ACADEMY STREET by Mary Costello (Canongate Books, 2014)
Mary Costello’s bold and compassionate debut novel initially gives the impression it will be an uplifting life story of female empowerment.
It begins in the 1940s and is set in Western Ireland. In this time and place we meet Tess, aged 8, immediately after the sudden death of her beloved mother.
The bewilderment and uncertainty this loss produces is brilliantly evoked as is the child’s difficult relationship with her harsh and uncommunicative father.
Surely things can only get better and with Angela’s Ashes in mind you envisage emigration from Ireland to America to be the harbinger of hope and good fortune. Continue reading
Verdena live at Rocca Malatestiana, Cesena – 8th September 2016
If I had been hipper to the local music scene when I arrived in Italy over 20 years ago I would have been able to follow Verdena from their inception as Nirvana wannabes to the distinctive individuals I witnessed at this stunning open air concert.
My belated appreciation of this excellent band from Bergamo is a good motive for shaking the complacent attitude that goes with smug slogan T-shirt slogans like : ‘I may be old but I got to see all the cool bands’.
I have my daughter to thank for ‘discovering’ this cool band existing right now playing songs from current releases not running through a familiar back catalogue from way back when. Continue reading
EMINENT HIPSTERS by Donald Fagen (Vintage Books, 2014)
This book is a good antidote to clichéd rock memoirs suggesting life on the road is one extended party. Here there’s no sex, some prescription drugs and a bit of AOR.
The second part takes the form of a 2012 tour diary based on concerts across America performed with Michael ‘Doobie Brother’ McDonald and Boz Scaggs as The Dukes of September Rhythm Review.
It was written mostly to relieve the monotony of playing a series of gigs in mostly sub-par venues to aging punters and staying in soulless hotels.
Fagen coins the term Acute Tour Disorder (ATD) to describe the state of anxiety, paranoia, depression and physical discomfort he experiences. You have to wonder why he keeps going and he asks himself this same question at regular intervals. Continue reading
FRANCESCO DE GREGORI – live at Nuova Teatro Carisport, Cesena, Italy 8th April 2016
This concert is part of the ‘Amore e Furto’ (Love and Theft) tour – a reference to the subtitle of the ‘De Gregori Canta Bob Dylan’ album released in 2015.
Needless to say, a fair proportion of the show is devoted to songs from this record which does such a valuable public service to Italians, particularly those who know Dylan only on the basis of a few of his ‘greatest hits’. The translations were obviously a labour of love and do an exemplary job of conveying the quirky poetry and socio-political thrust of Dylan’s language.
The varied choice of covers are drawn from the full range of Dylan’s career, evidence of the 65-year-old Italian singer-songwriter’s long-standing adoration of ‘His Bobness’. (Evidenced by the fact that he has also shared the bill with Dylan on a number of occasions).
De Gregori wisely steers clear of the more obvious selections so, for instance, there’s no ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ or ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’. Inspired versions of Desolation Row (Via Della Povertà) and Not Dark Yet (Non è Buoi Ancora) reflect the inspirations of beat language and the contemplations of mortality just as effectively. Continue reading