Friday, 6 October 2017

Back In The Day

      It would be true to say that our good friends Jan and Campbell Perry have not had the best of summers. This time last year they were busy organising and then compering and hosting "Back In The Day" which is an evening concert as part of Warwick's Annual Warwick Words Festival. (See poster below). 

      This year, sadly, it proved impossible,and they were unable to do so. Colin Squire gamely picked up the baton and ran with it, taking over organisation, publicity and compering. Thus it was that we gathered last night together in The Lord Leycester Hospital Warwick to entertain an enthusiastic audience. 
This is Colin, Squire. 
     


















   At the same event in October last year ,John Kearney and I appeared together as JAG. We enjoyed it so much we were crossing our fingers that we'd be invited back and as luck would have it, we were-this time as Nunc.  We had two slots, one in the first half and one in the second. We were honoured to be accorded the privilege of finishing the evening with our  final set.  To say we had a good time doing so is a massive understatement. 

      Also appearing on a star studded bill of local Folk talent were The Thrup'nny Bits, Daisybell, Allan Richardson,Highly Strung and  Colin Squire himself.
       What a venue! I've admired it often from the outside, but the hall we played in was simply stunning. It had stone walls,high ceiling and a squeaky stage. So care was needed from all of us with performing without a P.A.-but what an environment to sing and play in! The pictures here give you some idea of the size and age of the hall. With cartwheel-sized garlands beneath the ceiling lights, a lovely wooden floor and the audience seated in an attentive crescent of humanity,it looked very attractive.  
Mr. Kearney's solo spot.
         John was also invited to play a first half set solo. Which he did, admirably, reminding all of us what a great songwriter he is with "Agincourt to Abbeville" and the like.             
                 It was good to see some friendly faces in the audience as well as all those Literary cognescenti.  Most of them seemed to be having a lovely time. Although with Literary types you do sometimes look out from the stage and see an utterly inscrutable expression staring back. But Max and Marilyn followed us over from Nuneaton Folk Club the previous night
       Terry and Jan were simply time-defyingly brilliant. Both looking very elegant,and Terry seamlessly weaving my joke into his stage patter. " One of my friends asked me if I remember this place being built," he quipped, before knocking out Djangoesque riffs and runs. Jan's singing remains an example to us all. I love their CD. 
Jan & Terry getting a Swing On.
       The Thrupp'nnies delivered their usual selection of wit, wisdom and humour with elan and panache. Des, being the wise old wordsmith he is, gave the audience a potted history of each of the songs. On the rare but treasured moments when The TB's are vulgar, it is  a bit like a Great Auntie belching behind a china teacup. All in the best possible taste and delivered with a naughty twinkle in the eye. Their classic parody of "Breaking Wind Suddenly" to the tune of "Blow The Wind Southerly" got everyone tittering.. Their material encourages hearty audience singing, and I confess to belting out "The Wren," their Christmassy alternative version of the very similar "Pleased To See The King," with festive gusto. ( Blimey-Tesco have got Christmas cards on display already so why not?). 
Thrup'nny Bits. They blamed the dog. But we knew it was them
     It says everything about each of the performers on the bill last night that I have played all of their material on "Anker Folk"  and it stands alongside the other stuff well and compares most favourably. The only artiste on last night one whom  I had not seen since this time last year was Allan Richardson. I was so impressed with his material last year I brought a job lot of his CD's. So I knew all the songs he did,as I knew them all! "Moving On" is just brilliant, and deserves a wider audience.
Allen Richardson is Moving On
           I happen to know from reading today's messages that there was a little bit of a mix-up beforehand between a couple of the Daisies of Daisybell (# great name!). This meant that Ginny was there first, fresh fragrant and organised, and the others arrived a little later and I have to say looking a little flushed. Having got confused by Warwick's Gyratory system. ( It happens! Bloody nightmare!) But it did not show in either of their two excellent sets. Again, many of the numbers they sang I have aired on the wireless.  They play some fascinating instruments as well as singing so sweetly and so melodically. You might think that they were just three pretty faces but some of us know-there's a LOT more to it than that. Enjoyed "Miner's Winter" and "This Wheel Is Broken." especially. Classic songs. 
Daisybell in fine form
      And so at the end of a most pleasant evening, the entire Company assembled on or at the side of the stage and Mr Kearney led us all in a sing-song with his Irish Rover fusion with Bob Marley's "Don't Worry."  Is that the last this venerable old building has seen of us until next year? Watch this space. maybe not. 

A Place for Zoe.

     Those who know our back story will know about the events which led to us losing two newborn twin grandsons at UCH some time ago. Saying goodbye to my son's children and holding their tiny hands in the incubators troubled me greatly. At the same time  few days later, my daughter miscarried. Three lives gone. For a long time afterwards I struggled with my emotions whenever visiting UCH, which I had to do fairly often. Rob and Ray will never be forgotten. We had to register their births and attend their funeral, so their place on the family tree is assured. 
       However, there is a happy ending,as both my son and my daughter presented us with a grandson and a granddaughter respectively, arriving within a couple of months of each other in 2016. Reuben and Lily have brought back sunshine into our lives.

        Part of what haunted me at UCH as a visitor to the Neo Natal Unit over those few sad days was the looks on the faces of young parents there. Some elated:some in utter despair. For a long time I wanted to do something practical to help, and by contributing to Zoe's Place, courtesy of an invite from Hilary Wilson last Saturday, I was finally able to.
      Last weekend Nunc were part of a Charity Marathon at the Nursery Tavern in Chapelfields,Coventry. The event was to raise funds for Zoe's Place which is a Baby Hospice. Nunc and Blues Monkey combined into a six piece to open,with a set just under an hour long. We'd actually taken to meeting up to rehearse together during August. As you can see-we all took it very seriously. 

       Nunc Monkey comprised Flossy, John,Geoff from Nunc  and Monkey boys Jon Harrington,Paul Moore and Dennis. Thus we had the luxury of two guitars,percussion and Jon's multibox of harps,expertly pushed through a very useful P.A.  I was chuffed to be back at The Tav. It really is a delightful booser-one of many in this area-and although I'd eaten and had a beer before, this was the first time I'd got to play there. 
      The event was due to take place in the pub garden, with a Gazebo, but wind and rain had set in by 4pm so we drew the curtains to shut it out and played in front of the door,instead. Six of us crammed into a small stage area was a little notional. Idiot dancing was definitely off the menu. Poor Dennis with his washboard,High Hat and sundry items got trapped at the back so that all you could see of him in the photos is arms and knees sticking out. Paul, resplendent in snappy suit, white tie and Trilby,chose to sit separately on a bench seat,but even so-it got very cosy. 
       In the picture below Paul has lost his hat, what with all the excitement and all. One of the most enjoyable experiences was when we handed over the chorus singing of "Knocking On Heaven's Door" to the audience-and not only did they take it up-it spread to the other two rooms.
      We stayed there five hours, so didn't catch all the sets,but I managed to catch  Amelia Roberts, One Trick Pony, Tilt ,Dan Gascoigne,Wilson Wright, Anna Ryder and a few others. The running  list is above. One minor bit of excitement came when we were all blowing up balloons for decorative purposes and I found at the hard way that I have an anaphylactic reaction to latex! Fortunately, after the set, my lips swelled up and I came out in lumps. Fortunately I was able to carry on drinking my way through "The Tav"s fine collection of real ales. But it gave everyone a laugh as it looked like I been slapped by a cage fighter.  
      Though it was for a serious cause, we had lots of fun fund raising. Hilary Wilson and her team'family of helpers deserve the highest praise for the work they put in. Making sandwiches, co-ordinating the running order,putting up decorations, and something involving a giant marrow wearing a hat which I never got round to fully understanding. 

. For the nerdly Nunc/Monkey minded the Set list was:
  1. How Long Blues 
  2. All Gotta Die Some day 
  3. Weather With You
  4. If I Had Possession 
  5. Freedom/Ohio
  6. Vigilante Man
  7. Perfect
  8. Angel From Montgomery 
  9. Knockin On Heaven's Door 
  10. Don't Worry 
  11. Bring it On Home 
  12. Pack Up Your Troubles


Thursday, 5 October 2017

Happy Third Birthday Nuneaton Folk Club

         It's been slightly longer than three years actually, October 1st 2014 to be precise, since Black Parrot Seaside clambered unsteadily onto that stage upstairs at The Crown and relaunched Nuneaton Folk Club. There had been previous NFC's in The Arts Centre and elsewhere, run by people from the town who are still working hard on the North Warwickshire circuit. But it was evident from that first night that the town was just too big to carry on without one. 
October 2014
     The centrality of the venue was a handy plus, and those big audiences just kept on coming. Some have stayed with us since that first day,others have drifted away and a few alas, are no longer with us. What many of us find fascinating is that new faces constantly turn up,and the age range of our audiences remains refreshingly mixed. Not all are dyed in the wool Folkies:personally, I think we are a lot better for that. 
        No better way to celebrate then,last night  than with a packed room, a heartily singing audience and some quality music on stage.Nine hours put in, and eight (yes eight,) miles  covered yesterday culminated in another excellent night at NFC.
         BPS were to be the original Residents,but that was their only appearance there,and for reasons it would be diplomatic not to dwell upon,they folded a month later,after nearly 40 years together. I was gutted at the time,but grateful that it kick-started me into Nunc-myself,Flossy and JK. Boy, we've had some adventures together,and we've packed more gigs into those three years than I would have got with BPS. 
Black Parrot Seaside launching NFC October 2014
         Last night we wanted a celebratory mix which would reflect the eclectic nature of what we are trying to do at NFC. Yes it is important to have quality Guests as the main Attraction, and I'm sure all would agree that we got that in spades with Belzebub. (Of which more later).   At times the stage resembled a music Shop Window and although a decent sized one, it got a bit congested at times!
        Nunc began,and did "April Morning" to remind everyone we CAN do Folk music,before a classic Nunc mash-up of two CSNY songs-"Ohio" and "Find The Cost of Freedom." We finished with a barely rehearsed tribute to Tom Petty-"I won't Back Down."  
Nunc. They WONT back down. 

     John Kearney stayed on stage to do us some solo stuff including the inimitable " I wanted to be Bob Dylan." There was also an opportunity to do another one of his songs, " The heart has its Reasons." Cracking shirt, too,JK! 
JK. Bob Dylan wanted to be him. 

Sue Sanders was there from the start in 2014 ,too,and it was nice to see and hear her back there last night, bringing a little calm with her fine fiddle playing. A lot of stuff has happened to Sue since,but,very much symptomatic of the immense talent in the Nuneaton area, there she was, even with a poorly finger and newly recovered from Shingles,a proper trouper.
Saucy Susie Sanders. On the Fiddle again. 

     Peter McParland and his gentle singing is a club favourite, and he delivered three songs with his usual charm. 
Pete McParland

              Sam Stephens has had his share of woes since he last appeared at NFC. That was in a duo with the late and very much lamented Gren Morris. I bought their excellent Album "Hymns Ancient & Modern"  at the time,little realising that poor Gren would be taken from us so soon by a ravaging illness. Sam gave us a couple of tunes and managed to shift a few of those remaining CD's-all proceeds now to Macmillan Nurses. 
Sam Stephens

    Simon and Sally Ann Veasey were there that first night in 2014 also. They were back again last night, expecting to do three songs. However,  I asked them to add a fourth to help Kevin Dempsey get his breath back after climbing all those stairs. Some songs with a local touch, others from across the Atlantic. All (I believe?) self-penned. And yes. We are distantly related. SASAV are, as I write,off to warmer climes, for a Disney Cruise, joining their son Tom who many NFC regulars will recall, was one of our finest Sound men. His dad did a good job for us last night too, holding the fort until Dave Smart arrived hot foot from his meeting. 

SASAV. We're related,you know. 
         
              It was touch and go whether Kevin Dempsey would make it. That he did and with seconds to spare,and then went on and blew the house down, says so much about the man. Such a combination of creative genius,modesty,and above all,humility,is rare,at any level in the music business. There were all kinds of extenuating circumstances which many booked to do a floor spot in (non) sunny Nunny on a wet Wednesday night would have bowed to. Not Kevin. He is a mate so I am biased,but his music is sublime and his understanding of people is unique. Gifted and grounded. 100% quality.
    

 I always love watching guitarists in any room where Kev is playing, as they inwardly implode watching his technique. And seeing the ladies softening as those golden tones ring out. Some musicians are right Divas,but not Kev. We rushed him up the stairs,he had not time to tune up, he had a wonky lead but he gave us three exemplary songs including "Wicked Polly." . Tuning, lead adjusting,guitar slapping,all in one movement, and not moaning but grinning,all the time. I swear he has more than two hands!Top Bloke!
             Our main guests were Belzebub. They were the first act I had ever booked on reputation and recommendation only ,without actually seeing them. They did not disappoint. They gave us two sets of quality music. It was good to see the cheery smile of Ian Wilson again, pumping the accordion and lashing the Mandola. (Or Bouzouki?) Two of us in Nunc had worked with him professionally, in another context in Coventry,many years ago.  
Belzebub. 
       Beelzebub put a lot of thought into their arrangements and their delivery. Loved their slowed-down version of "Step it Out Mary," for example. Accomplished musicians and competent vocalists, they got (and deserved) two encores, which on a wet, windy night says a lot. Elsewhere yesterday I read an interesting Forum debate on stayaway audiences, or those who drift away early. It says much for Belzebub that as they finished, there were still plenty left, cheering them on. 
        As I write we have a guest list booked through to October 2018 and next month's floor spots are already fully booked. 
         My thanks to Sue,Flossy,Max,JK and Paul for the photos. Onwards and Upwards.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Album Review: Pretty Peggy (Sam Kelly and The Lost Boys)

      Recently I received what was then an early advance copy of the yet to be released “Pretty Peggy,” CD.  I confess thereafter, I played it over and over again. It is an excellent album, packed with big production, accomplished vocals and evocative instrumentation.                Frankly, it just oozes class. Unsurprising really, as it comes with a hell of a pedigree Sam's first EP won a Radio 2  “ Best Emerging Act” Folk Award.  Mike Harding, Mark Radcliffe and Seth Lakeman are among those to have already praised the band, so with such plaudits from Folk Royalty, who am I to disagree? ( I won't).
       Sam was a Britain's Got Talent Finalist aged just 19. Irish ancestry, born in Norfolk,living in Cornwall, what can possibly go wrong? (It doesn't). Still only 24, Sam's singing style shows character beyond his tender years. It is very distinctive and impossible to stereotype or define. Stripped down, it stands alone as a classic traditional voice. But he can embellish that with rock and Indie undertones. 
      The band-his regular touring and Festival line-up-are simply brilliant on the CD. His guests  include no less than Cara Dillon, Geoff Lakeman and Mike McGoldrick, How can it fail? ( It doesn't).
     Pretty Peggy herself is the inspiration behind The Bonny Lass of Fyvie. A song covered and recorded by many others, but here with additional vocals from Cara Dillon and the excellent pipe playing of McGoldrick, it soars.
     The Keeper is a refreshingly up tempo treatment of an old English song which many of us first learned in school. The Close Shave is an hilariously classic tale of cross- dressing and mistaken identity. (Happens all the time in Barrack Street).
      Greenland Whale applies a modern touch to a traditional subject matter. The frantic banjo picking is more Appalachian than Celtic, yet it works. The vocal is again honourably traditional:the chorus is one which will get festival audiences bawling and the whole piece just drives along. 
         Beware Angeline The Baker. An ancient Stephen Foster Minstrel song, it is the album's ear worm. I had no doubts over choosing it as the sampler on my radio show and I've been humming it (and the instrumental bridges) ever since.
        The Shining Ship is a magnum opus coming in at just under six minutes. An epic,layered performance opens with a ghostly vocal echoing whispered fragments of House Carpenter and the 17th Century ballad Demon Lover. If Jack Sparrow were to record an album track I imagine it might sound like this. Plenty of effects and overlays and some intricately woven accompaniment with a distinctly oriental touch and a brilliant ending. The Rose explores similar territory. With its repeated central melody it is weirdly hypnotic, Mr Sparrow and his crew would like this, too.
            The eerie When The Reivers Call, is another big production, as is a powerful Folk Rock version of Dylan's Crash On The Levee. Indisputably, the boys can rock it up, but they are also capable of sophistication. “If I were a Blackbird is a haunting piece of music and beautifully sung, with a tiny tiny bit of tremelo sparingly used, and some splendid choruses. The Rose too, is atmospheric;a reworking of an original by Belgian band Naragonia.
         The plaudits for this band are richly deserved. On Pretty Peggy, they are at the top of their game- gifted, confident, innovative and energetic. Superbly engineered and produced, if there is a better Folk album than this released in 2017 I look forward to hearing it. The word “Classic” is applied to far too many albums. It is appropriate here. Sam and company are touring later in the year. It should be  a sell-out .

Friday, 8 September 2017

Getting Down with Men of Straw


           So here we are at NFC, with September 2017 now ticked off and approaching October next,with us celebrating our third birthday. A slightly smaller audience than usual, but no less enthusiastic in their chorus singing and as generous as ever with applause and encouragement. They also proved to have deep pockets when it came to buying raffle tickets and CDs and even though they were spread out a little more than usual, the room was still filled right to the back of the hall.    
          Lots of reasons why attendance was slightly lower this month. Those regulars used to moonlighting as teachers or Education Assistants (poor loves), had just started back to work after richly-deserved Summer Holidays. Many were physically and emotionally shattered. Others, taking advantage of their misfortune (and reduced travel prices once the schools go back) were off abroad, junketing in the sun.   Up the A5 at Hinckley Act we had the counter attraction of Tool,Willow et al ,greedily trying to beat their own record for appearing in as many venues as possible during  one week. 
       I had been into The Crown already at dinner time, to hang up the NFC banner, unload the P.A. and set out chairs and tables upstairs. My most immediate logistical problem however was using a bear hug to  manoeuvre a large man-sized packing case (allegedly containing a fridge freezer) from the centre of the dance floor, to the side of the room in a less conspicuous place.  As the evening got under way  rumour spread that John Kearney was not actually in Atlanta,Georgia, but was hidden  in this mighty cardboard box, secretly checking out just how well Paul Moore was filling in for him.  Mischievous NFC regulars  immediately christened this combination as "Punc."     
     Speaking of which, starting off the evening and joined by, (at JK's suggestion), a slightly anxious Paul Moore,he  Flossy and I ground out a few tunes from the regular Nunc repertoire.  We had furnished Paul with chord charts,song sheets, You Tube clips and MP3 files,and of course,Paul had accompanied us all previously at Astley Castle and as a member of Mac Awe On Tour.  We started with "Bring It On Home", added a fine version of "Angel From Montgomery" (which we knew the real JK would be visiting), and finished with the wonderful Richard Thompson song "Down Where The Drunkards Roll."  Paul was fine. We knew he would be. 
Nunc ft Paul Moore
         Des Patalong, a man of many shades,hats, hues and allegiances, was actually there on Wednesday as a token representative of shanty boys Sharp As Razors.Consequently,  he led us in us three vibrant hollers, including the eponymous "Sharp as Razors" which was a good way to get the audience singing straight away. Des had a new Razors CD with him,which he had recorded and mixed himself. Most impressive.  
Des Patalong. He's Sharp as Razors
            We do like to have our debutantes at NFC but it was of interest to note that, despite appearing in different combinations previously, all our guests this Wednesday had appeared on stage at The Crown before. Take Simon and Sally Ann Veasey for example. Their son Tom (currently outrunning hurricanes in a Disney Cruise ship) was our first Sound Man. His dad Simon appeared early doors partnered with Paul Moore and Sally Ann of course was a founder member of Daisybell. All of them had appeared en famille as The Veasey Family, but I think I'm right in saying that as a husband and wife duo our audience had not seen them previously. Only the week before we had recorded them in this format at the Anker Radio "Live Lounge" sessions, for a birthday Special of Anker Folk. We eventually aired both catchy songs "Moonlightin' Man," and " I'll Catch you Later " on the radio show. I was delighted to hear them repeated at The Crown along with a clever song about how Nuneaton got its name. (The real one, not "Treacle Town"). 
Simon and Sally-Ann. They'll catch us later

           Also recorded and broadcast in both those Live Lounge sessions, another class Nuneaton-based performer, John Neal, made a swift return this Wednesday and gave us three songs: "Passing Day," the seasonal "September Grass" and the powerful "Song for Lennon" with an evocative hook line. 
John Neal
           We just can't get enough of the excellent Paper Circus at the moment. Talent, Youth and glamour. Not always a in regular supply at some folk clubs.  It was good to see them back in the original line up, with Jennian joined by Jim and Siraj. Jim proudly showed me his new cello which had a "proper" pick up, meaning he could finally use a DI box. The days of angled boom mikes were finally over. Jennian in his first week at a new job and fresh from Uni with her two degrees (get YOU girlfriend!) was, as always in fine voice. No, "fine" won't do it,actually. "Beautiful" voice is better. Always good to see jaws dropping when Jennian unleashes  those astonishing vocals. Two versions of "Amazing Grace" and "Go Lassie Go" got the classic Circus treatment. Magical. Good sound, guys!
Paper Circus. Go Lassie,Go. (And lads)
      With the audience (and Scarecrow) visibly knocked out, and Wilson Wright,invited to follow that did so,admirably. John and Hilary, sounding better than ever. Besides including a song Hilz had previously performed on radio 4 they finished by putting a WW slant on  a haunting version of "Fotheringay " which really did justice to such a great song and showed off  Hilary's voice to perfection. John Wright's contribution should not be overlooked. His guitar work and vocals are sometimes underestimated. So glad these two got together as a duo. 
John  and Hilary.  Wilson Wright are all right
         When you have fellow musicians who turn up knowing that there is no chance of a floor spot you know you are getting somewhere. So it was good to see Jak Lynch, Pete McParland Max Wright and Katherine Fear among others just the enjoying the music. And as Scarecrow stepped up to give us a first taste of their excellent multi-skilling,we all knew we were in for a treat. They'd had lots of requests beforehand and managed to fit them into this first set and the longer second one with not one but two encores. 
Scarecrow whistling up a storm

                            So, besides any newer stuff, it was good to hear again their outstanding version of Fairport's "Too Close to The Wind" and to see (and hear) the audience joining in with "New York Girls"  and "Down To The Rigs"  Scarecrow's musical competence and versatility is astonishing. Flute duets. Bagpipes. Good spirited Folk vocals. Unique and original instrumentation. Numbers featuring light and shade with introductions middle sections and properly arranged endings. And the occasional good old hanging added for good measure. All this, and absolutely no side or "Big Time Charlie"  about them. No wonder they are playing support to the great Dougie McClean at Banbury Festival next month. But get that second album done quickly, chaps!
All this and bagpipes too.


             


Thursday, 31 August 2017

Happy First Birthday Anker Folk

         I know it's gone very quiet on here lately, and I apologise to Mac Awe On Tour Blog regulars for that. But I've been very busy trying to cobble together some live recordings of local artistes ready for Anker Folk's First Birthday Show on September 4th. A two hour special in which we hoped to demonstrate to listeners  how many talented performers there are living or operating in the Nuneaton area. (I do not doubt for one moment that I failed to capture them all). 
Anker Folk's John and Geoff
       As an experiment, Anker Radio's John Goodman and NFC's Dave Smart collaborated at The Crown on August 2nd, recording each act who appeared there during the Folk Club night. This included Brian Phillips, John Neal, Terry and Jan Wisdom ,Paul Moore, Nunc and Glyn Finch. This came out as unmistakably "live" with some clapping,some off the cuff introductions and audience singing. It sounds as if they are far away at the bottom of the stairs, but they are definitely singing. 
     Later, we added to that, a cache of material recorded in what John Goodman calls "The Live Lounge." upstairs at Anker Radio. You can see Paul Moore recording there in the picture below. The equipment used was a mix of Anker Radio and NFC gear. It was set up by Moz who does a lot of the OB stuff with Anker. John drove proceedings from the desk.
John Neal considers jumping, as Paul salutes his Hometown
      Surrounded by giant Teddy bears,some large settees, a spaghetti of cables and collected jumble sale material,we gathered each evening, at the top of Floor 4 of The George Eliot Maternity Block in the company of some fine strolling players. With the best and most beautiful panoramic views over Nuneaton spread out before us, we gathered there to harness all this raw talent and capture the magic forever. 
      John Neal swanned in and recorded two songs in one take-despite some off-mike heckling.  John Kearney did the same. ( And also recorded "Di Di The Ice Cream Man" with some other old bloke). David Parr contributed a couple of tracks with little trouble,as did Dragonhead. Not everyone achieved that high standard,however. Paul Moore popped "Nobody Knows You" away easily enough, but then fought a battle royal with his guitar over."Hometown Blues." Matt Mallen Allen had a few issues with his guitar break in "Head Rush" and forgot the words. It's his own song. 
Matt Mallen Allen.
                     Sally Ann Veasey had chosen to wear a huge accordion the size of a Smeg refrigerator and although it sounded beautiful, it had her over a few times. Where she lay prostrate,like a stranded turtle,unable to rise again without help. She was enveloped by the lush upholstery of a large settee whilst being embraced by a giant teddy, laughing hysterically until the more chivalrous among us helped her up again. Hubby Simon (he'll hate me using that phrase), ( Hubby. Hubby Simon. Hubby), just stared at her. He was troubled by the shape of his plectrum,the girth of his strings and the room temperature affecting the cadence of his top C. Both tracks from these two we eventually used, although,(giving nothing away) Simon holds the record for most takes of any one song. 
Sally-Ann before the Teddy incident 
                Through gritted teeth,The Wright Brothers,Chris and Max,airily flew on past all the tired old aviation jokes. They winged through two songs with soaring vocals which took flight. Dragonhead put down one traditional song and a Cajun one called "Diggy Diggy Lo" (which we thought might be the Finnish entry for next year's Eurovision Song Contest?).  
Wilbur and Orville flew through their songs
          My job at this time consisted mostly of smiling at people or meeting and greeting musicians in the Maternity Ward lobby downstairs. Then escorting them in the lifts up to the studios, whilst placating anxious Mums-to-be en route.  By explaining that those who were carrying instrument cases were not part of some weird new NHS initiative
            Sewing all the collected material together yesterday, did not go exactly to plan. A few "Crown" performances did not come out too well, due to what sounded like an outbreak of consumption in the auditorium and Gremlins. I had a long list of other prospective people I had hoped to record who were not at The Crown that night, but I forgot about the Festival Circuit. (Not ever having been a part of it). Several were away until the end of the month and we started to run out of  time up in "The Live Lounge."  
John Kearney. He wanted to be Bob Dylan.

         Luckily, all round good egg Malc Gurnham stepped in on Tuesday and hoovered up a few strays with some very nice recordings made in his home studio in Whitestone. Thanks to him we were able to add tracks from Sue Sanders,Katherine Fear, John and Elaine Meechan and Malc himself, singing with Gill Gilsenan. Ian Bourne, whose session I had completely b***ered up (along with that of K.C.Jones), also managed to record some tunes over in Hartshill and sent them over to me in MP3 format.  
        The date and time for recording editing and mixing all this material was Wednesday 30th August at. 5.30pm. The deadline for receiving and processing all the tracks and scripting them into a presentable two hour show was therefore realistically about noon the same day. Didn't happen. At 5pm yesterday I was still typing,chopping editing ,downloading, uploading and saving material.  We made it with seconds to spare. 
        
             Even then there were a few other logistical hurdles left to surmount. Anker Radio Studios at The Eliot have had a bit of an ICT makeover. When John Goodman and I met there, we found our usual studio was occupied. We relocated swiftly to another and found out after a few minutes that it did not want to play.Not on our terms, anyway.  Eventually we reclaimed our home one and with another crew coming in to broadcast a requests programme live at 9pm, our deadline was reduced even further.
      Both being consummate professionals however, this was not insurmountable. We had to reload everything and recheck running orders. When I say "we" I mean the Royal "We". My broadcasting role is simply to sit and look pretty and do my Whispering Bob Harris impersonation into the mike whenever the red light is on.. John's is to do everything else. His desk looked like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise  as his fingers flickered nimbly over the sliders and switches, faster than Rick Wakeman playing a solo. 
John and Geoff at the desks. Or decks. Whatever.
              Once under way, it became evident that some of the material collected was damn good. I began to feel like Alan C. Lomax, as I heard Dave Parr groaning soulfully about County Down from the wall mounted speakers. Or capturing John Neal's moving tribute to Leicestershire.  As we headed into the second hour, the most beautiful sunset imaginable spread across along and around the  Ridge Lane Sierra. It was a poetic moment . Most people who live in Nunny have not seen how the town sits,in a basin, surrounded by hills. It could have been Heidelberg or Wernigerode. An omen, perhaps. 
Mr. David Parr and his machine.
       There was a fair amount of ad-libbing and some background noise. A yapping puppy on a trampoline four floors down in an adjacent back garden may be audible on the final broadcast. I got caught out dad dancing to one of the jingles and nearly corpsed over an introduction. I got a few pronunciations wrong and there was a bit of background door-slamming as the Requests Team began to get restless. But this,I am told,is the nature of live broadcasting and evidence that it is all spontaneous stuff. 
      I realise that this kind of thing is old hat to regular Jocks out there, but I found the whole process quite taxing and  tremendously exhausting. Particularly the maths of adding up all the various timings and trying to plan them seamlessly into the breaks, jingles weather reports and news items. 
      I think the end product may be something very worthwhile. It is certainly a tribute to the considerable musical talent in the area. There's potential for a CD release as a Fund raiser is concerned and any serviceable material we could not squeeze into the two hour format can probably be aired in future programmes. Thanks to all those who contributed. Including those who did not make the final cut. We kept ALL the out-takes,btw, swearing and all. So don't threaten us with your writs and demands for royalties. 
    It has certainly proved that live recordings at Anker Radio and at the Folk Club,work. Apologies to those we missed or failed to include. K.C. Jones and George Van Wristell for example. But as the song we played out with says,   ( Simon and Sally-Ann's second recording) " We'll catch You Later". And we will. 
         The Birthday broadcast goes out at 8pm on Monday 4th September. We had three new Anker Folk Jingles made especially for the occasion. (Worth tuning in for them alone?)  It can be accessed later via Anker Radio's "Listen Again " facility thereafter. Details on the poster below. Or just Google it.           




Thursday, 3 August 2017

Questions

      Another wet Wednesday night in Nuneaton. Like many similar places  in England, demoralised by years of Austerity and impending Brexit, its centre is slowly shrinking. Department stores and pubs are closed and boarded up and the once vibrant nightlife has all but gone. With the school holidays under way the streets were deserted. Empty buses crawled morosely about the Onion roundabout. 
        But wait! Over at The Crown, between the Bus Station and The Railway Station,and lit up like an Ocean Liner,there are sounds of applause, laughter and singing. Like in the good old days.  Inside, the place is rammed-both downstairs and upstairs.Downstairs a flourishing War Gamers group occupies much of the room and shares the tables  with punters enjoying the Abbeydale on handpulls.  Upstairs, with all the seating taken and standing room only.it is another first Wednesday at Nuneaton Folk Club.Another full house. 
      Last night, another Club organiser, looking  across  this packed room upstairs, said to me wonderingly, "How do you keep doing this?"  Later,someone who had made a long trip to be there  for a first visit, asked me the same thing. I thought about that question when I got home, gone midnight,tired, aching all over and exhausted physically and emotionally after a draining seven days. 
       It had been another very successful night. A stream of very talented local performers had given their all in providing a rich and very varied tapestry of talent. The clever songs of John Neal. The artistry of Paul Moore. The wonderful singing, syncopated rhythms and finger picking of Terry and Jan Wisdom. The constantly improving repertoire of Atherstone Folk Club residents Finger in The Car-Steve,Anne and Pete. The ever reliable and always cheerful Maria Barham. Another masterful demonstration of how to get impossible things and sounds out of an acoustic guitar from Glyn Finch.And the finale of our good mate Brian Phillips, rightly loved for his comedy and rightly admired for his brilliant guitar work. 
       The fun which the three of us continue to get from Nunc. A thankless task opening up at 8pm when. people are still coming in and settling. But that's what residents and comperes do. Warm up the audience for the joys to come.  Such a range, such an eclectic mix deserved a big audience. 
       As always there was something for everyone. It could be the club motto if we had one. Last night there was Blues. Country. Trad.Arr. Contemporary. Self-penned original songs. Poetry. Stand Up. Music that defied the eye and ear. Harmonies. The most wonderful audience singing. Completely original arrangements and innovative re-worked covers. A pretty typical night, as it happens. The cast changes each time, but the content is always panoramic. That's one reason why people keep coming. That's one "How?" answered. 
       The principal answer however, is "hard work." I'm pretty sure that some of those who attend any of our three FREE North Warwickshire Folk clubs think it's easy to organise and host them. It isn't. Usually (but not yesterday) I'm in The Crown on the Tuesday, or early Wednesday, clearing the room, setting out the furniture and unloading some of the gear. I couldn't do that in this instance because I was only able to walk yesterday thanks to painkillers and a strapped up ankle. And the fact that on Tuesday I was still clearing up at home after a tree fell on my garage and broke the roof, causing over £1,000 worth of damage.
       During the next few weeks I'll still be working hard on NFC. Messaging, phoning and contacting people. Booking new guests and Floor Singers. Sending (mostly ignored) Press releases to the local media. Advertising future events. Editing the NFC website and facebook Pages. Finalising running orders. Promoting other clubs and Festivals. On Radio, on Social networks and live in performance. 
        Hard work too, from our latest Sound man the excellent Dave Smart: another NFC gem unearthed. He comes in early Wednesdays to help set up and he stays behind afterwards to help clear up. He had the extra task last night of co-operating with John Goodman from Anker Folk, as we tinkered with "Live" recordings at The Crown,in anticipation of a September Special on Anker Radio. 
        Hard work from my beloved Mags. We celebrated 46 years together on Monday and yet there she is, selling raffle tickets,humping gear up and down stairs, making sure our Guests have petrol expenses and keeping me sane. Hard work from my two compadres in Nuncsomeness, John and Flossy. And hard work exemplified by Maria Barham, who ALWAYS stays on to help clear up afterwards. 
       Compering and singing is thirsty work, but as I drive to and from NFC each month, I drink Diet Coke only on Club Nights and it takes a while to unwind back home. Afterwards I scanned the photographs and comments on Social media.  Like many artistes working in entertainment, I think it's always important to know what your audience is thinking.    Having spent half an hour doing that and "coming down" from the buzz of presenting, compering,hosting and performance, I was left, about one am this morning, not with the question "How?" but rather.... " Why?"  
         Because, for the second consecutive gig for Nunc  there is no evidence whatsoever that we had ever been there. No photographs.No comments. No feedback.  Nothing. Are we really that forgettable?  Deflated by that realisation, then I also remembered the offer of 2p for Raffle tickets and the Euro coin placed by some smartarse in the biscuit tin. Perhaps they thought I would not mention it. ( They don't know me very well, do they?)  Plus, the tiny minority who attend but clearly expect this level of free entertainment by right. And those Facebook "friends" I have who boycott the club and the radio show. I'm sure they have their reasons.  But my, there's some food for thought there.