Tag Archives: Robyn Hitchcock

A Quick Review of Emma Swift’s Blonde on the Tracks

I think Bob Dylan is a great, raw singer, so I’m not in that camp of people who say that other people do his songs better. Actually, I think it’s rare when the covers match or surpass the original.

That being said, there are some great Dylan interpreters, aural dancers, if you will, who bring something to the original that enhances, furthers, or expounds on the master’s intent. The Byrds, Judy Collins, Bryan Ferry, and Robyn Hitchcock are a few that come to mind (in fact, Dylan covers at his live shows are always a treat, as they wind up sounding like lost Hitchcock originals).

Now, enter Emma Swift, whose new album, Blonde On the Tracks (Tiny Ghost Records), is a stunning collection of eight achingly gorgeous renditions of songs by the Bard of Duluth. Deftly produced by Patrick Sansone (Wilco multi-instrumentalist) and featuring the aforementioned Hitchcock on guitar, the album was recorded in Nashville over the course of three years–a gestation period that seems appropriate, as the album is certainly a slow burn of a listen.

With every track as strong as it is, it’s difficult to pick standouts here, but Swift’s performances of “One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)” and “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands” had me dissolving into a glorious puddle of sadness on first listen, and are no less affecting on repeated listens.

This album is absolutely worth picking up, which you’ll need to do via Bandcamp or your favorite independent record store, as Swift is a very outspoken anti-streaming activist–which is great, we should be supporting the artists in a way that sees them getting the maximum return for their art, and if you love music, you should be buying records. Go ahead and fight me on that if you want.

Pick up Blonde On the Tracks via Bandcamp

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The Blarg No. 63: On Songwriting

Have I ever mentioned that it’s really hard to keep a weekly show going? I know I complain a lot, and I’m sorry for that, but not really, but I am. Also, I never go back and re-read these, because, well, I write them, and then I send them, and any sort of re-visitation seems as though it would only be inviting unnecessary self-criticism, because once they’re out there, what is there really for me to do?

Where was I? Ah, yes, complaining.

It is difficult, though, keeping a weekly show on the rails. Especially when you’re doing everything yourself, and I’m not even doing everything myself—Janell takes care of the weekly graphics, but I do take care of the booking, the recording, the editing, the post-production, the social media marketing (as inept as I am at it), and when you combine that with other regular recording obligations, work, life… It quickly becomes not only overwhelming, but all consuming.

Anybody out there want to book a well-received, if little known, arts and culture podcast? That would just be freaking awesome.

All of the above brings us to this week’s show. Our first clip show! Let’s call it a theme show, though, because I hate the whole clip show concept.

Talking to musicians—songwriters in particular—is one of my favorite things to do, and Limited Engagement has afforded me the opportunity to take to some amazing talented practitioners of the art. This show features thoughts, experiences, and wisdom on the subject of writing songs from from Tindal, Robyn Hitchcock, The Haymarket Squares, Jon Rauhouse, Betsy Ganz of The SunPunchers, Scotty Spenner, and Lou Barlow. Hear the full conversations on Limited Engagement, iTunes, and a plethora of podcast dispensaries.

Listen to LE 63 – On Songwriting


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A Review of Robyn Hitchcock at the MIM, Phoenix, AZ, 3.3.16

“I’m Not Fully Reconditioned Yet”
Among the reasons for going to a Robyn Hitchcock concert—of which there are more than you might think, and only one of which is the high quality of the music performed—is Robyn’s stage banter. Though he tends to mine similar themes, there is no hearing the same story twice—unless you follow his entire tour, then maybe you’ll hear some retreads, but as most of the banter evolves from his sense of the place he’s in, it seems terribly unlikely, and perhaps it was that the show fell on the occasion of his 63rd birthday, perhaps it was the fact that the size of the audience in attendance was much more robust than the pathetic number that turned out for his last concert at the MIM over three years previously, but RH appeared to be in an altogether more relaxed, less cynical mood, and not at all concerned with the fact that he was playing in a museum (something that seemed to stick in his craw the last time).

This time, Robyn’s banter centered on the dryness of the air; the idea of preconceived notions (and how they can’t apply to Phoenix); something about flies that seemed quite funny at the time; a free-form story about how he hasn’t been fully reconditioned yet, and how when you’re not fully reconditioned bits of you move five seconds behind the other bits; and occasional requests to “Bob,” such as, “Could you make this guitar sound like a 12-string, and also make it sound like I play really well.”  In other words, he was in fine form.

Hitchcock’s set featured a couple of new tunes that are most likely for the forthcoming album he’s spoken of in recent interviews. One might be called “I Pray When I’m Drunk,” and the other might be “I’m a Loser”—these titles are solely speculation based on choruses, and they were quite good. There were plenty of what some might call “standards” or “hits”: “Madonna of the Wasps,” “Balloon Man,” “Raymond Chandler Evening,” and “Queen Elvis”; the classic Soft Boys tune, “I Got the Hots for You”; the requested “A Skull, a Suitcase, and a Long Red Bottle of Wine.” My favorite songs of the evening though were the deeper catalogue and rare cuts such as “Man with a Woman’s Shadow,” “Nietzsche’s Way,” “Sometimes a Blonde,” “Trams of Old London,” and “Glass Hotel.” The encore, as appears to now be the standard for Hitchcock, consisted of a group of covers, the first a solo rendition of his favorite song—which he claimed as his birthday indulgence—Dylan’s gorgeously meandering “Sade Eyed Lady of the Lowlands,” then The Psychedelic Furs’ “The Ghost in You” and Neil Young’s “Motion Pictures” joined by Emma Swift on harmonies.

The setlist is by no means complete, and not at all in order. For a complete setlist in the order played, please consult someone with a better memory for that sort of thing.

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