Tales of A Zoom H4n – Shane Howard & Band – Colac

Shane Howard and Band - Colac 2014

Well that was huge fun. Jools and drove down to Colac (160 kms)and it was a good run, although it rained off and on all the way. So why the hell were we driving all that way in the cold and the rain?

Simple.

Shane Hpward was doing a gig premiering the songs from  his new  album “Deeper South”  and we hadn’t been able to catch him for years

Shane’s gig was an absolute hoot. What a great show!!!

He was leading a 4 piece band (no drums). Shane on vocals and guitar, John Hudson on guitars and a Godin mandolin (never seen or heard one before – nice toy), Ewen Baker on fiddle and mando, Ruben Shannon on Bass and Double Bass.

They were amazing. It was so far from a slick and rehearsed reiteration of whats presumably on the CD. It was a  wonderful evening of musicians listening to each other guessing what was about to happen and reinventing/making up the arrangements as they went.

Total heaven to listen to.

We were sitting 12 feet back from Shane so the sound we heard was a mix of the PA, the foldback spill and the live stuff from the stage. There was no one in front of us.

Shane said during the gig that “there is nothing more exhilarating or terrifying than exposing new material for the first time” Well for those of us in the audience, the prospect is much the same. A performance without any of the songs and stories and memories that we have built up over the years.

The show starts with Shane doing and aboriginal welcome to place song, goes into the title track of the new album and finishes with a set of Irish tunes. Neatly sums up the threads we will be exploring over the next 2 hours and the show has only been running for 10 minutes.

I am so  in awe of a performer who can chance alienating an audience of diehard fans by not doing his old tracks, we all know that there will be future opportunities to hear them but there will never ever be another “first time” for these songs. An amazing risk, and the songs?

My total favourite was his pirate song and murder ballad all rolled into one.

There were a lot of songs about the sea, love found and love lost. The title track “Deeper South” is classic Howard storytelling.

The audience was so small. Jools finds it hard to believe that so few people were in the audience, my guess would be 150 if he was lucky. I suppose it’s the not the current generations taste, and he is unlikely to get any airplay, there was no hit single in what we heard.

Is he really a mainstream artist anymore? People I was working with on Friday didn’t know the name and it was only when you mention that mainstay of oldies rock radio “Solid Rock” they sort of go “oh yeah I’ve heard that. Is he still around?”

I confess that I find it completely amazing that in the same month I get to hear a brilliant new Jackson Browne album AND a brilliant new Shane Howard album (albeit live). Both are songwriters who need you to actually listen  and pay attention to their words and stories that they are telling,  both do it with such apparent ease (and great guitar sounds).

Shane said that he had his poetic license renewed. Have to tell you he played some of the best guitar I have heard him play for years.

So was it worth all the money, the miles, the pain, and being off line for nearly 2 days by choice?

You bet.

Hope your weekend was as much fun as ours.

As I have said before, if you ever get a chance to see Shane play, grab it, he is never to be missed.

Here he is at the the 2015 National Folf Festival.

ZoomH4nBoring Tech Stuff:
The Zoom H4n recorded in Stereo @ 44.1kHz/16 bit. It was sitting in a pocket on my messenger bag and just pointed up at the flown PA . We were about  4m back from the stage ( 3rd Row) Right of centre.

The audio recording was cleaned up in Sound Forge.
The pics are by Jools Thatcher

A tale of two (Music) websites and why using Bandcamp wins

philwiddows

I started writing this on Facebook while waiting for the servers to reboot/verify (overnight power outage) and then thought I would pop it here instead.

Let’s start with some background (get comfy this is a bumpy ride)

Every month FolkCast, put out a podcast that arrives in my MP3 player and provides 1 hour and 18 minutes of interesting folk music, some old stuff and some new. Folkcast is run by Phil Widdows (that’s him on the right) and Ken Nicol (who’s website exhibits some of the very issues we will be covering later).

This is mainly about the new stuff and one #hit and one #fail.

Lets start with the hit. The theme for the show was “Spring Into May: A Seasonal Special Music and poetry for the Spring to early Summer, from Easter to the Merry Merry Month of May.” I would suggest that you click on the link and you can have the show playing in background – who knows what you will find.

#Hit

NC_beachAbout 5 tracks into the show was “The Hit”” was Neil Cousin and his song “Oh For The Spring” (that’s it below)

I followed the link on the Folkcast website and found myself at Neil’s Bandcamp site. A quick sampling (or 2 or 3 or lots) and it was a no-brainer to slip him the 5 quid and get the album (as FLAC – insert audio snobbery here).

So, 2 days to check it out, a painless fiver via Paypal and a 15 minute download. Deal is done. (My PC automatically uploaded it to my phone and tablet so it’s there for me to check out on the tram to work in the morning)

And as added bonus Neil had already responded to the tweets I left and he seems to be a really nice dude. (I love Twitter)

This is how music works for me in the 21st century. Podcasts replace radio’s curation function (except for 3RRR and that is a whole other story) and they do it better, friends recommend stuff via Twitter (follow @dubber or @solobasssteve. It’s rare for a day to go by and them not to mention something new) and then there is the joy of seeing who else a performer is listening to and following up their lists.

#Miss

What about the miss I hear you ask, well a dozen or so tracks later (Folkcast is a 2 hour show remember) was a track by a band called Magicfolk.

Same deal – tasty guitar, I follow their link and end up at their website.

I spot “listen” in the side menu and was taken to a page that had a good selection of material, including the song I was looking for (Green Man for those of you playing along at home).

And here is where the wheels all fall off.

ALL the tracks listed on the page are 30 second samples. Yep, and to add insult to injury – it wasn’t even the 30 secs with the guitar bit that caught my attention. #megafail.

I rummage around and sadly this is as good as it gets, I head to Twitter (of course I do) and here I run into the next problem.

Their twitter and Facebook links are only on the contact page in their entire website (oops just spotted another brace of links at the bottom of the News page). So I send off a tweet and suddenly realise that they haven’t actually used it since Feb. Somehow I don’t see me getting a tweet back any time soon.

I could go to their Facebook page (which I subsequently did) and it hadn’t been touched for ages either, but wait it has a “Listen” button on it. BUT that takes you to “the new MySpace” and the same 30 sec samples, except none of the new stuff is there.

By now I have lost interest, the Folkcast podcast has over 20 tracks and there is some other great stuff to be followed up. There is a killer Steeleye track that I had never heard, and in a later tweet Phil told me that it was from a Live 2009 album Steeleye did, and yes it too has tasty guitar… but you already had guessed that 🙂

The End

Let me start with I am not “picking on” Magicfolk, they are just the latest in a long line of performers who go out of their way to make it near impossible for me to hear their music. Ken Nicol’s website has the same problem. I can’t hear the tracks before I whack down the money. On the plus side there are some great YouTube videos.

Over half the acts that I follow up in the UK folk scene have exactly the same website issues. You can’t hear the music – go figure. You are in the business of selling music. But you don’t want any one to hear it – the bad guys might steal it. The punters might get something for nothing. And so on. I have heard this argument time and time again.

Let’s look at an alternative, Steve Lawson, plays solo bass (and if you thought English folk was obscure – Steve wins hands down in the esoteric stakes).

Lets have a listen to him here This is his album Grace and Gratitude.

 

Now Steve let’s you hear and share all his music. You never have to give him a cent. But people do (I am one of them – hint buy the “everything” USB stick). I have chatted with Steve on twitter, he is a generous and inspiring soul. Through Steve I have found Emily Baker, Lobelia, Mike Outram, Neil Alexander, Daniel Berkman and a cast of hundreds.

Do I like everything he suggests? Hell no. BUT do I give everything he points out a listen? You betcha.

Is he successful? Go onto twitter/his website and ask him. I think he is.

What I heard on the podcast was interesting enough to make me jump through the Magicfolk hoops. BUT the experience (i.e. no music) has left the fiver firmly in my Paypal wallet unlike Neil who has something better than the fiver.

He scored a fan

thatch

This was also cross posted on duggup

 

Tales of a Zoom H4n – Ian Bland and The Lamington Drive Orchestra

Ian Bland and The Lamington Drive Orchestra @ Caravan Music Club
Ian Bland and The Lamington Drive Orchestra @ Caravan Music Club
Ian Bland and The Lamington Drive Orchestra @ Caravan Music Club

Long-suffering readers will be well aware of Ian Bland (You can read all the previous entries about later MFI –  My Friend Ian ) So to bring you up to date Ian has a new album out it’s called Angel in Reverse and Saturday was it’s CD launch.

The venue was one that I hadn’t been to before, Caravan Music Club (it’s over the other side of town) and it’s a ripper. The sound was just wonderful.

The first track here is my favourite song on the album, “My Fathers Ashes”, this is a ripper performance. Ian and the band just nail it.

Have a listen

 

This next song is called “King Of The Singles Bar”, the band was augmented by Marty Smith on 2nd violin. Greg Hunt did a great strings arrangement and I just had to included this version

I’ll pop a few more up as I get to them.

Thanks to Caravan Music and the band for a truly memorable evening.

ZoomH4nBoring Tech Stuff:
The Zoom H4n recorded in Stereo @ 44.1kHz/16 bit. It was sitting on the table, we were left of centrewith the micc just point at the stage. Chopped the recording up in Soundforge and added 3db of volume over all.

The room is an old RSL hall, rectangular the PA set left and right of the stage.

 

 

Tales Of A Zoom H4n – Danny Spooner – Albert Park

Danny Spooner - Harmony Row Albert Park
Danny Spooner - Harmony Row Albert Park
Photo by Jools Thatcher

It’s been ages since Jools and I have been down to Harmony Row @ Albert Park and frankly I have to wonder why we have left it so long.

Cliff sent out (just subscribe to his email list – trust me) that Danny Spooner was playing and that was enough for Jools.

We were going.

In Japan Danny Spooner  would be made a  “living national treasure“, in Australia he gets the odd gig at the National Folk Festival and the like {insert head shaking here}. I have memories of seeing Danny perform back at Frank Traynors when I first discovered guitars back in the late 60’s .

The song I picked is “Newry Town”,  its about a criminal’s life, deeds, and death.

As a final thought, if you ever get a chance to hear Danny perform, do not miss it.

Thanks to Cliff and Trevor for an awesome night.

ZoomH4nBoring Tech Stuff:
The Zoom H4n recorded in Stereo @ 44.1kHz/16 bit. It was sitting on the table (Hence the bumps and “ambient” noises ) and we were stage left just pointed at Danny on stage.

The room is a large square reverberant space with the PA set left and right of the stage.

 

Tales of A Zoom H4n – Madison Violet – Portarlington

Madison Violet @ Harvester Moon March 2012 by Jools Thatcher

Madison Violet @ Harvester Moon March 2012 by Jools ThatcherIt’s been 4 years since their last trip to Australia and Madison Violet have finally returned. AND to top it off they are playing at Harvester Moon, quite a no-brainer really, a quick phone call to Dominic and we had a table booked. Woohoo.

Lisa and Brenley are just wonderful musicians and generous performers. I wrote up their 2008 show @HarmonyRow and how much fun the night was. This time their two brackets covered a lot of material from their two new albums (well new since their last visit) and a selection of older songs, (they played Haight Ashbury -yaaay)

For this post, I am putting up two tracks.

First up is a song called Home from their new album. Good In Goodbye ( I left Brenley’s intro in)

But my favourite moment of the night is their performance of the album’s title track. Good in Goodbye. This is totally acoustic, Lisa and Brenley unplugged, put aside the mics, stepped to the front of the stage and literally blew the room away, two voices fiddle and Brenley’s awesome tenor reso guitar. It was stunning.

If you get a chance dont miss them.

Also special mention to Dominic and his awesome team @ HarvesterMoon,  they are brilliant.

ZoomH4nBoring Tech Stuff:
The Zoom H4n recorded in Stereo @ 44.1kHz/16 bit. It was sitting in a pocket on my backpack and just pointed at the stage.

We were about 2.m back from the stage (first  table). The room is a long skinny room with the PA above our heads.

 

Tales of A Zoom H4n – Shane Howard – Portarlington

Shane Howard - Portarlington 2009
Shane Howard - Portarlington 2009
Shane Howard – photo by Jools Thatcher

Back in September last year Jools and I went off to see Shane Howard play at Harvester Moon in Portarlington. (If you aren’t on their mailing list you should be). We decided to make a bit of day of  it so we found a B&B  (with a bay view) and a totally unexpected “pick you up after the show” delivery service. Seriously cool.

On to the show.

Shane’s performance was just brilliant. With one or possibly two exception’s, all of my favourite Shane Howard gig’s have been down in Geelong/the coast/Bellarine. The evening started with Shane sort of playing his own support, his daughter Myra opened the proceedings with a really great set (Shane accompanied on guitar and backing vocals). I believe you can hear more of her on the new “Goanna Dreaming ” album. I will rummage through my recording and see if there is a track that does her justice.

Next up was Shane, just him and a guitar. It really doesn’t get much better. The set list was a reasonable stroll through his catalogue of songs, some old and some new. Of the old ones Solid Rock was my favourite (it always has been – my all-time favourite version was was the day Goanna played the Lygon St Festa, back when the Festa had bands and that was a long long time ago (someone has suggested early November in 1981? – really that long ago huh?). We walked around the corner from Queensberry Street and there they were. Complete with a Meyer sound system. Totally brilliant sound and an even better performance. and as usual, I digress.

I figure it will be the perfect song to put up.

Yes you have all heard it a million times before and one more isn’t going to hurt. Let your mind wander back to where you first heard it.

If you ever get a chance to see Shane play, grab it, he is not to be missed.

Sorry this took a year to post.

ZoomH4nBoring Tech Stuff:
The Zoom H4n recorded in Stereo @ 44.1kHz/16 bit. It was sitting in a pocket on my messenger bag and just pointed at the stage. We were about 2.5m back from the stage (second table). The room is a long skinny room with the PA above our heads.

The audio recording was cleaned up in Sound Forge.