Dear all,

A busy week awaits, it’s off to Purbeck with UFQ tonight then Folkeast with the trio and then off to Whitby both solo and with the legend Alistair Anderson. It should be fun! To bring you up to speed…

The Vaults gig was bloody fantastic. It was epic, emotional, lively, lovely and rocking all at once. It was a very fitting way to end the Oli era and there were more than a few tears at the end. Thanks to Oli for giving the pub such a wonderful six years and thanks to all those fantastic people who make the pub what it is. Time will tell what the future holds, but it’s been an amazing fifteen years.

Then it was off to Norway and a wonderful gig at Meland Jazzkafe in Frekhaug just outside Bergen. That was also a wonderful gig to a packed house and a sterling opening set from Gillian Gjelsvik and co. I am a big fan of Norway – it’s a beautiful country and it seems to me they prioritise a lot of the right things: the environment, education being good and appropriate (i.e. starting school later) and generally being nice to each other! They all seem to be considerably happier, healthier and richer than most of us! It is of course fiendishly expensive for a visitor but it was worth it!

Then I got back and straight off to Broadstairs Folk Week, one of the best festivals in the business and as ever it was bloody brilliant. It was great to get back out with the trio again and we had one of our finest gigs on the main stage. Ciaran and Nic are such exceptional musicians and great people and it really is wonderful to share the stage with them.

The last couple of weeks have seen the loss of two of the most amazing musicians albeit in very different fields. Irish music was my first love really and Tommy Peoples was the most exceptional fiddle player from the genre that I can think of and was a huge influence on me and my tune playing. He was one of those rare musicians who at times, unlike me, was not seemingly very animated but the music that he produced was so magical it was all part of his hypnotic appeal. His playing was unique and individual yet steeped in such strong tradition. A true giant of the field and much missed.

Then of course yesterday saw the passing of Aretha Franklin. Now spending much of my time with musicians, there are plenty of music videos that do the rounds and often there is disagreement about them. One person’s ‘you have got to see this’ is another person’s ‘yeah it’s alright I suppose’. But one video seems to unite just about everyone and it’s THAT performance that reduced Barack Obama to tears. Franklin had a truly unbelievable voice that pulled at you and made you take note of every single word she sang. And of course what she sang about often really mattered – the classic Respect being a prime example. In the pantheon of great singers she is right up there and when it comes to soul she really is untouchable.

For a bit of light hearted fun then, I always enjoy ‘lost in translation moments’. I’ve also always enjoyed bits of English mixed in among foreign language being spoken I don’t know why. I recall an interview with Roy Hodgson the football manager to a Norwegian company and he was speaking Norwegian when all of a sudden the words ‘christmas cake’ popped in! I also remember a German oral exam. I remember listening to all this German trying to pinpoint the odd word I actually knew when all of a sudden the words ‘London Philarmonic Orchestra mit Last Night of the Proms’ popped up. I almost got thrown out of my exam for laughing! But it’s hard to top this Norwegian restaurant’s English-language menu:

Farewell Vaults?

Dear all,

It’s August, how the hell did that happen?! This year is running away. Let me bring you up to speed first of all…July was quite a mixed bag of stuff. June ended with a superb gig at Fortyfest, a private festival in Staffordshire run by some dear friends of mine. In fact one of them used to introduce me on at the legendary jam nights at Joxers (as was, Market Vaults now) as ‘the main boogaloo’. It gave me quite a confidence boost as a scared 16 year old!

After that it was into July and unusually, my first gig of the month was a wake at a Bridgnorth pub. It’s nice how music can make a difference in so many different settings! Next up was a weekend with UFQ firstly at the delightful Kimpton Folk Festival alongside a host of the most excellent acts on the folk scene and then up to Keswick for a banging gig at the Theatre By The Lake.

And then came Valencia…Valencia is mightily warm! We were there for a fabulous four days working with the musicians from Unio Musical. We opened up with a gig of our own then after a few days teaching and rehearsing it was back to the same venue to perform with these wonderful musicians. See the photo, it was quite a big band!

We were also treated to some delicious paella and assorted other mouth watering food and drink. Oh the drink. I chickened out of drinking sangria from one of those natty jug things that you literally pour down your mouth – my fear of clumsiness and indeed my actual clumsiness intervened – but I enjoyed it! We also had a lovely time on the beach, particularly with Joe and Paloma’s delightful daughter Sabela. And it was my birthday!

After returning to England (a day late owing to an unexpected bit of sickness for poor old Tom…on the plane…don’t ask, and don’t use easyjet…) it was back into solo action in Eastbourne and Hull. These two cities are not near each other at all. Anyway, both gigs were jolly nice although the Hull one a little down on numbers. Oh well, can’t have everything. Then it was back into UFQ workshopping action in Taunton as we worked with the musicians from Southwest Music School culminating in a concert at the end of it all. It was rather tiring but the concert was a good, fun, noisy gig!

This weekend sees a gig at the Market Vaults in Stafford, my favourite pub in the world and a wonderful hub for me over the years. It’s where my gigging began, it’s where I’ve met many of my greatest friends, it’s where I’ve spent many of my happiest hours. It could all be about to change. Oli who has done an unbelievable job at the pub is sadly moving on and leaves huge huge shoes to fill. It’s difficult to know quite what the future holds for this dear little place. The gigs there over the years have been legendary and I’m sure this Saturday will be no different. After that, who knows? But I do know that this place has signified everything that can be wonderful about a pub. The people there look after each other, they keep an eye out and people of all walks of life get to know each other. Oli recognised those qualities but transformed its appeal to more people. I hope it stays that way, but whatever happens it’s given me so many amazing times and a bit of security and stability in this mad life. So if you’re in Stafford on Saturday, come on down. If my gigging era at the Vaults is to end, it’d be nice if it ended on a high.

You are allowed out midweek…

Dear all,

Hope you’re all enjoying this here weather. I have to be honest and say I’m not – I get awfully teed off with hot weather and actually rather prefer it when it’s a bit mild but I’m aware I’m probably in a minority on that one. Sorry it’s been a bit of a while since the last bloggage, I’ve been in a bit of a funny place which for any of you who read my most recent effort won’t come as much of a surprise I guess. Truth be told, I’ve also just been bloody knackered. Five and a half months of near constant touring including on the other side of the world has rather taken its toll but I’ve enjoyed this last week of being at home and getting a bit of rest. So here I am back again!

Thanks to everyone who came out to see the trio on our first tour. Those at the gigs seemed to have a good time and we rather did as well! It all seemed to be well received so we shall be back next year and over the summer a wee bit. We did a lot of gigs and they were all pretty good. After Stafford it was off to Norwich for a vibrant gig at Louis Marchesi before we headed back to the Midlands to play in Kingswinford and Alstonefield to packed houses which gave us great nights. Special thanks to the Alstonefield hosts for the wine, whisky and cheese after the gig too 🙂

Then it was off down south to Dartford, London and Winchester for three more excellent gigs with some serious banjo fans at the middle one! Then it was back to the Midlands for Burton Folk Club who as ever were brilliant then to Guildford for the outstanding Trinity Folk Festival and Sunday we were in Oxford to complete the southern leg at the beautiful Holywell Music Rooms once graced by Handel no less. Oh and I also squeezed in a solo show at Chebsey Parish Hall in Staffordshire which was good fun and it was so great to see the old Norton Bridge crowd who used to attend my many gigs at the sadly now gone Railway Inn. I had some fun in those days, a bit of a wild gig at times that one!

Finally the trio headed up north to Ripon, Newcastle and Sheffield with all three bloody superb fun and the latter featuring the saga of Nipplegate which I won’t go into here…then followed an excellent brace of Shropshire gigs in Bishops Castle and Oswestry which were two of the finest of the whole tour and finally it was to Leicester which featured Bragate. Definitely not going into that here…

After precisely no break at all, it was back up north to Northumberland to do a six date tour with the legend that is Alistair Anderson. What a lot of fun we had! Thanks to all those who came out to the gigs, it really was a blast. Thanks to my folks for hosting us after the Cumbria date and providing whisky and cheese…

Then followed a little trip to Stourbridge, home of the marvellous Elmfield Steiner School which for twelve years has hosted an annual folk fortnight run by the superhuman music teacher and master of all things harmonious Caroline Price who also runs the impossibly superb choir Stream of Sound. We basically go there and teach lessons on instruments the kids choose to learn, run various workshops, go to the pub (for legal reasons I should point out this activity does not involve the school children) a lot and also do a gig and a ceilidh! Sadly prior commitments meant I was unable to do the ceilidh but I did three days of teaching, had a jolly good time and caught up with some of my very favourite people. What a marvellous week!

Finally to bring you up to speed, UFQ have been busy too with gigs in Suffolk, Banbury, Canterbury, Shropshire and Oxford in a wholly inconvenient order. All were much enjoyed anyway with a particular shout out to the Oxford crowd who were particularly lively and whooped, cheered, raved, ceilidhed and goodness knows what but didn’t throw bras on the stage…it was great.

So, a little bit of a plea from me as a musician. I’ve noticed more and more people utterly glued to the idea that they cannot possibly go out on a night that isn’t Friday or Saturday. It’s an intriguing one – I know what many of you are thinking. Easy for Mr Musician who doesn’t have an early start to say, right? Well point taken but hear me out. I was speaking to someone a little while ago about a gig that was going on at his local theatre on a Monday night costing £10 and it was his actual hero. Oh and he lives five minutes from the venue. And he was actually debating whether he should go because it was a Monday night. Really??!! He’d be home by 9.30! The world will surely not stop turning because you come out on a weeknight to a gig and get pretty much the exact same amount of sleep or at worst an hour less? Maybe avoid the after party and perhaps not have ten pints and I think you’ll be fine. Which brings me to another point about this – maybe it’s do with the culture that largely pervades when it comes to booze. The idea of just drinking a bit of booze because it’s nice seems to be a dying art to me. It seems so many only ever drink to get utterly tanked and don’t understand why else you would drink. Town centres on a Friday and Saturday make me thoroughly depressed as I see people out of their tree and almost deliberately setting out to not care what they do. I like a drink, God knows, and I’m not suggesting I haven’t put a fair bit away in my time but this determination to genuinely not even be aware of what’s going on is a bit of a mystery to me. You can just have a few and it’s quite nice, people! And more to the point if you only ever to a gig on a Friday or Saturday…there won’t be too many musicians left in business.

Thank you Camilla

It is with great sadness and emotion that I write this. The subject of it would probably tell me off for it, but I simply need to express it. When I was 13, I played one of my first ever public performances supporting legendary banjo player Ken Perlman. Also on the bill were singing group Fish From Oblivion featuring Camilla Kurti who sadly passed away this morning from cancer. From the off, Camilla took great interest in my music and gave me so much encouragement and this continued as we met more or less annually at Ken’s gigs in Stafford. Later in my teens my mum and I attended several singing workshops which Fish staged featuring top singers from around the world, something incredibly exciting for me as a young folk music fan. She continued to look out for me and ask about what I was getting up to as I was gigging more by this stage.

At 18, I headed off to university and I was pretty terrified to be honest and struggled with such a big change. Within two days of being there, Camilla had sent me an email asking how I was getting on and when the honest response came she kept encouraging me, telling me I’d be mad to waste the opportunity to study folk music at university and that I just needed to stick at it. This combination of love, support and encouragement with a nice helping of ‘kick up the arse when needed’ was typical and what made her such a special friend to so many people.

We kept in touch periodically but it was when I moved back to Stafford in 2012 that our very close friendship formed more. Bumping into each other in the street, Camilla suggested we go for a cuppa and so began a lovely routine of meeting up every month or so to catch up on everything going on, a routine that I still can’t quite process is gone but I will always have fond memories of. Camilla essentially became my second mum and a big sister rolled into one. During some quite dark times for me – a major crisis over my career direction, a break up and a spell of depression – Camilla was always there listening patiently, pointing out all the different sides of things and as indicated above telling me to get a bloody grip on occasion. I remember once she called and when I answered she could tell something was wrong – I had lost my passport ahead of a big gig abroad. Straight round she came to help look for it! But more importantly than that we had so many good laughs and plenty of occasionally quite fiery debates which sometimes resulted in me, quite rightly, being rebuked for saying certain unthinking things and I feel a more conscientious and learned person as a result, always one of the best qualities someone can have I think is to make you feel this way.

I’m not sure I’ve ever known a more selfless person and this was shown throughout Camilla’s mercifully fairly short illness. Camilla’s diagnosis was devastating news to all her legions of friends, and to Camilla herself, yet so often during her illness her priority was other people. After a good deal of persuading her, she agreed to allow me to run errands whenever I could so we went on quite a lot of shopping trips to supermarkets, garden centres and the hospital and during all this she was still always asking me how I was doing. As she quickly grew more and more ill in recent weeks, she continued to check on me as I have had a hard time lately for reasons I won’t go into here. She sent a good luck text ahead of my Stafford gig a few weeks ago and said she was really sorry not to be there but was not feeling well enough but she was still aiming to have one of our cafe catch ups. Sadly that was not to be as she grew weaker but just over a week ago I popped round to say goodbye. It was one of the greatest privileges I have ever had to say goodbye to her and to say things that I wanted to say. We still had a good laugh (partly because within five seconds I had managed to kick her crutches over by accident) and she asked me how my tour had gone and how I was doing. And typically of her, when I said I was heading to Oxford that day (where she is from), she asked if one of the ladies looking after her would send a text for her to her friend telling her to come to the gig! Most of all, I thanked her for everything she had done for me and she did likewise to me and said that it was important that different generations had these kind of friendships. How right she was, as ever. Of course I left the house in floods of tears and I feel deeply sad but I feel immensely grateful to have known such a remarkable person so well and better still to have had the chance to say the things that matter to her. Thank you for everything Camilla, I’ll remember you and smile.

Old fashioned phone methods

Dear all,

Greetings to you all on my brand spanking new website – looking rather good eh? It was in need of a bit of a spruce up not least because I was receiving all kinds of random tripe from robotic spammers apparently owing to outdated software. For the record, should you ever think about contacting me on the subject my interest in viagra is rather limited. Anyway the trio tour has kicked off which is terribly exciting and we had a typically wonderful gig in my hometown of Stafford last night where we were joined by some of my oldest and dearest friends. Prior to that we kicked things off in Chesterfield at North Wingfield Resource Centre last Friday which again was a lovely wee gig.

So what else have I been up to? Well first thing after the last blog was a gig at The Big Comfy Bookshop in Coventry which was highly enjoyable and featured great sets from Devon Mayson and Amit Dattani. Then it was back to UFQ action and a cracking gig at Bristol Folk House which has become a big favourite for us on our tours. Next it was off to Chester to play Alexander’s with UFQ which as usual was a lively affair and we even popped into Chester University during the day to do a workshop with the students.

Then came a rather eventful weekend of gigs abroad, firstly sticking with UFQ as we headed to France for a cracker of a gig in Sologne and then I headed to Ibiza. Well this was fun. So the flight from Paris involved changing in Barcelona which is when everything got hideous. At the risk of stating Continue reading “Old fashioned phone methods”

Some dreams can come true…

Dear all,

Hope you had a lovely Easter and April thus far (man it’s moving fast isn’t it?!). My first ever trio tour is drawing ever nearer, do please get your tickets for the gigs. It makes my life a lot more relaxing 🙂 See the homepage for all the details. Don’t forget to catch UFQ as well we’re in Bristol, Chester and France before the month’s out and I even squeeze in a vist to Ibiza, yes IBIZA before the trio fun begins. Those of you know me will be thinking ‘of all the people likely to visit Ibiza, I would put Dan Walsh just about last on the list’. And you’d be right. But I am playing the Costa del Folk festival (yes that really is a thing) with the legendary Alistair Anderson. Not a sentence I ever thought I’d say.

Continue reading “Some dreams can come true…”

Greetings from Costa

Dear all,

I write to you from Costa Coffee in Stourbridge. Because my life is glamorous. I spend a great deal of my time in cafes on a laptop, yes I’m one of those guys. My philosophy generally is if it’s an independent cafe I would always keep buying drinks and not just take up a table for work. In Costa, Cafe Nero et al I feel rather different.

Anyway, there’s some information that won’t be of any use to you whatsoever. So to bring you up to speed, it was straight back into travels albeit on a rather smaller scale as UFQ went to Holland for a one off gig in Zandaam. Joe spent much of the time telling me how good gigging in Holland is and such was borne out by the gig. A lovely host and a great crowd in a packed house. I was of course utterly banjaxed from my Southern Hemisphere travails but I managed to do the gig before collapsing in the car! It was truly Continue reading “Greetings from Costa”

That’s a wrap!

Dear all,

Well that’s a wrap. My Southern Hemisphere tour of 37 gigs, god knows how many miles and countless good times is over. I’ve loved it, I really have and I heartily thank the people from Australia and New Zealand who came to gigs, organised gigs, put me up, fed me, gave me good company and bought CDs. I nearly sold out, not quite but nearly! It was a massive undertaking for me to do such a long tour so far from home and I made no secret I was rather nervous but it was totally worth it.

First let me bring you up to speed. Havelock was an absolute belter of a gig at the Captain’s Daughter with a quite brilliant audience, wonderful atmosphere and a rather clumsy introduction from me – ‘it’s great to be back in the Captain’s Daughter’. I hadn’t quite realised how that would sound…Anyway next it was off to Nelson for a gig at the stunning Fairfield House, a replacement for the sadly stricken Boathouse. It was a wonderful night again and a real candidate for gig of the tour in fact. Next came a bloody long drive to Oamaru Continue reading “That’s a wrap!”

Long live Barrytown Hall!

Dear all,

Greetings from a thoroughly rainy and cyclone threatened south island of New Zealand where I’ve had a great tour although a slightly not in a good way eventful day yesterday…More on that in a minute but first up let me bring you up to speed. After arriving on the south island it was the beautiful (if slightly treacherous) drive over to the legendary Mussel Inn in Golden Bay which lived up to all expectations. Unlike four years ago there was no dancing on the tables, crowd surfing or chanting of Danjo but apparently that was one hell of a one off! This was I guess more usual gig territory of devoted listeners but with a brilliant bit of patter in a fantastic setting. Amazing place this, a gig like no other. Thanks everyone for coming especially the couple who chose to spend their honeymoon there!

Next came up a couple of days off before heading to Picton for a double bill at Le Cafe with the Young Folk from Ireland. It was much enjoyed and a brilliant bonus was jamming with members of the group My Baby and their family after the gig. The three sisters singing I’ll Fly Away in beautiful three part harmony was a privilege and no less. A great night was had!

Then came a trip west to Barrytown Hall, another venue with legendary status but one I hadn’t yet experienced. Well I have now!!!!!! What a place and what a crowd – I’m pretty sure that’s the first time I’ve had half the audience doing the conga round the hall to Roll In My Sweet Baby’s Arms….quite an atmosphere and a place thoroughly deserving of its status. I dearly hope the gigs keep happening…more below. Anyway from there it was off to Christchurch for a welcome return to the folk club which is always a lovely night. Then came the journey back north…

Twenty minutes into the journey came the apparently obligatory New Zealand car incident. The first time I was here in 2014, I reversed my friend’s car into a post. Definitely my fault. The second time whilst driving the aforementioned treacherous road to the Mussel Inn, my tyre gave way on a bend thus rendering the car unsteerable and heading into a barrier thankfully at a slow speed. Not my fault. This incident – I was hit in the back at a give way point. Most definitely not my fault. But a pain in the bloody buttocks nonetheless. Thankfully I sustained no pain in the buttocks or otherwise and mercifully the car is perfectly driveable if just a bit disfigured around the bumper. A shout out to Jean at Mitre 10 in Rangiora who spent time helping me duct tape the bumper and brake light shield to the car to ensure no debris on the road…thanks Jean!

Anyway after all that there was the little matter of another gig – the Highfield Winery in Blenheim was the venue and a jolly nice one it was too with a delightful audience and a beautiful setting. Regrettably, today’s gig at Punga Cove was cancelled owing to the imminent cyclone in the area so it was deemed unsafe. Such a shame, I was so looking forward to it but needs must and it has been quite nice to have a lazy day today I must admit. Still all should be fine for tomorrow’s gig in Havelock.

So then touching on this Barrytown business. Barrytown is a very remote place (even for New Zealand) and largely consists of the hall, four or five houses and a hotel. The hall happens to be on the same road as the houses and a complaint some time ago about the noise from the gigs threatened the gigs with closure and the threat has still not been completely warded off and all kinds of measures are being taken. It brought back to my mind my time in Newcastle when the legendary Cooperage pub which had been there hundreds of years and hosted many live music evenings was suddenly served notice to close because of some loathsome yuppy who moved in to a property on Newcastle’s quayside, a legendary noisy and party-orientated area, and complained about the noise…Now admittedly if you live somewhere like Barrytown you expect peace I get that. But I ask, would it really hurt you to once or twice a month put up with (or better still join) a gig that emits a bit of noise but makes hundreds of people extremely happy and brings out people of all ages into a glorious community event and experience quality live music. So something changes in your life and routine once or twice a month…big deal. Get over it.

Oz/Nz

Dear all,

Greetings from Wellington, one of my favourite cities in the world where I have had many a happy time during my three visits to this wonderful country. Last night was Wellington Bluegrass Society, one of the finest gigs on the planet and once again it was absolutely wonderful. Thanks to everyone for giving me such a great night and particularly to whoever wrote ‘you were amazing’ on my mailing list! Made me smile no end. God I love New Zealand. And a huge thanks too to the charming couple with whom I shared the Perth hotel drama (see a couple of entries back) who came to see the gig.

So then let me bring you up to speed. After my last blog came Canberra at Smiths Alternative which was a cracking little gig in a brilliant venue. I wandered outside afterwards and played fetch with a random dog and listened to a highly intoxicated man playing actually rather good piano on the public piano. Next up it was the relatively short trip to Braidwood which was a lovely little place and I had a cracker of a gig in the hall there as well as beautiful accommodation courtesy of Sue. The next day was the most definitely not short trip to Continue reading “Oz/Nz”