“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day. Today’s guests have an outstanding brand new album out called “We Travel Time” under their own names, but it’s not the first time they’ve recorded together having first recorded as “…bender” in 2004. I’ve been a fan of James Johnston for a long time on VS, dating back to when we were a photocopied A4 zine and I first started getting sent records from the likes of Wiiija, Too Pure and Clawfist, including from Gallon Drunk, whose tales of the seedier underbelly of Soho and beyond enticed me much as those gaudy lights of Raymond’s Revue Bar used to draw me from Leicester Square into the seamy backstreets stepping through the looking (but not touching) glass of Walker’s Court as a wide-eyed, open jawed teenager. “From The Heart of Town” was a key record for me in those early Velvet Sheep days as was the murderously evocative collaboration with Terry Edwards and hardboiled crime writer Derek Raymond (not of the Revue) on a scintillating score to his reading of “I Was Dora Suarez”.
James Johnston has also been a member of the Bad Seeds and part of the PJ Harvey band circa “The Hope Six Demolition Project” not to mention his brilliant solo work including “The Starless Room” from which I still haven’t stopped playing the epic “I’d Give You Everything” (the post grunge answer to ABC’s “All Of My Heart”).
These days Johnston is an accomplished painter, whilst you might know his new musical foil Steve Gullick as a notable photographer whose pictures were omnipresent at the heyday of the music inkies and whose often monochromatic images have captured many of my favourite indie heroes in time forever. Gullick has also got musical form as expertly named cult act Tenebrous Liar.
It’s early days I know, but “We Travel Time” is already a favourite, and I’m pleased that James Johnston has returned to Velvet Sheep and that I can wish a warm welcome to first timer Steve Gullick with some impeccable choices of tuneage (which I’ll also be playing on the Velvet Sheep radio show tomorrow night on The Neon Hospice).
First up though, here’s “Big Star Falls” from “We Travel Time” which is out this Friday on God Unknown Records…
“We Travel Time” starts with a song reminiscent of Warren Ellis’ score for “Gaugin” and ebbs into latter day super sombre Bad Seeds (circa “Jubilee Street”) on “Poised To Fall” via the fragile Palace/Bill Callahan stylings of “When I’m Down” and into more whipped up eddies for “Stormy Sea”. In the way that Slint summoned The Rhime of The Ancient Mariner in the closer to their cult classic “Spiderland” on song “Good Morning, Captain” and you lurch as the titular hero reaches for something to hang onto, this album is in equally emotionally choppy waters. Part Coleridge part Kurtz in the “Heart of Darkness” it’s one for the black-hearted late night, but one you might not want to be alone after listening to. If sea shanties are strangely having their day, this is more of a sea Slint-y.
And while that photo (doubtless taken by Gullick) of a forlorn, fore-worn paint apron on the record cover is splattered with paint, it could just as easily be the blood of a maniacal butcher. And therein lies the lurch between unabashed beauty and unflinchingly visceral emotion. Perhaps like an eye that spy hole is like a window to the soul.
But enough poetic pontificating, I know why you’re here and that’s for some ace song choices by these artistes in the truest sense of the word. Without further ado, here’s James Johnston and Steve Gullick’s songs for ewe…
Fallin’ Rain – Link Wray
This is one of the songs that Steve and I were talking about as we made the record.
Love the sound of it, like something you’ve just discovered in an old box that immediately transports you into a dusty interior world. Beautiful.
Geeshie Wiley – Last Kind Words
This isn’t new – it’s really old (early 1930’s)
I just adore this song, the scratchy old sub lo-fi recording takes nothing away from the beauty & soul contained within.
It’s one of a handful of recordings that Geeshie Wiley made.
And here’s another highlight from “We Travel Time”…
THANKS SO MUCH JAMES AND STEVE.
You can buy “We Travel Time” from Bandcamp below…it’s out this Friday 26th February.
And please check out my Velvet Sheep radio show tomorrow (Tuesday 23rd Feb) on www.theneonhospice.com where I’ll be playing a couple of tracks from the album, plus James and Steve’s song choices and an old Gallon Drunk classic…
If you’ve still not had your James Johnston fill, here’s when he chose a Lucky 7 songs for VS circa “The Starless Room”…