Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Lovesong: Jackson Browne: Sleep's Dark and Silent Gate

“Get up and do it again, Amen.” 
Another day in isolation. I'm intrigued by the music that I am reaching for. It seems that comfort is paramount. It suggests that the 'middle ground' isn't a bad place to be in such times: perhaps the excitement of 'the edges' are a currently a little unreliable...

So, today I'll be trying to work out just why I love Jackson Browne's words (mainly) and music so much. To many he represents everything bland, smug and staid about the singer/songwriter tradition. Not for me: there is a poetic vision rooted in his 'everyman' akin to Springsteen's. But while Bruce often walks the streets head down, Browne's view is loftier, although his brow remains mainly furrowed, always 'one day way from where I want to be'. His was always an old soul in an ever youthful skin. Maybe that's the nub of my attraction: in his naivety he's a kind of kindred spirit. His sagely confused, yet almost adolescently formless gaze remains heaven bound, 'in search of truth and bound for glory' and yet... his lofty philosophy is grounded daily: 'nothing survives but the way we live our lives'. I'm unsure whether this duality is deliberate, but Browne’s daily struggle with that contradiction is what makes him so compelling: he’s fuelled by a false dichotomy: and I recognise that familiar struggle with the heavenly and the homily. Although the demons are an uncomfortable distraction, perhaps you can have too many angels?

'Late for the Sky' remains my favourite of his albums: the title track my favourite of his songs. However, this morning I reached for 'The Pretender' and it transported me back to the summer of 78, when I left school, working a dreary factory job, living in a crappy caravan that smelt of rotting apples. I can smell them apples as this plays. I remember being particularly miserable, besides my limited cassette collection in the caravan, the only refuge was sleep: hence the resonance of the song 'Sleep's Dark and Silent Gate'.

The whole album is a prayer for 'The Pretender', all of us “who started out so young and strong, only to surrender.” It is a prayer to mundanity, for every man and woman who get up every morning to face the exact same challenges, 'while the ships bearing their dreams sail out of sight'. Repeating this cycle, which defines and defies humanity, we are left with very little but the reliability of routine. And yet, particularly in these extraordinary days when the importance of a 'locked in' daily cycle is vivid, is there not something a little heroic in that daily dance, however familiar the steps? And I am, once again, finding refuge in sleep, actually sleeping better than ever: my prelude to... all of this.

Can I suggest that you listen to the title track of 'The Pretender' this morning but, before you do that, why not try and get through the album version of 'Sleep's Dark and Silent Gate' dry eyed. It's only 2:35 and well worth your attention.
Dare I say that only the blind would see it as bland?
Meanwhile, here is a live performance of the song.









Saturday, 25 January 2020

Lovesong: Western Stars


We watched this yesterday evening. As a pitch perfect rendition of the album - in sequence - it doesn't feel like a performance: more like 3D accompaniment: flesh to the bone. It endorses what a fine set of songs 'Western Stars' is and confirms that Bruce is solid, sanguine, aging gracefully. His tone poem intro's are done in a theatrical gravel, a lilt that he surely developed on Broadway, but I like that; it adds a solemn gravity to the proceedings. The whole presentation is impeccable and, whether you love or loath the man's music, you can't deny his authenticity. A burnished sepia imbues the sense of nostalgia: a tugging tenderness informs the beautiful bleakness of many of the songs. It is no sad parade though, it's also a celebration of the joys of 'Pop': the lilting, rushing strings often lifting Springsteen's knowing croon to Orbisonesque heights.

His recent autobiography revealed a surprisingly fragile man who often hurt the ones he loved and who loved him: Bruce concedes that this is an attempt to make the broken pieces fit, or at least meld his sharp edges with another fractured souls'. It is particularly moving therefore to watch he and Patti console and resolve during the finale, when old home footage of the couple, just married, segues into 'Moonlight Motel': they circle in dignified dance, then lean into each other: a perfect fit.


Friday, 6 December 2019

Holloway: Field Notes: 1

“There is no such joy in the tavern as upon the road thereto.”
Cormac McCarthy

My latest album 'Carver's Law' is out: doing the rounds.
What next?
Folk often ask me where the songs come from and, to be honest, because I don't do gigs and don't daily revive them, once they are fully formed it seems like they are released and left to make their own way in the world: deserted. It's easy to forget how they were birthed and beached, so I thought that with any new recordings it might be interesting for me to keep notes about that period between conception and birth: the gestation of new material. 
These will be notes that I keep for myself; so that there's a sense of understanding in the way things develop. I wondered if it might be interesting to the listener to read about the process: my process. I can see that I might be lampooning myself here: that some folk like a bit of mystery to come with their music and want to receive it fully formed and final. They don't need to see me humping away at my muse.
I'm not refining the writing so you might want to look away now: it'll be stumblings and mumblings and I might decide that this is a bad idea, but until then...

Holloway: Field Notes: 1

A new album: it's often an idea to start with a title.
'Carver's Law' was initially going to be called 'The Burden of Endless Dreams' after a line lifted from Joe Henry's brilliant 'Our Song'
Joe even gave me permission to use it. 
'The Burden of Endless Dreams' seems apt because, hand in hand with the joy of creation, and the endless possibilities of the blank page, comes the mithering that goes with it: the waking at 3am with a nagging melody or lyric, that rips me from the warmth of bed and Di, in search of a scrap of paper and a pen, or my iPhone's 'Voice Memo'. You'd howl if you heard the hapless humming and howling that often informs a song. I consider 'The Burden of Endless Dreams' and try it out on Di who shakes her head. Too many words apparently. She reminds me of 'Holloway'. Di and I spent an idyllic weekend at Roger Deakin's Walnut Tree Farm, living in one of his outhouses, an old railway carriage spruced up for pilgrims. We immersed ourselves in his world of wood and words, threatening to swim in his moat. Deakin's writing reminds me to finish a book that's been sitting unfinished for too long. I'd been reading Robert McFarland's 'The Wild Places'. They were mates: co-adventurers. There's a chapter, 'Holloway' in which McFarland (accompanied by Deakin)  explores ancient, deep sunken paths and marvels at how, once you are within these 'holloways', you feel cocooned, protected, and by adjusting your vista, your view on and of the world changes, offering a different kind of clarity. I like the idea that these 'ancient arteries' might lead to an alternative way of seeing and perhaps lead to uncharted destinations.
'Holloway' it is for now then...
Looking for inspiration for new songs.
What has happened this year of note?

My annual Thanksgiving fortnight in Walberswick always acts as stimulant: away from London I can de-frag, reset and re-consider my belly button. 


After the dramas of my detached retina in 2018 came the recovery and then, with the subsequent cataract, another operation. As 2019 hurtles towards 2020 Di jokes about it being the year that she will have her eyes lasered to redeem her vision to 20/20. Getit? We chuckled but it got me thinking: the past couple of years have seen me re-calibrating, adjusting to my new world view. I’ve lost the ability to cut a squash ball out of mid-air but have gained an ability to gaze vaguely. I'm surprised to find that I often see more that way. Sometimes an eye can be too... keen. Between long sight to short lies the in-betweens. It is easier to see the ‘long and the short’ of things. My eyes are working independantly and my sight-lines have thus been altered to accommodate both: my surgeon calls this 'mono-vision' and advises that only about 30% can adapt and adopt it successfully. I fear that I'm with the other 70%; my mono-vision a netherland of vagueness which passes as both long and short focus; it's a compromise of clarity. This change of focus from horizon, to hedge, to home has also led to an interesting development of my haptic memory: with me reaching more readily for touchstones.
Apparently my left eye was dominant. After my injured right eye was 'fixed' it asserted itself as prime orbit. It feels like my repaired eye is re-trained, memory avidly joins the dots, I’m finding new ways of connecting things. What are these ‘things’? I’m unsure, but am convinced that it is leading me towards a new way of seeing and thinking, and hopefully will help me mine a fresh lode of songs. Perhaps, as with any loss, what’s residual is somehow enhanced; distilled and filtered into something somehow more refined or pure? Let’s hope that this attempt at positive thinking somehow sublimates these stumbling, fumbling rants. 
As the year is ending I'm sitting here with two lines:

Black crows applaud the sky
And I wake from my dream of spring

Ah well, it's a start.
Onwards.
Here's to 2019.


Thursday, 28 November 2019

Shack Tales: Nov 28, 2019


I woke up this morning to find that the River Blyth that borders The Studio to the north had flooded causing the River Dunwich 50 yards to the east of my front porch to swell and overflow up and over Wally's Bridge, effectively rendering my dwelling an island. I considered that my old Porsche might float away, but then remembered that it had been valued by Marcus at £2,100 on webuyanyrustbucket.com and put the kettle on.
I got quite excited by the idea of an even more acute seclusion. Ever-keen on irony it made me reach for Roger Deakin's 'Waterlog'. Our maverick travels Britain in search of Wild Swimming and, in doing so, immerses himself in fresh environments daily. In exercising his 'right to roam' he encounters many a beatific bank and its inhabitants. Most are either welcoming or indifferent to him. Some (mostly human) move him on. A well mannered and eccentric rebel, part of Deakin's charm is the way that he attempts to inhabit the waters that he visits: he regresses to an almost feral state to better understand the mystery of what a daily dunking does for his mental health.

“I grew convinced that following water, flowing with it, would be a way of getting under the skin of things. Of learning something new. I might learn about myself too.”

He notes diving in with a long face and emerging 'a whistling idiot'. This quest for cure and liberation
got me thinking about why I love the place that's been home for the past fortnight. And why I keep returning. It's got nowt to do with any sense of travel: quite the opposite: Walberswick lies at the end of a road. That road cul-de-sacs in the car park that borders The Studio to the south. I am the most Northern and Easterly dwelling in the village. You have to want to be here to get here. This elemental sense of separation and seclusion is a thrill to me. It feels like a destination. I arrive. I unpack. I'm home. On fine days it forces me out to wander: on foul days it holds me within to wonder.

“Most of us live in a world where more and more things are signposted, labelled, and officially ‘interpreted’. There is something about all this that is turning the reality of things into virtual reality. It is the reason why walking, cycling and swimming will always be subversive activities. They allow us to regain a sense of what is old and wild in these islands, by getting off the beaten track and breaking free of the official version of things.”

That's it!
Bingo!
Here I am offered submersion and subversion.
I work in an environment where order is everything; the 'official version' abides. It's the law. I understand that particular need for order: that need for protection. However, the requirement to protect can become so enveloping that 'safeguarding' becomes an exacted requirement rather than an instinctive embrace. It can stifle and squeeze the joy out of things for both the protector and the protected. We furnish our environments harmless and risk rendering them charmless. We don't climb trees. We don't leap fences. We don't swim dark rivers. We become resistant to the draw of wild places, where discomfort not only thrills us, but teaches us. I wouldn't wish discomfort on anyone, but we couldn't survive without it.


And yet... here I am, comfy by the fire, part Ratty, part Mole, part Crusoe feeling a genuine ache at the thought of leaving tomorrow. We are often attracted to things, people and places that bare characteristics of the things that we could never be. I think of that misfit Jack London's description of himself as ' a sailor on horseback'. My addiction to this haven is that its authenticity is everything that I am not: it does not become me, and yet, somehow, it's a perfect fit.
T.S. Eloit famously noted:

“We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring. Will be to arrive where we started. And know the place for the first time."

Perhaps the all embracing, immersive warmth of this sanctuary makes it feel that, although it rests riverside and seaside, on the edge of adventure, it also cocoons and offers homely comfort. Deakin observes that we are 'beached at birth'. Mum's the word but maybe it is no co-incidence that in reserving this fortnight at The Studio annually, I'll forever be here on my birthday. Perhaps as we get older, we feel the elemental need for returning.
Maybe it's not that all roads lead to Rome, but that still waters lead to home.


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?


COME NOVEMBER

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."
Really?
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.

https://starwatching.net/2019/04/10/stepping-into-the-flow/?fbclid=IwAR1SaTmSm5ZMUR8B9MkWr_cxh9GJO1oZptceCYDL4hh24IhZ0aBmTchABG4

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Eurovision 2019: Madumma

Eurovision.
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

Influencers




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: https://open.spotify.com/…/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.
https://jones16.bandcamp.com
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.
Onwards!


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.
3:45pm!
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.
Bugger!
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:
https://open.spotify.com/track/6iPklJBWZbOENNOsCPlfhh?si=5pVv9EAZT1iTojQXyRCdeA
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.