Approaching the halfway mark in this run - thanks to everyone who's contributed so far, and if you've been asked/promised to and haven't yet, then do so at once or we're going to be a bit stuck very, very soon. As for now, take this listening advice from Matthew from Song, By Toad:
Skuobhie Dubh Orchestra - Eggshell Miles
Before Kenny Anderson became slightly famous as King Creosote, chief mastermind behind Fife heroes Fence Records, he was in a couple of bands I was really quite into back in my university days, including the Skuobhie Dubh Orchestra.
Between 1994 and 1997 I went out with a girl who was one of the most remarkable examples I have ever met of someone both highly fragile and extremely strong. She was a slip of a thing, pretty, sharp and highly intelligent and I developed a rather sizeable crush on her when we worked at the same hotel down in Manchester towards the end of my first year.
I don't really think it's fair to go into the details of what had happened to her in the couple of years before we met, but a lot of it was horrific. Really bleak, awful, horrible things. Despite this, she was remarkably whole as a human being - her shell was thick, tough, and her soft centre buried deep down inside where it couldn't be hurt. The beginnings of the relationship were amazingly tentative because of this. Her wit and humour were confident and merciless, but getting close to her on a more personal level was a minefield. Time and again she would startle like a rabbit in headlights and close up completely. She didn't want to exactly, it was just a reflex, and one I had to treat with care and patience.
She was quite into music, and about a year or so into the relationship we picked up The Skuobhie Dubh Orchestra's album of wonderful, Scottish, folky bluegrass 23 Stephs. The song Eggshell Miles - "To try and get to know this girl/is to try and walk on eggshells/treading very carefully/and breaking every one" - was so perfect a description of the careful beginnings of our relationship that I have never since been able to separate it from my memories of this particular girl and that summer in Manchester. I've never heard another song like it really: sensitive and thoughtful, and like all the best poetry, able to put into one line what has now taken me three paragraphs to describe.
Anyhow, some eight or nine years passed, we had long-since split up, and I was listening to a freebie sampler which included My Favourite Girl by this guy called King Creosote. A couple of the music magazines had mentioned him, and I was quite interested to hear his stuff. I really enjoyed the song and it only slowly dawned on me that the voice sounded vaguely familiar. Eventually I twigged - that bloke from the Skuobhies! - so I went and fished out my old copy of 23 Stephs and put it on. And lo and behold it was him. And then when I got to Eggshell Miles I was utterly floored by old memories, so utterly bound up in the music that I hadn't listened to for nearly ten years, only to be unlocked again and come flooding back because I vaguely recognised a voice on a sampler CD by a new band I knew next to nothing about.
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