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!
New Year’s Eve 2012 with the Patsy Gamble Band
Happy New Year everyone!
I don’t know about you but last year flew past at a scary speed. It’s probably me being another year older. I have a theory about why time seems to pass quicker as you age. I think it’s because as we get older a year becomes a smaller and smaller percentage of our lives and so feels like less time. If any of you write a book based on that theory I’ll chase you down for a percentage.
As usual I was gigging New Year’s Eve, this time with the lovely Patsy Gamble and her band. I think a lot of us musicians prefer to be gigging that particular night as we’d probably be at someone elses gig anyway, so why not earn money whilst having a good time instead of spending it? The party was busy, the musicians excellent, the company wonderful and everyone had a fun time. After all the New Year’s Eve parties I’ve attended in the past I believe this was first one where balloons were dropped from the ceiling in true celebratory style.
One of my Christmas presents was a square foot of land in Scotland which means I can legally use the title Laird. A bit of fun but all above board and genuine. You can still call me Mark – I won’t have you thrown in the dungeon for insubordination. I might have to investigate the family tartan…
So what does 2013 have in store? At least two new albums, plenty of gigs and lots of travelling. Hopefully good health, a little more cash money and a better ratio of reward to effort. A lottery win would be nice or at least some right people in the right place at the right time. I know you have to keep your sails up to catch the wind, but a little bit of wind to hit the sails would be nice! More networking this year, more pushing and more discipline. That’s about as close to a new year’s resolution as I’m going to get.
Hope your year has got off to a good start and you stay happy and healthy, with everything going your way in 2013.
Chilling with a hookah
Gloucester Rhythm & Blues Festival has been, burned brightly, and gone for another year. It was a hectic week for me with nine gigs in as many days and that included three nights off. The highlight of the week was spending time and making memories with the Myers Brothers, Mike and Stevie, and Stevie’s lovely wife Laura. I also got to meet the lovely Suzie in Painswick who was a wonderful host to us all on a number of occasions during the week and I hope she will be at more blues gigs in the area in the future as I know she’s a real blues fan. All of the Myers gigs were brilliant fun and well received and I know they had a great time performing, making new friends and seeing as much of the area as they could. Can’t wait til April when I’ll be catching up with them again in Clarksdale, Mississippi.
Those of you that are friends on Facebook will have noticed I took a week out for some rest and relaxation and some guaranteed sunshine and heat but now I’m back and fired up ready for the rest of the year. Both the Sons of the Delta and the Jigantics have some late summer festival gigs coming up and I’m especially looking forward to a mini tour of Spain in September with the Sons. With Spain’s economic situation as bad as it is I was beginning to wonder whether we would get there this year, especially after tour dates provisionally booked for March and May came to nothing. But we have our tickets and our itinerary so Spain here we come!
This weekend it’s my Sister Jan and Bro-in-law Derek’s Golden Wedding Anniversary so there’s a huge clan gathering of the Coles and Pearsons from all over the world. It’s going to be great fun and a weekend to remember. There will be live music, of course, and much eating, drinking and catching up with people I’ve not seen for years. My boys haven’t even met some of their relatives so it should be a special time for them too. As with all of these occasions there will be people missing that we wish were there but they will be remembered and tales will be told.
The next three months will see both the Jigantics and the Sons busy in the studio, so there should be plenty of new music for you to treat yourself or someone else to in time for Christmas! Aaron at Plump Hill Studio is doing a great job and between the two bands, plus other bands that some of the guys are involved in, we’re keeping him busy. More news on the recording as and when I have any pics or sounds to share with you.
It’s been a strange few months on planet Cole – lots of heavenly highs and deep lows and in many ways I feel like I’ve been running around in circles but it’s all part of life and just the way it goes. Great stuff for songwriting!
Gigs are still a little down on last year, partly because I haven’t been chasing as much as I could due to the fact I’ve been busy songwriting and recording (or am I busy songwriting and recording because gigs are down? It’s those circles again) Also the recession is definitely biting a bit and venues are less willing to take a chance on someone new. Not a problem with our current venues but trying to ‘spread the love’ is getting difficult. A new album to promote will definitely help things.
Talking of recording, things are going well with the Jigantics debut album and we are loving the atmosphere and empathy at Plump Hill Studio. We’re currently working on a latin-styled percussion driven number, a beautiful ballad with great harmonies and a feel-good Cajun style track. I think We may record the Sons of the Delta duo tracks at Plump Hill too but it may be a bit small there to record the full band tracks. We’ll have to see. One of the tracks that was being considered for the Sons album isn’t going to sit well stylistically with the rest of them so, as it’s one of my songs, I decided to record it and put it out as a solo track. It’s called ‘Had Our Day’ and you can hear it here on my Bandcamp page or here on my Reverbnation page. It’s a very melancholy, lonesome ‘3.a.m.’ kind of song and I hope you like it. Plus, if you haven’t seen the video of my last song ‘Let Me Down’, you can see it here.
Only just over a month to go until the Gloucester Rhythm and Blues Festival (official site here and Facebook page here) – my hometown’s celebration of blues and roots music. I’m really looking forward to it, especially to catching up with the Myers Brothers, Mike and Stevie from Ottawa, who are flying over to play a number of dates including the Gloucester festival. I’ll be stepping up to the stage in various bands that week, so make sure you keep an eye on my website in July for all the details.
The Beehive, Swindon
A very belated happy new year to you all! What a slacker I’ve been – last November was my last update. Since then I’ve reached the grand old age of fifty (yes, I know, hard to believe given my youthful exuberance and good looks) and also celebrated thirty years of being in the music business. Christmas and Easter have been and gone and although much beer was drunk over the festive season I managed to avoid the other brown devil that is chocolate.
It’s been a strange start to the year in terms of gigs. A trip to the USA with Sons of the Delta to play at this year’s Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale was cancelled due to a clash of commitments for some of the guys, a mini-tour of Spain was put on ice due to the major recession over there and here booking gigs has been harder work for the same reason, apart from our favourite regular venues who know a good thing when they see it and continue to re-book us.
What do musicians do when they are not gigging as much? No, the answer is not ‘starve’ thankfully (not yet anyway!). They write songs and record, so it’s good that both the Sons of the Delta and the Jigantics are both working on new albums. Because of the different styles of music in each band, the approach to the recording process is a little different. For the Jigantics it will be our debut album so everyone in the band is keen to make it as representative as possible. That means it needs to highlight the strengths of the band – especially the great arrangements and lovely harmonies. In light of recent changes to arrangements some of the tracks currently recorded will be remixed, others may be re-recorded and a few newer songs in the set will be recorded for the first time. So although things are well on the way, it may be a few months yet until the album is finished. The Sons of the Delta album will be our third and will have a mixture of duo and band numbers, representing both aspects of the Sons. The first two albums were pretty much all original numbers and although album three will still have plenty of great originals we are planning to record some of our audience’s favourite covers. I’m finishing some demos of the new originals so that I can distribute them to the rest of the band prior to us putting in some hard work on learning them. Then it will be off to the studio to spend a solid weekend recording the band songs – none of this ‘we were in the studio for two months’ malarkey! The duo numbers are less demanding of everyone’s time and so Rick and I will work on and record those on a rolling basis.
I’m looking forward to the summer now – recording, various festival slots for both the Sons of the Delta and the Jigantics and my great friends the Myers Brothers are coming over from Ottawa late July to play at the Upton Blues festival, the Gloucester Blues Festival and several other dates. Can’t wait! I will try to keep you updated a bit more regularly…
The crowd at the Arriola XXII JazzBlues Festival in Elorrio
November has very much been a behind the scenes month with not a lot of public activity apart from a few gigs, most notable among those being our gig at the Arriola XXII JazzBlues Festival in Elorrio up in the beautiful Basque country near Bilbao. As always, the capacity crowd was really appreciative and danced for pretty much the entire three hours of the performance. There are a few photos from the trip on the Sons of the Delta Facebook page. We look forwards to heading back over to Spain next year.
I’ve been busy writing new songs for the next Sons of the Delta album with at least four songs in the bag and a few more on the way. The album will be a mix of band and duo songs to best represent both permutations of the Sons live. The songs on the first two albums have all been originals but on the new album we may include studio versions of a few cover songs that we do live, mostly obscure and re-worked, that always go down well and have become favourites with the audiences. I’d like to avoid any obvious covers – ones that have been covered a hundred times before – as that would be lazy and not really add anything to the global blues collection.
The Jigantics debut albums moves forward. Most of the recording has been completed so now comes the task of mixing. There is an equation when it comes to studio time: allow twice as long for the mixing as you did for the recording. So with that in mind, the album is still a little way off but hopefully not too long!
the Myers Brothers Band, who I had the privilege of gigging and recording with in Ottawa in October, have just released their latest album ‘Drive’. The album was recorded during both my trips over to Ottawa and I am delighted to be involved in the project both as a guest performer (harmonica and Hammond organ) and as co-producer. The album is available now as a download via CDBaby – click here to visit the page – and the CDs will be available in the next few weeks. A big thank you to Mike and Stevie for inviting me over and I look forward to revisiting Canada next year.
If you want a flavour of our trips over to Mississippi, try and watch ‘Rick Stein Tastes The Blues’. It’s no longer on the BBC iPlayer so you’ll have to keep an eye open for its appearance on YouTube. He meets several of our Clarksdale friends and also stays in the very shack at the Shackup Inn that we stayed at last April. The programme is a great mixture of music and food, so what’s not to like?
Right, I’ve got another tune in my head so I’m off to do some more songwriting.
The Myers Brothers Band with Mark Cole at the Rainbow, Ottawa
I did take my laptop to Canada but I was way too busy to think about anything other than the odd Facebook update and too busy since my return to do this post.
Canada was, as expected, fantastic and the Myers brothers looked after me exceptionally well. Last year when I visited we recorded the basic tracks for an album and we were determined to get the album finished this trip. But first we had our Ottawa gigs – Saturday night at the Bass Line Station and Sunday night at the prestigious Rainbow, Ottawa’s long-established premiere blues venue. Both gigs went really well and it was a special joy to play at the Rainbow and to add my name to the many famous names written all over the dressing room walls (thanks to Jamie Cashin for his Rainbow gig photo at the top of this post). The Myers brothers, with Pepé Lopez Jr. on drums and myself on harp and occasional slide guitar, kept the venues rocking with two sets totalling nearly three hours. Those boys deliver! Back to the recording and we managed to get some of Mike’s vocals completed at the Ottawa studio early the following week then it was off to Mike’s lakeside cottage up in Quebec. Most of the time was spent at Pine Door Studios finishing the vocals, some extra guitar work and mixing down but we had some time to relax at the cottage and take the boat out. You can’t beat the taste of food cooked out on the BBQ next to the lake! On Saturday night we made the short trip through the woods to Maniwaki and played at Le Resto. It was a return visit and I really enjoyed catching up with the friends I had made at the gig there last year. They are a really appreciative and friendly crowd who really know how to party! Everyone was up dancing from the first song and by the end of the night I was playing harp on the tables and Mike was crawling on his back across the floor as he played guitar. Wild! It was a late and crazy night but we rose fairly early the next day and managed to get the album finished, including an impromptu acoustic track which we recorded at the cottage. It’s getting mastered over here in the UK and the CD should be on the shelves in time for Christmas. Don’t worry, there’s one reserved for you ;) and if you prefer downloads then iTunes will have it early in the new year. Keep your eyes open for “The Myers Brothers Band – Drive”.
There was no time to rest after my return – I had to repair a guitar that broke just before I flew to Canada and also one of my harps which took a hammering while I was away. Then the following three nights I was out gigging and then in the studio for the start of the mixing down of the Jigantics debut album. Sunday night I saw the excellent J Alexander and the Blues Devils at the newly formed Gloucester Blues Club and Monday night Steve Earle at Birmingham Symphony Hall. What a superb concert. Over three hours of songs old and new, with a great band – the Dukes and Duchesses – which included his wife Alison Moorer. If you haven’t seen him make sure you don’t miss him next time he’s in your area!
So that’s why this post has had to wait a while. I’m now off to write an article on my time with the Myers Brothers plus transcribe an interview I did with them, to be printed in a British blues magazine in the very near future. It’s all go! Not so many gigs this month but I need to concentrate on finishing the Jigantics album and write new songs for the next Sons of the Delta album. No rest for the wicked! ;)