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You know when you wake up one morning and you're black? Happened to me this morning. I was in the bathroom, looking in the mirror and I thought, "Nice hair, beautiful black skin, white shiny teeth I'm in this expensive shop and there's this guy next to me, nice hair, nice tie, nice suit, waving a nice big gun in the air and this shop assistant says, "Keep an eye on the nigger Now I'm in this crowded elevator, bathed in perfume, in my nice dress, nice hair, beautiful black skin and white shiny teeth The woman sniffs the air Somebody boodgi and they all look at me!

Now I go to my deadly Datsun, looking pretty deadly myself, which way, lock my keys in the car. Eh but this Murri too good, she got a coat hanger in her bag! Fiddling around for a good five seconds and starting hearing sirens, look around, policeman, fireman, army, fucken UN and that same sniffer dog. Just to make sure everythings OK. Spoken in an American accent while holding the audience at 'gunpoint' "Who owns the car, Ma'am?

Started waving people for help. Imitating a fast car Started waving people for help. Next minute I see this black shape coming down the raod - fucken black sniffer dog. Finally get home, with the help of policeman, fireman, army, fucken UN.

Still looking deadly in my nice dress, nice hair, beautiful black skin and white shiny teeth. Aunty comes in, "Eh Sisgril, nice dress, can I borrow it? Thinking that tomorrow will be a better day, I go to bed. Kicking that sniffer dog out. Still with the sound of sirens in my head. Snuggling up to my doona and pillow. Morning comes, I wake, looking in the mirror. Nice hair, beautiful black skin, white shiny teeth.

It wasn't my idea coming back here in the first place. But once Freddie's set eyes on a lame dog, you might as well talk to the moon. I keep looking at the door and thinking she's going to come through it any moment with that poor weirdie. We're none of us perfect… I can't stand anything N. Old women in bathing-suits - and skin diseases - and cripples… ; Rowton House-looking men who spit and have hair growing out of their ears… No good, I just can't look at them.

I know Freddie's right about Hitler and of course that's horrid. Still, I cant' help sympthizing with Brian, can you? I don't mean the way he described. I think it should be done by the state. And so should charity. Then we might have an end of all those hideous dolls in shop-doorways with irons on their legs…. Freddie won't hear of it, of course.

But then he loves a lame dog. Every year he buys so many tickets for the spastic raffle he wins the TV set and every year he gives it to an old folks' home. He used to try taking me along on his visits but I said it wasn't me at all and he gave up. One-place-we went, there were these poor freaks with-oh, you know-enormous heads and so on-and you just feel: Well, they wouldn't have survived in nature, it's only modern medicine, so modern medicine should be allowed to do away with them.

A committee of doctors and do-gooders, naturally, to make sure there's no funny business and then-if I say gas-chamber that makes it sound horrid - but I do mean put to sleep. When Freddie gets all mealy-mouthed about it, I say, look, darling, if one of our kids was dying and they had a cure and you knew it had been discovered in the Nazi laboratories, would you refuse to let them use it? I love my own immediate family and that's the lot.

Can't manage any more. I want to go home and see them again. They may not be the most hard-working well behaved geniuses on earth, but no one in their right mind could say they were N. You can get a taxi and…. Just pretend that nothing happened. It's just that for a moment I thought Martin was still with me and I panicked. I was thinking about what I was going to order when I remembered that I hadn't left anything out for Martin.

I thought of him searching through the fridge and not finding a morsel. I wanted to say something, to tell you he'd be looking for his dinner but I couldn't get it out. It was as though a large piece of phlegm had lodged in my throat and my words couldn't pass it.

But then I remembered. Martin wouldn't be wanting his dinner because Martin's not with me any more. And the phlegm just slid away. If only I was a little quicker. To have held him in my arms before he went. But how was I to know? How was I to know he was about to die.

Men don't have strokes when they're thirty eight years old. It wasn't my fault. It wasn't my fault, was it? Have I told you how Martin died? We'd finished our dinner. Martin was in the loungeroom watching television and I was in the kitchen doing the washing-up. I'd nearly finished the pots when I smelt this most vile smell. So I put the dog outside but the smell didn't go away. I searched high and low through that kitchen. Martin couldn't stand unidentified smells.

Then I realised that the smell was coming from the loungeroom. I went in and there was Martin sitting bolt upright in his chair with his nostrils quivering and the most terrible look on his face. He would hate me for telling you but he'd lost control of his bowels.

Something he normally never would have done. And they were his last words. He closed his eyes and slid off the chair. The poor man, he was such a clean person when he was alive. So sad that he had to die in such shame. And thank God we didn't have any children. And God knows we tried. Still, where would we be now if we had children? Not here, not out on the town having such a good time. Under a tender guise my hate matched his manly hate.

The trap I set for his ruin was too high to vault. For my own part the conflict born of an ancient grudge has been pondered long and deep. What I planned to do, has now been done. Here I stand where I struck him down. He could not escape the stroke of death, nor beat it aside. Like a fisherman casting his tightly woven net, I snared him in a mesh of deadly crimson cloth.

I struck him twice. Twice he cried and fell to his knees. Once down I delivered the third and final blow, in thanksgiving to Hades, lord of the underworld, guardian of the dead. So he fell, his life throbbed away; Breath and blood spurting out of him like a shower, spattering me like drops of crimson dew.

It is over and done, these are the facts. It if pleases you, noble elders of Argos, be glad. But for me — I am triumphant. The dead deserve libations, the sacrament of religion. Agamemnon has the just deserts of death.

He filled our cup with such an evil brew, he himself now come home and drunk it to the dregs.

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Cry the man mercy; love him; take his offer: Foul is most foul, being foul to be a scoffer. So take her to thee, shepherd: I wanted to read this in peace. He just kept going on and on about his collections or something. He must have been stoned out of his mind when he wrote it. He wants me to come back. I seem to have heard that before.

I mean, what am I supposed to do? Keep going back to that? Every time he loses his temper he A fracture, you know. It was nearly a compound fracture. You can practically see it to this day. The way he does. A right, uncontrolled, violent, bad-tempered bastard. This was very disturbing. My parents thought I was a very sick small child because I would not embrace the beautiful, the sweet, the funny, lovely, playful, gentle things.

It's amazing how sophisticated a little child can be. We spend all those years as children thinking: My God, these adults are idiots not realising how much more we understand than they think we do! And then we become adults and we're exactly the same! I remember as even a very small child thinking: My mother was insistent that I find the world a charming, wonderful place and that life was a miracle.

She would trace my finger. She would trace it along the lines of her scar, the scar on her belly, and say: My uncle and aunt had a baby and the baby would not stop crying.

The more my mother's aunt tried to silence her baby, the more the baby screamed. And everyone in the hut knew that in the end it would be the baby which would kill them. So a vote was taken and my mother's aunt put her hand over the baby's face until it was quiet…until it was quiet….

I am what all those big people were, the ones who could do anything…Which is the saddest thing in the world…because it's so much better being a child and yet there is no way of going back! She shields her eyes against the light. She is dressed in a slightly bizarre and trendy style. She carries in her arms a cat on a leash. You are out there, right? She puts the cat on the floor, her foot on the leash O.

I forgot my name. This would be construed as craziness. See, I decided to use my new stage name for this audition for, uh My human world name is Mary Titfer. Now, one more introduction and we're under way. The, uh, small person on my leash is my cat 'Tat'.

Titfer points to cat. Hey, we're waking up here! I, Titfer need a part. We are thus in tune. Now, 'I've got two parts for you today, and here's the surprise: I've got one classical piece and I've got one contemporary piece. For my classical piece I will take off all my clothes. Now, why is this classical? The body is classical. It goes all the way back and all the way front. Now, in the great tradition of auditions you may stop me at anytime.

You can stop me one second after I start. Just yell 'Thank you Miss Titfer'. Firm but courteous and zaparoonie. I nip the strip. But when I stop my classical piece, I shift immediately into my contemporary piece which is Is this broad kidding? Wellll, I wouldn't want to spoil it for you but I don't think she's kidding. We will let this poor, desperate, deluded girl debase herself In front of strangers?

We can yell 'Thank you Miss Titfer' and watch her clonk the kitty It will happen in a flash. Or option C, the last option. We could give Mary Titfer the crummy, undemanding, twelve line, two scene part now, which, let me assure you, any mildly competent average workday actress could do while standing on her head shouting 'You can take this job and shove it' So now we're out of the exposition and into the meat of the matter.

You have a part. I need a part. We have business here, right? I saw it in the hall. It was near the telephone table, wasn't it? You saw it too, didn't you? You saw the box sitting there. You must have it. It was sitting next to your vanity case. Everything lese that was in the hall got packed in the car. You did see it. You were the last one out. You're the one who shuts the door, after you've made sure the stove's off and the fridge has been left open.

You saw the carton and you left it there on purpose. You left it behind. And you knew what it was. You knew what was in it and you left it there. Why did you do that? Why would you do a thing like that? I want to know why you did it. Tell me why you deliberately left that box behind. We have a game we play every year. We sneak presents home, we hide them, we wrap them up in secret even thought we can hear the sticky tape tearing and the paper rustling; we hide them in the stuff we take away, we pretend not to see them until christmas morning even when we know they're there and we know what's in them because we've already put in our orders so there's no waste or surprise.

And Dad always hides his in a pathetic place that's so obvious it's a joke and we laugh at him behind our backs but we play along! You knew what was in that box. I want to know why.

What were you trying to do, what did you want to gain? Did you want to have something we'd all have to be sorry for the whole holiday?

There's always something we do wrong that takes you weeks to forgive. You have to tell me. I can't help it if someone decides to be smart and funny and try to hide things in a little cardboard box. I wasn't going to have the whole routine upset, that we've been following all these years and that I thought was giving people a good life, though it seems I'm very wrong, for the sake of someone's joke.

You're developing a nasty streak. A very nasty, cruel streak. You know what you're becoming? A nasty, snide girl. No one likes a snide girl, always arguing, always throwing a tantrum, getting your own way, answering back, correcting people, criticising, complaining, no one likes that sort of girl. Unless you count your foulmouthed little English chum. You'll make a great pair. Throw your future away. Throw what I have done, we have done, in our faces.

Gone through hardship so what happened to us will never happen to you. So you'll never know what we saw - never, never, never. Never see people losing jobs and never finding another one, never be without a home, never be without enough money for a decent meal, never be afraid that everything will fall apart at any second. Isn't that something, miss? Now my head's going to burst. I'm going to take something and then get lunch.

A shower of blood! Cherie by the grave with a boom box. It was my fault. If we stuck together like we said, you and me and Leanne, you wouldn't be here. But I lost youse all. Now I've lost you. And no-one knows how. You should hear the rumours. Someone seen a black Torana with Victorian number plates. It was a stranger in a Megadeth T-shirt, it was a maddie from the hospital, even your stepdad.

All these ideas about who did it, who did it, like it was a TV show. It is a TV show. Every night on the news. I want to yell out, this is not a body, this is Tracy you're talking about. Someone who was here last week, going to netball, working at the Pizza Hut, getting the ferry, hanging out.

But I know you can hear me. I can hear you. She plays a bit of a song Your song. Times we danced to that, you and me and Shana, Shana singing dirty words, remember? Mum hearing and throwing a mental I shouldn't laugh, should I? But all I can think of is the other words. She turns off the tape. You were wearing my earrings. You looked so great. And some guy took you off and did those things to you. Wish I knew who. If I knew, but, I'd go and kill him. I'd smash his head in.

I'd cut his balls off. I'd make him die slowly for what he did to you. I grabbed the essentials…And jumped in my little yellow Datsun Sunny… sings 'Sunny, thank you for the smile upon my face…' Good car. Straight to Sydney, Eastern Suburbs, real flash. Had to live somewhere, right? So I go to a real estate agent. See, blackfella not greedy. So now I live in Woollahra, real fuckin' flash, which is nice…because as Aunty Pauline Hanson say, 'Too many people up'ome get paid too much money for sitting around drinking too much port.

But serious now…them fellas in Sydney they different mob, eh? Up'ome'der when you drivin' and a car passes, you wave. None of them bastards wave back! And another thing, you're sitting next to someone. We'll have to get together and have a cup of tea. Here, wher you goin'? I haven't got up to the part about me being conceived at the dump! I can't stand it any more. They are so surprised they fall silent. They all look at her I've had it. Every year for four years I've had to endure this holiday.

I've had to put up with the heat. I hate the heat! The inconvenience, the primitive conditions - there hasn't been a light in the shower for four years.

Parkes, do you know I hate caravans? Do you know what I'd like to happen, Parkes? I'd like all the drips to combine into one very big flood and I'd like the caravan to float out to sea. With all of you in it! Oh yes, you're sorry. For four years I've had the heat, and the caravan, and the children. And it's been hell!

I thought this year it would be different. Starts to cry But you're worse. Far worse than the children. We won't go home! We can't go home. It's pouring with rain. We have talked about this holiday for years. We're here and we are stuck with it and I insist that we stay.

We have one week to go - Don't interrupt. And for that week I don't want to hear one nasty word from any of you. I want everybody to be nice. I want a week of niceness. She grabs an umbrella and a raincoat and a hat and tries to regain some dignity I am now going to take a cold shower and then I'm going to bed.

As long as there are no arguments. She exits in the twilight. Now no more The juice of Egypt's grape shall moist this lip.

Yare, yare, good Iras; quick: I see him rouse himself To praise my noble act. I hear him mock The luck of Caesar, which the gods give men To excuse their after wrath. Now to that name, my courage prove my title! I am fire, and air; my other elements I give to baser life. So, have you done? Come then, and take the last warmth of my lips. Farewell, kind Charmain, Iras, long farewell. Iras falls and dies Have I the aspic in my lips? If thou and nature can so gently part, The stroke of death is as a lover's pinch, Which hurts, and is desir'd.

Dost thou lie still? If thus thou vanishest, thou tell'st the world It is not worth leave-taking. This proves me base: If she first meet the curled Antony, He'll make demand of her, and spend that kiss Which is my heaven to have.

Come, thou mortal wretch, to asp, which she applies to her breast With thy sharp teeth this knot intrinsicate Of life at once untie: O, couldst thou speak, That I might hear thee call great Caesar ass, Unpolicied!

Dost thou not see my baby at my breast, That sucks the nurse asleep? As sweet as balm, as soft as air, as gentle. Nay, I will take thee too. I like it because I'm doing something.

Getting out of my ward. God, how I hate that ward My parents had me committed. They think it's sort of like a holiday. She laughs See, I'm happy coming to this burnt out theatre. It's peculiar about drugs. Doug hates them because he likes to be naturally high all the time. Zac likes them because everything passes like he's in a dream or limbo.

I think I'm a natuarlly addictive personality. I like what they give you here, because not to be on drugs, whatever sort, is like being in limbo for me. Drugs make me feel sort of living. Completely the opposite for Doug. A bit of pot, touch of acid, right?

Junk is like lying in a warm, cloudy river. Some people can't imagine life without love, well, I can't imagine life without junk. I know it's stupid, that's why I like doing this theatre thing. Doesn't make me sit in my ward thinking: I'm really full of beans, you know? I could cut your hair in a minute flat. I could, you know? I'd do a good job on you because I'm not on junk.

She laughs You know, just before I came here, a woman was in my salon for a trim. Just a little off here and there. I'd just shot up. Felt like Mercury, no finger could hold me down. I had the nods. Everything became real slow. Like time standing still. Each hair required absolute concentration. Hour after hour I devoted myself to that hair and twelve hours later that woman was still there, minus a few curls, if that.

Too scared that I was going to snip everything except her hair. She laughs I should have charged by the hour. You're such a neat guy. But at the age when you start finding out stuff. When I was cracking rocks apart and looking at their sparkles inside. When I first put my finger inside me and felt wonderment. I would've took you to this real neat hideout I had where I made a waterfall with tires and shit, and my own hut.

We could've taken all our clothes off, and I'd look at your dinger, and you could show me how far you could piss. I bet you would've protected me. People were always giving me shit. Once I was in a play. I was real glad I was in a play 'cause I thought they were just for pretty people, and I had my dumb eyepatch and those metal plate shoes to correct my duck foot.

It was The Ugly Duckling, and I really dug that 'cause of the happy ending and shit. But you know what they did, Slim? At the end of the play I had to kneel on the stage and cover my head with a black shawl and this real pretty blonde-haired girl in a white ballet dress rose up behind me as the swan.

It was really shitty, man. I never got to be the fucking swan. I paid all the dues and up rose ballerina Cathy like the North Star. And afterwards all the parents could talk about was how pretty she looked. Boy, I ran to my hideout and cried and cried.

I wish you were around then. Beat I don't believe in blueprints. There is no charter of principles. The mistake is thinking that there is something definitive. Sometimes I think it's all down to the wrong monkey. Beat The wrong monkey getting pushed off the branch. Two monkeys in a tree. One finishes eating his berries. Very nice he thinks, I'd like some more.

Looks at the other monkey. I'll just steal his berries and push him off the branch. Beat And that was it. All the genetic material for goodness was shattered on a rock in about four billion BC. And now there's us: That's all there is. And nothing burns down by itself. I say leave the bright new world to some future time when people might know what they want.

I mean, would you buy Utopia from me? Getting out of this unbelievable rut. You know when '99 ticked over into , you could just about hear it, this great worldwide Nothing. I've got a crush on Adam. Unrequited passion, of course. Now I know this sounds like I'm throwing away everything I've said so far. And I guess I am. I know every girl at school except Monica is in love with him. I know he'd never go for a dag like me. I know it's hopeless. I know all that.

But I can't help it. Just thinking he might look at me, my heart starts pounding like mad. And then I worry about whether he can tell my hearts going crazy, and I have to act really cool.

This crush - it's like a disease. Do you know - oh, I'm almost too embarrassed to admit this - Adam misses the bus sometimes. And do you know what I do? I get off the bus after one stop and walk back to school, so I can hang around the bus stop hoping he'll turn up. Just so I can ride on the same bus with him.

Isn't that the most pathetic thing you've ever heard? I can lie here for hours thinking about him. Writing these movies in my head where Adam and me are the stars. I try to imagine how he'd notice me and fall hopelessly in love with me and all that.

Like, one of my favourites is that the bus breaks down one day in this remote place and there we are stranded together. He discovers that I was this really fascinating woman all along.

Far more interesting than all those silly girls at school. But - I say that I can't bear to be just another notch on his belt. So Adam has to beg me to go out with him. That's a pretty over-the-top version. Remember Brian with the white hands and the longest eyelashes you ever saw? But of course he was crazy about Bernie. Anyhow the two boys took us on the bar of their bikes and off the four of us headed to Ardstraw, fifteen miles each way. If Daddy had known, may he rest in peace. And at the end of the night there was a competition for the Best Military Two-step.

And it was down to three couples: People just stopped dancing and gazed at them. And when the judges announced the winners — they were probably blind drunk — naturally the local couple came first; and Timmy and myself came second; and Brian and Bernie came third.

Poor Bernie was stunned. She was right, too: And the next thing I heard he had left for Australia. She was right to be angry, Bernie. I mean they must have been blind drunk, those judges, whoever they were. I know you said, "Take it easy Steph, go easy with this one".

I mean, Brendan, that should have been the giveaway, even if I'd missed the Miraculous Medal on the dashboard. But there he was, this vital, vibrant, caring man, who took three months to tell me his marriage was a sacrament, so even though he couldn't live without me, he couldn't live with me.

Well, I could live with that, right? I could live with anything. I could live with the guilt, and the clock watching, and the quick dash for the door to make it home before Bernadette gets back from her Ecumenical Tae Kwon Do group.

I could live with being stood up for a Pentecostal Bushwalk. I can live with any of this. You know what he's done, Fliss? You know what Brendan has done? He has given me up for Lent. You know I did think Brendan was it. Intelligent, sensitive, no police record. And after all the ratbags that have come my way. I mean, Ken Willis. Pause You don't know anyone do you? She takes another oyster Sergei was the full Slav bit. Dirty collar, dirty fingernails, straight Stolichnaya for breakfast, the full bit.

Black bread and long card games and lots of crying. I was in heaven. Then this old lady turns up looking for Sid. It's his Mum from Toukley.

His Aunt Iris has died and left him a milkbar at the Entrance. He was the first. But it's not as though I haven't learned. I've learned to look for integrity, sanity and balance. I haven't found them. I've found Ken Willis, the professional cheque bouncer.

Frank Sneddon, who brought the poker machine to Fiji. And now Brendan Kennelly, who has given me up for Lent. Doing to them, systematically, minute by minute, instrument by instrument, what they did to me. Specifically to him, to the doctor Because the others were so vulgar, so - but he wouldn't play Schubert, he would talk about science, he even quoted Nietzsche to me once.

I was horrified at myself. But then I told myself it could be difficult, after all you do need to have a certain degree of enthusiasm to - So I asked myself if we couldn't use a broom handle. Yes, Gerardo, you know, a broom. Brief pause I want him to confess. That's what I want. Then why the hell did I have to put you on an invalid's diet because you had ulcers at the age of twenty-five because you couldn't fucking well cope with your job or anything else for that matter and why did I have to cook all your meals and wash all your clothes?

Because your little mummy hadn't told you that there's a fucking great world full of people out there who don't give a stuff about little Donnie Henderson, boy wonder, prematurely retired. Adolescent genius, full grown bomb out. Delusions of grandeur weren't in the race! I wasn't allowed to do pottery until last year because it was so mundane. You shit me, Henderson. You shit me completely. I'm going to bed.

I would have seized up. Never 'I', 'me', just 'you alone'. Do you ever think of one individual person? Can you look at one human being and see only one human being, or do you have to see millions of others standing behind in a crowd that stretches to the horizon?

Germans who are punctual, Frenchmen who all wear berets, Italians all waving there arms in the air, Americans chewing gum? What do all Australians do? How do you see them? I'll tell you what they all do: We're as good as you. We are happy with ourselves. They would tell me over and over and over how independant you all were, how grown up you all have become, how confident, how open, mature, positive, repeating it all constantly like a chant.

But it can't be true. No one who is happy needs to repeat, 'I am happy' a thousand times a day to convince himself. You are all paranoiacs.

I can go on and on too. I can say that your newness, your freshness, your freedom from tradition attracted my world-weary, neurotic decaying European sensibility. I can say you represent all the things that are missing from my life: But I would be talking in cliches. It would have no meaning In a sad, angry outburst I missed you so badly! I missed your jokes. I missed your body.

I was happy for a week, but human happiness terrifies me. I wanted to stay with you but I couldn't. I didn't want to come home, but I had to. I wish I'd never met you. I don't want to see you again. And I don't want you to go, ever. Then the chorus in Medea.

I hate that too. The girl in the lead can't act. She starts to weep the very second her foot touches the stage. All these old plays. We do them over and over. We do them this way, we do them that way, we dress them up, we strip them bare, we expose them, we conceal them, we reinforce them, we deny them. And the new plays are just shadows of the old ones.

Oh, God, why bother doing this. If only the public knew. If only they would learn something from it. We could go on to something new. But back we go to the next way of doing the same old thing, the new interpretation of the same ancient meaning. One night I will give a new interpretation.

Sing a song, tell a joke, maybe a story; yes a true story: Of course that would do my career no good at all.

Because I can do it all so well. I betrayed them again and again by saying I would give it up, but the drink would have me hiding a little away.

But my loving sisters in Christ stood by me. So that was how close Jesus was to me, right inside my heart. That was when I decided to be baptised. But I slid back and had a drink again and next day I was in despair. And a thrush got into my kitchen.

I thought if that bird can fly out, I can fly out of my pain. The poor bird beat and beat round the room, the tears were running down my face. And at last at last it found the window and went straight through into the air. I cried tears of joy because I knew Jesus would save me. Without the love of my sisters I would never have got through.

I was in a hurry because I had left the child sleeping And besides, it was getting late, the light had already begun to fade. I heard something and looked up. It was my husband approaching. He said that he had heard the child crying.

So I gathered my things and started back. I found myself hurrying, almost running, because I could feel it, Mr Wakefield, I could feel that something was wrong. It could have just been the storm. I could hear the thunder coming, but when I got back to the house there was nothing, no child crying, just silence. I reached out as any mother would, to feel for her warmth Surely my senses played a cruel trick, for I could feel nothing there.

I lit a candle but even by the light my eyes refused the truth. The crib was empty. Can you understand the hell of that moment, Mr Wakefield? Can any of you imagine it? I ran outside for my husband and saw the church burning. I saw him running for the church.

He had seen the flames and I screamed to him that the child was gone. He took his gun and told me to wait at the house until he returned. And I waited and watched our church turn to ash until I could wait no longer. You seem so clear about things. And where there were words there is now just — just this feeling of — of impossibility. Not a childish feeling — well, maybe. What does a child who has everything suffer from?

Who could name it? Some darkness growing, something — organic, alive — and the only thing that kept me — kept me — here — was the picture of Honor and of Gus. Lying in bed and feeling that they were there: But I still feel — I need — I need —.

That everyone gets the disease they deserve? Yes, I am interested in it. What does around comes around? People get what they deserve? Sounds like the Liberal Party with a joint in its mouth. Beat l bad deeds are accounted for? In my experience there are great numbers of very bad people leading very happy lives. Beat Surely the point is what we do now? Who we become, how we behave? Adults, grown men and women, with a dummy in the mouth.

And look closely at this, Malcolm, look at the people who glue themselves to these ideas. For the happy and healthy these ides are a way of feeling smug. Fifty cents in the poorbox and the knowledge that the poor will always be with us. And those who actually suffer? What are they saying?

I am suffering because God wants me to? I think those American slave songs, so uplifting, and I want to be sick. In my training they take you around the wards. There was a woman, both breasts long gone into the hospital incinerator. She tried to hold my gaze while the sutures were taken out. Until the hospital chaplain came sliding across the lino. And her pale fierce eyes slid him right back through the curtain. Will you tell Vivien I called in?

She extends her hand. You've ungently, Brutus, Stole from my bed: It will not let you eat, nor talk, nor sleep, And could it work so much upon your shape As it hath much prevail'd on your condition, I should not know you, Brutus. Dear my lord, Make me acquainted with your cause of grief. What, is Brutus sick, And will he steal out of his wholesome bed, To dare the vile contagion of the night And tempt the rheumy and unpurged air To add unto his sickness? No, my Brutus; You have some sick offence within your mind, Which, by the right and virtue of my place, I ought to know of: I should not neel, if you were gentle Brutus.

Within the bond of marriage, tell me, Brutus, Is it excepted I should know no secrets That appertain to you? Am I yourself But, as it were, in sort or limitation, To keep with you at meals, comfort your bed, And talk to you sometimes? Dwell I but in the suburbs Of your good pleasure? If it be no more, Portia is Brutus' harlot, not his wife.

For what offence have I this fortnight been A banish'd woman from my Harry's bed? Tell me, sweet lord, what is't that takes from thee Thy stomach, pleasure and thy golden sleep? Why dost thou bend thine eyes upon the earth, And start so often when thou sit'st alone?

Why hast thou lost the fresh blood in thy cheeks; And given my treasures and my rights of thee To thick-eyed musing and cursed melancholy? In thy faint slumbers I by thee have watch'd, And heard thee murmur tales of iron wars; Speak terms of manage to thy bounding steed; Cry 'Courage!

Thy spirit within thee hath been so at war And thus hath so bestirr'd thee in thy sleep, That beads of sweat have stood upon thy brow Like bubbles in a late-disturbed stream; And in thy face strange motions have appear'd, Such as we see when men restrain their breath On some great sudden hest.

O, what portents are these? Some heavy business hath my lord in hand, And I must know it, else he loves me not. Not one begotten of a shepherd swain, But issued from the progeny of kings; Virtuous and holy, chosen from above, By inspiration of celestial grace, To work exceeding miracles on earth. Was't you that revell'd in our parliament, And made a preachment of your high descent?

Where are your mess of sons to back you now? The wanton Edward, and the lusty George? And where's that valiant crook-back prodigy, Dicky your boy, that with his grumbling voice Was wont to cheer his dad in mutinies? Or, with the rest, where is your darling Rutland? I stain'd this napkin with the blood That valiant Clifford, with his rapier's point, Made issue from the bosom of the boy; And if thine eyes can water for his death, I give thee this to dry thy cheeks withal.

I prithee, grieve, to make me merry, York. What, hath thy fiery heart so parch'd thine entrails That not a tear can fall for Rutland's death? Why art thou patient, man? Stamp, rave, and fret, that I may sing and dance. Well no, not exactly, but it's a tempting analogy - at least until you begin to dig deeper into June's all-embracing talent for rediscovering folk as art. June's performing style mirrors her approach, in its precise diction, careful attention to detail and exemplary control and poise, whereby every syllable and nuance is weighed and measured yet never sounds coldly calculated.

Her choosiness with regard to performing repertoire reflects her view that in contrast to a traditional song, a modern song, being "the creation of one person rather than an ongoing process", is presented to the performer as a finished article, and so she opines "if it isn't right for me" in that form, "then I don't touch it", an admirable policy; it works for her, though it may not suit all!

In this way, June is enabled as the personification of the singer and the song; she conveys each and every song she sings as a personal experience. Martin Simpson provides a telling quote in this context: She can really, really transmit pain, hurt, unfairness, anger.

A number of these turn out to be live renditions of existing album tracks, often utilising different backing musicians or arrangements and invariably casting new light on the interpretations; Lal Waterson's Fine Horseman , the traditional Young Johnstone and Will Ye Go To Flanders, Richard Thompson's Pharaoh a stunning performance with Filarfolket and Mrs Rita - all these are really illuminating.

The brightest jewel in this final crown, amongst many shining diadems, is undoubtedly a Purcell Room performance with musicians from the Creative Jazz Orchestra of Kris Kristofferson's Casey's Last Ride , which just stopped me in my tracks and literally reduced me to tears "it's one of those songs", "a song of such heart-wrenching desolation", that had the very same effect on Martin Simpson too, we learn from June in the booklet. Other highlights include Virginia's Bloody Soil a lone survivor from an aborted American Civil War-themed programme and an extraordinary performance of Tracy Chapman's Behind The Wall, which further spotlights June's eclecticity of repertoire.

She always used to pair that song with Bill Caddick's barmaid's song She Moves Among Men ; the latter is itself probably the most surprising omission from this set, although Les Barker's priceless January June parody should have earnt a pride of place - while as compensation I'm glad to find that Les's variant on the Cutty Wren saga has been included here, demonstrating that June's reputation as a primarily "miserable, serious" artiste is ill-conceived as she so evidently relishes and rejoices in the genuinely humorous repertoire.

June's sense of timing and phrasing is as important in lighter material as in the more earnest fare, in the classic ballads and the torch-jazz standards alike, and there are plenty of examples of each to delight us anew here.

The performances on these four CDs effortlessly demonstrates June's versatility and consistency of integrity, all without a trace of contrivance. Several times while playing through the set I was thinking "oh, I'd almost forgotten she did that so well too"! The hallmarks of a Tabor interpretation are there in abundance, and the tonal quality of her voice is unimpaired whatever challenges the song throws her way. Exquisitely stylish, June always dazzles with a quiet beauty and subtle shadings and expressively stamps her personality on the song with an intense but never overwrought passion and true feeling for the text in every case, whether it be a dramatic narrative or "a mere pop song" like Lou Reed's All Tomorrow's Parties.

Then again, she'd recorded the acid classic White Rabbit for a Peel session, and there are moments as in Pharaoh where there's a Grace Slick-like quality of potent menace in her voice too. Indeed, part of the special stature of June's singing arises from the fact that she now sings exclusively in her low register having abandoned her high register several years back , giving her voice a unique, cool depth.

Interestingly, the set also includes, at the perfectly reasonable insistence of compiler David Suff, one purely instrumental track Hug Pine emphasising the importance to June of her current accompanists Mark and Huw.

Finally, mention must be made of the high-art standard of the presentation of this box, whereby the booklet not only excels in its particularly well-balanced overview of June's career thus far by Ken Hunt , including some fascinating interview extracts, but also contains some stunningly beautiful and highly artistic photographs by John Haxby that provide the binding framework for the text and ancillary archive photos.

So, how to sum up? Well, in the true spirit of Tabordom, I'll just say, as in the words of the "A" Team, that Always, as an ambitious anthology, absolutely astounds! This is expressive and musical drumming at its aural and visually thrilling best. I'll paint you a picture. Pete Lockett tattooed arms, plaster-protected thumbs and forefinger, fair hair flying and shoeless attacks his drums with passion and purpose alternating with sensitive singing drum patterns from fingers the tiny tambourine-like Kanjira from south India, pitch bending with one hand whilst drumming with the other or voice accompaniment to finger drumming on a frame drum reminiscent of scat singing.

There is a name for this and I know someone will enlighten me. Joji Hirota conjurs up the spirit of Buddhist temples with bowed brass gong, bamboo flute and resonating prayer bell.

He is intensely in control of the elements: Together they weave, oppose and compliment one anothers techniques. Their Heartbeat finale, playing the huge Japanese Taiko drums with sticks, is like a display of martial arts or an army at war.

The two of them drum in powerful unison until every atom of the venue is vibrating in a huge technicolour soundscape. There's much more to know and appreciate about this master magician and the rhythms he conjurs. I recommend the following albums, a visit to his website and to get out there and see him ' live ': Network of Sparks featuring Bill Bruford: Springsteen drummer Max Weinberg reckons; the 20 year old Canadian singer-songwriter is the most exciting talent he's come across in years.

I'd have to say he should get out more, but on the evidence of his debut album Taerk pronounced Turk certainly has something going for him. Crisply produced by Terry Brown, although Grace borrows some reggae drum stylings and People In The Room has 70s soul elements, the default mode is guitar based roots rock, built around big anthemic melodies and delivered in a clear, confident ringing voice that, while a bit harsh at times, has hints of the young Bruce Cockburn in its intonations.

Lines about sitting in school listening to someone else's robotic rules in Smell The Roses or 'she's my Claire Fredericks - aka Taj Mahal - is a long-time icon of the blues and roots scene, who rose to prominence in the lates largely through his work with Ry Cooder and a series of widely acclaimed and influential solo albums.

His Massachusetts upbringing exposed him to a veritable gumbo of musical influences, which he carried through into his own eclectic brand of blues, folk and gospel that took in indigenous musics from Afro-America to the West Indies along the way. Passionate and driven, yet at the same time relaxed, this set is a paragon of its type, with universally excellent performances from all ten musos involved. This timely new reissue of the album licensed from Sony is well presented, with notes which maintain a sensible perspective and give just enough detail to satisfy.

If you don't have it already, then don't pass it up this time round. Talbot's fourth album both consolidates and develops the success of 's The Last Star. In fact, the only solely-Talbot composition on the disc is the tender, bittersweet torch-ballad-style I'm Not Sorry. Other joint compositional ventures here include Button Up, a co-write with King Creosote Kenny Anderson , on which the two duet, and sensitive album standout The Loneliest, co-written with and done as a touching duet with Louis Abbott of Scottish indie-folksters Admiral Fallow, this latter cut's sparse backdrop featuring just Mark Knopfler and John McCusker.

Two tracks feature bluegrass maestro Tim O'Brien: And yet another pair of tracks incorporates the lovely voice of Karine Polwart: Having expended a couple-hundred words on ostensibly invidious but rather necessary namechecking of Talbot's fellow-travellers and collaborators, it might now seem somewhat of a miracle that her own musical presence still manages to provide the album such a startling degree of musical unity.

Of course this is down to her sweet but not cloyingly so and pure singing voice, which on quite a number of occasions it's impossible to resist comparing favourably with the aforementioned Kate Rusby. Far from it, for this is a confidently outgoing yet also quite intimate personal statement from one of the scene's most enchanting voices, who should not be criticised for making particularly good use of a circle of super-talented friends.

Once again, it's a mellow, intimate set of recordings, predominantly sweet in character this quality deriving mostly from the timbre of Heidi's voice but, it must be said, not without a necessary degree of fire.

The balance of material is weighted roughly just in favour of the contemporary writing, but Heidi's adaptations of traditional songs in conjunction with members of her team are persuasively managed. And Heidi's now developing a talent for songwriting too in creative as well as personal partnership with Mr McCusker , on the evidence of the coquettish, charmingly bittersweet and quirky Tell Me Truly, the deep, if finally understated desolation of the title track, and in contrast the comforting Start It All Over Again, the latter composition finding a soul-mate echo in the disc's final track, an ably sensitive cover of the Sandy Denny tearjerker At The End Of The Day.

Heidi's treatment of Kris Drever's composition Hang Me, in contrast, is altogether more sparely contoured, and shows her to be equally capable of expressing more melancholy sentiments I can't avoid hearing more than a touch of Waltzing's For Dreamers in there too. And the broodingly insistent pounding tomtom rhythm and brass backing adds a slightly ominous tone to Boo Hewerdine's Cherokee Rose.

I can't praise highly enough the various musicians' contributions, which fit Heidi's singing like a glove yet still allow scope for judicious licks and fills Ian Carr is especially inventive in this regard, I find. In all honesty, there are still isolated moments when it's impossible for Heidi to completely escape the superficial "Kate Rusby with an Irish accent" tag, notably on songs like The Shepherd Lad Karine's adaptation of a traditional narrative which bears a distinct kinship to Clyde Water and occasionally when singing in her middle-register.

But all through The Last Star Heidi remains very much her own woman, and here she's given us another immensely satisfying personal statement that eclipses even the magic of In Love And Light. Brought up in Co. Kildare, Heidi moved to New York with her brother at age 18, then in she had a lucky break when she was invited to join Cherish The Ladies when their then lead singer Deirdre Connolly left the band. Since which time, she's subsequently relocated, initially to Ireland and then to Edinburgh, and herself finally left the band last year.

In Love And Light turns out to be Heidi's third solo record, and on this showing I can't imagine why the previous two never reached me for review. This latest is an impressively assured collection, with the focus this time in the main falling on songs by contemporary writers Tom Waits and Boo Hewerdine being the best-known and drawing from a diverse spectrum of influences.

Heidi also gives us sparkling renditions of three traditional songs, of which Bedlam Boys is especially vibrant in its reel-rich setting. While the primary purpose of the album is naturally to showcase Heidi's typically "awestruck and tender" vocal timbre, her thunder is almost stolen albeit quite subtly! Heidi's voice has been described as "impossibly lovely"; her phrasing is smooth and largely intuitive, much like you'd imagine an Irish Kate Rusby might sound that's meant as a compliment to both ladies!

There's also a distinctly Rusby-like soft-focus air to the musical arrangements on the majority of the tracks, with light and airy textures skilfully managed, though the additional string section on If You Stay is perhaps a tad obtrusive.

The best of the songs suit Heidi's approach down to the ground and need no special pleading: Less successful to my mind are Whispering Grass no contest with the celebrated Sandy Denny version! The arty design and presentation of the digipack housing the CD are intended to be a selling-point I'm sure, but I find it less appealing simply because the typeface used is rather fussy and cramped and not at all easily readable, and the booklet reprints lyrics for only seven out of the 12 songs presumably for copyright reasons?

Record companies have had a field day releasing 'remastered' CDs of classic albums but the value provided to the listener can, sometimes, be questioned. In this first batch of Talking Heads releases, some benefits are immediately obvious as 'Talking Heads: Surround Sound for those suitably equipped as well as some added videos. I'm sure that I don't have to spell out their legendary status.

They are a band without comparison because nobody sounds at all like them. Though they have influenced many others from their contemporaries such as Gang Of Four to the modern day Franz Ferdinand. Taking each of these in turn, let's look at the detail. As a debut album, it was staggering and is found here in all its splendour. Great additions to the original record. Here, the additions provide tastier alternatives with growling guitar being layered over versions of 'Life During Wartime', 'Cities' and 'Mind' sat alongside the intriguing, unfinished 'Dancing For Money'.

These are worthy alternatives that might have been preferred at other points in their career. Unfortunately, the four additions are all unfinished outtakes with 'Fela's Riff' flagging up where their influences were coming from at this point. So, as you'd expect, the additional tracks are variable though they all offer interest to the Talking Heads fan. If there is a disappointing element to this first batch, it is the rather dull videos that are all from live appearances. However, bleating at this is pretty churlish given that these double discs are currently available for under ten quid.

Roll on the next set of reissues from them. You can check out formats and chat of their legendary status in that Netrhythms review. Let's get down to the nitty gritty here. The first one in this second batch is 'Speaking In Tongues'. It was their last release for WEA Records and a point in their career where rumour suggested that the band started to fall out. Certainly, some of the material is fairly lightweight and hardly at the cutting edge of earlier records.

It was the dawn of the drum machine and the disco beat in their music. It sparked bemused comment from some disconcerted fans. However, it does contain the mighty 'Burning Down The House'. There are remixes of this track on the CD and DVD as well as a video on the latter but it seems to be one for the completist. However, the album still had some filler material and the extra tracks - yes, even the Pop Staples version of Papa Legba - are pretty disposable.

The main plus is that the DVD contains the promo videos as opposed to live versions of the songs. With their next record, 'Naked', there was something of a return to form with Mr Byrne's interest in South American music seemingly introducing a funk that had been lost amongst the studio gadgets.

Unfortunately, the extras here are pretty limited with interest only added by some more music video promos. With the last release here, 'Little Creatures', that return to form was sustained and provided one of their best-known songs, 'Road To Nowhere'. If you're a big fan of the song, the DVD contains the music video, too. So, all in all, the second batch isn't as enthralling as the first batch and might suggest that the Talking Heads fan pulls down the 'Storytelling Giant' video from their shelves with all their promo videos on it - what price this available on DVD soon?

Getting a full release after being available for some time as downloads from his website, these cds are ample evidence that James Talley's talent and musical vision remain intact more than thirty years after his debut recording. His vision is to bring us tales of ordinary lives - his own and those he works among - and to mark in song the familiar trials and tribulations that most of us would recognise.

All his influences are here: All of these are stamped with his warm, laid -back baritone. Frustratingly, at times, he has a tendency to sing in stacatto phrases which is a shame because when he connects the phrases you could bathe in the warmth of his voice.

On occasion here he sounds remarkably like Willie Nelson - that nasal twang - but mostly he sounds remarkably unchanged from that 34 year old debut record. As a performer, he's definitely on the mellow side which might lead you to overlook the steel core at the centre of his music.

There's sentimentality here and overt Christianity but in his own quiet way it's a radical Christian message that Jesus himself might recognise. On 'Cold Blooded Killers' - a country blues song if there ever was one - and 'The Most Influential Teacher', which has a blunt directness of language that George Orwell would have been proud of, James makes clear his disdain for those in power who would wrap themselves in their bibles whilst pursuing the most un-Christian behaviour.

Performances of songs that cover his entire career, the first selection was released previously as 'Journey'. This second batch of songs has been added to in the studio to flesh out the sound but still retains the warm feel of a performance and features some beautiful musicianship. In fact, throughout both of these albums I'm reminded of liner notes Mike Nesmith wrote back in the 70's in which he said - to paraphrase - that his aim was to achieve the purity of intent and execution that Jimmy Rodgers and Hank Williams achieved in their time.

Making it look easy is where the art lies, and that's what James Talley and his musical pals pull off. Apparently the record made quite a splash at the time, it's simple directness contrasting hugely with most other Nashville product of the time.

Sadly, perhaps, for James Talley, it didn't lead to a lasting career as a musician; though still writing, he's had to earn his living in other ways. He takes a deep pride, though, in being a working man, working alongside ordinary folk, so maybe he's happy enough that that was how life turned out for him.

Described in contempotary reviews as country-folk, these songs straddle those fields of music as much, and as well, as any other record you might care to name. The album opens with a swinging tune motored along by Johnny Gimble's fiddle that celebrates Talley's Oklahoma childhood and the Saturday nights when they would dance to "W. Lyrically, that about sets the tone for the rest of the album: So far, so sentimental, and the sweetness of the singing and the arrangements re-enforces that sentimental sound.

Thirty years on when we've embraced the darker moods of alt. There is, however, a rugged spine to these songs, a rootedness in real lives that means they deserve their place of honour in the line that leads from Woody Guthrie to where we are today. So, "Give him another bottle, let him ease his mind". And whilst the Nashville mainstream would have given this a slow sickly over-sweet arrangement, Talley and his fiddler turn it into a fast-chugging railroad song, a celebration of the drunk's earlier life.

Elsewhere, he gives us his take on "Red River Valley", beautifully played and with an added verse of his own in the middle; the famous tune is abandoned for a sparse dreamy sequence at that point in a songwriting experiment that reminds me of stuff Don Maclean was doing at the time, all of which makes it about as "folk" as you can get in an American context.

Not content with that , "Sing Song Kitty", which I only knew from Doc Watson's version, turns up with different words - nonsense and otherwise- as "Daddy's Song", and sounds just great. It seems there are as many versions of that song as there are households that sang it. Throughout, the playing is warm, lively and sensitive and Johnny Gimble's fiddle is a particular delight; recording back in was a protracted and informal affair and the core musicians were augmented by more than a dozen others who "happened by", including a young John Hiatt who contributes the lead acoustic guitar on one track.

All in all, a quiet delight. For his latest release, Jeff Talmadge has gathered some of Nashville and Austin's top musicians and produced an album that is as gentle as it is deep. Texan Talmadge has a rich experience to draw on for his poetic songs and has worked as a janitor, a Capitol Hill Congressional press secretary, an associate scout for a major league baseball team and a board-certified lawyer.

Country and very easy going. Let Her Go showcases Talmadge's velvet voice and is some more easy going Country. Wrong Train sets me to thinking that it is going to be gentle sounds all the way through the album.

This guy is so laid back and the idea for the song came from a time that he caught the wrong train in Groningen in the North of Holland. He says that he enjoyed the journey even though he was going in the wrong direction and sometimes in life we have to go in a different direction to reach our destination.

Austin When It Rains has an obvious drumbeat! However, it picks up only slightly from those that have gone before but does have a sense of melancholy. Talmadge says that this is one of his favourite Dylan songs and that he'd always wanted to record it.

He should be pleased with the result as the band plays as one. Because Of You gets him out of first gear - almost. Like the others, this skirts the area between folk, Americana and Country. Train From Amsterdam slows things back down again and is just so easy to listen to. This song came from his thoughts about how much his life had changed whilst on another train in The Netherlands. White Cross remains firmly in the slow lane and mixes Americana with Country.

In the US it is common practice for people to place small white crosses at the scene of road accidents and it was spooky that both Talmadge and his friend, Claudia Russell, were both working on a song on this topic at the same time. They thought it would be best if they collaborated and the result is here. Scrapbook is an almost seamless transition from its predecessor and keeps up the gentle theme.

This idea came from Talmadge thinking that every place he visits is like turning the page of a scrapbook.

The slightly jazzy Chet Baker Street closes the album and Talmadge doesn't crank it up, even for the last song. This album is perfect for when you have a few friends around and don't want the music to completely drown out the conversation but still want to raise a few talking points. Texan singer-songwriter Jeff writes strongly and powerfully, much in the tradition of Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark those especially called to mind - well at least that's on the evidence of Blissville , which would seem to be Jeff's fifth CD release.

I was very much taken with the warmth of Jeff's idiomatic, honest, intimate, sometimes half-spoken vocal style, and by his plain-speaking and simply evocative lyrics. He cloaks his stories of regret and oblique reminiscences in attractively homespun and often decidedly ironic philosophy, a fetching combination that yields as much intellectual as pure listening pleasure. Examining the liner notes, though, Blissville would also seem to be, at least in part, an anthology of sorts, for it's stated that of the album's thirteen tracks, three had originally appeared on Jeff's album Bad Tattoo , whereas a further two are from 's Secret Anniversaries and two others from 's The Spinning Of The World the versions here differing in that they benefit from remixed vocals, it says.

That leaves just six tracks having been newly recorded in But whatever the provenance or vintage of the songs here, Jeff's output is heard to be mightily consistent and always better than likeable, with the more recent tracks in particular really characterful in a soft-edged alt-country mode that's often reminiscent as much of the rootsy mid-period Band albums as anything else.

Blissville sure makes you want to hear more of Jeff's work; indeed, I can't quite fathom why he'd never appeared on my own personal radar before. Jeff Talmadge - The Spinning World Bozart Records Singer-songwriter, acoustic guitarist Jeff Talmadge is an impressive talent from Austin, Texas who we haven't heard of this side of the pond for the usual reasons: We are privileged at NetRhythms that sometimes we get sent music that we wouldn't otherwise get to know about.

Who is Jeff Talmadge? His website gives a little background information about the man, ' Associate Baseball Scout for a major league baseball team, Capitol Hill spin doctor, award-winning poet, practicing lawyer Jeff Talmadge is a man of multiple talents and many hats.

The Spinning World is an album of polished songs which I've found easy to play again and again and hard to chose a favourite from. Care and craftsmanship are evident throughout - the lyrics are sharp and insightful, wry and witty, the musicianship with the assistance of Stephen Bruton on slide guitar, mandolin and mandola is excellent and on the twangy side of folk, and the backing vocals from Iain Matthews and Eliza Gilkyson are a joy.

Throughout the collection of eleven songs the professional production by Bradley Kopp is bright, full and warm with acoustic guitars, gentle bass and percussion, strings cello and violin and touches of accordion and harmonica. His latest release, Bad Tattoo, which I've yet to hear, brings back several players from The Spinning World plus and she's always a ' plus ' Annie Gallup on backup vocals.

Want to hear more? You may download soundclips from his website before clicking on to Amazon. We may live in a spinning world but Jeff Talmadge's albums are for those important ' time out ' moments - lay back and enjoy! Singer-songwriters of the Saharan desert, the Touareg ex-rebels Tinariwen, birthed distinctive blues grooves - intense and enthralling - now taken up by the young seven-strong Touareg blues-rock band Tamikrest. Their name "Tamikrest" is Tamashek the Touareg language for "union" and "knot" - a symbol for the desert, language and culture which unifies and binds them.

And unified they are. A western band might be considered "tight" but Tamikrest are another thing entirely. The slow-paced caravan of bass-driven rhythms, electric guitars, tunes layered with claps and harmonies punctuated by the ululation of female backing singers and even echoes of the Eagles and a few reggae beats , become trance-like.

The words of lead vocalist of Ousmane Ag Mossa in the Tamashek language seem totally comprehensible to the Western heart, even if to the ears they aren't. It's the universal voice of pain and passion of struggle, of war, the beauty of the desert, of travelling grooves and - ultimately and hopefully - prayers for freedom.

If you need an actual translation, the sleeve notes are also in English and French. John Tams - The Reckoning Topic. John Tams rocks - oh, yes he does! You don't believe me? You think he's all songs of desolation, Napoleonic adventure and industrial turmoil? Think again, my friend. Just as it was surprising to realize that Unity , the album before this, was Tams' first solo outing, it's still a little shocking that, with more than 30 years' experience and a hand or two in at least one of folk-rock's seminal albums, Home is only the second collection to carry the Tams monicker.

And, as might be expected, he's learned a thing or two with all those years under his belt. One of those lessons is to keep your material varied, for that way is the path to holding the attention of your audience.

Thus, possibly with that thought in mind, he's penned some stirring uptempo firecrackers and sprinkled them, like hundreds and thousands, across his latest home-baked offering. The first of them, to draw the punters in, is track number one, You don't know me anymore.

With telling, hurting observations, it concerns a man's realization that the relationship with his lover has lost its spark. But, though the song brims with sadness, it's sung to a strident beat pushed along by Keith Angel's drums, swollen by the lovely rich tones of Alan Dunn's Hammond organ and lifted by the first of many fine lead guitar breaks from Graeme Taylor.

In stark contrast to the superficial happiness of the album's opener, track two is like a damp, overcast afternoon stood among the ruins of a derelict northern mill. Featuring just Tams - singing and playing guitar, bass and keyboards - and Angel, it's dark and doomy, with the percussionist really coming into his own.

His marimba soaks through the melody with all the persistence of a relentless drizzle at the same time as his staccato drums seem to mimic short, sudden downpours. The song has a bleak beauty that's hard to ignore. In The ballroom , Tams slips into his pumps for the first of two songs marking the lure of the dance. Littered with characters looking for something they'll not find in this palais de danse, the song's filled with a sadness not entirely bereft of hope.

Dunn again shines, initially on piano accordion and then with a delicious Hammond organ pattern filling the latter half of the song. Red gown starts with Tams' acoustic guitar and vocals, and the organ, this time played by Barry Coope, before Taylor lets rip with a perfectly measured lead break. Unlike The ballroom , the lyric is filled with the excitement and expectation of an evening's fun: But it's historical ballads at which Tams excels and Home has a belter right at its heart.

She was an angel all in my eye, which made me from my colours to fly". He is eventually betrayed, court martialled and executed with a timely warning to all young men who fall in love. Other top-notch tracks on a top-notch album are: Right on time - Tams solo with his acoustic guitar - The traveller and Bound east for Cardiff.

It may say John Tams on the front of the package but due credit must go to his fellow players, each of whom more than earns his crust here. In addition to the already mentioned Taylor, Dunn, Angel and Coope, Andy Seward 's bass is bang on the money throughout.

Home is an album that reveals new treasures with each play. It's a natural progression, and a more than worthy follow-up, to Unity and it's stating the obvious to say that any who enjoyed Tams' first album will love this. JT call Home sorry! Music Of The Good Hope T2 The recent National Theatre production of the play The Good Hope , relocating the tale in Whitby, provided the vehicle for a new musical collaboration between Messrs Tams and Taylor reunited in an echo of former Home Service and Albion Band glories , providing a telling 17 minutes' worth of soundtrack that's recorded here.

They've roped in the talents of Chris Coe, Alan Dunn, Charlie Hart and Clare Taylor; Chris Coe's is certainly the dominant presence, contributing some extraordinary vocals, hammer dulcimer and even some clogging! Personally, I could easily have done with three times as much music, but the absorbing and riveting nature of what there is proves a sufficiently poignant and effective tribute to the fishing communities around the tragedies of which the play is based.

Named for a favourite hiking spot in the Adirondacks region of northern New York state, this is the new project by Mike Ferrio, the former frontman of Tandy which came to an end with the death of multi-instrumentalist fellow member Drew Glackin. Deciding to start over rather than continue without Glackin's integral input, Ferrio assembled a collective of musicians who played with names such as The Silos, Ron Sexsmith and the Guthries plus violinist Eleanor Whitmore to put together what he describes as 'an artistic project for a lost friend.

Recorded live on vintage analogue equipment, the songs inevitably deal with the big issues of death, friendship, life and love, the music embracing elements of soul, rock, folk, gospel, and Americana with instrumentation that includes organ, horns, harp, strings and, notably on the wide open prairie skies ambience of More Than A Feeling no, not that one , harmonica. With tracks clocking in between two and a half and six and a half minutes, it's clearly a work born of great personal emotion, Ferrio's dusty timbre leaking wistful reminiscence and sadness but also, as with the uptempo The Seven Sisters, alight with hope.

Lyrically there's much religious imagery alongside that of mortality and transience with, as on the sparsely arranged The Perfect Circle with its otherwordly background ambience, calls to make the most of the 'diamond days', before 'your deal goes down. One to let wash over you as things like Requiem For Andrew, On Faith and Heaven In The Haze with its gospel choir seep into the soul, it's both a poignant, reflective elegy and the birth of a new future.

You know you're good when such an august figure as Steve Earle is in your corner. Just how good is demonstrated by the fact that yours is the first music he featured on his radio show. Rarely has a set of songs contained such an impact and achieved it so deftly. Tandy draws you into an intimate and personal world until you're not so much a listener as a welcome confidant.

Ferrio's voice sits squarely in the middle of some gossamer delicate melodies and, throughout both albums, tracks build thoughtful layer upon thoughtful layer until they become utterly irresistible. Ferrio is joined on his endeavours by kindred spirits Ana Ege and Malcolm Holcombe. While both Ege and Holcombe are talented musicians, it's the combined spirit and determination of the three to cosset and comfort the music that provide the albums true delights.

Tandy may not shout from the rooftops but its music is deafening in what it has to say. Ferrio and co display an unerring accuracy in getting to the root of every note and word, there is not a wasted second on either album. Musicians like Ferrio, Ege and Holcombe don't deserve labeling, leave that cheap trick for lesser talents. Two for the price of one - with a bonus track on each! There's two ways of looking at this. Either Tandy's publicist is pursuing the 'less is more' line of thinking or the band prefers to let its music do the talking because biographical details are scarce.

The other members of the band are: Whether they are roots rockers, rock n rollers or something completely different, I'm A Werewolf hits with the force of an express train. A malevolent harmonica stalks it, like some unseen predator in the night, you can almost taste the fear.

If you have a gravelly singing voice and write the kind of deep, dark songs that fit that voice perfectly, then there are certain people you must expect to be compared to.

Tom Waits is one, Tom Ovans and Warren Zevon are a couple of others and Ferrio slots right in with them, however this is an album that has as much light as shade. Without cooling the white-hot intensity of the rock 'n' roll, the album moves into Bait. To describe it as 'lighter' would be wrong but it's certainly airier than its predecessor. Listening to Tandy is akin to being caught in a vice-like grip, even if you wanted to escape there's no chance.

All you can do is sit tight and listen intently, the effort is rewarded by the tender Evensong. After the maelstrom to hear a heart being poured out is a startling moment. It's brought into even starker relief by the almost operatic feel to Misery Boys, a song of distinct parts - neither the lyrics nor the melody are there merely to support each other - which come together to produce a much grander whole.

Singer-songwriter Mike Ferrio is occasionally joined by Ana Egge, their duets creating the sense that he's Gram, and she's you-know-who! Incidentally, in terms of packaging this CD ought to be regarded as the benchmark against which all self-released albums are judged. The package includes a lyric booklet, sticker, personally signed band photograph and the video for Girls Like Us - all mightily impressive for a release limited to a mere five hundred copies. This would, of course, matter not a jot were the music not so captivating.

To A Friend is an album as intimate as it's title suggests, a mature, crafted meditation on the past, which is destined for 'buried treasure' status in the future. Tandy - The Lowdown Gammon Fronted by gifted songwriter Mike Ferrio who has a voice somewhere between John Prine and Steve Earle, the New York quartet have been making the rounds now for some six years, totting up three self released albums along the way.

With a rising awareness of their brand of Americana and now signed to a proper label, they've taken the opportunity of gathering together the best of the old tracks with a couple of new numbers for good measure. The presence of tabla on Becky California is indication that they're prepared to explore beyond the usual roots rock fence without sacrificing their distinctive rural mood, and if more recent numbers such as The Truth Is Better Than A Lie or the Byrdsian pedal steel driven Sister Golden Hair are stripped down, the more musically fleshed out likes of The District Doctor, Shine and Ted are no less convincing testimony to the band's keening charms.

Their Lichtenstein's Oriole album pricked up ears when they played the UK a few years back, and it's good to revisit their lollopping bluesy collaboration with the late Dave Von Ronk on Lorna and be reminded of the Steve Earley I Signed A Circle and the simple but complex storytelling childhood reminiscences of Pictures of China.

Tandy's latest album ' Lichtenstein's Oriole ' is an ornithologist's delight: Artwork out of the way, the music is pure joy: The album drives along with acoustic and electric guitars from Ferrio and Jay Sherman-Godfrey, aided by Dobro and lap steel from session man David Hamburger, fiddle from Miss Darlene, Sibel Firat's cello, cajun accordion from Charlie Giardano and Ferrio's harmonica.

It's a fine, fine album with hidden depths and secrets beneath the instant pop appeal. At the Bar Club and a pub gig, Rosie O'Grady's in Camden, in May, they produced as perfect a sound as a band can make, even with a slightly changed line-up, without losing any of the vitality or magic of the album.

Maybe it's the other way round - the album perfectly captures the ' live ' Tandy. Well, the album was mostly recorded ' live ' in the studio and they have at least three elements working perfectly together in both album and ' live ': Tom McCrum's acoustic sticks drumming on tour he used just brushes and acoustic sticks on snare and never missed a beat.

Virginian Miss Darlene's fiddle was a smoothly mellifluous constant. Mike Ferrio controlled the whole with his songs: Language can be percussive in its own right; here the words roll rhythmically along, as much an instrument as his harmonica.

And there were no jokes or wisecracks between songs - just straight into one great song after another. An album to hug to death and buy for special friends. I hope they come back to the UK soon. Rochdale's Will Tang hasn't exactly taken the conventional route to gaining UK recognition.

He made his name in Hong Kong by starting off in the burgeoning blues and jazz scene before going on to be a highly rated session harmonica player playing for, amongst others, Jackie Chan. From there he went on to his first record deal and paling 10, seater stadiums. After a further four albums he decided to come home to the UK, settle in Manchester and release his debut UK album. Opening with the eponymous title track, Will sets about realising the boast of the album's title.

There is certainly a big change from his last album, The Other Side although eight of the thirteen tracks on offer are from that very same album. The title track is acoustic rock that has him in the same class as Paulo Nutini and David Gray. Troubles Down, one of the new songs, is sedate country rock with well executed slide guitar. On My Way, another of the new tracks, stays in the acoustic vein and sees him straying away from the blues. This shows a level of sensitivity and vulnerability.

He beefs it up a bit for The Other Side, which heralds the return of the electric guitar and, more importantly, the harmonica. This gritty, blues influenced rocker is a welcome addition. Red City Blues returns to an acoustic setting and is not a blues, as such, but rather a slinky rocker. Something Special is a new one and although it is upbeat, it is unmemorable.

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