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M.R. Dowsing (London, UK)

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Look Homeward, Angel (Penguin Modern Classics)
Look Homeward, Angel (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Thomas Wolfe
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Autobiographical fiction at its finest., 11 Jun. 2017
Wow - this was amazing. I'd wanted to read Wolfe for a while as I had a feeling I'd like him, especially as he was a huge influence on another favourite, James Jones (and Kerouac too for that matter). It's good to see two of his novels have finally received a UK reprint as it's been hard to find his books here recently and I can't understand why he doesn't seem to be read much anymore. I thought this might be a tough read, but it really wasn't and the book was also surprisingly funny in places. Wolfe has an awesome prose style, and the truths about human nature still hold today. Apparently, all the characters are closely based on real people in his hometown, and Wolfe was unable to show his face there for years after this was published. It's autobiographical fiction at its finest.

A shame some reviews of the badly-formatted Kindle version have dragged the average rating down.


Of Time and the River (Penguin Modern Classics)
Of Time and the River (Penguin Modern Classics)
by Thomas Wolfe
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

5.0 out of 5 stars A uniquely intense reading experience!, 11 Jun. 2017
This sequel to Look Homeward, Angel is set in the 1920s and covers the death of Eugene Gant's father, his departure from home to teach in New York and his time travelling in England and France. It's very long and Wolfe can be quite repetitive at times (although this is clearly for poetic effect rather than contempt for the reader) but it remains an almost uniquely intense experience thanks to the author's brutal honesty, which spares no-one, least of all himself (Gant is clearly a self-portrait). And Wolfe's descriptions of people and places are so vivid it's like being there.


Country Blues
Country Blues
Price: £7.92

5.0 out of 5 stars 100% proof blues, 31 Dec. 2016
This review is from: Country Blues (MP3 Download)
Preacher Boy’s second album of 2016 sees him hollerin’ and pickin’ his way through a bunch of country blues covers on his trusty 1936 National Resophonics. He’s allowed himself no accompaniment and no overdubs.
It kicks off with Robert Johnson’s If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day about a man whose woman has done left him and he ain’t too happy about it. There’s nothing quite like the sound of glass on steel when this type of instrument is played this well with a slide and it’s immediately exciting! Modern recording techniques also allow us to enjoy all the nuances which were muffled in the primitive early recordings of these songs. Nice!
Next up is Bukka White’s Fixin’ To Die, a fast number which alternates between picking and strumming to considerable effect. Spoonful Blues is not the better known Willie Dixon song. I think it’s either Mississippi John Hurt or Charley Patton. Another version of the hardy perennial Stagolee is followed by Maggie Campbell, a Tommy Johnson number in which Preach demonstrates he also knows how to blow a mean blues harp. Another Bukka White classic, Shake ‘Em On Down, features a very tasty instrumental break. Death Don’t Have No Mercy was originally by the Reverend Gary Davis and is probably my favourite track, maybe because it has an especially strong melody and more coherent lyrics than most of the others! There are a lot of songs about death on here, and the final track, Blind Willie Johnson’s Jesus, Make Up My Dyin’ Bed, is clearly no exception. I think Preach has always been a little drawn to the dark side… This is a very strong collection which breathes new life into some very old tunes. You won’t get tired of listening to it in a hurry unless you’re a fool.


The Day the Music Died: A Life Lived Behind the Lens
The Day the Music Died: A Life Lived Behind the Lens
by Tony Garnett
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating journey, 13 Aug. 2016
A first-rate autobiography this, by turns heartbreaking, funny and thought-provoking. Garnett examines the personal tragedies which shaped his life with an unblinking eye, but also writes in detail about his career as an actor, producer and director. This in itself is an unusual story worth the telling as he goes from being a sort of poor-man’s Albert Finney to a pioneering producer collaborating with Ken Loach on Cathy Come Home, an extremely realistic, hard-hitting and distressing BBC television play about homelessness which was seen by around 12 million viewers. Similar work continues throughout the ‘70s but is followed by a bizarre period in Hollywood which sees him producing Earth Girls Are Easy and a Sesame Street movie. Thankfully, he eventually returns to the BBC to produce Between The Lines, This Life and The Cops, but not before having some harsh words to say about his employer along the way.

Garnett credits the reader with intelligence but his style is unpretentious and it’s all highly readable from start to finish. Despite the sometimes grim subject matter, it’s also by no means a depressing book and, although the author tends to be hard on himself, he is surprisingly indulgent of others, even managing to find good things to say about Mary Whitehouse!


The National Blues
The National Blues
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Now that's what I call blues!, 7 Feb. 2016
This review is from: The National Blues (MP3 Download)
This is the first album in many years from this artist, and very welcome it is too. Preacher Boy was a pioneer in the rather specialised genre of alt-blues in the '90s, and what made him stand out was the finely-honed lyrical sensibility he brought to the blues along with his guitar-playing chops and distinctive raspy vocals. Despite demonstrating his ability to work outside this genre, for this new record he's firmly back in blues territory. Preach plays an original vintage National steel guitar from the 1930s, often utilising a slide, and is particularly influenced by artists such as Charley Patton, Son House, Bukka White and Skip James. 'The National Blues' is just Preach singing and playing the National accompanied by a drummer, all recorded live in the studio. It features some of his finest playing (it's often hard to believe there is just one guitar with no overdubs!) and the drummer's no slouch either. The two really get cookin' on 'Blister and a Bottlecap' and 'A Little More Evil' especially. Elsewhere, we have philosophy ('A Person's Mind), nostalgia ('Cornbread'), anger ('Obituary Writer Blues'), and a wealth of intriguing images including a car that "walks" on water and the mysterious figure of John, with his black root, off to conquer somebody's soul. Preach can move you too at times, and he brings it down most effectively here with 'Watered Down' as he sings in despair rather than anger: "Got my travelin' boots on, and I'm gone / Couldn't go no quicker / I got as much use for you, as I do / For watered down liquor". This is a great record which only improves on repeated listening. The lyrics are available as a free PDF from the artist's website, and I recommend checking them out, partly because they're very good, but also because his singing style means it's sometimes a little hard to make out the exact words!


Of Human Bondage
Of Human Bondage
Price: £4.49

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Kindle edition by Signet ISBN 9781101077689, 2 Jun. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Of Human Bondage (Kindle Edition)
Maugham's long, best-selling, semi-autobiographical novel is probably one of the easiest reads of all "great books". It would be hard to make a case for Maugham as a stylist based on this, although that's not to say it isn't well-written in its own straightforward way. It's a very episodic book - art fans will probably enjoy the Paris section best, whereas Patrick Hamilton fans will find themselves on familiar ground when the hero experiences a long and painful obsession with a waitress. The hero's spiritual journey and quest for meaning is very believable and, while he's sometimes guilty of sentiment, the book as a whole is not. I'm probably being a bit mean not giving it 5 stars but I didn't think it went quite as deep as the Thomas Wolfe novels which I read recently and which are of a similar type. But it's still very good and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

As it's such a big book I went the Kindle route. Apparently there are some dodgy Kindle versions out there, but this one was fine, with only a few very minor mistakes. It's the Signet version, ISBN 9781101077689.


Left [Explicit]
Left [Explicit]
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another album full of surprises, 24 Aug. 2014
This review is from: Left [Explicit] (MP3 Download)
You never know what to expect from this band, apart from the fact that they seem to get better and better. This album throws one curveball after another at you and if you can't keep up... well - tough! The record begins with the epic The Day I Went To Bed For Ten Years, a great storytelling achievement that shows off Robert Hacker Jessett's characterful vocals to great advantage. Another highlight is Old Punks Pt.1, done in a splendidly ironic bossa nova style. Co-vocalist Anne Gilpin (the yin to Hacker's yang - or is it the other way around?) takes the lead on the more conventional (but none the worse for it) Annie McFall. Her cool vocals should be a lesson to all those over-emoting would-be divas out there in how to put a lyric across simply and effectively. Also featured on the album are a cheeky sort of sequel to The Kinks' Lola and, what's perhaps my favourite track, the splendid Boyfriend On Remand.


The Last Laugh
The Last Laugh
Price: £12.56

4.0 out of 5 stars Some very nice sounds from a promising artist, 27 April 2014
This review is from: The Last Laugh (Audio CD)
Following three self-released albums, this 26-year old singer / songwriter from Aberdeen has finally found himself a record deal (with a Scottish independent label) for this latest offering. It’s an album of accomplished and accessible alt-acoustic music on which he’s played most of the instruments (mostly a variety of guitars) himself. He’s fond of double-tracking and using plenty of effects on his vocals, but fortunately he judges this well and it helps to give his music a unique, lush, slightly ethereal character. The lyrics here are rather vague and, although there may be only limited changes in style throughout the record, sometimes it’s good to get into one mood and stick with it. Davidson also has a real knack for coming up with memorable, original melodies, notably on tracks such as ‘Therefore Thereafter’ and ‘It Moves’.
This is a lovely record which improves on repeated listening and should find favour with fans of Iron & Wine.


Seeing Things
Seeing Things
Price: £15.34

5.0 out of 5 stars Superb!, 27 April 2014
This review is from: Seeing Things (Audio CD)
This is the fourth solo record from Dublin resident Doherty, also well-known as a member of the folk band Four Men & A Dog. It’s mature singer-songwriter fare of a type rarely heard these days, but more familiar from the late ‘60s / early ‘70s work of artists such as Leonard Cohen and Randy Newman – a string quartet are featured throughout, along with some lovely backing vocals courtesy of Charley Webb (from The Webb Sisters) and Lisa O’Neill.
Doherty’s a fine singer himself, occasionally reminiscent of Nick Cave at his gentlest, and he knows how to put his songs across without ever straining for effect. Many of these are concerned with arrivals, departures or journeys of one sort or another, and listening to them feels something like a journey in itself - in this case, a sweetly melancholy one.
It has to be said that not only does this album sound absolutely gorgeous, but the songs together form a masterly example of elegant, grown-up songcraft which is entirely consistent throughout and does not outstay its welcome. In fact, try as I might, I’m unable to think of a single negative thing to say about this record – it really is that good!


Rustin' And Rollin'
Rustin' And Rollin'
Price: £15.09

4.0 out of 5 stars They're from Germany!?!, 27 April 2014
This review is from: Rustin' And Rollin' (Audio CD)
This denim-clad five-piece from Germany look for all the world like extras in a prison movie and have apparently now been active for thirty years! From listening to them, you’d never suspect for a second that they were from Germany – this is strictly American music and it’s a tribute to their evident enthusiasm for ‘50s era Sun-style rockabilly, country and rock ‘n’ roll that they pull it off just as well as most of their genuinely American counterparts.
‘Oakie Boogie’ has a Johnny Cash feel to it, whereas ‘Freckles’ more surprisingly recalls the naivety of Jonathan Richman And The Modern Lovers. Only the parrot voice on ‘Don’t Ask Polly’ and the tiresome chorus of ‘Crazy Fxxxxn’ Rocker’ veer too close to novelty territory and risk irritating the listener, otherwise this is a most enjoyable and well-played record to file next to BR5-49.


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