“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 guest is a singer songwriter of great portent, originally from LA but since decamped to NYC, who I first became aware of via the patronage of VS favourite & supporter, the legendary John Peel who started playing the album “Dogs” in 2000.
Nina Nastasia has released six albums, all engineered by Shellac/Big Black’s Steve Albini and mostly released (or re-released) through the ever excellent Chicago label Touch & Go (home of Big Black, The Jesus Lizard, Slint), including a collaboration with The Dirty Three’s Jim White in 2007 . For an artiste of such delicacy, such long-term connections exponents of noise could be jarring, if not for the gothic undertones and spidery jitter that belies Nastasia’s restrained contemplative tone.
Nina recorded six sessions for Peel, the last of which recorded with the able assistance of Tuvan throat singing group Huun-Huur-Tu and she featured twice on the Festive Fifty – with “Ugly Face” voted 4th in 2002 and “You, Her & Me”, 13th in 2003. After Peel’s untimely death in Cusco, Peru a mere year later, Nina Nastasia’s song “Bird of Cuzco” (featured on album “On Leaving”) wound up on the “John Peel – A Tribute” album, and it’s been a favourite of mine ever since.
Nina came to mind recently when her picture cropped up during one of Tim Burgess’ Listening Parties (something which has very much helped me through Lockdown) for The Breeder’s classic album “Last Splash”. She had been helping out on the merch stand with Kim Deal during an appearance at All Tomorrow’s Parties, and I’m delighted Nina has come to VS to help out with our long-running “song for ewe” feature. Welcome to these pages, the strikingly singular, accidental musician turned absolute hero Nina Nastasia!
Check out this brilliant feature about Nina including live performance and interviews (which she’s traditionally not keen on) as part of a feature on John Peel’s Record Collection from the John Peel Archive, where she recalls meeting John and Sheila at Peel Acres.
Here’s the brilliant “Bird of Cuzco”.
Originally a poet and writer, who would perhaps have rather penned horror stories, turned enthralling guitarist / songwriter (who has previously mentioned her self consciously limited knowledge of music history), Nina is a reluctant star, and I was pleased she agreed to choose a tune. I asked what is in the post-Pandemic pipeline, and it was reassuring news.
“I have many more records in the works, so I’ll be getting back to music from this long hiatus. It’s where I’d like to stay for a long while again.”
In terms of Nastasia’s song choice here, it’s funny that it turns out to be another tune that features on the aforementioned “John Peel – A Tribute” album – so without further ado, here’s Nina’s “song for ewe”…with some reticent but honest words of explanation.
“The song I love and never get sick of, isn’t obscure-ish. I don’t listen to a lot of music actually. Common People – Pulp
The why’s are always difficult for me to articulate, and I hate trying.
Subject matter – I love
Music – I love
Voice – I love
And I’m always hearing it for the first time”
Since the BBC’s retrospective Glastonbury Experience broadcast this weekend to paper the cracks of the missing 50th outing for the Festival, really helped keep me going, I thought I’d use the cracking version Pulp played to close their headline set on the Pyramid Stage in 1995. Much like Nastasia, they were accidental heroes, having come to fill in for the absent Stone Roses whose John Squire had broken his collarbone. Jarvis and the band put on a triumphant and epoch defining performance, seen here…
MANY THANKS TO NINA NASTASIA.
Check out Nina’s Festive Fifty entries…starting with 2002’s “Ugly Face”…
…and here’s “You, Her & Me” from 2003 (including Peel’s intro)
And if you’d love another “song for ewe”, here’s Nastasia collaborator Jim White’s most recent pick…(with Marisa Anderson).