The Emperor’s New Folk

(Please read with feeling🙂 By My Sainted Aunt!

I have one, not sainted yet, but saintly. However, I have been moved to imprecation this week, and invoked her name, in the manner of a much perturbed and vexed Biggles.

What has narked your usually placid scribbler so?

Be Welcome Gentle Reader and read on…

Is it really me?

I mean, I’m not usually grumpy, being a placid type; good to his mother and always remembers the wife’s birthday just a few days too late[1].

But I mean, enough, is enough.

As a songwriter and guitar wrestler, I feel that I am, if only in some lightweight and peripheral way, involved in the creative world. The things I create, I want people to like, sing along and nod happily (they do this already, but it’s usually the Guinness).

So when me and Wor Porkie went to Baltic…

For the uninitiated, Baltic is a huge old flour mill on the quayside at Gateshead on the banks of the increasingly pleasant Tyne[2]. It is now, at great taxpayer expense, a venue for something called contemporary art.

Well, I agree, it starts with a C.

And it’s blooming annoying too, one exhibit was a cage full of dead flowers.

Deep man.

A projector projecting blank film on an endless loop.

Right on.

A garden hut with a big fan in it.

Like, dooooood.

Like, bugger me, why doesn’t somebody say something?

The Emperor’s new clothes were never more clearly showing his bum, but no one wants to say anything, for fear it will merely demonstrate that they are too dim to understand what the artist is saying.

If I wrote a song with the same arrogance that these artists and curators show, I’d be laughed out of the club, and quite rightly too.

I feel a protest song coming on…

And so this week and we aboard the charabanc for Stockton Folk Club. A little while since we were there, last time was a Beat the Drum charity show (oh, an announcement about that on the way too, you generous lot of folkies, you). On a bank holiday it can go one of two ways in a folk club. Either lots of people show up, or the chairman decides to call it a night and have a game of strip harmonium instead[3]. Thankfully a goodly few turned up and we had a great night, opening and closing the proceedings. The regulars, many of whom we know, were on fine form, and we managed to wrangle a version of the new song Three Shillings and Ten, which went down rather well, I thought.

I wonder if this is the right time to tell you this.

I would not wish to be held responsible if, as a result of extreme excitement, a new settee became necessary.

However I cannot hold my peace[4].

So…

You can blame ‘Ace’ Higgins[5] for this. T’was he that dubbed us ‘prog folk’ (which I have to say, I’m proud of). This is partly because I do love prog rock, and it shows a bit sometimes in the way we construct songs with different sections, time sigs, shifts and instrumentals. So, I decided to take the prog by the horns.

Enter… the FG concept album.

(I’ll just hide in here for a minute until you all stop merry chortles)

So we are busy writing “The Cautionary Tale (of Mr Harland Goodnight)”.  I think it will be another CD-EP, four or five songs chronicling the misadventures of my new Victorian thief, the eponymous Mr Goodnight. The main story is written and two of the big songs are on the way quite nicely, the only problem being that the flute line I want Carol to play will necessitate the growing of at last one more hand.

All I need now is to work out how to operate the sampler I bought last week…

And so to Friday and Guisborough Folk Club. Recently migrated to a new venue, the club now meets in the much more folk clubby Globe pub in the town. A much more ethnic venue that the Cricket Club, the room is an interesting shape, but allows a corner on performance are so that performers can see the whole room, apart for the bit behind the snooker table. The MC for the evening was the irrepressible Mr Tinker Dick. One of the scenes’ true characters Tinker has a unique way of performing, his foot often as important as his voice or guitar, and he has a genuinely unique way of MC-ing, which is worth the price of admission on its own. Tinker and FG are old Acoustic Chums, and thankfully he likes and ‘gets’ what we do, so ‘tis he we must thank for a couple of spots on the night, we managed to get in a couple of the new songs as well as a couple of (gasp) trad songs too. There was a great deal of talent on display that night, some visiting (like us) and much local. Photos again courtesy of the geriatric grafters known to us all as the Wrinkly Wroadies – they do a fine job for us every week. We don’t know what it is, but it’s fine!

You will recall, Regular Gentle Reader, that things at The Kings Head and Washerwoman’s Legs Folk Club are not well. A breakaway group has, well, broken away, to form a rival musical attraction, their remit being to explore different (shock) styles of acoustic music. Chairman Dave has I fear, taken this badly. He retired to his Guinness for fully twenty minutes before he reached a decision – and banned them. That means that Big Gwen, Ralph the Fiddler[6] and power duo Sellotape will be unwelcome in the folk club. That means that if they do come to an evening in future, they will be allowed in (admission money is important) but they will be ignored, no-one will talk to them, and their songs will be met with derision and ill-suppressed sneers.

How will they be able to tell that they’ve been banned, I wonder?

However, Chairman Dave has decided to retrain, and is going back to Chairman’s College for a refresher course. He feels that he has been welcoming, cheerful, open minded and inclusive, therefore a refresher is required to kick all that rubbish out and replace it with true, traditional values.

And so as the word counter begins to resemble a dervish in a microwave, and the visiting banjo driver of fate plays his exhibition piece to the club and wonders briefly if everyone else will be playing outside, I notice that it’s the end of this blog.

Until next time Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’


[1] This is of course, not true. Do I not still breathe?

[2] Where the doo-doo-ran, the doo-doo-ran

[3] If you want the rules for this most diverting of tradition pastimes, send a stamped addressed envelope to…

[4] Look; you did that gag by yourself, Don’t blame me, and I hope you’re ashamed.

[5] First time Gentle Readers should be aware that this worthy is the taller, but less attractive, half of a roots/folk/acoustic outfit known as ItsAcoustica.

[6] No minors were harmed in the creation of that nickname. That we know of.

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