nice news

this morning I got an email from not-at-all-evil Dan, saying that ‘For the Love Of Open Spaces’, my duet CD with Theo Travis, is included in the new edition of the Penguin Guide To Jazz On CD.

Surely not? Aha, Amazon has a searchable book feature, so I head over there. Do a text search on me, and sure enough there’s an entry for it. Can I read it? Er no, for some reason Amazon tells me I’m not allowed to. So It’s over to The Cheat and his wikkid skillz to get a copy.

He then furnishes me with a JPG of said review, which reads thusly –

***(*) For The Love Of Open Spaces
Pillow Mountain PMR 0014 Travis; Steve Lawson (b). 7/03.

Lusciously beautiful without descending into New Age clap-trap, the music here walks an awkward line with great confidence. Both musicians make extensive use of loop technology (although, as they proudly say, no synths or midi-triggered sounds), and the result is a series of mood poems crafted with skill and a capacious melodic bent. Lawson gets a bit rocky here and there and maybe a couple of the pieces stat around a little too long, but in what is often a threadbare genre they’ve done very well.

How nice is that? ‘Luciously Beautiful’ is a fab quote for posters etc. and 3 1/2 stars is v. good for the Guide (they are, quite rightly, very precious about 4 and 5 star reviews).

And it times very nicely with the recycle collective gig that we’ve got coming up on Nov 16th – all the more reason for you to book that baby-sitter now and come along to the gig!

Comments trial….

OK, this is a test, but due to overwhelming public demand, I’m going to enable comments for a while, and see how we get on.

I’m making absolutely no pretense about this being any kind of democratic public space – if I don’t like your comment for whatever reason, I’ll delete it; if I can’t be bothered to answer it, I’ll delete it; if you’re the cheat, I’ll delete it.

I guess I’m like the labour party – pretending to be in dialogue with those who hear what I’m saying, when really I’m just a dogmatic old narcissist, who likes the sound of his own voice.

So, you’ve been warned. I may switch them off again if the responses aren’t to my liking. haha!

Soundtrack – me, both solo and with Cleveland Watkiss.

Me in Bassics magazine

I posted a thing about this on my NewsFeed page a while ago, but I finally got a copy of Bassics Magazine through today, with the interview with me in it. It’s the biggest interview I’ve done in print (there are a couple of big ones on the net with various e-mags), and looks great. The questions were pretty good so it’s well worth a read if you should see a copy in your local newsagent/borders/barnes and noble/wherever you buy mags.

The cover star of the issue is Michael Manring, so it’s a fine solo bass filled issue. There’s also a track of mine on the cover CD, as well as some video footage, which I’m looking forward to seeing again – the Cheat and I filmed it at St Luke’s at the start of the year. We wanted to do it at St Luke’s cos we could do it in front of the big purple curtains in the main church, but the day we booked it they were installing a new PA, so we had to film it in the back hall, which means the backdrop is a yellow-painted brick wall. It looks like I’m filming it in prison! Hopefully my wikkid skillz will obscure any reservations people might have about learning from a convicted felon serving time at her majesty’s pleasure.

I’ve been a busy boy this morning, putting together the press release for the John Peel Day gig with Riseclick here for the PDF. That’s now been mailed to all the relevant media peoples so now we wait for some coverage and a huge crowd!

Soundtrack – Michael Franti and Spearhead, ‘Everyone Deserves Music’.

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).

Reasons to be blogging, Part Three

…as Ian Dury would no doubt have sung if he’d written the song today.

The world of blogs, or ‘blogosphere’ as geeks call it, is now HUGE. As in very big indeed. And there are as many reasons for doing it as there are bloggers, I guess.

My reasons are manifold – partly cos I enjoy writing, partly to sort out the thoughts in my head, to make me clarify what I’m thinking on any given subject into a form that I’m willing to submit to public scrutiny, which is the next reason – public scrutiny. I realised in the mid-90s during my Front-Row-Hands-Up (that’s FRHU for short) pentecostal church time that I knew very few people who didn’t all believe the same thing. And a lot of those people only had friends who didn’t believe the same thing as them in order to try and convince those friends to agree with them. This was clearly a rubbish way to go through life, and a supremely arrogant one. So I now actively look for places to find out what other people think and try and make sense of it. If that means that on occasion I drift into intentionally mindless relativism, that’s a small price to pay for actually being open to the possibility that I might be wrong! So I like the email that I get in response to blog posts, and I love the discussions that ensue over in the forum. I guess I should enable comments, but it would just encourage The Cheat to post rubbish, so I’ll not to that just yet.

Which reason are we up to? er, four I think… another reason is that as a music fan I’ve often wondered what’s going on in the heads of the people whose music I listen to. So this is here to hopefully provide the overly wordy and sometimes dull-as-shit open-ended sleeve-notes to where the music comes from. The music is the soundtrack to the inside of my head, and this is the literal interpretation of that. So you really ought to be listening to me whenever you’re reading this, to get the full effect.

Other reasons? To keep friends around the world up to date with what’s going on in my life, and then just cos I get a kick of of the idea of a couple of hundred people a day reading what I’ve been up to. It’s an odd experience that was only open to newspaper columnists in the pre-blog world. I like that, being the Benign Narcissist that I am.

Anyway, the best blog-reasoning I’ve read of late is the one on Richard Herring’s marvellous blog – his blog is a great daily read, sporadically very funny, and worth adding to your list of feeds, if you have one. And if you don’t, you’re wasting lots of time by having to look up all the blogs you read every day.

Soundtrack – right now, it’s a me-loop – I’m doing some practice for tonight’s gig with Theo and Orphy. Before that it was a recording of Tim Berne’s gig at the QEH in 2003, with David Torn on guitar, which is fantastic.

Read this book.

Last night I finished one of the greatest works of non-fiction I’ve ever read.

I first heard about ‘Father Joe – The Man Who Saved My Soul’ when its writer, Tony Hendra, was interviewed on Danny Baker’s show on BBC London. My interest was piqued because Tony played Ian Faith in Spinal Tap, and Danny declared it straight away to be one of the greatest books he’d ever read.

As the interview went on, it became clear that Father Joe was an extraordinary character. He was a Benedictine monk at Quarr Abbey on the Isle Of Wight, off the south cost of England, who Tony met when he almost had an affair with a married woman, at the age of 14, and was sent to Joe for penance. Thus began a lifelong friendship, the story of which unfolds in the book, bought for me a few weeks ago by TSP.

It’s a truly remarkable story – Tony’s story in many ways is similar to a lot of people in the media – one of vocation, compromise, and hurting the ones nearest to you. The big difference is that always in the background are his visits to Quarr Abbey, and letters from Father Joe.

The end of the book is utterly heart-breaking. I finished it on the tube last night, and I’ve never sobbed on the tube before now – the odd tear as a sad part of a book, but never like this. I’m rather glad the train was pretty much empty.

When I got where I was going, I must’ve looked like I had the world’s worst hayfever, with my swollen red eyes…

Anyway, buy it, please. It’s amazing. A life-affirming, heart-warming inspirational story.

oh, and we SO need to get Tony Hendra for Greenbelt – The Cheat, get onto it.

Be like them, they're sexy

So PETA – People For The Ethical Treatment Of Animals – are running a vote thing on their website at the moment to find The world’s sexiest vegetarian – yes, you can vote for some irrelavent celeb or other who wisely doesn’t eat dead animal things, proclaiming their sexiness…

What Total Bollocks. Why? Why trivialise the animal rights movement by stooping to Heat mag level nonsense. Who gives a shit about the sexiness of vegetarian celebs? I can’t even begin to list the ways in which this is SO WRONG!!

I’m sure if you asked PETA, they’d say that it’s just another way to highlight the number of people across the world who are veggies, and how it’s not a fringe weirdo thing, but even celebs are veggies. Fair enough, but FFS, world’s sexiest vegetarian??? – going veggie is good for your health, it’s a compassionate thing to do, it’s good for the planet and the people who live on that planet as well as the animals who aren’t getting killed to be eaten, but it has precisely jack-shit to do with whether someone is sexy or not. I could list a couple of hundred very sexy meat eating omnivore humans here, I’m sure there are sexy people who are murderers and psychos. So what? Ugly vegetarians are still vegetarians, they aren’t lesser veggies than the sexy ones.

I’m very pro animal rights, I support animal rescue shelters and Animal Aid and suggest that everyone go Veggie, but not because Bryan Adams, Avril Lavigne and Weird Al Yankovic are!!!!! Sweet Jesus, this stuff annoys me!

(thanks to The Cheat for the link)

Soundtrack – The Smiths, ‘The Queen Is Dead’; Kenny Young And The Eggplants, ‘The Search For EggPlantis’.

laptop looping

A converasation with The Cheat at the weekend (well, the part of the conversation that wasn’t about the temperature of his flat) reminded me that I hadn’t blogged about Mobius. It’s a software looping application (Windows-only, sadly), that basically emulates 8 Echoplexes at once, is mappable to a MIDI footcontroller (or any other kind of midi controller), and basically rules. And it’s free.

Go and get it now before they realise how great it is and start charging for it.

Thanks to MKS over on the forum for alerting me to its existence (though all I really needed to do was read the discussion about it that had been happening on Loopers Delight).

Soundtrack – Michael McDonald, ‘Blink OF An Eye’ (is Michael McDonald a guilty pleasure? There’s something remarkable about his voice, and the music appeals to the slick Steely Dan/80s-grown-up-pop part of my music taste.I’ve always wondered what he’d sound like without the Karl Marx beard – he sounds like he’s trying to sing through a cat, so maybe he’d develope a really clear voice without it. Keep the beard, Mike)

"la Constitution européenne? Non, Merci"

So the French have voted ‘no’ on the European Constitution. Not by a huge margin (56% so far voted no), but still a big blow for the very pro-european French government.

I wonder if the French are as starved of REAL information about the Constitution as we are. I know precious little about the actual contents, certainly not enough at the moment to vote on it. Even The Cheat, who practically wrote the Constitution (well, the bits that are in Swedish and relate to aviation and room temperature fluctuations in Berkshire towns) says he doesn’t know much about it.

As a general rule I’m pro-Europe. I like Europeans, I like the European way of doing things. The Euro strikes me as a very good idea indeed. But I really don’t like the undemocratic way the constitution seems to have been drawn up, and the blunt options we’re to be given if it goes to a referendum – no choice on what goes in, no alternatives, just a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. I’m not surprised the French voted ‘no’ – they are on the whole a fabulously beligerent bunch, and I can’t see them accepting something so poorly nuanced and unpoetic in its formation and presentation. Gotta love the French.

SoundtrackPaul Simon, ‘One Trick Pony’.