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Baker's Dozen

Thirsty For Song: James Johnston Of Gallon Drunk's Favourite LPs
Julian Marszalek , November 16th, 2016 09:31

As well as being the lynchpin of suited rock howlers Gallon Drunk, James Johnston has played with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and PJ Harvey - but we're not going to hold the fact that he's picked both of them for his Baker's Dozen against him. Portrait by Steve Gullick.

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Nina Simone - To Love Somebody
I don't really know where to start with this. It's such a beautiful, perfect album. I could have chosen a multitude of her records: Emergency Ward being one of them, or Wild Is The Wind… the list is endless. But this one just floors me. Her version of Leonard Cohen's 'Suzanne' opens the door to the record, and then it's just perfection from thereon in.

It's got the amazing Al Schackman on guitar too. On some of the live records he almost sounds like Lou Reed's rhythm playing on the live Velvets bootlegs: fantastic, totally unadorned and simple.

The whole record is just so heart wrenching. The one that totally destroys me is her version of Bob Dylan's 'Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues'. Every single syllable and every note just pours with emotion. It's such a wonderful, heartbreaking set of lyrics, and she manages to wring every inch of sadness from them.

This record got me through some very difficult times. I listened to it on rotation, and every time it almost emptied me of my own worry and sadness, as if she'd taken it all on board herself and cleansed the air of all the anxiety that was in me. When I hear the opening notes of the album I just totally surrender to it, you know you're about to go through this incredible cycle of songs.

She made so many astonishing records around this time. Emergency Ward is the one I listen to most, but this one's really important for me. What a beautiful record. What an amazing performer. What a singer.


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