The Road to Ruin…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WELL DONE SIR.

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

Until next time, Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

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

[2] …or, to put it another way; ‘I’

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

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

Ah, there you are…

Right, now you’ve turned up, I can begin. Next week, please could you tune in a bit earlier – I have to hang around on the Internet for ages waiting you know.

What delights await you InStore this week?

Well, we have the usual round up of things what we did, some rumination on things what we might do, and, rather unusually I feel, a set of apparently disconnected ramblings, which may eventually turn out to have a tenuous connection to our wonderful world of Acoustic Music.

Or not.

Who knows?
Be Welcome, Gentle Reader, and read on…

And you Gentle Reader, are astute[1]. You will know that a great deal of what we are asked to consume in the name of musical entertainment is rehashed, reworked, and occasionally, regurgitated from older, usually better, ideas. I have been watching (with at least one eye) a couple of music shows during the past week. Some deal with the ‘new’ shiny stars of the scene, and at least one was basically recut episodes of ‘Top of the Pops’ (sans Mr Savile, curiously). To my completely open, balanced and entirely unjuandiced ears[2] the ‘new’ stuff, despite clamouring for my attention by being ostensibly ‘Acoustic’, was a glossy production of the stuff you can hear in any folk club, any week, anywhere. Just to rub salt into it, the stuff you might hear in the folk club might be better.

The TOTP episode showed some, then outrageous, now rather camp, cavortings, but the music was original, fresh and seemed to have life. Sadly, I knew all the words too.

So. The question is; is there anything out there that is new, original, but still listenable to?

Or has it all been done before?

This week, or ‘Previously on Fool’s Gold’; we have been out to play a bit.

And it was a little bit of a Damascan week for me too.

If you are not wholly up to speed with your Biblical references, (some of you live in far flung parts of the former Empire, where life is still primitive and make Sunderland look like a cultural city… oh, apparently it is). It happened like this…

One day Saint Paul (although at that point he wasn’t a Saint, or called Paul – and that’s just the start) was on his way to Damascus. The buses were off so he was on his cuddy. For reasons that involve a great deal of philosophical debate, no little faith and the suspension of reality, he ended up falling off his horse and, in a blinding flash of light, God (for it was She) was revealed unto him[3] and he converted on the spot from his Naughty Roman, Anti-Christian ways and went to live upside down on a cross.

So a Damascan moment is one of great change is it?

Well, I think I had one of them this week.

We played an Old Folks Home, we played a Folk Club, and previously we played a couple of our performance shows.

The problem is, that I have always placed great store on the Folk Club gigs. I have regarded them as the way forward and the goal for which to aim. However, this Nirvana has been challenged by the other gigs. To be perfectly honest we really enjoy the Care Homes, we have a tremendous time doing our Presentation Shows (I must think of a better name than that – it doesn’t sound very ‘zappy’). As we played the club, we worked with a small audience in a slightly chilly room. I suddenly fell off my cuddy and saw the light.

The other shows are easily as much fun.

If not…

Now, where’s me cross?

One highlight of the week was a chomping session with the PowerHouse of top folk-rock beat combo ‘Man with the Stick’[4]. David Pratt, the man who wields the stick, tub-thumper extraordinaire, (and a man who has no fear of numbers greater than, hang on; one, two, three, ohhh, hang on; had it before… ) visited Chez Gold and brought his carer Chrissie along too. I must say, that this musical community of ours makes for some great evenings with friends, spent, over a bottle or two, with some grub, chewing the musical fat and generally putting all aspects of the musical world to rights. We had a really great evening.

We met up with Chris Milner this week too. Apart from enjoying his music again, we’re delighted to announce that in addition to the Stanley show on June 20th Chris will do us the honours by opening the show at Newbiggin Maritime Centre on 10th April. This will be a ‘Beat the Drum’ show. Presentation show? Nah, I need a better name.

Pics this week, of course are through the lenses of the Wrinkly Wroadies support crew. You can’t get helpers like them; really you can’t.

There was a programme on the view screen this week; it concerned itself with the rise of Country Music. Much was made of the old-timers, a-sittin’ on the porch and a-playin’ on that thar geetaaaar.

The odd dosie was do-ed, there was a bit of “eeeh”, and a little “hahhh”-ing went on, all of which was mighty fine. When it came to the Poke Salad, I thought it a little odd, but; each to his own, just watch out for the horseradish.

The message I took away from the show was the sheer standard of musicianship. Apparent Hillibillies, with fewer teeth than shoes, seemingly effortlessly played banjo licks that defied Newtonian Physics. There was some early footage of Les Paul who was playing stuff that would surely confound the heavy metal WiddleMeister of today.

It just goes to show;

  1. one should never judge by appearances or ill-informed preconceptions
  2. there’s nowt new under the sun.[5]

And so, as the hands of time crawl lazily across the sky of possibility and the small black cloud of fate rains heavily on the mobile phone reader with no coat.

Which shows that unprotected text is quite dangerous.

Until next time Acoustic Chums,

Keep Strummin’

[1] At least, some of you are a Stute. I know that at least a few of you are completely Stuteless

[2] …and The Pope is a Catholic. At least most of the Pope is a Catholic. Bits of the Pope probably go to Synagogue. Or Tescos.

[3] No, not like that. For goodness sake, grow up.

[4] Me neither.

[5] As I write, the National Lottery Draw is on (afore the News) and listening to the Perfect Toothpaste Band (or whatever she’s called) There is indeed, Nowt New under The Sun. She finished at almost the same time as the backing track.

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’