Wednesday, 27 July 2016

200,000 Hissyfit Hits

I'm fast approaching 200,000 Hissyfit 'hits'.
That seems quite a lot for someone who's only ever sold 11 CDs...
My initial intent was to use the blog alongside the Miracle Mile website so that I could update folk daily with the ascension to world fame and fortune that was inevitably coming the way of me and Marcus and our music. Marcus and I have worked long and hard on both Miracle Mile albums and my solo stuff and I'm wondering if there's anything left in the tank. The creativity reservoir is currently running a little dry.
Anyway... thanks to all of you who have taken the time to read my ramblings and contribute here.
If you haven't yet heard my music with Miracle Mile or as 'Jones' why not give us a listen?
To celebrate hitting the 200,000 mark I'm going to make you an offer that you might refuse:

- Order any album through the website and get 2 more free
- Yup: that's 3 Miracle Mile or 'Jones' albums for £10
- Simply go to the Miracle Mile Store here
- Order an album via the Paypal button and, with your order notes add the words: Hissyfit 200,000 - - Please remember to include the titles of the other 2 albums that you'd like and I'll do the rest
- If you'd like to buy Happy Blue on vinyl I'll offer it for £10 plus one CD for the same period
- Offer lasts for another 2,000 views; i.e. until I get to 202,000 hits. 
- That should give you a week or so... I'll be lenient with postal orders

Ay; if you don't use Paypal you could post a cheque directly to me including the titles that you'd like.
Cqs to:

'Trevor Jones'
18 The Green
Wooburn Green

I'll leave you with a piece of music that is currently floating my boat.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Kindness of the World: How Best to Serve...

Listening to this and, after the last couple of days, wishing that we could trust in the kindness of the world.
A cold and hard truth is that the world's cold and hard.
Thank God for music...
It'd be blithe to make dedications but I hope this helps my French friends see some light beyond the current darkness.
Viva Le France?
They are a strong, proud nation and can look after themselves. For a multi-cultured culture, theirs is a strong sense of patriotism that surely promises a severe response. Let's hope for something other than simple retribution. But what? Christ, the last lines of La Marseillaise warn:

They’re coming right into your arms
To cut the throats of your sons, your women
To arms, citizens/Form your battalions
Let’s march, let’s march
Let an impure blood
Soak our fields!

It's an ancient chant but oddly prophetic.
I hope not.
Victor Hugo famously said:
“Serving the homeland is half of duty, serving humanity is the other half.”
History endorses that no profound wisdom can prevent an injured party from beating its shield and baring its teeth.
Let's hope for a measured response, not a knee jerk.
And beyond that hope? What a dilemma...
As the reality of Brexit kicks in I've never felt closer to Les Bleus.
Vive la Liberté?
As a wicked minority try to press their values upon the world I guess that's the question...

Saturday, 18 June 2016

The Hat Club: Dean Owens

Tonight The Hat Club welcomes Dean Owens to Beaconsfield.
Dean is one of Scotland's finest songwriters and this is wonderful opportunity to enjoy his artistry up close and personal.


This is a return visit from Dean.
Here's a review of his Hat Club debut from music writer Paul Woodgate's fine blog:

If you are unfamiliar with Dean's music here's a top tune from last year's wonderful 'Into the Sea' album.

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Into the Arms of the Undiscovered

But know everything lost will be recovered
When you drift into the arms of the undiscovered
And I don't know if I've ever loved any other
Half as much as I do in this light she's under

Sometimes it's good to set off on a path without a destination in mind.
It'll always surely lead you home.
It's my last full day out here on the Suffolk coast and I intended to make the most of it. I awoke to a shedload of emails from work and spent most of the morning wading through them. The weather was fairly bleak but by the time I headed out for my daily promenade the sun was peering suspiciously through the grim grey. As I missed breakfast I pop into The Bell and just make lunch last orders by a minute. A Prosciutto & Pheasant Scotch Egg (yup) and chips washed down with a chilled pint of Adnams Jack Brand Dry Hopped Lager. It's as lovely as it sounds; all citrus and flowers.
I walked towards the next hamlet down the coast, Dunwich, taking a back route away from the beach and marshes, up into the heady meadowlands above. The sun beats heavily on my back; it's the quintessential English Summer's day. Beautiful fields of bluebells abound and is that the overpowering scent of honeysuckle? Not a soul. Taking a path that I think leads to the sea ends up taking me in the opposite direction, and it's joyful diversion. Sometimes a road leads nowhere, sometimes an avenue of flowers just opens up in front of me. Moments of grace jump out of nowhere; a minor chord where a major 7th was expected...
And here I am, half wishing that Di was with me to share the bliss but kind of happy that she's not.
There's a lot to be said for solitude.
There's a lot to be said for silence.
That said... a few songs jumped out at me during my walk. I don't usually disappear into headphones but do so today. One of those Mood Spotify Playlists; 'Classic Acoustic', was the only thing available to me offline. Strange how well known adages can take fresh meanings when you're not staring them down. Sometimes it's good to see new light shed upon familiar things. Suddenly songs that would normally have you indifferently tossing tomatoes in their general direction can... break your heart. Perhaps it's my weariness and knackered knees that opens me up; makes me drop my guard: I'm loosened by the labour of the stroll. Sometimes you've got to earn the right to yearn. It's often the direct simplicity or implicit tenderness of a lyric that undoes you. Homely homilies can cut deep. Don McClean's 'Vincent' nearly has me retching tears.

Colors changing hue
Morning fields of amber grain
Weathered faces lined in pain
Are soothed beneath the artist's loving hand

I'd never heard Graham Nash's 'Encore' before.

And how you gonna feel if friends follow fortune?
How you gonna feel if the music dies?
How you gonna live with the soul sadly sighing
Into the wind that is our life


And... have you ever heard 'Me & Magdelana'?

Me and Magdalena
We're driving south through Monterey
As the sun is slowly sinking
Into a distant ocean wave

And I don't know if I've ever loved any other
Half as much as I do in this light she's under

Tell me Magdalena
What do you see in the depths of your night
Do you see a long lost father
Does he hold you with the hands you remember as a child?

But know everything lost will be recovered
When you drift into the arms of the undiscovered
And I don't know if I've ever loved any other
Half as much as I do in this light she's under

Me and Magdalena
Always leaving early and sleeping late
Secluded in the canyon
Lost within a turn of fate

But know everything lost will be recovered
When you drift into the arms of the undiscovered
And I don't know if I've ever loved any other
Half as much as I do in this light she's under

Isn't that beautiful?

But know everything lost will be recovered
When you drift into the arms of the undiscovered

A call towards the past from the future.
A call towards the future from the past.
Just lovely.
I couldn't read the track details because the sun was full on blinding and I'm half blind.
I later checked it out when I return to the pub. 
The Monkees.
The Bloody Monkees!

As I head for home along the beach I start mithering.
Sometimes you need to dislocate to put yourself back together again.
You need to honor yourself and trust your instincts.
Makes me think of the damned Brexit dilemma.
There's not a lot of honor there; just mad infighting and miscommunication.
If you disagree with either argument you are a twat...
One man's half story v the other's.
In or out?
We're damned if we do; damned if we don't.
My random thoughts might condemn me later but here they are:
"The EU is an antidote to democratic government... The price of true freedom is uncertainty" 
Unsure where that quote is from but it resonates... 
Trouble is that we are being run by the unelected. 
Trouble is that the EU is an ideal. And easily defended as an 'ideal': moral high ground that's easy to hold. The idea of a European Community was meant to make us feel connected. We're just seemingly linked by labyrinth of regulations and impenetrable bureaucracy.  Centralised power = less competition and choice. And removes freedom, even to make bad choices. EU bureaucracy is so complex that it cripples natural competition. Our businesses can no longer think on their feet; are effectively shackled and hamstrung so as not to get ahead of the game. We've agreed to it so can't cherry pick the bits that we like... but there's a lot not to like. The power of negotiation is the implicit knowledge and understanding that you can walk away from the table... although Donald Trump said that I can see the point. The EU represents unity? We're becoming culturally homogenized. Whether it's the EU or NATO's fault... it's still the elephant that I'm currently drinking my Japanese Whisky off...
I'm wondering if Cameron and his cronies want to remain in because it lightens their load and offers the odd European jolly with another expense account to batter. If we vote 'OUT' it'll definitely be more work back on Dodgy Dave's plate. Things will surely initially take a turn for the worse before things... settle. And... he'll no longer be able to cast the blame at Brussels. He'll have to start owning his judgements. I guess that at least we can then call them 'our' mistakes. The majority did elect him.

Back on the beach I get caught playing air guitar to 'Hotel California' by a bunch of lost ramblers who sneak up on me from behind. I offer directions smugly like a local, suggesting The Bell as a good spot to stop off at for refreshments. In fact I join them for a well earned guide's pint of Adnams Jack Brand Dry Hopped Lager.
Full circle then.
Another pint and I head back to The Studio for the sunset. 
As it's his 90th birthday Miles Davis is my sundowner. 
'Kind of Blue' but kind of content too.
I'm sitting in the front window overlooking the sand dunes. I can't see the sea but I'm content in the knowledge that it's there. Atop one of those dunes a child is flying a kite for the simple joyful folly of being connected to the wind. Lovers and young families walk past en route to the water's edge, to stare out at the limitless possibilities of life. Old couples with dogs shuffle along the same path, towards the same view, but with a different outlook: perhaps to ogle at what might have been, the improbabilities of life. A baby rabbit is chomping grass below my window, blissfully unaware of a beautiful white owl hovering above. Thankfully it's too close to humanity to be taken.
Maybe ignorance is bliss. Sometimes it's good to set off on a path without a destination in mind.
It'll always surely lead you home.
Won't it?
Le Corbusier said "Home should be the treasure chest of living."
I'll buy that t shirt. 
Home for me has always been where a certain brown eyed lady resides. 
I need to learn to not take that for granted, even though I thought that was the point...

But know everything lost will be recovered
When you drift into the arms of the undiscovered

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Breaking Bob

Off the back of yesterday's Bobfest in response to his 75th birthday...

"... Blood on the Tracks became one of those records which I have, which we all have, in our armory or in our medicine cabinet or under our bed, and go to whenever we need it, whatever we might need it for..." 

I love Sylvie Simmons' writing.
A functioning music journalist needs to get the job done, but Sylvie does it with such vigor and élan that you can't look away. I know that a lot of the 70s/80s generation rock journos' considered themselves as important as their prey; auteurs (often 'failed' or frustrated musicians it seems) who used their chosen oeuvre as a platform for... themselves. Nowt wrong with that; ambition and confidence/arrogance have been essential armor and ammo for many a fine writer. It's just that Sylvie writes with such admirable restraint about her chosen subject. You know that she's been there, done that; ticked many a box, and yet you also sense that she's holding much back; perhaps to keep her powder dry, perhaps out of modesty or in coy respect to some 'gentleman's agreement'. And yet she applies herself keenly to each piece of writing with such vim that it almost feels as though she's pitching her first curveball. It's that knowing naiveté that is so infectious. Whatever her subject she always leaves a little bit of herself in there, not so much a careless statement of ego, more as a personal endorsement and recognition of the irresistible and undeniable effect that this thing we call 'rock and roll' has upon us. That's her 'style' and perhaps the reason that she's successfully bridged the decades that span the vagaries of our beloved rock of ages.

If it's your Mum and Dad that 'f*ck you up' then it's rock and roll that puts you back together again. And there's Sylvie, to walk us through the wonder of it all.
Here she considers an album that came to be her 'breakup record'.
It's Bob's 'Blood on the Tracks' and her investment is so infectious and honest that it made me rush to put it on again this morning even though I fell asleep to it last night; surely the sign of great writing.
Here's Sylvie:

"Sylvie's Bob Dylan party Part 3. Some of you might have seen this already but hey, it's my party and I'll post if I want to. It's something I wrote for a fine publication called Radio Silence, based in the SF Bay Area - the first of three pieces I wrote for a triptych called 'The Best Part of Breaking Up.' The idea was to take three albums I loved that coincided with some heartbreak or other in my life. My first choice was a Dylan album. They were set to appear in a book that Radio Silence published, but the magazine lost its funding and went under. (An aside to any rich tech companies reading this; if you've got any spare money over from all those tax breaks, perhaps you can do a good deed and bring Radio Silence back to life).
Anyway, here it is:
The Best Part Of Breaking Up, Part I © Sylvie Simmons

Bob Dylan
Blood on the Tracks
Columbia Records, 1975

Of course it was love—me and the boy who gave me the album, I mean. It had just come out, and I was young; I didn’t have money, and he didn’t either. He said he’d won it in a card game. Likely he stole it, and stealing an LP—well, you couldn’t just slip it in your pocket like a compact disc; it was hard work stealing music back then. The kind of thing a guy would do for a girl he loved. So for me, this was a love album. I played it in my room on my portable record player over and over. Eighteen days later, when the boy tore my heart out, I knew it was a breakup album. One of the greatest.
Many years later, Marianne Faithfull told me a story about Dylan. It was the ’60s; she was in his hotel room, and Bob was sitting at a typewriter. “What are you writing?” she asked him. “A poem,” he said—a pause and a burning look—“about you.” Excellent seduction technique, but it didn’t work. I asked what the poem was like, and she said that she had no idea. When she turned him down, he tore it up.
Blood on the Tracks is a masterpiece of torn-up love, the shreds of Dylan’s marriage. The hours I spent with that album in 1975, gouging its life out, rubbing its salt in my wound. The intensity of its emotion, the depth of its pain seemed the very essence of what I thought romantic love was meant to be: theatrical and hyperbolic, a Romeo and Juliet with an alternative ending, odium instead of (the far preferable) death.
So here we are again, almost forty years later. I still have the original LP, but it spits and jumps—half of “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts” was rendered unplayable after a bead of burning hash fell on it—so I’m listening on CD. Nothing of it has faded. I could feel tears welling up during “If You See Her, Say Hello.” There’s something about that spare, acoustic melody, its timeless North Country Fair–ness, the words that are all the more effective from being plainspoken, direct, and unfeigned. At least he sounds heartbroken. But pick a track, any track, and he might sound exhilarated.
So many colors in this painting. Where once I only saw darkness and pain, there’s spleen—glorious, gleeful spleen—and liberation where I just saw loneliness. “I haven’t known peace and quiet for so long I can’t remember what it’s like,” Bob sings in the least-heightened (and probably least-quoted) lyrics of “Idiot Wind,” and though they might refer to the horror of being a public figure, or an abandoned husband, they can also turn a harrowing song of love and hate into a “Positively 4th Street” filtered through the clichéd line of a long-suffering spouse. It wasn’t that long before this album that life in Woodstock with his wife, Sara, and the kids and a paintbrush seemed so congenial—listen to “The Man in Me” on New Morning or “You Angel You” on Planet Waves. But their straightforward, unheightened, almost mundane lyrics only lulled us into a false sense of coziness that was shattered by Blood on the Tracks.

Dylan could be as scathing as all fuck about women in his songs (“Like a Rolling Stone” is an instant example), but in his love songs (“Love Minus Zero, No Limit” in 1965; “Beyond the Horizon” in 2006), he elevated them, idealized them, treated them with great courtliness. He and Leonard Cohen had that in common—although Dylan’s chivalry and worship didn’t come with the carnality of Cohen’s. (I do have to say that Leonard’s unmade bed seems a far livelier proposition than Bob’s big brass one.) And if both of them could turn on a woman if she should fall from grace, Cohen would find it hard to beat Dylan’s rapturous contempt and irresistible causticity.
Blood on the Tracks is all mood swings: It’s love, it’s hate, he wants her back, he doesn’t, he respects her for going, he sends his love through a third party, he crawls past her door, pities the next stranger or poor blind bum to whom she hands a dime, and then goes off and writes that rambling, “Rocky Raccoon”−like script to a TV Western, “Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts.” And all of it feels true. The popular view is that it is true, that this is Bob putting his black and bleeding heart on display for the world to see. His marriage had hit the rocks (this much can be verified), and Blood on the Tracks was the revenge porn video, the divorce-court transcript in which Dylan admits to having faults (“I can change I swear”) though nothing as numerous and vile as his wife’s, apparently (“I bargained for salvation, she gave me a lethal dose” is one of my favorites).
But in reality, the album is so full of false leads and riddles and characters—Jesus on the cross, a rich heiress, a gang of bank robbers, Verlaine and Rimbaud—drifting from first-person to third-person (and both in “Tangled Up in Blue”) that Dylan’s supposed most personal album might really be about anyone, or lots of people, or no one at all. Which come to think of it might be the perfect way to write about disintegration, marital or otherwise.
But I wasn’t a rock writer then; I was a kid, and none of this mattered. No, all of it mattered, and mattered so much that Blood on the Tracks became one of those records which I have, which we all have, in our armory or in our medicine cabinet or under our bed, and go to whenever we need it, whatever we might need it for. And of course it will always be the first album that a man I slept with won for me in a card game. Maybe the only album a man I slept with won in a card game; I’m not saying.

The Best Part Of Breaking Up, Part I © Sylvie Simmons

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Pretty Lies

"All romantics meet the same fate someday
Cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark café"

It's disturbing when you recognize yourself in a song. Particularly one that you've heard many times and never got the connection. And particularly when the reflection is not an admirable one.
Sometimes truth isn't in the words but in their delivery.
The benefit for poets is that their words are written to be read and perhaps spoken by another's voice. There's nothing lost in the translation or delivery because it's likely that the spirit behind the 3rd party's voice is admiring, willing, already won over.
It's different with songs. Things obviously differ genre to genre but, regardless of the quality of the lyric the singer needs to convince; otherwise the spell is broken. Those words might be written to win a lover, to make an apology, to rant at the inequities of life or simply to make a sweet phonetic sound but... the noise, the delivery, must be convincing.
After yesterday's ramblings in praise of imperfect things I was set to wondering. Perhaps I have a bit of OCD; something that compels me towards grasping at some sense of perfection. I'm sure that I'm not alone; we all want a little bit of 'perfect'. A view, a restaurant table, a kiss, a midnight walk in the rain... In the morning's cold light it's clear that it's a thankless task. 'Transience' is the nature of most everything; the cracks will inevitably show. And still, time makes a fool and a thief out of all of us; we steal from our past and reimage or rebrand it to suit our present. The currency that keeps us vital is life itself, and our vital perception not just of life as it happens, but of our processing of that experience. Our value is not just what we could be, but what we are, what we have become. The further we grow away from our histories, the more obvious their influence becomes, and the more we idealise and cherish that influence. The trick I think is to avoid cynicism. Easier said...
I've written about that stuff for years and... I think I'm done. Time then to learn to recognize and embrace the realities of an imperfect existence then. Toys get broken. Shoes become scuffed. Records get scratched. Sweethearts disappoint us. Loved ones get old and wither... We learn to fear success as much as we fear failure.
But there's nowt wrong with admiring those sweet innocents who eye the heavens and still believe in... the possibility of perfection. They remind us of lost youth and tarnished ideals without rubbing our noses in the dirty bits. Puppies and 3 year olds; wide eyed: too young for hope; too young for disappointment. Full of possibility.
When it comes to ranting about the transient joys of all things bright and beautiful, Keats got there long before me, but I believe that William Blake nailed it best when he wrote:

He who binds himself to joy
Doth the Winged life destroy
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in eternity’s sunrise

In pursuit of perfection this morning I put on Joni Mitchell's 'Blue'. Most albums have a track that I could live without; a 'Yellow Submarine' or 'Taxman'. I know that I'm not alone in recognizing the particular pleasures of 'Blue' but, to me it is perfect. There's not a hair on its head that I'd change. That said, the least involving of its jewels was always 'The Last Time I Saw Richard'. This morning it's words hit me hard. I've heard them so many times before but never really recognized myself in there:

"All romantics meet the same fate someday 
Cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark café"

The brilliance of the lyric is that it manages to be world weary and wide eyed at the same time. And then... there's the delivery. Those prodding piano 'chords of enquiry' are adult, sophisticated, often unresolved and yet the voice is of a child; her spell yet to be broken. Her words might be 'pretty lies' but with that delivery... Christ, I believe every perfect word she says.

The last time I saw Richard was Detroit in '68
And he told me all romantics meet the same fate someday
Cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark café
You laugh he said you think you're immune
Go look at your eyes they're full of moon
You like roses and kisses and pretty men to tell you
All those pretty lies pretty lies
When you gonna realize they're only pretty lies
Only pretty lies just pretty lies

He put a quarter in the Wurlitzer and he pushed
Three buttons and the thing began to whirr
And a bar maid came by in fishnet stockings and a bow tie
And she said "Drink up now it's getting' on time to close"
"Richard, you haven't really changed" I said
It's just that now you're romanticizing some pain that's in your head
You got tombs in your eyes but the songs you punched are dreaming
Listen, they sing of love so sweet, love so sweet
When you gonna get yourself back on your feet?
Oh and love can be so sweet Love so sweet

Richard got married to a figure skater
And he bought her a dishwasher and a coffee percolator
And he drinks at home now most nights with the TV on
And all the house lights left up bright
I'm gonna blow this damn candle out
I don't want nobody comin' over to my table
I got nothing to talk to anybody about
All good dreamers pass this way some day
Hidin' behind bottles in dark cafes dark cafes
Only a dark cocoon before I get my gorgeous wings and fly away
Only a phase these dark café days

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Day Break

Day break.
Up with the lark again this morning.
I never sleep that well when Di's away.
Anyway... half asleep and reviewing last night's detritus: a half empty/full bottle of Japanese whiskey (Yamazaki), half a bar of Green & Black with sullied foil and melted (Almond) chocolate all over the white sofa, a half empty/full tub of now liquid Haagen Daz (vanilla) on the floor alongside a half eaten take away (Garlic Chicken curry).
After a half arsed attempt at clearing up I've half a mind to really commit to something today... after yesterday's half hearted inertia it seems that today will be a day of favorite but imperfect things.
So far:
Strong Lavaza in my favorite Corsican china mug (the one with the broken handle) spilt down the back of the cinnamon chair...
'Mingus Ah Hum' on the stereo (side 2 scratched to buggery).
Just pulled on my knackered old sailing shoes (hole in the toe) after ripping a bigger hole in my favorite jeans by putting my black toenailed toe through a tiny hole in my already shredded holy G Stars - ripped to buggery now... but not trendily so - and now putting my cracked racket into my smelly (is that really me?) squash bag. My squash shoes also have that hole in the toe thing too. Back hurts almost as much as my head. I need to stretch out my hamstrings but have forgotten how to do that properly.
Where's Di when you need her?
Thinking of going back to my quilt; you can't break down...

'King of America' is playing.
You guessed it... buggered!
Christ, I'm even breaking wind now...
Any suggestions for later?
Records/films etc?
Your favorite but imperfect things... I've already got Townes Van Zandt lined up.
And where's Di when you need her?
Meanwhile... back to the detritus and then my car (Y plate) awaits... I hope that it starts.
I wanted to leave you with this certain song but... the video link was broken on every You Tube version (seriously).
I eventually managed to track this link down.
Have a great break...

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Elvis Has Not Yet Left the Building

Elvis last night.
A tardy birthday treat.
First show (of 3) at the Palladium.
My other birthday treat from Di (back in November) was to see Charles Aznavour at the Albert Hall. Not a bad brace of venues offered up and not a bad brace of chanteurs; both a little long in the tooth, both never quite reaching previous dizzy heights but both still intoxicated by the air that they breathe.
Here was EC, solo with an array of guitars, a grand piano and occasionally with the mighty support of Larkin and Po.
First thought: his voice is shot.
2nd thought: his voice has always been shot.
3rd thought: nowt but admiration at the way he throws himself into his songs; many of them so taut and twisted that he has to drag the melodies over barricades that he's not quite tall enough to scale.
I get a similar feeling with Ron Sexsmith live; you're so intent on willing him over the fences that you can't help but cheer him over the finishing line. Elvis stumbled so often that it elevated the moments of fleet footed grace: a vulnerably vivid, piano led 'Shipbuilding' (where Elvis showed that he'd obviously learnt a chording or two from his mate Burt Bacharach), the distorted guitar rant of 'Watching the Detectives', a delicately raw and tender rendering of 'She' and an acoustic mauling of 'Oliver's Army'.

Elvis came on like a manic snarling busker, teeth barred, tongue firmly in cheek, mimicking himself and loving his subject matter. As he grabbed us very gently by the throat the banter often eluded to recent reassessments of his life (the autobiography); much of the nostalgia focussed on the influence that his late father Ross had upon his work and waywardness; the wobble in his voice revealing an obvious affection for his Pater, often quite movingly so. Di whispered in my ear (not for the first time) that back in her dancing days she shared Blackpool digs with Elvis's Dad. They used to eat breakfast together you know, and Ross would talk proudly about his son Declan's musical career. It took Di a few Full English Breakfasts before she realized that Declan was in fact Elvis Costello.

You'd not want to follow Costello on a Karaoke night. Sawdust veined, he's a song-man sworn and bred and he knows it; a proven passion for pop intact, his talents toted, bagged and banked. I've seen Elvis live in many feisty forms: from the angry young man of the late 70s through to the crooning crusty crony of the 21st century. Last night he was an old magician, impishly dragging manky old rabbits out of a dusty, battered hat. His blustering swagger suggested a pasty but resplendent Prospero, confident that we could do nowt but admire his designs and be charmed by his tricks. Spirited, occasionally foolhardy but always brave, this was rough magic, but magic indeed.
Here he is; his father's son:

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Maybe the best we can do is do what we love as best we can...

I've just finished Peter Ames Carlin's biog on Bruce Springsteen. It's an efficient if oddly bloodless overview. What seems evident is Bruce's overwhelming integrity and almost myopic focus on HIS cause; his undaunted bloody minded self-belief. Narcism is invariably pitched as a negative but not here; here was a man with limited options but a God gifted talent that gave him only one real outlet for his creative energy. He recognized early that his 'everyman' appeal would somehow elevate him above the mundane, even though that was his very subject matter. He didn't always offer answers but he did articulate the confusions and frustrations of a baby boomer generation, offered the possibilities of... everything, but with little chance of collecting. It made me think about my own musical ambitions: the fact that perhaps I've been hobbled by comfort; maybe too many choices and 'outs' made this Jack a dull boy. Intent is often thrust on folk who have no option but to succeed. The alternative is unimaginable to them. We all dream about horizons from the comfort of our beds and awake to sleepwalk through our days. Part of the power of Springsteen's early work is in how he seized on that lackaday ideal: the power of dreams, and somehow gave luster and energy to the unlikely possibilities; he harnessed the energy of that transient light that inevitably become shadows in most of our hearts. He believed in magic; he made the magic real by his unquenchable belief in it; primarily in recognizing the spellbinding power of music but also in the belligerent belief that gave magical shape to his spells. Spellbound by the spell, he is like a hypnotist, charming himself to believe in his own smoke and mirrors.

I'm unsure why I feel the need for this rambling... maybe as more and more of my musical heroes drop off the planet I'm learning to cherish the legends whose living vibrant voices are more than just revenant wails of souls departed.
Odd how we lament loss.
There is nothing quite as sweet as the grey warbling of a bird near extinction. We push things towards extinction, and only when we're fearful of their loss, do we cherish them. Why do we need to make things rare, when we should celebrate the common place?
There are certain people that inspire us to keep eyeing the horizon, yet offer shelter and safe harbour should things go awry. We bottle their benevolence and call it ‘home’. These kindred spirits are not pious custodians, just ordinary folk with the same vulnerabilities as the rest of us, but they are somehow able to focus their energy and intent. Something sets them apart, moving us to burden them with our wellbeing. They become the keepers of our faith in other people. The American poet Galway Kinnell said ‘Maybe the best we can do is do what we love as best we can’. His countryman Springsteen is an abiding bellwether for me: his imperfect poetry rings true daily, encouraging me to find the best in myself and learn to love it. Di keeps reminding me that you can't love other folk until you truly love yourself. If you see that as narcism then... you can kiss my ass and call me shorty.
Here's a reminder of the power of dreaming. 
This could be my favorite live vocal performance.
It's magical.
Watch it twice and then tell me that is doesn't give you a reason to believe...

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Lovesong: Chris Wood: Hollow Point

Thanks to Tom Rose at Reveal Records I am the very happy recipient of Chris Wood's 'Trespasser'/'Lark Descending' on Triple Vinyl. The 'limited edition' made more preciously collectable in the knowledge that many of the 300 pressings were lost in a warehouse fire.
Both albums are wonders of dexterous devilment and heartfelt humour. Chris played The Hat Club last year and awed a select few with his curmudgeonly caustic wit and wayward wisdom. There's an edge to his world weary cynicism that renders his tender moments doubly moving. His feet are firmly set in Olde England but his concerns are very current affairs. This isn't lazy Nationalism but these are songs informed by a history and heritage that is fast fading. He focusses on the things that divide and unite us as a nation. Wood recognises in his sleeve notes that many of his songs are about 'enclosure' in some form or another: "... spiritual, geographical, cultural, legislative, imaginative... they are an invitation to step upon those places we have been lured into believing are no business of ours."

Chris Wood is fiercely protective of our liberties, the oft imperceptible daily whittling of which has now somehow made it illegal for a man to sing a song in a 'public' house without written permission. His irascible and crabby countenance does not make for easy company. But he cares keenly enough to stand tall and tell: Tales of the past that echo resoundingly and relevantly today.

"The law will hang the man or woman
Who steal the goose from off the common
But lets the greater thief go loose
Who steals the common from the goose"

If you want your heart broken have a listen to 'One in a Million' or 'My Darling's Downsized'. If you want your blood chilled with harsh reality look no further than the cold reportage of 'Hollow Point' which somehow manages to be passionately dispassionate.
I love Chris Wood's music.
He has a keen eye, an admirably sharp tongue and a huge heart.
Long may he give a shit.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Oogy or Corry?

Can I get a witness?
It's Sunday morning and I'm doing that finger poised over the checkout button on Amazon thing. My digit's currently dangled over the recently remastered Born to Run, Grant-Lee Phillips' 'The Narrows' and 'Paradise is There', Nathalie Merchant's reimagining of 'Tigerlily'. They'll be bought on vinyl (£20 each? Really?) but... can I get a witness? Someone who has perhaps tasted Ardbeg's Uigeadail and moved on up to their Corryvreckan.
The last time I tasted Uigeadail?
Can I tell you about that?
This is how I remember it:
It was last summer at the end of the Aarhus Festuge.
Folmer Jepsen's last stand as Festival Director.
After a fabulous late dinner of Spanish Tapas (understatement) at Jimmy Holm's CanBlau we sat outside our hotel on wicker sofas and in good company: I'd scared Joe Henry and Jim White away with my over attentiveness. Some saw it as 'stalking' but... sometimes admiration cannot be contained or suppressed, nor should it be. With Joe and Jim harangued and dispatched to their rooms I'd moved on to Dylan's bassist Tony Garnier who giddily enthused about Bob's latest album - appropriately entitled 'Shadows in the Night' - which he'd arranged and MD'd. Grant Lee Phillips chewed the fat with M Ward, Diego Schissi and Gustaf Ljunggren whilst Rhiannon Giddens demonstrated her Operatic vocal dexterity to Billy Bragg with an Aria or two. People in the bedrooms above hushed us when they should've been buying tickets. Daniel Lanois lingered in the shadows after his brilliant show of dub 'n' folk. We knew he was there but tried not to stare. Howe Gelb had earlier mischievously danced his way through a chaotic but inspired 'Deconstructing Standards' performance with Yasmine Hamdan, Steve Shelley & Thøger T. Lund. Mr Gelb shoots his cuffs and holds your eye with a cantankerous twinkle; like a second hand car salesman who's actually offering you the ride of your life. Thankfully he wasn't selling puppies...

Yup, Howe was happy but unwell. Man Flu. The bar was closing. Where was Sylvie Simmons? She owed me a drink or two... I looked to Folmer. I'd just gifted him a bottle of Uigeadail; Ardberg's finest, as a present to recognize past kindnesses and as a salutary send off. Everyone took a belt leaving poor Folmer with nowt but a couple of fingers of his prize. Howe took it as medicine. And medicinal it is; at 54.2% its potent smoky sweetness never fails to reinvigorate. A couple of tumblers however sent Howe to bed with a sidewards shuffle and seaside smile, at which point Lanois came forth, out of the shadows offering an empty glass. Everything after that is a bit of a blur but the next morning I woke up in a cheap Las Vegas motel, between Daniel and a sheep's head (betwixt a crock and a herd's face so to speak) wearing nowt but a tutu, a wedding ring and Howe's seaside smile...
That last bit isn't true but truth and a bad joke are uncomfortable bedfellows... All of the other name dropping stands. I've got witnesses...
It was an appropriately stellar way to see off Folmer and one of my more memorable nights out on the tiles. Amazing what you can take for granted when you're standing too close to see it.

Thanks Folmer. Thank you for placing me in such fine company and reminding me that musicians are the salt of the earth; wounded but walking conundrums: lusty and liberal; anxious and cocky; strutting and stumbling souls; vital and verbose vagabonds. Strong and silent partners. Always intriguing. Always engaging. Always needing...
Which brings me back to my need of Ardbeg's Corryvreckan.
Can I get a witness?
Anyone got a thought or two?
Particularly my Scottish mates who are closer to the source and surely the wiser for it.
Apparently its 57.1% charms offer a 'wonderfully wild and complex experience'.
At £75.17 a pop perhaps it is best to buy as a present for a good friend and then just... hang with them.
At £75.17 a pop it would need to be a beloved friend.
At £75.17 a pop I'm expecting smoke and sparks...

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Happy Blue: We Are Connected By Sound

"Whether fumbled by a fool
Or fielded by an aching heart
Surely there’s one golden rule
To help the healing start"

Those lines never did find a song. Why write them? I try and make universal feelings intimate, but how do you catch someone’s eye when writing about ‘the dear ordinary’? Truth is in the fine lines as much as the broad strokes, but trying to put your finger on the fidelity of a feeling makes fools of us all. I’m drawn to vulnerability, probably because of the recognitions that lie therein. I never was taken by cocky command or flamboyant dexterity; give me a three fingered gypsy guitarist any day. I’m beckoned by an unsteady hand; informed by the uncertain mumblings of a trembling voice.
My Father died early this year. Terry’s last lucid words to me were ‘Hello Sunshine’. He hadn’t called me that since I was a boy. He then whispered ‘I’m terrified’ before retreating into the foggy sanctuary of sleep. His heart was strong, but his lungs were shot. Terry just ran out of air.

I sit here breathless in the early morning half-light, wearing my Dad’s shirt and listening to the voices of my youth. As I take the needle from the record my hands are shaking. I blame the coffee and reach for my guitar. Music is a calming balm. Oddly, for someone so reluctant to sing out loud, it’s the singing that keeps me honest and true. My Dad was a venerable but vulnerable man. There wasn’t much joy in his life, but he did love to sing and he loved sorrowful songs. He breathed them into me. And on the day that I was born he sang ‘Hallelujah’. We are connected by sound. The sound of a time, like the smell of a room, can haunt your memory and… I’m haunted by sound. I too like a sad song. Sad songs make me happy. Happy blue.

“Gorgeous, as ever. Trevor Jones finds the poetry in real life; gently beautiful and genuinely moving. You may cry.” The Sunday Times

"Arguably our most eloquently sophisticated songwriter." HiFi News

“Masterpieces of subtlety and observation clothed in sumptuous, lush melodies.” R2
“Jones is in a class of one. Near-perfect explorations of the human heart. The beauty on offer here is enough to make you weep. It did me.” Americana UK

“Achingly tender.” Folk Radio UK

“Intellectually as well as emotionally engaging.” MOJO

"Meticulously orchestrated, careful and complex, this is canny songwriting leavened by bona fide humanity." Q

“Moves you to tears and refreshes the soul. Scintillating.” Maverick

"Gentle enchantment. The loveliest melodies you've ever heard.” Uncut

Friday, 5 February 2016

Happy Blue: Released Today: February 5th 2016

The album is officially released today.
'Happy Blue' wouldn't be what it is without the help of many.
Marcus Cliffe produced, engineered, and played his socks off. He also humored and counseled me through the whole process. I couldn't have done any of this without him. Love that man...
Lucinda Drayton sang like an angel and happily wiped up my tea stains. Her gentle kindness was a much appreciated balm.
Melvin Duffy played Pedal Steel and Weissenborn with sublime, subtle clarity; he rings like a bell. He gives everything he plays on a luxuriant luster. His musicianship is as pure as his sweet benevolence: a lovely man.
BJ Cole also played Pedal Steel and left his indelible mark. His is a darker tone and style than Melvin's. It's impossible to undervalue this man's effect on one's music. Even when he sits back in the mix he adds an unmistakable depth. He swoops and buzzes. You never get what you expected with BJ: and it's always better than expected. He's very loud and I always want to turn him up, which says everything.
Enzo Zirilli played drums with subtly and élan. His jazz leanings added a lovely, learned looseness to the sound. A lovely, gentle man too.
Gustaf Ljunggren was the revelation of the album. I've know him a while having met him at the Aarhus Festival a few years back and have always admired his playing. We'd send mixes to Copenhagen and get them back the next day, adorned with his subtle brilliance. Gustaf has sublime, dextrous restraint and taste. Listening back to his offerings was like opening Xmas presents.
Peter Beckmann mastered the album and cut the vinyl. His musical instincts are unimpeachable, he also has the patience of angels.
Which leads me nicely on to Boo Hewerdine. An odd credit I know but Boo actually nearly produced the album. I'm glad that he didn't because it wouldn't be what it is. I do hope that we'll do something together in the future. Even though he's probably unaware of it he's a guiding light and a gentle mentor.
Boo also connected me with James Soars who promoted the album to press and radio, connecting me with some great new contacts.
And cheers to the journalists who have supported us throughout. I know that we've probably come to take some of you for granted in our expectations of your valuable column inches.
Di Holmes took the excellent photos which set the tone for Barry Cross's brilliant art work. You need to have the vinyl to get the full effect.

Thanks too to Del Sawyers at Proper for co-ordinating the release.
Special mention to Paul Woodgate, Tim Patrick, Meetwood Flac, Rob Hurley, Jerome Taheny, David Ashley and Phil Hogarth for their unfettered banner waving.
We have been lucky with airplay, meeting some lovely DJs notably Adam Wilson, Steve Morris and Alex Huskisson. Local radio is a hotbed of enthusiasts and not only have they supported my music but I've also been introduced to some wonderful new music whilst waiting for my 3 minutes to arrive.
Finally, thanks to all of the artists who have graced The Hat Club. Too many to mention here but I admire you all. Making a life from music is an uncertain endeavor; a commitment that could devour you. And yet you step out daily, valiant vagabonds leading with your chins, opening yourselves up to other folk's judgements. I admire your tenacity and talent; brave troubadours all. This has become a real pleasure for Di and I and we have loved meeting you and sharing a small moment of your journeys. Kudos!

Love to my immediate family, Betty, Katy, Gareth and Bex.
And of course a tip of the hat to Terry, my Dad.
Thanks again to all of you have supported Marcus and I throughout the travails. You know who you are.
Christ, can you imagine my Oscar acceptance speech?

I hope that you enjoy 'Happy Blue'.
It came from a dark place, I'm happy that it's finally seeing the light of day.
You can get the album directly from me here:
Otherwise you can get it through the usual channels.
Amazon reviews really help so... Help!
I'll leave you with a picture of me doing my best 'Bono on the Beach'.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Happy Blue: Released February 5

'Happy Blue' is released tomorrow.
The world will inevitably beat a path to my door to ask 'why?'
Why am I impelled to keep doing this thing?
It's a good question, particularly when the returns are becoming less and less rewarding. It does sometimes feel like bellowing into an empty cave. The echo is reassuring although it is but an echo.
I recognize in other writers and performers the need to put things in order; to join the dots and, in making those connections, help themselves to check and reset their compasses. But towards what? Perhaps towards some sense of 'home': home as a source of comfort, or simply as a place of sanctuary; a safe harbour to retreat to, somewhere to rest, reset and review past travels before venturing out again to share their stories with the world.

For me the best writers are story tellers. V. S. Pritchett wrote that short stories were ‘something glimpsed from the corner of the eye, in passing’. Sometimes it’s good to write with intent. That way you’ll get what exactly what you wanted and expected. Sometimes it’s good to write just to see where the muse will lead you; to surprise yourself. The American writer Raymond Carver told that he once had a line in his head that he knew would make for a great story: “He was running the vacuum cleaner when the telephone rang.” He didn’t know where the story would lead but as soon as he
found time at his typewriter to write the line sure enough “other sentences promptly began to attach themselves… and I knew it was my story, the one I’d been wanting to write’.

I guess that like Carver I’m interested in the small dramas of everyday life. I have no answers, just observations and questions. And they aren’t always my observations or questions. I just need to keep my radar tuned. An idea might come from an overheard remark, a misheard lyric, a newspaper article or a domestic moment that unfolds in front of you. The trick is in recognizing what’s worthy of development and to distance yourself enough to be able to take in the scene; to be dispassionately engaged enough to tote and tell. My partner Di once came home from work with a story about a seemingly dysfunctional couple that she’d just seen on a train. They were both mumbling, anoraked and odd. She with a cleft lip, he with long lank hair and thick corrective glasses, hood up. They were fussing over their baby, which was wrapped in a blanket. Di was taken by their tenderness. As she got up to leave she passed the couple and looked down at the baby. It was a plastic doll… Some things you just couldn’t make up; there's a profundity in the mundane. Di related snippets of their muted conversation and I fashioned the tale into the title track of the ‘Alaska’ album.

For me it’s initially a bit like mindless trawling. I’m casting my creative net and seeing what’s out there/in there. The essence of an idea, the ghost of a song often seems to float in its own current just out of view. Instinct is key. You are aware of its presence, you just need to catch it and land it. You don’t always catch what you were expecting. If there is alchemy in the process I think that it’s in recognizing when is a good time to fish and knowing where to cast your net. Into troubled waters invariably… Oh, and also recognizing what you should throw back; sometimes the big ones taste of mud; it’s the tasty tiddlers that are worth keeping.
The currency that keeps us vital is life itself, and our vital perception not just of life as it happens, but of our processing of that experience. Our value is not just what we could be, but what we are, what we have become. The further we grow away from our histories, the more obvious their influence becomes, and consequentially, the more we idealise and cherish that influence. Reviewed and rewritten, our past becomes us. 

In Corsica around the time of writing the 1st two solo albums ‘Hopeland’ and then ‘Keepers’, I felt an increasing sense of emotional isolation.  In London the common ‘buzz’ had rendered me over stimulated, my touchstones had become mobile phones and laptops; I had to keep checking for messages to see if I was valued. It was a bit like looking in a mirror to see if I was still there. I needed to unburden myself, to disconnect and learn to be alone again, to reconnect with my imagination, to re-engage with my sense of wonder. In our remote village house I internalized and only really released through song. ‘Hopeland’ was bathed in optimism’s glow after the retreat to a simple life had gifted a startling clarity of thought. I wanted to capture that feeling of release and that Corsican idyll in song.  My most intense creativity came from that little house in Montemaggiore. I found that the ideas came pouring out. I didn’t type; I wrote, scribbling feverishly in a little yellow notebook that became like a sponge for the outpourings. I had previously written about the journey, but offered no answers, just questions. With ‘Hopeland’ I had actually arrived somewhere; destination achieved. I unpacked. I was home. Those moments in Corsica taught me to cherish the past, accept and recognise its importance, its vitality, but not to live there.

That's it: if songwriting has taught me anything it’s how to decipher the past and live in the present. It was through writing that I learnt to temper turbulence. I’d love to think that my songs comforted or helped to realign other lost souls. I’m sure that some of this sounds twee but in simplifying my worldview there was an inevitable idealizing of life. Cliché and platitude abide in the same corridors as insight and truth, just as prejudice and wisdom are uneasy bedfellows. For me the challenge is to dance around those abstractions, see them for what there are and try to redress them with fresh credence and currency. The French poet Gérard de Nerval wrote "The first man who compared woman to a rose was a poet, the second, an imbecile." 

Although your words need clarity and fidelity there should also be a little room left for the listener to insinuate themselves into a song in order to make it their own. Not enforced mystery; that would be too artful, gimmicky and manipulative. Just a little wriggle room for a stranger’s wonderment. For me the trick is to take a small step to the left or right, take stock, take care and then pitch common feeling as original thought and hope that folk will recognize themselves in the offering and somehow find mercy there.
Someone once wrote "Wear your life loosely, it fits better that way." The past is the authentic fabric from which we are made; we define ourselves by how we cut that cloth. The filtering of memories enables us to come to terms with what we have become, how we have tailored ourselves. The way that we do that determines our ‘style’. As long as I’m faithful to that I know that, regardless of quality, my work at least has integrity.

So, why do I write? 
- To join the dots and make sense of the past.
- To protect myself from emotional inertia.
- To help myself ‘move on’.
- To connect with myself and to connect with others.

I don’t have kids, never will.
Where’s my legacy?
What do I leave behind?
Maybe, ultimately, from head to heart, from heart to hand, I write to make a sound.
From heart to hand, I write to make marks on a page, to give myself shape and form, that form declaring ‘I am here’, and like the cave painter, my hand is poised to leave a mark that says ‘I was here’.

And look at me.
Writing like the Master Magician who holds the secrets to every mystery.
I know nothing.
But I'm doing my best.
I keep reaching into the hat not knowing what I'll pull out.
Could be a rabbit or a rooster.
It's the unknowing that keeps me excitedly dipping my hand into the darkness.
Attempting to conjure something from nothing.
I love the idea that my best trick is still ahead of me.
And there's no fool like an old fool.

The American poet Galway Kinnell wrote:
‘Maybe the best we can do is do what we love as best we can.’
I’ll bottle that and call it home…