Dear all,

It’s been a hectic old time since returning from the Antipodes. The remainder of February was mostly spent teaching my wonderful students who waited patiently while my family made our way round the other side of the world! Then gigging resumed with an extremely fun gig with Countrybound. I don’t think I’ve mentioned these guys yet? A little while ago I spotted on a facebook group I’m in for dep musicians that a country covers band was after a banjo player in Durham for a gig and it happened to coincide with one of my trips to Newcastle so I thought, that sounds fun! And fun it very much was so I’ve been doing some more gigs with them. I suppose I spend so much of my time doing my own stuff either solo or in the band and often being the front person, stressing about ticket sales and all that sort of thing…it’s really rather nice to just play rollicking good country, pop and the like on banjo and acoustic guitar! And I get to play with drums! So much fun, so much better than the fake drumkit in Urban Folk Quartet…only joking Tom 🙂

Anyway, speaking of UFQ our spring tour began on March 9th…sort of. I say ‘tour’ – we’re all a bit long in the game and parental to do the old fashioned 30 gigs in 30 days tours of old so rather we pick some of our favourite venues and do a bunch of gigs in a set period and spread them out a little. The first gig was in the lovely picturesque Yorkshire Dales – Reeth to be precise. Sadly it ended up being just a solo gig as poor Paloma was ill and had to bow out and as this all happened the day before the gig, we were unable to source an alternative fiddler added to which Joe being Paloma’s husband and father of their child had other duties too! So a solo gig was had and a bloody good one I must say. It’s amazing how a small team of people can make so much music happen in a tiny place just by getting off their whatnots and doing it. That’s what makes the music scene folks. That and audiences…

Anyway thankfully Paloma was fit to return to the next two gigs in Worcester and Stafford. Stafford was, as always, rather special for me having spent my childhood there and a significant portion of my adulthood as well. Now I live in Shrewsbury and have parental duties I so rarely get to see my Stafford chums so gigs at the Gatehouse Theatre almost seem to serve as get togethers as much as gigs! 

Between Reeth and Worcester, there was also a trip up to Newcastle. For similar reasons to Stafford this is something I always relish as I lived in this most wonderful city for seven years. I get the chance to return now and again as I teach banjo at the university to the wonderful Richie who is in the current first year of the folk degree which I did back in 1784…He’s a very fine player indeed as well as possessing quite possibly the strongest Northeast accent I have ever heard which is quite an achievement I can tell you.

While there I also had the chance to attend a music night at a pub. I had a night off between playing in Reeth and teaching in Newcastle so my old neighbour Adrian suggested we head over to a music night at a cracking pub called The Black Horse in West Boldon. Think open mic but with jamming actively encouraged! It’s hosted by Paul, better known as ‘Big Red’ who is an amazing character and fantastic vocalist. It was such a pleasure – one thing about being a parent and a professional musician is I don’t really get to go out and do music for nothing but fun anymore. It’s fine, that’s the way it is. But on the rare occasions it can happen again I bloody love it!

So that just leaves me to tell you about Beyonce-gate…

April Fools Day. What a load of cobblers…or so I thought. I had the most surreal of afternoons. Some of you on social media may have seen my now deleted post about a ‘spam email’ purporting to be from a Daily Mail journalist requesting an interview about working on the latest album by Beyonce. Well I deleted the post because I very promptly got an Instagram message and another email from that same journalist saying that she contacted me because I am listed as a composer of one of the tracks on the album and could I delete the post because it shows her contact details as the email came through my website contact form…
Still unconvinced I checked the wiki page. It was true. I was actually listed as having written the opening track on the album and the credit even linked to my own Wikipedia page!!! After profuse apologies to the journalist and deletion of the post I actually listened to the track to check my previous work hadn’t been sampled or something! It hadn’t…so I thought who is this mystery Dan Walsh?! I only know one other, a very nice chap from Canada but I don’t think it was him either….

So conclusions? It genuinely said on Wikipedia that I co-wrote the opening track of the latest album by one of the biggest artists in the world. Should I add this to my promotional bio and pretend it’s true?! Secondly, Beyoncé if you ever need a different banjo player to the outstanding Rhiannon Giddens I would be keen. After all, at one point the internet said I did write one of your tunes…

I have now been removed from the wiki page by a user called folk fiddler (jeez, I thought folkies might be allies…). But folk fiddler’s correction is not actually accurate as he’s changed the composer of the track from me to Rhiannon Giddens….She of course plays banjo on the album but did not actually have anything to do with the composition of that track.

My very good chum Dan Hartland solved the mystery that baffled me all day. Here is my paraphrase of his message to me: Also credited is Michael Price, who is co-writer of Ain’t No Love In The Heart of the City, a song covered by Jay-Z on the American Gangster soundtrack (so they know it) and on which the other writer was …. a man named Dan Walsh.

So the original mistake by Wikipedia which led to my hilarious message encounter with the journalist was linking the credit to the wrong Dan Walsh! No colossal royalty for me then…
Finally, the most surreal and depressing aspect of this truly mind bogglingly weird April Fool’s episode is the fact that I had to apologise to a journalist from the Daily Mail.

An Antipodean Adventure

Dear all,

We’ve been back from the Antipodes for around ten days so I thought it about time I blogged about an extraordinary family trip tied in with just a little bit of work for me too! The premise of our trip to Australia and New Zealand was rather different than my previous ventures to that part of the world. I’d always looked to do as many gigs as possible and earn as much as possible and not worry too much about regular bonkers journeys to do so! However…as my other half Nicol and my wonderful baby daughter (now 1!) Heidi were with me it felt prudent to limit the long journeys, not be taken up every single night with work and allow time to enjoy such a beautiful part of the world…but of course it’s bloody expensive to get out there and I do love my job! So hopefully a balance was struck with 18 gigs across the two countries over the course of six weeks.

First New Zealand. My previous blog tells you my feelings about this wonderful country and nothing about this trip changed my deep love of the place. Though it’s fair to say the beginning of the trip wasn’t the most scenic! It was into Auckland, the biggest city in the country by far to borrow a car (more on that later…) from my dear friend Dave Warren and then a drive across the city to my old friend Tom from school who has lived in New Zealand for nearly 20 years. No disrespect to Auckland, which has some fine spots, but I suppose that drive and the areas weren’t particularly what Nicol was expecting after hearing me wax lyrical about New Zealand’s scenery since we first met!

But we did have a seriously lovely time with my friends and Tom took us to some gorgeous beaches and rural spots which soon reassured Nicol that I was onto something with this whole New Zealand thing! Then the first gig at the legendary Bunker. What a place! Devonport Folk Club has been running at this extraordinary place on top of Mount Victoria for decades although the late great Roger Giles, its driving force has sadly passed away since my last trip. There was a lovely moment in a typically splendid New Zealand gig where I finished a fast paced tune set and someone handed me a glass of something strong. It was then revealed that this was Roger’s own brew! We raised a glass to the great man.

Then it was down to the giggiest portion of the trip with dates in Hamilton, Te Pahu, Katikati, New Plymouth and Greytown on successive days. All were really enjoyable gigs – Te Pahu deserves a mention as it is a truly unique house concert in a brilliant property built by Wayne its owner and they are legendary hosts with many musicians relishing the chance to stay there. The gig is a joy as well in a beautiful room which can seat 80 people. Not your average house gig! Then in the interval you get out onto the patio and view the glorious New Zealand scenery. Amazing!

After the run of gigs and a fair old bit of driving it was off to Wellington to basically stay there for five days apart from a brief trip to Palmerston North for a gig there. Wellington is one of my favourite cities on this earth – all the New Zealand charm and friendliness and some great scenery but also a vibrant, happening place with superb cafes, loads of music and atmosphere. I love it! Thanks to Andrea and Nick for putting us up for all this time! The gigs in Palmerston and Wellington were both wonderful but the latter was pretty special…

I have mentioned elsewhere about Kate Griffin, an outstanding musician who I had the privilege/terror of tutoring while she was at Sheffield University. She is now a fully fledged pro as I knew she would be and her duo Mishra were on tour in New Zealand at the same time! So we felt it only right to share a gig so Wellington was the place to do this. It was brilliant to see Kate do her thing and it so unbelievably exciting to see a young UK banjo player breaking down the barriers of clawhammer banjo. Her partner Ford is also an outstanding musician and we did a few numbers together on what was a special night.

And then it was back to holidaying for a bit with lovely stays in Foxton Beach and Taupo booked for us…and Foxton was indeed lovely…but Taupo had to wait. So touching on that car I mentioned earlier. I seriously don’t know what it is about cars in New Zealand but I swear I’m cursed! And this trip threw up another car fiasco when we were on our way to Taupo and were driving through a very little place called Waiouru when I noticed the engine temperature reading on the car had gone to max…not ideal. There was steam coming from the bonnet too. Then followed one of the most New Zealand things ever…

A very nice couple came out to see if we were ok and the lady kindly said that they lived over the way and if we wanted to come in for a cup of tea and keep the baby in a safe place out of the sun we would be very welcome. The chap then had a look under the bonnet and identified what he thought was the problem and said the mechanic over the road could fix it in the morning….so said we should just stay the night! So we did! What wonderful people. We had a lovely evening!

Anyway, the car was sadly beyond repair in the short term so new vehicle sourced and very kind assistance from the legendary Dave we did get our night in Taupo and our trip to Hobbiton was also rearranged I’m happy to say! It was then to Whangerei for a lovely gig at the Woodshed before finishing our New Zealand tour back in Auckland at the mighty Auckland Folk Festival where I played two highly enjoyable sets and teamed up with Mishra, Good Habits, Dave Alley and Albi and the Wolves for a joyous weekend of music and collaboration! New Zealand I bloody love you.

So then to Australia…

It didn’t get off to the best start as Europcar had put the wrong baby seat in our car and then had no idea how to fit the correct one which was also crap…but anyway we travelled to Nicol’s uncle and aunt where we would base ourselves for the majority of our time in the country. Chris and Margo were wonderful hosts and doted on little Heidi and it was so bloody lovely to stay there!

The gigs began the next day for me as we headed to the stunning Upper Lansdowne where I had a lovely gig in the hall there as well as staying with Al and Helen whose house is absolutely extraordinary and teeming with wildlife – I saw a platypus no less!!! Then it was back towards Newcastle…where cars did their thing again as our tyre punctured and it turned out the car had been fitted with tyres of a very unusual size which NO GARAGE HAD. Oh the joys…Europcar were once again about as useful as a hole in the wrong end of a condom as they had no cars but offered to tow me to one of the places that didn’t have a car…Anyway. It was sorted in the end. Idiots.

Back to the gigs…Newcastle and Hunter Valley Folk Club was absolutely cracking as was the legendary Humph Hall in Sydney the following day, another truly unique and amazing house concert run by the incredible Wayne who is an extraordinary driving force in the arts scene. Legend. Then it was off the gigs for a couple of days so we were back with Chris and Margo and headed to see lots of Aussie wildlife and scenery. Then it was to Woy Woy for a lovely gig at the folk club and then I did the last two gigs unaccompanied by my family owing to the long journeys so I headed to lovely Tumbarumba and Tumut for two absolutely splendid gigs to finish my tour before we headed to Sydney for some tourist time with Chris and Margo and then an emotional farewell.

What a trip! What a trip! I mean to say what a trip! I’m so pleased we did it and ignored the naysayers who thought us mad for taking a one year old with us to the Antipodes! It was a joy and I love that part of the world and thanks to my wonderful partner Nicol for being such an amazing mum to our girl and doing so much of the parental duties while I gigged. Most of all thanks to my wonderful daughter – she was born so early and yet grew so quickly and into the wonderful girl we have now and on this trip she once again defied the odds and was so ridiculously placid and well behaved. What lucky parents we are to have you Heidi. And Australia and New Zealand, we’ll be back. All three of us.

New Zealand

Dear all,

I write to you from Gatwick airport with the obligatory pre-flight pint. We’re off to New Zealand and then Australia in February. I say ‘we’. It’s a solo tour but I am taking my family so other half Nicol and beautiful newly one year old Heidi are in tow! Yes we are doing that flight with a baby…it’ll be fine…

It was my little girl’s first birthday yesterday, a momentous occasion. Nicol and I both wondered if we were mad flying the day after her birthday especially as we laid on a little house party for the occasion with family and friends but actually it was rather beneficial in the end. It took our minds off the inevitable pre-match nerves so to speak!

And so it’s off to New Zealand. It’s difficult to know where to start with this incredible place. My love affair with it began ten years ago when I ventured there for a tour. At that point I had done precisely two trips abroad that were music related and both were heavily organised by other people so this was the first time I’d ever organised a tour abroad by myself. It was a total punt – I was in a phase of my life where I decided to abandon my cautious instincts and tried to throw caution to the wind a little more. So after a load of speculative emails to Kiwi gig organisers and my introduction to how extraordinarily helpful Kiwis are as they forwarded me on to more contacts I ended up with rather a nice tour of both islands including a headline slot at Auckland folk festival. My general attitude was that my school chum Tom who now lived there had organised me a vehicle and almost all gigs were based on door sales so I figured even if a handful turned up every night and I made a couple of hundred dollars it might sort of be alright…

In the end it was rather a triumph! Thanks to an introduction to a PR person I ended up on Good Morning TV straight before 10cc (!), virtually sold out of CDs at my first gig so had to get more shipped over for the rest of the tour and even better still did my one and only gig that involved the chanting of my name and an actual crowd surf as the mayhem of the Mussel Inn drew towards a close after a record three hour set!!!!

And the kiwis. Oh the kiwis. Such hospitable, wonderful and friendly people and of course the most beautiful country on earth. It’s special and unique. And I love it. It’s the one and only time I’ve genuinely considered emigrating but the thought of being the other side of the world from my family just about held out! But to be heading there again after a six year hiatus (I toured there again in 2016 and 2018) feels really so exciting and to have my family in tow, despite the beastly flights, makes it all the more special.

Happy days back in Geordie-land

Dear all,

It’s been a busy time since my last blog from Portugal. As soon as we got back it was mass lesson catch up time as well as a couple of lovely ‘outreach’ gigs. A brilliant care home down the road from me hosted me for a lovely afternoon gig where I made someone’s day by singing a song from The Sound Of Music that I’d spent a bit of time figuring out after learning last time I was there that this was, to put it mildly, her favourite song. It was a nice moment! On the same day I played an online gig for World Arthritis Day which was an absolute blast as well. I hadn’t done any online gigs since the old lockdown era so it was quite a surreal experience doing it again. I’d forgotten how weird it is to finish a song and be greeted by utter silence! Delighted faces…but no sound! It was lovely though.

Then followed gigs galore with UFQ playing National Forest Folk Club in Leicestershire which was a delight as that gig always is and then it was back up north to that wonderful city of Newcastle for a gig at Beyond The Moor festival and then an evening gig in Whitby playing lead guitar for my old chum Simma.

Where to start with Simma…he’s an extremely fine singer/songwriter from Newcastle who plays covers gigs in pubs as his primary living. I first met him four days into my university experience when I attended an open mic he was running and we became firm friends. Later on I became one of his pool of lead guitarists for covers gigs around the region. We had such fun I can’t tell you and it was one of the main things I was very sad to leave behind when I left Newcastle. It was so so much fun to do it again! There are two things I get to do very rarely – play lead guitar and play a whole load of covers in a pub. I wish to do neither of those things all the time, but every now and then it is such good craic!

On a similar note the following weekend saw me head back up to the Northeast again as I was depping on banjo and guitar for a country covers band at a big party in County Durham. Again, so so much fun and a great chance to knock out some harmonies too! I also taught at Newcastle University again for the first time in a long time as the folk degree has a new banjo student! Huzzah! He’s mighty talented too so I’m looking forward to working with him over the next few years.

So there it is, it’s been a fun few weeks! Lots of UFQ and a spattering of solo gigs coming up over the next month or two so I do hope I’ll see you somewhere.


Greetings from Portugal

Dear all,

Well here we are at Costa Festival in sunny Portugal. It’s always slightly surreal being in a luxury resort hotel in the Portuguese sun surrounded by…English folk music and folk music audiences. But it’s one hell of a party and yesterday’s gig with Brooks was just lovely and it was great to be joined for the last number by my UFQ chums Joe and Tom. We’ve another set tomorrow too!

Truthfully, I’m not usually much of a lad for package holiday resort type holidays. Hot weather doesn’t really agree with me, generally rendering me tired and a bit grumpy and well just too hot at the risk of stating the obvious. And I’ve never quite understood when everyone says ‘oh hot weather’s great as long as you’re in a pool or there’s air conditioning’. I mean, surely that just proves that being too hot isn’t pleasant if you have to be doing something that cools you down in order to enjoy it?! Surely, it would be easier if it was just…cooler. And honestly, when I go abroad I find it odd to just hole up in one place that could, weather aside, pretty much be anywhere.

But hey, it’s a five star hotel and I can’t really complain given someone else has paid for it! Much more importantly my beloved Nicol has been working so hard being the most amazing mum on the planet all year and this IS her dream holiday – pool, sun and relaxation. And that’s all I wanted for her so I am delighted we came out here as a family. Heidi has loved being in the pool (I mean really loved it) and her smiles when she splashes about just make my heart sing. Plus we’re surrounded by lots of lovely folks that we know and loads of great music and are having a wonderful wonderful time. So really, I’m not complaining one iota!!!

This heralds the start of a busy October. September was busy with gigs too but only up to the midway point and then it was busy at home with session work (including adding banjo, guitar and mandolin parts to an album being recorded in NYC which made feel really cool. Shame it didn’t stretch to a business trip…), teaching, patreon and of course being a dad! October sees a gig with UFQ in Leicestershire and then a solo gig up in wonderful Newcastle which I am very much looking forward to, it being a second home for me. More on that in a future blog! Then follows a couple of rare function gigs actually, a country gig in Durham playing banjo in a six piece band which will be a lot of fun and a wedding later in the month too. So it’s all go! 

Blog vs social media

Dear all,

When I first had a website back in 2009ish, my blog was quite a feature and in fact gained a lot of readership. The format basically was my report of the previous couple of weeks gigs and stuff followed by some sort of daft rant about something. It even resulted in a few other sites hiring me as a writer! But do you know what killed my blog? Social media. The devil that it is.

I resisted social media for as long as I could. Everything that people described to me about it I hated led chiefly by ‘it’s great because anyone can find you’. It struck me as a haven of self indulgence with a fair amount of ignorance thrown in and an ingenious way to divide the population into tribes ever more. Having caved long ago principally because it became apparent that it was actually holding my career back not having the blasted things, my opinion hasn’t changed much! But coming back to this blog…the problem I had was the ‘instantness’ that social media demands in order to be effective. Something every couple of days at least be it a photo, video, rant, advert for gigs – it’s all about content these days. And quite simply I had to prioritise social media because, love it or hate it, it is a supremely effective way of reaching followers and potential followers in a way that a blog on a banjo player’s website can probably never be. So I allowed the blog to slowly slip away until it became an occasional vehicle for posting big news about albums and tours. Many folks have said just how much they miss it, much to my surprise!

So I am back! This is back! Let’s blog…and to go with the formula that if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, let’s try the old way. So let me catch up you up as September draws to a close. After the joy of Towersey (see previous blog) came Didmarton Bluegrass Festival, a cracking little fest held unusually in an airfield down in Gloucestershire. I had played the festival many times before but this was my first outing there with the wonderful Brooks Williams and I have to say it was one of the gigs of the year. Sometimes for whatever reason things just click and this was a great marriage of a lovely and lively audience, terrific sound, a well chosen setlist (ok, a bit self congratulatory that bit but it was!) and just being totally up for it.

Then the following Monday, I was off to Chichester for a solo gig at a rather lovely folk club. A great time was had by all it seemed and it was lovely to be welcomed in to such a lovely community of people, especially as they had just lost a friend sadly. It was as though this was a musical celebration which was a rather lovely sentiment.

An enormous amount of teaching followed that week but also a chance to return to one of my favourite care home gigs in Stoke which was lovely as it always is. I’ll jump forward a bit here and mention some other lovely ‘outreach’ gigs I’ve done this month including a particularly lovely one at a spinal unit in Shropshire where a patient loved hearing (and singing!) Loch Lomond and afterwards said to me ‘I remember someone lent me a CD in the mid-90s of a band doing that song and I loved them but I can’t for the life of me remember their name’. ‘That wouldn’t be Runrig would it?’ I said…it was! And now he knew the name he loaded them on his ipad to listen to all afternoon but only once he’d said to me – ‘you’ve brought a tear to my eye today in the best possible way. Ain’t music the best.’ It sure is.

Anyway, other gigs – Brooks and I headed up to surprisingly sunny Scotland for two gigs at the incomparably lovely Swallow Theatre in Dumfries and Galloway. We had a wonderful weekend there as well as a cracker of a show in Staffordshire the following weekend in Moreton. The organiser there is so bloody lovely and had collected raffle money all year to raise for the neonatal unit where my lovely daughter was treated so wonderfully in her early life. One of the nurses was presented with the cheque on the night so it was a lovely gig all round.

To complete my round up of September gigs…I was back in Stafford to play a special show for Pocket Film Festival at the fantastic Candid Beer. I played for an hour before a screening of none other than the greatest ever films Oh Brother Where Art Thou! I’ve mentioned this film in the last blog – it’s ace. Then I was up to Harrogate in Yorkshire to play the wonderful Harrogate Folk Club with the legend Alistair Anderson. We had a wail of a time and we also got to see my uncle, aunt and nana who all loved seeing Heidi!

So there it is folks, this blog is back. Armed and dangerous. We’re off to Portugal next for Costa del Folk, Brooks and I playing two gigs yet somehow we’re staying for a week…the intervention of my wonderful lady there. But I’m not exactly complaining…

Nickel Creek…finally!

Dear all,

Gosh, eight months since the last blog. That really is bad and I intend to put it right! I have a few things I’d like to write about and am keen to return to regular entries to this blog as many of you have said you enjoy reading them and have politely wondered what the hell happened to it!

Of course, it has been quite the year. My last entry was about my baby being born and let’s face it that is the headline news from 2023. Incidentally, my other half Nicol has been far better at blogging than I have! She has a rather splendid blog about parent wins and fails as we navigate being new parents and the complications of travelling with them. It’s an entertaining, informative and honest read as you’d expect if you know anything about my wonderful lady. Check out her blog here:

As for me, it’s been a good year work-wise. Gigs solo, with UFQ, with Brooks and with the legendary Alistair Anderson have all been pretty damn great and I am enjoying my new work balance with slightly less touring, more teaching at home and the bonus of plenty of session work which I can also do from here. I always wanted to be at home more once I had a baby – it’s such a hard thing as a musician to know what to do for the best as touring and performing is such an important part of who we are as people quite apart from being our main income source usually! But I had always decided I would not be touring like I used to doing 250 gigs a year all over the world with regular month long trips to other countries. I loved that life, and I certainly miss parts of it but being at home with my family is simply more essential for me. So the new way is plenty of gigs all over the UK, and still the odd trip abroad (in fact a particularly exciting one awaits in the new year…) but based here in Shrewsbury doing my teaching, session work and Patreon and doting on my amazing daughter.

But perhaps the main thing I wanted to write about here is seeing Nickel Creek at long last. It’s difficult to put into words how much this band changed my life as a teenager. I had taken up banjo and then discovered the Oh Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack and through that discovered incredible artists like Alison Krauss, Ralph Stanley and bluegrass music in general. Having been obsessed with Irish music, Britpop, Paul Simon and 60s pop (an obvious combination for a child of the 90s in Stafford…), my eyes were suddenly opened to this wonderful genre of music.

In those days, there was a website called CD Now which used to throw up excellent recommendations for new music based on similar artists. Amazon and Spotify (more on them in another blog…) do similar now but I found nobody did it quite as well as CD Now. Anyway, unlike now music wasn’t just free to listen to wherever you liked on the internet (ah turns out I might touch on Spotify in this blog entry…) so it was a case of a 30-second sample of a song at best. So I would regularly ‘take a punt’ on an album not knowing what lay therein. I bought a few albums based on recommendations which I either liked or discarded and one or two that I really got into…then along came Nickel Creek.

I bought their self-titled debut album and my world shook. I was initially excited by the clawhammer banjo opening to the first track ‘Ode To A Butterfly’. Then that intro came to a pause and Chris Thile’s mandolin kicked off this extraordinary tune. Guitar, fiddle and mandolin combined for a few minutes of absolute instrumental heaven varying between dizzying virtuosity and sheer melodic beauty. Then came the songs…’Lighthouse’s Tale’, ‘Out Of The Woods’, ‘When You Come Back Down’ and the childlike yet somehow funky as hell ‘The Fox’. I knew I loved folk tunes, I knew I loved pop songs and as of just before I got this album I knew I loved bluegrass. But nothing could have prepared me for this! It was the whole package – all the qualities of catchy, anthemic pop songs but with mind blowing instrumental virtuosity. This album changed my life; one week later I went to HMV and bought the follow up ‘This Side’. It was definitely different with more adventurous arrangements, discordant strings and some studio effects but it was very much the band I’d fallen in love with and plenty more favourite tracks to add to my collection. I was, to put it mildly, hooked. This band changed my whole outlook on music making and music listening.

So how did it take til 2023 to see them play?! Well, by the time I’d got into them first time around their UK tours had been and gone and then the band split after the less consistent ‘Why Should The Fire Die’. It was a long time til they reformed with 2014’s excellent ‘A Dotted Line’. And they did come to the UK…I was in New Zealand. That was it until 2023 when a show was arranged in London in late January at a, for them, tiny venue. I was online frantically clicking for tickets the second they went on sale and was overjoyed to book them. I couldn’t wait…my daughter of course had other ideas. Her unexpected arrival in early January meant once again seeing Nickel Creek was off. I cancelled going to three gigs because of Heidi’s arrival and generally didn’t mind at all…but that one really hurt!!!

Thankfully, Towersey festival came to the rescue booking my band Urban Folk Quartet and crucially NICKEL CREEK!! The decision was made there and then that I wasn’t going anywhere else that weekend and finally I saw my heroes. I didn’t expect anything other than exemplary playing knowing the musicians involved but I was so happy that they played so much material from the albums I adored. I sobbed during Lighthouse’s Tale. Then at the close of their set I went to find my other half Nicol who had very decently told me to go right to the front and be a proper fan while she took care of our daughter at the back of the marquee. I found her, threw my arms round her and cried genuine heartsobs. It was so emotional to finally see the band who rocked my world all those years ago. Music is powerful stuff! 

Quite the start to the year…

Dear all,

It’s a while since I wrote on this blog but I feel the need to tell you all about the start of my year! My beloved Nicol and I announced last year that we were expecting our first baby in March…well on the 2nd January, on the way to a fairly routine appointment it became apparent that our little one wasn’t hanging around and she was born the following day at 18:40 weighing just 3 pounds 8 ounces (actually a remarkably good weight considering her prematurity but tiny nonetheless).

Needless to say, it was quite a different start to the year than we had planned! The plans were to get our kitchen finished, get the house kitted out with all things baby-related, attend a few gigs while we still can and I would work up until the little one arrived before taking a few weeks off prior to starting again. But Heidi had other ideas! Ah well…the kitchen’s finished…

Seriously though, most importantly the little one is doing remarkably well and she is beyond amazing. I write to you from Nailsea ahead of my gig tonight and my face is hurting from the tears I shed having to put her back in her cot to travel down here. How can something so tiny who doesn’t speak or even do a lot capture your heart that much? It truly is a miracle and I am such a besotted father it is not true!

But I also have to pay a marked tribute to the incredible staff at Telford Women and Children’s Centre. I mean, I used to live with two doctors and I am with a nurse; I’ve always known that nurses and doctors are a special kind of person. Seeing it first hand has reenforced that notion twelvefold. Without going into details, we had a few worries during pregnancy in the early days and the early assessment team were just so incredible. Encouraging, reassuring, frank, honest, caring and efficient all at once. How is that even possible? 

Then the delivery team…Midwives are extraordinary. They catch everyone at their worst, they deal with so many unexpected and stressful situations. How the hell are they so damn nice all the time?! They looked after us so well and the sudden delivery was immaculately handled like a well oiled machine as the relevant people just appeared, did their job, said the right things and were just amazing.

Because Heidi is premature she is presently still in the neonatal ward. The staff there once again are just incredible. Nicol and I have both been emotional at different times and they are just such special, caring and wonderful people and of course give us expert advice along the way.

So long live doctors and nurses, and if our government would stop shafting them at every juncture that would be great.

As for me and my work, I took the decision to return to work this week after a couple of weeks off as I want some time at home when my baby does come home! I’m enormously grateful to my students, patrons and care home gig organisers for their understanding and I REALLY enjoyed returning to gigging at National Forest Folk Club, Ely Folk Club, Chirk Community Centre and a function gig with UFQ. Tonight I’m in Nailsea with Brooks too.

I will also have my new album! Indeed I have it already to sell at gigs but the official release is February so more on that in the coming weeks too 🙂

New albums and tours!

Dear all,

It’s a long overdue blog to tell you what’s going on! There’s plenty of news so here we go…


Firstly, there’s a new album on the albums page of this site! I am very excited indeed to tell you all about my brand new album with the legendary Brooks Williams. Brooks is an incredible American singer/guitarist who is now based in these parts. I’ve been wanting to play with Brooks for years so it’s a real thrill to be doing just that.

As many of you know, during lockdown I did umpteen split screen videos and of all of them, the one with this guy was the one everybody talked about and said we should do more…so we have. We’ve been doing gigs and have more on the way (see below…) and now we have the album.


14/10 CHESTER St Mary’s Centre…/brooks-williams-dan-walsh/6400282
22/10 BEVERLEY St Nicholas Church…/brooks-williams-and-dan…
23/11 NORWICH Louis Marchesi…/brooks-williams-dan-walsh/6554236
24/11 BASINGSTOKE The Anvil…/brooks-williams-dan-walsh
25/11 DONCASTER Roots Music Club
26/11 FULBOURN, CAMBRIDGESHIRE…/brooks-williams…/
03/12 BLYTH Royal Lightship
09/12 GREAT EASTON, LEICESTERSHIRE Village Hall…/brooks-williams-dan-walsh/6562222


After the success of my book O’Neill’s Tunes for Clawhammer Banjo, I am delighted to say a recording of all the tunes will be available as my new solo album! This is basically the album I’ve been wanting to make my whole career! It’s these wonderful tunes that inspired me to play banjo in the first place played clawhammer style with guitar accompaniment. It’s simple but I’m so happy with it and I can’t wait for you to hear it! Release date to be revealed soon…


It’s been an amazing couple of weeks at Birmingham Symphony Hall playing Kashmiri music! I was asked by the wonderful folks of English Folk Expo to be part of the first ever collaboration of English and Kashmiri folk music. It’s myself and the legendary Alistair Anderson teaming up with Lala Qadeer and Khalil Anjum. It’s sounding great and I’m pleased to say there will be two gigs in October to showcase the results!

15 MANCHESTER Folk Festival
16 BIRMINGHAM Symphony Hall

Very best wishes,

Lovely day?

‘Ooh it’s a lovely day outside’
Is it though? I wake up lying in bed with no duvet or indeed clothes on (sorry for any unwanted images) with the feeling that an unpleasant and powerful electric heater is pointing at my face. So far, so revolting.

Then it’s downstairs to make the morning tea (yes it’s a hot drink in hot weather but it’s tea, it’s obligatory) and oh look at that I’m already sweating profusely after the rigorous activity of…walking down the stairs. Yes, still revolting.

Bring the tea back up, sit back in bed, remove the pyjamas that were utilised on the tea making mission to avoid rendering my neighbours visibly unshockable, and simply marvel at how one can open every single window and block out the sun with blinds/curtains and yet still feel as though I’m sitting inside the sun. I’m still on revolting at this point.

Next up, it’s time to do menial tasks such as breakfast, hanging the washing etc. Ah, terrific! Despite wearing merely a baggy and ‘cooling’ t-shirt and a pair of shorts ‘commando’ (again, sorry) I have that delightful feeling of perspiration rapidly furrowing its way down my entire body, my t-shirt revoltingly sticky to the point where taking it off again is a challenge. Somehow, I’m still landing on the revolting rather than lovely side.

Let’s change things up – a shower. Ah now that’s better! Nice cool water bringing my temperature down to something manageable as well as removing the revolting perspiration. This will keep me cool once I’m out won’t it? There’s a little shady spot on the patio (sounds very grand, trust me it isn’t) so let’s have a cuppa there. Ah, yes that is a bit better. BBBZZZZZ BBBZZZZZ oh lovely, good old hot days where every sodding insect that has ever inhabited Shropshire makes a beeline (pun intended) for my ears in that lovely way that only happens on hot days when you’re taking a sip of tea and suddenly have a minor heart attack as a small buzzing bollock of irritation sails directly past your ear. So despite some recompense from the shower, still revolting.

Finally, to escape the insects I get up, walk back in the house and discover my clothes and body are once again thoroughly moist. So in conclusion, ‘isn’t it a lovely day outside?’. No, it’s absolutely f***ing revolting.