Friday, 21 April 2017

Alice Marra tribute Chain Up the Swings

Scottish singer Alice Marra has recorded a moving tribute to the great Scottish songwriter – her dad Michael Marra, Chain Up the Swings. She performed the songs at the impressive St Andrews in the Square at Celtic Connections 2017 with the Gaels band.

I first heard Marra’s deep gravelly voice and songs at the small theatre Mugdock music festival which was perfect for his songs and I wrote then – “he paints with words.”
I was struck with the vivid escapism and stories of his songs. Michael liked to journey from American dreams and back home to Dundee in his song lyrics. He finshed with one of the best cover of Burn’s ‘Green Grow the Rashes O’. Possibly the most moving intimate concert I have ever been fortunate to be at. Wonderful.  

Marra’s daughter Alice has put together a thoughtful and tenderly collected recordings of his songs to show his unique diversity, strength and characterful stories - including the Marra favourites, such as Mother Glasgow, Frida Kahlo’s Visit to the Taybridge Bar and also including some new previously unheard songs.

An archive (of sorts) of home demos on cassette has yielded new material including the album’s opening track Soldier Boy.” Alice remembered “playing Kylie Minogue loudly in my bedroom when I was about seven years old. He was horrified. But he did say ‘one day you’ll find Joni Mitchell and everything will be OK’ and he was right.”

Alice was involved in several tribute concerts to Michael, most notably at Celtic Connections 2013. My photos here are from this concert, which was lead by Rab Noakes and was a wonderful and memorable night – and included Dougie MacLean, Eddi Raeder, John Spillane, Kris Drver and more. With the profits going to the charity Optimistic Sound, which was formed to fulfil Michael’s wish to see a Sistema Big Noise Orchestra in Dundee.

In an interview Alice said she was encouraged by Gordon MacLean at An Tobar on Mull when he said ‘you should do an album of your dad’s songs’ that it occurred to me. I didn’t really think of doing anything on my own.”

Alice went back into the songbook and discovered previously unheard material.
She collaborated with the musicians who took part in the original recordings – Michael’s brother guitarist Chris Marra, Derek Thomson and Allan McGlone. “Allan had just built a new studio so we began experimenting. There were some songs that I was sure I wanted to record, but through the suggestions of others I tried others. It wouldn’t have crossed my mind to do Mother Glasgow for example, but it worked so well.”

The emotional aspect for those making the album can’t be underestimated. The loss of a father, a brother, a close friend and an attachment to the material that needs to be treated with care, but not reverence. “Some songs stayed faithful to the recordings. Taking The Last Train Home as a 1980’s pop tune.. and we have moved away from the originals elsewhere. A Wee Home From Home is my favourite collection of songs, and my brother Matthew’s. Just genius.” 
FULL interview at the List -

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Scottish Artist Joan Ardley

Exhibitor Museum of Modern art Edinburgh

Ardley developed a special understanding of children in poverty in Townhead tenement streets of Glasgow.  
She built up her images with layers of colour – in oils, watercolour and pastels.  Later she lived in a cottage in Catterline – on the east coast south of Aberdeen..  Some of her later images display more depth. 

An exhibition worth visiting.

One of the pre-eminent British artists of the 20th Century”
The Times 
Joan Eardley’s career lasted barely fifteen years: she died in 1963, aged just forty-two. During that time she concentrated on two very different themes: the extraordinarily candid paintings of children in the Townhead area of Glasgow; and paintings of the fishing village of Catterline, just south of Aberdeen, with its leaden skies and wild sea. These two contrasting strands are the focus of this exhibition, which looks in detail at her working process. It draws on a remarkable archive of sketches and photographs which remains largely unknown and unpublished.
The exhibition also features many loans from public and private collections, allowing the viewer to trace specific developments between the photographs, the drawings and the finished paintings.
Image: Joan Eardley, Children and Chalked Wall 2,  1963
Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal © Estate of Joan Eardley. All Rights Reserved, DACS 2016

Saturday, 8 April 2017

*Poetry changes Lives - W B Yeats

POETRY – is the window to our souls, the hidden beauty, the longed for memory, the secret truths, the way nature sings…. Poetry is connected to music, rhythm images and changing seasons…

William B Yeats is widely considered to be one of the greatest poets of the 20th century. He belonged to the Protestant, Anglo-Irish minority that had controlled the economic, political, social, and cultural life of Ireland since at least the end of the 17th century. Most members of this minority considered themselves English people who happened to have been born in Ireland, but Yeats was staunch in affirming his Irish nationality.

Although he lived in London for 14 years of his childhood (and kept a permanent home there during the first half of his adult life), Yeats maintained his cultural roots, featuring Irish legends and heroes in many of his poems and plays.


The poet was staying in England at the time of the Rising, and learnt of developments in sketchy news reports, and in letters from his friends and family. Yeats and his family wee horrified.
It was left to the poet to conjure up the phrases that summed up the events, and the mixed feelings felt by the public towards the rebels, who had seized the GPO. As he put it himself, all had "changed, changed utterly".  Revolutionaries, who were initially heaped with opprobrium by a significant section of the populace, were turned into heroes.
Yeats wrote his poem 'Easter 1916' in the months after the rebellion, but he waited for four years to publish it in the magazine The New Statesman. He predicted that the rebels would take their place in history:
I write it out in a verse -
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly: (YB Yeats)
*And I write of Robbie Burns
Who wrote of our being at one with nature, and of being created equal..
Then let us pray that come it may, 
(As come it will for a' that,) 
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth, 
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that. 
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's comin yet for a' that 
That man to man, the world o'er, 
Shall brithers be for a' that.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Investigative Journalism is crucial

Investigative Journalism is crucial. More than ever in turbulent times it is essential to read competent investigative journalism. 

By contrast there is ‘mass media persuasion’. – which is from ‘Rulers’ who want power and don’t want dissent. Newspapers or tabloids like Daily Mail or Daly Express or Sun are emphatically NOT about presenting balances views (as some older voters believe) and they are controlled by the British establishment. They present only one point of view.

Literature is also about many diverse voices. Excellent article on the importance of the Arts and literature is particular, by Glasgow university professor Alan Riach on the Power of Mass Persuasion. (The National March)

Recently the New York Times and the Washington Post have had a surge in subscribers as Americans seek to find out what is really going on.

The National Newspaper runs Investigative Journalism.
Some may falsely believe the National is only one point of view – it is not! It carries right and left articles, in depth articles by Professors and experienced political journalists.

Channel Four news uses investigative journalist – in recent days they have been interviewing non-politicians and commentators, to look seriously at the issues around Scot Ref and Brexit. Rather than empty Political Rhetoric. They have uncovered Tory over spend in election.

As a direct result of the 2008 economic crash, after which nothing has changed in the UK, people are desperate for change, any kind of change!  The trouble is the far right has taken over arguments with blaming immigrants!   They mix immigrants numbers with people we need here – students, EU workers, and with Refugees.

The best way to have debate is through informed discussion, and NOT by throwing around insults. Politicians need to learn this too and they dont' in Westminster that's for sure!