Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Recommended Albums of 2015

As another year comes to a close it is time to put together my lists of recommended albums and there have been plenty of excellent new releases from artists old and new to choose from. Despite the inevitable lack of time to really give all the albums I'm sent a proper listen, artists who I've found myself going back to include Johny Corrigan, Fabian Holland, Annie Keating, The Kennedys, Danni Nicholls, Rab Noakes and Vanessa Peters

Thanks to Geraint Jones for the steady stream of downloads throughout the year and to Jane Brace, Bob Buchan and Martin Hadden for the CDs. And thanks also to the musicians who have sent me copies of their music.

The news from Beyond Radio is that they have found a premises in the centre of Lancaster for their studios and office but a fair amount of work needs doing before they can start broadcasting. If you've got any spare cash please consider making a donation on their Crowdfunder page...

Wishing all my listeners a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year!

Recommended UK Albums

Ross Ainslie - Remembering
Barluath - At Dawn of Day
Barrule - Manannan's Cloak
Clype - Clype
Johnny Corrigan - Down The Line
Peter Knight's Gigspanner - Layers of Ages
Gilmore & Roberts - Conflict Tourism
Philip Henry & Hannah Martin - Watershed
Fabian Holland - A Day Like Tomorrow
Dana Immanuel - Dotted Lines
Jenny Lascelles - Fairy Lights
Calum MacLeod - Leam Fhin (Just Me)
Mad Dog Mcrea - Almost Home
Mariearad & Anna - Best Day
Danni Nicholls - Mockingbird Lane 
Rab Noakes - I'm Walkin' Here
Damien O'Kane - Areas of High Traffic
Rura - Despite the Dark
Skerryvore - Decade
Robyn Stapleton - Fickel Fortune
Becci Wallace - Fragmentality
Lucy Ward - I Dreamt I Was A Bird

Recommended Rest of the World Albums

Blind Willies - Every Day Is Judgment Day
David Celia - Double Mind
Annabelle Chvostek - Be The Media
Alice DiMicele - Swim
The Foghorn Stringband - Devil In The Seat
Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors - Medicine
Malcolm Holcombe - The RCA Sessions
Annie Keating - Make Believing
Maura Kennedy - Villanelle - The Songs of Maura Kennedy & B.D. Love
The Kennedys - West
Anna Laube - Anna Laube
Sam Lewis - Waiting On You
Old Man Luedecke - Domestic Eccentric
Vanessa Peters - With The Sentimentals
Danny Schmidt - Owls
Kyrre Slind - Open Airs
Sver - Fryd
April Verch - The Newpart

Listen to tracks from selected 2015 albums at: 

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

OTBT video selection 9th December

Danni Nicholls - Between Forever and Goodbye

Danni Nicholls is one of UK's finest singer songwriters and a big favourite with the folks at Little Rabbit Barn. Her blend of smoky soul, & heart wrenching alt-country delivered with power and subtlety is something to behold. This is from a gig she played there back in April.

Luke Jackson Trio - Misspent History

Luke Jackson, one of the most exciting young acoustic performers to emerge in recent years is to join forces once again with Cardiff singer songwriter Amy Wadge for what promises to be a dazzling double header tour in the new year. Between January 9-31, Luke will tour England and Wales with Amy, known for her winning songwriting collaboration with “Britain’s hottest pop star” Ed Sheeran.

Gordon Duncan Junior - 11:11

From his new album Tides. Gordon launched the album at Pitlochry Town Hall on December 5th.

Rebecca Pronsky - Snowing Sideways

Written during the cold, dark New York winter of 2013-2014, Rebecca Pronsky’s new single ‘Snowing Sideways’ is a song about hope, about looking around us for those who know us best and can help us through times of struggle.

Produced by Pronsky’s husband and multi-instrumentalist Rich Bennett at Acme Hall Studios, a space the two own together in Brooklyn, ‘Snowing Sideways’ is more sonically acoustic than some of their recent records, and focuses more on the sound the two have developed over the years performing live as a duo.

‘Snowing Sideways’ will also be featured on Rebecca's as yet untitled new album, due for release in May 2016.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

OTBT mix 5 December \ Andy Semple

This mix is dedicated to a guy called Andy Semple who passed away this weekend. I met Andy through a Martin Stephenson internet discussion list back in the early 2000s. As well as being an online community there were annual get-togethers, known as Gatherings, which took place in Martin's adopted home in the Highlands of Scotland at a wee place called Portmahomack. 

The first Gathering I attended I got the train up to Aberdeen and then on to Inverness. Andy had already driven up to the Port, as it's known, and very kindly offered to drive down to Inverness to pick me up. I attended two further Gatherings, another at the Port and one in the North East of England which is where Martin is originally from. I remember these weekends as consisting of good company, good music and a fair few pints of beer would be drunk as well. Andy was a well-loved member of the egroup. Sadly due to mental health problems I had to leave the egroup and subsequently lost touch with most of those I had got to know. 

So I was a bit surprised at how shocked and saddened I was to read on Facebook about Andy's death as I hadn't seen him in over 10 years but I guess it shows the impression he had made on me back then. He lived in Manchester which isn't that far from where I have been living for the last ten years but while we were friends on Facebook I'd never thought about meeting up with him. Now it is too late which is a great shame.

As well as being a music fan Andy was a big football fan so I have included some football-related songs by Kirsty MacColl, Megson and Jez Lowe. When I read about his death I was listening to Johny Corrigan's new album, Down The Line, and some of the lyrics just seemed very appropriate for the emotions I was feeling on learning about Andy's passing.

So Andy, sorry we didn't get to meet up again but this mix is dedicated to you.

Martin Stephenson & The Daintees - Running Water
Johny Corrigan - Let It Shine
Roddy Frame - Small World
Kirsty MacColl - England 2 Columbia 0
Megson - The Longshot
Johny Corrigan - One Way Train
The Icicle Works - Up Here In The North Of England
Jez Lowe & The Bad Pennies - It's A Champion Life
Martin Stephenson & The Daintees - You Really Had A Heart
The Levellers - One Way
Johny Corrigan - Stay Young

Myself, Andy and various others at The Caley Hotel, Portmahomack in, I think, the year 2000.

Friday, 27 November 2015

St Andrew's Day mix

With St Andrews Day coming up on the 30th of November I've put together a mix of Scottish artists. Most of the tracks are from albums released in the last few years with a couple of oldies from Big Country and Drop The Box thrown in for good measure. It's mostly fairly mellow stuff but if you're in the mood for something more up-tempo here's some Runrig...

Mariearad & Anna - The Botanist
Ewan McLennan - Rattlin' Roarin' Willie
Daimh - Gur e mo Ghille Dubh Dhonn
Kris Drever - Green Grows The Laurel
Maeve Mackinnon - Kind Friends and Companions
Calum MacLeod - Shetland Set
Drop The Box - Not Coming Your Way
Big Country - Peace in our Time
Kim Edgar - Fragile
Nick Keir - Norman's Dram
Paul Anderson - Lament for the Mighty Norman Anderson
Macmaster Hay - Stay With You
Karine Polwart - We're All Leaving
King Creosote - Jump At The Cats
Salt House - Little Birdie

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Off The Beaten Tracks 25 November

Three tracks on this week's show from Danni Nicholls' album Mockingbird Lane which was released last month and a couple from Bob Bradshaw's new album Whatever You Wanted which was released on November the 13th.

Danni Nicholls' second album Mockingbird Lane features many members of the stellar cast from her critically acclaimed 2013 debut album A Little Redemption. From a young age, Danni was soaking up American folk, country and rock n roll music from her Grandmother’s record collection in her small home town of Bedford. 

Danni met producer Chris Donohue (The Civil Wars, Elvis Costello, Robert Plant) in London in 2011 through a mutual friend, whilst Chris was in the UK playing bass with Emmylou Harris as one of her Red Dirt Boys. The pair have now made two albums together featuring some of Nashville’s finest musicians.

Americana songwriter and singer Bob Bradshaw has spent twenty-five years exploring the music of his adopted country, and it's all on display in his new album Whatever You Wanted - roots-rock, western swing, country soul, and acoustic ballads, reminiscent of the great songwriters that inspire him - John Hiatt, Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt.

Raised in Ireland and educated in bar-rooms, clubs and honky tonks across the United States and at Boston's Berklee College of Music from which he graduated in 2009, Whatever You Wanted, Bob's sixth album, contains his characteristically earnest, evocative, cinematic songs - songs about relationships and identity, songs about loss and hope, songs about songs.

Danni Nicholls - Long Road Home
Bob Bradshaw - Whatever You Wanted
Show of Hands - Walk With Me (When The Sun Goes Down)
Skipinnish - Walking on the Waves
Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors - Tennessee
Danni Nicholls - Leaving Tennessee
Dana Immanuel - Be Like Arnie
Damien O'Kane - The Banks of the Bann
Bob Bradshaw - Losing You
Danni Nicholls - Travellin' Man

Thursday, 19 November 2015

OTBT video selection 19 November

Damien O'Kane - The Close of an Irish Day

Damien's new album is called “Areas of High Traffic” and is his first solo album in 5 years. He takes some of the greatest songs in the folk canon – ‘The Blacksmith’, ‘The Banks Of The Bann’, ‘I Am A Youth’ and ‘The Green Fields Of America’ included – and reinvents them in refreshingly original ways.

Mairearad Green & Anna Massie - Teviot

Two of Scotland’s most revered multi-instrumentalists, Mairearad Green and Anna Massie launch their third album, ‘Best Day’. They are renowned for their formidable technical skill, alongside playful delivery and the sheer joy of making music together, which mirrors their cheerful album title ‘Best Day’.  The title comes from one of the fiddle sets on the album including Aidan O’Rourkes tune ‘Best Day of my Life’.

Gordie Tentrees - Keno City

Deeply personal and moving, melodic and uplifting and lyrically rich - these are the songs that will tear your heart out, one note at a time. In this case brilliant Canadian singer-songwriter Gordie Tentrees offers the perfect example with his sixth album, "Less is More". He is touring the UK & Ireland Jan-Feb 2016 with multi-instrumentalist Jaxon Haldane.

The Portraits at Cambridge Folk Festival

Anglo-Irish alt-folk duo The Portraits, aka husband and wife songwriters Jeremy and Lorraine Millington from Bristol and Galway respectively, reached the iTunes chart in January 2015 with their charity single 'The Rest Of Time'.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Mixcloud v Blogger

In the five days since I uploaded my last mix the stats haven't been too encouraging - 2 plays and 2 minutes listened to whereas over 40 people read my blog entry. While I enjoy recording shows and putting mixes together I think I'd be better off doing one every two or three weeks and maybe do a weekly post on here with news of new releases and links to songs on YouTube. 

So here are a few songs I included on last week's (now deleted) mix. Enjoy. 

Jez Lowe - Old Bones

Peter Knight's Gigspanner - Two Constant Lovers

The Carrivick Sisters - If I Had Time

Martha Wainwright - When The Day Is Short

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Off The Beaten Tracks 4 November

Two tracks from David J Kelly's new album "Man and Mountain" on this week's show. You can listen to another track from the album at

BettySoo's new album "When We’re Gone" was self-released on October 30 2015. Produced together with Brian Standefer at his studio in Buda, Texas, When We’re Gone is an intimate look into private spaces in life. Wall-hung sinks (‘The Things She Left Town With’), cluttered floorboards (‘Josephine’), packed suitcases at the door (‘Hold Tight’), and crumpled clothing at a young girl’s feet (‘Summertime’) – these are the furniture for the setting, but centre stage is BettySoo’s voice, her melodies, and the unmistakable texture of Brian’s cello.

David J Kelly - Sutherland Rag
BettySoo - 100 Different Ways of Being Alone
Kyrre Slind - Remembering
Daimh - O Fair a-nall am Botal
Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman - The Buxom Lass
Melissa Greener - My Country Home in Summer Glow
The Resonant Rogues - Fall With Me
J Shogren + Shanghai'd - Thief River Falls River Thief
David J Kelly - The High Road
The Deadly Winters - Liars Liars Liars
June Tabor - Hughie Graeme
The Bailey Sisters - Partin Glass
Ross Ainslie - Remembering
Pauline Alexander - Broken Youth

The Deadly Winters EP "Table In The Corner" will be released on 6 November 2015. 

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Halloween Show 2015

There are a couple of tracks from the "Twin Peaks - Fire Walk With Me" soundtrack on this year's Halloween show. I remember seeing the film at a cinema in Edinburgh when it was released and was quite glad I had gone to an afternoon showing and it was still light when I came out! The soundtrack featured compositions by David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti who also worked together on Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive. I loved Julee Cruise's vocals in Twin Peaks and can recommend her album "Floating Into The Night". 

The Steeleye Span track is from their album "Wintersmith" which was a collaboration with author Terry Pratchett who was a long-time fan of the band. On 'The Good Witch' you can hear Terry talking about witches and explaining why they cackle.

Charlie Roth - The Ghost of Hobo Bill
Hannah Aldridge - Old Ghost
Run Boy Run - A Dream in the Night
Jaywalkers - Lonesome Graveyard
Dana Immanuel - Devil's Money
Julee Cruise - Questions in a World of Blue
Thought Gang - The Black Dog Runs at Night
Monty Python - Burn The Witch
Up in the Air - The Witch of Findrack
Steeleye Span & Terry Pratchet - The Good Witch
Luke Jackson - Ghost at the Crossroads
Gilmore and Roberts - Ghost of a Ring
Ribbon Road - The Nightmare
Mishaped Pearls - Three Ravens
Martin Stephenson - Don't Be Afraid of the Night

Mishaped Pearls are playing with Tir Eolas in the candle-lit vaults of Holborn Viaduct in London on Saturday 28th November.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Another life lost to depression

From the BBC news web site : Cardiff prison officer's suicide after rugby sacking

I felt angry and disgusted after reading about the way this woman was treated by her employer which led to her taking her own life. She had been signed off work with a stress-related condition but had felt well enough to go out with friends to watch a live TV screening of a rugby match. But a colleague saw her there and informed her employer who charged her with misconduct and she lost her job. She subsequently committed suicide.

When you are signed off work, as I have been, with a stress-related illness it does not mean that you should lock yourself away and put your life on hold. Depression is not a contagious illness and if you are feeling well enough to go out with friends then surely that is a sign that you are getting better. But it does not necessarily mean that you are well enough to return to work.

For this woman's employers to treat her as if she was a skiver rather than someone who was mentally ill is sadly all too common. All too often attitudes towards mental illness seem to be stuck in the 1950s. And this is true for those of us seeking work. There is the question of what to tell a prospective employer. Do you tell them you suffer from such an illness or do you keep quiet about it?

A few years ago there was a case of a woman who had lost her job due to her suffering from depression. When she had recovered sufficiently to start work again she got a job at a bank but her illness got worse and she was signed off work. She hadn't told her employer about her history of depression and when they found out, they promptly sacked her and she had no come back. But the question remains – would she have been offered the job in the first place if she had been honest with her employer?

Being upfront about health issues would on the one hand seem to be the best policy but on the other it can go against you. I recently had an interview with a care agency and they pretty much offered me a job there and then. But they hadn't asked about any health issues I might have. Knowing that the stress of starting a new job could make my mental health worse, I emailed them and let them know of my concerns. Not surprisingly I then received a letter saying they could not offer me any work. I emailed again asking for some feedback but heard nothing more from them.

I don't agree with much that the current government says regarding health and welfare but it is true that if your depression is mild then getting a job, even just part time, can help. It is better than sitting at home doing nothing. But what the government hasn't done, or maybe cannot do, is stop discrimination against those of us with mental health problems. I don't think I'm being paranoid when I say I am fairly sure I have not been offered work because of my history of mental illness.

The tragic story of this prison officer taking her own life because of an employer's disgraceful attitude towards mental health conditions will, I fear, just end up being another statistic of a life lost to depression. And that is just really, really depressing.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Lancaster Music Festival preview show

This weekend sees the 7th annual Lancaster Music Festival taking place. It starts today, Thursday the 8th and runs until Monday the 12th. As it says on the web site

"There are 345 scheduled performances this year from local, regional, national and international acts ranging from folk to punk, electronica to blue grass, pop, indie, funk, rock, world, jazz and classical."

So the first seven tracks on this week's show are by bands and singers who are playing at the festival apart from The Low Countries but you can catch the Black Eyed Suzies tonight at the Dukes and on Saturday at the Robert Gillow and the Three Mariners.

The Low Countries (feat Black Eyed Suzies) - Sun Street
Turnstone - Grey Bird
Howden Jones - Sweet Temptation
Howard Haigh's Lava - Afternoon in the Shade
Joni Fuller - Run for Cover
Greenheart - Lemongrass
3D Tanx - Loose Id Syd
Lucy Ward - Connie and Bud
The Grahams - Biscuits
Maura Kennedy - Soldier's Wife
Martin Stephenson - Long Forgotten
Rab Noakes - Only Happy When It Rains

Friday, 18 September 2015

Off The Beaten Tracks 18 September

Today sees the release of these three albums :

Ross Ainslie - Remembering
Gilmore & Roberts - Conflict Tourism 
Mark Brown - Skin and Bone

From their press releases :

In January 2015 Ross was commissioned by Celtic Connections to write a piece for the New Voices series. Ross decided to go outside his comfort zone and try out songwriting for the first time and “Remembering” is what he achieved. It features five songs and three tune sets, from “Head High” which is a song about remaining positive and not dwelling in the past that features some words by the living legend Jock Duncan to a kind of psychedelic, thrash grass suite called “Nowhere To Go” which is in three sections. “Lullaby For Mel” was written for Ross’s friend that he lost far too early and it shows his flair for writing a beautiful slow melody. The album opens with a song called “Change” that reflects on Ross’s drinking days and the decision to go sober. Overall “Remembering” is an open and honest piece of music.

Conflict Tourism is the fourth album from award-winning duo Gilmore & Roberts. Following a year of touring in mainland Europe, Canada, and their native Britain, Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts noticed a common thread running through their latest crop of original songs. Conflict, whether an internal struggle between positive and negative, or a healthy body and a disease, is an everyday phenomenon captured perfectly by these 11 tracks.

When you first listen to Mark Brown, you might find yourself wondering where he’s been and why it took him so long to get here. Combining a sharp eye with a sly sense of humour reminiscent of John Prine, Mark makes songs that hail from everywhere, incorporating ballads, cowboy songs, jigs, sideshow melodies, and field hollers. His songs give voice to craftsmen, broken-hearted mechanics, heavy equipment operators, squatters and girls with their dirt bikes.

Ross Ainslie - Dreaming Daisy
The Rails - Breakneck Speed
Rab Noakes - I'm Walkin' Here
Gilmore & Roberts - Time Soldiers On
Richard & Linda Thompson - Night Comes In
Natalie Merchant - After The Gold Rush
Ross Ainslie - Head High
Patsy Reid - Hooray Henry
Mark Brown - Pony
Sarah McQuaid - Solid Air
The Beatles - Martha My Dear
Simon & Garfunkle - Homweward Bound

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Gregson Open Mic Revisited

Something a bit different on this week's show with seven tracks recorded back in 2008 at the Gregson Open Mic in Lancaster. The songs by Idiot Johnson and The Low Countries were from a covers night when singers could play songs written by other local singer songwriters so IJ played the Jess Thomas song 'Northern Rain' and TLC did the Kriss Foster song 'Morecambe'. You can hear Kriss performing part of his song in the video clip below.

Richard Thompson - Wall of Death
Maura Kennedy - She Worked Her Magic on Me
Hip Hatchet - Travel Map
Lucy Ward - Creatures and Demons
Wes Martin & Jo Gillot - Pink Moon
Joanne Levey - Grey Funnel Line
Idiot Johnson - Northern Rain
Jess Thomas - Break Your Heart
The Low Countries - Morecambe
Kishon McGuire - Sally Free and Easy
Wes Martin & Jo Gillot - Hazey Jane I
Fabian Holland - River
Gilmore & Roberts - Stumble on the Seam
Sam Lewis - Reinventing the Blues
Amos Garrett - Bad Bad Whiskey

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Off The Beaten Tracks 4 September

This show includes two tracks from Chas Ambler's 'Borders of Love' album. Chas was a keyboard player and drummer, a singer and owner of the Melodrome stage which appeared at various festivals up and down the country. When he gave me a copy of 'Borders of Love' he told me that he had come in to some money and decided he would use it to record the album he'd always wanted to using a variety of musicians including brass, woodwind and string instruments. 

The songs included in the album had been written over a number of years going back as far as 1979. In the sleeve notes after track 7 it says "Now would be the time to make a cup of coffee. Don't turn the CD over." 

Chas died of cancer at the end of August. He will be missed.

Chas Ambler - Coal Train to Glory
Ross Ainslie - Fly Higher
Ed Dupas - Remember My Love
Sarah-Jane Summers & Juhani Silvola - Portobello Smile
Lady Maisery - The Grey Selkie
Clype - Fair Drawin' In
Michelle Lewis - Something That Simple
Old Man Luedecke - Chester Boat Song
Ed Dupas - Home In Time
Jenny Lascelles - Blue
Scott Wood Band - McCready's
Chas Ambler - Borders of Love
Nick Drake - Things Behind The Sun

Friday, 7 August 2015

Ashes cricket-related show

After the incredible day's play at Trent Bridge yesterday I sat down and tried to find some songs which could be to do with the various aspects of cricket - bowling, batting, catching, scoring runs - and more general sporting themes like winning and losing and I even found a couple of songs with Ashes in the title. Bats in the Attic could be about cricket bats!

Kirsty MacColl - A New England
KT Tunstall - Ashes
Neil Young - Field of Opportunity
Manic Street Preachers - Take the Skinheads Bowling
King Creosote & John Hopkins - Bats in the Attic
Stephen Stills - Know You've Got To Run
Skerryvore - We Can Run
The Midden - Holding On
Rowan Ross - Perfect Catch
Gren Bartley - Four in the Morning
Steeleye Span - Now We Are Six
Sarah MacDougall - Sometimes You Lose, Sometimes You Win
The Abramson Singers - Lose Lose
Lisa Richards - Painful Game
Ted Hawkins - Don't Lose Your Cool
Kim Edgar - Blood, Ice and Ashes

If you want to see what happened on the first day of the match watch this Pint-sized Ashes: 

Friday, 10 July 2015

Off The Beaten Tracks 10 July

Four tracks on this week's show feature the fiddle playing of Shetlander Kevin Henderson. In 2002 he replaced Aly Bain in Boys of the Lough, the Scottish/Irish folk group which was formed in the late 1960s. The original line-up included Bain and guitarist/singer Dick Gaughan. The Boys have released over 20 albums with the latest one titled 'The New Line' being released on the 24th of July. So along with two tracks from that cd there is one from Kevin's solo album 'Fin Da Laand Ageen' and one from The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc's self-titled 2011 album. 

Dick Gaughan is currently on tour, he plays in Shipley on July 12th, Worcester on the 17th and the Stainsby Festival in Chesterfield which runs from the 17th - 19th July.

Listen to the show at

The Oran Project - Morocco
Boys of the Lough - Da Smugglers
Anna Laube - Sugarcane
The Foghorn Stringband - What Will We do
Steve Earle - Yours Forever Blue
Kevin Henderson - Sandy Ower Da Lea
The Nordic Fiddlers Bloc - Jenna Reid of Quarff
Red Molly - Willow Tree
Kimmie Rhodes - Southern Accents
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers - Stories We Could Tell
Peatbog Faeries - Angus and Joyce MacKay
Boys of the Lough - The Boston Burgler
Dick Gaughan - Geronimo's Cadillac
Spiers & Boden - Brown Adam
Ollie King - Santa Fe Trail

Saturday, 20 June 2015

"The Damned: Don't You Wish That We Were Dead" film review

Coming home from the cinema after seeing this film I almost felt like I'd just seen The Damned in concert, there having been so much live footage of the current line-up, clips of past line-ups and the band formed recently by founder members Brian James and Rat Scabies.

To say that The Damned have had a chequered history is something of an understatement. With interviews to camera and also footage of them captured when they perhaps weren't so aware of being filmed, this is a real warts and all documentary, or rockumentary if you will. The warts were provided literally by Lemmy giving his thoughts on the band and we also saw him playing on stage with Dave Vanian, Captain Sensible and co a few years back, revisiting his brief tenure as one of the band's many bass players. 

One of the most interesting parts of the film concerned their enigmatic singer Mr Vanian. That adjective was actually used by one of his band mates to describe him and while Vanian looked happy enough to be interviewed for the film, he was clearly less enamoured at cameras being left running in dressing rooms where he could be caught off-guard. This did indeed happen as near the end of the film he was shown having a rant about how badly The Damned have done financially compared to some of their contemporaries. The large sums given to members of the Sex Pistols for their Filthy Lucre reunion tour was mentioned with some venom by Vanian obviously hacked off at the blatant favouritism shown to the Pistols by the music industry. 

At some cinemas audiences have had the chance of asking questions to past and present members of the band and I noticed online that bass players Paul Gray and Bryn Merrick have been doing these Q&A sessions together. It turns out that their current friendship is based not just on them having been amongst the nine bass players who have played with the Damned since 1976 but also by a bizarre and unpleasant coincidence - they were both diagnosed with cancer around the same time and saw each other at their regular treatment sessions in Wales. Bryn suggested that the cause of his illness could have been the amount of phlegm he had accidentally swallowed due to the lovely habit of audience members gobbing at him on stage, something which Rat Scabies has apparently been blamed for starting.

Having read an interview with Captain Sensible about how he and Scabies can no longer bare to even be in the same room at the same time, let alone play music together, I was curious to hear Rat's side of the story. During the course of the film he went from being quite calm talking about the financial problems the band has faced over the years to sounding pretty pissed off with life in general and making out that the records the band have recorded are no big deal. But the most memorable scene was when he was talking about the mid 80s when The Damned finally got some recognition due a deal with a major record label. 

This was the Eloise era when Vanian well and truly took centre stage after the departure of Captain Sensible. However all was not well. Rat got quite emotional when he described how they arrived at an air-conditioned rehearsal room, complete with roadies on hand, which was set out with top of the range amplifiers and instruments provided by the record company. But they found that they couldn't actually play anything. The Captain described a similar turn of events in his life after the success of Happy Talk which brought in more money than he was earning with The Damned. He found that after two years of being a pop star, with all the pressures which came with that, he was so burnt out that he admitted himself to a clinic.

But despite all these ups and downs, The Damned continue touring and making the occassional new record. After the numerous personnel changes of the early years, the last 10 years have seen a settled line-up after Patricia Morrison (aka Mrs Vanian) left in 2004 to be replaced by Stu West. Pinch occupies the drum seat while long-time Sensible side-man Monty Oxymoron tinkles the ivories. 

The film ended with scenes from a gig in London last year celebrating the Captain's 60th birthday with the words Old Age Punk written on the back of his jacket. The final song of the film was, suitably, Ignite. Long may they continue to set the world alight.

This review is dedicated to Bryn Merrick (12 Oct 1958 – 12 Sept 2015)

Friday, 19 June 2015

The Damned & The Phantom Chords in concert

Here are a couple of extracts from my concert memories book 
"Drum Solos, Bottles and Bands" which I self-published in 2012. 
It is available in paperback and as an ebook and you can find more info about it at

The Damned - Brixton Academy - 2 July 1989

In 1989 original Damned members Brian James and Captain Sensible rejoined the band for a farewell tour which included a gig in July at London's Brixton Academy supported by The Milk Monitors, Horse and Claytown Troup. The set was pretty much the same as the one recorded for a reunion concert the previous year at The Town & Country Club and released as Final Damnation.

The original line-up took to the stage first and played most of their debut album Damned Damned Damned including the hits 'New Rose' and 'Neat Neat Neat'. Brian James then left the stage, the Captain switched from bass to lead guitar, Bryn Merrick took over on bass and Roman Jugg played keyboards. We then got some of the old favourites from albums Machine Gun Etiquette and The Black Album along with three cover versions: The Beatles song 'Day Tripper', 'Looking At You' by the MC5 and The Rolling Stones track, 'The Last Time'.

I can't remember during which song it occurred but at one point I collided with a large bloke in front of me and got a bloody nose. I headed off to the gents and fortunately the bleeding stopped soon after so I was able to enjoy the rest of the gig. As he was prone to do, Captain Sensible came back on for the encore wearing little more than his beret and shades. At least he could cover his modesty with his guitar unlike Iggy Pop and Perry Farrell who have been known to let it all hang out on stage.

The Phantom Chords - T&C 2 - 15 May 1990

Later in 1989 Vanian, Jugg and Merrick formed a new band called The Phantom Chords and in May the following year I saw them play at the T&C 2 supported by Ugly As Sin. I got to the venue early so found a nearby pub and had a beer. Whilst supping my pint a girl came up and asked if I wanted a ticket for the gig. I'd already bought mine but we chatted briefly about what we might hear that evening from Vanian and co. As The Damned had covered songs by MC5, The Stooges and The Doors my new friend wondered if we might get extended versions of LA Woman and the like. As it turned out this was wishful thinking and instead we got a mix of old rockabilly covers and some new songs. I can't say it was a very memorable gig but there was the novelty of seeing members of The Damned up close in a small venue. The band released one single on Polydor and recorded some other songs but it wasn't until 1995 that an album was released. Prior to that Dave Vanian had been persuaded by Rat Scabies to join a new line-up of The Damned so The Phantom Chords were moved onto the back burner.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Singer songwriter mix

A selection of singer songwriters including a track from "Fairy Lights" the new album by Jenny Lascelles which is released on the 19th of June.

Teddy Thompson - I Should Get Up : This track from Teddy's album "Separate Ways" features his dad Richard on lead guitar.

Chris Wood - Spitfires : From "Folk Against Fascism Vol 1". This song was written as a direct response to a BNP leaflet bearing the image of a Spitfire that came through Chris Woods’ letterbox. 

Jenny Lascelles - Unlike Myself : Jenny is a singer, songwriter, pianist and occasional ukulele player from Newcastle Upon Tyne. This track is from her new album "Fairy Lights" which is being released on the 19th of June. 

Coreen Scott - Shelter : Composed by Eric Bogle this is a love song to Australia written by an immigrant Scot to his adopted homeland. 

Chris Bradley - To My Ears : from his 2008 album "Voices". He released a follow-up two years later and according to his web site this is "a 3rd one unreleased". He also writes music for TV and film.

Fabian Holland - Welcome To The Magic Show : Says Fabian, "This song is all about businesses that glorify and glamorise themselves and a lot of the time thrive on people's weakness, greed and vanity. The first is a casino, then a fast food place and then a salon."

Kim Edgar - The Steamy Note : As well as her solo work and involvement with community choirs in Edinburgh, Kim is part of the folk group Cara. 

Kelly Oliver feat Will Pound - He Walked On The Side Of The Sea : a song from Kelly's 2013 EP "Far From Home" which features the harmonica playing of Will Pound.

Martin Stephenson - All Ways Us : An 8 minute long track from Martin's self-titled 1999 album. 

Michael Chapman - Which Will : a cover of the Nick Drake song from Michael's "Sweet Powder" album.

Karan Casey - The Heron : from Karan's album "Two More Hours", her sixth solo album and her first of entirely self-penned songs.

Mary Dillon - The Boatman : Mary is a former member of Irish band Déanta and this song is from her debut solo album "North" which she released in 2013. 

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

At the mini-roundabout

Yesterday I went out on my bike. It was only the second time this year that I've gone out cycling. I should go out more often. In fact a physio recommended it earlier in the year to help with a lower back problem but I'm lazy*. Also my bike is ten years old, rather rusty and the front brakes don't work. I keep meaning to look on YouTube as there is bound to be a video (or dozen) which shows how to fix faulty brakes but I procrastinate, I get distracted so I haven't got round to it. Maybe today.

When I do go out on my bike I always stick to the quiet roads or go along the canal towpath because of the number of idiots there are on the main roads. Lancaster is supposed to be a good place to be a cyclist. There are plenty of cycleways, cycle lanes and so on but despite this there seems to be quite a high number of accidents on the roads involving people on bicycles. Of course just because the town is cyclist-friendly doesn't mean that other road users are necessarily going to be more courteous to those on two wheels. 

But today I went out in my car as I needed to take some rubbish to the tip. I hadn't gone very far, just to the top of our road where there is a mini-roundabout. I slowed down. A car was coming up the hill but the driver showed no sign of slowing down despite it being my right of way. This is quite common. Many drivers treat the mini-roundabout as if it is a T junction and when they drive up the hill they assume they have right of way. I don't know what the Highways department of the County Council can do about this other than put up a large sign saying, "Give way to traffic on the right!" Might be worth a go.

Being distracted by this other driver I failed to look to my right and I started to turn the corner. If I had looked I would have seen a cyclist coming down the hill. But I hadn't seen him because I hadn't looked. As I was soon to see at close quarters he was wearing a bright yellow high visibility jacket so if I had looked I'm sure I would have seen him. 

My window was open so I got the full force of the abuse he shouted at me as he did an emergency stop next to my car. The phrase at the end of it was, "You fucking tool!" 

Fortunately he was unhurt and carried on down the hill. I followed him, keeping my distance and pulled in to a side street as I was somewhat shaken by the incident. I had apologised to him and maybe just as well hadn't said the classic line, "I didn't see you" which I imagine would have further enraged him. He was a big bloke and had he decided to get off his bike and pull me out of the car I would probably have been composing this in A&E.

So I rather proved my own point - I don't cycle on main roads because there are too many 'fucking tools' like me driving cars and not looking out for cyclists. 

As that old safety advert on TV used to say, "Think once. Think Twice. Think bike!"

Here we go. A job for this afternoon... 

* I also have some anxiety issues which can make a simple thing like going out on my bike quite difficult. I think I suffer from General Anxiety Disorder but no doctor or therapist has actually stuck that particular label on me.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Off the Beaten Tracks 5 June

After the popularity of my 'Blues for BB King' mix the other week I thought I'd include some acoustic and electric blues in my latest show. 

Little Whitt & Big Bo - I Got A Woman
Keb Mo - Tell Everybody I know
Oh My Darling - Roustabout
The Delmore Brothers - I Let The Freight Train Carry Me On
Lightnin' Hopkins - Once A Gambler
Jimi Hendrix - Bleeding Heart
Suzy Thompson - How Can You Have The Blues
Woody Pines - Hobo and his Bride
Keb Mo - Anybody seen My Girl
Big Blue & The Dive Club - Lights
Amos Garrett - Walkin' Blues
The Be Good Tanyas - A Little Blues
Jerry Lee Lewis - Workin' Man Blues
Derek and the Dominoes - Anyday

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Off The Beaten Tracks 29 May

This week's show includes two tracks by Annabelle Chvostek from her album 'Be The Media' which is released on June the 1st.

Skerryvore - Walk With Me
Annabelle Chvostek - Like A Hurricane
Neil Young - Sail Away
Barluath - The Big Chief
Cara Dillon - Green Grows The Laurel
Seth Lakeman - Farewell My Love
Danny Schmidt - Soon the Earth Shall Swallow
Alice DiMicele - Open Road
Annabelle Chvostek - Carnal Delights
Peter Knight's Gigspanner - Hard Times of Old England
Richard Thompson - How Will I Ever Be Simple Again
The Stray Birds - Just Sayin'

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Blues for BB King

I put this week's mix together yesterday morning after hearing the sad news of BB King's death. It wasn't completely unexpected as he had been admitted to a hospice which normally means that the Grim Reaper is not far away. I was fortunate enough to see his three times in concert, the first being in 1985 at the Edinburgh Playhouse with support coming from local band Blues 'n' Trouble who BB described as "the best white Blues band in the world". High praise indeed. For some reason I never got round to buying much of his music - I think I only have one compilation on cassette - but I saw him a further two times, at Hammersmith Odeon in '89 and back at the Playhouse in '98. 

Included are many of my favourite blues artists, some well known and other less so. So along side the likes of John Lee Hooker and John Mayall there are tracks by the likes of Matt Woosey and Hat Fita & Cara who are keeping the blues alive.

Matt Woosey Band - Woke Up This Morning
Rory Gallagher - As The Crow Flies
John Lee Hooker - Boogie Chillen
Big Bill Broonzy - When Do I Get To Be Called A Man
Blind Boys of Alabama - Just Wanna See His Face
Buddy Guy & Junior Wells - Hoodoo Man Blues
Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee - Gone but Not Forgotten
Hat Fita & Cara Robinson - Long Dark Cloud
John Mayall - Parchman Farm
Johnny Winter - Shake Your Money Maker
Michael Roach - Freedom Bound
Seasick Steve - Have Mercy on the Lonely
ZZ Top - Blue Jean Blues
Eric Bibb - Just Look Up
Ted Hawkins - Stay Close To Me

Eric Clapton with BB King - Riding With the King

Friday, 8 May 2015

Off The Beaten Tracks 8 May

Here's this week's playlist with the lyrics to one of the Barrule songs and the full Gigspanner tour dates. Listen to the show at off-the-beaten-tracks-8-may

James J Turner - The Cycle of Life
Vanessa Peters - Call You All The Time
Barrule - High Net Worth Individuals
Kris Drever - Patrick Spence
Gigspanner - King of the Fairies
Mairi MacInnes - Kin
Session A9 - Dig A Little Well for Zoe
Melissa Greener - On My Way Back Home
Skerryvore & Sharon Shannon - Happy To Be Home
Luke Jackson - Father's Footsteps
Barrule - The Laxey Reels