Hello, one and all. I’m sitting on the train as I write this, on my way home to Cornwall from the Return To Camden Town Festival (www.returntocamden.org) in London, but metaphorically speaking I’m walking on air. The night was nothing short of magical. Singer/guitarist Terence O’Flaherty opened the show, followed by a 40-minute set by my good self, and then four of my favourite artists in the world took the stage. I’d have gladly paid money to see any one of them solo, but there they were all together: Róisín Elsafty, Máirtín O’Connor, Cathal Hayden and Séamie O’Dowd. They fully deserved the hoots and hollers the audience gave them, and for an encore they asked me up for a song, so Róisín and I swapped verses and harmonised on ‘Red Is The Rose’ while the lads vamped along mellifluously. It was a major honour to be in such company – I’ll be holding onto that memory for a long time! I’m happy to say that a photographer was present and has promised to send me a few snaps to put up on the website, so do check back in a few weeks’ time and you might see them.
I had an equally awe-inspiring experience last Friday, when I did some singing in the hallowed premises of the Sawmills Studio – used by Oasis, Stone Roses, XTC et al (for the full list and a gawk at the pictures, visit www.sawmills.co.uk). My pal Colin Harper had asked me to do a track on a very interesting-sounding project he’s putting together, consisting of 20 songs written by Colin and performed by the likes of Tina McSherry, Roisin Gallagher, Conor Shields and – yes! – me, with featured instrumentalists including Martin Hayes and Duke Special among others. Keep an eye on his website (www.colin-harper.com) for news of its release.
The studio was an experience in itself – to get there, you park down in a sleepy little harbour in the village of Golant, ring the sound engineer, and he put-put-puts over in a motorboat to collect you. I only got a quick peek at the comfy quarters enjoyed by bands that take the full residential package, but it looked rather nice – big leather sofas, pool table, widescreen telly, shelves of DVDs and so forth. I managed to get my vocals down in the allotted three hours, but as the tide was out when it came time to leave, I couldn’t take the boat and instead had to walk along the railroad bridge while keeping an ear out for approaching trains!
Speaking of trains, I’ve been using them for as much of my transport to and from gigs as possible – partly to keep my carbon footprint down and partly because it’s just so much pleasanter than flying or driving. I’m even going to take the train when I go over to the Netherlands for my mini-tours there in January and March – overnight from Penzance to London, then Eurostar from London to Brussels and on to Holland. It’ll be an adventure ....
Unfortunately, some venues can't be reached by rail, and that’s where the TomTom comes in. At the Tisbury Folk & Acoustic Music Festival last month, I found myself sitting in the illustrious company of Nancy Kerr, James Fagan, Pete Coe and Bob Fox. It was one in the morning or thereabouts, we were all having a civilised glass of wine and what were we animatedly discussing? Our satellite navigation devices. It couldn’t have been sadder, and then suddenly it was: James and Nancy revealed that THEIR TomTom (a much fancier model than mine) allowed you to record your own instructions. Next thing you know, I was intoning “Go through the roundabout” into the little microphone, and then Bob Fox got to say “Keep right,” or maybe it was “Take the exit” – I can’t remember. Such hilarity. Ah, the high jinks us folk musicians get up to in our spare time.
Earlier this month, photographer Alastair Bruce (www.alastairbruce.co.uk) travelled all the way down from his base in Devon to take pics for the new album; I’ll also be using them for my publicity purposes from here on out, as it was beginning to seem a bit cheeky to be sending out photos taken back in 1996, nice and all as they were. He managed to assemble a lovely bunch of images, all taken in and around our house. You can see a selection of them, as well as some very nice pics taken by Chris Stanbury (www.swallowcliffe.com) at the aforementioned Tisbury festival, here – check out the one Chris took of the gorgeous black Labrador who supplied brilliant backing vocals to my rendition of ‘In The Pines’! Also newly updated is the Press page with the text of various recently-published reviews and articles. All the best until next time!