Mrs Mackerel has decided to take a short sabbatical and invite some friends, relatives and countrywomen to takeover her Friday night post, a Friday routine as regular in this household as a G&T with lime, or pizza Margherita for the sprats.
And a sprat it is, that takes control of the keyboard in this first week.
So it is with great honour that I welcome myself on board TEAM MAD MACKEREL (forget the teams Edward or Jacob!)! I am introducing myself as the one and only Sprat 2! The number, by the way, has NOTHING to do with the ranking of greatness (as it is unfair to Sprats 1 and 3)!
I love music (duh, that’s why I’m here), especially; First Aid Kit, We are Augustines and the soundtrack to Bugsy Malone. Unrelated music things that I love are sport (mostly cricket) and reading.
So, now you know about me, read about what I learnt this week.
After two and a half weeks at my Secondary School, I have learnt that I have inherited MM’s non-existent skill in woodwork. I found this out by my awesome powers of deduction, and these three facts:
1. I have chiselled my way through the one side of my to-be box…
2. And sawed my way through the other
3. Finally, I’ve been so slow and made so many mistakes, I’m now about 5 steps behind everyone else.
Ever since I knew Wooden Wand was touring our little island again I have been in a state of high anticipation… mixed in with a sizeable chunk of excitement. In February 2011, Dr Roddy and myself were lucky enough to interview and have a couple of ‘sharpeners’ with James Jackson Toth in York and witnessed an excellent show. So hopes were high for his appearance at the Café Oto in Hackney with support from Dead Rat Orchestra and Duke Garwood.
As the rest of the mackerel shoal will confirm I am rarely late for anything… okay I mean I’m late for everything and I entered the venue with new recruit MisSardine (a sardine amongst friendly mackerel) to find Dead Rat Orchestra already on stage. Greeting Dr Roddy and his partner in crime Isla White (our hello’s being louder than the music, sorry DRO!) we soon settled down with bottles of the fearfully expensive Pale Ale. Luckily I don’t currently have a mortgage so was able to quickly take one out via the mobile to allow me to purchase a few pints.
It became apparent very quickly I should have skipped the shower and arrived earlier because Dead Rat Orchestra were breathtakingly original and I would have loved to see their entire set. Catching the second half of their inimitable style of abstract folk; it culminated in the three members languidly walking off stage in to the centre of the venue with a (sizeable!) log and hand axes glinting off the lights. As they hammered a hypnotic beat off the aforementioned log one lone voice sang of love, deceit and betrayal. It reminded me of the beautifully evocative Wicker Man soundtrack by the legendary Paul Giovanni – high praise indeed. For its sheer originality and stunning visual impact I was mightily impressed. They play Oxford on the 14th July and I suspect I will be leaving the (always hugely enjoyable) Charlbury Beer Festival early to catch them in full flight.
Following this (which I guess wasn’t easy) we had Duke Garwood’s skilful guitar work and melancholy lyrics setting the scene for the night’s main event which we were looking forward to more than David Cameron going to a ‘country supper’.
It was time for the man from Kentucky. Now we have been championing Mr Wand for some considerable time, his music simultaneously thoughtful and unsettling while casting shards of light on our darker impulses and fears. Way too modest to be comfortable with comparisons of names spoken in hushed tones (and I agree, so I’d be doing the man a great disservice to mention any now…) Wooden Wand simply deserves to be taken for what he is; a true one off artist with a gift for melodies and lyrics that had the assemblage lapping up his crooked vista on life.
Sat in the middle of the stage with guitar (and drink close to hand) he started with a new one Strangers Bar, inspired by Intervention the infamous US television show (you need to see it to believe it!). Following that with Mother Midnight before mixing in old favourite Uncle Bill, he chatted to the audience between songs with typical candour.
Southern Colorado Song (about the sibling Dougherty gang that were chased across the US) is mesmerising. DNR Waltz equally as good (and ‘another’ one of my personal favourites) he easily flits between old and new material with a smooth and assured hand.
We are treated to Days This Long and Nobody’s Home before he finishes with Death Seat’sBobby (opening line, ‘He painted his house the colour of skin, so if the situation called for it he could blend in’).
The encore included Creature Of Habit from Born Bad, which delighted Dr Roddy and myself being an old favourite of ours. As I say the set was a brilliant mix of old and new… Enough of the old material to go ‘yesssss’ in your own head when familiar bars start (Uncle Bill had me instinctively pumping my fist like a part brained cretin), while the new stuff seemed to have an instant reassurance of quality without sounding samey or derivative at all (a difficult trick to pull off and yes I have just used the word samey in a review…)
I should also mention a thank you to the lady who got WW another drink so he didn’t have to leave when the calls for the encore started. Seemingly lacking a backstage area (?) meant there was no need for him to stand at the side of the stage in full view while the crowd called for more, which would have been ‘kinda embarrassing’ as he put it. Instead he could sup his freshly topped up drink and just carry on.
A fitting finale and with the audience fully sated Dr Roddy and myself managed to elbow our way through the throng to say hello and get the picture attached to this review (grinning like Cheshire cats as you can see). With the promise of a return accompanied by the full band in the Autumn, I have a feeling I may be visiting the capital again in a couple of months.
At Mad Mackerel’s scaly towers we’ve often pondered the question why WW hasn’t sold zillions of records, and I still have no answer. At least it means the next big thing with oodles of talent may avoid being called the ‘new/next Wooden Wand’ as I imagine Mr James Jackson Toth would hate that as much as us.
So we exit April, which true to form turned out to be wetter than a Mackerel’s handshake. No matter, banish the blues with this scorching mix of some of the best downloads we offered in the month, plus a few new ones to get to know and love too.
Download Alexander Tucker – Window Sill mp3 (from Third Mouth)
Minimalist string arrangements with electronic manipulations and drones to produce a doom chamber-pop song.
Download Amanda Jo Williams – The Bear Eats Me mp3 (from The Bear Eats Me)
Dusty jukebox rock that will wake the kids in the middle of the night for a boot-stomping, moon-invoking dance party on the back porch.
Download Kyle Adem – Brother Follow mp3 (from Armour)
A tireless storyteller with a whole lot of questions who marries his own blend of orchestral and reflective folk, with a punk edginess.
Download Johnny Bertram & The Golden Bicycles – Mistake mp3 (from Neon City)
Robust, but still melodic indie rock with some folky undertones.
Download Dubious Ranger – The New Eve mp3 (from Found Recordings From The Panda Valley Mining Company c.1931)
Sounding like a blend of Tom Waits and Beck, this is a peculiar brand of art-rock that defies definition.
Download Mathew Sawyer – Children In The City
One of the very best singer-songwriters around. Wonderfully skewed view of the world, obstinate refusal to conform, and exceptional wordplay.
Download The Flaming Lips – God Only Knows mp3 (from Pet Sounds Revisited)
Indie rock surrealists take on the Beach Boys.
Download Black Creek – Not For The Faint Of Heart mp3 (from Not For The Faint Of Heart digital single)
Another muscular example of their ragged, raw take on Americana, a sound they describe as “riffs and revelations”.
Download Coke Weed – Jimmy
Chugs gently along, all woozy charm and gentle folky psychedelia behind which the occasional acerbic lyric hides in wait.
Download Hiss Golden Messenger – Jesus Shot Me In The Head mp3 (from Poor Moon)
Classic back-porch folk and country with echoes of gospel and blues, which is often accompanied by warm organic sound effects such as cicadas or the patter of rain.
Download Old Bricks – Anthem mp3 (from City Lights)
Earnest and pensive folk.
Download Damon Moon & The Whispering Drifters – Restless Roads End mp3 (from Lungs, Dirt & Dreams)
Muscular Americana, a song that slowly stretches, flexes and simmers over five minutes while the band keep expertly keep a lid on the instrumentation and don’t allow it to escape its restraints completely.
Download MV & EE – Too Far To See mp3 (from Space Homestead)
Off-kilter Americana. Plaintive, almost elegiac and builds up to some guitar histrionics than recall Neil Young in a most pleasing way.
Download The Plastic Pals – Leave It Til Tomorrow (from Leave it ‘Til Tomorrow Digital Single)
This is heroin disco chic in the style of the Velvet Underground and Berlin-era Bowie.
Download Young Hines – Can’t Explode mp3 (from Give Me My Change)
Confrontational and trigger-happy punkish blues.
And no fewer than five new tracks to try out. We have the raw, early 70s punk vibe of The Dirty Fences, a brilliant track of chugging psych-rock from The Lead Stones (another discovery via Rollo & Grady), the uniquely catchy indie rock of The Wave Pictures, a visceral slab of slowed down garage rock from the Ty Segall Band and to finish a sweetly charming slice of Americana from Cowgill with its quiet, upbeat guitar and gorgeous violin.
Download The Dirty Fences – Sid mp3 (from Dirty Fences)
Download The Lead Stones – Heaven mp3 (from Heaven Digital Single)
Six more artists and seven tunes to brighten up your Sunday. From the garage reverb of King Tuff to the mournful acoustics of Sun Kil Moon to the punk clatter of Pangea and the rootsy rock of These United States. Courtesy of Aquarium Drunkard we have two covers by Wooden Wand as he takes on punk rockers Born Against and the quirky pop of Jonathan Richman (more information here), and finally the excellent earnest and pensive folk of Old Bricks as they prepare to release new album City Lights.
Hot on the heels of our earlier post about the Wooden Wand / Duke Garwood split for Record Store Day comes news of a deluxe edition release of last year’s excellent Briarwood album, again on Fire Records. It includes eight, stripped down demo versions of the James Jackson Toth’s penned album tracks. These were all recorded solo, at home in Lexington, KY, on a Roland BR1600 digital 8 track.
You can grab yourself the gorgeous demo version of album standout Wither Away below.
The deluxe version of Briarwood will see the light of day on the 28th May. Pre-order it here.
Bringing together the dirty British blues of Duke Garwood and Wooden Wand’s Kentucky-laced country rock, Fire Records are releasing a special split 12″ for Record Store Day. As anyone who has read MM for any length of time will know, we are huge fans of Mr Wand, a genius songwriter and thoroughbred storyteller and we have featured the sparse, spooked our blues of Duke Garwood previously too – therefore this would be just about top of our list of the exclusives on offer come the 21st of April.
Each artist is responsible for one side of the disc, they have brought together a loose collection of tracks and a mutual respect for each other. Duke Garwood’s songs came out of a typically laid-back recording session with old reels and a nice big loop around a chair leg. Off to look for more tape, he also dug up a lost doom jazz classic original on a chewed up old reel, The Sand, The Return, and there it was. He will be on tour with Kurt Vile soon.
Wooden Wand’s contribution is a selection of five recent tracks, three of which feature a short-lived band out of Murfreesboro, TN called HP Witchcraft.
Listen to Wooley Blue by Wooden Wand and Some Kind Of Move by Duke Garwood.
Our final Top Ten selection comes courtesy of the lovely, and ever radiant, Mrs Mackerel. Over to you girl!
It’s been a great musical year. But such a plethora of riches always presents a problem – what’s a girl to choose? Fortunately some fine contributions in the preceding week means most bases are covered.
Live gigs, although few and far between this year, have been rich in quality, and particularly finger-picking good on the guitar front. A fine ensemble of gig friends too, thank you.
Without further ado, here’s my humble opinion. And remember kids this is just my opinion, you can try this at home too.
10. Hyde & the Beast – You Will be Lonely
Boom-shacker, boom-shacker. Bit of cowboy guitars. An up-tempo beat coupled with the “you’re dumped” message. Still if you’ve got to do it, do it with a smile on your face and a guitar in your hand, I say. Boom-shacker, boom-shacker.
9. The National – Think You Can Wait
Nice bit of backing from the wonderful Sharon Van Etten, coupled with the mellifluous vocal of Matt Berninger. Trademark National: understated brilliance.
8. Lanterns on the Lake – Ships in the Rain
Another great thing to come from Sunderland. Catch up please. Atmosphere, ethereal vocals, beautiful lyrics. Til we meet again, girls.
7. Henry’s Funeral Shoe – Dog Scratched Ear
Widespread Mackerel popularity for this song amongst family and friends. Yep, we know a good guitar riff when we hear one: hard core. Looking for joy when there’s none to find? Plenty here.
A January contender for my top ten, so a stayer. A fantastic piece of drumming that builds and builds; to be played loud on speakers not headphones, she insists in a bossy tone that MM knows only too well… Breathy vocals adds atmosphere to the intensity.
How do I love the Cave Singers? Oh let me count the ways. Storming harmonica coupled with such an irresistible tempo, I challenge you not to be out of your seat and dancing. These boys got rhythm in bucket loads and talent to match. But they’re not yours, they’re mine. Glad we cleared that one up.
3. Hurray for the Riff Raff – Too Much of a Good Thing
A great big old fashioned waltz of a song, throw in a sprinkling of mariachi pipes, a helping of accordion and the tender vocals of Alynda Lee Segarra. Lifetime top ten tune for me this one.
Shared a cigarette for breakfast? More than one I reckon. John McCauley of Deer Tick has a voice that was made for this song. One for the road, sung in chorus, gives me the warmest, fuzzy feeling all over. Stick me on a greyhound bus with Middle Brother playing to the open road and I reckon I’d be a happy girl. Just about the best darned cover (yes, I know but don’t care) I ever heard. Pure magic.
1. Laura Marling – Night After Night
A photo finish for me amongst the top five. Yin and yang songs. This song is wuthering, if you get my gist but hey, that’s just me. There’s so much here from the opening guitar sequence that makes me think of a boat rowing out to sea, to the subtle finale with a flamenco flourish. Lyrical dexterity, passion, sadness, regret. The incomparable Laura Marling take a bow.
Goddammit Janet: missed it first time round
Grinderman – Palaces of Montezuma
The theatre of this song is almost vintage Bowie. A great big banquet of lyrical genius and the funkiest rhythm to match. Bloody marvellous.
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros – Janglin
From the happy-go-lucky intro to swinging, swaying finger-clicking goodness of the rest of the tune. Click your heels and away you go.
Download Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros – Janglin mp3 (from From Below)
And Okkervil River. Missed all together. MM and I are fools. I have told him this repeatedly while hitting him with a large branch. Joking. Sort of.
Download Okkervil River – For Real mp3 (from Black Sheep Boy)
School Run Anthems 2011
The Lovely Eggs – Don’t Look at Me (I Don’t Like It)
We sang and did the actions. The car bounced and shimmied its way to school. Nothing like a bit of 21st century punk to get you going in the morning.
Roadside Graves – Jail
Don’t want to work today. Just want to lay in bed. Couldn’t have put it better myself.