Friday 28 December 2012

Rab Noakes Milngavie Folk club Dec 2012

For a man who's been touring for a very long time Rab Noakes looks fit and well. He was asked how long had he been singing in front of people and he answered that he thought it was about 60 years but that it seemed like no time at all. In fact 'it didn't too seem a day too long.'

Noakes guitar playing is both melodic and assured. He has written many memorable and thoughtful songs, that are sometimes full of pathos, over his career in music - such as Branch, Eden's Flow, Clear Day, Together for Ever, and Turn a Deaf Ear. He mixes folk, blues and rock n roll styles. He played with well known Scottish singer songwriter Gerry Rafferty in his pop-folk band Stealers Wheel in the early 70s. I first heard Noakes songs in my twenties when we had singing sessions and his songs were always favourites for harmony singing.

During his long career there has been influences by a wide variety of music from skiffle to the Rolling Stones. He mentioned guitarist Dot Watson, who was his first reference point, and said that he enjoyed 'rootsy' country music rather than 'pop' country. He saw The Rolling Stones in 1964 at the Barrowlands and explained that in their first albums they were gatekeepers for many to interesting blues artists, such as Rufus Thomas's 'Walkin The Dog' which Noakes performed.

Noakes had an older wooden guitar with him as he likes to use different guitars for different melodies. His latest album 'I'm Walking Here' will be Tin Pan Alley and 21st century Skiffle Music.

Noakes enjoyed sharing his fond memories of his musical career and had many interesting anecdotes. He remembered phoning Dylan's manager about the old Scots songs that Dylan sang on his Bootleg album in 1961. He frequently mentioned Gerry Rafferty, whom he remembered with great affection and said when he first met him he was an unassuming young man from Paisley with all these outstanding songs. Noakes explained that Rafferty often used the day as a metaphor for life in his songs. He spoke of the Humblebums' Concert at the City Hall in 1969 and how after Rafferty died in January, 2011, he strummed a guitar melody about the loss for a long time. Eventually, while at an art gallery in London, Noakes wrote words that seemed to work with the melody on his smart phone. The song was the poignant 'No More Time', which Noakes performed in his second set.

He spoke of the recent loss of another legend, Scottish singer songwriter Michael Marra. He described Marra as a master of location and brevity, with words that resonated wider. He performed Marra's 'Oh No More Will I Roam No More, It's Over.'  Noakes is organising a concert in Marra's memory for Celtic Connection 2013 called 'All Will Be Well'.

During the interval a fan asked Rab to sign his vinyl of Red Pump Special, and Noakes reminisced about the day the photographs for the back cover were taken in Edinburgh.

SET (1). Brighter blue, Blues Around Me Now, That's the Way the Whole thing Ends, Out of The Blue, Walkin the Dog, Branch, Light in my Heart, Seeing is Believing, Turn a Deaf Ear,
SET (2)  Highway To Take Me Home, Absence, Goodbye, Oh no more will I roam no more, it's over, ( Marra), Bye Bye Blackbird, No More Time, Moonlight and Gold, That's the Way the Whole thing Ends, Encore: See what booze has done for me, Mississippi,

Rab is quiet and unassuming, and his demeanour, look and sound remind me of Buddy Holly and those 'Americana rock n' roll week day blues'.  He hails from St Andrews.
I especially enjoyed his song Gently Does it (Standing Up album 1995). He is a big Dylan fan and for his encore sang a excellent version of Mississippi. I was pleased my son came and he has been playing this song since the gig.  Nice to hear!

Noakes says music is all about the dialogue and more about performing than simply the song. He spoke of those residency night gigs were artists can learn their craft in front of the live audience and the live performance when 'flying' in the heart of the music toughens you up and you have to learn loads of songs. He played in Denmark 6 nights a week. (I hope those residency nights are not in the past with those large tv screens so prevalent in bars nowadays?) Noakes now runs his own production company Neon.

It seems to me that these intimate venue gigs enrich and soothe the soul. His new album will be called I’m Walking Here – and will be Tin Pan Alley, 21st century Skiffle Music.

Noakes was supported by Colbeg,
It is fun for me to follow the older folk tunes and folk artists alongside the newer pop music songs. I begin to wish some of these older folk artists would collaborate more with the younger musicians.

A two way street though. Experience and wisdoms might be passed on and the energy and enthusiasms of the younger artists could inspire and innovate. Mumford have cleverly mixed dance rhythms with folk tunes to great success.
 Gently Does It
  • (Rab Noakes)
And a few years ago you'd been on this road so long
Now they're building a highway to take you home
Gently does it for a change
I used to think you were just like a mountain range
Your big boots stomped where small men feared to tread
I can hardly believe what I've just read
They say you can't travel any more
But you've got the key to a new front door
And don't you know 'cause you once said it all
When you stand so high you've got so far to fall
Not everyone can look you eye to eye
'Cause you get difficult, dangerous I'm damned if I lie
But we all pay the price
And they place your ante high.

Thursday 20 December 2012

Glasgow Independent Record shops

LOVE music, 34 Dundas Street, Glasgow, G1 2AQ
Love Music specialises in new, indie and alternative vinyl and CDs. Important section of Glasgow's music scene with a great selection of local acts and specialises in indie, rock, punk and Americana. Love Music Glasgow is an Independent Record Shop in Glasgow, the shop was previously known as Avalanche Records.
Love Music Glasgow is an old-school independent record shop, selling both new and second-hand music. They buy and sell CDs, vinyl LPs & singles, music DVDs and movies on DVD, as well as a range of merchandise such as T shirts, coffee cups, fridge magnets etc. They specialise in rock music, in all its various forms. They are supportive of local groups and record labels and stock hundreds of unsigned artists. They also do in-store performances and signings - Moby, KT Tunstall, James Blunt, Futureheads. 

Monorail, 12 Kings Court, King Street, Glasgow, G1 5RB

Rubadub Records, 35 Howard Street, Glasgow, G1 4BA
Specialist record shop.

Missing Records, 247 Argyle Street, Glasgow, G2 8DL

Alba Second-Hand Music, 55 Otago Street, Glasgow, G12 8PQ

Play It Again* Records, 47 Ruthven Lane, Glasgow, G12 9BG

Fopp Records Westend
From its origins as a one-man stall in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1981, it expanded to a chain of over 100 branches[ throughout the country in 2007. With the demise of Music Zone, Fopp became the third largest specialist music retailer in the UK in terms of store numbers (after HMV and Virgin Megastore). Shortly after the takeover of rival chain Music Zone, Fopp went into administration in June 2007, resulting in the closure of many of its stores. Eight stores survived and are operating under the Fopp brand as an independent part of the HMV group.
The first Fopp store was a market stall in Decourcey's Arcade near Bryes Road in Glasgow opened 1981 by Gordon Montgomery.
The Leamington spa store was reopened as Head, a separate store from Fopp, but retaining Fopp's stock and assets. The HEAD store opened on 2007 and employed some of its predecessor's former employees. The store hosts regular performances from local bands, to allow musicians, artists and authors from Leamington and its surrounding areas to sell their work. This was initially a single store, but has expanded into a chain of four sites.

And least we may not all be swallowed up by some big media conglomerates.....Let's remember Virgin media was once a tiny shop in Rose Street Edinburgh owned by Richard B and a pal.. small beginnings...and yes small is sometimes better. Support your small local shops.

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Scottish Portraits

Alexander McCall Smith - author
Rab Noakes singer songwriter
Alex Salmond - Scotland's First Minster

Emeli Sande - singer songwriter
Karine Polwart - folk singer songwriter
Dikc Gaughan - traditional folk singer

John Byrne - playwright and artist
Eddi Reader - singer
Ian Rankin - writer
Iain Banks - novelist
I have been building my gallery portraits of Scottish writers, artists, politicians and musicans over several years now at Celtic Connections and Edinburgh festival - Scottish Portraits -

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Emeli Sande at Royal Albert Hall

Some days are ordinary grey days, but yesterday was an extraordinary day.
There was a glorious blue sky and those small fluffy white clouds as I headed to South Kensington via bus and tube and for a late lunch at the V & A café, where the pianist played under the ornate Victorian rooftops. 

2012 has been a big year for Sande, not only did she get married, her debut album Our Version of Events was the top selling album and went triple platinum in the UK. She has a glowing warm stage presence with her large smile and her sincerity. I have seen her perform at several of Glasgow's top venues - the Oran Mor, King Tuts and the Old Fruitmarket. 

It felt very strange to be in such an iconic venue. I entered the hall via its Stage Door entrance for my Pass, where we waited. Professor Green came in shortly after!  I shook his hand and said how much I enjoyed his big hit song with Emeli - Read All About It. Green had a beautiful girl with him who looked  like a model. I took in the images on the walls – in particular one memorable image of Frank Sinatra as he waved to his enthralled audience taken from the stage by photographer David Redfern, I was in awe!. I thought how hard it is now to get those kind of images with all the restrictions imposed on photographers these days – only the first three songs, no moving about etc. etc.  I wished to savour every moment knowing these were moments I would never forget.    

I will never forget ascending the narrow steps that entered the arena the theatre’s red and gold lights shimmered above us, where there were the shadow outlines of people on the tiered circle galleries as spotlights hovered and I feel I have now entered a realm of fantasy, folklore, mystique and hidden memories.

Another Emily, from New York – an Emily King played as the support.

When Emeli appeared in the shadows at the top of the dark steps we know she is a star in the making. She savoured the experience, as she paused to take in the atmosphere and those moments as she arrived on the iconic stage.  The halls doomed arena offer perfect acoustics for voices to reverberate and bounce into the air. 

Sande began with her distinctive song Daddy, which was followed by Tiger and Where I Sleep. Then the backing singers and band got a chance to shine with the refrain I Left My Heart in Pluto.
In the middle of her set Emeli sat at the piano centre stage and said, 'This is where I know myself and where I am raw.’ She started with the emotional Clown and she said sometimes we all need to show the Clown in us.  Next she sang her well loved song River. She said she’d had emotional responses to this song and that one young girl who’d never been to a music concert before had said to her that Emeli was 'her river of music.'  Then she sang a song by one of her main musical influences, Nina Simone, ‘I Wish I Knew How It Feels to Be Free’ which drew positive audience reactions.

‘We should all speak up and use our voices.’ Emeli said when she sang Read All About It: and the audience was delighted when Professor Green came on stage to perform for this number one hit song. Emeli returned to the stage in a red dress and with her song Wonder: a song full of light when she got the audience on their feet
Anything can be achieved if you have love, when she spoke of the support of her parents. Then she sang her hit song Heaven that has that danceable drum beat and soaring vocal. Labrinth then appeared to sing their chart song Underneath Your Beautiful. And for her encore she sang her touching Maybe, followed by her rousing Next To Me.

Emeli makes the dream her own, but she also takes us with her. This was one of my best days too.
Having followed Emeli's career for five years since 2007, it is both strange and wonderful to see her now on the Big Stage and called the Voice of 2012. I remember the intimacy of her Oran Mor gig and how moving her voice was there.

THE SET:  Daddy, Tiger, This is Where I Sleep, Breaking the Law, ( two new songs)  My Kind of Love, Abide With Me, Clown, River, Nina Simone’s How It feels to be Free, Read all About It, Wonder, Mountains, Heaven, Maybe, Next to Me,
Proceeds to the Princes Trust. The concert was being filmed for a DVD, photography was restricted, but the colours and vibe were awesome. 

Music 2012

Music 2012 
It’s been a year of weddings, nostalgia, resolutions and it has been an interesting hectic year.  

I continue to love music photography but I am much more selective these days about gigs I cover as I have many other priorities. This year was quiet for bigger artists for me – well in 2011 I saw Bob Dylan and Paul Simon and not much can compare with that! 

I’m so proud of the Scottish folk artists and contemporary ones too. Some have recently passed, sadly Michael Marra and there is a concert for him at Celtic 2013. It’s good to follow the new artists coming up such as Biffy Clyro and Karine Polwart. 

New Artists
Emeli Sande Our Version of Events, Lana Del Rey Born to Die, Jake Bugg Jake Bugg,  (the new Bob Dylan? Time will tell), Grizzly Bear Shields, Lucy Rose, Django Django (from Edinburgh). 
Biffy Clyro on Jools Holland stood out for me. They are from Ayrshire Scotland and I had heard of the band but had never seen them live – and what a good live band they are who have paid their dues and are more than ready for those bigger stadiums. Wow is all I can say. 

Older Artists –
Bob Dylan, Tempest, Leonard Cohen, Old Ideas, Muse, The 2nd Law. 
Folk Artists - Scottish Folk Concerts – Benny Gallagher, Rab Noakes,
Younger folk musicians - Kris Drever, Karine Polwart, Manran, Madison Violet,

Scottish Singer Songwriters
*Emeli Sande.  It’s hard to know what to say. I have followed Emeli’s career for five years and to be there to see her take over the Albert hall stage this November was quite emotional for me, so I can only imagine what this year has meant for her. She sang the most moving moment at the Olympic opening ceremony with a haunting refined and breath taking version of the Welsh song Abide With Me.  Her single Heaven was her first hit song – she also sings of Wonder, Next To Me, My Kind of Love. It certainly has been her path in life to sing for us.

There is Love in this world for everyone, Every precious smile you make, Be sure love is out there looking for you.' Michael Marra
*Respected songwriter Michael Marra died suddenly. He Paints With Words. Sadly quirky and humorous and sometimes poignant artist Michael Marra passed away in November 2912. I have seen him live several times and the last time at Milngavie Folk club in 2011. I wondered he didn’t look so well in the photos. At the sound check he set his keyboards on an ironing board. I will never forget his singing Robert Burn’s 'Green Grown the Rashes O' at his concert at Mugdock theatre in 2007. He returned again in 2008 when I was lucky enough to meet and chat with him and where he signed one of my prints. He said he enjoyed playing in the small theatre with its semi-circle of tiered seats and grand piano. He looked so frail when he first comes on stage but then he lit up the venue with his deep gravelly voice - with his endearing manner and ironic dry wit, Marra sang his medley of songs which are full of unforgettable characters and images of place and time. Mugdock was a perfect venue for him and he held the audience in the palm of his hands. I’m not sure I have ever been so engrossed at a live gig. Songs.Kelly's Visit to Dundee,' 'Muggie Shaw', 'Freda Kohl's Visit to the Tay Bridge Bar', and 'Lonesome Death of Francis Clarke', 'Schenectady Calling'.

Music gigs and Royal Albert Hall. I continue to shoot occasionally at my local folk club. Along side this bigger concerts. It was my delight and pleasure to take photos of Emeli Sande at the Albert hall London at her gig there in November. It’s a venue I never dreamed of going to never mind taking photos at.

Festivals. This year at Celtic the highlight was the Gerry Rafferty Remembered concert organised by Rab Noakes. Rafferty was a truly great Scottish singer songwriter (Stealers Wheel, Bakers Street, Stuck in the Middle With You and much more) who sadly died in 2011. As always the Transatlantic Session proved the value of a great band and excellent musicianship. Edinburgh Book festival, I particularly enjoyed Nile Rodgers talk as he strummed his guitar. Rodgers has written songs for some of the greats – Bowie, Madonna, Michael Jackson, and more.

It is fun to follow the older folk tunes and folk artists alongside the newer pop music songs. I begin to wish some of these older folk artists would collaborate more with the younger musicians. A two way street though - experience and wisdoms might be passed on and the energy and enthusiasms of the younger artists could inspire and innovate. Mumford have cleverly mixed dance rhythms with folk tunes to great success

Monday 10 December 2012

Is social mobility dead?

'Is social mobility dead in the UK? We are now ruled by unexceptional people with exceptional education.'  British author Tony Parsons

There is now no social mobility says Parsons.
From 1960 to 1975 we had five Prime Ministers who were from ordinary beginnings and who were educated at state schools - from Harold Wilson to John Major. Parson argues that there is now no way for that to happen now and the gap between the rich and the poor has got wider. 
The argument against the Grammar schools is that they only lift up 20%  - well the Comprehensives lift up zero per cent!  Some argue that Grammar school selection is unfair - well life is tough and life is unfair.That selected group at least had a chance for university education - now it is zero %.

What happens now in schools is that mediocrity is encouraged in preference to excellence.
I know because my three children went through the present day school system recently. No matter how much work for excellence my daughter put in her efforts were consistently ignored while the less able were favoured. The attitude is that the bright children will do well no matter. What message does this send out to the children when high standards are ignored. My daughter is now training as a paediatric doctor, thanks to her own efforts - and yes my chidlren all went to the local state school.  

One thing that does make a big difference is offering good nursery education, and a good grounding in pre-skills BEFORE schooling even starts.  We lived in America for ten years where my older son was educated until he was six and he benefited greatly there from the training given in Kindergarten school.

It is wrong to say that the Grammar school system was inflexible. There was a young boy who lived near me - he was immature at 11 and never made the Grammar school cut off, but he started to perform well at secondary school and after two years he was moved to the Grammar school and he went on to study for a science degree at university.  In Scotland the Grammar schools were known as secondary moderns.
Parson states that the major parties are against social mobility and that we need to put family back at the centre. British author Tony Parsons on This Week BBC -

Tony Parsons (born 6 November 1953) is a British journalist broadcaster and author.

Kate and Morning Sickness

I post here mostly about music, art and words but I digress here...
Kate Middleton's Morning Sickness. I've been through it. I found it best to throw up an hour before meals! That way there was some chance of keeping the meals down, oh dear. Also have regular small protein snacks every few hours to keep blood sugar levels as normal as possible - nuts, cheese, tuna, oatcakes, whatever you feel able to eat. Drink water in small amounts regularly too. I remember even smells in the food stores made me feel sick! Especially raw meat.
Also - DON'T TAKE ANY DRUGS for morning sickness. 
Sadly I was given an anti-sickness drug with my second pregnancy and had a very scary drug reaction several days later when my jaw started to freeze up and we had to drive to the emergency at the hospital. This drug allergic reaction caused me to loose the baby at 16 weeks a few weeks later. Drug allergies can be life threatening. My very strong advice is - DON'T take any medicine when you are pregnant.  
I went on a few years later to have my beautiful daughter (not without the heartache of the loss though).  I was sick again this time and sorry to say sickness can last most of the pregnancy, while it was better the last few months - and I took no drugs this time. Who says having a baby is easy! Maybe if men had to carry babies there would be less war and bloodshed I've wondered? I couldn't watch the news when I was pregnant. 
It may well be a girl for Kate - I had two boys and a daughter and was only sick with my daughter. I wish her well. : )  
Ps Also shouldn't be called morning sickness, more like all day sickness. : (

Sunday 2 December 2012

Trip to the Royal Albert Hall

I headed to South Kensington via bus and tube and for a late lunch at the V & A café, where the pianist played under the ornate Victorian rooftops. I’ve seen the Albert hall on tv with the Prom nights and for Adele’s triumphant concert there in 2011, and I never imagined myself going to a concert there. I headed past the white stoned historic museums to Hyde Park as the sun moved lower in the winter sky. I walked around the several entrances to the hall. I am early so I went to the café first -  I can’t quite believe I am here and I wanted to savour the moments and those anticipations... I wondered how emotional the sound check would be for Emeli - she has put in so much work since I first heard her sing in Glasgow in 2007.

It feels very strange to be in such an iconic venue. I entered the hall via the Stage Door entrance for my Pass. Professor Green came in shortly after!  I took in the images on the walls – in particular one memorable image of Frank Sinatra as he waved to his enthralled audience, taken from the stage by photographer David Redfern, I was in awe!.
I will never forget ascending the narrow steps that entered the arena the theatre’s red and gold lights shimmered above us, where there were the shadow outlines of people on the tiered circle galleries as spotlights hovered and I feel I have now entered a realm of fantasy, folklore, mystique and hidden memories. The knowledge that dreams can come true and Sande’s songs of hope.