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.

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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.

The Road to Ruin…

So far this week we have been cut up, messed up, fed up and shut up. Undertaken, overtaken, forsaken and badly shaken. Then we were tailgated, frustrated, underrated and sadly, fated. Add to that being shoved off, hacked off, diverted, reverted then horned at by the undoubtedly perverted.

And that was just on a trip back from the Metro Centre. An eventful week then?
Be Welcome, Gentle Reader and read on…

With age, so they tell me, comes wisdom. I can only conclude that I cannot yet be old enough, but I do recognize some of the symptoms of early onset wiseness creeping up on my blind side.
They call it common sense.
When shopping in the supermarket, with age it becomes easier to reject out of hand the loss-leading glossy goods at the front of the store, which, for the mere price of two you can have lots more packaging that you didn’t want one of in the first place.
When shopping for a new car, the head can rule the heart and the Aston Martin DB8 Vantage of dreams is replaced in reality by the Citroen Xara Picasso (base model) of practicality and budget.
Similarly, buying a house is an object lesson in sensible purchasing. Sure; the swimming pool would be lovely. The games room likewise. But, do I really need those tastefully decorated Servant’s quarters?
In any event, as a married man, I have no need of servants.[1]

So, why is it, as amateur musicians do we all check our brains in at the door when visiting the music store? Or the music websites? Or reading the music magazines? The latest gadget, all shiny and new, beckons seductively off the page and suddenly becomes the ‘must have’ goody of dire necessity, without which, our musical ambitions will surely fall. We all[2] have kit, boxes, instruments, gadgets and gizmos (And I do have a gizmo – real one too) that we have magpirally accrued over the years. In most cases, the reality of their acquisition soon reveals the shallowness of our musical lust, and in my case the shallowness of my musical talent as they fail to deliver the hoped for musical revolution so glossily trumpeted from the advert.

Although, I did get one thing recently… …my sample software, compositional tools, and accompanying library has meant that ‘The Cautionary Tale of Harland Goodnight (thief)’ has moved ever closer to completion. All of the folky concept album main parts are down. The narrator is in the studio this week and one of the two guest vocalists is about to receive his parts to overdub my guide vocal. … so I’ve been reading the reviews for Cubase 8 Pro… I wonder… looks nice…

This week we’ve played a lot again. Three Care Homes and a library show should be enough to keep anyone happy, and in the main, it was. The Care Homes were fine, one especially so as we received a visit, mid-set from a Charity assessor, whose function it was to decide if FG should be admitted to the pantheon of entertainers lurking on their books.
She arrived as our audience of elderly ladies and one gentleman, all in various stages of somewhat debilitating mental aging, were up on their feet singing lustily and carefully dancing. It was nice to see the assessor at that point, but it was nicer to see the residents having fun.
The library show was ok, but sadly under-attended. It’s all about promo, as I have moaned before. Some places we work with are good and others just beginning their journey on the long road to self promotion[3].
Highlight of the week would be a hotspot at Saltburn Folk Club. We always like it there and were made to feel very welcome. We did about 45 mins for our spot and were very pleased indeed with the audience participation and reception at the end – lovely.

Pics this week are of course courtesy of our word perfect Road Crew, The Wrinkly Wroadies. Of course, the words they are perfect at are largely unprintable, and in any event mostly revolve around ‘another’, ‘pint’, and ‘quick’. However, when sober they produce very good photos. You can judge at the level of inebriation in this weeks’ gallery.

I cannot leave without a word concerning the late Terry Pratchett. I like to read, but get little time to do so. I have however always made time for his books. Silly magical places, full of unlikely characters doing improbable things, often with a monkey (sorry, Ape), disguise some wonderful writing, lovely ideas and genuinely funny rubbish. And he had a profound impact on my writing too[4].

WELL DONE SIR.

And so as we wearily prepare to climb aboard the charabanc of fate, preparing to be cut up again on the road to ruin, only to find that the Traffic Warden of destiny has beaten us to it, I notice it is the end of this blog.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] It also seems, following that comment, that I have no further need of a head.

[2] …or, to put it another way; ‘I’

[3] When it comes to self promotion, I know the way, they should just ask.

[4] Where do you think all these came from?

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’…

Joanna

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.

Music, Mafia and… Ashington?

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

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

core poster pic

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

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

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

Look out for the poster:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Body Count.

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

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

Not very often though.

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

So; how much has Dave changed?

Sellotape got booked.

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

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’


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

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

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

Torn pages from an old calendar….

Old Holywood movies.

They do it well.

If they want to illustrate the passage of time and condense it into a short interval, they’ll show the pages of a calendar being torn off rapidly and fluttering away in the breeze; thus we understand that time has passed.

And so it is here at FG towers; someone has snuck (horrible word) in and torn off the pages of this last week’s calendar and thrown them to the four winds.

So, what was writ on the now discarded pages of our past?

Be Welcome Gentle reader, and read on…

core poster pic

We were of course full of good intentions at the start of the week and as usual only got a few bits actually done, but what we did get done was useful. A great deal of behind the scenes negotiating going on, of which I shall reveal more soon enough, my pretties, and a couple of adventures out, plus a lot of FG admin, new websites with new communities and even a report from one of our spies deep within the heart of The King’s Head and Washerwoman’s Legs folk club.

So to begin.

The usual rehearsing and practicing gets us going at the start of the week, working on new songs, but also working up all manner of old ones, and songs that never quite made it first time round but on revisiting, look and sound fine.

During the week I discovered a new website and community which may be of interest to the here assembled masses.

NuMuBu is a web streaming service which is free and high quality, and incorporates a solid community feel, not unlike a Facebook within the website. There are some big names already on there, Nazareth, Gordon Giltrap, Elliot Randall, well known coves round Musical Manor.

It is easy to use and very high quality, but we had problems with the sound. I said as much on the forum page and was somewhat surprised on Friday morning to receive a personal phone call, from Canada from the CEO of the company to see if he could help out with the problem. Impressive. As it happens the problem was a loose nut on the steering wheel, we’ll be having another tech run through this weekend I expect.

I’ll keep you informed.

Thursday night and we in good order for The Beamish Mary. As usual a grand evening, made better by meeting a goodly share of Acoustic Chums and the chance for a natter with Ace Higgins, principal guitar pilot of stellar roots acousticians ItsAcoustica.

A grand evening, tightly run as ever by Mr B and even the organizing of a date for FG to do a feature spot in June – most welcomed by us.

Photos courtesy of the Winkly Wroadies, and some more of the Cluny from John Devlin- thanks John!

Friday and we in tight order for the coast to attend Acoustic Chums jiva at the fourth meeting of their Songwriter’s Symposium. Interesting to hear a lot of new songs, some from season campaigners at the Battle of the Song, others heading in for their first skirmish. Chris Kelly went along too, and he although always what Granny would call a ‘canny turn’, is to my ears, gaining ground on the field and will romp home a clear winner before long.[1]

Jimmy and Val, as anyone who knows the jivsies, run the thing properly, website, community and everything! Well done to them too.

Other than that, the whole musical thing just takes over our lives, and very nice it is too, thank you very much.

Talking of taking over, more ructions at The King’s Head and Washerwoman’s Legs Folk Club are reported to me by spies in the camp[2]. Regular readers will know that Chairman Dave underwent a Damascene Conversion two weeks ago – no he didn’t have the operation – he converted to the side of light, truth and little pink fairies and has vowed to run the club fair and square without hint of smear of nepotism, cronyism, cheatism, or buy me a pint and I’ll give you a bookingism either. For the last two weeks, following his close encounter with the God of Folk, he’s been locked in the loo, but I can report he has, finally emerged!

He now wears a pair of white jeans, white granddad shirt and a white leather waistcoat, and even his hair and beard are white.[3] He is now reported to be strolling about the concert room on a club night warmly shaking hands, not letting go for a long time, and looking deep into the eyes of the claspee, searching for inner harmony[4]. Apparently he will even only drink the white bit of the Guinness. Each pint lasts an hour, then he wanders home alone.[5]

And so as the last act of fate is asked to end the folk night of destiny and chooses a self penned number; only to look up at the end of the song to realize they are alone, I realize it is the end of this blog.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’


[1] Look, if you are going to mix metaphors, do it bigtime. That what I always say.

[2] FG spies are dead easy to spot. They look like me or Carol

[3] They were before, but that spoils the story a bit.

[4] …and I could NOT resist that one.

[5] sorry