* Times has apparently been having a correspondence about good funeral songs. On 10.3.2014, a letter from Prof. John Murrell of Cambridge recommended Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’ve Gone, sung by George Melly.

I’d want Miles Of Elbow Room by Iris Dement and a farmer might like Red Clay Angel by Gillian Welch.

I might be prepared to die heroically but pointlessly just to provide a cue for Rufus Thomas’s comic classic They Put The Last Clean Shirt On Brother Bill Today –take care if searching for it, because there are many unalike performances under the same title.

Much more later.


* Neil McCormick, Teleg 15.3.14, reviewing War, Peace & Diplomacy, by Tom Hickox, said: “Hickox is the most powerful and original lyrical songwriter this country has produced in years, yet it is hard to see where his old-fashioned seriousness fits in this flippant era of brash beats and socially networked hooks. His masterful and long overdue debut is a strange and beautiful thing.”

McCormick recommended hearing Your Baby Was Asleep.

The Telegraph said you could hear the whole album through its website but I haven’t been able to make it work yet. Bear with me.


* In Observer Music Mag, Nov. 05, Caspar Llewellyn Smith recommended Treasure Untold by Thomas Fraser, a Shetland fisherman and crofter who was smitten by Jimmie Rodgers and other Americana he picked up on when electricity reached the island of Burra in 1953. He recorded thousands of songs which his grandson is now putting out as records.

The review said: “Almost as you might expect: it’s derivative, but played beautifully and truly otherworldly.”

Around here, we like derivative.

YouTube has some BBC documentary on Fraser at


* From the archives, for revisiting sometime, I wish to file A Battering Ram In A Velvet Glove, a rollicking review by Mick Brown, Teleg 24.6.06, of Fever: The Life and Music of Peggy Lee, by Peter Richmond …

Brown reported:

“One day in 1985, a young writer named Bill Luce arrived to collect the singer Peggy Lee, then in her sixties, from her Manhattan hotel. “Miss Peggy” was dressed in a red chiffon pyjama suit, a red picture hat crowned with a huge peony, and high-heeled red shoes. Large sunglasses covered half her face. Luce was wearing a T-shirt, Levi’s and sneakers.

“As they climbed into a limo, Lee rounded on Luce angrily, saying, “You realise, don’t you, that I’m upset with how you’re dressed. It doesn’t go with me.” As an example of a diva’s self-absorption, it’s hard to beat.”

But she was good as hell, Brown added, through a string of smash hits starting with Manana, which she wrote at 27.

He also said:

“Unusually for a white female vocalist – particularly one from North Dakota – the singers that Lee cited as her influences were all black: Holiday, Fitzgerald and Maxine Sullivan, a small dance-band vocalist, all but forgotten today, whom Lee described as singing ‘like a painter using very light brush strokes’.

She absorbed her influences well. Count Basie once asked her, ‘Are you sure you don’t have a little spade in you, Peggy?’ Holiday was less complimentary: ‘She stole every god-damned thing I sang.’

Lee developed a singular, almost conversational singing style, that could go from full-throated growl (one critic described her voice as ‘a battering ram in a velvet glove’) to a sultry whisper. She was a peerless singer of jazz (André Previn described her timing as ‘the best of any singer – nothing short of perfect’) but her most popular hits essayed an almost burlesque, come-hither sexuality. Richmond has no hesitation in describing the smouldering Fever as ‘the sexiest song that Peggy Lee – or maybe anyone – ever sang’.”

All fair enough. But if it was my column, I would want to add that Fever is also worth experiencing as sung by its original writer, Otis Blackwell. There is a link to it on this site, via the page at


* In The Times of 27.3.14, Will Hodgkinson reported on the impending release of a new Johnny Cash album, Out Among The Stars, put together from tapes made in 1981 and 1984 and stored away until they were rediscovered by the singer’s son, John Carter Cash, in 2012.

The full report is behind the Times paywall but the link to it starts at

In the course of it, Hodgkinson recalls that after a spell at the Betty Ford Clinic, in 1983, Cash wrote a novel, The Man In White, based on the story of St. Paul. You can get a Kindle edition from Amazon for about six quid and I must.

The piece also mentions a 1988 album of Cash covers by alt’ artists, including Mary Mary of Leicester’s Gaye Bykers On Acid, called Til Things Are Brighter, which I’ve never heard but want to – especially as the driving force behind it was, apparently, Jon Langford, stalwart of my favourite label, Bloodshot Records of Chicago.

Somebody has posted the album as a single track at


* Same reporter, same paper, made Angel Olsen – “previously known, if at all, as backing singer for cult Kentucky songwriter Will Oldham” – sound intriguing.

He said: “Olsen’s album Burn Your Fire For No Witness has been one of this year’s unexpected joys.”

Hear her live at

Telegraph music writer Helen Brown did the same job for Baltimore trio Future Islands on 22.3.14 …

It’s impossible for me to know how I’d feel about this Baltimore-based synth-rock trio’s fourth album if I hadn’t seen their incendiary performance on US television’s Late Show with David Letterman last month. Anybody still unaware of this extraordinary spectacle should head for YouTube now to watch frontman Samuel T Herring’s glorious display of deranged sincerity.

See the clip she is talking about at


* The 2014 series of The Voice, which played out last night, Sat. April 5, started well but petered out of steam three weeks ago, when Kylie Minogue unaccountably failed to recognise her best bet, cJai McConnell, a torchy single mom from Belfast.

Then, Tom Jones, nowadays so cool he can get away with wearing a cravat as a jacket (and sometimes the opposite), seemed to get worried about looking old-fashioned and dropped his own best strutter, Coventry redhead Melissa Gill, after she delivered the performance you ought to look up at

Check out Jai at

I’d buy an album by either of those two and will be looking out for further news on them. Meanwhile, I really didn’t care about any of the final finalists, who all did the usual talent-show thing of shouting too hard and performing too many show-off tricks.




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  1. hack4hire says:

    peggy lee doing I Don’t Wanna Play In Your Yard:

  2. When I initially commented I clicked the Notify me when new
    comments are added checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get several e-mails with
    the same comment. Is there any way you can remove me from that service?


    • hack4hire says:

      My apologies. I’m about to be offline for a bit but will look at that problem when I get back. But off the cuff, I don’t have an answer. I guess WordPress offer the facility to unsubscribe but I’d need to look for it myself. Meanwhile, thanks for the passing interest!

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