Every day I walk these streets I try to take them in. Every detail, the pall of smog from the incinerator smokestack separating the oily black of the night sky from the neon glow of the streetlights lining the A50 below. The football stadium stands like a citadel in the middle of the middle distance and the drone of the traffic rises up to meet me.
Chamberlain Avenue draws up from London road in a exponential steepness dragging its way upwards from the kebab shops and oatcake shops, broken windows and broken paving slabs. The discarded sweet wrappers, beer cans and broken glass are suddenly gone and fallen leaves take their place in piles of brown and gold. Council workers blow and sweep the leaves into the back of their pickup but they don’t pick up the rubbish in London Road. Chamberlain Avenue leads to Penkhull, London Road is Stoke. Stoke Town. One of the six towns of Stoke-on-Trent.
I take in these details, because one day when I have left here and find my peace, these things, these memories and sights and sounds will become words and stories and songs. But for now they weigh heavily and it is the best I can do to take them in at all.
‘Bo’ is a new song written this week, although the chorus was written a few weeks ago and had been lacking any decent verses to go around it. Even so, I’m not sure these verses go with this chorus either.
For a bit of fun I’ve run this through GarageBand to add a drum and percussion track on these two versions:
Finger picked version:
This late October warm spell encouraged us to take the instruments out down to the canal. We’re staying in Northamptonshire for a few days and are really close to the Grand Union Canal. We sat down last Sunday afternoon in Long Buckby Wharf at the start of the Leicester Arm and practised a few of the English folk tunes in our repertoire: Speed The Plough, Morpeth Rant, Winster Gallop and Rattlin’ Bog.
Progress check after 28 weeks of my journey of learning the craft of frailing or clawhammer old-time banjo. This week I muse on how other musicians are always practicing more than me, and run through three of the tunes from the Tuneworks book – Speed The Plough, Morpeth Rant and Winster Gallop.
Winster Gallop as practised by Pony Folk live from the Dining Room:
First recording of ‘Speed The Plough’ by Pony Folk, not really a performance, more of a snapshot of an early rehearsal.
Week 26 of my learning the craft of playing Frailing Banjo by watching Patrick Costello videos on YouTube. It’s been a few weeks since the last video was made as we are in the middle of moving house and so have no broadband connection. Luckily I’ve discovered the local library has an excellent connection so this one has been uploaded from there.
This week we have been stewarding at the 2018 Folk Gathering in Alstonefield, Staffordshire organised by Peace Through Folk to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War. I have included some snippets of some of the performers – make sure you look out for their full video of the Saturday Peace Concert.
We have been learning ‘Speed The Plough’ and ‘Winster Gallop’ from the Tuneworks music book and I have had to learn the ‘D’ chord this week to play these tunes.
Now I’m off to practice that D chord…
Week 22 of my learning the craft of playing Frailing Banjo by watching Patrick Costello videos on YouTube. This week it’s more John Hardy and Boil ’em Cabbage Down, a quick rendition of You Are My Sunshine, the Banjo version of my song ‘Millie’ and an early version of the guitar version of ‘Millie’ too all crammed into 12 minutes.
‘Millie’ is a composite of a story. D had been volunteering at a pony rescue and was telling me about a pony named Millie. This particular pony was nearly blind and would have to hold her head sideways to take a look at you. It felt quite a frustration for her but she was now living peacefully in the sanctuary. Other ponies had other stories, like from the time the farming subsidies rules changed and having ponies on a farm became a cost not a profit. The sanctuaries were working overtime driving across Wales and filling horse boxes with ponies to save them from the slaughter. These words, these stories melded together with an assignment from the Song Writers course I was studying on FutureLearn which involved writing about ‘our town’.
‘I Remember’, roughly recorded in the campsite of the Bromyard Folk Festival.
I don’t have any way of documenting the melodies for the songs I write, only the chords and lyrics, so recording them is my best option at the moment in case I forget the tune later.
The lyrics are based on the poem style of a pantoum, a form where the lines are repeated throughout the poem / song: