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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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.

Here we go again (and again)

I didn’t have much to say this week; then, unfortunately, I started typing and found that my fingers were full of drivel. So, it behoves me not to dwell upon the formalities of introduction, but to bid you Welcome, Gentle Reader and invite you to read on…

Songwriters need an armoury of tools. Amongst these tools are such weapons as[1], inspiration, perspiration, and yes, fear[2]. Songs are a bit like the number 32 bus. You wait for ages and then three come along together. You always know the good ones too. They quite often appear fastest and have a certain ‘Ching’ as they pop into existence. From this, Gentle Reader, you will gather that I’ve been writing again, and as you are most perspicacious[3] you’ll know that an FG song can be somewhat… long.

Good, then you won’t be disappointed with the new stuff then. I’ve also thrown a few rules out of the window with at least one. The idea of a verse being followed by a chorus, repeat until dead, is one of them. Thematically, a few differences too. One is a historical thing about shipyards, no change there, but another is inspired by the final moments. Sounds Jolly don’t it? Well in a way, yes it is. Look, you know what my sense of humour is like, some people think it isn’t even a sense of humour, more of a highly developed sense of self-destruction, but there you have it, and it’s quite useful when songwriting.

As is t’internet.

Other little things played with recently are chord tutors, theory pages, progression generators and melody transcription tools, as well as some wonderful arrangement software. Hopefully, you’ll be able to hear the fruits of these labours before they go mouldy.

Another week in and the year is still taking shape for us. A few gigs down and the picture is starting to emerge.

So far it has been like that; the year ahead is on a roll of undeveloped film, and, as it is processed, the picture starts to slowly reveal itself from the fog.

I realize of course that using a metaphor such as a roll of film dates my writing, but on the bright side, not as much as it dates your reading!

So what does the picture show?

At the moment it looks like it is going to be very, very busy. And, interestingly, a game of two halves.

One half is certainly going to be Care Homes. We’re getting calls and have umpty tump bookings to do them. Just as well we enjoy doing it then, because one thing is for certain, if you didn’t enjoy it, you’ve no business being there in the first place.

This means doing a good show, which in turn means having the right material – so; this week has been spent at least in part, learning new songs which fit the bill. I do draw the line in some places, we were asked if we knew ‘Y Viva Espana’ and not only do we not know it, we will never know it.

This isn’t purely musical snobbery on my part. It’s just that it is difficult to play a song while your internal organs are sequentially shutting themselves down in protest. However, there are some really good old songs that we do perform, and that’s it – we try to perform them, not just bash out the three chords.

So much for Care homes, what about the other half of the year?

That’s going to be more mainstream FG stuff and will be FG material, plus some folky covers that we’ve added. Once again, the Gods have been kind and I think we worked out that there are three or four new songs that we need to work up to a playing out standard.

So, we will be in libraries, Village Halls, conference rooms and Folk Clubs too.

We have more folk club bookings this year than ever before, and added a new one this week.

Much had we heard about Bedale Folk Club and never the chance to go and see.

So, by charabanc in good spirits we for Bedale this week. Wrinkly Wroadies safely ensconced in the back, colouring books provided (they are for Pauline to hit Doug with), we headed Sarf.

Workmen have been upgrading the A1 for some time now and have a cunning plan to ensure that wherever we are going, that’s where the roadworks will be – a feat successfully managed on this evening. However we arrived at the Riverside Club, which is, as the name implies, a Club. So the big function room provided the venue and a few good worthies braved the slightly inclement evening.

We’ve been to quite a few clubs with strap-lines. Often it will be ‘The Friendly Club’ or ‘The Welcoming Club’, or sometimes, ‘The Club where we have enough locals having a nice time and you lot can s*d off, Club’. However, Bedale really is a friendly place, and made us very welcome throughout the evening –a nice bunch of folks.

We played a few songs, enjoyed everyone elses’ contribution and at the end of the evening were invited back to do a hotspot for them later in the year – that was a very nice round-off to the night and we look forward to that. Photos, naturally, are by the fossilized fotographers, the Wrinkly Wroadies.

Life has been busy apparently (we’ve never been) at ‘The Kings Head and Washerwoman’s Legs Folk Club’. Apparently it is still on, in the back room, every Thursday, unless the Leek Show is on. And equally apparently, they have been looking around other clubs and have noticed that they all have strap-lines or slogans to go underneath a banner used to adorn the performance area[4]. Chairman Dave has decided that, in his attempt to modernize the club and drag it into the nineteen seventies, they will have such an adornment too. The first problem is what slogan to adopt. Apparently Dave announced this idea last time and put out a suggestion box. It seems that the regulars mistook what sort of suggestions to put in it, and Dave was subsequently disappointed to discover that most regulars felt that the suggestion box should be placed, quite firmly, in a place it was never designed to go and which would undoubtedly cause him to walk funny. So in the true spirit of the club Chairman Dave has taken it upon himself to come up with a strap line. So far, it’s a toss up between, “Dave’s Really Great Folk Club” and “Did you know this is Dave’s Club”, neither of which really fit either the purpose, or indeed on the banner.

So there will be a committee meeting and the new committee (they all switched seats a bit) will decide on the mission statement of the club.

My money is on the word ‘Folk’ being in it.

And probably another word too.

And so as the hands of time once again continue their relentless march across the face of fate, I notice indeed that the face of fate could do with the Clearasil of Justice to eradicate the pimples of outrageous fortune, and also announce that it is the end of this blog.

Until next time Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] fear surprise and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.

[2] I realize that any Gentle Reader below the age of about 40 will probably not get not get that reference, so here’s a link:

[3] No, it’s not another word for ‘smelly’

[4] Oh yes, this stuff is planned you know – not just hoyed together like a tatty stew.

New Years Revelation

Free.

This is a word which you should treat with great caution. It usually means that either what is on offer is worthless, out of date or in some cases downright dangerous. If it comes from the mouth of a double glazing salesman it is almost certainly not true. If it comes from the mouth of a musician it will have a ‘but’ attached, and if it comes from the mouth of a Folk Club impresario, well, that’s life.

You wouldn’t catch me using such methods though.

Be Welcome Gentle Reader and read on.

The following advice is free.

Gather round, for I have wisdom to impart, such wisdom as I have to pass on to you, and which may save your life.

There are two phrases the married man requires in his lexicon, if he uses them wisely and uses them well[1], he will have a long and happy life.

What are these phrases?

Allow me to enlighten you.

  1. ‘Yes, Dear.’

and…

  1. ‘Why not get them both?’

Use these daily and life will be good. Just don’t expect to be right all the time.

Lest you conclude that I have become (or always have been) some sort of closet misogynist with, apparently, a death wish; let me assure you this is not the case. This week, after a long period of reflection about what our next presentation show is going to be it was The Fair Lady Porkie who supplied the magic – and hitherto missing – piece of the puzzle. Incidentally some people think that in referring to Carol as Porkie, I am being abusive, or even a bit rude. Shows what they know as I’m still breathing.

‘Stories with Strings’ and ‘Beat The Drum’ have been two shows that we have had a lot of success with. This is where we play songs around a theme, with supporting visuals on a big screen, with a bit of narrative or chat between the songs. ‘Stories’ is unconnected songs with the chat and visuals being about the history, characters and events that inform the songs. ‘Drum’ is our World War One presentation and is, obviously enough, a series of songs linked by a common narrative.

These shows continue to be booked this year, but we wanted to develop the repertoire and have a third, new theme to offer, maybe even to Folk Clubs as well as the other consumers of FG’s output.

Trouble was, I couldn’t quite grasp the genie, that elusive Will O’ The Wisp thought that would be the theme, the key, the peg to hand the whole thing on.

Iced Lemon Tea proved to be the answer.

While in Town, Carol had suggested a coffee, and asked for said beverage, which duly provided she sat contemplating a flier illustrating a couple of outfits she was admiring.

We were chatting about the new show, songs we wanted in it, arrangements and so on, but the theme was stubbornly elusive.

Sipping the tea, Carol suddenly said “Why not call it……”

Ke-rchiiiing!

The whole thing instantly fell into place and made sense. Wonderful.

There was only one thing I could say.

“Why not get them both”

Of course you, Gentle Reader are now going to have to hang on a bit, until we get the thing to a point where it can be announced. Wisdom with age warns me against going off half cocked. Which reminds me; have you broken yours yet?

I refer of course to the wonderfully pointless custom of forming one or more New Year’s Resolutions. Pointless because it is usually at least the afternoon before they are broken, and by evening they lie in tatters and mercifully forgotten until next year.

We are no different, except that, being FG, ours are a bit more concentrated. So far, the list includes:

  • Get the new show sorted out (see above for no details at all)
  • Finish off the Harland recording project – that stalled again in December
  • Get a new CD recorded and out
  • Get some new material written

So far, all remain intact, in fact this year we have three songs on the starting blocks, with two of them looking quite hopeful. Also, re-reading our Book of Words, it looks like another two are floating about having been parked for various reasons last year.

So far we’ve played out once, a dementia unit, which if the New Years’ Honours recognised people who have big hearts, would have seen the staff laden with medals. Coming up we have more care homes, supported now by a dedicated website, and a lot of FG shows ‘proper[2]’. We’re very pleased to have been booked to play a support slot at Carlisle Folk and Blues Club in October, which brings our folk club bookings up to around half a dozen or so, which is very nice thank you.

None of which rambling is getting any of the jobs above done, so I shall just have to leave you with the realisation that as the hands of time travel across the clock face of destiny, it is important to remember that they each have two fingers with which to salute you.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] And uses them exclusively.

[2] Meaning we play our stuff, not the stuff people like. Hang on…

Dearly Beloved…

Dearly Beloved (this works best with a bit of mental reverb )
We are gathered here this morning to celebrate each other and the gifts we have and the offerings we bring.
We are here to thank those who help us and to forgive those who trespass against us and get on our goat.
And who hasn’t got on a little goat?
I know I have.
And so, dearly beloved Acoustic Chums and Gentle Readers, be welcome to our service of what, we like to call, The Fool’s Gold Blog.
Now, read on…”

Funny innit? (turn the reverb off now, you’ll be kn*ckered by the end)
Sometimes the shows that you look forward to turn out a bit, well, flat. Something that you build up in your mind and look forward to, when the great day arrives, somehow fail to deliver. Nothing bad or failing, just a bit “meh”.
Conversely, on the other side of the elephant, shows which seem as though they are going to be hard, uncomfortable or a bit of a battle turn out to be lots of fun.
We did a big gig recently to a full room, lotsa folks there. The room was cold, the audience well wrapped up hardly moved apart from the occasional shiver. At the end, they all shuffled off home. It was a bit flat.
We went to a Care Home in last couple of weeks and found a room with six people in it, all victims of dementia to a considerable degree. Two of them were asleep, and one was openly hostile; a ninety year-old lady who wants to tear you apart with her bare hands is one of the best laxatives known to man.
Still we did our stuff – and had a lovely time. They responded woke up, sang and danced the afternoon away. It was really lovely.
Cost a fortune in underpants though.
You just never know.
Especially as the cold gig has brought us a number of new bookings this week.
Who knew eh?

Pics this week, courtesy once more of The Infamous Wrinkly Wroadies, are from the Beat The Drum show at City Library. Or As I like to think of it FG goes Pink Floyd – they look great and it was a good night too.

The world is a poorer place now that, what with the passage of time and the fact that they never did, Police Constables no longer utter such phrases as:
“’Allo,’Allo,’Allo; what’s all this here? I think you’d better comealonga me!”
(knees bend, knees bend, moustache twitch)
To which a cowering member of the criminal fraternity similarly no longer replies:
“Cor, Guv’nor, you got me bang to rights – and no mistake. I’ll come quietly”
(wrists proffered in supplicative manner)
Neither, sadly do concert promoters, folk club gaulieters or booking agents trundle round to your door and knocking timidly plaintively enquire:
‘Please can we book you for our next function – and here’s a large bag of money while I’m asking”.
There may have been a time during the folk revival of the sixties when it was possible to turn up at a club, play a floor spot and get booked for the next week. There may have been a time when the bulky jumper, beard, pipe and guitar box where sufficient to convince a promoter that one was the real deal, and Robert would be your mother’s brother.
Sadly the world has turned and reality rather than austerity now rules the roost. That and the fact that there are quite a lot of places to play and a huge number of players. Most clubs can survive on their own resources and regular, if not concrete guest artists.
So one needs to be different.
Relevant.
Exciting.
Special.
So, I think that you, Acoustic Chums should heed these worlds and adopt them as simply biblical and that way, your impact down the folk club will be assured.
• Buy a very expensive guitar. They make you sound better straight away, and everyone is dead impressed and asks to have a look. This simple step will almost guarantee a booking.
• Play a very well known song, but with a little twist. ‘Streets of London’ in 12/8 with a kazoo and sackbut instrumental and the chorus in Latin should do it nicely.
• Dress in an approved folkie manner. Waistcoats are good, as are moleskin pants, collarless shirts are almost compulsory and sandals, well: de rigueur. As before, it is important to stamp your own identity upon the uniform, and I suggest colour is the way forward. Club Chairman are often big fans of pink and lime green, with a hint of saffron. Try it – you’ll get a surprise.
• Finally, and this is very important – do all of the above, don’t pick and choose. If you do all of these things, it doesn’t mean you will get a booking, but it does mean that we will have more chance.
And so as the blog and indeed the year (and probably the career) draw to a close, it only remains for us to wish you all that you would wish yourselves, which on the balance of things, probably serves us all right. There will be no blog next week, in itself a cause of unbridled joy and unconfined celebration. Whoever thought a confined celebration was a good idea needs their head seen through.
Until next time Acoustic Chums,
Keep Strummin’

That was the year that was…

Boys And Lasses Like Santa.

It’s my new organisation, and you’re all invited to join.

Membership brings with it, as you might expect, certain privileges and rights. Chief among these is, as a member of the club, you get to put up your Christmas tree in September. You are allowed to wear silly bits of felt on your head and be insufferably jolly round the shops.

But wait – Boys and Lasses are already doing this – am I too late to organise this movement or, as I am beginning to suspect, is Christmas already organised Balls?

Right.

Now I have nailed my colours to the festive mast, be bid welcome, Gentle Reader, to this the Fool’s Gold 2014 roundup.

Now, pray; read on…

City BTD poster

 

2014 eh?

Who’d have thought it?

No sooner do these year things start than they’re over.

But this one – well this one has been a bit special.

Momentous even.

Big.

So many changes, developments and hopefully good ones at that – it seems that FG is a very different beast to the ragamuffin enthusiast collective it was in December 2013.

So what went on? What sticks in the febrile, fevered brain of your favorite idiot?

…The biggest change was the decision to make music a priority.

As full time workists, we were keen but usually tired. Recording took forever and it was getting hard to muster the enthusiasm to go out to clubs in the evening.

Now that we are (semi) retired, that’s all changed. Now we are permanently tired, have no time at all for recording and never go to clubs in the evening.

Well, hardly ever.

148.

That’s the scores on the doors, or at least most of the score on the door. Our year planner has 148 things what we did. That does not include floor spots or club visits. That’s gigs, bookings, care homes, libraries etc. And the interesting thing is that up until April, when we packed in and threw the towel of work into the face of The Man, we had 20.

Then it went daft.

We decided that life is for the living, not the working to make a kind of living. Cue the early pension and a revised contract. Carol now spends all day looking for the kitchen[1] and we spend all day every day playing at Fool’s Gold – which oddly enough seems to take all day.

FG is now a musical beast. We do Folk Clubs, shows, festivals, talks for groups, presentation shows and Care Homes. We write, rehearse and play. We phone people, mail people, meet people and talk gigs. In short we have a bl**dy good time enjoying being musicians.

That’s amateur musician to you.

I got told recently that we’d ‘gone professional’.

Laugh? I nearly passed me fags round.

For us the music is about enjoying life and enjoying what we do. It is nice when it pays for itself – puts petrol in the tank, pays for a jolly or takes us out for a meal, but if we ever thought of ourselves as professional, doing it just for money, I think it would rob the game of most of the fun.

Apart, perhaps from one thing.

We, that’s the Mehm Sahib and me (the punkah wallah), do take it very seriously, so if there is an element of professionalism, it’s when we see a ‘pro’ perform and we say to ourselves (not too quietly either) “we can do that”.

And we do.

 

Highlights of the year?

Blimey, that’s a hard one.[2]

Too difficult to think of really. Highlights include:
Lymm Folk Club where we went down rather nicely, Loughton Folk Club where it was so hot we nearly melted, Festival on The Moor where it was so muddly that we thought it was cow doo-doo, which unfortunately turned out to be the case, Beat The Drum in Consett, where we got it right, City Library shows which were great fun, the new CD – which sounds quite good, certain shows – mentioning no names – where the publicity was done after we started playing, Weardale Town Hall which was a blast…

I noticed myself playing something the other day and realised I could not have done it a few months ago without turning my fingers into a half hitch with a fully spliced monkey’s fist[3]. I heard Carol belting something out at a gig recently and thought “She sounds rather good”…

We have some great gear, thanks to retiring and very supportive Wrellies. I’ve a new PRS Angelus SE (no, not the American one), Carol parps through a decent flute and some nice whistles, the tenor is a Martin and the uBAss is magical…

…but none of the above really matters if I sit back and think what is really important, and that is simply that we are enjoying the music, enjoying life and enjoying playing for you all[4].

Only 50 gigs on the board so far, but… Roll on 2015!

 

I’ve hear that The Kings Head and Washerwoman’s Legs Folk Club is revising its policy towards visiting guests. Apparently they are to be allowed to live as long as they don’t play a guitar or a song they wrote themselves, which is a huge step towards a liberal inclusive society. Chairman Dave opposed this change, on the grounds that there is nothing wrong with music from 1715 and we should jolly well stay there.

He only changed his mind when someone pointed out that Guinness, and therefore folk music, was not invented until 1769, at which point he relented and said that he would try to drag the folk club right into meaty bit of the 18th Century.

Which is progress.

However, before you reach for your instrument, and pack the car, remember that the club (every Thursday in the back room) has a booking policy. If you want to play, you need to give your name and your King’s Head and Washerwoman’s Legs licence to play voucher to the door staff. If you feel that you may not have said voucher, it’s bluey-purple and has a 20 just to the right of the picture of the Queen.

That usually does it.

 

And so as the sand timer of fate pours the grains of destiny towards the lower bowl of fate, and several sharp bits get stuck in the underpants of inevitability, I notice it is the end of this blog.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] I keep hiding it behind the hoover, and so far she hasn’t found it.

[2] The Wrinkly Wroadies have immediately leapt to the ‘Bishop and Actress’ punchline, so to save time, I suggest you do too. Yes I know it’s childish – so, if you think about it, is making up nice noises on a guitar.

[3] Which may make some sense to knot fans. I do hope not. (sic)

[4] Mainly those of you without some form of independent locomotion.