Solving your Christmas present problems

Look upon this week's column as the first of a series. Because it is. Sort of.

Around this time of year I like to help out, to perform a little public service if you will. My small effort in The Weekend Sun to make life a little easier for you comes in the form of recommending Christmas presents. And specifically, local music as Christmas presents.  I realise that compared to rebuilding quake-ravaged houses in Kaikoura or even volunteering at the Tauranga foodbank – which is highly recommended – this is a very minor way to assist society. But if you give the gift of local music, everybody wins – you, the recipient, and the musicians. And with the increasing scarcity of CDs, an album will almost immediately become a collector's item. I must confess, however, that local pickings are a little thin on the ground this year. We'll get to them. First up though, some international thoughts.

The boss is back!

Amazingly, it seems like February's Springsteen concert has yet to sell out. I've already seen The Boss a few times but you better believe that, despite the nose-bleeding cost, I was first online to grab tickets when they went on sale. Because his live shows are THAT GOOD! Why did I write that in capital letters? Because that's what Bruce does. In the second ‘Springsteen Christmas Recommendation' slot is the man's new biography ‘Born To Run' and if Bruce has something important to say he SAYS IT IN CAPITALS. Lest that make you suspect that the book is not entirely serious – since serious books rarely feature such EXCITABLE text – let me assure you it is. Bruce talks at length about issues with depression and struggles with the biz and the band. In fact, of all the Springsteen tomes I've read this is probably the least flattering, though you do get some feeling for the extraordinary drive, determination and ambition he harboured. But after reading it I'm quite happy that he's a hero of mine, not a friend...

Dylan for the devoted

Moving on, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that the Bob Dylan devotee in your life (doesn't everyone have one?) would be effusively grateful for the new 36-CD set collecting every live show Dylan played in 1966. It is called, somewhat unimaginatively ‘The 1966 Live Recordings'. Now I realise that every additional sentence about this will almost certainly put you off even more than reading the words “36CD-set” (unless you are the aforementioned Dylan devotee), but here goes: there are 23 concerts in all, though for four the sound quality is very poor; Bob played THE SAME SET every night except once when he changed the last song; the 36 CDs therefore contain only 18 different songs (one played only once). This was, of course, the tour where Dylan was regularly booed. There is plenty of that. If you bought the famous concert released a few years ago where someone yelled “Judas” (which is here too), you might have an idea of the audience's level of displeasure. But none of that will prepare you for the show in Glasgow, which sounds like a riot is about to break out at any moment. It's the scariest concert recording I've ever heard. And all because a folk singer decided to change his acoustic guitar for an electric…

Folk music from local folk

Now, just in time, the first of this year's local releases (I'll have more next week). Local folk duo My Pennyworth, comprising Paul Hoggard and Penny Rowsell, released their fourth CD ‘Passages In Time' back in March. They are a well-travelled duo, who tour both the North and South islands. ‘Passages in Time' contains 15 original songs recorded at their home studio in Aongatete and adds a touch of country to their easy-listening brand of folk music. The songs talk of everyday life and experiences and are largely played acoustically with guitars, mandolin and the occasional piano. Paul and Penny both sing and harmonise well. A classy group of guests pop up along the way including the Hamilton County Bluegrass Band's Paul Trenwith on banjo, Jess Hinden on violin and Peter Parnham (bass and dobro).                                                      

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