Summertime ’16

13 Jul

April 2016. Hambone Gallery, Clarksdale, Mississippi.

It’s summertime folks! And a very British Summertime. I’m sure it’s dry and sunny up there somewhere…

Whatever the weather it’s festival season and so far I’ve managed to play at the dry ones! Coming up I’ll be performing at the Harbour Festival in Bristol, Upton Blues Festival, Gloucester Food Festival, Gloucester Blues Festival, Broadstairs Folk Week, Sportbeat Festival and Whitcombe Festival – and that’s just up til the end of August! I’ll have the great pleasure of entertaining the masses at these festivals with Damon T, The Jigantics and Sons of the Delta. Something for everybody and after all, variety is the spice of life they say!

I’m also excited about two album releases this month – firstly the new Sons of the Delta album – Red Hot at Peppers – an acoustic duo album recorded live at Peppers Cafe at last year’s Gloucester Blues Festival. Not surprisingly we’ve chosen to celebrate the launch at our Peppers cafe gig at this years Gloucester Blues Festival on Friday 29th July. The very next day sees the launch of the new album by The Jigantics at the wonderful Convent at Woodchester near Stroud. The Jigs will be performing many tracks from the album plus some old favourites in the amazing chapel auditorium and it will be filmed and streamed live! Tickets are still available from The Convent so get yours while you can! Better to be there in person and get your free CD than pay to watch us on your computer screen although for our overseas friends that is a good thing to have.

While we are on the subject of albums I’ve been recording some harmonica for Damon T’s next record due for release later in the year, although some exclusive three track CDs of some of the album songs will be available at the gigs I’m playing with him over the next month or so. If you’re wondering about the Brothers and Sons recordings that I made with the Myers Brothers when we met up in Clarksdale Mississippi back in April, they are also moving forwards. More news on that a little later in the year.

Be happy everyone, keep supporting live music wherever you find it and I’ll catch up with you at a gig somewhere soon hopefully!

2016 and warming up

6 Feb
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Fun times with the Myers Brothers

Well, musically speaking if not the weather. Another eight months have passed. Can’t believe almost three seasons have gone by since the last blog. I have a theory about the perceived passing of time and advancing age. Don’t get me started on that…

Highlights since the last blog? Firstly a trip back to Ottawa, Canada to see my very good friends the Myers brothers and their families. Of course, there was music and it was great to be back on stage at the Bassline Station. Lots of amazing calorific food was eaten but a wonderful quiet and therapeutic day with my partner Anna at the Nordic Spa felt like it balanced things out on the health front. Other highlights include the many festivals that both the Sons of the Delta and The Jigantics played at over the summer and autumn period. You’re guaranteed to meet lots of lovely new fans at festivals and hear some great music that you might not have heard otherwise. Also, where else are you going to buy a purple velvet top hat or a jester’s hat? Also, another trip back to the Netherlands for two theater gigs and a chance to catch up with some of the lovely friends we made last time we were there, and a trip over to Luxembourg to play at a blues weekend at the very picturesque Vianden where we made some more great new friends.

Winter was a little quieter but had its own highlights, notably The Jigantics first all-acoustic gig, for the wonderful Ken Brown and Square Roots Promotions at the fantastic Square Tower in Portsmouth, and a seaside trip to Teignmouth with the Sons of the Delta for their excellent Jazz & Blues festival where I caught up with my cousin Tom who I hadn’t seen for thirty years!

A gig free January but plenty of rehearsing and recording with The Jigantics. First gig of the year was this weekend with my longest running but now seldom gigging first band, the Maxwell Street Blues Band. Now I’m up and running headlong into the rest of 2016 with plenty of gigs for The Jigantics and Sons of the Delta including more trips back to the Netherlands, a festival in France and a trip back ‘home’ to Clarksdale, Mississippi.  See you in another eight or so months!

How Long?

26 Jun

Alberto and me at TEA, Ageate, Gran Canaria.

Alberto and me at TEA, Ageate, Gran Canaria.

This time of the morning, after a late night driving back from a gig on the south coast, is probably not the best time to put together a blog post. Not even sure when the blog thought pinged into my head. Followers of my blog will understand that to call this an irregular blog is a big understatement. It’s been nearly nine months since my last post. I wonder if other bloggers suffer from the same lack of commitment? Maybe that’s why tweeting has taken off in such a big way – it’s easier to regularly come up with 140 characters of news.

So what’s been happening since October? Lots of gigs and more recording. Both the Sons of the Delta and The Jigantics have been busy travelling the width and bredth of the land, purveying their musical wares and The Jigantics are back in the studio recording that ‘difficult second album’. Not so difficult it seems and I’m looking forwards to when it’s finished and we can share it with you all.

I managed to squeeze in a solo trip in May to play with Los Gumbos – my blues brothers in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria – whom I met back in 2010 when the Sons of the Delta headlined a festival there. My partner Anna came with me, a treat for us both as on overseas trips with the bands it’s just not practical to take partners. We were only there for a long weekend but it was definitely the highlight of the year so far. Although six gigs in four days sounds like a punishing schedule it was a pleasure both on and off stage thanks in particular to Alberto Gulias who as well as being a fantastic percussionist and great friend also organised the gigs and hotel. A special mention also to Reinaldo Rivero, a wonderful and empathetic guitarist and Hans Albert, the best Bavarian bass player in Gran Canaria!, for their excellent musicianship and friendship. Big thanks also to Daniel, Celina and Tony for their fantastic photos and all the crew at La Guarida for looking after us both so well. I really hope to be back there again in the future to play a few songs and soak up the sun and beer. If you haven’t yet seen the main body of photos from the trip they are here, here and here.

I’m taking a short break next month then it’s festival season for the Jigs and the Sons. Let’s hope this warm dry weather keeps going! Have a lovely summer everyone and I’ll try and get back to you sooner than eight months…

Goodbye Summer

7 Oct
The Jigantics soundcheck. Little Theatre, Sheringham.

The Jigantics soundcheck. Little Theatre, Sheringham.

It’s been that long since my last post I could have almost had a baby! Well, if I’d been a woman that is. But wait – I have had a baby! The new Sons of the Delta album Tasty Nuggets is out and is doing the media rounds with lots of airplay and great reviews. I won’t subject you to a full run down of album activity but highlights include airplay on BBC Radio 2 via the Paul Jones Show and being the Independent Blues Broadcasters Association’s Pick of the Month for August. To read all the reviews visit the Sons of the Delta website.

It’s been a hectic last few months with plenty of gigs and festival slots for both The Jigantics and the Sons of the Delta. We had a wonderful weekend in Enniscorthy, Ireland, at the Blackstairs Blues Festival and met some lovely, enthusiastic and warm people. A major bonus was the weather – it was the first time I’ve been to Ireland when it didn’t rain from the moment I arrived to the moment I left. Glorious sunshine pretty much the whole weekend! To add to all that I’d just put a new element in my harp mic – a 1955 Shure CR element – and I love it! So all three gigs that weekend I was on a high with the new hot dirty sound of my harp. I still am!

Talking of sunshine, my partner and I had a well-earned week off on the Greek island of Samos, in the beautiful little fishing town of Pythagorio which was the birthplace of someone famous – you can figure out who ;) The weather was fantastic as was the food and of course it didn’t take long for me to find some live music. I ended up sitting in on a few numbers with Dimos, a great acoustic guitarsist and singer who was performing on one of the boats in the harbour. If you like a quiet location with loads of history to go and visit plus some great eating and drinking then give Samos a try.

On a note of personal pride, my eldest son Josh graduated last month with a great degree in Film and Television and my youngest son Rory started on his path to a degree in Media Production. At Josh’s graduation ceremony an honorary degree was given to the singer/songwriter Barbara Dickson and she gave a stirring speech about grasping opportunities when they arise, even if you’re scared of failing. Great advice. As T Model Ford used to say “See what you get if you don’t clown”

So what’s coming up? Well I need to get on the ‘phone and email to all the 2015 blues festival organisers plus blues club organisers and take advantage of the Sons current media attention. The diary is filling nicely but the fuller the better! The Jigantics are off to the Netherlands at the end of the month for an eight date tour which we’re calling the Stroopwafel Tour. If you can’t get there but want to be a part of the action you can get your tour t-shirt here at the Rawtone Records t-shirt site. The Sons are in discussion with a new agent in Benelux so hopefully we will be back in the Netherlands with the other band in the not too distant future. Watch this space!

Recording and more

21 Feb
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Recording at Monnow Valley Studios

Once again it has been an age since my last blog – Christmas and New Year have been and gone and Spring is almost here. Or at least I think it’s almost here – it’s hard to tell as any early blooming flowers are under water at the moment!

The Sons of the Delta recording session at Monnow Valley Studios got pushed back to early February but it happened and was a fantastic day. All the boys were on form and our guest keyboard player, Bill Blair, really added something special to the sound. The engineers Liam Ross and Felix Mercer looked after us very well, knew exactly what they were doing and did it brilliantly. Aaron Taylor, our co-producer on the album, was there to make sure everything went according to plan and that he had plenty of good takes to work with back at his studio, Plump Hill Studio. At this moment in time I’ve recorded some of my additional guitar parts and still to come are more guitar, vocals, harp and some guest performances including what I hope will be a four or five piece gospel ensemble. It’s going to be a busy few weeks as I’d like to get the album finished and ready in time for our dates in Mississippi in April. It’s going to be a great album – I can feel it in my bones – and the title Tasty Nuggets is very apt! For those of you who bother to read this here’s some advance information – the yellow chicken that you may have spotted on the Facebook pics taken in the studio and, if you’ve really been paying attention, in our animated Christmas card on Facebook is Chokey the chicken and features on the front cover of the CD artwork. Chokey has been living with me for a few years now after I found him looking lost and forelorn in a charity shop. he’s called Chokey because his party trick involves eye-popping, gurgling and flailing whenever he’s throttled. He loves it really, besides which he’s not real!

Met up with my blues buddy Keith Thompson the other day and the discussion worked its way round to the inevitable topic of what do you have to do to get your name out there, get decent publicity and therefore more and better gigs. The answer when we’ve discussed this previously is ‘anything and everything’. It still is to a certain extent but a growing number of bands who are getting magazine interviews, reviews and decent airplay are paying publicists to get it done. Once the domain of bigger bands, even small bands are having to cross someone’s palm with silver – or gold if they really want good coverage – in order to get their name and music out there. Certain well-known specialist radio shows take nearly all their music from trusted sources – i.e. publicists – making it so much harder for up and coming bands who send material directly to get heard. I have no problem with this – it is the way of the world, money talks – I just don’t have the money at this moment in time to take part. To be honest the idea actually appeals. I’d love to not have the hassle of pursuing publicity, to be able to pay someone who has the contacts, the time and the gift of the gab to do it. If I manage to get the funds together at some point I may go for it and report back.

So it’s more recording for me, then mixing and getting the CDs pressed. During all that I have our Mississippi trip to finish organising and when we get back it’s gigs, gigs, more gigs and doing my best at a home-grown approach to publicising the album. Maybe I can get Chokey to take more responsibility…

Winter draws on

20 Nov
Tip jar

Now featuring at a gig near you…

Half a year plus since my last post and a lot of water has passed under the bridge. Once again it feels like I blinked and the summer sprinted past. It’s said there are those that make things happen, those that let things happen and those that wondered what the hell just happened. I think I’m in that third group…

I’ve really enjoyed the better weather this summer and actually managed to get some time out in it for a change. I even had the beginnings of a tan! It makes up a little bit for not getting over to perform in Spain this year although I really miss Javi – no-one will be able to replace his warmth and friendship. Even so, the Sons do need representation as we were starting to build a good thing there so I’m actively looking for a new Spanish agent. On the subject of good weather and down-time I’ll mention that since my last post I’ve spent a while getting back to nature in a geodesic dome tent on the beautiful west coast of Wales, some quality time chilling out listening to Turkish folk music in a tent bar on a beach near Fethiye and even tried drinking chilli infused stout in a wonderfully well stocked ale house in Lincoln. That last one was by far the least enjoyable thing on that list. Still, you don’t know unless you try.

Both the Sons of the Delta and the Jigantics had plenty of fun during the summer, out on the road at gigs and festivals and in the recording studio, and both bands have a new bass player in the form of Lyndon Webb. With his upright bass, fine vocal and multi-instamentalist possibilities he’s helped to push both bands forward in terms of what we have to offer dynamically. The Jigantics debut CD ‘Daisy Roots’ is now available (and about time too, I hear some of you shout!) both on CD and at all good online MP3 retailers. The Jigs are the busier of the two bands at the moment with Marty getting a sore ear on the phone and worn down fingers typing emails to get us some lovely dates all over the country. We have many festivals in the pipeline for next year so I’m looking forwards to those being inked on our calendar in the next few months.

The third Sons of the Delta album ‘Tasty Nuggets’ continues to come together with the next big recording session planned for January. Yes, it has been a few too many years in the coming but good things can’t be rushed, especially at this stage, and getting everyone together to rehearse the new songs and booking the studio when everyone involved is available is a challenge so the timescale has to be a little fluid. It will be worth the wait! We are heading back to Clarksdale, Mississippi, in April to celebrate the 10th anniversary of our first visit there. Looks like the whole band is going this time as is fitting for a special trip. We’re looking forwards to playing at the Juke Joint Festival again, meeting up with our blues brothers Mike and Stevie Myers and their families, and and we may even take advantage of a full line-up and record a few tracks at Sun Studio in Memphis.

I’ve been writing lots of blues songs lately and now that we have a good selection for the Sons album I plan to rework some of the songs in a harder blues vein for a ‘solo’ project. I’ll be recording an EP and the plan is to perform the songs live as part of a double bill with my blues buddy Damon T. I’ll perform on harp and vocals with Damon on his material and he’ll drum and sing on my material. Those of you who have seen us perform together before know it’s going to be a great show! Watch this space!

Spring 2013

23 Apr
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BBQ Plate, home-grown

Spring has sprung (just about) and the first quarter of 2013 has passed, again in what seems like a blink of the eye. Where does the time go? Who keeps stealing it?

It was great to see the Facebook posts from all my friends who went to the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale last weekend. I was desperate to go this year but with two albums mid way through recording and the Sons of the Delta not all able to make the trip it was hard to justify. Next year is a must though as I really do miss everyone out there and it’s the place to go for the soul to recharge. Anyway, the nearest I got by way of compensation was cooking myself some Southern comfort food in the form of a BBQ plate. See the photo – it was as good as it looks. I sat down and enjoyed it with a beer and a viewing of of the excellent documentary We Juke Up In Here. It’s as close as I’m going to get to the Mississippi Delta this year.

The Jigantics debut album moves ever closer to completion and there are some ‘almost there’ mixes that we’ve recently uploaded to both our website and our Reverbnation page. We also have a number of gigs coming up through the summer that we’re really looking forwards to.

Recording for the long promised new Sons of the Delta album is finally underway and we hope to upload a few provisional mixes of some of the tracks as a taster for you over the coming weeks. I’d really like this album to be completed and available in time for the major summer blues fests.

On a sad note in case you hadn’t heard my very good friend and Spanish agent for Sons of the Delta, Javier Hernandez, passed away towards the end of January. He was a shining jewel in the murky world of the music business – an honest, hard-working, straight-talking realist who always had the artists best interest at heart. The Sons are heading to San Raphael in the near future to celebrate his life and remember him. Hopefully it won’t be the end of our time over there as we were building a good reputation. No-one could ever replace Javier but we are looking for a new agent in Spain.

I’ve been writing a few songs for a future solo project. I know some of you have seen me with my acoustic singer-songwriter hat on, and that will continue, but this new solo project is something else entirely. It’ll be very electric, very stripped-back, and may also feature drums and percussion in suitable venues. More on that later in the year.

Visit my web site for an up-to-date listing of all forthcoming gigs. Thanks!

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