The End of the Lineman

I was so saddened to hear of Glen Campbell‘s passing today at the age of 81. He is right up there in my list of favourite musicians whose voice and songs could hit me like an emotional kick in the guts – but in the best of ways. He was one of those artists who some see a coiffed country cliche, in fact the “Rhinestone Cowboy”, but if you listen to his music and understand the influence and contribution of his life’s work to many other artists and hits, you begin to understand his importance in popular and country music.

HCover of Burning bridgese was one of 12 children born to a sharecropping Arkansas family. As a boy he was obsessed with the guitar playing of Jazz great Django Reinhardt and he became a stunning guitarist in his own right. He lent his talent to many hits as part of the Los Angeles based Wrecking Crew, the unsung heroes of hits for big stars such as Elvis Presley, Dean Martin, The Monkees, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and many of Phil Spector’s ‘wall of sound’ productions. In 1963 alone, he appeared on 586 cuts and countless more throughout the decade, including The Byrd’s Mr Tambourine Man, Elvis Presley’s Viva Las Vegas, and the Righteous Brother’s You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling.

He was a touring member of the Beach Boys when Brian Wilson stopped touring in 1964, and in the late sixties, began winning Grammys and hosted his own TV show. His big hits, Wichita Lineman, Galveston, Where’s the Playground Susie and By the Time I get to Phoenix were all taking off around this late sixties period.

I can never decide whether Wichita Lineman or By the Time I Get to Phoenix is my favourite, I can never get through either without a tear in my eye. It’s writer Jimmy Webb’s words sure, but it’s Glenn’s soaring plaintive voice and his wondrous guitar solos that also add so much to the sadness and longing in both songs.

Burning Bridges by Debbie Campbell is a biography by his daughter, who toured with him for years, and is an account of not only the good times, but also the drugs and drinking and family struggles that seem to so often come with a musician’s fame and life on the road.

The documentary “Glen Campbell: I’ll be me”, released in 2014, is well worth hunting out, following him on what was to be his last tour, as his his battle with Alzheimer’s began to affect his ability to play and perform.  (late edit: Prime TV have announced they will screen this at 8:30pm on Thursday, 10 August).

His last song, “I’m not Going to Miss You”, won a Grammy this year for best country song.

Glen Campbell is survived by eight children and was married four times.

Find out more

Tami Neilson curls up … with a good book

Hair she comes! Hot ticket Tami Neilson kicks off her Songs of Sinners tour, performing in Christchurch tonight (Thursday 25th May) as part of The Cavell Leitch New Zealand International Jazz and Blues Festival with her Hot Rockin’ Band of Rhythm, belting out soul, country, gospel and blues.

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Tami’s tour merchandise features a silhouette of her signature black beehive with the proclamation: “The higher the hair, the closer to God.” A couple of us gals working here at the library have been Tami fans for a while. She may just be our alter ego and I fondly remember seeing her play with local boys Marlon Williams and Delaney Davidson at the wee Wunderbar in Lyttelton a few years back.

Tami and her big hair certainly command a much bigger stage now, and the accolades and awards never seem to end for Tami. Possibly even more rewarding for her than a gong was recently getting to open the stage for her idol – blues, gospel and soul singer Mavis Staples.

While she’s got hair up to heaven, Tami now has two young boys to bring her back down to earth. Considering how busy she is with touring and family life, it is a wonder Tami has time to curl up with a good book, let alone curl her hair. But Tami loves libraries and literature (from classic reads to chick lit) and she graciously took the time to answer a few questions about her reading pleasures and sings the praises of a good book.

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Tami, are there any special books you remember fondly from your childhood?

I was completely obsessed with Anne of Green Gables from age 11. I read the whole series and then moved on to all of L.M. Montgomery’s books. I own her entire published works, as well as her more recently published journals, which are fascinating and actually quite dark in contrast to her novels. I have visited her various homes across Canada while touring with my family band when growing up. I still re-read her books regularly. The Emily series and The Blue Castle are my enduring favourites.

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What role have libraries played in your life – either growing up and / or now?

I have always loved libraries and spending time curled up with a book. In my early 20s, when we came off the road and settled into the small town in Ontario where my Mom grew up, we didn’t have a computer yet and the local library is where I would excitedly go each day to check my emails and write to a certain Kiwi guy that I ended up marrying!

The library has played a huge role in my outings with my little ones since becoming a Mum myself – from the time they were babies, I took them to Wriggle & Rhyme and we go every few weeks to swap our books for new ones.

What books are your two young sons enjoying at the moment?

We’ve read to our boys since they were babies and they love books. We visit our local library regularly… a current library favourite is Super Stan, and we have a huge collection of the works of Dr Seuss, which are their go-to bedtime stories (and Mummy’s favourites to read to them!)

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Do your kids love your songs (or are they over them) – do they have their own favourites?

They have their favourites, which they perform for us regularly on Saturday mornings. They set up their “stage” on the couch and haul out all their little toy instruments and play their repertoire of ABCs, Christmas songs, nursery rhymes and Mummy’s songs. Their favourites are Texas (written for Charlie), Loco Mama (written for Sam) and Holy Moses.

Tami would have a bookshelf the size of Texas if she could…

Tami, any books you’d love to recommend?

Anything by Barbara Kingsolver. Her books and characters never disappoint. Long-time favourites are The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (I have a thing for Southern US writers and/or stories set in the Southern States…just like my musical influences tend to stem from there!) also, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood – such a Canadian treasure, that woman.

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What music related books can you recommend? 

I tend to always have a musical biography on the go. I loved Shout, Sister, Shout, the biography of Sister Rosetta Tharpe and I’ll Take You There bio on The Staples Singers when I was researching for my new show, “Songs of Sinners”. What Happened, Miss Simone? about Nina Simone … and I recently picked up a copy of Roseanne Cash’s Composed memoirs when touring through Nashville. She writes so beautifully and I loved that it wasn’t a chronological account of her life, just colourful snapshots strung together with the language of a woman who has been writing songs her whole life.
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Secret reading pleasures? What do you read when you’re waiting for your curls to set?

Every novel written by Marian Keyes! She’s my trashy, chick-lit go-to and makes me laugh out loud. Same with Janet Evanovich‘s Stephanie Plum series. I think I got up to #17 and had finally reached my fill, but, the very best of guilty pleasures.

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What’s on your TBR (to-be-read) pile Tami?

I’ve been working through H is for Hawk for over a year now…having lost my father, it’s a hard one to read and gets too close to the bone at times that I have to put it down for a while, read something else and come back to it. It is so exquisitely written that I don’t mind that it gets read in short bursts, as it makes it last longer.

I also picked up The Rosie Project from the library the other day on a friend’s “light-reading” recommendation, so, it’s on my bedside table, waiting for me to finish The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd. I loved her novel The Secret Life of Bees and liked The Invention of Wings, but, am halfway through this one and have to admit I’m a bit disappointed thus far. I don’t like the main character and just feel annoyed at the end of each chapter!

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What writers would you love to meet?

If I could jump into a time machine and have a chat… C.S. LewisL.M. Montgomery, Mark Twain, The Bronte Sisters, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

You travel a bit so I imagine you have to read ‘one the go’ – are you an eBooks/eReader convert or strictly old-school?

I have a love/hate relationship with my eReader. I love its convenience and the fact that it doesn’t take up half the weight allowance of my luggage like books used to when I was on tour!

However, part of the reading experience for me is the feel of the pages, I play with them the whole time I read (much to my parents’ and brother’s annoyance when growing up and now my husband’s!) seeing how far I have to go so I can prepare myself for the ending when it’s book full of characters I don’t want to part with, being able to lend a good book I want to share with a friend, see it on the shelf next to my other books after it’s been read (nothing better than a full bookshelf!) and my favourite smell in the world is that new book smell!

Tami, your tour is called Songs of Sinners but you seem so wholesome… can you tell us more about this juxtaposition?

Songs of Sinners is the story of how the gospel and blues music of the Southern States became Rock and Roll. Many artists grew up singing and learning to perform in the church, but then became “Sinners” when they “abandoned” their church congregations for a “life of sin”. From Ray Charles, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Mavis Staples … these artists then influenced future stars Elvis, Bob Dylan and Prince. This tells the story of how many of these more well-known artists wouldn’t exist without first hearing those early gospel and blues artists that may not be as well known.

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At the end of touring this year Tami will be back in the studio to record songs for a new album.

Tami, with your album Dynamite! (2014) you came out “all guns a blazing” and Don’t Be Afraid (2015) was a tribute to your Dad. Has the next album you’re working on got any ‘feel’ or direction to it yet? What can you tell us about it?

I’m currently writing my new album and the emerging theme seems to be sass! A lower tolerance level for putting up with people’s opinions or judgments. A result of getting older, being a mother and losing my Dad all intersecting, I guess. I’ve also been hugely influenced by performing the Songs of Sinners show this past year and being challenged vocally and as a performer, so I think that is trickling into the songs I’m writing as well.

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Countrymusichair

Get the look: Country Music Hair by Erin Duvall (2016)
This recently published book showcases the most notable bobs, beehives, bouffants, mullets, hats, wigs and curls from the 1960s to the present, alongside interviews with hairstylists and musicians and a full history of the ‘dos of the decade with the likes of locks belonging to Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn.

Get tickets: Tami Neilson Sings! Songs of Sinners Thursday 25th May at the Charles Luney Auditorium at St Margaret’s College, Christchurch
We’ll be there with bells, polka dots and sequins on! She is performing material her New Zealand audience hasn’t heard her sing before, including music by Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Howlin’ Wolf, Johnny Cash, Blind Willie Johnson and Sister Rosetta Thorpe.

Watch: Tami with local Lyttelton musicians Marlon Williams & Delaney Davidson

(Images supplied by Tami Neilson)

Fan girl and proud of it

I’m mocked mercilessly about my raving and hyperventilating but I don’t care, I know exceptional talent when I see it. I won’t be swayed from my mission to getting everyone I know to listen to my favourite singer and all time amazing person, Tami Neilson. A Canadian now living in New Zealand, she has a powerhouse voice with a stunning range, able to belt, swoon or blues her way through the songs she writes that are about heartache, love and loss but also just the joy of living.

Tami Neilson with awardShe is a winner of the Apra Silver Scrolls Award for best song and has numerous NZ Music Awards, and you may have seen her on numerous television shows, most recently 7 Days and singing with Dave Dobyn at the Vodafone New Zealand Music Awards. She also created the soundtrack  for local series The Brokenwood Mysteries.

I thought I’d let everyone know that we have just received in her latest album, Don’t Be Afraid, into the library collection, to add to her other earlier ones, and it’s a doozy, just like last year’s epic and award winning Dynamite (which I am told is on it’s way into our collection soon).

With a soulful voice straight from the golden age of country and rockabilly music, Tami Neilson has been described as “A red-hot honky-tonker, somewhere between Patsy Cline and Wanda Jackson with perhaps just a little bit of Peggy Lee sophistication.” -Nick Bollinger, NZ National Radio

I’ve stalked her like a Justin Beiber fan stalks the Beibmeister, having seen her perform four times in the last year, even flying to Auckland recently so I could be at her album launch. It’s almost reached the restraining order stage, as Tami now knows my husband and I by sight and gives us great big warm hugs, “Hey, you guys!”, and I’ve got a picture of her with me and everything…. (yes I’m 53 not 13!)

electric guitarThere’s been this huge upswell of Alt Country/Americana awareness in this country over the last year or two, in part mostly to artists like Tami Neilson, Dave Khan and some Canterbury boys; Delaney Davidson, Marlon Williams and Ben Woolley. Marlon just picked up two awards at the New Zealand music awards mentioned above. These talented young men have been in well known local bands such as The Eastern, Unfaithful Ways and Devilish Mary and the Holy Rollers. Original music, passion and talent combine, and to see them live is just a joyous night out, pure and simple.

But if you can’t get along to a gig, we also have their CDs in various forms, and you will often see on the album sleeve a selection of the above artists as they often get together to add their talent to each other’s projects. There are so many exceptionally talented New Zealand musicians trying to make a living out there, so if you’re into music, keep your eyes open for local gigs, they’re everywhere.

The next opportunity to see the tremendous Tami here in Christchurch will be at the Nostalgia Festival in February at Ferrymead Park, along with The Phoenix Foundation, The Eastern and Devilish Mary and the Holy Rollers to name a few. Don’t miss it!

It’s not all Cowboys and Boot Scootin’

Cover of Forget About ItCountry Music. What do you think of when you hear those two words? Stetson’s, jackets with tassels, heaps of yodelling and some good ol’ boys? That’s one side of country, the Country and Western side, but let me persuade you not to tar it all with the same brush.

I’m a bit of a fan of a great deal of country music, but I give the western side of it a wide berth. I love the stories the songs tell, often sad,  great heart wrenching love, longing and good inspiring stuff too. I’ve found some real gems just hunting through the library collection, or poking around Freegal, where you can down load the good stuff for free, three songs per week, using your library card and pin  number.

A good entry point into country is alt country, a kind of melding of country and contemporary rock, with a little folk and blues in there sometimes for good measure. Mumford and Sons would probably the most famous at the moment, but also check out Steve Earle, Uncle Tupelo, Ryan Adams  or  Wilco.

Bluegrass and Appalachian mountain music are particular favourites of mine, songs of hard times, lost love, yearning and struggle. Check out the movie Songcatcher for a taster, then listen to Iris Dement, Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch and Sonny Rawlings. Dolly Parton has a Grammy Award winning album, The Grass is Blue – her homage to the genre and to her childhood.

As part of New Zealand Music Month, on Saturday 24th May at 2pm, Fendalton Library is hosting Nomad, a great example of local emerging talent. Three young lads fit into the alt country genre and were finalists in Rockquest. Their latest song has been produced by no other than Dave Dobyn and this will be a great opportunity to enjoy their music.

With it being New Zealand Music Month and all, check out these excellent alt country leaning kiwi musicians, to be found both on the library’s shelves and at a venue near you. If you are looking for New Zealand artists, check out Flip Grater, Lindon Puffin, The Harbour Union, Marlon Williams, Tami Neilson or The Tiny Lies.

 

 

 

 

 

The Eastern – Genuine Christchurch Rock

album coverThe Eastern embody Christchurch spirit through and through. They’re a band of hard-working, no-nonsense folk who sure haven’t let an earthquake get in the way of making music. The perfect band to open NZ Music Month at Christchurch City Libraries at Central Library Tuam tonight at 7pm.

Chart, Christchurch’s music website, defines The Eastern as ‘ a string band that roars like a punk band, that swings like a gospel band, that drinks like a country band, that works like a bar band, that hopes like folk singers, and sings love songs like union songs, and writes union songs like love songs, and wants to slow dance and stand on tables, all at the same time.’ I think this sums things up pretty well.

I first came across The Eastern at The Mussel Inn in Takaka and was blown away by their talent, diversity and passion for music. Charismatic Adam McGrath has a voice as gritty as Waimak gravel and complements Jess Shanks who sings like a angel.

The Eastern is based in Lyttelton. Their first self-titled album was released in 2009, charity record The Harbour Union debuted at 20 in the NZ Charts, and their most recent recording Hope and Wire will be used in the soundtrack behind the upcoming television mini-series by the same name which portrays life in Christchurch after the quakes.

These hard core musos have played around NZ and the world and have opened for acts such as Fleetwood Mac, Justin Townes Earle, Vic Chestnut and Jimmy Barnes. They average 200 shows a year and will be performing along with Luckless and Katie Thompson at Central Library Tuam tonight at 7:00pm. Don’t miss them!