It has been over two months since my last blog, and it’s hard to believe. When I last wrote I spoke about tea arriving at my Dad’s, and how I would be taking mugshots along the way on my travels. My UK tour finished on November 19, and it was a fab time indeed. Funky pubs, Social clubs, a repurposed House of Worship, an English Roadhouse, a dark, hip, second floor Renaissance-y, restored nearly ruined, drinking and listening room (one of my favorite walks), a music and yoga studio concert, an Italian Restaurant/Jazzy Supper Club, a former Flax Spinning Mill turned pub and concert hall and others.
The tour started off with a radio interview with Carole Finer at Resonance Radio for her weekly show, Sound Out. I met Carole, who is also a clawhammer banjoist among other musical ventures, at the Orwell Bluegrass festival in 2015. We played in a tune circle together and have been good friends ever since. We got to do a mug shot at the end of the interview. Here is a link to that interview- https://m.mixcloud.com/Resonance/sound-out-10th-october-2017/
After doing Carole’s show, Sue, (Sue is Sue Griffiths, my clawhammer banjoist-singer-writer-road manager-girlfriend), and I had a few days off to acclimate and stayed in south London with two sets of friends, Susan and Gilly (aka The Gillies) and Hilary and James, two old-time musicians who play fiddle and banjo respectively. At Susan and Gilly’s we wrote a song together, the four of us, entitled Hey, Have You Heard The News? Perhaps a recording will surface and make a splash. At Hilary and James’ we had a gathering one evening with Susan and Gilly, and we played tunes and songs. Hilary had a new recorder she had been given on her recent birthday, and she recorded the evening. Perhaps after a listen when I get back to Nashville a tune or song may surface with a second splash.
The first concert of the tour was on Sunday, Oct 15 for Twickfolk in Twickenham at the Cabbage Patch. Ger Evans presented me with the River Boat Ramblers. We had a good crowd, and the sound was excellent. It set the wheels in motion for a fun tour. I decided to start with a few songs from my back catalog before doing selections from my new record. I did Death and Taxes, I Wish You Well, Janesville and Four Word Letter. Here’s a link to a video from that concert. https://youtu.be/67RvXodDb3E Here’s a link to a few of the titles from my back catalog. https://www.billykemp.com/new-album-1
The songs from my new record I did were Kings of the Grandstand, Another Life To Live, Down Where The Dogwoods Bloomed, Seven Mondays and Mr. Wilson, the Stonecutter. At the end of the set I invited the Riverboat Ramblers up for two encore songs. Here’s a link to songs from my new record. https://www.billykemp.com/new-album-3
Next we were off to the Midlands for two shows in Leicester and Loughborough. On Monday, Oct 16, I played at The Musician in Leicester. We had a small but enthusiastic crowd. The Musician has a great stage, sound and lights. My friend Val H. brought a gift of two William Morris china mugs for the mug shots we would be doing during the tour. As Val says, “Tea is always nicer when drunk from china.” It brought a smile to Val when I told her my given name is William Morris Kemp. Apologies to Val for nearly blocking her with my mug in our photo.
On Tuesday, Oct 17 I performed in Loughborough for Howard Coleman’s Live Acoustic Special. The show was at The Anchor Inn with three other acts for Oxfam. There was a good crowd, and good sound by Howard in an intimate performing space. One of the other acts, Wildwood Jack, performed some sea shanty songs of adventure and in reaction, I closed my set with a song from my new record, Chesapeake Narrows, a Geoffrey Himes-Billy Kemp collaboration written in 1983. Song circles are fun in that way as one song leads to another unexpectedly sometimes. Here’s a mugshot of Sue, Howard and me in Howard’s backyard on the morning we were heading down to Kent.
On Wednesday, October 18 we headed down the motorway to Kent, The Garden of England, over the Dartford Crossing into the village of Sittingbourne to perform at The Dancing Dog Saloon Bar and Grill for the weekly roots music series called The Dog Gone Roots presented by Graham and Josie. We got to Graham and Josie’s in the mid afternoon, played some tunes with Graham, had our tea (our dinner) and headed over to the venue. The Dancing Dog on the outside looked like a roadhouse. Stepping into the saloon was like going through some kind of honkytonk portal straight to Texas, complete with cowboy hats on the ceiling, wagon wheels, leather saddles, cacti and a hard wood dance floor ready for two-stepping. There were folks in the house that night I had met at the Orwell Bluegrass Festival two years earlier in 2015 that included Paul Brewer from the New Essex Bluegrass Band and George and Leslie Abbott from The Little Opry in Margate http://www.littleopryattomthumb.webeden.co.uk/ . It was a night of really good tunes and songs from the floor performers. Also in attendance were Alan Cackett, former editor of the Maverick Magazine, https://www.alancackett.com/ and Rob Ellen from Flying Shoes Reviews http://flyinshoes.ning.com/ . Here is a link to a Facebook post Alan posted. https://www.facebook.com/alan.cackett.7/posts/1278087088969982 Here is a link to an interview I did with Rob after the show for his Mobile Moose Sessions. http://flyinshoes.ning.com/video/billy-kemp-in-conversation-with-rob-ellen-moose-mobile-session
Thursday morning found us making our way to Filey in North Yorkshire on the North Sea coast. We had to stop in Loughborough to pick up a hanging bag with stage clothes we had left behind on Wednesday morning at Howard’s. We hit town in the afternoon and went straight to the Red Box to find our hosts Chris and Sue. Chris Lee is a music presenter I met in 2009 at the Beverly Folk festival. Chris’ partner, Sue, runs the Red Box, an Art and Craft shop.
On Friday night, October 20, it was on to Beverly for a gig at the Monks Walk. We drove to the Walk carrying guitar, banjo, CDs and a curiosity about the walk that the monks would take. As it turns out, the venue was just steps from the Beverly Minster. Supposedly the monks walk was from the minster to the pub, not that long of a walk. “Ancient and authentic” is a quote the Inn and Pub boasts. The concert room was upstairs on the second floor for the concert goers to have a pint and a listen. I had been performing a back catalog song, Janesville, about a frustrated farmer from the 1920s looking for the Promised Land during the tour, and as it turned out, in the audience that night were Trevor and Pam, farmers who live and work near Beverly. It’s always bigger and deeper to present Janesville with folks like them in the room. The wall behind the stage is a surviving wall from the 13th century. Now that’s Old Time… Which reminds me of a quote I heard that evening in conversation with someone at the show. We were talking about differences between the English and the Americans. My friend said, “Two hundred miles is a long way to an Englishman, and two hundred years is a long time to an American.”
That was the first third of the tour. Many smiles, miles and mugshots. I’ll be back in a few weeks with the second installment. Thanks to all of our hosts and presenters. And thanks to all of the fans for supporting live and recorded music. Until the next time…Much Happiness, Billy