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IT’S hardly surprising given the length of time I’ve been Attila that I know one hell of a lot of poets and musicians, and it is always a special pleasure when people I like and respect as human beings also come up with great work.
Gail Something-Else has been an inspiration for years with the yearly series of festivals she organises and, latterly, her Field Me initiative to help people in our community whose financial and cultural lives have been turned upside down by the absence of live gigs.
Now she and her band, Muddy Summers & the Dirty Field Whores, have come up with an absolute stonker of a new album, recorded in their individual homes during lockdown and stitched together in the space of two weeks.
First, congrats on a superb production: the world of home recording is totally beyond me, but they have it absolutely nailed, the sound is incredibly rich and Lizzie Morris’s beautiful, soaring violin (as opposed to fiddle — there a difference) is done full justice. As a violin player myself, that is important to me.
Second, congrats on the songs. Beautifully constructed — this is indeed velvet for the underground — in yes, a vaguely Velvetesque kind of way, gentle yet provocative, each one a sweet yet subversive melody with a beautifully framed lyrical message. Which is the very definition of a song in my book.
The corrosive effect of age on SOME people’s values, the corrosive effect of the human race on the planet, the corrosive effect of conspiracy theorists and internet keyboard warriors and stockbrokers on EVERYTHING, the proud independence of a woman in a bar, the timeless smell of wee among the ancient ghosts in the House of Lords, a couple of anti-love songs and an exhortation not to play chess with chickens. (I have done so many times, they refuse a rematch and disappear after they’ve beaten you at one-minute blitz on chess.com.)
All glided and sometimes thrashed along on a folky-punky magic carpet of magnificence.
The Elegance of Mud by Muddy Summers and the Dirty Field Whores is available from muddysummers.bandcamp.com and is one of my three albums of the year along with Revisited by Laibach and Climbing Frame by Gecko (all already reviewed in these pages).
Number One by Tony Stowers is a novel, based on actual events, which achieves a very difficult goal. It not only brings working-class history to life, it brings a specific historical phenomenon — the birth of the railways — to life in a way which really engages the reader even if you aren’t interested in trains!
It is the story of the transition from coach and canal transportation to rail, set in the north-east between the years 1810-1825 and culminating in a wonderful re-enactment of the first ever rail journey between Stockton and Darlington in September 1825 by the eponymous locomotive of the title.
It is written from the best possible perspective — the bottom up. The main characters are beautifully portrayed and include a radical miner and his young, resourceful son, the determined leader of a gang of Irish navvies — who blasted and cut the way for the railways of course — and a Waterloo veteran soldier with an eye for the main chance.
It is incredibly well researched and describes the everyday living conditions and experiences of ordinary people of the time so well that it deserves a much wider audience. Some radical publisher (Pluto Press, maybe?) should take hold of this and let it soar. For the moment, though, it’s available from http://www.tonystowers.com/no-1.html
My online gig series continues at https://mstar.link/attila-tuesday Last Tuesday, the phenomenon who is Joe Solo raised over £400 for Pauline Town and We Shall Overcome in Ashton Under Lyne. Next Tuesday at 8pm the magnificent Blyth Power (coincidentally, named after a north-eastern coal train) do their soaring folk-punk thing. Hope to see you there. Oh, and goodbye and good riddance, Trump. A bit of good news. At last!
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