Herewith markontour’s annual homage to John Peel – a round-up of the best songs released in the last twelve months, or at least the best that I have manage to hear at gigs, in record shops and, most frequently, on headphones at 35,000 feet. Available on YouTube and Spotify. Enjoy!
Markontour had never heard of the Barr Brothers before their extraordinary gig at the Music Hall of Williamsburg last night. Now I’m sitting in La Guardia airport, mapping the intersections of my 2018 travel itinerary and their world tour.
Last time markontour had the pleasure of catching John Bramwell at the Union Chapel he’d lost his front teeth and was singing with a lisp. A year later and our hero has his dentures back, although the set-list still seems to have been scrawled on the back of an envelope in the pub a few minutes before coming on stage and there are numerous pauses while he delves deep to remember which of three guitars is needed for which song. Apparently. It is hard to tell where the show stops and the real-life semi-functioning alcoholic musical savant begins. Nevermind, it’s a wonderfully entertaining night for us lucky audience members and Bramwell himself seems like the happiest person in the congregation.
Markontour is getting used to being in the older quartile of any given concert audience, but on the Overground to Ally Pally to see Wolf Alice last Friday I realised that most of the other gig-goers were still at school. In between discussing their university choices and what time they needed to be home, a mock argument broke out about who had bagged the most impressive selfie with a celebrity. A lad who had an Instagram account laden with images of himself sharing a beer with Theo from the nights headline act appeared to be top dog, until a girl casually mentioned that she had gained a hug from Jeremy Corbyn. Silence ensued for a second, followed by a chorus of “wow!” and general agreement that nothing could beat that.
After the disappointment of watching Wales lose to the All Blacks in a game of rugby that was enthralling despite the result, I needed to write something positive about the motherland while I wait for Ms Markontour to meet me at the Slaughtered Lamb for a bit of Saturday night indie-folk. So, six days late, here follows a homage to Euros Childs and his idiosyncratic gig last week at Hoxton’s Seabright Arms.
The defining moment of a wonderful gig at Cecil Sharp House on Thursday night was when Peggy Seeger introduced one of the last songs penned by her late companion, Ewan MacColl. Written as he ambled round the lower reaches of a Peak District escarpment, watching Peggy and his daughter, Kitty, make a much-loved climb that he was now unable to undertake, MacColl wrote ‘The Joy of Living’. “Farewell you northern hills, you mountains all goodbye.. Farewell to you, my love, my time is almost done.. Give me your hand and love and join your voice with mine / And we’ll sing of the hurt and the pain and the joy of living”. Despite its poignancy it seems to perfectly sum up the live-life-to-the-full approach of this incredible woman, even if she didn’t write it herself.
“How does a lead singer change a lightbulb?”, asks Margo Price’s harmonica blowing husband during a break between songs. “She just holds the damn thing up and waits for the world to spin round her and screw it in” he explains, to his wife’s visible delight. For this is a night of smiles for Margo Price, who despite introducing a new album full of true-life tales of bad men, worse choices, and trouble with the bottle, looks and sounds like there isn’t a happier person on Earth.