Thursday, August 26, 2010

'When the stars align..'

A decade or so ago, one of my favorite albums was "Songs From Stamford Hill" by a band called Wood, led by singer-songwriter James Maddock from Leicester.

I thought the album's opening track, "Stay You" was one of the most perfect pop songs I'd ever heard. I still do.

But then, after such an outstanding debut and with the world seemingly at his feet, Maddock fell off rock and roll's radar screen.

Until last year, when he released what is simply a sublime collection of music, called "Sunrise on Avenue C". Full of beautiful, mature songwriting with pristine melodies, there is not one makeweight track on this record, while some of the songs, like "When You Go Quiet", "Fragile" and "Ruins" are just timeless. If redemption has a sound, this is it.

We went along to the Rockwood Music Hall last night to see him play a short solo set which included a handful of new songs just as clever, just as infectious, as any in his existing catalog. There's a live album - recorded at the Rockwood - upcoming, and the positive industry buzz around Maddock is again growing.

It's great to see him getting the sort of respect he deserves as a songwriter. If you get a chance to see him play, drop everything and get along.

Check out this show he did - with band - for the World Cafe, broadcast by NPR towards the end of last year.

And here's a nice acoustic version of 'Stay You'.


On a sadder note, twenty years ago tonight, Stevie Ray Vaughan played his last show, an open-air festival in Wisconsin with Eric Clapton and Buddy Guy in front of 30,000 people.

I remember being on the desk at the paper in London the following day and reading the news of his helicopter crash on the wires. I was compiling the front page digest column that day and had to pull together a couple of paragraphs saying what had happened. Even as I was writing it, I couldn't believe it.

Here's a great promotional video later produced by Fender, using Stevie's amazing version of Hendrix's "Little Wing".

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