The Tree

 

JC 2

A bleakness of mood that evokes Nick Drake.

Phrasing that raises the specter of Jeff Buckley.

British songwriter and photographer J.C. Wrightson’s stark songs are instantly ear catching. Deceptively simple on first listen, they are minimalist in nature, and grainy in texture, and it is there, in that bit of a blur, that you feel the rub: Wrightson’s songs are not as simple as they sound, not simply sad, not simply vulnerable. They are those things, but they are also something more. A finger crooking, not so much in invitation, but to indicate direction: it is here, look here, in the seam of the song. Listen to the words, and also, listen to the words that are missing.

Something existential this way comes, disguised as an emo neo folk song.

J.C. Wrightson’s brief Twitter bio mentions that he’s living in Stockholm, but that’s pretty much all I know about his personal life. I started this post months ago, and tonight Wrightson’s website is down, so I can’t include the bio that I’d made a note about, the one that I apparently thought was, “as romantic as they come.”

Hopefully I can find out more about J.C. Wrightson in the future and update this post, but I’ve already waited too long to get this song up. Here’s The Tree, recorded live in Carlisle, UK. After you listen to it, you may want to check out the music video below. Nothing is Forever had me holding my breath, waiting to see what would happen—and so much happens, and nothing happens. Beautiful, and heartbreaking, and like The Tree, the video for Nothing is Forever is deceptively simple, and a killer. 

 

A Song for the End of Summer

It’s amazing, what can be done in a bedroom these days. Musically, I mean.

But first, meet Tom Humphries, from the UK. Apparently Humphries is a chef now, but before that played in several bands. I think, perhaps he should get back to it.

Listen to Out There Somewhere and let me know if you agree, Tom Humphries should be Out There Somewhere: on a stage, in a coffee shop, in a club.

It’s pouring rain here in New Jersey and the sky is white. Maybe it was the same in Sheffield when Tom Humphries wrote Out There Somewhere. Even with the upbeat acoustic guitar that reminds me of John Mayer, and the hint of Latin rhythm that provides a sense of warmth, there’s something bleak about Out There Somewhere. Something in Tom Humphries voice that is slightly empty—in a good way. It’s the same starkness that I’ve heard in Van Morrison’s voice, in Joseph Arthur’s. It’s like what I feel now, at the end of Summer.

The sweet background vocals from Andrew Jameson on Out There Somewhere provide another bit of beauty, as well as a nice foil for Humphries’ bare voice.

Now, I know you’re still wondering about the bedroom (caught you) so here you go: Tom Sheffield in a bedroom recording a song about his father. It’s hard to believe just how good the sound quality is. It’s also hard to believe that Humphries wrote the song Father just before he recorded it. It’s lovely and real, and if you’ve ever tried to write about a parent or a family member without the piece collapsing under the weight of sentimentality, then you know how tough it is.

I was blank, a blank slate
You can draw, decide my fate
Follow you round, in your wake

I been off the tracks, and I have steered
Away from love, floods of tears
But all the time, you’ve been here

I told my father I can grow
He said my boy, just stay close

So I say, what do you know
And I say can you show me
How to be, a better man than me

Nowadays, I feel strong
I need to thank you, you’ve helped me along
The twisted path, I’ve been on

Time…Flows…
You’ve seen me change, you’ve seen me curse
When things get tough, I come to you first

I told my father, you take care
Whenever I need you, you are there

So I say, What do you know
And I say can you show me
How to be, a better man than me

Pure Potential

Sophie Hosken-Taylor‘s voice is smoky, breathy, and shaky. A tentative, beautiful sound. The sound of pure potential.

Sophie Hosken-Taylor performed around the South West for two years before she moved to London looking for a bigger audience. She names Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, Amy MacDonald and Jose Vanders as her inspirations.

When I wrote my song, Breathe, the only other song I knew with the same title was one by Pink Floyd. Needless to say, no one would ever confuse the two songs. Now, with so many great songs out there with the same name, if I wrote Breathe today, I wouldn’t call it that. But it doesn’t matter that Sophie Hosken-Taylor gave the title track of her self-produced CD a popular name. The song is such a lovely wash of acoustic guitar and airy vocals, it’s unique. And besides, what’s more important than breathing?

 

Breathe

Many days I find myself asking, who am I?

Everyday I stare at the mirror,

And wonder who is looking back.

Is it a shadow?

Is it a ghost?

Is it someone I used to know?

And then it hits me…

I’m staring at me.

And I can’t breathe,

I can’t see.

I can’t breathe,

Without you holding me up,

Up against it all.

Too many times I’ve locked myself away,

In exile I’ve stayed.

Now I’m trapped in my own mind and I’m scared,

It’s here I’ll stay.

Will I come back?

Escape from it all?

Can I be what I used to be and let it all,

Blow away?

I can’t breathe,

I can’t see.

I can’t breathe,

Without you holding me up,

Up against it all.

And if I could I’d stop it from ever happening.

And I wish I could let it slide and fade away.

I can’t breathe,

I can’t see.

I can’t breathe,

Without you holding me up,

Up against it all.

Music and lyrics written by Sophie Hosken-Taylor.
Vocals, Guitar, Drums performed by Sophie Hosken-Taylor.
Bass performed by Ashley Poulton.
Recorded by Ashley Poulton and Sophie Hosken-Taylor.

To listen to Breathe in its entirety, go here. To listen to It Could Have Been Worse, go here. To be a super cool person, like Sophie on fb.

To see what convinced me of that one day  Sophie Hosken-Taylor will not have to seek her audience because they will be looking for her, click on the picture below.

London Calling

The first time I listened to Thinkin’ of You, I thought just maybe, Nick Drake was alive and well and hiding out in the UK.

But although the Brits aren’t lucky enough to have Nick Drake in their midst—sadly, none of us are—they do have Idris Davies.

Idris DaviesThinkin’ of You opens with acoustic guitar sans effects, pretty much good demo quality, and that’s fine, because when Idris’ voice comes in and begins to quaver with vibrato and emotion, that’s all we want to hear.

Thinkin’ of you is a love song, and even though it’s labeled ‘folk’, there’s something about the vocal phrasing, the way the notes are delivered so smoothly, that makes me think of jazz.

Listen to the way Idris Davies sings the two lines,

You make a mountain a molehill baby
You make a thousand miles feel local

He makes one note melt into the next, almost like a clarinet, or butter.

There are no jazz chords here, but still, there’s a breath of blues, although again, no blues progression.

Idris Davies has me thinking of him, yes, and Nick Drake, but also strangely enough, Nat King Cole.

This is what Idris Davies had to say about the collection of music that includes Thinkin’ of You.

The Sternhall Sessions began when the first 4 songs were recorded in my home in Peckham. The rest make up a collection of songs that I wrote and/or enjoyed playing around the same period.

All of these songs are sketches, none of them are perfect, and only some of them finished. Make of them what you will but please, and if you like or dislike please let me know by leaving a comment.

Peace and love,

Idris

Thinkin’ of You

The Mornin’s come, I’m layin in the cool yellow sun,
I’m free from sound, everythin is still – there’s not a soul around,
But I don’t care cos I know somewhere
You’ll be thinkin of me
Thinkin of me.
You make a mountain a molehill baby
You make a thousand miles feel local
An I’m thinkin of you,
Thinkin of you.

I’m movin on with the day. The sun is high, of it there’s no escape.
Family come and go, and once again I’m here alone,
But I’m not alone – your heart tells me so,
Cos you’ll be thinkin of me,
I think you’re thinkin of me.
You make a mountain a molehill baby,
You make a thousand miles feel local
An I’m thinkin of you,
Thinkin of you.

Evenin’s here, baby how I wish you were near.
A record plays low, the sun is sinkin now it’s time to go.
The sky is on fire, full of our desire
Yes you’re thinkin of me,
Thinkin of me.
You make a mountain a molehill baby,
You make a thousand miles feel local
An I’m thinkin of you,
Thinkin of you.

More Music from the UK

On the fourth chord of I Sign I broke out in goosebumps. I don’t mean a couple sprang up along my arms, I mean shivering skin, all over my body. And that was before  Zara Kershaw started singing, her voice all breathy and bluesy.

I Sign is definitely part blues, but it’s a lot more. I Sign is pop, it’s alternative, and there’s something about it that makes me think of Broadway at it’s best.

Maybe that’s singer songwriter Zara Kershaw’s musical training showing, or maybe the lush piano and string parts that come in around minute two are responsible for the big sound that says, concert hall.

Then the music starts to swing, to skip towards a section that serves as a bridge but also as the triumphant sounding climax of what is essentially a love story. Although I confess, I can’t figure out if this love is beginning or ending, I absolutely love the concept, “I Sign”, whether to begin, or end, a relationship portrayed in a three-minute song. Brilliant.

Zara Kershaw describes her songs as having “contrapuntal streams of enriched vocal harmony” and towards the end of I Sign I found myself choosing my favorite vocal line and singing along. After a while I created my own harmony and layered it on top.

When the song ended at just over three and a half minutes, I was surprised. It didn’t feel long enough. I wished for a second chorus before the swinging section, or repeated choruses at the end. But really, there’s no problem with I Sign, you must simply play it over and over.

Zara Kershaw is from the UK and I thought I might have heard the influences of Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel in her music, as well as a bit of raw energy that I consider more . . . American. That bit of edgy blues made me think of Melissa Etheridge, but just for a second. Singer songwriter Zara Kershaw is her own artist. If we’re lucky she’ll come over and play a few shows. If she does, you’ll hear about it on Sirenstories. Stay tuned.

Never The Bride, Always the Siren

I’m not going to get super personal, but I want to explain why I haven’t been posting music lately. It’s because I’ve been overwhelmed.

Things have been very intense around here. As some of you know, Irene created a landslide in front of our home, and although our house isn’t in danger at this point, we have to do something or we’ll probably lose part of our yard. We can no longer go into the garden, or our gazebo, which hangs precariously on the edge of the cliff. The gazebo is from the 1930’s. My husband and I got married in it. Let’s not look for a sign. I’m debating posting pictures.

We’ve had engineers and FEMA and lots of other people climbing around on the cliff/hill this week. Some of our neighbors are having similar problems so people are talk, talk, talking and the phone’s been ringing off the hook.
Meanwhile, #MySonIs5 started school this week, Kindergarden, so my emotions have run high. And although I’m thrilled I’ll supposedly be getting more writing time, with all the extra school mommy stuff, so far, I’ve only seen a few extra hours.
It’s amazing how #MySonIs5 starting school has brought out the wicked perfectionist part of my personality. I think I bought him three different pairs of boots this week. One of them will fit just right. I thought I had eradicated Miss Perfection long ago through yoga practice so I’m disappointed to see her around. Ugh.

I’m tired, so tired I don’t want to keep fighting that feeling. I want to embrace it. I think it will be easier, right? To just fall into the feeling. So today I’m posting Gotta Get Back from Never The BrideNikki Lamborn‘s voice sounds exactly how I feel. Worn.

The big difference is that Nikki Lamborn‘s voice sounds worn in a good way, like old Rolling Stones worn, like Torn and Frayed  worn. Like your favorite and most comfortable jeans worn.

I almost want to hear a rougher production here, something broken, something stumbling, but the production on Gotta Get Back is perfect, and Never The Bride is a better band because of that. The crystal clear sound and well thought out rock production really does support Nikki Lamborn perfectly. I can tell she must be a strong woman, Never The Bride is a rock band with history, but if she had to let it all go, if she had to lean, or even collapse, this band would catch her.

I could say a lot more about Never The Bride and Gotta Get Back, but check this out:

Roger Daltrey of The Who: described Bristol-born Nikki Lamborn as “The best rock voice since Janis Joplin.”

Enough said.

Except for one more thing. If you love Melissa Etheridge, you’ll love Never The Bride and the classic rock sound of Gotta Get Back.

Click on the pics to go to Never The Bride‘s various web pages.

Bob Harris, BBC Radio 2: Never The Bride: “An absolutely brilliant band, one of the best live bands in Britain.”

By the way, that’s Nikki at the top of the post, not me. I feel a lot better now. Thanks for listening.

And special thanks to Never The Bride for uploading their song to the Sirenstories SoundCloud.

If you want to submit one of your songs to Sirenstories, go to SoundCloud.com and join the Sirenstories group. Then share a song with the group. I’ll do the rest.