As promised, here’s an update on the Albanian record I told you about last year (and badgered you for Kickstarter contributions to fund it).
We (my wife and co-producer Andrea Goertler and our partner-in-music Edit Pula) raised the money – thanks to many of you – and recorded it in Tirana last autumn. It was mixed in London in January and we then set about finding a label to release it.
At the 2015 Womex conference in Budapest, I met an American named Chris Eckman who runs Glitterbeat label. Ever since then, I kept seeing that name: Glitterbeat as “Womex Label of Year” three years running; Glitterbeat releases raved about in the Guardian; fRoots and Songlines; Glitterbeat on top of the European ‘world music’ radio play charts. Why not start at the top?
Eckman responded immediately upon hearing the mixes – Glitterbeat loved the record. He runs the label from his adopted home of Ljubjana, so he flew to Tirana to meet us and a deal was quickly done. Our all-star group of musicians and singers was named “Saz’iso”, and the album was titled (after a line in one of the songs about a boy yearning for the girl next door) “At Least Wave Your Handkerchief At Me: the Joys and Sorrows of Southern Albanian Song”. Release date for this is October 13 – UK tour starting November 1.
Agonizing over the running order, organizing photos, commissioning transcriptions and translations of the lyrics, and asking Albania’s great Saze expert, Vasil Tole to write a historical essay; the seemingly endless work of preparing the package and promotional materials began. Andrea has been tireless – cajoling and researching, reconciling different opinions about regional dialect in the Albanian lyrics and nuanced translations; her life-long appreciation of good cd packages has not been for naught. I think everyone will agree that the texts in the cd booklet – and the vinyl package – reveal a fascinating world previously invisible to non-Albanians.
OK, enough backstory. Here’s a link to the Glitterbeat soundcloud site where you can hear the album’s opening track:
And this is the Glitterbeat artist page with the full press release (including a plug from Ry Cooder…)
So thanks again to all of you who encouraged and supported us – I think you’ll like it! I’ve really enjoyed being back in the studio again and seeing an idea take shape and manifest itself as an object! (I always liked that about records as opposed to films or books – the shorter time gap between impulse and result.) Working once again with Jerry Boys, the engineer I’ve travelled the world with in the past, has been great, as has collaborating with my co-producers. If I’d had partners like this in the past, I’d have been a way better producer!
Some of you may have heard me bemoan the post-Sixties fate of the Incredible String Band – renowned and successful for about five years, their fame declined as the Seventies dawned. One fateful moment occurred Friday night at the Woodstock Festival when rain led them to postpone their appearance to the following afternoon; by then the magical atmosphere of the previous wet evening had been blasted out of existence by blazing sun, drugs and exhaustion. They sounded pale after Canned Heat and were left on the cutting room floor of the film and the album.
Their flowery image was destined to be the first thing jettisoned and mocked by generations looking back at that wondrous decade. A decline in the quality of their song-writing didn’t help matters, nor did their flirtation with Scientology. But I still love listening to the early albums – the first five to be precise. (Rhino has just put out a box set of those classics – only £12 on Amazon when I last checked.)
Could this be a sign of a small revival of interest? Another positive sign is that the Edinburgh Festival has commissioned us (me and my colleagues Catherine Steinmann and Bryn Ormrod) to produce a tribute to their songs this year: August 17 at the Playhouse. Come to Scotland! Hear some of the best songs to emerge from the Sixties!
I’ll sign off with the official press release (which I wrote). See you in Edinburgh! And like buses back in the old days, you wait months for a Boyd Newsletter and two come along in rapid succession – Friday I’ll give you the good news about the Albanian recording project.
“The music of The Incredible String Band always defied categorization. Was it psychedelic folk? World Music ahead of its time? The avant-garde end of the Sixties singer-songwriter movement? In truth, it was at heart an outgrowth of the fertile and strange world of early ’60s Edinburgh, with its deft folk musicians, its world-travellers, its Bohemian fringe and its psychotropic explorers.
“VERY CELLULAR SONGS”, a tribute to the songs of the Incredible String Band” boasts a Politti” was a seminal ’80s pop modernist; he had left his native Wales under a cloud after inserting a single gold ear-ring in emulation of the other half of the original ISB, Robin Williamson. HITCHCOCK and GARTSIDE represent the individualistic, even eccentric, sector of British music that could be said to have been carved out by Heron and Williamson in the 1960s.
Never forgetting how fundamentally Scottish the band was in inspiration and in spirit, our concert also features three of the most original and important voices in this land’s current music scene: KARINE POLWART, ALASDAIR ROBERTS and WITHERED HAND. POLWART is well known to EIF audiences from her triumphant one-woman show “Wind Resistance” in 2016, while Roberts has forged acclaimed and original paths with his solo work and in collaborations such as the Furrow Collective. Dan MacCOLL, son of Ewan, who has recently been featured in a glorious show dedicated to his father’s McGUINESS, a keyboard marvel of similar varied pedigree from the Concerto Caledonia to collaborating with Scots folk aristocracy including Alasdair Roberts, and GEORGIA SEDDON, Mike Heron’s daughter, a keyboardist and musicologist who accompanies Mike when they perform with Trembling. Bells.
The concert is curated by JOE BOYD, who produced the Incredible String Band’s records and managed them in the 1960s and has written about that period in his book, “White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s”.
Book Tickets Here