Willy Vlautin (Richmond Fontaine) Short Story

Well it would appear that Richmond Fontaine are due to grace these shores again, but probably not until at least September / October so understandably the fans are waiting to see them play again.

What is unusual about their visits can be seen on their merchandise table, among the usual CD’s and T-Shirts of all sizes and colours can be found neat piles of books that audiences are more than happy to buy, then again when the bands front man happens to be critically acclaimed author Willy Vlautin, with three novels under his belt one of which could be destined for Hollywood you will understand why that is. On their last visit to Tingewick nr Buckingham I can remember people queuing up to get their books signed, just as much as the CD’s and he was happy to talk about the characters from his novels like Lean on Pete, Northline and The Motel Life.

I believe Willie will be doing a short duo tour during the summer but it’s still 7 months to go before a possible full band tour of the UK. In the meantime you can listen to and even download a short story read by Willie Vlautin with familiar characters from the book Lean on Pete, like 15-year-old Charley Thompson, the son of a single father who is often away working and leaving Charlie to make his own way in life. He takes a job at the local race track stables, where he befriends Lonnie Dixon and becomes a companion of an old horse called Lean on Pete. There is also a haunting soundtrack played by the band – Sit back, close your eyes and enjoy.

And lets hope any possible tour brings them to the area, I’m sure to let you know.

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New shows added at The Stables

Having just quickly scanned The Stables in Wavendon’s web site I’ve noticed a few very interesting updates to their listing that could be missed by the occasional surfer and a few of which should sell out quickly.

First up Richard Thompson is due to play two dates 12th and 13th July at this 400 seated venue. This will be his first ever visit to The Stables and it will be Richard solo and so far these appear to be the only two dates posted, I guess as a pre cursor to his set at Cambridge Folk Festival at the end of July. Having seen him earlier in the year, with his band it will be great to see him do his solo set, where hopefully he can delve into his vast back catalogue, best get your ticket or my might be disappointed.

Before this is on 7th June Jon Allen has just been added and he’s bringing his band. He played a cracking set at this venue 18 months back, which had the audience and Stablemates buzzing for some time. Jon is no stranger to the venue having played there as a support and then solo in the smaller Stage 2, ironically with the aforementioned Mr Thompson’s daughter Kami, but it’s only in the recent year that he has come to further recognition, supposedly the PM himself David Cameron was in the front row during last years performance at the Cornbury Festival and a good enough reason to be back there again this year. Listen to Jon and he is reminiscent of Rod Stewart in the days of The Faces and elements of Small Faces too, again another strange connection that The Faces, without Rod Stewart, will be playing their only festival gig at Cornbury too, but with Mick Hucknell on lead . . . . . now if only we could get Mr Hucknell to stay in retirement I can think of no better ideal candidate to take his place.

Other noticeable additions to The Stables listing include The Raul Malo Band on 20th June, ex of The Mavericks but still with that amazing voice, I know he played there last year as well as one our shows at Empty Room Promotions in Oxford and played a storming 2 and half hour set as a duo, so best make sure the roof is tightly screwed down for this one.

20th July and they’ve booked Justin Townes Earle, once again he played for Empty Rooms earlier this year at the Radcliffe Centre and you came away wanting more. Totally solo, though listening to his guitar playing technique you’d think it was a duo, even the audience asked if he was using a recorded track, which he wasn’t I can assure you. On paper this really should sell out, not as well known as his father Steve but in my opinion far better, this is one to watch.

Last one added for 12th November Lesley Garrett, Emma Johnson & Andrew West will be playing a Fundraising concert in aid of Wavendon Allmusic Plan Ltd, though checking the day it might actually be in honour of my Birthday.

So although these might have gone under the wire, they are all acts that could sell quickly so best not hang around waiting for tickets

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David Rotheray – Life of Birds Tour

Every so often I leave a gig and think, that was something special when can I see them again and this was my first thought after leaving The Stables last night. As a 130 people were in the main auditorium listening to Harry the Piano, the capacity of 80+ was reached in the smaller Stage 2 and comfortably seated with a few choosing to stand for the return visit of David Rotheray (ex Beautiful South) and his new venture Life of Birds.

First we had the pleasure of hearing the exquisite vocals and song writing of Eleanor McEvoy and for me worth the ticket price alone. After jokingly introducing herself, before strapping on the guitar we were treated to some songs from her current CD “I’d Rather Go Blonde” as well as an old favourite A Woman’s Heart, which Eleanor was prompted to play after seeing herself perform in on BBC4 the previous night.  She also underlined her musical abilities moving for Electric to Acoustic guitar and then Violin, back to Electric guitar for her song Uganda with a great use of guitar looping to accentuate the spirit of Africa, she ended her set with the Nick Lowe song, I knew the Bride (when she used to Rock and Roll)

After a 15 minute break -  David Rotheray along with Bella Hardy, Jim Causley, Damon Butcher and Gary Hammond came on stage, with down to earth David dressed in his coat, cap and I guess Hull City scarf and looking remarkably like the bloke standing next to me at the bar during the first set . . . maybe because he was. They started with the first song on the album “The Sparrow, The Thrush and The Nightingale” his take on the music industry, though not specifically his time in Beautiful South, and with lead vocals by Jim Causley. At this point you should know, David doesn’t do vocals, he’s the songwriter but when you have the likes of Jim, Bella and Eleanor his songs are in very capable hands. On his last visit to The Stables, under the Homespun banner the vocal duties were taken up by Sam Brown (daughter of Joe Brown).

David would introduce each song individually, with a brief description of each and some funny anecdotes thrown in, with subjects like Birds, Old Peoples Home, A neighbour with a dog that constantly set upon him and a Pensioner finally “coming out” to his wife,  all songs written at a time when he was laid up ill with an inner ear infection and his inspiration came mainly from what he could see from out of his window. They were all joined once more by Eleanor McEvoy for a wonderful renditions of  Almost Beautiful which also appears on the album and ended their evening with a reprise of the “The Sparrow, The Thrush and The Nightingale”. A mention also should go to Damon Butcher and Gary Hammond on keyboard and various percussions and effects that helped to enhance with the whole atmosphere and spirit of the album.

When I heard this was going to be in Stage 2 I thought, strange choice, this should be in the main auditorium and I would expect more that 80 people would be along to see this, I’m not sure how many more tickets could have been sold but I think the experience was better for the confined and intimate surroundings.

This was a great evening from a true song writer that knows his craft so well and being joined by musicians and singers that can really bring his songs to life, so with other dates still in the area I wonder if I can get to see this all again at least one more time, but make sure you see them at least once, you won’t be disappointed.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ByAk9zkuMiQ&feature=related]

Tour Dates

20 Leicester Musicianwww.themusicianpub.co.uk
21 Cambridge Junction 01223 511511www.junction.co.uk
22 London Troubadour 0207 341 6321 www.troubadour.co.uk
23 Bury The Met 0167 612216 www.themet.biz
24 Sheffield The Plug 0114 276 2676 www.the-plug.com
25 Birmingham Glee Club 0871 472 0400 www.glee.co.uk
26 Nottingham Glee Club 0871 472 0400 www.glee.co.uk
27 Liverpool Edge Hill 0151 707 2277 www.metalculture.com
28 Oxford Glee Club 0871 472 0400 www.glee.co.uk
29 Bristol Louisiana 0845 413 4444 www.alt-tickets.co.uk
30 Exeter Mama Stones 01392 848485 www.mamastones.com
31 Weston Super Mare The Beach

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Keeping music live . . . . at any cost

I’m all for supporting live music and getting out to as many gigs as I can, but clearly there are people much  hardier that I who will go to any lengths to ensure they don’t stay in and will even venture to the pub sing around or those small village Folk Clubs mainly aimed at local people.

Now I’m not knocking them and long may they reign and I admire those people who are not afraid to just get up and sing and play, regardless of whether they can sing or play! Though I have had some unusual experiences on turning up at an “alien” folk club.

OK on this one occasion I did have an ulterior motive for going to see the headline act, Clive Gregson as he was due to play over at our Buckingham venue and I thought I’d drum up some more support. On going into this empty pub in a village, not too far from where I live, I was directed to go up a narrow flight of stairs to the room above, I was greeted at the doorway of this 20ft by 15ft room and was asked if I had a ticket. Wanting to buy one on the door the chap, speaking to someone hidden out of view, said “he’s doesn’t have a ticket, should we let him in?” clearly responding to a nod or gesture I was told “you look a nice chap we’ll let you in”. With the exception of three old people sitting in the front row, the guy on the door and the now visible organiser, I was the only person there. Now I normally like to stand but clearly I would stand out in this crowd so I sat on the back row near the window.

I watched as people started arriving and obviously all know each other as they made their usual greetings, checking the table for the raffle prizes, I seem to recollect, a box of Milk Tray, an own brand tin of biscuits from Tesco’s and I’m sure a bottle of Blue Nun which I might have already won a week earlier but left under the chair of another local club. Then I noticed this older woman, carrying a torch, hovering around me, I gave a courteous smile at which point she mentioned that, she usually sits where I’m sitting, she has to sit there because the lights sometimes go out and she has the torch! I’m sure she also said something about the room being haunted but I got up and moved to another row of seat down the side of the room, after first making sure I wasn’t taking up anybody else’s space.

After this the rest of the evening wasn’t too bad, though having to sit and listen to a few locals singing or playing instruments to a varying degree of success, the guy sitting in front of me constantly leaning right back in his chair and nearly ending up in my lap, hearing Clive Gregson making a fun of my home town and much to the amusement of the locals, the lights keep flickering and seeing the woman poised anxiously with her torch, but no sign of the ghost, and despite no more than 20 people attending I still didn’t win the raffle. So I guess I won’t be going back there regularly but this doesn’t mean these type of clubs should not continue or thrive, if this area of live music brings joy to others and helps keep a community spirit alive then there is nothing wrong with that.

I only bring up this story now after receiving an e-mail from a friend who not only goes to weirder places than this, he actually fits in, below is his experience of another village club but names and places removed, mainly to save his embarrassment for going there in the first place.

I went to a packed out Club in ????? last night where others were watching and videoing the various acts and for only £2 we got:

the bloke who runs the place messing up some reels which he “hadn’t finished learning yet”. And it showed!

his next door but one neighbour, inspired by the Folk Awards to learn two Donovan numbers. He made Donovan sound good.

a woman who admitted to not being able to play the piano playing the said piano while murdering an Emily Smith song.

she then became part of a trio and did the Jackie Oates part on Keys of Canterbury. Aaaargh!

a grungy kid who is auditioning for X Factor this weekend.

a woman who had brought a full size harp with one broken string along (!!!!!!!!!) in the hope of getting a floor spot. She’d had two lessons so far and was still learning. She’d obviously not finished learning the second number.

the mad grinning couple I once came across at ????? folk club.

5 bearded old blokes in knitted sweaters singing sea shanties!!!!

At least two other blokes had turned up with guitars and music stands but there wasn’t time for them. Nor for me – the bloke who runs the show spotted me writing out a shopping list for Tesco and assumed I was writing out my set list!!!!!

After all this “entertainment”, we got the main act at 10.25pm. His set started off with a song about infertility, followed by one about a stillborn child, then a suicide song…………….

By the time it had all finished, the pub was closed and all the lights in the village had been switched off.

Definitely a memorable night out. The Stables will be positively boring by comparison tonight.

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Amanda Shires video – When you need a train it never comes

For me Amanda Shires first came to prominence when she toured with the Rod Picott Band and played The Ent Shed in Bedford. I remember thinking at the time, what a great fiddle player with such a wonderful distinctive voice, reminiscent of a soft-spoken Dolly Parton, she also seemed so relaxed and a “bubbly” character on stage, I subsequently discovered this was also the night she’d discovered Pimms!

A couple of years later, Amanda along with Rod played a duo show in Tingewick and I can’t help remembering that when I first arrived to help set up I was greeted by Miss Shires with the words “Hi I’m Amanda get your shirt off” . . . . I’d forgotten to put my Empty Rooms T Shirt on, I also hasten to add that she’d decided to keep away from Pimms at this time, so this was her natural “bubbly” character. A highlight of the evening for me was her performance of “Angels and Acrobats” from her solo album West Cross Timbers, her achingly compelling voice that seems so fragile it might break at any moment but along with her beautiful fiddle playing can still sends shivers down your spine and pluck the strings of any man or woman’s heart.

I’m now looking forward to the release of her latest CD Carrying Lightning, due out in May and a tour of the UK with Rod Picott in October and they are booked to play Bedford, in the new acoustic room Holy Moly’s at Esquires, I’m sure they will muster up an audience willing to come and listen to these fine musicians, I’m also sure I will remind you closer to the date to check them out. In the mean time check out Amanda’s video, When you need a train it never comes

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Sarah McClurg and Silver Creek live video

As a continuation of the previous post and for those who didn’t go to see Sarah McClurg I’ve added a video of what you missed. A powerful performance from the diminutive Miss McClurg with a sterling showing from her backing band Silver Creek, so a great night all round.

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Sarah McClurg and Silver Creek play live in Bedford

Saturday 26th February East West Promotions and after having a little rest during the winter break it looks like the boys and girls are ready to get everybody moving so welcome Sarah McClurg with support and backing band Silver Creek to The Civic Theatre in Bedford

Canadian born Sarah possesses one powerful voice and show stopping performances and that combination of true talent and a little mystery that keeps you wanting more. Brought up on a diet of Dylan, Lightfoot and top 40 radio was enough to gift her the undeniable love of the music around her and the determination to be a singer. Her personal confidence and love of the stage and people who were willing to listen allowed her to sing, write, perform and compete throughout Canada and the United States and now on her tour of the UK and Europe.

Sarah will be joined in support and as her backing band by Ottawa based Silver Creek who came together for the first time in the spring of 2006 at the Cisco Systems Bluesfest. Since then they have been a fixture on the festivals main stage for 5 years in a row, opening for bands like Lucinda Williams, Blue Rodeo, The Grateful Dead, and many more.

Consisting of Shawn Tavenier (vocals, guitar), Blair Hogan (guitar, vocals), Jeff Rogers (piano, organs, vocals), Mark Laforest (Bass), and Shane McEwan (drums). .
Their exciting and powerful live show features the strength of three vocalists, against the backdrop of a thundering rhythm section. This looks like it will be another upbeat show not to be missed. Tickets are available online via We Got Tickets

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De Winter new video “Shy Bride”

An interesting message popped up on my Facebook news feed to check out, Facebook, You Tube and Reverbnation at 8pm Thursday 25th February for the premier of the new video “Shy Bride” by De Winter. For those who do not know,  De Winter is a breakaway venture from the very popular Bedford Band, Tinker Jack and sees Rebecca fusing the pop soul of Ryan Adams to the pure piano balladry of Ben Folds and Regina Spektor.

I’ve been lucky to see Rebecca on numerous occasions in both guises with Tinker Jack and De Winter, both of whom have played for us at Empty Rooms in Buckingham in support of Diana Jones and Eve Selis respectively. It’s a great insight to see an artist grow and mature and hone her obvious talents along with her songwriting partnerships, that includes David Ltichfield (also of Tinker Jack) to culminate in this new solo venture. And like many others I’m eagerly anticipating the release of her debut album which is due out in April 2011.

With this video, filmed locally at Bedford Civic Theatre and along with invited friends and fans taking part, we will get a taster of things to come and along with the album release should kick-start a promotional tour of music venues. To underline Rebeccas versatility and confidence she’s as happy to play solo with piano or with a full band, which is said could include brass, guitars and percussions. Either way Rebecca has become an accomplished performer having already supported the likes of Electric Soft Parade, The Leisure Society, Au Revoir Simone, Vanessa Peters, Amy Wadge and the afore-mentioned Ms Jones and Selis.

So exciting times ahead in 2011 and hopefully the exposure that is so justly deserved for this very talented young lady and we wish Rebecca De Winter all the best for the new project and when the recognition has finally arrived I can say, I was there from the start.

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Live Music – Pete Molinari and J T & the Clouds

Friday 25th February and Empty Room Promotions are welcoming two very distinctive vocalist to the famous Tingewick Village Hall.

Pete Molinari was born into a large Maltese/ Italian/ Egyptian family in Kent. While his friends were listening to Nirvana and Oasis he developed a deep infatuation with the Billie Holliday, John Coltrane, Leadbelly and Bob Dylan records of his much older brothers. Later with a head full of songs and his trusty guitar he went out to New York for a month, which turned into two years travelling round the USA. There he honed his unique vocal style playing the bars and cafes of New York’s Greenwich Village.

His music often harks back to the carefree day of the 1950′s and 60′s so it was a dream come true for this boy from Chatham to get an opportunity to go to Nashville to record and be backed by the extraordinary vocal talents of The Georgettes and the legendary Jordanaires, the very same men who backed up the likes of Elvis and Patsy Cline turned the sessions into a surreal experience.

When Bruce Springsteen was asked during an interview about what music he was listening to these days his reply was simple and direct:  “Pete Molinari – and if you don’t know anything about him, he’s great”.

Many people know JT through his relationship with Po’Girl and the Be Good Tanyas, both of whom he’s written songs for and toured with. Now he and a three piece version of his band, the Clouds, are touring the UK in their own right and no-one deserves the spotlight more. JT has been described as having the best white soul voice to come out of America in a generation.

JT and the Clouds come from Chicago; their music is Chicago music – rough edged, sad, hopeful, and shot through with soul. The Clouds, led by Jeremy “JT” Lindsay, have been putting out records and touring since 2004. Until recently, they got a bit more notoriety in far-off ports then their own backyard. That has changed in the last year. After putting out an EP, demons/demons, under the name JT NERO – a softer, (even) sadder, slightly weirder manifestation of the JT and Clouds sound – JT and Co enjoyed a wave of good press in their hometown and I’ll leave it to what other have been saying.

“It’s been said the ‘Rock N’ Roll Will Save Your Soul’, but who is there to save the soul of Rock and Roll? The answer to that question is Chicago based band JT & the Clouds” Reviewsic

“Bittersweet tales of loss and longing; haunting melodies and sharp lyrics. How is it that a band as good as JT and The Clouds, with four brilliant albums, is hardly known in Britain?” JT and the Clouds will suit fans of The Band, ‘The Basement Tapes,’ Memphis Soul and Willie Nelson.” Word Magazine

“Get settled in so you can tell your friends that you knew about JT and the Clouds before the boys hit the big time. It’s pretty darn fine.” Time Out

This will be a double headline show so the order of performance will be confirmed on the day, with doors opening at 8pm make sure you get there on time to ensure you don’t miss either act, we would hate you to be disappointed.

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Esquires Bedford – A new begining

It’s amazing what a little lick of paint and a bit of re-branding with a few logo’s can do to quickly change a venue and this is the case for Esquires in Bedford. Don’t expect too many dramatic changes, just a little bit of freshening up here and there, and as far as I can remember this has always been a rough and ready venue with more of an emphasis on the music they put on rather than the aesthetics of the building. For me this is no bad thing and part of the charm of the place and what I can say there has been many a great night of music in this venue.

Housed in a converted 19th century chapel, the remnants of the balcony can be seen below the suspended ceiling in the main stage area, Esquires has always been split into three areas and they now have their own individual identities Downstairs is Danny’s Bar which acts as a pub with live music on Friday and Saturday evenings and the famous Sunday sessions in the afternoon. The newly renovated Holly Moly’s which will act as a night club over the weekend as well as an introduction to acoustic music evenings and even comedy nights. Then upstairs on level two is the familiar Main Stage, which has been host in the past to the likes of  Coldplay, Franz Ferdinand,  Muse, The Libertines, Elbow, Supergrass, Feeder, Super Furry Animals, Athlete and many many more as well as a plethora of young indie bands from all over the country as well as acts from the vibrate local music scene.

To launch this new chapter in Esquires 22 year history they have re-designed the web site, some areas are still under construction and are one of a few venues to make the most of the power of Facebook to keep everybody constantly up to date and informed.

The same day the new web site went live Esquires also welcomed back a firm favourite (I was going to say old favourites) The Quireboys, and along with the support by Pear Handled Revolver, making this an instant sell out gig and one great evening of good time rock music, it was also great to see a mix of young and old who I hope will return again and again and to ensure that Esquires lives on for many years to come. To echo the sign about the main entrance “Let Us Entertain You” well you’ve been do good so far.

Check out the web site and sign up to their Facebook too.

Pearl Handled Revolver and The Quireboys February 2011

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