Saturday, 25 March 2017

Artist Choice Two: Over The Rhine

I discovered Over The Rhine on holiday in 2004. The CD that came with Paste Magazine contained 'Show Me' which was a good start but the magazine article, which I can't find online, was what hooked me. A description of the recording process and all round hymn of praise to their album Ohio. So my introduction to the band was a double cd lasting ninety minutes which Paste called "a true confessional masterpiece". Thirteen years later it is still towards the top of my most played on the iPod, joined there by albums older and newer, but all of them with the spark of musical greatness. 

Where to start? Over the Rhine have been at least two different bands, an early indie pop four piece featuring guitarist Ric Hordinski, whose album 'When I Consider How My Light is Spent' is also worth your attention. The collection from these years 'Discount Fireworks' is a good entry point, personally I also like the album 'Besides' that started life as a fan club disc, but has some real gems on it. The period from 'Good Dog Bad Dog' saw the band contract to husband and wife team Linford Detweiler and Karin Bergquist. Unashamed pop record 'Films for Radio' followed and then they found their calling with Ohio. A string of albums have followed in the subsequent years. The best place to learn about them is on the music page of the band site. There is also a good playlist that gives a flavour of what to expect from an Over The Rhine album.

If I have a favourite song (of any artist), then it is probably Latter Days. Reading the lyrics only hints at the epic quality of the song itself. A grandeur that reflects the best church music. "There’s so much more to life than words", not when they are sung by Karin there isn't. Listen to the song here.

Karin & Linford are gearing up for some new records and as with the last few are going down the fan funding route. This time they are offering three records. Read about them here and support the band in their enterprises. I have gone for the Hear It option, partly because of the ruinous cost of postage from the USA, and partly to hold onto money to spend on what I hope will be a well stocked merchandise stall at their show at Cecil Sharp House in London on April 2nd. Why isn't this sold out? How can they mange a whole tour in Holland and only one show in mainland Britain? Buy tickets here.

I would love to see a whole U.K. tour, and can think of many places, like St Georges Bristol, that would be ideal for them to play. But it needs support and a certain level of ticket sales to make it possible which in these days is a struggle for British artists let alone those taking a risk on crossing the Atlantic. I am just happy that after all the years following them I get to a show at last.

 So what do I suggest starting with?

'Good Dog Bad Dog' remains one of my most played albums. the download only live version from 2010 is also worth a listen.
Of 'The Live from Nowhere' sets I would go for Volumes 1 and 4 first, but you will want them all in time.
'Meet Me At The Edge Of The World' is going to take some topping I look forward to hearing them try.
Of the earlier albums I like 'Besides' and 'Eve'
Linford has a series of solo piano instrumental albums. I like 'Grey Ghost Stories' best. The piece  'Someday We'll Move To A Small Farm (And Sit And Watch The Snow Fall)' is typical of the autobiographical quality of the band's lyrics tipping over into his solo music. I'm pleased to say they did move to that farm.

I'm sure you will find your own favourites once the music starts to haunt you. The fact that the world still has a place for artists like Over The Rhine even if it is at or near subsistence level, means that despite the best efforts of our leaders this world is a place worth living in.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Elbow at Newport Centre 10th March 2017

Elbow's studio albums can sound a little antiseptic at times, however on stage they are a different prospect altogether. Tonight's show at the local swimming pool in Newport was a very different affair from the last time I saw them on The Take Off & Landing of Everything tour. That show matched the album's mood of quiet reflection with it's acoustic segment and orchestral backing. This time the evening reflected the celebratory feel of  much of 'Little Fictions' lyrics. Stand in drummer Alex Reeves' more muscular style, Pete Turner playing more bass guitar than I have seen him do previously, and the strings cut back to two violins sparingly gave a feel of a band renewed by their life experiences rather than worn down by them.

I joined the Elbow party with their 'career defining' ™ appearance at Glastonbury and quickly worked my way back through their catalogue. It was good to hear Great Expectations from 2005's 'Leaders Of The Free World' tonight, with over half the new album played and the rest spread across the previous three records.

Craig Potter was on percussion for the opening songs. Opener 'Gentle Storm', as has been pointed out in several reviews, almost has a club feel to it. Pete Turner switched between Fender Jazz & Jaguar basses, and seemed to have fairly constant tuning problems, keyboards were on a riser at the back with the drums in a corner stage left.  Of the new songs 'Kindling' and 'Magnificent (She Says)' stood out for me, but with a set list that included songs from at least five albums there was something for everyone. Elbow know their audience and in Guy Garvey have one of the outstanding frontmen, conducting the sing along, and creating an atmosphere of good cheer. My favourite of the audience participation numbers, 'Lippy Kids', was as good as I have heard. And then there is 'One Day Like This', restored to it's rightful place as show closer leaving room for encores of 'Kindling', 'My Sad Captains' and an exuberant 'Grounds For Divorce'. A great show.

Less great was the venue, while I understand the desire to play smaller places this 2000 capacity Badminton Court was crammed and with quite a low stage those of a lesser stature, me, were left struggling to see what was going on. Can't tell you a thing about what guitars Mark Potter was playing. Comments on Twitter suggest I wasn't the only one with this issue. The burger beforehand was one of the culinary experiences of my life, and it was noticeable that no more were served once ours had come out.

Support act C Duncan, came over as a mix of fellow Scots Aztec Camera circa 1983, and Fleet Foxes, a favourite on 6 Music apparently, he must work better on record. Mostly Harmless to coin a phrase.

Despite the slight reservations about the venue a genuinely great gig. Elbow are one of the preeminent live acts of the moment. When I saw them in 2014 there was a hint that shows were being recorded. All I can say is build a live album boys.

Buy Little Fictions at your music outlet of choice.

C Duncan's music is available on his Bandcamp page a listen to some samples suggests he is a subject for further investigation.