Uke Tunes

Uke-ifying my favourite songs


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One Way Or Another – Blondie

parallellinesA couple of days ago I finally got round to sitting down and watching the recent documentary on BBC4 about Blondie’s Parallel Lines. It’s worth seeing (watch it here), and re-ignitied my often dormant fantasy of trying to do a ukulele-based full-album show featuring Parallel Lines, in sequence! I don’t suppose that will ever come to fruition, but it did prompt me to have a go at this song, the second track from this album I’ve posted on here (see the previous post of Picture This). Surprisingly I couldn’t find a ukulele sheet for this song (that wasn’t polluted by 1D!) so here is one.

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It’s a mark of just how much a classic Parallel Lines is, that even an album track such as this is so well known. I’m not even going to entertain the notion that this is due to the ghastly One Direction mash-up with Teenage Kicks (it’s appearance in the Rugrats movie gives it more credibility than that!). One Way Or Another is a classic of the Debbie Harry “attitude” school, spat out with the venom of a (presumably somewhat agrieved) stalker who’s going to see ya / meetcha / getcha / trick ya. You really wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of that treatment. There’s an interesting segment in that documentary (starting at 4:31) on the song, it’s genesis and recording.

So here’s the song sheet. For what might come across as a simple song there’s a lot of chords, but nothing too tricksy as long as you’re comfortable with barre chords. I’ve shown the chords as barre chords on the songsheet as they do work better that way, so if you can play them like that do. And if you can’t, practice! I found the little runs in the verse from D/C#/C/B and back again need a bit of concentration to get the timing right (it’s quite quick). The strumming pattern is something you need to listen to the original for, particularly in the verse where a nice bit of damping and scratching of the strings with the left hand gives it that chunky feel (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damping_(music) – I had to look the terms up!).  As ever, listen and play along to the original to get the overall feel and timing (it’s in the same key). And enjoy!

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Backhanded Compliment – Sunny Sweeney

sunnysweeneyI’ve been going through something of a country phase lately. Things tend to go like that for me, but certainly for the last 6 months or so there’s definitely been a country bias to my listening. Albums from Sturgill Simpson (Metamodern Sounds In Country Music), Suzy Bogguss (Lucky) and Willie Watson (Folk Singer Volume 1) have all been highly enjoyed, alongside older albums from Laura Cantrell and Rodney Crowell. But most recently it’s been Provoked by Texas singer/songwriter Sunny Sweeney that I’ve been really getting into.

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I hadn’t even heard of Sunny until very recently, but through one of those “if-you-liked-such-and-such-you-might-like-this” recommendations I gave her a go. And what a great little record it is. Provoked is fairly straight down the line country, and appears to be her first album since being dropped by her previous record company (home to Taylor Swift) and a divorce. Those events clearly had a strong influence on the songs on this album, but not in a woe-is-me kind of way, rather in a sassy, fighter / survivor kind of way. This is clearly not a woman to be messed with!

Backhanded Compliment is from that album, and is a very funny response to those kind of double-edged comments which we’ve probably all been subject to – which say one thing but clearly, intentionally or not, mean another. Set to a bouncing rhythm, it’s clearly written from a woman’s perspective, and she’s not shy with the comeback!

And so to the song sheet. Nothing particularly complicated in here, other than the fact that it’s in Bb, which results in some slightly unusual chords (if you want it in an easier key – to play – try this version in G). A nice chugga-chugga rhythm is all that’s needed (listen to the video to get an idea). And enjoy!

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You Give A Little Love – from “Bugsy Malone”

bugsymaloneMusicals are a strange beast. Some people can’t stand them, and certainly in some circles your musical credibility takes a nose-dive if you express even a smidgen of interest in them. Others love them, particularly the escapist, fantasy world they can create, and there’s a whole world of them out there that you can lose yourself in if you wish. Me, I sit somewhere in the middle of those extremes (what do you know!).

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For me, the best musicals take you on an emotional journey where music, lyric, story and staging combine to create a credible other world that does something none of those elements can do on their own. So shows like Les Miserables, West Side Story and Blood Brothers, neither of which could be classified as escapist fun, are ones I would see over and again. Of the little I’ve come across (A Little Night Music and Into The Woods) I’ve really enjoyed as well, even though they’re not big on blockbuster tunes (the classic Send In The Clowns excepted). More recently Matilda was one I particularly enjoyed.

But I also have time for the more traditional musicals, particularly those from the golden age of such in the mid 20th-century. I think that may be partly my parents fault(!) but shows like Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, Calamity Jane, Annie Get Your Gun and 42nd Street are just feel good bonanza’s.

But for sheer fun and feel-good vibes, you’d have to go a long way to beat Bugsy Malone. Featuring an all-child cast (including Jodie Foster and Scott Baia) the show is set in 1920s America during prohibition, and focusses on the exploits of a bunch of gangsters, although with the real-life bullets and machine guns being replaced with custard-shooting splurge guns. Directed by Alan Parker, whose film career has included other musicals such as Fame, The Commitments and Evita, the music was written by Paul Williams, notable for pop successes such as We’ve Only Just Begun for The Carpenters, and Evergreen, sung by Barbara Streisand from the film A Star Is Born. But for Bugsy, he composed a set of songs that reflect both the time the film is set, but also give it a more (1970s) contemporary feel. You Give A Little Love is the rousing, sing-along closing song from the film, noticably sung after the mother of all splurge gun fights, with the whole cast covered in custard!

So here’s the song sheet. I thought this might work largely because the instrumentation on the original (is that a banjo in there) seemed to lend itself to a strummed ukulele. I can’t find a lot of evidence that this does work out there, but having played with this a bit I’m sure it will. The chords are reasonably straightforward, although you can embelish it with – in particular – a nice G / G# / F / E7 run at the end of the third line in each verse (it is a bit quick, though). And playing the A chord in the second line as a slide up two frets from the G in the first line works well too. I’ve also transcribed the introduction – a nice clashing chord followed by a little riff. Listen to the original and you’ll work it out. Oh, and keep going at the end for as long as you want. Enjoy!

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Lost Stars – Adam Levine / Kiera Knightley

beginagainI’m a sucker for a major 7th chord. I’m not great on my music theory, and I’m sure somebody could probably expalin what it is about the sound of a major 7th that makes me feel that way. All I know is that I love the sound of these chords. In any key. So it was no great surprise when I started digging out the chords to this song to realise it was full of major 7ths.

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Lost Stars is from the movie Begin Again, a comedy/drama about a singer-songwriter who is discovered by a struggling record label executive and collaborates with him to produce an album recorded in public locations across New York. Featuring the acting talent of Kiera Knightly, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine, Hailee Steinfield, James Corden and CeeLo Green, the other true star of this film is the soundtrack. And in that came another surprise. For the soundtrack is largely the responsibility of one Gregg Alexander. Now that might not exactly be a household name, but for those in the know this is a huge deal. For Gregg was the force behind the band New Radicals. In many people’s eyes, New Radicals were a one-hit wonder known only for their mega-hit You Get What You Give. But the album that song came from, Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too, is a stone-cold classic, one of my all-time favourites, and is similarly rated by many who know it. Yet almost as soon as the band became successful, Gregg broke up the band. In fact it appears that the success, and the implications of that, were in fact the catalyts for the break-up, Alexander realising that the life of a touring, promoting band was not what he wanted, and what he really wanted to do was focus on song writing. There was some evidence of that subsequently, including songs for Ronan Keating (particularly Life Is A Rollercoaster) and Sophie Ellis-Baxter (Murder On The Dancefloor), but – at least as far as I was concerned – Alexander fell off the map.

So imagine my surprise when I discovered (how, I can’t quite remember) that he had resurfaced again, mainly as a writer, for Begin Again. Listening to the soundtrack album it is obvious, really. You can just imagine this as a New Radicals album, and the fact that is mainly led vocally by Adam Levine (Maroon 5) and Kiera Knightley doesn’t alter that. The whole sound and vibe is, for me, a direct follow-through from Maybe You’ve Been Brainwashed Too.

So to the song. The film features this a number of times, including a simple and sparse version sung by Kiera Knightley, and there is also an acoustic version by Adam Levine (accompanied, I think, by Greg Alexander). But this (below) is probably the definitive version.

And the song sheet? Well again, there is nothing too tricky here, although when singing it you might need to avoid the high falsetto vocals of Levine and bring it down an octave (I know I did, particularly on the “I thought I saw you out there crying” bridge bit!) – the Kiera Knightley version is a useful guide in that respect. On the song sheet you’ll see I’ve put the C, D and Dm chords as barre chords on the 3rd and 5th frets – I personally prefer the sound of this, but you can substitute with standard versions of those chords if you want. And clearly there’s lots of that yummy Fmaj7 chord sprinkled liberally throughout the song. There are also quite a few ukulele versions of this online (just search for Lost Stars ukulele in YouTube), although this wonderful instrumental version is a definite stand-out – way-beyond my capabilities, though. Enjoy!

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End of year review of most popular songs of 2014

So I thought it would be a bit of fun to have a look at what the most popular songs downloaded from this site are. Not because I want to demonstrate how popular this site is – if I published the actual number of downloads you’d soon realise that  would be a laugh! And not because I want to pander to demand – given some of the stuff I put on here that clearly can’t be the case. But just out of general interest and curiosity to see what people go for. Unsurprisingly, the more popular songs are the more well-known, classic, long-living songs, whereas some of the more obscure (and I recognise that there are some real obscure stuff on here!) don’t appear to do so well. Doh! So the top 5 downloaded song sheets this year have been (cue drum roll):

  1. Baker Street, by Gerry Rafferty
  2. Wayfaring Stranger
  3. How Long Will I Love You, by The Waterboys (although I suspect it is the Ellie Goulding version that’s prompted it’s popularity)
  4. Rhinestone Cowboy, by Glen Campbell
  5. One, by U2 (& Johnny Cash)

 

Clearly on a site like this, that whole-year summary favours material that has been on the site for the whole year. So I thought it would be interesting to balance that with a list of most popular donwloads that takes into accout how long the posts have been published. So that list (and I refuse to disclose the complicated statistical science behind these figures :)) looks like this:

  1. Rhythm Of The Rain
  2. Baker Street
  3. All About That Bass
  4. Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head
  5. Wayfaring Stranger

 

Clearly none of this reflects whether anybody did anything with the songsheets or found any of them useful! No matter.I hope that those who did find them got some enjoyment from them.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all.


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My best of 2014

My Best of 2014 by Ian James on Mixcloud

What follows is a selection of some of the best music I’ve come across this year. Not all of it is new for 2014, but it was new to me, and that’s what matters. You can listen to it all via. the playlist below. I’ll say upfront that this (largely, with one notable exception) is non-ukulele related, but normal blog service will be resumed at a later date.

[Life of Sin – Sturgill Simpson]  Sturgill’s second album, “Metamodern Sounds In Country Music”, is one of those quiet growers that finds itself near the top end of many a year end best-of list. And deservedly so. Whilst it may superficially come across as a retro outlaw country sound, a little digging finds it filled with existential metaphysics, “reptile aliens made of light” who “cut you open and pull out your pain”, and a fair degree of druggy indulgence. Not that it eschews country conventions totally – there’s plenty of drink, sin and redemption in here as well, some real, well-written songs, and musically it’s bedded in the world of Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and the like, albeit with a sometimes harder and more rocking sound, and the occasional psychedelic wig-out. (00:00)

[I Wonder – Rodriguez]  This clearly isn’t from 2014. But this year I did finally get to see the wonderful documentary “Searching for Sugar Man”, which tells the almost unbelievable story of Sixto Rodriguez. Rodriguez recorded a couple of albums in the early 1970s, but his career never really took off, and so he turned his back on the music business and took mostly low-paid work in Detroit. Unbeknown to him, however, copies of his album made their way to South Africa (then very isolated from the rest of the world due to Apartheid), where they became bona fide hits. Yet it wasn’t until the late 1990s that he finally found out about how successful his music had become. A scenario you just can’t imagine happening in today’s hyper-connected world, you wonder how different his life would have been if he had been aware of the success he had.  I Wonder, with it’s distinctive rolling bass-line, is from his 1970 debut album “Cold Fact”. (02:25)

[Forget – Ben Watt]  Ben was the non-Tracey Thorn half of Everything But The Girl, who had a string of successes during the 80s and 90s. But this was only his second solo album, a 30-year delayed follow-up to his pre-EBTG debut North Marine Drive. Since EBTG retired in the late 90s, Ben had largely focussed on DJ-ing. But following a number of traumatic personal incidents, including the death of his parents and a sister-in-law, he took up the songwriting muse, and Hendra was the result. A collection of grown-up songs reflecting on lived experiences, they are brought alive in part by the contribution of ex-Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, who paints his distinctively fluid electric guitar across the album. Forget is – to be honest – one of the more upbeat songs on the album. But listening to it is not a depressing experience, just one of recognition and understanding – hallmarks of the best music. (04:54)

[James Alley Blues – Willie Watson]  Willie Watson was a founding member of Old Crow Medicine Show. I only know of them. But his solo debut album, Folk Singer Vol. 1 came to my attention because it was put out and promoted by Gillian Welch’s label, Acony. Like Welch and her cohort Dave Rawlings, Watson’s album is a stark country / folk / blues hybrid that sounds like it could be 100 years old. Picked guitars, banjos, blow harmonicas and plaintive vocals bring these songs, old and obscure, to life. And yet for all it’s harking back to the past, there’s something distinctively touching and refreshing about the sound and these songs that draws you in. As an example, James Alley Blues is a song from the 1920s, written and performed by one “Rabbit” Brown. (10:01)

[Houston – Robert Ellis]  Robert Ellis was a new name to me this year. The Lights From The Chemical Works is the third album from the Nashville-based singer songwriter. Fleshing out his country and folk sound with a confessional/observational singer/songwriter ethos, and mixing the music up with elements of free jazz, bossa nova and other delights, the album is a rich mine of sounds and lyrics. Houston is a case in point – a love letter to a city he is leaving, needing to move on but aware of all the city has given to him, the song starts as a plaintive ballad, loping along with an unusual groove before crashing out with free-form bass topped with screeching electric guitars. (14:04)

[Do You Ever Think Of Me – Laura Cantrell]  Laura Cantrell has been on my radar for a long time, but it was only this last 12 month that I took the plunge. Cantrell’s sound is more of a straight-down-the-line country one, inspired by a clutch of original country artists, including Kitty Wells, recording a whole album of her songs in 2011. This song, though, is taken from her 2000 debut album, Not The Tremblin’ Kind, a firm favourite of the late John Peel who described it as “my favorite record of the last ten years, possibly my life”. Driven along by a constantly pulsing organ, but still with that familiar country twang, Cantrell’s vocals – as ever – are maybe an acquired taste; ever so slightly off key, but with songs this good you can forgive her. (21:13)

[Played Out – Peter Bruntnell featuring Rumer]  Peter Bruntnell is a master song-writer, but totally hopeless at self-promotion. As a result he has acquired a hugely admiring but numerically very small fan base. He’s never going to cross-over in any huge way, but all the while he keeps turning out quality songs such like this, a small selection of the music-loving population will be kept very happy. Originally starting off with an almost Britpop sound in the late 90s, he moved on to a country-tinged Americana sound before adopting a more pastoral english pop/folk sound of late. This track is a re-recording of an earlier song for a recent Retrospective collection, a version enhanced by the velvety vocals of the lovely Rumer. There’s lots more quality where this comes from. (23:52)

[Hard Act To Follow – Sylvie Simmons]  The best ukulele-based album of the year! In fact its the only one that I’ve heard, but that doesn’t distract from the quality of these songs. Sylvie is a music writer who has been there and done it all during the LA music scene of the late 70s and early 80s, of late becoming renowned for a biography of Leonard Cohen. Originally including ukulele-accompanied versions of Cohen songs during book readings, she has recently recorded an album of her own songs, from which this is taken. Her ukulele skills aren’t going to worry the likes of Jake Shimabukuro, nor are her vocals going to trouble Aretha Franklin, but it is the songs  that are the jewels here. In fact the sparse settings are perfect for these observational songs borne of a life lived. (27:31)

[The Prettiest Girl In Church – The Waterboys]  Fisherman’s Box, released towards the end of last year, is a mammoth undertaking, to be honest. Comprising 121 songs from the legendary Fisherman’s Blues sessions, it marks the journey of a band moving on from the big music of This Is The Sea, delving deep into roots music of all sorts (country, blues, folk) before arriving on the west coast of Ireland and fully embracing the joys of traditional Irish music. Whilst not all of it is essential, the quality control is kept remarkably high, and amazing how much fantastic stuff has been kept locked away in vaults for 25 years. Including the 25-minute Soon As You Get Home was going to be impractical here, but this country-tinged, just-the-right-side-of-corny original song from Mike Scott demonstrates the light-and-airy sound of a band in their stride. (30:38)

[Colfax Avenue – The Delines]  Willy Vlautin is a genius. That’s a conclusion I’ve come to this year. This time last year I knew nothing of him. But off the back of the chance discovery of The Delines’ lead track, I Won’t Slip Up, I found myself being drawn into his world. Vlautin started off as songwriter and lead singer with Americana band Richmond Fontaine. But he has also established a parallel career as a novelist, writing concise, humble, affecting and compassionate tales of the disenfranchised underclass in the US. I’ve consumed all of them, and they’re all great. The Delines is another side project, a bunch of songs written by Vlautin specifically for vocalist Amy Boone, in a retro country soul style, which comprise vignettes that pick up similar themes to his novels. Colfax Avenue (title track for the album) is a case in point – the tale of a sister who goes searching for her traumatised ex-Army brother up and down Denver’s Colfax Avenue, a notorious haven for prostitutes and junkies. With compact turns of phrase, Vlautin and Boone take you there, and you ache for the circumstances that led them there. (34:05)

[The Troubles – U2]  In all the hoopla that surround the release of Songs Of Innocence to 500 million iTunes accounts, the quality of the music being released seemed to get a little overlooked. This collection definitely marks a return to song-writing form for the band. Focussed on the formative days of the group, the songs are personal in a way that hasn’t always been the case of late. The death of Bono’s mother, the first reaction to the sound of The Ramones, Dublin bombings and the like are the backdrop and heart of this record. The Troubles is *not* about The (Irish) Troubles, but is more about troubles of the heart. Enhanced by the vocals of swedish singer Lykke Li, this brooding song may not be what you expect from U2. Which is why it’s here! (37:29)

[Billy – Prefab Sprout]  Paddy McAloon, the man behind Prefab Sprout, is a songwriting genius. His songs were always something of a superior quantity in the band’s heyday of the 1980s, something which probably didn’t help in the commercial stakes but certainly enhanced his critical credentials. However for the last 10 years or more he has suffered from a succession of health problems, including a detached retina and tinnitus. As a result he’s unlikely to be able to perform again. And yet towards the end of last year, out of nowhere, came Crimson/Red, the first all-new Prefab Sprout record for over 10 years. And it was more wonderful than you could ever hope for. Recorded totally alone, this was probably one of the strongest set of songs he had put out. Lush and romantic as every (Burt Bacharach is a big influence) these were songs from and for the heart, with melodies to die for. Billy is an upbeat example of that, a dream of a song about the joys of music. (42:08)

[Super 8 – Jason Isbell]  Jason Isbell’s Southeastern topped many an end-of-year list last year. So I thought I should investigate. And my, were those polls right! Isbell spent some time with Southern rockers Drive-By Truckers as guitarist and songwriter, but in 2007 branched out on his own. Initially adopting something of a country/rock sound, Southeastern was something of a departure, being more of an acoustic, country-tinged singer/songwriter collection. Recorded off the back of a spell in rehab, the album goes to some pretty dark places and as such isn’t an easy listen. But the songwriting is superb – crisp, focussed, economical, personal and emotive. Super 8 is atypical in sound, being more of that southern rock sound, but tells its tale with a punch and with tongue firmly planted in cheek. (46:38)

[Spring – Bill Callahan]  Bill Callahan has been ploughing his own lo-fi furrow since the early 90s, without any significant commercial success, but building something of a cult following under the band name Smog. Recently he’s been releasing albums under his own name, and 2013’s Dream River (from which this track is taken) was another critical favourite. The songs often eschew the classic verse/chorus/middle 8 structure, being more freeform in nature, with Callahan’s not-always-tuneful barritone vocals semi-reciting the lyrics. Conceived as a “last record you could listen to at the end of the day” Dream River paints pictures in lyrics and sound that connect both with the details of nature and humanity. It is beautiful. (50:01)

[Under The Pressue – The War On Drugs]  I’ve only become aware of this in the last week or so, but have fallen in love with Lost In The Dream, the third album from US band The War On Drugs. Topping many a year-end poll over the last few weeks, I’d given this a try a few times this year and it didn’t click. Goodness knows why, because when I tried it again last week it was a revelation. Blending the classic rock of the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty and echoes of early Waterboys with the relentless, propulsive motorik krautrock rhythm, drenched in a rich and evocative soundscape that conjures the expansive sounds of the open road and the wide plains, this is visionary mood music of the highest order. Something to be immersed in, to be lost in, to dream in. (55:02)

[Higgs Bosun Blues – Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds]  Cave has ploughed his own distinctive furrow since coming over from Australia in the early 80s with the rage and noise that was The Birthday Party. Something of a renaissance man, he has written novels and film screenplays, and acted, alongside developing a rich (and mostly dark) musical legacy. Higgs Bosun Blues (blues in spirit rather than in technical musical terms) is from last years Push The Sky Away, an album of songs that are far more subtle than some of Cave’s work, and an album that often works better as a cohesive whole than a collection of individual songs. Tunes are a little thin on the ground, this isn’t really sing-along territory, and meandering and meditative are probably words that sum it up well. But it is an album to lose yourself in, and one whose riches slowly reveal themselves if you patiently persist with it. (1:01:11)

[Even If That Were True – Suzy Bogguss]  Suzy Bogguss is steeped in the traditions of country. Her latest album, Lucky, is a collection of Merle Haggard songs, and her career has been fairly close to the country mainstream. That said she has recently branched out with a collection of jazz/swing covers, and another of American folk standards. I only became aware of her this year, and this beautiful ballad comes from her 2007 album Sweet Danger. Beautiful, plaintive vocals with wonderful phrasing overlayed on a sparse and open acoustic accompaniment make this a heartbreaking gem of a song. Well, it’s country isn’t it. (1:08:57)

[Molly-O – Simone Felice]  Simone (pronounced Simon!) is another songwriter who has branched out into writing fiction. Like Willy Vlautin, Felice’s writing focusses on the marginalized and forgotten, and does it with compassion and humanity. Molly-O is taken from his most recent album, Strangers, and is a rousing, crying-out-to-sing-out-loud song of hope in spite of the evidence. (1:12:32)

 

In addition to these, notable commendations should go to Iris Dement (There’s a Whole Lot Of Heaven), Neil Cowley Trio (Kneel Down), Zsófia Boros (Canción Triste) and Tord Gustavsen Quartet (The Embrace).


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This Old Town – Nanci Griffith

othervoicesNanci Griffith has one of those voices that some people find hard to love. I get that. No matter. For me she is a fine writer of songs, and when she performs them they are very obviously Nanci Griffth songs. Sitting in a place somewhere between folk and country, she’s never really been part of either scene – too country for the folk crowd, too folk for the country crowd. But since her debut in 1978 she has ploughed her own furrow, and in the process built up an impressive body of work. The songwriting craft and tradition is one that Nanci is clearly part of – economical with language, painting vignettes that tell the stories of “ordinary” lives – little slices of life as it is lived, of the loves, hopes and fears of people.

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So as an artist for whom songwritting is such a big part of who she is, it is somewhat surprising (and possibly dissappointing) that her most successful venture has been an album of other people’s songs. In actual fact it’s not that surprising, as she has always sung the virtue of the great (if unacclaimed) song writers, and has regularly included the songs of others on her albums. But 1993’s Other Voices, Other Rooms album (and it’s 1998 follow-up Other Voices, Too) was a focussed and deliberate project to highlight songs that had been influential on Nanci’s songwriting and her career. With it’s title lifted from a Truman Capote novel, and featuring songs by the likes of Townes Van Zandt, Bob Dylan, John Prine, Ralph MacTell, Woody Guthrie, Gordon Lightfoot and many others, Nanci proved that she is not just a great songwriter, but also a great interpreter of other’s songs, making many of the songs her own, and creating a wonderfully cohesive collection in the process.

One of those songs was this one, This Old Town, which was written by Janis Ian. At the time it was unreleased by Janis, not appearing until 1999 on a collection of previously unreleased songs. So whilst this was a cover of somebody else’s song, Nanci’s version was essentially it’s first outing, and as a result she claimed it. The song is very clearly one set in a small dust bowl town (Nanci grew up in Texas, an area much impacted by the dust bowl) and paints brief sketches of that town from the 1920s, highlighting all the things that could have destroyed it, yet rejoicing in the fact that the town and its people have weathered those storms, and that it is the people at the heart of that town which make it the community it is.

So here’s the songsheet. Nothing too complicated here, although the timing is sometimes a little tricky. Best to listen and play along to the original to get the feel for it. Play with a sprightly feel – ideal for strumming, or some fancy picking (but that’s beyond me!). Enjoy!

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