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.

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.

Bloather

Blogger is an ugly term.

It sounds like a deep sea flatfish or a person of suspect morals who gets up to shenanigans in the woods with more Bloggers.

And possibly flatfish.

If someone who writes books is an author, then why is someone who writes a blog not a Bloather? I suppose someone who plunks music is a musician[1] and someone who chips sculptures is a sculptor, so perhaps Blogger is correct after all and confirms the suspicion we harboured all along.

People who write books are weird.

For more illumination shone into the darkest corners of life, you must be bid welcome Gentle Reader and read on…

Some weeks it’s wondering what to write about, and others it’s wondering what to leave out. This, Gentle Reader, is the most definitely the latter.

Without ado[2] I’d best get cracking.

Monday and we for Aycliffe Village Folk Club in the company of John Snowball. This was a very good night; we got a couple of nice slots, caught up with all sorts of Acoustic Chums and heard Lacewing in the flesh for the first time. That was nice as we have heard good things of them on the circuit and it was nice to be able to appreciate their fine work up close. And we got an invite to Stokesley Folk club, also nice; and His Maj. Bert Draycott (wcsp) performed his World Champion Spoon Playing (now you know) especially for Carol’s parents, much to the amusement of all. A grand night and good to see it well attended.

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Wednesday, and myself in the company of ‘Ace’ Higgins, pilot of the acoustic dreadnaught  It’sAcoustica, headed for the Sage (via the pub) to see Steve Hackett in concert. Those of you who are aware of my prog-rock leanings[3] will not be surprised at me enjoying the former Genesis guitarist’s output. Sage Two is an excellent hall and a great band produced a competent set, without ever managing to get my pulse racing to any noticeable degree above comatose. Even Ace, who is a huge fan of the great man, agreed that last year’s show was better, vocals being the greatest culprit.

It’sAcoustica, and ‘Turkish’ Chris Milner will dance attendance upon you all at The Bridge Hotel in Newcastle on Friday 9th March. This will be a grand evening I’m sure. A door charge of £4 will be levied with an iron hand unless you get in touch with Andy first, when your wallet will rejoice in only being £3 lighter. If you don’t know how to do that, try telling them you’re an Acoustic Chum.

I know I will.

More from:

http://www.itsacoustica.com/index.html

Probably the biggest, and potentially the news of greatest impact, is the announcement that FG and Mr S ‘The Nugget’ Wilson have finally parted ways. Steve was due to join us at Croxdale next week, but sadly, there is just too much life in the way at the moment and he needs the time to sort out that which professionals term; ‘stuff’. That was the last date we had together, so somewhat earlier than we anticipated, FG will ride out as a duo as of now.

I could not pass on without marking the contribution that Steve has made over the last two years, and to thank him greatly; but mostly to wish him well with whatever Mr Future has hidden in his back pocket, just especially for him.

I hope it’s nice.

We received approval for our Help for Heroes Charity CD this week, which is very good news and so there will be an ‘official’ three track EP available at our appearances before too long. The official launch date is July the Oneth, and we will have to see if we can mark the occasion in some appropriate way. 1st July is the 96th anniversary of the First Battle of the Somme. Seems sadly appropriate.

WordPress.

That’s the new wonder you are reading now by the way[4].

These words of wit and wisdom (sic) arrive in front of your peepers via the magic of the InterWeb carried on the wings of WordPress.

This carrier has been my weapon of choice for some months now, as I ride on my self appointed mission to bring drivel to the masses.

And very effective it is too.

Sort of.

You see, the confusion comes in the form of the WordPress stats tool. It tells me, in theory, how many Acoustic Chums are daft enough, on a weekly basis, to expose themselves to a concentrated torrent of tosh, all about (supposedly) Fool’s Gold and the Acoustic Music scene.[5]

Yet over the past few weeks, the stats tool has had a fit of the screaming abdabs. Apparently this week gone, no-one at all read it until Thursday, when hundreds of you turned up presumably in a charabanc, whereas two weeks ago, within a few minutes of hitting the publish button, the entire population of Greater Manchester had read it. So, I’m beginning to doubt the veracity of the stats, but the point is (oh, yes, there is one…) is to say a heartfelt thanks to all the nice folks in the clubs that have mentioned that they are indeed Acoustic Chums (some preferring to be Gentle Readers, and that’s as it should be) and that they read religiously every week[6], even giving vent, in moments of weakness, to a tiny chuckle. Thanks for reading!

And so, as the end of the blog comes lumbering towards us, borne upon wings of lead, at the folk club the super ego acoustic flat-picker of destiny runs foul of the desperately flat ‘g’ of justice, and everyone pretends not to notice; but he knows.

I now notice that it’s the end of this blog.

Until next time Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’


[1] Banjo gag anyone? As if I would. Anyway; it says musician.

[2] No, not further ado, as there has not, up to this point in the blog, actually been ado to be further to.

[3] Yes; you can get ointment.

[4] As in; “I wonder why I’m reading this..?”

[5] Oh! Is that what it’s about…

[6] Can I let that one go….

… yes I can, I have restraint, and wear it often.