Friday, 28 December 2012


Anyone else get fed up with the way 'Christmas' seems to take over the entire month of December? In fact, it goes further than that these days doesn't it? When shops start putting their decorations and the like, out when Summer has barely shifted into Autumn. For me, I think it is less the 'jovial festivities' that frustrates me and more the hollowness of how commercial it has all become. Or perhaps I'm just getting old and bitter. It is for the kids though, to be fair. I have a niece and nephew with another on the way so I can fully appreciate the excitement of it all from their point of view. Aside from the fact we start off their young lives with such bare faced lies of course. But for adults? Am I really just being a miserable bah humbug? Honestly, I don't care if I am but I think that is an unfair judgement.

It's been a little on the quiet side on the blog so far this month and as ever I had so much more planned to get done and published. However I've just had one of the busiest weeks at work I think I've ever had the displeasure to experience. Now, don't get me wrong here because I'm all for working hard and getting on with a job I'm paid to do. When getting paid such a pittance for what I've been expected to do it just increases the existential woe factor. At the end of each day I could barely manage to look at my laptop screen after being sat in front of my work screen all day. Bah! It's over thankfully, although I only had the two paltry days off for Xmas this year. Rubbish! I'd planned to have podcast #12 done and dusted way before now but I've still not even written it up or recorded it yet.

Not really one for jumping on bandwagons - although if the band is good then I'll be jumping on it I can assure you - with all these countdowns and whatnot I thought I would share some of my own highlights and favourites from the past year. A kind of consolidation post, I suppose. But there has been so much to share I didn't want to waffle on at my usual length. So, that post is yet to come but you get all of this as an added extra special bonus. Consider it a little Christmas box if you must although I'm afraid you won't be finding any Christmas songs. Well, not the tired ones they drag out each and every year anyway. The only one I can stand to hear these days is Stop the Cavalry, something that also has me judged because of it's more melancholic nature. As far as I'm concerned all of those wretched and tired songs that get pulled out year on year ad infinitum, should all be wiped from history! I would much rather just listen to proper regular music thank you very much. Or at the least something new like the couple I have below for you. Now, who's for a (bottle of) sherry and a (six pack) mince pies? Can I make mine a bottle of bourbon instead please? In fact, while working at the weekend I stuck on some Planet Rock and they were playing my kind of 'Twelve Days of Christmas' in that the links to the song itself were tenuous. Living, Loving Maid (She's Just A Woman) by Led Zeppelin fulfilled the 'Maids-a-milking' quota. And while I mention that, 'Maids-a-milking..' That's a bit rude isn't it? Or is it just me?

#1 Sleepthief featuring Kristy Thirsk - Ubi Caritas
Right then. The first Christmas song is something rather special and beautiful. It sounds so ethereal it was hard for me not to trip out somewhat. I mean this in the most legal of ways and there were no drugs involved of any kind. When music is this tranquil there's no need for any substance to evoke some form of transcendentalism. The magic in the vocals combined with the production and everything else does the job very well enough indeed.

We have the hugely talented Sleepthief (who I hope you recall bought us Mortal Longing featuring the lovely Jody Quine - which I played way back on podcast #4) to thank for bringing this to our attention. This time it is the vocal talents of award-winning Canadian singer/songwriter Kristy Thirsk who graces our ears with a rendition of an ancient Gregorian hymn. Ubi Caritas was composed sometime between the fourth and tenth centuries and you have to agree its quality is limitless. This is the kind of song that could be bought out year on year and not sound even slightly sleepy (as opposed to the hollow tat we have to put up with instead). I'm certainly not one for heavily religious music or anything that ties something down to any specific mode of thought, as such. When the message is as pure and true as this particular hymn, however, I believe it to be one that needs sharing. Even more so in today's fractured and broken societies. Its call for us to offer the highest form of love to others and ourselves, and for unification transcends beyond any specificity from which it may have been born.

You can check out loads more from Sleepthief via his Soundcloud page. Snow, featuring Zoe Johnston has just blown me away. I'm typing the rest of this with my 'go go gadget arms' (apologies for anyone who doesn't know of Inspector Gadget from their childhoods). He's also on Facebook of course as well as his own website

#2 Mary Gauthier - Christmas in Paradise
Christmas in Paradise by Mary Gauthier on GroovesharkChristmassy song #2 comes from an amazing songwriter and singer from across the pond as well. I feel privileged to have been introduced to Mary Gauthier's music earlier this year when I was sent her latest album, Live At Blue Rock, to review. Love, love, love it. There is such passion and depth to her songs or even just the way she works and delivers them if they're not her own. An amazing talent indeed! Christmas really is in Paradise but only if you sit back and listen to Mary sing it to you. Enjoy!

#3 Henrietta Harpist - I Giorni
We're back over this side of  the Atlantic for #3. Recorded in a conservatory to be precise and, and.....wait for it....wait for it! The music comes courtesy of Henrietta Harpist on a very real and amazing harp! It is sublime.The piece is I Giorni, a composition by Ludovico Einaudi and was recorded for the RTTV Sessions Christmas Specials. Who doesn't love the sensational sounds from the harp? I remember catching American harpist Joanna Newsom on an episode of Jools Holland's Later programme a few years back which put me in a trance I didn't return from for days.

#4 Jinnwoo - Woman
It is thanks to Jinnwoo from Leicester that I came across this via an update he shared on Facebook as Henrietta is a very good friend of his. I was fortunate to catch Jinnwoo play live himself as the first support opening for Willy Mason at my favourite live music venue in the Midlands, The Musician in Leicester, back in May. He has also recorded a song for RTTV called Woman which you should check out below. The other 23 videos are all well worth your time and attention too while you're at it. It was kind of an advent countdown I suppose and I'm just sorry I wasn't able to sort out any earlier posts to bring them to your attention as they were being published.

#5 Leo Stannard - Lose Yourself
Moving completely away from the Christmassy stuff now we get to Leo Stannard. How this guy not huge already I do not know but it is only a matter of time as more and more people learn of his amazing ability. His sound reminds me a little of Paolo Nutini and this particular video is via his own YouTube channel. It was filmed live at The Bedford.

#6 Mark Nichols - Guardian
This young rising star has somehow slipped by me up until now which is in no way his fault. It is just my big issue with time and the sheer amount of new music I come across. I'm thrilled with what I've discovered now I've finally checked out his stuff because it is damn good stuff! Go get listening to his tunes and watching his videos. Now please, less dawdling thank you very much. Mark Nichols is one of a number of artists at the top of my MUST SEE LIVE in 2013 list, that's for sure.

Mark released his debut EP Guardian in 2011 which quite rightly saw him begin developing strong links with BBC Introducing. Things have pretty much snowballed for him since then as he received more and more airplay and ventured out on a national tour. Success continued as he was snapped up by Tanglewood Guitars who were smart enough to endorse him as a brand rep and with the release of his winter single The Storm back in January. The final quarter of 2012 has kept Mark busy following the release of his latest EP The Traveller on 17th September and a 3 month tour including a BBC Radio London live session, supporting for Juan Zelada (who I saw at Bakewell Music Festival and is full of energetic fabness by the way) and a headline set at The London Acoustic Guitar Show alongside many top well-known names. I say this about many of the acts I discuss and share but it is so evident that Mark is going to be a huge hit in the music world. He has what it takes to really break through into the mainstream but with all the depth of those that are yes equally fantastic but just who don't manage to make it through. Mark will be there for them, no doubt helping make the way for others to do so in the future in spite of how tough it is out there.

#7 Rita Payne - Stay
Not, as I was suspecting from the name, an individual female solo artist but a rather enchanting male/female duo. There are so many such amazing duos out on the music scene at present. From the folksters Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman to Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts and more recently for me the more Americana infused Trevor Moss and Hannah Lou to the beautiful Black Feathers. I am loving them all! Each member brings something crucially important that just can't work individually. That is certainly not to say each cannot be as amazing with any such individual or solo work or work with anyone else they wish to or even do. I guess what I'm trying to say is that when united as their duo outfit, they end up creating something so uniquely beautiful and magical, the world of music (and indeed beyond) is a much better place for it.

I've not yet had chance to check out more of their stuff but I have to admit I'm bursting and tingling with excitement at the prospect. Citing influences including Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, The Civil Wars, Bon Iver, Simon & Garfunkel, Seth Lakeman and Bruce Springsteen I can already guess Rita Payne will be featuring on my playlist a fair bit in the coming year. Visit Rita Payne's official page at

#8 Aaron Shanley - sometimes people just fall out of love
I'm not 100% certain (as usual) but it may have been indirectly via Sam Beeton I came across Aaron. Ah not, hang on a second...I'm pretty sure it was Adian Logan actually. I really should keep notes on how I come across some folk. Or was it Danny Burns or Tom Smith? Anyway, whoever it was I wish to thank them for the pleasure because this latest video is wonderful. Watch and enjoy it for yourselves. Also, make sure you visit his Facebook page at

#9 Nate Jones - We Are
Nate Jones will definitely be featuring in the post of my look back at 2012 because his music is so heartfelt and real I honestly wish I had a physical copy of his album in my collection right now. When it is out I will be snapping up my copy before it's even finished. When I featured him in one of my podcasts and on the blog a while back I did mention his age but at just 22 and writing songs like this, and even more so performing them with such soul is just....well, it is what great music is all bout. It is what it should be about. TV bosses can keep all that manufactured crap. We need more of the real talent hiding out there in the world, people like Nate. We Are is one heck of a deep and beautiful song. You will want to hear more that's a certainty.

#10 Sam Beeton - Red Gold and Green
I admit Sam has been featured on the blog a number of times since I first had the pleasure in discovering his music back in March/April. Red Green and Gold is the latest song in his Record Club Season 2 which you really need to be subscribing to if you haven't already done so. Check out loads more at his website

#11 Villagers - Nothing Arrived
Villagers really did not disappoint when I saw them at Truck Festival in July this year. Conor O'Brien is truly captivating to watch and listen to live and this latest single from forthcoming album Awayland (out next month) has whetted my appetite for more new tunes so much so my salivating may require a flood warning to be issued.


#12 Wild Beasts - Stray
These guys shouldn't exactly require any in-depth introduction as they have been out there for a number of years now. Their fanbase and audiences growing at a rapid pace they are most certainly on the original and interesting side of the music scale. Offering a trademark sound unlike any other UK band I can think of off the top of my head, I was gutted I was unable to see them live this year. The weekend I could have potentially made it (although lack of funds threatened to make is not so) I was away for a weekend in Wales. I couldn't pass up the opportunity for that weekend out in the middle of nowhere though. Out in the wilderness. Okay, it was a nice little holiday cottage but it was still out there in the middle of nowhere. Anywho, you don't want to be reading all about that. You want to be hitting play on this unreleased song from Wild Beasts gifted to fans for their support throughout the past year and beyond.

Well folks, that about sums up my kind of 12 days of Christmas. The right amount of Christmas songs if you ask me and no more (3). There are a few others that are worthy I'll grant you but with having so much to share I hope the above will suffice to keep you entertained over this period between Christmas and the new year. I'll get cracking on all the many things I have on the go and sincerely hope it will not be very long before my 2012 look back post makes it up. Hope you have all had a fantastic holiday and the best of new years to each and every one of you. Thank you so much for reading and coming back for more this year.

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