Blog

Nicholas Jennings, photo by Gilbert Bélisle

This blog page is where you’ll find occasional postings from Nicholas
that reflect his interests, tastes and activities.

These postings could be anything from his latest playlist or a recent
concert review to news about his current projects or his views on local
history or current events.

We promise to keep this page updated as often as possible
and welcome your comments and feedback on all postings.

 



Neil Young covers Lightfoot PDF Print E-mail
Written by Nicholas Jennings   

earlymorningrainuk copyNeil Young is the latest artist to cover Gordon Lightfoot's 1966 classic "Early Morning Rain." He recorded the song at the Farm Aid concert in Saratoga Springs, NY on September 21, 2013. It's one of Lightfoot fans' most beloved compositions. Lightfoot wrote the song, which includes the memorable line "you can't jump a jet plane, like you can a freight train," based on his memories of living in Los Angeles as a music student and watching "big 707" jetliners taking off from LAX.

Now Young is recording "Early Morning Rain" as part of a new album of cover songs for Jack White's Third Man Records and will likely be released by Warner Bros, as well.

In December 2013, the Neil Young website Thrasher’s Wheat quoted a source as saying: “It is an album of covers. In it, as anticipated, he pays tribute to other renowned singer-songwriters. There are 12 tracks on it. There are no Neil Young originals…”

Other songs likely to be included are Bert Jansch's “Needle of Death,” as well as Phil Ochs “Changes” Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Ivory Joe Hunter’s “Since I Met You Baby” and Tim Hardin’s “Reason To Believe,” all songs that Young played at the 2013 Farm Aid concert.

With "Early Morning Rain," Young joins a long list of artists who have covered Lightfoot's classic, including: Harry Belafonte, Eva Cassidy, Judy Collins, Bob Dylan, Grateful Dead, George Hamilton IV, Ronnie Hawkins, Richard Hawley, Ian & Sylvia, Kingston Trio, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tommy Makem & The Clancy Brothers, Raul Malo, Peter, Paul & Mary, Elvis Presley, Jerry Reed, Tony Rice, Porter Wagoner, Paul Weller and Josh White Jr.

Here is Young performing the song:

Neil Young Early Morning Rain

 

 

 
Mike Stevens & Okaidja Afroso - Where’s the One? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Nicholas Jennings   

afrosoWhat do you get when you pair a versatile harmonica player from Sarnia, Ontario with a gifted singer and multi-instrumentalist from Ghana? The spirited duo known as Canadafrica. On their first album together, Stevens, a Son House devotee who’s married blues harp with bluegrass, and Okaidja, a former member of the Ghana Dance Ensemble who emigrated to Portland, Oregon to work with master drummer Obo Addy, cook up a tasty roots stew. There are folk and bluegrass flavors on Like a Little Bird and You Ain’t No Good, and numbers like Abifao and Dagarti benefit from the African spice of Okaidja’s percussive workouts. Some are message songs: Just a Boy, which has the hypnotic pull of Ali Farka Touré’s Malian blues, and Colour Blind, featuring Okaidja’s scat vocals and Stevens’ wailing harp, espouse racial tolerance. But there’s also humor in Keeping the Mosquitoes Away, which conjures up visions of madly swatting at buzzing hoards. Together, Stevens and Okaidja create an infectious fusion.

 
Best of 2013 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Nicholas Jennings   

arcadefireArcade Fire Reflektor

Inspired by Haitian rhythms and modern disco, Win Butler, Régine Chassange and company ask tough questions that are easy to dance to.

 

 

vampireweekendVampire Weekend Vampires of the City

Although they’ve moved away from their delicious African-pop hybrid, the New York smartypants remain relentlessly inventive.

 

 

valeriejuneValerie June Pushin’ Against a Stone

Her “organic moonshine roots music,” featuring old-school hymns and stomping blues-rockers, makes for an intoxicating brew.

 

 

franzferdinandFranz Ferdinand Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action

The Scottish pop-rockers sound as fresh and vital on their engaging fourth album as they did on their first.

 

 

lauramarlingLaura Marling Once I Was an Eagle

The English folkie mixes soul-baring, Joni Mitchell-style confessions with entrancing Eastern mystic tinges to devastating effect.

 

 

nekocaseNeko Case The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

One of the purest voices on the planet continues to venture forward bravely.

 

 

janellemonaeJanelle Monáe The Electric Lady

Psychedelic soul with a sci-fi twist, Monáe’s latest takes us deeper into her android alter-ego’s dazzling alternate universe.

 

 

lordeLorde Pure Heroine

The 17-year-old Kiwi had the year’s savviest hit with “Royals,” but her entire album boasts a brave voice that is bright, thoughtful and impossible to ignore.

 

 

atomsforpeaceAtoms For Peace Amok

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke gets happy with this funky side-project that finds his choir-boy falsetto dancing deliriously with some monster grooves.

 

 

miaM.I.A. Matangi

Her cross-cultural mélange has sometimes been too abrasive, but here pop’s agent provocateur finds the right balance of jarring beats and sweetened love songs.

 

 

 

BEST REISSUES

gracelandPaul Simon Graceland: 25th Anniversary Edition

 

 

 

otisOtis Redding The Complete Stax/Volt Singles

 

 

 

josephkabaseleJoseph Kabasele Le Grand Kallé: His Life, His Music

 

 

 

bobdylanBob Dylan Bootleg Series, Vol. 10: Another Self Portrait (1969-1971)

 

 

 

rollingstonesThe Rolling Stones Exile on Main Street (Deluxe Edition)

 

 

 

OTHER DISCOVERIES, REDISCOVERIES AND ENTHUSIASMS

Luke Winslow King

Rokia Traore

Django Django

Kobo Town

Laura Mvula

John Brown’s Body

Pokey LaFarge

Zaki Ibrahim

Jake Bugg

The Mavericks

 
Pokey LaFarge's Riverboat Soul Revival PDF Print E-mail
Written by Nicholas Jennings   

Pokey LaFarge

Imperial Club, Berlin

November 26, 2013

pokeylafarge-glennhallPokey LaFarge brought his distinctly old-timey brand of what he calls riverboat soul to Berlin’s Imperial Club last night. Making his debut in the German capital with his five-piece band, LaFarge, dressed in a dark suit, fedora and two-tone brogue shoes, introduced Hoagy Carmichael’s “Riverboat Shuffle” by asking the audience the name of the city’s river. “Spree,” shouted the crowd in the peculiar German pronunciation of “schpray.” “Right,” said LaFarge, not attempting to repeat the word himself, much to the locals’ amusement. The dapper bandleader then kicked into a spirited rendition of Carmichael’s tune, with some inspired harmonica and washboard playing from his bearded cowboy sidekick Ryan Koenig.

            LaFarge has a particular fondness for blues, country and western swing and treated the audience to several Bob Wills songs, including “My Window Faces the South.” Crooning about the Swanee River and strumming away on his archtop guitar, LaFarge looked and sounded every inch the slick riverboat gambler or savvy shoreline barker as the clarinet of Chloe Feoranzo and the cornet of TJ Muller wailed away alongside. And he kept up the tempo with “Okie Boogie,” a rockin’ tune from the ’40s by Jack Guthrie, who he rightly described as “Woody’s little known cousin.”

            But while LaFarge hankers for a time of obscure and scratchy 78s, there’s nothing precious or museum-like about his approach to music from bygone eras. A consummate showman, he brings real joy and palpable energy to those old tunes, driven to make them relevant in an age of so much electronic dance music and dubstep (the reggae variant LaFarge couldn’t remember the name of at one point during his between-song patter—“Sometimes I think I’m 30 going on 70,” he joked).

            The St. Louis native’s commitment to updating vintage styles really shines through on his own songs, and he and his band served up many of them during the two-hour show at the Imperial, drawn from albums like 2011’s Middle of Everywhere and this year’s self-titled recording, released on Jack White’s Third Man label. The plaintive “What Will the Rain Bring” conjured up visions of Django Reinhardt on a Mississippi showboat, while the chugging “Day After Day,” featuring band member Adam Hoskins’ jaunty guitar, enlivens a tale about the drudgery of the workaday life. LaFarge dipped into two songs from his 2010 album Riverboat Soul with “Two Faced Tom,” a peppy, humorous ditty about adultery with a murderous twist, and “La La Blues,” a giddy number that sums up his sunny outlook. “I’ve got this old thing called the laughing hearts disease,” sang LaFarge. “I’m gonna laugh my way to any old place I please.”

pokeyx3

            LaFarge, who contributed a song to Boardwalk Empire, finds himself in the forefront of an old-time renaissance that includes other revivalists like New Orleans’ Luke Winslow King and Australia’s C.W. Stoneking. But he refutes any suggestion that the music he makes is a throwback not capable of being modern. As he told one interviewer: “Timelessness is what I’m working towards and time is the very thing it will take in order to solidify myself in the eyes of the world. I’ll let the fads (like dubstep) fade away, I’ll let the generations evolve, and I’ll evolve with them.” He added: “It’s important for people to remember that any legendary musician has had one foot in his roots and one in the future.”

         Before he closed his set to rapturous applause from his new German fans, LaFarge accepted a request from one audience member, a tall, willowy blonde, to play “Let’s Get Lost,” a slow number from his latest album about a lovesick jobless dreamer. “I’d like to circle round the whole world twice,” he sang, “just gettin’ lost with you by my side.” By the time LaFarge and his merry minstrels left the stage and bid Berlin “auf wiedersehen,” a roomful of followers had just happily gotten lost with him.           

 
Adele - Skyfall PDF Print E-mail
Written by Nicholas Jennings   

skyfall adele-300x300While we await Adele's third album, which could conceivably be called 23 (following its predecessors 19 and 21), it's worth revisiting her last recorded release: the theme to the latest James Bond film. When it came out last October, the song was a major hit and became first Bond theme to win at the Golden Globes, the Brit Awards and the Academy Awards. With its over-the-top instrumentation and Adele's soaring vocals, instantly brought to mind the best Bond themes, especially those sung by the iconic Bond theme artist Shirley Bassey.

What was disappointing, however, was Adele's video for the song, which she co-wrote with Paul Epworth. The British superstar's video was an unispired film teaser that merely provided a collage of images drawn from the film, starring Daniel Craig, Judy Dench, Javier Bardem, Ralph Fiennes and Naomie Harris (the movie also featured the legendary British actor Albert Finney in a smaller role). You can watch Adele's official video here: Adele Skyfall video

But then it would be hard to top the movie's dream-like opening, which used the song and a stunnning sequence of images designed by veteran music video director Daniel Kleinman. We watch Bond as he sinks to the bottom of a riverbed, only to be taken inside the mind of our hero as he wrestles with analogies of his past and current emotional state and his uncertain future. 

The titles set up a lot of the events and images that appear later in the film, instilling a sense of déja vu in the viewer. Some are nightmarish, some wildly psychedelic. It's a stunning sequence and one of the best music videos, in effect, that I've seen in many years. For those who haven't seen it yet, or for those who want to watch it again, this time without the title credits, it's available here: Skyfall opening sequence

 


Page 2 of 5

Reviews

News image

Sam Smith - In the Lonely Hour

2014 | Administrator | Sunday, 22 June 2014

He’s a welcome voice of restraint in an age when over-the-top vocals are the norm. Smith has sung his way into the hearts of millions with his gentle falsetto, a...

News image

Paul McCartney & Wings - Wings Over America

2013 | Administrator | Tuesday, 4 June 2013

The year was 1976 and arena rock was in its heyday. Paul McCartney, who had not performed in North America since the Beatles’ last tour a decade earlier, took his...

News image

Mick Hucknall - American Soul

2013 | Administrator | Tuesday, 5 November 2013

He’s best known as the curly, red-haired frontman of the British blue-eyed soul band Simply Red, which enjoyed major hits like “Holding Back the Years.” But in 2009 Hucknall announced...

News image

Linda Ronstadt- Duets

2014 | Administrator | Monday, 19 May 2014

She possesses one of the most distinctive and versatile voices in popular music, giving country-rock its signature sound in the 1970s and later singing everything from Broadway musicals and the...

Features

News image

Alex Cuba - A Magical Musical Blend

2012 | Administrator | Monday, 21 March 2011

  With his oversized Afro and razored sideburns, Alex Cuba cuts a cool figure, a cross between ’70s soul man and stylish rocker. It’s a...

News image

Great Lake Swimmers' new energy

2012 | Administrator | Sunday, 3 June 2012

For Tony Dekker, recording—like real estate—is all about location. The Great Lake Swimmers frontman has made a habit of working in unusual settings, beginning with...

News image

Hey Rosetta! - Literary songwriting worth yelling about

2012 | Administrator | Sunday, 4 March 2012

Tim Baker has a problem. As frontman for Newfoundland’s Hey Rosetta!, one of Canada’s fastest-rising, hardest-working bands, he is touring for nine months of the...

News image

Kobo Town

2013 | Administrator | Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Drew Gonsalves laughs about how he had to leave Trinidad to discover the rich calypso tradition of his birthplace. As a teenager, he was far...