The Hobbledehoy is vey much looking forward to hearing Joan Shelley perform in Boston on Friday night. Though she hails from Kentucky, Joan’s music borrows quite a lot from British traditional folk sounds, and English vocalists like June Tabor, who she frequently cites as a major influence. Give a listen to NPR’s All Songs Considered interview below.
In this All Songs Considered guest DJ session, Joan Shelley talks about her latest album, Like the River Loves the Sea and shares songs by some of the other artists who’ve inspired her over the years.
Joan Shelley makes music that lulls my soul. Her new album, Like the River Loves the Sea, is a serene experience. It’s music with a deep connection to British folk music from the ’60s and ’70s but with influences from this side of the world and her home of Louisville, Kentucky.
On this edition of All Songs Considered, Joan Shelley is joined by her musical partner and Louisville companion, guitarist Nathan Salsburg to play DJ. You can hear the roots of the music they make in the songs they chose to share, from American banjo legend Roscoe Holcomb to English folk singer June Tabor and the contemporary music of Bonnie “Prince” Billy.
Joan Shelley tells the story of recording Like the River Loves the Sea in Iceland and how they had to forgo adding banjo to the album because they couldn’t locate one in Iceland. We also hear Joan Shelley’s early trio called Maiden Radio, Joan and Nathan’s new collaboration with Bonnie “Prince” Billy and how she met him at an ugly sweater party in Kentucky [ . . . ]
Out of nearly 700 performances at the Tiny Desk, this is simply the most exhilarating one I’ve experienced. The instrumentation is unusual, with pulsing bass sounds produced by a wonderful combination of cello, tuba and electronics. It’s all rhythmically propelled by an astonishing drummer and Meredith pounding a pair of floor toms. And much of the repetitive melody is keyboard-and-guitar-driven that morphs and erupt with earth-shaking fervor.
I first saw this British composer a year ago, in a stunning performance at the SXSW musical festival. It was one of the best concerts of my life. The music I heard sent me into a state of reverie. If music could levitate my body, this is how it would sound. It carried me away and thrilled my soul. I was giddy for days.
Now, I know this isn’t music for everyone. Lovers of classical music might shun it for its use of sequencers and electronics. The electronic world may wonder how the hell you could ever dance to this. Or for lovers of rock and hip-hop, its repetition and throbbing beats and bass might send you running and screaming into the distance. But if you know and love the music of Philip Glass, King Crimson or Steve Reich — music that’s electrifying, challenging and sonically soars and ripples through your body — then crank this up.
Anna Meredith was a former BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra Composer in Residence. The songs performed here come from her 2016 release called Varmints, which is where two of the three songs performed here can be found. It’s been a long while since a contemporary composer has captured my musical imagination. I hope and trust this will open many to a new way of thinking about what music is and what it can do.
SET LIST “Nautilus” “Ribbons” “The Vapours”
MUSICIANS Anna Meredith, Jack Ross, Tom Kelly, Sam Wilson, Maddie Cutter
CREDITS Producers: Bob Boilen, Morgan Noelle Smith; Creative Director: Bob Boilen; Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin; Videographers: Morgan Noelle Smith, Maia Stern, Beck Harlan, Dani Lyman; Production Assistant: Joshua Bote; Photo: Eslah Attar/NPR.
One of the greatest living guitarists, Richard Thompson has shared two new brilliant songs from his just-announced album 13 Rivers.
I’m thrilled to have two new songs from one of our greatest living guitarists and songwriters, Richard Thompson. His just-announced 19th solo album, 13 Rivers, still finds him brimming with bursts of guitar magic and storytelling. It’s a trademark sound that has been incredibly influential since the days when he electrified British folk music in the 1960s as part of Fairport Convention and, later, some of the most brilliant records of the 1970s with his wife at the time Linda Thompson. But Richard Thompson is not stuck in any one era and his solo records continue to influence younger musicians with it’s deft playing and the way he spins a tale.
The two new songs today continue his tradition of turning life’s journey into song. “The Storm Won’t Come” tackles the desire for change and comes to the conclusion that you can’t hurry it. In an email, Richard Thompson wrote to say it’s “a song about change – out with the old, in with the new. In spite of your efforts, you cannot synthesize change, it is a natural process.”
There’s a smell of death where I lay my head
So I’ll go to the storm instead
I’ll seek it out, stand in the rain
Thunder and lightning, and scream my name
But it’s never the same
But it’s never the same
The storm must come to me
And The Storm Won’t Come
The second song we have from 13 Rivers is a stuttering, fast-paced tune called “Bones of Gilead.” Richard Thompson says “this is about an impending crisis, but it’s a good crisis. It’s an uncomfortable process to go through, one you may barely survive, but it brings knowledge and growth and love.”
What’s my name? My name is heartbreak
Heartbreak of the giving kind
I will come and whisper sweetness
Sweetness that will dawn your mind
No rib cage can hold me
No loving cup
I don’t fit your wise world
I tear it up
And tear it up he does on these cuts and the other 11 on the 13 Rivers. The self-produced album was recorded and mixed by Clay Blair at Boulevard Recording, an old, famed studio in Hollywood. “It used to be Hollywood trendy, but it fell into total disrepair,” says Thompson. “It’s still got some gaps in the walls. I like studios that are honest. It’s about the décor of the sound, and there’s a specific sound to Boulevard.”
These songs were written at what Richard Thompson describes as a dark time in his life without being specific. These songs came “as if they’d been channeled from somewhere else. You find deeper meaning in the best records as time goes on. The reward comes later.”
13 Rivers will be out on New West Records September 14.