Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Review: The Village Pump Folk Festival 2013

I just had an amazing weekend at the best little festival in England. The Village Pump Folk Festival which is held right here in Westbury. This is what happened. My best friends Jacky and Bill who i have known since 1970 arrived on Wednesday afternoon and we had a great evening and went for an Indian meal and then had a session at my house with Smithy on guitar. I threw him out at about midnight. Next morning i had to go to Kent on family business and Jacky and Bill went to the festival which is only five minutes away by car and they put up my tent for me and met Hannah and Sam and their kids George and Ellen and their friends. I got back from Kent on Friday about 8.00 and got a taxi up there. It is a beautiful site right under the famous White Horse. It makes me quite proud of our little town of Westbury. I met Jacky straight away and Mark and Angela and had a pint in the bar. Then we went and met up the whole gang who were up near the main stage. I can't remember watching any bands on Friday night but it sounded quite pleasant from where we were sitting. I think it was Martyn Joseph followed by Little Johnny England but i was having fun chatting to my friends and Hannah & Sam’s son George kept climbing all over me. What a great little character he is. What really makes a festival is being with your friends and catching up on things and chilling out. Jacky and i went to the ceilidh in the club house for a while and watched the country dancing going on. Everybody seemed to be having a great time. Eventually we all went back to camp and sat around drinking and listening to Van Morrison on Sam's smart phone. I think that was the music highlight for me of the whole evening .In the end i crawled into my sleeping bag about 2.30 in the morning absolutely shattered. Next morning i crawled out of my rancid sleeping bag all bleary eyed and goopy and Jacky and Bill drove me back home. We bought some food at the Co-Op and Jacky cooked breakfast and we had a shower and felt all bright eyed and bushy tailed again. It is brilliant having a festival right on your doorstep. I might write to Michael Eavis and tell him to move Glastonbury a bit nearer to my house. About mid-day we went back on site and met up with the gang back at base camp and after a couple of wines i was ready for another festival day. We wandered down and i met a man with an owl which was quite interesting and Smithy arrived and Margaret and Wayne and Dave and Carol. Dave is a huge fan of the Proclaimers. A duo called Megson were on. I watched some of their set and thought they were rather good. After that it was Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman. Kathryn is really beautiful and a fantastic singer. I think she used to be in a band called the Equation with Kate Rusby. I really enjoyed listening to them. After that it was a trio called Coope,Boyes and Simpson but they weren't my cup of tea. It might be alright on a trawler sailing out of Lowestoft or something. I bet some people liked them so it is churlish of me to complain. Smithy and i went for a walk around the other stages and on the club stage they were having an open mic session and some bloke sang a great version of House At Pooh Corner which i really enjoyed. On the way back there was a stall doing henna tattoos. "Lets get tattooed", i said to Smithy.He wouldn't but i had a yin &Yang tattoo done. "Try not to get it wet for 24 hours", the lady warned. "Don't worry", i said. When we rejoined our mates i kept my arm in the air in case George smudged it. The next act was one of my favourite singers Nic Jones. He performs these days in The Nic Jones Trio. His album Penguin Eggs is easily in my favourite top ten albums of all time. He had a terrible car accident about thirty years ago and is lucky to be alive. His wife has nursed him back to being able to perform again but he can't play the guitar anymore. His son Joseph plays in the trio with him and he is quite brilliant on guitar. Belinda O'Hooley completes the trio on accordian and keyboards. Their set was really great and very emotional. My particular favourite songs were Barrack Street, Canadio-o,the Little Pot Stove and The Seven Yellow Gypsies. I enjoyed every single song though. Afterwards i bought an album called Game Set Match and Nic signed it for me and agreed to a photo which was very gracious of him. I also bought some sweets off his grandson which i gave to George and his friends. The album i bought is really good as well. I urge you to check out Nic Jones because he is great and being discovered by a whole new generation of music fans. During Nic's set it began to rain and i had to run and collect our possessions and got drenched to the skin. Then my mate Dave arrived from Nottingham. I have known him since the early 70's as well so it was great to see him as well. Our gang was now complete. We all put on plastic blue ponchos which was quite amusing. About an hour later i suddenly remembered my tattoo. I pulled up the sleeve of my poncho. "Oh no, !".My arm had turned into a blue inky mess. That should give everyone at work a good laugh when i go back to work tomorrow. Nevermind. The highlight of the evening performances for me was Eric Bibb. He is another in a long line of great American blues guitarists and singers to find recognition in Europe. I think he lives in Sweden now. He played a beautiful mix of soulful folk blues. He really is great. I see in the programme that his music is described as 'New World Blues' which is just about right. After that the gang went back to camp and sat around in Sam and Hannah's gazebo telling jokes and drinking wine till the early hours. When i finally got into my tent i lay down in a lake and got soaked to the skin. When Jacky and Bill had put my tent up they had forgotten to fasten the square bit on the top. Margaret and Wayne had a spare room in their tent so i collapsed in there and fell asleep despite being drenched. Next morning when i awoke about 10.15 Jacky and Bill had already gone to my house. They had tried to wake me up to no avail. Dave drove me back to mine and Jacky made breakfast for all four of us which was great and we sat in my yard chatting and listening to music. Then i cut some sunflowers from my garden and we went up to the cemetary to visit Kim. It is a beautiful spot up there and you can actually see the festival in the distance. The highlight of the afternoon session for me was seeing Keith Christmas perform in the Clubhouse .I have been a fan of his since we saw him at the folk club in Trowbridge and he recorded a live album there. He is a great guitarist with some fine songs as well. My favourite songs of his set were Travelling Down and Good For Me but i enjoyed every song and the skill displayed on the instrumental Play In A Day was quite mesmerising. I shouted out a request for Duty Days and he never played so at the end i left in a huff which is quite childish of me because the acts only get an hour and they must practice for weeks to perfect the set so they can't perform everything. He was great anyway. I wanted to see the Merv Grist Players next because Mervyn is a local genius but i couldn't get back in the club house because it was absolutely packed in there. Next year i think they should put Merv on the main stage. I had been looking forward to seeing Kate Rusby for months ever since i bought a ticket. I have been a fan of the Barnsley Nightingale ever since i first heard her on the Mike Harding Show on the radio and bought her album Sleepless. A framed signed poster of Kate hangs proudly on my wall at home. She is wonderful and played a brilliant set of songs from her album Twenty which celebrates her twenty years as a performer. I didn't care that she didn't do my favourite songs Our Town and The Wild Geese. As well as the music i love the funny stories she tells between the songs. After Kate's brilliant set i wasn't all that fussed about seeing Steel Eye Span so we bought some vegeburgers and drifted back to camp. I had intended going back down to see the Tannahill Weavers because i had promised to get a signed cd for a friend but with seeing Dave set off on the long drive back to Nottingham and talking around the camp i completely forgot about it.I was really tired by then anyway. When we all eventually got in our various tents we carried on talking from tent to tent about what we wanted for breakfast. It was like a scene from The Waltons. Next morning we were up early and took our tents down and loaded up the car.We left by 8.30 and said goodbye to Hannah, Sam and family who were the only ones left .I hope they got all their stuff packed away before the thunderstorms which arrived later that day.Abot 11.30 Jacky & Bill set off on the long journey home. It was sad to see them go but i'll see them again at the end of October for Van Morrison at the Royal Albert Hall so i'm looking forward to that already. Anyway thank you very much indeed John Alderslade and all the organisers for a fantastic weekend and lets do it all again next year. THE END.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Review: Steve Earle, Colston Hall Bristol May 24th 2013.

I went to a great concert last night at the Colston Hall in Bristol.It was Steve Earle And The Dukes.I first heard of Steve about ten years ago because a lot of my internet friends were always going on about how great he was.A friend in Toronto called Misty sent me a double CD compilation of Steve's songs and a friend of mine from the pub Colin who is a Steve Earle fanatic burned me off two of Steves recent albums,Washington Square Serenade and I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive.I was hooked,i loved Steves gravelly voice and the great songs and i liked Steves socio-political left wing views and his campaigns against the death penalty in America and other issues.I saw his wife Alison Moorer in 2005 when she played the Acoustic Stage at Glastonbury and she introduced her soon to be husband Steve Earle and he sang one song with her but i can't remember what it was now.
When i heard that Steve was playing in Bristol i knew we had to go and see him so i bought a bunch of tickets for my friends and seven of us met up last night in The Crown.There was Colin & Sharon,Chris and Chrissie,Sharon's son Kevin,Dave and me.A quick pint in the pub and we piled into two taxis and caught the 5.38 train to Bristol.It was a cold and windy evening but two carrier bags of booze kept our spirits high.At Bradford On Avon my sister Margaret and her partner Wayne joined us on the train so that made a merry gang of nine of us.We soon arrived in the great seafaring city of Bristol and two more taxis zipped us to the Colston Hall.The building is named after Edward Colston a rich merchant who was pockets a jingle in the olden days through slave money which is an unfortunate part of Bristol's history.In recent years it has been been modernised with a brand new foyer and bar area which is where we hurried to.They have local bands playing in the bar area most nights which is a nice touch and we got chatting to an old guy called Clarence who had just come in to listen to the bar music.I had some spare tickets so i gave one to Clarence which was my good deed of the day.We went outside for a ciggie and i took some photos of our gang and Steves bus which was parked outside.
Then it was time for the support band The Mastersons who were introduced by Steve.They are a married duo Eleanor Whitmore and Chris Masterson who have a brand new album out now called Birds Fly South and are also part of Steve's band The Dukes.I particularly like Eleanor's violin playing and Chris's guitar sound.I must admit though that before the end of their set i returned to the bar for another drink before the interval rush.Then it was time for the main man and his band.As well as the Mastersons i think other band members include Will Rigby and Kelly Linney if i remember correctly.They are a great band anyway.There was a huge battery of instruments at the side of the stage for the band.The roadies certainly had their work cut out for the instrument changes.The first song they performed was the eponymous title track of Steves new album Low Highway.I immediately regretted that i hadn't bought the album and familiarised myself with the songs because i had to concentrate really hard to make out the lyrics.I looked up the words to this song this morning and they are brilliant. Heard an old man grumble and a young girl cry
A brick wall crumble and the white dove fly
A cry for justice and a cry for peace
The voice of reason and the roar of the beast
And every mile was a prayer I prayed
As I rolled down the low highway.

This was followed by another song from the new album,the more upbeat Calico County which i also enjoyed.Another great song off Low Highway i also really liked later in the concert was called Invisible,a portrait of somebody living on the margins of society.I started trying to write a set list in my trusty moleskine notebook but i soon gave up because i soon realised there are vast gaps in my knowledge of Steve Earle songs.This is an issue that i need to address pronto.Basically i didn't know the names of the songs so i gave up on my set list and enjoyed the show.Songs i particularly remember though include the crowd pleaser Copperhead Road,21st Century Blues,Hear That Train a Comin',My Old Friend The Blues.The Revolution Starts Now,(Some manic guitar in that one!) Warren Hellman's Banjo,and Remember Me.Steve Talked a bit between the songs and he said some very moving words about autism.I think he and Alison have an autistic son.Steve did a song from a show called Treme which i liked but i can't remember what it was now.The encore was the Stones song Mothers Little Helper which was great and a lot of people sang along to that one.As it was Bob Dylan's birthday he finished by singing Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues which was great.During this song i got out of my seat and walked right down the front.Just as Steve was leaving the stage he was picking up his stuff right in front of me and i snapped the best picture i could of him.
After the show Steve came to the foyer to sign merchandise and i would have loved to have bought a signed copy of the new album but the queue was too long and we had a train to catch.The gang caught the 11.20 train and we got home tired but happy after a great night so thank you very much Steve Earle and The Dukes.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Review:Duke Special,The Louisiana Bristol 12.4.2013

I had a great night out in Bristol on Friday.This is how it came about.
                            In 2003 Kim and i went to Dublin to see Van Morrison and we got chatting to Peter Ziemniak who was sitting next to us and were amazed to find we only lived four miles apart in Wiltshire.We met up several times since at various concerts and Peter owns a firm on the Westbury Trading Estate near where i work and he has spotted me a couple of times at the bus stop and given me a lift home.A few weeks ago Peter asked me if i'd like to go and see Duke Special in Bristol.I had heard the name before but i knew nothing about the music so i looked him up on youtube and i thought he was great so i sent Peter a message back and said i'd love to go.
We met  in Trowbridge on Friday evening at 5.00.Peter had organised a minibus for fourteen jolly boys and girls.His lovely wife and his son and daughter and various friends and work friends and me and Smithy.I can't remember everyones names i'm afraid but Harry the driver was a really nice guy and i had a good chat about music later on with Peters friend Steve.It was a really nice sunny spring evening for a change as we drove to Bristol,the countryside looked great and somebody played a Duke Special cd as we drove along,.Peter had supplied an ample supply of beer so by the time we got to the Louisiana everybody was loosened up for a great night.
We even had a parking spot reserved right outside the venue.I'd never been to the Louisiana before but it is a really great place. The couple who ran the bar are Italian and they were only going to cook for the bands but Peter had phoned up and they served us up a delicious Italian meal for fourteen.That certainly hit the spot.
The Louisiana prides itself on booking bands before they are famous.The walls are covered in pictures of people who have played there previously.Amy Whitehouse, Fleet Foxes, White Stripes, Corrine Bailey-Rae,Muse,Mogwai etc etc,and Snow Patrol were once the support band here.Whoever books the bands obviously knows their stuff.
Then we traipsed upstairs to see the show.I think it must be the smallest venue i have ever been in.The show was sold out so it was jam packed upstairs.The first act on was Nadine Shah and she was really good.I was watching her this afternoon on youtube and i think we will hear a lot more of Nadine in the future.The second act was Sadpaw and i think he must be a friend of Duke's because he played on a couple of Duke's songs later in the evening.

Finally at 9.30 Duke came on stage and by now the place was so packed you could hardly move your arms.The first thing Duke did was to invite twenty people to come and sit around him on the stage.That relieved the pressure at the front a bit and helped create a nice atmosphere.All evening Duke played the piano, sang and told funny stories.I think the first song Duke did was 'Slip Of A Girl' which is a really catchy song that i can't get out of my head since.Duke then told a really funny story that was inspired by a photograph he had seen of 'Rita De Costa' who made a career out of marrying wealthy men who died shortly after the wedding.Duke also handed out songsheets of some of the songs so the audience could sing along if they wanted which was a nice touch.Creaky Boat Blues is a great song for singing along to.I was bollixed by now because of tiredness and booze so i can't possibly remember all the songs.One song though i really liked though was Duke's version of 'I've Worn My Elbows Down To The Bone'by Ivor Cutler because i love Ivor Cutler's music.He is great and i'm really pleased Duke Special is into him.
Duke also sang a song i liked by My Bloody Valentine but i can't remember the name of it now.Another great cover version Duke did was 'Heart Like A Wheel' by Kate And Anna McGarrigle which was stunning.Duke has a great taste in other peoples music and i must say i like the way he sings in his Northern Irish accent which is great.A lot of singers from these isles put on a fake American accent but Duke doesn't.Of Dukes own songs i am really impressed with'Last Night I Nearly Died, But I Woke Up Just In Time'.I can't get that song out of my head either.The song i liked the best of all though was the last song of the night called 'Condition'.The dark lyrics are brilliant.'Sometimes its hard to make yourself think, its like the words are crawling back into the ink'.

Afterwards Duke kindly signed a cd for me.It is his new album called 'Oh Pioneer'.The title is obviously inspired by the book 'Oh Pioneers' by Willa Cather.I like it when people name drop books and things.Van the man is always doing that.I have been listening to the album while writing this and i urge you to check out Duke Special because he is a superstar.Its just that the world hasn't realised it yet.So thank you very much Duke Special, Nadine Shah,Sadpaw,The Louisiana but especially Peter Ziemniak for a brilliant night out in Bristol.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Review:Tir Na Nog. Rondo Theatre Bath,14/3/2013.

I have always liked the name Tir Na Nog ever since i first heard it mentioned back in the mists of time in the early seventies.It is a mystical land of eternal youth somewhere off the coast of Ireland.It is famous for the love story of Oisin the warrior and Niamh of the golden hair.It is also the title of a song on one of Van Morrison's best albums.It is also the name of a brilliant Irish duo of Sonny Condell and Leo O'Kelly.That is what i want to tell you about today.
    I had heard of them before but never really listened to the music but it was my friend Smithy who introduced me to them.He plays the guitar and sings a bit.He left a guitar at my house ages ago and Kim used to like listening to him singing.One of the songs he sings is called 'Time Is Like A Promise'."Who is that by?",i asked him."Tir Na Nog", he replied.This aroused my curiousity and i looked them up on youtube.I decided to buy an album and bought their first eponymous album originally released in 1971 but re-released recently on the Esoteric label with extra bonus tracks.I really liked the album so when i heard they were playing in Bath i decided we should go and see them.
Smithy called for me at 5.30 and we set off.We stopped in Bradford On Avon for some fish and chips at that chippie near the railway station which was really nice but i didn't realise that if you sat in the restaurant part it doubled the price.Nevermind,it was quite lucky though because i met an old friend Jean in there who gave us directions to the Rondo Theatre otherwise i think we would have got lost.Anyway we got to Bath in about half an hour and found the theatre quite easily thanks to Jean.It is in St Saviours Road just off the London Road.We were early so we went in the nearby Larkhall Inn which is a really interesting pub and Smithy watched me skull down two pints.Then we went to the theatre.It is a tiny little place which i think used to be a church hall but somebody bought it and converted it into an intimate little venue which is ideal for this type of concert."I think i'll have a glass of wine", i said to Smithy."You can't have one because you're driving".We were seated in the very front row.
The support act was a young guy called Mike Boyd who sang his own songs and played the guitar.I thought he was really good.Emily and Broken Boats were two songs i thought were very impressive.Later on we met at the bar and had a bit of a chat and Smithy took our photo.I used to despair of the music being produced these days but i think the music of the likes of Mumford And Sons,Ed Sheehan, Laura Marling,Jake Bugg etc show there is a very healthy music scene amongst the British youth these days and Mike Boyd is another to add to the list so check him out.He goes by the stage name of 'Sword In Air' and has an EP available.I think we will hear a lot more of him.
                                   Then Tir Na Nog took the stage. The opening song they did was 'Time Is Like A Promise' the song that introduced them to me.It was great to hear it live.Songs off the first album figured quite a lot in the first half of their set.I didn't write down the set list because we were sitting right in front of them and i thought it might distract them so i can't remember all the songs they did.Sonny sang a really nice new song called The Raven.Sonny sings and plays guitar and a drum and Leo plays guitar and violin and has a whole battery of foot pedals for effects and also a drum machine.The sound the two of them produce is awesome.Sonny seems to be the more serious of the two and Leo is more the showman,he still has a good head of hair for an old hippy.I wish i did!.They finished the first set with Aberdeen Angus off the album i have.
During the interval i went outside for a smoke and i was talking to this nice Irish lady from Galway who is a huge fan of Tir Na Nog and has seen them lots of times.She said they are unique and i must agree.Although they are Irish,I think they met up in Carlow they are nothing like you usually expect from an Irish group.Nobody else sounds like them.If anything i would say they are a bit like the psycedelic folk of British bands such as The Incredible String Band.The lady also told me that they had split up for decades and had only started playing together again in the last few years.I don't know why they fell out but seems a shame because they definitely compliment each other and are much more than the sum of two individuals.
Anyway,after the chat with the Galway girl i went back inside for the second half.I was quite pished by then so i can't remember much about it.I do remember a great song called 'Venezuala'which is brand new.I was really impressed with that one.The highlight of the whole evening though for me was their version of 'Love Sick' by Bob Dylan.It was amazing.We had to leave shortly after that to get home in time for last ordersIt was only fair that Smithy should have a pint..
                                                                  We got in the car and i slammed some John Prine in the CD player.The engine roared and Smithy gunned that sucker down the highway to Westbury.We were home in about 30 minutes which must be some kind of a record and Jacquie the landlady had two pints of Stowford cider waiting.I finally fell into bed at about 1.00 tired but happy.Thank you Rondo Theatre, Tir Na Nog and Mike Boyd for a great night out..

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Gardens Misty Wet With Rain

It is Sunday morning and i am listening to Nocturnes and La Mer by Debussy.It is my only Debussy CD.I bought it in 'Help The Aged' for £1.49 (See picture).I bought it because Van Morrison mentions Debussy in his song 'On Hyndford Street'

And tuning in to Luxembourg late at night
And Jazz and Blues records during the day
Also Debussy on the Third Programme
Early mornings when contemplation was best.
I wanted to check it out.I must say it is rather good.I looked on youtube for more Debussy and found a piece called Gardens In The Rain.It is a wonderful piece of music written for piano and i urge you to listen to it. Gardens in the rain is an image that often crops up in Vans lyrics.Sweet Thing,In The Garden, Cold Wind In August,When The Leaves Come Falling Down spring to mind where Van uses the imagery of Gardens In The rain.But what inspired him to come up with this image?.Was it listening to Debussy?I don't know,it was just an idea and a good excuse to listen to some nice music.

Seeing Van Morrison At Liverpool Feis 2018

Teena Lyle, Tony Fitzgibbon, Dana Masters, Paul Moran, Mez Clough, Van, Paul Moore, Jay Berliner, Dave Keary. It was Saturday morning ...