Hear That Distant Love Song When The Wind Blows Right (Low Anthem)

This week sees the release of a new LP by the Low Anthem & that’s a good thing. I’m not sure yet whether I’ll be sending some of my hard-earned the way of “The Salt Doll Went to Measure the Depth of the Sea” but it’s coming close to payday, give me a couple of days with their new song & video “Give My Body Back” & it will probably be nailed on that I will be contacting Joyful Noise records.



Image result for low anthemIt’s been almost 10 years (well, that went quick) since I became very close to “Oh My God, Charlie Darwin”, the Low Anthem’s third LP. The mellifluous “To Ohio” found its way on to our UK radios, the group found itself part of a wave of beardy American Neo-Folk. You know em, Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Midlake & others I’ve forgotten. I liked Midlake while I was cooler about the first two. “To Ohio” was a little sweet for my taste but live sessions on their visit over here displayed a greater range & “…Charlie Darwin” was soon on heavy rotation round our end. The Low Anthem could do those harmonies &, on songs like “The Horizon is a Beltway” could rock out . I found songs like “Ticket Taker” to be particularly affecting & this, “To the Ghosts Who Write History Books”, remains, for me, one of the songs of the century.



Image result for low anthemOh yes, “And when you go, where the winds are strong. When you go where flowers bend. Please take along all the best of my luck and come back unchanged”. Those lines still hit the spot. I saw the Low Anthem play live & they roused a restrained Folk festival audience to be the highlight of a fine day. Their multi-instrumentalism, swapping & changing for every song was impressive, the music confident & intelligent. The band injected energy into their version of the Jack Kerouac/Tom Waits hook-up “Home I’ll Never Be”. A great romp through “Cigarettes, Whiskey & Wild, Wild Women”, a Sons of the Pioneers song from the 1940’s & a favourite since Peter Sellers performed it with the Muppets, displayed the sense of humour which attracted me & set them apart from those other serious boys.


I didn’t really connect with the follow up LP “Smart Flesh” (2011), the band seemed less visible, the songs less immediate. I get the feeling that the Low Anthem would not be happy getting caught in the cycle of recording, releasing, promoting then touring successive records. They played prestigious support gigs & built up a following but the Rock & Roll treadmill did not suit such a creative group of people. When first Mat Davidson then the charming Jocie Adams left the band it did seem that something was lost from the sum of the parts & “Eyeland” (2016) passed me by.



Image result for low anthemRobin Knox Miller & Jeff Prystowsky regrouped in Providence, Rhode Island where they have built their own studio in an old vaudeville theatre (I don’t think that there are any new ones!). There are 4 of them again, Bryan Minto & Florence Grace Wallis have been around for some time. I don’t know if the recorded version of “Drowsy Dousing Dolls” is similar to the live one here, the band do tend to experiment with different arrangements, tones & instrumentation. I do know that I do like a musical saw & that the 2 tracks here from “The Salt Doll Went to Measure the Depths of the Sea” have the delicate beauty & imagination that first attracted me to the Low Anthem & it feels like the time to give them more of my consideration.

We are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.

Well, as corny in Kansas in August & high as a flag on the 4th of July. Today, that very date, is the first birthday of the  loosehandlebars blog-type thing. When I first started to press “Publish” I did not really know where it would lead & did not want to know . I did though get the feeling that here was my own little piece of the Internets & it was a feeling I liked. It looked good too, crisp, clean & clear. A collision of luck & innate good taste brought me to the right theme the first time around. A tip of the hat to WordPress here. A lot of people try to give you a lot of free stuff through the computer, WordPress has given me all this stuff & has never asked me for anything. If one of their representatives comes to my house & asks for money I would probably pay up.

Any road up, I do not intend to dissect the hows, whys & whassups of loosehandlebars, autopsies are rarely interesting & never fun. It’s a birthday, a celebration, so what we need today is a little positive vibrations, some irie ites !

Ho ! How great is clog dancing ? Now I don’t know a flatfoot from a drag-slide but this Blue Ridge bunny hop (Appalachian arabesque ?)  just makes me smile. So does Danny & the Champions of the World & “These Days”. Danny is Danny Wilson who, with his brother Julian, was Grand Drive, the UK’s premier country rock band, which meant that as they gained popularity they got to play bigger pubs. G.D. were great live, the boys had obviously, like the Jayhawks, spent a long time listening to the Band. There were 5 LPs before they stopped & I enjoy hearing Danny’s distinctive voice & songs with his new unit. British Americana ? I know, I know. This lovely American folk dance tradition is, of course, a development of European step dances but there are only about 3 of us over here who still practice the buck & wing. We tell ourselves we have better things to do.

As the world goes to hell in a handbasket the politicians & bankers, who’s pursuit of their own self-interest really didn’t help, seem to still have us by the throat & by the balls. My own political viewpoint has been defined by a passionate (some would say obsessive) anti-consumerism. I live in the material world & I have stuff but I don’t have a mortgage, don’t own a car. I never quite caught that my own self-worth could be defined by the things I bought. I am a contrarian, too many people walked that line. “Every cheap hood strikes a bargain with the world, ends up making payments on a sofa or a girl.” You know it.

As I sneer from the sidelines the best pop record of 2004 often comes to mind. Johnny Boy, a Liverpudlian duo named after De Niro’s character in “Mean Streets” created this lovely collision of the Ronettes & New Order. A street symphony for the 21st century, a perfect pop platter with pertinent, perceptive lyrics, this surely could not miss. Was it a hit ? Was it f… ! “You Are The Generation That Bought More Shoes And You Get What You Deserve”. People just don’t want to hear it.

The Low Anthem came around in 2008 with their 3rd LP “Oh My God, Charlie Darwin”. “To Ohio” placed them with bands like the Fleet Foxes & Bon Iver. Now I own records by Gene Clark, I know how atmospheric country rock goes. A little more heart, less alembicated & ostentatious facial hair. I discovered that there was more to the Low Anthem. The LP is a lovely thing, one of my favourite of this century. The instrumentation, the lyrics & the emotions are imaginative & intelligent…not everything is these days. “To The Ghosts Who Write History Books” is just one of the many highlights. We got to see them play live & they were just the highlight of a festival day. The next record made little impression & last month the rather lovely Jocie Adams left the band. Ah well, we will always have Tom Jones’ cover of “Charlie Darwin” !

I had no idea who would read my posts. I knew my friends would want to see them but had no plans to canvass any more attention than that. The “look at me ! look at me !” aspect of that has a whiff of desperate ego that I do try to avoid. When people did come it was surprising & pleasing. F-book pages shared my posts & there was a queue at the door…strange. When a veteran musician, a man who’s work I had respected for many years, e-mailed me to share his offence at a reference I had made to his past I was bloody shocked at the reach of this thing. I now realise he has a gadget which notifies him whenever he is mentioned anywhere on the Internets. Get over yourself G… !

Loosehandlebars is a hobby now. I still hang with family & friends but I do watch less TV (that’s good) & perhaps read less (that’s not so good). I love finding the best music I can in this impressive machine & do put some effort into the accompanying text (Really !). Before I start another year of this I want to appreciate the injection of creativity that the blog has brought. There has been encouragement, support & even hype from old friends in London & in Derry, from new friends in Glasgow. They know who they are & I hope they know how much they are appreciated. Finally a shout across the Atlantic to Dave’sStrangeWorld, a fellow blogger & human being who I met through doing this. Dave, thanks for your interest & I will get to that e-mail I owe you a.s.a.p. Peace.