INDIE TANYA DONELLY King Tut’s, Glasgow, Tue 26 Feb
For some musicians parenthood doesn’t seem to change a damn thing. Liam still monkeywalks about the place, Madge still thrusts it in the camera lens. Not so with indie pin-up Tanya Donelly.
The woman who brought us the twisted American college rock delights of The Throwing Muses, Breeders and Belly has been out of the spotlight for quite some time, mainly due to the birth almost three years ago of her first daughter, Grace.
Her new solo album, Beautysleep, is a thing of gentle, gorgeous understatement, but it would be wrong to assume its dreamy quality is down to some new found air of motherly contentment. For a start it was recorded before Grace was born. ‘My original plan was that we would ﬁnish the record during my pregnancy,’ she says, ‘then a few months after the birth I would start touring. But I had no idea what happens to your body, and your life. So those months stretched into years and well, here we are.’
Donelly laughs as she says this. In fact, she laughs almost continuously throughout the interview, so obviously happy is she with family life. Beaufysleep is a relatively contented record but still has an edgy lyrical undercurrent to it, while musically it could have been even more Iaidback.
‘Actually everything was much slower than it is now, we had to speed up some of the songs,’ she admits. ‘Things are sort of moody and dreamy when you’re pregnant. It’s an interesting time to work, I would definitely recommend it to anybody, although perhaps not specifically getting pregnant for that purpose.’
Beautysleep is Donelly’s second solo outing, over four years on from the criminally underrated Lovesongs For Underdogs. For her the decision to go it alone in the first place was an easy one after years of artistic frustration.
‘When you’re young it’s important to be in a band because you learn how to play well with people,’ she says. ‘But later on, and this could just
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be me speaking personally, decision by committee becomes a hindrance to everybody involved. If no one’s taking any direction strongly because other people’s directions are different then everyone just ends up standing in one place doing nothing.’
And with another laugh she’s off, definitely not doing nothing anymore. (Doug Johnstone)
KELLY JOE PHELPS La Belle Angele, Edinburgh, Sun 17 Feb
It's no mean achievement to carve out a distinctive and successful musical niche for yourself. To then throw away the formula. as Kelly Joe Phelps has done. requires backbone.
‘I did think about what I would gain and what I w0uld lose.‘ says the American of his latest album. Sky Like A Broken C/ock. ‘And then I thought. well Jesus. it's just one record out of hopefully many. Let's just put it out and move forward.‘
Phelps spent most of the 903 refining an other-worldly. hugely atmospheric bluesy norse with no more ingredients than his smoky voice and spooky slide guitar. and staunchly resisting the lure of the mainstream.
‘The scund just sort of built itself a piece at a time. and it
was really just a matter of learning to be polite when people tried to put these commercial pressures on me.‘ he says. ‘What I was doing fitted me as a person. which has always been the aim. rather than to sell records or to be famous or any of that shit.‘
It's all the more surprising, then. to find him turning up with a record of perky finger-picking guitar. folky tunes and a full band. And if the sound is less distinctive than before. it still carries dark-tinged story songs. and a musical charm which even echoes prime John Martyn. This was the first time Phelps had played in a group since the jazz quartets of his youth. and touring with them recently was as much fun offstage as on.
‘I had an absolutely wonderful time. having some people to pal around with and stay up late with and so on . . . but that's another story!‘ (Ninian Dunnett)
WIN KELLY JOE PHELPS TICKETS
We have three pairs of tickets and three copies of his album Sky Like A Broken Clock to give away. Simply email us with yOur name and contact number on ITTUSIC@}IISi.CO.Uk or send a postcard to: Kelly Joe Phelps Competition. The List. 14 High Street. Edinburgh. EH1 lTE but be guick. entries must be in by Fri 15 Feb.
FOLK SHETLAND SESSIONS Queen's Hall, Edinburgh, Sat 16 Feb
Shoormal is a Shetland word for the area 'where the shore meets the sea' and is one of the few places on the scattered archipelago where y0u might not hear any music. Famed for their Oll. sheep. and longship burning. the islanders have long had an obsession With music. in times past USually associated with the long. dark Winter months. but now a major dynamic in all of contemporary Shetland Culture.
Over the next few months Edinburgh's Queen's Hall brings a flavour of those nOisy northern isles to the capital in the Shetland Sessions series. kicking off with three disparate bands in one concert. It encompasses Shoormal's sweet vocal harmony. the kick-ass rootsy pop of Bongshang and the Sheila Henderson Trio's strain of Americana celebrating lonely roads. booze. bad company and broken hearts.
Eight-strong Shoormal are formidable on the vocal side but also feature guitar. keyboards. double bass. fiddle and percussion. Their first album Indigo Skies and a Best Newcomers award from the BBC last year raised the profile of the band and its unusual (for Shetland at least) three-and-more-part vocal harmony. Bass player May Gair may have played with everyone on the Shetland trad scene (Aly Bain. Willie Hunter. Violet Tulloch and Catriona MacDonald) but her jazz influence blends nicely with the contemporary directions taken by songwriters Joyce McDill and Freda Leask; everything from gospel to new ballads and sometimes in unleavened Shetland dialect.
Shoormal share their dynamic yOung drummeri'perCuSSionist Christopher 'Kipper' Anderson with Bongshang. a grOup that epitomises Shetland's melting pot of musrcal idioms. Fronted by J.J. Jamieson on banjo. vocals. keyboards and samples. with guitar and vocals. and under and over-pinned by electric bass and fiddle. Bongshang have. in the:r do-it-yowself attitude over the last decade. prowded an inspiration to the yOunger generation of island-bound musicians. As Jd. says: Bongshang started in 1992. The name was given to us by illustrator and writer (and Swamptrash leader) Harry Horse. for which we owe him dearly. We began playing small gigs in order to make a CD. which was Crude. recorded in the back room of a theatre in LerWick. usmg an old eight-track machine. That was self-evident. It was released in November 1993. The sleeve artwork was made from rice paper and a photocopy of rusting junk. Since then it has been licensed to Iona Records and is available in 52 countnes.‘ (Norman Chalmers)
Big hits by Bongshang
I.‘. .98 let) 2001’ THE LIST 45