Another week. And in Wellington the weather is turning, it’s getting colder. A few nice days, but it was no summer. Not really. I’m not mourning it by the way - just noticing it. I love reading, writing, watching TV and movies and listening to records, so I don’t need great weather for any of that to happen. And it’s almost a hindrance when it does.
This week the shoe was on the other foot, as it were, I was a podcast guest. Gavin Hewitson has a podcast called “Gavin Learns”. He chats to people, finds out about them. He and I met late last year and at first hatched a plan to record a podcast where we interviewed each other - then sharing the same podcast episode to our audiences, via our networks. But in the end it was better for me to be his guest and then, at another time, for him to be my guest.
Gavin’s podcast is on YouTube - so you can click there to subscribe or check out his previous episodes (there’s 32 in total, so far). If you’re into audio-only then you can find his pod on the usual platforms also.
And here’s the video of me and Gavin chatting - I talk about podcasting, writing, reviewing music and comedy. That sort of thing.
I returned the favour by posting my chat with Gavin (where I ask the questions, steer the conversation) as the episode of Sweetman Podcast for this week (audio only, as per usual).
The Taite Music Prize finalists were announced yesterday. I think this is a bit of joke really, and so I had a chat with Dylan Taite about the finalists. I don’t think he likes the award using his name anymore…
Monday’s newsletter about Dave Chappelle had me not only watching a bunch of Chappelle’s Show episodes and various Dave standup clips but also sent me back into the worlds of two of his obvious heroes. Eddie Murphy is one of the guests on Marc Maron’s podcast this week. And I thoroughly recommend this chat. It’s fascinating to think back on what a rock star Eddie was. And how he has managed that ever since. And the guy that Chappelle is often compared to, and who also started it all for Murphy, and many others, is of course Richard Pryor. I’m often thinking about Richard Pryor, reading about him, revisiting his work - but this week I started to go in deep; the first comedy albums he released are now reissued in 50th Anniversary editions.
I watched his first filmed stand-up special and the autobiographical film that Pryor wrote and directed - 1986’s Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling, it’s weird, and very nearly wonderful. I also - and forgive me, wrote a poem about Richard Pryor. I guess I just love the way everything is connected, and revisiting Chappelle’s work sent me down various wormholes as a result.
One of my all-time favourite bands is The Necks. I’ve written about them a lot (here are reviews of their most recent records). The band’s pianist, Chris Abrahams also releases solo records - and his latest, Appearance is sublime, and probably his most Necks-like. Chris was born in New Zealand, Oamaru I believe. I feel like this isn’t super well known and definitely not celebrated as much as it should be. His professional career and life has been spent in Australia and he might only have played in New Zealand a couple of times but he is surely one of our greatest musicians.
Gwenifer Raymond’s second album builds on the first, really cementing her sound from within the influences. She’s an acoustic, fingerstyle guitarist, think John Fahey as the obvious touchstone. But Ralph Towner too. Elizabeth Cotten. Mississippi John Hurt. Turns out there’s some pretty deep acoustic, instrumental folk-blues emanating from a tiny town in Wales.
I love this style of guitar playing so much. And she’s my new favourite. A total find. So happy to have made this discovery. I hope some of you like it too, or at least check out her work. It won’t be for everyone. And as I always say, that’s probably the best thing about it.
Kristiana Roemer’s debut album was a lovely surprise. She’s a jazz singer, leading a great band, shades of mid-period Joni Mitchell. I’m reminded of Kurt Elling and Patricia Barber also. And they’re modern jazz vocalists that push the envelope. And Roemer, I think, is an enormous talent. I already want to hear more.
Max Merritt’s final album was posthumously released. Recorded across the last 20 years of his life it’s got some very nice songs and performances. And is worth checking out.
The band Tindersticks is always doing something interesting. Their latest record might be one of their very best. Some amazing cover versions (Dory Previn, Neil Young) and shades of The Blue Nile in the laidback delivery. A lovely, calming album.
And speaking of calming, I’ve just written a review of Moby’s new ambient record. Even if you’ve never ever been a Moby fan you might like to check out his ambient recordings (there are two four hour chill playlists he made a few years back). This is a set of live performances, recorded in lockdown. No writing ahead of recording, no editing after, just capturing piano and synth compositions as they happen. Really nice to drift to.
I’m into Bill Bailey’s new book, a Guide To Happiness, ahead of seeing his show tonight.
Also, and I’m lucky to have advance copies of both of these, they are due for release next month I believe…I have (and have started) Richard Thompson’s memoir (it details the first decade of his professional career, late 60s into early 70s). It’s wonderful. Because it’s Richard Thompson.
And I’m very excited to have the new book by Willy Vlautin.
Vlautin is an extraordinary novelist - who also happens to have a brilliant music career. Maybe you remember his band Richmond Fontaine. There’s about a dozen albums by them, most of them great, some of them brilliant. In recent years he has put out a handful of books, all of them great. He writes like Bukowski and Hemingway and Carver and Steinbeck but with more compassion than any of them. And because he’s not busy enough being a great novelist he's back making music, writing songs (and playing guitar) for a band fronted by a female voice. The Delines make the best music. And if some of Vlautin’s other novels have echoed the feel of his Richmond songs, I get the feeling just from the back cover and first words that The Night Always Comes could have been a Delines song in another life.
I rewatched a couple of films to write some DVD reviews. Loved Shirley all over again, brilliant movie. Didn’t love Woody Allen’s A Rainy Day In New York, didn’t flatout hate it, but had a go at contextualising it all the same.
I’m a fairweather fan when it comes to pro-wrestling these days, but it was a big part of my childhood/early teen years. And then again I got hooked on it a decade or so ago and did a bunch of writing about it. Occassionally something grabs me though (pardon the pun) and I got a bit nostalgic watching the 2020 Survivor Series because they officially retired the character The Undertaker, 30 years after his debut at the same event back in 1990. Okay, I’m aware I lost most of you just then, if not before.
Um, I finally finished Breaking Bad, so can stop mentioning it. Blitzed through S.5 this week. Didn’t hate it. Probably the best season. But also didn’t love it. Now I can move on at least. Time to start properly watching Schitt’s Creek and see why everyone raves. Only one season in, and don’t hate it at all but so far it’s a bog-standard comedy if anything.
Have to say I was not blown away by the Billie Eilish documentary. She’s probably got a story to tell one day. But it’s in ten years, surely. Not now, when they rely on far too much concert footage. And, yeah yeah, I know I’m not the target market, and I know it’s The Style but I hate the way she sings.
Still, some people really loved the film. And most of them had pure intentions I’m sure.
No new podcasts for me, and all the new albums I got to I also reviewed and shared above. Big focus remained Kate Bush as Tuesday March 16 I’ll be on RNZ after the 2pm news presenting a feature all about Kate Bush’s life and music.
The Auckland Writers Festival program was launched - what a lineup! Fingers crossed it gets to go ahead in the way they have planned.
Sweetman Podcast # 248 - Nadia Freeman (aka Miss Leading) - you might not have heard of Nadia but she’s a spoken word artist and songwriter. And we had a great chat about all things poetry.
Selected Works: Martyn Pepperell’s Substack - Wellington-based music/culture writer Martyn Pepperell sends out a weekly newsletter with picks and tips and great, great photos. Martyn’s a mate, we chat online a lot. But I want to share some love to his Substack newsletter. Also it’s free. So sign up and check it out.
Please add your own must-see/must-listen/must-read links or tips below.
And finally, I send out a playlist (or two) every week as part of Friday’s (paid subscribers) newsletter. But I want to share a freebie playlist today. It’s not one I’ve made and you maybe won’t thank me for it at all - but I’m listening to it right now (while I’ve been writing this) and I’m loving (most of) it.
Mark Knopfler is not to everyone’s taste - though many of course know how extraordinary he is. But not everyone knows how much sideman work he’s done, guesting with a solo, producing, writing hits for others (Tina Turner’s Private Dancer is a Mark Knopfler original that never ended up on a Dire Straits song. So, on his official Spotify channel there’s an ongoing playlist of his collaborations. A lot of it is pretty great.