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Showing posts from March, 2013


When I first saw John Smith back in 2007 he strolled onstage with an acoustic guitar, took a seat, threw his head back and sang the first verse of the self-penned murder ballad Axe Mountain without accompaniment and with the whisky and cigarettes vocals of a man a good 40 years older than he looked (I’d have guessed mid-20s). That night he delivered a set that featured some of the greatest acoustic guitar playing I’d ever seen. Back in 2003, Smith had been named Young Acoustic Guitarist of the Year. John Renbourn had called him ‘The future of acoustic music in this country’ and he’d opened for John Martyn at the Roundhouse earlier in ‘07– there are significant comparisons, in style, and a tacit refusal to drop neatly into that category marked ‘folk music’. All I knew was he’d blown me away and I wanted to hear more. A year later, I interviewed Smith for Article Magazine on his return to Barton’s Ropery Hall and asked him about his unique guitar style, who inspired him and what were th…


When I first started playing guitar in bands in the mid-1980s there were rumours of this guy, a drummer who would occasionally sit in on sessions. He’d never take money and those who played with him were never the same again. One night after a gig at the Half Moon in Herne Hill, I got talking to an old horn player with cracked lips and an uneven accent that hit New York and Harlesden in a single sentence. He said he liked my playing and looked like he’d been around. I asked if he’d ever heard the rumours about the drummer. He fell silent, then said for a drink and three cigarettes he would tell me the story of how he’d once played with the man. They were six months in and they needed a drummer when he appeared. For the next year he kept them together. He had the chops, a break-beat groove that was all about edge, a ninth floor parapet balancing act. Some nights it might have fallen apart. But they learned to trust him, work off him, dispensing with four on the floor certainties. He dro…

ALL AT SEA - At Grimsby Central Library 6th March

'All At Sea' is a new festival of arts and literature in North East Lincolnshire's libraries which kicks off this week. It takes in a range of talks, workshops and arts and events throughout March and April, and on Wednesday evening (6th March) I'll be talking about the importance of oral history and the stories behind the two books, Distant Water and The Women They Left Behind. Oral History and Grimsby's Fishing Heritage starts at 6pm at Grimsby Central Library, Wedensday 6th March. To reserve a place call the library on (01472) 323600.  For more information about the festival and events, visit the'ALL AT SEA' website.