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.

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’

The first snows of winter…

“Oh the weather outside is frightful,
and the fire is soooo delightful,
and since we’ve no place to go…”

Yes, my small but wonderfully proportioned Acousticians, as I sit and tap the latest installment of what many literary types call “Rubbish”, it is indeed chucking the white stuff down over Old Stanley Town. This is because Stanley is:

a) higher than most places
b) colder than most places, and
c) deserves it.

As the Festive Season draws ever nearer as an Iceberg to a Titanic[1] my thoughts turn to the business of gifts.

What to give, you already have our CD’s; proving that all Acoustic Musicians have wobbly tables, so what to gift the muso who has everything?

Be Welcome Gentle Reader, and read on…

 

Isn’t Facebook wonderful?

And I mean that most sincerely folks[2].

And literally too, how many times do you look at a post and think; “I wonder why…”

However, it can alleviate a great deal of the pain of Christmas, and if you don’t think Christmas is a pain, you must be under twelve.

How so?
Easy!

Just wait until someone on your friend list posts a message, which will get you out of a dark, and potentially deep, present-shaped hole. Often they will say something along the lines of: “Hey! Check out my page for downloads of my new album “Damp Patches” – it makes a great present for Christmas!”

Unfortunately, and there is always an ‘unfortunately’ in such stories; lots of people have thought of this and so my Facebook page is going ‘tingalot’ as many the troubadour seeks to flog me their own version of Damp Patches, although in fairness the titles are a bit more jolly, for example – ‘Christmas for the lonely depressive’, so far I have manfully managed to resist.

The important thing to take from this is that although it is now a heck of a lot easier to advertise your wares on the internet (and for goodness sake, don’t Google that phrase, at least, not when the Vicar is due), it is much harder to flog anybody your music.

Free is King.

This is quite obvious.

Look at U2: megastars of the firmament, talented chaps all – can’t stand them meself – but their latest album was not only given away for free, but rammed down the broadband of anyone daft enough to use iTunes.
The only problem with it, is that because it was free, I didn’t value it at all, listened to it once and have subsequently ignored it.

So it’s true then; you really can’t give it away – and don’t Google that either.

 

 

This week the world of FG has been particularly busified. We’ve played six times and been similarly busy with other music projects too. We started out in Chester le Street playing to about 130 U3A members, the first run out of the Christmas show. It went very well too, apart from the song where we were playing away and the audience burst out laughing, I was slightly put off – until I remembered that the video clip behind us had to do with some very corpulent reindeer and a slippery roof, so that’s ok. Rebooked for 2016 (!) we raced off to the next thing, a Christmas Party, then the next day a care home. Following a quick visit to see Jack and Chums at The Beamish Mary (another good night – Jack tells me he’s looking for someone to take over, so if you fancy it…) then the next day a WW1 event launch with no less a personage than the Lord Mayor of Newcastle (he didn’t know us either) then a big Beat The Drum Show in Consett.

 

 

As we trundled to the gig in the FG band transportation and logistics solution[3] we passed a large sign, which proclaimed boldly “Consett Bypass”.

I chose to disregard this advice and went on in, the gig was in the YMCA and what an amazing warren of community resources that place is. We set up a fairly big show upstairs (see Wrinkly Wroadies pics appended elsewhere to this missive) and then set up lots of chairs in front of us.

You may think this to be a wise precaution, but sales of Woad in Consett have dropped markedly, and the seats were in fact for the ‘Just Ukes’ band who opened the show. Eleven Uke players gave a lovely performance, then time for FG to go through the BTD show.

It’s nice when it all works, and it did that night. Hopefully the British Legion made a small fortune on ticket sales and raffles etc. Their work is to be very highly commended, it’s just a shame that it is necessary at all.

The final episode of the week was a social evening with the SWAP songwriting group led by local heavy metal folk outfit jiva. jiva are a folk institution in these parts, and will probably soon be in one[4], but they are to be congratulated in maintaining the songwriting group, which helps folks hone their chosen craft in a pleasant social setting. Well done them. A bunch of these worthies graced our threshold and ate, drank made merry and sang. A very pleasant evening.

 

The funniest thing this week was probably the Plumber.

He came to service the heating and is a nice and very chatty bloke. Just before he arrived, Carol asked me to spruce up her shaky egg high tech percussion device, which is cunningly fashioned from turned wood. It was however a bit grubby and dull, so when the plumber arrived he was visibly puzzled as to why someone should be oiling a wooden egg. I didn’t enlighten him, and y’know what?
He never asked.

 

And so as the Maraca of Fate shakes a defiant rattle at the Passage of Time and, as is inevitable, we end up with a shower of peas on the floor, I notice it is the end of this blog.

Until next time Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] …and often with similar consequences.

[2] If anyone would care to explain to me why Hughie Green was so popular, I’d be indebted.

[3] The manufacturers call it a Citroen Xara, but what do they know?

[4] Sorry you two, sometimes the pull of the darkside is just tooooo strong!

A week in a Tardis…

I wonder how one would write as a word the noise that a dematerializing Tardis makes?

‘Awooogahh Awoogahhh’ comes to mind, but I’m sure that means something else, probably unsavoury. Nonetheless, having set the sonic tone, I invite you, Gentle Reader, to consider the concept that it is possible to loose a week entirely, possibly by stepping into a cupboard (or police box) and upon coming out find that seven days have passed you by.

Awoogah indeed.

However, something must have happened.

Mustn’t it?

In order to find out, Be Welcome, Gentle Reader, and read on…

BTD poster CONSETT

And so, we in dress order resplendent, on Friday for The Bridge Hotel in our own company for the purposes of admiring Messrs ItsAcoustica and Jack Burness.

Chiefly remembered before a note was struck by the wheeled warfare that was happening on the streets of the City outside. Usually punters can park outside or at least nearby this venue, but in this instance the entire annual product of Detroit[1] was intent on turning itself into scrap metal on the mean streets of Newcastle.

If not actually mean, perhaps just a bit grumpy.

Perhaps it was the end of the Black Friday madness? Perhaps it was an average Friday night in town? Whatever the reason, this motorized mayhem made us late and we waltzed up to the function room to find Andy and Cath already on stage and soundchecking – which segued seamlessly into their first number, which is apparently called “1-2, Test”.

For those not in the know (and remember Gentle Reader, that we get all sorts on here, even normal people[2]) ItsAcoustica are an acoustic duo much given to the writing and performance of rootsy, Americana tinged carefully painted songs, penned by Catherine and brought to a lively and melodic life through her singing and Viola work and by Guitar Captain Andy ‘Ace’ Higgins who plays guitar rather better than I do, but is still a nice guy. They drew a good crowd and the room upstairs at The Bridge is a nice venue, so not withstanding the traffic outside and an enthusiastic rock band downstairs (actually, just at the bottom of the stairs) we were treated to a very slick set by the Higgins Acoustic Massive, which included some new songs. Andy sported a large Movember ‘tasche, waistcoat and bow tie ensemble which made him look like he was auditioning for the part of Waiter in the Village People, thankfully Catherine had resisted the temptation. The music was as always very enjoyable, well presented and featured some virtuoso playing. If you get the chance to see ItsAcoustica, then do so forthwith.

Support was more than ably provided by local acoustic institution Jack B Burness. There cannot be too many in the North East who are unaware of Jack, his songs or his dry anecdotal delivery. As usual he delivered a flawless set and even managed to play in time with the aforementioned rock band.

The pictures this week, such as they may be, are courtesy of my old Canon PowerShot A470. A fact that I provide not to brag about my collection of antiques, but to indicate that it is amazing there are any pictures at all. Especially as for some reason I had loaded the camera up with the smallest SD card known to science, making ten shots the maximum for the whole night – clever me. So that’s why Andy looks like he’s leaping about the stage a lot.

That, and because he was leaping about the stage a lot.

A grand evening.

 

In other news, what have we done?

The week has hurtled by, each day whipping past like a herd of politicians racing towards the nearest denial. We played at The City Library for one of the History groups, all very nice, we’ve done more work on the recording side, so that’s going reasonably well at the moment, we’ve done a lot of promo, gathered a whole bunch of gigs (see website for details) for next year.

And we heard from The Sage.

Or should that be ‘Sage’?

It’s trendy, apparently not to use a definite article, but jump straight into the namey bit. Hence ‘Sage’.

I imagine we’ll be going there in Car, and I may take Guitar too.

Again, for normal people, the Sage, sorry Sage is an iconic arts performance venue in Gateshead, it was designed by an architect with both a sense of humour and apparently a drink problem, but the result is stunning. All the very best names have graced the halls there.

And we even played there once too.

Or should that be ‘twice’?

The Concourse stage has been re-instated, but with a twist this time round. Previously, Sage booked local artists of an acoustic persuasion to play on a Sunday lunchtime. As said previously, we did one of those and it was a fantastic experience – great place to perform in and lots of people to watch and listen – great day. However they canned that, largely I think down to cost cutting requirements, and then brought it back as a Jazz spot, which seems to have been short lived. In the new iteration of the concept, they are putting artists on the concourse during the evening of big concerts while punters arrive, have a drink and wait for the show. Jolly fine notion that.

We applied sharpish, and heard back this week.

They try to pair up the act on the concourse with whoever is on the main stage, so we are very pleased, nay; chuffed to ribbons to be playing for the audience of Kate Rusby.

Now.

We really cannot claim to be ‘supporting’ Kate Rusby as we are not even in the same room. We can’t really say that we are ‘opening’ for Kate Rusby as she probably has no idea we’re there.

So, in the interests of truth and decency, on April 15th 2015 7:00pm onward Fool’s Gold will be supporting and opening for Kate Rusby at Sage Gateshead.

 

I notice that the sand timer of fate is trickling towards the bottom, and only the lumpy bit of destiny can prevent the inevitable last drop of time from bringing another week, and indeed blog, to a close.

Until next time Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

 

 

 

 

[1] On reflection that isn’t a particularly helpful analogy these days, as the annual production of Detroit is best measured not in cars but in murders, repossessions and the occasional corruption scandal.

[2] Who are lost.

Red Letter Day?

The clock changes and the world become a darker place. Not just that it gets dark earlier, it’s darker somehow. What we need, Acoustic Chums, is a little ray of sunshine to brighten up our darker days.

I haven’t got one, but here’s a blog that when you find yours, you could light it with.

Be Welcome Gentle Reader, and read on…

 

What a lovely word ‘lugubrious’ is.

It gathers about it the mists of miserable, the pallor of the downtrodden and just a whiff of bl**dy mindedness and wraps them up neatly into a parcel of flat faced woe, dismally presented.

 

Our Postie is a lugubrious fellow.

I think I would be too, if I had to carry that burden about the streets day in, day out. A sackful of broken promises, his bag turns out to contain bills, summonses and vouchers for a new takeaway run by a pair of newcomers called Sam and Ella.

In this day of email, our Postie, unfeasibly named Pat, does not even have the occasional joy of delivering a Red Letter, just letters in red ink.

 

A Red Letter Day is therefore an unusual event. Sources disagree about the derivation of the term, but the Church seems to be at the back of it. I think we’ll go with the practice of marking Holy Days on a calendar in Red, therefore marking them as important, special, and as they were unlikely to involve work, nice.

 

So a Red Letter is nice?
Good.

But in these days of email, what is it, I wonder.

A Red email?
Sounds like something that got trapped for too long in the spam filter. Or worse, one of those emails from someone you have never heard of but is incredibly anxious to give you prodigious amounts of cash. And all you have to do is give them your bank details: I mean, how generous is that?

 

As you, Gentle Reader, know well enough, I am not given to unnecessary verbiage or moved by the desire to twist a sentence or phrase until as Sir Eric Geddes had it “the pips squeak”, so I think an especially good email should be called ‘An Especially Good Email’.

 

And we got one too.

This week we got an offer to play in a lovely gallery theatre. It seats about 80 and the offer is on the table for FG to play a midweek set (after all, we are unknowns) and be paid for the privilege. The venue will arrange publicity, and as they do a lot of gigs, it is likely to mean something, they provide sound, soundman and even look after your merch.

The money isn’t brilliant, but not too bad, only a couple of hundred dollars.

Dollars?

Oh yes, I forgot, the gig is in Los Angeles.

Yes that was Red letter day.

It’s unlikely that we’ll be going[1], but that day can be marked on our calendar in red ink.

 

This week we have again proved the adage that retired people did not have time to work as once again we have not stopped. One library, three care homes, a folk club and a Christmas Fair and we are steaming towards the busy weeks.

We travelled North on Thursday to visit Ashington Folk Club; the first time in many months. The Portland, for such is the new home, was deserted downstairs, but upstairs in the function room a warmer welcome awaited. A small but perfectly formed crowd had assembled for the purposes of folk and singer songwriter material and we were treated to a wide ranging exhibition of the things people get up to. Squeeze boxes, Taylor T5’s, poetry, Jazz guitar pyrotechnics and a smattering of FG. Quite an evening. It seems that we are on their radar for 2015. We shall see as that would be nice.

The library show at Crook Library was another interesting Stories with Strings event. This time we got accosted by the local worthies all anxious to help us promote the next show about the town: that’s a good result by itself. The Christmas Fair in support of Willowburn Hospice was naturally enough a fundraiser, and I hope they raised shedloads of the stuff; the work they do is without compare. We were very pleased to help out, nice to meet Ray and Terry, local troubadors and also catch up with Chris Kelly, Lanchester’s answer to Leonard Cohen, but with laughs and also ‘Turkish[2]Chris Milner, whom we have not seen for a while. He tells us that he’s off on another round of Hall shows soon, if he is in your town, turn out.

(photies courtesy of The Wrinkly Wroadies)

The care homes set and the Christmas Fair shows brought home to me how much we have changed. FG hitherto was stubbornly about FG music – probably too inflexibly. FG was about Folk Clubs. Definitely too inflexibly. Today we are about playing. We prefer to play our own stuff, but can cast a skin to reveal a suit of dazzling colours fit for the occasion. Care Home? Songs that people remember, like and will sing if they can. It makes them smile. Christmas Fair? Oddly enough Christmas songs with a few others thrown in. Folk Clubs, Theatres, Art Galleries, Museums, Libraries, Cafes or theatres in Downtown LA? Ah, that’d be the FG set.

Horses, as they say, for courses.

 

Who’s that knockin’ at the door, who’s that headin’ my way?

I don’t know,

I can’t say,

It might be Mr. Postman, on this Red Letter day.

 

And so as the Sunday of restful peacefulness is threatened by a Monday of Workaday tedium, until the scented tin of ‘Soditall’ wipes away the pain, I notice it is the end of this blog.

Until next time Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strumin’

[1] Common sense must at some point impact upon the little spinning world that is FG, it would be fun, but there is a lot more we could do with the resources such a junket would require.

[2] Long story. It has got to do with Turkey though. No, not the Christmas Comestible, the Country.

Simply a maze(ing)

Theseus.

He was the man for the job.

Why?

Because he had pockets.

There will be a link to acoustic music here.

Won’t there?
Be Welcome Gentle Reader, and read on…

 

 

It’s obvious really. Finding the Minotaur in a pitch black[1] maze, then single handedly disconnecting said beastie from its head is all in a days work for your Classical Hero. If they couldn’t do something a simple as that they shouldn’t be in the job.

No it was the pockets wot done it.

I mean, finding the grumpy beastie should not have been much of a trick, after all that Humus and Olives, I’m sure the Minotaur found him. And then wished he hadn’t.

No, the clever bit was not the getting in, but, as is so often the case, it’s the getting out that takes skill, and of course, a ball of string.

See; the pocket was important.

Theseus paid out the string on the way in and was therefore able to navigate his way back out again, once his heroic credentials had been validated.

I could have done with him this week.

Someone who can find the way around a maze in the dark, without much idea of what is round the corner.

And it’s all Liz Franklin’s fault.

We were guests on her rather jolly Folkal Point show this week, broadcast weekly on Teesdale FM and as we sat and listened to playback on the studio monitors, I was struck by the comparative quality of our recordings against those of others. That’s a bit tough when we just have a home project setup, but nonetheless the difference was there. So, we decided that our Christmas present to ourselves, would be brought forward. Duly a PreSonus 1818/VSL now sits in the audio chain to deliver a much better sound to Cubase from the outside world. And we got it knockdown too.

And hooking it up to Cubase is where Theseus could have leant a hand. The setups are positively Labyrinthine and the manuals may as well have been Greek. He would have been the lad to help get all the virtual connectors, control panels and other bits of virtual gubbins talking correctly to all the other lumps of electronic wossname that make the recording world go round.

I am pleased to report that it all seems to work just fine now.

How does it sound?
I don’t know, it’s taken long enough just to get it going…

I couldn’t have had Theseus helping me anyway, even if he had turned up with a ball of string.

You know what they say about Greeks and gifts.

 

So apart from Liz’s show, which was as always, fun to do, we have been busy in other musical endeavors. We have more gigs confirmed for 2015, and have made some progress with the recording of the new big project. We should be asking helpers to help before long. The music is ploughing its own developmental furrow and I have not reigned in any creative impulses so the midi interface has been glowing white hot this week.

That was after our trip to Ayr last week to play at the Windy Ha. Wullie the Sound was on hand to make sure we could be heard, and it’s fair to say that we could. The gig was in a Bar and we were on between a local singer/songwriter and a couple of local rock bands.

We did our 40 minute set and as is sometimes the case, it seemed as if the folks were more or less oblivious to our noodling and crooning.

However when we finished, we got a lovely reception and an immediate rebooking.

It’s a funny old world.

Next, and we for Stockton, in good order with breastplates shiny to the folk club in The Sun Inn. We haven’t been for a year and a half, but it was a familiar set of faces to greet us. We only did two as it was special remembrance night, so two of the Beat The Drum set trotted duly forth.

Pics courtesy of the Wrinkly Wroadies, who manage to take several hundred pics at every club. Just as well, I might look normal in one of them.

 

A friend said recently that he read the blog.

I was intrigued and asked what he thought of it.

He contemplated for a while and when the smell had gone, he ventured: “It’s like reading Radio 4”.

I don’t know if it was a compliment or not, but I was chuffed to bits.

So in the style of that venerable institution, I offer you, Gentle Reader, not The Shipping Forecast, but rather, The Folking Forecast.

This is the Folking Forecast for the British Isles from 1800 hours until 1030 hours today.

The King’s Head: Depression, cold, occasional singing. Mostly trad, falling.

The Viking: Light Song heading Southerly with occasional instruments. Raffle later, winner in bar.

The Cromarty Arms: Mostly songs, waistcoats, some misery. Mood backing to suicidal later.

The German Bight: Folk Music? Rockall.

From Aberdeen to the Mull of Galloway outbreaks of Dancing, Depression deepening Northerly, Severe warning of pipes.

Attention all Folkies, especially in some areas between Selsey Bill and Whitby, Heavy Morris, becoming drunker, never good. Moderate.

And so, as the insult counter of fate registers the high score of destiny and the readers of confusion cry ‘tilt’, I realize it is the end of this edition of the blog.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

 

[1] I could have said Stygian, but I felt that was taking the classical references to an unnecessary extreme.

And so, to work…

The world of part time work, is much better than the land of full time work, except for those bits of time when you have, for want of a better expression, to work.

The life of the musician(s) can also be isolating. Rehearsing, writing, recording and admin – all the back room activity that is, for want of a better expression, the work.

Family duties similarly (by now you should really know where this is heading), while not onerous, rather often joyous, still need to be worked at and serviced, and that requires, for want of another way of putting it, work.

You really should have gathered by now that there is a trend appearing and probably an excuse coming.

So, only one thing for it – Be Welcome Gentle Reader, and read on…

 

This week I have had to play at Learning Consultants for a couple of days, which is actually quite a nice way to play; sometimes I can even help.

I think.

Then a family wedding – yes a real white dress, flowing veil and smart uniform jobby. We wish Brad and Laura all the very best of fortune for their future life together. It was a grand day.

In Arundel.

So I spent at least two days on the M1, which if fun could be numerically calibrated would explore the deeper, darker recesses of negativity. But would get ten from Len, probably.

 

So music then?

Well, we did manage a gig at a Care Home we’d not been to before, but are going back to so I suppose it went well. We did manage a couple of very short practices for the Christmas Set, which is looming very large on the horizon, time for the cotton wool beard, the silly hat and let the fun commence.

At least that’s what it says on the big tin of ‘Oil the fun of Christmas’ I got from eBay.

I hope it’s alcoholic.

I think we’ve got 16 shows in December, given the month effectively finishes for us on the 23rd, that’s not too shabby I suppose.

Then there’s the admin.

This year has been daft for us. We’ve explored new places to play and even new ways to play. We’ve played in all the usual and most of the unusual places. The trick now is to keep it going. That is Carol’s department, so she has been sending off emails, making phone calls and building a contact list like a little good ‘un. The seeds are sown, the conversations starting, so now we will just have to see what happens in 2015.

Which is the last bit of news; one thing that will happen is another CD. This will be ‘The Cautionary Tale of Harland Goodnight (thief)’.

Snappy, huh?

This project has been on the back burner for around two years, songs written, melodies worked out then more or less parked while we did other things.

This is a different project as it is (wait for it) a concept album.

Yes, I know.

However, it’s on the way.

The tale, all about a young man from Ashington who in the late 1800’s makes his way to London to find a life of crime and an unhappy ending, is hopefully going to be supported by a number of acoustic chums contributing to the recording, either singing the parts or playing, thumping, tapping, parping, scraping or even plunking whatever it is they thump, tap, parp, scrape or plunk.

I think there is something on the website about it.

Next week, is normal service with six gigs, including two days with two shows.

Bring it on!

Before I leave you, I must share the news, dripped into my eager ear by someone who was there (I wasn’t – it’s been a busy week so we couldn’t go).

Apparently there has been more outrage at The King’s Head and Washerwoman’s Legs Folk Club.

In a club where ‘outrage’ is pretty much considered a starting point for something more interesting, this is not unusual, but this time they started the outrage themselves, from, as it were, within.

Apparently the Landlord, dissatisfied with the numbers the club has been getting and consequently the low bar sales, told Chairman Dave that he had to wake his ideas up and get more folks in. Naturally, he did this from a very safe distance lest Chairman Dave’s celebrated tendency to eat people he dislikes kicked in.

However a quick committee meeting, which is the usual method getting people to agree with Dave, generated a few ideas to put bums on seats.

Dave has never been one for the great outdoors, preferring to leave the appreciation of the natural world to others while he eats it. However, he does know that others like it, so he was keen to approve a suggestion that the club have a Naturist Folk Evening.

The posters went up and apparently it caused quite a stir when two local organisations interested, presumably in Folk music, turned up, as it were ‘en masse’.

Well, it certainly put bums on seats.

As the word count climbs once more, and the call of Cubase grows ever louder, I feel the call of the recording studio, in much the same way as the folk club virgin feels the call of the loo, just before going on.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s do covers…

Strange the things you think about after a gig.

Usually about three in the morning, when the house is quiet.

The questions you ask yourself – did I get that song right? Did the audience like us? Is naked crowd surfing appropriate for Care Homes?

For the answers to this and more, go somewhere else. However for drivel in a similar vein, Be Welcome, Gentle Reader, and read on.

 

Did you, as a youngster, get up to that thing I used to do all the time?

I hope you didn’t, as it was unhealthy, a bit smelly and guaranteed to bestow the status of social outcast if the neighbours found out.

But apart from that, what about the other thing?

I refer of course (and this is where we get back, as ever, to the music) fondling large bits of cardboard – in this case, the LP sleeve.

MP3’s are very convenient, they’re cheap, easy to make, easy to store, easy to play and generally sound ok. There are plenty of other digital formats too, FLAC, OGG-Vorbis, Wav and quite a few others.

And there’s nothing to fiddle with.

Sometimes you can download a digital document that supports the CD – usually a .pdf which you can read on screen or print out.

And it’s Not The Same.

And – that’s to quite ignore CD’s.

And so we should too, as a CD fondler would arouse my instant distrust simply because the covers are so small, the printing inevitably unreadable and the pictures tiny.

Cassettes? Too far back in ancient history even to consider.

So why the LP fiddling as my diatribe for this week?

I miss the old LP covers, the gatefold sleeves, the included posters, stickers, lyrics and all manner of bits. The band information, where it was recorded and when.

Then there is the artwork.

The great big pictures in which to lose oneself while listening were a real joy to behold.

One of my heroes is Roger Dean, he of Yes albums fame, and another is a nice chap called Dave Greenslade who had a good idea when he made The Pentateuch of the Cosmogony as the sleeve and the music made up two parts of the whole.

So.

While I am delighted with our new CD ‘Dancing with Moonlight’, I feel that there is something missing. I saw on FaceMoan that someone was advertising their new CD on pledge basis with handmade, bespoke and individual packaging – a nice idea.

But I still fancy making a proper LP sleeve for our stuff, with all of the bits, the pictures and rubbish.

And there is no reason it couldn’t contain a CD, is there?

 

A slightly quieter week for FG this week and we only went out twice to play. We did a Church Social evening on Monday which was great fun, everyone singing along at the top of their lungs; then a road trip up to see Jack at Netherton Folk Club. Netherton isn’t where the road stops, just the reason for having the road. It is right out in the Northumberland sticks and a very nice spot indeed. At least we are told it is a very nice spot; every time we go to or from the place it is pitch countryside black. It was Geordie Night when we went and so we duly did some original and traditional Geordie songs. A nice reception and very nice comments afterwards. Two highlights for us, one was a very nice gentleman (American Tom) showing us his iPhone will all the FG albums on the playlist – wow; and a man who spoke to me afterwards saying how disappointed he was that we hadn’t done more – that made the journey very worthwhile, thanks folks!

The images are of course courtesy of The Wrinkly Wroadies; other bands have road crews that shin up lighting rigs or run around in T-Shirts flashing ‘Access All Areas’ passes, but none of them have our Wrinkly Wroadies.

But if you would like them, please send an address and some postage.

A very quite week ahead as we sally to the South Coast for a family wedding. A long white dress will be involved as well as a veil and high heels.

He’s a funny lad, but…

Oh, Carol tells me it’s our Daughter, so I can relax….

 

And so as the Sun of Folk sets over the Yardarm of the Wedding March and the Folkies of Fate start to dream of a Guinness laden reception, I notice it is the end of this blog.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

 

Short Change

I hope you don’t feel short changed, really; I don’t.

It’s not nice.

There you are, walking home in the very early morning after a pleasant evening with friends spent, largely horizontally, at your local opium bordello, when you realize that you have change in your pocket from five pounds.

And you’re sure you gave her a tenner.

 

(for those of a nervous disposition, an alternative would be to substitute the bordello for a sweet shop, which, in some ways, would work)

 

Either way, that’s when you feel short changed.

And I hope, small Acoustic Chum, by the end of this blog, you don’t feel that way.

Why so?
Be Welcome Gentle Reader, and read on…

 

Basically it comes down to lists.

Oh, and deadlines, them too.

This blog malarkey is great fun, but boy, does it eat into time – it’s not that I don’t have much to tell you, what with the Fool’s Gold adventures we’ve been having and are about to have. Far from it, in fact as you have already discovered, I can tap away about nothing at all.

No, the worry is that because we have so much to do, that this might be in the running for the fastest tapped blog ever – and that’s why I hope you don’t feel short changed.

Of course if you’ve been to a bordello, it probably serves you right.

 

This week gone has been totally musically nuts. Six playing events, that’s two care homes, two libraries, a National Trust property and a large plastic box.

 

The library shows are going very well indeed, thanks for asking, and we’re getting better at the presentation, so the Stories with Strings shows are getting quite popular. We played Esh Winning and Newton Aycliffe libraries this week and both shows went down well with re-books – which is a good indication as to whether it went well or not. In fact we sold out of CD’s, which is a new and rather pleasant experience.

Which brings me to another list item: the new CD.

It is finished!

More or less.

The main recordings are all done, the rough mixes completed, two tracks finalized and mastered, and just a few tweaks to complete on the rest. Artwork is almost complete, CD’s ready, boxes on order and we’re all good to go. Why on order? The old stock has been used up to replace the aforementioned sold out CD’s – please, keep up.

 

So the new CD?

It’s an EP like the last two, and is called ‘Dancing with Moonlight’; a reference to Moonlight Pavane, which has made it onto the list. The full track listing is:

  1. In The Cage
  2. The more things change
  3. Jarrow Song
  4. Moonlight Pavane
  5. The Wall

 

As long as Cubase behaves and we find a time mine, it should be ready for Lymm on Thursday, but we’ll see about that.

front cover

We also did ‘Folk in a Box’ in Darlington, where we met the very nice Bride Jackson. This was a bit different. A large(ish) placcy box, which is internally draped in black curtain and painted black with tight fitting doors. Guess what? It’s dark in there.

Not to mention warm.

The idea is that one audience person at a time sits and listens to one song at a time.

Like I said, a bit different.

It was dark, warm and quite a lot of fun too!

 

This coming week sees us out and about in the early part of the week, libraries and care homes, then off to Cheshire – we’re guests at Lymm Folk Club on Thursday, and on Friday have asked Bollington Folk Club if we can drop by.

 

We still haven’t heard from The King’s Head and Washerwoman’s Legs Folk Club though.

It’s odd too.

They had a free Barbie on a few weeks back and were looking for people to play – oddly enough, their email worked fine then…

However, I’m sure Chairman Dave will be reviewing the club rules to see what advice they give when it comes to booking new acts – and I know it won’t be easy.

Those tablets of stone weigh a ton.

 

I cannot sign off this week without a word of apology to our good chum Mr David Pratt, who has been the butt of my sogennant sense of humour over the last couple of weeks and has endured it all with dignity and good humour. So I promise not to take the wotsit out of his department of the music business for a while. Thank’s David for your forbearance.

Right, that’s it, a world record blog tapped. Back on with the list.

Best not go to the Bordello.

 

So as the drummer of destiny begins the count in to fame and falls at the first fence.

Or was it the third?
No hang on, its, one, two, three…. Erm…

I notice it is the end of this blog.

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’