Songs Of The Week 2020: Take 3

Updated: 5 hours ago

Neil Morton


Ghosts: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

Bruce Springsteen’s latest release is a love letter to rock ‘n’ roll and a lament for lost bandmates. The gloriously pulsating Ghosts is our Song Of The Week at Springsteen sings: ‘I can feel the blood shiver in my bones.’ We share the sensation.

Close your eyes and you can picture him crowd-surfing at one of the E Street Band’s sold-out arenas; this is a throwback to classic Spector-esque Springsteen and the ‘best bar band in the world’. Ghosts is the second advanced track from his forthcoming album Letter To You – the impassioned title track was the first. All 12 numbers, nine new compositions and three reworkings of unreleased material from the early 70s, were recorded live in Bruce’s home studio in New Jersey within five days.

It’s the first recorded music featuring the band since 2014’s High Hopes. There are no overdubs, save a few licks from The Boss’s Gretsch electric guitar. Springsteen, 71 this week, describes his 20th studio album as ‘one of the greatest recording experiences I've had’. The sessions were held last November when it was thought a tour would follow. Then the world shut down. Working from home ‘isn’t something I’d want to make a career out of’.

Max Weinberg’s drum intro seizes your senses. A snap of the fingers and that voice takes the baton ahead of the rest of the band:

I hear the sound of your guitar

Coming from the mystic far...

A chord change before the chorus – hardly a bridge too near – gets to the crux:

It’s your ghost moving through the night

Your spirit filled with light

I need, need you by my side

Your love and I’m alive

The ghosts in the song and accompanying video are departed E Street veterans Danny Federici and Clarence Clemons but also members of Springsteen’s first band, The Castiles, where ‘I learned almost the entirety of my craft’. Springsteen was hired as a lead guitarist but tensions grew with established frontman singer George Theiss as he sought more of the mic.  When The Castiles disbanded in 1968, Theiss kept playing in clubs while working as a carpenter. Springsteen found the superstardom Theiss no doubt dreamed of.

Now Bruce is the last Castile standing. ‘You can’t think about it without thinking of your own mortality,’ he told Rolling Stone in a wide-ranging interview. ‘Once you hit 70, theres a finite amount of tours and a finite amount of years that you have. I feel the band is capable of playing at the very, very top, or better than, of its game right now. And I feel as vital as Ive ever felt. I plan to have a long road in front of me. Ive got a lot left to do.

The new songs were written with an acoustic guitar given to him by a fan at the stage door during the Broadway one-man shows. Springsteen reveals that future projects include work on full-length ‘lost’ albums as well as countless out-takes which can be revisited and revised. His favourite song on Letter To You is the intriguingly titled House Of A Thousand Guitars, about a rock ‘n’ roll heaven on earth where the music never ends. October 23 cannot come quickly enough.

Not A Day Goes By: The Eddy

If you haven’t seen Netflix series The Eddy, a drama about an endangered jazz club on the fringes of Paris, you’re missing out. Song Of The Week at is Not A Day Goes By, un uplifting song performed at the wake for a murdered musician by his beloved bandmates.

The soundtrack was written by Grammy-winning songwriter Glen Ballard and Randy Kerber, pianist in the house band at the mythical club, especially built and doubling up as a recording studio. Director of the first two episodes of the eight-part series is jazz fan Damien Chazelle who creates the intimate template employing hand-held cameras. This is a far grittier, less glamorous world than La La Land but Chazelle certainly knows how to capture the joy of performance.

The engaging story was written by Jack Thorne (Skins, This Is England, His Dark Materials, Harry Potter And The Cursed Child). Most of the professional musicians haven’t acted before but you wouldn’t know. The plot follows the fortunes of club owner and band manager Elliot Udo, brilliantly played by American actor André Holland (star of Moonlight, the movie embroiled in that infamous Oscar mix-up with La La Land), as he battles to protect The Eddy and his family and friends from a violent, acquisitive gang.

Not A Day Goes By is delivered by Polish actor-singer Joanna Kulig who fronts the band with gusto (‘I didn’t know/ That all the days were numbered/ I let it go/ And on and on I slumbered’). She is fine with the uptempo numbers such as Bar Fly and Kiss Me In The Morning but sometimes the mood calls for a more sultry tone and the soundtrack album includes extra voices such as St Vincent, aka Annie Clark, with her version of the beguiling title track, Jorja Smith and the band's original singer Julia Harriman on the gorgeous Paris In September.

The disparate cast in this unromantic look at life in the multicultural banlieues care for each other, and we care about them. Each episode is told through the eyes of a different character, and while the dialogue flits between French, English and Arabic the main accent is musical. On screen most music is played to a backing track but in The Eddy it’s all live – and so authentic.

The project was the brainchild of Ballard whose has lived in Paris and loves its jazz scene and scratch-a-living musicians. It began with the songs he and musical director Kerber wrote, more than 60, 39 of which Thorne interweaved with his screenplay. Ballard, who has worked with Michael Jackson, Alan Silvestri and Alanis Morissette, told Collider: ‘I’m just gratified that Netflix allowed us to do it live. We brought together this incredible international jazz band, with a female drummer from Croatia, a bass player from Cuba, a sax player from Haiti, a pianist from California, a trumpeter from Paris, and a singer from Poland. They’re a real band now.

Netflix essentially built a club for me. It was my fantasy club, and we put a recording studio behind the stage, so that everything we did in there was really well recorded... I just wanted it to be about this new, fresh take on what jazz could be in Paris right now. It’s multicultural. It’s a dream come true for me, as a songwriter, to be able to fulfil this part of my artistic destiny.

Ballard’s lyrical skill is best displayed in the title track...

A vortex of sound

Revolving around

Dissolving you down to

The Eddy...

Here’s where we dare

To strip it all bare

Sit with your truth

Dark corner booth

Keep slipping slow

In the strong undertow of

The Eddy

If the world ever returns to normal, the band hope to tour as The Eddy. Jazz may win a few more converts.

Arguing With Ghosts: Ben Glover

Arguing With Ghosts was written by three lauded songwriters in Gretchen Peters, Ben Glover and Matraca Berg. Peters was first to record it on her Dancing With The Beast album in 2018. Now it’s Glover’s turn, and his haunting rendition is our Song Of The Week at

The advanced single is from the Nashville-based Northern Irishman’s forthcoming EP Sweet Wild Lily. Providing delicious harmonies is Kim Richey with whom he toured the UK two years ago. We saw them perform at London’s Green Note, taking it in turns to display the quality of their repertoires, and Arguing With Ghosts was one of the standouts of their set.

Glover explains the genesis of the track: ‘When the three of us got together to write, we started talking about how the skyline and feel of Nashville have changed so much over recent years, and that conversation sparked the theme of losing a sense of the familiar. The character in the song has experienced personal loss and ruminates about the passing of time, wrangling with the tangible and the intangible.’

Glover’s recording is stripped back and intimate. He salutes the role played by cousin Colm McClean in Belfast who beautifully embellishes the vocals and acoustic guitar backing track. ‘I knew I could trust him to lay down what was needed 7,500 miles away from me in Nashville. The sonic landscape he created is intense.’

The song features one of my favourite refrains...

The years go by like days

Sometimes the days go by like years

And I don’t know which one I hate the most

At this same old kitchen table

In this same old busted chair

I’m drinking whisky and arguing with ghosts

Arguing with ghosts

Glover’s milestone year was 2018 when his Shorebound album was released to wide acclaim, winning Album of the Year at the UK Americana Awards. It was a series of brilliant collaborations: Dancing With The Beast with Peters again, the gorgeous A Wound That Seeks The Arrow with Angel Snow, Catbird Seat with Mary Gauthier, Ride The River with Richey and Keeper Of My Heart with Robert Vincent. Last year he teamed up with his Orphan Brigade friends Joshua Britt and Nielson Hubbard for an impressive third album To The Edge Of The World, recorded in a church in Glover’s home village of Glenarm on the rugged County Antrim coast. The trio recruited some talented friends, including guitarist McClean and the late John Prine.

We discussed the memorable Peters version of Arguing With Ghosts here. Glover tweaks ‘I’ve still got my mama’s eyes’ to ‘my father’s eyes’ and Peters’ coffee is turned into whisky. The musical concoctions are equally strong.

Jody: A Girl Called Eddy

Devotees shouldn’t have had to wait 16 years for another helping of sophisticated soul-pop songs from Erin Moran, aka A Girl Called Eddy. But it was worth it. Song Of The Week at is Jody, a brass-adorned tribute to a lost drummer friend which is as joyful as it is melancholic.

Before the opening title track of Been Around crackles into life, a voice asks: Girl, where you been? We’d longed to hear that cosy, dreamy voice again since her Richard Hawley-produced self-titled debut album. New Jersey native Moran co-wrote some of the 12 songs with multi-instrumentalist producer Daniel Tashian of The Silver Seas who recruited accomplished Nashville support from vocalists The Watson Twins, bassist Viktor Krauss, composer Bill DeMain, lap steel guitarist Shez Sheridan, trumpeter Michael Leonhardt and saxophonist Jim Hoke who blows a beautiful chromatic harmonica solo.

Moran speaks highly of Tashian’s creative influence in an interview on her website: ‘Daniel’s quite a Todd Rundgren character in that he plays every instrument, is a great writer and can pull out of his hat any style you can think of. I’d go: I’m thinking this one could be a bit Rickie Lee Jones with some ELO in the middle eight, but with a wash of blue to it, and he’d be like: OK, cool, got it! And he does. He gets it on all the levels you’d want from someone you’re trusting your songs with.’

This is storytelling pop with emotional depth and imaginative key shifts...

Jody said he had a brother, wrote a song for Peggy Lee

Jody moved down south to Tallapoosa back in 2003

I never saw his face again on Greene Street, not a trace again

Jody didn’t like everybody but I’m glad he liked me

We talked about movies and Cuddles Sakall

Hours on the phone about nothing at all

He liked to call me kid

I liked it when he did

The album pays homage to her heroes and influences. While Jody evokes Steely Dan and The Delines, elsewhere she tips her elegant hats to Burt Bacharach (a life-long idol with whom Tashian worked on Blue Umbrella), Karen Carpenter, Dusty Springfield, Laura Nyro, Carole King, Jackie DeShannon, Scott Walker, Chrissie Hynde, George Michael, Rumer and Prefab Sprout. The gorgeous ballad Charity Shop Window (a collaboration with Paul Williams who wrote many of The Carpenters’ hits) recalls Paul McCartney or Ray Davies.

She saw his coat in the charity shop window

Where the past lives on at a bargain price

Long ago dreams find another chance to live again

In the ironically titled Finest Actor, about a romance that turned sour, Moran delivers her most memorable lines...

He moved like De Niro and talked like O'Toole

Inside I was scared but he made me feel cool

He smelled of tobacco, guilt, and red wine

And sooner or later the guilt it was mine…

He could’ve been Burton, Harris, or Dean

They could’ve been moments, but they were just scenes

There are charming reminders here of Moran’s first album back in 2004 (Don Henley’s favourite that year) – listen to People Used To Dream. With Elefant Records in the room there were strong signals of a keenly-awaited solo comeback in 2018 when Moran teamed up with French musician Medhi Zannad, who records under the name FUGU, for an indie-pop project entitled The Last Detail (not the Jack Nicholson film). Another gift for her cult following.

The other uptempo standout on Been Around, which was recorded in Nashville, New York and London, is the fairground nostalgia ride, Come To The Palisades! It begins with an Alabama Shakes-style guitar riff before the horns send it down the rollercoaster (‘Death-defying kisses in the funhouse/ We got drunk on love and beer/ A polaroid of you from 1982’). Note the Coney Island nod to Van Morrison. Not derivative, just respectful and lovingly retro.

‘I was feeling a yellow-tinged, Kodachrome kind of 70s pull at my heart. Not necessarily wanting to make a happier record but a different one. I no longer felt the need to be drowning in the darkness all the time, which I guess was the prevailing vibe on a lot of album one. I wanted a warmer feel, and to have some fun… turns out it’s not the shallow pursuit I used to think it was.’ We hope the vibrancy of Been Around means A Girl Called Eddy will stay around for a lot longer.

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