Category Archives: Me singing folk songs

Richard Shindell’s song The Next Best Western

Let’s just pretend today’s election never happened, and speak of better things.

Around the turn of the millennium, I worked at a small company in North London. We had a shared MP3 server: we all put some of our favourite songs on it, and we could all listen to each other’s. That’s how I discovered the brilliant singer-songwriter Dar Williams, who was the choice of my colleague Andrew Eland. In 2009, reading a review of one of Dar’s albums, I read on to the second half of that article which was about Richard Shindell’s album Reunion Hill. Based on the very positive review, I bought the album and loved it.

The opening song on that album is The Next Best Western, and it quickly became one of my favorite songs: so much so that when in 2011 I started playing and singing in folk clubs, it was the very first song I ever performed. So it’s particularly special to me.

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My new-year’s resolution: write a bad song every week

A little over two years ago, I cracked the problem of how to write a song: let go of the idea that it needs to be a perfect, precious jewel, such as Paul Simon or Joni Mitchell might produce. As I put it at the time: “write a bad song. It doesn’t matter. Just write a song.

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So, needless to say, in the intervening time, I have written absolutely no songs at all.

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Next Saturday: our prog-rock band at the Mitcheldean Festival

The wretched summer of 2016 has not offered us much good news. But for me at least, that’s about to change. Next Saturday (16th July) is the 2016 Mitcheldean Folk Festival, and our prog-rock back Crooked End will be closing the show from 8:30 till 9pm.

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Crooked End playing at the 2014 festival. Left to right: Fiona (flute, keyboards), Mike (guitar), Dan (drums), Mario (bass).

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The inauspicious beginning of my musical career

My sister Lindsey (that’s her at the bottom of the photo, enjoying experiencing my performance) recently found this old photo, taken in our back garden when I was about three years old. So that would be 1972, the year of Fragile, Machine Head, For the Roses and Paul Simon’s first solo album.

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Recordings from the Mitcheldean pre-Festival concert

Just in case anyone’s brave enough to want to hear our set from Saturday night, I’ve been sent some rather good recordings by David Stephens, who ran the PA. If anything, the recording quality is rather too good, as it’s very unforgiving of my decidedly wobbly pitching. Fiona sounds superb, though.

Here’s our version of Chloe and Silas‘s gorgeous Tax Office Love Song:

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The Mitcheldean pre-Festival concert

Last night, Fiona and I played at the Mitcheldean Folk Festival’s pre-festival evening concert — a twenty-five minute set of eight songs. It went really well.

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Coming up: Mitcheldean pre-Festival concert on Saturday 30 May

Just a brief note for anyone who’s in the area: Fiona and I have a half-hour set this Saturday evening at the pre-Festival warm-up concert for this year’s Mitcheldean Folk Festival. We’re one of eight acts in a line-up running for a total of four hours from 7pm till 11pm. The gig is at the Bespoke Brewery in Mitcheldean which I can tell you from experience has a whole range of excellent beers. It’s a free-entry event.

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So how was the Cinderford Music Festival?

Fiona and I played our set at the Cinderford Music Festival yesterday. We were delighted to do it, in part because it’s so local and we like to support local things. (We live 5 km from Cinderford.)

This isn't us -- it's a band called Vevolution playing at the 2014 festival.

This isn’t us — it’s a band called Vevolution playing at the 2014 festival. I don’t think there are any photos from the 2015 festival yet, and probably none of us in any case.

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I’m playing a half-hour set at the Cinderford Music Festival tomorrow at 1:30pm

I’m playing a half-hour set at the Cinderford Music Festival tomorrow at 1:30pm. Fiona will join me to provide backing vocals and flute. Here’s the blurb as it appears in the festival programme:

Mike Taylor sings and plays songs that people know and love — songs by bands like the Beatles and the Kinks, and songwriters like Joni Mitchell and James Taylor. He describes his voice as “adequate” and his guitar playing as “unobjectionable”. Come and sing along.

Please come and join us if you’re in the area! It’s free entry: all the details are on the Festival’s Facebook page, but the venue is the clubhouse of the Cinderford Football Club, Edge Hill Road, Cinderford, Gloucestershire GL14 2QH.

How to write a song (as told by someone who’s never written a song)

As long-time readers will know, I’ve been singing folk songs in pubs and clubs for a couple of years now. It’s great fun, and I highly recommend it: anyone who can strum a couple of chords and hold a tune really ought to look up what folk clubs are in their area and give it it a go.

But although I’ve built up a repertoire of more than fifty songs now, they’re all covers. (11 Beatles songs, if anyone’s interested; five Dar Williams, three Paul Simon, two traditional, two each by Richard Shindell, Joni Mitchell, Frank Sinatra, Deep Purple and Crosby, Stills and Nash. All the rest are singletons.)

So my dirty little secret is that I’ve never written a song of my own. And in fact, on reviewing what I’ve written on here before about music, I see at least three different occasions when I’ve lamented this.

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