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Dire Straits – Brothers In Arms – An Appreciation

The fifth studio album for Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms has a decorated history. It is the seventh best-selling album in UK charts history and won two Grammy Awards in 1985: Best Rock Performance by a Group with Vocal for ‘Money for Nothing’ and Best Engineered Recording, Non Classical for the full album. Sting also appears on the record as a guest artist.

Brothers In Arms – An Appreciation

Looked at now with 20/20 vision of hindsight, the image on the sleeve of Brothers In Arms seems uncannily prophetic: that National steel guitar heading up into the clouds – a shiny 6 stringed rocket devoid of any obvious means of propulsion – describes, better than any words can, what happened to Dire Straits after the release of their 5th studio album. Up till the summer of 1985 success had, for them, come as a by-product of the music making process. They had never courted celebrity, chased fads or played safe. Dire Straits had been loved and respected as one of the few bands to have maintained strong and credible links with the multifarious roots of rock and roll at time – remember all the desperate pop posing of the early 80’s? – when roots were emphatically not a fashionable place to be.

At first hearing, Brothers In Arms didn’t sound like an album which was going to storm the barricades of global popular taste, much less one which would establish itself as the UK’s biggest selling album of all time. And there lay the surprising beauty of it. Where others shouted this album talked. Having little in the way of front, it offered instead a world of interiors. It opened not with a bang but with a gently ticking hi-hat and it faded away, 9 tracks later, on a defiantly untriumphant wash of moody keyboards and achy, echoey guitar. Many of the songs in between were quiet, reflective, sombre even: the soldierly themes contained in the title track, or “The Man’s Too Strong” or again in “Ride Across The River” were tinged with regret and remorse. The love songs were apt to begin and end in disappointment, with Mark Knopfler grumbling down the phone in a lonely hotel room or disconsolately reviewing a late night encounter with someone he hardly met. Like the sleeve again, the album was predominantly blue in tone.

Life being what it is, Brothers In Arms soon became celebrated for its lighter moments, notably the big hits “Money For Nothing” and “Walk Of Life”. Both of these tracks have intriguing behind-the-scenes tales to tell. Knopfler’s ode to blue collar dreams, “Money for Nothing”, eventually ended up with Sting singing the catchy “I want my MTV” refrain. The then lead singer of The Police happened to be on holiday nearby and received an invitation to contribute, which he did to great effect. “Walk Of Life” nearly didn’t make it as an album track at all but co-producer Neil Dorfsman was out-voted by the band, thereby ensuring that an album etched with several varieties of sadness also contained one of the most uplifting tunes Knopfler has ever written. Now wonder the world found, and continues to find this such an irresistible package.

– Robert Sandell (from the liner notes for the 20th anniversary edition of Brothers In Arms)

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Andrew HOZIER-Byrne: Wicklow, Ireland

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Little Green Cars Jack Garratt

Hozier Self Sketch

What are the Twenty First Century Blues? And who shall we find to sing them? 

From trivial first world problems to the seismic shifts in geopolitics, the modern Blues resonate down the years with the same eternal themes – loss, loneliness, longing and regret. New wine in vintage casks. 

Born on St. Patrick’s Day and hailing from County Wicklow, Hozier was raised on the building blocks of popular music: rhythm and blues, soul, jazz and the deep dark stuff stretching from Chicago to the Delta. He joined his first band when he was 15 years old, fronting a soul band with some older heads. Taught himself to play guitar and piano, and went to Trinity College to study music. Whilst there, he bagged a seat on the flight deck of the symphonic B-52 that is the Trinity Orchestra, fronting their missions into the world of classic rock.

However, four years looked like a long stretch, particularly when the goal was to write, record and perform his own music; so Hozier dropped out to concentrate his talents on the creative process full time. He tried out with a few different producers in various studios, experimented with genres; but never felt happy with the results. Home is where the art is, and a simple studio, set up in the attic proved to be the crucible where Hozier would forge a musical identity he could call his own. A place where Stevie Wonder and Billie Holiday are revered alongside James Joyce and Oscar Wilde.

He says: “Listen to any song, from any era; and you’re looking through a keyhole into the artist’s world as seen through their eyes. Art is, in it’s simplest form, the reproduction of the world around us. All artists reproduce their vision of the world, and in doing so create a document that reflects the times they live in”. Which brings us back to the Twenty First Century Blues, and Hozier’s unique, poetic evocations. 

Hozier 1

‘Babe There is something lonesome about you, something so wholesome about you, get closer to me.’

Those lyrics seem to define the very essence of whom Hozier is and what your heart can not deny he was simply born to do.

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Lay Low with Lou Doillon

I knew I was going to like Lou Doillon’s LP, ‘Lay Low’ from the moment her fingers delicately set the mood from the sound of the keys in opening track, ‘Left Behind.’

It is apparent that we have been left behind at Fresh Independence because we were not familiar with the success of Parisian Lou’s previous LP, ‘Places’ selling over three-hundred thousand copies worldwide.

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I don’t dare to compare, but upon first thought, it was a refreshing version of Adele meets Regina Spektor and Sia.

The ambience of the mind provokes a dim room overlooking the city lights with a glass of wine as the record player cues your new favourite album of repetitive measure.

Lou Dillon is a free flowing taste of sultry jazz and sweet afterthoughts.

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The Zilis – Hamilton, Ontario

” Not since The White Stripes has a band lit us up quite like The Zilis. With a sound that is distinctly nostalgic and rocking full of fun, these guys are proof that good things do come north of the border.  ”  – Fresh Independence

Name: Zander Lamothe, Justin Bozzo and Sean Royle

Age: Zander is 24. Justin and Sean are 26.

 Where are you writing this: Sean’s home.

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How did The Zilis come to be?

We started playing together when we were in high school. We had a front man at first but we really started playing as a three-piece when we formed a cover band called the Led Hot Zili Peppers. We played three one-hour long sets a night to pay off the debts of our old band. When our front man left, we began writing originals as a trio and found that things were really clicking. Eventually, we decided to shorten the name to The Zilis for our original stuff.

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