Celebrating 50 years of recording Samphire Records will be issuing a series of archive Colin Lloyd Tucker recordings, kicking off with a one off live show from 1996. Rescued from a cassette this set is of particular interest as 9 of the 11 songs have never before been issued in any form. Inspiration for this batch of songs came, in a round about way, from country singer Carson Robison.
Colin on Carson C.L.T. looks back to the mid 1990s and the genesis of his ‘Carson Robison & his Oxidol Pioneers’ project, soon to be available to stream as On Stage 12/09/96
“Rummaging through a pile of old letters and postcards in a junk shop I came across a letter, written in 1938 to a local lady from an American singer/songwriter Carson Robison. Carson had visited England three times during the 1930s and his Radio show (sponsored by ‘Oxidol’ ) was broadcast on Radio Luxembourg and accessible in the UK. The letter itself was full of ‘How-do-dees’, ‘Mighty nice folk’ etc. and it came with a flyer for the aforementioned radio show.
Staring at the picture of Carson and his band and having never heard a note of their music I began to imagine. I liked the name and how they looked. I set about making them into characters in a series of songs.
Nowadays we can access Carson’s music and history with ease on the internet. Many years after writing these songs I heard his music for the first time and enjoyed it very much although, predictably it was nothing like my imagined version!
12/09/96 was a very long day indeed, three hours for the band* to learn the songs and for engineer Kenny Jones to learn his cues for, among other things, playing in the dialog and effect clips, a short break followed by three performances…real seat of the pants stuff.
This is the only time that we played most of these songs.“
*The Band: Tim Broughton – drums and backing vocal, Andy ‘Wal’ Coughlan – electric upright bass and bass guitar, Neil Huckstepp – Fender strat. guitar, Maggi Ronson – backing vocal, C.L.T. – vocal, harmonium, euphonium, Eko 12 string electric guitar.
On Stage 12/09/96 will be available to stream or download on Feb. 29th. 2024.
A Zoom conversation with C.LT. in which he talks about his new single, forthcoming album, stage fright and studio craft.
Your new single is called Here Come the Good Times Again and yet, like a lot of your work, the song is darker than the title suggests.
Well, what are ‘Good Times’? You can’t have good times without ‘not so good times’, when we emerge from hard times or sad times any change for the better feels good.
That is why I thought that the accompanying 1920s imagery was appropriate.
The tracks that you issue as singles are always somehow apart from the rest of your work. How do you view the single as a medium?
For me it is a chance to work in different genres, I don’t have to worry about how these songs will sit on an album, they are one-offs. So, if I feel like doing a calypso or a Bollywood style number, whatever, I can indulge myself and hopefully the listener too.
Good Times was recorded very quickly, within days of finishing the mix of my album. Technically the album was a challenge and I wanted to clear my head, no better way than to get stuck into something fresh and very different (to the album).
So, for you, commerciality doesn’t come into it?
Not sure I would even know what is commercial. No, it doesn’t.
When did you last perform live?
(long pause) That would have been for the The The Inertia Variations film, that was a while ago (2017).
I was very, very nervous, to the point of brain freeze. It was weird, the people there were friends, Matt’s family and other singers and musicians. Maybe the cameras didn’t help but I had been aware for some time that I was losing my nerve on stage, may be an age thing, I don’t know.
I haven’t enjoyed the live thing for quite some time and I came to think that I just don’t need the stress. I tried to compensate by being as well rehearsed as possible but that uses up a lot of time, time that I could spend in the studio, my natural environment.
Not so long ago the idea that you could have a studio capable of producing masters in your home was just a pipe dream and I smoked a lot of pipes dreaming about it!
When that dream became real I just disappeared in there and worked. I suppose it is very isolating, unhealthy really, but there are so many ideas still coming that I feel guilty if I don’t act on them.
You would have a hard time performing the new album live that’s for sure.
It is called Terra Incognita which, I must confess I had to look up, my Latin not being so good. It means unknown or unexplored land?
Yes, that felt appropriate as I felt that was where I was heading, musically and sonically. When the term is used in calligraphy it can also mean land that cannot be mapped as it is ever changing. The album tells a story set in the wetlands of eastern England known as East Anglia. The sea ensures that this is an ever-changing place.
Keeping with the story the songs tell…it’s a Victorian melodrama, as you say, set in eastern England and yet there are sitars and Indian sounds in there.
I live in this area, where the sea meets the land. I was walking amongst the saltings and reeds, thinking about how to represent this environment in sound. Indian sounds just seemed right. The drone of the sea, babbling inlets like excited tablas. The mystical east.
When the story moves to the town the music becomes more western, more electric.
I said before that it was a difficult album to do technically. I did not do it as 12 separate songs or whatever it is, but one long album length track. I wanted it to be seamless.
You certainly achieved that, I found myself being carried along by its momentum.
I am at a slight disadvantage in that I haven’t seen the sleeve yet, you mentioned in an email that you are working with some local artists on the artwork.
Yes, that is right. Peter Rodulfo has painted three pictures that capture moments in the narrative and Vicky Phillips is doing the illustration for the inner sleeve. It is the same team that did the sleeve for my Shire EP.
Both are brilliant in very different ways and I am lucky that they are involved. It is true that they both have spent their lives in the east of England, not sure about the term ‘local artists’, always think that sounds like they are not like ‘real’ artists (laughs), just local ones. They would be great talents wherever they were but it does mean that they have a feel for the place so in this case its perfect.
When will the album be released?
I hope, late September early October. First there will be a CD, then an online release. A lot further down the line I would like to have a vinyl version as I think it would be well suited to that but queues for pressings are about nine months, so it will be a while.
We bid our farewells, Colin promises to send me the finished CD ASAP and I promise to review it.
In the meantime, check out Here Come the Good Times Again from Aug. 19 2022.
The episodic nature of the longer tracks ensures that we are never bored and rewards attention with musical changes and textures.
Here is an artist in complete control of his craft.
The album’s opener Uncle Arlie’s Hat of Dreams finds Tucker at his whimsical best. Accompanied by his trademark harmonium drone, he delivers the tale of ‘aged Uncle Arlie’ who, at first, appears to be a rural hobo ‘sleeping in a field of barley’ in an old felt hat ‘…of all the felt hats Arlie ever felt, none felt as good as that felt hat felt’ quips Colin in the first verse.
Like so many of his songs there is a sting in the tale, revealed in its closing chorus.
I can hear so many influences in this track, the word play of Lear and Carroll, the wandering chord progressions of Syd Barrett and a little of Tucker’s friend Robin Williamson (Incredible String Band) in the vocal delivery.
The Dead Tobacconist follows, bringing us to a far earthier place. A twelve-bar blues with drums, bass, Hammond organ, guitar and later, horns and harmonica performed by the same Chicago musicians that CLT employed back in 2019.
This is not an attempt at Americana though, once again the lyric places us in rural England with ‘chalky downs glistening in the pouring rain’. We find the narrator in a market town where he meets a tobacconist ‘a sad-eyed man who looked like he carried the can for every single grey English day’.
Tucker takes a guitar solo in the style of, I kid you not, B.B.King and the track soars with brass and a clever mash-up of Sonny Terry’s harmonica, the song returns with, once again, a twist in the narrative.
At nearly ten minutes A Place I Want to Be is the albums centre piece. A slow burn with gentle acoustic guitars, piano, some electric guitar musing to the metronomic beat provided by a knock on wood sound. Later, as the rhythm picks up this is joined by tambourine and tom toms. Occasionally the groove pauses before returning, each time with more intensity. By the time the vocal appears the guitar is chugging along with a gravely over driven sound, tom toms are thumping and we could be listening to The Velvet Underground.
The journeying theme is further enhanced by the opening line ‘Following the line of her infinite gaze, I could see she was miles away…’
Four short verses later the tension is at a climax and the music can no longer contain itself, taking over with the throb of pounding piano, guitars and feedback…whatever next…
…how about a trip to California?
A capella voices chant ‘Ba-lloon, Ba-lloon’ at the start of Big Balloon, a song that after an Anthony Newly-est introductory verse plunges us into a nineteen-sixties style pop song that could have been born of the sunshine state. All jangling guitars, backing vocals and wonderment.
It seems CLT wants to give his friend a birthday treat and asks ‘How ‘bout a ride in a big balloon?’ he offers to ‘bring the dope and a telescope’ but his friend turns down the offer on account of suffering from vertigo. Unperturbed Colin tries to smooth things over with an Elvis impersonation and offers a trip to the movies or zoo instead.
After the intense heaviness of the preceding track Big Balloon is a light-hearted romp with an amusing lyric and displays stunning musicality. Edited down this would make a fine single.
There has already been one single issued from Ode Trip and that was Guardian Angel, a beautiful seven-minute ballad that works perfectly as a closing track.
On Guardian Angel Tucker makes it clear that he has no rules when it comes to song construction. John Porters bluesy guitar works brilliantly alongside sweeping Melotron strings and choir sounds, strange chords are made to feel at home and a touching lyric is delivered with an understated majesty. ‘She’ll uncoil the strings attached to your kite, wrap you up in her wings and together you’ll take flight…’
Once again, an engaging and diverse collection from CLT that works as an album due to the strength of the man’s personality and character.
Few artists could have pulled this off but pull it off he has. To sum up in one word…remarkable.
As a ‘single’ Tucker’s latest release falls down on every level.
It fails to meet any of the criteria the medium requires.
So long that breakfast D.J.s will be down the pub by the time it reaches its finale verse, it lacks a sing-a-long chorus and a danceable beat.
It’s slow, but there are slow singles, right? But, slow singles are usually packed with emotional hyperbole to hammer at the heart of the most disinterested listener.
From its cranky Mellotron introduction we wait over 2 minutes to hear ‘that voice’. Along the way we are treated to heavenly choirs and John Porter’s haunting slide guitar, on the face of it a very strange brew…but wait, there is a weird alchemy in play here.
Guardian Angel is extremely cool.
Tucker recently stated that he sees himself as an old school songwriter and it seems that his pencil is sharp and his muse burning bright.
The song is under-pinned by Tucker’s plucked acoustic guitar that navigates a reassuringly conventional chord sequence that occasionally veers off into a strange, unexpected place, creating a feeling of weightlessness. Bill Branwell’s fretless bass joins him on these excursions before crashing back down to the root to satisfying effect. A thumping drum (a Salvation Army marching drum, I am reliably informed) enters at this point.
The lyrics begin in the third person as C.L.T. relates a story of how ‘Jacob lost his ladder’ and ‘found a pair of hover-boots’ but soon he addresses the listener directly, a more universal theme develops concerning our own attempts to control destiny.
It becomes clear the C.L.T.’s Guardian Angel is not of the biblical kind but ‘more like a feeling…in the pit of your stomach’ as he pulls the listener in in a conversational style that he has made his own.
This is heady stuff that latches onto your brain like a limpet mine. I found that, after hearing it a few times, lines re-entered my head at regular intervals, waiting at traffic lights ‘try not to let that dream obscure the view, if you do this you will miss avenues new’, standing in a socially distanced queue ‘you have a guardian angel, you may not hear her speak, but she’s there inside you…somewhere deep’.
In these rather sad times Tucker’s Guardian Angel is a ray of light in which he displays empathy with his listeners, encouraging self-belief with a promise of hope.
As a taster for his forthcoming album this track does the job brilliantly…it’s not a ‘single’ though.