Monthly Archives: January 2018

Record Of The Week # 38

January 31, 2018

H C McEntire – LIONHEART

LIONHEART is North Carolina’s H.C. McEntire’s debut release of nine self penned compositions. The title sums up her feeling about the courage to strike out and release music under her own name. This album fits delightfully into a slot of intimate, uplifting, melodic and lyrically interesting Country Americana with a possible drift into Folk.

North Carolina’s Heather McEntire has spent her career progressing from Post Punk to this dulcet and crafted genre. Her recent day job has been a combination of playing with Mount Moriah and more recently being a member of Angel Olsen’s touring band. She says that much of the album was composed whilst on the road with Olsen. The songs didn’t fit Mount Moriah hence the solo debut.

Affairs start with “A Lamb, A Dove” a plaintiff unadorned vocal that shows the beauty of McEntire’s voice against some occasional piano chords before building to involve harmonies with Tift Merritt and the nagging siren qualities of pedal steel. The song alludes to McEntire’s journey of coming out in the South with acceptance anxieties from her family and the tense background of the legal battles that the Gay community face to get equality in the Southern States. Lyrics include –  “I have found heaven, In a woman’s touch, Come to me now, I’ll make you blush”. And connection with her spiritual side – “It’s a wild world, That will make you believe, In a kingdom, Full of mercy and faith, It’s a fine line, And I will walk it with grace, Come like a dove, I’ll show you love.”

However whilst this may be an important statement from McEntire I wouldn’t want to leave an impression that the album is a long heartfelt ‘message’. The tracks here stand alone and they are mellifluous, constructed at the right pace, have beautiful instrumentation and are delivered with lovely voices.

Such a track is “One Great Thunder” with heavenly voices and strings. It is a short ethereal piece that transported me to Delibes’ “Flower Duet” from his Opera Lakmé. It is simply delicious and a demonstration of her considerable talent to create such a short piece of heaven.

“Baby’s Got the Blues” is a pulsing but gentle acoustic rocker with Hammond behind the clear and assertive vocals with support from Ryan Gustafson. Some of the words hook you with mentions of “dogwood, surrogates, mama buried the revolver” etc. but what it all means is beyond me and starts to come across as a touch jumbled.

“Wild Dogs” is back to a slower pace where her vocal is backed by Angel Olsen’s different but exquisite harmony back in the mix. Meanwhile a cello and strings provide the accompaniment – “When we were wild dogs, How our teeth were stained with blood, From the fire, from the hunt, When I held for you that lust. ”

Despite the vicious lyric it is a delicate and captivating song! Maybe this is one of the intriguing and attractive elements of the album – that mix of delicate melodies with some disordered yet memorable imagery in the words.

This is one of those Americana albums that will be noted for its immense beauty and intensity. I expect to return to it regularly during the year.

Parking in Conwy, North Wales

January 30, 2018

Yes, I know I can be an irascible git but sometimes the brutal stupidity of others’ actions, through ignorance, needs to be pointed out. Anna and I went down to North Wales to see Ann Marie, my sister. The present Mrs Ives has allergies and Ann Marie’s labrador is such a hazard. Hence we stayed nearby at a delightful hotel in what is a very nice little coastal resort. Most hotels have parking but not Anna’s pick. The requirement was that you had to proverbially ‘feed the meter’ at stupid times of the day in a nearby car park. 

I admit that I failed in this simple task and some parking management warrior in a nice uniform and Ford Escort van pounced to issue a parking ticket. (I know about the Parking Marshall as I mentioned his largesse, to him, when we passed in the town later). So whilst I will pay the fine I felt that I should share a point of view with the Council’s Chief Executive, the Leader of The Council and local MP. This scurrying around to answer my letter will cost them more in administration than the £25 I will pay for this stupid fine.

No doubt I shall get told to enjoy sex and travel but we’ll see.

February 5 post script – had a letter back from the MP asking for permission to more widely circulate my letter! Chief Executive’s office has responded saying that he’s on holiday but will respond.

                                                                                                                                                                      39 Lakeside,

                                                                                                                                                                      Acaster Malbis.

                                                                                                                                                                      York,

                                                                                                                                                                      YO23 2TY

Subject:        Conwy Town Centre Parking Regime – Tourism Prevention

Dear Mr Davies,

I write to express considerable disappointment after a brief stay in Conwy.

My wife selected The Erskine Arms as a hotel to stay at for two nights. We travelled from Yorkshire. The premises are splendid and the hotel boasts a bar and restaurant. Unfortunately parking is limited and a guest has to probably use Council pay car parks. Paying for overnight parking at a hotel would be something you’d expect in a busy city centre location and not ordinarily at a small coastal town.

We left our car in the Vicarage Gardens car park. On Sunday morning, admittedly late, I returned to the car at around 8.25 am to renew the parking. On this cold, wet and windy January morning the streets were deserted. Clearly this is low season and not only were shops shut but tourists and locals were thin on the ground. I bought a ticket and sauntered to the car to discover a parking fine. The Council Civil Enforcement Officer had got nicely into position before at 8.00am and had identified at 8.01am that my parking had expired. He duly met one of his quota penalty bookings for the shift and by 8.06 am had stuck the ticket to my windscreen.

 Needless to say the car park was largely empty with a few local resident’s cars on parking permits.

 I arrived with my new ticket (another £2.00) and clearly I was too late. I attach copies of tickets and the fine for verification of this activity.

If you are to pass this letter to your officials to respond then no doubt I will be told of important parking challenges in the town centre, clear signage to make potential victims aware of fines and that if I pay promptly then I can reduce the fine.

However, let me help you think about this another way:

  • Guests drive a long way and check in. The hotel is hoping that the guests spend further money at the hotel and may fear telling the guest that they should arise from their slumbers before 8am (on a cold, wet and windy Sunday morning in January) to refresh the ticket. After all this will be an awful welcome and may depress food and beverage sales at the hotel. What a dilemma?
  • After the parking fine is delivered to the guest the hotel will now probably receive a blow. The guest will now go on to Trip Advisor, and maybe other sites, and mark down the experience and advise people to avoid this hotel or Conwy. A £50 parking fine is probably the equivalent of 50% of their hotel bill if they only stayed one night.
  • For your information my wife and I spent around £350 (at the hotel and around Conwy and Llandudno) over our two night stay.
  • How welcome is this hotel and tourist revenue, in January, to the local businesses? How many people now have wages to pay their Council Tax?
  • I worry that the Council doesn’t care about these tourist revenues or ‘selling’ Conwy as a welcoming destination and views parking as a revenue stream.

What your officials can do to correct this nonsense is:

  1. Have a seasonal extension until 9am before the Parking Marshall springs into action. I am sure they can identify parking issues that are a genuine hazard and then be nicely in place for issuing, at 9.01am, a parking ticket on a cold, wet and windy Sunday morning in January.
  2. Or you can extend the overnight (seasonal) charge of £0.60 from 6pm to 9am. If you are worried about the lost revenue of that hour then whack it up to £1.60 for overnight! I note you have differential arrangements for different times of the year. (Sadly the number of parking fines will fall as a result of this tourist friendly change and may reduce fine revenues).
  3. Or you can enable the machine to issue two tickets – one for overnight and then another from 8am the next morning thus allowing revenue to be protected?
  4. Or you can come to some arrangement with the hotels that allow them to have concessions for guests or for an advance ticket to be purchased via the hotel. (This is how it works in most city centre hotels where guests use local public car parks).

Lastly, you can rest assured that I will be telling all I meet about this pernicious experience. I cannot imagine that it will help tourism in Conwy. However, there again do you care?

Yours faithfully

A H Ives

Cc             Councillor Gareth Jones OBE

                  Guto Bebb MP

The British Honours System: A Critique

January 18, 2019

I cringe every time the latest Honours are announced. This occurs twice a year. In total 1,350 of these accolades are handled out to ‘recognise merit in terms of achievement or service’. At best described as a peculiarly British arrangement where there are several levels of award from a suffix that you cam affix to the front of your name through to a large number of prefixes that you can tag onto your surname. These awards are handed out to Brits and other members of the Commonwealth or we can give ‘honorary’ awards to citizens of other nations. 

Their compilation is by a couple of committees and then the Queen advises the lucky winners of their prize officially on certain dates. If you get the highest accolade then Her Majesty or delegates invite you to Buckingham Palace where you kneel; the sword is tapped on your shoulder and you get to discuss briefly the weather and her nag’s prospects at Epsom in the afternoon racing.

The problem is about who gets these awards. It seems a right for politicians, sportsmen, senior soldiers, ancient rock stars, national treasures in terms of acting, radio or TV personalities, currently overpaid ‘captains of industry’ and probably a whole selection of people who’ve spent about a decade canvassing for one (or putting money into good causes to gain ‘credits’).

This nonsense started in 1348 and may explain some of the archaic titles such as The Order Of The Garter. In fact the most common Honours are Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE), Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) and Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. (MBE). The very reference to the British Empire is not only obsolete but frankly places it in a Netflix period drama.

If it is for service or achievement then why by heading a Government Department as a civil servant do you get a gong? You’re bewilderingly well paid, live a cloistered and privileged life and have another career of being a non-exec on all sorts of Boards (after you take your eye wateringly generous pension). Okay, you can do your job and climbed to the top of the ‘slippery pole’ but why should you get a bauble?

Captains of industry have tenures, sometimes long and sometimes short, where talent, good luck and timing enables them to earn £millions and have privilege in any activity they may want to participate in. After all this recognition they eventually get a Knighthood so that they can join their other lucky and lofty mates. A risk, of course, is that after your bank contributes to a global financial collapse: they might ask for it back as happened to luminaries at two UK banks. 

The celebrity strain is beyond a joke. This New Year saw Michael Palin and Twiggy get Knighted or made a Dame. Now to say anything derogatory about these two is akin to feeding a playful labrador puppy into a wood saw… but come on! Twiggy got the Honour for her services to fashion, the arts and charity? Google tells me that she has involvement with 13 charities. Well done and thank you but how many folk do you know who are devoting over 10 hours volunteering or caring where they get no money, no support and certainly a lot less than appreciation? I know a few.

If these celebrities make a mockery of the pecking order of worthiness then don’t start me on footballers, actors or musicians. It seems that the first hiring question for their future PR agency is what will you do to accelerate my acquisition of an Honour? “My qualifications are that I’m over 50 years old, have convictions for drugs and have mainly led a dysfunctional life that has enabled tabloid newspapers to have a splendid time telling people about me. I am also hopelessly rich, entitled and hob nob with junior Royals. However, I’ve lent my name to a few charities, I fit in a couple of functions a year and my PA has me sign lots of T shirt. In addition I can fit in a gig for free once in a blue moon. Surely that’s worth a Knighthood for my export sales and high profile?”

A mediocre political career on the back benches can get you a Knighthood if you vote regularly with the Government, say nice things about the leadership when required and retire when the tap comes on the shoulder to release your safe seat to an acolyte of the ruling junta.

Somewhere down the list with the junior accolades are ladies who’ve devoted many days a month to teaching disabled children to ride a horse or given 50 years of service to being a lollipop lady on a dangerous road in rain and snow. I love these folk and we walk in their shadows. Neither do I have a problem with awards of distinction such as bravery. I’m humbled to think what soldiers do on battlefields, who isn’t? 

I know a few men who’ve had an Honour. Were they worth it? Debatable but I do know one who spent a lot of time and effort trying to get the highest award (unsuccessfully). There are many who’ve turned down the offer when they’ve been asked if they want one. I’m happy with that but a few have gone out of their way to demonstrate their virtue signalling by declining the Honour – frankly, that’s worse than accepting it.

Due to political patronage and the desire to create ‘feel good’ on the front page of The Daily Mail twice a year this antique Byzantine practise will continue with some occasionally ‘sold’ for a donation to a political party. And with all this we sneer at corrupt practices in Asia and Africa.

Lastly, there are some monumental cock ups. Lovelies who’ve been awarded an Honour include Mussolini, Ceausescu, Mugabe, paedophile Jimmy Savile and traitor Anthony Blunt. I suspect there are a few current holders who glance nervously over their shoulder at the Serious Fraud Office and or some under-age sex investigation policemen.

Don’t get me started on the award of honorary degrees…

Record Of The Week # 37

January 17, 2018

Dusty Rust – Stolen Horse

Picture, if you will, a wide-open range with a couple of hundred steers shuffling at a hurried pace creating a dusty haze in the heat. The camera pulls back to find our lonesome cowboy leading his horse at a brisk pace singing “No One To Blame”. This is Dusty Rust, long time resident of Kansas City, Missouri, delivering a Country & Western tune with his attractive baritone. We get pedal steel, fiddle and reverb guitar as he channels his inner Frankie Laine.

Dusty Rust has been plying his trade for some years (sadly, not on horse back) and this is his third release. A quick search on YouTube finds him documenting a tour through Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington and Missouri playing minor venues. He’s typical of many touring artists waiting for that elusive propulsion into The Big Time.

“I Was Wrong” brings to mind 1960s commercial Country, à la Glen Campbell, as a banjo picks out the melody whilst Rust’s winning and expressive vocal tells you of his heartache. This is on top of a nonchalant rhythm, all held together by harmonica. “Ride” continues in the same upbeat vein but pedal steel picks up the melody whilst the guitar chimes; I can imagine Rust singing, eyes closed and his head tossed back, up on the stage of these small bars whilst couples take the floor in front of him.

He has an ear for a melody. With crafted, structured and layered arrangements we work our way through 38 minutes of music that I’d describe as contemporary traditional Country. There’s plenty of Honky Tonk and Outlaw to be behold but there is that measured tunesmith sensibility. Making this record exceptional is Rust’s production. Subtle layers involving guitars, pedal steel, fiddle, banjo and piano, often way back in the mix, create a sound that places it in this millennium despite it’s 20th century origins.

Arizona includes the ambiguous description of his transport as a ‘slightly stolen van’! The stellar arrangement creates that ‘60s sunshine pop feel whilst exiting with present-day sounds that would impress Adam Granduciel.

“Hell On Fire”, my album highlight, picks up the recurrent theme of girl trouble, albeit this femme is more than tricky after shooting the farm’s banker – “Hey San Diego, how far are you? I’m shot in San Francisco and there’s nothing I can do, The lady I love is hell on fire and the world’s about to burn, The next train I’ll get to leaving, she’s no longer my concern, I’m out on my way”.  Like a novel this tale unfolds whilst electric guitars howl behind the acoustic and drum shuffle creating that eerie and haunting atmosphere that this surprising story demands.

With only nine tracks we’re treated to all killer and no filler. With the supposed resurgence of traditional Country making a commercial comeback (albeit it helps to have an obligatory Willie Nelson duet and be supported by Jack White) then Dusty Rust may just catch the tide. Music as good as this deserves a much wider listen. Indulge me.

Guide Dogs, Gateshead & Geoff Boycott – Week 1 : 2018

January 8, 2018

When you meet other people, if you’re retired, they are often flummoxed as to what to ask you. After all, in their minds, you are close to death now and given that it is the winter and you cannot tend your garden or visit the bowls club you clearly must be at home in your slippers watching Jeremy Kyle drinking soup. What on Earth is there to talk about? However, if on the very rare occasion where they actually do ask you it is hard to know what to say you’ve been doing! This is because none of it adds up to anything very weighty or sounding important like, “Oh, I’ve been in Newport for two days talking to customers”. (Probably talking bollocks with no useful outcomes more like). So, anyway, I decided to wrack my brain and write up the diary for the week.

Saturday

All the daughters gone! Having the house back to ourselves meant that we could turn off the radiators in the spare rooms, clean the bathrooms, restock the fridge and get back to normal. Such pearls of ‘millennial’ wisdom will be lost until they next appear. Katrina observed, when making a ragu, that our fresh carrots were ‘out of date’. Never in all my long years have I worried about the ‘use by’ date on carrots. In fact they are usually boiled to death or made so small that any flavour is lost and it seems their age is not critical. However, we can all agree with “what do I know?” 

The Favourite Youngest’s best moment came when recalling one of her Christmas nights out in York. One of the party had brought along a dog to the nightclub. Not unreasonably the bouncer stopped her taking it in. At this point indignation, hurt and subterfuge kicked in. It was explained that Fido was a trainee guide dog. As part of its training then it was being familiarised with social situations. The sceptical bouncer relented. In fairness the dog had been a trainee guide dog but failed the programme and was now a pet. Kids eh?

One downside of the daughters’ departure is that I will have to watch Season Two of ‘The Crown’ on Netflix all by myself.

With this tranquillity I managed to write an album review for the Americana Music Show. In fact it became one of my ‘Records Of The Week’ – Grayson Capps. I had quite a lot of affection for this release not least because I nearly cycled past his home in Alabama. Another chore was thinking about renewing my car insurance. You will know the situation where a renewal quotation comes in the post. The new quotation is usually an uplift, over the previous year, of 25 to 30%. With this you go through the procedure of going back to the comparison web sites to get quotations from other insurance companies nearer your current cost. I’m used to this administration but I do hate them for it. Imagine the truly older folk who blindly renew and incur all these pointless extra costs.

Sunday

The Holiday Inn Express was our destination before a night at The Sage in Gateshead with Candi Staton. (You can see my review of the concert under ‘Music’). The hotel Reception was crowded with revellers checking in; one girl was stood there in full make up but with her hair in curlers! On the streets of Newcastle we passed smokers. However, it wasn’t tobacco but marijuana that they were smoking. The Geordies were dressed to the nines and many were not wearing a coat, hat and gloves (like this wuss). Before departing from Yorkshire my evening attire was discussed. Anna suggested a new favourite shirt that I recently bought from John Lewis. I did point out that the shirt was checked and that Candi was more Soul than Country & Western…

A wonderful night and one of our better New Year’s Eves for many years.

Monday

New Years Day saw all the shops shut! Anna had to abandon Newcastle city centre without a retail experience. Nothing was open on this Bank Holiday. We drove home by the resort of Tynemouth to Yorkshire. It had been a late night and so a few pints of beer were sunk. I made a decision to not drink anything for the rest of the week. (Friday night may see this pledge abandoned).

As always the football engages us and we were waiting for the Leeds United result – a disappointing draw at home to Nottingham Forest. The expectation of so many LUFC fans is so hard to fathom. If Leeds ever do get promoted then I think West Yorkshire will be alight.

Tuesday

I wrote sometime ago about a dodgy knee and it remains a priority to restore it to good health. I attended the local gym in Acomb. After lots of rehab then the recovery continues and the programme includes following a number of exercises, some on equipment and some on the mat; with a set number of repetitions or time allotments. All this progress allows me to dream of a summer pedalling through Europe. Bliss.

A bit more mundane was the task later to visit one of our rental properties to inspect a damp patch on a downstairs bedroom wall. Not a crisis but not a good situation. The resolution requires removing all the plaster, inserting a protective membrane and then re-plastering. Anything that involves old or new plaster is the filthiest job in construction. We’ve asked for a quotation and await the bad news.

Wednesday

I don’t like Pilates. The instructor, Lou, is fabulous and patiently answers all my questions about which muscle group she is attempting to reawaken with the latest convoluted stretching. I do it because it is vital to keep supple and keep you body in balance. However, when it is over I am happy to have another week between me and the floor mat. It seems to be the ladies who turn up. More men need to take this up. At £5.50 for an hour I may be saving the NHS a lot more in due course.

Some good friends, Jane and John, came around later for our thoughts on their planned holiday to Canada. It was good to share our recommendations and thoughts so soon after our trip.

Thursday

I felt that after a week off the road that I needed to get back on the bike. I set off well wrapped toward Cawood. The temperature fell to 2°C and steady rain became heavier and penetrative. As I started to literally freeze then an intended short cut via Ulleskelf wasn’t available due to road flooding (due to the River Wharfe rising). I ended up doing a painful and saturating 30 miles. When I got home my hands thawed with immense pain as I peeled off sopping wet kit and I then dived into the bath. I wonder why I cycle in warmer climes!

At W H Smith’s I picked up a copy of the end of year copy of Country Music People. It contained a couple of my reviews and had a full page of my end of year Top 10 records. Fame at last!

I went out early evening to a public meeting with our local MP (Julian Sturdy) about the delays in installing Superfast broadband in three local villages. Open Reach’s performance is beyond appalling and the meeting vented their feelings on the MP and a representative from the client (who appointed Open Reach). It was interesting to talk afterwards to the MP about the General Election result. At the meeting was an old Moores’ colleague who I’d guess I hadn’t seen for at least 15 years – Bob Redwood, our former Export Sales Manager. He and his wife looked well.

Back home I typed up some notes to circulate around neighbours about the meeting. I doubt most will care. Anna cares! She’s sick of me swearing at the computer as it seizes when opening a web page.

Friday

On the count down to the in-laws house being sold (they have moved to a rather splendid home in Pocklington) then it is all hands to the pump to facilitate the sale. I initially stayed at home to receive four items of furniture that were being relocated to our house by two chaps in a white van. Two pieces are apparently being stored for the Favourite Eldest, as and when she buys a property. I reckon they’ll be going to the charity or community furniture store in due course, as that will never happen!

Then I got to drive to their house across York to dismantle some large furniture that we cannot palm off on a charity shop. Either it has glass in it or they couldn’t get it down the stairs. Speaking to other people who have emptied houses then they were similarly rueful at letting things go to the Household Waste Site or charity shops. We would have loved to have passed several quite expensive items onto a good home of someone we knew. Sadly no one has the need or space. When I got to the Household Waste Site it had a long queue and some folk were still unloading Christmas trees.

The reward for all this was lunch at Café 68 located within Cycle Heaven on Hospital Fields Road. Talking to Piers, the co-owner, he regaled us with a story about stopping at cricket legend Geoffrey Boycott’s house in Boston Spa, with other cyclists, for a bacon sandwich recently. GB was the complete host and the invite came through him knowing one of the cycle party. In fact after a couple of hours they all wanted to get off whilst Geoff kept talking!

Record Of The Week # 36

January 3, 2018

Grayson Capps – Scarlett Roses

It’s been six years since Grayson Capp’s last solo album but Scarlett Roses is well worth the wait. This sixth release is a compelling combination of interesting words, great tunes, arrangements and production values that elevate this to one of the best late 2017 releases.

Capps appears to have now settled in Mobile Bay with his family after spells in New Orleans and Nashville. On my cycling travels then I have a working knowledge of many parts of the USA. In fact I well remember the ferry ride from Dauphin Island across the neck of Mobile Bay in Alabama. On the other side of this brief ferry ride was a continuing route along the Gulf Coast to Florida. It transpires that I was only 30 miles away from Fairhope, Capps’ new domicile. A really beautiful place to live.

The album reflects on life and love. In fact the lyrics are a highlight – we trip from lightweight love ditties such as “Hold Me Darlin’” to the dreamy musings on, the title track, “Scarlett Roses”.

On this Capps explains “That song came to me in that whole whirlpool of dreams, mixing emotions about old love and daughters and sons and ageing parents, it’s an interesting thing that happens when you let yourself enter that relaxed, hypnotic trance state. You start singing and all these lyrics just start coming from all these different places.”

                                                                      “I watched you sail out on the ocean’

For a land to find your dreams’

You held out scarlet colored roses’

And you threw them in the ocean’

And they floated right on back to me.”

The album, if it has to be placed in a genre, is very much Country Rock. The pop sensibilities blend nicely with Americana (and its rougher-hewn edges). The ‘Rock’ comes from the long time collaborator, Corky Hughes, who wields a mighty axe. His career has included Black Oak Arkansas and he can either deftly fill in or ignite with a blistering solo.

Such an opportunity presents itself on “Taos” where excoriating distortion with a brooding thumping backing track allows Capps to howl about a 1,500 mile drive across Louisiana, Texas to New Mexico. Eventually the song slowly grinds to a close with feedback. The speakers bubble and gurgle worthy of Neil Young. I can well imagine playing this frightening loud and beating the steering wheel as the miles slip beneath the wheels. Enormous.

 “Bag Of Weed” is a James McMurtry type trip around the community with characters he comes across explained and sympathised with as they struggle. This cinematic song is pure Country in its melody and delivery. Capps has explained, when playing this live, that it serves as some form of antidote to the typical Nashville lyrics that have little resonance for him at least.

The album has shade and light in the sound. Production was shared between Hughes, Capps and Trina Shoemaker, his accomplished wife.  Shoemaker has worked with Sheryl Crow, Brandi Carlile, Rodney Crowell and the Dixie Chicks.

“Moving On” showcases Capps attractive voice – it holds a melody beautifully and demonstrates its character with a slight huskiness. The song is a Country tune drenched in harmonies and harmonica with ‘Dicky Betts’ guitar signatures, a rolling gait rhythm supported by an acoustic foundation.

Capps in all his interviews seems to talk about finding peace. Clearly the album came together over a period of time; it gives an insight into his mindset as he clocks up a half century. On “New Again” he throws in some thoughts on growing old:

                                                                      “I’m getting old, my friends have died

I never got to say goodbye,

The dead they don’t miss you when they’re gone

Me too I’ll up and die,

But for now I’m still alive”

Despite his reflections on mortality then I expect there’s life in him yet. If you’re new to this talent then I urge you to catch up. 

Candi Staton – Live at The Sage, Gateshead – New Year’s Eve 2017

January 1, 2018

Newcastle on a New Year’s Eve is cold and dank with temperatures hovering at around 5°C. However the hardy natives brought in the New Year with a septuagenarian sensation from America’s Deep South, Candi Staton, at the Sage Theatre in Gateshead (a bridge walk from Newcastle). She ran through her catalogue of Southern Soul and classic 1970’s disco. The audience, several possibly only a couple of decades behind Candi, were resplendent in their party outfits and danced in the aisles and lapped up this night of glitter ball action. The revellers had come down from Scotland and further south in England: such was the draw.

Twelve songs over 80 minutes showcased her long recording career from “I’d Rather Be An Old Man’s Sweetheart”, released in 1969, through to 2014’s knock out “I Ain’t Easy To Love” from the Life Happens album. Both songs she explained had come from her collaboration with Muscle Shoals, legend, Rick Hall. (I, for one, genuflected at this point. For diligent readers then you’ll recollect that I rode a bike from Toronto to Muscle Shoals, Alabama to stand in the immortal Fame Studios). Her career has had gaps and it is a wonderful that she is now back regularly releasing albums and appearing on stage, notably in Europe. A six-piece band included her son, Marcus Williams, on drums, and former Style Council founder, Mick Talbot, on keyboards knew their stuff and immediately hit a funky groove. There was no loitering here! The crowd were soon in motion.

Much of her earlier chart success came with disco covers and we were treated to “Stand By Your Man”, “In The Ghetto” and “Suspicious Minds”. Most of the audience could sing along even if they knew the songs as originals by Tammy and The King. With the audience now well into their stride throwing shapes she lit the afterburners and the opening chords of “Young Hearts, Run Free” brought the expected loud cheers and a surge of energy. “You’ve Got The Love” kept the fans up and moving before an encore of “Hallelujah Anyway”. Then she waved goodbye and was gone.


Aside from the music Candi recounted stories of the Chitlin’ Circuit (a circuit of live music venues in the South of the USA notorious for being less than salubrious) and ensuring payment by the brandishing of a small pistol. However, for all the bravado, this is a God fearing woman. She told us she was blessed to sail into 2018 after the losses of Billy Paul and Percy Sledge in recent years. In fact her explanation for her continuing to perform was that “God has a purpose for me… and my work ain’t done yet”. When she said this then I wondered where I stood on Divine Intervention and a Mark Cohn line from “Walking In Memphis” came to mind – “She said, ‘Tell me are you a Christian, child?’ And I said, ‘Ma’am, I am tonight!’”


I think we can all agree we were blessed. A completely wonderful evening.