Music for a cause – telling a little story

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Photo: GNS

After pictures of the devastation caused by the huge 7.8MM earthquake that struck near Kaikoura were on every news channel, a folkie from Levin decided that one good community could help another. And you can still help (see below).

Folk music seems really appropriate; it is a great little community itself, folk music is made by and for people, not radio stations or record companies. And it so often sings of real people’s lives, of history and places, tragedy and heroism.

Hats off to Jo Sheffield, who started the ball rolling, put in plenty of hard work organising, and inspired so many musicians from around the country to give their time, talents, and for loads of people who paid to come to the concerts, or just gave a little of their spare cash.

servicesThe main fundraisers happened 8-11 December, and I was privileged to play in two of the concerts (Levin and Hastings). There was some really good music to be enjoyed at both too. $000’s were raised for people in need.

If you missed the fundraisers (or even if you were there), you can still contribute. And here’s how;

I was so inspired by Jo’s efforts that I created a new song. Earthquake themed, the power of folk music can often be to tell a really big story by telling a little one. And I recorded the song while making a video (a pop video? Err, well maybe a folk video anyway).

[Our Tim Is] Missing - click to show your sypport for victims of the Kaikoura earthquake

Please click to donate

You can donate by buying the track (I put the price at $1 but you can pay whatever you like upwards from that – the more the merrier, it’s in a good cause). Proceeds will go to the NZRC earthquake appeal via an official fundraising link. Please head on over there now.

As a wee taster, here’s the video of the song, but please remember to donate by doing the Bandcamp thing;

 

The quake caused much damage, with services disrupted, communities cut off and livelihoods ruined. You can help!

 

Thank you

 

 

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Did the first line of a song ever grab you? ….

Some songs grab you with a catchy, singalong chorus, some with a great instrumental break (would Gerry Rafferty’s career be the same without the sax on Baker Street?) You listen, soak them up, eventually hum along with a mix of pleasure and familiarity.

But you can also be grabbed by the first line. Yes, you have my attention. I really do want to listen to what happens next. Concentrate on the lyrics. Hang on every word. That’s real power.

“Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away…” is pretty famous. What about today?

“It’s late in the evening, she’s wondering what clothes to wear.” We’re right there in the story.

“I never thought it would happen with me and the girl from Clapham.” There’s a colourful life story about to emerge here.

“Don’t start me talking, I could talk all night.” Elvis Costello has a lot to say.

“You never close your eyes anymore when I kiss your lips.” Can’t you feel it?

My current favourite is a less well known song. Here goes;

“Johnny, I know why you had to face the train.”

Wow, powerful stuff.

Immediately we can picture the scene, palpably feel the anguish, know what is going to happen but are powerless to stop it. And the writer wants to answer the great question; WHY?

Here’s all the lyrics;

Johnny, i know why you had to face the train
Johnny, i know why you had to face the train
the whiskey wasn’t working to drive away the pain
and there ain’t no use in sleeping when you just wake up again

you could have picked a high bridge you could have picked a gun
the engineer said you saw him but you didn’t try to run
now everyone’s so sorry and everyone’s so sad
but i don’t think it hurt you quite as much as what you had

now Johnny did you think about that railroad engineer?
he’s gonna see your eyes in nightmares for the rest of his years
he’ll hear the thump and rattle as you went under his train
he’ll see his locomotive standing bloody in that rain

Johnny i know why you had to face the train
Johnny i know
Johnny no

It is a true story, and a song called Johnny I Know by The Raventones.

I got in touch with songwriter TR Kelley via Twitter and this is what she had to say about the story behind the song;

Piano player i did occasional gigs with. Loved by the whole music community, respected, lots of gigs, gifted, great player, instructor at the college. Also an alcoholic fighting depression. Stepped in front of a UP freight in Eugene Oregon in July of 1997. Fast forward 20 years and I’m good friends with a couple engineers on the Coos Bay Rail Link (CBR), a shortline that runs behind my house. It’s way out in the boonies – over the years the train crews have learned they can stop here for any kind of help. mountain/woods/tunnels/curves can throw things at them sometimes and the radios aren’t so good in these deep coast-range valleys. I get to hear a lot of RR stories. Suicides are the ones they never forget. So this goes out to both sides of the awful equation of train suicide. I’m a card-carrying depressoid myself. I watch the whiskey, take my pills, play bass and stay off the tracks. Thanks for asking. 🙂 I wrote it for the engineers.

Reproduced with permission – thanks TR.

However powerful that story is to you, it really hit me, and here’s why;

I believe passionately about rail safety and have spoken to many train drivers (Locomotive Engineers to give them the correct title) about incidents. It can be an accident or suicide, but the horrific memory stays with them. They get time off and counselling support, but some never return to work. Or do, and get the jitters whenever they see a vehicle or person near the tracks. I have talked to an LE who still pictures that last split second, when a little old lady absent mindedly walking in front of his loco turned and looked right into his eyes.

I have even been to ‘incidents’ where ‘bits’ are being shovelled into a body bag. Very gruesome and it affects everyone involved including rail staff and emergency services.

I became involved in this through working for NZ railways. I ran the public Rail Safety Week campaigns for several years. That became far more imaginative than ‘hey, dont walk on front of trains, say the driers’.

collision-between-a-car-and-a-train-posted-for-ilcad-2010-youtubeOne year, KiwiRail organised a special demo; a car was parked on a level crossing and a train driven at it. The result was spectacular and had quite a bit of media coverage. Here’s the video.

Next year, I arranged for the wreckage of the car to ‘tour’ along with the video on a loop. It was there at the launch of the week in Wellington railway station, then moved to shopping centres around the country. Each time we set up in the middle of the shopping mall, with the remains of the car, a big screen video (with sound), and peopled by train staff on their day off. That really did create quite an impact; it was almost tear jerking to see kids tugging on their dads’ sleeves and pointing at the video, as if to say; ‘you wouldnt do that, would you daddy?’

waylonjenningsidiotnoIt also explains why I really don’t like so called ‘cool’ band photos with someone standing on the receding lines of a rail track. You may argue that you were safe, but just don’t do it. Don’t encourage others to think it’s cool. I mean it. Someone may end up being bits shovelled into a body bag because of your ‘cool’ photo idea. Not worth it.

Anyhoo, that gives you probably a bit more background on me than I intended.

And it all started with a powerful opening line to a song.

What’s your nomination for the best opening line?

 

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What Goes on Tour… – a story of band logistics

When Ed Force One thudded onto the runway at Christchurch Airport a few weeks ago, it wasn’t just the pilot that was unusual. Lead singer Bruce Dickinson was at the controls, while the hold contained all the gear for Iron Maiden’s Book of Souls world tour. And NZ Music Month was just about to begin.

That’s not your usual musicians’ transport. Our own Kiwi bands are more likely to cram everything into a van or truck and hope there’s cash left after fuel and food at the end of a tour. But when it comes to major events, logistics takes on a whole new dimension. 

IRON MAIDEN MONTERREY 1/3/16

IRON MAIDEN MONTERREY 1/3/16

While Iron Maiden carted their show to the Horncastle Arena in six trucks, AC/DC’s major world tour needed dozens of trailers total according to veteran production manager Robbie Barclay. That’s quite a traffic jam.

One of the first big logistics mega-world tours to visit us was David Bowie’s Glass Spider in 1987. Auckland was the last show on the tour and there is a long running rock ‘n’ roll legend that after the speakers and instruments had gone home the huge set, which is said to have weighed 360 tons and took 43 trucks to transport, was torched in a field nearby. The more prosaic story is that it ended up in a local warehouse and took years to sort through.

AC/CD brought everything. Like, everything,” says Dorus Hommels, operations manager for events company Oceania Productions. “Madonna’s got all her own [stuff].” While the rich and famous can afford their own show on the road, the more usual is to bring the ‘back line’ (instruments etc), tour set and specialist equipment, everything else is sourced locally. That includes a massive fold out stage used for Christmas in the Park and the Mission winery tour.

Know your country

New Zealand has it’s own event logistics issues. One is the availability of vehicles ideally suited to the job. “We don’t have enough of the big tour trucks,” says Mark Selwood, a long standing event logistics coordinator for the film and entertainment industry. “We make do with containers here.”

The standard handling unit is the road case; a large box on wheels tough enough to protect the valuable lighting or audio gear as it moves on and off stage, around the country and trots the globe.

The ideal trailer is 43 to 48 foot, solid side with load bars that unloads from the rear,” explains Selwood. We have less than a handful of those in New Zealand, while in other countries there are whole fleets of them to call upon. “Most of the trucking in New Zealand is curtain siders, they’re not good for us.”

So the entertainment industry falls back on 40 foot high cube containers, swing lifted to the ground at a venue for access. In addition to the extra handling hassle, the internal width is less than ideal for road cases. Yet Mark Selwood seems pretty unflappable and takes any issue in his stride. “To me it’s just a piece of cargo. You’ve just got to get it cleared and transport it. Even though Lady Gaga had big monster things, they still fit on pallets or in sea freight containers.”

Artists’ own demands have to be met as well. Apparently Bono from Irish group U2 used to insist on sleeping in his own bed every night, so it had to travel with him.

Advance planning – up to a point

Most of the time advance planning is possible for major tours. “That’s not always true,” says Selwood. “For Prince we only knew a week before, although that was only a small show. Usually three months ahead you have a rough idea how much they are going to have. You can’t do detailed sorting out until three or four days before. You can almost guarantee there will be some changes once an overseas production arrives.”

When a big show rolls into town, gangs of local hands descend upon the venue to help the tour crew unload and set up, including fork trucks and cranes if necessary. Usually installing the day before, pack down and despatch to the next lucky city is faster but the last truck packed and away, often the overhead lighting rig, is the first one needed for the next date so there’s an added first in last out (FILO) dimension.

img_1086mVenue access can have a part to play. “The AC/DC concert materials were all transported by train from Auckland,” says Clare Elcome of the Westpac Regional Stadium trust in Wellington. “Given our location shipments can be delivered onto stadium premises via the adjacent rail yards. We have onsite storage facilities around the northern end of the building and for AC/DC a total of 70 containers of equipment came and went throughout the course of the build phase.”

Hairy moments

Time allowed to move to the next city and set up can be tight and there are ‘interesting’ moments. “There are times when we only just made it,” says Barclay. “There’s always been delays, breakdowns. Also when you had a crash you get another truck, see what you can make out of it, repair other parts, put a show on.”

A few years ago a truck full of gear rolled in the Manawatu Gorge on the way to the Rhythm and Vines New Year festival in Hawkes Bay. “All of the stuff was destroyed in the truck, a competitor’s,” explains Hommels. “We had to scramble all of our gear to help out. That was the most last minute.”

Most of the time performers, sound gear, lighting and set get to the next show intact and on schedule. Ready for the roadies to descend on the trucks for another day and another town.

Hopefully, what goes on tour, stays on tour. Unless the end is nigh and you fancy a bonfire (allegedly).

ENDS

By Nigel Parry

This article was first published in Freight Transport Distribution, June 2016.

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The story behind the song – We Be Soldiers Three

A few hundred years ago, Holland (and Belgium for that matter), were not united, but ruled by Spain. As the low countries moved to Protestantism (Spain was deeply catholic, and home of – Monty Python fans would know this – the Spanish Inquisition), they began to assert their independence. Called by historians the Dutch Revolt, although the area was known in England as the United Provinces as it, well, united.

Siege_of_Ostend_Pieter_Snayers_Public_Domain_painting_Sitio_de_OstendeAnyhoo, in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, some young men from the British Isles (Guy Fawkes was one of them) went to fight against the Spanish (apologies to my Spanish friends, but hey, I didn’t go). I have taken part in historical re-enactment displays of the events though, at Ostend, Geertruidenberg and Gaasbeek Castle, but that’s for another story.

Incidentally, Elizabeth I of England was offered the sovereignty of the Netherlands, but turned it down (they offered it to the King of France as well, with the same result).

Back to the song (remember that?) It is sung as from three ‘soldiers’ home from the wars in the low countries. The first version of the words was printed in 1609 in Ravenscroft’s Deuteromelia and here they are;

We be soldiers three,
Pardonnez moi, je vous en prie.
Lately come forth of the Low Country,
With never a penny of money.

Here, good fellow, I drink to thee.
Pardonnez moi, je vous en prie.
To all good fellows wherever they be.
With never a penny of money.

And he that will not pledge me this.
Pardonnez moi, je vous en prie.
Pays for the shot whatever it is.
With never a penny of money.

Charge it again, boys, charge it again.
Pardonnez moi, je vous en prie.
As long as there is any ink in thy pen.
With never a penny of money.

First, some notes on the words themselves.

The second line, repeated each verse, is French (I guess you knew that) for ‘excuse me if you please’, or more literally ‘pardon me I pray you’. The inference might be that the three soldiers were fighting in Belgium, but French was an international (and incidentally courtly) language and anyway, you just needed a bit of foreign to impress people back home. It didn’t need to be Flemish.

In the third verse, we have ‘pays for the shot’. This could be a double entendre. Literally, troops might have to pay for their ammunition. It could also be a subtle threat; ‘if you don’t agree with me, and sing along, and buy us beer, you’ll get what’s coming to you’.

The fourth verse has ‘charge it again’. You could charge a tankard (refill it with drink). You also charge a musket (the order for loading it).

Ink in thy pen could be literal; the ink to write down more debt because we can’t afford to pay, the ink to sign on to a company of soldiers. And it is also a metaphor for ‘if you are brave enough’.

I have some thoughts on the sentiments of the song as a whole as well. The easy interpretation is that it is three young lads, boasting of their bold deeds fighting abroad and asking for people to buy them drink, as they have no money but are heroes with stories of great deeds to tell.

Put another slant on it, and the underlying theme is quite sad; these young men have risked their lives fighting (or at least say they have), but have nothing but stories to show for it, nothing to come home to, and ultimately all they can do is scrounge some drinks before going back to all they know – fighting, drinking and causing trouble as soldiers away in some foreign land.

You decide.

You can find a version of the song here. It was recorded in 2013, over 400 years after it was first published, and features three pairs of trudging feet as the percussion / backdrop to the song. Weary feet.

We ‘trudged’ in boots around Robbie Duncan’s studio (also his house) to find just the right bit of floor, with just the right sound. I found it by the dish washer in the kitchen, so three of us (including Robbie) trudged in boots with microphones around us.

The ‘three’ in this version are two voices, with a ‘symphony’ style hurdy gurdy as the third voice.

Other references:
Ravenscroft music site
Ravenscroft profile
Lyrics from my favourite folk music resource: Mudcat Cafe; http://mudcat.org/Detail.CFM?messages__Message_ID=1468267

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Crikey, I’m on Tour !

On tour in the beautiful South Island of New Zealand.

So I get to play some nice venues, meet great and friendly people, while driving some of the best roads in the world and enjoying the spectacular scenery along the way. Marvellous !

IMG_1997Here’s a pic from Kaiteriteri Beach in the evening sunshine, during a rest day. See what I mean?

It’s been a bit of a mission to get this off the ground; my first solo tour organised almost entirely by myself (with a bit of wonderful help with finding couches to surf). It all started when Anna Heniz of Nelson Acoustic Routes chatted at the end of Tui Farm folk festival, and asked when I was coming down again and would I pop into her folk club.

We got in touch by email. ‘How many songs would you like?’ I asked. ‘An hour,” she said, ‘You’re the main act. And any month except the one when we are away, I want to hear it.’

Wow. And ayeek !

This was months back, and we settled on April – a few months to organise other things, weather still warm. So I started emailing and using facebucket messages to get in touch with other potential venues to make this into a mini tour. And calls.

kaitakiTravelling across the Cook Strait is a big part of the logistics, and expense. Luckily I got to play as the entertainment on board Kaitaki for the crossings; sort of singing for my supper. Didn’t get to see much of the scenery in the Sounds this time, which is a pity as it is fantastic.

Anyhoo, I’m on tour. Me and heaps of gear in my old Toymota.

Dates (with links to event details);

8 April – Interislander, Wellington – Picton – 9:30am
9 April – Motueka, Elevation Cafe – 7:00pm
10 April – Nelson, Yaza Cafe – 7:30pm
13 April – Greymouth, Speights Ale House – 7:30pm
15 April – Dunedin, Ombrellos – 5:30pm
16 April – Dunedin, Inch Bar – 8:30pm
17 April – New England Folk Club (support) – 7:30pm
19 April – Lyttelton, Wunderbar – 8:30pm
20 April – Picton, Le Cafe – 7:30pm
21 April – Interislander, Picton – Wellington – 2:30pm

I’ll update info below as I go;

I’m particularly excited about the Picton connection. I have a growing fascination with old stories about the area and have written a song Nine Pairs of Eyes about the Perano whalers of the early / mid 20th century. Must get round to demoing it some time as it seems to be going down very well. I even sang it to the lovely and helpful staff at the Picton Museum on my way through on the 8th. They even gave me words to a couple of other old songs and ideas for others from local stories. I also talked to the whale centre and local media, so watch this space as they say. The 20th could be something special as I have asked for old whalers or people with stories or connection to get in touch.

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Tui Farm again – and wonderful again

It almost didn’t happen. I am so glad it did.

I have just returned from a superbly relaxed, friendly festival in beautiful South Island scenery. What a great way to spend a New Year’s break.

Carol and Steve Rose have run the event on their 25 acre slice-of-heaven tucked in the Nelson Ranges for over a decade and one of their pieces of genius is scheduling large chunks of nothing in the programme. There’s plenty of time for socialising with friends old and new, jamming, taking a dip in the creek or just joining in.

And I have never been involved in a festival with quite the same level of genuine joining-in-ness. The blind date seems to feature a large proportion of the festival goers and is very entertaining. When the festival choir stood up to perform in the final concert, it was half the marquee audience as they crammed in front of the stage.

This year, I participated in the traditional giant water fight between the kids and adults. Actually, we were all kids and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Workshops on guitar, songwriting and laughter were all busy.

Oh, and there was music. This year the organisers decided not to book paid main guests; the performances were from among the festival goers and the quality very high. I missed the opening concert as I didn’t arrive until New Year’s Day, but there was still plenty to enjoy.

Bob Bickerton demonstrated his multi-instrumentalist talents with celtic infused folk. Highlight for me was a stunning whaling song accompanied by guitar (played with a bow) and a koauau. Finishing Friday’s concert was Cairde, a long standing female four piece featuring Carol Rose and leading supporter of the Nelson folk scene Anna Heinz. The musicianship was excellent, the tunes and harmonies delicious and the performance just got better as it went on.

There was a concert every evening and final act of the wonderfully long weekend was Rennie Pearson and Oscar West. We have seen these two young stars at Acoustic Routes just over a year ago, performing traditional celtic based music to a superb standard. With Rennie on guitar and flute, Oscar on fiddle (he didn’t bring his bagpipes as he was holidaying on Golden Bay), their energy and excellence had everyone enthralled. They even managed to combine a traditional style tune with beat boxing to great effect.

There were blackboards too, including an under 16s with plenty of performers of very high standard.

Each day there was a Tui Spot concert, with old hands and new combinations invited to perform short sets on the main stage. I was lucky enough to present traditional unaccompanied singing with Kevin Mayes, a dream gig what with his barnstorming voice and great repertoire mainly sourced from his time in Sussex at the Copper Family’s favourite pub.

On the fourth morning of the festival, the marquee was packed again for the Poets Session. There are so many contributions, often penned during the weekend, that for two hours or more we were reminded of the power of words to bring tears of laughter, joy or sadness. All ably MC’d by balladeer and bush poet Roger Lusby, who also performed a concert and co-ran the songwriters workshop.

The weather, so blue sky bright when I arrived, was not always so clement. It rained solidly for two whole days, with the only break for an hour or so (while the water fight was happening, ironically). It didn’t seem to matter. The sun was back to dry the tents before we had to leave for the ferry, taking the Tui spirit with us.

Slowly, you return to the real world, driving for half an hour alongside the course of the old Nelson to Glenhope railway as you head to Tapawera, the nearest town (and nearest cell phone coverage). With an ice cream there and a long scenic drive, our journey back to modernity is gentle.

And to think the Roses announced about a year ago that the Tui Farm festival was no more, as they were selling their property. They relented, and put on a slightly smaller festival than normal. With many enthusiastic and experienced Tui goers there, Carol and Steve had as much of a great time as the rest of us and are planning the next one already.

I have just re-read my old review of Tui Farm Folk Festival from a couple of years ago. A great and relaxing time seems to be a recurring theme there !

www.tuifarmfolk.co.nz

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Interview on MusicSound

It came out of the blue.

Actually, it came out of the ether.

I want to interview you about Row out to your ship of dreams.

How could I refuse (he was so polite)?

So here it is;

When did the project begin? and How did you meet yourselves?

I guess it all came together quite quickly in 2013. I was gigging and being asked if I had a CD – I didn’t. Then I was playing a song with a friend just for the heck of it at a music retreat when we heard beautiful voices joining in. Next thing we know we’re on stage together and joy and enthusiasm just sort of swept us into the studio.

What song of yours is the one you like the most?

Ship of Dreams. It sums up so many things in one song; I had been going through so many things in life and it gives hope that real strength comes from within, the process of creating that song is typical of the way ideas seem to germinate and grow almost by themselves, and it wouldn’t be the song it is now without Julian Ward on guitar.

http://nigelparry.bandcamp.com/track/ship-of-dreams

Lyrics;
Row Out to your ship of dreams - Nigel ParryShip of Dreams

Go out to your ship of dreams
Time to leave the shore
Row out to your ship of dreams
Don’t stand there waiting for your ship of dreams for ever more

If you have a song, A song you’d like to sing.
Just step right up and share it with the world
There’s music in your dreams
And soul in every note and every word.

If there is a soul, Someone in your heart
Do they know how much they mean and how you feel
Why hide behind your fear
You’ll often lose a soul that’s never told

If there is a place, A place within your heart
A place that brings some meaning to your world
Start making travel plans
And the journey will be just as great a part

You may find your ship of dreams, In your heart and in your soul
In your own distant horizon that’s inside
Leave the fools gold
Only your ship can reach your rainbow’s end.

How do you write your music?

Most times it is a long process, that often starts while lying awake at night. Things and nothings churning round in my head. Sometimes they morph into a snatch of melody, a line or two, little more than a fragment. Perhaps a verse and chorus. I know it will be gone by morning, leaving nothing but a will-o-the-wisp to taunt me for my folly in not making a record of the song or tune.

So I get up and literally sing into my phone, maybe type a few lines as well. I use an app called Evernote that synchs with my lap top.

And there the idea will sit. For a day, a few months, maybe even years, until a few more ideas or fragments are added and there’s enough to work on. That day, out comes pen, paper and often a guitar. Things usually come quickly from there and I have a complete song.

But it isn’t finished, oh no !

I don’t just write songs. I rewrite them. Sometimes several times. I am a writer by trade so working on lyrics comes naturally, but it still needs attention and I am getting better at melody. Maybe. And sometimes you just need to gig a song quite a few times and gauge the reaction – it’s all part of honing the performance and the piece.

I talk to other musicians who write their new songs then go straight into the studio. Personally I think songs are much better after you have taken them on the road a few times.

What influences do you have?

Growing up in England, it was definitely what was on BBC Radio 1 and what my friends were listening to; pretty much everything except disco music. I was even lead singer in rock bands at college.

Then a friend dragged me along to a historical reenactment group and a whole world of friends and folky music dawned. Everything from traditional ballads to sea shanties, to singer songwriter (Dylan) to folk rock (Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span etc). We played each others records, went to gigs, sang at parties, in the minibus on the way to events, in pubs and rounds camp fires.

I think now I realise that the biggest influences have often been the closest friends.

What´s the best experience you have had with your project?

Actually recording the CD and working on it. Robbie Duncan is both a genius of acoustic recording and one of the loveliest people around. He believes in capturing a little essence of magic in a recording rather than sterile purification. That meant up to four of us essentially ‘live’ rather than laying down tracks individually.

Each session was exhausting but fun.

What plans do you have this year?

We have some gigs and festivals coming up around New Zealand as a four piece – essentially the four on some of the tracks on the album but now a headline act in its own right called Parryphonalia. And we’re off the France for a few weeks too.

That and some solo gigs. Oh, and I play percussion in Awesome Gurdy Machine, a relatively new venture and the only 3 hurdy gurdy band in the Southern Hemisphere but beginning to attract some attention.

We would like to be back in the studio later this year, but commitments mean it’ll have to wait until 2016.

Actually, that’s more of a ‘to do’ list. My plan is to demo more of my own songs. Just a plan, let’s see if I find the time 🙂

Mention something you don´t like about your project.

I actually feel a bit weird when someone comes up and asks me to sign their copy of the CD. Like I’m some kind of rock star or something. And before you ask; No, I wont wear tight leather pants either.

Mention the biggest sacrifice you did for your project.

I missed out on a awful lot of daylight. I would spend hours with Robbie Duncan mixing the recordings in the dark studio, then emerge blinking into the evening sunlight.

Probably just as well, I don’t tan easily and it might have saved me from sunburn.

What band, music project or soloist from your city do you like? Why?

Helen Dorothy. A solo singer songwriter from just up the road, she weaves a magic spell of story telling in perfect melody and a creatively hypnotic guitar style all her own. Actually, not just city, probably the best you’ll hear in New Zealand, the country I chose to call home.

If your project was a word, what would it be?

Stories.

Almost all the songs on the album Row out to your ship of dreams are actually stories, and all of the songs have stories behind them.

 

Reproduced with kind permission from MusicSound music news and blog.

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The story behind the song – The Magpie

This sounds like an old song, at least the lyrics do. It was actually written in the 1960’s by English folkie David Dodds.

It uses an old nursery counting rhyme; one for sorrow, two for joy ……

In England, the magpie was seen as a dodgy customer. If you saw two, that was good, but if you only saw one that was bad. Superstitions sprang up giving you several options to deal with the solo magpie.

You could flap your arms, imitating a bird, and playing the part of the second magpie.

You could spit on the ground in front of you (this might be tempting during a live gig, but I’ve never done it).

Or you could shake your fist and shout ‘devil devil, I defy thee.’

The story goes that Dave Dodds had the idea for the song when he gave an old lady a lift, and she spat in his Jag every time she saw a magpie. Must have been an interesting journey.

The Magpie is the second song on the album Row Out to your ship of dreams. I had just changed the way I play it earlier in the year, to give more ‘swing’. Vocal harmonies are mine on the record as well, although they have been done live with close harmony based band Parryphonalia.

It’s easy to play (I basically play Am and Em, with a few runs and variants thrown in) and fun to perform. Some fans say it’s their favourite track on the CD.

There are several versions out there. Dave Dodds himself did a punk folk rock version with his band Red Jasper. Recently, fabulous band The Unthanks slowed it right down for a haunting version. If you want to listen to something along similar lines but sounding completely different, here’s the link to the theme tune for 1970s/80s children’s programme Magpie.

Here’s the lyrics to David Dodds’ original;

THE MAGPIE

The magpie brings us tidings
Of news both fair and foul;
She’s more cunning than the raven,
More wise than any owl.

She brings us news of the harvest
Of barley, wheat, and corn.
She knows when we’ll go to our graves
How we shall be born.

[chorus]

One’s for sorrow, Two’s for joy,
Three’s for a girl and four’s for a boy.
Five for silver, Six for gold,
And seven for a secret never told.

Devil, devil, I defy thee.
Devil, devil, I defy thee.
Devil, devil, I defy thee.

She brings us joy when from the right,
Grief when from the left.
Of all the news that’s in the air
We know to trust her best.

For she sees us at our labor,
And she mocks us at our work.
She steals the egg from out of the nest,
And she can mob the hawk.

The priest, he says we’re wicket
To worship the devil’s bird.
Ah, but we respect the old ways
And we disregard his word.

For we know they rest uneasy
As we slumber in the night;
And we always leave a little bit of meat
For the bird that’s black and white.

You can listen to and download my version of The Magpie on Bandcamp here and find out where I’m playing it next on my web site.

Posted in Ramdon music thoughts, Studio / recording, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Soul Food at Tui Farm

The absolute genius of Carol and Steve Rose, who run the Tui Farm folk festival each New Year, is in programming large gaps in the schedule.

Tui FarmThere is plenty of time for just being; being with friends, being in the moment with music, being in the festival choir and your blind date group, being in the creek and splashing friends and friendly strangers, being lost to jamming round a brazier or chorusing with a singaround.

There were plenty of acts on stage. Gumboot Tango treated us to a feast of Kiwi classics and had the whole marquee singing. The Hardcore Troubadours were also excellent – a mixture of Kim (wonderful harmonies) and Dusty (beautifully played mandolin) combined with with some of Hobnail (Rob’s colourful songs, Hamish on effortless percussion). Carol Bean laid down some bluesy grooves.

The poetry session is a special treat, like no other I have been to and often eclipsing the music. A packed main tent was treated to a two and a half hour succession of beautifully crafted words from both festival goers and a smattering of talented neighbours. Not to be missed.

There was dancing !The blind date was the best I have seen, with many large groups putting on superb performances and having a great time in the process. When the festival choir gets up to perform, half the seats in the marquee empty onto the packed stage. Mary Kippenberger and Peter Charlton-Jones split many sides with the help of co-opted ‘performers’ young and old. And there were other workshops too.

A new late night addition, a traditional singing session, was a big hit and is likely to be back. Steve has promised to erect a ‘traddy shack’ for next year.

All this in an idyllic setting, nestled among cliffs, hills, woods and paddocks many miles from the distractions of ‘civilisation’.

Four days of food for the soul. With friends old and new. We’ll be back.

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A musical journey Pt 2

Here we go before I forget too much;

I left off the last part of the story while standing with friends at the Village Pump folk festival, under the floodlit gaze of a white horse carved into a Wiltshire hillside.

Gorgeous standing stone circle

Gorgeous standing stone circle

It would have been great to stay, but there’s sometimes too many things on all at once, so next morning it was off through the sluggish southern England traffic. There was a brief but spiritual stop at the Avebury standing stones.

It is a wondrous place (although I don’t remember paying for parking the last time I visited years ago, let alone forking our a small fortune, but it is something worth looking after). A little old village has grown up in among the stones, making the visit a unique experience – the visitor centre is well worth a visit too.

Then off to the main fare for the rest of the weekend; a big historical event in the lovely town of Marlborough. It was really hot so I had to pop into a nice little pub in the town to cool off. Revived by lunch and a pint of finest ale, the English Civil War Society’s display battle was just as I remembered from so many events I took part in years ago before leaving for NZ. Perhaps a little self-indulgent when I see it from the outside now, but still worth watching.

I wasn’t there for the scrap though. I was greeted warmly by many old friends and spent the whole evening (and well into the night) chatting, singing and playing music, swapping stories and songs. It brought back so many fond memories of the things that got me into trad folk music in the first place and it was really special to sing with my old friend Dave McLoughlin.

And be really silly (we encourage each other too much, which is fantastic).

Next day was also a bit unusual, in a good way. We were asked to play ‘authentic’ music outside a 17thC style ‘Inn’ in the living history area in town for the afternoon. So attired in Playing music by the tavernborrowed clothing (and a wonderfully outrageous hat from Dave) we drummed and hurdy gurdied to our hearts’ content, with We Be Soldiers Three and plenty of other early stuff.

Great fun, and people started dropping coins in my little wooden bowl so the real ale funds had a bit of a boost. We stayed over on the sunday night, with fewer people but just as much singing. However the next morning took an interesting turn.

The camp site was on public land, and the ECWS had been allowed to stay until the end of the monday morning. Unfortunately the portaloo company didn’t know, so all the ‘facilities’ disappeared about 7am, just before people stirred from their tents.

I must confess, it was quite amusing to see many bemused people gathering cross legged by a vacant row of pale squares in the grass. Emergency access to the local rugby club was a mighty relief.

Next travel post – the glories of North Wales and Yorkshire.

Posted in Festivals / events, Live performance | Tagged , | 2 Comments