Earth – the power of the planet

We’ve just finished watching the final episode of this great series. We’ve followed Iain Stewart for a few years now – he comes across as a really nice guy who knows what he is talking about, is passionate about it, and explains it simply so that duffers like us can understand it! If you missed this series, you should make the effort to check it out – I’m sure it will be repeated soon, and will certainly be available on DVD at some point.

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Durham County Councillors Banned

(Oh sorry, that should say “Durham County Councillors Band”). Following my festive start to Friday with breakfast at the Gem, I was musical director at the inaugural “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” musical event at County Hall, Durham, at lunchtime on Friday. Several Elected Members and a few staff got together to play some music for a few hours and to raise a bit of money for charity. I knew that Phil Graham was coming, so if all else failed he and I could fil the time. But it was pretty good – I did some blues with Andy Atkinson (of Mississippi Sheiks) on harp, Phil and I did several short spots, and there were original songs and Shadows instrumentals from Councillor Norman Wade, with backing from me, Councillor Trevor Carroll (who also played some tunes on his squeezebox) and Councillor Alan Barker. Ann Armstrong ( a previous collaborator) gave a belting rendition of Peggy Lee’s “Fever”. I finished the session by leading on 5 or 6 christmas carols. I’m not sure how much was raised by the passing audience, but here’s some photos.

Christmas brekky at The Gem

As my regular reader will know, I take breakfast with some colleagues, usually every Friday morning. Our cafe of choice for the past several months has been The Gem in Coxhoe, (initial review here) where the standard of the breakfasts is exceptional. At the end of the summer we became a little alarmed when the previous owners put the cafe up for sale. One of our party even toyed with the idea of buying it himself. Before long, though, The Gem had new owners, and an expeditionary party met up for a quick sample. We needn’t have worried! If it is at all possible, things have got better!

Last Friday morning the extended breakfast club met up for the inaugural Gem Breakfast Club Christmas Breakfast. As you can see from the photos:

a) the large breakfast is simply stunning and tastes even better than it looks

b) we had a special table with Christmas crackers and mince pies.

We had a great time, even if the locals looked somewhat bemused at our Christmas party at 8:00am!

So a Merry Christmas to you, dear reader from myself and the other breakfast club members.

Review – The Poorboys in Aycliffe

A few weeks ago, after I’d left Black River Blues and before I joined Black Dog Blues (confused yet? You will be!) an old friend of mine said “Gary, you know you should just form your own band playing what you want to play and recruit good musicians who enjoy playing the same stuff as you.” How right he was.

And Friday night, at The North Briton in Aycliffe Village (where I currently lay my hat) I was given a vision of something to aspire to. The Poorboys came to town (well village). The North Briton has a very good function room which is ideal for bands (I’ve played there myself) but the previous landlord broke the terms of his licence as imposed by the council, so the room can’t be used for now. Instead, the bands play in the bar. Last night, when I got there, the drums were set up in an alcove style seating area directly opposite the bar and the band were bringing gear in and trying to set the PA up in the best place possible. At the other end of the bar was a roaring fire and several tables of roaring punters. Unfortunately this was the obvious place for the band to set up, once some power issues were sorted. So that is what happened. The landlord hastily extinguished the fire with a bucket of water and the punters were relocated to the soon to be vacant alcove. All of this kerfuffle meant that the band were running a little late, so after half a soundcheck and a quick step outside for a tab, they started playing.

Playing songs that I’d only ever dreamed of playing if I ever set my own band up one day – John Hiatt, Delbert McClinton, Allman Brothers (Soulshine & Midnight Rider – stunning!), Neil Young (Cortez The Killer – stunning!), Grateful Dead!!! (Bertha – yes, stunning!!) and much more – it became obvious to me very quickly why this band are so highly thought of, and why their diary is rapidly filling up for next year.

I’m fairly sure that the locals hadn’t heard of most – if any – of the songs, and I think Bob’s broad Ashington accent lost a little in translation, but they got a pretty good response and played till late. Bob had foolishly suggested that I take my guitar (Ains’ tele!) and blues harps along and sit in on a few tunes. So, in the second set, I got up for She’s Tuff and an Otis Rush slow blues which I can’t remember the name of. Let me say that it was an honour to share the stage and spoil a few songs for these guys.

So, I had a great night watching, listening and playing with, in my opinion, one of the very best bands I have seen on the local circuit. They were all so friendly and obviously enjoyed what they were doing. And they were very very good at it too.

Go and see these guys – then go and see them again – I know I will.