliant interpretations and a thoroughly enjoyable listen – if only for some.
Ron Sexsmith – unusual name, unusual singer – but maybe not so unusual. A distinctive voice and style, but at times the yearning sounds like whining. Only one album – Boy Blue – sometime in the naughties…I quite like it, but then again nothing special really.
Ed Sheeran – and right up to date – well, almost. Just the one album (so far) – X – (2014). Now, I like his voice and his style and his apparent ability to mix genres old and new….but….somehow I don’t quite buy the hype; that he is the new genius on the block for a start. When you even dare compare his musical progress to anyone from the Sixties or Seventies or even Eighties, come to that…well, of course there is no comparison….and probably never could be. And that is for one simple reason. Music meant something then, it was an identifier, it was our inspiration, it was the dominant cultural driver. Now it is simply a background noise for adverts or computer games. Not that there is not incredible talent – it is just that the whole industry, the scene, the genre has become tired. And maybe after all – all the best songs have already been written. Anyway, back to Ed; a very pleasant record, but it doesn’t make me go wow, as The Beatles or Dylan or Leonard or Joni or Neil or bowie or Elton…..or a hundred others did. Maybe I am just old and cynical, but I will continue dipping my toe in today’s music – only to return hotfoot to the music I love the best.