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Monday July 21, session and record exchange with DeVotchKa

PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2008 10:13 am
by Charlie
When the year began, I had never heard of DeVotchKa, a Colorado-based quartet whose singer Nick Urata touches places in the heart that most other voices have never reached. And he does so with words that stick in the mind, and with adventurous arrangements from a band featuring guitar, accordion, violin, piano, a double-bass (or sousaphone) and drums.

Yesterday (Thursday), the quartet came into the BBC's Broadcasting House studio at 11.00 in the morning, having come off stage in Luxemburg at 1.00 that same morning, and being due to play the ICA that same evening. No wonder they looked a bit Zombie-like and shell-shocked. I do believe that Nick hadn't shaved for a number of days.

When bands have been playing the same songs for months, there are two ways to go. The can play them exactly the way they recorded them and bludgeon them into submission. Or they can let the songs take the initiative and follow where they lead.

I made special requests of my three favourite songs from their 2008 album, A Mad and Faithful Telling, and every one of them came out sounding better. Not just better, but different, as if the band has actually changed its nature. There used to be the vestiges of a rock band in their sound, but I don’t hear them now. They truly defy categorisation, although I was driven to exclaim, after a breathtaking version of 'Head Honcho' that it sounded like Colorado Rockabilly. As far as I can remember there never was a Colorado rockabilly band the first time around (1956) but it’s never too late.


If you watch the band from the front, it looks as if Nick is playing acoustic guitar. As indeed he is. But, sitting behind him in the studio, I was startled by the slab of wood at his feet, on which there were enough pedals to trigger at least twenty sewing machines. What do they all do? I couldn't tell you. And what about those two microphones stuck together, one of them looking like those chrome items that made singers look so cool in the 1950s. What does that have to do with it all? Who knows....

They are a real quartet, each musician in control of their own territory, Jeannie on bass and sousaphone, Tom on piano, violin and accordion, Shawn on drums.

A format for these shows is emerging. The band plays two songs, and then whoever wants to be involved comes to sit at the round table to swap records for a while until it's time to play two more songs. I top and tail the show with a few more records and voila, another one is in the bag.

PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2008 10:14 am
by Eduards_Ozolins
Will take a listen!

PostPosted: Fri Jul 18, 2008 11:42 am
by Gordon Moore
Remind me! ;)

PostPosted: Mon Jul 21, 2008 1:24 pm
by Charlie
If you don't want to know the result, look away now

Seq - Artist - Song Title - Album - Country - Label - Cat no

1 - Mamani Keita & Nicolas Repac - Kedide - Yelema - Mali/France - No Format - NDF 9

2 - Gaâda Diwane De Béchar - Taguerebet (NB - fade) - Arabesque Vol 4 - France/Algeria - MoZik - 020743 40017

3 - Humphrey Lyttelton - Black & Blue [feat Sidney Bechet] - As Good as it Gets - UK - Smith - SCCD1142

4 - Tesfa Maryam Kidané - Heywèté - Very Best of Ethiopiques - Ethiopia - Manteca - Mantcd215

DeVotchKa, in session and conversation (* their selection)

5 - DeVotchKa - How It Ends - In session - USA

6 - DeVotchKa - Head Honcho - In session - USA

*7 - Os Mutantes - A Minha Menina - Everyting is Possible - Brazil - Luaka Bop - 9362-47251-2

8 - Sir Victor Uwaifo - Agho - Guitar-Boy Superstar - Nigeria - SoundWay - SNDWCD012

*9 - Gogol Bordello - Occurrence on the Border - Multi Kontra Culty vs Irony - USA/Ukraine - Rubric - 39

10 - ErsatzMusika - The Gold Prospector - Voice Letter - Russia - Asphalt Tango - CD-STR 1407

*11 - Alejandro Fernandez - Que Bueno - Que Seas Muy Feliz - Mexico - Sony International -

12 - Buika - no habra nadie en el mundo - niña el fuego - Spain - Atlantic - 256 469 5477

*13 - Al Martino - Spanish Eyes - Truly Unforgettable - USA - EMI - CD EMTVD 55

14 - Exuma - You Don't Know What's Going On - Creative Outlaws- US Underground - USA/Bahamas - Trikont - US-0338

*15 - Ennio Morricone - Al Capone - The Untouchables - OST - Italy - A&M - 393 909-2

16 - DeVotchKa - Undone - In session - USA

17 - DeVotchKa - Basso Profondo - In session - USA

18 - Sissoko, El Mamouni, Rajery - Rania - 3MA - Mali, Morocco, Madagascar - Contre Jour - CJ020

19 - Devon Sproule - Old Virginia Block - Keep Your Silver Shined - USA - Tin Angel - TAR001

20 - Orchestra Baobab - Papa Ndiaye - Made in Dakar - Senegal - World Circuit - WLWCD078

21 - Buena Vista Social Club - Chan Chan - At Carnegie Hall - Cuba - World Circuit - WCS0801


PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 10:11 am
by Charlie
emails from:

1. Mike Adcock

Hello Charlie,

Not sure if you'll get to read this while the programme's going out (now) but your playing Spanish Eyes reminds me that I've got an earlyish Arhoolie LP by Flaco Jimenez which includes an instrumental version of this, but listed as Spanish Ice. I've never been sure whether it was a piece of misheard dictation or a joke!

Best wishes,



2. Peter Sampson, Manchester

Al Martino's Spanish Eyes eh? That'll teach you to go bare-knuckle radio ping-pong!

Seriously though another great show - and a splendid set from DeVotchka - my favourite, too, is still Undone. I loved also the track of Sidney Bechet playing with Humph.


3. Lisa Roosen-Runge, Toronto, Canada

I just listened to the archive version of the 21 July programme, and it was really enjoyable.

I hope you have time and inclination to host more of the long-form programmes available - 30 minutes is just not long enough!

I also really appreciate that the programs are archived for those of us in different time zones.

best regards
Lisa in Toronto

PostPosted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 5:34 pm
by Des
Caught the Devotchka session (do I REALLY need to use upper case on the V?) - very fine, will investigate further. Look forward to hearing the rest of the show.

Taguerebet - Howlin' Wolf

PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 9:31 pm
by Eddie Punch
Gaâda Diwane De Béchar - Taguerebet (NB - fade) - Arabesque Vol 4 - France/Algeria - MoZik - 020743 40017

The groove on this piece was so familiar and then it arrived "BING" .... It sounds just like a typical Howlin' Wolf groove. I started to hum "Wang-Wang-Doodle" and it fitted !

- - - - - - - -

I've just found this slot on Radio 3 searching around the new online iPlayer. Radio 3 eh, should we call you Charles now ?

PostPosted: Wed Jul 23, 2008 10:46 pm
by Gordon Neill
Another great show, I thought. I'm still not a DeVotchKa devotee, but I'm warming to them. And hats off to them for getting 'Spanish Eyes' past the Gillett quality control system. I actually liked it!

My favourites were:

Gaâda Diwane De Béchar - Taguerebet (Mr Punch is spot on, I didn't think of it at the time, but it does have a Wolf feel to it). Is the rest of the CD as good, or almost as good, as this?

Sir Victor Uwaifo - Agho

Exuma - You Don't Know What's Going On

"Can music evoke the sound of the desert"

PostPosted: Thu Jul 24, 2008 11:02 am
by Eddie Punch
Charlie: I have to reply to your comment "Can music evoke the sound of the desert". Many years ago whilst "hanging out" with an american guitarist in Amsterdam he asked me if I knew THAT chord on the Santana album Caravanserai where when you hear it you just see the camels coming over the top of the sand dunes. I thought about it for a few seconds and I had it. This one chord realy does evoke a desert scene. The american whose name was Randy, showed me the chord. In TAB notation it's (from your nose to your toes) x 7 6 6 7 7 which is an E9 which would be x 7 6 7 7 7 with that one on the G string note flatened a semi tone.

So, yes indeed, even a single chord in the right place can evoke the sound of the desert.