Blogs and Journalism

Friday Song: Janis Ian’s JESSE

Blog

A reliable indicator of songwriting talent is when a writer takes a hoary, overworked theme, one that has been mauled and murdered in countless second-rate songs, and makes it entirely new. Janis Ian, one of the great unsung heroes of...

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The Friday Song: Ry Cooder, SHINE (1910)

Blog

If there were ever a song that illustrates the muddle we are in about race, tolerance and offensiveness, it's my Friday Song this week, 'That's Why They Call Me "Shine"'.  The song has taken a peculiar journey over the past...

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Friday Song: Gillian Welch’s ‘Dark Turn of Mind’

Blog

I was introduced to the extraordinary, unearthly music of Gillian Welch by the novelist Kazuo Ishiguro in 2002. He was on Desert Island Discs  and his last choice of song was 'I'm Not Afraid To Die' from the 1998 album...

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The Friday Song: CW Stoneking, ‘Jungle Lullaby’

Blog

As every songwriter knows, one of the basic requirements of the job is to get the hell out of the leafy suburb of Clichéville, where everything is familiar and has been done before. The trick is to make it new....

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The Friday Song – Randy Newman’s ‘I Miss You’

Blog

Embarrassment is a tricky emotion to convey in a song. And when it is used (I think Madness once had a song called 'Embarrassment'),  it tends to swamp everything else. It becomes shame. In Randy Newman's 'I Miss You', from...

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How many books really ‘spark joy’? Damned few….

Blog

It has been clear-out time. I have been off the booze, filing the accumulated correspondence of the past three years, tidying up anything within reach. I have become a crashing bore, in fact. And it will be worth it, this...

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Five Kiwi pieces

Blog

As I sat in Wellington Airport, waiting for my flight - the first of three long flights home  -  a small earthquake occurred. The terminal building shivered for about 30 seconds. I looked around me. People continued chatting and checking...

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Springtime in New Zealand – and I’m on my way

Blog

Tuner? Check. Spare strings? Check. Knockout pill for the flight? Check. It's the final countdown before my first tour of New Zealand. I'll be playing, and doing workshops, at the Wellington Folk Festival, and then travelling the North Island (with one...

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