In which we do stuff…

It has been a busy week. I even did some (proper) work.
If you can call it proper.

Mostly though, it involved music. Either playing, practicing or writing. It involved planning, emails, telephone conversations. Some great news, no bad news, and an awful lot of time spent whizzing from A to B in the car, hoping that whatever gear that had made it into the boot was the required apparatus of musical distraction we needed to do whatever it was we were going to do in the first place.

There.
I’m glad that’s all clear.

Be Welcome, Gentle Reader, and read on..

Apple have moved into the streaming music game.
Understandable I suppose, it’s meant to be the next ‘tomorrow’, and, let’s face it; Apple are short of a bob or two and need to rake in some readies.
We (that is, your golden foolish chums) already stream through iTunes and Spotify and Gawd knows what else. CD Baby takes care of that side of things for us, on our behalf, and gets us the very best deals.
Or not.

Much has been made in the media recently of the fact that the streaming services are, if not killing the market, at least beating it repeatedly over the head with a blunt instrument.

It is said that people do not buy music nowadays. They stream it. They don’t even download it (legally), they just use on demand systems like Spotify or the new Apple system called, with stunning imagination; Apple Music.

That opinion is, of course, round, made of rubber and when dropped; bounces.

We still sell a fair few CD’s at gigs. Not in shedloads, not even in cupboardloads, but enough – certainly a heck of a lot more than we sell on CD Baby or Amazon.
However we do sell lots of tracks on the streaming services, and we get paid too.
Very, very badly.
We can get paid as much as 0.0005 of a cent for each play.
That is not going to make us very rich, but I suspect that the streaming services do very nicely, thank you very much.
So despite, lots of plays, we make a few bob, but it is a few.
The argument runs that the streaming services, by not rewarding music creators sufficiently, are killing not just the market but the system.

I don’t know about that, but it does seem that ‘The Man’, is in charge, and is likely to remain in charge while the little fellers get used as target practice by the seagulls.
Quel Surprise.

This week has been another very busy FG week. Lots more enquiries for next year, which is great, some very interesting work on offer from organisations (all I can say for now), and the usual running round of shows in care homes, clubs and libraries. We did a show in Cruddas Park Library this week.

Let’s face it; Cruddas Park, in the West End of Newcastle is not noted for it’s literary bent.[1]

It is known for teenage prostitution, drug addiction, unemployment and disorganised crime. Many years ago, the council thought it was a good idea to build several very big tower blocks and fill them with hitherto happy and employed people. This was a mistake, and, as it turned out, it was also a mistake to build a shopping mall under one of the big blocks of flats, as it rapidly adopted the patina of a Scotswood Beirut[2].

After many years of the locals enjoying (or not) a life untrammelled by the petty restrictions of the law, the place was done up – quite well too. The shops are all gone, as, in the main, is the community spirit, but they did build a new Library…

…and asked us to play in it.

And it was great.

We got a nice little crowd, were very well looked after, and everyone really enjoyed the show, CD’s sold, smiles, singing, the works.

It just goes to show.

I have no idea what it goes to show, but it shows it just the same.

Well done Cruddas Park.

The pictures are of course by The Wrinkly Wroadies. Pauline has adopted a new method of taking photographs longways up – instead of rotating the camera, she just has another couple of pints, and can then take sideways pictures from her new position on the floor.

…and away we beaver.
Still we chop and saw, hew and fashion, whittle and… stuff.
The new production of ‘Stories with Strings’ is taking shape. Some new songs, some songs kept in from the last show, and some old songs under serious consideration for dropping into the ‘stories’ format.

The visuals are being rethought and retimed. The whole contribution of the visuals – video, slides etc is being hacked about a bit to make it better and more, well, ‘Wow’.
Sonically, changes are afoot as previously heralded in these sacred pages.
FG leaps forward into the 19th Century through the adoption of guitar pedals.
Shock, Horror, Probe[3].

In truth it’s only a couple of pedals, very (very) carefully chosen, to add a little something to the live sound.
However, I can report, Acoustic Chums, that I have had loads of fun (clothes on) playing with these pedals, and have designed a pedalboard that means we can set up the whole thing in about 5 seconds.
Clever me[4].
Now all I need to do is learn to play the guitar.

It has been quiet at The King’s Head and Washerwoman’s Legs Folk Club recently. Obviously they had their festival; everyone else does, so why not? It followed the traditional and indeed hallowed pattern – no-one who wasn’t a player turned up, the musical standard was low, the PA sounded like a cat being introduced to a blender, the beer was very expensive and no-one got paid.

Apart from the headline act, who, curiously, went to school with Chairman Dave – how ‘bout ‘dat?

Chairman Dave is considering a Summer recess. It seems that attendance at the club has still not rallied. Actually it hasn’t even beat a hasty retreat, it has, more or less, surrendered. A good night can be seven. Seven what is not recorded, but in Dave’s case, usually pints.

So a recess?
That would allow all the regulars to learn some new songs, practice on their instrument[5], and polish their performances to a lustre fit to dazzle any audience.

Of about seven.
Of course it will never happen.
What else would Dave do on a Thursday night?[6]

And so as the festival fairy flutters to a field near you, she remembers to bring along her good chum the Wizard of Wazz himself, Ranulf The Rainy, without whom no festival…

Thank you for reading.

Until next time Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] Stoppit.

[2] Actually, they used to get visiting planners from Beirut, just to see how dereliction should be done properly.

[3] It always amazes me, when reading the Hillbilly abduction reports, where the aliens chose to stick the probe…

[4] stop press. They don’t all fit onto the board I want to use. Not So Clever Me.

[5] Do you mind not sniggering? This is serious.

[6] Look, I already told you about the sniggering…

Step on it…

Ah, the great British Summer. It can always be relied on to deliver. Just not sunshine, warmth, blue skies or anything that resembles the summers of children’s fiction. Especially around the Glastonbuty festival.

However, the poor state of the weather means that damp folkies, moist acousticians, or even soggy singers can seek solace in a page or two of tripe.

By good fortune, that is exactly what you’re reading.

Be Welcome, Gentle Reader, and read on…

If you are a petrolhead, it will be alloy wheels, go faster stripes or furry dice. If you are into DIY it will be the latest power tool, if you are female, it will be everything in the shop[1]. I refer of course to toys, trinkets and gadgetery, the shiny geegaws, appurtenant impedimentia, which, while not strictly necessary, are much sought after.

Guitarists are well catered in this regard.

Any amount of trinketry is available for the gullible[2], easily led[3] and cognitively challenged[4] plank spanker. As I’m currently playing with our live sound, I am losing hours of otherwise useful time gazing at YouTube videos of products. I’ve found the weirdest stuff imaginable, roughly as useful to Fool’s Gold as a tin of gold paint is to a Parrot. However it is fun, and I’ve found two things:

  1. You can pay the earth for pedals
  2. You don’t have to pay the earth for pedals.

It’s probably just me, but I like pedals. They will figure in my developing rig, but only very subtly. However, that doesn’t stop me dribbling over pedal websites like a Vicar in Amsterdam.

Hence acoustic chums may like to head over to the wonderfully named http://www.donnerdeal.com. Not, as you may suspect, an online emporium of loosely Turkish comestibles, designed to give you loosely Turkish tummy, but a Chinese company who cheerfully buy pedals from other manufacturers, take them apart, and make their own versions, to the same standard, at about a third of the price.

This week has been another week of FG madness, and therefore highly enjoyable. A Care Home, a Village Fete, a ladies group, a Primary School, Armed Forces Day in a park and a Concert venue.

Keeps you off the streets and on the road, I suppose.

All lovely times and good shows, highlight for me? Hard to choose, we were honoured to support Armed Forces Day, the Care Home Folks are always nice to do something for, nice to be back in a school for a bit, but I think Newbiggin Maritime Centre was the highlight for me. A full FG two set performance of Stories with Strings, the big PA, a big projection wall, lights, all the gear in other words, and even, heavens be praised, an audience. Not a huge one, granted, but they all enjoyed it bought CD’s and signed up for the newsletter, which, unlike this blog, is sensible(ish) and written in English.

Pictures this week are, as usual, the creative work of our ever supportive mobile (mostly) road crew, The Wrinkly Wroadies. In fact we quite often celebrate (or lament) a gig with a curry in our local emporium of fine Indian cuisine. So much so, in fact, that we are tolerably well known. The waiter passed by our table last time we were in;

(this waiter comes from the great Indian state of Byker)

“Howman; is that yor Muttha in Laaa pished again?” he asked, conversationally.

“Why not likely” sez Ahhh, “It’s the forst time shiz been pished th’daay”

Next week is slightly less insane, although only a bit. Hopefully we will be working on some new songs, and also resurrecting a couple from the back catalogue – we did ‘Sundown’ a couple of times this week and it was tremendous fun to play it again – even if I am now playing a slightly different lead as I can’t remember the original part.

So, we’d better get on with it.

As the clouds of inevitability cover the hopeful Glastonbury skies and the first big drops fall upon the upturned faces of the masses, it seems that God really doesn’t like Florence and the Machine.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] The first shop.

[2] Me

[3] Me again

[4] Guess who?

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.

Ah, there you are…

Right, now you’ve turned up, I can begin. Next week, please could you tune in a bit earlier – I have to hang around on the Internet for ages waiting you know.

What delights await you InStore this week?

Well, we have the usual round up of things what we did, some rumination on things what we might do, and, rather unusually I feel, a set of apparently disconnected ramblings, which may eventually turn out to have a tenuous connection to our wonderful world of Acoustic Music.

Or not.

Who knows?
Be Welcome, Gentle Reader, and read on…

And you Gentle Reader, are astute[1]. You will know that a great deal of what we are asked to consume in the name of musical entertainment is rehashed, reworked, and occasionally, regurgitated from older, usually better, ideas. I have been watching (with at least one eye) a couple of music shows during the past week. Some deal with the ‘new’ shiny stars of the scene, and at least one was basically recut episodes of ‘Top of the Pops’ (sans Mr Savile, curiously). To my completely open, balanced and entirely unjuandiced ears[2] the ‘new’ stuff, despite clamouring for my attention by being ostensibly ‘Acoustic’, was a glossy production of the stuff you can hear in any folk club, any week, anywhere. Just to rub salt into it, the stuff you might hear in the folk club might be better.

The TOTP episode showed some, then outrageous, now rather camp, cavortings, but the music was original, fresh and seemed to have life. Sadly, I knew all the words too.

So. The question is; is there anything out there that is new, original, but still listenable to?

Or has it all been done before?

This week, or ‘Previously on Fool’s Gold’; we have been out to play a bit.

And it was a little bit of a Damascan week for me too.

If you are not wholly up to speed with your Biblical references, (some of you live in far flung parts of the former Empire, where life is still primitive and make Sunderland look like a cultural city… oh, apparently it is). It happened like this…

One day Saint Paul (although at that point he wasn’t a Saint, or called Paul – and that’s just the start) was on his way to Damascus. The buses were off so he was on his cuddy. For reasons that involve a great deal of philosophical debate, no little faith and the suspension of reality, he ended up falling off his horse and, in a blinding flash of light, God (for it was She) was revealed unto him[3] and he converted on the spot from his Naughty Roman, Anti-Christian ways and went to live upside down on a cross.

So a Damascan moment is one of great change is it?

Well, I think I had one of them this week.

We played an Old Folks Home, we played a Folk Club, and previously we played a couple of our performance shows.

The problem is, that I have always placed great store on the Folk Club gigs. I have regarded them as the way forward and the goal for which to aim. However, this Nirvana has been challenged by the other gigs. To be perfectly honest we really enjoy the Care Homes, we have a tremendous time doing our Presentation Shows (I must think of a better name than that – it doesn’t sound very ‘zappy’). As we played the club, we worked with a small audience in a slightly chilly room. I suddenly fell off my cuddy and saw the light.

The other shows are easily as much fun.

If not…

Now, where’s me cross?

One highlight of the week was a chomping session with the PowerHouse of top folk-rock beat combo ‘Man with the Stick’[4]. David Pratt, the man who wields the stick, tub-thumper extraordinaire, (and a man who has no fear of numbers greater than, hang on; one, two, three, ohhh, hang on; had it before… ) visited Chez Gold and brought his carer Chrissie along too. I must say, that this musical community of ours makes for some great evenings with friends, spent, over a bottle or two, with some grub, chewing the musical fat and generally putting all aspects of the musical world to rights. We had a really great evening.

We met up with Chris Milner this week too. Apart from enjoying his music again, we’re delighted to announce that in addition to the Stanley show on June 20th Chris will do us the honours by opening the show at Newbiggin Maritime Centre on 10th April. This will be a ‘Beat the Drum’ show. Presentation show? Nah, I need a better name.

Pics this week, of course are through the lenses of the Wrinkly Wroadies support crew. You can’t get helpers like them; really you can’t.

There was a programme on the view screen this week; it concerned itself with the rise of Country Music. Much was made of the old-timers, a-sittin’ on the porch and a-playin’ on that thar geetaaaar.

The odd dosie was do-ed, there was a bit of “eeeh”, and a little “hahhh”-ing went on, all of which was mighty fine. When it came to the Poke Salad, I thought it a little odd, but; each to his own, just watch out for the horseradish.

The message I took away from the show was the sheer standard of musicianship. Apparent Hillibillies, with fewer teeth than shoes, seemingly effortlessly played banjo licks that defied Newtonian Physics. There was some early footage of Les Paul who was playing stuff that would surely confound the heavy metal WiddleMeister of today.

It just goes to show;

  1. one should never judge by appearances or ill-informed preconceptions
  2. there’s nowt new under the sun.[5]

And so, as the hands of time crawl lazily across the sky of possibility and the small black cloud of fate rains heavily on the mobile phone reader with no coat.

Which shows that unprotected text is quite dangerous.

Until next time Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] At least, some of you are a Stute. I know that at least a few of you are completely Stuteless

[2] …and The Pope is a Catholic. At least most of the Pope is a Catholic. Bits of the Pope probably go to Synagogue. Or Tescos.

[3] No, not like that. For goodness sake, grow up.

[4] Me neither.

[5] As I write, the National Lottery Draw is on (afore the News) and listening to the Perfect Toothpaste Band (or whatever she’s called) There is indeed, Nowt New under The Sun. She finished at almost the same time as the backing track.