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The WILT Archive

What I'm Listening tO

        Since I like to write, quite a few people have suggested I write a blog. But I’m not especially interested in writing about myself. I did enough of that in my book (A Cure For Gravity) and even that is as much about music as it is about me.

        Writing about music is difficult, but I still find it interesting to try. So, once a month, I’m going to write a few words about a few things I’ve been listening to. It can’t hurt, and who knows, it might even do some good.

December 2017: The Last WILT

This month I've been listening to three new albums by people who've been around a long time. Firstly American Tunes, the final, posthumous album by Allen Toussaint. I really wanted to love this, and I don't hate it, but I think his last (The Bright Mississippi) was much better. And besides, I've written about him, and New Orleans music, many times already.


Then there's the new album from Amadou & Mariam, which appears to be either untitled or called . . . Amadou & Mariam. It's enjoyable, though not really different to, or better than, their previous ones. And I may have already written plenty about African music.


Finally there's Robert Plant's Carry Fire, which is good. But I already wrote about him back in September 2014. And frankly, I don't like the way this WILT thing is going. I'm falling into a couple of nasty traps, the least of which is repeating myself. The worst is that I'm starting to think like a critic. In everything I've written about music, I've tried to point a signpost in the direction of something original, enjoyable, or worthy of more attention. I've tried to be informative rather than just slagging people off, which is too easy and does no good, except maybe for the ego of the writer. And yet here I am ranking people's work and damning them with faint praise. The next thing you know I'll be awarding marks out of ten. A legend like Allen Toussaint: the man just fucking died, who do think I am? Amadou and Mariam, two blind musicians descended from multiple generations of musical craftsmen in Mali; they represent whole worlds about which I know virtually nothing. I liked their Welcome To Mali album better than the new one, but honestly, who gives a damn?


Pretty soon I'll be whingeing about how the production on Robert Plant's new album might be just a bit too influenced by that atmospheric, soft-focus T. Bone Burnett thing, or how I preferred his earlier Mighty Rearranger. But what am I thinking? I'm a musician. I know how hard it can be to produce anything at all. And here's a guy who, at 69, still consistently fails to take advantage of the countless options that aging rock stars have for making fools of themselves.


I will admit that writing a monthly piece about music has slightly increased my respect for music critics. It's not easy to keep coming up with space-filling content (especially if it's your job) and it's always tempting to try to grab attention by saying something nasty, 'clever', or controversial. There's something oddly seductive about a strongly-expressed opinion, even if it's a stupid opinion badly expressed. Anyway, I now look at music critics more in the way I might look at, say, undertakers, or coal miners, or prison guards (did you know Sharon Jones was once a prison guard, by the way?) In other words, people who do jobs I wouldn't want to do, but don't really want to think about, either.


This month marks the four-year anniversary of WILT, and I think it's time to stop. Maybe I'll come back to it, or come back to it on a less regular basis. Maybe I'll find something else to write (like the novel I wrote four chapters of, about ten years ago. Don't hold your breath). In the meantime, the full archive will stay on this site, and if anyone has anything interesting to say about it, there's a Contact button on the homepage.


I think I've mentioned before that I get asked about cocktail recipes at least as much as about music. So I may as well leave with something frivolous and take-it-or-leave-it, just a little article I wrote with no particular goal in mind, except the amusement of a few friends.


Click HERE for Stirred, Not Shaken: Or, Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About the Vodka Martini (But Were Afraid To Ask).