Category Archives: Me singing folk songs

Cinderford Music Festival fundraising gig

This afternoon, I did my first solo gig. Up till now, I’ve done a few gigs as a part of combos (including as a jazz singer, bizarrely) and plenty of short solo spots at folk clubs, but this was the first time I’d done a complete set, with just my guitar and voice.

It takes a certain amount of courage.

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Guinnevere, at Goodrich Village Hall

For anyone who retains some scepticism that I sing at folk clubs, here is a rather poor-quality video of our indifferent performance last night of the superb Crosby, Stills and Nash song Guinnevere, which you can hear on their first album. Or on YouTube. You should listen to that, not this:

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On singing songs live for the first time

I didn’t realise until six last night that there would be a folk club that evening at eight. That gave me an hour and a half to lick a couple of new songs into shape (since it takes half an hour to drive there, nab a slot in the programme, and get a beer).

lou_reedAs a tribute to Lou Reed, who died last week, I wanted to do his song Perfect Day. And I also had a hankering to try out Leonhard Cohen’s much-covered impressionistic masterpiece Hallelujah.

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Oppose SOPA, PIPA and the RWA

Today is a big day for the Internet.  Nearly everyone reading this site will be aware of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA), two appallingly ill-conceived pieces of legislation under consideration in the US but with profound ramifications for the whole world.  Written at the behest of big copyright holders by people with no understanding of how the Internet works either mechanically or culturally, they would be absolutely disastrous if passed.

In response to this, many high-profile web-sites are demonstrating the results such laws would have by going dark for the day.  They include Reddit and, most importantly, Wikipedia.  (Also, the entire Cheezburger network and many, many others.)  We can only hope that this distributed demonstration results not just in SOPA and PIPA being rejected, but in an emphatic smackdown that makes it impossible for similarly dumb legislation to get mind-space in the future.

But there is another threat also making its way through the US Congress — less publicised but also hugely important.

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What I’ve been listening to in 2011

I keep track of what music I’ve been listening to on my computers through the year, and at the end of each year I like to produce a compilation of ten tracks representing what I’ve heard. (More than ten tracks is wearing for people to listen to. I learned this by ploughing through a friend’s Top 25 one year).

I listen much more to whole albums than to individual tracks, so what I’ve done is to pick the top ten albums that I listened to the most in 2011, as recorded on the two computers where I listen to most of my music. (So these counts don’t include listening in the car or on the iPod.) I limited it to no more than one album per artist, and I skipped compilations. Then from each of those ten objectively selected albums, I subjectively picked one song that I felt was representative.

Over the next few days, I will be writing a brief post on each of those top ten songs, in reverse order.  (I think several short posts should be easier to digest than one big one, as I did last year.)  Although I was aware that I’d been listening to (and playing) a lot of folk music this year, I was surprised at how strongly that genre turned out to dominate the top ten albums: all but two of them are “folk music” for some reasonable definition of the term — though they are very different from each other.

Next time: we start with a transitional album by one of the greats.

… and finally

Back at the Forest Folk Club last night, and for the first time ever my wife, Fiona, was with me.  I sang three new songs: Paul Simon’s nostalgic lament Still Crazy After All These Years (with most of the chords correct, but not all); The Beatle’s hallucinogenic ramble Strawberry Fields Forever; and Lucy Kaplansky’s deceptively cheerful stalker-song Don’t Mind Me.

What I did on my holidays

Sorry it’s been so quiet around here.  I’ve been away twice in the last few weeks, and in the time since then I’ve been revving frantically to catch up with what’s been happening in my absence.  But just to make you all jealous, here is one of the photos I took on my trip to Cancun:

It’s hard to believe such places really exist, isn’t it?  But this is the raw shot, straight off the camera, no processing at all.  It’s a tiny beach at the ancient Mayan city of Tulum — the most startlingly beautiful place I’ve ever seen.

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Ignoring things

I am irritable and scratchy today, and I think I know why.  It’s for a stupid reason, but one that has important things underlying it.

Background: my awesome employers, Index Data, are flying all of us out to Cancun at the end of the month for a sort of company conference/holiday in a luxurious hotel by a beautiful beach.  (“All of us” is fourteen people — I love small companies.)  So that’s a good thing, and it makes me very happy to look forward to a week of sunshine (especially in contrast to the vile weather we’ve been having in Gloucestershire).

But yesterday I got an email with some information about the hotel, which said:

Dinner dress code for men are slacks, collared shirt and enclosed shoes. Dress code for women are sundresses, dresses or slacks. No jeans.

That annoys me.  (And not only because of the horrible singular/plural mismatches.)

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The new new frontier

It’s not often that I disagree with Seth Godin, but today I do.

In his post The New Frontier, he writes:

When Google + launched, millions of formerly optimistic people became optimistic again. Maybe this was going to be the one, the social network with just the smart people and none of the lame stuff, none of the spam or the pitches or the people we’re trying to avoid.  [...]  So much disappointment and so much bitterness. It’s never as great as you hoped it would be. Ennui and then, eventually, waiting for yet another new frontier.

I don’t buy that.  Experience going back as far as USENET in the 1980s tells me that there is constant “prolification treadmill”.  Every new community starts out as a pleasantly small group of like-minded people; and then as it becomes popular, it’s progressively taken over by people who want to talk about Star Trek and post pictures of their cats.

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More thoughts on The Wedding of River Song

[A revised and improved version of this essay appears in my book The Eleventh Doctor: a critical ramble through Matt Smith’s tenure in Doctor Who.]

24 hours on from writing my review of The Wedding of River Song, I’m still a bit shocked at how negative it turned out.  And I still don’t really understand why I liked it so very much less than, say, The Big Bang.  But I did have two more thoughts I wanted to share; plus a lot of interesting points have been made in the comments, some of them deserving a public response.

Needless to say, lots of spoilers follow.

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Folk music: Chloe and Silas hit it out of the park

My quest for what I’ve been calling folk music but might more accurately be described as “singer-songwriter” music got a big boost last Sunday night.  I went again to the Forest Folk Club, less than ten miles from where I live, and where I played my own first tiny set a couple of week previously.  The evening’s main act was Chloe and Silas, and they were superb.

Exactly what I’d been looking for.

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