Album of the Week, March 27: Robert’s Desert Island Discs

RBHSJDIDBadgeToday’s entry is something a little different. As I was looking over the almost 200 albums I have featured over the years, I asked myself the question that drives the famous BBC Radio 4 show Desert Island Discs: If I were stranded on an island, which discs would I be sure to have with me?

The task proved more daunting than I imagined, so I established a few guidelines and started over. These parameters made the selection a little bit easier.

  1. Original, legitimate releases only: no bootlegs, re-issues with bonus tracks, or any other chicanery to pad the offerings.
  2. Enjoy every track: If this is all I ever get to listen to, it had better be great. A perfect test case is Rubber Soul: it’s an unquestionably brilliant album, but if I had to listen to Michelle or Girl more than once a month, I’d throw myself into the shark-infested waters.
  3. Balance, balance, balance: I tried to embrace the breadth of my tastes and represent a good cross-section of the artists I love.
  4. When in doubt, favorite artists win: My collection includes several acts represented by one great album. In order to represent the artists whose whole catalogs I appreciate, I dropped the one-only artists. That included the hard decisions to eliminate Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, London Calling, Rumours, Blood On the Tracks, and I Am A Bird Now.
  5. Greatest hits: I pondered banning these as a corallary to rule 1, but decided to take them on their own merits. As it turns out, I didn’t wind up with any of these on the list, although I looked closely at a couple. In the end, rule 2 trumped them.

I set my album allowance at 13. Why that number? I could say that it represents the bad luck of being stranded on a desert island, but honestly trying to get to eight — the BBC number — was maddening. My list, my rules, so if this Gilligan-adjacent experience includes a weatherproof sound system, it has room for 13 discs.

Without further ado, here they are, in the order in which I finalized their placement on the list.

Richard & Linda ThompsonShoot out the LightsHIGH RESOLUTION COVER ARTShoot Out the Lights (1982, Hannibal) Richard & Linda Thompson
Surprising no-one, I’m sure, this was my first choice — brilliant lyrics, stellar playing, solid band, two of my favorite artists on one disc. Harrowing but hopeful, it captures the human spirit better than anything else for me. Linda delivers some of her best vocals and Richard some of his finest solos. If I had to pick 25 songs to take to the island (please, no!), at least four of them would be from this album.

DifferentKindofLoveSongA Different Kind of Love Song (1983, Appleseed) Dick Gaughan
Another easy choice for me, with some of the best protest music ever written. Gaughan is in fine voice and his guitar work is impeccable. It’s a collection of often dark songs with a shining heart beating at its core. The title track sums things up brilliantly, and inspired me to write an essay for Michael’s blog on the importance of looking at the darkness if we want to get to the light.

AbyssiniansAbyssinians (1983, Topic) June Tabor
June Tabor had to be on the list, but picking the album was tricky. This is my favorite by a narrow margin, and includes a stunning cover of a Waterson song, so it won the day. As Elvis Costello has famously observed, if listening to June Tabor’s voice doesn’t move you, give up music. (Bonus fact: She has worked as a librarian and restaurateur, so she covers the bases of my passions nicely…)

Robyn_Hitchcock_-_I_Often_Dream_Of_TrainsI Often Dream of Trains (1984, Hannibal) Robyn Hitchcock
Another artist I had to have on the island, but a tougher choice. The Soft Boys’ Underwater Moonlight and the Egyptians’ Element of Light are co-equal with this disc for me. It came down to the essence of the album. The spare setting of Trains lets Robyn shine through in all his eccentric glory.

LastWordThe Last Word (1992, RNA) Gregson & Collister
Another nice package, with two of my favorites on one album, both at the height of their powers. Clive Gregson’s observations about life and love are timeless, and this set includes a couple of tracks written with Boo Hewerdine, another favorite. Christine Collister has a wonderful voice that sometimes gets over-emphasized on her solo discs. Here, the production is flawless.

MitchellC&SCourt and Spark (1974, Asylum) Joni Mitchell
One of the few commercial successes on my list, it’s a little jazz, a little pop, a little folk, all tied together by the singular talents of Joni Mitchell. It also features her finest vocals, not as airy and bright as her earlier work and not as Cohen-adjacent as her later. All of that, and songs about David Geffen and James Taylor! What could be finer?

Til_Tuesday-Everythings_Different_NowEverything’s Different Now (1988, Epic) ’til tuesday
A sentimental favorite, this is an album I play when I’m feeling lost. It’s a powerful look at relationships and how they go wrong — and right. It landed at just the right time for me, providing insight and outlet as I worked through my own issues. Aimee Mann found her lyrical voice, presaging her later solo work. The band is crisp and smart, lending power to the songs. This is as close to flawless as 80s pop gets.

yaz-you_and_me_bothYou and Me Both (1983, Sire) Yaz(oo)
Speaking of 80s pop… A quick look at my Songs of the Day reveals my fondness for the music of my teen years. As I’ve aged, my favorites tend to be the more obscure music, especially synth-pop and smart dance tracks. Alison Moyet and Vince Clarke perfected both. Their brief collaboration as Yazoo (Yaz in the States) turned out two fine albums. This is the better of the pair by a safe margin. Creative synth work, good lyrics, and Alison Moyet’s rich, wonderful voice — magnificent!

FogelbergInnocentThe Innocent Age (1981, Full Moon / Epic) Dan Fogelberg
Not quite the first album I ever bought — an honor that goes to Helen Reddy’s Long Hard Climb — I consider this the launch of my serious music collecting. It’s also a great collection of songs, singer-songwriter magic at its most compelling. Fogelberg gets pigeonholed as an AC balladeer, but his songs could rock, jig, or soar as well. This beautiful song cycle, created as a cradle-to-grave series, shows off all his talents to great effect. A sentimental and musical favorite, packed with hits.

watersonlOnceinaOnce In A Blue Moon (1996, Topic) Lal Waterson & Oliver Knight
The only reason the extended Waterson family shows up this late is that it was nearly impossible to pick one album. While a stay on Waterson:Carthy island would be delightful, Rule 3 demanded a choice. In the end, a dash of Rule 2 combined with the fact that Lal Waterson is one of my favorite songwriters ruled the day. A brilliant set of songs told in her distinctive style with sympathetic support from her talented son, it’s one of the rare albums that I’ll sometimes put on repeat. As an added bonus, Some Old Salty wraps up the album with a good old family sing-along, sneaking some talented relatives onto the island. Family runners-up included Martin Carthy, Bright Phoebus, Norma Waterson, and Red Rice.

Fairport_Convention-Liege_&_Lief_(album_cover)Liege & Lief (1969, A&M) Fairport Convention
Another tough choice. Fairport belonged on the list (although the Richard Thompson double-dip almost got them cut), and What We Did On Our Holidays is my favorite of their albums. This is a close second, however, and Rule 3 brought it home. A pioneering disc, creating the trad-rock genre, it shows the band at the peak of their powers and adds more traditional British music to my island mix.

FearingIndLulIndustrial Lullaby (1997, True North) Stephen Fearing
Another Rule 3 decision, made with great difficulty. I encountered three very different modern folk talents in the same year (1993) and they form a musical trinity for me. Stephen Fearing, Patty Larkin, and Ellis Paul have unique voices but could easily share a stage. (I’d pay to see that!) Since they weren’t here to play rock-paper-scissors, the decision came down to the sheer poetry — lyrical and musical — of Fearing’s album and its astounding cohesion.

TriffidsCalentureCalenture (1987, Island) The Triffids
I had five albums left on my list, and the Triffids dark masterpiece won the final spot. This album is the least like anything else on the list (with Yaz coming in a close second), a strong rock sound with a uniquely West Australian perspective. Urgent and compelling from start to finish, it’s one of the strongest Rule 2 albums in my collection. It didn’t hurt that the title refers to hallucinations caused by too much time at sea.

There you have it, my island playlist is complete. Before I close, I’d like to acknowledge the many amazing artists that bring me musical joy who stayed safely on dry land: The Bats, Peter Blegvad, Nick Drake, the Finn Brothers in all their incarnations, Jethro Tull, the extended McGarrigle – Wainwright family, Stephin Merritt and his many projects, Oysterband, R.E.M., Spirit of the West, those mentioned above, and many more. I’m VERY glad that I don’t have to make this choice as anything but an interesting exercise.

Finally, a note of farewell to my Album of the Week feature. I truly enjoy writing these pieces — and there are certainly more albums to explore — but the limits of my time, collection, and budget demand closure. It seemed fitting that I bookend the regular features with two Richard & Linda Thompson albums and close out these posts as my Jukebox celebrates its fifth anniversary. I will continue my Song of the Day every weekday and Saturday Time Capsules; I may also add an album now and then as inspiration strikes.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, the music of my island is calling…

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Song of the Day, December 30: Erin-Go-Bragh by Dick Gaughan

GaughanErinToday’s song is the stirring opener to Dick Gaughan’s classic Handful of Earth. Erin-Go-Bragh is an old traditional song [Roud 1627] featuring a bold character who is proud of his heritage. It reflects the tensions within the different cultures of the British Isles, as Peter Hall has noted:

As well as being about anti-Irish feeling this song emphasises the contrast between the east and the west of Scotland, when inhabitants of the latter can be mistaken for foreigners by natives of the capital, Edinburgh.

With a simple fiddle, whistle, and guitar accompaniment, Gaughan captures the austere spirit of the highlands and the fierce independence of the central character. It’s also deeply personal for the singer.

Being brought up with  Irish grandparents and a Highland Scots mother, I find the irony of the song the best antidote to racism.

Enjoy this powerful song today.

Album of the Week, July 5: Handful of Earth by Dick Gaughan

GaughanHandfulBy 1981, Dick Gaughan was a well-known fixture of the British folk scene. A talented singer and guitarist with an ear for great traditional and contemporary songs, he released a handful of solo discs as well as albums with the Boys of the Lough and Five Hand Reel. A family crisis caused him to take a break from recording. During this time he wrote reviews for Folk Review and continued to research music. When he returned to the studio, conditions in the UK had sharpened his political voice, and  his break from recording had allowed him to refine his approach. He collected ten songs, most of them traditional folk, and produced a masterpiece.

Title Handful of Earth
Act Dick Gaughan
Label Topic Release Date 1981
Producer none listed; engineered by Robin Morton
U.S. Chart  n/c U.K. Chart  n/c
Tracks
  1. Erin-Go-Bragh
  2. Now Westlin Winds
  3. Craigie Hill
  4. World Turned Upside Down
  5. The Snows They Melt the Soonest
  6. Lough Erne / First Kiss At Parting
  7. Scojun Waltz / Randers Hopsa
  8. Song For Ireland
  9. Workers’ Song
  10. Both Sides the Tweed

Erin-Go-Bragh is a fitting opening. It has been recorded by dozens of stellar performers, but Gaughan truly makes it his own. A story of confused identity, it’s struggle between Scots of differing backgrounds captures the tensions in the British Isles nicely. He’s in finer voice than ever, singing with determination and grit while his stunning guitar work drives the track along. In the liner notes, Gaughan observes his reason for choosing this track: “Being brought up with  Irish grandparents and a Highland Scots mother, I find the irony of the song the best antidote to racism.”

Gaughan embraces those Scots roots with a lovely interpretation of Robert Burns’ Now Westlin Winds, learned from Geordie Hamilton. A loving tribute to nature with a clear-eyed look at man’s often savage interactions therein, it’s a complex song that Gaughan delivers with precision and care. Craigie Hill is a song of emigration, a wistful look at the need for new hope and the cost to nations of losing the powerful resource that is their new generation. Gaughan stays true to the potent political edge in these songs while fully embracing the beauty of the music, achieving a stunning balance.

Up next is a song by the peerless political and satirical songsmith Leon Rosselson. The World Turned Upside Down is the story of the Diggers, a communal group who were wiped out in the 17th Century. It’s a stinging indictment of government oppression in the face of peaceful opposition, demanding that “the vision lingers on.”

The Snows They Melt the Soonest is another traditional tune, popularized by Anne Briggs and then by Archie Fisher. Gaughan credits Fisher for his interpretation of the song. It features a beautiful melody with a fairly cynical lyric, a nice tension that Gaughan invests with quiet power. Lough Erne, sometimes known as the Rambling Irishman, is another song of emigration, with the central character leaving Ulster for America. It’s bittersweet but ends on a note of hope for his future in the new land. Gaughan wrote a pretty tune, First Kiss At Parting, to end the song, inspired by another Burns work.

He shows off his instrumental proficiency with the charming medley Scojun Waltz / Randers Hopsa. His guitar work is impeccable and the pair work together nicely, despite their quite different origins. “The first was [my] attempt to prove that Cajun music originated in Leith. The second is Danish and I learned it from Danish-based group McEwan’s Export.”

The haunting Song For Ireland was written by Phil and June Colclough. It’s a beautiful tribute to the island nation and Gaughan invests it with deep passion. “I love this, and I love singing it,” he writes. It certainly shows.

Politics returns to the fore with the final two songs, some of the finest in Gaughan’s rich catalog. Workers’ Song is an angry rebuke of rich politicians who make use of the poor and downtrodden to fight their dirty wars. Presented with real fire, it’s one of Gaughan’s most stirring deliveries and a clear repudiation of Thatcherite policies. After that amazing delivery, Gaughan chooses to wrap things up with a meditation of hope. Both Sides the Tweed was written as a commentary on the Act of Union in 1707, but it serves as a reminder that people can work together in harmony despite their differences. Gaughan gives a rare Telecaster performance while Phil Cunningham provides a regal keyboard line. The electric approach gives it an anthemic quality which serves it well as potent secular benediction. “The only way forward,” the singer writes, “is by mutual respect and understanding.”

Dick Gaughan made an amazing return with Handful of Earth. It’s a powerful, intimate album of universal themes delivered with care. His voice is finer than ever and his playing supports the songs with just the right emotion. Melody Maker declared it Album of the Year for 1981 and Folk Roots declared it Album of the Decade. Over 30 years later, it remains a standout in the modern British folk canon.

FURTHER LISTENING: Gaughan delivered a real one-two punch, following Handful of Earth with A Different Kind of Love Song. A more overtly political album, it’s equally compelling. Few artists manage one real masterpiece, let alone two. Dick Gaughan could rest well on the strength of just these two amazing discs.

Of course, he hasn’t. He has an impressive set of albums in his catalog, with three others standing out. Gaughan, from 1978, is a wonderful array of traditional songs. Parallel Lines, recorded with Andy Irvine of Planxty, finds the pair bouncing musical ideas off each other with joyous abandon. Redwood Cathedral is a perfect balance of traditional and modern songs. Sadly, Gaughan’s rich career hasn’t been anthologized particularly well; the best overview is the 2006 Definitive Collection, a nice teaser but hardly a thorough introduction.

Song of the Day, April 15: Both Sides the Tweed by Dick Gaughan

GaughanTweedToday’s song is Dick Gaughan’s thoughtful Both Sides the Tweed. The original is a traditional song reflecting on the 1707 Act of Union that made Scotland part of the United Kingdom. Gaughan updated the lyrics and the tune, creating a fine closing number for his powerful album Handful of Earth.

Gaughan is a master of blending traditional music with his own distinctive folk styles and stirring political vision. This track is a lovely example, looking at the tensions between Scotland and England while reflecting on our shared humanity. Quietly moving, it’s a standout in his long career of beautiful music.

The original version is wonderful. Gaughan’s live work has a special power, however, and my favorite rendition is a live recording featuring fellow Scots Aly Bain on fiddle and Phil Cunningham (who played on the album) on piano.

Enjoy this stirring song today.

Song of the Day, August 7: No Gods and Precious Few Heroes

GaughanGodsSailToday’s song is No Gods and Precious Few Heroes. Written by Scottish musician Brian McNeill, it served as the title track of his 1995 album. He borrowed the title from a line by poet Hamish Henderson, a complex figure who was both a Scots nationalist and a firm believer in internationalism.

It’s a powerful song of Scots pride with a clear warning that the success of the people depends on personal effort and cooperation. Expecting a legendary hero to appear and save the day is not just unrealistic, it’s dangerously misguided.

For there’s no gods and there’s precious few heroes
But there’s plenty on the dole in the land o the leal
And it’s time now to sweep the future clear
Of the lies of a past that we know was never real

Dick Gaughan interpreted the song on his 1996 album Sail On. It’s a perfect fit for his passionate singing and political awareness. He turns in a fiery performance that makes the most of the stirring words.

Enjoy this compelling anthem today.

Song of the Day, November 8: Stand Up For Judas

Rosselson

Rosselson

Gaughan

Gaughan

Today’s song is Stand Up For Judas, written by folk satirist and activist Leon Rosselson. The noted singer and songwriter worked with many of the luminaries of the British folk revival in the 50s and 60s, contributing songs to a variety of singers. He also recorded and performed is own work, his wry delivery and unprepossessing vocals serving as a wonderful decoy for his skewering wit and sharp observations.

Always fond of subverting conventions and expectations, Rosselson outdoes himself on this magnificent song. A stark, socialist look at the Gospels, the song ponders how much the preachings of Jesus supported a class system and how much the zealotry of Judas was a true call for reform. One needn’t take the analysis too literally to enjoy the raw condemnation of how messages of peace and caring have been co-opted by forces of greed and oppression.

And Jesus knew the answer –
“All you who labour, all you who suffer
Only believe in me”
But Judas sought a world where no-one
Starved or begged for bread
“The poor are always with us, ” Jesus said

So stand up, stand up for Judas
And the cause that Judas served
It was Jesus who betrayed the poor with his word

A number of artists have covered this Rosselson masterpiece. No-one comes close to the magnificent, powerful delivery of Dick Gaughan on his stunning album A Different Kind of Love Song. Enjoy Gaughan’s stirring performance today.

Song of the Day, June 24: The Dodgers Song by Dick Gaughan and Andy Irvine

GaughanIrvinePLToday’s song is The Dodgers Song by Dick Gaughan and Andy Irvine. By the time this pair of folk legends got together for a recording, they had nearly forty years combined performing experience. Irvine’s work was mostly in bands, most notably Planxty and Sweeney’s Men. Gaughan mostly recorded and performed solo, but had worked with Five Hand Reel and the Boys of the Lough. In 1982 they went into the studio together and recorded Parallel Lines, nine wonderful tracks mixing traditional songs with covers of modern folk.

The Dodgers Song has ties to another great folk merger; Gaughan and Irvine heard it on a recording by the Almanac Singers, featuring Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, and Millard Lampell. They brushed up the lyrics and made it quite their own. It’s a somewhat comic song with a dark edge, looking at the ways many people avoid being genuine with each other. It specifically skewers a number of professions (doctors, lawyers, politicians, clergy…) but also looks at the broader issue of insincerity in modern life.

The politician is a dodger, a well-known dodger,
Yes, he is a dodger, and I’m a dodger too.
He’ll meet you and treat you, shake hands and gloat
But look out, boys, he’s dodging for your vote.
We’re all dodgers
Dodging dodgy dodgers
We’re all dodging out the way through the world.

Irvine provides a delightful lead vocal with powerful harmonies by Gaughan. Enjoy this sadly accurate song today.

Song of the Day, March 18: Think Again by Dick Gaughan

GaugahnThinkToday’s song is Think Again by Dick Gaughan. It appears on his classic album A Different Kind of Love Song. The disc is a mix of covers and originals; this track was written by Gaughan. He takes a look at Cold War paranoia in the West and reasonably wonders how likely the Soviet Union would be to pursue aggressive military action given their horrific losses in World War II. It’s thought-provoking and passionate, casting real doubt on the Hawks’ proliferation demands.

Do you think that the Russians want war?
Will the voice of insanity lead you to total destruction?
Will you stumble to death as though you were blind?
Will you cause the destruction of all humankind?
Will you die because you don’t like their political system?
There will be no survivors you know
No one left to scream in the night
And condemn our stupidity

Despite the changes in geopolitics in the past 30 years, the theme remains painfully valid. How much are our supposed foes willing to sacrifice to achieve their ends, given the terrible toll that historic wars have taken? The song has become a protest classic, covered by many including a notable version by Billy Bragg.

Enjoy this potent piece of protest today.

Album of the Week, February 17: A Different Kind of Love Song by Dick Gaughan

DifferentKindofLoveSong RBHSJDIDBadgeScottish folk singer and musician Dick Gaughan is a wonderful songwriter and master interpreter of traditional songs and other writers’ works. He first began recording in 1972 at the age of 24. He worked solo and with the Boys of the Lough and Five Hand Reel throughout the 70s. He was also a writer for Folk Review magazine and a member of the 7:84 Theatre Company. After a brief hiatus from studio work, he returned in 1981 with the stellar Handful of Earth. Somehow he managed to exceed that amazing release with its follow-up, 1983’s A Different Kind of Love Song. This is simply one of the best albums ever recorded, folk or otherwise.

Title A Different Kind of Love Song
Act Dick Gaughan
Label Appleseed Release Date Fall 1983
Producer Dick Gaughan and Carsten Linde
U.S. Chart  n/c U.K. Chart  n/c
Tracks
  1. A Different Kind of Love Song
  2. Revolution
  3. Prisoner 562
  4. Song of Choice
  5. The Father’s Song
  6. Think Again
  7. As I Walked On the Road
  8. Stand Up For Judas
  9. By the People
  10. Games People Play

Political and protest folk can be tricky. It’s easy to be too strident; it’s also easy to be too topical, resulting in even the strongest songs becoming museum pieces as their themes become part of history. Each of these forms has its place, but the finest examples — even when addressing a current issue — take on a timeless quality. Such is the nature of A Different Kind of Love Song. Arising from the abusive policies of Reagan and Thatcher, it transcends time and place, providing a blueprint for assembling great political statements in song.

Over the course of ten tracks and 40 minutes, Gaughan charts  powerful themes. He includes three original songs, six well-chosen covers, and one poem set to his own music. The album includes informative liner notes to amplify the significance of each song.

Things start off powerfully with the title track. Gaughan was inspired by a woman who approached him at a concert and accused him of being too political. Why, she wondered, couldn’t he write a love song and make the listener happy? His response is one of his finest moments, a true testament to social justice and a reminder that love takes many forms.

All the songs that I sing are love songs
But their love is a different kind

Up next is a 19th Century labor poem written by Joseph Bovshover. Gaughan felt that the song “demanded a tune” so he provided one. The result is a raging anthem, describing the forces necessary to create real social change. For a 30-year-old song with words 100 years older, it is remarkably timely. Prisoner 562 is the story of Carl von Ossietzky, a German pacifist and winner of the 1935 Nobel Peace Prize. It was written by Oswald Andrae and translated by Iain MacKintosh, who taught it to Gaughan. Ossietzky leaked Germany’s clandestine rearmament plans — a violation of their 1918 surrender — and was tried for treason. The song is a great reminder of personal obligation to stand up to tyranny and a haunting reminder of the full range of horrors perpetrated by the Nazis.

Peggy Seeger’s Song of Choice appears next. Gaughan calls it “vitally important” and notes how ready people are to believe that horrors like the holocaust were isolated and cannot happen in their own back yard. Reminiscent of Martin Niemöller’s “first they came…” parable, it condemns those who choose not to care out of blindness or laziness. Gaughan follows this with a song by Seeger’s husband, folk legend Ewan MacColl, to whom he “owes an enormous debt as an artist.” The Father’s Song sets monsters from fairy tales up against the real monsters of the modern world: political, social, and economic oppressors. It’s a chilling lullaby with just a hint of hope.

Think Again is a reflection on war and enemies written by Gaughan. Meditating on the Cold War mentality, he ponders the losses the Russians suffered in World War II and asks “Do you think that the Russians want war?” Postulating the basic humanity of the people of all nations, he deflates the rhetoric that all citizens of the Soviet Union seek to destroy the West, recognizing the suffering from which they had barely emerged four decades after the war. It’s a wonderfully constructed song that has been covered by Billy Bragg.

Gaughan’s friend Jim Brown wrote As I Walked On the Road, a haunting vision of nuclear stockpiling and a tribute to the peace movement. Things take a somewhat lighter — but no less philosophical — turn with Stand Up For Judas. Songwriter Leon Rosselson has been called “fierce, funny, cynical, outraged, blasphemous, challenging, and anarchic.” He has recorded his own songs and his sharp observations have been covered by Billy Bragg, Oysterband, and many others. Gaughan chose this song as a reflection on ideology and blind adherence. It’s a thought-provoking analysis of Judas as the real leader of social change and the victim of Jesus’ need for the continued existence of the poor and downtrodden for his message to resonate.

Another song that mixes humor with biting insight is By the People, the final Gaughan original on the album. Bookending the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln, with then-President Ronald Reagan, he asks how the great leader might view the ways in which his legacy has been abused. Sadly, 30 years later, even Reagan might wonder how his party has wound up where it is, and the lyrics still resonate. The album comes to a close with another cover, Joe South’s potent Games People Play. Throughout the broader political themes, Gaughan stresses personal responsibility and accountability. This well-chosen track looks carefully at that theme and demands that we each reflect on our role in creating a better world, one relationship at a time.

The CD release and downloadable version of the album include two bonus tracks. The World Turned Upside Down is the tragic story of the Diggers, a group of agrarian communists in 17th Century England. Also written by Leon Rosselson, it’s a different version than the one included on his 1981 album Handful of Earth and predates the hit version by Billy Bragg. It’s a perfect fit. Lassie Lie Near Me is a traditional ballad arranged by Gaughan. While not a political song like the rest, it is beautifully rendered and shows off his voice and guitar nicely.

Personal musical tastes vary, as do political views. Regardless of these, Dick Gaughan’s A Different Kind of Love Song is one of the most important and powerful albums ever recorded. AllMusic.com succinctly says “I can’t fault a thing on this one. Buy it.” They’re right. Do yourself a favor and check out this underappreciated masterpiece today.

Song of the Day, January 15: The Snow It Melts the Soonest by Eliza Carthy

LizaSnowToday’s song is The Snow It Melts the Soonest by Eliza Carthy. It’s another traditional track included on her brilliant 1998 double album Red Rice. The tune dates back to the early 19th Century, with references appearing as early as 1821. It was popularized in the 20th Century folk revival by Anne Briggs and later by Dick Gaughan (on his stunning album Handful of Earth) . Carthy’s reading is clear and pure, an homage to the Briggs treatment of the song. It’s a sad and bitter song comparing the fickleness of love with the changing of the seasons. A series of natural images from weather, landscape, and agriculture are brought to bear as comparisons with the anticipated failure of a lover’s fidelity.

The snows, they melt the soonest when the winds begin to sing The corn, it ripens fastest as the frosts are settling in And when a young man tells me that my face he’ll soon forget Before we part, I’ll wage a bet he’ll be fain to follow it yet

Carthy and her band present a wonderful version of this classic. Enjoy this bitter lament today.

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