The best advice for all of us comes from Jamie McDonald with the last song from his new album – WE BE MIRACLES.
Let me tell you about the way I heard it.
The ten fresh songs from this album will definitely bring pleasure to your ears, but don’t be misled – there is also a lot more in it.
This time Jamie and The Number Nein are just him, Ivan Alexiev, Alexander Mihaylov and Borislav Petrov. No female back vocals this time, but that’s not a flaw – I guess it was a deliberate decision.
WE BE MIRACLES is not a simple album to please the occasional listener, for it pays an homage to some of Jamie’s music influences and it dives expertly in the complex matters of life and death.
Never shy to experiment, Jamie delivers an album with a timeless quality. There is this clever way of nodding to the past with two feet in the now and a hope for the future. Jamie certainly knows how to weave a song that stays with you long after the last note fades away.
There is a song that sounds like the band is jamming in the basement and the atmosphere is positively immersive.
There is a song with Irish motives and I think this is the first one when he pays such respect to his roots.
There are two more, this time with a sound that is unmistakably Bulgarian – the traditional sound of the kaval/shepherd’s flute is used playfully and the result is just beautiful.
Jamie is building bridges – between the styles and the countries, and connects the dots with sincerity and skill that only look easy.
After the first listening I was able to hear each and every song in my mind just a second after reading the title – which says a good deal about Jamie’s talent for songwriting.
Noisy, raw, energetic, vivid sound – haunting tunes that wrap the feeling of being resilient in difficult times – and soft and tender when it’s needed. That’s Jamie for you, once again, with feeling. :-) It is what I get from his music. You can give it a try and perhaps you might find that ray of light you desperately need in your life right now.
Diversity and exploration are the weapon of choice for Jamie, so for those who are already familiar with his previous work We be miracles doesn’t ruin the expectations. It very naturally adds another gem to the treasure chest of his music legacy. Humble and generous, it is gently reminding us all that the miracles we are waiting for… are not coming from outside.
P.S. Thank you for never being boring or disappointing, Jamie. I am eager to hear this album live, and soon. It’s a music you can listen when you need a lighthouse in the storm. My rate: 8/10.
P.P.S. If you wonder why I never write negatively about this guy, it’s simple – I respect and enjoy his talent and admire his work. You can listen and buy all of his albums here: /bandcamp link/
“What you claim not to know is merely what you’ve denied. You’ve recaptured your vagrant memories, what are you doing with them?” — The Queen of Hearts to Alice
It’s that time of the year again, folks! The time for exchanging gifts and kindness more than any other time of the year.
Here is a special gift for all of us: fresh new album coming out from Jamie Mcdonald and The Number Nein!
Perhaps you thought that he is resting on his laurels because the last album feels like not so long ago, huh? Well, I told you already – Jamie is the kind of guy that never stops.
The thing is, he made a new album and for what is worth, I think it’s better than the previous.
I got the privilege of digging into this album first and that’s exactly why I can confidently make a step up and tell you about his obvious and hidden gems.
Of course, everyone is looking for different things in the music they like, and we usually have a predisposition to like some kind of music more than other.
But if you care to know MY opinion, and to compare to what extent it covers your taste, here is what I found.
Here is the list of the songs and I am going to look into each and one of them, as usual:
1. Big Bass Drum
Sincere and brave as always, Jamie opens and pours his heart again without any hesitation. The Number Nein musicians work well together and they know what they are doing, but don’t get me wrong: this is not some pleasant background noise for your evening drink. You need to be engaged, to listen actively if you want to get what they give. The blend of Ivan Alexiev’s bass and the sax of Damien Mc Donnell will make this song echoing not only in your ears, but in your heart. There is even a Big Bass Drum’s reprise at the end of the album, just to frame and wrapped it nicely. :-)
2. Lie To Me
That’s a good song about the agony we face when we love but the feeling is not mutual. Jamie admits that at times he is obsessed with the idea of love being more real and romantic when we are honest and I agree with this.
But his character in the song is on the fence: he clearly knows it’s a lie, but he is desperate for love and he wants to be deceived. It’s a song with the potential to be even better live. Shows well the intensity and power of Jamie’s voice.
Catfish is a very intriguing song. It puts me in kinda “Twin Peaks” mood – and it feels like it could work well in some movie's soundtrack. I would definitely be happy with a whole album of songs like this one, for it transports me somewhere else where I very much like to roam. :-)
4. Crazy (The Way You Drive Me)
That’s a solid song about strong, real, but mature love:
“I need you so, I need you so, that’s why I gotta let you go
I hope you find all you need and all you might
Despite those arms wrapped around you a little too tight”
Unconditional love… love without strings attached… being accepted with all your flaws, is this not what we all need and want?
5. Blood In The Water
At first you might feel confused that this is abruptly “breaking” the overall feeling for this album, somehow upsetting the “feeling good” vibe. Now, I admit that this song sounds like a mood changer… with all its rage and this mad, unhinged sax this is certainly not an easy piece to swallow. But after certain amount of time and listening I grew very fond of it – it works amazingly well when you see how it adds just another bright color on this strong palette of emotions that the album has been weaved of… So no matter if you jump at it at first, I’ll give it the credit it deserves. Just don’t cook while listening, for you might spill something. :-)
6. Roll Another, Johanna
There you have a song in stark contrast with the previous one. What can I say about a tender song like this one? You can hear Ekaterina Nenkova adding the shade of colour with her warm backing vocals and the song has this nice, easy harmony between Jamie’s powerful voice and hers that gives you the hint: it’s a delicate and passionate song, almost a duet.
7. Bambo’s Blues
When I asked Jamie about Bambo’s Blues, he said that it was a nice studio moment, a passing jam. It’s a nice break and a sincere, playful way to invite the listener to peek into this special place where music is created – from the magic that happens when good musicians are having random fun together. Unsurprisingly, Jamie is playing skillfully with our expectations and he knows what he’s doing: pushing and pulling at his ropes while also having a lot of fun.
8. A Love That Hurts When It Hits
Don't say you've never been hit by love. This is pure realism, never boring. It says all there is to say about love being true and hard, not all roses and pearls. It doesn’t cut any corners and it hits right in the feels. :-)
9. Love, Approximately
Ever felt confused in a relationship? I see everyone’s hand drawn up now. Love is never not easy. Every album has a song that’s the instant favorite and I believe this is the one here. Leave what you’re doing and let this song take you on a happy ride. Radiating pure joy with its melodic, nice riffs and catchy rhythm, with the lovely sax and whatnot, it’s just a song you won’t be able to stop humming all day. :-) But make not mistake, the sense of contrast that is so typically Irish is here again – hidden in plain sight between the deceptive lightness of the melody and the words that are not so light… at all.
10. Ain’t No Moonshine When She’s Gone
Very hard to review a song that I love from the first note. Beautiful, haunting melody and dreamy, sweet sadness reeking out of it. Love the “conversation” between the leading and the backing vocals here and the inimitable voice of the sax. Billyana Todorova is surely helping to make this track more balanced.
When I asked Jamie, he said the songs were written over many years - some new and some old... finally finding a home together. And now you have it - all aspects of love, thoroughly covered by these talented musicians, lead by Jamie, who is always steering his albums towards his strongest emotions and influences.
I like the fact that he is not easily satisfied with his strong points only and that he is never shy to challenge – himself and the audience.
Now it’s your turn. Buy, listen and then don’t forget to share in the comments what grabs you and what doesn’t.
P.S. You know, our culture and world perception are shaped by the things we consume. So choose your treats wisely and when you have a chance, don’t miss these guys’ gigs – I promise, you will enjoy massively the live experience! :-)
The Number Nein are:
JAMIE MC DONALD - guitar, vocals, songwriting
ILKO BIROV – drums & percussion
CHRIS CHILDRESS - saxophone
DAMIEN MC DONNELL - drums, bass, percussion, occasional sax
IVAN ALEXIEV - bass, string arrangements
If you want to explore the lyrics, here they are:
“I know you believe you understand what you think I said... I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”Love, Approximately
“Music is the soundtrack of the only life we live!”
1. Hi, Jamie. Let me ask you the sublime, metaphysical question – who are you?
I am ghost in a shell, a word on the breeze, a thought that evaporates when you try to grab, a dream undreamt…
2. What music in general means to you?
Music is the way to say all the things words alone can’t explain…
3. When and why did you start playing?
I started playing early in life as music just spoke to me. It was something that grabbed me like no other. I remember listening to Beethoven when I was 4 or 5 and just being lost in the layers of sound… Not knowing anything but feeling everything!
4. Which instruments do you play?
Badly, barely or really? ;-)
5. What was the first tune(s) you learned?
Hmm… actually, I don’t remember. I do recall my brother learning Tom Petty’s “Yer So Bad”… That’s maybe the first one he learned.
6. Is your family musical? Did you have their moral support on your way?
Irish culture is musical and so yes there was lots of music in my family too. There is no social gatherings that aren’t soundtracked by songs sung together or dancing to songs together in my family. Patsy Cline, Christy Moore, Leonard Cohen, Van Morrison…and more, were all constant figures in my childhood.
7. What are your major musical icons/influences?
I find this one tricky. Influences… what actually makes its way into my own music? I would say Bob Marley, Van Morrison, Bobby McBride, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Lucky Bones Radiohead, The Beatles… an endless list and yet I still find more in past and present.
8. Who are your favorite musicians?
Anybody getting up there and doing it. Actually playing music and exploring the world and sharing that journey. Anybody doing that with a degree of honesty gets my vote.
9. Do you ever feel fed up with singing a song too many times?
I tend to know when I can’t sing a song again so yeah, I just move on before that happens. Myself and Ivan Alexiev (bass player with The Number Nein) were just talking about this. He found a song of mine we never play and wondered why. My answer was I just can’t find more than one truth in the song so it doesn’t feel right.
10. What inspires you the most?
People who keep going, people with a “never say die” attitude, the explorers and warriors of our world.
11. What new music you like?
Well, I don’t know… What’s new to me is not necessarily new. I am really digging the Irish band Interference but they are no longer with us. I only heard them for the first time a few days ago. Bobby Mc Bride always has new songs popping up (check him out!). We Raise Bears from Dublin are a really cool act, too.
12. How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
What mistakes? :-)
13. You have performed in streets, bars, pubs, clubs… Do you (or have you ever) get nervous before a performance?
I get eager to start. Waiting is hard. I often want to cut out all the extra nonsense and just get to the music… is that nervous?
14. What was the biggest problem that you had to overcome so far?
Learning to discredit comfort and then having become comfortable with discomfort to shift the balance once more.
15. When did you decide to form your band? What inspired you to make music together?
I kinda collected the band over years of playing. The Number Nein has members across the globe and depending on where I am and who is near I call them up and away we go.
Basically they are all people who I find inspiring to have around musically and socially. There are lots of laughs behind the music.
16. If you had to do it all over again, would you still choose this career? Would you do anything differently?
It chose me… and, yeah, I would do everything differently, but only out of curiosity.
17. Of all the places you have been to, which one you want to return to again and again, and why?
Well, I do love coming back to Bulgaria, because of the people. But mainly I love anywhere I can revel in the creation of music.
18. How do you balance your music with other obligations – mate, children, job?
19. What’s your ultimate direction for your band? Are you seeking fame and fortune?
Damn…. I am seeking a living and peace of mind. If I don’t create this body of work that plagues my mind then nobody else ever can. That’s a burden but a joyous one.
20. What personal advice would you give to someone wanting to pursue music career?
Do it before you don’t. And surround yourself with people who support and enjoy the music while having a laugh. We’re here for a good time, not a long time!
21. You’ve got a few albums out now. Are you satisfied with how they turned out?
Well, there are actually 3 studio albums and 3 home recorded ones, as well as a live one… so that’s 7 in all.
I am really happy with the new one and on reflection I love the older work as documents of a place and time.
22. What’s next?
Bonus question: Jamie, you share the same name with Jamie McDonald (adventurer). Do people mistake you for him sometimes?
Never… I did once have some upset audience members in Antwerp because my name was misprinted and they arrived hoping to see Scottish chanteuse Amy McDonald.
“The yearning to transcend the art to reach some other untouchable place”
I’ve always had a soft spot for Irish musicians. So it’s no wonder I instantly liked Jamie McDonald when I first met him. It was one cold winter’s day a few years back, when he was busking on a main street in my hometown (which is Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria — go find it on a map, I’ll wait. ;-)
Imagine the sight — it’s freezing cold with a lot of snow, and a red-haired man with his guitar and a smile larger than world is standing on a deserted boulevard and is giving away music with enormous energy and feel-good mood, like it was something he just cannot hold inside anymore. Not a living soul outside in this weather — only a few passersby like me and my husband, thinking that this guy is a wonderful gift on such a day. We stopped to listen, for it felt as a rare privilege just for us to witness his infectious performance (we didn’t have much money, so we bought him a can of beer as well — sorry for that, Jamie, it was not the right drink in the winter :-)).
He impressed me with his honest music and with his attitude — playing and singing with such passion, you would think he was on the big stage, surrounded by enormous crowd of fans… which he clearly deserves.
We never forgot his powerful performance and I took a mental note that he was different than most of the street musicians, especially because he was not singing covers, but his own songs.
I’ve met him again and again on the streets of Sofia, but I’ve missed most of his gigs in Irish pubs here, although I wanted to go there a number of times. Then I kept following his progress online up to the point where he decided to go back to Ireland.
Now is a good moment to check him up online — you will find his latest works under the name “Jamie Mcdonald and The Number Nein”, for wherever he goes, he manage to gather a big crew of excellent musicians to back him up. And it’s no wonder: when they work together, the guaranteed result is almost magical: a music to take you on adventure on the splendid ship of funk, folk, soul, and something else, where Jamie is your skillful Captain.
I really expected him to shine and he never disappointed me. :-)
(The first released album that I’ve heard of is titled simply “Jamie Mcdonald” and you can find samples from it on Amazon. “One Fine Day” seems to be the hit here, and you can find it on YouTube, while “Wild” have this catchy sound that might remind you a bit of a certain band from Liverpool, but my personal favorite from this album is “Tell Me”.)
Just recently Jamie Mcdonald released his new album, aptly named “Maladies of Country and Soul”. But you won’t find anything to make you sick here, except the desire to see him and his band live as soon as possible. :-)
The first track, “This Boy Is Back In Town”, has this gospel-like-lazy-western feel at the intro, but develops into a haunting melody that will carry you easy through words like “Everybody goes out looking for the little things we lack/Some of us forget to come back/But this boy is back in town”. The end comes abruptly, almost as if the song was cut by mistake, and as I can see it was meant to be like this, I still cannot say that I like it.
The second track is called “They Know Not What They’ve Done” and it is the honest groan that comes deep from the soul of every hard-working man out there, struggling to accept the unfairness of life (my favorite line here: “They tax the water from the sky/Why not the water from your eyes?”).
The third track (“Willow, Don’t Weep For Me”) seems to be one of the big hits here, and the deceivingly simple and merry melody just calls for you to get your dancing shoes ready… while pondering about life, the Universe and everything. I liked this song very much.
“Say Something” is just perfect for the ending credits of a nice, independent romantic movie :-). My favorite line here was “It’s getting colder/Make no mistake/But are we really talking about the weather/when there’s so much at stake?”
“Oh, Lonesome Me” gently enters with a violin and adds to the overall sound of the whole album – a rich, complete bouquet of melodies and sounds, not a single one there by accident.
The sixth track (“Take It Where You Find It”) reminds me sooo much of Rolling Stones, but let’s say, in a good way – respecting the good ol’blues tradition. :-)
“This Longing, My Bones” is the longest track (4:38), but being dynamic and rhythmic it doesn’t get boring and obviously intends to make you move around a bit while singing.
“Falling For The Dancer (Instead Of The Dance)” with its colorful, subtle oriental hints and the last song, “Night Train To Zagreb” are just the perfect ending for this music trip.
I will let you listen the album and have your own impressions, so I will stop with the dissection here. Although what you will hear might not shatter your world with surprise, my sentence is positive because one easily gets the feeling that every song here was arranged and recorded very carefully, with equal parts craftsmanship and pleasure. The trademark of Jamie, perhaps?
You can find something for everybody’s taste in the album, for this is an artist who knows how to tell stories. He is playing and experimenting with different styles, flawlessly sliding from one into another in the same song… That’s a guy that clearly likes to stretch out and cross the limits to express himself in the best possible way.
Also, Jamie sings with abandon, his music clearly comes from deep within his heart and it is impossible not to be touched by the sincerity of his raspy voice. It speaks to me on so many different levels — all of his songs contain this beautiful, bittersweet mix of emotions that appears to be the mark of many Irish musicians — the seemingly cheerful music, tangled with strong lyrics that can touch or tear your heart… it is irresistible, and you want to dance and weep at the same time.
Darkness and light, wrapped together like a delicious box of pleasant, melodic treats for your ears, feet and soul. Try it yourself and you will surely find that I have not wasted your time with this review. My only complaint is that the new album has only 9 songs, but at least one can listen to them on repeat. :-)
This year begins nicely — with a lot of work, just as I like it. :-)
Bogo Shopov from Bulgaria Web Summit asked me recently if I can create a new mascot for the event, and to integrate it with the conference’s website logo. I tried my best at the moment, and the following happened:
The concept is simple — the creature, Summitosaurus superioris, is a social and friendly animal, a kind of dinosaur.
(The event is not happening for the first time — in fact, Bogo is making these great things for so long now, that in internet terms it is almost close to ancient history.)
The back of the dinosaur is like a mountain peak and the reason for that is quite obvious — a direct analogy with the word “summit,” but also a hint that this is a top event. :-)
Summi carries a lot of knowledge and wisdom and is ready to share them with those who are not afraid to climb to the top.
The creature is a symbol of experience, competence, stability, power, friendship and sociability.
I feel quite content with the end result and what’s more important, Bogo liked it, too. What do you think?
*Also, if by any chance you have been living in a cave and you’ve never heard about the Bulgaria Web Summit conference, make a point of checking it this year. The people who attend it are a great bunch and the speakers are as amazing as ever! The conference will take place in Sofia, April 7-8 2017. Tickets are almost sold out, so hurry if you want to attend!
There is this new software called Gravit Designer. It is a browser-based app for vector illustration and UI design. I am testing it from time to time, for it is still under development, but looks very handy and promising.
Here is their logo (I do not know the author?):
At one point last year, while fooling around with the logo of Gravit and trying to do something fun with it (for the sole purpose of fun), this happened:
…and then it changed and evolved into that:
And here is the GIF version:
The team behind Gravit liked this second little fellow enough to call it Gravil and choose it for their official mascot. So I am quite proud with the progress of this little baby. Gravil even made it to new York city in life-size version! :-) Wish him luck!
Oh, and I strongly recommend you to try Gravit Designer — you will enjoy its features and the ease with which it can be used. :-)
My name is Ani and I am a freelance illustrator and editor. I love drawing and writing, I love riding my bicycle and swimming, I love traveling to distant places and learning new things. You can read more in my About Me page. ;-)
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