A box of mixed confections…

“Life”, said Forrest Gump famously, “is like a box of chocolates”.

Equally well known, is the follow up line “you never know what you’re gonna get”.

Less well known perhaps, is the last line, which ended up on the cutting room floor “Unless you look at them little pictures under the lid”.

This week our chocolates have held a few surprises, some nice, others simply surprises. Acoustic Chums too have fumbled in life’s bag of Revels and drawn out some soft centres which, on the whole, should never have been in the bag – they certainly weren’t written on the wrapper.

So, Gentle Reader, let us, hand in hand, skip lightly down to the Sweet Shop of Acoustic Music and see what’s written under the lid.

Be Welcome, and read on…

This week one of our tastiest treats was at an evening organised by Acoustic Chum John ‘The Power’ Jeffrey. He simply got a room sorted out and asked a few Acoustic Chums to drop in and have an evening of round the room musical goodness. So it was that a few of us turned up and did exactly that, many exploring the bottom layer of Acoustic Chocolate, just to see what centres lay in store. Longtime chums jiva, who in fairness should send their box of choc back to the maker with a stiff complaint – THAT wasn’t on the lid – were a welcome treat, laying down several of their famous messhuggah-tinkle grooves to an appreciative room. Jim Wigfield (Soft center with nuts) gave a few of his self penned highly original songs, Trev and Renata[1], found some local confections to please the audience with and of course, Mr. Power himself showed that he has lost none of his joi-de-plunk and produced some very well done songs. Full Circle, that is Paulene and Ian Young also delved into the box and found some praline delights to lay before us. Ant Wilson played a grand selection using, to my interested ear, what looked like a baby Taylor – I should’ve asked Jimmy and Val, not only could they have told me the model, they could probably tell me the serial number and the colour of the luthiers boxers. I believe a local prog-folk-experimental-fusion duo also attended but they probably just lowered the tone.

The photographs are hand tinted by the Wrinkly Wroadies. They have finally grasped how digital photography works now that I have explained that it is simply magic.

Earlier, we had another surprise centre, delivered to us by the Great Confectioner in the Sky. We’d been booked at Horden Methodist Chapel, for what we took to be a church do. Certainly the venue was in the Church, and a lovely building it was too, but the good worthies of Horden had simply organized a gig round FG, and thrown it open to the community. We had a large room, filled with punters curious (presumably) as to what the show was all about. A couple of hours later they left, (presumably) the wiser and (hopefully) the happier.

They certainly should have, as we had an excellent night – people sang, laughed and generally made all the “I am having a good time” noises that we could have wished. We’re going back next year, thanks to all the organisers as it was a great night.

I have been known to chunter on a bit within the pages of this blog, often (but by no means exclusively – no-one is a better chunterer-onnerer than I) about gigs and attendances. We’ve certainly had our best year ever and part of the definition of best is ‘learning’. And sometimes that can be expanded to ‘learning what not to do’.

We had a gig at Fuse media Centre on Friday, the third I think we’ve had there. The Fuse cannot be faulted – the venue is fantastic, the main theater is absolutely brilliant. The staff are great, supportive and helpful. The facilities are really good and so the list goes on. It has however got one time flaw – which the staff cheerfully acknowledge – which is that it is in the wrong place.

Originally constructed to help the school next door deliver high end media courses, it struggled when the course (and the associated funding) were pulled soon after opening, and became a community resource. Sadly, although very near to the school, it isn’t near the heart of the community, requiring a long walk or car journey to get there. With the other delights offered by the fleshpots of Prudhoe nearer to hand, it is not surprising that the good Burghers of Prudhoe take their custom to a more convenient elsewhere.

However some folks did turn up and we had a good show – but it would have been so much better had the place been filled – it is another regrettable instance of use or lose it, which in this instance looks like having an inevitable outcome.

But we do hope not.

In other news this week I notice that it is time for the election.

Yes, The Kings Head and Washerwoman’s Legs committee is up for re-election, as is the post of Chairman.

Chairman Dave has been at the helm now since the sixties and has developed an iron grip on folk club policy, which is re-enforced and encouraged by a specially made pair of blinkers so he can’t see what is going on around him. In most cases, Dave has been elected un-opposed over the years. Maybe the job he was doing was respected and appreciated by all, maybe no-one felt they could do it better, maybe no-one knew there was an election – Dave often found it easier simply not to tell people – it was so much quicker. However, this year, a copy of the club rules has been found behind the cistern in the gents where it has been for safe keeping these last twenty years. Upon (very careful – it’s a bit soggy) perusal, it seems there should be a free and open election every year to vote in a new committee or approve the old one.

Dave has got competition.

Little Sid, known as a reformer, a rebel, a revolutionary for change – has put himself forward to stand against Dave.

Sid, now in his early nineties, is a firebrand. He wants new blood, new music, new faces in the club. As long as they don’t do anything noisy, or use them guitars, or sing songs they’ve written themselves, Little Sid is all for it.

Sid is on the left wing.

Dave wants no truck with change. Things are all right as they are. Things don’t need to change. The club will be fine and next years guest list should be the same as this years.


Dave is on the right wing.

What no-one has noticed, among the seismic and titanic battle that has erupted between these two giants of the local folk scene, is that sitting quietly in the corner is young Fiona[2]. She plays the pipes, rather nicely if you like the sound of a sack contain seven fluffy puppies being prodded with a selection of hot knitting needles, has been quietly observing the opportunity. She and her partner, have an interest in music. They have travelled. Last year they went to Sunderland and saw new acts, heard new sounds, had their eyes opened to the possibilities that lie beyond the melodeon and whistle horizon.

And they liked it.

If she stands, she may not win. Actually she won’t win, Dave will, but that’s by-the-by[3], but if there is no clear majority she may hold the balance of power.

Maybe she should stand on the Hot Puppies Platform and see what happens?

And so as the wind of change blows through the folk scene only to be defeated by the air-freshener of conservatism, I notice it is the end of this blog.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] New CD available now. It’s Happy, so it can’t be folk.

[2] Fiona is in her mid forties, which is why, in club terms, she is young.

[3] The election scrutineer is Dave’s neighbour Gerry Mandering.

A week in a Tardis…

I wonder how one would write as a word the noise that a dematerializing Tardis makes?

‘Awooogahh Awoogahhh’ comes to mind, but I’m sure that means something else, probably unsavoury. Nonetheless, having set the sonic tone, I invite you, Gentle Reader, to consider the concept that it is possible to loose a week entirely, possibly by stepping into a cupboard (or police box) and upon coming out find that seven days have passed you by.

Awoogah indeed.

However, something must have happened.

Mustn’t it?

In order to find out, Be Welcome, Gentle Reader, and read on…


And so, we in dress order resplendent, on Friday for The Bridge Hotel in our own company for the purposes of admiring Messrs ItsAcoustica and Jack Burness.

Chiefly remembered before a note was struck by the wheeled warfare that was happening on the streets of the City outside. Usually punters can park outside or at least nearby this venue, but in this instance the entire annual product of Detroit[1] was intent on turning itself into scrap metal on the mean streets of Newcastle.

If not actually mean, perhaps just a bit grumpy.

Perhaps it was the end of the Black Friday madness? Perhaps it was an average Friday night in town? Whatever the reason, this motorized mayhem made us late and we waltzed up to the function room to find Andy and Cath already on stage and soundchecking – which segued seamlessly into their first number, which is apparently called “1-2, Test”.

For those not in the know (and remember Gentle Reader, that we get all sorts on here, even normal people[2]) ItsAcoustica are an acoustic duo much given to the writing and performance of rootsy, Americana tinged carefully painted songs, penned by Catherine and brought to a lively and melodic life through her singing and Viola work and by Guitar Captain Andy ‘Ace’ Higgins who plays guitar rather better than I do, but is still a nice guy. They drew a good crowd and the room upstairs at The Bridge is a nice venue, so not withstanding the traffic outside and an enthusiastic rock band downstairs (actually, just at the bottom of the stairs) we were treated to a very slick set by the Higgins Acoustic Massive, which included some new songs. Andy sported a large Movember ‘tasche, waistcoat and bow tie ensemble which made him look like he was auditioning for the part of Waiter in the Village People, thankfully Catherine had resisted the temptation. The music was as always very enjoyable, well presented and featured some virtuoso playing. If you get the chance to see ItsAcoustica, then do so forthwith.

Support was more than ably provided by local acoustic institution Jack B Burness. There cannot be too many in the North East who are unaware of Jack, his songs or his dry anecdotal delivery. As usual he delivered a flawless set and even managed to play in time with the aforementioned rock band.

The pictures this week, such as they may be, are courtesy of my old Canon PowerShot A470. A fact that I provide not to brag about my collection of antiques, but to indicate that it is amazing there are any pictures at all. Especially as for some reason I had loaded the camera up with the smallest SD card known to science, making ten shots the maximum for the whole night – clever me. So that’s why Andy looks like he’s leaping about the stage a lot.

That, and because he was leaping about the stage a lot.

A grand evening.


In other news, what have we done?

The week has hurtled by, each day whipping past like a herd of politicians racing towards the nearest denial. We played at The City Library for one of the History groups, all very nice, we’ve done more work on the recording side, so that’s going reasonably well at the moment, we’ve done a lot of promo, gathered a whole bunch of gigs (see website for details) for next year.

And we heard from The Sage.

Or should that be ‘Sage’?

It’s trendy, apparently not to use a definite article, but jump straight into the namey bit. Hence ‘Sage’.

I imagine we’ll be going there in Car, and I may take Guitar too.

Again, for normal people, the Sage, sorry Sage is an iconic arts performance venue in Gateshead, it was designed by an architect with both a sense of humour and apparently a drink problem, but the result is stunning. All the very best names have graced the halls there.

And we even played there once too.

Or should that be ‘twice’?

The Concourse stage has been re-instated, but with a twist this time round. Previously, Sage booked local artists of an acoustic persuasion to play on a Sunday lunchtime. As said previously, we did one of those and it was a fantastic experience – great place to perform in and lots of people to watch and listen – great day. However they canned that, largely I think down to cost cutting requirements, and then brought it back as a Jazz spot, which seems to have been short lived. In the new iteration of the concept, they are putting artists on the concourse during the evening of big concerts while punters arrive, have a drink and wait for the show. Jolly fine notion that.

We applied sharpish, and heard back this week.

They try to pair up the act on the concourse with whoever is on the main stage, so we are very pleased, nay; chuffed to ribbons to be playing for the audience of Kate Rusby.


We really cannot claim to be ‘supporting’ Kate Rusby as we are not even in the same room. We can’t really say that we are ‘opening’ for Kate Rusby as she probably has no idea we’re there.

So, in the interests of truth and decency, on April 15th 2015 7:00pm onward Fool’s Gold will be supporting and opening for Kate Rusby at Sage Gateshead.


I notice that the sand timer of fate is trickling towards the bottom, and only the lumpy bit of destiny can prevent the inevitable last drop of time from bringing another week, and indeed blog, to a close.

Until next time Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’





[1] On reflection that isn’t a particularly helpful analogy these days, as the annual production of Detroit is best measured not in cars but in murders, repossessions and the occasional corruption scandal.

[2] Who are lost.

Highs, Lows and Newtons

Well, well, well.

Another week rolls by and it’s blogtime again.

Oh, well, I suppose it shows that life is, as ever, busy.

So just what is it that fills up an FG week?
Be welcome, Gentle Reader, and read on…


We haven’t been out and about as much this week – at least not to folk clubs. We only managed to get out to play once, which was on Monday to the Ship at Low Newton.

Low Newton is not a place you can get to by accident, you have to have confidence that at the end of the road, there is a something. Low Newton sits on the coast between Seahouses and Dunstanborough and is, to put it mildly, out of the way. It is also idyllic; a small square of cottages squashed round a seafront village green with an old fashioned (and that is putting it mildly) pub jammed into the top right hand corner. It is lovely there and very welcoming, even to the extent of warmly welcoming wandering singer-songwriters.

That is because, as with many of the more rural Northumbrian gigs, this place is largely a tunes session. There is a rule of thumb for Singer Songwriters, which is to use the number of squeezable instruments in the room as an indicator as to how you are likely to be received – in this case, you could have squeezed one wall of the pub and the whole place would have responded with a flatulent low C. We need not have worried – the night alternated between sets of tunes and songs and the organisers were very welcoming. FG got two and we even managed to get the place bellowing along to ‘The Guiding Light’ so all is well. We left a bit early as the journey back to Durham involved sleds, huskies and a couple of trusty Sherpas.

The only other playing gig was a trip up to Alnwick on Saturday evening to join Fiona Elcoat for her radio show; Big Boots and Celtic Roots. This show is very popular and the Facebook based Social Club was in full throat throughout the evening. Fiona has a great approach and made the evening very easy for us – we managed eight or nine songs in the three hours, plus plenty of chat, banter and general daftness. This show is available live on t’internet and we think the girl done brilliant.


The pics this week are from us the Wrinkly Wroadies and also courtesy of MySpace, which decided to re-release loads of pics we’d put up years ago. Many Acoustic Chums to be spotted in these photos from 5 or 6 years ago – some no longer with us.


Other than that, it has been all hands to the creative pumps as bookings start to roll in for Beat The Drum, which is our new show, based round some of our existing WW1 material, plus new songs, as well as all the inbetweeny bits, videos, letters, narrative etc. These new bookings mean that the new songs have to be polished and the presentation side all completed and made nice and shiny too. The new finishing song is called “The Wall” and reflects on the number of men that are remembered simply by their names written on the walls of war memorials. I haven’t been able to get the chorus out of my head, so hopefully that’s a good sign.

We are very please to announce a number of gigs for Newcastle City Libraries. Pleased to get them of course, and also very pleased as two (at least) will be in the Newcastle Central Library Bewick Suite. Did you know the library had a fantastic staged venue within its book lined walls?

Me neither.

6 August Stories with Strings Newcastle Central Library Bewick Suite 6.30pm

17 December Beat the Drum Central Library Bewick Suite 6.30pm

More dates tbc


Chairman Dave[1] has been very busy lately. The King’s Head and Washerwoman’s Legs has been carrying on as usual, and carrying on is a good way to describe the way it does things. Chairman Dave has managed to have his own way (as usual) and the last couple of guests included an ensemble of melodeon players who played tunes from Holland. All the tunes were in Flemish. Then there was an unaccompanied singer[2] who sang songs of rural Wiltshire – they were in Flemish too. However Dave has relented enough to pressure from the younger contingent[3] within the club and has booked an act that features a guitar. It is unclear if anyone will be allowed to play it.


And so, as the Venerable and Aged Folkie of Fate is finally called to The Great Folk Club in the Sky, he arrives to the news it’s a guest night and there will be an extra raffle, and I notice it is the end of this blog.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’


[1] New readers start here: Chairman Dave is the cheerful dictator in charge of The Kings Head and Washerwoman’s Legs Folk Club which meets every Thursday in the back room unless the Leek Show is on. It is open to all and is a traditional folk club. That means it is run almost entirely on a diet of nepotism and cheery corruption and that singer songwriters are tolerated, then eaten.

[2] Because he was very smelly.

[3] Fred and Ether Barnaby from the house along the street. They recently celebrated their fifteenth anniversary. Of retiring.


Another week tumbles past. At this rate we’ll be catching up with Doctor Who.
However another eventful week, full of playing, phone calls, emails messages and promises.
And I cut the hedge.
Well, it wouldn’t do to be bored, would it?

Welcome Gentle Reader, and read on…


Recently we played a charity gig and shared the bill with a classical pianist. He was very good too. This put me in mind of the first time we played with a classical plonker[1].

Our first experience of playing with a tinkler of the classical ivories, was with an undoubted virtuosi, who had far more fingers than is strictly necessary to judge by the cascade of notes he could coax from the imposing Grand Joanna.

But, and there is also a ‘but’ in such stories, he also had a classical mentality when it came to musicians. My friendly ‘Hello Musician Chum’ nod was met with a frosty stare that clearly communicated the idea that while he considered himself a musician. He considered us, that is guitar players, and worse, folk guitar players, as not so much something the cat dragged in, as something the cat left behind.

Not musicians.

Later, we were thrown together in the social maelstrom, and he sailed across our bows, nose in the air and a classical mince in the gait. We chatted awkwardly, while I explained that we write our own songs about mining, people, events etc.

He studied the celling.

I enquired as to his repertoire.

His reply began with “Well, of course…” which I took to be a bad sign.

It was.

A catalogue of names, few of which meant much, tumbled past me lugs. Word like ‘Opus’, and ‘variation’ where bandied about.

Eventually, he paused.

“Oh”, says I, innocently, “you do covers do you?”

He minced off with a face like a Scottish weather forecast.


This week we have played two Care Homes, a Church Social (not ours)[2] and a concert evening at Path Head Water Mill.

Path Head was the last of our little ‘experiments’. We have been dabbling with putting on our own gigs, The Cluny, Weardale Town Hall and Path Head being the programme. We’ve hired the halls, done the posters, made the tickets, done the door, played the music and fallen over afterwards. We have been supported by some good Acoustic Chums, and have done one of the evenings by ourselves.

The verdict?
Good, really. It is quite stressful wondering if anyone will actually turn up. So far, they always have. Not in numbers we would necessarily like, but they have turned up – and increasingly we notice folks showing up that we don’t know. I take that to be an encouraging sign. All of the gigs paid their way, some made a few bob – but the most important thing is what we learned; both about the business of gigs and the work of performing. That’s all for this year – we will have to decide if we are going to do it again, but I suspect that we will.

Last night ItsAcoustica and Ian K Brown both played sterling sets in an increasingly midge’d marquee, and our heartfelt thanks to them for their efforts. We haven’t seen Ian do a long set before, and it was nice to experience his original material close up. Andy and Cath are old chums and old hands too, as they showed through wonderful musicianship and, thankfully, some of the worst intro jokes to grace a set of original, Americana tinged contemporary folk.

Next week, is quiet. So some clubs and maybe – just maybe – some recording.

Lionheart Radio on Saturday though – should be good!

And so as the festival field of fate is returned to the bovine owners of destiny who take one look at the state of the place and head off down the pub, I notice it is the end of this blog.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’


[1] If only I meant the piano…

[2] Are you kidding? As Groucho Marx said, I wouldn’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.

Begin chanting…. NOW!

Weeks are usually seven days long, but ours seem to be a bit longer.

Or is it shorter?

Maybe we get extra days for being good little folkies?

Maybe we get deducted time by the God of Folk (that’s the one with his finger in his ear[1])

Which gives me an idea…

Be Welcome Gentle Reader and read on…


As a small person, I ‘benefited’ from a Catholic education. As 1960’s educations go, it was fairly normal. Rote learning, casual beatings and a boy’s loo smell which could knock out an elephant at 50 yards being, in those days, normal.

The Catholic Value Added bit (apart from rote learning and more casual beatings) was, obviously, added God.

But even here, the rote learning crept in, as in those days there was the catechism. This useful little book answered all the questions that a nine year old needed to know the answers to, like who made you, why and what the resale value was likely to be. This little book was learned by rote, with a bored teacher shouting out the questions while the class listlessly chanted the answer in unison. Or at least mouthed it, hoping that one’s complete ignorance of the actual reply might be lost in the general drone[2].

But that gave me an idea.

Perhaps at the start of each Folk Club the MC could stand up and shout out questions from the Folky Catechism, the audience would be obliged to chant the responses; if a punter got one wrong, they could be roundly chastised with a mandolin.

Imagine the scene….

Chairman Dave “Welcome everyone to the King’s Head and Washerwoman’s Legs Folk Club, we have a good set of floor singers and a special guest artist this week. But First… quiet please…. Who Made You?”

(audience shuffles nervously, one of Chairman Dave’s aides has already produced the mandolin)

Audience (chanting) “Folk made me”

Charman Dave “Why did Folk Make you?”

Audience “Only Folk knows”

Charman Dave “To whose image and likeness did Folk make you?”

Audience “Martin Carthy or Peggy Seeger depending on which way you swing”

Charman Dave “Of which must you take more care, of your voice or of your banjo?”

Audience “Obviously it’s the banjo, you can lose your voice, but you can never get rid of a banjo”

Oh, I could so go on[3]



This week has been brilliant. Really very good.

Four gigs, all of them very enjoyable. A care home, that went well – got asked back again so goody good; then a fantastic outdoor performance at Ministeracres for Save The Children – we played outdoors in a courtyard to about 60 folks, it was lovely playing in the sunshine to a bunch of people who had no idea who we were but who sat and listened and were very complimentary. Then The Beamish Mary hotspot, that seemed to go ok and was good fun, then to round off the week, an FG show at Upper Weardale Town Hall. This was a ‘Stories with Strings’ show, and we did the whole night ourselves.

Guess what?

It went really well. We managed to get a 20 something audience out[4], they had a great time and as a result, so did we. The stories went well, the songs went even better and we even turned a profit on the night. CD sales, the whole bit. Excellent.


Another five gigs next week, especially the one with ItsAcoustica and Ian Brown at Path Head Water Mill (Blaydon) next Saturday night – it’s a lovely setting, it should be a good evening of music with three sets, if you fancy it….


And so, as the last question of the folk catechism rings out and we all realize that we have no idea why most guitars are called Martin, I realise it is the end of this blog.

Until next time Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’




[1] I think its his, and I think its an ear

[2] It has since been rewritten and has now been distilled to a handy 2856 statements.

[3] …and on, and on…

[4] and proud we are of it too.


Life is sometimes a bit of a duck’s bottom.


Be Welcome Gentle Reader, and read on…

stories weardale

It’s a funny word, and has several and various applications.

It is of course, the fluffy stuff you can (if that way inclined) peel from a duck’s bottom. It grows in the little ducky places usually of interest only to other ducks and, presumably, down collection operatives.

Once collected it can be stuffed into a large cotton bag for the purposes of cosy sleep. This is why it must first be parted company from the duck, as sleeping under a sackful of disgruntled mallards[1] does not for a restful evening make.


“Down Down, deeper and down.”

Thus spake Messrs Rossi and Parfitt on the 1975 Staus Quo Hit, entitled… Down Down.

I’m not sure what the meaning was in this case, other than it was probably rude.

‘Down’ is also a directional indicator, and an emotional state and in these last two definitions we get closer, Gentle Reader, to the point.

It is in face, most useful when it follows the ancient English word p*ssing[2], with the optional addition of ‘it’.


Which is what, if you remember, it did last night[3].

And Guess Who was down to play an outdoors gig?

S’right. Us.


We have played Gibside (National Trust) several times before, and on each occasion enjoyed terrible weather, and this was no exception. The problem was that the storm was well heralded and much trumpeted by weather forecasters across the media.

So much so in fact that everyone knew about it, and drew their own conclusions as to the efficacy of an outdoor gig in a thunderstorm. They stayed away in droves, not that we can blame ‘em. We played indoors anyway, the sound was good and we played a longish set.

To the walls.

Ah well, such is the life of the Acoustic Duo, when it is chucking it Duck’s Bums from the heavens.


This week has been busy again, Cherryburn National Trust (no rain) outdoors and great, a library (slightly odd) and a care home – lovely. A bit of work and still attempting to get used to phased retirement. Some small progress made on the songwriting and learning new songs front. More Care Homes booking mean that we need more material. I do not much care for covers, but these gigs are somewhat different, both in purpose and style, so new songs it is – and some of them are great fun – big surprise to me. We still try to inject a bit of FG twist into them, hence half the fun. A club visit to – to Croxdale. Acoustic Chums and Gentle Readers alike might be interested to know there is a website for the club and a facebook page too. The website is here and the facebook page is best found on facebook – it is called, predictably enough, Croxdale Folk Club


The photos this week are of what we did and where we went, but also have a few more from Botton, which I failed to post midweek.


Which just leaves me with the latest news from Chairman Dave.

The now famous leader of The King’s Head and Washerwoman’s Legs Folk Club has been successful in rebuilding the club from an art house forward thinking venue into a traditional folk club, to the point where some evenings Dave is there by himself. Only, Dave is never alone. When by himself, he still has his friends. The talk to him, whisper and advise what to do next. It was his friends that suggested the club have a theme night based on the poetry of Fidel Castro, and the same voices prompted the ill fated attempt to re-record the entire catalogue of Martin Carthy, re-arranged for Kazoo and Shruti box. Well it seems that they have suggested a new project to stop him feeling down.

If I were a duck – I’d look out.

Oh, and don’t forget…

And so as the Folk Show of fate plays the final bars and somewhere, somehow Terry Ferdinand is trying to fade up, fade down and chat on Firmament Book all at the same time, we wish him well wherever he is now broadcasting.

Until next time Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’



[1] With or without freshly peeled bums.

[2] Look; you didn’t tut when Shakespeare used it: ‘Monster, I do smell all horse piss, at which my nose is in great indignation’. The Tempest

[3] If you are reading the repeat, that would be last Saturday.

…and there’s more…

An interesting week. A busy week. A week back at work, full of songs and music, some live playing and attending some really good nights. All this in the north east of the Uk in winter. It just goes to show.

Quite what it goes to show is a mystery to me, but by your forbearance  Gentle Reader, I’ll show it to you.

Be Welcome, Gentle Reader and read on.

I think I’ll start at the end and work backwards (I’m sure there’s a rude joke in there somewhere, but please feel free to do your own). The highlight of the week just gone had nothing at all to do with FG, except perhaps in the sense of us being members of the wider acoustic community who were all assembled, with a fair number of the Great British Public to share in a very memorable evening of music.

Andy and Cath Higgins, collectively  itsAcoustica presented their new CD for the approbation of the mutable and rank scented many at The Cluny 2 on Saturday evening. Not to put too fine a point on the place was packed out. Lots of Acoustic Chums (far too many to list) were in attendance. Carol and I did the door and were seriously considering at one point deploying ‘House Full’ notices. The Cluny 2 is a great venue just outside Newcastle City Centre in the basement of an old distillery and despite a peculiar shape and an odd setting, it is a characterful venue, very popular with muss and punters alike. The photos show some of the flavour. It was great to see the music community turn out in support, both of Andy and Cath but also of Ronnie, with whom (as Los Zimmos) they performed a first half of driving acoustic blues. The second half showcased the new CD, wonderfully recorded and produced by Ron Angus, which featured new and better known itsAcoustica numbers. Both Andy and Cath were on fine form vocally and musically, and buoyed by the supportive audience turned in a tremendous performance. Highlights included Andy wrestling with a banjo trying to get in into tune. How we laughed.

A great evening and a wonderful suite of music; recommended.

I suppose it behoves me to point out that FG and Chris Kelly will be there next Sunday (19th Jan).

Another full house and surprise for us on Thursday Night. Ian McCulloch is the lad who runs the Durham Folk Club at the Tap and Spile in Framwellgate Moor. Anyone who knows the pub will know that the room is pretty small and that sometimes the turnout can be, a bit like wild asparagus in the Arctic, a bit sparse. However this week saw 15 or so good worthies of Folk in the room, which constitutes in that room, another full house.

It was a grand evening, full of humour, good natter and music. A lot of unaccompanied stuff and of course the odd guitar. We did quite a lot of numbers, using the occasion to try out some new stuff. As well as forget some new stuff too. Still, it went down (once remembered that is) really quite well. Another grand evening.

Apart from live out and aboutness, the world of folk seems to revolve, in some cases less like a globe and more like a spin drier. Facebook is a necessary curse these days and it is interesting to see that, as with the world at large, the Folk Community is beset by the same rivalries, jealousies, factionalism and all out total nuclear war that characterises daily life. Pity really, but Folk are after all, folk and folk will as folk do. However, other than to observe that it is happening, I think I’ll keep the old FG snout right out.

However the same cannot be said about The King’s Head and Washerwoman’s Legs Folk Club. This club, under the careful  nurturing of Chairman Dave, has managed to avoid the sort of internecine strife and nepotism that has beset other places. This has been achieved by the simple, and it must be said effective expedient, of banning anyone not immediately related to Chairman Dave. Visitors are welcome to the club and are regarded more or less as fresh protein. Visitors keen to explore the possibility of a guest spot or similar are regarded as fresh plankton. Unless there are related to Chairman Dave of course. ‘Related’, incidentally can be defined by the Uxbridge English Dictionary with a subsidiary definition:

related  (rɪˈleɪtɪd/) adjective

1. synonyms: someone who buys the Chairman lots of drinks, over lots of weeks and eventually, in this manner gets a bloody gig.

All human life is there. As is the rest.

This week kicks off with us at The Surf Cafe in Tynemouth and concludes with the gig next week at The Cluny 2. That report will have to wait two weeks as it’s on the Sunday, but, you’ll all be there anyway… won’t you?

And with that, as the Wandering Minstrel of Destiny arrives at the Folk Club of Fate and discovers that Wandering also has a subsidiary meaning: running.

Until next time Acoustic Chums

Keep Strummin’

Once more, dear friends…

Busy Acoustic Bunnies; that’s us.

We have been beavering (should that be ‘bunnying’?) away this week trying get a grip on all the balls in the air, irons in fire, ships in the harbor and tortured metaphors in the blog. We’ve bought noticeboards, year planners, diaries and datebooks. Online, offline, inline, outlined and now, thankfully, defined.

But it’s only the 5th January!

What can this mad panic be in aid of?
Be Welcome Gentle Reader and read on.


Cluny 2 on January 19th; you are coming, aren’t you?

Firstly, I hope you have made your New Year Resolution. That’s the promise you make to yourself on January 1st, and break by lunchtime. However, if the resolutions were a little more folk related, they might be easier to keep. So here are a few suggestions for:

The Folk Singer’s Resolution

  1. Play as many folk clubs as possible in a year
  2. Try to get thrown out of as few folk clubs as possible
  3. Learn lots of new songs
  4. Forget lots of old ones
  5. Learn to play a new instrument
  6. Never play that instrument in public
  7. Get some new stage banter
  8. Try not to get thrown out of clubs because of new stage banter
  9. Drink less

10. Break no.9 a lot.

Some Acoustic Chums will be aware of the existence on this musical plane of one Mr Phil Graham. Phil has been a larger than life figure on the scene for a while, as host of the late lamented PHOM open nights, as a member of Tre, Out on a limb (with his minder, David) and as part of Man With Stick (no, no one really knows). He is also a solo performer of some gusto, photographer and MC. So if he suddenly disappeared you’d think more folk would notice, wouldn’t you?

Phil has been struck down with Guillan Barre Syndrome. At least he has managed to contract something as hard to understand as his band’s name! Basically, the lad has a condition that has attacked his nervous system and left him paralysed from the neck down. After eleven weeks on his back, he has some returning mobility to his left arm and his Gob, praise the lord[1], is in fully functioning order.

We know this to be true as we went through to the Middleborough Mending House for Knackered Folkies to have a chat. Phil is in remarkable spirits and is positively bouncing – without actually moving – with purpose. If willpower and positivity is medicine, he’ll be right by next Thursday. The reality is that he has a hill to climb. I hope as many folks as possible are there to give him a hand up.

Janet has put in a heroine’s performance so far – have a medal!

We spent a lot of time last year, planning this one. Now it’s arrived, all our plans have started to loom closer and are approaching fast.

This month we have acoustic chums jiva’s songwriters symposium which we support (and probably damage) and of course our Cluny 2 gig on the 19th (just thought I’d mention it). We are also going to itsAcoustica’s gig at the same place the weekend before – that should be a good ‘un too. Then we have a few clubs scheduled in to visit.

So not too much to play with as the Actress said; but (as the Bishop replied) enough, so if not that causing the fuss; then what?

Some time ago, I wrote a sequence of songs about a Victorian Villain called Harland Goodnight. This sequence of songs can be firmly blamed upon Ace Higgins of the aforementioned itsAcoustica, as it was he who first mentioned FG in the context of prog-folk. That got me thinking…

If prog rock can have Lamb Lies Down, The Wall, Quadrophenia (not prog I know), Tales from Topographic Oceans (not short, I know), and Kiss’ ‘The Elder’; (I know, I know, just not good), then why can’t FG have a prog-folk concept album! Hooray!

Anyway, it’s finally wrotten and Carol and I have to get it learned , then get some guide tracks out to the misguided folks who have agreed to participate.

Thursday and we and a brace of slightly dented Wrinkly Wroadies for Jack’s Club. For anyone within Acoustic distance of Durham, that appellation will need no clarification. If you are our regular Bosnian Gentle Reader (are you mad?) then further words of enlightenment may be called for. There has been a Folk Club at The Beamish Mary for long enough. It has gone through various incarnations, days of the week, owners (as has the pub) and has finally landed into the stewardship of Jack B Burness. Jack is very well known round this manor, both as a performer, songwriter, heckler and impresario. His profile on the scene is to be admired and he has put his own stamp on the revitalized (like the pub) Folk Club. Thursdays is the day to aim for, and get there early as it gets very full. We often don’t like open nights with lots of performers as there is usually a cattle market rush, cables, plugging, The Tuning Song, fx pedals, music stands, sheets and usually, The Tuning Song again. Jack has decided to clean up this process. You have to be ready, tuned and prepared. No stands, no sheets, no cribs, no backing track, hit the stage, plug in Jack’s jack and I’m alright (Jack). The result is an easy going night, with little fuss, no real pressure other than the need to do well. On Thursday there was over 50 in the room, plenty of audience and at least 20 or so performers (see pics, Pauline’s as Doug’s wing is still damaged). Great standard in the room, lots of good friends, great music and we was dead chuffed to hear the room roaring along to Rake Down the Moon. Excellent night.

As you can see, some great performers, itsAcoustica showcasing their stuff, nice to see Peter Dilley and of course Mr Twist!

Friday night was an odd one, acoustically speaking. We were very lucky to have a few of our tracks played on a Dutch radio station. Great fun to hear us following Blackmore’s Night, and a grand Dutch band, Scrum. But it was also a salutatory experience. I have always thought that our home studio efforts belonged to the category comfortably labeled ‘pretty good’. I now realize, having heard them back to back with pro level stuff that they belong to the group called ‘pretty good for home recordings’. We will have to raise the bar several notches for the next effort. Given that we can’t run to studio fees for recording, maybe we will involve an expert in the mix and mastering stage. Time will tell.

At the bottom of our road there is a Club. Not a Folk Club, a Klerb.  The Kingdom of Geordieland is into two tribes divided[2]; Pubganners and Clubganners. Porsonally, Ah gan th’pub, but others spend their time differently in the great institution that is The Working Man’s Club[3]. Clubs feel the need to put on entertainment, or ‘Torns[4]’. In days of yore, the Torn would be a band, a comedian, a novelty act or a singer – with a band, often the ubiquitous resident band. In short, the music was live.

The window contains a lot of posters, from which I deduce the following:

These days, they have singers. Just singers. Aint no band. Just a bloke with an unlikely name, or a bord with an unlikely name and (in the eyes of physics) an  unlikely skirt  and an mp3 player. This is not live music. It is singing to a backing tape and is soulless. It has no swing or movement, but it pays well and judging by the posters in the window, there is no shortage of volunteers.

So we get ready for The Cluny in two weeks, a few clubs in between and that should keep us busy. So, as the word counter of fate races towards the ceiling of interest and the metaphor police begin to knock at the blog (so to speak), I realise it is the end of this blog.

Happy New Year

Until next time Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] Several Lords are available, you pick yours and I’ll pick mine

[2] According to the prophet Scott Jobson

[3] Often the ‘work’ is more theoretical than, as it were, work

[4] Turn. Keep up.

Don’t Dampen the Morris

It’s a hard, hard, hard, hard…
…haaaard raaaaaiiiiiiinnnssss …. gonna fall.

No, not Mr Zimmerman waxing at his lyrical best, more of an extraction from a recent weather forecast. But do we allow a touch of the impending Noah’s to get us down..?

Still, a little ray of literary sunshine pokes an impertinent beam through the lowering clouds of woe, and so, be bid Welcome, Gentle Reader and read on…

On Sunday Evening and with all important needs addressed, and all our reachable polishable bits nicely buffed, we in great harmony for South Shields Folk Club. We’d not been for a few months, so it was nice to see folks again for a natter and to see how they have settled into their new home at The Customs House in South Shields.

The room is a big one, and although they club could use the available PA, virtually everything is fully acoustic, instruments and vocals alike. This rather suits us as we tend to prefer it that way unless the room really is enormous. On this particular evening there were other visitors to swell the ranks of those gathered in acoustic worship there. The Monkseaton Morris Men arrived (by arrangement) not to do a guest night, but certainly a couple of chunky floor spots.

They were very good indeed.

Morris is not generally my cup of tea, bovril or even hot Marmite, but they were very, very entertaining, including a sort of Mummer play in their show, as well as an audience participation dance. They don’t half work hard those lads – and indeed in this instance, lasses[1].

One interesting diversion caught my eye during the evening.

Those ‘in the know’ will know that the protocol in some folk clubs is not to enter the room until a break between songs. During such a break, one of our merry Morris Dancers, discovering a thirst, sallied forth to the bar downstairs and on arriving back in the middle of a song, dutifully stood by the door…

…which automatically swung open with a loud attention-grabbing hiss to reveal a fully kitted out harlequin and slightly nonplussed Morris Man, complete with bells and beer filled paws, obliging him to creep back to his seat. Morris outfits are designed to facilitate many things, but surreptitious beer laden creeping is not one of them.

Once again thanks to The Wrinkly Wroadies for the photos.

So. Monday.
Dave the Bass, our erstwhile bass playing son (at least two others are available) is now in France ostensibly working. As part of the farewell activities this week we went to The Sage to see Colin Hay perform a solo set in Hall Two – easily my favourite venue of the moment. Now; we musicians, pro, amateur or merely awful, are at a natural advantage when it comes to going to a gig. That is because everyone else just goes to hear the music whereas we do that and much, much more.

We analyse the performance, spot the guitars, check out the pedals, look at the stage setup, carefully listen to the sound… in short we check out not just the show but how it is done.

So, how was it done?
Very well as you’d expect. The support act was Chris Trapper, an amiable Canadian who was entertaining and very good too. Simple songs, but well delivered with an engaging presentation – good voice too. Colin Hay is a bona fide star, with an impressive rock and pop history. In recent years he has been building an enviable reputation as a solo artist. He had one of the biggest pedal boards imaginable – at least for a solo acoustic guitar wielding musician. He used a lot of effects and tweaked and tuned incessantly – to my ear I couldn’t always tell the difference. He did do ‘Down Under’, a much reworked version which, given the lack of 80’s style rock band behind him, was understandable. Colin Hay is certainly accomplished and his evening is based as much on the stories as it is on the songs, we knew little of him, but Sage 2 was packed and he seemed to be held in reverential esteem by Mr and Mrs Joe Punter. A good night, excellent show and superb sound.

It comes to Friday and the thoughts of the working man turn to TV and beer. A sad indictment of the times.

Not so if you are in any way musically inclined as there are gigs aplenty to point your mush at. In this case, it was Acoustic Chums It’sAcoustica at The Central in Gateshead – possibly one of the very few triangular pubs left in the world today.

This gig was a sort of double header, initially Los Zimmos then itsAcoustica. Of course the fact that Andy and Catherine are both in Los Zimmos as well, it fell to Ronnie to provide the difference. An open secret that Ronnie has been unwell to the same degree that the Sun is a bit warm, he was greeted very warmly by a supportive crowd. First half was bluesy and Dylany, Andy demonstrating that he can, in fact play slide guitar rather well, and Ronnie, despite the best that the medical profession can hurl at him, was up for it and sang and blew blues harp with some gusto. Next Its Acoustica provided a sort of greatest hits set, interspersed with some of the forthcoming new songs – which sounded rather strong to me. Some new arrangements helped spice up the older material too. Again a good sound and a good atmosphere made for a very successful evening.

It should be noted that the management of The Central make a habit of appointing up and coming comedians as bar staff; here’s an example of a belter from Friday night:

Me: A pint of lager please

Barmaid: (quick as a flash) Certainly Sir, that’ll be £4.20

I should coco

In fact ‘Ace’ Higgins[2] had very kindly tipped me the wink that The Cluny2 had some availability for January and as a result we will be following ItsAcoustica onto the boards there in January. Sunday Jan 19th, with help from Chris Kelly this will be our first proper gig of 2014. £6 should secure access within at the door or, if you are in any way organised, £5 in advance (from us or the venue) will provide you with a promissory note at that vastly discounted rate.

Next week already promises much with visits to clubs on the cards, as well as rehearsing some new material and getting the next recording planned. Oh, and the little matter of Steeleye Span at The Sage on Wednesday. This should be a bit good, The Wintersmith tour has had good reviews, and we are looking forward to that one. Peter Knight leaves the band (again) at the end of the tour, so now is a good time to catch them.

And so as The Fiddler leaves the building and the House of Commons closes for the night, I notice it is the end of this blog.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] There are, of course many gags that it would be possible to attempt. But they were quite big them lads. As indeed, in this instance…

[2] Chief guitar wrangler in ItsAcoustica; you can tell – really, you can.

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].


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.