Dirty South Bash in Bish


Last night was the first anniversary gig by those southern-rock lovin’ boys, The Dirty South. The gig was held at The Grand Hotel, Bishop Auckland, and landlord Simon, who also runs a small brewery, had brewed a special Dirty South Ale for the boys and their guests.

A packed room waited expectantly as Doc and the boys made their preparations for this 1st anniversary bash. Lights were lit, drums were hit and sounds were checked. Then it was stage time.

Beginning with their usual intro music, the band launched into their “usual” set of Southern Rock. When I say “usual” I don’t mean that in any derogatory way – it is “usual” for these guys to play in an excellent, tight manner, without losing the fun factor of their playing – and that is what they did last night. Doc worked hard at crowd participation and eventually got us all on side. All around the room feet were tapping, faces were wearing sh*t eating grins and folks were snakenecking like crazy. (Snake neck – when you move your head rhythmically backwards and forwards in time to the music, as if you were a snake ready to pounce). It is impossible to pick any particular song from the first set for special mention – they were all great.

Likewise the players, in their own way each member of The Dirty South is excellent, with individual naunces that all together creates South Synergy (I just made that up) – when the sum is greater then the individual parts. You might think that having three guitar players in a band would be messy – but it ain’t – all 3 players have different sounds and techniques – it was a treat to see the faces of some of the punters when Ken Johnson of Blitzkreig let rip with his blisteringly fast fretwork, and Brad and Earl were equally inspirational in their playing. The rhythm section were, as usual, right in the pocket. The Rev with his dour face letting his bass doing the talking, and Elrond on drums grinning from ear to ear all the way through the show. The Doc, of course, is a consummate front man – great vocals and harp playing and really working the crowd.

The first set ended way too soon, and after a prolonged break (listening to Hayseed Dixie, eating chilli and drinking Dirty South Ale), the guys took the stage again and gave us more, much more of what we wanted.

There were folks up dancing, I managed to insinuate myself on stage for a tune (quite funny when all of the band left the stage to me for my extended slide solo) and later I took over the bass from Rev during Sweet Home Alabama – I was still seated in my chair at this point – I think he needed a comfort break! The Doc proudly announced that the guys were supporting Hayseed Dixie at The Carling Academy on Monday – nice one guys – and before we knew it the night was over. Mustn’t forget to mention Billy who worked the desk and the lights – I think Doc was in charge of the smoke machine which went a little crazy at times!

All in all another great night by a great bunch of guys – if you haven’t been Down South yet, you’d better get there soon – these guys will go onward and upward – Monday The Carling Academy – next week – who knows? Pictures by Terry Ferdinand of BishopFM. More here.

Mojo Hand at The North Briton

Mojo Hand are a North East blues band. I’ve seen them a few times now and got to know Steve, the guitar player, a bit too. They were playing in the village that I live in last Friday. I went along for the first set. There weren’t many people paying attention, (though I hear the second set got more interest) but I was with a few friends and the band sounded good, once they’d beaten the electrical gremlins. They’re a very tight 5 piece including Ian who plays saxes and harp and they play straight ahead blues and a couple of soul tunes too. You can listen to a couple of tracks here. I’m looking forward to seeing them again soon in a more appreciative setting.

In search of The Twang

I was brought up on twang – Duane Eddy, The Ventures, The Surfaris. I’ve never managed to get that twang into my sound. I decided I’d try and get an octave pedal and see if it could do two things:
1) Give me The Twang
2) Give me another sound to add to my arsenal – Warren Haynes makes good, but sparing use of a “doubled” guitar sound on some solos.

So I bought this pedal off ebay – it was very cheap, fully boxed and with a new battery.
Bad news? It doesn’t give me the Twang.
Good news? The doubled sound (original signal plus one octave below) is probably going to be usable in my new band.

Meanwhile, if you have any ideas on how to get the Twang, please let me know.

Great photos from Jeremy Wheaton

I read Wil Wheaton’s ‘blog every day. Some of it I don’t get, most of it I do. Yesterday he posted about his brother Jeremy who recently won a photo competition. Here’s a couple of thumbnails from the site – you’ll need to visit the site to see these and many more in greater detail – the click will be worth it – I love them!

Diga Rhythm Band reissued

I like every Grateful Dead album that I’ve ever heard – I don’t have them all, there’s loads of them! I listen to the Grateful Dead every day (like lots of Deadheads I have a lot of live recordings). I also like and listen to lots of the various offshoots of The Dead – Bob Weir’s solo stuff, Jerry’s electric and acoustic bands, Phil Lesh and his various Friends. Way back when it was released (1970) Diga Rhythm Band (one of drummer Mickey Hart’s side projects) was also in heavy rotation on our turntable (remember them?)

Along with lots of other Mickey Hart releases, (Planet Drum, Supralingua) Diga Rhythm Band is being released on CD, plus there’s a new collaboration with percussionists from around the world – Global Drum Project.I’m hoping to get some review copies of one or more of these releases – I’ll certainly post here if I do.

There’s an ecard here
and streams for two tracks here and here

Thumbrella – the original

The recent acquisition of a scanner (£5 second hand – hey, I had to wait for the price to come down!) means that I can now torment you with stuff from my past. And here’s the most important (for today, at least). A volume of my poetry from 1969 was the first document to bear the name “Thumbrella”. You’ll see I was incredibly naive in those days (no change there, I hear you say!) At the top is my original, exclusive, limited edition artwork for Thumbrella – a concept that came out of nowhere and has gone on, in the past 39 years to absolutely – nowhere!

Beneath is the front cover of this (hysterical) historical document. More (much, much more) to come.

A blast from the past

Yup, that slim young guy in the middle of the picture, dressed in running gear, is me.
On the left on bass is Tony Waite (now lecturing in music at Gateshead College, I think), with his back to the camera is Chris Turnbull, a fabulous guitar player from Hartlepool, who has been living in London for a long time, and to the right is Pete Casson – “Cass” – from Hartlepool too. Tony and I had been in a few bands in Hartlepool until I moved away, and I’d been in a band with Cass & Tony too. I’d also jammed with Chris here and there. On this night it was Tony’s girlfriends birthday party “Larraine”. I lived on a farm in Bowes, and was sent a list of songs and some lyrics (that’s them in my hand). We’d never rehearsed, and I can’t remember any of the songs we sung – we might even have done some originals. We were using drumtracks on a cassette (that’s why Chris has his back turned)
The reason I’m wearing running clothes? At that time I was running around 10 miles a day in preparation for the Great North Run that year – which I didn’t manage to get to.

I’ve been trying to remember when this was exactly, but I can’t. The venue is Follies, which was a “Discotheque” in the upstairs of The Shades pub (I think), in Hartlepool. I do remember that at one point during the performance I wandered over to the buffet table (on the right in the picture) and grabbed a stick of celery, brandishing it in a menacing fashion until i ate it. Avant Garde or what?

A great piece on Pigpen

Although I’ve recently been told I sound like Johnny Cash, previously I’ve been likened, vocally at least, to Pigpen. One night last year with Black River Blues, we were asked to sing “Big Boss Man”, a Jimmy Reed song covered many times by The Dead. I’d never sung the song before but had heard it hundreds of times. We played it, I sang it and felt as if I was channeling Pigpen. It was spooky. The next day I found some Pigpen shirts on ebay and ordered three of them. I wear them with pride a couple of times a week, and I’ll happily tell people who the guy is on my shirt.

KIKO’S HOUSE: Ron ‘Pigpen’ McKernan: An Appreciation

CD Review – The Wood Brothers – Loaded

I‘ve got a load of posts that I want to write here, and a small but growing pile of CDs to review, but I got this review copy in the post today and I had to write about it now. When I got a mail asking mew to consider writing about The Wood Brothers, I didn’t know who they were. I went to their site and listened to a tune from this album, “Postcards from Hell”. I was hooked. Within 2 minutes I’d sent a reply “Yes please – send me this CD!” So here it is.

Actually I have heard one of these brothers before – he is Chris Wood of Medeski Martin and Wood – not a band you first think of when you mention folk, blues or roots music.

But here he is with his brother Oliver (from blues band King Johnson) on their second release and it sounds great. There are some great original songs here – “Postcards from Hell” as mentioned above, “Loaded” to name but two – and a great feel to this album. I wondered why it reminded me of The Band so much then discovered that it was recorded in Woodstock – coincidence? Maybe. But it feels great! There’s a deceptively laid-back feel to the whole album – but it isn’t as simple as it sounds. Some great playing seems effortless, yet it takes a lot of hard work to make it sound this easy!

There’s cover versions here too – “Angel” – yes, Hendrix – made me smile with a loping, almost ska/reggae feel to it. Dylan’s “Buckets Of Rain” sounds almost made up on the spot. And I can see this version of the traditional “Make Me A Pallet Down On The Floor” featuring in the setlist of a band not too far away from here.

A great album – one I know I’m going to enjoy again and again in so many ways.

You can stream tracks here and here. Check it out.

Update – there’s a myspace page here with a link to a short movie about their last album, Ways Not To Lose, which I really like too – i might just have to buy it!