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OFF the road for two months after my exhausting November and December tour in support of the Labour Party election campaign and I’m preparing my 40th anniversary poetry and lyrics anthology which will be published by Cherry Red Books in September.
Yes, I did my first gig as Attila the Stockbroker on September 8 1980 and will be celebrating in style at legendary London venue Dingwall’s on September 10 this year with a host of special guests. Tickets on sale now at mstar.link/2QEQVy0
And, needless to say, I’ll be touring all over the country and further afield as well, including what may be my last band visit to mainland Europe – as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t fancy the post-Brexit bureaucracy one bit. Hopefully the Musicians Union will be able to secure a sustainable, bureaucracy-free future for us all. If not, we will all be the poorer, both literally and metaphorically. I live in hope.
Loads of gigs are already in place and any readers of this column anywhere in Britain or abroad who would like to organise a 40th anniversary event are welcome to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me on Facebook with suggestions. Festivals especially welcome.
And since I’m not on the road for the next few columns, I’ll be writing about some of my favourite performers, especially those who are about to release new material. I’ll start with two good mates with whom I have toured extensively over the years, David Rovics from Portland in the US and Rory Ellis from Melbourne, Australia. Both have new albums out right now and, though very different, both are absolute masters of their chosen field.
David’s new offering Strangers and Friends is available from January 19 at davidrovics.com and he’s doing a live streaming concert from the US that day too. He is quite simply the finest radical US political songwriter I have ever heard – and yes, that includes Phil Ochs, to whom he is often compared. He is incredibly prolific and topical in his work, which chronicles our troubled and divided times, and this release is his best ever.
I’m not a great fan of folk music and my favourite protest songs tend to be by people like The Clash, Velvet Underground and the Newtown Neurotics. The amazing thing about David’s focused, stirring songs is that though the arrangements, especially on this album, are “trad” enough to warm the cockles of the most folk-friendly heart, I can imagine them roaring out from the PA of a punk band with equally powerful effect.
They truly are songs for all ages, both human and historical, and span continents too. When The Nazis Came to Rotherham deals with the trial of the Asian anti-fascists acquitted of violent disorder during the fascist demonstrations there. Just A Renter is a howl of rage against the gentrification of his home city and the fact that it’s almost impossible to live there anymore unless you’re rich. The whole album is brilliant. Check it out.
Rory Ellis is a huge, soulful bear of a man with an incredibly rich, deep voice whose style is firmly rooted in Americana, country and blues. We’ve done loads of gigs together over the years and it says a lot about the quality of his writing and musicianship that although not really a fan of those musical forms, I love the content of his work and the way that he presents it. If you are a country fan, I think you will take Rory to your heart.
The rich melodies and superb vocal work of the songs on his new album Inner Outlaw envelop you and he is a fine storyteller in the best tradition of his chosen field. None more so than in The Letter, an amazing tale of how a letter written by his grandfather while repairing a bridge in Melbourne during WWII was handed to him by railway workers nearly 80 years later.
And I love the line on Bitumen Cowboys: “Don’t have no horse, no saddle to set myself high on.” Wrong, Rory. You’ve got a charger. I know you have. I’ve seen it.
Rory can be found at roryellis.com
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