“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 has come to add extra magic dust to the most excellent Blue Orchids, playing the electric ukelele like a shredding lead guitar. Tansy McNally’s story is intriguing too. A classically trained musician and radio DJ living in Melbourne, Tansy’s show on the 3CR station was called Rebellious Jukebox, inspired by her love of The Fall and when Mark E Smith passed away she approached several ex members of the band to contribute to a special including Una Baines, Funky Si and Martin Bramah. Tansy stayed in touch with Martin who sent the latest Blue Orchids tunes to play on her show.
When Tansy returned to the UK in 2019 she got together a punk band with some lads she’d met online. Unusually she’d wanted a bit of feedback and rather than reaching out to old mate Wreckless Eric who with his wife had helped her find a place in London she instinctively sent a demo to Martin. He invited her to jam in Manchester, and despite having had initially scotched the idea due to the distance, she figured she’d come all the way from Melbourne after all, and after hitting it off with the Blue Orchids, one thing led to another and she’s in the band! And the adventure thus embarked upon. Hilarity ensued. Definitely creativity too.
It’s fair to say that Tansy has been instantly the greatest hit, having contributed to the two most recent Blue Orchids albums “Speed The Day” and brand new one “Angus Tempus Memoir” both with the electric uke and her ace artwork. Since they are high watermark reckids that have pushed the band on and then some, Tansy must definitely take some hard-earned credit. We are chuffed to have her, the newest member of one of Velvet Sheep’s favourite bands into this here feature, so welcome to Velvet Sheep, Tansy McNally!
It made me laugh a few weeks ago when I saw Ged Babey, esteemed writer from the Louder Than War website proclaim “Angus Tempus Memoir” thus “Oh good – the new Blue Orchids album is really ‘difficult’…. I’m bored with easy-listening…”
He’s right, after the instant juddering ignition of “Speed The Day”, “Angus Tempus Memoir” unfolds its complexities much more gradually, and after wearing it in for a while now (having been lucky enough to be furnished with it early) it’s now an absolute joy, it fits like a glove. Not too comfy mind you, there’s still the occasional prick of a washing label, an abrasive nick at the back of your neck. It’s becoming my album of the year of that there’s no doubt.
Bramah’s sing-speak is poetic, and even when he’s talking about homing pigeons, it still soars to the outer stratosphere – and always returns to a sound that is quintessentially and psychedelically as British as Barrett and as gritty as Loach.
In addition to the as ever fantastic keys playing by John Paul Moran, the terse and intense playing of Tansy’s electric uke builds on the sound that Martin made his own from the first scratchy, paranoid bars from his guitar “Frightened” way back when, and it’s clearly a match made in heaven, or at least the Pendle Hills (close).
It also seems judicious that in a band co-formed by Bramah’s former Fall bandmate Una Baines that Martin should have another strong woman in the fray to keep things right and honest (and not too blokey).
Anyway, enough old blah from me, without further ado, here’s Tansy McNally’s “song for ewe”…
“The song I’d like to choose is “Milk cow Blues”, by The Kinks. It’s one of those old blues songs that many bands have covered but I love The Kinks’ anarchic, shambolic, almost falling-apart-at-the-seams take on it. I chose this cover rather than an original song because it captures The Kinks at the beginning of their musical journey, before many of their more familiar songs were written.
I used to listen obsessively to The Kinks as an art school student and spent hours in my bedroom teaching myself their songs on ukulele. I soon became very determined to learn how to play the lead interludes in Milk cow Blues, mainly because I loved the raw energy of it and taught myself by ear.
The energy on The Kinks’ version of Milk cow Blues is completely uninhibited and has a very “live” feel and it’s interesting to compare it with the more insightful and introspective songs that Ray Davies wrote later on. This is what I love about The Kinks, they combined rawness, alongside sharp yet often sensitive observations with a very distinctive voice.”
THANKS TANSY! AND MARTIN!
You can pre-order “Angus Tempus Memoir” by Blue Orchids here…(Tiny Global Productions)
digital album is out on 28 June, physical copies ship on 1 July but if you pre-order you get the excellent “No Ghosts No Answers” track now…
you can listen back to that song and also Tansy’s pick on a recent episode of the Velvet Sheep radio show here…