Tag Archives: Exploring New Music

Looking Back at New Music

My New Year resolution in 2018 (I haven’t made any this year!) was to listen to more music that was ‘new’ to me. Some of it was new to me but not to most of the rest of the world and usually involved artists that everyone has heard of but I had never really listened to. Having said that, I did find in all but one case that I knew more songs by these artists than I had previously thought. Billy Idol, Tom Petty and Glen Campbell fall into this category.

Eleven artists later (the resolution failed at the last hurdle, being too busy in December…then it was January and…oops!) and I’m taking the opportunity to look back at some of my favourites.

My first favourite is Billy Idol, who worked with Alfie in Classic Quadrophenia and whom Alfie himself recommended to me in an interview in 2015. Although I knew of Billy Idol, I hadn’t really listened to the music that much and was consequently surprised when I knew quite a lot of it. This was the song that caught my ear:

I enjoyed all the other ten artists and it was difficult to choose the ones I like best, but, as I regularly ask you to choose your favourite Alfie Boe songs, I thought I’d go for Tom Petty and Glen Campbell. But it was really hard! All these three were inspired by Alfie’s recent choice of music so maybe that’s why I like them so much??!!

I love bluegrass sounds and rhythms so it’s no surprise that I chose this in the Glen Campbell piece:

I decided on Tom Petty for this series after hearing Alfie sing Wildflowers at Scarborough last summer:

But, the Tom Petty that I remembered and found I loved belongs to Won’t Back Down:

Thanks for taking this journey with me – suggestions welcome for ideas you want to see on thoughtsofjustafan in future!

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Alfie Boe’s Best Live Song 2019 – Number Nine

Two weeks into our annual quest to find Alfie Boe’s Best Live Song, we come to a song that Alfie first sang on the Together Again Tour 2017 and again during the summer concerts of 2018. Featuring at number three in last year’s poll, it’s slipped a bit to number nine this time around:

One of the reasons so many of you love this song is the joy Alfie and his band members get from playing and jamming together – not only is it great to see Alfie playing guitar but to see the other band members get their moment in the sun.

Wagon Wheel has not been recorded by Alfie as of yet and currently, it’s difficult to see where it would fit, other than a radically different album to those of recent years.  Having said that, I would love to hear such an album!  Judging by these votes, I’m not alone in that.

Wagon Wheel is a song from a US country band, The Old Crow Medicine Show and is actually a hybrid of a chorus and melody from Bob Dylan (him again!):

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Exploring New Music: Emilia Mitiku

Ten months into my New Year resolution to listen to more new and varied types of music and I have to admit that for October, I have cheated a bit – the music I’ve chosen this month is not new to me.  However, she’s been out of the limelight for a while and delightfully, I discovered a new EP from her when I researched this piece.

Emilia Mitiku first came to the attention of Alfie Boe fans, myself included, when she supported Alfie on his Storyteller tour in March / April 2013. She was heavily pregnant at the time and this gave way to an unexpectedly hilarious moment when Alfie introduced her, before their duet on Dimming of the Day.  Emilia also duetted with Alfie on Angel from Montgomery on that tour.

This version of Dimming of the Day is my favourite and is often chosen as one of fans’ six sensational songs.  I’m still not sure how I managed to leave it out of mine!

Emilia has released several albums but the one I’m concentrating on, and is probably most familiar to Alfie fans is 2012’s I Belong To You, a collection of what Emilia calls vintage pop.  A mixture of pop, overlaid with jazz and country sounds, the album showcases Emilia’s rich, velvety voice in a number of styles, all of which reflect the jazz, pop and traditional Ethiopian music she grew up with. The first song I ever heard from Emilia reminded me of Dolly Parton:

The subject matter of heartbreak and the country lilt of the music show Emilia’s mastery of styles, especially when compared to the upbeat, sparkling So Wonderful:

One song from this time that didn’t appear on I Belong To You, is Why Is He So Mean?

This was a highlight of Emilia’s live performances in 2013 and quickly became a favourite with the mostly female Alfie Boe audience, as only catchy, rhythmic songs about women surviving relationships can!  It’s impossible to sit still and listen to this – before you know it you’re up and dancing, whilst also singing at the top of your voice.

As I mentioned earlier, I was overjoyed to find new music from Emilia when researching this piece.  Blue, Blue, Blue, a four track EP was released in late 2017 and is pure, vintage Emilia Mitiku, stylistically similar to I Belong To You. Opening with a slow, silky cover of Rihanna’s We Found Love, the EP gets into it’s stride with the title track:

Upbeat, with a catchy hook, this is another song you’ll be quickly singing and dancing along to.  “Blue, blue, blue, that’s what I learnt from you” appears to take up where I Belong To You left off and is all the more welcome for it.  I would be happy if Emilia made this sort of music forever.

When Our Roads Cross and Forgetful Lover hark back to another era of music, reminiscent of Alfie’s forthcoming album, As Time Goes By – I would love to hear Alfie’s voice sing some of Emilia’s songs.  This record is so smooth and silky, it was over far too quickly; I hope 2019 sees more new music from Emilia Mitiku.

Blue, Blue, Blue is available here:

I have one copy of Emilia’s album, I Belong To You, to give away, just answer this question:

Which two songs did Emilia sing with Alfie Boe on his 2013 Storyteller tour?

Competition will close at Midnight on 7 November 2018 – good luck!

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Exploring New Music: Alison Krauss

September is here – and nearly over – and I nearly forgot my 2018 New Year Resolution of listening to more, new music (new to me)! So, looking again to Alfie for inspiration, I decided on an artist who both recorded a song that Alfie went on to record and who has worked with someone who Alfie has also worked with.

I am talking about bluegrass, country singer Alison Krauss who wrote Onward’s A Living Prayer, much loved by Alfie fans and featured at number ten in this year’s best ever song poll.  The artist that both Krauss and Alfie have worked with is Robert Plant; Alfie on the track Song to the Siren and Krauss on a collaborative album, Raising Sand.  In both cases, the pairing was somewhat surprising but wonderful.

Krauss and Union Station have released numerous albums, both solo and together so I chose a few albums to listen to, including Raising Sand as the partnership with Robert Plant was intriguing to say the least.  I wasn’t disappointed.  The vocals are in perfect harmony and it seems incredible to the listener that this was not a long term collaboration when recorded.  When it’s right, it’s right.  Killing The Blues is my favourite track:

The melody and vocals wrap the listener in a warm blanket of harmony and bluegrass – loved it. Straight after Killing The Blues comes the uptempo Gone, Gone, Gone:

Both artists seem to be having so much fun here and the catchy lyrics and beat have danceability in spades – I dare you to sit still whilst listening!  Other stand out tracks were Stick With Me Baby and Please Read The Letter.  Can you tell, I really liked this album?

Moving onto an earlier album for Krauss and Union Station, 2004’s Lonely Runs Both Ways has A Living Prayer on (click here to see this) but that’s not the song I enjoyed most.  That honour goes to Goodbye Is All We Have:

Perfectly suited to Krauss’s pure vocals, the song plays to her strengths – many of her songs are ballads and the emotion she portrays in song shines out here.  Restless, the opening track and Gravity are the best of the rest.

Finally, the last album I looked at was Krauss’s first solo album for a while, Windy City, released in 2017.  The stand out track here is Goodbye and So Long To You:

Out and out country, it’s a song that screams joy and is in the best tradition of country women standing up for themselves. Another one I couldn’t sit still for.   In contrast, the ballad, River in the Rain is just beautiful, showing the range of Krauss’s voice:

All in all, this was one of the more enjoyable aspects of my New Year Resolution – I’ll be delving more deeply into Krauss’s back catalogue from now on.

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Exploring New Music: Tom Petty

When I was looking for a subject for this month’s edition of Exploring New Music, I was again inspired by seeing Alfie perform, this time at Scarborough.  The song choice was Wildflowers by Tom Petty and I loved it:

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are musicians that belong to the rarefied greats of music but aside from a monster hit of an album in the late 1980’s, I had not really listened to their music.  Regular readers will know that of the seven previous editions of Exploring New Music, I’ve not liked them all and nor did I expect to; after all, if you don’t expose yourself to new sounds, how will you ever find the performers of tomorrow?  However, you’ll be pleased to know that after listening to a good number of Heartbreakers albums, I love this music!  Thank you Alfie for introducing me to yet another fab musician.

I started with the Heartbreakers first, eponymous, album from 1976, which wasn’t a great hit at the time.  That came later, after the release of Damn the Torpedoes.  The 60’s inspired sound is a mixture of great tunes, rhythm and catchy hooks spread over nine tracks that range from fast and frantic to mellow, laid back and everything in between.  American Girl and Breakdown are the stand out tracks.

The group’s third album, Damn the Torpedoes was released in 1979 and the band very much needed it to be a hit. Luckily, it had some fantastic tunes. From the very first notes of Refugee to the very last notes of Louisiana Rain, it’s clear that this is a stonking good record.  There is not one track you’d skip, it’s all great.  My favourites are Louisiana Rain and Don’t Do Me Like That but really, I could have picked any of the songs.

Moving on, we come to the Tom Petty I remember from my teenage years; the Travelling Wilbury (always had a soft spot for George Harrison) and all round superstar, perhaps as a result of 1989’s Full Moon.  A solo album (with a couple of Heartbreakers playing on it), this album was a complete runaway success, with at least three classic Petty tracks coming from it: I Won’t Back Down, Free Fallin’ and Runnin’ Down a Dream.

I would love to hear Alfie singing this – it seems perfect for him.  Anyway, never mind Alfie, I’m thinking of adopting it as a personal motto from now on.

The last album I’m looking at is a more stripped back affair: Wildflowers from 1994.  Another solo effort, this reveals the soft, acoustic, mellow side of Petty’s music.  Encompassing folk, upbeat tracks with great danceability, rock and blues, the best tracks for me are You Wreck Me, Cabin Down Below, Broken Heart and the title track.

We’ve long known that Alfie loves rock music and it’s no longer a surprise to hear him introducing new rock tracks into his live sets.  In fact, one of the best things about seeing Alfie live is wondering which rock band will he choose to cover tonight? It’s one of the reasons why I love his live sets – you never know what you’re gonna get.  So next time someone says life is like a box of chocolates, say “no – it’s like an Alfie Boe concert!”

Of these albums, my favourite is Damn the Torpedoes, available here:

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Exploring New Music: Travis

Seven months into my quest to listen to different musicians and I’ve arrived at a band I’ve known for twenty years (!) and enjoyed but fallen out of touch with.  Travis have had huge worldwide success and have recorded many albums over those twenty years and, judging from reports and YouTube, are an awesome live band.  I’ve chosen this band because Alfie worked with them a couple of years ago, recording (down the phone from NYC) the backing vocals for Paralysed:

Shades of Opera Dude from the Clint Boon days!  Great song, performance and sheer delight from Alfie.  The track is from Travis’s 2016 album Everything At Once and for me, is the stand out track.  That might just because Alfie’s on it!  Magnificent Time is a great track to dance to and I also really enjoyed Idlewild, the band’s first recorded duet, with Josephine Oniyama – what a lovely voice.

I first became aware of Travis, around twenty years or so ago, with the release of The Man Who (1999) and their indie music, tailor made for live gigs.  Writing To Reach You is a lovely song, but Driftwood is my song of the album:

This is the closest thing to an upbeat song, at least from that album, from Travis – their songs do have somewhat of a reputation for being a little…downbeat shall we say?  Fran Healy, write and lead singer says that Driftwood is “an ode to my girlfriend at the time and now wife, Nora, who was a bit of a hippy, and just floated through life and didn’t really focus all her talents of which she has many… not exactly uptempo but the lyrics in ‘Driftwood’ are as good as it gets and I could quite happily put it up next to some of the songs by my heroes and give them a good run for their money.”

Alfie’s vocals on Paralysed aside, the album I liked best when researching this was the 2001 follow up to The Man Who, The Invisible Band.  There are many songs that I like, including Side, Pipe Dreams, Flowers in the Window and Indefinitely, but the video I’ve chosen is Sing:

If you know anything about Travis, Sing (along with Why Does it Always Rain On Me?) will more than likely be the song you know – it was a smash hit at the time and has withstood the test of time.  It’s a great song about stepping out of your comfort zone and just doing it – a life lesson I’ve embraced wholeheartedly in the last five years.  Outside the comfort zone is where the magic happens.  It’s a great video too!

Everything At Once (with Paralysed) is available here:

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Oh Scarborough – A Beautiful Evening with Alfie Boe

Another Saturday in June 2018 and another opportunity to spend an evening with the beautiful music of Alfie Boe, this time in Scarborough.  Alfie was there a year ago, almost to the day, with wet weather of biblical proportions but this time around, the sun shone, and so of course, did Alfie and his band, each of whom are brilliant musicians / singers and complement each other as well as Alfie.

Each of the three concerts I’ve attended this summer has been different, despite having a similar set list.  Fleetwood was magical and the experience of a lifetime, Kenwood was one of the smoothest Alfie concerts I’ve ever seen and Scarborough saw Alfie at his most relaxed, taking a couple of mistakes in his stride and having the audience wrapped around his little finger from the very first note. Changing the lyrics of Volare to “Oh Scarborough, beautiful Scarborough, the beautiful town by the sea, I know you’ve been waiting for me” didn’t hurt either!  There was banter aplenty, audience included and a fabulous moment for fan Geoff, singing his heart out on Keep Me In Your Heart.

Alfie likes to change up the set list with each concert he does, even if it’s only the running order but this summer, each concert has seen at least one new song.  Scarborough saw Alfie include Wild Flowers from Tom Petty and it was wonderful:

Another song new to me and I think I’ve found the next subject of Exploring New Music.

Other highlights included Run, which saw Alfie run around the entire audience, including up in the stands, You’re The Voice, featuring the support act Belle Voci (they also returned for Run), Ophelia, and He Lives In You.  Every time I hear Alfie sing this, I love it more.   Sing, Sing, Sing and A Pencil Full of Lead started the evening off with a bang and along with The Way You Look Tonight (one of my new favourites) assured me that the new album is going to be a corker.  Due out some time in November, it appears that as well as big band sounds, the album will also be exploring New Orleans rootsy, gutsy jazz – I can’t wait.  Alfie’s voice is made for rootsy, gutsy music – the last few tracks of Storyteller and Rosie on Trust demonstrate his mastery of this sound and it will be a treat to see what he makes of it.

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind and a rollercoaster in one and I’m so grateful for all the supportive messages you’ve sent me  – I really do appreciate it. it’s also been a pleasure to meet so many readers over the last few weeks.  If you want to know more about what Jane did next, click here.  Alfie ha brought many wonderful things to my life and one of the best is the fabulous friends I’ve made.  Attending a concert is made all the more special by spending time with these wonderful ladies.  Thank you to Linda A, Linda W (me and the two Linda’s are now able to give guided tours around the North Bay area of Scarborough), Cecelia, Annie, Pauline H, Jean, Ayano, Mitsuko, Jennifer and Donna, Pat and Janet, Carole N, Sue, Barbara Watkinson, Roberta and Sharon for your friendship and company.

There will be another competition over the summer, to win a few signed goodies so make sure you’re subscribed to get first chance at entering!

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Exploring New Music: Glen Campbell

Half way through the year and it’s the sixth instalment of exploring new music (new to me at least) and this month, I’ve taken inspiration from Alfie’s new country set from his current shows.  Glen Campbell is one of those artists who has always been around, whose music is part of our culture, but I only really know a couple of songs.  Rhinestone Cowboy and Wichita Lineman were about the only songs I could name, so this month, I’ve been listening to some of his albums.  Researching this piece, I had no idea that Campbell had been a session musician before hitting the big time, working with just about everyone and was even a touring member of the Beach Boys at one point.  While recording country music, Campbell also crossed over (that term again!) into pop and some of his biggest hits were hits in the pop charts too.  His easy manner made him an ideal TV star and his own show ran for several years in the late 1970’s.

Campbell made over sixty albums so there was a lot to choose from, but taking advice, I settled for Wichita Lineman (1968), Galveston (1969), Southern Nights (1977) and Ghost on the Canvas (2011).  Of the four, I enjoyed Galveston and Ghost on the Canvas the most.

Campbell’s earliest recordings reflected the bluegrass tradition and Galveston sees a return to some of this music, If This Is Love is a notable example:

Slotted in amongst the majority country crossover tracks, this self penned beauty has a frenetic bluegrass feel and is full of energy.  Other favourite tracks are Where’s the Playground Susie and of course the title track, a song that jumped into the top five mainstream chart.  Many consider this to be Campbell’s best album and I can’t say I disagree.

Campbell had a smash hit with 1975’s Rhinestone Cowboy and 1977’s Southern Nights repeated that success, both artistically and commercially – Campbell had his second Number One pop hit with the sunny title track. Campbell also had a second Top 40 hit from this album, the catchy Sunflower, written but never recorded by Neil Diamond.

2008 saw a new album from Campbell, Meet Glen Campbell, in which, to glorious acclaim he covered artists such as Travis, Green Day and Foo Fighters.  Three years later, an album of mainly self penned originals was released, Ghost on the Canvas and is absolutely fabulous, vying for best album for me.  The opener, A Better Place is just beautiful – pared down, and perfectly complements the final track, No Me Without You.  In between, It’s Your Amazing Grace is that rare thing – a perfect song, with it’s pop-indie-country sound and In My Arms has danceability in spades.

Once again, thank you Alfie for inspiring me to explore different music – this is the best New Year’s resolution ever and certainly the one I’ve kept going the longest.

Ghost on the Canvas is available here:

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Exploring New Music: Old Crow Medicine Show

Prior to the start of the Together Again tour at the end of 2017, the talk amongst Alfie fans was all about which songs he would choose for his solo spot – not many of us guessed that one of the songs would be a rip roaring country song, Wagon Wheel, complete with Alfie on guitar.  I know I’m not the only one who had never heard of Old Crow Medicine Show, who co-wrote the song (from a part written sing by Bob Dylan) although Wagon Wheel is by far and away their best known song. The band have been around for a long time, coming from a live show background all the way to the 2014 Grammy for best fol album for Remedy.

Old Crow Medicine Show (OCMS) have a distinctive old time, bluegrass sound and have been putting out new music for twenty years, characterised by storytelling (the thing I love most about country), rip roaring catchy hooks, and a supreme danceability – always a plus for me.  Of their half dozen albums, the ones I chose to listen to were the eponymous OCMS (2004), Tennessee Pusher (2008), Carry Me Back (2012) and Remedy.

Their first, self titled album was the one that launched them and their most famous song, Wagon Wheel and where I started with this band.  I sailed through this album, loving it but not really finding a stand out track apart from Wagon Wheel.  Tennessee Pusher was a different story; I LOVE this album!  Every track delivers and has something to say on a diverse range of subjects.  Motel in Memphis reflects on the life and death of Martin Luther King Jr while Methamphetamine treads the sorry tale of that particular drug.  The upbeat, catchy music cleverly juxtaposes against the lyrics detailing the downfall of drugs and how small towns can be ravaged by it.  However, my favourite track is Caroline which is just lovely:

OCMS certainly know how to write and perform great albums, packed full of catchy songs you find yourself singing days after.  Carry Me Back and Remedy both have some stand out songs amidst a feast of equally good album tracks.  From the former, I liked Carry Me Back to Virginia and Levi, both tales of war, albeit from different centuries.  If you like a bittersweet love song, you could do a lot worse than Genevieve.  Half Mile Down is incredibly catchy too.

The last of the albums I listened to is Remedy and yet again, I loved it.  Sweet Amarillo (another Dylan collaboration, from a part written song) is my favourite:

Dearly Departed Friends is another song that takes war as its subject and brings the sadness right home with the lyric “twenty one guns [salute] for twenty one years”.

If you like your country music to come with a broad streak of bluegrass, lots of danceability and thoughtful lyrics, then this band is for you.  Fiddle, banjo and harmonica fans are in for a treat with Old Crow Medicine Show.  Thanks Alfie for the introduction – I loved this one!

Remedy and other albums are available here:

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Exploring New Music 2018: Chris Cornell

This is now my fourth instalment of my 2018 resolution to listen to different types of music and for this month, I’m taking inspiration from Alfie again.  In a recent Instagram chat from Hong Kong, Alfie was listening to Chris Cornell, former lead singer with Soundgarden and Audioslave and I thought this would make an excellent choice for April.

Cornell sadly passed away in 2017 but was one of the leading lights of the grunge movement that came out of Seattle in the late eighties / early nineties and the early music of Soundgarden certainly reflects that, as well as the heavy metal and rock roots that are present throughout Cornell’s music.  Before I began listening to Soundgarden for this piece, I have to say that I wasn’t altogether aware of much of the band’s music…or rather, I was aware of the general sound (like Alfie, this music was a big part of my later teenage years) but not of Soundgarden in particular.  I definitely couldn’t have named any Seattle based bands other than Nirvana and Pearl Jam, and my only knowledge of Cornell was You Know My Name, the theme for 007’s Casino Royale.

I began by listening to 1988’s Ultramega OK and the sound instantly transported me back to my student clubbing days – guitar riffs, raw, powerful vocals and the driving rhythm that makes you dance.  Cornell’s vocals remind me of Robert Plant at times but he really comes into his own on the blues tinged Smokestack Lightning:

Moving onto 1994’s Superunknown, the music and lyrics become much darker and touched by feelings about depression and are quite bleak.  The album allows Cornell’s vocals to shine through much more (he has regularly been voted best rock vocalist by peers and fans alike) and as a whole, hangs together than previous albums.  Black Hole Sun and Fell on Black Days are great tracks, along with Day I Tried to Live.

Before coming back to Soundgarden, Cornell formed Audioslave with members of Rage Against the Machine and their self titled album first album was released in 2002.  When listening, I felt that this album was much more cohesive as a sound, with my favourite tracks being Like A Stone, I Am The Highway and Be Yourself.  Although I can appreciate Cornell’s music and voice through his collaborations with others, it’s his solo work that really shows his talent.  In particular, I liked Nearly Forgot My Broken Heart and The Promise:

I can hear Alfie singing many of these songs, as he definitely has the voice for rock (looking forward to finding out about Boston Pops) but it would be even lovelier to hear his take on these two solo songs.

Cornell’s solo album Higher Truth and others are available here:

If you would like to recommend any music to aid my 2018 resolution of listening to more music, fill in the form!

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