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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Origins

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

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

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

As well as the lino.

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

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

There are less customers.

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

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

Some stuff sticks and refuses to wash off.

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

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

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

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

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

The club runs on traditional lines.

Or tracks, if you prefer.

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

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

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

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

It’s a lot nearer than you think.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

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

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

[3] …as is Traditional.

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

Fishing

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

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

Be Welcome, Gentle Reader, and read on…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And yes, it was us.

H’mm Folk Clubs…

…it’s probably just me[3].

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

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

I don’t want to but…

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

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

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

Even if it is offered for nowt.

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

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

Sheesh.

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

Makes y’feel better about the world.

And no, it’s not for nowt.

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

www.foolsgoldacoustic.co.uk

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

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

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

With Butter.

And Jam[5].

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

Onward Mes Braves,

Onward upward, over the top,

And keep your ‘ead low,

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

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

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

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

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

[2] They really were that good. Grrrrrr.

[3] …isn’t it?

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

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

Seven Up…

I promise; there’s seven.

Always, I’d not skimp on that.

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

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

Basically, you’re just lucky[1].

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

Croxdale

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

Two out of three ain’t bad.

Allow me to elucidate[2].

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

Then on Saturday a Farmer’s Market at Gibside.

In February.

It was b*****n’ cold.

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

We know ‘cos we tried an’ it didn’t.

Did I mention the cold?

Nuff said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good fun though.

I have a recalcitrant gene.

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

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

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

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

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

The effects are similar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The title refers to the approach to making the album.

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

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

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

Now I feel depressed; maybe I need a burger?

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

Until Next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] No, really, you are.

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

[3] When I say ‘don’t’…

Bouncing

Here we go again.

Blog time is happy time, so you could at least make the effort to smile.

There; that didn’t hurt did it?

But the rest might.

Be Welcome, Gentle Reader, and read on…

Last week I was told off by one of our readership because there were no footnotes. As a consequence you can expect the page to be scrolling up and down like a politicians trousers.

lanchester BTD poster

When we was very little, I mean really little and were just starting out on the old folk club thing, the world was a strange and mysterious place filled with dreams. Prevalent dreams[1] revolved around the nirvana of the Folk Club world, which was (and in some ways still is) -getting a gig.

A booking.

A Gusset night, call it what you will.

Whichever term you use (don’t use the gusset one though, folks clubs are broadminded, but gusseting is unlikely to endear your cause to a promoter) a gig was the ultimate object.

Back in the day, I recall our first ever booking. We bounced, whooped and hollered for quite a while – we were quite soon told it was all a mistake and it wasn’t us at all, but I still recall the bouncing.

These reminisces have been called to mind this week as it has been a week for whooping, hollering and, should the circumstances allow for it, the odd bounce too[2].

Of course we are far too professional to stoop to such things these days. Long it tooth we are, accomplished ‘n sensible ‘n that.

So we’ve been bouncing our b*****n’ socks off.

The cause for all this unseemly up an down motion[3] is that it seems a few things have fallen into place, or the stars aligned, or God was in Her heaven[4] or something celestial of that sort.

This week we have added (we think) fifteen dates to the gigs calendar.

I mean, that’s more than Sting[5].

A few of them are Care Homes, which we are very pleased about as they seem to have come from recommendations, which is probably the nicest of the lot. We got asked to play a folk festival and a folk club asked us to do an extended floor spot – lovely. There have been bookings for our Stories with Strings show too. These are from U3A and Probus branches, the last few have had audiences of over 100, so they tend to be good fun to play.

Stories with Strings, in case you are interested, and indeed even if a B***er is exactly what you couldn’t give, is our musical show where we use a screen, images, video and technical trickery involving a laptop and a plug to tell stories of events, characters and places (often local) then perform the songs live. It goes well.

It must do, as I am chuffed to the elasticated bits to announce that on June 20th Fool’s Gold will present ‘Stories with Strings’ in the Alun Armstrong Theatre, Stanley. Promoted by the theatre, this show will be in the main auditorium, Tickets £8 adv £10 on the door. Autographs extra.

What makes it doubly wondrous, is that we are delighted to announce that opening proceedings will be Chris Milner, singer, songwriter, troubadour and part-time Turk[6].

It promises to be the best night in the complicated history of FG so far, so we really hope it’s a great night.

Bounce, bounce, bouncity bounce.

To labour the point; the images below are of one such show – not a ‘Stories’, but ‘Beat The Drum’, (similar, less jokes). Thanks to the Wrinkly Roadie press corps for the pictures.

In other news, we’ve played four shows this week, Care Homes and U3A. The U3A was in a lovely hall in Whickham; it is hard to play in the morning sometimes, but this was such ‘triffic fun that it flew by. That was a ‘Stories’ show. H’mm, methinks we’ll spice it up a bit for June. Dry Ice? Lasers? Miniature Stonehenge and dancing diminutives? Rock on.

The King’s Head and Washerwoman’s Legs Folk Club[7] is making a big push as the new year lumbers into musical action. They have decided that variety is the spice of life and have offered a special prize for visiting musicians that turn up and play a new or unusual instrument. Normally they torture anyone who has the nerve to turn up with any instrument[8]. However, they have remained true to their Folk Club prime directive – although you can play any instrument, it must be ‘Mountains of Maughan’ or the ever popular Fields of Athenry.

Chairman Dave will be the judge on the night so there will be no question of bias. There’s no need to question it, it’s just there.

And there I think I’ll leave it for another week. I mean, I’m not even here – even more than usual – as we’re playing at a house concert in Saltburn tonight. Rock Hard, Rock Heavy Rock Animal.

And so as the gig getter of fate bumps into the promoter of destiny and is booked for a summer season in kitchen at Harrods, I notice it is the end of this blog.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] Except the one about the custard.

[2] These days the bouncing is less about starting it, but getting all to stop again when you’ve finished.

[3] …and you can stop that sniggering.

[4] Or down the shops, either way…

[5] Terms and Conditions apply, other Stings are available

[6] Look, you really have to read this stuff regularly if you want to have and hope of knowing what is going on. I write it, and it confuses me. Chris Milner played some gigs in Turkey a short while ago, and I have never let old ‘Turkish’ forget it. Good job he’s a nice bloke.

[7] In the back room, every Thursday. It used to be free, but there’s a cover charge now. Your soul.

[8] Unless it’s a squeeze box of some sort. Which to be fair, doesn’t really count.

A week of folk and chutney

A week may be a long time in politics, but what is it?

Bit of research needed; tap away at my friend Mr Google, and… ah!

week  (wiːk) — noun

1.       a period of seven consecutive days, esp one beginning with Sunday Related: hebdomadal
2.       a period of seven consecutive days beginning from or including a specified day: Easter week ; a week from Wednesday
3.       the period of time within a week devoted to work
4.       a week devoted to the celebration of a cause

Well, that’s a load of old shoe repairers; nothing there to describe what we have been up to; except, perhaps that last definition, wossitsay?

a week devoted to the celebration of a cause

Et Voila; c’est tres bien, as they say down Langley Park[1]. There, as the Bishop verily spake unto The Actress, you have it.

Yes, it’s been a mega week in the life of your fave folk funsters, the galloping goldies, the duo they couldn’t hang, and all the other things they call us, usually when we aren’t listening.

But what, what, WHAT?

You cry, Oh Gentle Reader and are heard, and to soothe your furrowed and troubled brow, you know what to do:

Be bid Welcome, and read on…

Crikey chaps, I need to go back to work for a rest. While we continue to grace the world of Education with our workaday presence, we therefore reap the benefits of half term hols, which, as it goes, was last week.

A chance to kick back, recharge and catch up on missed episodes of The Jeremy Kyle Show?

Not on your Nelly mate.

The busiest week since the dawn of time itself opened it’s cavernous and rapacious jaws to swallow us whole into a week of musical chollification, chummery, choonfulness and, oddly, chutney.

Monday and we in good heart for The Beamish Mary. Not for the usual reason neither. The stables had been booked out to us for the purposes of a video shoot, and several hours were spent discovering that the heating was on the fritz while Gentle Reader and Video PAL (see what I did there) Jeff worked his aputeric magic while we recorded seven full length FG epics at least twice each to camera. It must be said the man knows his onions when it comes to video, and the process was nailed in about four and a half hours. We were somewhat chilly so went home to change out of stage dresses (mine was killing me anyway) and warm up with an enjoyable home made Curry, with, as it happens Chutney.

Tuesday and up with the larks for the road to Coventry and a gig at The Shakespeare in Spon Street[2] beckoned. A quick glance around the pleasant City Centre showed that Coventry is a town of fair visage, and much of nice Mr Hitler’s best efforts have been cleared up and rebuilt, with the exception of The Cathedral, which they decided to rebuild next door, at No. 2. Very nice it looks from outside. Not quite so welcoming inside however as apparently it costs £8 a head to appreciate the House of the Lord, so we didn’t; pausing only to overturn the money-changer’s tables, we legged it to the art gallery instead, which was lovely and, oddly, free.

A quick pre gig curry at a quiet restaurant featured Tandoori and Chutney, then on to the pub.

The gig at The Shakespeare was interesting, a large opened up room, with a large opened up PA was on offer – complete with laser light show and whizzy lights. Very Hawkwind.

There were four on the bill, us up second. I don’t know what the room must have made of our folk tinged original epics, but we were well received anyway, and many thanks to new Acoustic Chum Ian Bourne for putting us on.

Wednesday and a return to the North and a quick catch up at home, a retune a quick run through before another curry, this time with Chutney.

Thursday and probably the highlight of the week (if not the month) for me anyway. We’d been offered an afternoon spot at the Public Library in Lanchester to do the Stories with Strings Attached show. For those with terminal disinterest, that’s where we do a show with slides and presentations and natter merrily about the folks, events and back story to the songs as well as do the songs themselves – always goes well.

We arrived to set up about 45 mins before doors, and found the library staff had set up a series of rows of seats facing the performance area. Crikey, thought we, they’re ambitious.

At least we thought that until they twice had to scuttle off to get more chairs as the good worthies of Lanchester tipped in through the doors to see what we had to offer. We had a great audience, all jolly and listening and seeming to be well into it, even to the extent of the Public Library bouncing as everyone in the room was roaring along to ‘Rake Down The Moon’ at the end. Great fun and a lovely afternoon. CD’s sold and much chatter afterwards made it a grand afternoon.

That meant a pizza in the evening and it had to be sent back – no chutney.

Finally, Friday, which often happens.

A few bits of admin and a whole lot of phone calls to chase up 2014 gigs, and then  on impulse we for Gibside, just to look and see how the open mic was getting on down there. Imagine our surprise when we saw a whole bunch of acoustic chums, The Lynch Mob (most of ‘em anyway) and Lyn Goulbourn[3] whom we spent ages nattering to comparing notes and swapping tales. Host John wanted us to get up but we resisted manfully on account of not being paid in Chutney. Next time perhaps.

So, phew, basically.

What a fantastic week of Acoustic Fun. Next week will be quieter won’t it?

I wouldn’t bet your Chutney on it.

Our next gig is at The Old Church Sacriston in Sacriston (sic) on 16 Nov at 7.30pm. Not sure what admission is yet, but I can’t image that the King would require a ransom. This is a new and developing venue that we are supporting locally, if you fancy seeing what we are up to these days, you know where to find us: DH7 6AD

The new videos are ready, some have been posted on our YouTube channel, find it via the website or directly here. Jeff has done a great job – our thanks to him for all the work.

As the Condiment King of Folk Chutney views the pernicious piccalilli pixies he notices that his spicy empire is under threat, then wipes his brow and swears off the brown ale for ever, I notice it’s the end of this blog.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’


[1] A hotbed of folk passion, just ask Turkish Chris

[2] What can I tell you about Spon Street? It’s medieval and harbours a number of those members of the populace who know that they live next door to the great god Amon-Hotep, to whom they must pay a daily tribute of Smoked Haddock and Twiglets.

[3] Catch Lynn and Steve Hicks if you possibly can. Website

Be careful what you wish for…

So Harry the Folkie dies, mid set, and in the way of these things, makes his way to The Pearly Gates. He arrives on the doormat, on which inscribed in Gothic Blackletter, is the epithet ‘Home Taping is Killing Music’ ; after carefully reading the instructions (lips moving), he rings the bell.

A few moments later, St. Peter (for it was he) appeared in answer to the summons.

“Yes?” he enquired mildly, taking in at glance the ‘I Love Beer’ T-Shirt, ill fitting long shorts, and worryingly; banjo case. He also noticed the ‘Keep Music Live’ sticker and put that one down to irony.

For his part, Harry, noting the beard and sandals felt his spirits lifted, and enquired if this was, in fact, Heaven.

Known for his patience, St Peter agrees that, in the light of the evidence, this is probably the case.

“Ah” breathes Harry[1], “But is this a traditional Heaven?”

In answer to the St. P’s quizzically raised eyebrow he decided to expand.

“The sort where I wears me oilskins and jumpers, where there’s fish on a Friday. Sessions all day long, warm real ale, and lots and lots of songs all with ninety verses and a four word chorus with the word ‘Haul’ in it after each one”.

This gave the Prince of Apostles pause. The zephyrean air and golden light froze softly, then, quietly, lifted.

“No” spoke St. P. softly, putting away his keys and reaching for a suddenly apparent lever; “but I know a place that is…”

The moral?

To find that out, be Welcome Gentle Reader, and read on…

Well, not bad so far, a one page introductory paragraph, and I’m just warming up: good job it wasn’t too busy this week then.

And so, to the news:

Sunday and we and the Wrinkly Wroadies aboard the newly repaired battlebus and bound for South Shields Folk Club. This is a place we have played many the time and oft, even as guests, and so we rather like it. Or rather, we like the people, and the music. The room they used to inhabit in the former venue of the Rugby Club was characterful enough, being entirely wooden, but could seem vast and feel empty. Coupled with changes in direction at the Rugby Club, Ken and Brian decided that the time had come (much as the Walrus did) to make a move. And so to the Customs House – or almost. Next door, but physically connected by a rather nice bridge, there is an annexe to the main Customs House Theatre in South Shields which contains function rooms and performance spaces and it is within one such comfy space that the club has taken roost. A very nice room indeed, and the same welcome, a nice performance area and even a PA should it ever be required. We had a lovely evening, good music and great stories too. Well done all concerned, see the pictures below, courtesy as ever of our Senior Snappers, The Wrinkly Wroadies.

Tuesday and once more abroad. This time bound for The Daleside Arms, long-time home of Croxdale Folk Club. In the past we have visited and found the place in darkness, deserted or with but a fistful of hardy souls.

This time?

Worse I’m afraid.

We LIKE Croxdale, and want to play there, but if there’s nee folks, well…

The posters (of which there are a great many) proclaim an 8.00pm start, we know better and arrived at 8.30. By 8.45 there was still no-one, and when the MC John arrived a bit later, it was quickly decided that this was a no-show.

It would help if there was some way of finding out what, where, why and when. We did, in our rashness, offer to set up a Facebook page for them, but we shall have to see.

On the subject of t’intenet, some of you have been and checked out our new website here. Chums Blue Sun, whom I may have previously mentioned we are playing The Cluny 2 with on March 23rd have also launched their new web presence. Well done Pauline, the results can be seen here.

Apart from out gig at The Cluny on March 23rd, to which many of you will be coming, I’m sure, there is also the chance to avoid us at The North Britton on Monday Mar 4th, Gibside (National Trust) in Rowlands Gill this Friday Mar 8th, and at The Ingleton Fundraiser on Saturday Mar 9th.

We have been very busy with the new songs, all of which are shaping up better each time as we become more comfortable with the melodies, harmonies, words, chords, key and tempo changes that usually accompany my sonic creations. Wooden walls, the tale of a gunner aboard one of Ol’ Nelson’s ships is settling well, and is as simple as anything in a DADGAD kind of way, but with other bits thrown in, just to fill up the holes.

Our very good virtual friends Sellotape (acoustic duo Julian and Sandy. Sandy wears the trousers, the bovver boots and has a better moustache) have embarked upon their promo tour of their new album ‘Is That It?’ Probably made up entirely of covers (it’s hard to tell) and all in D[2], the songs are to say the least, unique. They are turning up at Folk Clubs unannounced to promo the album in full. So far they have had a chequered response to the tactic. For instance they rolled up on a club night at The Ferret and Fusebox, a club they’ve been to before, and were surprised to find the room in darkness and empty apart from a bloke who looked a bit like the organiser, only sporting the addition of a large plastic moustache – and a bunch of shadowy figures giggling under the tables, clutching what might have been instruments. The stranger explained that, no, the club wasn’t here anymore, had moved ages ago, and no, he didn’t know where. Sandy enquired who the figures under the table were, and received the explanation that they were the cleaners, practicing. Thus satisfied, Sandy took Julian back to the camper van and drove sadly home. Being behind them, they probably didn’t notice the lights slowly flickering back to life.

And so as the band tour minibus of fate breaks the clutch plate of synchronicity outside the music night of destiny, and we enter to find the room full of cross dressing wrestlers busily line dancing, we might wish for better luck.

And the moral to the tale of Harry the Folkie? Be careful what you wish for, as you might just get it.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’


[1] Given the circs – quite a feat.

[2] The chord sheet reads: D/// D/// D/// D////

Chorus: D/// D////

M8: D/// D/// D/// :]]

That’s not for a song, it’s for the set.