Shaun Belcher Songwriter

The Serious Mr B-Side to Trailer Star

Two new guitars…..like buses

Nothing for ages then I buy two in as many weeks….

First up was the 1974 Takahuru Japanese Martin D25 copy made by a violin maker…..which I love

http://takeharuguitars.blogspot.com/2009/09/takeharu-acoustic-label_21.html

then today my lovely local second-hand shop handed me the Prudencia Saenz

https://www.guitarrasdeluthier.com/en/luthier/prudencio-saez-guitars/106

Probably a beginners or student edition. Solid spruce top looks like and laminate sides probably late 1960s early 1970s.

Later editions are all higher quality and quite a expensive mid range luthier in Spain now.

Plays well I not a classical guitarist but nice to have. I can stop buying guitars for a while now.

 

Dylan to Sinatra’s Capitol Years – a new obsession

I purchased the Dylan ‘Triplicate’ volume in the nice packaging back last year not really thinking that it would be that good but curious none the less.

Although the performances range from the stunning to the not so sublime throughout there is an obvious affection for the American Songbook which like The Great American Novel everybody knows about but nobody can quite say what it is…

Subsequently I started collecting Sinatra LPs and CDs whenever they turned up on a trawl.

Pretty quickly the obsession kicked in and I now am collecting as many Alan Dell mid 1980s vinyl copies as I can find ( in some cases Dutch copies are DMM too) but generally they in better nick than original 50s and 60s vinyl and sound better due to improved transfer of tape to vinyl.

I also started collecting the 1987-1991 Larry Walsh remastered CD transfers as they are considered (with the exception of the expensive 21 CD UK set) to be the best out there. All of this recording trivia is wonderfully explained on this website.

http://www.11fifty.com/Site_108/Welcome_Sinatra_Cole.html

Even more there a handy wall-chart of the best copies too:-)

So far  have about 5 Alan Dell reissues and 6 Larry Walsh CDs from the Capitol years.

More importantly I discovering what a treasure trove of song writing they contain and my admiration or Sinatra growing daily.

e was a complex character but always like his mother a Democrat and stood up against racism and injustice whenever he saw it…sometimes as in the case of being Sammy Davis Jnrs best man when it could have harmed his career but like Chaplin he bigger than all of that.

There no place for highlights most of the albums are superb but particular stand outs are September Song on  Point of No Return his last album for Capitol and Lonesome Road off of A Swingin Affair.

The Beatles came and went and he was still singing and having hit records which shows his longevity.

I have a lot more to discover.

Here where it all started for me…Dylan ‘moidering’ one of his songs…and the original and best 🙂

 

Top Ten – Significant LPs

Top Ten Challenge from facebook – name 10 LPS personally significant.
As you can see the most significant period for me as a songwriter was the mid to late 1980s when Americana  as such didn’t exist.
Records that did not make the cut but could have include Micky Newbury – Fridco Mabel Joy,  David Ackles – American Gothic, Bobbie Gentry – Ode to Billie Joe, Guy Clark – Old No. 1  …..the list is endless……oh and Dylan and Cash..everything..

No.1: Townes Van Zandt – Our Mother The Mountain 

I have been challenged to post 10 album covers in 10 days that significant to me…day 1 has to be this Steven Ingman. ‘Borrowed’ from my Uncle Brian Butler in about 1985 still on loan.

I had no idea who he was just loved cover and songs before I even really knew about Texas songwriters..had a lifelong influence….and still my favourite of all his albums..

Discographical note this the UK RCA edition not the US Poppy copy…uber rare:-)

No.2

The Triffids – Born Sandy Devotional.

No-brainer..loved the Triffids almost as much as the Go-Betweens. This their finest LP.

Was lucky enough to be stood on stage at Glastonbury 1987 with Heidi Berry as they played a fabulous set that started with Wide Open Road…only time I saw them.

David McComb sadly passed away too young.

 

No.3:  Roy Orbison – In Dreams

Long before I’d ever heard of Richard Hawley I picked up a single of Lana/House without Windows..and the b-side was amazing..haunts me still. Written by Fred Tobias, Lee Pockriss.

It is also Leonard Cohen’s 6th favourite all-time jukebox song..so there you go….what a song..

 

No.4:  Bruce Springsteen – Nebraska

Hugely influential on my songwriting from the muddy fields through the dash cover to the contents near perfect and you can hear echoes of this album in just about every serious americana act since..

 

No.5: Lucinda Williams – S/T Rough Trade

Possibly her best record alongside Car Wheels I went with this of the two. Bought it when it came out on Rough Trade in 1988. I did not know then that her father Miller Williams was a poet..it is a poetic record 

 

No.6:  Peter Case – S/T

Huge influence in my younger days and my introduction to T Bone Burnett who plays and produced the album. Others involved read like a roll-call of LA music including Gurf Morlix. I have seen Peter play three times..first time was magical as he as a trio played in a huge tent at Greenbelt Christian Festival supporting Sweet Honey in The Rock. Second time was at Borderline in London and third was a Cosmic American gig here at the Maze in Nottingham.

I have carefully preserved a Steel Strings demo on flexi-disc from Bucketfull of Brains magazine released in October 1986 and the accompanying magazine the first copy I had seen and bought from a record shop in Wimbledon:-). I went on to write for B.O.B. later. For a while I even carried a suitcase like Case and got me a stetson too…..fandom .

 Never did learn to play and sing like him though   

Hugely under-rated talent and a very good songwriter.

 

No.7: Tom Russell – Poor Man’s Dream

Got this some time in mid 1980s and links to Peter David Case album as he and Tom Russell have worked together most notably on Beyond the Blues with Neuwirth. Got to see the band that made this LP in 1992 when they played the Garage London which was a great gig and I got a bemused Tom to sign a beer mat as I could not afford a CD. Roundtower later sent me some of his catalogue when I sent them a rather dodgy tape of myself maybe as an example of how to do it properly 

Have seen him a couple of times since at the Borderline and The Maze Nottingham. Like Case a songwriter of depth who under appreciated.

Trivia: A young Claudia Scott sings back up on this LP as it recorded and released in Norway. The same Claudia that beautifully covered my lyric The Devil’s House later 

 

No 8: Dave Alvin – Every Night About This Time

This completes the trio of like-minded mid 80s LPs which to be honest the foundation of my interest in americana. Having discovered Townes via my uncle then Texas songwriting in general the trio Case/Russell/Alvin were my guiding stars.

They have all worked together at some point but this where my Dave Alvin collection began. I didn’t know when I bought it that some songs carried over from The Blasters but Border Radio and Fourth of July are just beautiful. Another fine songwriter. Many great records since of which my current fave is Eleven Eleven which a masterclass in songwriting.

 

No. 9: Tom Waits – Rain Dogs

Had to one Tom Waits in the list and this the one that I hear in my head when I being a ‘third-rate’ Tom Waits which fine by me to be ranked that high  The original vinyl still bares the scratches from a way gone love affair in North London but the woman it involved did buy me a ticket to the Dominion show in October 1985 by Waits around this album’s release. To be honest Tom has had a longer lasting impact than that affair …..superb artist, superb album..and Janice Broad thank you for the tickets wherever you are….and the scratches on my heart:-)

 

No. 10:   Terry Clarke – Call up a Hurricane

Will the circle be unbroken? Coming full circle..Started in Texas..end up there…Bought this LP when it came out as Terry comes from Reading, Berkshire a couple of train stops away from my home town of Didcot. Terry is a consumate songwriter who mixed with the best ..Rosie Flores, Joe Ely and Butch etc…he a direct line between Sligo and Austin as I wrote in a review in my younger days. This was his first solo album but all his records worth seeking out. He showed me that a writer from Berkshire could dream of Austin so had a big impact on me. I also designed the CD cover for Night Ride to Birmingham which he made with Wes McGhee and is outstanding too. This is Americana before the term was coined from 1989….

Kimberley Jam 2017

Preparations under way for my annual gig. This year I am playing at the new Tynemill Pub The Cricketers Rest on the Mayhem Bill with Frankie Vacuum and Paul Carbuncle…..earlier I at the Miner’s Return Micropub..looking forward to it.

As my planned release of Trailer’s Latest ‘Chalk Pit Rattle’ been undermined by events I will be taking some very rare Suit of Nettles along as product instead.

As my desktop above shows I also sketching out my next project which I hope will be a CD/tape and graphic novel work based around my more sensitive songwriting rather than Trailer’s raucous ribaldry…

So expect sensitive at Miner’s Rest..i.e. me and my arsey alter-ego (safely deceased since 2001) at the Cricketers on the Barmy Bill.

See you there…

Shaun Belcher the Songwriter and his alter-ego playing Kimberley Jam. Belcher at Miner’s rest 7-8pm playing through the lost classic ‘Suit of Nettles’ and then Trailer’s ‘Chalk Pit Rattle’ set at Mayhem at the Cricketers 8.30-9pm…

My Father’s Trees – the story behind the song

There is a stretch of road below Wittenham Clumps in what now Oxfordshire (originally Berkshire and I consider myself a Berkshire Kid) where my father planted a row of poplars and other trees for a farmer in the early 1960s. As we’d drive past them going to builder’s jobs years later he always mentioned them. Stuck in a cold Edinburgh this is a fond remembrance of those trees. As far as I know the disused road (cut off by a bypass) and the trees still there….

I wrote this in 1996 aged 37 bemoaning being nearly 40….now as I approach 60 I don’t know what I was worried about.

The caravans comment is a connection to family history. My great grandmother was born into the Lee gypsy family and indeed it present on both sides of the family…..a rovin I will go 🙂

 

Influences? Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer.

 

MY FATHER’S TREES

WELL NOW I’M PUSHIN FORTY
AND ALL MY LUCK’S BEEN SPENT
I WISH THAT I COULD GO BACK
TO THE PLACES THAT I LEFT

I WISH THAT I COULD BE
I WISH THAT I COULD BE

SITTIN’ UNDER MY FATHER’S TREES

PLANTED THEM IN ’63
NOW THEY’RE SO BIG AND TALL
BUT THE ROAD HE PLANTED THEM BY
IT AIN’T A ROAD ANY MORE

NOW THERE’S A LINE OF CARAVANS
PARKED IN THE WAY
AND THERE’S A LITTLE KID SITTIN’ IN THE SHADE
WISH I COULD BE JUST LIKE HIM…

JUST WATCHIN THE CLOUDS GO BY…
from Black Tin Barns, releases February 1, 2017

The Factory – the story behind the song

In the 1940s men would regularly bicycle from Didcot and local villages to the Oxford car plants.
This is my song about their early morning rides in convoy which especially grueling in mid winter.

THE FACTORY

MEN ARE RIDING ACROSS THE WINTER FIELDS
BYCYCLE LIGHTS SPARKLING IN THEIR CHROME WHEELS
WORKING DUSK TO DAWN IN THE FACTORIES
WHOSE LIGHTS SHINE THROUGH THE TREES

OH CAN’T YOU SEE, CAN’T YOU SEE
THE FACTORY

NOW THOSE MEN THEY ONLY RIDE IN THEIR DREAMS
THE FACTORIES ARE GONE, ONLY FIELDS OF WEEDS
AND THOSE MEN HAVE GRANDSONS WITH COMPANY CARS
YOU CAN SEE THEM OUT RACING AROUND THE BYPASS

BUT TEN MILES OUT OF TOWN THERE’S A SCRAPYARD
WHERE FIFTY YEARS HARD LABOUR IS FALLING APART
IF YOU STARE INTO THE RUSTY CHROME YOU’LL SEE
THE GHOSTS OF MEN POLISHING HEADLIGHTS AND POURING LEAD

MEN ARE RIDING ACROSS THE WINTER FIELDS
BYCYCLE LIGHTS SPARKLING LIKE A CHAIN OF PEARLS

 

 

from Black Tin Barns & River Ghosts, releases February 1, 2017

Road is a River – Story behind the song

Strange one this.

I have lyrics for all the other songs but not this one.

Maybe a one off recording.

Fairly minimal and quite sad.

The road is a river and my windows are full of steam….

Thames Valley blues again….song about home from Scotland.

THE ROAD IS A RIVER

The road is a river and my windows are full of steam
That woman I remember walking across these muddy fields

The road is a river its taken us all away
Far from these fields of straw
These empty barns in the rain

The road is a river
Yes the road is a river
The road is a river and maybe one day it will bring her back my way
In a car of chrome and silver
It’ll slide through these fields of rain
And we’ll float away

The road is a river….

from Black Tin Barns & River Ghosts, releases February 1, 2017

Room 22 – The story behind the song

 

My homage to a unjustly neglected band The Vulgar Boatmen who I discovered in the early 1990s.

They also drew on Velvet Underground but with an academic (lead singer a film tutor later) twist.

Check out their stuff at link below.

www.furious.com/perfect/vulgarboatmen.html

I always see the old Dragon Hotel as the location ..

A GWR Railway Hotel sadly demolished to make way for the usual crap in the 1990s…

Now the council planning a ‘Gateway’ on the site utter crap…money talks..the new Reading anybody?

ROOM 22

STANDING AT THE WINDOW LOOKING NORTH
THROUGH THE POWER-LINES AND THE RAIN AS IT FALLS
IT FEELS THE SAME AS THE DAY WE BOTH STAYED
IN THIS HOTEL ROOM ON THAT SUMMER’S DAY

SAME ROOM SAME VIEW STATION VIEW

ROOM 22

NOW THE HILLS ARE COVERED WITH SNOW
THERE’S JUST BARE TREES AND CROWS
I REMEMBER US WALKING AROUND THIS TOWN
WITH YOU UNTIL THE SUN WENT DOWN

IT’S THE SAME ROOM THE SAME VIEW

ROOM 22

THEN YOU GOT MARRIED SOMEWHERE DOWN THE LINE
MAYBE I’VE PASSED BY YOU ONCE OR TWICE
BUT TONIGHT ALL I HAVE IS THE MEMORY OF YOU
AS I STARE THROUGH THE POWER-LINES AT THE VIEW

IT’S THE SAME ROOM THE SAME VIEW

ROOM 22 WITHOUT YOU

Where Two Rivers Meet (Mary’s Dream) – The story behind the song

 

Whilst living in Edinburgh I attended the first year of a evening course in Scottish Cultural Studies.
Tutors included Murdo Mac Donald and Cairns Craig and I met Robert Alan Jamieson and Hamish Henderson.
It was fantastic. As part of it I wrote an essay on a lesser known Scottish poet William Neil and researched this song
through studying a ballad from Kirkudbright called ‘Mary’s Dream’.

This is my reinterpretation of the romantic story attached to the writing of the song ‘Mary’s Dream’. The full story too long for here so please read the extra material here:

www.kirkcudbright.co/historyarticle.asp?ID=122&p=7&g=4

The last verse is based on ‘New Eden’ in Dickens ‘American Notes’.

There is a natural vantage point in Dumfries known as John Lowe’s seat at the point where ‘Two rivers meet’.

lyrics

WHERE TWO RIVERS MEET

I WAS BORN WHERE TWO RIVERS MEET
I LEARNT TO PLOUGH AND I LEARNT TO REAP
THEN I WENT TO THE UNIVERSITY
AND I LEARNT ALL THE WORDS THE RICH MEN NEED

OH MARY, OH MARY,
WILL YOU WAIT FOR ME
WHERE TWO RIVERS MEET

WE LEFT THE PORT AT DEAD OF NIGHT
THE FULL MOON ON THE SAILS DID SHINE
WE PASSED THROUGH LANDS OF ICE AND SNOW
TWO DIED BELOW, THEIR BODIES FROZE

THEN I FOUND A PLACE IN AMERIKY AND CUT BACK THE TREES
AND A SNAKE IT BIT INTO ME
THEN I DREAMT I WAS DELIRIOUS
I DIDNT KNOW WHAT TIME OR YEAR IT WAS

AND I THOUGHT I SAW YOU IN YOUR WHITE GOWN
TRIPPING ACROSS THAT EMPTY GROUND
BUT IT WAS JUST THE WATER OF THE FLOOD
AS IT ROSE AROUND MY HOUSE

AND I WAS DEAD…

OH MARY WILL YOU WEEP FOR ME.
WHERE TWO RIVERS MEET.

 

 

Black Tin Barns – the story behind the song

As a child they were all around but as developers moved in they faded away..the last ones behind my grandfather’s house now being turned into an Eco Museum for Trees!

Musically I was listening to the Louvin Brothers and although I didn’t hear Gillian Welch and David Rawlings until years later (their first disc was released  in April 1996) there might have been something in the air 🙂

BLACK TIN BARNS

There’s an old dirt track and a muddy stream

There’s a wide open field that’s surrounded by trees

There’s an old tin barn that’s falling down

That’s where I rolled in my sweet baby’s arms

 

Oh country tracks won’t you take me back

To the farms and the black tin barns

 

Now all I can do is sit and stare

Across these fields at trees so bare

All around there’s only sticks and stones

Cos’ nothing been planted so nothing grows

 

When I was young I used to dream

Of you girl in these fields of wheat

But now the wind’s torn everything up

All that I am left is this handful of dust

from Black Tin Barns & River Ghosts, releases February 1, 2017

I also found my first copy of No Depression magazine ( the Whiskeytown cover see below) in 1997 when I back in Oxfordshire….with my barns..
nodepression.com/archive-cover/issue-10-july-aug-1997

 

 

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