Jamie N Commons has been on a bit of a journey these past few years.
The roots-driven London songwriter has traversed the Atlantic, immersing himself in that glitzy Hollywood world.
Sampled by Eminem and writing for some huge artists, he's also been gradually piecing together some material of his own.
New EP 'Fever Dreams' is a forward step, but it's also closely linked to what's come before; fresh but still recognisable, it features some typically rich, nuanced work from those whiskey-soaked vocals.
With new material out in the world Jamie N Commons sat down with Clash to discuss his Foundations, the albums that truly made an impact on him.
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Odetta - 'Odetta Live At Carnegie Hall'
This is such a powerful record, recorded with a gospel choir in 1960, it was the first record to really inspire me to do more a capella songs live. I even started my first EP with what was basically a cover of 'Hold On' from this record.
Odetta played a leading role in the folk music revival scene of the 50s/60s going on to inspire Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Janis Joplin to name but a few. Martin Luther King also called her ‘the queen of American Folk Music’, and I think she often has the definitive version of some of these classic folk songs, a lot of these displayed in this record.
Fun fact - The film director Spike Lee’s dad plays double bass on this record.
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Dr John - 'In The Right Place'
So many great songs on this, and the opener / ender combo of 'Right Place Wrong Time' and 'Such A Night' is very hard to beat. The band playing on this record might be the greatest assembled also, with The Meters supplemented by Allen Toussaint making up the core of the band, with The Ikettes stepping in on backing vocals.
Add to this Dr Johns incredible piano and you have this fantastic New Orleans via LA 60s/70s swamp pop sound you cant really find anywhere else.
Special mention - Dr Johns first album 'Gris-Gris', for an entirely more trippy and spooky experience.
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Johnny Flynn - 'A Larum'
After Google translating the name of this album I never figured out if Mr Flynn meant 'Larum' as 'Alarm' in Middle English, or 'Seagull' in Latin… Fortunately it makes no difference to the wonderful listening experience.
This album sounds like an audio interpretation of summer in the rural English countryside to me. And with its slightly rough and ready production I like to imagine it was recorded in a hay barn… possibly on a harvest moon night…. Anyway, with all this in mind, I love to stick this album on when traveling as it really transports me back home.
Also the songs 'Brown Trout Blues' and 'The Wrote And The Write' really helped me learn finger style guitar... Mr Flynn has quite a similar picking style to Mississippi John Hurt (see- 'Stagger Lee'), which helped me tie in the blues.
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Portico Quartet - 'Knee-Deep In The North Sea'
My go to record for some background relaxing music, I guess its technically jazz but the use of the “hang drum” and its modal scales makes it sound more ancient and mythical. Stick it on cooking diner or staring out a train window and let it take you away.
Fun fact - it was Nick Mulvey playing that hang drum, who obviously went on to make some very lovely solo records also.
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Duane Allman - 'An Anthology'
I probably learnt more from this record than any other record, its spans Duane's career from Muscle Shoals hired session gun, his studio jams going toe to toe with Eric Clapton, through to his untimely death playing in the Allman Brothers.
The idea that this whole compilation was recorded in just a three year period makes his early passing even more sad when you think what would have come next. The vocal talent includes Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, and Gregg Allman to name but a few, and I think looking back trying to sing along to this double disc as a child really was where I learnt to sing soul and blues.
Also, Duane's acoustic slide guitar playing on 'Please Be With Me' by Cowboy is my favourite guitar in any song ever.
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‘Fever Dreams’ EP is out now.
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