Friday, July 22, 2016


Hot, well, lukewarm on the heels of the splendid Thompson piece below, I was about to pen a sorry disclaimer on it being sum sum summertime and that most scribes were maybe elsewhere, before throwing together a few tired tropes about sparring siblings, Don and Phil Everly, Ray and Dave Davies, Noel and Liam Gallagher. But there is clearly only one correct follow-on to J.David's piece, namely to discuss the dynasty above, an extended family "band", convoluted, extended and with a fair side-order of dysfunction and debacle. So where do I start? You could try the family tree, for which I must credit interesting name tending site The Name Station, but, let's face it, it isn't easy to decipher. Where is Pete Frame when you need him?

OK, so we have in the one corner estimable folk troubadour, of the confessional songs and prehensile tongue, who has built a career in humorous and/or poignant self-deprecation, bringing in tales of everyday sadness to make us smile. In the other the youngest McGarrigle sibling, Kate, half of Kate and Anna McGarrigle, doyennes of an anglo french-canadian meeting place of traditionally influenced music. They marry, have children. They break up. Loudon sings songs about his son, Rufus, and his daughter, Martha, as children. Both become, like him, professional musicians. I guess if you had a dad you didn't see so much, to see yourself sung about on stage and TV may be not so great. So here's Martha singing about her dad:

And here's Rufus singing about his dad:

(I think it is probably allowable to comment on the fact that, as chance would have it, Rufus turned out, um, not to be quite the "tit man" his father had jested about.)

Meanwhile, Loudon forms a new relationship, another musician, would you credit it, Suzzy Roche, of quirky NY sister band, the Roches. He has another daughter, Lucy (Wainwright-Roche) and guess what career she chooses, possibly provoked, I wonder, by his song about her, Screaming Issue, annoyingly not on youtube, but the title gives a flavour of its content..... Of course, she's a singer. Her parents separate.

So how is this a family band? They clearly all hate each others guts. Well, no, and this is a number of happy endings. In itself that is at least fortuitous, as you could have the McGarrigles, Loudon, Rufus, Martha and Lucy, all out on their own tours. Inevitably their promoters could find them all in the same country, city, festival or even show. In recent years there seems to have been a warming of relations between the 2 elder children and their father. They have appeared on stage with each other and publicly come to terms with the past. This was perhaps and ironically accelerated by the illness and later death of Kate McGarrigle. Lucy has appeared with her father, opened for her half brother and currently tours, as the Wainwright Sisters, with half-sister Martha. (Check out the lyric of the featured song, potentially referring to their fathers further relationship and their further half sister, Lexie, career as yet unchosen or public.) Here's Loudon's take on his family dynamic, well worth a read.

Eagle eyed will have spotted another famous name in the family tree at the top, namely Cohen. Yes, that Leonard Cohen, whose daughter Lorca is the birth-mother of Rufus' daughter, Viva. I wonder what career path she might take?

Finally I cannot resist adding the interplay between the Thompson and the Wainwright families, as the links come steady and strong, unsurprisingly as the two paterfamilias have regularly shared a stage (often billed as Loud & Rich.) Rufus has worked frequently with Thompson's son Teddy, such as here. But somehow I think the most intriguing link was in the man who took on Kate and her children, post Wainwright, being one Pat Donaldson, frequent bassist for Thompson in his Richard and Linda years. I guess they couldn't help but all be chums.

How do you get a flavour this bloodline in one easy step? You could do a lot worse than with this, which features all of these bar Loudon. For his presence you need this, maybe for the first track alone, which features Loudon, Rufus, Martha, Lucy, Lexie, Suzzy and his current wife, Ritamarie Kelly, with Rufus and Martha each appearing on other songs. Even better still, here's the track in question, good video too:

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Family Bands: Thompson Family


Here we are, halfway through the second week of this theme, we only have one post. I suggested the theme, so it must be a good one. Therefore, I’m going to blame the lack of writing on the fact that it is the summer, and people are on vacation. Also, two of our writers live in a country that just had an abortive coup, and I’ve been busy with work and family obligations.

So, just time for a short piece about an album that came out in late 2014 called Family, from a group simply billed as “Thompson.” It is, overall, a very good album, if not a great album, but well worth checking out. The project began when Teddy Thompson, an excellent singer, songwriter and performer in his own right (when he is paying attention—don’t get me started writing about the time I saw him and he messed up most of his songs.....) reached out to members of his talented extended family to see if there was interest in working on a project. His father, SMM favorite Richard Thompson, and his mother, Richard’s ex-wife and legend in her own right, Linda Thompson, signed on. As did sister Kami and her husband, guitarist James Walbourne (who together make up The Rails). The next generation was also enlisted, including Jack Thompson, Richard’s son from his second marriage, and Zak Hobbs, the son of Richard and Linda’s eldest daughter Muna, who is not a professional musician, but also appears on the album (and drew the cover illustration). There are also contributions from Richard’s daughter-in-law Paulina Lis, Welbourne’s brother Rob and his wife Brooke Gengras.

The songs were, at Teddy’s direction, to be written where each of the writers lived. He gathered the basic tracks, then fleshed them out with overdubs in London and Los Angeles. So not surprisingly, the album jumps around stylistically, although if you listen carefully, there is a certain “Thompson-ness” about the album that somewhat holds it together.

Ultimately, the key song is probably one of the last written, Teddy’s “Family,” that opens the disc and gives it a title. A gentle waltz featuring Teddy, Zak and Linda, it opens:

My father is one of the greats to ever step on the stage,
My mother has the most beautiful voice in the world. 
And I am betwixt and between, Sean Lennon, you know what I mean. 
Born to the manor, never quite clamoring free. 
It’s family, its family. 

My elder sister is pretty than you believe, 
My younger sister is prettier still and can sing. 
And I am the middle child, 
The boy with red hair and no smile, 
Not too secure, very unsure who to be. 
 It’s family, its family. 

Because this is a fairly recent song, I will follow our informal guidelines and not post a downloadable copy of the song. And I can’t find a video just of the song, so the video above is a short “making of” piece about the album, and it does feature some of “Family.”

Monday, July 18, 2016

family bands: ramblin' man

purchase Allman Brothers Band: Ramblin' Man

Brothers qualify as family, and few others more deserve their place in the pantheon of rock star families more than Duane and Gregg Allman. Playing together through several bands beginning in the early 60s, the Allman brothers actually only played together in their eponymous band for about 2 years until Duane's untimely death in 1971.

The band's Brothers and Sisters album came out after after the extended family had already suffered the seemingly irreparable losses of solo/lead Duane and bass player Berry Oakley, essentially decimating the family. But the legend/name lived on: it was at its commercial height in 1973 when the album came out, and various music critics agree that the album equalled or at least maintained the quality which the band had become famous for while Duane and Berry were alive.

The conceit behind the Brothers and Sisters theme revolves around a large farm that they bought in Georgia, where they aimed to bring the remaining members of the band together as family. The center photo of the LP shows various members assembled at the place, while a son and daughter of the family grace the front and back covers of the LP.

Off and on since the 1970s, a surprising number of the original members (Jaimoe, Butch Trucks, Dickey Betts and Gregg Allman) have managed to find ways to keep it going - more or less. My research came up with a couple of 2014 dates as their most recent concerts (some of them at least).

As for the song here, the idea of a ramblin man seems too classic a part of blues/rock lore that you would assume that the song was a re-take on someone's previous version and not a Dickey Betts original. Hank Williams Sr did come out with a Ramblin Man back in the 50s, but it would take a better ear than mine to note a similarity. There's also a Waylon Jennnings song of similar title that comes a little cloer to sounding like the essence of Betts' tune - at least a little more of a ramble than the Williams' song. Woodie Guthrie treated the theme of ramblin - both in real life and in song, as did Leadbelly to some extent in (Goodnight) Irene, where he sang:

Quit your ramblin, quit your gamblin - both notions included in the Dickey Betts lyrics.

First, here's Dickey Betts doin' the best he can to make up for the double lead all by his lonesome:

And then again several years later with Dan Toler as the 2nd lead guitar: