How Laura Marling’s new music was inspired by Maya Angelou’s ode to motherhood

KCRW’s In Residence sessions feature storytelling performances and commentary from some of our favorite artists. Laura Marling performs new music from her 2020 album “Song For Our Daughter,” and tells us about teaching guitar lessons.

British singer-songwriter Laura Marling has accomplished a lot across seven studio albums and 12 years recording music. She’s garnered Mercury Prize and Grammy nominations, collaborated with Ed O’Brien of Radiohead, Blake Mills and others, and she’s even started teaching online guitar lessons, which she details below. This all to say, she’s a supremely talented artist who moves in dynamic ways within the folk-rock lane. 

Her new album “Song For Our Daughter” was scheduled to come out later this summer but she found an opportunity to connect us all during the COVID crises by releasing it early. Marling said in a statement regarding the change of date, “In light of the change to all our circumstances, I saw no reason to hold back on something that, at the very least, might entertain, and at its best, provide some sense of union.” The album is a nod to Maya Angelou’s collection “Letter To My Daughter.” Marling herself is not a mother but she takes us there through her delicate songwriting — writing for a girl who needs confidence and hope.

Marling last visited Morning Becomes Eclectic in 2017, behind her Grammy-nominated album “Semper Femina,” and we were impressed by the ornate full band performance. For In Residence, she’s stripped back the arrangements to present two tracks from her new album and a throwback to 2011 — all recorded exclusively for KCRW. Check out the session and read on for more about her current projects.

How did your online guitar lessons come about? Are you teaching your own songs or covers? Tell us all about the project.

They came about just as a product of wanting to contribute something to the effort of distracting people (or perhaps myself) from the anxiety over what was going on in the world. In the first week of lockdown in the UK, I started doing live tutorials of some of my old songs, showing people the tricks I use in different tunings, etc. Continue reading

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‘Greek, without the sex’: Nick Drake and John Martyn’s folk bromance

A new book explores a musical friendship entailing joy, anger, ‘mountains of drugs’ … and tragedy. In this extract, the pair’s friends examine a complex rivalry

John Martyn and Nick Drake.
 ‘They wanted to be better than each other’ … John Martyn, left, and Nick Drake

In 1967, Robin Frederick, a singer-songwriter originally from Florida, returned to London from studying in Aix-en-Provence, where she had met a young, beautiful, meandering and tantalisingly unattainable young Englishman called Nick Drake. Frederick “spent the summer in London with John Martyn, listening to Sgt Pepper and the Incredible String Band, watching John learn to play sitar in about 10 minutes, living on toast and tea”.

She wrote the beautiful Sandy Grey about Drake, which cast him “in the role of wandering, rootless, fatherless boy”. Martyn recorded the song on his debut album, London Conversation. At the time, he didn’t know it was about Drake, or indeed even who Drake was. Perhaps he saw something of himself in it.

Introduced by their mutual friend Paul Wheeler, Martyn and Drake met for the first time in 1968, a year before the release of Drake’s debut album, Five Leaves Left. “Nick laughed a lot at John’s perceptive and witty comments,” Wheeler says. “Those were qualities which John used to win over live audiences … I think John was impressed by Nick’s ‘cool’.”

By 1969 and 1970, the social circle at the basement flat on Denning Road which Martyn shared with his wife Beverley and her young son, Wesley, was drawn largely from the Witchseason production and management company, and the Island label. It offered a familial, nurturing camaraderie. Nick Drake often dropped in; he, Martyn, and Richard Thompson would play in each other’s company, but almost always individually rather than interacting with one another. “I never remember them jamming together,” says Linda Thompson. “They were all brilliant guitarists, very different and stylised, so you couldn’t just jump in. They were careful not to tread on each other’s toes. It’s a dick thing; they all wanted to be better than each other.”

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Fairport Convention singer Judy Dyble dies aged 71

Folk singer, who also had a solo career, had a long-term illness

The Fairport Convention singer Judy Dyble has died aged 71. The folk artist, who also had a solo career, had been suffering from a long-term illness.

Dyble rose to prominence during the 1960s and performed on Fairport Convention songs including Time Will Show the Wiser.

A statement from her agent said: “It is with great sadness that we announce that English singer-songwriter Judy Dyble passed away on 12 July following a long illness borne with great courage. Judy Dyble was one of the pioneers of the English folk rock scene in the 1960s, most notably as a founding member of Fairport Convention and vocalist with cult band Trader Horne.

“We wish to express our deepest sympathies to Judy’s family, friends and many associates from her musical career at this time.” Continue reading

Nora Brown concert

The HOBBLEDEHOY do backflips of joy when Little Nora Brown offers a “Live” show online. If you enjoy this as much as we do, please donate to this brilliant young performer. Cheers!

VENMO: nora-brown-15
PAYPAL:cinnamontreenb@gmail.com
50% of donations go to the Louisville Community Bail Fund

Meet the folkers: the improbable story of British folk rock

The HOBBLEDEHOY recently came upon this excellent overview of the history of British Folk Rock written by Hugh Fielder.


Folk’s music’s not all “hey nonny nonny” y’know. In the 70s, it sneaked its way into the heaviest of rock’s repertoire. We look at the groups that spearheaded the genre

Led Zeppelin’s folk-rock credentials may not be uppermost in any assessment of the heavy metal behemoths, but the haunting presence of Fairport Convention singer Sandy Denny on Battle Of Evermore from Led Zeppelin IV as she echoes Robert Plant’s vocals is perhaps the starkest example of folk rock’s impact on British rock music in the 70s.

Indeed, beneath the metal bombast, Zeppelin had flirted with folk from the start. Jimmy Page has acknowledged the influence of 60s folkie Bert Jansch and you only have to compare the instrumental Black Mountain Side from Led Zeppelin 1 with Jansch’s Black Water Side to hear precisely what he means. And Gallows Pole from Led Zeppelin III is a rock’n’roll version of a traditional folk song. Er, folk rock in fact.

And Led Zeppelin weren’t the only big name to dabble in folk rock. When Traffic regrouped in 1970 after Steve Winwood’s Blind Faith adventure, they cut a version of the traditional ballad John Barleycorn and called the resulting album John Barleycorn Must Die.

Folk was a fertile field for aspiring rock musicians of the late 60s to graze in because the whole scene had been revitalised at the start of that decade by a bunch of young turks – chief among them Martin Carthy, Bert Jansch, John Renbourn and Davey Graham – who brought their own distinctive guitar styles to traditional folk songs and added their own flavours.

This revival created a thriving folk club circuit around the country and something of a scene in London where clubs such as the Troubadour and Cousins became fashionable haunts. The reputation of the British folk scene even spread to America and lured up-and-coming American folkies such as Bob Dylan and Paul Simon over to check it out. Which is how Bob Dylan came to appropriate Martin Carthy’s arrangement of Lord Franklin for Bob Dylan’s Dream and Paul Simon nicked his arrangement of Scarborough Fair (for which Carthy only formally forgave him recently).

Simon also learnt Davey Graham’s innovative modal guitar tuning that conveyed more than a tinge of Eastern promise. It was that tinge that Bert Jansch picked up on for Black Water Side. Which Jimmy Page… you get the picture.

The first young folk singer to break cover and cross over to the pop charts was Donovan, who landed a series of spots on ITV’s ground-breaking Ready Steady Go programme early in 1965, despite the fact he wasn’t even signed to a record label.

Indeed he wasn’t even in the front line of folk singers and his demos were more pop than folk. This would explain why his first single, Catch The Wind (muddily ‘enhanced’ by the London Philharmonic string section) did better in the pop charts, reaching No. 4, than the folk clubs where the hip young things looked down their noses.

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