Music, Mafia and… Ashington?

They’re in this week.
As is Blyth and Ashington too.
And the Mafia.
And The King’s Head.

Blimey, we better get on with it then; Be Welcome, Gentle Reader, and read on…

core poster pic

This news just in…
Yesterday (as I press ‘publish’ on Sunday) we went down to the James Cook University hospital to visit Phil Graham and Tinker Dick. We just heard that Tinker (for readers from foreign parts: Tinker is what you might call, ‘ a character’ or ‘individual’, or even ‘off the map’; but he’s a lovely bloke and  a well known face on the Teeside scene) has fallen and bent bits that should, medically, not be bent. However, after the ordeal of explaining to the ward nurse[1] that we wanted to see a Tinker Dick[2], and no we don’t know his surname, we eventually ascertained that he has been moved to Priory Ward at Guisborough. We hope he is well on the mend. Then to a different ward to see Mr Graham. His G Barre syndrome had meant that his paralysis was near enough complete, but we were delighted to see him waving his arms about like a good ‘un. A good bit of upper body movement has returned, whilst the legs remain on temporary vacation. Phil is in great spirits and determined to get out asap, and under his own steam if possible. He gets my vote.

Phil sends greetings to all Acoustic Chums, and I have promised not to mention what he looked like being winched by a pair of Hong Kong Phooey extras (very nice ladies to be sure) from a wheelchair into his bed. It was not dignified, it was not elegant, but was highly amusing. Of course I promised not to mention it, so won’t.

The local hospital is to have a charity fundraiser soon. It will feature Danny Forth (fiddle) and Dave Cromarty (short pipes), who will be followed by Mai-be and Sui Lai from Hong Kong, identical sisters and phenomenal fiddle players at a young age. The show will be finished off by local youngsters Rain, a Status Quo tribute band. The whole enterprise is being underwritten initially by our own Wrinkly Wroadies; Doug and Pauline Westley.

Look out for the poster:

Forth, Cromarty: Lai Twins later, followed by Heavy Rain. Backing Westley for a while.

Tuesday brought a Bric. No not that sort of house, more a Bric Playhouse. Blyth the scene for tonight’s wee venture, in support of Michael Whipp who has valiantly strained to get something going to help the Bric community organisation he supports. So this time it was the foyer bar of The Phoenix Theatre in downtown Blyth. Thank the Lord of Folk that he (Michael) was rewarded with a great turnout, including quite a few audience there to listen. The room is long and narrow – it would be it’s a theatre bar, but notwithstanding we had a very pleasant night, FG getting the signal honour of finishing the night. Good singers there – they gave Rake Down The Moon the beans! Michael plans to run this fortnightly; we won’t get there every time, but it was a good inaugural night, with a pleasant friendly feel. Two round the room, stand, sit or fall over to play; no-one seemed to mind which.

Thursday and we in finery for Ashington. It’s a while since we last inflicted the FG bombast on the good people of Ashington. A good turnout in The Portland[3] seems to indicate that they have settled in very well to their new home. Upon entry, it was perhaps a tad chilly, but warmed up before kick off. A good PA to the fore and a grand range of local talent to take to the stage; and a good few FG acoustic chums on hand, notably Jim Wigfield, the Hebron Ranter and Songwriter Maurice Baker too, good turns from both. The sound is always good at this club, and it was nice to see a good number of people there to play the role of audience, always very welcome!
Worth a visit if you are in the area.

Pics this week as usual courtesy of The Wrinkly Wroadies. Some people think this is a term of abuse, it isn’t, I use other terms for that.

Have you ever come across the Folk Mafia? They used to be visible at many folk clubs, but seem in recent years to have gone underground. You would spot them, back in the day, sitting in a line at the back of the club; all dressed identically in black leather waistcoats, sunglasses and moustaches. It suited some of them rather well, wives and girlfriends less so. They all had between the feet their trademark fiddle case which, according to rumour, contained a frightening weapon of persuasion – a fiddle.

The function of the Folk Mafia was to enforce standards, ensure the continuance of ‘The Tradition’ and to make sure that it was never besmirched by interpretation, individuality, or God Forbid, originality. This was enforced by displaying the kind of friendliness for which some clubs where rightly noted, and in extreme cases, a pair of concrete wellies and a visit to the duck pond.

The yardstick by which a song can be adjudged a ‘folk’ song is a cause for continued debate – even to this day. Some say that the tune decides the case. Others hold that if the lyric can be traced back to William the Conqueror warbling in his bathtub it might be a traditional song. Yet others argue for arrangement, dialect or what have you. I can exclusively reveal in the pages of this drivel that there is only one factor that decides if a song is Folk or not.

The Body Count.

If there is a death in the first verse, you are well on the way. Mass expiration makes it even more so, and the horrendous accidental demise of a whole boatload (sic) of folks virtually seals the deal. So if you are writing this weekend and want a gig down the club – stick some death in the chorus.

The times they are a changin’ down at The King’s Head and Washerwoman’s Legs Folk Club. Regular Gentle Readers will recall that Chairman Dave, former Godfather of the Folk Mafia, has undergone something of a conversion and now welcomes all sorts of music, from all sorts of folk. Talking of which; local duo Sellotape apparently turned up at the club this week. Husband and wife duo Julian and Sandy are quite… distinctive. He plays acoustic jazz style guitar. The guitar is a big Gretch, but it’s the playing style that owes more to Jazz, as every song in played in D (just the chord, not the key) and he has started adding solos where his left hand races up and down the fretboard while his right furiously spanks the strings. As he is left handed, this is worth seeing. Every now and then the hands synchronise to produce a note.

Not very often though.

Sandy has added keyboard to the act to ‘complement’ her highly individual interpretation of folk standards. She has been compared to Sandy Denny, but only on that occasion when Ms Denny was accidentally electrocuted. The keyboard has a distinctive sound, especially the one note that she uses now and again (maybe it’s a D) which sounds less like a piano, but much more like the kind of sound you would get it you close miked an over inflated marsupial and hit it with a hammer. Their set, as usual, brought the house down.

So; how much has Dave changed?

Sellotape got booked.

And so as the Folk Nurse of Justice checks the Songwriter patient of Destiny into rehab for the night before producing the Acoustic Enema of Fate, I notice it is the end of this blog,

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] why do nurses’ uniforms look like they came off the set of Hong Kong Phooey?

[2] If you’ve ever seen one, especially one of the old ones, you’d understand the fascination.

[3] It is probably the only place in Ashington to serve a meal with Celeriac Jous. It’s probably the only place this side of Saturn to serve it.


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