Tag Archives: Bill Callahan

Mid-week Mixtape: Piers Twomey

This week’s mixtape has been lovingly put together by Sydney songwriter Piers Twomey. Piers’ sophisticated new album of modern folk – Strange Advice – has seen him likened to Kings Of Convenience and Grand Salvo. He has performed alongside Preston School of Industry, Ben Sollee, Krystle Warren, Dappled Cities and Jack Ladder. This week, as well as sharing these lovely songs with us, Piers is performing at ‘Don’t Think Twice’ a new folk music night presented by Timber & Steel from 6pm on Sunday at the Annandale Hotel.

Go along to the gig and check him out! And check out Piers’ brand new video for ‘Mountain Song’, which has just been updloaded here.

Bill Callahan – The Wind and the Dove

I think listening a lot to Bill, who was once Smog, has taught me not to be overly self-conscious about whether I sing “correctly”. His lovely, deep, rich voice is just perfect to my ears, though I imagine some first-time listeners would find his deadpan delivery a little lacking. This song is a quiet, personal, complex and unassuming little “relationship” number from Bill’s Sometimes I Wish I Were An Eagle album from a few years ago. I think it slipped under the radar a little bit to be honest, but most Bill fans I’ve come across cherish the album with its curious folk and soft-rock with string section production! The man is certainly adored far and wide, and I do think he’s one of the greatest living songwriters. What about this line from the same album?

Love is the king of the beasts
and when it gets hungry
it must kill to eat.


Ryan Adams – She Wants To Play Hearts

First off, I’m not really the hugest Ryan Adams fan (sorry to those who are!) But, at a friend’s house a few years ago, this song sort of stopped me in my tracks. It makes me feel nostalgic, and reminds me of listening to those warm Don Maclean ballads when I was a kid from my parent’s record collection. Somehow, it reminds me of Don’s version of Roy Orbison’s ‘Crying’ – one of the all time songs, I think it’s the tempo… anyway. I love the bare minimum arrangement and super intimate but very unaffected vocal and the way his natural vibrato rings out the emotion from every note. I think I like my Ryan Adams heartbroken and confused. So thank you Ryan – even if just for this song.

Red House Painters – Have You Forgotten

OK, well, more wistfulness here. I only heard this a year or two back, but it reminds me of living in New England in America as a teenager for three years with my family, with that weird new-person isolation, the huge seasonal changes, beautiful forests, eventually making close friends, crushes and kisses… and
all that kind of normal stuff. Mark Kozelek’s voice is just one of those instantly haunting and heart- aching things – no pretensions, it just is. Like many of Mark’s songs, this seems to be very nostalgic as he looks back on the simplicity of his own childhood and remembers Spring and October autumns and the
magic of looking out the window at “frozen farmhouse landscapes” at Christmas time. But I think there is something even stronger here, something to do with the purest kind of love and something about healing. Who is he speaking to when he asks “When you’re older your heart turns to ice… have you forgotten how to love yourself?” My guess is the question is directed straight at himself.

The Strokes – Hard To Explain

Alright enough melancholy! When it’s time to jump around – this is one of my favourite ways to do it. The way this somewhat bratty track effortlessly cruises along busting out a simple beat, slinky guitar riffs and crazy good vocal melodies like that’s the easiest thing in the world to do… well, it just blows me away. Of course Julian Casablancas is an alluring gentleman and that helps; his lazy voice drips graceful cool without even trying, and that high vocal he hits a couple of times (“was an honest man!”) in the song plus the “I don’t see it that way” hook, well it makes the whole thing 3:48 of guitar pop perfection. I once heard a really great 50’s style rockabilly guitarist exclaim, “This isn’t music!” about the lo-fi sounding ‘Hard To Explain’. When he was a kid, I’m sure his parents said the same thing about Little Richard.

Grand Salvo – Bend In The River

No rest for the wicked, so it’s back to the broken and bruised! Australia’s own Paddy Mann, aka Grand Salvo is a huge favourite of mine. When I first started listening to his albums – again on a vocal level – I was stunned by the simplicity and the softness of his delivery. Of course Paddy is a stunning lyricist, story-teller and musician, and uniquely Australian too – I actually think of him as a bush poet who loves acoustic and orchestral instruments. His arrangements and melodies seem perfectly formed to me, like if it were somehow up to me, I wouldn’t touch a thing, I’d keep everything exactly as it is. I saw a short interview online today where Paddy described his music with a smile as, “slightly depressing folk music” which is spot on I guess. This song from one of his earlier albums I included as it was the first Grand Salvo song I ever heard – and it affected me greatly. Seek it out and give it a go – it’s hopelessly beautiful, sad and romantic.


Filed under OPINION

Unpacking the Pines: May 24, 2011

Soon, soon, very soon FBi Radio will have the ability to stream content ‘on demand’. For listeners, it’s an exciting development because it means that if you miss an episode of In The Pines you will be able to stream it at your leisure whenever you get the yearning for some americana/alt-country/folk/sadcore goodness. For broadcasters, it’s exciting too because it means that what once used to disappear into the airwaves gets to live on. That makes it a little bit terrifying too. Mistakes on demand! Flirtations with guests on demand! Accidental swearing on demand! The joys of live radio. What the hell, I’m looking forward to it.

In the meantime however, if you missed the show all I can offer up is the playlist and a re-cap of some of the highlights. So without further ado….


Bob Dylan’s milestone 70th birthday was all over print, online and radio this week and Pines was no different. I started the show with ‘I Threw It All Away’, later played ‘One Of Us Must Know’ (Sooner Or Later) and also shared Micah P. Hinson’s version of ‘The Times They Are A-Changin’ from his excellent covers album All Dressed Up And Smelling Of Strangers. Cat Power’s bittersweet hymn to her hero, ‘Song To Bobby’ rounded out the birthday celebrations. After the show, I managed to muster a few thoughts on Dylan for the blog, so if you’re interested you can check it out here.


For those who have exhausted all possible plays of 2008’s beautiful For Emma, Forever Ago and it’s all too brief follow-up Blood Bank , there is much joy to be had in the knowledge that a new release from Justin Vernon is just around the corner. Due for release on June 20, early reports suggest the sophomore effort Bon Iver, Bon Iver is an extension of the first album but with sporadic bursts of electronic experimentation. I played the first single ‘Calgary’ on the show this week and also directed listeners towards this recent appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in the US.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love Justin Vernon’s voice… But his marriage of early 90’s Bonnie Raitt with Leon Russell’s ‘A Song For You’ doesn’t leave me aching for more and I kind of wish he’d performed one of his own songs. Why does it disappoint me so? In unabridged versions of the Russell classic, there’s a line Listen to the melody/ ‘Cause my love is in their hiding . I must have marvelled over its simple beauty a thousand times. To my ears, Vernon hides nothing. Check out this Willie Nelson video here if you’re interested something more subtle.

And if you want to hear Bon Iver doing what Bon Iver do best, you can download ‘Calgary’ here.


I’m a big believer that almost every song could be improved with a little more twang. As such, I’m pleased to say that the ethereal voiced Boston-based folk singer Marissa Nadler has taken that route with her latest single ‘The Sun Always Reminds Me Of You’. The demo version of the song has been doing the rounds for about six months but with her self-titled album due for release next month, we now have the legit version, complete with loads of pedal steel.

And to round things up, a promise I’m bound to regret…

I would be the first to admit that become a bit of a broken record with my on-air adoration of Bill Callahan in recent months, so on Tuesday I committed to taking a break from playing tunes from his latest release Apocalypse for at least a little while. If you haven’t gone out bought the album yet, I will no longer urge you to do so. I will save my adjectives and adorations for other artists and other LPs. But as I’m heaping praise on other tunes, I’m sure if you listen closely, in the silent seconds you will hear something like “It’s good but it’s not ‘Riding For The Feeling’.”

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In The Pines reviewed with added unnecessary anecdotes…

Yesterday on the walk home from the office, my office, which bears an uncanny resemblance to The Office, I had the iPod blaring and not a care in the world. So carefree was I that at some point on the homeward trail I lost all sense of time and place and found myself belting Bruce Springsteen’s Prove It All Night as I powered up the hill toward Erskineville Road, proving nothing really except that I can walk and sing simultaneously. In an ever-so-slight embarrassment, some guy at the lights made some comment I couldn’t quite catch and I quickly realised that I’d been putting on an impromptu neighbourhood concert. Prove It All Night? Really? I should have known that one would get out of hand. Went home pretty red-faced and forgot about it. Until the lights guy revealed himself today at work.

Co-worker: “You know Emma, that was some pretty good singing on the street yesterday…”
Me: “Oh dear…” (Note to self: when you think you might be singing in public without realising and in the presence of co-workers, try to choose something less primal)

Baby, tie your hair back in a long white bow /Meet me in the fields out behind the dynamo

I have theory about singing and fucking but I’m not going to write it here. It’s something I only share with other singers. Email me if you really want to know. I might tell you. But I probably won’t. And that ends this week’s confession. Now, to this week’s radio program.

In The Pines tonight was a much more wholesome affair than my opening paragraphs might suggest. I was joined in the studio by Adam Gibson from Sydney band, The Aerial Maps. The band blends indie folk instrumentation with spoken word poetry. It’s a unique sound that recalls themes of classic Australian bands like The Triffids and Weddings Parties Anything, except that the extended use of poetry lends the songs a more narrative impulse. If you caught the interview and you liked it, be sure to catch The Aerial Maps this Saturday night at The Basement in Circular Quay for the Popboomerang Records label night. They will be playing alongside The Bon Scotts, Russell Crawford and more.


I resisted the urge to play two tracks from the new Emmylou Harris album and instead opted to go with the title track ‘Hard Bargain’, which was penned by the criminally under-rated Ron Sexsmith and originally released on his 2004 album Retriever. Once again, Harris has proved herself to be a masterful interpreter of song, bringing her trademark ache and subtle genius to every phrase. If you are wondering what I’m getting at here, get the album and listen closely for the variations on the way ‘hard bargain’ is sung and you’re more than half way there. Because it’s so new, the song isn’t on youtube for me to share, so I guess the blog is going to for the two-song option tonight.

Here is Hard Bargain performed at the Bowery Ballroom in New York last week:

And here is ‘Darling Kate’, the beautiful tribute Emmylou penned in honour of her friend and collaborator Kate McGarrigle, which also features on the album:

After seeing Emmylou Harris in Sydney earlier this year at the State Theatre and reviewing the show for FBi, I feel like I might have used up all the adjectives I could possibly adorn her with so I will restrain myself from writing anymore here. At least for this week. If you caught those January shows and you want to relive it, or if you’re the self-punishing ‘what have I missed?!’ kind, the review is on The Flog.

Other highlights from tonight’s show included new music from Grey Reverend (Brooklyn), Anabelle Kay (Oklahoma via the Central Coast!) and Alela Diane & Wild Divine (Portland).

And as promised last week, we heard more from two of this year’s stand-out releases, Steve Earle’s I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive and Bill Callahan’s Apocalypse.

Last but not least, since Mother’s Day is just around the corner, I managed to sneak in the Paul Kelly classic ‘When I First Met Your Ma’ to close the show:

It worked on two equally pleasing levels for me: perfectly timed cheesy gesture and also, PK happens to be my Ma’s favourite singer. But more on that later. I hope you’re getting your parental music this Hallmark holiday.


Filed under NEW MUSIC