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.

The Road to Ruin…

So far this week we have been cut up, messed up, fed up and shut up. Undertaken, overtaken, forsaken and badly shaken. Then we were tailgated, frustrated, underrated and sadly, fated. Add to that being shoved off, hacked off, diverted, reverted then horned at by the undoubtedly perverted.

And that was just on a trip back from the Metro Centre. An eventful week then?
Be Welcome, Gentle Reader and read on…

With age, so they tell me, comes wisdom. I can only conclude that I cannot yet be old enough, but I do recognize some of the symptoms of early onset wiseness creeping up on my blind side.
They call it common sense.
When shopping in the supermarket, with age it becomes easier to reject out of hand the loss-leading glossy goods at the front of the store, which, for the mere price of two you can have lots more packaging that you didn’t want one of in the first place.
When shopping for a new car, the head can rule the heart and the Aston Martin DB8 Vantage of dreams is replaced in reality by the Citroen Xara Picasso (base model) of practicality and budget.
Similarly, buying a house is an object lesson in sensible purchasing. Sure; the swimming pool would be lovely. The games room likewise. But, do I really need those tastefully decorated Servant’s quarters?
In any event, as a married man, I have no need of servants.[1]

So, why is it, as amateur musicians do we all check our brains in at the door when visiting the music store? Or the music websites? Or reading the music magazines? The latest gadget, all shiny and new, beckons seductively off the page and suddenly becomes the ‘must have’ goody of dire necessity, without which, our musical ambitions will surely fall. We all[2] have kit, boxes, instruments, gadgets and gizmos (And I do have a gizmo – real one too) that we have magpirally accrued over the years. In most cases, the reality of their acquisition soon reveals the shallowness of our musical lust, and in my case the shallowness of my musical talent as they fail to deliver the hoped for musical revolution so glossily trumpeted from the advert.

Although, I did get one thing recently… …my sample software, compositional tools, and accompanying library has meant that ‘The Cautionary Tale of Harland Goodnight (thief)’ has moved ever closer to completion. All of the folky concept album main parts are down. The narrator is in the studio this week and one of the two guest vocalists is about to receive his parts to overdub my guide vocal. … so I’ve been reading the reviews for Cubase 8 Pro… I wonder… looks nice…

This week we’ve played a lot again. Three Care Homes and a library show should be enough to keep anyone happy, and in the main, it was. The Care Homes were fine, one especially so as we received a visit, mid-set from a Charity assessor, whose function it was to decide if FG should be admitted to the pantheon of entertainers lurking on their books.
She arrived as our audience of elderly ladies and one gentleman, all in various stages of somewhat debilitating mental aging, were up on their feet singing lustily and carefully dancing. It was nice to see the assessor at that point, but it was nicer to see the residents having fun.
The library show was ok, but sadly under-attended. It’s all about promo, as I have moaned before. Some places we work with are good and others just beginning their journey on the long road to self promotion[3].
Highlight of the week would be a hotspot at Saltburn Folk Club. We always like it there and were made to feel very welcome. We did about 45 mins for our spot and were very pleased indeed with the audience participation and reception at the end – lovely.

Pics this week are of course courtesy of our word perfect Road Crew, The Wrinkly Wroadies. Of course, the words they are perfect at are largely unprintable, and in any event mostly revolve around ‘another’, ‘pint’, and ‘quick’. However, when sober they produce very good photos. You can judge at the level of inebriation in this weeks’ gallery.

I cannot leave without a word concerning the late Terry Pratchett. I like to read, but get little time to do so. I have however always made time for his books. Silly magical places, full of unlikely characters doing improbable things, often with a monkey (sorry, Ape), disguise some wonderful writing, lovely ideas and genuinely funny rubbish. And he had a profound impact on my writing too[4].

WELL DONE SIR.

And so as we wearily prepare to climb aboard the charabanc of fate, preparing to be cut up again on the road to ruin, only to find that the Traffic Warden of destiny has beaten us to it, I notice it is the end of this blog.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] It also seems, following that comment, that I have no further need of a head.

[2] …or, to put it another way; ‘I’

[3] When it comes to self promotion, I know the way, they should just ask.

[4] Where do you think all these came from?

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?

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.

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’…

Your Vote Matters…

Now, what time to you call this?

I’ve been waiting here since this morning waiting to tell you all this news; and you? Don’t give me that ‘practicing’ story – you can’t kid a kidder – you’ve been anxiously scouring the media for the latest election updates haven’t you – I know how caught up in it you are.

Still it’s not really relevant to us musos is it.

Is it?
Be Welcome, Gentle Reader and read on…

We received another royalty cheque from CD Baby this week. It wasn’t for very much but it was nice to get. There has been much made in the media recently about the likes of Spotify exploiting artists and essentially robbing them of income derived from internet play royalties.

If you are Taylor Swift I don’t doubt that is true.

If however you are Fool’s Gold there is an added twist to the story, and it cuts both ways.

Working on a very rough rule of thumb, over that last year FG tracks have been played on the likes of Spotify, iTunes etc. once or twice. Or to put it another way, based on fag-packet calculations somewhere in the region of 54,000 times. Give or take a thousand or so.

That’s a heck of a lot of plays.

That’s a heck of a lot of listens.

Many of them were contiguous too, so people listened to whole albums rather than the odd track, although that happened plenty of times too.

So, here’s the conundrum; are we as minor fighters in the Acoustic Bullring, pleased with the number of plays, or conversely are we a bit hacked off that such an apparently large number of plays gains us a pittance in royalty?

After bank fees and currency conversion, we’ll get about £35 for 54,000+ plays and all that exposure.

Fair enough?

Discuss.

This week has again been a busy musical one for us. We went out to Ovingham Bridge End and had a grand evening in good company. The pics are of course the handiwork of the Wrinkly Wroadies, who between then took 156 photos. I have trimmed that down just a bit so that you don’t spend the rest of the day clicking. On Friday we went to the Lamplight Centre – sorry, the rebranded Alun Armstrong Centre, which is the same as the old Lamplight Centre but with the council in it too. This is actually a good and quite large theatre.

Which is a good job as it was pretty full.

Acoustic Chum John Wrightson, his band and chums have been developing a musical play/presentation about the Seaham Mining disaster of 1880. Part concert, part dramatic narration, part multimedia presentation, you can see why we’d be interested. It was in fact very well done. John’s songs were as ever very good indeed, presented by a great acoustic band and a sequenced piano track. This caused a couple of musical chums present (of whom there were a great many) to comment, but Joe Public (of whom there were a great many more) probably never noticed a thing. The sound was very good indeed, at the end I turned round to see Roly Hindmarsh grinning down at me from the mixing desk, which explained that. All in all a very interesting and well presented evening, and it was great to see a hefty turnout (there must have been 120 -150 folks there) and at the end, the vast majority rose to their feet in standing ovation – for folk/acoustic music in Stanley – wow.

In other developments, we’re producing a CD for a certain acoustic chum and have thrown the kitchen sink into the project. Country covers is the name of the game here, and we’re busy using software to build a very meaty sound. This will be very interestin’ when we get it completed later this year.

A couple of care homes filled in the gaps – again really good to do, nice to see folks enjoying themselves.

A couple of bookings arrived in the week too, can’t say too much about the Folk Clubs, but I might mention that the 2016 booking we took midweek will once again see us travelling to Dutch Holland for at least one gig, this time in the North at a place called Den Hagg. I’ve never met Den, but apparently he’s a really cool bloke.

You may have noticed that there is a forthcoming election. Dave, Nick, Ed and that Lady from the Greens along with Nice Mr Farage[1], have identified Folk Clubs as a key marginal battleground and are hastily bringing forward policies to win over folking voters.

Dave the Tory of course has it all taped. Folk Clubs will be made more efficient by trimming all the excess and performance targets will be introduced. Mr C has suggested that there are too many redundant chords, and that many of them sound quite like other ones anyway and all this duplication is inefficient. It seems that the government think tank for folk, (Tories Organising Singer-Songwriter Event Redundancy Services) have suggested that B is really quite close to C and that E is pretty darn near F and so downsizing the scale to make C and F redundant would result in much greater efficiencies. To this end a Tory government would bring forward legislation in the new parliament to make it illegal to play C or F. Enforcement would be by all guitar players sending their instruments to a Government modification centre where all the notes on the fretboard which produce these tones would be welded shut. Whistle players would have their offending holes blocked up (which would be uncomfortable to say the least) and singers told to avoid illegal notes on pain of a fine and three points on their singing licence. There are of course exemptions. There are two; one is for anyone who is a Tory, and the other is for banjo players as they have no idea what notes they are playing anyway.

And neither does anyone else.

UKIP of course have all the answers at their fingertips, just next to fags and pint pots. It’s really very simple, all Folk Clubs would play traditional folk English Folk Songs (with exemptions for the Ireland, Wales and the other place, wossname?) and songs from other parts of the world would be gradually phased out and relocated back to where they were originally written. Calypso rhythm would be redesignated ‘Lake District Rhythm’.

Ed, on t’other hand has decided that all singers would have to sing through the nose. Dunno why, he jusht dihd thatsh all.

And so as the swingometer of fate gyrates wildly between rapturous indifference and rabid disinterest; it seems that in the end, nowt much has changed.

Until next time Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] Yes, well I have to say that, as Carol won’t let me write what I’d really quite like to. But it would be a mixture of twerp and prat. You work it out.

201 (not out).

This is apparently the 201st edition of that learned and precise tome known, almost universally, as the Fool’s Gold Blog. That means there have been 201 occasions on which I have wrangled the English language into shapes it was never designed to twist into[1], 201 rants against the vagaries of Folk Clubs, Venues, Music and sometimes the weather. That’s very, very worrying. Almost as worrying as the fact that, for some of you, this is the 201st time you’ve tuned in to read this rubbish.

But believe me, it’s nice of you and from the heart of my bottom; Thank You.

And so with the politenessess out of the way; Be Welcome, Gentle Reader, and read on.

This week we’ve been pretty busy again. Again too busy to hit folk clubs, but musically we’ve been flat out.
How so?
Let me paint you a picture…

“Slow Down, Gerald”.
This instruction is delivered in precise, clipped and quite icy tones.
Gerald is in his regulation Driving Suit; the calf length grey overcoat with the furry collar, scarf and trilby pulled down tightly.

He is driving their 1990 Nissan Micra, which they have had from new and was a reluctant purchase when the old, beloved Allegro finally went to the great dealership in the sky. The Micra is in showroom condition.

He is driving at 22 mph, which he does on all roads, at all times, and in all conditions.

Gerald is 92.

Notwithstanding the 22mph constancy of progress, the other constant is the oft repeated instruction from his wife: “Slow Down, Gerald”.

Clymidia is also 92, but has been 92 for around 60 years. Her pristine make up hides some of the years but not quite the dueling scar. Her outfit is constantly changing, but is always Jaeger and very expensive. She has to sew on the SS epaulettes herself though.

Gerald never says anything; there is after all, no need.

“I know there is a queue behind us Gerald, they will just have to wait”.

A short pause.
“Beside which, they are probably poor”
And so they progress towards the Metro Centre, it being a Thursday. And the constancy of the 22mph it to be admired as it never flickers up hill or down dale, dirt track or motorway.

The other, universal it seems, constant is that whenever we are on our way to a gig, then there they are, in front of us, at 22 mph.

Is it illegal, do you think, to fit my car with Bond-Like weapons of Wrinkly Wroad Wremoval[2]?

A quick blast and only a faint whiff of Chanel and orange car air freshener would remain, then we could all get to our gigs on time.
Am I being too harsh?

…from which you may gather we’ve been busy doing Care Homes this week. I thought we were only doing a few in January, but they had other ideas, so we’ve done three this week and been asked to do a bunch more. Great, and what’s greaterer is that some of them have come from our Agent.

Hang on, I’ll give you a moment to get your breath back, stop spluttering and climb back into your chair.
Better?
Good.

Yes we have an Agent, or to put it another way, no we haven’t. We’re working with a Bedlington based charity which places artists into Homes and similar places in order to ensure that there is a level of constancy in the mental stimulation these good people receive. As homes are strapped for cash (like everyone else) the charity foots an element of the fee. The charity also arranges the bookings. Hence the similarity to an Agent. This is nice for us, and all we have to do is pass the audition.
Ulp!

In other work we have been very busy with practice and learning new songs, spending a few hours a day getting things learned, polished and in some cases rejected. I’ve found that learning other people songs is a very double-edged sword. Some of the songs I find ‘difficult’, not to play, just difficult. Carol of course can do owt, but I struggle with some of them initially, until it turns out she was right all along and can then claim it was my idea all along.
However the other edge is that learning lots of ‘classic’ (ish) songs is really helpful as trying new arrangements, voicings and instrumentation means we can keep it interesting and make it ours. To be honest, it’s loads of fun! We also have a good long list of Folk Covers to make our set more appealing to clubs. Talking of which…

 

You may be dimly aware that we do a few shows around libraries, U3A’s and the like. These shows have been quite successful too; ‘Beat The Drum’ and ‘Stories with Strings’ follow a similar format involving a supporting slide (and movie) show, and spoken bits that talk about the song backgrounds. Oh and the music, that’s there too.
It goes quite well.
For 2015, we need to develop it, change the content and possibly play with the format a bit too. So I wanted a theme to hang everything on, and a snappy title to pull it together and explain on a poster what it’s all about.
After much cogitation (like thinking, but with extra cogs), we arrived at the conclusion that most of our songs are Folk, or Folkish and that they themselves have common themes – a spiritual paean to life and a sad lament to death.

So that meant that the title suggested itself really.

‘Hymns and Hearse’.

 

You may notice I have not been nasty to banjo players this year. That is because I am nice now.

And so as the waters of time fail to completely wash the stains of discord from the banjo players of fate, until the Persil of Justice is added and biologically poisons them all; I notice it is end of this blog.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] See?

[2] I must point out that our own Wrinklies are not included in this rant. No; they sit in BACK telling me to slow down.