Shirley Inspired compilation – Press

Shirleycollinslp-433_1429542525_crop_433x431“Shirley Inspired” was released by Earth Recordings on Record Store Day 2015, 18th April, the aim being to publicise and raise money for the documentary film about Shirley Collins currently in production.

It features my solo version of Just as the Tide Was Flowing as well as my collaboration with comedian Stewart Lee on Polly On The Shore, recorded at the Loveday St Welsh Congregational Chapel in Birmingham last November with Stewart on guitar and vocals, and me on concertina.

It’s a real honour to be able to pay tribute to Shirley Collins in this way, and I’m surprised and delighted to find myself among such a diverse range of artists as Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo, Graham Coxon, Alasdair Roberts, Ulver… the list goes on and on.

The compilation has received a bit of attention –

Stewart and I have also had air time on Stuart Maconie’s Freakier Zone thanks to Alex Neilson from Trembling Bells who was doing a feature on the UK folk scene; Uncut magazine also put Polly on the Shore in their “crucial tracks” playlist not so long ago, although I’ll be damned if I can find it now.

The 3LP set was a Record Store Day special (500 copies in the UK, 500 in the USA) but there will be a digital release to follow, I believe.

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Singing at the Black Diamond Folk Club

So far I’ve been to the Black Diamond Folk Club in Birmingham a couple of times, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

6th March – Singers’ Night
I sang the Harry Cox version of “Just as the Tide was Flowing” that is featured on the “Shirley Inspired” tribute LP to Shirley Collins, as well as Peter Bellamy’s “On Board a ’98”

13th March – Guest Night – Hector Gilchrist
Hector’s playing and singing was a joy – he has a really lyrical singing style. I wasn’t familiar with his work but noted down the names of a couple of his songs for further exploration.

There were floor spots! I didn’t realise this, and so hadn’t taken a concertina with me. I sang unaccompanied – Bright Morning Star (Young Tradition) and Young Roger Esquire (Bellamy), although I always want to spell it “nnnnnnnYoung” in deference to Bellamy’s pronunciation of it. Next week I will not sing anything Bellamy-related!

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The DWP – a gothic horror

Fellow writer Brian Smith, on The Hall Writers’ Forum, set a challenge to write Byronic ottava rima on the subject of the impending General Election. Here are my verses on the theme:

Now’s the time for flap and filibuster,
and polished manifestos; it’s all play
to make us sick and tired of all their bluster,
so we’ll retire and let them have their way.
It’s just as well the police force doesn’t trust her
or else a coup’d be staged by Witchy May.
The nasty party could get nastier still,
Vampiric Duncan Smith is out to kill.

He rises from his crypt at evening-fall,
Coughing as he dons his silken cape
That trails among the wiggly things that crawl
around him, and the boots of steel that scrape
the ground and grind the poor to dust withal.
The bedroom tax was such a jolly jape:
“O leeches, come! we’ve blood to let! You hounds,
Come, rip apart their sofas! Find their pounds!”

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ORE and more

After today’s announcement regarding the future of ORE, I thought it was time for a bit of a round-up of what I’ve been up to lately.

But first, I can’t let my departure from ORE pass without personal comment. Our joint statement on the website  deals with the practicalities. In essence, ORE is no longer a duo – I have bowed out, and Sam will continue it as a solo project. The last four years have been really enjoyable – particularly when we hit the road with Oxbow – and Sam in particular should be really proud of how far he’s come in that time, from being a complete beginner on tuba in late 2010 to going it alone in 2014. It’s been a real pleasure, Sam – thank you.

So, what next for me?

Well, I shall be giving the first performance of a setting of Lucy Newlyn’s ballad “The Wreck of the Hera” at St Edmund Hall, in Oxford, on November 6th, armed with my trusty duet concertinas. We are working on a release of the piece in the form of a chap-book containing the poem, which will include the recording I made in St Edmund Hall chapel on October 7th. We’re hoping that this will be available in November.

My new volume of poetry, “End of the Season”, is complete and being illustrated by the very wonderful Jude C. Montague. It’s a surreal reworking of The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan which features, among other things, a fridge full of eggs.

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