Saturday, December 20, 2008

Kathy Mattea: Sending Me Angels

the two songs in this clip from a BBC documentary are not winter holiday songs -- but they could be.

you may also want to see Mattea's take on holiday music
Music Road: Kathy Mattea: Joy for Christmas Day

Cowboy Christmas Ball

things haven't changed that much, in some places...

silent night

Silent Night, in English and Irish, from the annual Boston based celebration Christmas Celtic Sojourn. a bit of reflection and joy of the season shared in song.

more about Christmas Celtic Sojourn Live here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lau: Scots trad re invented

Scots trad at warp speed with a whole new energy....

Kris Drever, Martin Green, and Aidan O'Rourke bring different backgrounds to their collaboration (for more on that, there's an interview I did with the three of them in the current issue of the music magazine Dirty Linen). This four minute promo video includes some very interesting ways of getting their musical energy and connection on tape.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Gretchen Peters: England Blues

Gretchen Peters is the writer behind hits for Martina McBride, George Strait, Bonnie Raitt, Etta James, and Faith Hill, to name just a few. She's also a fine singer and performer in her own right, though that's a fact better known in Europe than in the US. Peters is releasing a holiday album this year, Northern Lights, which, as you might expect from her is not your usual take on the holidays. We've not yet been able to find any videos of songs from that project, but while we're looking here is Peters having fun in a rockin' mood, on a song called England Blues, from a concert in Nashville.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

julie fowlis on the bagpipes

Julie Fowlis is a Gaelic singer who's winning awards and acclaim across the world for he work. She grew up in North Uist, in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland, where she also learned to play whistles and, as you'll see in the clip below, bagpipes.

Fowlis is celebrating the US release of her second solo album, Cuilidh, with a brief tour in the United States beginning next week, which includes appearances at the Lotus Festival in Bloomington, Indiana, and Club Passim in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She's threatening to bring out the pipes at some point along the way...

tour schedule

You may also want to see

Music Road: now playing: Julie Fowlis: Mar A Tha Mo Chridhe/As My Heart Is

Music Road: now playing: eist: songs in their native language

Friday, September 12, 2008

Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

Michelle Wright, Iris DeMent, Mairead ni Mhaonaigh -- not an expected combination of voices, but a really fine one. From the first Transatlantic Sessions series, about a dozen years back. Song, singers, and musicians well worth revisiting, or checking out for the first time.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Stairwell Sisters

How about a bit of cloggiing to go along with your music?

Here the San Francisco based Stairwell Sisters do the song Clog on Cindy in Anchorage, Alaska. The five women do a fine job with non clogging songs as well, so much so that Lloyd Maines [who should know: he's worked with Terri Hendrix, the Dixie Chicks, and just about everybody else in Texas], who co produced their latest recording, Get Off Your Money, said about the occasion when he first heard them "I happened upon this tribe of women musicians, playing old time string music, with the power and excitement of a great rock band."

They do -- I had the chance to see them in Glasgow, where they opened for Scots Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis. Quite an evening.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

We Sing Star Wars

As you may have noticed, Fred and I call your attention to videos which are often both really musical and really off the edge of what you might have been expecting, for one reason or another. That works for this -- Star Wars theme run through Scottish fiddle, acid jazz, and Club Passim, all at the same time, by Hanneke Cassel and friends. Bound to give you a smile or even an outright laugh.

you might also want to see
Music Road: now playing: Hanneke Cassel and Christopher Lewis: Calm the Raging Sea

Friday, June 6, 2008

Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier/Shule Aroon

Shule Aroon, Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier: the song and many versions of bits of these verses turn up inthe music of Ireland, Scotland, and across America.

This one is a beat driven take on the song by the Rooney Family of County Antrim, Northern Ireland. They're playing in the Stratchclyde Suite of Glasgow's Royal Concert Hall during Celtic Connections in January 2008.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Heartbreaker's Alibi

would you like a little noir with your bluegrass? award winning singer and mandolin player Rhonda Vincent delivers just that in this video for Heartbreaker's Alibi. have to say I thought it was going to end six different ways than it did -- although the way it does end is interesting too. Dolly Parton turns up as a guest.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

When's the last time you went to the theater?

It may come to you.

Stansted Airport, London. 7 hidden cameras. 14 undercover actors. 1 unexpected performance.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Someone Ought to Wave the Flag - George M. Cohan

A fascinating, if politically incorrect, clip from the seldom-seen The Phantom President of 19 and 32. What makes this film especially unique is that it features George M. Cohan, who was trying to move from a sagging theater career into film. Cohan would make but one more movie in 1934 (Gambling), that - like Phantom President - would meet with indifferent public reaction before returning to Broadway in his last successful show, the Rodgers & Hart hit of 19 and 37 I'd Rather be Right, where he'd play a dancing FDR. Watch Cohan's blackface routine and it's easy to see where Jimmy Cagney got his spot-on phrasing and moves for Yankee Doodle Dandy, which by the way, re-creates a scene from I'd Rather be Right in its opening sequence.

You'll also see Jimmy Durante and Sidney Toler in this 9-minute clip. Toler is probably best-known for playing the lead in the equally politically incorrect Charlie Chan series. As someone recently tweeted on Twitter, an entire generation has grown up without knowing anything about Jimmy Durante, which is a shame. The Ol' Schnozzola was a Runyonesque one-of-a-kind who for a period of time was probably one of the most popular performers in the U.S.

As readers of Dreamtime know, I'm fascinated by the medicine and minstrel show genres, which have a history stretching from the 19th century to Spike Lee's Bamboozled. Blackface routines in movies of the `30s and `40s, and even somewhat unbelievably into the `50s were more common than you might expect.

Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland would appear in blackface in 1939's Babes in Arms. Fred Astaire put on the cork in 1936's Swing Time. Bing Crosby appeared in blackface in 1942's Holiday Inn, the precursor to the better-known White Christmas, released in 1954, and which also included a minstrel show number, but which, happily, was not done in blackface. The Black and White Minstrel Show was a popular British television series with a 20-year run into the `70s that presented traditional American "Deep South" songs - usually performed in blackface.

For obvious reasons most of these films aren't broadcast widely anymore. You can occasionally find The Phantom President on eBay. If you share my fascination in the old time minstrel shows and the very strange - and very racially insensitive, it should be noted - art of blackface, you may also be interested in Yes Sir, Mr. Bones, a 54-minute movie from 19 and 51, which contains the only known footage of the legendary blackface singer and comedian Emmett Miller in action.

The movie is available as 1/2 of Showtime USA, a DVD that also contains Square Dance Jubilee, featuring Spade Cooley. As a commenter noted on the Amazon page, Yes Sir, Mr. Bones is probably as close as we're likely to get to a reconstruction of an actual minstrel show, from the opening "end man" comedy routines, featuring Miller, to the "olio" including sentimental ballads performed by an "Irish Thrush," to an amazing softshoe on sand routine, to the closing burlesque numbers. The movie supposedly takes place in a show biz retirement home; a young boy wanders in and the residents - thanks to the magic of imagination - recreate a minstrel show.

If you're offended by blackface material - some of it very crude, by the way - you don't want to watch Yes Sir, Mr. Bones, as one of the audio commentaries puts it right at the beginning. If you're interested in it as a historical document - especially of Emmett Miller - you do.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Alison Brown Quartet with John Doyle and Tim O'Brien

May is bluegrass month, among a lot of other things celebrated at this time of year. So here's a video which combines bluegrass, Celtic, and American folk music.

It's from the ABC club, Glasgow, during Celtic Connections 2008. It's only a minute long clip but gives an idea of the great energy and fine music these people create. The Greencards were the opening act, equally fine and a really good idea for a double bill (I had the good fortune to be there, seated not far from whoever shot this video).

The song they are playing is called Jack Dolan or The Wild Colonial Boy, and John Doyle has recorded it on his album Wayward Son. That's John on guitar, Alison Brown on banjo, Tim O'Brien on mandolin, Joe Craven on fiddle, Garry West on bass, John R Burr on keyboards...and I know I'm forgetting somebody.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

I've been playing with Twitter of late (you can find me there at FredatDreamtime if you're interested) and have been going up the "what is this good for except as a major productivity buster?" to the slow dawning of awareness scale that apparently all Twitter users go through.

Is Twitter useful for someone like me remains to be seen, but in some cases and for some people it is useful to create dialogs with your audience. Here's an example - Roger McGuinn, yes that Roger McGuinn, twitters. And if you had been following him last night you would have found that Bruce Springsteen invited him backstage at his concert last night, and the two ended up on-stage doing Turn, Turn, Turn.

And yes, the video is exceptionally wretched. But think a second. Here I am sitting in New Hampshire, reading notes from a rock star in almost real time, and then watching a video of what he's talking about a few hours later.

In some ways we really are living in the future.

Cher & Tina Turner & Kate Smith - Beatles Medley

It kind of leaves you speechless. If you can make it all the way through the clip, you'll also see Ike Turner and the full Ike and Tina Revue with Tim Conway as a surrealistic Sgt Pepper's Band.

For some reason this clip always seems to surface around late April, possibly because it was first aired on the Cher variety show on April 27, 1975, making it almost exactly 33 years old.

Kate Smith who, to put it charitably, was already in the winter of her career by the late `60s, was a staple on television of the era, gamely putting in appearances on nearly every variety show in existence over the next decade, including but not limited to: Tony Orlando and Dawn; The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour; The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour; The Dean Martin Show; Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In; The Andy Williams Show and The Jackie Gleason Show. It was a happy show when Smith did not sing God Bless America, which producers tended to trot out to show how they were both hip and pro-American.

Thanks to Mark Evanier for the link.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Unusual Suspects

You’ve heard of big bands, you’ve heard of Celtic music -- but combining the concepts? That’s just what Corrina Hewat and David Milligan have done, with a changing cast of some of really talented Scottish players on fiddle, drums, pipes, whistles, flute...The band is known as The Unusual Suspects. Their first gig, at Celtic Connections in Glasgow in 2003, has been named one of the best gigs of all time by The Scotsman newspaper, and those who saw their gig this winter in Glasgow named it as possibly the best show of this year's edition of that internationally acclaimed gathering.

Hewat and Milligan compose for this ensemble too, and there’s a bit of their work in both clips here. That’s Hewat playing the harp in these clips, and Milligan on piano.

It’s a major undertaking, getting this many musicians together, making them all sound good, and financing tours and recordings. More about how and why they do all that at the band’s web site.

promo clip with loads of fiddles

from the YouTube notes on the second clip: The Unusual Suspects' "Lorient Suite" composed by Corrina Hewat & David Milligan for the 2007 Lorient Interceltique Festival. This part of the concert featured seven pipers - Calum McCrimmon, Donal Brown, Fraser Shaw and Mairearad Green along with Stuart Cassells, Willie Armstrong & Kevin Macdonald of the Red Hot Chili Pipers.

The rest of the band:
(L-R)Catriona Macdonald, Anna Massie, Eilidh Shaw, Alistair White, Jonny Hardie & Gavin Marwick (FIDDLES)
Brian McAlpine (ACCORDION)
Rick Taylor (TROMBONE)
Nigel Hitchcock (SAXOPHONE)
Ryan Quigley (TRUMPET)
Colin Steele (TRUMPET)
Conrad Ivitsky (BASS)
Alyn Cosker (DRUMS)
Ross Martin (GUITAR)
John Morran (BOUZOUKI)
Corrina Hewat (HARP)
David Milligan (PIANO)

Thursday, March 27, 2008


You've heard of dueling banjos, maybe even heard some play. But dueling bodhrans? Good fun from the Rooney Family at the Celtic Connections festival. Hint: if you've enjoyed some of Fred's posts on Desi Arnaz, below -- well, it is a different thing, of course, but still you might like this. Whole lot of drumming going on.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

St. Patrick's Eve: The Lilting Banshee

Mike Rafferty on flute, Mary Rafferty on accordion, and Donal Clancy on bouzouki on the jig The Lilting Banshee...

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Emily Smith: rising Scottish singer

Emily Smith is a rising star of Scottish music, and she’s won international song writing notice too. One of the things she enjoys is taking on lesser known songs from the tradition and honoring their substance while setting them to fresh arrangements. In this clip she offers a ballad that has elements of star crossed -- sort of -- lovers, fleeing over the hills, and a few surprise twists. The song is called May Colven, and it’s from a gig Smith and her band played in the Strathclyde Suite at the Royal Glasgow Concert hall at the Celtic Connections festival this winter. If you like fellow Scots singers Karine Polwart and Corrina Hewat, then give Smith a listen. What, you've never heard of any of them? Okay, well, on the American folk side then, Lucy Kaplansky and Gretchen Peters, on the British side of things, Kate Rusby. If the songs or sound of these women intrigue you, then give Smith a listen. She has a new album due out in April and is planning a short US tour around that time as well.

I've just noticed while posting this that it is the one hundredth post at Series of Tubes. Thanks for staying with us through all the varied musical excursions Fred and I keep taking you on, from the many faces of Dylan and his musical tastes through rockabilly, Cuban Pete, Robert Burns, Ian & Sylvia, Johnny Cash, Cathie Ryan, Pam Tillis, Ruby Tuesday, daisy mayhem, Tommy Makem, and many others -- check out the list on the lower right of this page and see where we've been so far.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Carrie Newcomer on songwriting

Indiana based singer and songwriter Carrie Newcomer has a new album out called The Geography of Light. Her songs are set variously at the edge of light and dark, in the history of the Ohio Valley, and in the quiet places of the soul. Her creative view is laced at once with faith, laughter, and grace, and a clear hearted view of the dimensions of the spirit in day to day life. In the video below, she talks about writing this collection of songs.

you may also want to see these posts over at Music Road

Newcomer was also involved in Wilderness Plots, a collection of songs about the time when the Ohio Valley was the frontier of settlement in the US

comment on an earlier Newcomer album.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

tommy makem: will you go lassie go?

The late Irish singer and songwriter and tradition bearer Tommy Makem from a television special with Cherish the Ladies and Barley Bree, all joining in on Will You Go Lassie Go?, or as it's also known, Wild Mountain Thyme, from 1992. Joanie Madden on flutes and whistles, Cathie Ryan lead singer for Cherish.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Desi Arnaz and His Orchestra -Jitterumba

A longish (15-minute+) video that will give Desi Arnaz fans (of which I'm one) a pretty good taste of what his nightclub act was like before the I Love Lucy days. Desi gets in a dig at his old boss, Xavier Cugat, while introducing the beauteous Dulcina, who flies out onto the stage into a wild rumba and I kept expecting that crazy red-head who always wanted to break into show business to show up instead.

The short from Castle Films was originally released in 1947 as Jitterumba and then re-released in 1949 for the home 16mm film market in 1949 as Melody Masters #5. Apparently nobody at Castle could be bothered to correct the misspelling of Arnaz's name over the intervening two years. But, as Mark Evanier reports, Arnaz himself once let an entire season of Lucy go by with his name misspelled in the credits.

Full info on the short can be found here.

Cathie Ryan: The Back Door

Immigration comes up for political comment often this campaign season. Here's a musical exploration of one view of the subject, which. although written some years back, is still timely.

Cathie Ryan sings the powerful song she wrote concerning immigrants, especially dedicated to undocumented Irish, with Joanie Madden on flutes and whistles and other members of Cherish the Ladies along as well. From the early 1990s, part of a television special with Tommy Makem and Friends.

This song was title track of CTL's first recording with the then members of the regular touring band.

The Back Door really established the unique character of the band and their approach to music for those who had not yet seen them play live. The collection, includes jigs. reels, and songs, among them Coal Quay Market, a fast paced playful tale, and Roisin Dubh, a powerful sean nos song from the heart of Irish history. There's a post here at Music Road with more about The Back Door CD, and a later one about Cherish itself, those early concerts, and further adventures of the band. More about Cathie Ryan at her website.

Cherish the Ladies reunion gig: Ryan, who is a dozen years into her own solo career now, sings The Back Door in 2007, a one minute clip from the Milwaukee Irish festival.