Ahhh, nashville…

So we’s here in Nashville, and it’s fab. Last night we went over to see TAFKASB at Sarah and David’s, saw the lovely Anne too, good times were had. Then today we had breftist with S, D, SB and Jenna, then off to Target to get SB a new phone, and who do we run into by the most marvellous and lovely Julie Lee! Lunch is then had, and now we’re in Portland Brew emailing peoples about our lovely house concert on Thursday, in Sarah and David’s front garden… it’s going to be fab. email me for the address if you’re in Nashville and want to come.

coming up – two days of chillin’, drinking lots of coffee, seeing loads of lovely friends and getting ready for a fun fun gig.

Also booked – house concert in Dallas TX on the 12th June – email for address for that one too!

Emotional music day…

I’m having an emotional music day… well, two days, actually.

It started last night, with a song called ‘Freedom’ by a band that I think are called ‘The Wrest’ – I’ve just got this one MP3 that I was sent, cos it features the marvellous Julie Lee on vocals. It sounds just like something that would’ve cropped up on a mid-80s Fleetwood Mac album, like a lost last track from Tango In The Night. And it really moves me. It’s eminently hummable, though I’ve not really listened to the words in any great detail. Part of it is just Julie’s voice – she’s in that category with singers like Michael McDonald and Joanne Hogg where it doesn’t matter what they sing, it works for me.

After that I was listening to Kris Delmhorst’s ‘Songs For A Hurricane’ album, which is just perfect. It just gets better with every listen. Some amazing lyrics, beautiful metaphors, and another really great moving voice.

Today I ratcheted up the emotional content, and in the car on the way to Birmingham was listening to ‘Diesel and Dust’ by Midnight Oil. Now, the Oils are from that brand of serious 80s rockers who had a message and no sex appeal – a combination that would see them disappear without trace were they to emerge now, but as a reaction to the rancidness of yuppy life in the 80s, such bands appeared all over the place (remember U2 before the Anton Corbijn make-over?)

‘Beds Are Burning’ by Midnight Oil is one of the most spine-tinglingest top 10 hits ever – can you imagine a song about paying reparations to Australia’s aboriginal people making it into the charts now? Pete Garratt sang like a cross between Mick Jagger and Henry’s Cat, but packed his odd croaky/whiny voice with so much intent and meaning that it moves me to tears. The rest of the album packs a punch too – ‘Sell My Soul’, ‘Bull-roarer’ – stunning stuff.

And after that, James Taylor Live – it’s hardly news-worthy ‘man moved by James Taylor’ – I guess the only surprise was that I wasn’t wearing a nice wooly jumper at the time. Particularly noticed the lyrics to ‘Slap Leather’ from his ‘New Moon Shine’ album, which are a stab at the materialism of US government policy in the early 90s – not what you’d expect from the writer of some of the greatest relationship songs of all time…

And now, back at home, I’m listening to ‘Now, But Not Yet’ by Andrew Buckton – the launch gig for this album was, I think, the only time I’ve actually cried during a song on stage – Buck’s songs are all about people he knows going through all manner of crises, and some of them were in the crowd for the gig. Hearing him sing these beautiful, poignant, painful songs to the people they were written for was too much for me. It’s time like that that I’m glad I’ve got enough hair to hide behind – I must’ve looked like cousin-it from the Addams Family for the duration of that song.

So it’s moving songs day – join in, what are the songs that really move you? (warning, if you list anything by Whitney or Celine, I’ll be banning your IP from ever viewing this blog again. 😉 )

Soundtrack – Andrew Buckton, ‘Now But Not Yet’.

John Lester/Gretchen Peters gig

Regular readers or Stevie-gig-goers will already be familiar with John Lester – he’s proof if ever it were needed that being fantastic won’t necessarily make you a star (if it did, he’d be the new Sting). For the uninitiated, he’s a singer/songwriter who plays upright and electric bass to accompany himself. He’s a marvelous songwriter, and a really gifted bassist, and has released two really lovely albums.

One of his now-regular gigs is with Nashville-based singer/songwriter Gretchen Peters, both opening the show solo and playing bass for Gretchen’s trio.

It’s one of my favourite gig experiences – going to see a friend play that I know is fantastic, but the rest of the audience is pretty much unaware of, knowing that within the next half an hour, lots of people are going to have a new artist to add to their list of favourites. I remember seeing Julie Lee play at the Stables on one of the Bob Harris Presents… nights, where very few people knew who she was, and most of the audience were in love before she came off stage. A great feeling. I like offering things like that to my audience (obviously in a smaller way, as my crowds tend to be smaller than those that Gretchen or the Bob Harris gigs pull) – the gigs I’ve done with Rob Jackson, Calamateur and John Lester have offered that to the people who had come to see me play, and got to hear something else marvelous into the bargain.

Anyway, John won the audience over last night with his first song, and by the end of the set, was selling CDs like a headline act. Great to see.

I wasn’t familiar with Gretchen’s music before the gig, but am a convert now – there are hints of Mary Chapin Carpenter, Sheryl Crow before she went crap, and even a bit of Joni Mitchell, but in a really mellow guitar/double bass/piano trio. Beautiful songs played to perfection. It was great seeing John just doing the bassist’s job – we solo players rarely get to see each other playing in bands (oh, if I had a fiver for every email I get saying ‘I’d love to see you playing in a band’…) so that was a real treat.

And what’s more, the early curfew at the venue meant that John and I could head off for curry and catch up on a year’s worth of news and gig stories.

The only downer on the evening at all was the choice of venue – I’ve done my rant about Carling venues before, and this one was at the Bar Academy in Islington – this was a better environment that when I saw Nick Harper here, but why have an all standing venue for an acoustic trio?? Why have a barman making loads of noise when an acoustic trio is on? The layout of the venue is rubbish, and again, the lack of chairs seems primarily aimed at keeping the beer drinking potential of the audience mobile enough to up their consumption.

I hope the promoter of the show finds a more suited venue soon…

SoundtrackVikki Clayton, ‘Looking At The Stars’.

Alison Krauss at Hammy Odeon

Middle of last week, an email arrives telling me that as a thankyou for helping her out over the years, Julie Lee had put me and and a few other lovelies on the guestlist for Alison Krauss – Alison and Julie are good chums, so we got tickets and passes for a ‘meet and greet’ before the show. Yippee! It all sounds marvellous – even more so given that helping out Julie is such a pleasure that it hardly requires rewards…

Anyway, TSP and I jump in the new car and head off down to Hammersmith to meet The Cheat, The producer formerly Known as Showbiz Jude and Mark, and find when we get there that a powercut has taken out the Odeon (OK, I know it’s called the Apollo and is sponsored by some crappy beer company or other, but it’ll always be the Hammersmith Odeon to anyone who actually cares).

We head off to the pub, not knowing if gig will go ahead at all. Make occasional reckies (how do you spell ‘recky’?? it’s short for reconnaissance, I think, so can’t see how you’d abbrieviate that… but I digress), the traffic lights are still out, so we know the odeon is still without power.

Meet and Greet is cancelled, and we all started to head off when ‘poomph’ (poomph???) the lights came on! ‘hurrah’ said anyone too posh to cheer in a normal way.

Following some frenetic gig preparations, we were inside and sat down (in fab seats) and the band came on.

After my trip to Nashville last October, I’m a convert to the delights of bluegrass anyway, and it doesn’t get much better than this – the playing was amazing, the songs beautiful, and Alison has spectacular natural comic timing. It was yet another example of the simple rule about american bands – they get to play live so many more times that any UK band does before they go in and record that they end up being much better musicians. Even when their ideas aren’t as good as ours, the playing is usually of a higher quality (there are exceptions to the rule – me, for example – but in general… )

So the meet and greet didn’t happen, but the gig was well worth waiting for til someone put some 50p coins in the Hammersmith meter.

At the end of the gig, as we were coming out, I commented to Jude that I’d like to get Alison’s live album ‘I’ve got it you can borrow mine’ says jude. ‘I’ll buy it, I’ve already got her best of’ says me, which in the hubbub was mis-heard by Jude as ‘does she get her breasts out?’ – clearly, that’s one of my main criteria when choosing a bluegrass CD – whether or not there are boobs on the cover… very odd…!

Anyway, thanks Julie – a fantastic night out, even without Alison exposing herself on a CD sleeve.

soundtrack – Rise Kagona.

Me in a magazine.

Here you go, there’s an interview with me in the new issue of Bassics magazine – and on the CD there’s a track (shizzle) and a bit of video with me explaining looping and performing a tune (can’t remember what the tune is, maybe Grace and Gratitude). Filming the video was lots of fun – The Cheat acted as video monkey, and did a fine job. I recorded the audio to Minidisc and then chopped up the different video angles to fit the soundtrack. The only problem is that we did it at St Luke’s hoping to be able to use one of the groovy burgandy curtains as a backdrop, but they were installing a new PA in the main bit of the church, so we were through in the back hall, with a yellow brick background that makes it look like I’m in prison… niiice.

SoundtrackMo Foster, ‘live’ (an advanced copy of an upcoming album by Mo – as with everything Mo does, it’s lovely, and of course I’ll report here when it’s released); Cathy Burton, ‘Speed Your Love’ (Cath was singing BVs at Greenbelt for Ricky Ross, and her album is lovely); Julie Lee, ‘Stillhouse Road’ (a fantastic record that I never get tired of hearing).

So, I'm number one in the charts!

Sadly not some kind of national sales chart, but an airplay chart for a show on WWSP in Steven’s Point, WI, hosted by BEAR – BEAR has been very supportive of my music for a long time, playing loads of it on his show over the years. Sadly you can’t stream it on line (at least, I’ve never found a stream), but it’s great to know he’s playing it!

Thanks, BEAR!

Soundtrack – Pat Metheny, ‘Bright Size Life’; Julie Lee, ‘Stillhouse Road’; Ethel, ‘Ethel’.

Jonatha gig number… 6? 7? I've lost count

Jonatha‘s back in the country, as the UK version of Back In The Circus came out yesterday. Last night she played one of the Bob Harris Presents… gigs that used to be at The Stables in Milton Keynes, and are now at The Brook (no E on the end, but close enough for Jonatha to feel at home) in Southampton – a nice enough venue, but nearly all standing, so doesn’t win out over The Stables for me…

Anyway, Jonatha was on first, and fab as always. It’s a great feeling when you go to see someone fantastic that most of the audience aren’t really familiar with – it’s the same feeling going to a Julie Lee gig – you just know that half an hour from now, there are going to be a whole load of Jonatha/Julie/Whoever converts in the audience.

As expected, the response was like she was the headliner. Marvellous.

Brian Houston was up next – I’ve not seen Brian play for a few months, and he was on top form – great songs, great stage show. He’s a really really engaging and entertaining performer. Great stuff.

And Finally Thea Gilmore, who was headlining. She’s good, though the stripped down simplicity of her songs didn’t really follow either the glorious complexity of Jonatha or the bouncy exuberance of Brian so well. Still, most of the audience were there specifically to see her, and she played really well, particularly the cover of The Buzzcocks’ ‘Ever Falling In Love With Someone’.

Sadly, we had to leave early as the Small Person, who had been wilting all evening, got progressively iller and iller as Thea’s set went on. I was doing merch by this time (whole catalogue of disaster for Thea – her tech was in A & E with concussion, her merch dude didn’t turn up), so handed that over to Thea’s manager, and took TSP home.

So, go and buy Jonatha’s album!

SoundtrackMasse, a demo of stuff by solo looping bassist/flautist – very inventive indeed; the Works, ‘Beware Of The Dog’.

Composition famine…

I’ve not written any new music for quite a while. It’s not a problem – most areas of music tend to happen in terms of flurries of activity followed by plateaus, whether it be technique, concepts, composition or whatever. And right now, I’m working on arrangements of other people’s tunes – something I’ve done very little of as a solo player. I used to do a short version of ‘Fly Me To The Moon’ to finish gigs, and these days do ‘People Get Ready’, and now have just worked out a lovely solo arrangement of ‘What A Wonderful World’. I’ve also been working on a version of This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody), the Talking Heads track, which sounds great, but is really hard to play!! I need to make sure it’s well hammered into my skull before I attmept it live. It involves some pretty tricky looping (well, tricky for me…)

So I’m having fun with other people’s tunes (and maybe I’ll finally get round to having a go at ‘The Fish’ – something I’ve had a number of people nagging me to do for a while (yes, you, Catherine Street Team and California Bob!)

And as an off-shoot, I’ve got the beginnings of a new tune. It might end up as a solo piece, or maybe in one of the collaborations. This Monday and I met up with a fantastic drummer called Andrew Booker. Andrew has his own duo/trio (recorded thus far as a duo, now have a guitarist as well) called , whose CD is really cool (bass and drums duo, with Andrew singing like a less-heliumed John Anderson).

Anyway, he plays a tiny electronic kit, and adjusts really well to the slight imperfections of my loops, so we’ll hopefully be launching said trio on the listening public before too long – playing the tracks from Open Spaces with a drummer certainly took them into a very different space…

So, despite the famine, much creative noodling is taking place, and many new avenues are opening up…

Soundtrack, ‘Ghost Town’; , ‘Slow Life’; , ‘Live’; , ‘Stones’; , ‘Polarised’.

Every Picture Tells A Story

Nice man The Cheat told me about a fine bit of free software yesterday, called – it’s a free photo archiving/editing/sorting program, that finds all the photos on your harddrive, and catalogues them for you. I discovered that I’ve got loads of duplicate sets of promo shots and stuff from my websites, from various incarnations of it being left littered around my hard-drive.

This is the best free application I’ve seen since (if you’re still using Internet Explorer for web-stuff, you REALLY need to get Firefox – more stable, safer, and easier to use, please, for the sake of all of us, switch!).

head over to the Picasa Website for more info and to download it. It’s developed by the people behind Google…

Soundtrack – Joni Mitchell, ‘Hejira’ (fast catching Julie Lee at the top of my Audioscrobbler most played list!); , ‘Drastic Measures’.

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