Near-carnage in Parliment Square

So, yesterday was the Commons vote on whether or not to ban hunting with dogs. The vote, as everyone knew it would, was hugely in favour of the ban, but the protests outside (somewhere upwards of 10,000 people) got a bit nasty, with bottles and fireworks getting thrown and the police using their batons on people.

So what of it? The ‘countryside’ folk claim the ban is violating their human rights, it’s taking jobs away and is yet more evidence that this goverment (and preceding governments) don’t give a shit about rural Britain.

The last bit is definitely true – agricultural policy, fuel tax, the closure of local post offices, the way out of town supermarkets have trashed village life, and myriad other laws and societal changes, have made life in rural communities, particularly farming, really really difficult. Something definitely needs to be done about that, and they have my full sympathy.

However, I don’t think that’s what this is about at all. If it was, the hunters would switch to drag-hunting, keep the hunts open and carry on as normal, chasing across farmland with their packs of dogs. In fact, it would probably be better for the farming communities, as they’d be far less likely to end up trespassing on someone else’s land and ruining SSSIs or whatever. The route could – at least by the person doing the dragging – be somewhat planned.

But no, that’s not the same, we’re told. You have to have that marvellous moment where 40 dogs rip an exhausted terrified fox to bits and the tail is then removed and used to ‘blood’ kids on their first hunt. Without all that blood and guts and carnage, it’s just not the same.

Too f-ing right it’s not the same!!! That’s the whole point! The running jumping climbing over fences bit is the same, it’s just the chasing foxes til their lungs explode and then tearing them to pieces bit that’s not. That’s the bit we want to get rid of. And before I get accused of being an out of touch towny (after all, I do live in London), I also grew up in Berwick On Tweed – one of the most remote towns in England, given that the nearest city is 60 miles away. I’m aware of and scandalised by the plight of rural communities, but I don’t think protecting the right to have packs of dogs rip foxes apart has anything to do with it at all, any more than someone who makes their living selling child porn can claim that the government are ruining their livelihood be arresting people for having it.

Tradition is a dreadful excuse for loathsome behaviour. It’s the kind of rubbish that men come out with to justify abhorrent behaviour towards women, and that racists use to try and justify throwing immigrants out of the UK or elsewhere. There’s no defence for the levels of cruelty involved in hunting.

So what’s the next argument? The other ways of getting rid of foxes are even crueller – so that means we allow this one, rather than legislating further???? In Scotland, the hunts are still going on, despite there being a ban on hunting with dogs there, only now the fox is shot at the end, and apparently that’s a slower death than being mauled by dogs. Why the hell not take the fox out of the picture altogether, eh? why not drag hunt? It’s certainly not even close to being an efficient way to control the fox population, given that I can drive round the country lanes near my mum’s house, and see any number of foxes that if I were a trained marksman I could pick off without too much trouble. No chase, no terror, just a clean shot. Even if the first shot injured it and the second one killed it, it’d be a cheaper, less painful way to control the fox population. Clearly the fox population doesn’t need that much controlling, given that there’s this supposed reliance on the inefficient method of hunting as the way to do it.

No, the attraction is clearly some ‘traditional’ significance put on killing for fun, for sport. The more bloody the better, apparently. And that, I’m afraid, is morally indefensible, and as just about all opinion polls show, out of step with the values of the electorate, and clearly with our elected members of parliment.

Something definitely needs to be done to buoy up the failing rural economy in Britain, but it’s clear that the behaviour of the big supermarkets in driving down the prices of milk, dairy and veg in this country and failing to support organic farmers despite the demand for organic food outstripping supply by 2:1 is having a far far worse effect on the countryside than asking the huntsmen to switch to drag hunting for their sport, and using a far more effective, cheaper and humane method to control the fox population.

soundtrackClatter, ‘Blinded By Vision’; Julie Lee, ‘Stillhouse Road’; Pierce Pettis, ‘Great Big World’.

A wet weekend in Heaven…

So Greenbelt‘s over for another year. Once again ’twas a fantastic festival. Definitely the best fest there is.

I was pretty exhausted when I arrived, having got back from Edinburgh, then gone to Southampton to play at Greyum and Chrissie’s wedding (which was a fantastic day), and had to jump straight into flyering/postering mode as my solo gig was on the Friday night. two minutes before I went on stage, a GB fire officer came in telling me they were about to remove my car with a crane as I was parked in a fire lane. so move car, rush back to do gig. Previous band overrun, quickest changeover possible, and nice big crowd. Lots of friendly faces (and no friendly faeces). About a minute into ‘Grace And Gratitude, I notice that the second Lexicon unit wasn’t working, so I looped the melody so I could get up and fix it (just plug the powerchord back in), but in getting up, I twatted my head off a TV set hanging over the stage, and nearly knocked myself out. doh!

middle of second tune, I realise that my Ebow is still in my jacket pocket, so more looping and shuffling ensues. All good fun. Many of the jokes from the Edinburgh show make their way in a modified form (tourettes removed), all goes very well.

finish at 10, pack up, and start compering in big acoustic venue at 11. First night was Peter Case, followed by Terry Callier followed by Julie Lee. good lord, what a remarkable night’s music. Terry was breathtakingly good. Lovely bloke too. Big success all-round. Compering’s lots of fun, and back stage crew are very friendly and helpful. Get to bed about 3

Saturday am is first rehearsal for Sunday morning service… ends up being about 5 hours of rehearsal on the Saturday… bit much, but sounding good.

Saturday night, The Low Country played on Stage 2 – fantastic gig, one of the best things on this year. More compering, this time Brian Houston, Rosie Thomas and Denison Witmer. Again, all fantastic. Nice to be compering on this stage rather than having to try and sound enthusiastic about generic rock shite on the mainstage played by people who look like potatoes. got to bed about 3.30.

Saturday as a whole though was spoilt by The Small Person having to head home due to the Aged Feline being v. ill. We’d had to take him to the vets after Edinburgh, not well at all, not eating. Turns out he’s got Pancreatitis, and Pneumonia, as complications of his Chronic Renal Failure. None of it is looking good for the little guy.

Sunday mornig was the service – the Greenbelt service is generally fabulous. This year the music was just me, two drummers and 15,000 singers, which was a fun gig to have! Lots of new tunes by Andy Thornton, and some old GB favourites. Fun to be sat next to the Archbishop of Canterbury, playing afro-cuban grooves… sort of fits into that ‘mark thatcher arrested for funding a military coup’ bracket of weird unpredictable scenarios.

The rest of sunday was a bit more relaxed, punctuated by regular calls to the small person to check on The Aged Feline’s condition, which was not good but stable. I was pretty exhausted all day, but didn’t got and see much so was able to relax a bit more before compering that evening. Three more marvellous things – Cathy Burton (great as always), Moya Brennan (interview plus a few songs to backing track – lovely person, fascinating story, hope she comes back with a band soon.) and Martyn Joseph. Brilliant as ever. another late night.

Planned a lie in on Monday, but Deb and Alice were packing up their tent next door at some ungodly hour. Woke up, went for breakfast with my mum (oh yes, hardcore festival going mum have we). saw Rob Jackson at lunch time playing solo – magical stuff, and very funny too. Then did my gig with Calamateur, AKA andrew howie, which went very well. His songs are just marvellous, and the album’s a must.

An afternoon of wandering was followed by another performance cafe gig, this time with Andrew Buckton, who has the ability to make me cry with his songs while I’m playing them – not great when you’re trying to read chord charts. Magical stuff.

From that gig I rushed up to the mainstage to catch as much as possible of Show Of Hands – possibly the greatest live act in Britain. A massive inspiration in terms of their ability to connection with their audience, controlled virtuosity like a couple of internationally renowned concert soloists, and a great sense of humour. I come away from their gigs feeling like a total amateur. I’m pretty good at what I do, but they take the art of performing to a whole new level. I hope I never miss another London gig of theirs…

They were followed by Ron Sexsmith and Jamelia – Ron was fab (I’m a fan anyway) and Jamelia was agood festival ending gig – loads of people digging it, she had a great band with her, top stuff. We closed out the festival in Centaur with a great jazz singer called Polly Gibbons.

As you’ll notice, I didn’t get to a single seminar or worship event over the weekend – more evidence that I’d taken on far too much. next year, I’ll drop one or more of those commitments, or at least refuse to rehearse for the service! :o) But all in all it was a great fest. It’s lovely to be at a festival where I know literally hundreds of people, and have most of my favourite people in the world on one site. Great to catch up with other lovely people who are equally busy and to meet some new lovely people.

The big shadow over the whole weekend though for us was The Aged Feline. He’s coming home from the vets today, and the future looks bleak, and very short. Please keep the little guy in your thoughts and prayers – the last thing we want is for him to be in any pain or discomfort.

soundtrack – Moya Brennan, ‘Two Horizons’; The Low Country, ‘The Dark Road’; The Cure, ‘The Cure’ (thanks Greg!); the two CD compilations I made to play between the acts at Greenbelt…

3 gigs, 7 bands, 2 comedians and a couple of lovely new bass cabs

Boy, it’s been a busy weekend!

Teaching all day Saturday, on Saturday night I went up to Hoddeston in Hertfordshire to drop in on the Greenbelt Angels Weekend – the Angels are the year round financial supporters of the Greenbelt festival – an arts festival that means so much to people that they will give a monthly donation, and buy their tickets a year in advance, and bring their friends, and then turn out for the angels weekend. Which is largely a mini-greenbelt affair, but with greater emphasis on the organisers of the festival letting the angels know about what’s happening, and brainstorming new ideas.

Anyway, Saturday night was all entertainment – first up Old Solar, a very fine band from Scotland, featuring my very good friend Andrew Howie, who also records solo under the name Calamatuer. Both acts have been played a fair bit by John Peel and had rave reviews, and were rather good, a few guitar tuning problems not withstanding.

Following them was Cathy Burton – angel-voiced singer/songwriter, and another good friend. Cathy’s great. Marvellous songs, lovely stage manner, will be huge soon (musically speaking…!)

then comedy stuff – Jude Simpson was new to me – comedy poet, very funny indeed, runs a comedy/poetry club in Hammersmith, well worth going to hear. She was followed by John Archer – northern comedy magician, and one of the funniest people I’ve ever seen do a gig. Think Peter Kay taking the piss out of Paul Daniels but actually being really really good at sleight of hand… He’s great, and it’s always a treat to see him do his thang.

Sunday morning I was playing bass in church (first time in about two years), and Sunday evening I went to see Bill Frisell at the barbican. He was playing with Djelimady Tounkara, a Malian guitarist I’d seen him with before. Also on stage were Greg Leisz, Jenny Scheinman and Sidiki, er, someone (can’t remember his surname), on Percussion. It was a fine gig, but I do tend to go to Bill Frisell gigs with such extraordinarily high expectations that I found some of the two chord jam tunes just a little too long and twiddly for me. Bill was brilliant as always, so I guess I’m just not a huge fan of Djelemady’s guitar playing. Greg is a god-like genius of the pedal steel – an instrument I’m very quickly falling in love with the sound of (playing with BJ Cole obviously doesn’t hurt!!). Jenny was fine, and Sidiki laid down some rather groovy rhythmic things, but the overly long I – IV – I – IV jams in the first set kind of spoilt it a little for me…

Monday night was another ‘Bob Harris Presents…’ gig at The Stables in Milton Keynes. this time featuring Julie Lee, Vigilantes Of Love, Dolly Varden and Show Of Hands.

Julie Lee is amazing. I’ve played with Julie on a number of occasions, and she’s a gem of a person. She’s also an incredible singer and songwriter. I get this buzz just before she starts whenever I see her play in front of an audience hitherto unfamiliar with her, knowing that they are about to discover something very special indeed. Like the first time you sit someone down and play Hejira by Joni Mitchell to them…

The Vigilantes are another marvellous band – their song ‘Resplendent’ is in my ‘perfect songs’ list (a virtual compilation that’s ongoing in its construction), and they’ve got quite a few other truly wonderful songs. Bill Malonee is a great singer, and Jake (does Jake have a surname, or indeed need one?) was splendid on guitar and vox.

Dolly Varden – husband and wife duo from Chicago. I liked ’em, but will reserve judgement til I’ve heard a full set at The Borderline on Wednesday (VoL overran, as is Bill’s habit, so their set was cut short…)

And finally, Show Of Hands – they played greenbelt a few years ago, and I gave it a miss. WHAT A FOOL!!!! they were amazing. Truly truly remarkable. Brilliant, splendid. Repairs any lost belief you might have in the power of folk music. Steve Knightly on voice, guitar, mandola etc. Phil Beer (great name!) on vox, violin, guitar, mandolin etc… just a duo, but a HUGE sound. Great songs, great voices, amazing stage presence (it’s not at all surprising that they just won the ‘best live act’ award at the british folk awards). I can’t say enough good things about them, they were amazing, and are playing at the Borderline on Tuesday 9th March, so go if you can (I’m teaching til 9 that day, but will find out what time they are on stage, and see if I can race down after teaching…)

And then today, to cap a marvellous weekend, my new AccuGroove bass cabinets arrived!!! Yippee. And a day early – bravo FedEx. These are the passive ones – my signature powered cabs are still in development (we want to get them perfect), so I’m using these for now. I’ve plugged them in, and they sound incredible. Lovely, clear, full. I’m a happy bunny.

soundtrack – right now, I’m listening to ‘The Free Story’ – a much underrated band, with a killer bass player. Guy Pratt asserts that Andy Fraser is more influential in real terms in the rock and pop world than Jaco. I’m inclined to agree. Amazing stuff. And Paul Rogers voice is killer.

Musical Friends…

…are keeping me happy…

so sang Bruce Cockburn in 1970, and indeed it’s true in my life too.

The latest installment in musical friendship began on Friday when I went to see Lifehouse play at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. What a fantastic band!! I’ve got both their albums, but the live experience is even better, and the new guitarist is amazing. I met Sergio, Rick and Jason a couple of years ago in LA, and have seen Sergio a few times since (he came to one of my gigs in LA), so had to go see them play when they were here. Great to hear them, great to get to hang out here in London rather than in LA this time!

part 2 of musical friends was Julian’s wedding on Saturday – Julian’s a former student of mine from Drumtech, who’s now doing big business on the session scene, and deservedly so, he’s a truly brilliant drummer (he was when I was teaching him too, so I’m not taking any of the credit for that!) – anyway, his wedding was naturally full of musos, lots of whom I hadn’t seen for ages, so it was great not only to see my friend get married, but to catch up with so many old aquaintances. Add to that the full on gospel choir hymns/worship section of the service, and some fantastic food at the reception, and you’ve got a magical day.

part 3 – meeting up for a beer on Sunday afternoon with Steve McEwan and Nick Paton. I’d not met Nick before, but he was in Friends First’ – one of the bands I’ve listened to most in my whole life (their album ‘We See A New Africa’ soundtracked about three years of my life in my mid teens). It was great to meet him, and be able to give some advice on indie promotion to someone whose music has meant so much in my life.

part 4 – Denison Witmer is a singer/songwriter from Philly who played at Greenbelt this year, and was fantastic. We chatted a bit at the festival and swapped CDs, and he was playing in Brixton on Sunday night, so The Cheat and I went down to hear another stunning gig from the man. Also gave me a chance to buy his other CDs, and go for a curry with Denison and The Cheat.

Then today, met one of my occasional students, Nick, for a coffee, and had a marvellous afternoon chatting about life, music, politics and everything in between.

So, music friends have indeed been making me happy, which got me thinking, and I came up with the notion of the Pillow Mountain Records extended family – a list of artists who are good friends, and whose music I endorse wholeheartedly, and will encourage as many people as possible to check out. So anyway, so you don’t have to go rummaging through the PMR site for the list, here are the links for you to peruse. All these peoples are amazing artists, and lovely people worthy of your patronage.

www.altruistmusic.com – Andre LaFosse
(turntablist guitar)
www.petermurray.ca – Peter Murray
(singer/songwriter)
www.denisonwitmer.com – Denison Witmer
(singer/songwriter)
www.kerry-getz.com – Kerry Getz
(singer/songwriter)
www.manthing.com – Michael Manring
(solo bassist)
www.johnlestermusic.com – John Lester
(solo bass singer/songwriter!)
www.nedevett.com – Ned Evett
(fretless guitarist)
www.tripwamsley.com – Trip Wamsley
(solo bassist)
www.unguitar.com – Luca Formentini
(unguitarist)
www.calamateur.co.uk – Calamateur aka Andrew Howie
(singer/songwriter/foundsoundist)
www.julielee.org – Julie Lee
(singer/songwriter)

there you go – check ’em out!

soundtrack – right now, Julie Lee (see above), ‘Made From Scratch’; before that, Denison Witmer (ditto), ‘Safe Away’ & ‘Philadelphia Songs’; The Choir, ‘Wide Eyed Wonder’; Bruce Cockburn, ‘World Of Wonders’; Nik Kershaw, ’15 Minutes’; John Lester, ‘Big Dreams And The Bottom Line’; Joni Mitchell, ‘Travelogue’.

To loop or not…

To Loop – have a read of this article by david torn, archived on the loopers delight website, it’s very good.

To Not Loop – well, to loop a tiny bit – have a listen to the new MP3 of me and Theo Travis that I’ve just added to the MP3s section on the site. It’s very good, and involves very little looping.

One gig I went to that I forgot to mention was Iain Archer, last thursday at Delicatessen in Reading – Deli, you’ll remember is the club that hosted me and Michael Manring and David Friesen, as well as being where I’ve played with Airstar, Julie Lee and Pierce Pettis, and is run by Evil Harv aka The Cheat, and Jimbob aka Sarda aka TAFKA-The-Man-Who-Knows. Anyway, Iain was brilliant – I’ve seen him play countless times before, and recorded and gigged with him as part of Andy Thornton’s band. His new single and album are out very soon, and are certainly eagerly awaited in this house (The Small Person and The Agen Feline are both Archie fans as well….) Also on the bill on Thursday were Electric Gaudi (used to be called Gaudi, but got threatened with legals by la famile de Gaudi the artiste…) featuring my student howard on bass, and a fine job he did too!

Soundtrack – just been listening to ‘In A Silent Way’ by Miles Davis, streamed from launch.yahoo.com – what an amazing bit of music! must buy the album v. soon. before that, was listening to Lucious Jackson, ‘Fever In Fever Out’ and Muriel Anderson, ‘Theme For Two Friends’ – both very fine albums.

Weapon Of Mouse Destruction

Just been up to see my mum for a few days – very nice it was too. My mum’s cat is called Gizmo. Well, technically, he’s my brother’s cat, but he’s moved out, and the cat stayed… anyway, Gizzy is the cutest friendliest cuddliest little beasty on the planet… so long as you’re human. If you happen to be any kind of warm blooded furry or feathered thing, and smaller than a tiger, she views you as potential dinner. Mice, rats, voles, moles, rabbits, hares, pheasants, and all manner of garden birds. She’s lethal. A one-feline environmental disaster area. How can one so seemingly cute be such a cold-blooded killer?? Guess the various smiling faces telling us about how they plan to rid the world of evil, whilst perpetrating muchos evil of their own have been taking lessons… Indeed, she’s a veritable Weapon Of Mouse Destruction…

(BTW, Tonight there’s a round-the-world candle-lit vigil for Peace, called for by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Check and see if a church near you is involved and head along there…)

Anyway, whilst in Berwick, managed to catch up with Heath – first known as ‘the boy next door’ when we first moved to Berwick (1986), soon became the drummer in the first band I was in (called various things, I think Mother’s Legs was the longest lasting name, though we never did a gig.) Heath then went to the same college as me, and now works in a theatre just north of London. He’s a very nice bloke, and it was a lovely surprise that he was ‘home’ at the same time as me…

Got a couple of days in the studio this week, with Chris Bowater (gospel singer/worship leader guy from Lincoln that I used to do loads of gigs with) – very much looking forward to that. Playing with Chris was always a fun challenge – he’s got an amazing sense of harmony, and is a great piano player. Other than that, it’s lots of teaching, and getting to grips with Fruity Loops – been programming drum beats, and learning how to automate effects changes and mutes etc… all good stuff…

Hang on, forgot to mention rather fabulous and eventful gig last Tuesday night – I was playing at Delicattesen in Reading (see link on left hand side), with Julie Lee (who I played at Greenbelt with last year), and with Pierce Pettis (who I’d not played with before, but who is marvellous) – I was only doing a couple of songs with each of them… That all went well, but half way through Pierce’s set, some poor bloke collapsed, fell off his chair and had a fit! Didn’t look like Epilepsy, and he came out of it pretty quick. We sat him up, and tried to talk to him, but he was still pretty out of it, and couldn’t stand up to leave the room. So we called an ambulance which arrived in LESS THAN A MINUTE!!! – you can say what you want about the national health service, but that’s what I call speedy response!! They took him in for observation, but the medics said he was in no immediate danger. Anyway, if by some quirk of fate you’re reading this, Mr-Looks-Like-Kenny-Rogers-And-Falls-Over-At-Gigs, I hope you’re feeling much better…

Aside from that it was a stunning night’s music – same line up as the 12 Bar Club gig the week before – Julie and Pierce, with Brian Houston on before them. All three are seriously world-class headline act stock, and if you get any chance at all to see them, jump at it!

One of the best things about the evening was Pierce’s between song banter, which is excellent – very very funny indeed.

so here’s my top 5 banterers (in no particular order)

  • Pierce Pettis
  • Michael Manring
  • Ben Castle
  • Martyn Joseph
  • Mo Foster

In fact, Mo’s stories are so good, he’s written a book – 17 Watts – full of his marvellous rock ‘n’ roll anecdotes, which is required reading for anyone with an interest in the birth of rock ‘n’ roll in the UK, and the growth of the music industry here through the 60s and 70s…

Soundtrack – currently, listening to more of the stuff by me and theo (hopefully the street-teamers will have some of this to listen to soon…), and whilst away, the soundtrack was Michael Franti – ‘Songs From The Front Porch’, Scritti Politti – ‘Cupid and Psyche’, Francis Dunnery ‘Man’, Lifehouse ‘Stanley Climbfall’, ‘Pierce Pettis ‘Everything Matters’ and ‘Making Light Of It’, and Juliet Turner – ‘Burn The Black Suit’ – all very fine stuff. The drive home from Berwick was mostly soundtracked by Radio 4 (always fun to learn new stuff just by sticking the radio on – doesn’t happen too often with the TV), and then a documentary about Elvis Costello, ensuring that sometime this evening ‘Armed Forces’ will go on…

Long Time No See…

Haven’t blogged in a while – what’s been going on?

Er, lots of teaching, mainly. Did have a fun recording sesh with Theo Travis on alto flute – just doing improv duets. We got some great stuff down, some of which will be on the website before too long. However, it was all recorded in Mono due to the limitations of my recording set up, so I finally bit the bullet and got a new sound card, and a miniature desk – nothing flash, just an M-Audio Delta 44 card, and a Beringher 8 channel desk – but it will allow me to record two people in stereo separately, so that I can then mix it properly afterwards, and also record at a much higher resolution than before, meaning better fidelity… All in all, I’m rather excited about the possibilities. It is amazing what can be done now with such basic technology (or at least, basic by current standards) – stuff that 20 years ago would have taken weeks of studio editing and very expensive gear is now doable at the click of a button in a bit of free software that came bundled with your soundcard. Very nice.

Anyway, I shall start recording some new solo stuff before too long as well, as I’ll be able to route the Echoplexes to different channels, and mix the whole thing afterwards. It also means I’ll have to original material on one track, so that people can remix it, which I’ve had a few requests from remixers for…

What else? Ah yes, I just added a new MP3 to the site – it’s of Michael Manring and I playing together at The Anaheim Bass Bash in January – that was a lot of fun, organised by the people behind bassquake, and at the end of my solo set, I called Michael up to do a duo tune – he was on after me anyway, so it made for a nice smooth cross over. Anyway, he came up, got a sound, and I started playing a sort of dubby percussive groove, he joined in with the E-Bow and started playing a melody/solo idea, which I looped a tremolo chordal part of the top of my initial bass/percussive stuff loop. I then pickup up the E-Bow too and added an odd atmospheric line (sounds sort of like a bowed cymbal, if you’ve ever heard that), and then a strummy funk guitar line, all under Michael’s ever evolving melody line. Eventually I switch to a distorted melody line that’s pretty fractured and spikey – lots of dissonance and nastiness. I think that’s followed by us trade melody lines (interesting to hear how our different fretless tones sound together) and at the end Michael uses the sample and hold function in his VF1 to do an ambient loop, which I follow, fading out my loops and building a more soundscape-type piece to fade. All in all, a lot of fun – hope you enjoy it too – go to the MP3 page for more on that….

Er, what else? not much. Been reading more of ‘Stupid White Men’ by Michael Moore, a very vital voice in the current world political scene (which seems to be sinking deeper and deeper into the mire, just when you thought it couldn’t get any lower… Michael’s film, Bowling For Columbine is by far the best film I’ve seen in the last couple of years, and is the biggest grossing documentary of all time (he’s got #2 as well, with ‘Roger and Me’) – it’s a must see.

Soundtrack – lots of things of late. Right now, it’s Greg Mathieson and Abe Laboriel – a CD I first heard 3 years ago, and which has finally been released – an awesome bass/piano duo record, and part of the inspiration for Conversations. What else? Madonna – ‘Something To Remember’, Ron Eschete – ‘Mo Strings Attached’ (with Todd Johnson on bass), Ornette Coleman – ‘The Shape Of Jazz To Come’, Genesis – ‘The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’, Cyndi Lauper – ‘She’s So Unusual’, Sugar – ‘Copper Blue’, The Minutemen – ‘Double Nickels On The Dime’, Donnie Hathaway – ‘Live’, Julie Lee – ‘Made From Scratch’ and the tracks that Theo and I recorded last week…

Food for the soul

Last night I went to see three stunning singer/songwriters do their thang at the 12 Bar Club in London. The 12 Bar is a really weird venue, in that it’s got a tiny downstairs, and a tiny balcony, and the stage is sort of half way between the two – too high for downstairs to see properly and too low for upstairs… bit odd, but kind of fun with it…

Anyway, last night’s magical sounds came from Brian Houston, Julie Lee and Pierce Pettis, all three of whom were amazing. Like, world class, seriously. Way better than just about anything you’ll hear on the radio in the next month or so (unless you listen to Bob Harris on Radio 2, in which case you might end up hearing all three of them).

Brian Houston, native of Belfast, sort of Dylan/Buckley/bit of Neil Young but more frantic. Amazing stuff.

Julie Lee – I’ve played bass for Julie before, and will be next week in Reading – she’s sort of Bluegrass/Nu-grass, with an beautiful voice and a great guitar style. And is one of the finest songwriters I’ve heard in a long time.

Pierce Pettis – has written hits for Garth Brooks, doesn’t really sound much like him though. More Bruce Cockburn/70s Tom Waits/Lyle Lovett/John Gorka sort of vibe. Great between song banter, fantastic songs, and a seven string guitar!

All in all, a night to recharge the creative batteries, and bask in the glow of songwriting genius. If you’re wise, you’ll catch them on the rest of the tour –

Tues 4 March: Birmingham – Ceol Castle – 0121 440 4278
Thurs 6 March: Belfast – The Errigle – 0289 032 2925
Sun 9 March: Southampton – The Brook – 0238 055 5366
Mon 10 March: Brighton – The Greys – 01273 680734
Tues 11 March: Reading – Delicatessen – 0118 901 5234

I’ll be playing a few tunes with Julie at the Reading gig (and maybe one or two with Pierce too, hopefully, if the Deli organisers don’t weird-out about it…)

In other news, I got a new pre-amp put in my bass on Saturday, made by John East, who makes the J-Retro preamp (if you’re a bassist, you should know what I’m talking about… if you’re not a bassist, you won’t care…) – anyway, I replaced my old Bartolini one with one of John’s and it sounds amazing – it’s really weird what a huge difference a new preamp can make – the basic sound of the bass is still the same, there’s just the option to add more sparkle without it getting harsh, or make it sound more ‘acoustic’, or make things fall off the walls. Truly an amazing addition to my bass, and one that I’ll be adding to my other bass very soon, and will be getting in all my basses from now on. Seriously, these thngs are great!

But you don’t really care do you? well, I’m sure you do if you’re a bassist. If not, probably not.

Anyway, I was chatting with evil harv this morning, who was asking why no-one had signed the guestbook in ages. Then someone did (not evil harv as I first thought, as I can actually verify that the person who signed it did indeed just buy a CD of mine, and the eville one didn’t know about it…) – but that’s still only one in ages, so if you’re reading this, go and write nice things on the guestbook (unless you’re harv, in which case, keep your evil weirdness to your self, you strange man) – go on, off you go.

Soundtrack – more of The Minutemen, followed by lots of Donny Hathaway Live (pulled it out to look at the solo from ‘Everything Is Everything’, and kept it in the player for a couple of hours after the lesson). Also been listening to State Of Grace by Pierce Pettis, which I bought last night, and is very very good.

Lucky pt II

Last night was the gig with Tess Garraway and Joss Peach in Brighton… another free improv gig as listed the other day. what fun, though not without ‘issues’ – mainly that we got there and the venue was double booked (hoping this isn’t going to become a feature of my gigs to come after the San Fran show last month…) – anyway, the other people who had the venue moved next door, and war was averted (maybe we should be negotiating in the middle east right now…) – anyway, as little to no promo had been done for the gig, the audience was very small, but as always, given the choice between great music and a big audience, I’d take the former. Obviously both is a bonus, but still, the music was great, the venue was nice, and it was all recorded and videoed, so could have some nice resource stuff for future useage. Thanks Tess and Joss – I very much enjoyed it!

Other than that, it’s been lots of teaching, and not much tidying (office still a tip, really really need to get this place sorted ASAP… this week, no really, honest…)

Tonight I’m going to see Julie Lee play – she’s the bluegrass singer from Nashville that I was playing with last summer (and who I’ll play with again next week, on Tuesday, in Reading) – tonight, however, I’m going to listen. She’s great, I’m really looking forward to it!

Am contemplating moving my website to a new server… at the moment, the main site (not this page, this is separate) is with zetnet, but it’s not a great service, and not that cheap, so perhaps it’s time for a change… a few people still seem to be using the old email address (if you’ve got stevelawson@zetnet.co.uk in your email address book, switch it for a steve-lawson.co.uk address now!), but 99% of what I get on that address is spam anyway… I own the domain name, so I can move it anywhere… can I be bothered? we’ll see…

Soundtrack – all day today been listening to a CD that arrived this morning, ‘Double Nickels On The Dime’ by The Minutemen. Yup, more Mike Watt. Great stuff – a mixture of punk, free jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, funk, and all sorts of other bits ‘n’ pieces. Very creative, very earthy, 43 songs in 74 minutes, amazing stuff.