Thursday, 17 October 2019

Lovesong: Joe Henry: Bloom

So much darkness, and yet so much light.

A release from Joe Henry is always worth celebrating.
Joe has kindly and thoughtfully planned to release his latest album on November 15, the day before my 60th birthday.
I shall be gifting myself the double vinyl.
The rest of you can just send cards...
The background to the recording?
I'll let Joe explain: see below.
Bottom line: I'm always amazed by the human spirit: the letters written by folk in slow mo' plane crashes: the breathless 911 phone calls: thoughts directed outwardly, at beloveds rather than inwards towards 'self'.
Faced with their own mortality folk always speak of 'love'.

The idea that Joe's instinctive reaction upon hearing that he had a life threatening illness was... to make music.
To communicate.
To 'pass it on'.
And love?
As Joe says, he remains "in love with life, even when that life founders and threatens to disappear; lustfully aglow, not in spite of storm but because of one. Come November, then, I will hand this all over —while the sky is bright, and leaves are still turning and descending —the days listing as they grow brisk and shorter."

Fascinating that the first taster from the album, 'Bloom', even in autumn, particularly in autumn, is concerned with regeneration.

I like Joe Henry: how could you not?


Announcing a new album: The Gospel According To Water

"Come 15 November, I will be releasing a new album —my 15th studio offering as a solo act.
The album is called The Gospel According To Water. It was recorded over two days this past June —and fairly blind-sided me, when I thought I was merely making reference demos of thirteen new songs ahead of forgetting them. All but two of these songs were written between Valentines and Fathers Days; all having flowered from the black earth of recent experience —namely a cancer diagnosis late last fall that left me reeling —though, as well, set into motion many wild blessings and positive shifts in my life, along with an unprecedented songwriting flurry.

With only a handful of friends playing in support, I entered the studio and tore through these songs with determination and joyful abandon, then went home. I had let nothing clutter or distract me from their essential and true heart; and upon waking the morning after, I understood that something significantly more had transpired —that the songs as articulated had sparked an ember that somehow remained bright and alive before me, moving beyond my expectations.

I unexpectedly heard the songs as complete, and vividly so; and knew that the casual circumstances had not limited my expression but in fact liberated me from the cloying aim for posterity that can make weighty any session, and landed me instead in a place both unencumbered by the past and unattached to futures.

Though they have all grown out of darkness, I don’t believe any of these songs themselves to be “dark” in nature, nor about the circumstance that prompted their discovery. In them, I hear the re-accessing of my imagination and its greater invitation; hear deep gratitude, and a compassion toward self that I don’t always possess; an optimism I did not know I’d allowed to flourish.

These recordings are raw and wirey and spare because the songs insisted they be. But I believe them to be as wholly realized —as “produced” as anything I’ve touched, as well as being deeply and fundamentally romantic: in love with life, even when that life founders and threatens to disappear; lustfully aglow, not in spite of storm but because of one.

Come November, then, I will hand this all over —while the sky is bright, and leaves are still turning and descending —the days listing as they grow brisk and shorter.

Just in time for Thanksgiving."

Joe Henry

Pasadena, CA

Friday, 11 October 2019

Lovesong: Elbow: 'Giants of All Sizes': XXL Heart: XXS Hope.

Just in case you miss it: Elbow have a new album out today.
I'm on the second play and, like an ill fitting jigsaw puzzle, it's starting to fall into place, in all of its dislocated, discordant glory. In fact ‘Dislocated Elbow’ just about sums things up.
It is not an easy listen. It speaks of the unsettled days that we've been lumped with by the mismanagement of our hectoring 'leaders': the permeating sense of brow-beaten unease a reflection of that uncertainty. 'Brexit Blues' would be too pat a title. Perhaps 'A Helpless Hymn agin Hubris' would be better. Garvey's downsized world view is delivered with his usual 'everyman' compassion, but an edgy sense of abandonment makes it feel less the usual matey chat. As you press 'replay' (and you will) it feels like you're doing so in an attempt to talk your defeated mate off the ledge.
The cover tells us as much. 
'Together Alone' would be the perfect title, but that's taken. The sense of isolation is palpable throughout. Christ, Garvey's first words nail his estrangement to the cross: "I don't know Jesus anymore."
Not a happy album then; there are no easy anthems, the moments of light make the darkness more acute, but, like Nick Cave's new masterpiece 'Ghosteen', the accumulative effect is devastating.

Friday, 6 September 2019

Lovesong: Boo Hewerdine: Before

When I first started making music with other people, I had influences. All budding musicians do. It's how we find our way. In the mid 80s it seemed that everybody around me wanted to sound like, and be, The Velvet Underground. Beyond the, easy to replicate, slack jawed looseness of the application, it was de rigueur to effect their knowing, louche indifference. Not for me. I wasn't rakish. I wasn't knowing. That much I knew. The sonic template for early days Miracle Mile was a modest combo from the Eastlands. The Bible wore jumpers. Their winsome, bucolic pop was light but lovely. They had fair to middling success in the 80s with a song called 'Graceland' that I couldn't stop listening to. The singer looked as uncomfortable as I felt. And yet... he sang his deceptively simple songs with a detached indifference that was strangely compelling. Like a rabbit in a headlight, he seemed surprised to have an audience, his expression almost begging the attendant not to stare, to avoid eye contact and to keep on moving. Boo was mesmerizing then and, for me, 30 years on, he remains so.

I put his new album on this morning. 'Before'. It is lovely, light and slight: only 32 minutes. As it unfolded I realized what it is about his music that I find so compelling: it is absolutely bereft of cynicism. That's not to say it isn't knowing. Boo's bespectacled stare still falls on his subjects with that familiar wide eyed indifference (that word again). And, as I listened, it struck me: it wasn't 'indifference': it was a child-like wonder of the world. One that doesn't pass judgement. One that doesn't pass on. One that lingers on the little things. No rabbit in headlights then: more like an infant under a quilt with a torch, who has just discovered his toes. Does that make sense? I'm painting Boo as some kind of naive savant and I don't mean to. I know him and recognize him: his quirks, his 'Booness'. Boo is a man that you cannot help but love because of his seeming indifference to all things adult. Again, that sounds patronizing. How can I fix that? Boo once gave me some advice. I was resisting a challenge. "What's the worst that can happen?" he opined. Not the most original counsel. And yet coming from Boo it resonated with an authentic honesty: a duty of... care that stopped me in my tracks and made me disassemble the potentially hackneyed words. And I found truth therein.
Boo's is a world of first things.
Of in-betweens.
Of last things.
"We see true beauty in the last rays of the sun."
Yes: really!

Boo's eye always seems to settle on the pretty things. He dismantles the wonder of their delicacy in his funny, detached, wise way. And then he puts them back together and calls them 'a song'. And in that way, in his reconstructions of the world, he makes the world his. Makes it fit. Makes it a Booland. And it breaks your heart. Because you want to live there and you can't.

As I listened this morning, before the rigors of the day, I was reminded of nursery rhymes and fairy tales; Arthur Ransome and James Matthew Barrie; Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and of my brother and sisters and parents. At that point things got messy and I had to go and make myself a very adult coffee.
I need to stop blathering and play 'Before' again: before I start my grown up work and before the caffeine kicks in. Boo's wide eyed stare rests on the things that matter: the everyday mundane matter that informs our daily lives. The stuff that we mostly pass over. That's why Boo matters to me. Take a minute (or 32) to listen to his new record. It'll make your day different. It will make your day. It'll make you want to live in Booland: a world of wonder where the price of admission is an open heart and an open mind. Be warned: you'll have to check your cynicism in at the door. 
Let's call it 'Graceland'.

Friday, 21 June 2019

Starwatching: An Unofficially Official Celebration of Miracle Mile: 1: Stepping into the Flow.

Back in 2014 Di and I were at a gig at The Borderline just off Tottenham Court Road. We'd gone to see Case Hardin supporting Jason McNiff and Wizz Jones. Di was taking photos and I was propping up the bar. Wizz and Jason were great. I particularly liked Case Hardin, Pete Gow and Jim Maving were like a thinking man's Keef and Mick.
The next day I got a message through Miracle Mile's website asking me if that was me, really me, at The Borderline the previous night. It came from a gent named Paul Woodgate who was there to review the gig for Folk Radio. It turned out that Paul was a long time follower of my band, Miracle Mile and had recognised me from the various cover shots. It's nice to be noticed. We chatted on the phone and eventually met up. Paul and I have since become good mates: gig buddies if you will. Paul ('Egg' to his inner circle) has often talked about giving up his 'proper job' to commit his full attention to his two passions: music and writing. Those who know his writing keep pushing him towards it, he does have a singular style and a beautifully lyrical touch. His enthusiasm is addictive. It's particularly flattering when you are the object of his affection. So... I'm chuffed to discover that he's been beavering away on a website that promotes the music that Marcus Cliffe and I produce as Miracle Mile and 'Jones'. It's a work in progress and a labour of love that wobbled me a bit when I read Egg's first post. It's a bit like Busby Berkeley choreographing a school musical, Matt Busby managing the Beaconsfield Utd under 11's or Paul Auster reviewing Readers Digest pamphlet 387. I'm a little overwhelmed and humbled by his bon mots. Marcus and I have put a lot of love and labour into what has become our back catalogue. It's this kind of surprise that all too occasionally justifies the graft. It is gladdening that such a talented writer has chosen to cast and settle his gaze upon us.
Read this and weep.
I did.
God bless you Egg: long may you pun...
Please click on the link below to access the 'Starwatching' site.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Eurovision 2019: Madumma

It's like doing community service: we're sentenced to 4 hours annually, guilty of the misdemeanor of the watching the previous year. Those in the know tell me that it's a bit like child birth: it takes 3 months to forget the excruciating pain and 9 months to prepare for the next one. Why are we compelled, every 12 months, to press our noses to the screen? Perhaps in the hope that there'll be another ABBA moment. And the best thing on last night's was indeed an ABBA moment: a 'Mentalist' who somehow managed to encourage 3 fellow inmates to write 1974, 45, and Abba on 3 separate cards. This highpoint (yup) was a sad reminder that it is indeed 45 years since that benchmark Abba performance. Last night was the usual parade of pathetiques: a gallery of gurning, disco dirge, hysteria and faux emotion. Oh, and a bit of Icelandic 'death metal' to add some street cred' and remind us that it's cold up north and they don't give a stuff... This was a freak show presented by freaks. It was 'spectacular' but it was also dazzlingly dumb.
'Could you do any better?' I hear you say.
Not bloody likely: not in this particular field.
Why would you want to?
In this particular field there's always something unpleasant that you might stand in.
Why do they do it?
It must take half a career to recover.

Sorry to be unkind but the unrelenting pop eyed desperation of the burlesque was so squirmingly unsettling. I stuck around for Madonna. Her much anticipated turn was to feature after Bloated Bjork and before Rigged Result. There would surely be a MADGE moment? A new direction that allowed for her dodgy hip, conjunctivitis and failing vibrato. Might she even drop the F BOMB' to further unravel the unravelling presenters? Nope. Madge covered all Euro cultural bases by dressing up like a pirate auditioning for 'Game of Thrones'. With straight laced sincerity she told our bizarre gathering that they were 'all winners' because they'd bothered to turn up. I assumed that made me a 'winner' too so I stuck with it... Strewth! To give her performance integrity and sonorous meaning Madge was surrounded by monks chanting her name. At least they pronounced it properly and chanted in tune. There are always chanting monks with Madge. Why the fixation? Perhaps they are meant to suggest a quasi-religious erotic experience? They merely contributed to the slight whiff of dry crutched celibacy. Madonna's car crash performance will surely haunt her until... the next one. This 'special' staging and performance had been kept 'under wraps' but was more like an embalming. Whose idea was it to force The Queen of Pop to shuffle down, then stumble back up an infinite flight of stairs? Surely the budget could have stretched to a Stannah Stairlift? Poor gal. Someone should've rung Age Concern. Our Madge then suffered the ultimate ignominy of having her flatness fed though an Auto Tune turned up to 11, reducing her to a poor man/woman's Sparky/Cher as she duetted with a similarly encumbered bloke who looked like he'd shuffled in from a different audition: one that also involved pirates but Avengers, Captain America and vintage motorbikes too. Ms Ciccone then 'symbolically' slapped around a couple of vestal virgin's wearing fox's heads. Isn't that banned in Europe? This was horrible: a macabre blood sport of sorts. Horrible. Perhaps Brexit could be accompanied by a lifetime UK Eurovision ban? 30 years would do for me. Horrible. Horrible. Horrible. Graham Norton gave up taking the p*ss. Even Wogan would've been struck dumb.
And yet we watched on.
I found myself rooting for the shrill Gob on a Stick that was Australia.
The voting would at least offer the inevitable coup de grace to the over ambitious wannabe. There'd surely be the fetid, frowsty odour of crumbling coalition and conspiracy. Greece would vote for Cyprus, Sweden would shamelessly vote for Norway and no-one would vote for the shameful UK. It pretty much panned out. Sweden's John Lundvik looked like a stick on winner but stumbled at the last fence: stitched up by the public vote. There was excruciating schadenfreude as, in cruel close up, Lundvik's expectant victory 'high 5' became a limp wrist. I don't know the name of The Netherland's winning wailer. Let's call him 'Bloke'. It had taken 4 hours of spinning midgets and flashing light warnings to deem the least dressed up singer the winner: Bloke was a triple denim 'delight'. At least he had the decency to be dull: the most moving thing about Bloke's performance was the piano... So, after months of auditions, rejections, rehearsals, the filtering and thinning of talent, the grooming of delights: this was the best that Europe had to offer us: a Coldplayesque whinge dedicated to a giant bulb. 

Maybe Bloke was in on some secret joke? 
Maybe Bloke was looking for a lightbulb moment. 
Or his own reflection. 
Judging from his knotted eyebrows I think he found neither.

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Carver's Law: 5: Drinking Alone

Here is the latest in a series of films made by the Slovenian artist Matej Kolmanko in support of Carver's Law. For me, the fascinating thing about this collaboration is that I have no control over the outcome: unusual for someone who likes to have his hands set firmly on the wheel. 
The content of this particular film is undeniably provocative and unsettling: not something that you'd usually connect with my music. It is interesting that Matej homed in on the notion of transience: something that colors many of the songs on Carver's Law. Matej offers us a children's birthday party and his own Granny's 80th celebration. And a decaying pig. Two parties and a pig then... The central image might unsettle a few folk but I think that it acts as a stark reminder that, however willful and spirited we are, flesh is weak, decline is inevitable. I wrote 'Drinking Alone' with Australian writer David Bridie. It's the first track on the album: a song that sets up the journey and it is echoed by the final song, another Bridie co-write, 'Woebegone'. 
I find Matej's film oddly moving: grossly engrossing. The eye is unsettled; flits from image to image. Youth, decay, old age. We celebrate the passing of time and yet we often deny and reject the effects of the yearly transition. Every journey leads to a 'home' of sorts: that ultimate destination. As such, the recognition of death is a celebration of life. There are reoccurring themes in the songs on Carver's Law: transience, hope, remembrance, the filtering of memories, the settling of scores, forgiveness, aging and (yup) decay, so the decomposing pig, although unpalatable, is apt; a stark reminder of the inevitabilities: and we all kick against those: ever hopeful that a quick jog and a smoothie will conquer all. We try to hold back the years with lotions and potions but it's hopeless: that 'hoping of hope'. And, as we know, it's the hope that'll kill you. We are not stardust. We are not starlight. We are not golden. We are olden. But is this delusion the secret to a happy life? I reckon not. It's a cover up. We age. We cover it up. We die. We cover it up. We bury the body deep. It would be glib to simply say that we should celebrate decline. Any nurse or carer will remind us of that. We all watch our loved ones slip off the planet. Why look away? I reckon that it's vital to recognize the passing. Facing it square on is a celebration of sorts: however hopeless the prognosis. And hope? Our best hope is for some kind of legacy; that signs of our own life endure: markings on a wall to remind folk that 'I was here'. St Augustine wrote that “it is only in the face of death that man’s self is born.” And Montaigne posited that “although the physicality of death destroys us, the idea of death saves us.” Woody Allen added to the party: "My relationship with death remains the same. I am very strongly against it." 
I'm with Woody... 

Song: 'Drinking Alone'
Writers: Trevor Jones/David Bridie
Album: Carver's Law (2019)
Film Director and Editor: Matej Kolmanko
Time lapse footage taken from "Decomposition of Baby Pigs" by Jerry Payne (1965).

Friday, 3 May 2019

Carver's Law: 4: The Press Release

Starting to move towards the release of 'Carver's Law' on July 12th. We have the much respected promotor Jim Soars on board to help present the album to the various dailies/weeklies/monthlies. I think that he'll be working the radio stations too. Work starts 3 months in advance as the monthly magazines such as 'Uncut', 'R2' and 'Mojo' require that much time for 'the turnaround'. It's interesting how things have moved on since 2016's 'Happy Blue'. Many journalists don't require CDs anymore; just a download link. I struggle with this for a couple of reasons: firstly the CD will be of much better audio quality than the compressed MP3 that it'll be judged on: secondly, for me the artwork has always been a vital part of the presentation: the tactile element of any release seems to have disappeared into the ether. Frustrating, considering the amount of thought and, yup, artistry that we put into 'hard copy'. This surely undermines the carefully considered work of our cover designer/artist Barry Cross. The artwork for 'Carver's Law' is just lovely: it's a shame that those who require but a link won't get to thumb the shiny pages and perhaps consider the text and lyrics. Same shame too for those who download rather than acquire the CD. It would look great on vinyl: maybe later...
Interesting that the knock on is that we are also no longer required to send a physical press release. This now goes out as an email attachment rather than a glossy sheet of card.
Here it is for you to ponder: lovely words of encouragement by writer Paul Woodgate: lovingly designed by Barry Cross. Here: reach out and touch the screen...

Friday, 26 April 2019

Carver's Law: 3: Every Dream a Shadow

Here is another short film from my collaboration with Slovenian film maker Matej Kolmanko.
Marcus Cliffe provided the lush musical backdrop to this offering: 'Every Dream a Shadow': a spoken piece taken from my new album 'Carver's Law'.

Every Dream a Shadow

First thought is the best, got to get things done
You only have to say it, that’s how the tale is spun
But there are seven rivers and there are seven seas
And there are seven choices, what to be, oh what to be?

Contentment, inertia, cold coffee in my dish
Forgotten voices whisper, what is it that you wish?
A fishing rod with glories, a red kite with a tale
A long scar with a story, a better way with a nail?

Once the rain had left us, every shadow held a dream
Every dream a shadow, said and seen, said and seen
Someday when cheeks are sunken and teeth taste old and rotten
I hope I will remember that all is not forgotten

Treasure House is where we live
Where what you get is what you give
When all our rivers flow to one
Said and done, said and done

Come and see the shapes above you
Come and have your heart uplifted
See the faces that have loved you
Look away, the shapes have shifted

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Carver's Law: 2: Woebegone

I'm excited to say that I've been collaborating with Slovenian film maker Matej Kolmanko who has provided some amazing visuals for my new album 'Carver's Law'. I was connected with Matej by Australian songwriter David Bridie. Matej provided some films for David's wonderful latest album, 'The Wisdom Line'. I've been a long time admirer of David's music and I'm happy to report that he and I co-wrote this song, 'Woebegone'. It's one of four such collaborations on the album.
Matej's work is edgy, challenging and, as you can see, quite stunning. This is a new media for me: I'm hoping that it will add new elements to my music and perhaps bring new friends to the table. What's interesting for me is how visuals add something intangible to the music. It's hard for me to articulate how unsettling that was initially. I'm a bit of a control freak when it comes to my music, so to see someone else's take was quite a thing. On second view there came a liberation that I loved: I found that I could watch objectively and not try and make my observations too literal. Artistic license is everything here and, with this collaboration, Matej had free rein to do what he felt right: his interpretation is primary: mine very definitely secondary.
Thanks to Matej and David.
It's interesting how we've been drawn together. 
If I had to describe Matej's work I would say 'bleakly bold and beautiful'.
I'd extend that to David's work too.
I hope that doesn't offend them. 
It's very much a compliment.
It's how I'd love my work to be described. 
We seem perfectly matched...
I hope that you enjoy what we've done.
As with any 'art-form' it's ultimately up to you: make of this what you will.

Sunday, 7 April 2019


Well, I reckon that most folk would point to their parents. Yup, they f*ck you up as prescribed and described by Larkin, but their touch is indelible.
Betty's just been and gone back up north. I reckon that I get the hair and the stare from her. But it was my Dad who informed and initiated a lot of my musical habits. He loved a melancholic lift did Terry. He reckoned that Hoagy Carmichael's 'Stardust' was the most perfect melody in modern popular music, was strangely stirred to tears by the trombone solo in Frank's 'I've Got you under My Skin', got me swooning to the sweet lyricism of 'Moon River' and 'Danny Boy'. He sat me in front of the big speakers and explained the importance of 'The Protest Song', always starting and ending with Paul Robeson's 'Old Man River'. He made me fall in love with Bobbie Gentry and Dusty Springfield, insisted that Nat King Cole's was the most gorgeous of voices whilst recognising that Sinatra was the greatest all rounder, only just pipping his Dad Joshua's favourite: Tony Bennett. He rated 'Wichita Lineman' as a stone cold classic. He introduced me to the trad jazz of Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong and knew every lyric to every Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel hit. He nearly (but not
quite) hit all of the high notes when he sang along. That was the downside. Dad's tenor was almost as strangulated as Harry Secombe's: another hero.
He didn't much like the music that I listened to: I tried to impress him: likely too hard. He knew what he liked did Terry: let's call him a pedantic romantic. He wasn't that impressed by the music I wrote either: a compliment was as rare as hug, but it didn't stop me from trying. That was an affirmation that I only got on the rugby pitch.
This morning I'm playing the playlist that I made for his wake and... it's ringing all of the bells.
Have a listen if you like:…/1127459430/playlist/1StLZZ8Yipvs…
But... the one that rang the biggest bell this morning was this. Likely because it's the only one that El Tel couldn't sing along to but, lordy, what a beltingly emotive tune.
Thanks Pater: see you later.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Carver's Law: 1

My new album Carver's Law will be released on July 12th.
It's a way away I know but there is work to be done in preparation. Once the actual albums are back from the production plant the release is 3 months away. This is because we have to supply promo's to press for review and the monthlies require a 3 month 'heads up'. A little frustrating as I'm always keen to get a new collection of songs heard whilst the songs still resonate.
With that in mind (don't tell my distributor) I'll be making the album available from my Bandcamp site as soon as I have copies to sell. CD only this time.
The benefit of this to me is that I get 100% of the purchase fee. I also get to find out now what you think of Carver's Law. You'd perhaps be surprised to know how important that is to me. I'm hoping for a little word of mouth to get the dominos a tumbling.

Marcus Cliffe, as ever, co-produced, engineered and oversaw.
Besides from Marcus's massive musical input, the album's main musical color comes from Pedal Steel legend B. J. Cole and Danish multi-instrumentalist, Gustaf Ljunggren whose woodwind breathes a very particular life into the songs.

There's other collaboration here too:

I wrote 'Morning Pockets' with the wonderful Boo Hewerdine, a man whose work I have long admired.

I also got to work with another longtime influence, Australian songwriter David Bridie. David offered up four musical vignettes that I gave lyrics and melody to.

Barry Cross did another brilliant job with the album's artwork.

Di Holmes took the photo for the album's cover.

Peter Beckmann worked his usual magic at the Mastering stage.

Matej Kolmanko, a Slovenian Auteur and musician, is working on some short films to support the release. I'm excited about this collaboration as we've never used this media before. Matej's work is fabulous: edgy and challenging, his interpretations of the songs will surely add some meat to the bones. I'll be hosting the films here and also on the various promotional platforms.

Paul Woodgate is a fabulous writer who has written the press release.
You can read this below.

Carver's Law by Jones

Avail yourself of a quality malt and an hour of me-time; 2019 marks the return of Jones with his fifth solo album, Carver's Law. The result of soul-searching on the Suffolk coast and collaborations with Boo Hewerdine and David Bridie, Carver's Law is another offering of classic songwriting from an artist who breathes the rarefied air of the unsung hero. Cut Jones and he bleeds quality.

What do we want from an artist? Are they duty bound to inform, educate, entertain? Do they dissemble, put words into the mouths of fictional characters that shoulder their creator’s burden, or is the contract approved with read-between-the-lines clauses that swap comfort zones for the twilight variety, the uncertain half-light where you trust images in the corner of your eye more than those you can stare at? Should they hollow themselves out for us, such that we spend hours listening to their pain as it circles our turntable?

In truth, we demand all of this and more. When we get it, it can be beyond anything we dared hope for and hope, like need, is a dangerous master. Carver's Law is such a record, a long-player of profound beauty, where words twist and tumble like the first leaves of Autumn, coming to rest amongst layers of effortless melody like weary travellers. Here are acutely observed vignettes on life, death and everything that matters in-between. The anticipation of hope, the shadow of fear, doubt and self-analysis, and the slow slow, quick quick slow passing of time. A nervous energy frames these songs, one born of hard won knowledge and experience. The ability to articulate our deepest sorrows, desires, happiness and heartbreaks is a gift. Carver's Law is shot through with spirits bottled and biographical, often half full, always haunted, never less than 100’ proof.

Drink up; time is short and the water is rising.

Paul Woodgate

As one half of Miracle Mile, Trevor ‘Jones’ released nine albums of beautiful, literate pop music, the last of which, In Cassidy’s Care, was issued in 2012. He’s a master songwriter, the type that worries beauty into shapes and sounds that unfurl with repeated listening. Together with musical partner and arranger Marcus Cliffe they collected a bouquet of critical acclaim that continues to flower in Jones’ solo career. Carver's Law is his fifth solo outing, though Cliffe is never far away, helping to produce, record, arrange and play on every one; Hopeland (2009); Keepers (2010); To The Bone (2014) and Happy Blue (2016). Like King Arthur under his hill, Jones waits patiently for the public to recognise what some of us knew from the start. In the meantime, we have this wonderful collection and an opportunity to share it.

‘Gentle enchantment. The loveliest melodies you've ever heard.’  Uncut

‘Intellectually as well as emotionally engaging.’  MOJO

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

‘Masterpieces of subtlety and observation clothed in sumptuous, lush melodies.’  R2

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

‘Classic pop songwriting, gorgeously realised. Jones has compiled possibly the finest catalogue of adult pop. Gently beautiful and genuinely moving.’  The Times

‘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

Moves you to tears and refreshes the soul. Scintillating.’  Maverick

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Shack Tales: 3

Sunday afternoon and Di's clan (locals) descend for the evening meal, rendering me sous chef and chief bottle collector.
Earlier that day I'd made a controversial move at the village hall 'Cake Bake' by buying all of Jill of the Cake Bake's frangipane tart for supper's desert. Yup, the full pie. Jill is Walberswick's own Mary Berry and apparently her almond and pear tart is much sought after/fought over. I honestly didn't realise that the queue for tea was different from the queue for cake but... the deal was done. It was politely suggested that I buy a slice at a time, so as not to "annoy the natives".
A wafted £20 note soon ended that discussion and the pie was plated. "Although, it might be an idea to buy a raffle ticket or two..." whispered Jill nervously. There was a brief debate about the defined differences between 'cake' and 'tart'. My suggestion that perhaps we should refer to a pie chart was met with stoney silence. Then: custard or cream? Jill came down definitively on the side of custard. Head down, holding my tart at arm's length, I made my way penitently past the orderly line of glowering glares and legged it up to the village store.
"Custard?" I asked Till Lady. "Are you the one what just brought all of Jill's frangipane?" deadpanned Till Lady. "I was promised a slice... and those... those are our LAST two tins of custard. You want them both do you?" My answer was a definitive "Erm..." I sheepishly returned one of the last two tins in town back to its rightful shelf and settled on a tub of creme fraiche to flesh out my basket. "Word gets around fast" I muttered apologetically at the checkout. 
"You'll get away with nothin' in these parts." retorted Till Lady. "Nothin'..."

Later that afternoon there was a rap at the studio door. It was Ben on a Bike. Ben on a Bike had been sent around by Jill of the Cake Bake to remind me to return Jill of the Cake Bake's pie plate to the village hall the next day, and to advise that Till Lady wouldn't've minded the slice she'd been promised. "You did have ALL of the frangipane I believe? Every slice... And, you won the bloody raffle too!" Ben on a Bike reluctantly handed over the prized bubbly as I poured him a large glass of wine as a pacifier. We shan't be opening the champers for a day or two. I suspect that it's been prepped by the locals or Ben on a Bike with a right royal F1 style shaking...

The frangipane was a triumph ("even better than your dumplings!") and apparently was best taken with custard, although I'll have to take Di's word for that: we were a can short: there's nothing worse than dry frangipane.

I got up early this morning to return the plate to Jill of the Cake Bake and dutifully delivered the final slice of tart to Till Lady. I think that broke the ice although it was hard to tell.
"Someone's had that last tin of custard and there's nothin' worse than dry frangipane" said she...
I could but agree.

Meanwhile, Di has taken to art.
Returning train-bound, from Darsham to London, she sent this doodle done in transit: a parting shot.
I suspect that there were leaves on the line...

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Shack Tales: 2

And the moon led me home...

I believe that it's the Danish who say 'if you're warm enough when you set out on a walk you have too many clothes on."
Point proven today.
A lazy morning led to me striding out purposefully early afternoon down a coastal path towards Dunwich. A 2 hour stroll would see me in The Ship for a late lunch: likely a local scotch egg, chips and a pint. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and I had a Spotify playlist to listen to: I just wasn't paying attention. I needed to remember that the non coastal path to Dunwich is 2nd right after the windmill. I took the 1st right... deeper and deeper into the woods.
By the time I realized I was lost the sun was setting ahead of me.
I kept going reckoning that a healthy path and a setting sun would surely lead to civilization.
By the time I realized my folly it was too late to turn around. The sun had gone, the path had turned to a muddy glue, my phone had died and I was lost.

I had company. In the dusk I came across a snarling Alsatian who backed me up against a tree. I'm"don't be so silly Sally". The hound from Hades morphed into a pooch, smelt my crotch and departed.
not great under pressure. Are you meant to make yourself big and eyeball an aggressive beast or make yourself small and submissively look the other way? I did both! I'd be useless with a brown bear. I was eventually saved by a vaping little old lady in a bobble hat and pink wellies who sang
Next contact was even more unsettling: a little blond girl in a blood red cape (yup) closely followed by a scruffy bearded bloke (Daddy I hope) who smilingly showed me a set of long white teeth.
Really! Although I am, I couldn't write this stuff...
Still lost in the woods.
It gets dark early in these parts.
Really dark.
Suffolking dark!
I sang to myself to steady the ship: "Not out of the woods yet".
I eventually stumbled upon a bridle path promising 'Walberswick Common: 4 miles'.
I reckoned that was 6400 meters (it took a while) so committed to counting 6400 strident steps: that would see me home. I lost interest at 459 and went back to the singing.
"Not out of the woods yet".
Stumbling blind.
As long as I kept my feet in the tyre track puddles I knew that I was still on track.
I was nearly taken out by an 8 year old (?) driving a Land Rover: obviously having lessons from his Dad who, as far as could tell, was sitting in the back seat.
I tried to wave the boy down. He waved back, hollered and kept on going.
By now the moon was up and lit the path ahead.
You can't trust in nature but it'll never let you down.
Eventually I spotted the lights of the village and arrived disheveled and thirsty at The Bell.
Sweltering in my thermal vest.
The Danish know their onions...
A pint of Ghost Ship, a packet of Chardonnay & sea salt peanuts and a chat with a pretty local toothsome barmaid whose accent is so strong that I still don't know her name.
I think it's either Sharon or Byron...
I believe that she advised 'The Eel's Foot' as the best local pub food after The Bell.
I'm sure to get lost again.
And the moon led me home.

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Shack Tales: 1

It's the little things that can make a day...
Sitting here in a fisherman's net shack on the Suffolk coast counting blessings.
It's blowing a hooley and, on occasion, this exposed wooden shelter seems likely to take off. I know that we are more robust than that: the vacantly vulnerable often need to gather strength and develop static, stable and stoic defences.
Now that Di's bailed out London bound I'm trying to prep for some time in the studio with Marcus and am doing my usual: safely content in a cozy cabin but occasionally offering my chin to the elements to see what smarts.
Noting and toting.
As ever it's the daily rituals that develop and shape the day.
Late night whiskey means early morning coffee.
Perhaps a pill or two: purely medicinal.
I reach to the wood fire basket for inspiration. That's where the kindling and 'fire paper' is kept. 
'Fire Paper': usually the Sunday sups. The financial pages go to blazes ('Doh Jones!') and I hold back the travel, sports and arts for the reading. As ever there's much inspiration in the minutiae. Looking at my notes from yesterday I think there's a song to be had from an article on how man developed his relationship with wolves: it seems that, when a domestic dog reacts to your every whim, it is down to his wolves' eye: an acute sensitivity to the pack, an instinct vital for survival: a hunter's eye for weakness, a selection of prey in order to avoid fruitless pursuit. Could be that when you are nose to nose with your best friend you might actually be having a 'conversation with death...'
A piece on nudity in Art produces a few notes about the difference between 'nude' (clothed in art) and 'naked' (vulnerable) and might make it into a ditty.
A review of Jonathan Coe's new novel 'Middle England' sets me scribbling about Brexit, this island life and the recognition that I might be beyond middle age. 

And that gets me listening to new music for inspiration.
This morning 'new' comes from a fairly sage source:
Mumford and Son: 'Delta': 'Aching' and 'empty' come to mind.
Beautifully produced, shimmery and intense, punctuated with the trademark crescendos, but... it's all a little passionately dispassionate. When you're singing from the heart there needs to be... a heart. Interestingly the best track (for me) is 'Wild Heart' which takes them back to their faux folky roots.

Next up the much vaunted The Good, The Bad & The Queen:'Merrie Land': Damon Alban working alongside other late 20th century icons: most notably Clash bassist Paul Simonon. It's a concept album that casts an eye over West London bathed in Brexit's gloomy half light. A 'Merrie Land' in “Anglo-Saxostentialist crisis”? apparently. “Are we green, are we pleasant?” questions Damon. At least he's singing and not shouting. I particularly like the recorders and ache of 'Lady Boston'so here it is:

Oddly it's Mark Knopfler who provides the morning's keenest pleasure. 'Down the Road Wherever' suggests that you know where he's going and what he'll be giving you will be sturdily dependable. And. yup, he delivers. A crumpled curmudgeon with a canny eye for the everyday. Anyone who can put a lump in your throat with a song about a sandwich must be master of his craft: lacing sanguine sadness to a universal conundrum: "When you're dealing with a toastie what do you prefer: Brown or red?"
No video so here's a link:
Right: I'm off to make myself a bacon roll.
It'll be 'red' for me: Local Adnams ketchup.
Talk about 'sage sources'...
It's the little things that can make a day...

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

The Hat Club: Nov 3rd: Tom Baxter

Di and I are still buzzing after Saturday night's Tom Baxter show at The Hat Club. If ever a performance made me want to sell my guitar AND rush home to play my guitar at the same time... this was it. I know that it's no competition but how would you follow that?
Live music is fast becoming the prime income for most musicians. Tom made the point last night that (after much research) 10,000 Spotify plays of his latest album would buy him a bag of nappies for his daughter. That doesn't smell right does it?
Tom Baxter performed, supported by his "baby sister" Vashti on Saturday.
There was such a positive vibe in the room; something that both Tom and Vashti commented on.
You’ve got to love musicians: they do the miles, the waiting, the set up and then… they make something happen.

Vashti was a revelation: she has matured into a fascinating performer: her delicate and dark tales in stark contrast with (in person) her earthy warmth: perhaps that’s what parenthood does for you? It was lovely to meet her husband Richard and her two backing singing, ragamuffin boys, Buster and Sonny. I can’t wait to actually hear something of hers recorded: particularly her last song: the beautiful; ‘Blue’.
Tom? Not a lot to say really as this’d end a gush. We have seen a gig or two: we knew what a brilliant performer he is: that he inhabits every song and sings them from the heart: from a whisper to those soaring moments when the wail seems to be coming out of the top of his head. It was fascinating to watch the mechanics of his performance up close. Because he is such a brilliant writer and singer it’s easy to overlook Tom’s guitar playing: not just dynamically dextrous but also sweetly finessed. The control of his performance was mesmeric: a man in total control whilst in the act of letting himself go: ‘vulnerability' can often seem affected and gauchely garrulous… Tom authentically inhabits every minute.

And that brings me to my main thought this morning: what a sweet man. ‘Never meet your heroes’ they say. They inevitably disappoint. Whilst I’m not given to hero worship, I love to like people. And Tom was such a gentle guy. A listener with lots to say. He’s obviously a sensitive soul who has taken a knock or two, but he wears his worry wisely. I love that he took the time to think about us: beckoning us all onto a squash court for the encore, his intent: to create a special, intimate moment just for us. And how special was that moment?
Gush over: thanks Vashti and Tom.

Can I bring your attention to a lovely review/note/post from Jus Moody: staggeringly good writing: makes me which I’d been there: made me pinch myself to remember that I was.
Jus (who hasn’t been well) articulates perfectly the reason that Di and I wanted to develop The Hat Club.
We were keen to support kindred musicians but we also wanted to create and share the possibility of something special: in Tom’s words we wanted to ‘make something happen’.
We all love a pat on the back and this is as good as an endorsement could get.

Jus writes:

"I’m struggling to articulate the last 12 hours! Like actually lost for words, (which let’s face it is already a miracle)!
When Tom Baxter announced his tour dates, I had no idea one of them would include a venue on my doorstep. I watched for months, eagerly hovering with bust credit card but when the day came, it collided when I took my eye off the boil, probably having some doctor or nurse prod me in the hip, shoulder or eye or one of the boys forgetting their homework or trying to find the games sock which literally tries to escape from the nuttiness of my life even more than I do. I digress...I blinked, tickets sold out. In my Aunty Juney’s words... ‘shit, bugger, arseholes’.
There’s 2 ways of looking at this situation. You lie down, you sob, you beat yourself up for being so rubbish you can’t even get 2 tickets for your favourite artist ever or you try.
I think I accepted first that I could be facing further potential disappointment but I pinged out a plea across selling groups on the off chance someone may have bought extras. I then hit the clubs’ social media and ever so nicely asked if they could let me know if any tickets came up. As polite as they were in responding, my feeling from the instant sell out was this was about as unlikely as meeting Tom Baxter in a squash club.
So think back to just over a week ago and my overnighter with my new dodgy limbed friends in Heatherwood Hospital. Up pops the tagged post that lovely Trev from the Hat Club will be in touch if Lady Luck is coming to visit me.
And boy did she. On Wednesday I get a follow on tag saying ‘Jus we have 2 tickets, pay here, code word BLUE’.
My bestie (responsible for first introducing me to my aforementioned favourite artist of all time), now rudely lives in Eastbourne but tells me she’s coming up to stay with almost as much excitement as me hearing her words.
She arrives, we cab to a heaving Firework night in Beaconsfield, devour a fabulous steak in the Sarry’s Head and then go off to find the mystery venue, under described on a dark lane. We suss our The Hat Club is actually virtual and a lovely duo called Trev and Di. Artisan people with big hearts and a passion for keeping it uncommercial and real. The venue is a Squash club, with a tiny modest bar complete with wrist splints and handle strapping next to the optics incase you want to restring your racquet whilst you have a pint.
The room holds 60 people. It’s intimate and now full of friendly folk who potentially have little in common other than a taste in music. By this point, I’m hyperventilating and my memory is filled with the days of my deepest sadness, my rebuild and my quest whilst supported by lyrics that feel like they’ve been written personally for me.
Tom’s sister Vashti comes on for the first set, filling me with awe of what their parents must feel with their doubling of amazing talent.
I can’t even précis every note, word or feeling I had from the moments of last night but it is without doubt the best gig I’ve ever been to and more so now in my top 3 moments of life. I know I’ve been blessed by being married to a BAFTA winning composer and forever stuck in love with a renowned songwriter but this few hours summed up everything I feel about music and what I cherish in its power.
The set finished and Tom suggests we carry on and move into Court One. (?) So, every one of the audience remove their shoes and walk into a beautifully lit squash court and sit. Tom follows us in and belts out 4 songs that turned the room into a mesmerising version of story telling hour for adults. Just incredible.
At this point, I’m already on an extreme high so to come back out, put my boots back on and head out to the bar to look through the albums that I already have, I chat to the lovely Di who tells me how happy she was that the tickets came free for me, followed by Trev passing her a note that I have just won the night’s scoop of a signed vinyl. I’m handed over with weak knees to Tom for a moment where the obligatory happy photo became a chat that instilled what it is that resonates with me. He is an awesome guy with a backbone of life experience, fuelled with scars and trials but finds himself blessed with wanting to write and perform music which in turn bonuses him with people wanting to listen. Without gain or financial motivation and with a passion for his goals which translates as the epiphany of what is most attractive about him.
Cocktails in the Crazy (and frightful) Bear, Uber home to the standard locking myself out for 2 hours in the freezing cold, being totally hung out to dry by a locksmith who coat-hangered himself into my apparently ‘high security’ lock followed by prayers before bed that my hyperthermic best friend would make it through the night and a sleep filled with dreams that came true."

Thanks to:
Tom’s manager Alaric for helping with the set up.
Chris Hope, Tom's right hand man last night: nice guy for a Lancy!
James Partridge for the pitch perfect sound.
The two Lisa’s for tending the bar so… tenderly.
Andy, our club manager for letting us use the Beaconsfield Squash Club for the Hat Club venue.
Paul Austin who usually provides a PA gratis. He only supplied the parking cones yesterday and they seem to have been nicked… check your pockets!
Barry Cross for doing the poster: I think that’s 26 without the whiff of an invoice.
Finally, thanks to Di for having the gumption to Tweet Tom directly to ask if he’d come out to play.
Tom’s response: ‘Sure, why not?’
And just like that… they made something happen.
A miracle of sorts.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

The Hat Club: November 3rd 2018: Tom Baxter

The next Hat Club presentation will be something special.
Not only is it likely to be the only one of 2018 it is also sure to be the first ever 'Sold Out' Hat Club.
If the name Tom Baxter doesn't resonate, it should do.
Di and I have seen Tom live about 7 or 8 times and we both agree that he is one of the best live acts we've been privileged to see. 'Spellbinding' doesn't do him justice.
His debut album, Feather and Stone, was released by Columbia in October 2004 to critical acclaim, and was a regular on the BBC Radio 2 playlist. Singles from the album included "This Boy" and "My Declaration".
Tom's second album Skybound (released 7 January 2008) was recorded independently and released on the revived Charisma Records label through EMI [1] after he split with Sony in 2007. The first single, "Better", was released in January 2008 and was subsequently used on the soundtrack for the motion picture Run Fatboy Run. "Miracle" was used by the BBC to cover the final montage of their Olympics and Paralympics coverage.[3] The second single was "Tell Her Today".
Baxter contributed the track "Make a Stand" to the Survival International charity album Songs for Survival in 2008. Later that year Boyzone covered and released "Better", reaching number 22 in the UK Top 40 singles chart.
In 2009, "My Declaration" was covered by Eliza Bennett and used in the soundtrack the film Inkheart (Bennett also played the female lead, Meggie Folchart, in the movie). "Almost There" was covered by Dame Shirley Bassey as the opening track of her album The Performance. Baxter and the BBC Concert Orchestra accompanied Dame Shirley Bassey when she performed the song at the BBC Electric Proms on 24 October 2009 at the Roundhouse in London, a concert broadcast live on BBC Radio 2 and on BBC Two television the next day. The song was also used in the ending credits for the 2011 film, Trust.
We will be releasing tickets to club members first before opening up to the public.
In order to tempt Tom to our venue we have agreed a ticket price of £15.
Details on how to reserve and pay will come later in the year.
Meanwhile, put the date in your diary.

Thursday, 23 November 2017

The Hat Club: December 2: Roots in the Round

The final Hat Club of 2017 is a special one.
We're presenting our first songwriter's special:
'Roots in the Round'.
Hat Club favorite Dean Owens returns in good company, with duo Worry Dolls and Americana troubadour Robert Vincent. An exhilarating Nashville style Songwriters Circle, with some of UK’s most exciting singer song-writers. Upliftingly melancholic songs, laced with rootsy Americana, country, blues and harmonies that will raise the hairs on your arms and warm the coals in your gut.

Robert Vincent
An award winning singer/songwriter from Liverpool, continuing that city’s notable reputation for producing great songwriters and performers. Robert was voted one the top 20 acts at the 2016 Americanafest Nashville, courtesy of Rolling Stone. He was also the recipient of the inaugural 'Emerging Artist' UK Americana Music Award - personally selected by legendary BBC Radio DJ Bob Harris.
Robert's recent album I'll Make The Most Of My Sins (At The Helm Records) is a record that totally embraces the varied influences that make up the 'Americana' genre, from Emmylou to Waylon Jennings to Pink Floyd.

“The real deal”  Bob Harris
“Live, he is a colossus” Liverpool Sound and Vision

Dean Owens is one Scotland’s finest singer/songwriters. Armed with a searingly soulful voice, skillfully crafted stories and earworm inducing melodies, he is a compelling and engaging live performer, with an emotional hurricane of stories and songs. He can rock up a storm, with subtle flashes of roots and twang, and break your heart with the next inflection.
In September 2017 he became the first Scottish musician to be officially invited to showcase at the prestigious Americanafest in Nashville.
Southern Wind - his 7th solo album – is scheduled for release in Feb 2018, on At The Helm Records.

"Scotland's most engaging and haunting singer songwriter"  Irvine Welsh
“One of Scotland’s best troubadours… fabulous” Bob Harris

Worry Dolls are an up and coming London based indie-folk female duo, their debut album Go Get Gone was recorded in Nashville (with Dean's producer Neilson Hubbard) and released in 2017. Sublime harmonies and great songs.

“Brilliantly quirky”  The Huffington Post“Really, really, really stunning. Without doubt, ones to watch in 2017” Paul Sexton, BBC 

The Hat Club: December 2nd: Roots in the Round

The final Hat Club of 2017 is a special one.
We're presenting our first songwriter's special:
'Roots in the Round'.
Hat Club favorite Dean Owens returns in good company, with duo Worry Dolls and Americana troubadour Robert Vincent. An exhilarating Nashville style Songwriters Circle, with some of UK’s most exciting singer song-writers. Upliftingly melancholic songs, laced with rootsy Americana, country, blues and harmonies that will raise the hairs on your arms and warm the coals in your gut.

Robert Vincent
An award winning singer/songwriter from Liverpool, continuing that city’s notable reputation for producing great songwriters and performers. Robert was voted one the top 20 acts at the 2016 Americanafest Nashville, courtesy of Rolling Stone. He was also the recipient of the inaugural 'Emerging Artist' UK Americana Music Award - personally selected by legendary BBC Radio DJ Bob Harris.
Robert's recent album I'll Make The Most Of My Sins (At The Helm Records) is a record that totally embraces the varied influences that make up the 'Americana' genre, from Emmylou to Waylon Jennings to Pink Floyd.

“The real deal”  Bob Harris
“Live, he is a colossus” Liverpool Sound and Vision

Dean Owens is one Scotland’s finest singer/songwriters. Armed with a searingly soulful voice, skillfully crafted stories and earworm inducing melodies, he is a compelling and engaging live performer, with an emotional hurricane of stories and songs. He can rock up a storm, with subtle flashes of roots and twang, and break your heart with the next inflection.
In September 2017 he became the first Scottish musician to be officially invited to showcase at the prestigious Americanafest in Nashville.
Southern Wind - his 7th solo album – is scheduled for release in Feb 2018, on At The Helm Records.

"Scotland's most engaging and haunting singer songwriter"  Irvine Welsh
“One of Scotland’s best troubadours… fabulous” Bob Harris

Worry Dolls are an up and coming London based indie-folk female duo, their debut album Go Get Gone was recorded in Nashville (with Dean's producer Neilson Hubbard) and released in 2017. Sublime harmonies and great songs.

“Brilliantly quirky”  The Huffington Post“Really, really, really stunning. Without doubt, ones to watch in 2017” Paul Sexton, BBC 

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Beach Songs and Covered Tracks

Interesting how the muddled mind works.
I'm lonesome in a converted fisherman's netting shack in Walberswick (on the Suffolk coast), with a cruel dose of the flu so extreme that I've taken to bed. Refusing to get up more accurately. The squawking gulls are starting to irritate, so I put on Spotify: A playlist of new albums from 2017 that I need to catch up on. I'm dozing that doze that only a cocktail of 'Night Nurse', Manuka honey and whisky can inspire: half Coleridge, half Withnail. Then 'Cover My Tracks' by Charlie Fink (ex Noah and the Whales) comes on. In my medicine induced stupor, the songs start to reveal themselves as a weird kind of dramatic musical: almost like a pastoral 'Grease'. A succession of interlinked 3 minute, honeyed, sentimental sketches, each one setting up the next.
And I was directing the film.
And it was a saccahrine success.
The kind of film that makes cynical middle aged men cry.
The kind of film that Paul Buchanan would sing the soundtrack to.

I'm up now, sitting in my huge bay window, facing the sea; listening to Paul Buchanan's 'Mid Air' and waving to film director Richard Curtis (really) as he passes on his bike, back from the village's only shop, with bread and eggs. Richard waves back. We're not mates (yet) but Richard waves back...
Curtis owns the designer beach 'shack' (above, middle right) next to the one hire (above, left of centre). Talk about shabby v chic. And then I realise that he's the man who placed the song 'Mid Air' as theme song to his lovely/sappy film 'About Time'. Serendipity eh? And that got me thinking about other Richard Curtis films. Four Weddings ('Love is all Around'). Love Actually, with this wrenching Emma Thompson/Joni Mitchell moment:

Richard Curtis films: They're not so much narratives, more a collection of 3 minute sketches that are lovingly crafted into 'movies'. Quilted movies that we learn to admire for their 'best bits' rather than for their entirety. Movies that make cynical, middle aged men cry. 
I reckon Richard Curtis is a Blue Nile fan.
If ever a man were to make this album into a film, then Richard Curtis would be that man. 
Not me. 
I have hope and Manuka but not the required amount of wide-eyed optimism and saccharine.
I might knock him up and work on a finders' fee...
And then I googled Charlie Fink's 'Cover My Tracks' and, lo and behold, the job's already done. 
The album forms a theatrical production. One that's recently presented at The Old Vic. The expanded narrative is described thus: 
"A downbeat, faintly autobiographical, not-quite-love story that takes our hero on a journey of self-discovery, from the brink of suicide in a grubby hotel room to the shores of a remote Scottish loch, via a whirlwind, whistle stop band tour of the UK."
It sounds a little like my current predicament... if you substituted the suicide with man flu... 
In fact it sounds like a Richard Curtis movie... if you put the suicide back in but made the corpse Knightley beautiful.
Take a listen; it really does.
There he goes again.
This time Richard waves first.
I better put some pants on...

Have a listen to Charlie Fink's 'Cover My Tracks' here:

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Heroes and Villains: Influence and Serendipity: And Pencils...

"That I know nothing, that the world I live in will go on escaping me forever."
Paul Auster

How we miss our lives is life enough for most of us.
Opportunities abound but we're mostly looking the other way.
Sometimes we need other folk to point out what we are missing.
Some things are worth sharing, if only for the civility of sharing.
Sometimes we reach out to connect.
Sometimes we reach out to see if others are feeling as disconnected as we are.
Sometime we are disappointed not to make an expected connection.
Sometimes unexpected connections can amaze and astound.
Different names for the same hat.

This morning I was lying in the bath, with Spotify playing randomly from the world's vast library of music, reading Paul Auster. Auster is one of my favorite writers. Besides his novels he also writes beautifully about his life: the things that have led him to where he now abides. 'The Red Notebook' is a slight thing, chock full of anecdotes, small moments, minutiae that most of us would pass over, let alone write about. His non fiction hints at what inspires the writer: in Auster's case primarily memory, identity and chance. They say that stories cannot exist without storytellers and that stories will not endure unless they are well told. Auster is a fine story teller whose elegant prose can make the most mundane moments resonate. Auster's words will endure. 

"I learned that books are never finished, that it is possible for stories to go on writing themselves without an author.” 

Anyway... back in the bath:
Much of 'The Red Notebook' recognizes the potency of coincidence. There are moments of serendipity, missed chances and close shaves. All cleverly catalogued without any conclusions drawn other than a 'what are the chances?' shrug. Auster tells of how during all four flat tires of his life he had the same passenger in the car with him. He tells of Ralph, the boy who got struck and killed by a lightning bolt that was surely destined for Auster. I got to the last chapter of the book entitled 'Why I Write'. It concludes with this story: An 8 year old Paul Auster met his hero, baseball player Willie Mays. The young Auster shyly asked Mays for his autograph. Mays replied "Sure kid, sure. You got a pencil?" Auster continues:

"The great Willie Mays stood there watching in silence. When it became clear that no one in the group had anything to write with, he turned to me and shrugged. “Sorry, kid,” he said. “Ain’t got no pencil, can’t give no autograph.” And then he walked out of the ballpark into the night.
After that night, I started carrying a pencil with me wherever I went. It became a habit of mine never to leave the house without making sure I had a pencil in my pocket. It’s not that I had any particular plans for that pencil, but I didn’t want to be unprepared. I had been caught empty-handed once, and I wasn’t about to let it happen again.
If nothing else, the years have taught me this: if there’s a pencil in your pocket, there’s a good chance that one day you’ll feel tempted to start using it.
As I like to tell my children, that’s how I became a writer."

As I read this story Spotify played Joe Henry's 'Our Song'. 
It tells of the narrator coming across... you guessed it: Willie Mays.
What are the chances?

“I saw Willie Mays
In a Scottsdale Home Depot
Looking at garage door springs
At the far end of the fourteenth row.”

Rather than asking for an autograph he listens in to Mays talking despondantly to his wife:

This was my country
This was my song
Somewhere in the middle there
It started badly and it’s ending wrong

This was my country
This frightful and this angry land
But it’s my right if the worst of it
Might somehow make me a better man.

Another story of disappointment then, this time from the mouth of the All American Hero himself. 
Interestingly the reason I was in the bath was to get away from the radio: specifically the clatter and clutter of the news: more graceless guff from anti-hero Trump, Stateside. So, not just the coincidence of two disparate stories colliding, with the same baseball hero (and featuring similar subject matter), but also... those lines written in 2007, pre-echoing the current disappointment, embarrassment, shame and fear at the face on the American coin: something articulated everyday by so many of my American friends: they surely deserve a better man...
As 'Our Song' concludes, the narrator casts doubt on himself.

That was him,
I’m almost sure,
The greatest centerfielder
Of all time.

He’s just like us,
I want to tell him,
Stooped by the burden of endless dreams,
His, and yours, and mine

"Stooped by the burden of endless dreams, his and yours and mine"
Now there's a sagely inclusive line: a timely reminder to our leaders that they shoulder our hopes.
It made me jump out of the bath and reach for this virtual pencil.
If you can, get hold of a copy of 'The Red Notebook', and then run yourself a bath.
Then put Spotify on 'random' and, you never know, as you get to the last chapter, you might just get struck by lightning, or... if you're lucky 'Our Song' might come on. 
It really is Our song: his and yours and mine.
May that moment come to you in brighter times: a time when the most powerful man in the world is not a narcissistic surface feeder, but a deep thinker with broad shoulders, emotional intelligence and a social conscience: A compassionate leader with a plan and a pencil in his hand.
Hopefully a hero: or at least a better man.
What are the chances?