With Bells On…

As I sit at the keyboard, gazing rather wanly at a blank word processor, the tinkly bits of Tubular Bells start to cascade from the speakers. Sunday morning, or blog day, is a big Oldfield time round our manor. You may reflect that, in the scheme of things, the instrumental warblings of Mr O. and his tinkly ambientness, are conducive to the composition of tripe on an acoustic theme.

This is not so.

It is simply that if it was Iron Maiden at this time in the morning, the neighbours would fill me in.

So (tinkle), without, further ado (tinkle), here we go…

Be Welcome Gentle Reader, and read on…

Actually, the CD in question is TB II, which was the first official remake of Tubular Bells. There have been, since then, many, many reworkings of the title, both by Mike Oldfield, who has done at least five versions, and by others[1]. Most of them are recognizably the same piece of music.

One of them has a slightly different sleeve, otherwise might as well be the same piece of music.

Commercial considerations (Ker-Chiiing) aside, presumably Oldfield felt he had something else to bring to the table, or that he could just do it better.

Thoughts of a similar nature raced across the verdant, yet strangely deserted pampas inside my head recently when listening to some very early Fool’s Gold recordings[2].

It is an exquisite form of torture to listen to early work. This stuff was recorded rather roughly and live.

It hurts a bit.

We could do so much better now.

Probably.

But… and it is, oh my Acoustic Chums, a BIG but[3], the time spent looking back is not time spent looking forward so…

…we have a few new songs on the boil.

The Bevin Boys song is pretty much nailed down and ready for us to rehearse, there are two others, including a new song for ‘Beat The Drum’ both on the stove, in the pan and beginning to froth on the surface.

But it isn’t just the songs that are coming slowly up to temperature.

The recent success of the U3A shows in Herts has probably caught us a little by surprise. The last couple of ‘Stories’ shows we did here went very well indeed, but for some reason while away they went ‘bang’ a bit. So much so that we’ve already got next years trip pretty much organised with some new places tagged in.

But time spent standing still might as well be spent looking backwards, so, in addition to new songs, we’re looking at the whole show.

Some, highly secret, pieces of kit have been purchased from nice Mr Amazon, so that we can control the visuals better. We’re looking at improving the sound in the room, and beefing up the whole presentation side.

I’m probably most interested (and so I 8$**^& well should be) about the advances we’re looking at in terms of the music. I’ve had an array of toys floating around for a while and the bright white light of the bleedin’ obvious shone from the darkness and I realised we could use them.

The next month or two is going to be interesting. Even if it comes, as so often, to naught, it’s going to be fun.

And a hell of a lot noisier than Tubular Bells.

Dong.

This week has been pretty busy, and the next two are just plain daft.

Several Care homes, loads of museums and U3A shows coming up, and this week a new venue as we ventured to Ushaw College for their Folk Night.

It was really rather jolly to see our old Acoustic Chum Sean involved in the evening; this venue is of course the old Catholic Seminary, created by the Church for the purposes of turning little boys with Irish surnames into priests. This process waned as vocations dried up and when even the African surnames began to decline, the seminary was wound up.

What to do with a superbly gothic site?
Well hats off to the organisers as friend of Ushaw decided that, Conference and training facilities aside, it would make a great venue.

And it certainly does that.

The chapels and halls are magnificent, and for classical, particularly religious, music the venue is (in the correct employment of the term) Awesome.

Only slightly less awesome is the Francis Thompson Room, a former common room, it is easy to imagine becassocked seminarians taking their ease gazing over the Rhodedendrum toward, presumably, heaven and not Langley Moor[4].

A simple PA, and simple setup was all that was required, a straightforward bill consisting of FG, Roughshod (trad trio including a border pipist), Mike Orchard (troubadour of this parish) and Jack Burness (troubadour of lots of parishes). Great performances from all.

And a lovely evening too.

Nice room, good sound – very nice sound from a rather suspicious Peavey mobile system, the guitar sound in particular was very surprising (in a good way).

Just goes to show.

Everyone gave of their best, a goodly sized audience enjoyed it, the simple bar went very well. And there was no haste, rush or pressure.

Relaxed is a good word for it.

Jack of course showed why he is the consummate performer for such events, and in case there was ever a doubt in your minds, The Wrinkly Wroadies took the photos.

Time waiteth for no man.

I can hear the sound of Tubular Bells, so, it is probably time to go.

Once again as the barman of fate roars “Time Gentleman Please…” and in the time honoured folk club tradition, the room, as one, roars back “B£**£7 Off”, I realize it is the end of this blog.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Kepp Strummin’

Plus…. Tubular Bells.

Dong.

[1] Rob Reed’s version is quite good.

[2] Including some we made under the name ‘Vagrant’. These were truly, truly, awful.

[3] Which is the origin of the expression “Does my But look Big in this?’

[4] Is it easy to confuse the two. One is place you might visit when you die. The other is a place you visit and want to die.

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.

Again.

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.

Some days…

My old Headmaster was Mr. W.B. McMenemy. A canny old scot, he was known and revered by staff as Bill, and not entirely reverentially by the pupils, as ‘Jock’. Obsessed with errant dinner money, he would prowl the corridors in search of a boy who ‘had’nae paid yer dinner money’.
However he did have an adage, which he used often enough to remain with me and turn out, sadly, to be true.
Dressed in the finery of gown and cowl, he would stand on the stage, rosary in hand and sonorously intone to the bored masses below “Some days yer up…”. And because he said it so very often, the pupils, under their breath of course, would join in with the next line; “…and some days yer doon”.
Unfortunately, he was quite right[1].
Be Welcome Gentle Reader, and read on…

This week has been an up and down week in the life of Fool’s Gold. Some disappointments, some highlights, plenty of laughs and a few sombre moments too. Some unfortunate news concerning blog reading chums closed the week, and our good wishes wing out to those concerned. Immediately prior we played our long awaited gig at Newbiggin Maritime Centre.
This is a great venue, the room is really good, full lights rig, great projection system for us, and a bar, café, all nicey, nicey, nicey.
However we discovered that the best laid plans of mice, men and machines, as Jock might have put it, “gang oft astrae”[2].
The gentleman who organized the show with us is in receipt of ill health – really quite seriously so it seems, and has been off work for a long time. Since shortly after the gig was arranged as it turns out. Unfortunately, no-one else on the staff was able, or knew, enough about it to organise publicity, information, or the room, or the bar staff or… A last minute scramble managed to rectify some of these issues, and our thanks to the staff who made a herculean effort to get the night on.
Unfortunately, the lack of publicity somewhat hindered the public appreciation that the event was happening at all, and the only folks who turned out had seem our stuff. Only 11 people were about for the night, but, with the able assistance of Chris Milner, the night went ahead. As many an acoustic chum will be painfully aware it is hard to be ‘up’ in the face of a (mostly) empty room, but we did our best in the circumstances.
We are slated for another show there in June; we will see if that works out better. The Centre seems to be behind it and keen to push hard on it, so, we shall have to wait and see.

Better news (and some days yer up) from the Alun Armstrong theatre in Stanley as they have been back with a revised date for the ‘Stories with Strings’ show; we will be playing in the main auditorium on Friday September 25th. I think it’s still £8 in advance, but I’m sure that Chris Milner will, once again, do us the honour of opening the night.
Elsewise this week (ups and downs), three Care Home shows, some working with people for whom being up or down is no longer an option – it’s nice to unlock for them, if only briefly, a window to what once was – and a visit to the Foggy Furze Folk Club in Hartlepool. Now in a different location in the back room of The Causeway pub in the town, the club is still running, despite the gradual disappearance of some regulars. However, they gave us a very warm welcome and we played what was basically a short gig for them. We’d taken quite a bit of gear, which gave us an interesting logistical challenge in the small room! Good fun to play though and we were well received.

We’ve also been flat out daft busy rehearsing the ‘Waters of Tyme’ show, the premier (sounds grand dunnit – it’s just the first booking really) is Monday 13th April at Bede’s World Museum at 2.00pm. Admission charges to the museum apply, so you’d have to look upon us as the icing on the museum of cake[3].
One up and downside of the week is the inability I have to stop thinking. A new project idea has blossomed and grown and I’ve been unable to get it out of my head at all. However, the fog is clearing and I think I can see what we might be doing later on.
Much later on; as we still have the WOT CD to finish off.
Then there’s the Harland project.
And the next FG CD (or whatever it will be).
And a new Care Home set of songs, oh and some new songs for us – and have you seen the gigs page?
Some days yer up.

Pics as always courtesy of the Wrinkly Wroadies, the Doddery Descriptors and Wrecked Wrecorders of all FG activities.

Chairman Dave sat in the back room on club night, vaguely aware that something was not quite right. Five minutes to nine (official start time 7.30, but everyone knows it’s nine, don’t they?) and Dave was puzzled. Time for a check – pint of Guinness in fist – check, lights down – check, stage area cleared – check. Audience in seats, eager to get stared – ch… oh bugger, the room is empty.
Unless you count Mildred, otherwise known as Mrs. Dave, sitting on her usual perch by the door, ready to peck unsuspecting music lovers upon entry.
A quick look under the tables – no, the room is definitely empty.
Poke head round the corner and a quick glance into the bar.
Empty, except for Sid and his dog, and Sid is not a folk lover, which you can tell by reading his t-shirt, which as well as bearing testimony to his diet says something about heavy metal rolling. It is home made, and Sid was never a good speller.
Dave returns to his seat, confused. He announced the club singer’s night last week didn’t he? Yes, but hang on, there was no-one here then either so that probably wasn’t very effective. He’d mentioned it in the Post Office, he was sure, and then there’s that advert in ‘Folk Fairground’ – yes it’s a bit out of date, but only by ten years, two telephone numbers and a couple of day changes.
Why is no one here?
Surely, in this day and age there must be some way of letting folks know what’s going on?
H’mmm.

And so as the Sun of Fancy sinks below the horizon of Fate allowing the evening of destiny to fall darkly upon our hopes, let’s remember – it’s easier to dream in the dark. Until next time Acoustic Chums, Keep Strummin’ [1] The Catholic education is therefore not a failure. Except possibly in my case. [2] Actually, he wouldn’t as he was too obsessed with dinner money. [3] If you go, do not expect cake. If they give you some, look upon it as a bonus, not and entitlement.

Origins

Another one bites the dust. No not another departed folkie to lament, but rather another set of seven days disappear over the hill in a cloud of dust and hoofbeats. If Time rides that horse any harder, we’ll all be in Sundown by the time the morning comes.

On which poetic note, I had better bid you Welcome, Gentle Reader and invite you to read on.

The King’s Head and Washerwoman’s Legs public house was built in the late 1950’s, embracing the ‘bloody miserable’ style of pub architecture then prevalent. It retains much of the original warmth and character to this day.

As well as the lino.

In its heyday the pub sold rather poor beer, at rather inflated prices to rather fed up customers who had strayed from rather more welcoming establishments elsewhere.

The heyday has long since passed, however with a stubbornness that makes one proud to be British, it continues to sell poor beer at inflated prices.

There are less customers.

In addition to the darts team (membership two) it also has a vibrant Leek Club (membership four), which meets regularly to discuss leeks, using descriptions that are, frankly, a double-entendres aficionados dream.

The final draw to the establishment is the long-standing, or at least long-wilting KH&WL Folk Club, resident on the premises since the foundation stone was laid.

Some stuff sticks and refuses to wash off.

The club has been run, overseen, dominated and generally cudgeled into shape by Chairman Dave. Chairman Dave has been in charge since the first chairman disappeared in 1959, whilst on a lone trip to the loo.

Dave has firm views on what a folk club should be.

Warm, welcoming, open, inclusive and friendly are watchwords.

They are words that Dave watches carefully, to make sure that none of them accidently apply to the club. Dave formed his views about folk music in the 50’s and has seen no reason to update his thinking, on the grounds that you’d have to think first. Chairman Dave regards Sandy Denny as a young upstart and reckons that if Fairport Convention stick around a while longer, they might be worth a listen.

You can spot Dave easily if you ever go to the club. You will need to go with a regular; not because it is hard to find, but because you will not get in without one. He’s the lad at the front, with the big beard, a large leather hat, wearing a waistcoat of black, somewhat eggy material and corduroy trousers that make your legs itch just to look at them. His white granddad shirt is not a stylistic choice, it’s just that it belonged to his Granddad[1].

The club runs on traditional lines.

Or tracks, if you prefer.

The first half of each evening is a sing-around. Regulars take turns, in the same order, to sing[2] the same songs each week. They do this out of a sense of duty to ‘the tradition[3]’. Then after the Beer Break, there is often a guest, who will be well known to the club members as he (always He) is usually one of them.

Singer Songwriters, funny songs, guitars (anything with strings that isn’t a fiddle) are discouraged[4]. There is a raffle and in keeping with ‘The Tradition’ the winner is ‘in the bar’.

Regular guests from further afield visit annually, you can set your clock by them. Of course they’re getting on a bit now, and one could be forgiven for feeling that not only do they know the songs because they’ve done them so much, but because they were there at the time.

It’s usually a grand night; you should get yourself down.

It’s a lot nearer than you think.

This week the world of Fool’s Gold has been as gloriously daft as ever. Bookings in, bookings out (we’ve had a couple of cancellations, double booking and illness – it happens), good news from museums and libraries, recording project still moving slowly forward – the Narrator arrives this evening to record his parts. Two Care Homes and two club visits to report on. Monday saw us at The Iron Horse in Newton Aycliffe. Genially hosted as ever by John, it was good to meet up and sing along with friendly regulars. I am very pleased to report that the resident star (and he is too) Mr. Bert Draycott is up and about and as entertaining as ever. Only Bert could get five minutes of top quality material out of reading out his medical notes. A grand impromptu spoons solo from him and John finished the night.

Thursday was Ashington FC upstairs in The Portland, which the barmaid informed me was ‘probably the most expensive pub in Ashington’. She was right too.

A small room turned up which was shame as they missed the heating, which was on tonight.

As it happens, it was an easy, gentle evening, we did a couple of sets as there is a rule about ‘no show without Punch’, and resident trio Greenheart Junction did a feature spot – well done them for their individual take on classic folk songs. Other spots from regulars concluded the night, which you can see in the documentary photographs captured by our own Primordial Paperatzi, the Wrinkly Wroadies, who once again show what you can do with a camera, even when you’re too *****d to stand. I must admit, I hadn’t expected them to do that with them.

The final event of the week was a concert in Hebron Village Hall. We had the privilege to meet Gareth Davies-Jones and play support to his fine set. This was a village social night, despite the interesting ‘Snatch Raffle’, which encouraged the social niceties of The Somme. There was also a small drumming troupe, and (not kidding) cotton wool provided. Hailing from the favelas of Hexham, the group pounded the… seventh bell… out of their drums to excellent rhythmic effect. From what I could tell behind my cotton wool.

A lovely venue, the church has lovely acoustics and we enjoyed playing to a good house. Jim and Allyson Wigfield, well known on the local folk club circuit are to be commended for their sterling work.

And so as Time and his horse disappear once again on the road to Destiny, leaving behind only the faintest whiff of Dobbins’ legacy, I notice it is the end of this blog.

Until next time Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] There is a story that Dave’s Grandad was due to be buried in the shirt. He wasn’t, so it makes you wonder if he’s hanging around in the wardrobe.

[2] Unaccompanied. What do you think this is; fun?

[3] …as is Traditional.

[4] By being broken in two, while the owner is stripped naked and flogged through the streets. At least that’s what it says in the Constitution.

Fishing

We have in our office a large whiteboard. The alleged function of this item is that we should write on it all the jobs we have to do fairly imminently. So posters, visits, gear checks, emails, letters of confirmation as well as eating and sleeping all go on the board. The problem is; I need another board somewhere to remind me to look at the board in the office. Stuff gets written down and my head goes down into whatever we’re doing, and the board, its contents and important little messages disappear from conscious view into that la-la land inhabited by dreamers, poets and people who think they can sell me a kitchen on the phone. Saltburn Folk Club (one of our faves) is on there for Monday evening!

However, there is one thing I never forget, so here it is, all polished, shiny and ready to go.

Be Welcome, Gentle Reader, and read on…

Monday and we in finery and ruff, for The Bridge Folk Club.

The Bridge, lest you not be from round here, touts itself as the oldest folk club for miles around. Probably is too[1].

It turned out not to be the open singers night we expected, but the Fourth Year Student showcase from the traditional music degree course at t’university down t‘road.

There are pics of the evening someplace around here, courtesy of the Wrinkly Wroadies, who despite copious amounts of beer managed to keep taking photos even when they had long since fallen down.

There were two big impressions that the degree students made upon me.

One, and this the strongest impression, was that the standard of the musicianship was simply fabulous. The players were utterly amazing. It is unfair to pick people out as they were all better than good, better than me, but not as good as they are going to be, however Alistair on the guitar was very, very good indeed and the lad on Bodhran (it probably wasn’t, but looked like a deep bowl version thereof) would be an asset to any ensemble he wandered anywhere near. Oh, and the flute player; he was great, and… and…[2]

The rest of the gang were accomplished musos, despite being light in the passage of years, were heavily burdened by raw, but rapidly polishing, talent.

The second impression, and it hit me quite forcibly, was that there was only one contemporary, original, self –composed (call it what you will) piece all night. All the covers were performed to a really superb standard, and most were a hundred years old. I cannot believe that such talented musicians didn’t have compositions of their own to show off – it would have been nice to hear some of them – I bet they would have been wonderous.

And yes, it was us.

H’mm Folk Clubs…

…it’s probably just me[3].

We were summoned to appear before the Consett branch of The British Legion on Thursday night. Not to play be to be presented with a nice certificate. Apparently, they felt the need to say ‘thank you’ for our contribution to their fundraising via a performance of ‘Beat The Drum’ earlier in the year. To get the certificate was a privilege, and the support was our pleasure.

I do not wish, in the pages of this blog, to endlessly burden you, Gentle Reader, with a ceaseless flow of verbiage to the effect: “Wow – isn’t FG doing well”.

I don’t want to but…

We’re doing ok, certainly better than ever before. The phone rings, the emails ping, and the musical life is, surprisingly, damn wonderful. We even have to say ‘sorry’ to folks; either because we’re already booked, or because I’d really like to live to see another dawn.

But I will share with you an amazing happenstance from this week[4].

You will all, Acoustic Chums, know that when touting for gigs, there can be a collective deafness, a corporate silence that blankets and smothers advances from the acousto-muso in search of a booking.

Even if it is offered for nowt.

I can’t begin to count the number of emails we have sent out, asking if people might be interested in our new show about a Carpenter who was present during biblical times at the Feeding of the Five Thousand.

Granted, ‘Fish ‘n Chippy’ was not our most likely commercial effort, but the number of times a nil response is recorded is staggering. Especially when the people you contact are supposed to be running a business or public organization.

Sheesh.

So, imagine my surprise when this week, we contacted a large public organisation, spoke to a lovely lady in the morning and by the afternoon had six new bookings in pretty darn good places.

Makes y’feel better about the world.

And no, it’s not for nowt.

They’re not on the website yet, as we’re awaiting times ‘n things, but this was an exceptionally good, if very scary week. There is a bunch of new dates on the website, should you feel so moved:

www.foolsgoldacoustic.co.uk

This week we’ve played four times. I think.

We’ve done care homes and some of our own shows too. We played to a severe dementia unit and it was the most wonderful experience. A man who never talks sang along with fervor, bless him, and there were smiles all round. Nice.

We played an organisation is Stocksfield on Thursday in a lovely little Methodist Chapel, great venue with a nice big white wall for projecting on to. This show was a blast from start to finish. We always enjoy playing, wherever and whenever, but some are better than others. When you get the audience singing along with you, and then a rather pleasing response at the end – it’s better than sliced bread.

With Butter.

And Jam[5].

So there you are; another week down and still no chance to get near the studio to work on the Harland project. It’s pretty frustrating but the only way is onward. Thusly;

Onward Mes Braves,

Onward upward, over the top,

And keep your ‘ead low,

It’s onward and upward and on with the show.

There’s a song in there somewhere, I must go and write it on the board.

And so as the inevitable last drip of the week falls down the trouser leg of time, may the warmth of Folk be with you,

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] Just look at the residents. Old as us, some of ’em.

[2] They really were that good. Grrrrrr.

[3] …isn’t it?

[4] I hope you’re sitting down. I hope you’re comfortable and wearing at least some clothes.

[5] What do you mean, ‘Peanut Butter’? What do think I am; a pervert?

Seven Up…

I promise; there’s seven.

Always, I’d not skimp on that.

Seven of our earth days separate editions of this, entirely man-made rubbish, which people have called, ‘The Fool’s Gold Blog’. Sometimes it feels like only a few minutes pass between episodes of this hand typed tripe, but I assure you, seven days is what it is.

Time as always flies by, and it is our busy lives that make it seem as though the interval is shorter.

Basically, you’re just lucky[1].

So, what events, real, imagined or just partially fabricated filled the FG week that has just flown past?
Be Welcome, Gentle Reader, and read on…

Croxdale

This week gone we’ve been playing at FG again. You know the FG game, don’t you? It’s where Carol and I dress up as musicians and go round the place with guitars an’ flutes an’ stuff. Then when we get there we continue the cunning charade by aksherly playin’ the guitar an’ flutes an’ stuff. Then everybody likes us an’ we go home.

Two out of three ain’t bad.

Allow me to elucidate[2].

Three shows this week, all different. A Care Home where we had the privilege of playing for some lovely people brought low by an at best unreliable memory, it’s a real honour to play for such an audience and however briefly, re-connect them to their past.

Then on Saturday a Farmer’s Market at Gibside.

In February.

It was b*****n’ cold.

Fingerless gloves do not for good playing make, and a flute does not operate at 1°C.

We know ‘cos we tried an’ it didn’t.

Did I mention the cold?

Nuff said.

However, previously on ‘FG Play @ Places’; we played at Lanchester Library on Thursday. Publicity about the do, informed the massed population of Lanchester that this would be a ‘Beat The Drum’ show, and indeed was our third visit to this room.

As usual we arrived early and to set up, complete with all the gear, and saw that there was a lot of chairs out – which on this occasion turned out (happily) not to be enough. The room was filled. 30+ bodies of assorted age and marital status settled in before the start.

We’ve done ‘Beat The Drum’ a few times now, and it went well this day. I thought it went well..

…but we were knocked out by the reception. I don’t want this erudite, respected and learnéd tome to become a self-congratulatory polemic[3], so I think I’ll just say, ‘wow’ and ‘thank you’.

Images courtesy of the Wrinkly Wroadies, the only wroad krew in the business who, if the tour van breaks down, can get home with their bus passes.

Added to the usual recording, phone calls, design work (the new show is nearly ready now), practice sessions and everything else – I can tell you, this FG game is hard work.

Good fun though.

I have a recalcitrant gene.

A mutation, abnormal and prone to occasional flare-ups.

Lest I give the wrong impression, I’d better explain pdq that the gene referred to is the fast food gene, and nothing the medical profession would recognise as a treatable case.

Every now and then, this mutated gene affects my behavior and drives me towards comestibles which should not really be, well, comested.

Nothing is safe from an attack; kebab, pizza, takeaway in its many msg ridden forms, and of course the king of them all, the burger.

When afflicted by a surge in ff gene activity I am driven to the Golden Arches in much the same way that a moth spies a burning flame and thinks: “oooooh, pretty”.

The effects are similar.

I will partake with gusto of products that are, at best, similar to food, but with the addition of extra ingredients that do not include yer actual cow.

And of course, after a very short period of time, I regret it.

Which brings me, in the circuitous route of a double glazing salesman, to music.

I am a sucker for new music. Usually new music by artists I already appreciate, but not always. I consume the stuff like a maniacal consuming thing. I approach the fresh, new offerings from heroes old and new with anticipatory glee and listen to the latest output crucially, analytically even.

And of course, after a very short period of time, I regret it.

So much of the ‘new’ output is not actually new at all. There is so much music out there now that it is very hard to create something that stands out as being refreshing, inventive or has a new twist. And much of it feels, and sounds manufactured, printed out as it were from a database labeled ‘hit’.

Which is why when I encountered Neal Morse’s latest offering “The Grand Experiment” I was very pleased indeed.

The title refers to the approach to making the album.

Often bands, especially prog bands, will approach the studio and create music in it, by bringing an idea to which each band member will contribute to. Often on different days, in different studios in different parts of the world – such is the march of technology. In this latest offering, Morse and his very talented chums all met for a week in the same room and created, played and recorded the album in that way, bringing no half recorded ideas in from outside.

The results are very, very good indeed (if you like complex prog). The songs are great, musicianship excellent, melodies memorable.

The only shame is that this approach is seen as new, different and unusual.

Now I feel depressed; maybe I need a burger?

On which note, I notice the Hungry Drummer of Fate entering the Burger Joint of Destiny to be met with the time-honoured question; “You want fills with that?”

Until Next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] No, really, you are.

[2] I don’t care what you think it means. I know what it means, and frankly, you should be ashamed.

[3] When I say ‘don’t’…

Happy Eostre

It may be Eostre who was the goddess who gave her name, and her symbol; an ickle fluffy bunny, to the later Christian festival. Horus, Mithras, Inanna, and Sol Invictus all have festivals of rebirth around the time of the Spring Equinox. If one of them is yours, then Felicitatus to you one and all; and we hope that musical rebirth, or at least re-invigoration[1] will be up our path. And up yours too.

How so?
Be Welcome Gentle Reader, and read on…

Given that Easter or a time of celebration, generally of rebirth, whatever your faith, creed or musical orientation[2], it follows that it’s a good time to try something new. Like turning up nude to the folk club, hiding your modesty with a dreadnought or ukulele (depending upon necessity) and singing the hits of Demis Roussous backwards in Latin. Apart from improving the hits of Demis Roussos considerably, this may be just the thing needed to bring about a Spring Equinox for your stage show.

I know it worked for us.

Our New Year revolution is, in part fuelled by reaction to the show at the Cluny 2 last week. We had such a good time, didn’t lose any money, and had some really very positive feedback (thank you New Gentle Readers), that we have decided to do it again.

And then again.

So it is, that I can reveal that the FG theatre show will be rolling into town on:

September 14th 2013 Middlesbrough Little Theatre

and

October 20th 2013 Saltburn Community Hall

Full details will be released when we dream them up, but don’t worry.

I won’t let you forget.

Which brings me to the spot we call; ‘What did you do this week, Steve?’

Well thank you for asking, I’m touched, as, presumably, are you.

Just one outing this week as everywhere was busy the nights we weren’t, and vice versa. So we shot down to the Tap and Spile to join in the music and song session that lives down there on a Thursday. Sadly there weren’t nobody there but us bunnies, and a new Acoustic Chum John Dixon, a fine player and singer. So we had us a folk night, and managed not to drive away the others in bar, and generally had a very pleasant evening. Sad to see so many clubs quiet at the moment, but it doubtless a reflection of the economic climate, and probably the alignment of the heavens, and the trousers of time[3].

Pictures this week are courtesy of The Wrinkly Wroadies, now considerably more famous than us, and of John Devlin, who came along to the Cluny and took some rather splendid pics appended for your delectation, as it were, here. The building is the Saltburn Venue.

We are fortunate indeed to have many Acoustic Chums, whom we meet with in different clubs and venues as we travel about, much in the manner of a peripatetic troubadour with a hyperactive bus pass. Some even talk to us, others preferring the traditional two fingered hello, hallowed within folk circles.

One such worthy (not the two fingered sort though) is Mr Richard Ridley, currently incumbent of the Japan Islands, for reasons he doubtless finds persuasive. We run into Richard at Festivals and at Ovingham, chew over the acoustic gossip and generally catch up. Last week we went to Ovingham, and although Richard was in the Land of The Falling Yen, his CD wasn’t. “Small Pictures and Tall Tales”, the latest offering from Devils Water, fell into my grubby paws by virtue of fortuitous raffle ticket purchase, and so I fell to listening…

Last time I spoke to the great man, Richard was telling me about the new recording facility the band have, and it was within this that the new album was (very well)  recorded. Nine tracks present a goodly mix of Ridley Originals and traditional songs and tunes, interspersed, all with a narrative trait to them. As you might expect the playing is exemplary, and the full band (pipes, bass, melodeons, fiddles, harmoni-hi-hay and plenty of singers) makes a sound that is very full and sounds like a very good representation of the live sound – no need for overdubs or studio trickery[4]. This is a grand example of Northumbrian music old and new. Some nice arrangements too; I especially liked the arrangement of Cushie Butterfield – it works well as a slightly slower waltz, rather than the typical full throated ramming speed version commonly performed around the doors. A very professional package accompanies the disk, although my eyes struggle with CD notes, and some of the tracks seemed to be in a different order to the listing, but that’s probably me being easily confused. This is a warm, full and very entertaining traditional folk offering and should appeal to folk club goers, of whatever stripe.

News is reaching us of turmoil in the managerial underpants of the Kings Head and Washerwoman’s Legs Folk Club. Now tumultuous underpants is never pleasant (nor easy to explain; ask any ferret) but when it comes in the form of an attempted coup in a folk club[5], things can quickly turn nasty. It seems that Big Gwen has launched a challenge to the authority of Chairman Dave. Apparently Big Gwen feels it is time to change things (gasp) and have a new format (gurgle) and even some new music (splutter) in the club. Having met with a point blank refusal from Chairman Dave to consider such heretical notions, Big Gwen and her cohorts, Ralph the Fiddler[6] and unfortunately, Sellotape, she (and I use the term in a medical sense) has decided to form a breakaway group to meet on a Tuesday (I mean; Tuesday?). The new pretender is to be styled The Kings Head Acoustic Concerts (Khac for short) and apparently there will be some guests who are not regulars.

I know, I know, she’s clearly mad, I mean, the old way has worked well for years.

Hasn’t it?

And so as the new folk club of destiny opens its doors to the future, first through on opening night is a deaf harpist who plays songs on a harp made out of Ikea metal shelving written by her dead roman soldier spirit guide[7], and the future is suddenly brighter; or at least, colder.

Until next time Acoustic Chums

Keep Strummin’


[1] Musical. Anything else would be rude.

[2] There is a cult of banjo players that hold that Easter is in November; but then, they bloody would.

[3] Oh yes there is. The link is here

[4] Like what we do.

[5] Please do your own jokes at this point.

[6] If it was with a violin, it would have been all right.

[7] Incidentally, I did not make her up,