Year of the Pig

18 Feb

Bringing home the bacon!

Gong hei fat choy! Sadly, no trips to Mississippi this year so I’ll have to celebrate the year of the pig with plenty of home-cooked pulled pork and bacon. You only live once – and probably not very long if that’s all you eat! It’s all about balance, so I’ll be on one leg while i enjoy my BBQ plate.

Life has been pretty much the same since the last newsletter with plenty of gigs and great reviews for the solo album, which if you follow me on the Book of the Face you will have found hard to miss. No kidnaps, health scares or repossessions, so what’s not to like.

The year has got off to a busier start than usual. It’s great to see some venues take a chance on live music in January, especially when it pays off with a good crowd. Seems that people do want to go out in bad weather with slim pockets and have a night out to cheer themselves up. Good on them! Not even ‘Dry January’ dampened their spirits (or wine, or beer…). This January I took part in ‘January’, that is, the month of the year between December and February when you do absolutely nothing different to the other months of the year, the exception being Christmas week when all common sense goes out the window and you eat and drink like there’s no tomorrow.

Did you hear the news? I bought a banjo. I thought it was about time and I’m looking forwards to playing it in public for the first time this coming weekend at the Gloucester Folk Trail gig with Damon T and on Tuesday 26th February at the Cheltenham Songwriters Guild.  I wrote some songs on an old banjo a few years ago and they just don’t translate on to guitar very well, so I’d like to get them back in the set list as nature intended. More kit to carry! Those of you who know me know that I like to mess around with different instruments so it’s good to get my hands on something that stops me sticking to my comfort zone and will no doubt lead to more new songs. Writing songs on a variety of instruments keeps things fresh and interesting. You never know, it may even put in an appearance on the new Jigantics album which we are currently recording.

Aside from the music, but kind of related, I’ve started working more closely with Fat Tone Amps, the company whose wonderful harmonica amps I endorse. I’ve been helping them with their social media and marketing and I’m really thrilled to be asked to get involved because it’s a fantastic product, totally bespoke and hand-built with love. David Walker, the owner and amp building genius, is such a joy to work with. I know it’s going to be a great relationship and we have an exciting journey ahead.

Back to the music and the festival schedule is looking really healthy already. Keep an eye on my website for all solo and band gig dates, they are getting added more frequently as we head towards better weather and better times (who said Brexit?!? Wash your mouth out!)


Summer 2018

3 Aug

Gig display for the new solo CD

Well, what a busy summer so far! Gigs a plenty, especially in the last two weeks at Upton Blues Festival and the Gloucester Rhythm and Blues Festival, and mostly in the high temperatures that we’ve been enjoying (or not) in the UK recently.

The blues cruises at Upton were fantastic as always but it was soooo hot on the boat. Still, it was great to see so many familiar faces and equally as gratifying to see plenty of new faces. Hopefully they’ll become regulars too as I’m sure we’ll be back there next year.

At the Gloucester festival the Sons of the Delta had both a full band gig and their regular acoustic duo gig. The full band gig was at Gloucester Brewery and although the brewery is a relative newcomer to hosting live music (most of the gigs are held at TANK, the brewery’s pub across the canal) everyone agreed the Brewery is a wonderful location: the room is atmospheric, the sound is great and of course the drinks are wonderful! They plan a lot more live music and I really hope the music lovers of Gloucester support it enthusiastically because it easily has the potential to be one of the best venues in the area. Talking of best venues, we had a wonderful time as always at the Sons acoustic duo gig at Peppers Café. The courtyard was packed as usual and Dan’s BBQ food was superb. Ann and Toby, the owners of Peppers, are passionate about live music and have always been above and beyond supportive through the gigs they host and other involvements. They also have regular music throughout the year, as well as fantastic food and drink most days of the week, so please check them out.

The Jigantics have played a few festivals too this summer, most notably Folk in a Field over in East Anglia. What a superb festival in an idyllic location. The main stage is in a clearing in old woodland with various other stages, stalls and facilities nestled amongst the trees here and there. A bijou and perfectly formed festival with a lovely family atmosphere.

In case it has escaped your notice, I recently released my debut solo album COLE. It’s getting lots of airplay and has its first review courtesy of Blues in Britain magazine. Other reviews will follow (Blues Matters! I know for sure very soon) and perhaps even the odd article. It is being very well received which I am pleased and relieved about in equal measure! When it’s all your own work it feels more precious than a band album for some reason, perhaps because you feel more exposed than in a collaborative venture. Anyway, if you haven’t done so already please check it out and if you like it then please help spread the word! Most of the online retailers encourage reviews so don’t be shy! Thanks. You can see me perform some of the songs from the album when I’m playing a show somewhere with Damon T or Steve Browing. Check out my website for all my dates.

Both the Sons and Jigs have more outdoor gigs coming up so fingers crossed for more dry weather. Personally, I do enjoy the hot weather so until I get out to Mississippi in October for the King Biscuit Festival I’ll make the most of what I can get here! Cheers!


Goodbye 2017

20 Dec
Fat Tone Amps

My harp set up thanks to Fat Tone Amps!

I had to get another post in this year. I know this is an irregular blog but one post a year is just a bit too slack. My excuse is that it has been a busy year. The year started with a trip to Canada and ended with a trip to hospital (nothing bad thankfully).

I have never been a great fan of the cold and snow but I had only experienced UK snow until I went to Ottawa, Canada, in February. Minus thirty and deep snow but fantastic as it was lovely dry crunchy snow and not the slushy mess we get in the UK. It was an unforgettable experience which included racing across a frozen lake on an ATV (a quad if you’re in the UK) and a vigorous walk on snowshoes through the woods. It was fantastic to spend time once again with my spiritual brothers Mike and Stevie Myers and their lovely families and to record some new material (which we are still working on for Brothers and Sons: Volume 2) and to get a gig in with the Myers Brothers Band. I also got to see Toronto and wake up in Niagara on Valentine’s Day with my lovely lady, sit up in bed and look straight out over Niagara Falls. Wonderful.

While I’m talking about travel, both the Sons of the Delta and the Jigantics have enjoyed overseas gigs again this year and we’ve had the great pleasure of playing for fantastic audiences in France, the Netherlands and Portugal. Our hosts have looked after us wonderfully and we look forwards to working with them again next year.

It’s been business as usual for the Sons of the Delta with both duo and band gigs far and wide and next year is looking great already with thoughts of recording at some point. The Jigantics have had a wonderful year too despite a number of changes in the line-up and again, next year is looking to be busy with plenty of gigs in the pipeline and some fresh recording too. As for the new line-up, we’ve been told by one of our promoters that it’s “the best line-up yet” so we’re excited about the way forwards.

It has been fantastic to play more dates this year with the excellent Damon T and I’ve continued to record some solo material which encompasses the various styles I write and play in and at some point I will have enough material to release a mini-album. If I have enough solo or collaborative gigs next year I will consider pressing some CDs as well as a definite digital release.

Other highlights of the year? Getting endorsed by Fat Tone Amps, who make bespoke high-end harp amps, which has given me THE best amplified harp sound I’ve ever had, and being invited in to the RAW Guitar family by Simon Raw and asked to perform in a promo video they filmed for their latest guitar the Predator, alongside the wonderful Bob ‘Snakeshaker’ Angell from Rhode Island and the excellent guitarist and blues DJ Gary Grainger.

So here’s hoping you have all had a good year too and wishing you an even better one in 2018. Cheers everybody!

Hello 2017

26 Jan

So what’s been happening in the musical world of Mark Cole since July? Needless to say I’ve loved every second of it! Here’s an update.

It has been a busy six months (yes, my usual excuse for not posting here for an age) and started with the release of two new albums, firstly the live Sons of the Delta acoustic duo album Red Hot at Peppers which we launched, appropriately, at the wonderful Peppers Cafe, twelve months after it was recorded there as part of the Gloucester Rhythm & Blues Festival. As usual the place was packed – standing room only – and as always we thoroughly enjoyed the gig not least thanks to Dan’s awesome BBQ food. The new Jigantics album Seconds Out was launched the following night at the magnificent Convent in
Woodchester. It was a magical night and the perfect venue to launch a new album. If you missed it you can still see the whole concert here at The Convent’s YouTube channel, as they broadcast the event live and now have it in their archives.

Following the launches there were plenty of festival and club gigs with both the Jigantics and Sons of the Delta including some in France and the Netherlands. It’s always good to get across the channel and spread the word to new enthusiastic audiences. We’re very lucky to see some beautiful places that most tourists would not get to see. Long may it continue!

I also played a bunch of gigs with the fantastic Damon T including a handful of festivals. The format works really well, with us performing on each others songs and I really like the challenge of coming up with harp or guitar parts to compliment Damon’s unique hypnotic style. I’m looking forwards to performing with Damon again this year and I’m working on a solo EP of some of my songs to sell at those gigs and, of course, online.

It has also been a busy time in the studio, completing five songs for the Brothers and Sons first EP, appropriately called Volume 1. In case you missed the news, Brothers and Sons is an ongoing project involving myself and the Myers Brothers, Mike and Stevie, from Ottawa, Canada. We first met in Clarksdale, Mississippi, back in 2005 and since then have visted each others homes, performed together and appeared as guests on each others albums. We thought it would be fun to record new songs whenever we meet up and then complete them back at home and release the best of the recordings on a digital EP. Volume 1, recorded in Clarksdale, is released next week, just days before I fly to Ottawa to catch up with them and experience the Canadian winter. Yes, there will be skating and snow walking, and of course there will be performing and recording. So as Volume 1 is released we will be starting on Volume 2. It’ll be interesting to see how the drastically different environment makes its mark on the songs.

So what else does the year ahead have to offer? The Jigantics have just started to record some new material with it’s new line up. Only one gig performed with the ‘new boy’ Graham Mizen at the time of writing but it was a great night and we had nothing but praise from the audience for the new songs and the new band member. Really looking forwards to the many other gigs we already have in the diary for the rest of the year. Once again it looks like I will get plenty of miles under my belt in the persuit of making great music. Looking at the schedule so far I’ll be all over the UK and heading back to Canada, France, the Netherlands and also Portugal. And that’s just going on the bookings confirmed so far. No doubt it’ll be quite a while til I post another update – excuse made in advance this time…

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

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

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!