Folk: album review – Honey and The Bear ‘Journey Through The Roke’

Honey and The Bear are folk duo and singer-songwriters Lucy and Jon Hart. The Suffolk-based couple originally met at a song-writing event, began writing and performing together and spent several years touring the folk circuit before releasing their debut album Made in Aker, back in 2019.

Journey Though the Roke is the follow-up, ‘Roke being an old East Anglian word for the evening mist that rises from the region’s marshes and water meadows. As with so many other musicians these past twelve months, many of the songs on the album were conceived during lockdown. We are presented with eleven original songs as well as the duo’s adaptation of a traditional Irish ballad.

Of the former, the beauty of their Suffolk coastal landscape and richness of its history is at the core of many of the songs, from the jaunty ‘Freddie Cooper’ celebrating the heroics of the Aldeburgh lifeboat crew to the utterly haunting ‘The Hungry Sea’ that tells the story of Violet Jessop who incredibly survived the Olympic, Titanic and Britannic maritime disasters, before eventually dying in Great Ashfield, aged 83.

Of the latter, the one non-original song on the album is a tender version of ‘My Lagan Love’. It’s a song that has been performed by numerous artists from The Chieftains to Kate Bush but fans of Sandy Denny and Fairport Convention will also immediately recognise the tune given it was repurposed for Denny’s cover of Richard Farina’s ‘The Quiet Joys of Brotherhood. ‘My Lagan Love’ makes for a lovely addition to the album, laying down some deep folk roots amongst the new compositions.

The duo meld together a range of folk, Americana and pop influences to produce a sound that’s both original and creative and very easy on the ear. Lucy Hart has a clear, distinctive voice that’s perfectly suited to such a fusion of musical influences and husband Jon’s harmony vocals are also equally suited. Unusually for a duo, both play guitar, bazouki and double-bass and there’s quite a bit of toing and froing between the two of them across the dozen tracks as they swap instruments and show us what talented multi-instrumentalists each of them are.

As well as the duo themselves, Evan Carson, Archie Churchill-Moss, Graham Coe and Toby Shaer from Sam Kelly and The Lost Boys provide additional musical backing that’s every bit as captivating as their playing with The Lost Boys.

A beautiful and highly listenable album and a wonderful celebration of the East Anglian landscape and history from an extremely talented duo, Journey Through The Roke is highly recommended.

Released 23rd April 2021

Visit Honey and The Bear website here

Book news! Coming soon: ‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ by Darren Johnson – published 29th July 2021

Followers of this blog will be aware that my love of 1970s glam icons The Sweet is pretty well documented. They’ve featured heavily on Darren’s Music Blog over the seven years of the blog’s existence. I’m therefore very pleased to be announcing the publication of my first book due out this summer: ‘The Sweet in the 1970s’.

It’s published by the excellent Sonicbond Publishing who’ve been running the On Track series, where they look at a band’s entire recorded output track by track, and more recently the Decades series, where they look at a band’s history and development through a key decade. I’d already reviewed a couple of Sonicbond publications (on Fairport Convention and Hawkwind) when I had a dream that I’d just written my own book about The Sweet. With the dream still fresh in my head the following morning I thought it might actually be an idea to see if this could perhaps be turned into reality.

I emailed Stephen Lambe at Sonicbond that morning with the synopsis that was formulated in the dream still in my head to see if they were interested. Happily, he came back and said that they were and a contract soon followed. It became my lockdown project starting last summer and after several months of feverish writing, researching and listening I completed it at the end of February.

Amazon are already taking pre-orders here

From the Amazon synopsis you hopefully get a taste of what’s in store:

The Sweet’s look, sound and attitude became an instantly recognisable hallmark of the early 1970s glam rock era. But the band did not start the 1970s as a glam band and certainly didn’t finish as one. This book charts the band’s journey through the decade that made them a household name, from their initial rise as purveyors of manufactured, bubblegum pop to their metamorphosis into harder-edged glam rock icons. The Sweet in the 1970s takes a look at both their successes and their struggles in their quest to be recognised as a more serious rock act in the latter part of the decade, once the sparkle of glam and glitter had begun to pale. The decade saw them score fifteen UK Top 40 singles, release seven studio albums and tour several continents. Unlike many bands of the era personnel changes were few. The Sweet begin the 1970s with the arrival of new guitarist, Andy Scott, and end the decade with the departure of frontman, Brian Connolly, and an ultimately ill-fated attempt to continue as a three-piece. This book is an unashamed celebration of the music of the Sweet and charts the lasting impact they had on many of the bands than followed them.

And of the author, Amazon has this to say:

After acquiring a second-hand copy of Sweet’s Give Us A Wink album from Action Records in Preston as a teenager in the early 1980s, Darren Johnson has been a dedicated fan of the band ever since. A former politician, he has written for a number of UK national newspapers but after stepping away from politics, he has been able to devote more time to his first love: music. A keen follower of both rock and folk, he maintains a popular music blog Darren’s Music Blog and has reviewed albums and gigs for a variety of publications. He lives in Hastings, East Sussex, UK

Other outlets:

Alternatively, the book (and all others in the series) will be available from ‘all good bookshops’ and via Sonicbond’s own online shop at Burning Shed here

‘The Sweet in the 1970s’ by Darren Johnson – published by Sonicbond 29th July 2021

Folk / Americana: album review – Wren ‘Pink Stone: Songs from Moose Lodge’

Writer, artist and singer-songwriter, Laura Adrienne Brady, performs music under the name Wren. Pink Stone: Tales From Moose Lodge is Wren’s third album, inspired by a stay at a remote cabin in the woods at Methow Valley, Washington State, where she was invited to house-sit while recovering from a mysterious but debilitating illness.

The resulting album is a sumptuous ten-track journey through Americana-infused, Celtic-inspired folk. Wren’s pure, emotive voice, intimate lyrics and melancholic, rootsy playing – ably assisted by a talented bunch of guest musicians and additional layers of harmony vocals.

Wren says of her latest album:

“The years I was writing these songs were some of the loneliest years of my life, but they were also imbued with a palpable magic, and I’ve spent the period since obsessed with how to transport the listener to the warm cocoon of a cabin where I felt free to move at my own pace for the first time. Though I was often alone, I wasn’t unattached. My relationships merged with this greater experience of place and led to a collection of songs about the paradoxes of love and intimacy, where the land and the river often become other characters in the story.”

Pink Stone: Songs from Moose Lodge follows in the tradition of her two previous albums which were largely also inspired by a specific geographical place: her lifetime love of the Salish Sea, Canada, her year in Galicia, Spain and, now with her third album her journey to Washington’s Methow Valley.

The album was produced at Airtime Studios in Bloomington, Indiana by David Weber and features Jason Wilber (guitar), Krista Detor (piano, organ, accordion and harmony vocals and Gary Stroutsos (American Indian cedar flute).

To accompany the album, Wren has also published a 98-page Companion Book of essay vignettes, journal entries, illustrations, photos, and lyrics born from her time in the Methow.

Check out the album and embark on this emotive journey with her.

Released: 20th February 2021

wren-music.com

This weeks featured artist: singer-songwriter duo O’Neil & Jones – new single ‘Broken Shoes’

Manchester-based duo O’Neill & Jones have just released their second single. ‘Broken Shoes’ released on April 2nd follows debut single ‘No Excuse’ which secured airplay in both the UK and US when it was released back in February. The duo are Mat O’Neill and Sophie Jones.

Relatively new to the singer-songwriter scene they had previously been building up a rapport with audiences as an acoustic covers duo. Their own songs soak up folk, Americana and rock influences with a strong emphasis on sweeping harmonies and strong melodies.

Announcing the release of ‘Broken Shoes’ they say:

“This one is a gently upbeat, folky song about coming to the end of a long journey, The trails we take while we’re able, and the relationships that remain once we settle down. We had such a great time writing and recording her last month and couldn’t be happier to be releasing our second single!”

The years spent performing covers proved to be a useful primer in song arrangement, catchy hooks, they tell us, and not least lessons in how to grab the attention of the listener.

And if you’re impressed with their productions skills in putting together the video for ‘Broken Shoes’ they’ve also given us a sneak glimpse behind the scenes showing us how it all came about.

With an ear for catchy melodies, lovely harmonies and beautifully-crafted lyrics I suspect we’ll be hearing quite a bit more from O’Neill and Jones.

Broken Shoes’ released 2nd April 2021

https://www.oneillandjones.com/

Dirkschneider & The Old Gang: former Accept vocalist re-unites old colleagues for new project

In the Autumn of 2020 former Accept lead vocalist, Udo Dirkschneider, began putting together a new project that brought together some familiar faces. Going by the moniker Dirkschneider & The Old Gang, the name is pretty self-explanatory. Along with Dirkschneider and his son, Sven, two former Accept members (bassist Peter Baltes and guitarist Stefan Kaufmann) have also been brought in, along with singer Manuela Bibert.

A single ‘Where The Angels Fly’ was released on April 2nd and has already clocked up over two millions views on YouTube.

More information about the new venture is promised over the coming weeks:

“Anyone who had previously believed that they already knew all the essentials is mistaken. Dirkschneider & The Old Gang started with a sensational video, but only vaguely indicated the entire dimension. So keep your eyes and ears open: From now on it will be really exciting!”

Udo Dirkschneider was lead vocalist with Accept from the bands formation in 1976 through to 1987, performing on numerous albums including the much-celebrated Balls To The Wall. While he rejoined Accept for a period in the late 90s and early 00s he has also enjoyed a successful career with his own band U.D.O.

‘Where The Angels Fly’ released 2nd April 2021 by AFM Records

https://www.udo-online.com/news-98.html

Interview with Alan Hewitt of the Moody Blues and One Nation – new single ‘We’re One Nation’

Alan Hewitt has played keyboards with the Moody Blues since 2010 as well as fronting his own band Alan Hewitt & One Nation. In this interview we talk about growing up in a small US town where all the upcoming local bands seemed to be obsessed with English prog, about eventually getting the call from the Moody Blues and about catching Covid while performing an online gig to a virtual audience. We also discuss his latest single and forthcoming album.

DJ: It’s so nice to speak to you, Alan, and thanks so much for your time doing this. First, I’d just like to find out a little bit about how you got into music professionally in the first place?

AH: Ok, Darren, great to be here… Well, I started out like a lot of kids do, you know, twelve years old and I started on drums and we put a band together. I grew musically as time went on. Those were fun years. My brother actually played bongos in my band and we would play gigs together.

DJ: A percussion duo, you and your brother then!

AH: Yeah! Actually my brother was a real kind of nurturing guy along the way. You know you need someone to kind of help support you along the way. My parents were great, too. So then, had a band – fourteen-fifteen years old – which was a really cool band. It was three of us, kind of like an Emerson Lake & Palmer thing. And we did Tchaikovsky, and we would turn them into rock tunes. And we opened up for a lot of known acts and so that was kind of my start to getting into the little bit bigger realm of things. From that point on I went to Berklee College of Music and that’s where things started blossoming as I started getting some foundation under me. And it moved from there…

DJ: So the prog classically-influenced thing came at quite an early age then?

AH: It was interesting because the town I grew up in (Petoskey, Michigan) was really small. It would be like Cobham, something like that over there. And we had several bands and pretty much all of the bands were into progressive rock. I mean like Gentle Giant, Blodwyn Pig, Genesis, Yes, and of course, Emerson, Lake & Palmer – all of them! Yeah, it’s kind of strange actually. I wanted to go as far out as I could possibly go. Some of the guys I was with that was far enough. I wanted to go even further so that’s why I kind of moved on.

DJ: And eventually at some point the call came to begin touring with the Moody Blues. How did that gig come about?

AH: Well there was quite a gap in there because I had film and TV and then I did some other things. And then along the lines I was in a management group which had Earth, Wind & Fire, Warrant, Moody Blues and the Beach Boys and some others. So that was how it originally all came together. I had met Justin (Hayward) about twenty years prior to me being in the band and we got along great. I had a sail-boat, we’d go out sailing – just kind of hanging. Did a little music but not much. And then, like you said, later on I got a call asking me if I’d be interested in going out. They didn’t tell me it was the Moody Blues though. I said, “It depends who it is but I’m interested.” And after I had a little meeting with Robert Norman who was our agent, he approved it to the next level and then I had an audition – along with some other guys, too. And then I got the gig and that’s kind of how it came down.

DJ: Wonderful. Although you weren’t a nominee for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame presumably you were there as part of the live performance?

AH: Yeah, we got to play!

DJ: That must be something!

AH: It was cool. It was really cool. It was a long night for the guys because we were last on – and, of course, they have to sit out there at the table with everybody. But it was really cool. I spent a lot of time in the green room with Ann Wilson and some of the other people that were in there – and it was a gas.

DJ: Because she inducted the band didn’t she?

AH: She did. And it’s interesting because I had met her. I had a band in Chicago back in the mid-80s and they worked at a studio called Pierced Arrow. Remember that song ‘Another Paradise’ with the guy from Loverboy? They were recording that… and I happened to be working a lot at that studio, too, and the guy who co-produced and mixed all of our records was doing that record. And I met her then, so we talked about that and she goes, “Wow, that’s a long time ago.”

DJ: Must have been a fantastic occasion for the band?

AH: Oh yeah. Have you had any of the other guys on? Have you had Justin or John here with you?

DJ: No, I did see Justin – he performed a solo gig down here in 2019 at De La Warr Pavilion. I’m down on the south coast.

AH: Nice. I did his first solo tour with him and it was really nice. Him and John – he’s totally acoustic and plays all his work. And John’s is more of a rock show so it’s an interesting contrast.

DJ: When live performances get going again in the UK, I’d definitely like to see more of them.

AH: That would be nice.               

DJ: You’ve obviously continued with a parallel solo career while being in the Moody Blues – and your film and TV work, too. Do you still continue with the film and TV compositions?

AH: I do yeah – I like to stay as creative as possible, so the Alan Hewitt & One Nation project is kind of an extension of the music that I really enjoy – whatever comes out basically because I need that conduit. It’s always coming in and so I have to bring it out. So we’re working on that album and that will be done shortly. We’re moving along pretty good. We’re on about half way through – and some of the new songs are pretty cool, too. And, yeah, the film and TV thing is a continual thing. I do – probably twenty-five shows I have music in on any given day…

DJ: So any shows that British viewers would be familiar with?

AH: I do have some British shows but you’re putting me in the hot chair – what are some of them? I have some stuff on the BBC… I know I have some documentaries. One’s about the redwoods – the trees over here. I think there’s a farm animal show and there was one about turtles, too! There’s three of those – those are documentaries. Of course, I did Bridget Jones – Edge of Reason. I know that’s not real British, but they play British – and there’s one Brit in it right!

DJ: We know that – we’ll go with that! What initially prompted you to put Alan Hewitt & One Nation together then? Tell us a little bit about that.

AH: Well it started, I just had a bunch of different revelations and it’s something I always wanted to do, and I was at a point – we took a break with the Moodies. I think it was at least five months. So it was a time where I could go ahead and start moving along with things. And it started with Jamie Glazier from Chick Corea and Jean-Luc Ponty. And J.V. Collier and Sonny Emory from Earth, Wind & Fire. And then Duffy King who’s my friend from northern Michigan, who was in one of those bands I told you about – and has won tons of awards in Detroit for his music and guitar playing. He was a Gibson clinic guy, too. So that was the foundation of that first band. And then I took a break from it because I got busy with touring with the Moodies and John (Lodge). And then we started it up again because now Duffy King’s still in it and then Billy Ashbaugh from the Moodies – the drummer from the Moodies who joined a few years ago to play along with Graham (Edge). And then David C. Johnson from the Neville Brothers. So then three of us live in Florida. So that made it a lot easier to do things. And then Duffy flies in when we need to do events or anything. We did a virtual ProgStock concert, but we had to go to a studio to do it, over in Fort Myers, and we all got Covid there.

DJ: Oh dear me.

AH: See what we do for the fans!

DJ: So you’re doing an online concert – looking after your audience and everything – but you still get Covid.

AH: Yeah. That was back in October and everybody’s good now. There was a few complications with a few of us but we’re all good on that now. So it kind of evolved into what it is and this way we’re going to be able to tour a lot easier. A smaller group and we have a new agent who is Jim Lenz from TKO. And the guys just all love what we’re doing. It’s just a really good, nice hang because we all get along great so it’s nice.

DJ: When is the album due? Is there a date?

AH: We’re looking for Summer, but it could be Fall. It just depends. A lot of it depends on this situation. It was starting to look good over here and now we’re getting a little bit of an upsurge again but – I’m hopeful.

DJ: I’ve heard the latest single ‘We’re One Nation’ which I love, and I love the sentiment behind that. Do you want to say a little about that and how you were inspired to write that?

AH: Of course, just like you and everybody else we’ve been paying attention to things and I just got to the point where instead of yelling at the TV I wrote it down. And that’s kind of where that came from. It’s not an angry thing but the concept is that if we all just kind of work together we’d be much better off – instead of splintering off into these little groups. So that’s the bottom line.

DJ: And the timing was perfect I think.

AH: Yeah. It definitely was. We had a single before that called ‘One Step Closer’. That’s a little bit more… it’s one step closer to the edge is basically what it was. ‘We’re One Nation’ is a little bit more positive

DJ: I absolutely love it.

AH: That’s good. I’m glad you like it.

DJ: Is there anything else you want to tell us? Any final thoughts you want to leave us with?

AH: Oh well, just we hope everybody can go out and see shows pretty soon and we’re looking forward to doing it, also. And thanks Darren for doing the podcast. Appreciate it.

DJ: It’s really good to chat. Thanks so much and good luck with everything. I hope you can get out performing soon.

AH: I do, too, and if we come near you we’ll see you?

DJ: Definitely. I’ll be there!

www.alanhewittandonenation.com

Related post:

Live review: Justin Hayward at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill 2019

This week’s featured artist: Hastings-based folk duo The Limbs of Romney

The Limbs of Romney are a duo formed during lockdown by East Sussex musicians Andrew Myers and Chris Watkins. Although they are Hastings-based both have connections to Lancaster, where Myers is originally from. So, as a Hastings-based blogger also originally from Lancashire, this was bound to pique my interest.

The pair have just released a digital-only four-track EP Home to Shore.

Explaining how the duo came about, Andrew Myer explains:

“Chris and I met during one of the gaps between lockdowns. He literally knocked on my door one day and asked if I wanted to make music with him. Someone had told him I was a musician. We live in Hastings but we both have connections with Lancaster, where I’m originally from. So – we had a chat and started playing together. We immediately established a great rapport and working relationship. We write everything together, although Chris writes all the lyrics and so far has been responsible for the final mixes, laying up from the basic piano and guitar. We managed to play together regularly for a few weeks, then it was the second? third? lockdown and we had to resort to communicating by email and sending stuff backwards and forwards.”

The EP is very much inspired by tales of the sea. They weren’t trying to cash in on sea shanty craze, they are keen to assure me, as neither of them claim to be up to date enough with modern day culture to cash in on any new-fangled craze. The duo’s music is narrative folk very much driven by piano and guitar but they aren’t afraid to throw in some experimental touches, too, giving the EP a slightly ethereal, other-worldly quality. The maritime themes clearly provide a rich basis for the duo’s storytelling and down here in Hastings, of course, there’s no shortage of source material to provide inspiration.

“Our first effort ‘Home to Shore’ is a celebration of the sea – it’s three songs, with a ‘storm interlude’ which depicts a shipwreck. Chris likes to research a topic and base lyrics on that, so these songs are the fruit of many an hour spent at the Shipwreck museum in Hastings.”

All four tracks are available on YouTube here, as well as being available on Spotify.

And what next for The Limbs of Romney?

“Our current project is writing music for the ‘Town Explores A Book’ festival in St Leonards – all based on the life of Edward Lear. We should be getting some local exposure through the festival.”

Home to Shore is available on Spotify here

https://www.facebook.com/The-Limbs-of-Romney-100311922040915

Interview with guitarist/singer/song-writer and Grand Funk Railroad founding legend Mark Farner

Mark Farner was one of the founding members of American rock legends Grand Funk Railroad. As well as being their lead singer and lead guitarist he was also the band’s principal songwriter. In this interview we look back at Mark’s career: forming Grand Funk, performing at the Atlanta Pop Festival in 1969 and London’s Hyde Park in 1971 as well as discussing the inspirations behind his songs, his collaborations with the likes of Ringo Starr and Alice Cooper not to mention his brand new DVD ‘From Chile With Love’ which is due out on 6th April.

DJ: When we think of Grand Funk Railroad we think of one of the legendary American stadium bands of the 1970s. But you actually started off as a stadium band pretty much from the get-go. One of your very first gigs was at the legendary Atlanta Pop Festival in 1969. How did that come about?

MF: Well, the attorneys that did the legal work for that pop festival were the same attorneys that Terry Knight, our manager, used for his legal work in New York City. So they worked a deal with the promoters of the pop festival to put us on first and we’ll play for free. Grand Funk plays for free just to get the exposure and then they gave him an adjusted fee for the legal work. So, you know – one hand washes the other. That’s how we landed that gig. What a lucky thing for Grand Funk!

DJ: Incredible! And how did it move on from there – from that spectacular opening?

MF: Well, of course, the record companies had a lot of acts there and Capitol, being one of the companies, were very interested in talking to Terry Knight at that festival about signing. And then he did a deal with Capitol – a production deal – and signed the band to himself under this production deal and told the band that the 6% that we were receiving and dividing was more than the Beatles was getting. And we said, “More than the Beatles! Wow, that’s cool.”

We didn’t know. We’re twenty years old, Brother. So, we finally find out years and years later – there was a contract between Knight and Capital Records for 16%. So he was keeping ten, giving the band six to split and then taking a management commission of that 6%, Dude. Aargh – the tales I could tell you!

DJ: I’m pretty sure virtually every successful musician of your generation has a similar tale to tell!

MF: Oh, absolutely.

DJ: In 1971 you came over to the UK to London and headlined at Hyde Park? Have you any memories of that particular day?

MF: Darren, I gotta tell you. There I was ready to tear things apart because I always got worked up before I go out on the stage. I had to burn it off. You know, do some boxer shuffles and stuff – with my guitar on just to burn it up. Then it’s like busting out…shoot number four.. dynamo… the bull’s riding you know! So, here I come and I did not know that the lighting director had put dance wax on that stage, Brother.

Ohhhh my god. I hit that stuff and my cord – because we didn’t have cordless back then, you had a coil cord. I had two twenty-footers that would lock together with XLR connectors in the middle like a mic cable and it gave me a great distance. I could run any stage. But I was not prepared for what happened. Here I am. I hit that stage and I come sliding out on the dance wax and I’m going, “Oh, shit. I’m not gonna stop! Oh, no! I’m going right over the front of the… Woo!” And there I was, standing in front of the audience with the stage ten feet up and I’m at the very end of that cord. That guitar cord was still in my axe and I still played from that position. I just made like it was part of the show, Dude. What a breaking in I had at Hyde Park!

DJ: That was a great welcome to Britain really, wasn’t it?

MF: Oh my god, yeah. It was wonderful.

DJ: Grand Funk Railroad were always portrayed as one of those archetypal down to earth blue-collar type bands, but your lyrics weren’t always just the traditional rock n roll themes of cars and girls and rock ‘n’ roll. Your lyrics often dealt with some of the themes that the more esoteric bands were dealing with – ecology and peace and war and so on.

MF: Yeah. That was a kid from Flint, Michigan who lived in the outskirts of town. I was not a city boy by any means. We lived on my great grandfather’s farm in the farmhouse he built. It was an eleven-room farmhouse, and we had an orchard to run in and we had a river to play in. No houses back then, you know. What a great place to grow up. And that’s what I had in me when I left Flint, Michigan, and I first got in an airplane. I had never flown before it was like, “Oh, my god. This is cool. Look at this.” You know, I was just at that stage of life and that stage of my maturity and it came out in my music. I think people appreciated the heart behind it. There was always a sincerity because I meant what I said. And when I show up in Santiago, Chile, and I walk on that stage, I am who my songs say I am

DJ: Looking across your entire career which songs would you say you are most proud of?

MF: Well, I would say first of all I’m your captain. Because of the vast audience – it really crosses a lot of lines. And for some reason – I mean I prayed for that song. I asked God to give me a song that would reach and touch the hearts of those that love wants to get to – because God is love and love is unconditional. And that’s really, you know, what we’re made of. But we’re convinced by somebody to believe in some form of indebtedness to something and that took us away from the truth – and that awareness that we had in that setting of love, the strength and the power of love. So, we’ve gotta get back to it. And that’s what the music says to the people. Even in foreign countries, Darren. There in Santiago and Lebanon – a friend that I got to know he learned English because he wanted to know what the lyrics to ‘Heartbreaker’ meant. And he said that it was tearing him up. He loved the song so much he learned English. Then he moves to Detroit and he owns a lot of property. His family came over. It’s a good thing.

It’s a good song. And it reached the hearts of our military because it came out at the end of the Vietnam era and it really touched the hearts of a lot of Vietnam veterans. In fact, they voted my song number one when they had the twenty-fifty anniversary of the Wall – the monument there in DC. And they asked me if I would come and play that song. Just bring an acoustic guitar and, you know, play the song. And I said, “If you’re gonna have a stage and lights and you’re gonna have a PA I’ll bring my whole band. We won’t charge you a cent. We’ll put a whole show on.” An entire show for the veterans. And there was not just the Vietnam American veterans, but our Canadian brothers and sisters were there, too. And there’s family and it was a community feeling. And when we got to sing closer to home to that particular crowd, Brother, it was hard because I had a softball right here (holds throat). I’m so choked. I’m looking at everyone crying and hugging just for what that song does for them. Oh, my god.

DJ: That feeling must come to you every time you perform it now?

MF: It does. It’s my reward for being true and getting my ass outa bed and writing that song. Because a lot of times prior to that I can tell you, I had songs going on in my head and I thought I could hold em – I’ll remember this until… It was gone! So, that one stayed, and it became what it is to people because of no video – there was never a video of that song – and because of that it’s the same as ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’. At WNEW in New York City they polled, they asked an audience of a hundred people, “What is the definition? What does this song mean to you?” And they got a hundred diversely different definitions. Not any two were even close, the guy’s telling me. I said, “Out of a hundred people not even close?” “Not even close,” he said. So that’s the same thing that happens, I believe when people read a book and then they go see the movie and they say, “Oh, that movie sucks.” Because that movie that they were running, that one was their own imagination and we come up with a whole lot better stuff!

DJ: And that’s why music is so special and such a universal language because we can all have that connection in our own unique way.

MF: Yes. Absolutely, Brother.

DJ: And for those reading who’ve perhaps not followed your career so closely in recent years give us a quick low-down on your solo career.

MF: My solo career has been doing a lot of dates up until the Covid thing. Going out with a lot of different bands. Jefferson Starship and Blue Oyster Cult and you know, some of our friends that are still sucking air and playing music. It’s great to be able to do that. And I love the setting, like when we go out and do a hippy-fest or Happy Together (festival) and then there was a tribute to the Beatles that we did. Just to get together with other musicians it’s going to be a learning experience.

For instance, when I got together with Ringo Starr to do that gig, Randy Bachman – the guy that made that chord is showing me how to play it – and I’m learning. Randy is a solid guy. He’s a really good-hearted man. He’s a real dude and I appreciate him so much. And we had Billy Preston, John Entwistle, Felix Cavaliere. Oh, my god – just the talent that was there on that stage and nobody ran into each other. I mean, you know, it was like such respect. And when we landed in Tokyo and had the press conference and Ringo was sitting at the table – the band was down both sides, it was kind of like the last supper with Ringo in the middle and the band going down both sides. And a lady came up and she’s from a magazine and she said, “I’d like to ask Mr Farner a question.” So I stand up and she said, “What is it like playing with a Beatle?” And I go, “Let me tell you something, Ringo puts his pants on one leg at a time just like everybody in this room.” Ringo stands up and he goes, “Thank you, Brother. And he comes over and he gives me a big hug. A sincere man thanking me for just giving him this recognition of just being a guy. Because he is tormented by people who want his autograph, who want it – because of their imagination. Their parents had it. Their parents’ parents had it for the Beatles. It just gets passed on and then your imagination carries it to this next level. So I feel for him and I understand why he went on YouTube and he did that thing but he’s a great guy and he’s a good-hearted man. He really is.

DJ: And tell us about your new DVD From Chile With Love – which includes a charitable donation doesn’t it?

MF: It’s going to be released April 6th, the official date. It is Mark Farner’s American Band ‘From Chile With Love’. It is available on my website markfarner.com It is sixteen performance tracks with two bonus videos, one of which is available for a free download right now markfarner.com. It is ‘Rock and Roll Soul’ taken from this live DVD concert and we got five audio tracks. Five bonus tracks – songs that people will hear for the first time. All for $14.99 – such a deal!

DJ: When was the concert recorded?

MF: It was a couple of years back in Santiago, Chile at Teatro Caupolicán. It’s a very good concert. My wife, Lesia, and I take three dollars from each of the DVD sales, and we contribute to Veterans’ Support Foundation. And they are an outfit that is of veterans, by veterans, for veterans that take care of, you know, transitional housing, they take a veteran off the street, if somebody’s had a hard time getting what they’re owed by the government there is somebody who will advocate for them and stand in the gap there and make sure that they get what they served their country to get. And we believe in them because we’ve been working with these same people since the ‘70s and this is a get-it-done operation and there’s nobody getting paid there. It’s all voluntary work – so we put our money where our mouth is and we thank the buyers of this DVD, the fans who will help us contribute to our veterans and their families in this way. We appreciate it so much. And if I could give a number if anybody knows of a veteran who could use some help or knows somebody in a situation call free: 800 882 1316

DJ: You also performed on several tracks on Alice Cooper’s latest album Detroit Stories. How did that come about?

MF: Well my manager, Bobby Steinman, gave me a holler he says, “Hey listen. Alice Cooper’s doing an album. It’s going to be a tribute to Detroit. There going to use some early Detroit funk, some Suzi Quatro, some Bob Seger and I’m thinking, “Wow man, a tribute to Detroit and Alice Cooper’s asking me? What a privilege that would be – yeah count me in.” So, it was getting into the studio with Wayne Kramer – a friend from the past and I have the utmost respect for him. I remember seeing MC5 at Detroit fairground for a concert that was there with all the local acts. That was Iggy and the Stooges, Amboy Dukes and oh my god, yeah, a lot of local acts. And we saw the MC5 take the stage and every head within a half mile turned right towards the stage and went, “What the heck is that?” And I shared that with Wayne. Loved working with him.

Loved working with Johnny (Bee) Bedanjek on this same project. Jonny Bee played drums for me back in the ‘80s in a solo thing. I did a three-piece with Mark Gaughan and Johnny Bee and we went out down through the south and toured three-piece and rocked the place. It was great. And it was great because Johnny Bedanjek puts it down. He lays such a deep back-beat. You can’t fall out of it. He would drag you into it.

DJ: Did you hang out with Alice Cooper back in the ‘70s or did you just get to know each other through this project?

MF: No, it was because he was a headliner, and we were a headliner we never did. Our paths didn’t cross. But I did play music with Dick Wagner who was Alice Cooper’s guitar player. But it was gas to hang with him. And Alice is a perfect gentleman. He’s a humble person. What really impressed me, Darren, we’re sitting in a restaurant. We just get our food. His fork is half-way between his plate and his mouth, and somebody walks up and says, “Will you sign this?” And he puts the fork down and takes the pen. I’m telling you, he’s a humble guy and to work with Bob Ezrin – what a terrific producer. A talent. That guy is intense. He’s the most intense producer I’ve ever worked with, but I love that intensity about him, and I love the depth of his heart.

DJ: And my final question, and I must ask this on behalf of your British fans, is there any chance of you and your other two original band-mates from Grand Funk ever reuniting for one last time?

MF: It wouldn’t be for lack of participation by me. For over twenty years I have been attempting, for the sake of the Grand Funk fans to put the band back together – the real band. Listen, I don’t know what it is. I know it’s not nice or not good what keeps us apart. But I keep proposing this and it never gets met with any… like it’s for real. “Yeah, well put a plan together.” “Me? A musician put a plan together?” No, you get a promoter to put a plan together. You get somebody that knows what they’re doing, that’s been in the business, that stands to make a lot of money. That’s the person you put in charge. You don’t put the musician – you keep his head in the creative place. Thank god, that’s where mine has lived most of my life and I haven’t had to deal with the business shit that keeps bubbling up. Somebody’s got to deal with it and thank god my better three-quarters, Lesia, has a better grip on it than I do.

DJ: And is there one final thought you want to leave us with today?

MF: Yes, Brother Darren, I just like to leave everybody with the thought of being free in our minds, disconnect ourselves momentarily from every indebtedness, not just monetary indebtedness but the indebtedness that comes from unfulfilled expectations of other people and the like. People are moved from the place of comfort by this weapon known as debt. It is the most foul word in the English language. It encompasses more than it could ever let on, so reckon with yourself in your time, in your heart closet and know that you are free and you are the one that controls the gate. Owe no man anything except to love him.

Thank you to the music legend that is Mark Farner.

The DVD Mark Farner’s American Band ‘With Love From Chile’ is released 6th April 2021 and is available via https://markfarner.com/

Folk: album review – Various artists ‘Between Islands’

The Between Islands Project began life in 2014 with the aim of bringing together contemporary songwriters from Shetland, Orkney and the Hebrides and celebrate the rich musical heritage of those islands. In the years that followed a number of diverse individual projects emerged out of this, from joint song-writing ventures through to exhibitions, lectures, films and, of course, live performances.

Come 2020 and Covid was to throw a spanner in the works. Performances had been scheduled at both the Shetland Folk Festival and the Heb Celt festival in Stornaway but, undeterred, project co-ordinator Alex MacDonald sought to translate the project from the stage to the studio.

He explains: “As the project was based on live events, initially we were at a loss as to how it could be saved. Thankfully we were able to redesign what was planned, and this double CD contains both live work previously captured and a series of entirely new tracks recorded in lockdown.”

The result is a breath-taking thirty-track, two-disc collection showcasing some top-notch song-writing, exquisite singing  and inventive contemporary arrangements of traditional fiddle tunes.

The thirteen musicians featured are: Maggie Adamson. Louise Bichan, Williw Campbell, Kris Drever, Julie Fowlis, Neil Johnstone, Jenny Napier Keldie, Kathleen MacInnes, Linda MacLeod, Jane Hepburn MacMillan, Arthur Nicholson and Satfishforty.  

The ‘lockdown disc’ was created from sessions that paired up artists across the existing projects while also allowing the opportunity for entirely new remote collaborations and compositions. Consequently, the disc begins by introducing the Western Isles, Shetland and Orkney musicians respectively over the opening three tracks before going on to explore a range of other pairings. The ‘live disc’ meanwhile was something that had long been planned and features performances from both Orkney Folk Festival and the An Lanntair arts centre in Stornaway. A detailed twelve-page booklet accompanies the two discs.

When live events do, once more, become possible this lovingly-curated CD will undoubtedly ensure the reputation of the Between Islands project will be stronger than ever and their return to the stage warmly anticipated.

Released: 11t December 2020

www.betweenislands.com

This week’s featured artist: pop-punk trio Project Revise – new single out 19th March

Taking their cues from the classic pop-punk anthems of the late 90s and early 00s Project Revise are a three-piece from Worcestershire inspired by bands such as Blink 182, Goldfinger and Less Than Jake. Project Revise regularly feature on Spotify playlists like ‘New Punk Tracks’, ‘Skatepark Punks’, ‘Pop Punk’s Not Dead’ and ‘Punk Unplugged’. The band performed a live session for BBC Introducing which was broadcast back in January 2019.

​Their latest single ‘Hold Your Ground’ is released on March 19th, immediately qualifying them as this week’s featured artist. A catchy, hard-hitting and instantly-memorable slice of pop-punk is all about everyday struggles in life, according to the band, and how to overcome them while still trying to remain true to yourself.

Guitarist/vocalist Chris Tamburro tells Darren’s Music Blog:

“Hold Your Ground really pulls together all the old school punk rock and emo influences we have between us. We really feel as though our musical direction has been progressive over the last year with our previous few singles, but this song really pushes things even further! We genuinely cannot wait for everyone to hear it and are excited to finally get back into the rehearsal studio again to work on some more new music!”

The video for ‘Hold Your Ground’ features almost 70 of the band’s followers from social media joining in with the lyrics, including an appearance from Bowling For Soup front-man Jaret Reddick.

Project Revise are:

Richard Marshall – Bass & Vocals

Chris Tamburro – Guitar & Vocals

David Yarnell – Drums

‘Hold Your Ground’ released 19th March 2021

https://www.projectrevise.co.uk/