Advent Calendar Day 13

As I said last week, I like to recognise Sundays in my Advent Calendar with versions of carols. These aren’t the kind of versions you’d hear in your local place of worship – I try to be a little different.

You may have seen that I have featured Kate Rusby in my Tuesday Tunes series, for the obvious reason that I’m a huge fan of her music. I spent last evening watching a streamed concert by Kate and her band – the regular six, augmented by a four-piece brass section. She always plays a series of Christmas concerts, and this was her way of doing something in current times. It was a lovely evening, comprised entirely of tracks from her five (count them) Christmas/New Year seasonal albums. I had to wait for this one, but it duly arrived as the first encore, by which time they were all in fancy dress:

I’ve shared that version of the song in all six years that I have been doing this. It is one of hundreds of variants of the carol about washing socks, as Kate has recognised: she has to date done three versions on her albums. The first known instance of the song dates back to 1700, when it was one of only fifteen songs authorised by the church to be sung at Christmas. This video is lovely, made to go with her version of the song, and the singer bears a remarkable likeness to her. Sweet Bells was her first seasonal album, all the way back in 2008, and it is still my favourite – though the others are all excellent too, as you might expect.

Question: where do ageing rockers go when they ‘retire?’ Answer: in Ritchie Blackmore’s case, they form a folk duo with Candice Night, the lady who later becomes their wife, and make lovely music a million miles away from their days in Deep Purple and Rainbow. This is a live recording of two carols, which looks like it was performed as part of a (large) house concert for friends and family:

The surroundings are magnificent and help set off the music to its best effect, I think. That was on their 2006 album Winter Carols, which was remastered and expanded in 2017 to tie in with the DVD release of this concert. They released a four track Christmas EP this year, Here We Come A-Caroling, and a new album is scheduled for release in March, by which time Ritchie will be nearing 76 (and in time to celebrate Candice’s 50th). It’s probably easier than strutting around a stage playing rock guitar, I guess.

To close today’s offerings here is another bonus video for you. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I have rather taken to heart the Christmas adverts made by Hafod Hardware, a shop in the small mid-Wales town of Rhayader. So far, I have shown this year’s plus their first, from 2017. I said I would share them all with you: continuing the sequence, this is from 2018:

I love little Arthur’s toddle-on part at the end, and his happy giggle. This is a family business, and I think it is lovely to see them sharing that ethos in their adverts, which reflect their commitment to the local community. As in all four, the music is by Andrea Von Kampen, and is a perfect fit.

I hope today’s songs have helped create a suitably relaxed Sunday mood, and I’ll try not to spoil that with today’s picture:

Perhaps I’m not, but it’s worth a try. Yes, I did find that on the internet, and no, I didn’t get it specially made: I don’t have even Hafod’s tiny advertising budget for that.

Till tomorrow 🎄

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.