My real name is not James Bell, but James Baldwin. Not a lot of people know that.

And I changed it for a number of reasons, but one reason was that there was someone who had already made that name famous, and I had no desire to try to compete for it. The other one, James Arthur Baldwin, was like my relatives Stanley Baldwin and Rudyard Kipling in the fact (and perhaps only alike in this fact) that when I was young I got the sense that grown-ups generally didn’t really approve of him, but I was never quite sure why. I feel I have a clearer picture on all of them now: Stanley Baldwin is still seen by many as being an appeaser to Hitler (don’t get my father started on this!), and Rudyard Kipling… well, read the poem White Man’s Burden if you want a jumping-off point for that debate. And my namesake? He just didn’t believe. He didn’t believe in the dream, that soon black children and white children would be joining hands together and singing in the spirituals of old: free at last, free at last, thank god almighty, we are free at last. Continue reading

Monthly recommendation #1. The documentary film Heaven Adores You about musician Elliott Smith.

If you’ve been here before you might well know that I am a bit of a fan of Elliott Smith. Just over 2 years ago I wrote a long and winding blog about… maybe more the enigma than the man. This documentary goes some way, I reckon, to dispersing the enigma. And for a fan it is utterly fascinating. Continue reading

Monthly recommendation #2, and a slight departure from the norm: a fantastic resource (that I’ve been using for years) for anyone interested in playing traditional English tunes. Particularly useful if you fancy playing at a folk session like the one we hold in Iffley.

These two books by Nick Barber have nearly 200 tunes in them – many of which will be familiar to sessioners countrywide.

But one little tip: if you do feel like buying them, get them from him directly at the link below, as I’m told he doesn’t actually make any money from sales on other websites.

Or alternatively, you can go to Sidmouth Folk Week and find him in the Radway Inn, and buy them off him in person!

Current Favourite Tune:

Impossible to say. Depends on the day really. Today it’s probably the Gypsy Hornpipe. (I likes a good hornpipe, me.)


Monthly recommendation #3.

In 2011 a group of economics students at The University of Manchester started a revolt. They put forward the claim that the economics that they were being taught – the same economics that underpinned the global financial system before the 2010 crash, and continues to do so in Britain and the US – was, to use an academic term, a heap of fucking bullshit.

They set up the Post-Crash Economics Society. They were written about in the media. That said, the orthodox economists are still preaching the same old gospel. 

One of the very few economics academics rebelling against the orthodoxy is Cambridge University professor Ha-Joon Chang. Continue reading

Monthly Recommendation #1.  Rosie is one of those musicians I’ve known for very nearly ever.  She has a voice and a style unlike anyone else I’ve heard, and I was going to recommend this track from her last album, but then ‘The Swell’ came along.  Her songs often flow in a stream of consciousness, and this one really captures that.  At least part of the credit should go to producer Niko O’Brien at Upcycled Sounds, for really getting that weird dreamy oceanic sound down – particularly at 1 min 35 secs when the groove kicks in. Continue reading

Monthly Recommendation #2.  Not the sort of song most people would associate with Led Zeppelin.  (And not ‘Food In The Rain’, as I initially typed.)  As I understand it, Robert Plant’s son had recently died, and he since said he just wasn’t emotionally ready to get out there and sing songs about where he wanted to stick his cock.  So, on Zeppelin’s last album, we get this sweet and yet also awesomely funky song. Continue reading