Well, back in January me and Sam recorded a live album at the number one jazz venue in Yorkshire, Cafe Lento in Headingley. We kind of wanted to document what we’d been doing at gigs for the past few years, and people had been asking if we had and albums with both of us on, so this seemed to be the simplest way to do it. It was recorded by Lee from Greenmount Studios. The evening went surprisingly well and couldn’t ask for a better host than Richard. The CDs are being pressed as I type, you’ll be able to pick them up from us very soon, in the mean time here’s a preview of the cover, drawn by my little brother Pedro:
Did a little tour in November with Serious Sam Barrett, returned to some places we’ve been playing for years and played some we’ve never done before.
Started off in Sheffield with an Opus Acoustics show at the Riverside. These guys are great and always put on a good show for us. There’s this guy who sits at the front and draws pictures of the performers, this is us in action:
Saturday night we did the Tap and Spile in Harrogate, it was a rowdy do, there wasn’t a real PA so we just unplugged and tried to shout over everyone, which was quite fun, guess that’s how most of the human race have managed to perform.
Sunday we managed to fit in two shows at the north east. Firstly went up to Newcastle to do an afternoon slot at the Cluny then down to the Waiting Room in Eaglescliffe. Must have been years since I first played there with Ben Wetherill (in his acoustic days), been going back in various guises, probably the one place outside Leeds I’ve played the most. Luke always gives us a warm, if eccentric, welcome. Still not sure if he’s forgiven us for messing up accompanying him on First Time Ever I saw Her Face when he got up to sing with the Lovesick Cowboys a few years ago…
Then south to London to play at What’s Cookin’ At the Birbeck Tavern in Layton. It was a great regular night they had down there with a local following and all kinds of Americana, Folk and Country people playing there. Unfortunately the owners are moving on shortly but hopefully they’ll be getting the night up and running at another venue, possibly in the north! Stayed with some friends, drank some whiskey then headed down to Folkstone to play The Chambers. Played here back in April and love this place, get treated well by Chris the landlord. Looks line a 1920s Parisian cafe from the outside, most of the action goes on downstairs in the massive underground bar. Stayed over in the same place we shot some videos last time. You can see the coast of France from here.
The next week was the southeastern leg, where we experienced incredible hospitality from Nuala Honan during our time in Bristol. Played at her Live in the Lions’ Den night at the Golden Lion then did a bit of busking during the day before playing at the Canteen in the evening. I remember good food and booze at this place. Saw this guy watching while we were busking.
Had a day to get to Stroud to play at the Prince Albert. Fortunately there was a petrol station with a fried chicken department.
At the weekend we drove over to play Glossop dropping in at Sam’s Aunty’s house for dinner on the way. She lives on Snake Pass and the postcode area is several miles along that road. There is also no phone signal round there. After snooping round several potentially possible farm houses we asked in a pub. We were an hour late but quite relieved not have been eaten by wolves.
The final date was at the Manor Folk Club (soon to be renamed Wallesy Folk and Acoustic Club) on the Wirral. This night has connections with various other nights such as Radical Liverpool and the Woody Guthrie Folk Club. The left is still strong over there! The compare had us in stitches, was a tough at to follow! But think we did it.
That’s it for now, hopefully see you on the road in 2013!
Amongst all my Dad’s Bob Dylan records there was a Woody Guthrie album which me and my bro always used to listen to. It was an interesting selection of songs, mostly traditional and hardly a mention of workers struggles or fighting fascists, the kind which he’s so well known for.
These seemed to be mostly party numbers, square dance songs, throwaway ditties like Ida Red, Yeller Girl, I Ain’t Got Nobody, kids songs like Rubber Dolly and Jiggy Jiggy Bum Bum (a song about a pig running away from a farmer…). There’s a western song, Old Chishlom Trail (Leadbelly did this one too), the tragically sentimental Put My Little Shoes Away (so sad. I guess this one may be even more poignant for Woody as both his sister and daughter died in fires, he’s really singing what he knows).
OK so there is Hard Travellin’ which is kind of about working, Philadelphia Lawyer which kind of says you can make as much money as you like, but that’s not going to stop you getting shot if you’re messing with someone’s wife. And Lindbergh which targets Charles Lindbergh and the America First Committee who didn’t think America should go to war. The socialists changed their minds early on and decided that if this Hitler guy was going round murdering people because of their race or whatever then something should be done about it! During the war Woody rewrote some of his dustbowl and hydroelectric songs with anti Hitler verses and adapted traditional songs to drum up support for America to fight for the freedom of Europe. Old Joe Clark became ‘Round Hitler’s Grave’, Oh When the Saints turned up as ‘Oh When The Yanks (go marching in)’. Pete Seeger starred alongside Woody in an Alan Lomax radio ballad about the war, The Martins & The Coys.
Now of course I have most the recordings that that Woody did on CD but I still never quite feel the excitement I did listening to that record. Something about Woody Guthrie makes the music more accessible, it’s like he’s kind of a link between the real backwoods hillbillies and the college kids playing folk in the cities. He’s authentic and he knows all the songs but he plays them like he’s seen a lot and been a lot of places, not just sat on a porch in the hills with a banjo. And he’s got Cisco Huston singing harmonies and blues harmonica player Sonny Terry wailing wild riffs on top of it. Sonny’s rustic style fits really well the traditional stuff, in the way Woody does it, and keeps the songs really driving along.
So I’ve been into Woody since I’ve been listening to Bob Dylan. Things got a little more extreme a few years ago when my good friend Michael Rossiter sent me an email titled ‘ACE JOB!’ about a company in Leeds looking for musicians and actors to tour a show about Woody’s life. Well, we thought this was too good to be true, we both went to the audition both got the job. (turns out Mike was actually a pretty good actor. I wasn’t, but got away with it cause I knew all the songs!). We spent 6 months on the road performing it in special schools (not very glamorous but a lot of fun) and did a tour of grown-up venues after that. It was resurrected for 4 nights at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2010 which was an amazing place to perform, in front of a full house. Then there was talk of it going to Edinburgh…
Meanwhile 2012 came around and I thought I wanted to do something to celebrate, something more interesting that just a jam in pub (although that could have been fun). I thought a theatre type place would make a nice setting and fortunately a friend who works at the Hyde Park Picture House was kind enough to let us do something there. A beautiful venue! I got a gang of trusted musicians, the aforementioned Mikey Rossiter and Jonny Hick – he can sing, dance, play the double bass and has a good feel for country music. We got some songs together, made some posters.
Oh and we had to show some films too, that was the only stipulation Andy gave us for putting the show on. And due to the modern magic of the internet, you can see these films too, from the comfort of your own home. (It’s not quite the same as being there though is it..)
And here’s a bit of us playing:
If you want to know how it went, I found a review of the event here.
We did 15 shows in 15 nights plus a load of busking in the day to promote the show. Staying in halls of residence next door to Mike made for an entertaining few weeks.
Me and Mike were nominated to promote the show for a speed sell event. If you missed the show this is it condensed into 30 seconds…
Look out you fascists!
I supposed it has to happen at some point if you’re driving a ’96 Escort…
On our way to Liverpool Sam’s car emptied itself of water 5 miles out of Leeds… Some kind passers-by gave us water but we couldn’t get enough so we called the RAC and headed back to Leeds to get my car. 5 hours later me made it to the View Two Gallery in Liverpool just in time to play Liverpool Acoustic Live. Another civilized affair, a great promoter and my family were there, we somehow got it together to play. Did two encores!
We had a day off then played at the Great Northern Wine Warehouse. It’s an amazing venue, great audience and lovely owners. But I didn’t take any photos or films so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Played there a couple of years back with Tom Attah and remembered the audience were one of the most attentive and enthusiastic I’d played for. The best sound we’ve experienced all month, can hear every breath and somehow sing almost every note in tune. A bit of excitement on the way home as I thought we might run out of petrol on the moors but we made it back if 19 miles left in the tank (apparently). Ripon’s a good looking town. Think it has a cathedral.
Just spent a few days down in the other bit of the south First we were in Stroud (not to be confused with Strood which is way on the other side of the south) where we were invited to play on Stroud FM which was quite exciting. We stopped off at my Uncle’s house and listened to the station for a bit, they were playings some pretty good country music. Here’s Sam getting prepared:
We were on at the Prince Albert, it’s always a strange rolling up to a place you’ve never played and have no idea what it’s going to be like, but so far, a chalk board is a good omen…
And we were greeted by chilli and beer, doesn’t get much better than that!
We were there early so made a few videos in the beer garden
Think it’s raining now. and the landlord may be sawing some wood in this next one.
We did one round the fire, amongst the locals. Nearly burned our asses off.
Gig was fun, drank some beer, stayed at my Uncles.
The next day we only had to go to Oxford, but due to the complications in Sam’s life we took a hundred mile detour to pick up his new records which had just arrived in London. Got to see them arrive on a fork-lift truck so it was worth it.
Got to St James Church in Oxford with plenty of time so we went for a busk. As soon as we put money in parking meter it started to rain. Happy days. Sun came out later though, here’s some graves
And here’s Sam doing an old folk song. If you can hear him over all the birds.
Dunno what he’s doing on this one but I thought it was nice so it’s here:
It was as mixed line up that night, some folk, some avant garde… And that was it, we had to drive back as Sam had to get his records to shops for record store day on Saturday. Snoop Dogg and Relentless all the way home.
Our first southern show was in Folkstone so we set off early. This gave us plenty of time to hang out in roadside cafes, which are abundant on the A1. Here is a fine specimen:
They were showing Bargain Hunt which reminded me of home
We got to stay in a B&B! The Southcliffe Hotel. This doesn’t happen very often. Pretty good view:
We had some time before the show so we made a cup of tea then we had a play in the room. I mean a practice. Here’s a traditional song, Silver Dagger:
And this is one of Serious’s:
One the way to venue we did another:
The venue was really nice and they treated us right well. Yep, that’s a gormet steak right there.
The weather was good when we woke up and we had a few hours to spare
so we did another couple of songs. This is a rock n roll number
and one of mine
This is just a car
We arrived in London midday to record some songs for Imperial College student radio. It costs about a weeks rent to park round there so we went through a load of stuff as quick as we could. There is some video from it but I might wait till the recordings are ready to put them up.
Headed over to Camden, Sam had a bit of a skate while I felt like a dad, had a beer then went to sound check at the Green Note. We’ve played here a few times and we’d sold all the tickets in advance! Good to see a few people we hadn’t seen for a while. We don’t hold it against them for moving to London. Not much…
When Sam gets lonely away from home he sleeps with a toy shark
The Brighton show was cancelled but we went down anyway as Sam’s friend had sorted us out with a last minute show nearby. We had a busk in the day then went for a quick nap on the beach.
We were playing at the Duke of Wellington in Shoreham, filmed a folk song in the beer garden before hand. It’s about a massive sheep.
Went to a rock n roll night afterwards which was just what we needed.
Had to get up early as we were playing in the afternoon in Norwich. And the south is bigger than I though. And it was the Brighton marathon.
As we had no time for breakfast (and Sam’s trying to put on weight…) we had some chicken on the way. We didn’t eat for another 10 hours after that…
Our names in chalk
It’s a long way from Norwich to civilization, stopped off at a diner I’d played at before with the Lovesick Cowboys. They’re still worried about the Germans down there…
Met lots of nice people in the South but was confused by the way they served beer. Back to Leeds for a few days. Slept very well.
Sunday night played in at the Blues Bar in Harrogate. It was bank holiday on Monday so everyone was out to have fun and there’s a gang from Harrogate who always come see us and make things exciting. Wildest gig so far! Here’s Sam singing of heartbreak:
After the show a Polish man confronted Sam and told him he needed to be as confident as me. I spoke to guy from the south who said we need to play more Irish songs when we’re down there.
Saturday afternoon we played the Cluny in Newcastle, Sam had been there a few times before supporting bands like the Wilders but it was my first time. In fact I think it was the first time I’d been to Newcastle. Me and Sam played either side of local country swing band Shipcote then we did a party set together at the end. Kev from the High Hollers happened to be there so I got him up to play some harmonica on a few, he did a roaring job of Careless Love.
Planning to film us playing our songs while we’re on tour, did our first couple outside the Cluny. Still working on the art of cinematography so they may be a little ropey but hopefully they’ll get better. And we decided to film next to a fan which you might be able to hear. It’s our biggest fan.
He’s drinkin’ like George Jones since she went away. I know what you mean Sam…
Think I played this a bit too fast as we’d ordered some burgers and they were nearly ready
Friday night was supposed to be in Bradford but it was called off due to illness. Goddamnnit. So after trying to think of a plan B the best we could come up with was to go and busk in Leeds. In the cold. It wasn’t bad though, we made a bit and got some smiles. And some potential gigs.
The highlight of the day was I found that someone had hidden a potato in my guitar case. Can’t work out when this could have happened, can you tell the age of a potato from the length of it’s tentacles?
Plan C was to go and see if they’d have us play at the Grove in Leeds. It was closed. Do pubs usually close on Good Friday? Dunno. Hopefully tomorrow’ll go better…
We were supposed to start this tour on the 1st April but the first show was cancelled, which was a bit of an anti-climax. So we were even more raring to go and play Sheffield. The good guys at Opus Independents put us on, knew we could count on them! We’ve both played for them a few times before and it’s a good crowd down at the Riverside.
It’s been a while since me and Sam did some serious playing together, last time we did a tour like this was back in 2008, damn, time goes fast. Sam did a blog about that one, had some good times.
Got an encore though so I think we still got it…
It’s only taken me 4 years to prepare, but it was over in about 2 days, and I finally have a whole album. It was recorded in one day with Jamie and Lee at Greenmount Studios in Leeds and features some of Leeds’s big stars: Serious Sam Barrett, Michael Rossiter, Tessa Smith and Peter Carlill. It’s coming out on Mike’s Folk Theatre label in April. And I’m very excited. Thanks to everyone who has encouraged me to get my act together…
It’s just a few weeks before me and Serious Sam Barrett hit the road, you can check out our dates here. Thought I’d put some of Serious’s stuff up here so you can check him out, we’re still trying to fill in any gaps in the month of April so get in touch if you want us to play!
Just came across this! Some guys from South America asked if they could film us then tried to pay us with a packet of cigarettes. The very first guy you see, he used to play ‘Hotel California’ all day, every day. I guess if you find something that works… This must’ve been October 2010 sometime. I wish things looked this colour all the time:
For the first time since 2008, me and Leeds folk superstar Serious Sam are going to head out on the road again. We’re starting to book dates around April 2012 so if you want us to play your home town, get in touch. Now!
This is what you could be experiencing in your local venue:
Back up to Leeds for some gigs, both at Sela Bar in town. It’s my favourite place to play in Leeds, and to drink. It looks good, the people who work there are nice and there rarely any trouble. There is also good live music on a lot of the time, jazz, blues, rockabilly, that kind of thing. Played as the Leeds City Stompers on a Righteous! night doing mostly ragtime and blues stuff then with the Lovesick Cowboys doing the country stuff. It had been a while since we’d done a Cowboys gig, but with the nicest man in show business, Jonny Hick joining us, I think we did ok. He plays in an amazing western swing band TC & The Swing Cats and you can often find them down at Sela
Spent a few days busking up in Haworth with Martyn and Daisy, just managing to dodge the rain. And played with their recently arrived kittens!
Did a couple of tunes at the Woody Guthrie Folk Club in Liverpool last night. A folk club so popular that you have to buy tickets before hand even if there is no guest artist playing! It’s in a nice pub too, The Ship and Mitre.
They have a great atmosphere there, I can imagine Pete Seeger playing places just like that in the 50s. There was mention of disappointment that they never find themselves under surveillance by the government the theory is because no one attending wears red plaid shirts. It’s run by a local radical songwriter Alun Parry who writes contemporary topical songs and get’s everyone fired up to sing along. And you get your entry fee back if you sing something. Preferably a song of struggle.
Last Thursday of each month.
Mike‘s on school holidays and at a loose end so we went out busking. We hit Harrogate, Skipton, Knaresborough and Ilkley, Skipton was fun despite the rain and the lady who couldn’t hear the phones in Vision Express due to our racket (she didn’t use that word). Think we worked harder than the girls doing charity work in the street, they seemed to spend the morning in Greggs and the afternoon in Costa. Old people tell us we sound like skiffle. This is me in Skipton!
Mike painted that sign, lovely job.
I’ve been in Paris for about the last year, I took a gamble and went with my guitar and a determination to busk for my life. Was living right in the middle in St Germain so I walked to Notre Damn every day and busked there (it was still sunny and warm for most of October). I passed an audition for a licence to play on the Metro too and did that a bit.
I kept a bit of a record of my busking for a couple of months here.
Due to a random sequence of events I ended up teaching guitar to English-speaking children and I got a weekly residency in a bar so the busking kind of faded out. Busking is great for your playing though, there’s nothing like a sold 4 hours a day of performing to push your playing and singing up a level.
Here’s the kind of thing me and Tom got up to…
I met and played with some crazy people while I was over there and I’ll miss them. And I’ll miss walking home in the sun, surrounded by beautiful buildings or at 2am when St Sulpice is lit up by the moon.
But now I’m back, it’s good to see friends and play with the people I used to. Feel good about it and going to try and play as much as I can now.
After seventeen hours I’ve managed to move my site to WordPress so now it can involve a blog! (perhaps there was an easier way to do this…) I have leant a lot.