Friday, 18 May 2018

Book Review - Wild Tales by Graham Nash

I finished Graham Nash's autobiography last night and I would certainly recommend it to anyone interested in the whole Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young circus. But I have to say it does end rather abruptly. He generally goes into quite a bit of detail on the various albums he released post-Hollies but there is no mention of the last two CSN albums or the double album he recorded with Crosby in 2004 or the last CSN&Y album 'Looking Forward'. It's as if he had a deadline to reach and ran out of time to complete the book.

I can understand why Crosby was unhappy with some of the content as Nash doesn't hold back in his descriptions of how bad a state Crosby was in during his freebasing coke years. There is one quite shocking incident where Croz, as he's known to his friends, had disappeared leaving Jan with one of his dealers who brought a couple of thugs to their house. They then stole whatever valuables they could find and beat Jan up. On the one hand it showed how bad a state Crosby was in - that he would abandon his partner like that - but I felt that we really didn't need Nash to go into the detail he did about what happened to the hapless Jan. 

I wouldn't be surprised if this is one of the reasons why the two of them have fallen out and are saying they will never work together again, though this is a feature of CSN&Y over the years. They are all such headstrong personalities that it only seems to be a matter of time before they will fall out with each other, be that in the studio or on tour. But this rift between Crosby and Nash does seem quite serious and it may well be that the four of them, or three of them or indeed the two of them never perform or record together again. But we have an impressive back catalogue of all the various permutations and plenty of solo albums to enjoy. Nash does admit that at times the material wasn't good enough, for example on the 'American Dream' album but Young had promised Crosby that he would return to the mothership, as CSN&Y is called, once David had done his time in prison.

One thing I struggled with while reading the book is that on the one hand Nash bangs on about all the benefit concerts he's done over the years for environmental causes etc, but then admits quite freely that he seems to have spent half his life in the air (his home at the time of writing being Hawaii). God only knows what his carbon footprint is like. And unlike contemporaries such as Harrison and McCartney, Nash doesn't seem at all interested in adopting a vegetarian diet. He says that when Crosby was released from prison, he took him for a meal and bought him the biggest steak he'd seen in years.  I'm reminded of the Neil Young song 'Hippie Dream' which includes the following lyrics (incidentally Nash was no stranger to cocaine himself but stopped taking it in 1984) - 

And the wooden ships
Are a hippie dream
Capsized in excess
If you know what I mean

Another flower child
Goes to seed
In an ether-filled
Room of meat-hooks
It's so ugly

He's quite a complex character is our Graham, perhaps not to the same extent as Neil Young, and certainly a workaholic but is driven by his love of music. He describes how all three members of Crosby, Stills and Nash remain extremely prolific songwriters. He's touring the UK in July and playing a hometown gig at the Lowry in Salford which I imagine will be quite a night. 

https://www.grahamnash.com/#tourdates

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Wes Martin Benefit gig mix

This mix, which includes a special track by The Low Countries, ties in with the Benefit/Celebration Night at 8pm on Saturday 12th of May at the Yorkshire House for our friend Ukulele Boy aka Wes Martin. 

For more info see https://www.facebook.com/events/186479518646466/

Re my tribute to him at https://www.mixcloud.com/cmbertram/wes-benefit-night-mix/

First up is Kish McGuire's version of Angie, an instrumental track made famous by 60s guitarists like Davy Graham and Bert Jansch. Kish, who happens to be my stepson, was a regular performer at the Gregson Open Mic nights. He was still at school but dazzled us older musicians with his skills on the guitar.

Of Waxed and Waned Nigel Parrington says, "I've written a song for Wes. You can listen to it here and, if you like it, download for free (just enter £0 at the checkout). All I ask is a donation on the 12th or to a mental health charity - or simply talk to someone you think might appreciate it."
https://thelowcountries.bandcamp.com/track/waxed-waned

Wes was a massive fan of Bert Jansch who died in 2011 and when we did our review of that year on our Diversity FM show, Wes selected Bird Song by Bert. But I've chosen this re-working of I Cannot Keep From Crying which he included on his album "Edge of a Dream" and features Bernard Butler on slide guitar.

The intro music we used for our show, which was called Off The Beaten Tracks, was from the Kate Rusby song Elfin Knight. Wes seemed to have something of a fascination with Kate's hair as he always remarked on it whenever I played a track by her. The title of this song, Bitter Boy, has a double meaning as Wes did enjoy his beer.

I had the pleasure of seeing John Renbourn play in Lancaster at the Yorkshire House in 2007 and I'm sure Wes must have been there as he was a big fan of the other guitarist who, along with Bert, made his name playing in the legendary band Pentangle. Blues Run The Game is a Jackson C Frank song covered by both Bert and John and various other people over the years.

Continuing the beer thread I've chosen a version of the Richard Thompson song God Loves a Drunk which you may be unfamiliar with. This is from a RT boxed set and features Norma Waterson on vocals. And I'm guessing that's Danny Thompson on the double bass.

Wes used the name UkuleleBoy on Soundcloud for a while and one week we decided to have a uke theme on our radio show. The Ukulele Orchestra of GB's cover of Joni Mitchell's (He Played Real Good) For Free is followed by one of Wes' selections on that show, No Surprises from Amanda Palmer's album, "Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead on Her Magical Ukulele".

These songs are followed by another cover, this being the Squeeze song Up The Junction given the "punk songs on acoustic instruments" treatment by Ade Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds and then we have a classic folk song by June Tabor about a pigeon fancier in Derby following his dreams with a bird he calls the King of Rome.

For some reason Wes found the name Notman amusing and when I played a song by Ruth on the show - can't remember if it was Si Tu Dois Partir - he pronounced it as Not Man and said that his name could be Wes Not Woman. Ok Wes, whatever you say.

Back to the beer with the jolly song Ale is Physic For Me by Mike Harding before we end with another instrumental piece, Still In Dreams by Ralph McTell from his album "Sofa Noodling".

Monday, 26 March 2018

Some words on Wes Martin

I first met Wes Martin when he and Nigel were running the Open Mic night at the Gregson Centre. Wes would play his banjo and as I subsequently discovered, he was equally good on guitar and ukulele among other instruments. Back then he was a member of Nigel and Els’ band, The Low Countries, and contributed to their album, "The Failing of the Strains" which was influenced by the film The Wicker Man. Later on, when he and I co-presented Off The Beaten Tracks on Diversity FM, I played ‘Summerisle’ by The Bailey Sisters and Wes would join in singing the chorus with great gusto.

I can’t remember how it came about that Wes joined me on the radio station but I think it was because I wasn’t happy doing the show on my own and someone suggested that I find a co-presenter. At that time Wes was a full-time house-husband looking after two young sons and I got the impression that family life was, at times, quite stressful. Initially when Wes joined me we were doing live shows and he would often arrive with minutes to spare and then rush off at the end as there was some chore to do or a kid to be collected from school or wherever. But for those hours in the studio on a Friday lunchtime he could relax. To say he messed around would be unfair, as he was knowledgeable about the tracks he brought to the studio, but he certainly lightened the mood and I regained my love of broadcasting thanks to him.

We really were the classic straight man/funny man duo with me driving the desk (sliding faders up and down, playing jingles etc) while Wes brought his unique personality to the show. There was a book lying about in the studio titled something like This Day In History and it became a regular feature of the show with Wes reading bits from the book. He always had to mention who had died on this day in whichever year. He did seem to have something of a preoccupation with death though he never seemed to take it too seriously.

We recorded our final show in March 2012 when the funding ran out for Diversity FM and the YMCA pulled the plug on it. Wes had sometimes sat in with Reza Mills on his show and the three of us did one last live broadcast together on the day Diversity went off air. 


I didn’t see much of Wes after that, apart from one very drunken Xmas night out with Oli joining myself, Wes and Reza and the only other time I saw him was when we saw Mike Harding at the Lancaster Grand Theatre. We went for a drink after the show and Wes had got a real buzz from Mike’s brand of humour. He was a proud Northerner was Wes and I think he had a lot of admiration for Mike, both of them being from the North and having a shared love of folk and roots music.

But now Wes is gone. Inevitably, in these tragic circumstances, all his friends and family will find themselves asking why, and what we could have done to stop Wes from taking his own life. But ultimately it’s a pointless exercise. I, like many others, have been in the very dark places that depression can take you. It doesn’t matter how many people love you or how many friends you have offering you their support - when you are alone and the black cloud envelopes you, death can seem like the only way out and the only solution to your problems.

We will miss you Wes. We have your music, your paintings and I have a few recordings of our radio shows. The final song you selected on Off The Beaten Tracks was 'We’ll Meet Again' by Johnny Cash. I hope we do. So long Wes. It was a real pleasure knowing you.


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Listen to our final Diversity FM show on Mixcloud

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Thursday, 15 March 2018

Folk gigs in North Lancs and South Cumbria


For full listings, online bookings etc


Brewery Arts Centre - breweryarts.co.uk/whats-on/live-music/

Image Acoustic* - imageacoustic.com/index.php/concerts
The Hall - More Music
The Platform - uk.patronbase.com/_ThePlatform/Productions

Lucy Ward*
Date: Saturday 30 June
Venue: Ellel Village Hall, Galgate
Tickets £12

Jesca Hoop

Date: Friday 20 July
Venue: The Hall, Lancaster
Tickets: £12-14

Heidi Talbot & John McCusker
Date: Friday 20 July
Venue: The Platform, Morecambe
Tickets: £15

Greg Russell and Ciaran Algar*
Venue: Ellel Village Hall, Galgate
Date: Saturday 8th September 
Tickets: £12

Cara Dillon
Date: Saturday 15 September
Venue: The Platform
Tickets: £21

Blowzabella
Date: Friday 28 September
Venue: Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal
Tickets: £19.50

Peggy Seeger
Date: Wednesday 24 October
Venue: Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal
Tickets: £20 (not many seats left)

Peatbog Faeries
Date: Friday 26 October
Venue: The Platform
Tickets: £18


For folk and Americana shows and mixes - mixcloud.com/cmbertram

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Top Folk & Acoustic Albums of 2017

I've put together my list of favourite albums of the year. As ever, thanks go to the promoters and artists who have sent me cds and free downloads. Along with the albums listed below I should mention a couple of releases which were made up of just a few tracks - they might have been called EPs back in the days of vinyl - namely 'Five Songs' by Barbara Dickson and 'The Wren And The Salt Air' by Jenny Sturgeon.

2017 must be the first year in quite a long time that I didn't make it to any music festivals apart from the one here in Lancaster. I've only been to about a dozen gigs this year but most have been very enjoyable, the best being the Pitmen Poets, Breabach, John Doyle, Jamie Smith's Mabon, The Young 'Uns, Rory McLeod and Edgelarks. 

My favourite album and gig would probably go to The Young 'Uns as I was blown away by their harmony singing when they came to the Dukes Theatre here in Lancaster and their album "Strangers" is packed full of brilliant songs. 

Top UK Albums 

Ross Ainslie - Sanctuary
The Deadly Winters - Ravynstoun
Amy Duncan - Antidote
Robert Foster - Raven
Peter Knight's Gigspanner - The Wife of Urban Law
Rosie Hood - The Beautiful & The Actual
Sam Kelly & The Lost Boys - Pretty Peggy
Geoff Lakeman - After All These Years
Madam Tsunami - Long Way From Home
Siobhan Miller - Strata
Moonlight Gazette - Moonlight Gazette
Damien O'Kane - Avenging & Bright
Oka Vanga - Dance Of The Copper Trail
Old Blind Dogs - Room With A View
Skinner & T'witch - The Fool's Journey
Turnstone - Hollow Ground
The Young 'Uns - Strangers 

Top Albums from North America

Bruce Cockburn - Bone On Bone 
Brigitte DeMeyer & Will Kimbrough - Mockingbird Soul
Stephen Fearing - Every Soul's a Sailor
Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors - Souvenir
Steve Hussey & Jake Eddy - The Miller Girl 


Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

CB
Lancaster, UK

Friday, 27 October 2017

Off The Beaten Tracks radio show 27 October

I thought I'd record a show with songs written about refugees and immigrants and their journeys around the world. I found quite a few suitable ones just by UK artists, though there is a song by German group Fellerband, with my first choice being a very powerful song by The Young 'Uns titled 'Dark Water'. It was written about two young men who decided to swim across the sea to Greece as they didn't have the money to pay the people smugglers. There are a couple of songs about Calais where people used to gather in a camp called the Jungle though it has since been destroyed by the French authorities. But I'm sure people are still heading there to try and get across the Channel to England. 

https://www.mixcloud.com/cmbertram/off-the-beaten-tracks-27-october/

Darwin Song Project - Trust in the Rolling Ocean
Roving Crows - Refugee
Richard Thompson - Take Care the Road You Choose
Gilmore & Roberts - Warmonger
The Young 'Uns - Dark Water
Kate Rusby - Life in a Paper Boat
Fellerband - Road to Calais
Skinner & T'Witch - Calais Nights
Thea Gilmore - I Pity the Poor Immigrant
David Ferrard - I am an Immigrant (I'm From Here)
Julie Matthews - Road to Eden
Geoff Lakeman - The Road Together
June Tabor - Across the Wide Ocean

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Breabach gig review

Breabach at the Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal - 25 Feb 2017

At the start of this gig singer and guitarist Ewan Robertson said it had been a few years since they had played at the Brewery Arts Centre and asked if anyone in the audience had been there on that previous occasion. The silence was deafening, which took Ewan aback a bit, but by the end of the evening it didn't matter where all their old fans had gone as the new audience were on their feet applauding them like they were homecoming heroes.

Ewan, along with fiddler Megan Henderson, double bass player James Lindsay and pipers James Mackenzie and Calum MacCrimmon were in good spirits thanks to the Scottish victory over the Welsh at Murrayfield and the Cumbrian crowd was happy to join in the celebrations. While I'm sure I wasn't the only Scot in the audience, that old saying about the enemy of your enemy being your friend certainly applies in the Six Nations rugby tournament.

As for the music, there were plenty of tracks from their latest cd 'Astar' which includes compositions written on their travels to Scandanavia and Down Under. Each band member took it in turn to chat between numbers and there was some nice Outer Hebrides humour from James (We were poor but we were miserable!). I was mighty impressed with his flute playing - they are all accomplished musicians but I felt James' playing in particular was superb. Megan's Gaelic singing and step dancing are also worth a mention and there were some nice vocal harmonies when Ewan and Calum stepped up to their mics to accompany Megan. Ewan also gave us a lovely rendition of the Dick Gaughan song, "Outlaws and Dreamers".

With this having been the final date of the English leg of their current tour, they had the unenviable task of driving up to Inverness for a gig the following night, but on their current form I'm sure they will go down a storm in the Highlands. 

Hopefully it won't be another few years before Breabach play in the north-west of England again and all I can say to the band is, haste ye back!