FIFTY3 FRIDAYS: BLUE ON BLUE
Time being somewhat at a premium as we prepare to head off for a week’s holiday in Norfolk, it’s a slightly shorter than usual Fifty3Fridays today [and earlier - Ed]. So, no further pontificating about the broken energy market or that never ending take-me-to-your-leader story (despite today's title) but still some exceptional music for you all of which shares a common thoughtfulness and artistry.
Photo of Alicia Blue by Tammie Valer
We start across the pond. After releasing a debut album, Bravebird, in her native Los Angeles two years ago Alicia Blue relocated to Nashville to work alongside songwriter and producer Lincoln Parish (ex-Cage The Elephant). Her resulting EP, Inner Child Work, seems to have broadened her sonic palette rather than take her folk-rooted music down a more conventional Nashville road. She has continued on an exploratory path with a compelling reworking of an iconic song made famous by 80’s LA rockers, Jane’s Addiction. “Jane Says” is the story of a drug-addicted woman in an abusive relationship who gave her name to the band.
In the accompanying video to “Jane Says”, Alicia plays with different personae; the blonde wig being a reference to Jane’s Addiction’s muse, Jane Bainter, while also showing off different facets of her own personality reflected in expressions, poses and clothing. It all makes for an oddly fascinating backcloth which places the intense song lyrics into contrastingly sharp focus. Alicia’s interpretation of a song that she says she has “held onto since I was a kid” is coloured by her teenage grasp of its true meaning and an unrealised fear that she might grow up to be “just like the girl in his story.” She has successfully stripped the song down to its core with this personal and poignant take on it.
Teenage recollections of a different kind play a part in our next feature. Originally from North West London but latterly settled in Norfolk, singer-songwriter Marina Florance draws on folk, country and Americana influences to create a mature and emotive sound with storytelling very much to the fore. Although she was given her first guitar aged 13, she took up live performing much later in life and her music is commensurately mature, calming and reflective with an eloquence that draws from the well of human experience. I was delighted to receive some new music from Marina in the shape of the delightful tale of “Annie C” which again shows her gift for a compelling story delivered with an equally loving touch.
Explaining the background to the song, Marina has her Aunt Lucy to thank for the original inspiration. A cleaner at Kilburn College, she once retrieved a classroom bin full of singles and gave them to the then teenage Marina. The story was that a broken-hearted college teacher had thrown away all her 45s rather than be reminded by them of a lost love. Many of the sleeveless discs had ‘Annie’ scrawled across the labels but it wasn’t until Marina came across them again when re-organising her studio that the story came flooding back. She went on to share the memory with lyricist Richard Pierce and “Annie C” was born.
A feature of Marina’s new song is how well her flavoursome lead vocal meshes with the backing vocals. Those rather splendid harmonies are from young Norwich singer-songwriter Kitty Perrin who featured as a Fresh Fave on Fresh on the Net in June in her own right with this song, “The Escapist” taken from her debut EP Stick It Out. Kitty’s song also takes its cue from the familiar terrain of the break-up, though here she is contemplating the duality of being the victim but also playing a part herself in its endgame.
Photo of Dorothy Bird by Brian Roberts
I was inspired to listen to the solo music of Dorothy Bird having recently caught her live as part of the fine band Skylon; a review that was posted here a couple of weeks ago. Coincidentally a digital release of her June 2022 solo debut album on vinyl, Belonging, is scheduled for today. Now working between Liverpool and Berlin in her native Germany, Julia Fiebelkorn adopted Dorothy Bird as her stage name after studying music at the University of Arts, Bremen. Her original compositions reflect a range of reference points from classical music, jazz, art pop, electronica and more while her vocal purity always brings a soothing sense of calm. Belonging is a masterful piece of work I wholly recommend.
The concept behind the album pivots on connections between opposing forces and the interaction of seemingly contradictory feelings. Songs cover personal issues with the many aspects of change being central and universally identifiable. They are all handled with a delicacy of touch. The title track captures a sense of restlessness and longing tempered by Dorothy’s exquisite voice over a spacious strings-enhanced soundtrack with the conundrum neatly resolved at the end: 'There's no place I'd rather be than here / Be here with me'. Another song that especially caught my ear is “The Evening”, a poem by Bohemian-Austrian poet and novelist Rainer Maria Rilke imaginatively translated into English and set to music quite magically by Dorothy. It begins when day becomes night and there is a brief space where both exist together and continues mantra-like to consider the dark versus light dichotomy.
BARBARA ON TOUR
If you are anywhere near Birmingham, Manchester, London or Brighton this month you could do worse than stopping by to catch a show by the wonderful Brighton band Barbara, supported by Leeds marvels The Harriets no less at the first three of those venues. Full details on both bands' websites and social media. Here's a quick reminder of their individual prowess [I thought you said this week's issue was short?- Ed].
AUGUST SPOTIFY PLAYLIST
And there's more! A regular feature of this site is the monthly Fifty3 Fridays Spotify Playlist. The latest one includes all the songs in order from August’s Fifty3 Fridays as long as they are listed on Spotify, of course. It opens with The Big Moon’s “Wide Eyes” and closes with “The Present” by The Happy Somethings. Sadly, two tracks are missing – “Road Less Travelled” and “Why Wait” by the magnificent Skylon. Hopefully those will be added to Spotify soon this time – meanwhile listen to them here on Bandcamp.
Please feel free to share it and even join the worrying small number who actually follow me on Spotify at TonyHardy53. You can access all the past monthly playlists here too (and there are lots of them). Enough!