So that was 2010 that was.

31st December 2010 and a year for me with some highs and deep lows. On the music front I’ve managed to get to loads of gigs and festivals, but stopped counting months ago, however I would never have caught up with one friend who last night clocked up his 221st gig for 2010 and it would have probably have been more if the weather hadn’t made a turn for the worst during December.

It’s difficult to pin point the highlights as there were so many in their different ways. Personally my favourite gig of the year has to be seeing Judie Tzuke playing The Stables. It’s great to have her on the road again, being so relaxed and full of confidence and her performance, along with her two daughters, was probably the best I’ve seen her play, so lets it’s not too long before the next show.

Another memorable show for me has to be The Jon Allen Band again at The Stables. Having seen him a few times before, but only solo, then listening to the release of his debut album Dead Man’s Suit, I knew he really had to tour with a band, and I wasn’t wrong. The addition of the lead guitarist, bass, drums and Hammond Organ really brought the album alive and certainly won over the crowd, they even sold out of the CD’s on the night. He is one to watch and make sure you pick up a copy of his CD.

I didn’t go to many festivals this year, though some ended up being badly affected by poor weather, but what did manage to get to were really good. Cornbury on the Sunday only, which for me was the stronger of the two days. Again with the Jon Allen Band, the rather good Lucinda Belle Orchestra, Danny and the Champions of the World, who I’ve mentioned earlier in an earlier post, Fishermans Friends who have made Sea Shanties popular again, Angus and Julia Stone, the Australian brother and sister act who were the surprise hit for me and someone I want to see again, for sure. Seth Lakeman and his Band who can still put on a good show, all be it the same one and Jackson Browne. I’ve posted some images here.

Another festival and a first for me was Cambridge Folk Festival. I was offered a free two-day pass for the Saturday and Sunday and something I couldn’t really turn down. Normally a difficult ticket to get I’d always avoided going to Cambridge, I had the thoughts this would be too big, too busy and a nightmare to get away from at the end of the evening . . . how wrong I was. Park the car, hop on the courtesy bus, get your pass and you’re in. The area itself was so much smaller than I’d anticipated, with three stages, in tents. Also with many of the acts playing a few times over the days, you can use military tactic and your show guide to plot who you see and when, though make sure you read it carefully I managed to miss The Burns Unit in favour of Gretchen Peters who I’ve seen on numerous occasions. Still I managed to pack in as many acts as I could. Carolina Chocolate Drops where excellent, The Quebe Sisters who I would describe as The Andrew Sisters with fiddles were undoubtedly the find and hit of the four days and even though I’d seen them two days earlier in Bedford I managed to catch them another three times here, stalker! Some firm favourites for me with Julie Fowlis, Megson, Jenna Witts and Jackie Oates, I did watch The Unthanks Band who at least managed to please the other onlookers, Kris Kristofferson ended the proceedings, though I only managed three songs before I thought being a legend is not all what it’s cracked up to be. My highlight though was on Saturday night to see Natalie Merchant, what a performance and someone I must see again. If I can I will definitely try to get tickets for Cambridge 2011. More images from 2010 festival here.

Another honourable mention as a one day festival goes to Folk By The Oak at Hatfield House, this year was one of the strongest line ups, with Megson, Emily Smith Band, Jackie Oates Band, Mawkin:Causley, the amazing Martin Simpson band who nearly upstaged Bellowhead. Some images here.

My find for the year, ok so I didn’t find them but I’d never heard of them until earlier this year, has to be Rue Royale, you can tell I like them because I posted information here and here. Such a great noise from two people a guitar, a drum and some percussion and there will be another chance to catch them in Bedford on 16th February. Check out their website and you can also be a part of their new CD launch. Pre order the CD now and have your name on the sleeve notes and a free download. I’m game for that.. Also check out Bedford Live who have been putting on these free gigs once a month and seem to find the best of new and local acts.

Over at Empty Room Promotions it’s been another busy year with 22 shows and some really good ones if I have to say so myself. Along with a few regular shows, Diana Jones, Kevin Montgomery, Bernie Marsden, Eve Selis, there where quite a few first time outings for us. Sarah Borges and the Broken Singles was a revelation and such a show girl, even deciding to start the proceedings in the pub across the road before walking the short distance to the venue with some of the audience in tow as backing singers. Two shows in one day from Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express was a real mission which did seem to work, but probably never repeated, both performances where top-notch and despite the baking hot day in April. A new venture over to Oxford produced three of the best shows of the year, with Alejandro Escovedo and the Sensitive Boys at The Bullingdon, The Willie Nile Band again at The Bullingdon (the only show I missed) but he’s coming back on April 15th in 2011, and Raul Malo from The Mavericks at The Holywell Music Room. There was also a chance to move away from the comfort zone of Americana and into the realms of English folk with Show of Hands made all the better by the surroundings of Buckingham Parish Church, attendance wise this was the biggest event of our year. Another great show centred around a new venture called Clubhouse Recordsand we where pleased to promote four of their acts, The Epstein, The Cedars, The Hi and Lo and Mat Gibson a bit of an experiment which fortunately was well attended and shows that this music is in good hands with these young bands. All that happens at Empty Room Promotions is down to one person Mike Trotman and his passion for live music and I’ve been pleased to help out where I can . . . even chair arranging.

And what better way to finish off the year than with The Whybirds at Danny’s Bar of Esquires in Bedford on 30th December. This was a free gig and they really played an amazing 100 minute set, they get better and better the more you see them and this was probably the 6th time this year. A Bedford / Cambridge based band that prove the real talent is on your doorstep and not in Simon Cowells pocket.

So all in all musically it’s been a great year and I’m already looking forward to some events in the New Year and make sure your resolution for 2011 is to get out and see more live music, it’s always been mine and where ever possible I will make sure I don’t break this one.

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