Just a few things that I quite like and think should be better appreciated, a big “box of stuff” if you will.
New category added – The Bottom End – bass players I suspect should be more highly regarded.

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TheLittleBlakePress Adventures in Printmaking a blog based on Landscape

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Calvert, Palmer & Keats (not solicitors!)

Always linked in my mind – the imagery of John Keats and the visuals of Samuel Palmer and Edward Calvert. Probably incorrectly -but never mind.

ST. AGNES’ Eve—Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
The hare limp’d trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent was the flock in woolly fold:
Numb were the Beadsman’s fingers, while he told
His rosary, and while his frosted breath,
Like pious incense from a censer old,
Seem’d taking flight for heaven, without a death,
Past the sweet Virgin’s picture, while his prayer he saith.

Madeline – and Porphyro in the following sequence could almost be the couple from Calvert’s The Chamber Idyll perhaps.
The Chamber Idyll 1831 by Edward Calvert 1799-1883


Out went the taper as she hurried in;
Its little smoke, in pallid moonshine, died: 200
She clos’d the door, she panted, all akin
To spirits of the air, and visions wide:
No uttered syllable, or, woe betide!
But to her heart, her heart was voluble,
Paining with eloquence her balmy side; 205
As though a tongueless nightingale should swell
Her throat in vain, and die, heart-stifled, in her dell.


A casement high and triple-arch’d there was,
All garlanded with carven imag’ries
Of fruits, and flowers, and bunches of knot-grass, 210
And diamonded with panes of quaint device,
Innumerable of stains and splendid dyes,
As are the tiger-moth’s deep-damask’d wings;
And in the midst, ’mong thousand heraldries,
And twilight saints, and dim emblazonings, 215
A shielded scutcheon blush’d with blood of queens and kings.


Full on this casement shone the wintry moon,
And threw warm gules on Madeline’s fair breast,
As down she knelt for heaven’s grace and boon;
Rose-bloom fell on her hands, together prest, 220
And on her silver cross soft amethyst,
And on her hair a glory, like a saint:
She seem’d a splendid angel, newly drest,
Save wings, for heaven:—Porphyro grew faint:
She knelt, so pure a thing, so free from mortal taint. 225


Anon his heart revives: her vespers done,
Of all its wreathed pearls her hair she frees;
Unclasps her warmed jewels one by one;
Loosens her fragrant boddice; by degrees
Her rich attire creeps rustling to her knees: 230
Half-hidden, like a mermaid in sea-weed,
Pensive awhile she dreams awake, and sees,
In fancy, fair St. Agnes in her bed,
But dares not look behind, or all the charm is fled.

Keats finest hour IMHO…



SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.


Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.


Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

This idealised view of Nature and the seasons is so similar to that depicted in Calvert and Palmers work…
The Cyder Feast 1828 by Edward Calvert 1799-1883The Gleaning Field circa 1833 by Samuel Palmer 1805-1881ps143510_lSamuel_Palmer_-_Harvest_Under_a_Crescent_Moon_-_Google_Art_Project

…and the population of this poem and its landscape somehow feels less Greek, more English inspired landscape of the imagination…

Ode on a Grecian Urn

THOU still unravish’d bride of quietness,
Thou foster-child of Silence and slow Time,
Sylvan historian, who canst thus express
A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:
What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape 5
Of deities or mortals, or of both,
In Tempe or the dales of Arcady?
What men or gods are these? What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit? What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels? What wild ecstasy? 10

Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on;
Not to the sensual ear, but, more endear’d,
Pipe to the spirit ditties of no tone:
Fair youth, beneath the trees, thou canst not leave 15
Thy song, nor ever can those trees be bare;
Bold Lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal—yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair! 20

Ah, happy, happy boughs! that cannot shed
Your leaves, nor ever bid the Spring adieu;
And, happy melodist, unwearièd,
For ever piping songs for ever new;
More happy love! more happy, happy love! 25
For ever warm and still to be enjoy’d,
For ever panting, and for ever young;
All breathing human passion far above,
That leaves a heart high-sorrowful and cloy’d,
A burning forehead, and a parching tongue. 30

Who are these coming to the sacrifice?
To what green altar, O mysterious priest,
Lead’st thou that heifer lowing at the skies,
And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?
What little town by river or sea-shore, 35
Or mountain-built with peaceful citadel,
Is emptied of its folk, this pious morn?
And, little town, thy streets for evermore
Will silent be; and not a soul, to tell
Why thou art desolate, can e’er return. 40

O Attic shape! fair attitude! with brede
Of marble men and maidens overwrought,
With forest branches and the trodden weed;
Thou, silent form! dost tease us out of thought
As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral! 45
When old age shall this generation waste,
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’ 50

(c) The Fitzwilliam Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundationpainting1

‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.’

Wise words.

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Essential Rock Reads – Exposing the myths – the USA and The Blues

Two books in one post this time – the first “More Miles Than Money” by Garth Cartwright is an account of his travels through the continent looking for the real thing – music made for more than just profit and commerce. Along the way he mingles with many of the “real-deal” hispanic, afro-american and general minority music makers, fascinating individuals of all ages, from (hard to find) back street juke-joints and clubs located in the seedier, edgier parts of town. His findings suggest the music is still there at the roots level, some labels are still releasing these by now minority musics, but the practitioners are dwindling, dying off – leaving sadly the corporate in the ascendancy.
Splendidly written, Cartwright’s Kiwi origins seem to protect him from the worst treatment the USA can mete out to it’s own citizens, but there are still some perilous moments on his journey! An excellent and thought provoking read.

Mentioned in the footnotes of the book is Elijah Wald – author of “Escaping the Delta” -my second choice for this post. A lengthy but always readable analysis of the myths surrounding the classic “Blues” artists, Wald goes to great lengths to study, analyse, deconstruct and generally dismantle many of the “facts” we take as read. The book hangs on the one blues artist we all now associate with the greatest of the myths, Robert Johnson and the meeting at the crossroads. Wald quietly and methodically studies the music as a whole, shows where certain tropes originated and follows them throughout the musics of the blue greats, including the lesser known (in his own homeland and era) Johnson. Turns out most “blues” artists were all-rounders who are now classified as bluesmen (and women) because that was the only aspect of their repertoires that was recorded by the entrepreneurs of the time – as “the Blues” was deemed most commercial.
A fascinating and enlightening read, and Wald has the benefit of being an excellent musician himself, so really gets to grips with the technicalities of his subject matter.

Both books highly recommended for fans of American roots music.

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The Bottom End – Bruce Thomas

Seen here in shades lurking behind the songwriter whose music he supported so well back in the day. I actually lived the rock’n’roll dream one day back in the late 70’s while making a rare visit to our great capital city; pottering around Bloomsbury (I think) who should be coming the other way but the man himself – hand in a bandage. Didn’t dare speak naturally – too awestruck. Days later he was replaced live for a few gigs by Nick Lowe, currently producing the band. Can’t help but think great tho’ Basher was/is he would struggle to keep up with some of Mr Thomas’ basslines. Even the most cursory listener to the first 4 Attractions albums can’t avoid being struck by the appropriateness of the basslines which propel the songs along (in tandem it has to be said with his great partner-in-crime drummer Pete Thomas). Busily toiling along pumping (!) it up for EC, great finger style playing with great rhythmic root/fifth and occasional dramatic swoops and slides up and down the length of the fretboard, busy when they need to be, sparse and dub like – not a note out of place. Something like “Watching the Detectives” is very familiar, but the interplay between the four members of the group still makes for a compelling listen.

Wot – no P Bass?

Here he is throwing a few shapes – sadly under-filmed – too many spectacles in one band for the director? Too geeky looking maybe?

The great “Oliver’s Army” – just how hot were this band back at their height? A hit factory – in the day when quality songwriting and performances meant something.

Something else that needs a mention has to be the great sound Bruce got from his Fender Precision – captured beautifully by Nick Lowe in some fairly low-tech studios (it has to be said).
Some information on how this was done can be found here along with a little history of his time with Quiver and just how he managed to piss off EC so much he was fired. No really worthwhile Attractions without Bruce tho’ in my opinion!
Whilst tragically Bruce’s Attractions salmon pink (?) precision was lost/stolen, he now has a signature replica -so we mere mortals can find out it’s all in the fingers after all -and not in the instrument!

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The Bottom End – Phil Murray

One of the finest exponents of the acoustic bass guitar – seen above with the Tom Mcconville band – Phil’s style is characterised by rhythmically driving melodic lines, underpinning tunes with harmonies, counterpoint and occasional chording.
One of the pool of fine musicians from the North-East who comprised Lindisfarne, Jack the Lad, Hedgehog Pie and The Doonans, you can find more on his career here.

The man himself back in the day (right) with some mad lash-up bass?

The man himself back in the day (right) in Hegehog Pie with some mad lash-up bass?

The same bass -different band – jack the Lad on some ghastly 70’s show with a song from Rough Diamonds.
Phil also used a Fender Precision to great effect, best heard on Oakey Strike Evictions, opening track on The Old Straight Track – a terrific record which stands as one of the very best British Folk-rock albums.
Some rare staff on Jack the Lad here.
My favourite Murray bass parts are still the two tracks where he accompanies the great John Doonan on his (tragically unobtainable) Flute for the Feis (Leader LEA 2043) 1972.
Do a bit of googling and you might be lucky to find a download – it’s a beautiful recording as JD has a stately pace with the tunes, letting them breath and swing, rather than taking them at the breakneck pace of so many younger musicians.
The man today(isn)

The man today(isn)

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The Warm(est) Robot – Jen Olive

It’s a mystery sometimes how some artists achieve success, whilst others languish on the fringes of our awareness. Some are promoted from a state unworthiness to global media domination, as this who deserve our attention struggle to be heard despite their brilliance. Where this is all going is obvious – Jen Olive falls (sadly IMHO) in the latter category when her music could so easily be coming through a radio speaker near you even at this moment, her videos playing on your TV, a live appearance on the (by now) deeply unimaginative “Later”.
So – if you haven’t heard Jen’s music what are you missing?
Hard to sum up really, a gorgeous voice, often layered up with smart harmonies, counterpoint, intriguing guitar playing (like no-other I’m aware of – recently heard her compared to Joni Mitchell – likewise gifted in the unusual tuning department), smart arrangements assembled by Jen herself and a range of musicians including Stu Rowe and Andy Partridge.
Smart songs jostle for your attention, heartfelt heartbreakers (Claustrophobe, Black Sunday) mixing with witty and occasionally off-the-wall observations (So Funny, Cake). Not a clunker on either of her two (UK) releases so far (and one EP), just one delightful song after another. I challenge you to listen to the title track of “The Breaks” and not agree with me! A thing of beauty indeed.
So – I urge you dear reader to check out Jen’s stuff, available on Bandcamp here.
Failing this visit this APE page to learn a bit more about her background.

More of her music on her youtube channel – olivevision and her website here.

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Nice to see this little chap bobbing about in the (very) high wind today – always a pleasure to get up close.P1000481 These things have wonderful patterns and such an elegant and fragile feel to them. Harbinger of Spring proper! P1000490(Along with the House Martins, and saw my first pair of those today too -tho’ yet to hear the cuckoo).

Fritillaria meleagris is a species of flowering plant in the family Liliaceae. Its common names include snake’s head fritillary, snake’s head (the original English name), chess flower, frog-cup, guinea-hen flower, leper lily (because its shape resembled the bell once carried by lepers), Lazarus bell, checkered lily or, in northern Europe, simply fritillary.

From Wikipedia

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