Gentlefolk & The Lucky Dandy

This is Gentlefolk, the new band I have put together, playing on One Tree Hill this July. Ian Kennedy, Sarah Lloyd, Elizabeth Forrester and myself have been getting together and practicing regularly for a few months. Preceding each practice is a fine meal; homemade pizza, hotpot homemade biscuits. The tempo of the practices are determined by the size and richness of the meal…

Here we are playing at Tiller Flat this last Friday. Ian is playing cello out of shot, Sarah is on violin, Elizabeth is on shruti box and vocal and I am singing and playing guitar. Mike Watts took the pictures on the night…

Tiller Flat is the folk club on the Golden Hinde by London Bridge and is a wonderful gig. Bands and audiences alike warm to the place. The first time I went I saw the excellent Stick In The Wheel play…

Gentlefolk sing songs about the woodlands of England. We are currently working towards recording material while playing around London this Autumn. Next year a tour of woodlands of England is on the cards. I shall keep you posted…

Here is a snippet of myself and my pal Rocco (Rod Rands-Webb) on banjo and washboard respectively….

I love fingerpicking guitar and banjo and have started playing out under the name “The Lucky Dandy”. Rocco is “The Known Associate”. Get ready for other players like “The Fiddler” and “Uncle Sam”…

Here we are playing “Folking The Strawberries” near Sevenoaks…

For some reason, Kinks songs sound excellent on the banjo.

I am off in a few hours to play Meatopia, a feastival of culinary delight at Tobacco Dock. Lucky Dandy has been playing quite a few events this summer and more bookings keep rolling in…

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And through it all, Nigel Of Bermondsey keeps popping up. I am particularly excited to be on a bill with Stewart Lee, one of my heroes in a few weeks time. I will be playing tunes from my Gemini City album. Esoteric stories and songs of forgotten London in a graveyard on an October night…

Sound Diaries

As part of my new piece, “Into The Greenwood”, I have been making recordings of different woodlands of England to have as a sound bed. The process of making field recordings has been fascinating and I have taken to recording things that happen along the day. Listening to the ambience of different places is interesting, background traffic hum is everywhere, however different roads have their own aural personalities, just as different woodlands do.

I am starting to record snippets of conversation too. Snapshots of moments.

Gemini City

The 17th Century astrologer, William Lilly, believed that London had the star sign of Gemini. His almanacs were best sellers, but did land him in a spot of hot water. After the great fire of London, he was brought up in front of the Judges because of a picture of the Gemini twins hanging over a fire with the date 1677 written by it, in an almanac from 10 years before. His friendship with Charles II’s astrologer Elias Ashmole saved his bacon.

The London Plane is a hybrid of the Oriental and American Planes. This hybridization most likely occurred in the 17th century in the Nurseries of the Tradescants, a family of plant collectors, in Vauxhall. You will see it buckling the city streets all over with it’s beautiful grey “camouflage” bark and maple like leaf.

Cockney visionary Austin Osman Spare was the youngest artist to exhibit in the Royal Academy in the early 20th century, was a war artist in WW1, a fire marshall in WWII, and a magician. He exhibited in pubs, and drank in them too. His striking work was all but forgotten, but has experienced a revitalization of interest in recent years.

This song basically is what I think of when I think about London

A13 Trunk Road To The Sea

I am really looking forward to playing the Leigh Folk Festival this Sunday at 5.20 in the Clarendon Scout Hut. So excited that I had to learn this Billy Bragg song which honours the road I will be driving down to get there. He knows how to write a song.

The Woman In Black

Philip Whiteread was a clerk of the Bank of England on Threadneedle Street until 1811 when he was brought to the Old Bailey to stand trial for feloniously forging and counterfeiting a bill of exchange. He was found guilty and executed.
The family felt it best if the news of the verdict and punishment were kept from his dear sister Sarah and she was oblivious to his fate. One day she went to the bank to look for her brother. She asked a clerk who, not knowing who she was, told her the verdict and the sentence. This drove her mad. She would return to the bank daily, dressed in mourning attire with rouge on her cheeks to ask for her brother. This continued from 1812 until 1837, the year of her death. If the stories are to be believed she continues to make the journey from Fleet Street to Threadneedle Street to this very day. She is known as the Woman in Black. Maybe her thousands of pilgrimages to the Bank wore an emotional imprint into the flagstones which continue to echo to this day……

 

You may be interested to know that I will be having a song promenade on Sunday 6th July, from London Bridge regions to Rotherhithe regions. Follow the link for details…


We Love To Play. Ghosts Of London Underground

This city is built on blood & bones, layers of humanity going back thousands of years. When you tunnels through it you are passing into the places of our ancestors. The London Underground has a rich history of hauntings. There is a fun documentary on the subject on Youtube:

I got inspired to write a song after watching this. If you listen to the song you will hear my good friend Katy Carr being a ghost!

Leviathan

One of the great wonders of the industrial age was built with the blood of the workers who made her. From millions of pieces of people forgotten, the Great Eastern promise was born to be broken, and trapped in the bulkhead is a lonely man. Undeserved in his sentence and he can’t stand it. So he knocks his revenge through the hard steel walls, a forgotten albatross taking his toll. He brings down Isembard and the engine crew, a storm in the ballroom cuts the cable in two. A fire in the nightclub and a launch day massacre, he’s a son of a bitch let’s not spare the vernacular. But enough exposition: let’s hear his song, you can judge for yourself if he’s right or wrong. An angel of death or a devil of mercy, after what he’s been through, I couldn’t say categorically with authority

 

The Long Fields


 

In the 17th Century the area of Bloomsbury close to the British Museum, around where Senate house is now was a place of much ill repute. The Long Fields, as they were known, were a notorious dueling ground. They were also known as the Field of Forty Footsteps.
So the story goes, two brothers fought for the attentions of the same lady. They mortally wounded each other and died in that there field. It is said that wherever they laid their feet in that dance of death and where they finally fell became barren, the land giving bare testament to the tragedy, which occurred there.
It is a common belief that previously fertile ground can be laid waste by a curse or by the shedding of innocent blood. The hungry earth drinks it up but can no longer flower in mute shame to her terrible thirst.

Old Fire

The mummy of the high priestess of Amun Ra has the dubious honour of being one of the only artefacts in the British Museum to have been subject to an exorcism.
She left a trail of death in her wake from her discovery in Egypt, to her exhibition in the museum. The intrepid colonial graverobber antiquarians who found her all died en route to England with their haul. Of course they may have fallen to Coptic Flu, an aspergillosis, a fungal lung disease contracted from spores in ancient mummy wrappings… (pigeon fancier’s lung is a more prosaic equivalent.) The original recipient of the mummy, an elderly lady from Streatham, felt compelled to pass her on after all all the animals in the house died.
In the process of installation in the museum, the mummy fell on one of the museum staff causing a fatal injury.
A fair number of visitors complained that the mummy’s head would turn to follow them around the room.
So the museum quietly arranged for a priest to come and get mummy to behave. Of course they could have just put her back in the ground, in an Egyptian Tomb, where she belongs…

 

Crossbones


The Cross Bones Burial Ground, on Red Cross Way, is a special place. It is an unconsecrated burial ground dating back to the 12th century. At that time the Bishop Of Winchester, whose abbey was on Clink Street, made prostitution legal in his ward. He granted them the “Liberty Of The Clink” and they were known as the “Winchester Geese”. They were free to practice their trade under license from the church, however if misfortune overtook they were not allowed to be buried on consecrated ground. So they were buried face down here, at Cross Bones. The site was used for burials right up to the mid 19th century when it became overcharged with the dead and prone to the attention of the resurrection men. The Museum Of London estimates that 18,000 souls are buried in a space not much larger than a small car park. Developers want to build on the land, which is the way of this city. I ask them…

Here is a link to an earlier blog with photos and a different version of the song.

I am playing in the Red Cross Garden with the wonderful John Constable and poet, John Smallshaw on Thursday 29 May (Details below)