With the Big Whistle Festival now lurking in the background, things have been a bit bananas. We were (apparently), one of the 3 bands which sold out their allocated tickets. The band was one of the best I’ve ever had the honour of gracing a stage with. This band has now emerged as “MUSAIC” and the line-up is; Paul Cunningham (Guitar and vocals), Lynn Hold (flute and low whistle and other whistles too), Sam Cheshire (keys) and Me, (guitar and vocals).
We’re mostly doing my songs, and gradually inculcating some of Paul’s. We’re gigging and doing some radio stuff too. The weekend of St Pat’s Day, we’re playing both evenings in the big marquee in front of Manchester Town Hall. Ian Reynolds will be joining us to add talent and some musical bulk in the face of overwhelming Irish odds.
We’ve got a gob-book page, thanks to Lynn, and you can follow our adventures on facebook.com/ .I’ll be using this as the gig diary for the foreseeable future, so please take a look if you want to know where we’re up to.
Still doing the session at The Packhorse every 2nd Wednesday (next one is March 26th), and we’ll be coming along right after the radio gig we’re doing on AllFM.
Yvonne Reynolds-Young is doing a great job of handling the distribution and promo for the new album “Wings and Feet”. Various tracks have made 5 or 6 radio playlists so far (and growing).
If you want an album or to make an enquiry for press or radio, please contact Yvonne at:
Right that’s it so far. I’ll get back with progress soon.
OK, here’s the news.
The new CD (Wings and Feet) is ready! Shrink-wrapped and delivered. All the info about who plays what on it is on the usual CD insert. Suffice to say that once again I was surrounded by great players and great technicians; without whom it would never have happened. I’m in the process of arranging the distribution and will let you know how to get it as soon as that is sorted out.
We (The Band, most of us from The Packhorse Collective), have been rehearsing hard for the Big Whistle Festival which this year comes from The Met in Bury. We’re on from 6.15 ‘til 7.00pm. We’re in The Studio, so tickets are limited to about 60 or 70 I believe. So if you want to come along I’d get tickets on-line now (http://themet.biz/bigwhistle/ )
The line-up this time around is; Me, Stew Pickering, Paul Cunningham, Lynn Holt, Sam Cheshire and we’re delighted to have Maart Allcock along too. We’ll mostly be doing stuff from the new “Wings and Feet” album.
I’m playing every second Wednesday at the Packhorse in Birtle (Elbutt Lane, between Rochdale and Bury), with some fine musicians/ singers/ song-writers. Dave and Helen Howard have recently returned from living in Ireland and it’s a joy to have them play and sing with us again. Ian Reynolds, one of my favourite song-writers, is a regular and Paul Cunningham lends his own brand of wry wit and great songs to the mix.
We also have wee Sam Cheshire who now plays in the most recent incarnation of the band and we’d be pretty tame without him. His Ma (Julie ) and her partner Andy are regulars as well and Andy’s song-writing is really coming on. Our old friend Paul Marshall is usually there too and his interpretation of songs is always appreciated and of the best quality.
There are others of course, no less important, and I’ll put them in the next update.
We really are lucky; we have a great bunch of regular audience members and our land-lady not only keeps us Guinnessed, but fed as well. Do try to make it. We’re there next Wednesday Feb 6th, 2013 , and every other Wednesday after that. We also do a session at the BBC (Bamford Bowling Club), on the alternative Thursdays. This is more of a practice session when we arrange, squabble, and try to make each other sound better.
That’s it; more after the Bury gig. Keep it live!
I know, I’m in shock too! Updates two months in a row.
Apologies to anyone who bought the Sunday Times last week. The “Relative Values “ feature was supposed to cover my daughter and I, but they expanded the “Spectrum” section leaving no room for a few of the regular inclusions. I’ll let you know when we have a publication date.
Good news on the 3rd CD. (Wings and Feet). It is finished and mastered and we’re just completing the artwork and getting some run off. Hopefully you’ll be able to get it from me at gigs or through the distributors whose link is on the website. Should be ready within the next 10 days (he says)..
Apart from the sessions, I’ve not been gigging, but we are doing “The Big Whistle Festival” in February 2013. Here’s the link;
We’re playing the studio session on Saturday 9th. The whole shebang is at The Bury Met which is a great venue. Do try to make it, it would be great to see you there.
New website just launched....as you can plainly see. Your feedback always very welcome!
It is with the greatest pleasure and pride that I congratulate the inimitable Bill Leader, the producer of my last CD, on his BBC Folk Award for services to Folk Music. And about time too. If you didn’t catch the awards, they may still be available on the good old i-Player.
February 8th saw the inaugural evening of the session at The Packhorse in Birtle (near Bury). Terry Klisczc, Paul Marshall, Paul Cunningham and I were joined by Ian Reynolds, Paul…… and Jonny Hulme for one of the best sessions we’ve had for a long time. I know Ian and Paul well and shared many a stage with them, but it was my first chance to play with the virtuoso Johnny who can make a 5 string banjo talk. We are hoping to make the session every two weeks on Wednesday nights. All players, writers, and listeners are very welcome.
The BBC (Bamford Bowling Club) sessions will now run, for the foreseeable future, every other Thursday. See the gig dates for confirmation of time and venue.
OK… I know its been a while, but the beautiful Greek island of Patmos beckoned and then equally beautiful Deia in Majorca called,…. And who was I to refuse? The time has not been wasted…apart from the joy of being surrounded by family and by some of my favourite people on the..read more >>
OK! OK! I'm doing it... I do have the musicians book of excuses to hand, but even that would never include the real reason for the very late update. A famous computer company (which for the moment must remain anonymous), took remote control of my computer to fix a read more >>
OK; I give in……enough people to make me feel guilty have asked me why my website hasn’t been updated for a while. I ask them in return; why do plumbers have leaky taps and carpenters creaky doors? read more >>
I have 10 new songs and/or tunes ready for the next CD and have promised faithfully do actually do some promotion of this one. I have been threatening to play 5 string banjo at gigs if people don’t buy it. read more >>
OK… I know its been a while, but the beautiful Greek island of Patmos beckoned and then equally beautiful Deia in Majorca called,…. And who was I to refuse? The time has not been wasted…apart from the joy of being surrounded by family and by some of my favourite people on the planet, I did manage to write a few songs and to finally , finally, (honest).. complete the second album.
I’m working on the production notes with the inimitable Bill Leader and we hope to go to press within the next week or two. I’ve been managing quite a few sessions (including one with some bazouki players from Crete, who played everything in D minor).!?
I’m pretty regularly playing at “The Oddfellows” session in Middleton, Grt Manchester, on Monday evenings, and together with a few others, running the session at “The B B C “ (OK, Bamford Bowling Club), in Bamford near Rochdale on most Thurs evenings. Do check with the club if you intend to visit to make sure we’re there as we’re sometimes out doing other stuff.
In Deia, one of my playing partners, Stew Pickering, hosted the usual open mike sessions at which I gave my tuppence worth. A host of celebrities, some of them fine musical performers, made their appearance and good times were had by all. Wee Sadie Pickering, daughter of aforesaid Stew, is writing and performing her own songs, and hopefully she’ll be doing some support gigs with us in the near future.
There are a few gigs in the pipeline among which is the guest spot at “Jangles Folk Club” in the cons club in Littleborough, on Wednesday Sept 21st, 2011.. Just recently opened and looking like it is going to thrive. http://janglesfolk.moonfruit.com/ I’m hoping that some of the players from my 2nd album will be able to turn up and show that we did it for real on the album! Do come along, it’s a great wee club which deserves support.
On Saturday October 15th 2011, Terry Kliszcz and I will be playing Irish tunes at the opening of the Irish Film Festival in the Corner House in Manchester, and then on December 1st 2011, I’ll be doing the support for Fionn Regan in St Philip’s in Salford. There are also some gigs stacking up for the new year and I will keep these updated on the site….
Right, that’s it. I’ll let you know when the album is actually for sale.
Love to all and keep it live.
<< Back to top
OK! OK! I'm doing it... I do have the musicians book of excuses to hand, but even that would never include the real reason for the very late update..
A famous computer company (which for the moment must remain anonymous), took remote control of my computer to fix a bug. To cut a very long story short, they managed to wipe my hard drive. Did I have a back-up? Of course. They wiped that as well. At least 10 years of my digital life is now in zeros and ones floating around the cosmos; never to be re-united in the form of intelligible data. Heart-broken? You guess..
Anyhow, enough whingeing, there are countless people out there with real problems to deal with every day; like how to feed their kids or save their dying mother. It really helps to put things into perspective.
The next CD:
The recording bit is now finished (after what can only be referred to as a "fractured series of sessions".). Davide the engineer and the ubiquitous Bill Leader, the producer, have worked hard and long trying to see inside my head. They have my sympathy, I imagine it's a bit like looking through honey with fog in it, whilst wearing dark glasses. Bill's steadying patience is enough to keep anyone sane and he can say in two words what most people take ten to say.
I haven't decided yet if all the recorded material is going to be on this CD. All but one of the pieces are home grown and I have had some of the nicest people in music give their time and talent to try to make it better.
My dear friend Maart Allcock (at the moment touring with Beth Neilsen Chapman), came all the way from Wales to work his magic on some of the tunes. Johnny (Wolfenden) Sax turned up and played as beautifully as he always does. Nigel Pickering gave us some incredible leads and "dirty"
guitar and my old playing mate Stew Pickering (no relation to Nigel), did his usual superb complementary guitar work. Most of the guys from the "Odd Fellows" session in Middleton have contributed in one way or another. John in the studio played double bass and Davide did some drumming. I will thank them all properly on the album.
The weird thing about some of these recordings is that I didn't let the session musicians hear each other. All they got was me and the guitar and in their own talented ways, improvised as only they can. I think the strangest things happen when different forms of improvisation are allowed to develop without any influence beyond the basic song structure. At one stage, the sax and the fiddle become one in their take on a song; I'd never really dreamed of putting them together . I'm hoping we can mix it the way I hear it. I don't think it will be long before its finished and my six fans will receive free copies.
The Monday sessions at the Odd Fellow's Arms in Middleton (Greater
Manchester) really are great craic. The musicians there have great patience and allow me to foist my material on a now suspecting public. Some of them are even kind enough to join in.
Last outings were to the Corner House in Manchester to open the Irish language Film Festival. I accompanied Terry Kliszcz (pronounced Klish) who plays Uillean Pipes and concertina among other things. We repeated the gig later that week in The Briton's Protection , again in Manchester. He is a fine musician and our styles suit each other. We are hoping to be able to do much more work together in the future. The DADGAD brigade would probably squirm in their graves and not allow us to join their clique. I'm just glad that when many of the tunes they now play were written, perhaps the composers were a wee bit more open minded.
I remember the rigid formality of the Ceilidhs we went to as kids. Dinny on the accordion, Paddy on the drums, and some old dear on the piano (a real traditional instrument), with that measured, infuriating beat, devoid of any soul, character, shade or dynamics. Maybe working people weren't allowed to show off like their betters...drudge, drudge.. Bit like learning your times tables by rote. (What's the traditional music equivalent to a fatwa?).
There are a few of us getting together in the BBC (Bamford Bowling Club) near to lovely Rochdale on Thursday evenings to swap songs and tunes. If you are a player you are very welcome, if you are not, you're still welcome so long as you don't make a racket when people are trying to sing. I can't guarantee we'll always be there, but we're hoping it will be pretty regular.
Next (playing wise), were a few appearances in Deia in Majorca. Usual amazing performers who shall remain anonymous as it is considered tacky to name drop.
Incidentally, if you bump into Steve Kopper (American Steve) tell him to shift his ass otherwise we'll never get the book we're working on, off the ground.
Right, that's it. I'll post a message when the CD is ready and you can buy it for all the people you love (or hate) for Christmas.
<< Back to top
OK; I give in……enough people to make me feel guilty have asked me why my website hasn’t been updated for a while. I ask them in return; why do plumbers have leaky taps and carpenters creaky doors? Some of these nice people have even been using the site to see where the next gig is..and to buy my C D.
So, a quick catch-up…
I have been playing pretty regularly (for me…) at The Odd Fellows Arms, Monday night session in Middleton. Seriously, if you paid to go in, you’d ask them to raise the ticket prices. There is a kernel of regulars; all fine players, singers or composers in their own right and they do a mixture of traditional Irish tunes interspersed with songs. There is only one Bodhran player who is good at it, so that post has been filled.
I remember when I played sessions in Ireland, word would get around and musicians would turn up in increasing numbers. Not to be left out, those who didn’t play an instrument that you could get a recognisable tune out of, opted for the Bodhran. Soon, the session would be full of Bodhran players and you couldn’t hear your ears for the massed drums. The session would move to somewhere else and the location kept secret for as long as possible. No offence to Bodhran players, but one is usually enough for a session.
Gig Diary: incomplete as usual…
The best gigs we’ve played lately have been in Deia (in Majorca)… magical evening in an enchanting place with a capacity audience and more acts than could be fitted in.
Another of note was in the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. Stu Pickering and I kicked off and we were lucky enough to have John Howarth of the Oldham Tinkers, Big Martin Hall, and Pete Mc Millan as our guests. A word of warning to those who might be doing a gig there in the Steam Hall; the acoustics are really difficult and even our very experienced mixer for the evening (BBC soundman Alan Sutcliffe), found it hard to get the message through. We eventually managed to gather a hundred or so of the audience up to the front and the evening ended happily for all concerned. A huge thanks to the organisers who could not have been kinder or more welcoming.
Next on the list of notable events was our gig in Gregson Lane Folk Club. I think its one of the best clubs I’ve ever visited. The people are down to earth and most of them sickeningly talented. They have a very democratic booking process; although with the talent they have on hand, I’m surprised they book anyone. Just put the club name in Google for dates and directions. Highly recommended and a great place to bring your music to.
Next on the list of interesting gigs is the one I did in that London on November 22nd. It was special in many ways; mostly because I got to accompany and sing with my daughter Anna Friel in the Bloomsbury Theatre, just opposite Euston. She was brill (of course). It was a charity event and all power to the fab actor Jonathan Price for his organisation and unstinting energy.
Stu Pickering and I are on at Jackson’s Pit in Oldham on Thurs Dec 3rd; another club well worth a visit and yet again full of talented singer song-writers. Neil who runs the gig can be found/ heard at; http://orangeunsignedact.co.uk/acts/tea-for-one
Do try to fit a visit in; its only on once a month so you get four weeks for the price of one. No charge on the door, but they do ask for contributions so that guests get at least the price of their petrol!
<< Back to top
I have 10 new songs and/or tunes ready for the next CD and have promised faithfully do actually do some promotion of this one. I have been threatening to play 5 string banjo at gigs if people don’t buy it. Then again, G banjo is the new black; look at Steve Martin the film funny guy, he has been a closet 5 string player for 30 years and has at last come out and owned up. He has even played with Bella Fleck (look him up…) and he and I share the experience of having jammed with Billy Connolly. Maart Allcock knows more derogatory jokes about 5 string banjo players than anyone else I know; but be warned, we are coming…( and will doubtless provide even more fodder for the humorous amongst you). And another thing; 5 string banjo is really difficult to play well… its even difficult to play badly.
I’ll update again soon or my 5 fans will lynch me.
Love to all and keep it live.
Rochdale Health and Safety rule bans bands.
June 20th saw Cigna, Marshall and I turn up at ridiculous o’clock (for musicians anyway), at the Exchange Centre in Rochdale.
Nigel Pickering had organized a whole rake of musicians to turn up and play in support of our local hospice. The day was to run from 12.00 through to the evening. The first band went on and bemused shoppers got a free gig. Then yours truly… followed by Cigna with Marshall on backing guitar. They played a storm.
It was pleasant watching the faces of passers-by who are quite unused to free stuff happening in Rochdale’s Exchange Shopping Centre. Many of them stopped and listened all the way through and contributed mightily to the hospice fund.
As we were playing a festival later that afternoon, we couldn’t hang around. Just as well; in the name of Saint Health and Safety, the gig was brought to an early close. The wee men and women with the important walkie-talkies and uniforms couldn’t hear each other (in the event, I imagine, of an earthquake, terrorist attack, or plague of locusts). In a centre that size, they could see each other, but this didn’t seem to count. You know the rest; every band had to cancelled and Nigel, to his eternal credit, was landed with that job. All power to the elbows of those Centre staff who made a huge effort that day; I’m just sorry it didn’t pan out the way it should have. And by the way; THANKS FOR HAVING US!
Fete de la Musique
The same afternoon saw us in the beautiful Yorkshire village of Luddenden, to play the Fete de la Musique. Its quite a festival and much bigger than we’d anticipated. Stu Pickering was there and we did the gig as a duo, with Cigna doing a guest spot in the middle, ably supported by Paul Marshall. I played along in the name of the collective. The rain tried hard to get in on the act (probably believing it was Glastonbury), and managed to force the organizers to abandon the main outdoor stage.
Undaunted, they worked minor miracles and shifted players from pub to Dome and Local Church and made the whole thing work. They are great people and I look forward to further musical collaboration with them in the future. If there is another event in Luddenden, do try to get there; you will not be disappointed. By the way, I did a couple of songs with Samantha Jane ….. playing fiddle. She just jammed along and is a fab wee player. Her regular band is “State of Undress” and I have their CD which is great craic. Try to see them if you can.
We have at last managed to co-ordinate Stu Pickering, Maart Allcock and myself for Phil Brown’s “ The Drift”…… show on Sept 11th (this year, honest). We’re doing it live and it should be great craic.
Phil Brown has played a few songs on his show “The Drift” (BBC Radio Lancs, Thursdays 9.00 PM), and said some really nice things about me and the songs. If you get an hour or two, listen in, or if you miss it, you can get the latest on the BBC website. Just go to BBC Radio Lancs and click on “listen again”.
Maart Allcock, Stu Pickering and I are trying to co-ordinate a date to play the show. I’ll you informed through this and any other medium I can.
Big thanks to Phil and please keep up the fab show.
Have also been getting some airtime on some of the local Yorkshire stations; thanks to them also and to the Topic in Bradford, the oldest folk club in the UK, for the gig a few weeks ago.
The guys at Fairport have done me the honour of including my CD “Circumstances” in their website shop. It is a kind and lovely gesture and gives me faith. I still have memories of early Fairport gigs (and more recent ones), where I don’t think I blinked once during the usual awe inspiring musicianship and downright entertainment. And they didn’t ask me to say that. Honest.
The club trek goes on!!
Between Marshall, Cigna and myself, I think we could now write quite an authoritative guide to the plethora of folk/singer/acoustic/open-mike clubs in this region; along the lines of “Lonely Planet”. You know the sort of thing; should you take a packed lunch? Is the beer drinkable? Is there ANY beer? (We turned up at one place where it appeared the landlord had done a runner and the taps were running dry). Does this club book people? Is the average audience more than six? Is it a session? Is it run by someone who knows you’ve travelled 40 miles and tells you they can fit you in for 2 songs; and then proceeds to introduce his first song for 15 minutes?
Does the image portrayed on the website bear even a vague relationship to reality? If you get a booking, will it happen before you die of old age? Will it cost you more in beer and petrol than you get paid? Is it brilliant and well organized like some of the clubs we invaded? Are there loads of really good musicians and singers like the last two we went to? Do you need to inform the police and nearest relative of your destination and possible time of return; just in case?
I don’t know; the things we do for love.
There is one thing all these musical meeting places have in common and that is usually a love of the craic. And as always, there is a welcome and a chance to make new acquaintances and hear some rare tunes.
We will continue our quest ……………………
With the Friel clan widely distributed throughout the known (and probably unknown) world, there is no shortage of willing hands to help promote the CD “Circumstances”.
One of my musical brothers passed the songs on to a friend of his and she has been playing them on her radio show. This inspired a couple of others to take up the good fight and they too have been giving the songs an airing. Apparently phone-in responses (positive), have been quite high. So to everyone in New South Wales and Queensland, g’day and thanks a million.
Spent a week in May in beautiful Deia on the western coast of Majorca. It is a healing and peaceful place. Started two new songs there. Often you get the raised eyebrows and knowing , quizzical look when you mention Majorca. Its like the North of England; up the M6, turn left and you have the brash, tacky and fun-filled Blackpool. Drive another hour and you’re up to your neck in the wondrous Lake District.
Played a few songs and distributed the CD to writers, artists, musicians, poets and generally assorted nice people. The feedback was kind, encouraging and sometimes inspiring.
The four days of unaccustomed rain kept the head down and either into a book or a new composition.
Have been hearing from some of the old former band members and friends in “The North”. All of them are still bashing away (musically) and doing some pretty impressive performing. Many thanks for the kind messages and to Fin, Pete et al for getting the CD.
Most importantly to my wee brother for getting the message out. He’s quite a player himself. I am threatening to come over and sincerely hope it does not coincide with a last minute rush to book foreign holidays.
Have started getting bookings for next year and will do a “Dates” section as soon as there is a respectable list to put up there. The strangest to date is next September in the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. Just so long as they don’t take me for an exhibit.
If you run a club and would like me, my friends, my band members and/or others, to turn up and do a spot and you’re not located half way to Mars, and there’s the possibility of some work if you/the audience/ the landlord-lady/ like me/us…..(delete where applicable),
…..then please drop me a line on the website contacts page.
Many thanks and I’ll update again soon.
The CD (Circumstances), is ready at last. It only took 35 years to get round to it, (which is pretty good for me). It contains a spread of songs written over the years and they tell their own stories. To buy a copy, please go to reaction records.
I’ve had this idea for the next CD……………since I write short stories as well, I thought of alternating songs with some of these literary efforts. As my short stories take the same time to read as listening to a pop song, it might make a change; and I could then be accused of originality and helping to keep up the oral tradition.
Just returned recently from Los Angeles where a great time was had by all. Met some good people ( and some fine musicians) who were very generous about the songs and said “awesome” a lot. Who am I to disagree?
Roots music is alive and well in Rochdale. Turned up at a gig that Kirk Mc Ilhinney invited me to play….. to discover that I was on the Poster advertising the event. He insists that he told me by e-mail and then added that his e-mail doesn’t work. I just love musicians. Had a great time and heard some great music. We have several music venues in Rochdale; there’s something on nearly every night.
The vast majority are open mike nights and everybody gets to have a go. There’s usually a “metal” bias and by ‘eck can they bash it out. There are some brilliant players who should be up there with the best of them. Try to see Johnny Sax (I reckon one of the best in the country) and Nigel Pickering ; old flying fingers himself.
I’d love to get Channel 4 up here to see just how healthy the music scene is in one of the (supposedly) most deprived towns in Britain, (to do a documentary on our lack of musical deprivation). Do they do GOOD news as well?
We (Reaction and me), are currently planning a series of launches for the CD. These will generally consist of me turning up at gigs and flogging my CD. There will be a small poster at the door which I’ll probably put up when I get there so that people can see it on their way out by which time it’ll be too late.
Other events will be more formal and will be announced in advance. I daresay these will be “invitation only” gigs as you can’t get many people in the average front room.
If you do find yourself at one of these, please buy the thing as it took ages to complete.