Time to reflect on the year gone by before I really launch into the new one. It was a pretty monumental year by all accounts! The end of 2012 was very difficult, in fact the year as a whole was pretty forgettable on many counts. Walsh and Pound was finished, which in truth was the right decision all round but there was of course the burning question about what on earth to do instead.
But what seemed like it might be a quieter year has been by busiest yet. I’ve played hundreds of gigs, played in four countries I’d never played in before, joined a new band, collaborated with two new musicians, done more amazing work for Live Music Now and generally had a bloody fantastic time. The mojo that I’d lost a tad returned and then some and I feel fantastic about work at the moment. So very positive (makes a change on this blog I know…).
The year began with a trip to India which was quite literally a dream come true! Four Brits and six musicians from South Asia (India, Bangladesh and Pakistan) were to spend a week putting material together for a gig in Kolkata at the end. As an avid Indian music fan, it was nothing short of a dream come true and to play ragas and Indian songs with Indian musicians in India was surreal but wonderful if mildly terrifying.
Never one to take things easy, I returned to embark on a monumental two and a half month jaunt around the UK playing all over Scotland and England. With every respect to Will, it was wonderful to play solo again and get back into that zone. There was new material in there and I really had a great time playing some very fun gigs. There were some very intimate gigs in this one – some old pub haunts among others – and I really enjoyed the fun and laughter those types of gigs can bring (as well as the odd pillock). The tour then climaxed with a trip to Ireland to play five gigs, my first ever out there. I’d been to Ireland many times as a teenager and it is a place I am exceedingly fond of and it retains the magic I’ve always loved.
During this tour also came a remarkable occurence. When I was 10 or 11, I saw the Albion Band and was utterly amazed by virtuosic fiddler Joe Broughton. Unexpectedly, that same man sent me a message on facebook asking if I wanted to work with him. Seemed rather a good idea to me! So we met up in Stafford and my jaw almost hit the floor when he asked if I’d want to replace Frank Moon in the Urban Folk Quartet. It didn’t exactly take me long to say yes and I am very very excited about my new project!
Then came a festival-tastic summer highlights of which were a well received set at Broadstairs, an eventful but very fun set at National Forest Folk Festival and a first appearance in Germany…to 1,000 people in Gelsenkirchen! I had a great time before setting off to another new place – Canada. Myself and country singer Meaghan Blanchard played nine shows in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and I tasted fresh lobster, played banjo on the porch and made a terrific new friend and songwriting collaborator. Pretty successful trip all round.
Next up after a brief rest was a tour with Suhail Yusuf Khan, a truly stunning Indian sarangi player who was on the Kolkata trip back in February. We had a great time playing an array of styles and trying to create new ones! Eight shows in eight nights seemed a hit and more is planned so stay tuned.
There’s also been the odd gig here and there with the legendary Alistair Anderson, an astounding musician and ambassador for folk music with whom I am honoured to gig. There’s a few in for next year with him too!
Of course, I also have to mention Live Music Now which once again surpassed itself. I’ve only just blogged on the extraordinary residency at a Surbiton care home so won’t bother going into it again here, but it truly was moving for all concerned. Special shout out to Nic Zuppardi for being so great to work with on the scheme too.
So 2014 then – I’m off to New Zealand in less than two weeks (oh good god…) followed by a UK solo tour in March/April before starting work with the Urban Folk Quartet in May for a month long tour. I’ll be touring the UK again in September too and with UFQ in October/November. Oh and Meaghan’s coming to the UK for a tour with me as well. And some time I’ll record again as well…Time off’s for wimps…
As usual, I’ll give you some relatively pointless countdowns…
Top gigs of the year:
20) Brewery Tap, Norwich
Never have I been more drunk after a gig but the gig was pretty damn fun as well as was the barman’s reaction the next day when he had rather a hangover and I didn’t…
19) Aikman, St Andrews
The monumental twattery of a stag party pre-gig aside, this was everything that’s good about a pub gig. Great night.
18) Jacob’s Ladder, Falmouth
Cornwall is far! But it was worth it – I had a very nice gig at the Eden Project Cafe in St Austell but this one was just a bit special and it was great to jam with the mighty Dave Hart again.
17) Guildford Folk Club, Guildford (amazingly…)
Alistair Anderson is a legend and this gig showed why. From his dancing a rant around the room while playing the concertina to proclaiming ‘I love this bit’ while playing a Northumbrian tune, the man is wonderful.
16) Trinity Folk Festival, Guildford
Another great Guildford experience. My first festival experience of the year and not many topped it.
15) Musicport Festival, Whitby
Another great festival gig with a pleasingly full house.
14) Montacute Village Hall, Somerset
A really great night and very humbling to be supported by someone who’s a big fan!
13) The Bell, Bath
A quite hilarious and mammoth set of a lunchtime where I’m proud to say I broke the record for tips collected!
12) National Forest Folk Festival, Moira
A long time favourite and this was no exception.
11) Cork Cricket Club, Cork (no really?), Ireland
The highlight of the Irish trip, a top top night.
10) New Orleans Jazz Club, Louth (and not New Orleans…)
One of the best gigs of my solo tour with a long loooong set and hilarious audience exchanges…
9) Bicycle Shop, Norwich
One of the real highlights of the tour with Suhail, this was a fantastic night.
8) Rothbury Music Festival
A special gig with Alistair where he is most revered. I felt very honoured.
7) County Staff Club, Stafford
My hometown never seems to fail. The highlight gig with Suhail.
6) Harmony House, PEI, Canada
The pick of the Canadian gigs – wonderful audience mostly made up of very very useful people…
5) Kolkata, India
Pretty amazing experience. See above.
4) Market Vaults, Stafford
Wonderful to play the reopening of the pub I love best. Long may it live!
3) Gelsenkirchen, Germany
A pretty amazing start to gigging in Germany, even including the mildly terrifying ex convict with his arm round me afterwards…
2) Care Home, Surbiton
Not technically a gig but see my previous blog for why it’s here.
1) Broadstairs Folk Week
The best festival main stage gig ever. Hands down.
Rants Of The Year:
5) Stop talking about Plebgate!
4) Food being served on non-plates
3) Stag Parties
2) Men in public with their tops off
1) Michael Gove
5) No toilet on London Midland trains THREE TIMES IN A ROW!
4) Almost being left in India
3) Six road closures in two weeks
2) Changing platform three times while waiting for a train…
1) Hen party on a train. Enough said.
Have a great 2014 everyone. Thank you for continued support.