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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!"


  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Jez,

    It was really good to read your blog about "All Along The Wall". What a fantastic group of people we ended up with and what a wonderful concert and album you all produced. I would like to single out one of the performers, Kate Bramley, who was asked to turn up on the fifth day to augment the instrumental content on fiddle, learned the whole piece that day, invented her own parts and performed it the day after. Its kind of not possible to do that...is it ? The concert in Maryport was one of those musical memories that we all have and that we treasure. I was so stressed that day worrying about how it would all turn out....What we got that night was something that will live in my memory forever.....a brilliant concert, a standing ovation, and my mate Dave Andrew rushing into the foyer afterwards shouting "its a triumph". I couldn't have put it any better.

    Anyway,thanks to all of you. See some of you at the album launch in Hexham on Thursday and catch up with everyone at Celtic Connections in January.
    We still don't know the future for Brampton Live Festival but we are secure in the knowledge that it will at least live on through "All Along the Wall"

    Best Wishes

    Ken Bradburn
    Emerging Music/Brampton Live

  • Comment number 2.

    What Ho Ken,
    It's interesting to read how much everyone enjoyed the experience. For me as the senior recording engineer/producer and the sound man, Steve Brookfield, it was an absolute nightmare! We didn't know until almost midnight on the Saturday what would be required for the concert/recording, we had hoped to be in the venue early in the morning, but found it wasn't available until 12.30, we had hoped to have a run through the whole thing in the afternoon, but it didn't happen. We were still plugging and replugging right up until 20 minuted before the kick-off. All the performers on stage all the time, some playing several instruments put us on our mettle (or filled us with despair depending on whether you asked us before or after the show).At this point the God of Sound and Audio decided that we weren't bad people at all and bestowed technical peace on us. Yes, we still had to 'wing' the whole thing and hope for the best, but as the performers rose to the challenge so did the equipment and it all passed off without a hitch. I have to confess that I didn't have a lot of time to listen to the show as I was too busy noting who was doing what and which microphone they were on. It wasn't until I got it all back to the studio and had a chance to listen to it that I realised we did have something really special. Usually with a 'live' concert you record two ir three nights and select the best, but we had only one go at this and it is testament to all the performers that they delivered their songs superbly.

    All the best,
    Paul Adams


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