fri 27/11/2020

Americana

Hutchings, Britten Sinfonia, Paterson, Barbican online review – saluting an American classic

When Aaron Copland wrote his most beloved work, Appalachian Spring, in 1943/44, he gave it the unfussy working title of “Ballet for Martha” – Martha being the choreographer Martha Graham, for whom he’d written the score. It was only shortly before...

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Little Wars, Union Theatre online review - richly emotional, but formulaic

Feuds make good theatre. I mean, look at the furious 1970s spat between playwright Lillian Hellman and critic Mary McCarthy. Yikes. So far, I’ve counted three recent stage versions: in 2002 there was Nora Ephron’s Imaginary Friends, followed in 2014...

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Shirley review - hothouse art film about American horror writer

Shirley is one of those films that the mood you’re in when you watch it will dictate whether you think it’s a great psychological horror movie or overheated and pretentious. Go to the cinema wanting to be plunged into a fever dream of gothic...

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Singer-songwriter Mary Chapin Carpenter: 'I wanted to do something. I wanted to be useful in some way'

Music has never been more important than in these dark, dislocating and death-stalked days, fear and grief visiting us in ways once unimaginable. The lack of live music – the lack even of the possibility of live music in the near future – is an...

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Album: Bright Eyes - Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was

During the first decade of this century Conor Oberst was critically anointed as a successor to the likes of Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen. It didn’t seem to make him very happy. His project Bright Eyes, with musical prodigies Nate Walcott...

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Album: The Jayhawks - XOXO

If one song best captures the overall mood of XOXO, it's the Beatles-meets-country strains of "Living in a Bubble". The punchy lyrics offer a timely warning about the effect of 24-hour news. The real impact, however, comes from the gentle, acoustic...

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Album: Neil Young - Homegrown

In the series one finale of metal-detecting sitcom Detectorists, Lance fills in a hole he’s dug after unearthing nothing more than a rusted ring-pull. As the camera pans downwards, we see the riches that were hiding beneath. He was looking in the...

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Album: Larkin Poe - Self Made Man

Larkin Poe are an American blues-rock band fronted by the Lovell sisters, Rebecca and Megan, both mainstays of the US Americana scene since their teens, at the start of this century. Best known in Europe for their fired-up gigs and festival...

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A Streetcar Named Desire, National Theatre at Home review - world on fire

The National Theatre’s triumphant march through its archive of NT Live recordings continues this week with a glorious blaze of a show. Starring Gillian Anderson, Ben Foster and Vanessa Kirby, this 2014 revival of Tennessee Williams’s 1947 modern...

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Album: Steve Earle & The Dukes - Ghosts of West Virginia

Guy Clark, Steve Earle’s mentor and champion and the singer-songwriter to whom he paid homage on his 2019 album, once said that “songs aren’t finished until you play them for people”. By which he surely meant live, creating that vibe for which the...

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Album: Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit - Reunions

Like his friend the late John Prine, Jason Isbell is a master storyteller. His skill, like Prine’s, is to inhabit the characters he sings about so fully, and with such empathy, that it can be difficult to tell where the songwriter ends and the story...

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Album: X – Alphabetland

It’s 35 years since the original and best loved line up of X last released any new material: the less than special Ain’t Love Grand. Somewhat unexpectedly then, a new album, Alphabetland has appeared out of the ether and it’s certainly up there with...

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