Fav. Tracks: Together – Various Artists

200px-TogetherSampler Together – Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo (Johnny Winter).

This is one of the albums (vinyl) I mentioned earlier where the music company (in this case CBS) is promoting their own music (in this case mostly progressive rock, rock, country and a hint of blues) and is a classic example of why I liked to purchase these albums (a great way to hear some new bands, or some bands I had not heard as yet, but had read about etc.).  In fact this album got me interested in Johnny Winter, Poco, Soft Machine and Big Brother and The Holding Company to mention only a few.  Oh!  I nearly forgot to mention that this was also the first coloured vinyl that I ever owned – the album is coloured blue (this was to become something of a fashion during the 70s).

Choosing Johnny Winter was not too difficult as shortly after I bought this album I was at a concert at The University in hull where The Winter Brothers played and it was a great concert.  This track is a classic piece of rock music and is an excellent track.  However, the album also features some great tracks and is still a good play.

The Tracks:

Rock and Roll, Hoochie Koo – Johnny Winter
Found a Child – Ballin’ Jack
Move Over – Janis Joplin
Se A Cabo – Santana
Cast Your Spell Uranus – Argent
Mr Natural – Big Brother and the Holding Company
New York City – Dreams
Teeth – Soft Machine
A Man Like Me – Poco
Merrimac County – Tom Rush
Lover of the Bayou – The Byrds
Waterfall – Mick Softley
Fool – Trees
Morning Will Come – Spirit
Beads of Sweat – Laura Nyro
Going to the Mill – The Chamber Brothers


Fav. Tracks: James Taylor – Sweet Baby James

lrhi1843Sweet Baby James – Fire and Rain.

This album (vinyl) dates back to my student days and has always been one of my favourites – I love this style of country/blues music.  The album is in my mind his best and has some great music on it.

I love the blues sound of “Steamroller”, but this song is probably my favourite.  I like the gentle guitar work at the beginning and James’ voice is exquisite here.  The lyrics work really well for a love song, while they build a strong picture of life to which most people can relate.

Fav. Tracks: Alison Krauss & Union Station – So Long So Wrong

alison_krauss_so_long_so_wrong_1997So Long So Wrong – Deeper Than Crying.

I have already mentioned, in reviews of two other albums, how much I like the music from this band and this album is no exception.  In fact what is interesting on this album are the ballads featuring Alison Krauss, which equal in number the bluegrass and country tracks.

This track is a really good example of what I mean and I love the plucked guitar and the dramatic beginning.  Alison’s voice is exceptional on tis track and the music still has a country flavour to it.

Fav. Tracks: John Mayer – Paradise Valley

john-mayer-paradise-valley[1]Paradise Valley – Wildfire.

I first came across John Mayer on the Jools Holland TV show and immediately wished I had heard his music earlier.  He is a great guitar player, but also has the ability to play top class Country, Blues, Rock and soul music.  this album is a wonderful illustration of his talent, but he has many other albums I plan to buy eventually.

This track is a really good way to grab his musical style and is a wonderful mixture of blues and country.  It probably isn’t the best illustration of his guitar ability, but it is easy to listen to.


Fav. Tracks: Alison Krauss & Union Station – Paper Airplane

AlisonKrausPaperAirplanePaper Airplane – Dust Bowl Children.

I love the voice of Alison Krauss and this band present country music in a format that is much more like traditional folk (with a story to tell).  On this album, and especially with the title song, Alison’s singing is superb, but I have picked a track that illustrates what I mean by country presenting folk singing.

I love the strong country rhythm of this track, but also I love the story as I remember reading about this period of American history when I was at school and then seeing a graphic depiction of it in an old black and white film – it must have affected me as it is always in my memories.  The track tells the story well and the singing provides an excellent country/bluegrass sound that I like.

Fav. Tracks: Alison Krauss & Union Station – New Favorite

album-new-favorite[1]New Favorite – Let Me Touch You For Awhile.

I really liked Alison Krauss’ voice when I first heard it (singing with Robert Plant) and I have always liked bluegrass music; although, I haven’t bought that much, to be honest.

This track is a real mixture of country and folk sounds, with a beautiful, simple guitar opening (a repetitive tune that grows as it develops) followed by Alison’s singing, which is quite gentle and matches the sounds of the music really well – slide guitar, I think.  This is a lovely song.

Shale gas development

shale_extraction_diagram_464This not my subject, scientifically speaking, but I thought it worth a quick mention having read a recent paper on surface water contamination (Olmstead,et al.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2013. 110(13): p. 4962-4967) and having noted the government’s recent tax break for shale gas development, I thought I should at least make a few comments.

Shale gas occurs as methane (natural) gas bubbles within pores in deposits of shale (produced by pressure and heat acting on deposits of organic material, but at pressures and temperatures too low to produce oil or coal) and is extracted by a process known as Fracking.  As illustrated, this process involves a deep drill into and along a shale deposit and then the introduction of a water/chemical fluid that leads to fracturing of the shale and subsequent release of the trapped gas.  In the USA the chemicals used are proprietary and their composition a secret, which lends an air of mystery to the dangers that involve this process.

The linked paper shows results that raise concerns about surface water contamination associated with both spillage (accidents) and the drilling process, but more importantly with off-site waste treatment and above ground land management.  This aspect of the process would concern me in the light of recent flooding in this country and our overall inability to clearly manage surface water in a controlled manner.  Unless the government begins to manage water, flooding and drainage better I foresee a new problem developing around any onshore shale drilling projects.  It is always important to weigh the benefits to society of a new energy source against the environmental impact of the development of the energy source, but too often money and profit is the driving factor!

There needs to be a more open and informed approach to this type of energy development where the public can make a sensible judgement of the impact and have some say in the rate of development.  Although the government has indicated that Fracking in this country will be less secretive and more regulated, but that does not address many concerns.  There is no doubt that Fracking will be a major industry in Britain very soon and the political driver of securing gas reserves, that are not subject to external political whims, will be a major factor.  Opposition to the process must be driven by concerns that are backed by good science, which is a major problem as there are insufficient scientific papers examining health concerns associated with the Fracking process, but organisations such as Greenpeace may well adopt a political agenda that will not work against the economic drivers for using this gas (a similar approach has delayed but cannot prevent the use of nuclear power and Greenpeace need to “see the bigger picture” of the need for energy that cannot be met by energy saving).carboncycle

In conclusion, I think Fracking is a messy industry that will be coming to your area soon – shale deposits in the UK are widespread and numerous – it may lead to cheaper gas (although I doubt that), but it should make us, as a country, less dependent on external fuel supplies, but I am concerned that there will be spills and accidents that may have a long term environmental impact that we are as yet un aware of!  One last interesting observation is that the burning of existing (known) fossil fuel supplies will already make us exceed existing limitation on carbon usage!  So, the use of shale gas can only make worse the problems associated with the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide.