November 2018 Hillbilly Boogie


On the BBC Countryfile programme last Sunday we were warned that the weather would turn very wintery over the next few days, and so it has proved to be. Now, it may not be as severe as many will be experiencing but it has had me digging out the fleece-lined hats and gloves. Maybe I am getting soft!


Being British, I was talking to someone today about the weather and I said how much I am looking forward to when the Peterborough Lido re-opens after winter – I long to go swimming outdoors again (but I refuse to break ice to do so!).

Anyway…. What shall I talk about this month?

 Joe’s set was passionate, brave, enthralling, open and honest and made an unexpectedly strong impact on me listening to his songs and his candour. It was a joy to hear his set (which was just him and his keyboard) during which I took several pictures but I particularly liked this photograph of Joe ‘in his element’ and seeming at peace.


There are a couple of ‘MerleFest’ memories and this one is from my first visit to MerleFest in 2007.


A few years previously I had been involved with the Oxford Folk Festival as volunteer co-ordinator and I spent the weekend dashing between sites around the Oxford City Centre. On one occasion I shot past a vendor in the Town Hall who was playing music unlike anything I had heard before – I ran back, asked him to hold the CD for me and I would pay him later (he obliged); the CD was Benton Flippen’s ‘Old Time, New Times’. At that point, I knew little about Bluegrass and was unfamiliar with Old-Time but, without knowing it, Benton was opening my ears to one of my (now) favourite genres.


When I made my first trip to the US in 2007 to go to MerleFest it was with great delight to see that Benton Flippen was playing. Needless to say, I caught one of his sets on the Traditional Stage and made sure that I thanked him afterwards. I am not sure if Benton is saying Hello to guitarist Steve Kilby in this picture – I am awaiting Steve’s reply.

Before I made that trip to North Carolina a dream came true…


I had said to my son that, should BB King ever return to the UK we would go and see him. I never had the opportunity to see any of ‘the legends’ with my folks and I wanted to make sure that he did have that opportunity.


So BB King announced a UK tour and tickets were bought for his concert at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. As we waited to go in, we could hear the soundcheck and several jaws dropped simultaneously; I persuaded the security guys to crack the door a little bit to see the stage and confirm what we thought – Gary Moore was playing support to BB King – what a night!


I managed to grab a few photographs and love this one of BB King with eyes closed and gentle smile. Could anyone get such emotion out of a few notes played? I don’t think so. To get to see him play was [sorry] a thrill but to share this with my son was incredible – the support band weren’t too shabby either!


Through the course of this year I have tried to go out and listen to music from other genres – take myself away from my familiar territory. This is not a vain attempt to be ‘hip with the kids’, I just realized that there was a lot of very good local bands that I was not listening to or supporting.


After the Northampton Music Festival, TwinFest was held in town and this featured bands from Northampton’s twin-towns of Poitiers in France and Marburg in Germany. One of the Northampton bands that I had not encountered before were King Purple. When I first heard them I wondered what their parents’ record collections were like. Seeing young lads playing some excellent psychedelia was fantastic; their energy was equal to their ability and the crowd clearly though so too. When I had walked into The Black Prince popping in my beloved Etymotic ear plugs this was not what I was expecting to hear and – for a pub gig – the lighting was good too hence this shot of King Purple


I am always very conscious of my fellow audience members when I take photographs and my D7200 has enabled me to take photographs in low light as discretely as possible (no flash, no preview screen). When I was going to see 3hattrio, I contacted Hal Cannon to ask if would be possible to take a few shots early in their set at the South Holland Centre in Spalding, Lincolnshire; he kindly agreed.


As I have said during Hillbilly Boogie when I have played 3hattrio, I think that they are one of the most original bands that I have heard in a long time; of particular note for me is the young fiddle player – Eli Wrankle – who brings the incredible Jerry Goodman to mind (any Flock fans out there?). But taking the photographs of 3hattrio, it was Greg Istock that really drew the lens – a great momento of a truly memorable concert of American Desert Music. Thank you, Hal!


Quite often, the pictures that I take capture the concentration of the musician but it is always special when I catch a ‘moment’ between musicians as they perform such as this one between Carrie Rodriguez and John Oates taken at Bristol Rhythm & Roots


I mentioned earlier the Northampton Music Festival and I just loved the passion shown by the various members of the Royal & Derngate Community Choir. During their set outside the magnificent All Saints Church, several members of the choir took solos and – as I said before – the passion for music being shown in this photographs is just spine-tingling. I cannot look at this photograph without smiling.


The inaugural Long Road Festival took place in Leicestershire this past September. I will confess that I bought tickets purely because Folk Soul Revival were playing. We had become fans of Folk Soul Revival through attending Bristol Rhythm & Roots and I was fortunate enough to introduce the band on the 7th Street Stage on year – that was quite a crowd! Having bought the day tickets I was delighted to see that the Wood Brothers would be appearing on the same day (and even more delighted that their set did not clash with Folk Soul Revival!).


Everyone that I have spoken to or chatted with on-line declared that this was one of their favourite sets of The Long Road Festival. I had long been a fan of the Wood Brothers but had never seen them play. I made sure that I did not have a camera in my face all of the way through their set but they drew a very large crowd and getting into the right place was tricky but I am thrilled with this photograph of Oliver Wood.


I mentioned seeing legends earlier in relation to BB King. As I have travelled in the US and listened to (and learned more about) Bluegrass, two names that are legendary in that genre are Peter Rowan and Tony Rice.


On my first visit to MerleFest there was a set in tribute to Tony Rice that featured Tony himself, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Bryan Sutton and many more – I think that I picked a good year to start going to MerleFest! Tony Rice might be described as the guitarist’s guitarist and a video of his that I watch more times than any other is his rendition of Shenandoah at Grey Fox – I love the words from Tim O’Brien toward the end of the video: “One of the things about Art is, you give people an excuse to take some time, to be quiet, and pay attention to something. And, maybe under the guise of enjoyment, think about important things in life"


Peter Rowan is such a colourful character; he was, at one time, a member of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys, he recorded with Jerry Garcia and Vassar Clements in ‘Old & In The Way’ and if you ever have the opportunity to see The Free Mexican Airforce you should seize that opportunity.


In 2007, Peter and Tony brought out ‘Quartet’ and album which featured them with Bryn Davies and Sharon Gilchrist but one of my most memorable MerleFest sets and the photograph that I shall leave you with is from a set by Peter Rowan and Tony Rice which took place in the Walker Center at MerleFest – I am not sure if this was 2008 or 2009. It was spell-binding. The photograph was taken from quite a long way back from the stage and am always amazed how it turned out – I tell myself that it was just their presence shining through and nothing to do with a lucky shot!

The gentle interplay on stage between them and the music that they brought to the audience was incredible and I am genuinely blessed to have been in that audience.


I think that I could easily dig out a dozen more ‘special memories’ but I will leave you with this one.


I am grateful for the suggestion to share some of my favourite ‘music’ photographs and I hope that you have enjoyed taking a look too.


Feel free to drop me a line with any comments about these or about Hillbilly Boogie.


In the meantime…as ever…Be Good x