Caught by the River


8th May 2020

Our latest assortment of tasty morsels to curb your musical, literary and cultural cravings.

‘With the Communist scare in full swing, having already ruined or dampened the careers of performers like Pete Seeger, Josh White and Burl Ives, it would have been hard to fathom who would take up the call in their place. That it was a black woman with natural hair, barely a year removed from picking up a guitar for the first time, is remarkable. Then again, Odetta was brimming with such talent that she would have been hard to ignore.’ On LitHub, read an excerpt from Ian Zack’s book on Odetta, the shy folk singer who defied McCarthyism’s fear tactics. And if you’re looking for a way in to the singer’s back-catalogue, we recommend this song as a bloody good place to start.

‘These male figures have been at Shaftesbury Square for over fifty years, and are perhaps as natural to the scene as the black-and-white stripes of the crossing or the picture of Colonel Sanders.’ Wendy Erskine considers the Elizabeth Frink figures which adorn Belfast’s Ulster Bank Building.

The Great Mountain Sheep Gather: on BBC iPlayer, watch as Lakeland shepherd Andrew Harrison rounds up his flock of Herwick sheep and drives them down Scafell Pike – England’s tallest mountain – for their annual shearing. The film features specially commissioned poetry by Mark Pajak, read by Maxine Peake.

‘Eventually they turned up in Manchester, but they parked where the River Irwell is in Salford, it’s a big island. It reminded them of their home. So they all set up camp. And there’s these pictures from the fookin’ eighteen seventies and eighties of all these wigwams set up in Salford…’ Over on The Social Gathering, watch Glenn Kitson’s short film in which Shaun Ryder tells the story of the Sioux First Nation tribe arriving in Salford. Yes, really.

‘I can’t look directly at a beautiful river—I find that I have to turn away and steal glimpses of it’. On Bookforum, Greil Marcus speaks to Percival Everett about his latest novel, Telephone. This one came recommended to us by Andy Childs, who also writes: ‘On another note, I’ve always had this fascination with Cape Cod and the people who live there for some reason . I read Michael Cunningham’s book on Provincetown a while ago and have just read Henry Beston’s great book The Outermost House. And that prompted me to start reading Christine Dwyer Hickey’s novel The Narrow Land which imagines a friendship that two boys have, staying in a house on Cape Cod, with Edward Hopper and particularly his wife. I’m about half way through it and it’s great for Hopper fans like myself but also very transporting – I feel like I’m out on the beach perilously surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean but far from the confines of lockdown. My perfect antidote at the moment.’

José Quintanar talks It’s Nice That through an extensive ongoing body of work – an investigation into colonisation, the way we read books and the significance of landscapes in Dutch culture.

‘Myrtle flowers open as bright orange stars on peatland still draped in the burnt umber of winter. But as the sun warms the surface of the bog perfume spreads out like butter on hot toast.’ On the Red River Croft blog, Annie Worsley writes on shielding and shelter.

For the Hayward Gallery, Holly Corfield Carr takes an aural walk through the woods, looking at trees through a fly’s eyes and listening to whether a yellow leaf is louder than a green one. 

Kathleen Jamie reads her essay ‘Voice of the Wood’ from most recent book Surfacing.

In a recording made between 4am and 7am on Saturday 2nd May, Chris Watson and fellow sound artist Pascal Wyse condense the Dawn Chorus into just 12 minutes. Listen here.

Dynamite Sounds From A Giant Golden Radio – listen to an hour-long mix featuring a little bit country, a little bit folk and a little bit of rhythm & blues.

And finally, on Pitchfork, Lucinda Williams shares the artists and albums that have meant the most to her, from Sade to Tricky. We’re digging her new album too.