Kindle Is Kind To Me And Amazon is Amazing but


by Norman Warwick

When the river in Hebden Bridge, overflowed its banks and the rest of the town, in the great Boxing Day Flood of 2015, it stole a priceless cd collection and hundreds of books that had formed a compelling personal library.  That was my cd collection and they were my books and I had left them with my brother for safe-keeping in his lock up (Hah) only six weeks earlier when my wife and I left the UK to start a new life here in Lanzarote. The first time we turned on the computer in our new home was when we switched on the Boxing Day BBC news bulletin and there they were, my cds and my books, floating past my former ´office´ at Number I Riverside, in Rochdale, ten miles or so from Hebden Bridge.

I´ve never been the same since, really,…..but I had the sunshine and the scenery for solace and just this year I have begun to replenish my stocks, and have done so by the kindness of Kindle, because of the amazing Amazon and the sounds of Spotify. All my easy reading fiction is available to me for only 9.50 for ten books a month, and that includes massive box sets by particular authors. Because there are so few book shops on Lanzarote in general, and none at all that cater for English Language editions, it is fantastic to be able to order on prime delivery from Amazon of all the hardback books I require on the subjects of film, theatre, music and (auto) biographies. When I saw my books heading out to sea I waved them off with a sinking heart, never thinking I would one day need to build a bigger bookshelf.

There is no such thing as a record store on Lanzarote, and there hasn´t been for twenty years. Thank God that I had downloaded pretty much all my music collection on to my computer before we came over, so I can still listen to all my old favourites  through headphones that kind of chain me to my desk.

Thank God also for my dear wife, who one night a few months ago whispered sweet nothings to me.

¨Spotify´, she breathed. ´You should try Spotify !¨

It didn´t actually sound that enticing, until her recommendation was echoed by Peter Pearson, our Americana correspondent at Sidetracks And Detours. He had some knowledge of Spotify and was prepared to PASS IT ON to me.

I now have a new collection of sounds which has grown existentially from my original collection that seemed to have reached a natural conclusion at the start of this century as so many of my favourite generation of artists went up to join that great jam-session in the sky. Whereas I had given up, partly in despair of ever finding new John Stewarts, Guy Clarks or Townes, Peter had kept looking and when he began writing for our Sunday Supplement I was treated to long lists of names new to me in my favourite genre.

And so I took up Spotify..

Like my parsimonious wife I ignored the premium rate service and took instead the free service that inserts advertising into any playlists I create. Spotify offers access to millions of songs. It allows me to listen to them for free, and then rewards me for taking that opportunity by allowing me to create playlists of those songs and artists I enjoy. Furthermore folks, it even creates playlists on my behalf based on the searches I have made and my own created lists. So, they offer me a daily mix and then a weekly best of list of my recent searches. They also offer, for example, compilations they have made of music by artists similar to John Stewart or Tom Waits. (left).

Let me tell you, though, what a good friend Spotify has become.

They have sent me a Christmas present. There it was, waiting for me on screen when I switched on my computer, I am listening to that present now, even as I type this.

They say the present is a reward for being a good ´customer´ and they have called it 2023 Wrapped. I have ´earned´ this because, they say, I have this year listened to 28 different genres of music including folk, rock, jazz and country but it seems that even Spotify does not yet have a category of Americana.

Spotify has reminded me that I have played 1, 228 songs..and listened to 808 artists, the most frequently played of those being John Stewart, who they say headed my top ten artists. with Emmylou Harris and Chip Taylor (right) making up the top three. Then came Tom Waits and Mark Knopfler, blasts from the past all of them but the Knopfler selections were very much guided by Peter Pearson´s observations in his weekly PASS IT ON column. My listening minutes to these and other artists adds up to almost four consecutive full days.

All those statistics were compiled and shown on my screen by Spotify in a manner that enabled me to share it with friends if I wished. (Good marketing ploy that, of the kind we employ in our Sunday Supplement title of PASS IT ON).

All this was great, but the icing on this particular Yuletide log (or chart?)  was the list of a hundred tracks compiled from my searches and played selections. There they were, a hundred tracks of the best music in the world.

I guess I have to thank our Jazz On Air correspondent, radio broadcaster Steve Bewick. His Hot Biscuits weekly programme often sends me in search of what I hear, and that has somehow led to A Love Supreme by John Coltrane being the most played song on my playlists.

In second place was Carmelita, a track I had almost forgotten by Warren Zevon, and I´m delighted to say that Blue Moon (right) by Karla Harris, and Joe Alterman is in the top three of this great chart. It would be about this time last year that I first heard of Karla and this recording, on Mr. Bewick´s mix-cloud show. If I had to recommend only one of this top hundred it would be this exquisitely played and sung track delivered in a new interpretation by two still new, but already highly respected musicians.  Also in my top ten is another name I first heard on that radio programme. Jenny Bray is a UK artist, who just this month, has a fantastic single called Ringing Bells and a new album, partly recorded in America, called One Hare One Owl. So it is fitting also gracing my top ten is a track called Hot Biscuits by The Last Of The Blue Devils.

There were several new artists, or at least new to me, in my top hundred, and tracks of this nature included Waltz For My Father by Derek Nash and Simple Twist Of Fate, written decades ago by Dylan of course, but here revived by Sarah Jarosz, introduced to me by Peter Pearson, and sure to become a major player in the Americana category. There is also Trinity River by Charley Crockett in the same genre. It is great to see new names in a genre I was beginning to think was fading away. Instead, Americana is now being illuminated by the likes of Billie Strings and Molly Tuttle who delivered a big version of Listen To The Radio, a tribute to Loretta Lyn written by Nanci Griffith that they had recorded for a tribute album to the late writer of the song. It´s in my list. It was Peter Pearson, again, who introduced me to the music of Eric Brace and Peter Cooper, and there they are, too, at number 43 in the Normboard charts, with the gorgeous Wait A Minute.

Guy Clark, John Hiatt and Steve Earle are in the charts amidst others, too, who represent the country becoming Americana on which Peter and I gorged in the seventies, eighties and nineties.

Folkie chart entries include, Stephen Foster, Hoagy Carmichael, Ralph McTell, Joan Baez, Julie Felix and Kate Wolf.

All this and all of your own preferred choices are on Spotify, and we urge you to have look, says the man who might be the last person in the world to have discovered Spotify !

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.