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?

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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.

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’…

Rock my soul…

A hearty greeting to you all, especially those misguided souls that have signed up for the blog this week. From now on, this missive will pop fully formed into your inbox, bearing news, comment and a hefty dollop of what literary critics accurately identify as rubbish.

Often the FG is light in tone, perhaps this week it mayhap be different.

Be welcome Gentle Reader, and read on…

 

I am very aware that there is a readership of this rubbish who are not, as it were, from round these parts, and have yet to visit this corner of our Septic Isle.

Whether this is because they are dissuaded from visiting by stories of pit heaps, poverty and naked natives is unknown, but they should be aware that the pit heaps have gone, the poverty has not and nearly everyone now wears something, even if it is just someone else.

And that’s just in Sunderland.

 

Guisborough is a place, vaguely in the north-east and equally fuzzily located in time. It is a smallish, quaintish town which, until recently boasted two folk clubs. As far as I know only one now remains, but it is in these two clubs that we first made the acquaintance of one Mr. Tinker Dick.

IMG_0103

Tinker was, until this week, very well known around the southern Teeside folk club circuit. To suggest that he was a bit of a character, perhaps even a little eccentric is to suggest that the sea is quite moist; Tinker was unique.

He was loud, boisterous, fun, kind and gentle. He was a loose cannon, chaotic, and often haring up the down track at a rate of knots.

And thank goodness for that.

 

He used to travel to and from clubs on his bike with his guitar slung on his back – weaving in and out of traffic and, on the way home, just weaving.

 

His performing style was uncompromising. Sit, play, stamp (the stamping bit was really quite important) and forcibly drag the audience into having a damn good time. Gospel, spiritual, old time Rock and Roll, none were safe from Tinker.

And thank goodness for that.

 

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We knew him quite well, in the way that passing Folkies do, and have nothing but the fondest memories of the man. He also gifted us one of the best real-life ‘Carry On’ moments possible when we tried to visit him in hospital in Middlesborough.

Arriving at the ward, we realized that we had no idea what his real name was.

Brown?
Smith?
Jones?
Who knows?

Nothing else for it then, and we approached the desk to be greeted by a ward sister who had clearly learned her nursing from a Wehrmacht manual. Pausing for thought at this point would have been good, but no; Robson puts his gob into gear and:
“Excuse me Nurse, do you have a Tinker Dick”?

It took a while to sort that one out.

 

Facebook, that fount of all wisdom and much to which wisdom is a stranger, informed us this week that Tinker has decided to go for a floor spot at the great gig in the sky. He will be missed, we will miss him, but, as we pass any of his old haunts, we will have a fund of fond memories to remember him by.

And thank goodness for that.

 

 

And so as Tinker wobbles unsteadily on the cycle path to eternity, what’s that noise I hear on the wind..?

 

“……. Strum, stamp, strummity stamp,

Strum stamp, strummity stamp;

Rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham,

Oh Rock my soul….”

 

Wherever you are Tinker,

Keep Strummin’

 

The End of Chairman Dave?

 The room was collecting darkness in the way an old dog collects fleas.

It was silent apart from an occasional sigh, a deep, slightly wispy breath that sought to convey not just disappointment, but also bemusement.
The back room of the King’s Head and Washerwoman’s Legs was dark. Because, as the Landlord had pointed out, there’s no point in paying for the ‘lectric if there’s “knee one there”.

Slightly unfair, as of course there was someone there.
At least there was this week.
Chairman Dave sat, in his customary chair in the corner of what should have been the Folk Club, while the ghosts of former guests and regulars danced, cavorted, played and sang round and round his head.
The actual room was, however, empty and silent.
And Dave did not understand it.
Not at all.
He had sort of noticed that attendances had been dipping a bit; well, more than a bit if he was honest, but the club had been through quiet patches before. It would pick up, he’d said.

But it hadn’t.
The dip had continued, and Dave’s ostrich approach to crisis management had deepened. The poster on the wall in the pub entrance accurately listed last years’ guest artists, all of them good, been coming here for years, all of ‘em. It also boldly proclaimed the folk club, every week at 8.00pm; All Welcome.

When Dave arrived at quarter to nine as usual, the room was empty.
And he really could not understand it. Apparently there had been people turn up last week, but, well, he always has his holiday that week, or thereabouts, and he was sure he’d mentioned it to someone.
The internet? No, Dave didn’t hold with that thing. Didn’t own a computer nor want one. No need for it see?
What good would a website be? Or one of them Facebooky things? Twitter – what’s that for? Nonsense.
People would just know, they always knew, Thursday night, in the back room of The King’s Head and Washerwoman’s Legs at 8.00 sharp.
Or 8.45 ish really.
And they would know when the guest nights were, and who was on, and how much it was and what time it started.
About 8.45 ish usually.
They just knew. Always had.

Dave sighed again and in the gathering deepness of an empty room he looked down at his raffle ticket.

Of course, there are no clubs like that(1), are there?
Be Welcome, Gentle Reader, and read on…

boo gallery_poster

A crackin’ busy week again for us. Club visits, songwriting, gig organising, rootin’, tootin’ (sorry, probably the artichoke)  and a-whoopin’ and a hollerin’…
Oh yes, and it happened a little bit like this….

This week and we for Guisborough. In this case, the Sunday flavour of Guisborough Folk Club, still to be found in the Rugby Club. (By the way, the website doesn’t work on all browsers. Just sayin’ like). We’d emailed ahead to check a floor spot was on the cards, and were assured a couple of songs. Great stuff.

Last on to close the night with a twenty-five minute spot was quite a ‘couple’, and a real privilege.
Lovely night, lovely folks – good to see Trish in fine voice tonight and we enjoyed playing for them as ever. The photos are here somewhere. Thanks once again to the Wrinkly Wroadies and their collective shutter fingers.

Then, later in the week to Durham City Folk Club at The Tap & Spile. A very trad evening this one, but welcoming to all sorts of musicians, including the FG variety. Ian McCulloch is an old mate from back in the day, and we had a thoroughly enjoyable, leisurely paced evening, even getting to air a new song. Very nice.

A few more emails came through to the helpline this week:
Dear Dr Gold,
I am learning to play the guitar and have three gigs next week. If I practice really hard, do you think I could have three 40 min sets ready, with an encore, just in case it’s needed? Damien, Glous.
The Doctor replies:
Dear Damien,
You clearly have little idea about anything, far less how to play the guitar. You are probably a shallow, callow, mindless moron with talent you could measure not with a depth sounder, more like a dipstick. You probably dress like a 60’s folkie and in all probability, still smell of Brut.
If you do, you should go down fine, welcome to the club.

Dear Dr Gold,
I have been told by my friends that I have a good voice, and they like it when I sing ‘Speed Bonny Boat’ or whatever it is called. I also know the national anthem.
The point is, I’m a bit skint, do you think I can make a living with this repertoire on the Folk Club circuit?
Jimbo, Doncaster
The Doctor replies:

Dear Jimbo,
Only if you leave out ‘Speed Bonny Boat’ (or whatever it’s called).

This week we also pushed the bonny boat (2) out a bit in terms of contacting new places to play. We contacted seven venues and got seven ‘yes please’ responses. That’s quite a success rate. Of course a ‘yes please’ response doesn’t really count until the agreements are finalised and in the diary, but hopefully the won’t all change their minds. When they’re confirmed (or should that be ‘if’…) I’ll spill the beans, until then, least said, soonest mended. I might come clean about the new instrument too. Patience, my pretties…

Still, ‘Seven at one stroke’; we felt very Brave Little Tailor indeed.

A few new songs in the practice list too, this week. Several of them should make the set unscathed, one has been tried out this week. Surprises? Yes, I’d say so, if only because a couple are not original, which is for us, pretty earth shattering. Are they straightforward re- runs of the originals?

Well, now, that’s just you being silly. The covers do have our stamp on them. If we did the same old stuff as everyone else, we’d get a booking at The Kings’ Head and Washerwoman’s Legs every year.
We’d be on about 8.45 (ish)

And so as the reverberation of the the last bon motte disappears into the background echos of tutting establishment disapproval (3), I notice that this is the end of this blog, Until next time, Acoustic Chums,
Keep Strummin’

(1)  Can’t be, can there?

(2)  It is a little known fact that this saying is biblical in origin. Apparently when the flood started, Noah found himself, and his unlikely vessel stuck in the clarts. Not fancying a plodge with the good dress on, he asked the unicorns if they could give him a push, promising he’d come back for them. Bl**dy Christians.

(3)  Oh, I do hope so…