Emily Smith – New CD “Traiveller’s Joy” and tour

One on my favourites on the folk scene is the lovely Emily Smith and having just released a new CD  Traiveller’s Joy (and no I’ve not made a spelling mistake this time) she will be embarking on a short tour and there will be a couple of opportunities in the area to catch up with her.

As you will hear from the video below, Traiveller’s Joy focuses on the travelling community in her homeland of Scotland and includes re-workings of some traditional songs as well as the self penned new tracks. Musicians featured on the album include Nashville’s Stuart Duncan on fiddle who she met on  ‘Transatlantic Sessions’, James Fagan on bouzouki, Alan Doherty on flute and whistles as well as usual band members Duncan Lyall on bass and producer Jamie McClennan on guitar.

Emily’s clear and distinctive voice is always a pleasure to hear on recordings and also comes over superbly live. Yes I’ve seen Emily many times on her travels to Hitchin Folk Club, The Stables and various festival and there is very little reason why I wouldn’t want to go and see her again. She’s due to play

The Maltings Art Theatre in St Albans on 11th February
The Stables, Wavendon on 16th February

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Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives – The Stables, Wavendon

31st January at The Stables, Wavendon and a surprise welcome for one of the biggest stars in country music in Mary Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives. When his name came up on their website there was a double take, surely not the same Marty Stuart who spent six years with Johnny Cash in the 80s, had a string of country hits himself during the 90′s and is also a four-time Grammy-winner, platinum recording artist and star at the Grand Ole Opry as well as having his own long running tv show . . . . . . yep it sure is him.

So if you really are a fan of Country music you need to be here, and heck why not dress up at same time and get that country and western shirt ironed, you know Marty will, and if you’re not a fan of country, go along any way, Marty and his band are bound to put on a show to remember and you really can’t guarantee he will be playing such an intimate venue that often, I can think of no better way to spend a Monday evening. Support for the evening is from Sara Petite

Marty is touring in support of his new CD Ghost Train, the Studio B Sessions and the video below tells you a bit more about it.


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Mama Rosin and The Lucky Strikes in Oxford

Saturday 29th January and Empty Rooms Promotions pack up their kit bags, put on their duffel coats and mittens and make their way down the A34 to Oxford and in the words of Monty Python “for something completely different.” Now I wouldn’t put the Cajun/Zydeco music style on the list of must see and when you say that the trio playing tonight hail from Switzerland, you might just pinch yourself or the promoter and say am I dreaming! But this is where Mama Rosin roots are firmly planted and the music they live and breath. They are on a short tour to finish off their visit to Celtic Connections 2011 and there has been a lot of interest in this band. The support for the evening is The Lucky Strikes a 5 piece band who come from the far away Thames delta of Southend on Sea, so you are assured of a very lively night tonight. It all takes place at The Bullingdon Arms and doors open at 7.30pm so don’t forget your dancing shoes.

More details and tickets from www.empty-rooms.com

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Justin Townes Earle – Live in Buckingham

Friday 28th January and a welcome return to Justin Townes Earle at The Radcliffe Centre in Buckingham and in support of his fabulous CD Harlem River Blues. Having made no secret of his recent stay in rehabilitation at the end of 2010 it’s great to have him back playing live again and he’s going down a storm on this UK tour.

Right from the opening line of the first and title track “Lord, I’m goin’ uptown to the Harlem River to drown dirty, water gonna cover me over and I’m not gonna make a sound” it’s like a baptism and washing away your sins and Harlem River Blues is a departure to his previous recordings and for me this one of his best so far. His mix of country, gospel and blues from the deep south with some subtle influences from the early Elivs, Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams, it’s a collection of song actually inspired by his current home in New York and the diverse nature of the people living there. By all accounts the album was recorded mixed and mastered in seven days, preferring to go with the sound that he lays down first, rather than listen back and make any changes, Justin admitted that inevitably he always prefers that first take.

This will be the penultimate night of his UK tour and the doors will be open at 7pm, with the support from James Walbourne on at 7.30pm and with Justin due on by 8.30pm details and tickets can be found at www.empty-rooms.com

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Kevin Montgomery Tingewick with support from Ange Boxall

Friday 14th January – Tingewick Village Hall nr Buckingham. The musical year started off well at Empty Rooms Promotions with the, what looks like , annual visit from Kevin Montgomery but this year with a band, hastily named The Endangered Livers. The line up as originally billed should have been the 10th anniversary of his band The Roadtrippers, Robert Reynolds and Paul Deakin from The Mavericks and Mike McAdam from Steve Earle’s band, unfortunately the two Maverick guys pulled out at the very last-minute, leaving Kevin to piece together a band with days to spare. Still he managed it, as was still picking up people as temporary replacements as he travelled around the UK.

A reasonable turn out with a few walk ups made for a good atmosphere and lively audience, though as is becoming normal, most prefer to sit and listen rather than stand or dance. This didn’t stop the band rocking, after the initial acoustic set from Kevin and there was even some dancing in the seat especially on the Buddy Holly covers. Mike McAdam was suffering from a bad cold, though this didn’t hinder his excellent flowing slide guitar playing. As always Kevin was at ease and relaxed with his audience most of whom have become friends, which allows him to joke and tell more stories, though this contributed to the late finish of 11.30pm, still the 2 and a half hour set seemed to fly by and the audience went away happy after another great night of music and probably anticipating next years visit and the promise of a new CD, which we all agree is long overdue.

Kevin also has the knack of finding some very talented female support acts to open the shows, two years ago it was Andrea Glass, last year Jill Jackson and this year was no exception. Opening the show tonight, and for most of the tour, was London-based, Tasmanian singer, Ange Boxall, singing tracks from her current CD Writing Letters with contributions co-written with Jim Lauderdale and J D Souther and some wonderful steel guitar playing from B J Cole. Tonight though it was just Ange and her guitar and we were treated to the stripped down acoustic version of her songs. With her crystal clear voice and the occasional faint tweak of her Australian accent along with her confident stage presence I think the people of Tingewick warmed to her quickly, she even mentioned she wasn’t sure where she was only that it was north of London and someone cheekily pointed out “and south of Scotland” which helped her narrow it down a bit. The 30 minute set was far too short and all these new songs, to most of us, came over extremely well, though a stand out track for me was one of her own composition Electric Blue.

You can always tell if the audience enjoyed it, not only by the reaction at the end of the set but the queue for the merch at the interval, so I was kept busy this night, especially when the first batch had sold out. Let’s hope we can entice Ange back to Buckingham very soon.

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I Draw Slow – Video

In the good old days, when Myspace was the only social network site BF (before Facebook) it used to be great to see if you could discover some new music you’d never heard before. Admittedly you may have to go through hundreds of personal pages of sad individuals who wanted to be your friend or they seemed to be so weird you know they should never be let out in public, but fortunately among these were some gems of music.

One such gem I stumbled upon that shone quite brightly for me was a group called I Draw Slow who play a mix of alt-country, old-time folk / roots, though this five piece band from Dublin have created a new sound, rooted in the old-time style of the Appalachian Mountains while drawing on Irish traditional music and modern Americana.

Currently in the throes of recording their second album, Red Hills , due out in February 2011, their previous CD Downside is still worth a listen, with stand out tracks like, Santiago and the glorious, Lighthouse Daughter, telling its story of a women who dies at the hands of her husband because of her love of the lighthouse keepers daughter. You can hear these tracks still on their Myspace site.

I’m not sure if there is any intention to tour the UK or whether they are happy with what they are doing in Ireland, but I still live in hope. In the meantime check out their great video Swans, which was recorded live and is a track from the new CD

recorded live on a hill in south dublin in one take with 5 microphones, directed by Hugh O’Conor, shot by Ivan McCullough, sound recorded by Hugh Fox, Boom Operator Louis Trussell, Sound mixed by Steve Fanagan, Post production by the Element.

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The Burns Unit + Megson Live at The Stables

Thought I’d give another mention for a gig coming up in a weeks time, 18th January, at The Stables in Wavendon. They are an 8-piece Scottish-Canadian “supergroup” called The Burns Unit whose multi-faceted sound can be described as “indie pop meets carnival rock.”

The Burns Unit features: folk singer Karine Polwart; alt-folk royalty King Creosote and indie queen Emma Pollock plus Indo-Caledonian pop artist Future Pilot AKA; elegant multi-instrumentalist Kim Edgar; drummer/producer Mattie Foulds; energetic piano-man Michael Johnston (both from Canada) and virtuosic rapper MC Soom T.

For this group of fine musicians you must be prepared to open your mind to a musical experience slightly removed from folk as they try the mix of all genres. With the use of rap and upbeat tunes they hope their sound will be able to draw audiences in from other musical back grounds who probably shy away from the folk scene. Ideally best experience at a festival they will be doing only 3 shows after their event at Celtic Connections 2011, one being in Manchester while the other will be in London. So having missed majority of their performance at The Cambridge Folk Festival last year I’d best make sure I don’t miss them this time around.

Support for this evening will be from Megson, who are nominated for best duo at the BBC Folk Awards, which really should be theirs this year. This will be the start of their last tour for a while as Debbie is expecting a baby Megson in May, so best catch them while you can, should be a good night.

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Where will the music play

There doesn’t seem to be a week go past when you hear about music festivals and venues disappearing because of economic down turns or lack of funding. OK so this one is not closing but it is changing and I have read that The Maltings Art theatre in St Albans is going to be converted into a Cinema to the tune of a £405,000 refurbishment.

In recent years there seemed to be less and less music being promoted here, with the odd Jazz, Blues or acoustic event, but they were promoting more small-scale theatre work, comedy and some cinema. So it does seem strange to now concentrate solely on films. The argument is that the council have been subsiding live performances to the tune of £9 per seat and cinema would be a lot less and hope that cinema on a seven-day a week operation will bring in more revenue to make it self financing in two to three years, though some occasional live performances maybe possible.

In my opinion the major problem for The Maltings was lack of exposure, even people in St Albans never knew it existed so if they didn’t know it was there will they go to the cinema too. Also there has never been a dedicated web site, only a presence on Myspace, not the best social network site there is. The Maltings is not a big theatre but does caters for that middle ground between pub venues and The Alban Arena just across the road. With seating between 100 – 150+ comfortably they needed to attract the artist that could bring in a larger audience and on a regular basis and expand the genre of music they promoted.

So why not compromise, if the money is there to refurbish then do it, maybe improve the entrance, a better bar facility even double up as a coffee and snack bar during the day. Yes go ahead and have a cinema, I’m sure they will get the audience they need in the day light hours, they could even hold the occasional day time concerts they used to promote in the past, but leave the evening to live music, theatre and comedy and maybe the occasional cinema to fill the gaps, it could work if they put their minds to it.

More news on the BBC website

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Kevin Montgomery at Tingewick

14th January is only a week away and is the date of Empty Rooms Promotions first gig of 2011 and it’s becoming a regular start with Kevin Montgomery and this year with a band. Originally it was billed as a 10th Anniversary tour with his band The Roadtripper but unfortunately at the last-minute Robert Reynolds and Paul Deakin, both ex of The Mavericks, have pulled out, leaving Kevin with the dilemma to either cancel the tour or to go ahead with a re-arranged band. Fortunately on Boxing Day and with a few days to go he called in a few friends from across the water to fly over, rehearse and get out on the road.

Kevin’s background is steeped in musically history he was brought up in Nashville in Music Row and both his parents were prolific in music of the time, from country to the birth of Rock n Roll. Bob Montgomery was associated with Buddy Holly having co written some of his classic, Heartbeat, Wishing, Down the line, then later writing Misty Blue and Back in Baby’s Arms a big hit for Patsy Cline. Meanwhile his mother Carol had a thriving career as a Nashville session vocalist, singing back up on pop classics like Elvis Presley’s Suspicious Minds and In the Ghetto and Robert Knight’s Everlasting Love.

So this year it should be a great rocking night in The Village Hall in Tingewick, nr Buckinghan, which as we now know is The New London! Support for the evening will be from Tazmanian singer Ange Boxall and the doors open at 8pm.

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Tingewick is the new London

As you may have gathered I help out at Empty Rooms Promotions in Buckingham on a voluntary basis. Simply keeping the web site up to date, arranging the chairs, greeting the audience, helping on the merchandise desk, designing posters and flyers and generally making the gigs known as best I can around the internet.

A couple of years ago it was necessary to find a new venue to put and the thought was to find a suitable hall. There was a nice scout hut in the Village of Tingewick, just outside Buckingham that suited our needs, but there was always the thought that the word village hall wouldn’t look right in the context of rock music. Well we need not have worried as it didn’t take long for bands and audiences to warm to the venue and we can truly say there have been some great nights of music in this room. Possibly the biggest endorsement of the venue came last summer when Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express finished their UK tour here. Due to their popularity it was thought that a bigger venue should be sort, but Chuck insisted that he wanted to play here, as in his own words “this is the sort of place that Buddy Holly would have played” so it was suggested we do two shows on one day, a matinée and a late evening show. This would be a first for us and we were not sure what the response would be, thankfully it was very good. Despite this also being one of the hottest days of the year for the early show we welcomed a new audience of young families and children who don’t find it easy to get to shows in the evening. This was also the gig where Chuck declared that “Tingewick is now the new London, which can be heard on the video below which also demonstrates that a village hall can make a great rock venue. Do you know what, we too are beginning to believe that Tingewick is a rival to London.


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