Quiet loners,serial killers & murder ballads



Last week, I went to see my good friend and occasional songwriting collaborator Matt Hill –  aka Quiet Loner  –  play a solo show at The Windmill in Brixton.

Matt is a very talented Americana artist – as I once wrote in a review: “With pithy, sardonic lyrics about fallen angels and serial  killers, he is one of the UK’s finest alt-country balladeers”.

During his Brixton gig, Matt played a song that knocked me for six – a dark, wry murder ballad called The Cold Hard Facts Of Life, which is about a guy returning home a day early, to accidentally discover his wife is cheating on him with another man. The guy stumbles across the infidelity when he stops into a liquor store to pick up some pink champagne for him and his wife. Overhearing a bloke at the counter talking to the shop assistant about entertaining a woman while her husband is out of town, he only realises that the man is referring to his wife when he follows the guy’s car home and sees it is stopping outside his house. After supping from the bottle of champagne, the jilted guy then kills both his wife and her lover with a knife… Very, very country.

After the gig, I actually congratulated Matt on penning such a great track. More fool me.

“I didn’t write it,” he told me. “It’s by Porter Wagoner.”

I assumed Porter Wagoner was some obscure, uber-cool Americana band I’d never heard of, but Matt corrected me – he was in fact a US country singer who gave Dolly Parton her big break on his long-running TV show in the ’60s and ’70s. He died in 2007.

Wagoner was known for his flashy Nudie suits and blond pompadour hairstyle, but The Cold Hard Facts of Life is chilling and laced with black humour.

I thought Matt had written it, as it’s up there with his self-penned, macabre tales of murderers, misfits, losers and the loveless.

Below is a clip of Portner Wagoner performing The Cold Hard Facts of  Life on a US TV show.

I’ve also included footage of Quiet Loner playing Lucifer – a track that’s destined for his new album, out in November.

And for the sheer hell of it, I’ve thrown in Elvis Costello playing Psycho – Leon Payne’s song inspired by a Texas serial killer.

Now, I’m really spoiling you.


The Coral go cosmic!


Dig out the kaftans, baby, those cosmic Scousers The Coral are back
with a killer new psychedelic single that sounds like it was written
by The Byrds in 1967.

Maybe 1000 Years has actually been around for,er, years, locked in a
vault and left to soak in super-strength acid, while Roger McGuinn and
co’s Younger Than Yesterday was played on constant repeat on the
stereo. It does sound quite like Renaissance Fair (see below).
Who knows? Who cares?

Tune in, turn on, drop out, kids.

The new album by The Coral, which is called The Butterfly House, is
out on July 12. Here’s the great title track:

Sea shanties and storm ballads


Those of you who are familiar with velvet-voiced crooner
Richard Hawley will know that the sea is a recurring theme in his

Sheffield’s answer to Roy Orbison even recently hosted a Radio 2 show
called The Ocean, which was named after his song of the same name and
looked at the history of seafaring towns in the UK.

New from Hawley this month is False Lights From The Land – a limited
edition EP that’s made up of four tracks that are all
inspired by the sea.

Comprising two original Hawley compositions
(Remorse Code and There’s A Storm A Coming) and two cover versions of
sea shanties (The Ellan Vannin Tragedy and Shallow Brown), it’s a
great little record that has drawn me in like, ahem, false lights from
the land.

Remorse Code was featured on Hawley’s last album, the wonderful
Truelove’s Gutter, and at nearly 10 minutes long is a spiralling,
twilight ballad that’s loaded with nautical imagery, but is also about
a friend who has gone off course and sunk to unimaginable depths,
driven by drink and drugs. It’s a beautiful song, laced with gorgeous
twangy guitar and slightly eerie atmospherics.

The other original song could have been lifted from his
Coles Corner album. There’s A Storm A Coming is yet another sublime
Hawley ballad, but lighter than his latest work, it’s a shuffling,
sentimental ’50s-style pop tune that sounds like it’s been around
forever. One for the mums and dads. And for melancholy muso journos in
their late thirties. Lovely.

Both of the remaining two tracks feature female folk duo The Smoke
Fairies (terrible name). Shallow Brown is a traditional acapella
number, but the real gem is The Ellan Vannin Tragedy.

A mournful, haunting folk song written by Hugh E Jones of The Spinners,
it tells the tale of a ship that sank in ferocious waters just outside
Liverpool after leaving Ramsey on the Isle of Man on 3 December 1909,
losing all 21 crew and 14 passengers.

Hawley’s version sounds like he’s set sail on a ship bound for hell,
with Nick Cave as the captain, while a funereal cello drones in the??background.??

Careful – it’ll drag you under and you’ll never be seen again.

Storming stuff, indeed.