Voices

It came as a shock last weekend to discover that among my fellow punters at a folk concert back in November 2012 was David Cameron. Speaking to the Mail on Sunday, the Prime Minister slyly hinted at the hipness of his musical tastes by revealing how he and Samantha snuck into a First Aid Kit gig as the Shepherd Bush Empire. Until then, I had flattered myself that I had a cool and recherché appreciation of music, and that hopefully I had avoided the pretentious music so often accompanied by the word “recherché”.

Laura Marling, Hammersmith Apollo, London

With its 5000 capacity, Hammersmith Apollo is a large venue for any band to command, let alone a slight folk songstress with an acoustic guitar. Laura Marling more than rose to the challenge.

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Cultural Life: David Haig, actor

Theatre: I recently went to see a reading of a new play called 'Coalition'. It was a political satire about the present coalition government. Written by Tom Salinsky and Robert Khan, it was witty, fast moving and hugely enjoyable. It started me wondering about the nature of great satirical comedy. I immediately thought of 'The Thick of It' and 'Yes Minister' and realised that one of the features of both is the paradoxical ability to be specific and non-specific at the same time. Subliminally one is constantly aware of contemporary resonances, but the resonances are never specific enough to give history the chance to overtake the comedy and render it redundant. That was my one reservation about 'Coalition'. It was so particularly about Clegg's Lib Dems that there is a danger that history will creep up and date it overnight. I hope not, because it was a terrific script.

First Listen: Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball, Theatre Marigny, Paris

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Being a radio DJ is a cinch nowadays. Where once upon a time a DJ had to haul crates of records into work, now they can simply take in their iPod, set it to shuffle and then lie down for an executive nap.

Album: The Smiths, Complete (Rhino)

The first line of the first song on the first Smiths album contains, like some fractal, the essence of their entire oeuvre.

J Blackfoot: Southern soul singer who took 'Taxi' into the charts in 1984

The southern soul singer J Blackfoot made some of the most enjoyable and enduring rhythm and blues records of the late 1960s and '70s as a member of The Soul Children, the vocal quartet whose tenure at the legendary Stax label was overshadowed by the crossover success of the family group the Staple Singers and the emergence of Isaac Hayes as a worldwide superstar.

Album: Carole King, A Christmas Carole (Hear Music)

There's an inter-denominational inclusivity theme to Carole King's seasonal offering. The star turn is "Chanukah Prayer", a haunting, jazz-inflected Jewish hymn on which she's joined by her daughter Louise Goffin (who also produced the album) and grandson Hayden Wells.

Album: Susanna K Wallumrod, Giovanna Pessi, If Grief Could Wait (ECM)

It's not at all Santa-related but this collaboration between vocalist Wallumrod (late of Susanna and the Magical Orchestra) and baroque-harpist Pessi has an authentic winter-song feel.

Album: Judy Collins, Bohemian (Wildflower)

She was the 1960s "folk" diva who captivated Stephen Stills et al (cf "Judy Blue Eyes") and stood fast against the forces of ugliness and repression with a voice like a silken banner whipped in a hurricane of romantic right thinking: a blue-eyed, wheat-blonde Joan Baez.

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Album: Luke Haines, 9 Psychedelic Meditations on British Wrestling of the 1970s & Early '80s (Fantastic Plastic)

Haines writes songs that somehow touch a raw nerve of emotional response – even when, as here, he's imagining the podgy heroes beloved of UK grapple-fans, projected into absurdist situations beyond their public image.

Story of the Song: Paul Simon, 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover (1975)

It reads like a Woody Allen short and has one of the most instantly recognisable drum intros in pop.

Donovan, Royal Albert Hall, London

He's introduced to us as a 17-year-old who sleeps on the beach and sings songs of "seagulls, freedom and young love".

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