“I hate a song that makes you think that you are not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose. Bound to lose.No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are too old or too young or too fat or too slim too ugly or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or hard travelling.… I am out to fight those songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood. I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter what colour, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work.” – Woody Guthrie
Muddy Summers and the Dirty Field Whores is an informal collaboration between Gail Something-Else and a variety of other musicians who as the name implies meet and often jam together on the festival circuit; all the songs start out as poems, then lend themselves to different instrumental arrangements, but can be read as they stand. This is actually Gail’s second album, the first being credited to Ms Something-Else and the Reverend Phil Dread, who also crops up on this one.
The album can be ordered online or, conscious of the fact that many of our class do not have money for food let alone entertainment, downloaded on Pay What You Can for anything or nothing. Of course Woody gave his music away and the Clash encouraged people to tape their records, they just wanted you to hear what they had to say.
First up is an acoustic version of the magnificent ‘Beat the Rich’ my favourite track from the last set. It has morphed from a sort of electro reggae beat to what might actually be a tango, played by Tony Hopkins. Must admit I’m still stuck on the electric version, but this does emphasise the vocals.
Gail’s voice is sweet and haunting, with a strange inflection that seems to combine toughness and vulnerability in a way that’s hard to pin down, the mood shifts constantly, ice and fire, rage and graveyard humour. The voice comes into its own on ‘Silent screams’ recorded with Fool’s chaos; a catchy and finely crafted pop song that reflects Gail’s growing musical sophistication.
‘Status’ is much more my line, a jolly Latin tune with witty lyrics about alienation, commodity fetishism and reification, ending in an exhortation to smash the television. ‘Old time’ is mellow and atmospheric and reminds me a little of Nick Drake, so I just had to check who played guitar on it and it seems it was Gail herself!
There follows a new version of the well-known ‘Parody’ with a simple piano accompaniment which focuses the mind on the absurdity of consumer culture, then the old live favourite ‘Fascist Fuck Train’ featuring the legendary Doozer on guitar.
‘Poor little rich boy’ is socially conscious filth as only Ms Something-Else can dish it up; I’m not going into it, you’ll just have to listen to the bloody record! The tune by Bellicose is jazzy dub, with some muted trumpety bits going on*. ‘The Dress’ with Lee Bowers is vintage psychedelia, which takes me right back to, er, somewhere I’ve been.
* You’ve probably gathered by now that I know more about dissident politics than I do about music.
An abrupt change of mood follows; ‘Dear Riot Copper’ is a true story and very personal. Just one tale from the 26th of March 2011, the TUCs ‘march for the alternative’ a day few of us will ever forget; the cops having been shown up all afternoon by a cheeky black bloc tried to redeem themselves by battering some kids having a party in Trafalgar square. The lyrics are spoken evenly over the Rev P’s electronics. This is for all those who still think the police are just workers in uniform doing a very difficult job. Their job is of course impossible, as their masters would have them confine the entire economy into an ever-tightening kettle. It also begs the question: what kind of person would see fit to bash someone as eminently reasonable as Gail Something-Else over the head? I’ll leave that one with you.
The answer lies with the next track, which opens an older wound and goes back to the source of the violence; ‘Warren James’ has the makings of an English rebel classic. A contemporary of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, James is the folk hero of the Forest of Dean; transported for riot in 1831 after an abortive attempt by several thousand forest Freeminers to return the land to commons, his name is still invoked in social struggles locally. Like the Swing rebellion, this incident has largely been written out of popular historical narrative.
Two centuries ago, in the tumultuous 40-year period between the enclosure acts and the poor law, modern capitalism was born hand-in-hand with the present-day concept of law enforcement; the people having been dispossessed of the land were forced into wage labour and the police force was founded to keep them there. Only the pious Tolpuddle martyrs and the rowdy Luddites have made it into the schoolbooks – and our illustrious leaderless army that tied up 16,000 troops for 3 years is misrepresented as a mob of backward superstitious yokels – this is our history and we want it back!
What would Woody Guthrie be doing if he were still around? ‘For the when’ has a menacing beat and an eerie woodwind motif with contrasting voice clips from Tony Benn and David Cameron, it contemplates the rollercoaster of doubt and certainty, isolation and comradeship, which is the activist’s path. ‘Weirdos in my inbox’ is a humorous talking blues over a techno beat; a side-splitter with sinister overtones, watch out for the punch line! The title track closes the album, stark and minimal, the poem is chanted over a simple war drum, and it works extremely well.
The brilliant, endlessly active Gail Something-Else has recorded a new Muddy Summers album, and the project and lady at the centre of it, is showing signs of confidence and musical identity that suggest that these songs will be heard in festivals for many years.
The album kicks off with a great call to arms delivered with gritted teeth, reminiscent of Siouxsie Sioux, with a stark acoustic guitar backing. It brilliantly sets the tone for the album, and shines in its choice of production. Again, the production is impressive, although completely different, in the second track, “Silent Screams”, a more reflective tone to a more personal song of relationship breakdown. Here, brilliant, beautiful lyrics lay above crisp, effective electronic backing. “Status” that follows it is back on the bigger picture, with her excellent observations on the way we divide ourselves through wealth and opportunity poetically dovetailing the mandolin riff that runs through the track. Her call for everyone to “use your brain for what it’s meant for” is a great way to finish this lyrical track. The tone shifts again for the track “Old Time”, again musically and lyrically; a gentle sense of frustration running through the track. “Parody” is a brilliant condemnation of David Cameron’s policies. The track is backed almost entirely by the piano, which adds to the satiric tone of the track, with reminders of US satirists from decades ago. The tone shifts again, with the unmistakable appearance of Doozer McDooze’s rhythm guitar. “Fascist Fuck Train” has already been played at many festivals around the country and I can see it running for a long time. Again, Gail mixes more metaphorical lines with aggressive, less poetic lines beautifully. Her references are spot on, and the observations are educated and borne from experience and awareness. Binks McWobbla provides a very different backing to “Poor Little Rich Boy”, which gives Gail a more seductive palette to make more commentary on the wealth divide dominating our lives. The trumpet and organ melodies dance around the vocals and give the track an improvised, “wilder” sound. Lee Bowers is Gail’s partner on “The Dress” which features a pretty hardcore delay effect on the vocals, which takes some getting used to, but it’s a brilliant song, with great lyrics and lovely backing from Lee Bower’s guitar. “Dear Riot Copper” is easily one of the best tracks on the album; powerful, atmospheric, perfectly phrased and clearly from direct personal experience. The gentle rap style fits the dramatic electronica well, with the song building up towards the last verse with the very serious repercussions of Gail’s experience laid out in the song. “Warren James” is a live track that acts as a more “traditional” protest song; an equally powerful troubadour song that lays out the story of the Forest of Dean riots in 1831. This song is the most folk influenced song, but the variety of styles throughout the album is a real testament to Gail’s versatility. Gail uses Cameron’s creepy voice for a powerful effect on “For the when”, a dark song that provides more commentary on being a victim of this present government’s attitude. In complete contrast, Doozer McDooze returns for a hilarious song about the ridiculous flotsam and jetsam that we encounter online, with a funny, but pretty finite finishing statement in the last words of the song. “Monkey on my back” is a lovely finish; a tribal chant that rounds off the themes of the album with typical inventiveness.
This album is the best piece of work Gail has recorded. She has assembled an excellent array of collaborators around her, while proving that she can record and write great backing tracks by herself. As a whole, the songs are consistent, powerful and immediate. I would recommend this to the legions of people that feel frustrated by the anti-social policies we keep experiencing from the present government. Gail tells it like it is, and there are too few people doing that.
We’re skint, but we know some of you are, too, so this album is pay what you want. If you can, do, and if you can’t, have it anyway!
Muddy Summers and the Dirty Field Whores is a collaboration project, and this album wouldn’t be possible without the beautifully talented likes of Doozer McDooze, Tony Hopkins, Rev Phil Dread, Binks McWobbla (Bellicose), Fool’s Chaos and Lee Bowers. Love you all..Gail xxx
released 12 July 2013
All words/vocals/voice – Gail Something-Else
Tracks 1 & 10 – Tony Hopkins
Track 2 – Fool’s Chaos
Tracks 6 & 12 – Doozer McDooze
Track 7 – Binks McWobbla (Bellicose)
Track 8 – Lee Bowers
Track 9 – Rev Phil Dread
Tracks 3,4,5,11,13 – Gail Something-Else
Combe Haven Defenders are on a mission to stop Osbourne’s Road to Nowhere near Bexhill in East Sussex. A three month reprieve is imminent IF they can get enough support on the site up to the 1st March when the hedgerows become protected for nesting birds. If you can get there, do it! More details on their site HERE.
DJ Ray ‘Rude Boy’ Gange, Puddock Stew, Ms. Something-Else (me), Charlie Bateman (Thinker) and Ukulele Dave played a benefit gig for them at The Roomz in Hastings t’other day, and had the proper craic!
Well, it’s shaping up to be a very exciting year already! For starters I’ve been on a bit of a writing and recording frenzy. Seventeen new songs are now tapped into my laptop and three are up on Soundcloud for free download.
First up is Not Nowhere – a collaboration with Sdooley. Unusually for me, it contains some stuff that I wrote ages ago combined with some new words. Seems I’ve broken the habit of ‘if it’s not finished now it never will be.’
It’s about Sleep Paralysis – a condition I’ve had since I was a teenager which kicks in with a vengeance during times of stress - and it’s been kicking my arse for the last four months or so. Not anymore though. A good friend of mine suggested I use placebo and write who or what was bothering me on a scrap of paper and then burn it. I half-heartedly tried it just after the latest SP bout started, but it didn’t really work properly, so I tried again a couple of weeks ago and must have meant it, as that problem is definitely out of my life now…
Next up is Old Time. It’s for a friend who has helped me a lot in recent weeks and in return I’ve helped them. Mutual Aid – you have to love it, especially when it’s so energising. It’s about not being scared to be, to not be too proud to take a helping hand when you need it, to not let the past and folks in it rot your head and to love the now for what it is, not what it might turn into…
Enough of the hippy healing bollocks then and back to politics! It’s been a while since I collaborated with Bellicose, but he pulled a blinder out of one of his delightful hats for me this time. I thought I had some dirty words for it, but then new ones came when I started recording the vocals. It’s an anti-Workfare song with a dose of personal fantasy thrown in and delivered in full sleaze mode. Fitting, and who wouldn’t want to torture Cameron and his cronies?! It’s dedicated to every filthy rich, greedy shithead on the planet. Let me at ‘em!!