Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Chrissie Hynde sings Bob Dylan and other songs Queens Hall




‘Hippy stuff much easier than rock!’

Hynde sang an effortless, heady mix of folk, jazz and rock – which draws the audience in with her great blues voice.

The Queens hall, Edinburgh, was the perfect size for a socially distance audience in the middle sitting at small round tables. Edinburgh was honoured to host one of the most popular female rock singers of our generation! 


These acoustic concerts showcased songs from Hynde’s recent album: 'Standing In The Doorway’, Chrissie Hynde Sings Bob Dylan’ which was recorded in lockdown by Chrissie and her Pretender’s band mate, guitarist James Walbourne, by text message. James recorded on his phone and sent it off to Chrissie to add her vocal, before the tracks were mixed by renowned producer Tchad Blake. 


Hynde was backed by her expert, high quality band enjoying themselves greatly! The Bob Dylan Quartet of James Walbourne guitarist of The Pogues and The Pretenders, Carwyn Ellis keyboards, Danny Williams double bass. 

 

She opened with the song ‘In the Summer Time, Sweetheart like You, Don’t Fall apart on me Tonight, Every Grain of Sand, Time is a Jet Plane, Desolation Row, Tomorrow is a Long Time’ - Hynde’s song choices from Dylan’s extensive catalogue were unusual. 

 

And included a brighter change of tempo with the songs - ‘You’re s Big Girl Now’ from Blood on the Tracks (1974); two songs from ‘Shot of Love’ (1981) from Dylan’s religious period, and three from the Infidels Sessions (1983); ‘Tomorrow is a Long Time’, a moving love song from the Freewheelin’ session(1963), and ‘Love Minus Zero/No Limit’ from Bringing It All Back Home (1965) .

 

A highlight was her insightful interpretation of Dylan’s ‘Blind Willie McTell’ backed by a wonderful interplay of instrumental lines. Her choice of a couple of Ray Davies of the Kinks, songs were also popular – ‘I go to Sleep’.

Later in the set she stood to perform which changed the vibe totally – and sang Stuck in the Middle, I get along without you, Crying in Public, For her encore Hydne performed the unexpected and expertly woven treasure the French song “Que reste-t-il de nos amours”, Chauliac-Trenet classic from her album Valve Bone Woe. 


Her voice gives goose bumps and is instantly memorable and magnetically expressive, with the distinctive depth and range of her husky tones that hug her lower register. My favourite Chrissie song is I’ll stand by you and I might have wished she would have performed a few more favourites for us all to sing along to. How wonderful to be back in a live gig though!


The Rails

**Hynde was well supported by the duo The Rails, Kami Thompson (daughter of Richard and Linda) and James Walbourne (guitarist with The Pretenders) previous winners of Best New Artist at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and I enjoyed their song, ‘Breakneck Speed.’ 


A companion film called 'Tomorrow Is A Long Time', which details the recording of the album, is also available via Sky Arts.

Monday, 6 September 2021

Gavin Esler How Britain Ends & Samir Puri Legacies of Empire, Edinburgh book festival 2021

Gavin Esler

Gavin Esler discussed his new book, How Britain Ends, at the Edinburgh international book festival 2021. Esler tells us he is Ulster Protestant and European. What is the future for the United Kingdom as a political entity? And how has the end of the British Empire influenced its trajectory in recent years?  

‘It’s the endgame for Britishness… Brexit is drowning the Union,’ says Esler, ‘While the United Kingdom can survive Irish, Scottish and Welsh nationalisms, it cannot survive English nationalism.’ For Esler, the answer lies in a federal system of national and regional government. (However many now question that Federalism is not realistic and will not be supported by England)

He discussed where does power lie? The Teutonic plates of the UK are moving in different directions and with different politics. There is confusion over identity and the great imperial hangover.

 

Samir Puri


Samir Puri, is a Senior Fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Singapore. He also discussed the lasting legacies of empire in his book ‘The Great Imperial Hangover’ in which he writes, “India is called a British colony, Scotland is not called an English colony.” 

 

Its important how history is taught, and to learn other nations views and to review history. The younger generations are more questioning, whereas the older generation are nostalgic for Britishness – unaware of the collapse of empire and the migration from Commonwealth. There are imperial legacies and the physical remnants of empire. The former British empire is now in disguise, hardened and cobbled together and so much is Victorian.

 

The Union is about Protestantism, empire and war; coloniser or colonized, and cultural imperialism. The Empire lasted from the Tudors 1590s to 1997 and the hand over of Hong Kong to China.

 

Esler commented that since Brexit, Global Britain has less influence in Europe and less influence worldwide – Brexit was about nostalgic pessimism, and that things were always better in the past. We should move forward rather than looking back. Cecil Rhodes wrote, “ Ask any man what they’d rather be, he’d rather be an Englishman.” Well maybe not a Scotsmen or an Irishmen!

 

Where is the strategic vision? What does nationalism mean in an inter-connected world? Option – reinvent Britain/ federalism/ or a more extreme form of independence. Indy 2014 was mild – same currency, same head of state, same defence. All empires come to grief, in the end.

 

The English question and the resentment of the dominance of Westminster or with more power of the local. Independence for Scotland will have a bigger impact on England -  with loss of 32% of land mass/ where to store nuclear weapons/ and questions over EU border/ 

 

We need people to people contacts and many never travel and there is so much stereotyping. After World War one, 12% of Germany was lost. The UK lost 22% of its land with Ireland, and 1921 was really brutal. To muddle through is not realistic. Global Britain should look more to Europe: plus our voting system is unfair. 

We have lost an Empire but not found a role, and what has been fixed by Brexit? We must have a relationship of trust with our nearest neighbours. Why is our country not more united? Does Esler speak to doubting No voters? 

 

 

**MY VIEW

The trouble is the Tories don’t believe in devolution, the contrary, they believe in more centralization by the Palace of Westminster. I’m not sure where this path will lead us all, but it doesn’t seem a healthy or productive direction, when the opposite is the direction of travel across the world, where smaller nations and more local control is the direction. So I’m not sure what the Tories are trying to prove, when their destructive Brexit, their mishandling of the Covid pandemic with the highest death toll of 150K and now their bungled withdrawal from Afghanistan – has all shown the world their lazy, ignorant and incompetent form of 'partial' democracy. 


Sunday, 5 September 2021

Jackie Kay Fearless Blues Woman Bessie Smith, at Edinburgh International book festival 2021


Jackie Kay 

Acclaimed jazz and blues vocalist Suzanne Bonnar sang some of Bessie Smith’s best-loved songs. She began with the song ‘Nobody Knows you When You’re Down and Out’.

 

Poet and former Scots maker, has written a quality and inspired biography of the legendary Blues singer - her book 'Bessie Smith' was first published in 1991 and the time is right now for its reissue. 

Bessie reflected her times. Her first album sold 750 copes and she was rich. Then in 1931 suddenly blues was out and jazz was in and she was poor again, in. In 1937 she had a car accident. She collided with racism of the times and the blues were considered too rough.

 

Kay said her father bought her Smith’s album when she was only twelve and she remembers the cover – the front had a smiling Bessie Smith and the back her sad face - which in a way told the story of her life.

 

She was a chronicler of her times, with the Blues oral history and counter culture. On the day of her last recording, Billie Holiday came in later for her first recording. 

This event was chaired by artist, feminist and co-founder of the Glasgow Women's Library Adele Patrick. 

 

Bessie Smith

‘Bessie Smith showed me the air and taught me how to fill it.’ And Janis Joplin was certainly not the only person who fell in love with the Tennessee blues singer’s unforgettable voice. As a young Black girl growing up in Glasgow, Jackie Kay found inBessie not only an inspiring singer but a complex, sensuous, extravagantly generous woman with whom she could identify. Now of course, Kay has gone on to become one of the best-respected British poets of her generation, herself an inspiration to others. 

 

She joins us to discuss her extraordinary book,Bessie Smith.

It isas much a quest for emotional truth as for biographical fact, mixing poetry and prose, historical record and fiction. At times Kay enjoys imagining what the singer might havethought, orspeculates about the contents of the trunk in which she kept her most beloved possessions. It all adds up to a towering monument to one of the 20thcentury’s most influential singers.