Tuesday Tunes 25: New Music – Part 1

A few weeks back in this series I ran a couple of posts featuring music videos that had been created during lockdown (or quarantine, if you prefer). These were a mixture of new songs, back catalogue and cover versions, and often involved the use of video link apps to bring the participants ‘together.’ These posts, in case you missed them, were numbers 19 and 20 in this series. They were well-received, and it struck me that despite all the problems there has still been a lot of new music released recently, so I’m doing a couple more. This time I’m concentrating on music videos which are more of the ‘usual’ kind you would expect for single or album releases: the only criterion I’m using is that they have been released within the past six months. There is a lot of good new stuff out there! Four of today’s five selections are tracks from new or forthcoming albums, the other is as yet solely a single, but I would expect it to be on an album before long.

Cat Stevens released his fourth album, Tea For The Tillerman, in November 1970, and it reached #8 in the US, #11 in Canada and #20 in the UK – for some reason, most of his records have fared better in North America than in his home country. To mark the 50th anniversary Yusuf, as he is now, has re-recorded the album in its entirety, and it is due for release on Friday week, 18th September. This is the first of the two tracks which have been previewed, with a specially made video:

Just as meaningful and lovely as it was fifty years ago. I think that bodes well for the album – I’m looking forward to it. I saw him play live in 2009, in a concert as part of Island Records’ 50th anniversary celebrations. He played this as his second song, after opening with one of his new ones – not a dry eye in the house.

I included Kate Rusby in both previous lockdown music posts: she is one of my favourites, after all! As well as one of her lockdown specials, there were two of the tracks from what is now her recently released album, Hand Me Down. This is a selection Kate made of songs by other artists, covered in her unique style. Since those posts, several more videos have emerged, including her cover of what I think is the best song by The Cure. Based on the simple theme of the people and things that we love, this is beautiful. It’s ‘something in the eye’ time again:

Kate’s album was released on 14 August, and made its debut at #12 in the UK album chart. This is a stunning achievement for a folk musician – it isn’t the coolest of genres – and was, unsurprisingly, Kate’s best ever chart position (unless you count the single she made with Groaning Ronan). The album was also top of the UK iTunes singer-songwriter chart in its release week. It stayed there for the next week too, and is currently still at #2.

The three remaining artists haven’t been featured here before, and I’d hazard a guess that some of them may be new to you. The first is a duo I found by accident on YouTube. I’d clicked a link to another song and this one came up as an advert – unusually for an ad they gave us the whole song. It was so good that, by the time it was over, I’d forgotten what I’d been planning to listen to. See what I mean:

Carolina Story comprises a married couple, Ben and Emily Roberts. He’s playing acoustic and harmonica in the video, the other guys are their seemingly anonymous band. I can find very little information about them: they don’t seem to have a Wikipedia entry and their own website and Facebook page give little away. Their record company is a bit more forthcoming, but not much: there’s an opportunity there for a PR/promo company, I think! That song was the lead (but not title) track on what I believe is their third album, Dandelion, which was released last Friday – I’m hot off the press with this one, folks! They have been together since meeting at college in 2007, and have been touring, writing songs and releasing albums since 2009. The band name derives from their being on tour in Carolina at the time they realised theirs was more than a professional relationship – isn’t that sweet? I’ve found a reference to a 2013 album called Carolina Story: Parts 1 and 2, which appears to be their first album, but have yet to track it down – it’s not on iTunes, or Bandcamp, my two usual sources, nor is it on Spotify or Amazon. Their second (I think) album, Lay Your Head Down, was released in 2018. With songs like that, a voice like Emily’s, and some decent promotion I think they could be a big success. Remember, you heard it here first…

Another singer-songwriter that I found from YouTube is Caroline Jones. Again, she isn’t a household name and may well be new to you, too. But she has garnered some notable supporters – the likes of Jimmy Buffett and the Zac Brown Band, for example – and may well become huge after the current craziness is over and acts can get out on the road again. She has been playing a lot of solo shows on Facebook and Instagram during lockdown, and has recently released two new songs. Of the two, this is the one I prefer:

What a view, indeed! I guess social distancing isn’t an issue when you live near scenery like that. To date, that has only been released as a single but as Caroline’s sole main label album to date  – Bare Feet – was released two years ago I’m wondering (and hoping) that there might be a new album in the offing. Bare Feet reached #13 on the US Country Chart, and there were also four earlier self-released albums – which I can’t find! As well as the album, Caroline has also released a couple of EPs since signing to Jimmy Buffett’s record label – Chasing Me, in 2019, and All Of The Boys, earlier this year. The latter is remarkable for comprising four tracks, all of the same song, but in markedly different versions – this lady has talent!

So far there has been a strong female bias in this week’s tunes, so maybe I should redress the balance… ah, sod it, let’s go for broke! Last one for today is from Molly Tuttle, one of those artists who gets labelled as bluegrass or country, but is developing a much wider range than those labels might suggest to you. She is 27, has been playing guitar since she was 8, and first appeared onstage with her father and the family band – The Tuttles – when she was 11. After playing in other bands, her solo career to date comprises a 2017 EP, Rise, a 2019 album When You’re Ready, and her new album But I’d Rather Be With You, which was released on 28 August. Like the Kate Rusby album, this is a set of cover versions of some of Molly’s favourite songs, all given her unique treatment. She is an amazingly talented guitarist and banjo player, and her reinventions of these songs are the best kind of cover versions: those that take the original and add a new dimension to it. The one I’m sharing will be familiar to you as a Rolling Stones track: it was one of their gentler songs, a love song. This is how Molly has done it:

Molly has suffered from Alopecia Areata since childhood, and wears a wig most of the time. She has said in interviews about how being stared at in public from an early age has enabled her to develop an inner strength, and to become aware of what feminism means for her. Some may not like the stance she is taking in that video: I applaud her for standing up and supporting others, and for her caring nature. And her version of the song is absolutely gorgeous.

That’s it for another week. I hope you’ve enjoyed this selection of new music from – mostly – under the radar and emerging artists. I think they’ve proved that you don’t have to be a household name to make good music – a lot of those ‘household names’ could learn a bit from these, in my view. They can all sing and play and don’t need autotune, for starters!

Stay safe, keep well, and I’ll see you again next week.

Tuesday Tunes 20: Lockdown Music – Part 2

Last week I went themeless in this series for the first time, by sharing some songs that had come out of lockdown, and I promised you some more. So here we go again: another selection of great tunes to amuse and entertain you and, in one case at least, to tug at your heart strings a little.

I began last week’s selection with Kate Rusby’s version of Manic Monday, by The Bangles. That was a track from her new album of covers – Hand Me Down – which will be released on 14 August. Several of you remarked how much you had liked it so I was planning to share the second video Kate has released from the album – well, I was, until Sunday. Throughout lockdown Kate has also been sharing a video from home each week in what she calls her ‘Singy Songy Sessions,’ SSS for short. On Sunday she gave us SSS#20, which was my favourite of all of her songs. This is Underneath The Stars, which is the title track from her 4th studio album (5th if you count her retrospective album, 10), and was released in 2004. I have no idea why, but when the horn section makes its entrance into the song I always shed a tear – I’ve even done it when seeing her play the song live in concert. I thought I’d at least manage to get through it alright this time, as she couldn’t fit the horn players into her home studio. What could possibly go wrong? See for yourself:

Yes, it happened again, but this time I wasn’t alone! That is such a beautiful song, and I hope you like it too: the effect it has on me is testament to the power of music to move us. And do you think, if I asked them nicely, that Kate and Damien would high five me for also reaching twenty posts: our schedules have been closely aligned!

This week’s second tune is one of those that entertains us. Until they disbanded four years ago, Bellowhead were the biggest folk band in the UK – and they were popular in many other countries too. They were big in size – all eleven of them – and had taken the UK folk scene by storm, winning a number of awards including several for ‘Best Live Act.’ They were the band I had seen most often, comprising multi-talented musicians with an enormous sense of fun, both in their live shows and their occasional videos. They have been much missed and not just by me. But, a few weeks ago, they popped up on Facebook with a video of a kind of reunion. Thanks to technology, they had created a new version of one of their best known songs, which became a regular part of their live shows after it featured on their third album, Hedonism, which was released in 2010. Be prepared for an invasion of fun in your life:

I love the running gag of trumpeter Andy Mellon’s daughter appearing gradually until the sheer glee on her face when she leaps into shot with her poster – in case you hadn’t picked up that word! And Rachael appears to have learned a few dance moves from Bellamy Clark (see last week’s post).

The next tune is another happy, jaunty one too. You may have heard of Colbie Caillat, who has sold millions of records over the past dozen years or so, but you may not know her latest project: a band called Gone West. They have been together for a couple of years, though they knew each other from the days when the others were part of her touring band, and were co-songwriters. Their debut album, Canyons, was released in June, and they celebrated with an outdoor album launch among some stunning scenery. Recently, they have released a lockdown split screen version of their ‘theme tune,’ which is the opening track on the album. I do like a bit of country music, so this was a natural choice for me:

In rather different vein are another band who are superb live performers. I’d hazard a bet, though I’m not a gambler, that few of you will know of the Ukulele Orchestra Of Great Britain (UOGB). Am I right? They have also been releasing a series of videos from their homes during lockdown, all skilfully edited together. As with Bellowhead, there is a large element of fun about the UOGB, as you can see from many of their older YouTube videos: their versions of Theme From Shaft and Wuthering Heights are among my favourites. I doubt you’ll have seen a Lady Gaga song performed like this before, though:

They have been going since 1985, with several band changes along the way. They haven’t, as far as I know, made even the slightest dent on the albums chart, though they have released a dozen or so studio albums, plus some live ones and DVDs of their shows. To be honest, I think they are best as a live act – you get the full force of their musical skills that way, plus their wonderful collective sense of humour. Any band which can perform at the annual Proms series, play Beethoven’s Ode To Joy on ukuleles, and get around 1,000 audience members to bring their instruments and play along with them must have something going for them! If this has piqued your interest do check them out on YouTube – you won’t be disappointed.

Having stretched this series from two to, on occasion, three songs, I shared four last week and have now done so this week too. I’m kind of assuming that I might not do another lockdown tunes post – unless musicians keep feeding me new material – and I’m feeling slightly guilty that I teased you with another Kate Rusby song earlier. In my world, there is no such concept as a surfeit of Kate Rusby, so I’m begging your forbearance one more time. As an extra special bonus fifth tune for this week, here is that second video for a song on Kate’s new album:

Utterly charming! How can anyone not like that? I’m really looking forward to the album, and hopefully there might be more videos to support it. At this rate, I’d have a post of nothing but Kate, but even I can see that might be overdoing things a little. By the way, if you type ‘shake it off’ into the search box at the top of the page you’ll find a previous post about this song, in which I shared the Taylor Swift original and a cover by Walk Off The Earth. Three different treatments of the song, and they’re all great!

I hope you’re keeping well and that your brain hasn’t exploded with the effort of understanding all the changes to the UK lockdown rules. I’m just staying indoors unless I really have to go out: much easier that way! Take care, be safe, and I’ll see you again next Tuesday.

Tuesday Tunes 19: Lockdown Music – Part 1

Rather than finding a theme to throw songs at I thought I’d do something different for this week’s Tuesday Tunes. Musicians have been badly affected by the pandemic: many rely on the income they derive from touring and playing live, and this disappeared at a stroke when we went into lockdown (or quarantine, if that’s what you call it). I follow many musicians on Facebook and YouTube, and have been hugely entertained in the past four months by their efforts to replace that income.

Sometimes, these have been full shows from their homes, with a virtual ‘tip jar’ for us to give them something back. Others have been individual songs – either their own, or cover versions. And there have been many collaborations where bands get together via something like Zoom (other video link apps are available) and someone with some deft editing skills puts it all together. It seemed a good idea to share some of these with you, but when I sat down to make a list I realised there were so many that I couldn’t do them all in one post. So this will become its own little mini-series within my Tuesday Tunes ‘brand’ – at present I have two sets planned, but there could be more! I’m starting with four songs this week.

My first is from an English folk singer of whom I’ve been a fan for many years. I have all of her 16 albums and have seen her live in concert, and she never disappoints. Kate Rusby has been a solo artist for over 20 years but, as she is a folk musician, she doesn’t have much of an impact on the charts: her highest placing on the albums chart is #22 for her album 20, which was a reworking of 20 of her songs to mark her 20th anniversary. The impressive roll call of guest musicians on that album is testimony to how important she is in her field. She has a new album out on 14 August called Hand Me Down, which is a set of cover versions of other artists’ songs. The first track from the album which she released was The Bangles’ Manic Monday. Here is the video she and her family made for it in lockdown:

That is simply adorable. Daisy and Phoebe, her daughters, are utterly charming, and hubby Damien O’Kane isn’t bad either. That reached the iTunes top twenty singles, and was #1 in their singer-songwriter chart. But don’t just take the accolades from me – here is someone who really should know how good this is:

Another family group who have been among the stars of lockdown for me are the Clark family, from Tampa, Florida. The father, Colt, is a musician who I guess plays locally, but as a way of keeping their children occupied and learning they hit upon the idea of teaching them songs to play as a group. They uploaded one to YouTube for friends and family to see, and it took off in a huge way, so much that the family has been guests – from home, of course – on the Ellen show, and have been invited back after this is all over. They now have well over fifty of these songs. They don’t claim them to be professional by any stretch of the imagination, but they have been providing me with a much-needed dose of fun throughout the lockdown. This is the latest from Colt Clark and the Quarantine Kids, published yesterday. It has a little bit of added lunacy at the beginning, but stick with it:

As you might have guessed, I do have a favourite in the band: little Bellamy, who is 6, steals every show with her dancing. The ‘Egyptian’ is one of her signature moves, and I was wondering how long it would take them to get round to this one – I hope Susanna Hoffs sees this too!

Keeping the family theme going for just one more. You probably remember John Fogerty from his Creedence Clearwater Revival days or his subsequent solo career, assuming you’re old enough, of course! During lockdown he has been revisiting some of his back catalogue, plus a few covers, with his sons Shane and Tyler and daughter Kelsy. These have either been from his home studio or his ‘backyard,’ which has some stunning location views. They also did a version of Centerfield from the Dodgers Stadium, in honour of his 75th birthday. This is one of my favourites, complete with an introduction from the man himself, explaining where the song came from:

See what I mean about that view? And it’s great to see that John is still as good as he ever was. If you liked that, there are plenty more on YouTube – I think he’s covered most of his old favourites now.

As this is a ‘special edition’ version I said I was going to give you a fourth song this week. I’ve kept these posts to two or three until now, but this one cries out to be included. It is by one of my favourite bands – Old Crow Medicine Show – and shows the fun, quirky side of the band, even in the most trying of circumstances. Black humour at its best:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this version of Tuesday Tunes. If you are watching musicians perform live on Facebook, YouTube, or anywhere else please drop a little something in their tip jar. It will be very welcome and, to borrow a phrase, ‘every little helps.’ Their music has sustained me through the pandemic, as I suspect it has done for many others.

I’ll be back with Part 2 of this mini-series next week. Until then, stay safe and well, and don’t forget to wear a mask 😉

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