By Rick Stuart
I received a lovely comment recently, “If you ever wondered if you would have a champion through thick and thin; Rick’s your man. Honest. He’s the governor. X”. Thanks Jay, that was sweet.
This reminded me of something a few years back, when the volunteer co-ordinator at Pure Radio, Paul Holloway, after maybe four years of teasing me about playing music “no-one has heard of”, suddenly realised during the 200th show that he knew most of the music I was playing, and was enjoying it. At that point he said, “You do seem to champion some artists”.
From my perspective, I hadn’t really thought about that. Yes I know I’ve been in the business off & on since the 80’s, but I see myself as just a guy with a non-music related day job who has a radio show and plays music I like. But, taking a look back, it seems that there are a number of artists that I’ve been playing regularly on the show for most of the 10 years it’s been running.
I’m never really sure what sort of difference it makes, then I’ll receive a comment like the one above or this one from another musician who I play regularly on the show, “thanks again for all your support down the years on the wonderful R&F show, it has helped keep me going with the music which would otherwise had been written, recorded and kept to myself.”
So for this blog, I thought I’d mention a few artists it seems I have “championed” through the years of Roots & Fusion.
The opening comment in this piece was from Jay Fisher, AKA apple rabbits (yes, lower case - www.facebook.com/applerabbits. He has been, in his own words, an underground musician for about 30 years now and I’ve been playing his music on the show for probably eight or nine of those. Jay is a multi-instrumentalist, programmer, arranger with only a few available recordings, but hopefully something new soon. There’s a couple of albums and an EP under the apple rabbits moniker, another one under the name of J.B.Presley, and maybe more I’m not aware of – though these are the only ones available via his bandcamp page applerabbits.bandcamp.com
I really like his lyrics and his perspective of looking at the world. One of my favourite songs of his is “I Couldn’t Care Less”, which at its core is an anti-religion song, but you probably have to listen more than once to work it out.
I was very humbled when in April 2012 he agreed to do a session for Roots & Fusion rootsandfusionsessions/apple-rabbits-in-session. I didn’t realise at the time that this meant he was going to travel up from London for the day, just for the session. I recommend you give this session a listen, and if you like what you hear, go to the apple rabbits bandcamp page and invest…
The second comment above was from Stephen Stannard who records as The Rowan Amber Mill therowanambermill whose music I love to pieces… Described as purveyors of Woodland Folkadelica since 2007, Stephen’s music is occasionally dark folk, sometimes sweeping synths but there are also multi-layered harmonies and a haunting beauty within… Featured on some compilation albums, probably most notable among which is the Dark Britannica series, there are also numerous releases to go at, most of which are still available via the Rowan Amber Mil Bandcamp page rowanambermill.bandcamp.com
With seemingly no care for expense, The Rowan Amber Mill’s releases are exquisitely packaged. The most recent release for instance, “In the Sunshine We Rode the Horses”, where he has teamed up with like minded soul Angeline Morrison to form the aptly titled Rowan: Morrison, includes three prints, three metal badges, a sticker, a retro vinyl effect CDr, a tri-fold 6 panel booklet including lyrics and liner notes, all housed in a stunning tin with front and back cover. The music’s not bad either…
Back in December 2009, I recorded a session by a giggling teenager by the name of Lucy Zirins www.lucyzirins.com To be honest I was probably as nervous as she was, as I think it was only the second session I’d recorded for the show. Lucy has now recorded four sessions for Roots & Fusion rootsandfusionsessions/ and I’ve been really pleased to see her and her music grow over the years.
During our first interview she mentioned being tutored by Michael Roach. The first time she went to the Colne Blues Festival she saw Michael on stage and said to herself she also wanted to play there. The next year she did, not only that, but skip forward a few years and in 2018 she was the curator for the ‘Lucy Zirins Acoustic Blues Showcase’ in 2018 for the Great British Rhythm & Blues Festival.
Her most recent album, Unfound lucyzirins.bigcartel.com/product/unfound-2019-digipack-album sees her shaking off the blues tag and growing into her own music. The influences are still there, but subtle, like past stepping stones. A wonderful album; she has obviously poured her heart & soul into it.
There are many other artists I play regularly on Roots & Fusion and I guess some more often than others. Even now, I still don’t see myself as being a “champion”, I’m just in the fortunate position of having a radio show that for over ten years or so people listen to, enjoy and hopefully buy some of the music they hear.
Because, don’t forget, musicians have to eat too…