mini-tour report.

Dropped Muriel Anderson off at Stansted airport this afternoon, after three gigs with her over the weekend, and three very fine gigs they were.

First up was Lauderdale House in Highgate, part of the acousticmasters.com summer concert series – it was especially nice to catch up with Mo Foster who dropped in to say hi before the gig, and to meet Terry and Hugh who organised the concert series. Performers on the small club venue level rely on a select group of dedicated, generous magic people who put lots of effort into making great music available to concert goers, and Hugh and Terry fit that category. Hugh’s a marvellous guitarist in his own right, and you can catch his at one of the future concerts at Lauderdale… Anyway, the gig went well to a ‘select’ audience, who were very generous in their CD and DVD buying :o)

Saturday was a day off, and a chance for Muriel to see a bit of London (after I dragged her down to Brick Lane for Sarda‘s leaving curry) – the small person and I took Muriel to see Trafalgar Square, Downing Street , The Houses of Parliment Big Ben, Westminster Abbey etc. before walking back along the south bank of the Thames for coffee in the National Theatre…

Sunday was the second of our gigs, this one was at the Ship Theatre, Sevenoaks in Kent, and was part of the Sevenoaks guitar festival, organised by another one of these marvellous promoter people, John Levett. The Ship is a gorgeous theatre, part of a private school, with tremendous acoustics and a lovely listening audience. Muriel and I got to do more duet stuff, experiment with a few improv things as well as playing on eachother’s tunes, and much fun was had by all!

And finally, Monday was back at Traders in Petersfield, promoted once again by the truly marvellous Stiff Promotions – if only every small town in the UK had its own Iain Martin, I’d be touring constantly. Thanks to Iain and Jeff who owns the venue, Traders has a fantastic program of live music, this being my third visit there this year, having played solo and with Michael Manring. As with both my previous Traders gigs, this one was sold out, and Muriel and I did even more duet stuff and improv, definitely boding well for future collaborative stuff.

So a marvellous three gigs. My new mixing desk arrived on Friday morning, so this gave me a chance to try it out, and my setup of Accugroove 110 cabs, QSC poweramp and Mackie Desk worked beautifully for Muriel’s guitar. I’ve never played through another bass rig that could reproduce the sound of an acoustic guitar as faithfully as this!! Amazing stuff.

On the bad news front, Muriel and I found out just before we started the tour that our mutual friend, Eric Roche has just been diagnosed with cancer of the saliva gland. Eric is an oustanding fingerstyle acoustic guitarist, teacher and music journalist, so our careers have followed similar paths in lots of ways, Muriel and I visited Eric today, and he’s doing really well – he’s an amazing guy (his marvellous music makes even more sense when you meet him). Please pray for him, if that’s something you do. And to aid you in your prayers, you should get his latest CD, ‘With These Hands’ – I’m listening to it at the moment and it’s beautiful. He’s playing in Brighton tomorrow night, and has a few other gigs around before he goes for surgery in a couple of weeks time, so catch him live or get the CD, or both. His new CD can be bought here from Amazon (sorry, couldn’t find a small shop that had it listed…) and his site has details of his other CDs. Go get ’em.

Soundtrack – right now, Eric Roche, ‘With These Hands’. earlier on, Denison Witmer, ‘Philadelphia Songs’ (he’s playing in London this week, hoping to catch him at the Windmill in Brixton on Sunday); Nick Harper, ‘Double Life’; Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle, ‘One From The Heart’; Ralph Towner/Gary Peacock, ‘A Closer View’; Joni Mitchell, ‘Travelogue’; James Taylor, ‘October Road’.

CD round-up…

Been listening to Cipher a fair bit recently – Cipher is Theo Travis’ other duo with a bassist, this time the bassist in question is Dave Sturt. Most of the gigs they do are providing soundtracks to silent movies, but their last CD, ‘One Who Whispers’ was conceived as such, as far as I know.

Anyway, however it came together, it’s fantastic – you really ought to get it. If you enjoyed ‘For The Love Of Open Spaces’ (which you really ought to have by now…), then you’re love the Cipher CD – lots of very fine bass playing, lovely ambient textural stuff, and Theo’s marvellous sax playing over the top. All available from the Cipher website.

I’ve also been listening to Ben Castle‘s new album, Blah Street, which is fantastic. Ben’s quartet features some of the finest musicians around – Tim Harries on bass, Mark Edwards on keys and Winston Clifford on drums, and the new record is stellar. Also worth of note is the ‘Bop Idol’ game that you can play on Ben’s website. very bizarre… Anyway, his CD is out now, and you can get it from usual places, like Amazon.

Another album I’ve listened to a bit recently is ‘Adventures in Hammered Dulcimer’ by Scott Brannon – one of the many many CDs I was given at NAMM this year (I’m about a third of the way through listening to them). To be honest, this almost didn’t get listened to, cos the artwork really doesn’t say ‘Play Me’ to me – it’s in the same ballpark artistically as the Ragatal sleeve was (which, you’ll know if you’ve seen it, is pretty dreadful). Anyway, I gave it a listen and really enjoyed it! Folky Jazzy instrumental stuff, with some proggy elements, and the rather refreshing sound of hammered dulcimer thoughout. Recommended, if you can stomach the artwork…

So there you go, a few things for you to buy this month!

And how about another webcam photo? here’s me about 40 seconds ago…

Happy Birthday…

…Jesus (oh, and Dido)

The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain.
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hooker’s Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that villagers can say
‘The Church looks nice’ on Christmas Day.

Provincial public houses blaze
And Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says ‘Merry Christmas to you all’

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children’s hearts are glad,
And Christmas morning bells say ‘Come!’
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true? and is it true?
The most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?

And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant.

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare –
That God was Man in Palestine
And lives to-day in Bread and Wine.

Christmas by John Betjamen.

It’s christmas day – happy christmas. Hope yours is a merry, fun, peaceful and debt-free one.

Seems weird to be celebrating the birth of the Prince Of Peace after a year of war, but it was a year when more people actively protested in favour of peace than at any time since Vietnam…

Maybe we’ll get some peace on earth and goodwill to all men and women after all.

one more christmas poem, this one by Steve Turner –

‘The Cast Of Christmas Reassembles for Easter’

Take the wise men to the Emperor’s palace.
Wash their hands in water.
Get them to say something about truth.
Does anyone know any good Jewish jokes?
The one about a carpenter
who thought he was a King?
The one about the Saviour
who couldn’t save himself?
The shepherds should stand with the chorus.
They have a big production number –
‘Barabbas, We Love You Baby’.
Mary? She can move to the front.
We have a special section reserved
for family and close friends.
Tell her that we had to cut the manger up.
We needed the wood for something else.
The star I’m afraid I can’t use.
There are no stars in this show.
The sky turns black with sorrow.
The earth shakes with terror.
Hold on to the frankincense.
We’ll need that for the garden scene.
Angels? He could do with some angels.
Avenging angels.
Merciful angels.
He could really do with some angels.
Baby Jesus.
Step this way please.
My! How you’ve grown!
Steve Turner

Soundtrack – Jools Holland’s christmas special on TV.

we interrupt this broadcast…

as a slight aside from me talking about the inanities of my life and a bit about music, here’s an article from yesterday’s guardian by michael meacher.

He’s the former Enviroment Minister here in the UK, and his insights, research and conclusions on the real thinking behing the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and the increasingly flimsy war on terror make for sobering reading, though not it has to be said all that surprising, giving the overwhelming evidence to back up his assertions… All very sad stuff, and a good reason to go on pressuring the government to be more accountable, more honest about its motives and more humane in considering the welfare of those people who’s home land is turned into a warzone just so we can pay less for our gas and oil.

For two national leaders who both profess to be christians, Bush and Blair have a funny way of carrying out the notion that we should ‘love one another’. What happened to good news for the poor? Sounds like the worst imaginable news for the poor when the rich start dropping bombs on you to make you fall in line…

On a similar theme, I’m in the middle of reading ‘Asses In Clover’ by Eimar O’Duffy – which is even more scary than the meacher article in that it was written in the 30s and apparently NOTHING HAS CHANGED AT ALL!! – the world o’duffy spells out is one of corrupt rulers, a propaganda ridden press, a enconomic system permanently at odds with itself but hellbent on keeping the rich rich and the poor poor. The soliloquy by one of the goverment officials towards the end of the book about the reasons for poverty and war sound like bang-up-to-date New Labour BS. Alistair Campbell would have been proud of such a speech. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention – the book’s an extremely funny satirical sci fi tale…!

Anyway, it’s a must read.

Soundtrack – Talk Talk, ‘Spirit Of Eden’.

Evil Corporate Monstrousities…

With the release of the new CD, and the fact that I’ve played to over 40,000
people in the couple of months, I’ve been looking for new outlets for the
CDs… I’ve posted them for sale at www.gemm.com, which is working out really
well, and was looking today at www.amazon.co.uk – their zsounds shops
thingie looked really good, so I started reading the info… First up, it seems
I couldn’t be a ‘normal’ seller, as they aren’t already stocking my CDs,
and would therefor have to become a pro-merchant… no probs, thinks me,
I’ll pay the