Featured Album | Chris Brain – Bound to Rise | Big Sun Records | Review by Allan Wilkinson | 15.04.22
It’s difficult not to make the Nick Drake connection once we hear Chris Brain’s delicate finger-picked guitar, a notion confirmed by an equally delicate and breathy voice to go with it. Chris fesses up to the obvious influence, though he makes the sound his own, a sound firmly planted in the ground, a little like a fruit tree. Leeds-based, the singer, songwriter and guitar player has nothing of the plummy Drake mannerisms, nor does any of this come over as doomed melancholy, the songs are strangely uplifting, with a meditative, immediate delivery, enhanced by the live setting of each performance, recorded straight to analog tape. With almost subliminal contributions from Simeon Walker and Mary Jane Walker on piano and violin respectively, the songs are treated to sparse arrangements, leaving Tom Orell’s production clean and uncluttered by further fancy embellishments. Reluctant to use a thinly-worn cliche, but in this case it’s pretty apt – if you like Nick Drake, you’ll definitely appreciate this.
Flick the Dust Off | David Bromberg Band – How Late’ll Ya Play Till | Fantasy FTSP53 | 1976
I first became aware of Dave Bromberg’s music in the early 1980s, after hearing part of a set recorded at the 1982 Cambridge Folk Festival, which was aired on Jim Lloyd’s BBC folk show, whereupon the American musician invited Alistair Anderson up on stage for some instrumental wizardry. I’d previously heard the name, mainly through his association with Bob Dylan and his contribution to some of his recordings, but his own music had eluded me up until that point. Around the same time, I heard a couple of friends duet on “Kaatskill Serenade” at a Doncaster folk club, a Bromberg original from this album, which was probably the main reason for going out to buy it. A double LP set, the album consists of a studio disc and a live one, which features such blues standards as “Sweet Home Chicago”, “Come in My Kitchen” and Blind Willie McTell’s “Dying Crapshooter’s Blues”. The album also contains the entertaining sixteen minute “Bullfrog Blues”, which gives an indication of Bromberg’s rapport with his audience. More recently I was backstage at the Cambridge Folk Festival with both Bromberg and Loudon Wainwright having a relaxed chat; it was the closest I ever got to breaking the rules and taking out my camera for a quickie.
Singled Out | Donovan – Sunshine Superman | Pye 7N- 1724I | 1966
I like Donovan. There, I said it, which isn’t usually a cool thing to admit to. I think most of the people who don’t particularly take to him have their judgment clouded by continually comparing him to Dylan. I have never compared him to Dylan, despite all the nonsense surrounding his appearance in the Pennebaker film Don’t Look Back. I think of Donovan as a pop singer, who made some of the most melodic and tuneful pop hits of the mid to late 1960s, “Sunshine Superman” chief among them. Perhaps I don’t go out of my way to catch any of Donovan’s concerts these days, nor is it common to see Cosmic Wheels or Essence to Essence on the turntable, but any of the late 60s singles on the jukebox will do for me any day of the week.
Fifty Years Ago | Wishbone Ash – Argus | MCA | April 1972
Rock journalists seem to frown upon any mention of the name Wishbone Ash, yet I make no apologies for admiring this band, which I first heard on the John Peel radio show in 1970, when the noted arbitor of taste played the memorable guitar riff of “Lady Whiskey”. A couple of years later, this admiration grew after hearing the band’s third album Argus, which soon became something of a ‘must have’ item back in the early 1970s, an album chock full of highly melodic rock classics that would continue to make up the bulk of any Wishbone Ash gig for years to come, some of which I was only too pleased to attend, whichever Wishbone Ash I happened to come across that is. Fall outs, lawsuits, whatever, there is still no sound quite like it, though my personal preference will always be for the band’s first four albums, this being perhaps the band’s crowning achievement. I once sat down with Martin Turner, for an hour of reminiscing, which was both enlightening and much fun. It was rather like interviewing the Artful Dodger.