Chris Corney – Little Marrakesh single release

Chris Corney is someone I first met at a Tift Merritt gig that Empty Rooms put on in Buckingham, he was in the audience and I was collecting e-mails address for the mailing list (that’s rock n roll.) He asked if he could be considered for a support slot at some time. So after listening to his Myspace site and then luck enough to see him play Stage 2 at The Stables a few weeks later, there was no hesitation in booking him. Chris and his band played a support slot for The Eve Selis Band in 2008 and he even launched his first solo CD, Built to be Burned Down at the gig – check this CD out it’s rather excellent. Since then he’s played a couple more support slots for us. He also has his own music production company as well as touring with bands like The Quireboys helped out with the up and coming band of the moment Ahab. He’s used his skills in the studio on albums for Joe Elliots Down and Outz, The Quireboys, David KnopflerKatie BuckhavenTensheds and the earlier mentioned Whybirds live CD, as well as his own two solo CD’s

This month he’s just released his new CD single “Little Marrakesh” which can be purchased via his website store, along with his other CD’s and you can check out the video to go with it here

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Gerry Rafferty – 16 April 1947 – 4 January 2011

Very sad new to hear that Gerry Raffery one of the finest singer songwriters has passed away. Always synonymous with the classic track Baker Street, which has reputedly earned him £80,000 a year in royalties, as well as his earlier single, Stuck in the middle with you, as part of the duo Stealers Wheel with Joe Egan and graphically used to great effect in Quentin Tarantino’s 1992 film Reservoir Dogs . Though it would be in the late 70′s early 80′s he would make his mark with the albums City to City and then Night Owl and a string of singles. And although the albums kept coming, including one of my personal favourite Sleepwalking, it would be alcohol that would get the better of him. He even went through stages, his wife Carla recalled, turning down work with the likes of Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney because he thought they weren’t good enough, to hide the fact he could not sit down with “Superstars” without a drink or 5 in him.

It’s sad to read that in the end he was a very troubled man with a troubled past and can be read in this Guardian obituary

Still he leaves a legacy of some great music and an all time classic in Baker Street.


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The Decemberists, ‘The King Is Dead’ – First listen

Here is another First Listen from NPR - The Decemberists, ‘The King Is Dead’ and you only have until 18th January to try it out. (Audio now expired)

From Portland Oregan The Decemberists lead man Colin Meloy has often written songs with a distinct nod to the British Folk tradition that he’s long admired and after the rich story telling and excesses of their last “rock opera” “The Hazards of Love” Meloy turns this all around and bring the band back to focus more on the American roots music. Help is on hand from Peter Buck (R.E.M) and Gillian Welch who appears on most of the 10 tracks, but more in a supportive backing vocalist than lead or duet,  though her tone is clearly noticeable throughout. Running a little over 40 minutes this album it’s not over long but for me is a stayed and will probably be on repeat in the car. Listen to it now though it will be a definite purchase on its release.

And now an old favourite video

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The down side of 2010 – not musically

I mentioned that there was some deep lows for me in 2010 and I was hoping to keep this blog to my love of Live music and to take me away from the traumas of the last few months, but sometimes you have to think to yourself, what’s the use of a blog if you don’t let people know how you feel. My only regret is that I did not blog everything as it happened, though I did note it down for future reference.

All I can say at the moments is that at the end of August 2010 I was told my job was redundant and from a company that I had loved working for, for over 30 years and at the time it did appear that I along with 6 other people lost our jobs on the whim of one person, despite being told it was for economic reasons.

I had a traumatic few months still working for this company and had to face insults and accusations, being asked to train people to use a computer system because nobody else knew how to use it, then being totally ignored by the powers that be, not one single recognition of my very long and exemplary service. I was also hearing that even after I had gone I was being blamed by other people close to the person in charge, for all the failing of the department concerned, despite there never being any question of my performance over the past 30 years. Now three and a half months later, while I still search for a job I stumble across a jobs web site who are advertising what appear to be my original role, in all but name.

How in this day and age can someone or a company be allowed to treat anybody the way we were treated at the time of our redundancy and get away with it. How can legislation allow for any company to pay people off with a bare minimum package that nowhere reflect their current earnings ( Direct Gov figures suggest £380 per month for each year you have worked for a company up to a maximum of 20 years, or though we were offered a bit more to stay on) and then three months later allow that company to re-advertise the same job.

Clearly legislation in the UK needs to be more in favour for the work force than the employer and the ease at which they get rid of people, with unemployment  in the UK over 2.5 million and rising companies should be encouraged to keep staff on and actively discourage the ease at which they can remove staff, a large financial penalty could help, so our case could be a good example of how not to treat people in the workplace.

To this day I’m not sure what wrong I have done, is it how I look or the lack of hair, maybe for not saying yes and agreeing with every decision however farcical, I did notice their current job application does insist on including an up to date photograph with the CV, helps them narrow things down a bit I guess.

I’d hoped not to keep this bitterness going into 2011 but somehow I think this might stay for some time.

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The Whybirds – Live CD

So what am I listening to at the moment? It’s an album to blow the cobwebs away and wake you up in the morning, it’s the new Whybirds CD Live Recordings Vol 1. The Whybirds are a local band from Bedford and their live performances have always been polished and seamless and hark back to the Anglo / Americana rock band of the 70′s and 80′s. This four piece band take it in turns on lead vocals while all being accomplished musicians and great songwriters too. In fact they write songs you instantly feel you know but with their own unique sound.

For the fans there are some of their favourite tracks from the first two albums and EP as well as the much-loved live only numbers recorded for the first time. I’ve probably seen them five or six times in 2010 as they are favourite of East West Promotions and Esquires venues, but their performance at the very end of last year in Danny’s Bar of Esquires in Bedford for a Birthday bash, in front of an audience of young and young at heart has to be one of their best and really rounded the year off.

Yes we are lucky to have such a great band playing in the area on a regular basis but I’m sure we would all be happy to sacrifice this in return for the recognition of a wider audience they deserve. “Live” rock is here to stay with these guys. Have listen to their Myspace site

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What’s worth seeing in January 2011

Happy New Year and what will January bring us on the gig front. It’s usually a slow month, with artists not touring or venues coming to the end of their panto runs, but there is still enough in the area to keep us occupied until it all picks up again in February / March.

Willing to venture over to Cambridge on 8th and Acoustic Routes at CB2 For Johnny Dickinson, master slide guitarist and singer from Northumberland, he also tells a great story too, on support for the evening is Jess Morgan, who DJ Steve Lamacq said of her album “Every so often you come across a little gem like this!” He could also be referring to Jess herself. It’s another 6 days before the next recommendation with Kevin Montgomery and Band (tbc) This is becoming a regular start-up gig for Empty Room Promotions and will be held at the Americana capital in the village of Tingewick nr Buckingham.

Monday 17th and a trip to the new Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury for the visit of Richard Thompson and his Band. I’ve never been to this venue so not sure what the seating arrangement is like, always a pain for me as I prefer to stand. Mr Thompson needs no introduction being founding member of Fairport Convention but now more famous as a solo singer songwriter. I’m looking forward to this one having never seen him with a band. 18th you have a couple of choices Paul Carrack at the Milton Keynes Theatre, one of the best white soul singer to come out of England, but he is elsewhere in the area over the coming months or The Burns Unit at The Stables. Listed as Scottish / Canadian super group, I managed to miss them at Cambridge Folk Festival so hope to get to see them this time around. The group includes singer Karine Polwart, King Creosote, Emma Pollock, Mattie Foulds and others and play a varied mix of folk, indie pop, rap, synth . . look you’ll have to go and see them so you know what I mean. Support on the night is from Megson husband and wife duo who sold out stage 2 of The Stables two years running and in line for best duo in the BBC folk awards, making this a must see gig. 19th and Richard Thompson Band again but this time at Cambridge Corn Exchange but the next one for me will be Madison Violet in Stage 2 of The Stables. Canadian female duo who play some great folk/Americana, this is a small venue so should sell out.

27th and if you fancy trying out Hatfield Forum then you are in for a treat with James Hunter another great white soul singer and in the vain of people like Sam Cooke and the music of that time. Friday 28th and so much to choose I’ll just name them and you can investigate what’s right for you. In Bedford at East West Promotions you have Steve Winn at The Stables they have a choice of Larry Miller or Daniela Bove. Empty Room Promotions in Buckingham for Justin Townes Earle, The Limelight Theatre in Aylesbury for a first time visit from Steve Knightly and Jim Causley, While Steve’s partners from Show Of Hands, Phil Beer and Miranda Skyes are playing Cambridge Folk Club. if you are in the far east of the region then an easy trip for you might be The Apex in Bury St Edmunds for the fabulous Jon Boden and the Remnant Kings phew! 29th and you might like a drive to The Bullingdon Arms in Oxford to see Mama Rosin a trio from Switzerland who play Cajun/Zydeco music, very different type of music for Empty Room Promotions

The month ends off with a rare visit from Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives, this one has had people buzzing for a chance to see the great man of country in a small venue like The Stables, I guess a must see.

You can see what’s coming up in the next few months at

Get gigging

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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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Ellie Goulding – Your Song

Call me an old softie but I’ve always liked Your Song by Elton John and it really set a standard for the songwriting partnership of  Elton John and Bernie Taupin, way back in 1970 (that’s worrying I remember it first time around) Now with the Christmas adverts on TV and the John Lewis one especially, it’s great to hear it being sung again but this time by a young female singer Ellie Goulding, whose version is making this song sound like her own.

Ellie is an English singer-songwriter and guitarist. She rose to fame after topping the BBC Sound of 2010 poll and winning the Critics’ Choice award at the 2010 BRIT Awards. Her music, best described as electropop so tagging this cover version on the end of her albumBright Lights is a bit of a departure, but really works for me and obviously for others as at the time of writing it’s #2 in the UK singles chart. Check out the video too.

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Clogs – Last Song

Sometimes it’s great when you stumble upon something new, which you think you are the first to discover and wonder if you should tell everybody or just keep it a secret. With the chamber ensemble that goes by the name Clogs this clearly can’t be the case, with 5 albums to their name, their 2006 release Lanterns got rave reviews both sides of the pond, I’m obviously not the first person to hear of them. Never the less I first picked up on them from their video Last Song and was drawn in by the music. The four musicians Bryce Dessner – guitar, Rachael Elliott – bassoon, Thomas Kozumplik - percussion, Padma Newsome – viola, stem from the US and Australia and despite the classical / ambient feel to the music, they are actually an off shoot of indie rock band The National. Their anticipated 5th album Creatures in the Garden of Lady Walton is a slight departure from thier primarily instrumental releases and are a series of song cycles with guest vocals from Shara Worden of My Brightest Diamond, Sufjan Stevens as well as Aaron Dessner and Matt Berninger of The National.

So the music may not be to everybody’s taste but might still deserve further investigation, in the meantime take a look at the video with vocals from Matt Berninger

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Wine Women and Song on tour

Actually Beer Women and Song would be more appropriate for me, but I do like some wine in moderation, but this combination when served up correctly can make for a perfect evening and that’s what we have at Empty Room Promotions coming up on Thursday 9th June in the company of Gretchen Peters, Suzy Bogguss and Matraca Berg to be held at the Jacqueline Du Pre Music Building in Oxford. This will be an intimate event as this beautiful modern venue seats 200, but does mean a closer interaction with the audience. They are also due to play The Stables in Wavendon on 18th June. These three ladies are perfect singer song writers in their own right and have joined forces over the last few years to share their songs, their stories, their laughter . . . but not their wine! So why tell you about this event now, even though it’s not until June, it’s simple really this one will sell out quickly so we wouldn’t want you to miss this one, and if you check out their version of  The Rolling Stones Wild Horses, you will understand why. You can also check their Facebook page for the other venues on their tour.

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