If you've ever thought of coming over to the
UK in the month of September - in search of
the origins of 'British eccentricity', perhaps -
then you'll see it all in the northern county of
Cumbria, known as 'The Lake District'.
The 730 year old Egremont
Crab Fair & Sports
(10th-16th), which annually attracts around
10,000 people, has traditionally staged some
of the more obscure (non-Olympic) sporting
contests, from 'Greasy Pole Climbing', 'Pipe
Smoking', 'Cumberland Wrestling', 'Morris
Dancing' and a ferret show, culminating in the
gum gyrating antics of the renowned 'Gurning
World Championships'. If you think you can
'gurn' (ie pull such a peculiar face that everyone
either keels over with hysterical laughter, is
terrified out of their pants, or is physically sick)
then the competition is open to all, from toddlers
to pensioners, in three categories - juniors, ladies
and men. But before going, you might like to
check out some of the top competitors all going
for that cash prize of £150 to the winner.
Big Jim Wilshire's 'Gurning for fun and profit' site
will show you what you're likely to be up against.
Lots of great feedback on my California trip. A note
from Cheryl Wheeler's manager saying ... "Apparently
the words in your column have given rise to some
interest in UK record company activity.... I'll keep
you posted." What more could I ask! Also, post
from Steve Dulson, of The Living Tradition Concert
Series in Anaheim saying "....wow, Today Malone!
The Revolution soundtrack LP was one of my faves".
I notice The Living Tradition has one of Canada's best
songwriters, James Keelaghan on Sat 16th this month.
Pity I'm going to miss that. (James' song 'Cold Missouri
Waters' is a favourite from the Dar Williams/Richard
Shindell/Lucy Kaplansky 'Cry Cry Cry' album). And
from Sally Greenberg, whose Berkeley, CA House
Concerts I also missed. "On Labor Day (Monday,
September 4th) at 7:30PM, Pete Morton will be
performing at my house! Pete's returning with a terrific
brand new album "Hunting the Heart". Pete is one of
England's finest singer/songwriters and interpreters of
traditional song. He is probably best known as the
writer of "Another Train", a song performed by
Eileen McGann, The Poozies, Sally Barker, and others."
Upcoming concerts at Sally's house featuring UK acts
include Dave Webber & Anni Fentiman (10/15) ,
Leon Rosselson (10/19) and Richard Grainger (11/5).
Plenty coming up in the Autumn over here - with
both Bob Dylan and Paul Simon touring (separately)
in October. News also of Tim O'Brien's 'The Crossing'
crossing over to the UK for an October/November
tour with Darrell Scott, Kate Rusby, bass player
Danny Thompson (of Pentangle/ John Martyn/ Richard
Thompson etc etc renown), Mairtin O'Connor and
John McCusker, of the Battlefield Band.
More next month.
Meanwhile, I spotted a lengthy interview with
Lucy Kaplansky (also on her way again later in the year)
talking to Keith Whitham in Rock 'n' Reel the last time
she was over. I perked up at this (talking about her album,
Ten Year Night).
KW: "Do you think this record will raise your profile
in the UK?"
LK : "I hope so. I'd like to make something happen
over here. It's a very hard market to break. It's very
difficult to get mainstream radio play. I am starting to
have a career over here....more and more people are
coming to the shows. I don't know how big it will get.
Just to be able to come over and play my material to
people who want to hear it is a great gift in itself. It's
so much fun playing over here - much more than
playing at home."
Mind, I'm not sure she'd say that today after the great
summer she's been having in the States.
So I asked her
PC : "Do you still think it's much more fun playing in
the UK? Are the audiences much different?"
LK: "Actually, it's equally fun playing in both places,
and the audiences are fundamentally the same:
respectful, warm and gracious."
PC: "Have you had any especially good gigs over here?"
LK: "Probably my favorite place to play in the UK has
been London, partly because the audiences have been
so incredibly enthusiastic, and partly because I just love
London so much.
PC: "Will you still be concentrating on Ten Year Night
on the next trip? Any plans to bring a band? (I see you've
been having a good time playing with Duke Levine, Zev
Katz & Ben Wittman (your law firm, I hear!)."
LK: "Yeah, mostly I'll be concentrating on 'Ten Year
Night', but I've got some new songs I'll be playing too.
No immediate plans to bring a band over, probably the
first step will be to bring a guitar player, not sure if that'll
happen this time."
PC: "You've been getting a lot of radio airplay over here
lately, with national BBC Radio 2 DJs like Bob Harris and
Mike Harding both very enthusiastic, as well as with daytime
presenters like Terry Wogan playing your single 'At the End
of the Day'. Any plans to do any radio interviews?"
LK: "Yeah, there's a national radio show I'll be doing at the
beginning of my tour, can't remember the name of it
(maybe Johnny Walker?)"
PC: "Thanks Lucy - look forward to seeing you in November."
[See Lucy Kaplansky's September/October US tour dates here]
I had an e-mail from Bert Pijpers at the European office
of Rounder/Philo pointing out that Cheryl Wheeler, too,
has been making a bigger dent into the UK market than
I had realized when I saw her at The Kate Wolf Festival
in June. A single of 'If it were up to me' was released a
while back and has been picking up airplay on quite a few
BBC Radio 2 national shows as well as the regionals and
specialists. "Shops can easily order her catalogue through
Proper Distribution (new tel 08704440800) in the UK",
he told me.
News of an interesting new film premiere at the Paradiso
in Amsterdam, Holland on September 11. 'A Skin Too
Few', a film on the life of the late English songwriter,
Nick Drake featuring unseen footage and previously
unreleased tracks, including 'The Aix Tape' - a recently
discovered collection of songs recorded during his trip
to France in 1967. Whilst Nick was never filmed in
performance, the film features interviews with those
who knew him best, like his producer Joe Boyd and
his sister, actress Gabrielle Drake. On the night of the
film's premiere (by Dutch director Jeroen Berkvens),
there will also be live performances by UK singer
songwriter Beth Orton , Robert Kirby (the man behind
many of Drake's string arrangements, and Ben & Jason .
With the holidays all but over, it's the time of the year
when people in the UK folk biz start thinking of coming
over next year to promote their wares at the 'big one' -
The North American Folk Alliance Conference
2001 (a folk odyssey - see Hugh's report of this year's) -
February in Vancouver (bobble hats and brollies - it'll
feel just like home!). For those of you already in Vancouver,
I see the next 'Bluebird North' show (Shari Ulrich's
showcase for the Songwriters Association Of Canada ),
will be at the W.I.S.E Hall on Thursday, September 21st,
with Norm Foote as the host, Bill Henderson, Blair
Packham and Arlene Bishop all the way from Toronto,
Rob Heath from Edmonton, Nathan Tinkham and
Hopefully we'll soon see a UK tour of Vancouver's
'Pied Pumkin', the Shari Ulrich/Rick Scott/Joe Mock
trio from the seventies, recently reunited, I hear.
Have another great month. Mind how you 'gurn'!
Paul Castle firstname.lastname@example.org
Best of the Rest of the UK
Browse the index of Previous Articles