writer, performer, musician, wine drinker

The Way They Do Things In West Memphis: Lucinda Williams Album Review

So there you are, having a drink in a bar in West Memphis, kind of wishing you’d stuck to the tourist trail rather than going off-piste in search of the ‘real’ experience. The band setting up in the corner look like they might have just finished beating someone up round the back, never mind the punters, one of whom seems to have moved his bar stool uncomfortably close behind you. Key scenes from Deliverance start to project themselves at the back of your imagination.

Eventually the drummer strikes up, big, tattooed forearms bearing down on the skins like they owe him money. It’s a low down, dirty beat, heavy as the hot afternoon, and when the guitars and bass come in, you’re still not sure if it’s going to be blues, country, rock, or a mélange of all three. You try to work out a way of asking your new friend on the bar stool behind you that, without using the word mélange.

Just then the barmaid, who’s done everything to make you feel welcome bar spit in your drink, comes out front, slings on an acoustic and exchanges a few muttered words with the guitarist. Then she fronts up to the mike and stares you dead in the eye, as if to say, ‘What?’

Except if it’s Lucinda Williams it would come out as, ‘Whuuut?’

That’s exactly what Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone is like. Musically, it draws from that primordial swamp of country, blues, soul, and all the other truly North American DNA that rock staggered out of, muddy and baying, all those years ago. Except it stays down with one foot firmly in the swamp: though it only occasionally uses lap steel guitar, there’s a country structure to many of the songs; on others, a shimmering Hammond organ reminds you of the gospel influence.

And then there’s Williams’s voice, a remarkable thing that’s three parts Eartha Kitt, two parts Stevie Nicks, if the latter had spent the last thirty years drinking bourbon and smoking Virginia Gold Cut; half ways between a growl and a yowl, like a partially tamed mountain lion that’s been given a guitar.

If this all sounds a bit too, er, rootsy for you, I should say that there’s an intelligence behind the lyrics that takes the material way beyond your average Louisiana bar band. Indeed, the double album kicks off with a poem by Williams’s father set to music, Compassion: ‘Have compassion for everyone you meet/ even if they don’t want it/ what seems conceit/ always a sign…’

Elsewhere, Williams preaches eloquently against the enemy of righteousness, good, kindness and love (‘Protection’) fearmongers and foolishness (‘Foolishness’) and, it seems, Old Nick himself (‘Something Wicked This Way Comes’); evoking that gospel (or maybe that should be Southern Baptist) root.

Elsewhere, my favourite so far (as you might have gathered from the opening sequence) is ‘West Memphis:’ ‘I was framed and sentenced/to a life in prison/for a crime I didn’t commit/wasn’t nobody listened/or rose to my defense/somebody planted the evidence/and he’s been lying ever since/but that’s the way we do things/in West Memphis.’

The other thing that sets this album apart is the musicianship. The drums – and this is a compliment from a guitar player who normally pays little attention to what the bozo at the back’s doing, past keeping the beat – lay down a heavy groove that drives the songs; the guitars themselves sound great, and there’s some scorching work on them from Tony Joe White and Bill Frisell. As well as good stuff on the organ from Ian McLagan, there’s judicious use of backing vocals to sweeten Williams’s lead.

This is a superb double album, which will merit listening to again and again to get the full effect. One thing, though: if you find yourself telling your nearest and dearest that this is how you roll, and if they don’t like it they can get the hell out of the way, you’ve probably had it on repeat one time too many.

Unless you’re actually from West Memphis, of course. In which case that’s absolutely fine.


lucinda williams

A Note To My Followers

Dear Followers,

First of all, a belated Happy New Year! Let’s hope 2015 is a kinder twelve months to the planet than the previous one: without wanting to sound like a beauty contest consultant, world peace would be nice, plus maybe a cure for Ebola. Frankly, I’d settle for an aggregate reduction in people being beastly to each other generally.

I’m not going to tweet or Facebook this post, partly as an experiment to see what difference that makes, but partly because I want to make this a post just for you, my select band of followers, to use as you wish. You’re a small but select bunch of, as I write, 27: you include, of course, Daughter and Heiress, the voice of youth; and my friend and  Edinburgh writer/performer/generally talented type cygnoir. The rest of you, I don’t think, I know personally, but I wanted to thank you for hooking into my world. Blogger followers seem, in general, a bit more faithful than the here today and gone tomorrow world of Twitter: and, frankly, I’d far rather read something longer than 140 characters most of the time.

So here’s what I’m going to do. Firstly, I’m going to follow any of you I’m not actually following already; and then, over the next week or so, I’m going to make a point of reading your blogs, and making some – hopefully not too inane – comment.

You might want to comment on this post. That way, you’re making yourself visible to a whole 26 other faithful souls who follow me, not to mention my thousands of non-following fans in Brazil.

In the meantime, have a good year. I plan to have lots of new things happening for you soon.

2015: the Surrealist Year Ahead

As the macadamia air rage case accused, conglomerate heiress Cho Hyun-ah comes to trial, there are surprising outbreaks of sympathy from budget airline travellers, following Cho’s heavy-handed prosecution by the South Korean authorities. Things start quietly with passive-aggressive piss-weak coffee ‘spillages’ on Easyjet, but a Ryanair flight is forced to divert and land at Paris Charles de Gaulle after a flight’s complete crisp quota is used in a flash mob ‘Pringle shower.’
With no one passenger claiming responsibility, the airline is forced to allow the entire plane load off at an airport which is actually in the city it’s meant to be in for once.


Incensed by stand up comedians’ jokes about always having a sale, furniture retailer DFS hosts a’full price weekend.’ Backed by a campaign featuring Shane Whatsit from Series 4 of Celebrity X Jungle Wipeoff, the event is a surprising success, with queues for sofas that really do cost £700 forming from the early hours.

‘It just shows her at number 22 what a cheapskate she really is, buying that leather look five piece for £199.99 the other week,’ says Dolanda Chewit, 34, of Skinflats.


As the immigration debate heats up, a group calling themselves ‘Angle-land for the Anglo-Saxons’ romp home to a surprise by-election win on Hastings Borough Council. The victory speech, by Councillor Harold Godwinson, is taken off air after complaints about the bad language. In a carefully worded press statement, the party apologises for any offence but insists it is ‘time we stopped them bloody Normans coming over here with their posh words and taking all our jobs.’

In a seemingly unrelated development the newly-formed Viking Party, led by a Harald Hardrada, campaigns for an independence referendum for the Danelaw.


Buoyed up by the success of Stephen Hawking film The Theory of Everything, geek chic reaches new levels altogether. Joey Essex is spotted wearing black-framed glasses and carrying a Charlie Stross novel, which he claims to have read; thinking woman’s crumpet and fellow sf author Hannu Rajaniemi takes over from Dara O’Briain as host on the hastily renamed School of Really, Really Hard Sums.

In a definitely related development, sales on Amazon of second-hand copies of Jim Jardine’s seminal textbook, Physics is Fun (Heinemann) skyrocket, although the real value is reserved for any that don’t have the handwritten sub-title added by previous students, ‘is it fuck.’


On the Planet Zenussi, the elections to the Chamber of the Ultimate Overlords of the Lizard People are thrown into confusion, when the three main candidates rip off lizard masks to reveal themselves as none other than David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband. Enraged, the Lizard People launch a retaliatory strike on Earth.

Unfortunately a glitch in their version of Google Maps indicates that the Houses of Parliament are located in Aberfeldy. Armed only with stout walking sticks and umbrellas and led by their community council office bearers, the locals drive off the entire Imperial Zenussian Assault Force, before going back to whatever the hell they do in Aberfeldy when not under intergalactic attack by saurian life forms.


The legendarily tough world of the South East Yorkshire Cricket League is rocked by the arrival of a new recruit to the ranks of Uppenceworth. Flanked only by a single thick-set bodyguard, the newcomer is at first reticent about his name, before revealing that he is in fact Kim Yong-un, disillusioned with the American imperialist sport basketball, and keen to learn the most quintessentially English game of all.

Quickly nicknamed ‘Yoong Oon’ by his team mates, the First Secretary of the Workers’ Party of Korea turns out to bowl a beguiling mix of leg breaks and googlies, and makes a reliable pair of hands at first slip. He excels, however, as a dashing middle order batsman, and Uppenceworth’s star is soon in the ascendant in the Second Division.

However, a hotly disputed lbw decision during a match with local rivals Nobbut Ornery leads to repercussions far beyond the usual on-pitch fisticuffs. In the pub after the game, Yong-un’s captain manages to persuade him to call off the nuclear strike on the umpire’s house at the last minute.

However, dark forces seem to be at work when the village of Nobbut Ornery literally disappears off Google Maps, to be replaced by a symbol which resembles a cricket box; whilst all reports of the match in question suddenly 모두사라. I mean, 지옥빌어 먹을!


T in the Park, the annual Scottish drinking festival, is deluged with complaints about the music coming from various locations around the new venue.

‘I ken there’s always been bands playin’ somewhere in the background, but there seems tae be a lot mair of them this year,’ storms Shug McLush, 24, of Queenzieburn. ‘I mean, live and let live, but I’ve got a sledge full of lager tae get through here. I need focus.’

An ashen faced festival spokesperson admits he had no idea of the scale of the problem. ‘It’s all very well having background sounds for when you’re rolling around the grass grabbing at legs, but I’ve told Slipknot they’ll have to do an acoustic set if they’re distracting people from their drinking.’

Tinie Tempah really is tinie.


The world of sport is rocked as the World Anti-Doping Agency adds common place stimulants such as coffee, chocolate and bridies to the list of banned substances. Former England cricketer Freddie Flintoff is outraged. ‘They’ll be banning lager next,’ he fumes.

Seeing an opportunity for controversy-fuelled viewing figures, Channel 6 + 99 host a soi-disant ‘experimental Olympics,’ where alleged scientists monitor the effects of common illegal substances on sporting performance. The 100 metres world unassisted record is broken several times over by runners on various cold remedies; the boxing doesn’t go so well when the first two contestants are mistakenly given cannabis resin instead of cocaine.

After a few failed attempts to hit each other and much giggling, one tells the other ‘I love you, man,’ and the two sit in the middle of the ring, asking the increasingly restive audience if they have any toast.


Technological advances continue to drive consumer demand. Amongst them is the Belty, a belt device which monitors the wearer’s waistline and advises when it’s time to lose weight; the Tagg Pet Tracker, which allows pet owners – or significant others – to track the whereabouts of their pet/partner; the Shine Activity Tracker Device, which allows the wearer (or significant other) to track activities such as walking, running, swimming or, indeed, other physical activity via a smartphone; and the Wine Alarm, which sets off a loud beeping sound if blood alcohol levels in the wearer rise above a preset level.

Ok, so I made the last one up. But they could probably do it.


Following the slump in sales of celebrity biographies, The Guild of Ghost Writers publishes a collection of near career death experiences by its members.

‘I had the contract to write Beyonce’s next misery memoir;’ one recalls. ‘I was heading towards a white light of inner peace and a pretty tidy advance cheque. Then the market crashed, and the next thing I knew I was back on Planet Earth, trying to work on my own novel. I mean, I had to just make stuff up. A plot and characters and everything. It was horrible.’


Swedish ‘alternative and experimental music fusion group,’ Goat, are forced to suspend their Twitter feed after cyber assaults by some particularly unpleasant trolls. Only by eating extraordinary amounts of calories and renaming themselves Billy Goat Gruff are they able to drive the trolls away … oh come on, look it up!


The sky is full of strange portents. Herds of Gloucester Old Spot are seen wheeling in formation above Wiltshire. A plague of giant wasps descends on Cowdenbeath. The face of Simon Cowell appears on pizzas all over southern Italy.
Jesus of Nazareth and the Prophet Muhammad descend arm in arm from the clouds, to try to convince jihadist nutters Al-Quaeda they’re getting it wrong.

Then 2016 dawns, and things get a whole lot weirder.

2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. Happy New Year to all my readers. Especially the Brazilian ones. There seem to be a lot of Brazilian ones.

Next up, the Surrealist Year Ahead, although at the moment I’m struggling to think of anything much more surreal than this year’s reality….

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 3,800 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 3 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

12 things I’ve learned (or relearned) this year

It’s been a bumpy 12 months, both for me personally, for many of my friends and colleagues, and perhaps most of all, for my country of origin. Which is not to say there’s not been a few good bits too.

January: Everything people say to you about losing a parent is true.

Statistically, it’s more than likely that your parents will die before you; all the same, you don’t understand how awful the reality is before it happens. Only other people that have experienced it can really know how you feel; however much all the kind words from everyone are a help. Life is never the same, though.

February: Music is a great healer.

I didn’t really know what to expect of a gig at the 02 Academy, Glasgow, featuring Foals and Cage the Elephant, having never been to the venue, and only had a hurried catch up on the main act. I certainly wasn’t expecting what might well have been The Greatest Gig Ever (although a subsequent outing to Temples in December ran it pretty damn close – see Daughter and Heiress’s Liquid Rooms review).

March: Collaboration really is the best policy.

Although I took a step back from Writers’ Bloc this year, there were still some really exciting and fruitful bits of partnership working, to use the cooncil terminology. Step forward, in no particular order, Gavin Inglis, Kelly Brooks, Halsted Bernard, Harky and Kenny Mackay… I hope to do much more of the same in the coming year, as well as with other long term collaborators like Mark Allan and Lara Matthews.

April: Until they find the lost race of six foot, red-bearded conquistadores, I’m always going to stand out in Spain.

Granada was gorgeous and Malaga, at the end of our Spanish trip this year, a real undiscovered gem of a place – those of you who only experience the airport are missing out on a great, lively place to spend a few days. In between these two cities, we went (at the suggestion of our Spanish cousin, Guillermo) to Ubeda, a smaller town heading up into the sierras and surrounded by olive-clad hills. It was lovely, and well worth a visit, but it was clear they’re not used to Vikings.

May: Exams are just as awful as they always were. Especially Maths.

Daughter & Heiress sat her National 5s in May – that’s O Grades, O Levels, Standard Grades, or something else to the rest of you. Despite being a member of the guinea pig generation for the new exams, she did really well; but although the new curriculum was sold as a clever way to extend the length of time the kids have to take in the Higher course (for non-Scots amongst you, they’re the ones you sit aged 16 or 17 that more or less dictate if you get into University) it looks like they’ll have exactly the same amount of time to struggle through as their parents did.

In other words, a few desultory weeks in June, and then the whole of fifth year when they’re not actually being tested to near-destruction. The difference being D & H is working a lot harder than I ever remember doing.

June: Guitars matter.

My post about the mysterious origins of my semi-acoustic garnered some interesting comments. Mind you, easily the top post in terms of hits I’ve ever done is a review of an acoustic guitar amp, so I’m not sure what that proves.

July: Being a Festival Dad isn’t all bad.

I blogged pretty extensively about our Latitude experience, so I won’t go on about it again; but now, as we approach the longest night of the winter, it’s just a happy blur of sunshine, hot weather, great music, spectacular lightning storms, and polite queues for drinking water. I’m reliably informed we’re going back next year.

August: The Fringe isn’t just for watching.

With one thing and another, I was late booking a couple of slots in the Free Fringe for Tribute to Venus Carmichael; and I confess to being a bit more nervous than usual. This was a good thing, because it made me practice every day for a fortnight. And practice makes much less imperfect.

September: You can breach the EU Working Time Regulations several times over and live to tell the tale.

At the end of a 25 hour shift of work on the administration of the indyref, I lay on the couch at home and watched the results coming in, eating cereal when my body clock didn’t know if it was Tuesday or a biscuit. A strange end to a seismic day.

What made me, as a Scot, proudest, wasn’t the 84% turnout – frankly, what on earth did the other 16% have on that day that was more important? But the fact that, in all the fevered atmosphere, hints, allegations and conspiracy theories, there was not one criticism of the 16 and 17 year olds who, voting for the first time, conducted themselves with every kind of decorum and seriousness at the polls when their elders were, in some cases, doing the opposite.

They and their English, Welsh and Northern Irish counterparts won’t get a vote in May 2015 for the Westminster election. Can anyone explain to me why not?

October: Kinsale is a nice place to visit.

Fly to Cork, take a bus from the airport, and you’re there. Great food, music, Guinness, and craic. Thoroughly recommended.

November: You can totally book the Old Observatory on Calton Hill to stay in.

I know this because my sister did it for a Big Birthday celebration in November and it was absolutely fab. One of the best cityscape views in the world from every window; all mod cons, done tastefully to blend in with the historic building; it’s even well heated, somewhat to our surprise. The room which used to be the observation chamber has the most amazing acoustics of anywhere I’ve ever been. Some day, I’m going to do a gig there.

December: Edinburgh is the place to be for Xmas

We leave tomorrow. Byee!!

Next week, the Surrealist Year Ahead.






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Wine Review: should you gie it Aldi this Xmas?

There are times when I almost feel sorry for snobby French wine producers. There they were one minute, bowling along in their vintage 70’s Citroen DS, undisputed kings of the vinicultural universe. They could make any old crap and if the customer didn’t like it, pah! it was because they didn’t have a good enough palate.

Then, suddenly, there was a screeching of brakes and the Aussies came roaring round the corner in a Ute, showering them in Shiraz and cheap cabernet sauvignon blends. The Spanish were next, clattering past noisily in an oak-lined lorry and mispronouncing grenache as garnacha. Then a huge cloud of dust heralded the arrival of the South Americans, bragging about their phylloxera free ancient vines and  rediscovering Carmenere and Malbec. The French were, quite literally, run off the road.

Worse than that, the punters stopped matching wine with classic French cookery, or whatever was the nearest equivalent in Scunthorpe. Les rosbifs weren’t even eating roast beef any more: instead, they were branching out into Indian, Chinese, Thai, all sorts of cuisine that the vignerons certainly hadn’t had in mind when working up the latest claret. And to cap it all, the power of the supermarkets was such that the sans culottes expected not to have to remortgage their house to get a decent drop to go with the Tuesday night curry.

Sacre Bleu! As the French, almost certainly, never really say.

However, signs are that they’re finally fighting back, and where better to try some of the latest offerings out than Aldi, one of our increasingly-popular discounters. As recommended by Jane MacQuitty in the Times on Saturday, we decided to give a couple of bottles of French red a try. These were: Pinot Noir, Vignobles Roussellet (no vintage specified) £4.39; and Plan de Dieu, Cotes du Rhone Villages, 2012; £6.49.

The food matching wasn’t as hard as it could have been. First night was the Redoubtable Mrs F’s sausage stovies, something of a legend in our household: not exactly the same as cassoulet, maybe, but red meat at least; second night was my Portuguese roast chicken, with potatoes, red onions, garlic, and lashings of lemon in the mix.

The verdict? Fill your boots with both! The pinot noir is one of the easiest drinking wines I’ve ever tasted: on its own, with both dishes, and with the Manchego cheese for afters, it subtly alters its flavours but is never tannic. The Rhone is a bigger, burlier sort of chap, but very drinkable: probably better with a heftier meat dish to be fair.

Now, what wine goes with tonight’s halloumi/prawns/lime juice and chilli combo, I wonder….

vintage citroen



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Cuando el “no” puede incluir al “si:” la esperanza y fe en Escocia

A veces, es difícil creer que hace solo tres meses fue el referéndum. Como las hojas doradas de otoño, las papeletas del voto son colectadas, amontonadas en lugares casí secretos de las autoridades, fondo de muchas teorías de conspiración de los que apoyaban el si.

Poco a poco, otros simbolos del 18 de septiembre se van. El líder independista escoses, Alex Salmond, renunció al próximo dia, aunque se quedó como ministro principal hasta noviembre, cuando la conferencia de su partido, el SNP, ha eligido a otro – su numero dos, Nicola Sturgeon.

En el mismo sentido, las pegatinas desaparecen de las farolas gradualmente, ya que son difícil de quitarlas. En los medios sociales, los que aumentaban a sus fotos un símbolo azul ‘si’ ahora tienen uno que dice ‘45’ en su lugar, significando el porcentaje afirmativo que han votado.

Al mismo tiempo, debe ser fácil – si se vive en Londres, u otras partes del reino unido – creer que la pregunta escosesa tiene una respuesta final. El circo de los medios metropolitanes ha salido. Nuevos temas – la guerra en Irak, el Ebola, el auge popular en el sur para UKIP, el partido contra el EU y los migrantes, dominan ahora las noticias. Con reportajes de las conferencias de los grandes partidos británicos, el arte antiguo de “adivinar el futuro” sobre la elección para Westminster, mayo 2015, ha empezado. Si alguien menciona Escocia, es para vincular los éxitos de UKIP con el referéndum como ejemplos de la perdida de credibilidad de los políticos ‘traditionales.’

Nada más que eso. Escocia está en las noticias del ayer: olvidado, eliminado del panorama de Londres. Pero en Edimburgo, la pregunta persiste: ¿ y ahora, que?

La ultima semana de la campaňa fue dramática, gracias a un sondeo de YouGov que indicaba, por primera vez, en ventaja (51% frente a 49%) el voto a favor de la independencia. Pudo exagerar el efecto de este sondeo, pero no mucho. Con la mirada del mundo sobre el reino unido, hubo un sentido de pánico entre los políticos británicos. El ministro del Tesoro del gobierno conservador, George Osborne, ofreció mas poderes al parlamento Escoses si ganaría el voto no – aunque, como comentaba el periódico madrileño, El Pais, ‘significativamente, de forma genérica, sin ningun detalle.’

Este sentido de pánico parecía compartido por los laboristas, cuando su líder, Ed Miliband, previó guardias a la frontera (¿ y porque no seria guardias fronterizos, como en las fronteras de Francia y Alemania, o Espaňa y Portugal?)

En la ultima semana, la temperatura crecia, cada dia. Los tres lideres de los partidos británicos – Cameron, Clegg, y Miliband – juraron que darían mas poderes a Holyrood (pero todavía sin detalles). Una centena de diputados del partido Labor llegaron a Glasgow para persuadir al pueblo (esta ciudad siendo una de las pocas regiones que votó si el 18 de septiembre). La libra bajó contra el euro y el dólar; el valor de companias escocesas redujo al mismo tiempo. Hubo amenazas de una nueva crisis económica, para todo el reino unido.

En los ultimos días, para mí lo más sorprendente y, al mismo tiempo lo más significante, fue la intervención del ex-primer ministro, Gordon Brown. Se podría decir que opinaba un poco más que los otros políticos de Londres: hay grandes riesgos en la independencia; si el voto es no, va a ser mas ‘devolucion,’ mas poderes para el parlamento en Edimburgo. Pero la manera de sus dichos y la reputación del locutor, comparado con Cameron, Clegg, Miliband, y Alastair Darling, el supuesto ‘lider’ de la campaňa ‘no,’ significaba mucho.

La reputación de Brown – como su carácter – es mucho mas compleja, dependiendo de que parte del país viene.
En Inglaterra, Gales, o Irlanda del Norte, por ejemplo, Brown es reconocido como el primer ministro que no podía hacer nada contra la crisis económica mundial del 2008 – 9; vencido por los conservadores en la elección de 2010, renunció como líder del partido laborista y, para los periodistas de Londres, es un hombre del ayer, sin puesto en su partido, casí olvidado en el mundo nuevo de Cameron, Clegg, Miliband, y Nigel Farage (de UKIP).

En Escocia, es reconocido como hombre con defectos; pero también como hombre de convicciones, un apasionado, que sucedió al liderazgo solo cuando lo decidió Tony Blair que quería pasar el baton – al mismo momento que apareció la crisis. Pero, por sobre todo, es reconocido como un hombre escoses.

Hay una palabra en ingles, un adjectivo, que usaron los periodistas frecuentemente cuando se hablaba de Brown: ‘dour.’ No es una palabra exclusivamente escosesa, pero es un adjectivo conectado al carácter escoses. Puede traducirlo como adusto, austero, o terco, pero también lleva sentidos de ‘duro,’ de ‘serio,’ también. Los Finlandeses tienen una palabra poco similar: ‘sisu’ – determinación, especialmente si no hay esperanza. Según muchos escoseses, Brown tenia cualidades que no tenia su amigo/enemigo Blair. Tiene, en otras palabras, cualidades típicamente escocesas.

Por esa razón, muchos del pueblo escoses confiaron en Gordon Brown, en los últimos días de la campaňa, especialmente cuando sus dichos parecían venir de una posición tan apasionada. Muchos de los votantes – incluso los indecisos – tenían fe en sus promesas, mucho más del conservador, Cameron, por ejemplo, que lloraba públicamente cuando hablaba de la amenaza de la separación (las lagrimas de cocodrilo, para muchos escoseses).

Volvemos a la pregunta. ¿Y ahora, que? Claro que el referéndum esta acabado, con un resultado de 55% frente a 45%. Un concejal laborista me ha dicho recientemente: ‘Han olvidado el ‘45’ que hay un ’55.’ Sonreí pero no respondí: no es correcto para los oficiales opinar sobre muchas cosas, pero podría decir a este comentario: “si, pero sería bueno no olvidar el ‘45’ casi igualmente.”

El circo se ha ido. Las papeletas del voto son enterradas, pero la pregunta vive. En noviembre, los partidos británicos anunciaron un acuerdo global de poderes nuevos para Edimburgo. Gordon Brown anunció que va a jubilarse, satisfecho que las promesas de la semana antes del referéndum serán cumplidas.

Pero, de momento, parece que el pueblo escoses no tiene fe. Según un sondeo reciente de YouGov, el SNP va a ganar la gran mayoria de asientos en Westminster, en mayo 2015. El número de miembros del partido nationalista ha aumentado mucho desde el referéndum.

Parece que los que perdieron en septiembre van a ganar ahora. Parece también que los escoseses van a volver a creer.



Muchas gracias a mi profesora de español, Ana, para toda su paciencia y ayuda.





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The Loneliness of the First Support Act

So, tomorrow,  on what is the ultimate of school nights, Monday, Daughter and Heiress and I are off to another gig (actually, this is the first of two this week for D & H, but she’s got a pal to go with to Bombay Bicycle Club on Thursday, so I’m relegated to the chauffeur role). The main event tomorrow are Temples, a relatively new indie guitar outfit specialising in psychedelic, reverb-heavy sounds of a generally retro nature. We’ve seen them before and they were excellent, in a baking hot tent at Latitude, as previously reviewed as part of that Festival’s day one experience.

I’ve often wondered, though, about support acts; how they get chosen; what it’s like to support better known bands in front of their audience; what the deal is, generally. D & H quickly established the main support was Superfood, and I’ve been doing my homework by listening to their album in advance. Nice stuff it is, too: showing a pedigree that to me includes Blur and Stone Roses, it sounds a bit as if they’re still settling on a style; but then, they’re only about 12, and I’m 107 years old. I look forward to their set, and what they choose out of what I’ve heard so far to play live.

Spare a thought, though, for the first support act, Klaus Johann Grobe. For a start, it was actually quite hard to find out he was part of the package: most of your ticket sites and other bozos promoting the Temples tour don’t exactly go a bundle on telling you Klaus is an, albeit slightly lower-slung, star in the evening’s firmament for you. In fact, it took quite some minutes of browsing (which, as we all know in this goldfish attention span world of t’interweb, is, like, aeons?) to find out that Klaus is, in fact, not one, but two blokes, and not German, but Swiss; one google result describes them as ‘Neo Kraut Romantic duo,’ so that’s them labelled right to a tee, obvs., as the youngsters say.

Listening to Klaus’s Soundcloud page (link above) reveals that ‘Neo Romantic Kraut’ translates into synth-based, quite melodic, stuff, with German lyrics. I liked ‘Nicht Zu Stoppen,’ which I wrongly thought to be ‘don’t you stop:’ I’ve seen too many war movies as a child where the Germans all speak in imperatives. D & H advises it means ‘Unstoppable.’ Their Facebook page starts their longer description with Vielleicht kann man sagen, dass hier Freigeister der Diskotheken melancholische Parolen auf die Tanzfläche schütten. Dunno either: haven’t asked her to translate that yet. Something about a melancholy disco?

Anyway, on their own site, they have a charmingly worded English version of their stagerider, setting out what they need from the sound guy in each venue:

It’s important to be able to add some reverb to Klaus Johann Grobes voices. The more and trashier the better.
A delay, of course, will work as well. The voices however are welcome to sound thin…
(there’s no mention of their backstage rider, so I can’t confirm the brown M & Ms position one way or another).
Here’s the thing now. Doors open tomorrow night at 7. I’m guessing Klaus will get lobbed up first, probably about 7.30, to then clear the way for Superfood and Temples. That’ll make it tricky for us to get fed, watered, and through the Edinburgh traffic to catch their set, but I just somehow feel, having gone to the effort of finding out about them for this post, a sense of kinship with them. They’re strangers in a strange land: German-speaking Neo Romantic Kraut synth-wielding Swiss guys in a roomful of reverb heavy guitar-loving hipsters.
I think they need our love and support. Hang on, guys, with your crazy Moog, bass and drums set-up, we’re coming for you!
To find out how they got on, go to D & H’s blog next weekend: my next post will be the delayed musings on taking a red pen to Robert Louis Stevenson. Which might well also not be till next weekend. I’ve got some reverb-lite guitars to record.
If you see an advert below here, it’s not mine, and I can’t see it, so I’ve no idea if whatever it is is any good or not. If that makes sense.

RIP Philip Hughes

I’d planned to do a blog about cricket in the next week or two. In line with the quirky nature of this page, it was going to be a story about how difficult it was to finally take my cricket whites to the charity shop, some twenty years after I used them regularly, and probably ten or so years since I last played any sort of competitive match.

I was then going to riff on my dreadful involuntary cowardice in the face of an oncoming cricket ball; my legendarily bad fielding for Largo CC; and how I came to acquire my cricketing nickname, ‘Scud.’

However, in the wake of Philip Hughes’s sad death after being felled by a bouncer during a Sheffield Shield match on Tuesday, all of that seems a bit inappropriate, really. So instead, all I want to say is how much I feel for Phil Hughes’s family, friends and team-mates right now, as well as for the bowler, Sean Abbott.

Cricket is a strange game: seen by outsiders as a dull, slow contest in which nothing much happens, those who’ve played it regularly, even at club level, as I did, know it involves a potentially lethal missile even in the hands of lesser cricketers. I didn’t play in the 1st XI game at Largo where a visiting batsman top edged a pull shot off one of our medium-fast bowlers straight into his face, losing an eye in the process; but I know how deeply it affected everyone that was involved.

I hope that time heals this for all who knew Phil Hughes personally.


Rock n’ roll on a school night: Luna Webster, Wozniak and Tuff Love at the Cool Cat Club, Thursday 20th November

I love the Cool Cat Club. I actually love the fact that the name conjures up an image – late Thirties or early Fifties New York, or perhaps Paris; dames in slinky dresses and fedora-clad lounge lizards, louchely lapping up the sharp-suited saxophone – led sounds of a trio called, let’s see, Toots McCrory and the Blue Notes, band members and audience all with a back story darker than each other – that bears no resemblance at all to the reality.

The truth – a black cavern of a place in Dundee called Beat Generator Live! (don’t forget that exclamation mark!) where indie bands of various stripes ply their sometimes sweaty trade, is no less enjoyable, and thanks to the Scottish Government’s ban on smoking, probably quite a bit healthier.

Unfortunately, whether it was because it was a school night, or because there were other gigs coming up this weekend, the audience was sparse, consisting of 15 or so aficionados, mainly male, mainly, like your reviewer, at or approaching their middle years, nursing something non-alcoholic and dotted strategically about the standing area without a single fedora in sight.

This might have made things awkward for Luna Webster, but if so, she didn’t show it. Instead, she thanked us rather sweetly for turning up to see her as the opening act – although actually, no one turned up any later to see the others. Webster is probably at the stage where she’s starting to tire of the adjective ‘precocious,’ but her songwriting skills are, quite honestly, extraordinary for someone who, as she pointed out, still can’t drink anything stronger than Coke on stage.

luna_201114_161(with thanks to manicpopthrills for the photos)

With song titles like Diamonds + Psychiatrists, it’s clear our girl isn’t aiming for the bland platitudes of the mainstream lyrically. Clever, funny wordsmithery and with a charming line in patter in between songs, it would be hard not to like her; what impressed me even more than last time she was at the Cool Cat Club was her singing. She delivers some devastating material with conviction and perfect phrasing. She should be so much better known; if she’s not knocking the socks off Festival crowds at places like Latitude in a year, I’ll eat my fedora.

The next act, Wozniak, were old enough to drink, but still had a female lead – in the sense that she sang the one piece with lyrics, and did all the intervening intros. A four-piece guitars/bass/drums combo from Edinburgh with the mission statement of ‘working hard to cause terminal tinnitus,’ the only well-known band I can think of they’re like would be Mogwai, but with guitar effects replacing synths.

A question that bothered me briefly half way through their set: do indie bands have such outdated concepts as ‘lead’ and ‘rhythm’ guitarists, or have these terms gone the way of Eddie Van Halen? With the sound being so heavily guitar-driven, the main difference here seemed to be that, while the distaff side contented herself with one Mustang, the big chap switched between two guitars and had a pedal board that covered the equivalent area of several football pitches. Maybe that says more about boys and their toys and cultural gender differences (trust me, I’m only jealous) than who was lead and who was rhythm, but the combination produced a very pleasing effect.


Maybe it’s just this reviewer’s particular tastes, but my only criticism of the band would be that lack of lyrics: I found myself hoping there would be some sort of dark poetry shouted over the twisting, tortured guitar signal to give an added layer to the whole effect. I presume it’s a positive choice on their part: if not, chaps, apply here, because I’ve plenty of the stuff round the back.

Having said all that, this blog put its money in its pocket and bought the EP, so that should tell you something.

And so, through a non-alcoholic haze, to the final band, Tuff Love. Striking another blow for rock n’ roll gender equality, this consisted of two girls on guitar and bass and a male drummer. I say ‘girls,’ and appreciate that says more about your reviewer than anything else, along the lines of you know you’re getting on when your indie bands start looking younger etc… that said, they are a young outfit, and as such are hotly tipped to progress through the ranks, having garnered positive noises from the Guardian amongst others, and had airplay on Radio 6Music. They’re signed to Scottish indie label Lost Map Records, and plan a new EP in February next year.


Their sound has been described as C86 fuzz pop, or surf pop (those labels again!) but basically consists of your relatively melodic pop-rock played fast through a Telecaster with fuzz box, bass and drums coffee machine. It’s the kind of thing that will hit the mark with a broader audience than was at the Club on Thursday night, and they will improve, too. Like the other acts, Suse and Julie were charming and self-deprecating in between songs, and deserve to reach a wider audience.

Which brings me to my final plea. Students of Dundee, where were you on Thursday night? Andy and Mike put on these gigs at considerable financial risk and no little effort; the University Quarter (such as it is) is just round the corner, and you’re not telling me you’ve blown your student loan already on gigs and downloads? (If you are, you’re a legend, but still). Don’t leave the next Cool Cat Club to us middle aged blokes: for a mere seven quid (prices may vary according to product) you can come in, choose from an admittedly limited range of beverages, and listen to some quality entertainment. What’s not to like?

Really, honestly guys. Performers are vampires, and feed off your energy (trust me, I know). This was a good gig. With a hundred more and drunker people in the door, it would have been a great gig.

Bring your fedora.

If you see an advert under this, I didn’t put it there, and I can’t see it, so I’ve no idea if it’s any good or not.


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