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The Dream Academy: Life In a Northern Town

Weekend Music

How many times does it happen that you hear the chorus of a song coming from the radio through someone's open car window as you're walking through the parking lot at work, and it haunts you so that you have to find out what it is? Not very often for me. In fact I think only once, with this song.


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Hah! Great song! I just listened to this CD last week after not having given it a spin for a number of years. I was going to mention it here but forgot. Great stuff, especially the first half of the album. Did you know that LIANT is supposed to be about Nick Drake?

Have you seen this version? It's actually pretty good. Don't know who any of the performers are, but I think that the guitarist in the baseball cap might be Buddy Miller (he sings the 'they shut the factory down' line at about 2:25).


Never had the exact experience you mention, Mac, but I've had similar. How about pulling up in front of a woman's apartment for a date, when this comes on the radio:


I HAVE to stay in the car to hear it because I have to find out what it is -- it brought tears to my eyes. So I sit there in the dark and listen to the whole piece. Fortunately I wasn't late!

To your first comment, Rob: that's funny, I came across it similarly yesterday morning. I was looking for another cd, noticed this one, and had to hear the song, though I didn't listen to the rest, which as I recall doesn't really live up to the promise, although it's pretty good. Yes, I've heard that about it being about Nick Drake, but didn't know if it was true or not. He wasn't from an especially northern town, but in general the lyrics are apropos.

Applause to Sugarland for having the taste to do this song, but I'm not wild about their version. This is inappropriate for a southern chauvinist, I admit, but I have a sort of allergy to the pop-country vocal style, with its little melismas that I find annoying and exaggerated southernisms. And the top line in the harmony is missing, which takes away some of its effect for me. I think you're right about that being Buddy Miller--looks like him, sounds like his voice, and those guitar lines you can hear in the opening sound like him.

Pentimento had a blog post with this title the other day. Must be in the air...

And to your second: yes, that is a beautiful piece. I'm impressed that it had that effect on you on first hearing--it took more for me.

The first time I heard Laïs on the radio it stopped me dead in my tracks. I was in the middle of buying a newspaper, and must have stood there looking gormless for a few moments.

I suspect "Life in a Northern Town" is a tribute to Nick Drake's "Northern Sky" (rather than to his biography, although I have no idea where he might have lived).

Although actually listening to the lyrics carefully (with the idea that it's about Nick Drake), one might think it was about somebody living in a northern town meeting Nick Drake (himself not living there) at a performance.

Agree with you, Mac, about pop country, and for the same reasons. I just thought that it was kind of a neat idea to try and pull that tune off in that style -- refreshing despite its faults.

Lais reminds me somewhat of the Scottish band Runrig, not in style but in approach.

I can well imagine that Lais would stop one in one's tracks. I've been meaning to review their sort of Yeats-based album--The Lady's Second Song, I think? Pretty powerful stuff.

Nick Drake grew up in Warwickshire and went to school in Wiltshire. I'm not sure what counts as "northern" in general English usage, but, just looking at the map, I wouldn't call either of those "north" relative to the rest of England. Here's what Wikipedia has to say about Drake and the song:


Warwickshire is in the Midlands, and Wiltshire in the West Country, so no, he wasn't from the North (although it's conceivable he might have lived there for some period of time as an adult).

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