Friday, September 12, 2008

West Country rambles

Further time floating around the West Country has encompassed:
  • Seeing the South Hams Boogie Band (not the kind of stodgy pub-rock band one might expect from the name - far from it...) at The White Horse in Moretonhampstead on Sunday 6th September. This was in a back room, and due to the hurried set-up and troublesome acoustics, the mix was a bit rough, to say the least. Jon E. Aris sat in on accordion but after about 30 seconds became entirely inaudible. The main problem was that the vocals were pretty much indecipherable, and it's Shane's unpredictable, surreal narratives which are at the heart of this band's peculiar magic. So we were left with a feelgood boogie band consisting of a loveable bunch of odd characters, playing to friends and family - still good fun. Jim Invisible was tearing it up on his full keyboard set-up; Nick from Kangaroo Moon was playing a bit of guest guitar. I spoke to Shane for a while before they played, about his time ('77-'79) in Essex punk band The Sods, meeting John Peel (who played their self-released records on several occasions), etc.

  • A serious-looking bloke in a wide-brimmed black hat delivering an impassioned "Masters of War" in the front part of the pub.

  • An Orbis session with Keith and Henry the next day. Henry was keen to try out his Roland samplepad in this context (he brought it to the last Drone session which was a great success). It worked in some cases, but Keith and I were not too into the use of loops (too mechanoid, the music can't breathe). But we're still happy to explore possible ways of integrating the electronic percussion elements.

  • A few days in Glastonbury. Paganini and Dowland being played on two guitars in the kitchen of St. Dunstans House (Tony the luthier/doctor and Sam the programmer). I dropped in on Nathan and Emma's Fabulous Furry Folk Club at the Assembly Rooms, got to hear an unaccompanied "Quiet Joys of Brotherhood" before heading back to St. D's for a late dinner. I returned to catch the very end (including Tina Bridgman playing a couple of songs). Emma strongly encouraged me to get my saz out and play a tune (it was "Spancil Hill" - no one seemed to know the words, but it's a great melody and saz sounded extra resonant in the AR cafe for some reason). I got back to St. Dunstans where Matt had Carrie Tree in the studio - I ended up playing saz on one of the tracks of the album-in-progress ("Hard to Leave"). It was in an awkward key (C sharp), but I managed to put down some good bits in a few takes which I imagine Matt could eventually weave into something worthy.

    Carrie Tree
    Carrie Tree

  • An evening session with Emma and Nathan at Emma's house after kale and mushroom soup. That involved me and Nathan playing "Sôspan Fach" (with a third part Nathan taught me, along with a translation of the curious Welsh lyrics), "My Lagan Love" and a mazurka familiar from Dongas sessions in Cornwall while Emma put her kids to bed. She returned for a string of beautiful English ballad - songs with great stories seemed to be the theme, some even having happy endings(!) - "Willy o' Winsboro'", "The Famous Flower of Serving Men", "Lord Bateman".

  • The next morning, listening to Shimshai and Dragonsfly and talking about music theory, musique concrète, Stockhausen, etc. with Nathan.

  • Digging out a 10-yr-old June Tabor compilation tape (including favourites like "Lord Maxwell's Last Goodnight" "Lisbon", "Young Walters" "Mayn Rue Platz") from an attic in Exeter to post up to N&E (she mentioned June Tabor, and I suggested that they should attempt "Lord Maxwell's")

  • A few days later down in West Cornwall, jamming on the cliffs near Zennor with Vicky (playing the chords to some favourite folksongs on an acoustic guitar), then going to see Martin Carthy and Dave Swarbrick (supported by Clive Palmer and friends) at the Guildhall in St. Ives.

    a view from the cliffs below Zennor
    a view from the cliffs below Zennor

  • Watching Tom Waits' unparalleled concert film Big Time (last seen in Belgium 17 years ago).
I travelled back to Canterbury during the Autumn Equinox - got back in time for a small woodland happening involving fire, food and wine. Dave and Libby's friend Anton came over with his guitar and played some of his songs, including a new one - a modal G kind of thing called "A Million Dreams"(?) which he (correctly) suspected might work well with the saz.


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