Isn’t it always the case that our favourite bands just so happen to listen to the coolest music? But how did they stumble upon such great tunes? Concentric Circles takes a step through featured artists’ evolving sonic tastebuds, this week focusing on Mama Kin ahead of her International Guitar Festival appearance in Clonakilty.
1. Fugitive Flight Band
Not many people know of them, but when I was born this was the band that my brothers and sisters had formed together. I grew up amidst their gear, falling asleep during their rehearsals, cuddling my sisters while they nutted out vocal harmonies and parts, and generally being a pain in the ass little sister that wanted nothing more than to hang off her older and way cool siblings! They played mostly covers, so it was through them I was introduced to Creedance Clearwater Revival, ABBA, Led Zeppelin, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Charlie Pride, Roy Orbison and the list goes on!! I thought everyone in the world played an instrument because it was all I knew until I started school, and started asking around and realised that things were different out there! My family’s role was music in our community. The band played at every wedding, baptism, birthday party, church on sundays, dinner dance and impromptu house party that there was. That was what the Caruana’s did. Something in that is stitched into my feeling of what life is… a stream of events punctuated and accentuated by music.
2. Joan Armatrading
Joan was a feature in the bedroom of my sister Carmen, who taught me to sing and also introduced me to other greats including Bonnie Raitt and Aretha Franklin. I would lay on her bed with her and we would sing these songs together. They are branded in my mind as “happy place”. I went and saw Joan perform solo last year and I wept as she sang out my beautiful bond with my big sister. I turned to Joan over and over again in my late teens and early twenties when heart broken. Something in her always guided me home. Her raw strength mixed with the teetering pain I could feel in her voice was a comforting reminder that we all have to walk through fire.
3. Stevie Wonder
If Joan Armatrading is the sound of my sisters, then Stevie Wonder is the sound of my brothers. This master of soul funk and groove embedded in me a deep appreciation for sounds and arrangements that are so dirty they make you scowl while you involuntarily nod your head in reverent agreement! I love that he is not afraid to take a groove that makes you move, and add to it content and lyrics that make you think. The master blaster genius of our time.
4. Gillian Welch and David Rawlings
Game changer. A friend gave me this album and I had never heard of Gillian. I casually put it on, and it just stopped me in my tracks. I ended up sitting in front of the stereo, listening in awe as my understanding of a great song re arranged itself for ever! Her pairing with David Rawlings is cosmic. Seeing them live was one of the most spiritual musical experiences of my life. She completely re set the standard of what I thought great songwriting was. To hear someone tell stories through song that were timeless, yet incredibly personal really drove me towards honing my craft. I ended up taking an on line course with Berklee Music under the same instructor that she had worked with, and through there I learnt the creative joy of ‘object writing’. It is now the cornerstone to my writing process.
5. Joan as Policewoman
Another great Joan! She is so wonderful. I love how she blends vulnerable, edgy and powerful so effortlessly. Her melodies slay me, yet she knows how to reach deep into a groove and sit heavily with it. I also really love her string arrangements – most of which I think she writes and records. Hers is one of the best live gigs I have ever been to in my life. I really love the evolution she threads into her album cycles. In each of her albums i can really hear her growing, and stretching herself, playing with and pushing into new sonic or groove territories. I am quite awed by her. I think I would be a bumbling awkward if we were ever in a room together.
6. Cary Ann Hearst
I am just loving this womans stuff. She is now releasing music with Michael Trent, her partner in life and music under the name of Shovels and Rope. Their latest self titled album is just brilliant. She reminds me that keeping it simple and raw can still be heavy and dirty. I have a long standing love for harmony, I love to hear someone’s aching soul through their voices, that stops me in my tracks and raises the hair on my skin, and I yearn for a deep groove filthy pocket. She ticks all of these boxes for me. Love. Her.
Mama Kin plays Clonakilty International Guitar Festival on 19th (De Barra’s) & 20th (O’Donovan’s) September 2015
The Magician’s Daughter by Mama Kin is available from all good record shops