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Patient: The True Story of a Rare Illness
Patient: The True Story of a Rare Illness
by Ben Watt
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars Infectious (sorry), 8 Jun. 2016
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I don't think I can say that I enjoyed this book, but rather like Oliver Sachs' book "Awakenings" I found it both disturbing and engrossing.
Watt is excellent at enabling the reader to understand how he, whilst in the grip of a life threatening and painful condition, retreated into himself and came to accept whatever came his way. There is no bitterness at all here.
As someone who came to this book as a fan of both Everything but the Girl and his solo work and I found it interesting to read that, despite the possibility of him being left mute, his recovery brought and change and strength to his voice (which is particularly apparent on his album Hendra). Whilst the book does occasionally include musical references they are pretty much incidental; this is primarily a book about a very rare illness, how it feels, and how one man's recovery came about.

Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon -- And the Journey of a Generation
Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon -- And the Journey of a Generation
by Sheila Weller
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Evocative and fast paced., 30 April 2016
This is a very fast paced account of a very heady time. The family and musical stories of the three artists are interwoven, often with them sharing partners (most notably James Taylor), at different times. The author makes a very good case for the importance of all 3. but clearly with artistic primacy being given to Joni Mitchell. For what it's worth, I found their likeableness in reverse order to their standing as artists.
At times, and probably naturally, the preferences of the author seep through; in particular she is damning of pretty much all (though, admittedly, not actually ALL) the men that have anything to do with Joni. Carole or Carly. Perhaps they were for the most part a bunch of self serving bastards?!
Overall this book is a very evocative and easy to read account of an important period of social history in which these women, it is argued, contributed greatly to the enhancement of women's independence (from men) by showing, in both their lives and their songs, the different ways in which women can lead a fulfilling life.

Fever Dream
Fever Dream
Price: £9.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hendra's companion, 9 April 2016
This review is from: Fever Dream (Audio CD)
My album of 2014 was Ben Watt's "Hendra" (Hendra) and it seems to me that this album, whilst perhaps not quite as varied, is very much in the same vein. As with Hendra, Bernhard Butler superb guitar is a significant feature, but really it is simply the quality of the song writing and Watt's ever improving singing that is the standout for me.
There never seems to be anything forced with Watt's music; nothing is rammed down your throat and you simply wait, with repeated plays, for the hooks to sink in.
I hope the fact that this release comes almost exactly 2 years after Hendra is a sign of future productivity; heck, the music business needs grown up quality like this.
Great to know that Watt seems to have his writing Mojo back.

Price: £9.34

5.0 out of 5 stars His best solo work., 4 April 2016
This review is from: Ram (Audio CD)
I think this is McCartney's greatest solo album; even better than the vastly more successful Band on the Run. He is right on top of his melodic game and the songs feel really personal - as indeed did the songs on his first solo album McCartney. If you like Paul and this is not in your collection then you really do need this. If you don't think you like McCartney (too twee sometimes?) then this might just change your mind.

H is for Hawk
H is for Hawk
by Helen Macdonald
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Deserves to be read with generosity, 15 Mar. 2016
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This review is from: H is for Hawk (Paperback)
Some people who have read this found it pretentious and self-indulgent, but I have to disagree. I’m sure the author doesn’t need me to justify her work, but I’m going to explain why I think this is a brave book that requires the reader to be generous in order to get the most out of it.
Firstly, it is worth mentioning that the book was originally written with no intention of publication; instead I think it was to help the author to make sense of the trauma of losing her father. In the light of this it is difficult to see how it can be thought of as self-indulgent, at least at the time or writing, but perhaps you may question the decision to publish. My own view is that it is a brave person who bares themselves to public scrutiny in the way Helen Macdonald does here, and at the same time perhaps helps others to understand their own loss(es).
In essence the book tells the story of the author training a goshawk she purchase shortly after the death of her much loved and missed father. She parallels her story with that of T.H.White’s telling of his own failed experiences in his book Goshawk. For the most part I found this to be a 5* book but I'm giving it 4 because I didn't really see the relevance to the overall story of the section in which she offers her psychological interpretation of the books of White in order to suggest an understanding of his motivations behind his writings. If you are a White fan it may be of interest, but I'm afraid I found this element a bit tiresome.
I’ll finish with a small section of the book to give you a flavour of the style herein.

Having just flushed out a pheasant for the goshawk she writes:

"I reach down and start, unconsciously as a mother helping a child with her dinner, plucking the pheasant with the hawk. For the hawk. And when she starts eating, I sit on my heals and watch, watch her eat. Feathers lift, blown down the hedge, and catch in spiders’ webs and thorn branches. The bright blood on her toes coagulates and dries. Time passes. Benison of sunlight. A wind shifts the thistle stalks and is gone. And I start crying, soundlessly. Tears roll down my face. For the pheasant, for the hawk, for Dad and for all his patience, for that little girl who stood by a fence and waited for the hawks to come.”

Not bad eh?

Little Glass Box
Little Glass Box
Price: £11.54

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This guy needs to be heard more., 26 Feb. 2016
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This review is from: Little Glass Box (Audio CD)
The basics: Fraser Anderson has a great voice, can play a neat guitar, writes soulful/jazzy/folky songs of quality and is supported on this album by a world class set of artists including Danny Thompson on bass and Max Middleton on keyboards.
So why oh why has nobody reviewed this brilliantly produced album, and why had I not heard of him until last week when I bought Danny Thompson's album Connected which features the first track from this collection (Connected is a collection of DT's favourite artists he has worked with)?
Answer: I have absolutely no idea whatsoever. Fraser Anderson deserves a much wider audience than it is clearly getting at the moment.
The amazon review/notes on FA (!) suggests there is something of the Nick Drake and John Martyn about him and I can see what they mean,, but I personally think the use of trumpet, electric keyboards and brushed drums reminds me more, in places, of solo Ben Watt (particularly some of the material on Hendra), but actually any comparisons are immaterial as this is quality stuff that stands on its own merits.
Listen to the online samples and then buy with absolute confidence.
P.S. Apparently he is exceptional live too, which I can well believe.:

Song for My Father
Song for My Father
by Ian Clayton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Our greatest living writer?, 23 Feb. 2016
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This review is from: Song for My Father (Paperback)
Okay, a bit of a bold claim I know, but right now that's how I feel having just read the last page of this wonderful book.
Whilst Ian Clayton's book has his dad as the main character, it seems to me that the book is really about making sense of what it is that has made Ian Clayton turn out be the man he has become. Having read both of his other two equally brilliant books, "Bringing it all back home" and "Billie", this book appears to be the third of a trilogy that explores his own view on the impact of a working class West Yorkshire community in which he finds much to admire and laugh at (and with), whilst also being aware in a gentle way of the narrow-mindedness of some he comes into contact with (notably, here, his father). Also family plays a very important role, ranging from his wife Heather and their twins, a son Edward and daughter Billie, through to his brothers, their mother and father and various uncles and aunts. Along the way we also come across, with various degrees of fame, wresters, rugby league players, musicians, writers etc.
Reading this book feels like being in the company of a very wise man who always speaks his mind, seeks the positive and tells a great funny story (often the re-telling other people's). The writing is of the no-nonsense variety that, as someone brought up in West Yorkshire myself in the 70s, perfectly captures the working class sense of humour that is at once both dismissive and warm-hearted.
Once again, Ian Clayton has done us a great service in reminding us of the vibrancy of the northern working class.
Oh, and if you have a heart, this book will at times make you cry.

Servant of Love
Servant of Love
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic Patty - with added Blues, 25 Jan. 2016
This review is from: Servant of Love (Audio CD)
I have lived with this album for quite a few weeks and feel compelled to write a review having seen Patty Griffin give a fantastic performance of these songs at the Glee Club in Birmingham last night. This release is something of a departure from what we have come to expect from PG. Naturally the song writing and singing is (in my opinion) on a par with anyone working today, but what you get here, and what is abundantly clear live, is a move to a significantly more ballsy sound (at least for some of the songs), some of which veer and compare comparison with Lucinda Williams. It might also be suggested that the groove and bluesy feel to some of these songs is a reflection of her collaboration with Robert Plant.
Also included here are the kind of heartfelt, introverted and yet somehow rousing songs at which she excels. With time, the song to her mother titled "Made of the Sun" will end up being considered a classic - and the reason I have given this 5*.
Buy with confidence, but if you are a long standing fan (like me) you may need to give this a few plays before it all sinks in.

PS If possible, try and get to see her live because the commitment and power is quite something, and amazingly, her voice is even better than on record.

Primrose Green
Primrose Green
Price: £9.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars My personal favourite of 2015. Owes a large debt to others though., 28 Nov. 2015
This review is from: Primrose Green (Audio CD)
As a teenager in the early 70s John Martyn's Solid Air and Bless The Weather were two of my most treasured albums. A few years later I added a number of Tim Buckley releases to my collection - and they remain some of my all time favourites.
As a consequence Ryley Walker, whose faithful adherence to the work of Martyn, Buckley and a number of others mentioned in other reviews, is potentially treading a dangerous path by inviting comparisons with such luminaries. However, in my opinion he carries it off with a very strong set of songs brilliantly played, resulting in this being my favourite album of 2015. Any complaints of pastiche are, I think, unfair as it took a number of releases before JM and TH really found their ever-changing voice.
Personally, I haven't been as excited by an artist for a very long time (probably not since Gillian Welch) and I really look forward to what he does next. Of course with just two albums released so far we have no idea what the future will bring but I really hope he stretches himself next time and takes a few more risks. After all that's what made JM and TH such truly great artists (hopefully RW does not have a self-destruct streak in him too!)
I'd like to give this release 5* but, in truth, it stands too squarely on the shoulders of others for me to give it the highest rating, but it is still a fantastic release.
And finally ... there is currently a solitary 1* review for this album primarily because the reviewer thinks it is too derivative. Of course everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but I have just noticed that Ryley Walker is soon to tour the UK and is being supported on double bass by none other than John Martyn's old playing partner Danny Thompson, which is as strong a recommendation as RW could get right now.

Tomorrow Is My Turn
Tomorrow Is My Turn
Offered by NextDayEntertainment
Price: £7.94

4.0 out of 5 stars Polished, 5 Oct. 2015
This review is from: Tomorrow Is My Turn (Audio CD)
Personally I prefer my music with slightly rough edges (e.g. Neil Young rather than, say, Paul Simon). However, setting that aside, I have found this to be a really wonderful collection of diverse and carefully crafted songs, most of which are covers. Some have criticised this release as being MOR, but I beg to differ with songs covered here being written by the likes of (the non-MOR) Elizabeth Cotton, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Dolly Parton (a brilliant lyricist in my opinion). Perhaps some consider the performances too polished, but I think that's all set aside by the power and emotion from Giddens' voice, which is consistently superb.
Well worth investigating, especially for those who enjoy American blues/folk/country and perhaps also the releases in support of the Coen brothers' films such as "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" and "Inside Llewyn Davis".

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