The 30 plus songs I am adding this week, all have in common the passion of the chant, whether chanteuses or crooners perform them. The songs all deal with love for the common man – or woman – or a city. Either way, I am sure you will find a number of pleasant surprises among them.
English folk singer Darren Hayman discovered an old pamphlet from the 1880s with lyrics for songs to be sung by socialists. In only two cases did the writer, William Morris, specify a tune, so Darren made up the rest. The album, Chants for Socialists, open this week’s blog list, and even if you’re not a socialist yourself (I’m not), you might be moved by both the poignant, historical lyrics, but also of Hayman’s great new tunes and harmonies.
Ryan Bingham sounds like he has swallowed a broken bottle, and I yearn to give hum a dozen Fisherman’s Friend to alleviate the obvious pain in his throat. Still, it is fascinating to listen to him, there’s a lot of pain in his lyrics, too. No wonder, Bingham has had his share of tragedy: his mother drank herself to death and his father committed suicide. But from pain comes beauty, and his latest album, Fear and Saturday Night, contains a number of beautiful tracks. I have added four of them. Here’s a sneak preview:
More tragedy is at the base of Passing Through, performed by Grace Griffith. The American Celtic singer is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease in a bad way, and the recording of this album is nothing but a heroic endeavour. Most of the songs were recorded a cappella, with orchestration and harmonies added later, and the result is truly beautiful. It should not be a surprise to anyone that Griffith reminds us of Eva Cassidy, both in terms of her fate and in the quality of her voice. Although she has stated this is her very last album, we may all hope that she manages to tame this horrible disease and give us more music like this.
On to one of Eastern Europe’s finest voices, according to people who happen to know these things. I have very little experience with many Eastern European singers, but I am enthralled by the voice and music of Amira Medunjanin. Her third album is titled Silk and Stone, slightly misleading since all songs are sung in her mother tongue. Not that it matters; the passion and the emotions shine through the (at least to me) incomprehensible lyrics. Folk music, jazz and pop are all mixed together in this wide-ranging music landscape, very accessible even to Western European ears.
If Amira Medunjanin is a one of the most exciting new Eastern European artists, Maggie Björklund is certainly one of the most exciting Western European. I have listen to her new album, Shaken, more than any other album the last couple of weeks. The Danish chanteuse is also a credible steel guitar player, and the album’s most original and exciting track, Missing at Sea, is all instrumental. There is darkness in both her voice and her lyrics, but I nevertheless find listening to Björklund’s music strangely comforting.
French chanteuse Zaz is another guilty pleasure of mine. Even when she is bad she is good, and after her fabulous debut album she has underperformed. Now she has released a tribute album to the love of her life, the city of Paris. Most of the songs are well known, even slightly worn out, but Zaz manages to add energy to even old hits like Champs Elysées, and to duet partners like Charles Aznavour. Zaz, with her enticing raspy voice, gets my attention every time, and my feet are tapping frantically on all the tracks of Paris. Here’s a little taster to get you in a similar mood – hopefully:
If you’re an avid reader of eclectic magazine New Statesman you may already know that one of the editors is also a singer-songwriter. Yo Zushi is English, but with Japanese genes, not that youhear much of Asia, It Never Entered My Mind is truly a European folk album. I am not thrilled by all tracks, but four of them stand out. Here is a taster of one of them:
The 36 new tracks force out favourites we have enjoyed since September last year: Bahamas, Team Me, Luke Sital-Singh, Sinead O’Connor, Bishop Allen, Parker Millsap, Thea & The Wild and Tina Dico.