' I've lost the power I had to distinguish between what to ignite and what to extinguish' – Rowland S. Howard

Month: August, 2013

There IS a balm in Gilead, Paul Robeson

Lately when feeling depressed or fed up about life, have been listening to this great version of this classic spiritual.

Should add here that, despite recent posts, I am not religious myself but an admirer of great music, in whatever form it takes:

Will add Mavis Staples’ beautiful version of ‘In Christ there is no East or West’, here

In The Garden, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Randy Travis

Was at a gospel choir here in Sydney recently and they did a great version of this country gospel song, which I had not heard before.

This sent me looking for other versions of the song on You Tube yesterday and I came up with these three which are my current favourites. Have placed them in ascending order (the last is my favourite – a magnificent version by Randy Travis – one of those occasions where he finds a song that is worthy of that great country voice. I like the other two, but it would have been good if George Jones had recorded it earlier in his career. His voice is somewhat wavery here, but it adds an air of vulnerability to his version, which fits with the theme of the song.

This is George Jones’ version:

Here is Merle’s Haggard’s version, which has a nice ‘Dixieland’ feel, at times:

This, to my mind, however, stands out as the definitive reading of this great song:

There is also an Elvis’ version, which I mean to check out

“In Christ there is no East or West- John Fahey

Have just recently discovered this great instrumental by the excellent American guitarist, John Fahey:

For comparison purposes, here is the version by one of the great guitarists of recent times, Leo Kottke (not as good as Fahey’s, I think, but still a fine performance, if a bit inclined to grand-standing):

To my mind, this belongs up there with ‘Anji’ as one of the great guitar tunes. Here’s the classic version by Bert Jansch:

And the original by Davy Graham:

Lord Franklin

Have been meaning for some time to feature some cover versions of this great song – possibly my favourite folk song -here. The song is probably best known today as the source for ‘Bob Dylan’s dream’ on Freewheeling, but the original song is a superior one to Dylan’s version in almost every way. It deals in an imaginative way with a real tragedy, whereas Dylan’s song, as Michael Gray has pointed out, is weighed down by a ‘ponderous’ (and rather egocentric) nostalgia.

Will start with my two favourite versions – this is, I think, the definitive one by Kevin Burke and the late great Micheál Ó’Domhnaill:

A close second to it is this great version by Martin Carthy (from whom Dylan learned the song):

This version (a sample only, unfortunately) by John Renbourn – from his Live in Italy cd – also brings a distinctive sensibility to the song and features some remarkably deft guitar work:


This is my favourite Renbourn version of the song, but another full one can be seen here:

Robbie Murphy, Bert Jansch, Phil Ochs

To follow on from my last post, here are two songs as a tribute to Robert.

The first is ‘High Days’ from Bert Jansch’s last album, ‘The Black Swan’:

The second is Phil Ochs’ great song, ‘When I’m Gone’

Robbie Murphy, John Martyn, One World, Kevin Hewick

A few tracks from Robbie Murphy, who passed away recently:


I knew Robbie (or ‘Robert’ as I knew him_ in Ireland in the 1970s/80s and although we drifted out of contact over the years, I have very fond memories of him from that time.

I have particularly fond memories of a few days that Robert stayed with me in the West of Ireland in the mid-80s. He had been busking his way around the country and had eventually got passed the Shannon. We had several late night drinking sessions, after which we went back to where I was staying and had long conversations (as was Robert’s wont) about life, the universe and everything. What stood out for me at that time was Robert’s warmth, empathy and wit…

We were both big fans of John Martyn’s music at the time and I remember Robbie’s favourite song of his being “One World’. Every time I hear it from now on, it will bring back memories of his gentle, generous and idealistic spirit…

Would also add that, apart from his own music, Robert (as I knew him) also produced a number of albums by local musicians in Leicester – most notably, perhaps, Kevin Hewick’s fine album, Doomcloud, which can be downloaded from here: