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.

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Acoustic Music and Peruvian Underpants

I hope you realize that you are a member of an exclusive community?
As you sit and gaze idly at this screen, wondering what rich seam of drivel has been strip-mined this week; you should know there are more of you than you think.
The FG blog reading community has been spreading, much like a disease, around the globe. As you sit there in your blog-reading underpants, there are others, all around the globe doing something similar . This week the word according to an acoustic idiot was read in:
• United Kingdom
• France
• USA
• Peru
• New Zealand
• Russian Federation
• Canada
• Vietnam

So, to all of you little folkies in your Peruvian underpants, as indeed to all of you; Be Welcome Gentle Reader, and read on…

Another roller coaster week lumbers to a close with a clutch of gigs. As we prepare to enter the twilight world of phased retirement , we seem to be getting busier and sillier as the days go by. This week several more bookings, some for concerts, some for village halls and a few for professional associations have rolled in, and the phone really did ring! Wow.
A new recording phase looms ever nearer as we contemplate moving the house round again to make access to the recording tech a bit easier, and song writing is again flowing, so – all good?
Well, yes it is, and it’s rather strange. We spent a lot of energy generating the word, and now the word is heard it is a little strange. Not that I have any delusions at all as to becoming professional musicians with a global, national or even regional profile, but just people asking us to play.
It is in fact, rather nice.
And so, playing?
Friday night found us at The Fuse in Prudhoe helping promote the facility as a live venue. It is a fantastic venue too. A huge screen; used to good effect by our slideshow, and a lovely 100 seater cinema style space with a good dead acoustic. Our little PA was all that was need to fill the place with some nice FG type noises. It is a new venture and we never expected to fill it; the audience was indeed small, but perfectly formed and remarkable appreciative too – thanks to all! We will certainly be going back to do more things there.
Saturday evening saw us on the bill at Acoustic Chum John Jeffery’s 70th birthday musical bash. For those of you with underpants of a Vietnamese design, I’d better point out Mr. Jeffery is a well-known and much loved figure on the local circuit, and so it was that a fair few faces turned up (by invitation, we didn’t just wander in off the street clutching a big mac and strawberry shake) to celebrate the evening.
And a very nice evening it was too.
Some great music, delivered by Acoustic Chums, and to a high standard. Too many names to list here, but mentions to Jimmy and Val (jiva – sorry jiiiiiiivaaaaa) who did wonders on the sound desk The Jimster twiddling knobs and sliders like a little pony-tailed sonic juggler making everyone sound good; and of course Wendy Arrowsmith who turned in a strong set with grand style accompanied by husband Paul on what appeared to be a banjo…
Photos of course by The Wrinkly Wreprobate Wroadies who can still take a fine snap when outside a bucket of Grolsch.


A quick report on Steve and Kristi Nebel at Croxdale should be writted; we saw our Pond Hopping Acoustic Chums this week and very fine they were – nice to catch up with them. If we thought our audience at The Fuse could have been bigger, I imagine similar thoughts must have floated through their minds too…

Last week I promised to reveal what happened when Chairman Dave, esteemed leader of The King’s Head and Washerwoman’s Legs Folk Club – a sort of Kim Jong-il of the Folk World, had a relapse from his position of Folk Liberal and reverted to type as the kind of leather clad Folk Fundamentalist that regards a Melodeon as suspiciously technical and a PA system as the work of some kind of musically demented Satan. Since his reversion it seems that the club has plunged itself gleefully back into the folk dark ages. Guitars, it seems will still be tolerated, but only as a supporting instrument in any song that features death at sea. People who stand with their hands in their pockets, Chin on Chest, mumble, and sing very long songs about what it used to be like before the spade was invented will be given preference. Guest artists will be required to show a birth certificate to prove they are over eighty and visitors to the club will be, as is traditional, ignored.
To be honest, it’s great to have him back!

And so as the hands of time weave the semaphore of destiny, signing out a message of grim fate that apparently reveals it is twenty to four, I realize that it is the end of this blog.
Until next time, Acoustic Chums,
Keep Strummin’

 

 

 

Poppies

Time is strange, ask any Time Lord, he’ll tell you the same, and then tell you the same again yesterday. When you have nothing to do, not that that happens very often, you always have plenty of time. Then, when one is a busy little Folkie, there’s never enough of the stuff. Ask any Time Lord in a day or two. But there is always time to tap a few words for you, Gentle Reader, so, be bid ‘Welcome’, and read on.

 

Early indications on the election of the week are coming in; we hope to have the final count before the end of the blog. I refer of course to Chairman Dave’s successful attempt to secure the helm of The King’s Head and Washerwoman’s Legs Folk Club for an unpresidented (sic) thirteenth year.

Of course we don’t know that he’s successful.

At least not yet, we don’t.

 

I may as well come clean. Make a clean breast of it and stand humbly before you to seek the forgiveness of my peers, who are in some cases, of much the same species.

I’ve bought another instrument –perhaps one you may not have expected from me either.

What?

No, not that, I said instrument.

An eight string uke has found its way into our armoury. Ashbury, so a budgety one, but with ‘lectrics and a nice tone. I don’t usually go for ukes too much, but my six string uke is very nice and the tinkly[1] nature of the eight string sold it to me straight away, we are already playing with some nice combinations of instruments to experiment.

 

We continue to try to record, but it’s a back to the day job week so the trousers of time are even more restricted round the waistband of opportunity than ever, but I have decided that we’re going to re-record a vocal on a track that I thought was finished – funny how you live with something for a while and your perspective alters. Talking of which, the Tommy Ferens song which I thought similarly complete, now isn’t. Thankfully Carol was on hand to point out that what I’d written was not a song, but three completely different songs, loosely connected by theme – not tune – just theme. I’m working on a radical improvement.

I’ve got it down to two songs, connected by tune.

Just not theme.

 

A recurring theme in this tome lately has been my grumpy rant about the state of the folk club scene, guests, open nights, decline and possibly too much choice – especially for audiences. In that regard it is with great sadness that we read an email from Acoustic Chum Paul Cullen of Richmond and Swaledale Folk Club. This club was held in the atmospheric upstairs room of the R&S Outdoor Centre, featured a great bar, and hosted many grand evenings – in some of which FG have been privileged to feature. The  eagle tensed Gentle Reader will have spotted my use of the past throughout the previous sentence and will gather that Paul, for more or less the reasons outlined in my grumpy rants, has decided to call it a day. We fully understand the decision, while feeling sorry that such a great venue is heading into the west, to join the Valhalla of former music, acoustic and folk venues. However it cannot be allowed to pass without a send off and a vote, nay a rousing chorus of thanks to Paul for his (and Mrs C’s) efforts; without people like Paul (and Mrs C) there would not be a scene to be part of – thank you Sir (and Mrs C). The final R&S Folk Club will be at the outdoor centre on 1st December 2012 at 8.00pm.

 

Country music is really not for me. I don’t like music you have to dress up for, and I look daft in a Stetson. Mind you, many of them do. Line dancing – nope, a mystery to me; if you ever see it on the telly – everybody looks so happy. That said, I have been listening to a lot of Brad Paisley this week. Some of it is sooooo cheesy it makes you proud not be American, but based on the experience of these lugs this week, if you want a superbly crafted, interesting song, beautifully written, wonderfully played – and crucially – with that special extra mojo, look no further y’awl.

Eeee, or to put it another way; Hahhh.

 

This week we were ‘followed’ on Soundcloud by Mike Harding. Yes, I know that he doesn’t do the show, and that he probably follows hundreds of people. But that doesn’t stop one feeling a warm and spreading glow, the like of which has not been felt since we waved nappies a fond adieu. Happy days.

 

So the much awaited evening at The Comrades arrived on Saturday. Acoustic Chum and Roadie John (The Power) Jeffrey and Eileen were playing an intelligent game of bottom shuffle in a valiant attempt to keep us seats as we arrived forty minutes before the start to be greeted by a packed room. The basis of this evening is to raise money for the British Legion through the auction of a genuine Flanders poppy. Bugles, vicars, mayoresses, readings and jokes  are all in a various roles involved, and your pals FG were on hand to provide the assembled masses with musical entertainment. That’s what it said on the programme anyway.

A grand evening of fundraising ensued, what with the buglin’ and the vicarin’, and around £1000 was raised in room for the work of the British Legion.

Excellent.

Then it is time for us to do the Beat the Drum pitch; and so we perform a half hour or so set including a racetrack version of ‘Sundown’ as we have thoughtfully brought Dave The Bass along for the ride. Not expecting  a folky onslaught, the audience responded well and even bought a few cd’s. However the main winner of the evening, just as it should be, was the poppy appeal.

Just as it should be.

Ahhhhhhhhhh; …I can hear a report coming through on my earpiece… yes… it seems that the count is in and we can go live to the returning officer at The Kings Head and Washerwoman’s Legs Folk Club Election count…

“…being therefore nominated as returning officer, can announce that of the thirty-four votes cast, the following results have been collected. Daniel Dougherty (Banjo) two votes. Amanda Dougherty (vocals, possibly; it’s hard to tell sometimes) two votes. Chairman Dave (Loony, possibly, just not monstrous or raving yet) one hundred and seventy-six votes. I therefore declare that Dave is Chairman for the next season of the club. I can also confirm that my guest night is confirmed, which is nice, and that the Dougherty’s Guest night has been cancelled, which is not entirely unexpected”.

Ah the democratic process in action.

Missing in action.

 

And so as twiddly-diddly fingerpicker of righteous destiny races down the fretboard of fate only to find the unimpressed audience of justice running back the other way, I notice it’s the end of this blog.

Until next time Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’


[1] ©jiiiiiiiivaaaaaaahhhhhhh