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December 2017

WRING OUT THE OLD... BRING IN THE NEW - NEW YEAR BELLS

Wring Out

I was thinking of a poem/prayer/reflection to blog for New Year. I was thinking of a Rich Mullins line, "When the old world started dying and the new world started coming on." As I pondered the old and new I remembered an old favourite song from my teens. I used to start every new year with George Harrison's Ding Dong, an actual New year song which starts "ring out the old, ring in the new..." Before I knew it the first ring became wring and the second ring became bring and I was away... Not sure this is finished but may it be your prayer, the prayers of our Church leaders and our politicians as we imagine and work for a better 2018...

 

Wring out the old

Bring in the new

 

Wring out the old

 

Wring out the tears

The tears of our self indulgent choices

The tears of the hurt we have caused each other

The tears of the world and it’s fallen circumstances

 

Wring out the old

 

Wring out the fears

The fears of the fear of the other

The fears of thinking outside our box

The fears that increase the gaps

That our brokenness has made between us

Always pushing the other away.

  

Bring in the new

 

Bring in the hope

The hope of history that arcs towards peace 

The hope of that flicker of light extinguishing the night 

The hope of our secret gashes healed deep down in our souls

 

Bring in the new

 

Bring in the grace

The grace that always makes us the first to forgive

The grace that is unconditional to what has been wrung out

The grace that closes the gaps

That our brokenness has made between us

Always welcoming the other in.

 

Lord, in these New Year bells

Wring out the old

Bring in the new

And begin with me.


#6 in STOCKI'S FAVE RECORDS OF 2017

CHRIS TAYLOR - DOWN A DEAD END STREET

Chris Taylor Dead End

There were a few good Bob Dylan covers records this year. Joan Osborne and Willie Nile made good attempts and Old Crow Medicine Shows's 50 years Of Blonde On Blonde should perhaps have made my top 40. Chris Taylor's though was my very favourite. One of those records you snuggle in and play over and over...

My friend Lesley hates anyone covering Bob Dylan songs. Now, she is from Northern Ireland and we are what we call thran, an Ulster Scots word that means we will stand firm, irrationally if need be. She grew up in a conservative Church so maybe that has helped her thranness! Whatever, she will not budge in her bigoted prejudice against anyone who dares sing Bob songs other than Bob!

Now, there are rational reasons to not like covers of Dylan. Lesley’s evidence of Cliff Richard and The Nolans singing Blowing In The Wind via YouTube was a strong argument. Others have taken the attitude, punk and protest out of our Nobel prizewinning genius’s work for sure.

You see there is something about the terrain of a Bob Dylan song. The road of his rhythms and preposterously brilliant rhymes is never the smooth surface of a German autobahn. There is unique eccentricity to his craft. A voice that is smooth, even if fantastically good, can glide over the nuanced bumps and gaps, losing the grit and grime of the poet’s earthy realities. Cliff and The Nolans can just never work!

Chris Taylor really really works. Why I am setting this record up as one of the best ever Bob Dylan covers albums is because the voice and the artist that is Chris Taylor perfectly fits such an ambitious project. His voice has a strong rough hue that makes traction in Dylan’s quirks. That gives him the sensitivity to eek out the yearning and deep soul searching going on.

He chooses fascinating songs too. The opening What Was It You Wanted hooks you in. Taylor allows you to get caught with the brawn of the conversation immediately. Times Have Changed - oh my! The psychedelic guitar rage of The Ballad of Hollis Brown - phew! Blind Willie McTell is ghostly. The Man In The Long Black Coat is chilling storytelling. Pressing On has the spiritual resilience of a pilgrim weary but keeping on.

As a collection it is captivating. You cannot turn it off or skip tracks. Only nine songs and questions need asked about another volume but Chris Taylor has taken his favourite songs from his favourite songwriter and created the most artistically satisfying Dylan covers record that I have ever heard… and one of my records of the year! Lesley... only irrational thranness can keep you away!


#7 in STOCKI'S FAVE RECORDS OF 2017

NEIL FINN - OUT OF SILENCE

Neil Finn Out Of Silence

Neil Finn, New Zealand’s favourite song making son has never made the same record twice. Whether with Split Enz or Crowded House or with his brother Tim as The Finn Brothers, with his wife Sharon on Pyjama Club, on his own or with a myriad of collaborators on 7 Worlds Collide, his natural McCartney-like melody making has been given a plethora of forms.

After his last solo record, the full out and rocking Dizzy Heights, here is a quiet collection of songs. The creation of the record was live streamed to fans and the recordings made in a very short period of hours. Yet, don’t think it might be any less meticulous. These are not demoes or unplugged. These songs are tenderly layered with strings and harmonies. It is beguiling and very beautiful. I was suggest Finn’s most beautiful record to date.

Finn’s lyrics are full of images and intrigue that are often times more cryptic than quotable. The recurring theme on this record is uncertainty. In the emotional love of the heart and on the streets of a world where music fans are targeted by terrorists it seems to Finn that God is rolling dice with us. I think the latter is a in image of the uncertainty more than it is a theological surmise. 

Whatever the injustices personal and societal there is a hopefulness in the last few lines:

 

“And I’ll stay with you, if you’ll let me

And the whole world, can forget me

I know that, we came closer

To believing, that we’re through

I know different.”

 

Out of Silence is quiet and reflective catharsis in a world that loud and bright and brash and beating us all up. To lie back in these layered quiet melodies can only be a helpful retreat. Let the beauty heal, orientate and give hope. 


#8 in STOCKI'S FAVE RECORDS OF 2017

JASON ISBELL & THE 400 UNITS - THE NASHVILLE SOUND

Isbell Nashville

When Southeastern crossed my radar in 2013 I thought I had at last heard the follow up to Ryan Adams’ finest moment, Strangers Almanac with Whiskeytown. Southeastern had that same immediacy and familiarity as Strangers Almanac with at the same time all the fresh sense of originality. Isabel’s follow up Something More Than Free was equally engaging.

Where his mate Ryan Adams’ output has been a little erratic, it seems impossible for Isbell to be anything other than consistently brilliant. So, yet again with The Nashville Sound Isbell has made a mother stunning collection of songs.

The record rocks harder than the previous two with Cumberland Gapand Anxiety turning Isbell’s volume levels way up. There’s a groove to White Man’s World that echoes one of last year’s songs of the year Black Man In A White World by Michael Kiwanuka.

Louder or rockier or whatever Isbell’s definition of The Nashville Sound is, the lyrics still have those deft touches of lyrical wonder. This record is filled with white man observation on marriage, fatherhood and Trump’s America! 

The influence of Amanda Shires in Isbell’s life is omnipresent. On the record her fiddle playing is like a pipe bomb, to use an old Isbell image. She explodes into songs bringing energy and vitality. 

Of course she is so much more. As well as embellishing the tunes Shires is between and on the lines of the songs themselves. Shires is the companion who rescued Isbell from his addictions and mothered his brand new daughter.  In If We Were Vampires, where he throws out line upon line of adoration towards her, I particularly love the lines:

 

“The fragile heart you protected for so long

Or the mercy in your sense of right and wrong"

 

The daughter they have had together is a reason for Isbell to believe in God in a world where that is getting harder and harder. In White Man’s World:

 

"I'm a white man living in a white man's nation

I think the man upstairs must'a took a vacation

I still have faith, but I don't know why

Maybe it's the fire in my little girls eyes."

 

Do not think for a moment that this record is all about some comfortable domesticity. Isbell’s new contented family life is a place of strength from which he surveys and critiques the world. Trump’s new America is a reality but hope and purpose ends the record. In Hope The High Road:

 

"Last year was a son of a bitch

For nearly everyone we know

But I ain't fighting with you down in a ditch

I'll meet you up here on the road"

 

Finally Isbell’s altar call sermonic conclusion would be one that this preacher could do worse than return to time and time again. Whatever the world throws, however much we struggle in personal or national life, Isbell has a prayer and spiritual pure gold nugget:

 

“I hope you find something to love

Something to do when you feel like giving up

A song to sing or a tale to tell

Something to love, it'll serve you well.”

 

There can be debate as to whether this is the best of Isbell’s recent trilogy. What The Nashville Sound has, that the 400 Units have added, is variety of sounds. I would suggest that when you add it to Southeastern and Something More Than Free that it is safe to say that no one has made three records in a row that are as consistently good as these three, for a very long time.


#9 in STOCKI'S FAVE 40 RECORDS OF 2017

RICKY ROSS - SHORT STORIES Vol. 1

Ricky Ross Short Stories

I was a Deacon Blue fan before anyone else I knew. Until Dignity was re-mixed and re-released no one was paying attention. I was near obsessed. I heard they were on a Television show one Sunday on Channel 4. I recorded it. It is probably still in the attic!

On this show Ricky and Lorraine were being interviewed sitting at a piano. At one stage Ricky explained how he wrote the songs and they did a stripped back version of Ragman. It was beautiful. I was entranced. When they released a similar version of Raintown as a B-side of the aforementioned re-mixed Dignity I lapped it up. Over the next few years we got piano versions of Wages Day and Circus Lights. I craved more.

Thirty years later and I have my album. Twelve songs with Ricky Ross at his piano, with minimal embellishments from a few cellos and other strings. It is all done in the template of a Ricky Ross solo concert. There are a few Deacon Blue hits scattered throughout and even The Germans Are Out Today from Ross’s very first album release, So Long Ago. Carole King’s Goin' Back gets taken out of its 1990’s Deacon Blue incarnation as well.

Around the better known songs Ross adds in the new ones. At My Weakest Point and Only God and Dogs particularly resonate with me but there might be more blogs about those. Without the band arrangements there is an extra emotional and spiritual intensity. Ricky’s uncluttered voice brings a beautiful mettle of melancholy to songs about loss, injustice and human brokenness with his usual sprinkled grace notes of hope and love. 

Gorgeous!

What pushed this one into my top 10 was Ricky's solo gig at The Empire in December (MY REVIEW HERE). Ross's use of these songs in such a setting is a whole other art form.

And to think that he is coming to the 4 Corners Festival in Fitzroy on February 7th. DO NOT MISS... info soon!


#10 in STOCKI'S FAVE 40 RECORDS OF 2017

TREASURE OF THE BROKEN LAND: THE SONGS OF MARK HEARD

Treasure - Heard

Mark Heard? What do you mean you haven’t hear of Mark Heard. Here is as good an introduction as you are likely to find. I mean who wouldn’t want to listen to new songs by Over The Rhine, Drew Holcomb, Buddy Miller, Rodney Crowell and Birds of Chicago to name but five!

The thing is that this record is not about any of those amazing artists. It is about Mark Heard. Heard sadly passed away in 1992 at the age of just 41 years of age. Thankfully his untimely death was not before he had left a catalogue of work that was literally second to none in the Contemporary Christian Music industry. 

When I say CCM, one of his greatest accomplishments was to so raise the bar of that genre in musicality, production, poetry and theology that he pushed the envelope and in his trail so many artists pushed out too and took their art out of the cheap cliched ghetto of Christian Book Shops and into the real world with real music about real issues, with real faith running through it!

So here we are a staggering 25 years after Heard left us and a collection of the very best in Americana musicians are wrapping their voices, guitars and so much more around Heard’s very best work. All the songs are taken from the trilogy of records that Heard released between 1990 and 1992, Dry Bones Dance, Second Hand and Satellite Sky.

Speaking of personal taste I love those three records so much but my one criticism would be that at times, on Satellite Sky particularly, the fertility of Heard’s production imagination perhaps cluttered the songs. Second Hand was much more stripped back and therefore my favourite of the three.

On Treasure Of the Broken Land the curator and producer of the project Phil Madeira, with his choice of artists and varied arrangements, has given the songs so much more room to breathe.

The Mississippi All Stars version of Freight Train To Nowhere and Birds Of Chicago’s Rise From The Ruins open the songs in brand new ways. 

Then there are the bluesy country rock guitar strut of Red Dirt BoysSatellite Sky and Drew Holcomb’s stunning Tip Of My Tonguewhich would have sat neatly on The Rolling Stones’ Exile On Main Street

Over the Rhine’s Look Over Your Shoulder and Lily and Madeleine’s What Kind Of Friend tenderly reflective. Sarah Potenza’s Lonely Road is given the perfect atmosphere and dramatic effect!

All of it shines revelatory light on the incredible poetry of Mark Heard. Heard points his sharp mind, heart and soul at many things but three angles reached into my soul early on.

 

First is his introspective soul searching:

 

“And what kind of friend survives the night in a frightened sense of self-defence?

What kind of friend can take the ache of losing face for friendship’s sake?

What kind of friend do friends become when the heart says “kill” and the soul says “love”?

What kind of friend could I become?

What kind of friend am I?”

 

    - What Kind Of Friend

“The dam of time cannot hold back
The dust that will surely come of these bones
And I'm sure I will not have loved enough
Will not have loved enough”

   - Nod Over Coffee

 

Perhaps his most potent punch comes when Heard points at the spirit if the age:

 

But they have packaged our virtue in cellulose dreams 

And sold us the remnants 'til our pockets are clean 

Til our hopes fall 'round our feet 

Like the dust and dead leaves 

And we end up looking like what we believe

 - Orphans of God

 

She's heard it said by the drone in her head 

That the wages of spend is debt 

She figures that's better than nothing to show for the years of tears 

and sweat 

If she could put her hand on the brake of the land 

Find the treason in the diesel and the smoke 

She would jar the teeth of the dull and the meek and feed them the truth 

until they choke

   - Freight Train To Nowhere

 

Ultimately there is hope that lies within:

 

I see you now and then in dreams 

Your voice sounds just like it used to 

I believe I will hear it again 

God how I love you

Treasure of the broken land 

Parched earth give up your captive ones 

Waiting wind of Gabriel 

Blow soon upon the hollow bones

  - Treasure Of The Broken Land

 

Every now and then I seem to dream those dreams 

Where the orphans suckle and the slaves go free 

Touching that miraculous circumstance 

Where the blind ones see and the dry bones dance

    - Dry Bones Dance

 

You get the drift - literary and spiritually deep, caressing and colliding faith and the ailments of the age. Thank you Phil Madeira for redressing these songs in an eclectic record with an Americana cohesion. 

A triumph!


STOCKI'S RECORDS OF 2017 - #19-11

First of all, we are starting at number 19 because Van Morrison's two records of 2017 tied for 21.

An other interesting thing is that the entire nine records in the section have all Irish connections. Only Stephen Fearing and Noel Gallagher are not born on the island. Fearing though went to school in Cork. Gallagher claims Irish roots BUT Who Built The Moon was recorded in Belfast with Belfast boy David Holmes producing!

 

19. DUKE SPECIAL - HALLOW

Duke Hallow

Two collaborations in 2017 and both in my Top 20. Here’s the one where he wrote songs to the poems of Belfast’s finest poet Michael Longley. Longley even appears on The Ice Cream Man. 

My review said: If you want a wee bit more thought and literary brilliance with your music, then the Duke Special/Michael Longley collaboration is just for you! 

READ MY FULL REVIEW HERE

 

18. THE ORPHAN BRIGADE - HEART OF THE CAVE

Orphan Brigade

Glenarm’s Ben Glover and his merry band of top notch Nashville Orphans go underground, literally, in Italy to make a sweet record of spirituality and mortality.  

 

17. BEKI HEMINGWAY - WHINS AND WEATHER

Beki

Beki moves from Denver to Gorey, battles cancer and makes her most exquisite record yet!

My review said: Whins and Weather is a book of Psalms. There is doubt and hurt and faith and celebration. If Maria McKee had made the follow up to You Gotta Sin To Get Saved that we all wanted it might have sounded a whole lot like this!

READ MY FULL REVIEW HERE

 

16. NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDS - WHO BUILT THE MOON?

Gallagher Moon

I am no fan of Oasis but Noel’s High Flying Birds have caught my ear. When he came to Belfast and allowed David Holmes to rejig his sound, I finally pressed like!

 

15. STEPHEN FEARING - EVERY SOUL’S A SAILOR

Fearing Soul

I have been a Fearing since he was the unknown support act at Janice and my very first date in 1989. I think this has to be the Canadian with Irish connections’ most complete record. 

My review said: There will few collections of songs released this year as consistently strong, across the record, as Every Soul’s A Sailor. There is a spiritual pearl to Fearing’s songs, hidden secrets, indeed, between the lines. His songs have a soul nurturing quality that is lacking among his peers.

READ MY FULL REVIEW HERE

 

14 IMELDA MAY - LIFE LOVE FLESH BLOOD

Imelda

I stunning reinvention. 

My review said: Us Irish fight above our weight when it comes to singers like Imelda May and records like Life Love Flesh Blood. Imelda might have Mary Coughlan in her head as she takes this new direction. It’s certainly got Coughlan’s Irish realism, strength of womanhood and power of vocal emotion. It is exciting to see where it might go from here. 

READ MY FULL REVIEW HERE

 

13. ANTHONY TONER - INK

Toner Ink

Northern Ireland writer Toner crafts classic songwriter songs. 

My review said: Ink is lovely in love and mood and lyric. Put it on at the end of a long day, even a long difficult day, and use it to reflect and allow its soulfulness to wash over you.

 

12. MALOJIAN - LET YOUR WEIRDNESS CARRY YOU HOME 

Malojian Weirdness

Top 5 last year with a record made in Chicago, here they are again, this time recorded in that rock capital - Rathlin Island.

My review said: Malojian are a local treasure. That they are ours and not from somewhere in Illinois or Minnesota. Goodness I am thrilled. They are currently ploughing a fertile, prolific imaginative furrow… or in “Armaghgedon” you might say the orchard has never been so ripe with the fruit of musical invention!

READ MY FULL REVIEW HERE

 

11. ULAID & DUKE SPECIAL - A NOTE LET GO

Duke Ulaid

Duke’s second in the Top 20 and another collaboration. This time he creates something similar to The Gloaming, with Irish trad band Ulaid. They take on Belfast, Ireland and the world with songs of dying dogs, shipyards and blackbirds over the River Lagan. Ambitious and splendid! 

 


STOCKI'S 5 FAVOURITE REISSUE ALBUMS OF 2017

Every year we get a plethora of reissues and repackaged gems from the past. here are my favourite 5 of 2017...

5. U2 - THE JOSHUA TREE

JOSHUA TREE 30

Rushed out to coincide with the Joshua Tree 30th Anniversary Tour, this only makes the top 5 to mark the Tour! This is pretty much the 20th Anniversary Edition repacked with a different live CD from the same tour. I only downloaded the new remixes which were interesting… BUT the world didn’t much need this as a box set! 

 

4. NEIL YOUNG - HITCHHIKER

Hitchhiker

Another collection of out takes from Young’s vast vault of unreleased songs and albums. This one from my favourite Young period, at the end of the 70s when I started listening to him.

My review said, “No more beautiful collections of spokes exists than this stripped back bundle of classics and rarities; just Neil’s strung out voice, acoustic guitar and harmonica. Pure, unadulterated sweetness!”

 

3. RICHIE FURAY -  I”VE GOT A REASON/DANCE A LITTLE LIGHT/I STILL HAVE DREAMS

Furay Reason

I have been a Richie Furay fan since 1980 when I got my hands on I’ve Got A Reason. This was before I discovered Buffalo Springfield, Poco or Souther Furay Hillman Band. It was Furay’s Christian faith that drew me. He was one of the first artists to show me that it was better to have faith deeper in the lyric than the surface Jesus per minute count so popular in the CCM world of the 80s and 90s. I think this trilogy contains the most satisfying albums of Furay’s career, apart from the Buffalo Springfield one! I eventually tracked down the other two records on this reissue but only on vinyl. I have longed for a new remastered CD version for years. Santa finally weighed in with it this Christmas Day. 

 

2. THE BEATLES - SGT PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND 50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Sgt Pepper 50

After 50 years the iconic Sgt Peppers gets remixed for stereo by George Martin’s son Giles. It made it more powerful a sound than the original. Wow! I got the deluxe edition with extra outtakes that includes versions of Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields that should maybe have been on the original record. If you had the money you could CDs worth of other takes. 

My review said: The songs are a bit mad to be honest. A girl in the sky with diamonds is all Alice in Wonderland more than drug induced. A 19th century circus poster gives a lazy Lennon a full lyric. A Kellogg’s cornflakes ad is the inspiration of another. McCartney is wondering about being old and writing about a Traffic Warden. It all works because of the concept and the following through on the musical dreams. And even more 50 years later by Giles Martin making it more robust and therefore gripping.

 

1. BOB DYLAN - THE BOOTLEG SERIES VOL. 13: TROUBLE NO MORE 1979–1981

Dylan 13

The revelation of the year - Bob Dylan’s Gospel Years were far from dull and bland as first thought. Almost 40 years later we are given rare out takes, unrealised songs and gripping live performances. Eight glorious CDs of it and a DVD!

My review said:  All in all. Wow! Self Portrait, another seeming blip in Dylan’s career, was completely reassessed by Volume 10 in this series. Volume 13 is again reassessment time. 1979 to 1981 were vital years in Bob Dylan’s art. He might have left the lyrical style and evangelistic fervour behind as his faith deepened and widened but this box set cannot be ignored. I think even atheists could enjoy it… and of course… for those with ears to hear…!


LUCIA MEE - AT 18, THE YOUNGEST ON THE QUEEN'S NEW YEAR'S HONOURS LIST

Lucia Jazz

photo: Jasmine Stockman

Our Ballycastle house is abuzz today with good news. Our dear friend Lucia Quinney Mee across the cul-de-sac is the youngest recipient of one of the Queen’s New Year Honours for 2017. At just 18, Lucia is honoured with a British Empire Medal

Lucia was away to the BBC at the crack of dawn, well actually way before the dawn, for radio and TV appearances. My daughter has even gotten her photo of Lucia (as featured on this blog!) across the local press and national websites and a look out the window at one stage today saw a TV camera crew taking different angles of Lucia’s house! Tonight… well tonight, Queen honoured or not, Lucia is praying for good tippers in the restaurant she works in part time!

So, what is one so young getting a British Empire Medal for. Well on the surface Lucia is a resilient young woman, in that she has had no less than three liver transplants. An auto-immune disease attacks her liver. We remember her first when was only eight years of age. Just over a year later and she had another. 

Her third was in September 2015. We had watched her falling weaker by the day that summer. She lay on the sofa and was unable to do all the things she and her sister normally did with our girls. We prayed for another liver and thankfully it has been a successful transplant. Less than a year after her transplant she was winning medals again for swimming in the British Transplant Games and getting GCSEs.

That is all enough for Lucia to be respected as a special young woman… BUT... below the surface there is more. While lying on that sofa back in 2015 Lucia decided to start a campaign to promote organ donation. From her front room Lucia created a website and Facebook page to encourage people to have the conversation with their families about their wish to donate their organs.

Live Loudly Donate Proudly has been a powerful campaigning force that has not only raised awareness of organ donation but raised money for Organ Donation charities. On the first anniversary of her third liver transplant Lucia hosted a fundraising Gala Dinner of 300 plus people raising £8000 split between Transplant Sport and The Northern Ireland Transplant Association. Lucia spoke at the Gala with poise and maturity. Lucia has had many other opportunities across Ireland and the UK as well as the USA to share her story and her desire that we should all have the conversation.

I have had the privilege, at times a painful one, of watching Lucia from close enough quarters to weep many times, during transplants, when World Transplant Games medals have been won, during her speech at that Gala Dinner or when last night’s news broke of the British Empire Medal. What Lucia has always done is point me to are the donors. 

Lucia has a special place in her heart for those who made tough decisions at tough times. Three such families, in the midst of sorrow and no doubt the tears of grief, have been the givers of life to Lucia.

I particularly loved a blog she wrote about the British Transplant Games, that summer after her third liver transplant. Lucia writes so well and she in that particular blog she articulated what went through her head as she raced to the finishing wall in the swimming pool. It was the donor families! She wanted to do her best for them. I just found that incredibly moving. That tangible gratitude might be one of Lucia’s very best qualities. There is that maturity again. 

It was that blog, indeed those very lines, that inspired me to suggest that this year’s 4 Corners Festival Banquet should be for organ donor families and those who have received transplants. At past Festivals we have honoured the homeless, refugees, those living on Belfast peace walls and carers with banquets at Belfast City Hall. We are delighted to be concentrating on Organ Donation this February.

We are also thrilled that Lucia Mee will speak at that event. Also on the bill is author Cole Moreton whose book The Boy Who Gave His Heart Away has had organ donation very much in the public conversation this pat year. Cole will also be reading from the book at No Alibi’s Book Shop on Botanic Avenue the night after the banquet (February 7th at 6pm)

Organs don’t need sectarian boundaries and I wonder who in some corner of Belfast is living with an organ from someone in another corner! 

 


STOCKI'S RECORDS OF 2017 - #30-21

part 2 of my 2017 countdown... 

30. KAZ HAWKINS - FEELIN' GOOD

KAZ FEELIN

What a voice! Belfast’s very own Janis Joplin but Kaz has lived to sing about the blues that has trailed her life. She had another album this year, Don’t You Know but I didn’t know about it in time to make my top 40.  

 

29. JOE HENRY - THRUM

Joe Henry Thrum

One of my favourite producers makes his own record. Waitsian with a slow burn. If it had longer to embed in it could have been top 10.

 

28. THE ALARM - BLOOD RED

The Alarm Blood Red

My mate Andy Labrow sent me this one and I played it for weeks in the car. The BBC did a great documentary on Mike and his wife Jules’ battles with cancer and this record is reliant with hope and those big Alarm chorus’s. Uplighting!

 

27. LEON RUSSELL - ON A DISTANT SHORE

Leon Shore

It was sad to lose the great voice that was Leon Russell this year. On his last record he has his eyes well focused on the other shore. 

 

26  LINDSAY BUCKINGHAM CHRISTINE MCVIE

Buckingham McVie

They are only 40% of  Fleetwood Mac but it was great to hear summery melodies like Red Sun and Carnival Begins among others.

READ MY FULL REVIEW HERE

 

25. WAR ON DRUGS - A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING

War Understanding

My review said : A Deeper Understanding is not so much a revelation of the answers to life’s dilemmas, it is more a beautiful piece of soundtrack to help us meditate on where we are, as we seek the guidance and the strength to find where to go next. 

READ MY FULL REVIEW HERE

 

24  PRETENDERS - ALONE

Pretenders Alone

Chrissie Hynde teaming up with Dan Auerbach, the frontman of the Black Keys was a stroke of genius. It put new creative energy and layered sound on to Hynde’s rock strut. Get the deluxe version with the Alive extra CD. An utter treat!

 

23. WHITE BUFFALO - DARKEST DARKS, LIGHTEST LIGHTS

White Buffalo

My review said: The other thing I thought watching them on Later… With Jools Holland was Steve Earle. That rugged organic Americana country rock sound. It would be easy to see Smith as next generation Earle. Part of me sees that as a fair assessment, a compliment to both. Another part of me thinks that White Buffalo might be a cut above, more variety on the palette, more genius in the artist. In the meantime Darkest Darks, Lightest Lights is mouth watering anticipation of a great career.

READ MY FULL REVIEW HERE

 

22. THE KILLERS - WONDERFUL WONDERFUL

Killers Wonderful

Under glitter and gloss surface sounds The Killers give us songs of spiritual struggle and survival. 

READ MY FULL REVIEW HERE

 

 

TIED 21. VAN MORRISON - ROLL WITH THE PUNCHES/VERSATILE

Van Roll

Van plays the blues, like he always wanted to, in his Belfast youth. A mix of covers and new songs. 

READ MY FULL REVIEW HERE

Van Versatile

Van does the same thing with Jazz as he did earlier in the year with blues. Wherever we put these in the best of Van, they are the man living his deepest gladness. Doing what he likes. We should be grateful that he has found that spot.