A trip back in time…

Saturday night, The Cheat and I went to see Level 42 in Guildford, which was obviously a very different trip down memory lane than it was for the people who’d just come to hear some great pop tunes from their childhood… It was great to catch up with the guys in the band and crew, and to say hi to a few people in the audience who remembered me from the support slot last year (and to be refered to as ‘Chicken Man’… which was slightly unnerving and flattering at the same time… perhaps I need a feathered coat instead of the furry one… :o)

Anyway, it all brought back lots of fine memories, and the band played really well – slightly different set list from last year, with some really nice unexpected additions to the set list. Didn’t get home til the early hours of sunday morning.

Sunday was fun – one of the tunes from ‘Open Spaces’ was used as a musical interlude in part of the St Luke’s service, and then last night I spent a few fun hours catching up with David Torn – a very busy chap, and astonishing musician who’s playing around England this week with Tim Berne, so I’m going to three of the gigs – London, OXford and Birmingham.

And today, the new dyson arrived… :o) Ahh, domestic bliss. Took me a while to figure out how to get it working properly (what? programming effects units and operating four loopers at once I can handle, using a vacuum cleaner is a whole other world…) but once I did, we were away!

And now I’m waiting for a BT engineer to arrive, and while I’m doing that I’m listening to The Late Junction on BBC Radio 3, who last week played Flutter from ‘For The Love Of Open Spaces’ – fantastic! The Late Junction is a very very cool and very eclectic show, which I listen to a lot anyway, so getting airplay there is marvellous. you can hear an archive of the show – it’s the wednesday show in the ‘listen on demand’ archive, and you can see the playlist here – if you do listen to it, please email them and tell them how much you enjoyed hearing us on the radio!

so now I’m going to get on with mixing some of hte tracks from the Italian sessions of a few months ago…

Soundtrack – right now, The Late Junction. before that more of Rob Jackson, and John McLaughlin, ‘Que Alegria’.

Boo!!!! …no, really, I enjoyed it…

…I was just saying your name!!!

Last night went to see Boo Hewerdine play. You’ve probably not heard Boo play, but you’ll have more than likely heard his songs, him having written for Eddie Reader, KD Lang and others. I saw him play at Greenbelt this year, and really enjoyed it, and as the gig was part of Delicatessen, organised by sarda and the cheat, then I had to go. Add to that the presence of Rob Jackson, looping guitarist and very nice bloke, and you’ve got yourself a great evening.

Airstar opened the evening – it’s always odd watching them, having played with them before, but nice to hear the songs, which are really strong, and to see the cheat doing a remarkable unwitting impersonation of paul field

Then Boo came on – somewhere in a parallel universe, Boo’s old band, The Bible, are hailed as the savours of itellegent pop and selling hundreds of thousands of records, while Paddy McAloon is out touring arts centres playing gloriously miserable songs to 90 enthralled punters who feel like their in some secret society for knowing who he is…

…in this universe, it’s clearly the other way round. Boo’s between song banter is hilarious and provides the perfect counter-weight to his miserable unlucky-in-life songs. Rob Jackson’s guitar playing is a thing of great beauty and wonder, and fortunately Boo gets this and gives him some room to loop and layer is Frisell-esque Telecaster loveliness through a few of the tunes. And Rosalie Deighton’s BVs are a little quiet, but add yet another layer to a glorious live sound.

So now I’m sat listening to Rob’s album ‘Wire, Wood and Magnets’, and it’s fantastic – really really lovely. The missing link between Frisell’s country exploits and Phil Keaggy’s acoustic instrumentals. Great sounds, great playing, and some exquisite tunes. Hopefully Rob and I will be recording something or other together soon, so watch this space. We’re also thinking of doing a gig or two – maybe theo and I, with Rob as well… lots of possibilities, but for now, go and buy his CD – there are lots of downloads on his website, so have a listen, then get it. you can buy Rob’s CD at the Burning Shed shop, which also happens to stock loads of other really really cool music – lots of Theo Travis’ other albums (start with Heart Of The Sun, it’s a masterpiece), NoMan (another great miserable adult pop band), and Peter Chilver’s albums (soundscape stuff, lots of fine bass work and a very silly sense of humour just beneath the surface).

Soundtrack Rob Jackson’s album’s just finished, and I’m now listening to Boo’s live album.

New arrivals

…nah, not babies (well, babies as well – congrats to Theo and Madelyn!). No, this morning my Passport arrived (yippee!!) so did a copy of the new Billy Bragg retrospective, ‘The Essential Billy Bragg’ – he’s amazing, brilliant, unique, fantastic. This is a great compilation. I’ve got quite a few of the tracks, but only on cassette (remember them???)… I’ll be listening to this alot over the coming days…

Also – and this is really exciting! – The Cheat got tickets to see Duran Duran at The Forum in Kentish Town on Tuesday!!!! Wahey!! I’m so excited – it’s the original line up, and this is a small warmup gig for some deal they are doing at The Albert Hall on Wednesday… So me, the small person and the cheat are all off to see Duran… :o)

Soundtrack – Billy Bragg now, last night it was Stevie Ray Vaughan, ‘Texas Flood’; Kelly Joe Phelps, ‘Slingshot Professionals’ and Bill Withers Greatest Hits.

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’.

Bruce Cockburn gig pt 1

As you may or may not already know, I’m a bit of a Bruce Cockburn obsessive. He’s been my favourite singer/songwriter/guitarist/lyricist for over a decade, and I’ve got just about everything he’s ever released.

He’s currently on tour in the UK, and tonight I headed up to The Stables in Milton Keynes to see him play – my favourite musician at my favourite venue – how good does it get?

And it was as good as I could possibly have imagined. Better even. Just Bruce and Julie Wolf on stage – him on guitar, her on keys/accordian and BVs. Mix of stuff from the new CD and classics, including a couple of marvellous reworkings of tracks like World Of Wonders, Mighty Trucks Of Midnight and Nighttrain. All in all a marvellous gig – and what’s even better is I get to do it all again tomorrow in London – oh yes, I’ve got a ticket for the Forum as well (thanks to The Cheat for getting them…)

The other rather fun thing that happened this evening was having a bloke in the row in front say ‘don’t I know you?’ narrowing it down to Greenbelt, before asking my name, to which he responded ‘oh, I’ve been listening to your CDs for the last few days, had you on this morning in fact!’ – so there you go, with my hair tied back, I can almost go incognito. Still, rather nice to meet people who’ve been listening to my stuff at a Cockburn gig – what fine taste he must have – nice to meet you, bloke-in-the-row-in-front!

Soundtrack – right now, it’s Terje Rypdal, ‘Skywards’. This afternoon, Michael Manring, ‘Thonk’, Mark Knopfler, ‘The Ragpicker’s Dream’.

Updating the site

Did a bit of a site update yesterday and today – firstly I added a Paypal feature for selling CDs (and sold a load within minutes of it going live!), and then added a new MP3 from the new album with Theo Travis, called ‘For The Love Of Open Spaces’. The album is sounding so good, I’m really excited about it. The track in question is called ‘Uncle Bernie’ and I’ve taken a four and a half minute excerpt from the middle, just to whet your appetite for the rest of the album… I’ll change it in a week for another clip… :o) Had lots of good feedback already, so feel free to go and have a listen.

Been an interesting day chez stevie – the small person managed to spill tea all over her imac keyboard, which out of protest stopped working for a number of hours. much time was spent researching replacement keyboards and shops open on sunday. By about half an hour ago though, almost all the keys are back working, presumably as they dry out… hopefully by tomorrow morning it’ll all be back to normal.

Still, it was great fun dismantling the keyboard and washing all the keys individually!

soundtrackSigur Ros (can’t remember how to spell the title), Pierce Pettis, ‘State Of Grace’, Francis Dunnery, ‘Man’ – Francis is playing in London tonight, The Cheat has gone, and I was going to go with him, but never got round to it…

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.

quick misc. update

Er, what since last week?

Saturday was Gawain the DJ’s wedding – very nice bloke, very nice wedding. bit of a 50s theme. Even more heartening is that he’s even taller than me, and his now-wife is even smaller than the small person. Good to know we’re not the most mismatched people on the planet!

Sunday went to see Masse play at The Foundry in London’s East End. The venue has a very varied and interesting program of stuff on, but is a bit of a dump… Anyway, Masse – bass and drums duo, both looping, processing, improvising, very good stuff indeed. bass-man jeremy was on top form – lots of Echoplexing, and a great tone from a rather special homemade bass cab. If you get a chance to see them play, jump at it.

Monday was more recording with Theo Travis – the best thing about playing with Theo is that we’re never quite sure what it’s all going to end up sounding like. We re-did one of the ideas from a very early session (when we were recording in mono), and it came out sounding completely different anyway… very nice. We’ve now got about an hour and a half of quality stuff towards the album. We’ll keep going until there’s no filler material at all, though it’s feeling pretty consistent already… We’ve got a gig booked, at the National Theatre in London on June 17th, which you really ought to be at!

Monday night was Jude’s leaving do – leaving do? she’s only going to the US For a few months. But anyway, it was a fun time, catching up with Sarda and The Cheat.

And yesterday was spent teaching and editing the stuff that Theo and I recorded.

That’s all really dull – what else is happening? well, Donald Rumsfeld has finally admitted that they are unlikely to find any WMDs in Iraq – no shit sherlock! Isn’t that what Scott Ritter and Hans Blix said months ago, before you bombed their world to pieces????? Clearly this was realised even before they went to war (why else was the notion of ‘freeing the people of iraq’ only brought in as on of the aims just before christmas when getting rid of WMDs had been the expressed sole intention for the year or so before that???) Anyway, seems that the illegal invasion will soon be recognised for what it was – Blair will spin the whole thing, talk about moral responsibility and all his usual BS. Sincere perhaps but sincerely wrong, sorry Tony. Meanwhile, iraqi kids are stepping on undetonated cluster bombs (possibly containing depleted uranium), and the cleanup is going rather slow. Add to that the Brukheimer-esque makeover given to the ‘rescue’ of Jessica thingie, and you’ve got yourself one seriously morally dubious world situation… Now, who was it who veto’d the instigation of an international criminal court again?

Soundtrack – lots of me and theo, obviously. Right now, I’m listening to Medeski Martin and Wood, ‘The Dropper’ – had heard them before and liked what I heard, but BJ Cole recommended this as the one to get. And very fine it is too… What else? Michael Manring, ‘Book Of Flame’ and Morphine, ‘B-Sides and Otherwise’.