A singer sits at the piano and loses all inhibitions while in complete control of the instrument: Little Richard, Ray Charles, Jerry Lee Lewis. Although church singer Arizona Dranes doesn't come close to the stature of those icons, she set the mold for rockin' singer/ pianists in 1926 with six "test records" that have stood the test of time.
Until now, very little has been correctly reported about Dranes other than the facts that she was blind, from Texas, had a piercing Pentecostal voice and was the first recording artist to play piano in the secular styles of the day, while singing words of deep praise.
Michael Corcoran, former music critic and columnist for the Austin American-Statesman, has spent years unearthing revelatory details on the life of the mysterious woman behind the music. The book includes a CD containing all 16 of Arizona Dranes' recorded tracks, expertly remastered from the original OKeh label 78 RPM records by Grammy-winning producer Christopher King.
The book is also available digitally (without the music) as an eBook.
‘Elephantasia’ is a glorious folk opus from 1972, long lost and attaining a legendary reputation for its candour and creativity, from the late Bangor-born singer/songwriter Dave Evans. Finally, the LP sees the light of day again via Earth Recordings, it is a true gem from the vaults of British folk history. For fans of Nick Drake, Bill Fay and Davy Graham – with a touch of Michael Chapman, Bert Jansch and Fahey for good measure.
Dave Evans’ story is like a Pinter play; he sailed the seas in the merchant navy, was taught guitar in a brief interlude by the “mythical” Morocco John, wound up sharing a room with Steve Tilston in 1963 when they attended Loughborough Art College and ran the local folk club, while learning to make stringed instruments, the art of wine making and ceramics. Over the next year, Dave got a domestic 2-track reel-to-reel tape recorder and experimented with its two speeds to produce the tracks ‘Elephantasia’ and ‘Lady Portia’. He pulled in members of local prog band Squidd, including latter day Hawkwind member Steve Swindells on keyboards, John Merritt on bass and Rodney Matthews on drums, who also designed the ‘Elephantasia’ album cover, and went on to become a renowned fantasy artist.
‘Elephantasia’ the album was originally released in 1972, fully exposing Dave’s finger picking style, lilting vocal and his dalliance with the tape manipulation. It sold around 2000 copies and over the years became a talked about rarity, deemed too progressive for folk, too folk for the new prog heads. In best plot-thickening style, Dave tried two more releases and then disappeared. The scant sleeve notes recounted the songs’ creation, featuring tales of experimentation in sound inspired by elephants, old memories recounted with all of the unpleasant bits edited out, storylines for escapists, the residents of St Agnes Park, broken beauty queens and a fat feline. It’s an eclectic but beautifully fluent narrative from a finger picking maestro with a warm and engaging vocal style that wowed Peel and Whispering Bob back in the day.Dave Evans sadly died in April 2021. Earth Recordings is proud to reissue ‘Elephantasia’ for the first time in over 50 years, in collaboration with his estate and original Village Thing producer Ian A. Anderson.
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