Brittany Guitar Workshop 2015

This August 19-22, I’ll be hosting my annual acoustic guitar workshop in La Fontenelle, Brittany.

I’ll be looking at Celtic, blues and fingerstyle techniques and tunes in the wonderful French countryside. We normal head out for nice food and a glass of three of vin rouge in the evenings, and have a great time making music, which culminates in a wee gig for the locals at the end of the week. It’s low pressure, though, I promise!

The course It caters for a variety of abilities, but to get the most out of the experience, I recommend you have a sound grasp of the basics.

More details including accommodation and logistics are to be found at the Brittany Music Workshops website.

Is it really October already???

Can’t believe it’s already October and the Autumn seems to have arrived all at once. It’s high time I updated my rather neglected blog with some news. It’s not as if I’ve been lazy – quite the opposite – much has happened since the last posting.

Firstly, back in August I ran the first of my Brittany Guitar Workshops residencies, which was a joyous experience, with a lovely group of students who’d made the trip over from England to stay in the lovely village of La Fontenelle, Brittany. It was hosted by Brenda Dean of Brittany Music Workshops, who looked after us beautifully, and even sang a song with us at the end-of-week concert.

We worked on a variety of pieces from blues to Celtic to pop arrangements, leading up to the aforementioned concert, which was attended by about 30 of the locals. Thanks to Brenda for translating all the stage gossip!

I must give a special plug to the hugely talented Kitty Macfarlane, an up-and-coming singer-songwriter, who was one of my students. She bewitched the lot of us with her voice, guitar playing and all round charm.

Anyway, we’re already planning next year’s workshop and the dates are looking like August 13-16 inclusive, so if you’re interested in coming, put those in the diary!

Secondly, I’ve just received the new Abi Moore record, Amoeba & Stone. Abi is a dear friend of mine, and this record has been a long time in the making, so I’m really chuffed it’s finally out there. There are a few session contributions from me on there, too.

Finally, I’ve just returned from the 14th Ullapool Guitar Festival in the northwest Highlands of Scotland. This festival has gained a legendary status as the one everyone wants to play at, such is the quality and atmosphere on show. It’s quite simply THE place to be for guitar enthusiasts in early October. I feel blessed to have now played at 10 of the last 11 festivals, and I’m already counting down until the 15th festival in 2014.

Highlights included jamming with Clive Carroll and John Smith, playing an epic pool tournament with friends, and of course, performing and teaching!

At one point I found myself playing a brief private banjo recital to Elliott Randall from Steely Dan, Carl Verheyen from Supertramp and Jerry Donahue of, well, everyone. Surreal. Here’s Mr. Verheyen having a play on my guitar:

Oh, and speaking of banjos, upon arriving at the festival, Roger Bucknall of Fylde Guitars presented me with my brand new open backed frailing banjo. The hoop is made from 48 separate blocks of Claro Walnut and capped on either side with African Blackwood. It sounds amazing and I’m totally delighted with it:

Well, that brings us more or less up to date, so I’ll sign off for now, and promise not to leave it too long before the next installment!

Ireland

I’ve just returned from the Emerald Isle, where Jackie and I had the very great privilege of taking part in a project called ‘Song Sisters’ at the Eargail Arts Festival in Letterkenny, Donegal. The project was set up by Irish singing legend, Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh from one of my all-time favourite bands, Altan. The show consisted of representatives from Ireland (Mairéad), Scotland (Eddi Reader), Wales (Julie Murphy) and England (Jackie), all accompanied by their backing musicians of choice. These were Boo Hewerdine, Ciarán Curran, Martin Tourish, Cery Rhys Matthews and me. Here we all are in soundcheck (well, with one empty seat, as I took this picture!).
Each singer offered a song for collaboration with the group, which were rehearsed during the day prior to the concert, and also took turns to perform duos and small ensemble arrangements. It was a real joy to work with such inspiring people, and lovely to hear some of the music for the very first time whilst actually on stage! Despite the sold-out auditorium, the best seats in the house were surely ours.

Christopher Jenkins

Evenin’ all…

For the last couple of days, I’ve been busy in the studio recording guitar and banjo parts for the new solo album by my dear friend, the singer/songwriter, Christopher Jenkins. Chris has been asked to compose the soundtrack to the forthcoming UK movie entitled Maynard, due in cinemas in 2015, and I’m excited to be playing on songs that may feature in the film as well as on his album. Early days, sure, but watch this space.

Chris is a mate from the Academy of Contemporary Music, in Guildford, where we both teach (he is a Music Production lecturer as well as a marketing dude).

More album news as it transpires…

New album and new website launched today!

Hello again! And welcome to my brand new website, launched today! And it’s a double whammy, because my new album, Middle Child, also becomes available today! Please have a look around the site, and visit the Buy Music page if you’d like to download a copy of the new album.

Today is a good day for me all round. I got up early to go birdwatching, and was rewarded with a flock of Hawfinches – little rare gems in the morning sunshine. Yesterday, I also put up a bird-feeder outside my living window, hanging from the eaves, and it’s already busy with Blue Tits, Great Tits and a Robin.

New album and sheet music available very soon!

Hello everyone,

Just a quick note to say my brand new album, ‘Middle Child’, will be available for download on March 29. A CD will follow shortly afterwards. It features 10 tracks which are a mixture of originals, traditional tunes and a couple of choice covers. The new album has been a long time in the making, so I’m very excited to finally be able to release it!

 Also available will be sheet music in PDF format (notation and tablature) of some favourite pieces of mine.

Recording a new album at last!

Hello! Earlier this year, I foresaw a free week in December in which to refuse all other work in order that I might finally get around to recording some new material! Well, that week has just passed, and, along with the considerable engineering assistance of my friend Chris Jenkins, we have recorded 10 tracks for a new album, due for release early in the new year. There are some new original pieces, a couple of reworked older tunes, and some choice covers for good measure.

When it’s packaged and ready, I’ll let everyone who’s been hassling me for the last two years know!

Springtime happenings

Right then, it’s been a while since my last posting, and all sorts of lovely things have been happening in my world. A couple of weeks back, Jackie, Mike and I did some filming for Ade in Britain – Ade Edmondson’s cooking programme, in which he tours around to different regions of Britain cooking regional specialities for invited guests, who in turn, provide the entertainment! Well, Jackie, Mike and I were the guests for this particular episode which was shot in Beer in South Devon – a beautiful little fishing village with spectacular sea views. The weather was a bit on-and-off, but the film crew, with their inventive methods of keeping equipment dry managed to get everyone safely through the experience! Here’s a photo of us with Ade after we’d wrapped up for the day:

In other news, I was recently reunited with my old pal, Gordon Giltrap for whom I opened a show at Farncombe Music Club. I had a go on his Vintage GG signature acoustic guitar and I liked it so much that I ordered two of my own! A six- and a twelve-string.

I’ll sign off for now with a video clip from the gig of my rendition of Time After Time by Cyndi Lauper. Hope you like it 🙂

Austria

Hi folks,

I’m currently away on tour in Austria with Jackie Oates and Mike Cosgrave, and we’re onto day four, having played three shows in three very different towns and venues.

So far, we’ve played in a beautiful old theatre in Bad Ischal, a Musikschule in the mountain village of St. Georgan and last night in a very smoky folk club (I miss only the smoking ban of home!) in Waidhofen. Last night’s gig had a St. Patrick’s Day theme, except that it wasn’t St. Patrick’s Day, and we aren’t Irish. The other band – led by the very, very brilliant fiddler and concertina player, Niamh ni Charra – are Irish, however, so a suitably raucous set of reels and polkas did the trick.

We’re en route to gig four now, in Mistelbach, which has a winery, so we’re all looking forward to that (hic!)…