Tag Archives: Jamie

Weekly Digs: Ernie Graham – Artist Profile

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It’s easy to feel like you’ve gotten to know an artist just by listening to their music, and sometimes I feel weirdly betrayed if it turns out someone who’s music I really like is a bit of an asshole. With the music of Ernie Graham and a few odd photographs, comes a strange confidence that he was a genuinely good dude. Just look at that smile:

imageIn the end though I suppose it’s probably just the music that matters, not the person who created it. Ernie Graham was a man, and he created some excellent music. Starting out as a rhythm guitarist for Tony & The Telstars in his home of Belfast, Ireland, Graham soon split for England where he met Henry McCullough. The two headed back for Belfast and formed The People, later called Eire Apparent. Eire Apparent is mostly known for recording an album produced by Jimi Hendrix, with a couple songs featuring his guitar work. These are gems for any Jimi fans, but Eire Apparent’s stuff was seriously excellent, and should stand on it’s own merit. Here’s an pretty raw 1968 single of theirs:

Here I Go Again

The band broke up in 1970 and Ernie decided to go solo, releasing the eponymous LP Ernie Graham in 1970. This album is an absolute stunner, and if you’ve got a record player I can’t recommend it enough. On it, Graham takes a new direction with his sound resulting in what most would define as “pub-rock”, a musical movement aimed at bringing music back to it’s basics from the glam rock that was emerging around the same time. Some parts folk, some parts roots; good vibes abound and Ernie Graham captures the soul of the genre perfectly. Here are a couple standouts from the album which was reissued by 4 Men With Beards this year and can also be found on CD:

So Lonely

The Girl That Turned The Lever

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The album was praised by critics but sold poorly, and in 1971 Graham joined the band Help Yourself, appearing on their 1972 album Strange Affair. Ernie would go on to form the band Clancy, releasing two albums with them and later going solo again. In the 80s after another failed attempt at success with a new band, Ernie Graham called it quits on his music career and took a job on the railroads. In 2001 he died due to complications with his alcoholism. Perhaps a sad ending for a man who never received a fraction of the recognition he deserved, but I think he must have died proud of the music he helped create. Here’s a song from Strange Affair to send you off:

Brown Lady

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Jamie Coughlin

Weekly Digs: Milton Nascimento/Clube Da Esquina

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If the cold weather is starting to bring you down, it’s time to listen to the sunny music of Milton Nascimento. A Brazilian legend, Nascimento isn’t very well known outside his home country, despite having a heavenly voice and prodigious songwriting ability. Take the first track from his 1975 album Minas:

The tune opens with a youth choir singing a lyricless melody, then merges into Milton’s wonderfully charged falsetto voice over a softly finger picked guitar progression. A third voice enters the mix and soon the choir rises back up to meet the two melodies, creating an epic and expertly arranged conglomerate of singing. It’s this precision and confidence that makes Nascimento’s music so magical and enjoyable to listen to.

In the 1960s Milton formed the Brazilian music collective Clube da Esquina (Corner Club) along with lyricist Márcio Borges and songwriter Lô Borges. The group recorded and released their first LP Clube Da Esquina in 1972, which has become regarded as a classic of Brazilian music. Inspired by the likes of The Beatles, Clube Da Esquina blends rock and roll with the Brazilian sounds of bossa nova and jazz, and is accessible for fans of all kinds of music.

The production alone warrants a listen, layering crystal clear instrumentation and blending textures of all kinds, resulting in a sound that is broad, intricate, definite, and pure. As the record plays it feels like you are right there in the studio, listening in on the group play over 40 years ago. Clube Da Esquina is an album that takes multiple listens to even begin to digest, but it’s apparent during the first spin that Nascimento and Co. were onto something special.

Nascimento would go on to put out over 40 albums in a career that is still going on today. The depth of his work is incredible and full of wonderful songs as well as collaborations with artists like Cat Stevens, Paul Simon, and Quincy Jones. Below is Clube Da Esquina in it’s entirety. 

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Jamie Coughlin

Weekly Digs: Ted Lucas: The Om Album

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Ted Lucas got his start as a studio musician and member of various folk/rock bands around the Midwest. A classically trained guitar player, Lucas also studied blues, country, jazz, and contemporary music and drew inspiration from the likes of Ravi Shankar to develop a beautiful sound of his own. In 1974 he released his only album, a self titled effort recorded largely in his attic studio that has come to be known as “The Om Album”.

The two sides of the album are quite distinct from each other. Side A consists of a gorgeous medley of six folk songs, while Side B contains three longer, more instrumental jams. In the first six tracks, Lucas develops beautiful and familiar melodies with his perfectly soft guitar playing and warm, open voice. In a way that makes you think Bon Iver must be a fan, Lucas crafts intricate harmonies with himself that settle themselves in your head all day but never wear on you; his music is comfortable.

Get a taste of the music by listening to a track from Lucas’ self-titled album:

The lyrics of his songs are simple and direct, smiling out of the songs at you. In the album’s opener he sings “It’s a plain and sane and simple melody/brings a song to you, brings some joy to me”, setting the tone for the album as a whole. The next three tracks, “It’s So Easy”, “Now That I Know”, and “I’ll Find A Way” are all intricate and touching in their own way and as you’re listening you keep expecting a let down, like how can it stay this good??

Then Lucas comes at you with “Baby Where You Are” and “It’s So Nice To Get Stoned”, tracks that are irresistibly excellent. Side B showcases Lucas’ guitar talent, especially on “Sonny Boy Blues”, a seven minute long rail against over drinking, and the closer “Love & Peace Raga”. The raga is played in a traditional Indian style; intricately picking it’s way along for nearly eight minutes, weaving together melodies, and creating a gorgeous tapestry of sound.

This album is an absolute gem from start to finish, and while it sadly never got the attention it deserved, I get the sense that Ted Lucas was not a man concerned with material gains. So take a few minutes and give it a listen, you won’t be disappointed. Yoga Records put out a reissue in 2010 which can be found on iTunes or Amazon.

Here’s another track from the reissue to keep you company:

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Jamie Coughlin

Weekly Digs: Exuma (Artist/Album Review)

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Hey there. My name’s Jamie, and each week I’m going to introduce you to an album or artist you’ve (probably) never heard before. To start things off we’ll take a look at the debut, self titled album from the Bahamian musician Exuma.

Exuma began his career like many other greats of his era, playing in small clubs around Greenwich Village, but the sound he developed was entirely his own. Exuma’s music is a fantastic concoction of freak-folk, calypso, and all around instrumental furor, paired with his half singing, half groaning voice ringing out mythical and sorcerous lyrics inspired by the spiritual tradition of Obeah. In 1970 he put together a group of musicians and recorded his first album, Exuma.

While only seven tracks long, the album is so dynamic and powerful that it never feels lacking. In the opening song “Exuma, The Obeah Man”, the singer introduces himself in impressive fashion: “Exuma was my name when I lived in the stars/Exuma was a planet that once lit Mars/I’ve got the voice of many in my throat/The teeth of a frog and the tail of a goat”. The lyrics shine throughout the album and are brought alive by Exuma’s rough voice, at times verging on hysteria and at others rising softly above the music.

The second track “Dambala” is a stunningly beautiful tune, built around a simple chord progression that starts gently and slowly rises into a hectic, chanting call for the coming of Dambala, the God of the Sky and creator of all life in the Vodou tradition. The best song from the B-side has to be “You Don’t Know What’s Going On”. This gem contains perhaps my favorite verse from the album: “You can’t change the night into day/And you can’t take the milk/From the milky way./You can’t take the sun from the sky/And you can’t put the light/In Ray Charles eyes”. Once again the melody is simple but with a slightly more jovial rhythm than will be found on the rest of the album.

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Exuma would continue to record and tour into the 80s, following up his debut with the excellent Exuma II in the 1970. If you have any interest in the freak folk genre or in world music, then Exuma is an absolute must. His music toes the line of being out of control like almost no one else, and the result is spectacular.

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Jamie Coughlin