Sometimes there's little time between getting to know a band and filming a session. It only ever happens though if I immediately like the music a lot. The Canadian band Close Talker have just released their new LP How Do We Stay Here and are heading out on a Canada and USA tour today, after just finishing their European run. On that run, we filmed this session where they covered Radiohead's All I Need.
It was Anthony D'Amato who introduced me to American Aquarium. The singer from New York - who's releasing a new EP soon - said I had to check them out and so I did. It took a couple of listens for me to get dragged into their songs, but once it happened, there was no return. So I was obviously happy when AA's singer BJ Barham joined me at TakeRoot 2018 to record 'When We Were Younger Men' and Bruce Springsteen's 'Highway Patrolman'.
Musicians often ask me who they should listen to when we finish filming a session. Almost a hundred percent of the time I recommend the Scottish band A New International to them. Because they're simply brilliant. And lead singer Biff Smith is one of the most remarkable songwriters and performers I've ever witnessed. Sure, he's a very good friend, so I might be biased. But damn it, if he doesn't move you when he's on stage, you're officially dead inside.
The times have been good for Israel Nash. He's focusing on the positive, rather than the negative. In this session he covered Neil Young and Radiohead. 'I’ve always known there would be something more, but I do think this is the chapter of finding out what that is. For now.’
After spending most of his childhood years living in Zimbabwe, Nicaragua and Ghana, Sam van Ommen moved to Amsterdam, where he attended a local jam session and met singer Julia Schellekens. They started talking that night, became instant friends and soon after found themselves in Julia’s room nervously playing each other their own songs. Now, four years later, Sam & Julia are becoming a more and more prominent band in the Dutch Americana scene, with a debut EP on Tim Knol’s label and a LP due in 2020.
Becca Mancari made one of my favourite records of 2017. There isn't a mediocre song on Good Woman. In fact, someone should really start a petition to rename it Great Woman. Anyway, it was a special kind of treat to have Mancari and her band cram themselves and their instruments into my room at TakeRoot festival last year, to record two songs and a rocking cover of Neil Young's Ohio.
Last week I told someone to simply listen to everything that came out on the Austin-based record label Keeled Scales. She would like everything she could find, I promised. I mean Buck Meek, Twain, Katy Kirby; what's not to like? And Sun June is another one of their gems: their fresh and captivating sound has made many of my bike journeys more enjoyable this year. When we met up in Rotterdam's Comedy Club Haug, they recorded covers of Little Dragon, Porches and Wilco.
There would be weeks where I didn’t listen to much else than The Veils. Their records formed an often welcome escape from reality. At times the songs brought comfort, distraction and a bit of surprise into my life, when days otherwise seemed to morph into one, surrounded by pain. Lead singer Finn Andrews has now released a solo record One Piece At A Time and recorded this session with us, covering another ultimate favourite: Big Thief.
'The first thing you’ll notice at a Josh Ritter show is his smile. It’s a grin of elation, a grin of communion, a grin of gratitude. It’s the grin of man doing precisely what he was put on this Earth to do, and doing it damn well. “Can he really be having that much fun?” I asked myself the first time I saw Josh perform at the Newport Folk Festival, and, as I later learned, the answer was a definitive yes.'
'What I’ve learned from Scott is that kind of pride in songwriting; being able to put yourself into it, the drive and ambition for yourself in music.' Fiskur's Ross Clark wanted to pay tribute to his friend Scott Hutchison and covered Frightened Rabbit's 'Good Arms vs Bad Arms', for the first time live in a random tile workshop in Amsterdam.