Category Archives: Me singing folk songs

My solo set at the Mitcheldean Festival

I’ll write separately about our band’s prog-tinged gig at the Mitcheldean Festival. Here I just want to report back briefly on my solo set in the evening. last Saturday.


I had a half-hour, which was enough time to get through eight songs. Continue reading

Final programme for the Mitcheldean Folk Festival

As noted previously, I am doing both a solo set and (with my wife, son and next-door neighbour) a band set in the first ever Mitcheldean Folk Festival next Saturday. Here is the final program (click through for a PDF of all four pages):


It would be great to see any of you there who can make it.


Also coming up (and more exciting): band set at the Mitcheldean Folk Festival

As I noted last time, the first ever Mitcheldean Folk Festival will be held on 18th-20th July this year. Not only did I get a solo slot in the evening, but — much more exciting to me — we have a band playing in the afternoon:

Mitcheldean Fete Concert Listed Flyer Afternoon Events Finalised-500px

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Coming up: solo set at the Mitcheldean Folk Festival

I’ve been going along to Mitcheldean Folk Club in the last few months. And it turns out I got involved just in time for the first ever Mitcheldean Folk Festival, which will be held on 18th-20th July 2014, but mostly on Saturday 19th.

Mitcheldean Fete Concert Listed Flyer Evening Finalised-500px

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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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Singing and playing guitar again

Because a lot of other things came up — including summer, this conference and this paper that I wrote in its aftermath — it feels like it’s been ages since I played and sang songs at a folk club or similar. Checking my notes, I see that the last time was in fact right back in May, which is much too long.

Happily, I fixed that on Friday night, where I had a chance to play four songs at the Cross Keys Inn in Goodrich. One of them I’ve done before: Crosby, Stills and Nash’s cheerful travelogue Marrakesh Express. But the other three were all new additions to the repertoire: Paul Simon’s downbeat three-act short story Slip-Slidin’ Away, the Beatles psychedelic epic A Day in the Life, and Joni Mitchell’s heartbreaking but emotionally cold A Case of You. (I know you need a band, a symphony orchestra and three grand pianos to do A Day in the Life properly, but we make do and mend.)

That brings my repertoire to 45 songs. When I hit fifty, I’ll have to start looking around and seeing if I can find some actual gigs, or at least support slots.

Also on the agenda: it’s to my enduring shame that I’ve never written a song of my own. I like interpreting others’ work, but it does feel like that’s only half of the job.

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.