We’re just Lost Folk..

Unusually for a Wednesday night I was unfeasibly excited on 21st November in 2012. Despite being full of cold and feeling rotten, I was off to Rock City to see the mighty Levellers, and by virtue of winning a charity auction I’d been handed a backstage pass to go and collect my swag directly from the band. My love of live music had been reignited by Ferocious Dog, and looking back made me once again more receptive to new music that I’d struggled to find in the mainstream.

Nestled under the righthand staircase (which has subsequently moved in a remodel of the venue) nursing a Diet Coke and sporting a ridiculous Movember moustache was where my enduring love affair with Gaz Brookfield began – and it was love at first sight. I couldn’t even tell you the set list he chose that night, I definitely remember The Ballad of Elizabeth Duke being in there, and either Thin or The West Country Song (or maybe both – I definitely remember a singalongy song).

Whilst awkwardly hanging around the dressing room door after the gig I mumbled something incoherent about how much I enjoyed his set to him as he was presumably gearing up to depart (as we now know, from Land Pirate’s Life, the promised lift on the tourbus went unutilised due to the rubbishness of our rail network) for the next leg of the tour in Leeds at the O2 Academy. I then captured a series of awkward selfies with the Levs – ridiculous moustache instantly regretted!

Citizen Fish followed Gaz and didn’t really do it for me, so I popped downstairs to the merchandise stand and availed myself of the CDs he had on offer – either Trial or Error or Tell it to the Beer, again, possibly both. Since then I’ve avidly consumed his prodigious output and taken in as many live shows as I can – aided not least by his hooking up with Ferocious Dog on their From Without tour.

That love blossomed for a solo acoustic guy, but his incisive lyrics and catchy songs don’t get lost when backed by a band and incrementally flashy production or extras as we step through the albums. I remember Gaz posting that he was ‘throwing everything’ into this recording – and here we’ve got loads of layers, there’s brass, piano, synthy sounding things and more guitar effects along with the more customary acoustic guitar, percussion and fiddle.

Whilst this might be an album for the Lost Folk, you can easily navigate your way through the complexity of layers – the songs cut through loud and clear. The depth and layers of instruments might be considered the mirrors and the smoke of this recording – to steal a line from the title track – but you certainly don’t get lost in it.

Like in his homage to Loudon Wainwright III, Gaz’s semi-autobiographical tendancy either through charting his musical career, personal life or topical musings without getting preachy is both brave and poignant, and I guess being in a very similar age bracket there’s a lot of resonance in those musings for me – perhaps not so much in the musical career musings – but ultimately as humans we’re all fragile with the same kind of life concerns.

Title track Lost Folk opens up the album at pace, I love the addition of brass and chugging bass with swirling keys in the background. Typically catchy lyrics – creating or maybe defining in a demographic grouping I’m sure lots can relate to. Not quite old, definitely not young, politically marginalised in an increasingly polarised world and not interested in the sanitised and saccharine mainstream musical offerings. I’ve been in a few fields full of those kinds of people. It’s more of an attitudinal grouping I suppsoe than a demographic one!

The promise of bigger and more ambitious is delivered without comproming the essence of Gaz’s music. IOU is an uplifting tribute of thanks, The Glorious Adventure Co. slows the pace but doesn’t dull the mood – a bit of googling suggests it’s charting a motorcycle based tour given Gaz’s love of his two-wheeled conveyance – imagery of getting lost for the sake of it is always appealing to me, I do that quite a lot albeit usually walking rather than on a motorbike. I’m far too clumsy for that!

Afterthought has swirling fiddle and brings the pace back up to a bounce – a supportive anthem of how we need to look after each other and it’s really important to not be afraid to talk about your problems. Sage advice – did you know in 2018 there were more than 6,000 suicides in the UK? Men are three times more likely to make up that statistic – and most likely to be in the 45-49 age bracket. Awareness of mental ill health is becoming less stigmatised – but there’s still a way to go, it’s a good subject to address.

We’ve heard Aged Revolt before – an anagram of a popular hotel chain who wouldn’t give Gaz and Jake permission to use their name for their collaborative album. It’s given a facelift here – Ben’s fiddle in particular is rather spectacular! Given the overall theme and feel of the album it does make a lot of sense to revisit it here, and it’s a banging tune he and Jake collaborated on.

Any excuse to use Ella’s awesome shot from Farmer Phil’s a few years back!

Whilst I’ve talked a lot about the layers and complexities – it’s nice to take a break in the middle of the album with just Gaz and his guitar for Pen to Paper – you might’ve seen him open recent shows with this songwriters block lament with two chords and no chorus (although as the lyrics suggest he does sneak some E minors in amongst the Gs and the Cs!).

Snakes and Ladders kickstarts us back into high energy territory with electric guitar, robot-trumping synthy noises and – once of those gently nearly-political ones that ultimately concludes we might just take life a bit too seriously. Oalaego has a swaying feel to it, with an almost country feel to it – I have a nagging feeling I’ve heard Gaz explain the backstory to this song but I’ll be damned if I can remember it – googling or anagram hunting hasn’t helped, I’m sure it’ll come to me!

Uneducated Guess has a much rockier feel musically and notably in vocal delivery – machine-gunned at you over chugging guitars. It works really well for me, unusually for Gaz might prove a tricky one to sing along to (the verses at least).

Another reprise from Aged Revolt is the charming Great Minds Drink Alike with Jake Martin, a bromance of a duet with a bit of a facelift – most notably the piano giving it a pub knees-up feel which is very fitting, with the crowd at the Beehive in Swindon providing backing vocals as the track builds (I was gutted I couldn’t make the logistics work to join in with this – I’m sure I can hear Jamie Westwood on there though!).

Which leaves the finish of Just Another Day, starting with just vocals and guitar and again picking up the themes of ageing but ultimately acceptance as bass, percussion and keyboard joins the mix. The preference of a local pub to a noisy club is something I’ve been able to relate to since my early twenties, so this is definitely up my street – the brass section starts to come into the mix as the track builds and ultimately is simply faded out to bring us to the end.

Another awesome album – and reflecting on looking at the array of talent involved, it brings be back to the start of the post on discovering new acts through old favourites. There’s the likes of Chris Webb, Jake Martin, Nick Parker involved who of course are all songwriters and performers in their own right who through osmosis I’ve subsequently discovered through following Gaz. Supporting the support is the gift that keeps on giving!

Now I really need to get my arse into gear and work out which of Gaz’s tour dates I can make!

Freeborn Al / 28th September 2019 / Music, Other Bands, Photos

2017 – the ‘slow down year’..

Whilst I always seem to be busy, 2017 was a quieter year than the last couple – that’s borne out by the blog activity, 68 posts this year compared to 90 in 2016.  Home ownership, life events and an inherent need to slow down a little bit (but only a little) took its toll.

There were a few occasions where I bundled events into single mega-posts rather than splitting them out that might be artificially manipulating the statistics downward.  But on the music front it’s been another belting year, regardless!

January got underway pretty late with a trip to Droitwich to see Nick Parker and Paul Henshaw, an ace gig and a chance to finally put a visual reference to a place that had always stuck in my mind from DFS adverts of yore.  Now I’m just looking to head to Darley-Dale and Measham for gigs and I can tick off the sofa-based trilogy of places from those cursed interludes that used to plague us between films around Christmas in the 80s and early 90s!

February was a little livelier, we had a trip with off-duty Nick Parker to see previously unheard of Kevin Devine in Nottingham which was awesome, great support too from The Lion and the Wolf and George Gadd.  Ferocious Dog dropped their From Without acoustic album to us which went down very well indeed, whilst Mad Dog Mcrea played an amazing set in Nottingham along with The Outlines and Star Botherers (I’m not sure if they’d officially dropped the ‘the’ by this point!).

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Freeborn Al / 30th December 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Farmer Phil’s 2017 – part two!

Saturday morning started with sausage cobs (yes, they are cobs!) for breakfast – then we were up to the arena early doors as Morgan and Ella were doing a Morganella ‘meet and greet’ at the Pink Flamingo Bar. Lucan was a hero and arranged for a 4×4 to pick up our stuff to take up to the stage so I left Mark in charge of my stuff and accompanied Ella up to the arena. Starting the day with a cheeky cocktail and the first questions and answers was fun, but soon enough I needed to report back stage to get The Star Copiers set up – so that’s where I headed.

The sound crew were awesome – we aren’t very experienced really so we take all the help we can get! They got each monitor set up for us so that we could hear what we needed to hear, something I’d never really appreciated before until performing.  Once soundchecking was finished I found a quiet corner to get changed into my silly stage wear (okay, I just got changed in front of everyone back stage, haha!). Mark’s guitar seemed to not want to stay in tune, Kev was a bit nervous, Jacquie was practising lines – I was pretty excited in truth, definitely our biggest stage to date.

We started up by going on one by one with a slow intro to Down Under, Mark first, then Jamie, me, Kev and finally Jacquie to kick off the vocals. I thought it worked rather well! Donning sunglasses meant I couldn’t see the people in the barn – but I could see Kenny grinning at us from the bank outside the stage enclosure. What’s Up was next – even if I was tapping into a different song, already looking too far forward on the set list. Oops! It didn’t put the others off, so I could drop back into the correct beat soon enough. Listen was next, then I Still Believe (the one I started off on before by accident). It’s a song we always cock up in rehearsals – I’m happy to say this time I don’t think we did, although my monitor mix was largely Mark, Jacquie and me.

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Freeborn Al / 27th August 2017 / Band, Gigs, Hell Hounds, Lee Bonsall, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Small but perfectly formed.. part 2..

For longer term readers you might remember a detrimental Saturday morning breakfast with Jamie, Paul and Jayne at last year’s Roystonbury Festival.  I’m happy to say that this tradition was continued but with a different cast – he led a merry band of troubadours to a local pub to watch the Lions play Rugby – I swerved this, with little interest in the game and a desire for a lie in and being able to remember the day – those that did complete the trip returned with mixed results!

So with lie-in in the bag I surfaced and was offered some delicious breakfast wraps by John and Angela, which along with a cheeky cider set me up for the day very nicely indeed!  We popped to see Amanda and Sarah by the Purrple Peeple Eater to await the return of the Rugby revellers which was suitably hilarious.  Between the five of them they’d managed to run up an impressive bar tab and an advanced level of drunkenness.

Dean immediately set to the task of providing speciality shot slippery nipples for everyone, with limited success – before reappearing in slightly different clothing – that soon made its way onto Jamie who spent the rest of the day in a rather fetching dress.  Mark fared less well, he and Simon ended up in bed whilst Darren the fifth intrepid adventurer had been less voracious on the Guinness, Jäger and tequila consumption so was doing pretty well!

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Freeborn Al / 9th July 2017 / Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

Ey Up Mi Ducks! Part one.

This weekend is going to be one of those impossible to sum up festivals.  Ey Up Mi Duck – what an absolute triumph!  We arrived on site on Friday afternoon and were immediately directed to ‘Camp Copier’ by Jamie (this was our corner of the campsite, not Mark’s nickname – although it might yet have a dual purpose!).  So after finding a suitable spot to park up we set about sorting out van things before cracking a drink and settling down with our neighbours – Jacquie, Aimee, Mark and Amanda were already in situ, soon enough Kev, Julie and the kids would arrive and Jamie would be relieved of his stewarding duties.

It was a bit of a headspin (in a nice way!) to have an artist wristband for the first time, too!

The entertainment in the evening would all be in the clubhouse – as we’d got an earlyish set the next day we all decided not to be too ridiculous on the drinking front, the best laid plans and all that!  As we moseyed on down to the clubhouse we found some rather splendid ciders on offer – and Al Rate kicking off the music.  Difficult slot, it was a talky room with lots of folk catching up, but Jacquie and I made a point of watching his set – at one point the gentleman whose name I’ve forgotten (but he was drawing folk as they played) settled nearby – and promptly started drawing me rather than Al!  Awkward!

I really enjoyed Al’s set – he kicked off with Lady Chatterley’s Bower, and attempted to fight the background noise with Americana-infused folk – Greenback Dollar was in there, A Protest at the Protest and Sinnerman (with some vocals help from a chap whose name I didn’t catch) – my notes are a bit sketchy at this juncture, it has to be said!  It reminded me that I really must make an effort to get to see DH Lawrence and the Vaudeville Skiffle Show soon, though.  If nothing else it had me listening to their album when driving about today!

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Freeborn Al / 2nd May 2017 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos

A-Maze-ing – part three!

It’s no secret (nor, I imagine, a surprise) that if work holiday and funds were no object then I’d have spent the last few days gallivanting around the Netherlands to check out the new Ferocious Dog line-up, but when Gaz Brookfield announced his Nottingham date it made for a very welcome consolation activity to be undertaking.  In the meantime Lee and Jayne had pulled out all the stops to make it a full half-day of fantastic music at The Maze.

European-trekking decision was further vindicated by an unexpectedly high car maintenance bill – so I opted to drive for this one and stick to a few soft drinks.  We hit town in time for the doors to open and for a free parking space within a short stagger of the venue, and being one of the first fifty people through the door were handed a raffle ticket for a prize draw later (I never did find out what it was for, although I do know I didn’t win, ha!).

I do like The Maze as a venue.  Nestled behind the Forest Tavern on Mansfield Road it’s compact-but-big-enough, the lack of lighting in the rearmost loos did present a certain challenge but added a veneer of adventure to an otherwise mundane activity, the sound was superb and well, it was full of lots and lots of my favourite people to spend time with. I’d have gladly paid the ticket price just to see Gaz, to have six high quality support acts on the bill made it ludicrously good value!

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Freeborn Al / 19th February 2017 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

Geddin’ on Farmer Phil’s land.. part two..

I'm dead when Ella sees this!

I’m dead when Ella sees this!

Saturday morning came and despite the strange cold-like thing I’d had the night before I felt fine aside from a bit snotty, which is a bonus!  Speaking of Snotty, she had an appointment with an open-mic night where Morganella were scheduled to perform – so our first order of business was to head over a couple of fields where clan Parry were camped for an opportunity to rehearse a bit, grabbing a coffee en route.

By the time we’d finished and headed up to the arena it was lunchtime, nachos were my weapon of choice, we munched food whilst Emma and the Professor were getting started, it provided a most excellent soundtrack for a nice lunch – I only caught Kisses Sweeter Than Wine amongst the set before we decided to check out the shops.  I had designs on a poncho – as The Mighty Boosh rightly states, it’s impossible to feel sad in a poncho!

IMG_5075Whilst shopping though I was drawn down the bank to the second stage where Guitar Cubed were playing Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd – one of my favourite songs, and done justice here.  They moved on to Hey Jude before I headed back off up the hill to find Ella mooching around the shops some more.  It was a shame not to have had the chance to catch more of their set though, the little bit I caught sounded great (I managed to miss getting a photo too).

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Freeborn Al / 17th August 2016 / Gigs, Hell Hounds, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments

An a-Maze-ing night of music..

IMG_0377I was going to be sensible and get to sleep upon getting in from tonight’s shenanigans but I’m suitably energised to be a tad insomnia-bound for a while so I might as well empty my brain of over-stimulus.  I know this is a Ferocious Dog themed blog but well, I do occasionally make time for other music in my life and Gaz Brookfield is up there with my favourite performers – so you’ll have to indulge me.  Or close the browser of course!

It’s kinda ironic that it was in the last week or so Frank Turner put tickets on sale for his tour and Nottingham sold out so quickly he quickly arranged a second Rock City date to meet the demand.  I like Frank Turner a lot, and I’d wager anyone else who likes him would love Gaz Brookfield.  So whilst I truly relish the opportunity to see him perform in the intimate setting of The Maze to a healthy-if-not-sell-out crowd I can’t help but feel more and more that he deserves to be in front of a bigger audience.

But we’ll get to Gaz later.  For the princely sum of about six quid (I think, I bought the tickets months ago!) there were four acts on offer this evening.  Three of whom I know very well, and would’ve paid six quid to see any of individually, and one unknown element – Jake Martin – who I’d not yet encountered.  So yes, it’s a Tuesday night, and we’ve all got work in the morning, but we are really incredibly lucky to have such a great small music scene here in Nottingham – kudos to folk like Lee and Jayne who put on nights like tonight.

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Freeborn Al / 24th June 2015 / Gigs, Music, Other Bands, Photos / 0 Comments