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Archives for September 2010

On tour with Heidi and family

Jon Lewis | 15:59 UK time, Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Guest blogger, Heidi Talbot, writes:

"Hello again! I'm writing this in our new house, surrounded by boxes, again! Since my last blog, John and I have moved house, got married and finished the first leg of The Last Star tour. We thought we may as well do all the big things at once!

"Our wedding felt like the best folk festival in the world with Eddi Reader, Kris Drever, Phil Cunningham, Alan Kelly, Boo Hewerdine and Iain MacDonald all playing and singing and that was just in the church!

"The tour has been brilliant fun so far and I'm really enjoying singing songs from the new record and also playing with the lads. We started the tour at the Live Theatre in Newcastle and travelled up and down the country for two weeks finishing up in Devon playing a festival with our friends Ade Edmonson and the Bad Shepherds.

Myself, John, baby Molly Mae and John's mum and dad all travelled down together at the start of the tour. We got about half-an-hour outside Edinburgh before John'ss dad was fast asleep, snoring with his chin on his chest in the passenger seat, John's mum was lightly snoring beside me in the back and Molly was out for the count on the other side. John looked in the mirror and asked: "could this tour be any less rock &roll?"

"The gigs have been going great, brilliant audiences and people really looking after us. We based ourselves in Derby for the first week, and played a concert there also, and then the following week we were based in Lincoln. We started every day feeding and playing with Molly, before driving off in the afternoon to the gig and returning at night to our home away from home.

"It;s always amazing to see the effort folks put into putting a concert on. You turn up to places like Nettlebed Folk Club and see the volunteers all working so hard to make it a good night, just because they're passionate about this music. It makes you feel lucky to be part of this scene. I've been doing lots of interviews for the record and tour and there seems to be a general feeing that this is a very exciting time for folk and acoustic music. I totally agree and it's been great seeing lots of young people coming to the gigs on the tour. It always annoys me though when journalists say that it's great that folk music is no longer about people with beards and woolly jumpers. Growing up in Ireland with the music of Luke Kelly, The Dubliners and the Clancy Brothers I've never understood that attitude - those musicians and singers were so passionate and exciting and had so much to say, and I'm sure they could have out-partied any rock band going today! Mumford & Sons have beards and jumpers and play banjos and got to number one! It's all nonsense. It;s just brilliant that people are getting excited about the music we all love.

"A big thank you to everyone who has come out to see us so far, and all the promoters and hotel staff for being so welcoming to us and especially to Molly Mae. This weekend we're off on our 'gigamoon' to play more gigs across the country. Hope to see some of you on the tour. Heidi x "

All Along The Wall with Jez Lowe

Jon Lewis | 15:47 UK time, Monday, 20 September 2010

Guest blogger, Jez Lowe, writes:

"As I drove across the bleak landscape of Northumberland last January, through a darkness that only true rural isolation can boast, I was thinking, not for the first time, of the people from a far-off land who had once made this part of England their home.

"They had come, seen, conquered and been gone now for almost two thousand years. But it was what that they left behind them that had brought me here on this wild and wintry night.

"So began for me a journey along the Roman Wall, a journey in words and music, with a group of companions that would become close friends before the week was out. Isolated in a remote but, I confess, somewhat luxurious converted farmhouse near the tiny village of Once Brewed - within sight of the wall itself - Julie Matthews, Rory McLeod, Ruth Notman, Boo Hewerdine and myself were charged with the task of plotting a musical path along the full length of the wall, from east to west, and to give a performance of our achievements at the week's end.

Picture of musicians from the All Along The Wall project


"Having been involved in a similar exercise a year before, as part of The Darwin Project, and knowing how talented my housemates were, I was arriving with keen, almost relaxed anticipation. The jokers in our pack this time however were the poets Kate Fox and Elvis McGonagall, both of whom I had heard and enjoyed on Radio 4's Saturday Live morning show, but whom none of the rest of us had met.

"Within minutes of their arrival the next day however, we were all getting on famously, lobbing ideas back and forth, cracking jokes, hiking across the hills and sharing mealtime revelry. Inspiration, given the wealth of history, scenery and musical empathy at our disposal, was never in short supply. But this was no history lesson in song. Subjects as diverse as foot and mouth disease, the Berlin Wall, the Tyneside Metro system, The Border Reivers, nineteenth century witchcraft, doomed love affairs from the middle ages, and of course a good number of Romans in the gloamin, all made it into our lyrics and poems.

"The concert at our week's end, with fiddler Kate Bramley brought in to add spice to our musical menu, was recorded for CD. Two attempts to bring our work to further live performance were thwarted by the tragic cancellations of Brampton Live Festival (our sponsors and benefactors) and the Gateshead Green Phoenix Festival soon after.

"However, the CD, entitled All Along The Wall is officially launched this Thursday and our musical liaison will live again with a series of performances early next year, including Glasgow's Celtic Connections. We can all hardly wait!"

Heidi Talbot on making The Last Star

Jon Lewis | 14:10 UK time, Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Guest blogger Heidi Talbot writes:

"I am sat in my flat in Edinburgh among half packed boxes and baby gear. Myself and John (McCusker) are moving house just before we start The Last Star tour. Very excited and very busy! The Last Star is my new record and I'm really looking forward to the tour and singing the new songs. I started recording last November while pregnant with our daughter Molly Mae. As the record progressed my belly got bigger! We had such a lovely time recording the album at Calum Malcolm's studio in North Berwick. I found myself looking around me and feeling incredibly lucky to be surrounded by such a talented bunch of singers and musicians. If someone had told me 5 years ago while I was living in New York (surrounded by boxes getting ready to move back to Ireland) that I would now be living in Scotland, with a baby girl, getting married and making a record with all these people I would've found it very hard to believe. But here I am.

Heidi Talbot

"With John producing, we started off in the studio with a core band of Ian Carr, Boo Hewerdine, Ewen Vernal and Kris Drever. The basic tracks were recorded in 4 days. Then it was the singers' turn and Karine Polwart, Eddi Reader and Kris added their vocals. Sessions with the fantastic Michael McGoldrick, Phil Cunningham, Alan Kelly and Andy Cutting (there was nobody else available!) followed and it wasn't long 'til we found ourselves in Andy Seward's studio in Yorkshire doing overdubs and starting to mix. I shouldn't really include myself in the mixing process as John and Andy did all of the work with a few comments of "yay!" and "that's lovely!" from me and some very enthusiastic kicks from Molly Mae whenever she heard Michael McGoldrick's whistle!

"As any singer will tell you, choosing songs to record can be a long and interesting process! This is the first time I've recorded some of my own material. When you're surrounded by amazing songwriters such as Boo, Karine and Tim O'Brien, trying to write something that can stand up against their songs can be pretty daunting. I started to work on the material for The Last Star while traveling with John around America and Europe on the Mark Knopfler tour two years ago. John would write melodies during sound checks, bring them back to the hotel and leave them with me to write or find traditional words for. I really enjoy the process of trawling through songbooks and finding a good story or beautiful words... I really hope you like them.

"We start the tour on September 2nd in Newcastle and finish on November 11th in Durham. I'm really looking forward to it and will hopefully meet some of you in the coming weeks. I'll keep you updated on how it's all going and how Molly Mae's first adventures into tour managing are progressing... Thanks - Heidi xxx"

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