Smiles & Miles Mugshot Tour UK 2017- Part 3

 The Church of St Thomas a' Becket built between 1256 and 1260 in Heptonstall, in West Yorkshire. Thanks to Rick and Alison for hiking up to the church.

The Church of St Thomas a’ Becket built between 1256 and 1260 in Heptonstall, in West Yorkshire. Thanks to Rick and Alison for hiking up to the church.

Here we go with the third installment of words and pics from my Smiles and Miles Mugshot 2017 UK tour in Oct and Nov. I’m writing from Nashville on an early Spring morning, having just finished some yoga. I’m sipping some Guayusa tea to get my motor running, sitting on the futon watching the change of light, a time I always am grateful for.

With Halloween behind us, Sue and I headed for the lovely village of Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, to stay with good friends, Rick and Alison. I met Rick Sweetnam at the Beverley Folk Festival in 2010 and have been friends ever since. We enjoy talking about music and particularly all things Led Zeppelin. Rick smiled as I told him a story about seeing Led Zeppelin open for The Who in 1969 at Merriwether Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland. Rick puts on shows at the Trades Club in Hebden but thought it might be fun for me to play at The Live Room, a venue in nearby Saltaire, a World Heritage Site. I had visited Saltaire a few years ago and had enjoyed seeing the Salts Mill, a textile mill built in 1853, now an art gallery that hosts the world’s largest permanent collection of David Hockney artworks. The Live Room is located in the Caroline Social Club in Saltaire. The promoters, Ron and Hilary were gracious hosts, and the mixing desk was a bigger version of the Allen & Heath Zed mixer that I use in my studio. The room was good sounding, cabaret style with a pub on the side. The soundcheck was fun with the room empty, a nice resonance bounced off all of the wood. Ron was a superb mixer. Ron had this to say about the evening: There were many outdoor fireworks displays on Friday night. Indoors at the Live Room, however, we had some musical pyrotechnics to match anything going on outside. The opening act was Billy Kemp, born in Baltimore but a long time Nashville resident who played a 1930’s Martin guitar and an opened backed banjo, named Moe and Bart, respectively. A Grand Ole Opry performer and a great songwriter and raconteur who had a very relaxed and accomplished manner. Opening with ‘Death & Taxes’, his delivery reminded me very much of Loudon Wainwright III. In the 1980’s Billy hosted writers nights at the legendary Bluebird Cafe. He mixed great stories with very well-crafted songs, many from his new album, Another Life, all delivered in a very clear distinct voice with great musicianship on both guitar and banjo. He finished his set to great applause with ‘Mr. Wilson, the Stonecutter’, stone cutter being a term used to describe people who drank too much ‘falling down water’. Ron mentioned the fireworks because Guy Fawkes day or Bonfire night was only two days away. Thanks Ron, I had a wonderful time performing for you. I’m looking forward to my next visit to The Live Room. Thanks to Rick and Alison for taking Sue and I on a few wanders Saturday while in Hebden Bridge.

 Billy, Sue, Alison, Rick and one of their two great cats, Caeser or Pompey

Billy, Sue, Alison, Rick and one of their two great cats, Caeser or Pompey

Sunday morning it was off to Manchester for a show at the Players Theater in Cheadle Hulme in Cheshire. My good friends Chris and Ian promoted this show and delivered a full house by twisting the arms of most of the attendees. We decided to name their production company, Arm Twister Productions. Needless to say, the company is just staying afloat because of their liability insurance costs. Thank goodness they didn’t have to twist my arm to get me to the show. I may not have been able to play all of the demolished chords in my song for Willie Nelson, I Wish You Well.  The show was in the pub above the theater, and it was a wonderful evening, seeing some folks I knew and then making some new friends.

 The Arm Twisters- Ian and Chris and The Product- Sue and Billy in Manchester

The Arm Twisters- Ian and Chris and The Product- Sue and Billy in Manchester

Just a bit east of Cheadle, across the Peak District National Park, we headed out early Monday morning to the former coal mining community of Barnsley to teach a songwriting class at the Honley School and perform at a guest spot at the Barnsley Folk Club. We stayed in nearby Penistone with good friends, Dave and Joy Bottomley. Dave is an Epiphone guitar enthusiast and a fantastic Piedmont style guitar player. He coordinates the shows at the folk club in Barnsley. Later on in the tour I played a show with Dave in Newcastle. The Honley school songwriting day was a real joy. Sue and I got to spend an hour with two middle school classes and write a song in each class. Then in the afternoon, each class performed the newly written song in a concert for an assembly. The students were studying space, and the songs they composed were called Light Years Away and You Take Me To The Galaxy. It is pure magic to see the students come alive and work on a song together. Thanks to Nicole and everyone at the Honley school for making the song writing day possible.  

Just a couple of days later, it was an evening of tunes, songs and stouts at the Barnsley Folk club. Dave Bottomley has been keeping this folk club together for many years, and I must say, it is one of my favorite places to play in all of England because of the spirit and enthusiasm of Dave and so many of the singers and musicians there. We were on the second floor of the Trades Club, and Sue and I had a big time with everyone. Thanks to all of the singers and musicians for their songs and tunes. I am already looking forward to visiting again in 2019. Thank you Dave for your passion, playing and time that you always seem to find to give to the club. And thanks for taking Sue and I to the chip shop to have lunch with you and Sarah in Penistone.

 The Chip Shop in Penistone

The Chip Shop in Penistone

 Sue, Sarah, Dave and Billy at the Chip Shop in Penistone

Sue, Sarah, Dave and Billy at the Chip Shop in Penistone

Our next stop was back to Filey on the northeast coast of England in North Yorkshire. We were hosted by Chris Lee, who was promoting the show for Friday night at the Woodend Creative in Scarborough, just north of Filey. The show at Woodend was a co-bill with the King Courgette band from York, hands-down my favorite vegetable string band in the world. Chris has been promoting shows there for many years, and it always proves to be an event to celebrate. There was a fashion exhibit on at the gallery/concert space and getting to dance with the mannequins was an added bonus. I definitely had my daily amount of fiber intake that day considering the mannequins and the Courgettes. King Courgette was ripe, bursting with syncopated sweetness, string fever flavor and toe-tapping, boys in the band shouting that convinced all of us that vegetables really are good for you. Many thanks to Alfred Hickling for coming to Nashville last spring and sharing warm drinks and co-writing a few songs on Another Life.

 Hot Chili McGrath, Wild Zucchini Bill, Spring Onion Sue, Beet Root Billy, Papa Courgette, Stringbean Slim and Bad Apple Two T's Curtis

Hot Chili McGrath, Wild Zucchini Bill, Spring Onion Sue, Beet Root Billy, Papa Courgette, Stringbean Slim and Bad Apple Two T’s Curtis

The next morning, Saturday, Nov 11, it was off to Newcastle for a show with Piedmont singer and musician, Dave Bottomley, for a Sunday afternoon show at the Monkey Junk Blues club in The Cluny. Sue and I drove up the coast and spent a few hours in the seaside village of Whitby, a place I have wanted to go for years. Whitby has a maritime and mineral heritage, and is also home to the gothic Whitby Abbey ruins, an inspiration for Bram Stoker’s, Dracula. I found it ironic that Whitby, in old Norse means white settlement, while the town is famous for its Whitby Jet, a black gemstone which is actually a mineraloid, derived from decaying wood under extreme pressure, similar to coal. Come to Whitby where things are black & white. Sue and I had a lovely wander through the town and found a small cafe for lunch. It was a bit windy with a chill that day, and I had a big mug of cocoa while Sue had a cup of joe.

 Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey

We arrived in Newcastle that evening, my first visit, and stayed with our friends, Dave and Joy from Barnsley. The Monkey Junk show was the next day, and it was a wonderful afternoon, shuffling through a mixed bag of blues with Dave. We shared the presentation going back and forth with various blues numbers that we both knew. I hadn’t done a blues gig in a long time and was grateful for the opportunity. Dave is an amazing musician, singer and writer. For those of you in the UK and for others who will be visiting, a trip to see Dave Bottomley perform is recommended; well-crafted original songs, obscure covers, passionate singing and superb finger-style guitar playing.

 Billy with Dave Bottomley at the Cluny

Billy with Dave Bottomley at the Cluny

On Monday, Nov 13, we were off to the Lake District, southwest of Newcastle, a three hour trip, for a house concert in Windermere and the final show of the tour at Zeffirellis, a cabaret style restaurant and music venue in Ambleside. We gently drove on the A roads for most of the trip as to avoid the motorway and to see the beautiful countryside, just north of the Yorkshire Dales. We were heading to the home of John and Annie Hawson, friends I had met years ago at the North Wales Bluegrass festival in Conwy. John is a songmaker and singer who writes narrative, catchy melodic tales; my favorite being about a wild back country woman and another about a pesky, bothersome black crow. Annie, originally from Scotland, a singer who makes music with a choral group in Windermere, is the kindest, gentlest person in the multi-verse, always ready for a chat, a listen and a smile. We stayed for days, and Annie and I got to collaborate on several meals together, which was fun for me, mixing ideas and ingredients and getting to cook on an AGA cooker, which was in their home when they moved in. The perfect stovetop for a simmering pot of beans and drying your jeans. Needless to say, it was mid-November, and many cups of tea were also enjoyed.

The house concert at John and Annie’s was on Wednesday evening in the Yoga and Music studio. The wood stove was in good form, and folks piled in for an evening of songs and stories. John sang a few, Richard Tordoff played some tunes that had rich, harmonic arrangements, Matt France sang his own songs, and Tony Rothwell played his Martin guitar and sang a song about a desk…. A few ales, stouts and nibbles were consumed besides the music. A few friends from previous visits were on hand, and some new ones were made. John’s friend and an acquaintance of mine, Jonty, showed up and had some fun stories to share as well as a can of beer he gave to me that I can’t remember the name of but was one of the strongest beers I had ever sipped, and I really only took two sips, but don’t tell Jonty, he would be disappointed. I am drinking a tea to John and Jonty this morning. Here’s to the next time we are together for story, song and sipping.

 Sue, Billy, John and Annie in Windermere

Sue, Billy, John and Annie in Windermere

The last show of the tour wasn’t far from John and Annie’s in the lovely village of Ambleside, just north of Lake Windermere.  Zeffirellis had a cabaret style room upstairs, and the crowd was nearly full and ready for a show. The soundcheck went well, and I had a good long chat with the soundman who had recently been to Southern California. We shared people and places that we knew. It is a small planet with a big smile.

Of the three, people, places and things, the one that I hold closest are the people. Thank you to all of the hosts for sharing a pallet, the presenters for sharing a stage, and the folks and fans, old and new, for sharing their listening skills and time at the gigs. Sue and I are thankful and grateful for every cuppa, every conversation and every M & S on the motorways.  And also to all of the English motorway drivers who managed to navigate around me without incident. There is a warning on the motorways of England that says Keep Your Distance, which is good advice that I tried to follow during the tour. Richard Thompson wrote a song by that title that has to do with affairs of the heart. I saw him at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum a few years back as part of the Americana Music Festival and Awards, and I got to ask him if the song title came from the motorway sign, and he said, “yes, you’re on to me, it’s awful isn’t it, having to stoop to motorway signage for inspiration.” Do keep your distance on the motorways, but please keep in touch when a thought occurs that you would like to share. I am raising my mug this morning to our friendship and am looking forward to the next time. Onward and upward.

 Billy at Woodend, Scarborough, England photo by Sue

Billy at Woodend, Scarborough, England photo by Sue

I hope you have enjoyed these recollections. They are most likely dotted with exaggerations, memory distortions, stretchers, inventions and other thoughts bordering the truth. I can’t claim accuracy but am grateful for the memories I now share with all of you who were there…

Much Happiness,

Billy

 

 

 

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Western Two

Friday, April 6, 2018. Sue and I arrived in Santa Fe, New Mexico to stay with Sue’s Aunt Jane. Jane is Sue’s Mom’s sister. She lives in an adobe style home just outside of the city. It is Friday night and we have driven from Ft. Stockton, Texas. We had dinner and great conversation as both Jane & Sue are remarkable story tellers, sharing stories as they hadn’t seen each other in about thirteen years. There was lots to catch up on.

 

 Sue and Aunt Jane catching up in Santa Fe, April 6, 2018 Sue and Aunt Jane catching up in Santa Fe, April 6, 2018

We had a show booked in Las Vegas, New Mexico on that Sunday that had cancelled so we were able to enjoy the entire weekend with Jane. On Saturday, April 7, Jane took us to the Center for Contemporary  Arts and we saw an exhibit by two artists, Ceil Bergman’s, The Linens, and Tom Joyce’s, Tc- Curie Point. The Linens were large works that Bergman did over a number oy years. It was impressive to walk into the main exhibit room and see so many large works side by side. I was struck by what I kept calling her question bone image that recurred in many of her linens.

 

This is entitled, For Duchamp (After the Large Glass) http://www.cielbergman.com/xl2xd1ils9dijj1dj5rtm8jy6udpl6

The Tom Joyce exhibit was different. The metal artist worked for forty five years and the exhibit suspended nearly 25,000 lbs of equipment, supplies, tools and other objects that were once incorporated, made, used and/or laid to rest in the artist’s studio. It was dark in the space and I was a bit nervous walking under all of the weighted materials.

 

Suspended heavy metal of Tom Joyce. http://www.ccasantafe.org/current-exhibitions/1408-tom-joyce-tc-curie-point

After leaving the exhibit, we went into downtown Santa Fe, had a rest and chat at a coffee shop and then browsed a few shops and smaller galleries before heading back to Jane’s.

We left Aunt Jane’s in Santa Fe and headed to Tucson, Arizonia. We had a show booked on April 11 at the Monterey Court, an open air courtyard with a nice stage, lights and sound. The courtyard is surrounded by small shops and art studios and festively decorated. Thanks to Greg Haver and everyone at the court. That was one court room I’d like to visit again. Sue and I camped that evening just north of the city. The desert is great for sleeping as the temps drop when the sun goes down. We did hear coyotes yipping before we fell asleep. They were close and the clarity of the yips in the night air were as chilling as the air itself.

The next morning we got out early and started making tracks to California. Our next show was on April 15 in Thousand Oaks at their library. That gave us a few days to get there and we got to stop at Joshua Tree National Park for one evening. We entered the park off of Interstate 10 near Cottonwood Springs. We were hoping to camp deep inside the park but all of the sites were booked. There were a few sites left at Cottonwood Springs thankfully. We arrived early enough to set up camp and take a hike. We got back to camp and fixed a pinto bean dinner with a side of sustained winds that made it difficult for our Snow Peak stove to stay burning. It was a beautiful night for star gazing but the winds continued throughout most of the night, making sleep hard to find because of a flapping tent. It was comical. Sleep did eventually visit but it was short lived. The next morning we drove through the park, stopping along the way for photo opts and settled on breakfast at the Crossroads Cafe near the west entrance. The coffee, tea and grub were a welcome treat after a night of sustained thirty mile per hour winds. Oh, the wind, the wind, the wind.

 The desert fan palm oasis at Cottonwood Springs The desert fan palm oasis at Cottonwood Springs

We left the Crossroads Cafe, stopped by Pioneer Town for a dusty peek and then we were off to Malibu for our visit with Jane and Tom. Jane is Sue’s cousin, whom she hadn’t seen in many years. Her husband Tom plays the tuba and it made me smile to hear him practicing. I love the tuba. Tom is a music editor for film but also plays in the community orchestra. They hosted Sue and I for a week and we had a wonderful time with them. We had our own little film fest and watched a couple of Terrence Malick films and the Florida Project. Thank you Jane and Tom, a house filled with beauty, music, story and then some. And thanks for letting me have my way in your kitchen. Sue and I got to visit a few must sees in Malibu, Paradise Cove, Point Dume and walks in the hills. Here are a few pics.

 

 Everybody’s gone surfin’  Everybody’s gone surfin’

 

 Happy hikers in Point Dume. Happy hikers in Point Dume.

 A bored trio... A bored trio…

 Malibu Sue... Malibu Sue…

Our show at the Thousand Oaks library on Sunday, April 15 was well attended and my very first solo California gig. It’s a wonderful concert series and got to see some friends, Merlin, Debbie and Russ. Sue’s cousin, Jane, was able to attend and see Sue perform for the first time. It was a great start to our California shows.

After staying with Tom & Jane, we headed over to Merlin & Debbie’s who live in a house that they built in Thousand Oaks. We stayed just a couple of days and had the best time. We got to go with them to a little league baseball game that their grand kids were in. We shared songs, drank tea and managed a wonderful hike into the mix. Thanks to Debbie and Merlin for sending us on our way with a bag of Yerba Matte. It’s late July and I am still brewing a cup every morning.

Next we were off to Sherman Oaks for a hang and a song with good friends, Craig and Ali. Craig is Craig Eastman, the best darn fiddler in the multiverse, whom I met back in 2015 while working on a record with Jeni Hankins and Ali is Ali, who always brings out the best in everyone. Thank you Ali for great conversation and creative ideas and punctuations. My friend, Dillon O’ Brian introduced me to Craig and I am ever grateful to him. More on Dillon in a bit.

 

We got to do some rehearsing with Craig in his fab studio for some shows coming up in the central coast near San Luis Obispo, or SLO as it is called. This was going to be the first time I got to play some shows with Craig doing my songs. We had the best time exploring arrangements, as Craig always brings layers of expression and emotion to every thing he is a part of. There is song and dance in every cell of Craig’s being. He is a song and dance man. His music spills effortlessly into the flow. Their dogs, Buster and Willie, always present, helped us along, with intermittent walks being ever watchful, mindful and cute.

 

 Craig, Sue and Billy rehearsing again in Atascadero, near Slo... Craig, Sue and Billy rehearsing again in Atascadero, near Slo…

The Tuesday night before we headed to the central coast, Sue and I got to see my good friend, Dillon O’Brian at his musical gathering at Ireland’s 32 also in Sherman Oaks. You’ll find Dillon and company there nearly every Tuesday singing songs that have changed the way we move in the world, like hearing David Jackson sing, Some Broken Hearts Never Mend or Dillon sing his, Fearless Love or a Jimmy Webb song. I got to sit in and sing a Marjy Plant song, The Wheels of Love and Chuck Berry’s, Nadine. We also got to see song mixer extraordinare, Dave Way. Thanks to Dillon and friends for a big time.

On Wednesday morning we were off to Atascadero to stay with Charley and Anet, two of the greatest higher evolved beings on the planet. For years they presented the Brickyard Theater in their courtyard and now that the theater has drawn its final curtain, they on occasion host a house concert. We were also in the central coast to perform two concerts at The Screening Room at Cherent Ranch Studio hosted by Brent Keast.

Charley and Anet sometimes host the Tibetan Monks and it was our good fortune that one was staying with them during our visit, Geshe. I got to attend a meditation one morning that Geshe directed. Geshe made dinner one evening and served some delicious dumplings called popo’s. He was always smiling and ready to lend a hand. Thank you Geshe for your service and your smile. His service is to remind everyone to be mindful of others and to always try to be in the moment and pay attention

 mug shot at Craig and Ali’s mug shot at Craig and Ali’s  mug shot with Anet, Sue, Billy, Charley, Craig and Geshe in Atascadero  mug shot with Anet, Sue, Billy, Charley, Craig and Geshe in Atascadero   Craig, Sue and Billy at the Brickyard Theater  Craig, Sue and Billy at the Brickyard Theater   The bells at the Mission San Miguel... The bells at the Mission San Miguel…

Many thanks to Brent, Charley and Anet for hosting the central coast concerts. We had the best time with everyone and are looking forward to the next time.

Northern California and back east to follow…

 

Dusty, Flat & Wind Blown- Journal from the West…

It’s Friday, April 6, 2018, and Sue and I are driving north on state road 285 in southern New Mexico just out of Carlsbad heading towards Santa Fe. We performed in Ft Stockton, TX last night. The tour started in Conway, Arkansas on Tuesday, April 3 at the Faulkner County Library.

 Cowboys, Boxing, Music and Dance Hall in Ft. Stockton

Cowboys, Boxing, Music and Dance Hall in Ft. Stockton

The gig at Conway was a small audience as a storm front came through with tornado warnings. Sue and I were camping on the Arkansas River at Toad Suck, an Army Corps of Engineers park. We were tent camping and hammered in the stakes with extra verve and attention. At the show, I knew the entire audience from previous shows I’d done there. Marketa, Alice, Jan and Glenn were there. Marketa wasn’t getting around as easily and was in a wheelchair and her good friend, Alice, was helping her around. Marketa told the story of how her grandmother would cut a storm in two so the storm wouldn’t touch their house. She’d grab a hatchet, go into the backyard and throw the hatchet into the dirt. Marketa said once a tornado came through, and her grandmother threw the hatchet. The storm split and devastated houses on either side of hers.

 The tent at Toad Suck, Arkansas April 3, 2018

The tent at Toad Suck, Arkansas April 3, 2018

Did I say it is flat out here? We’re twenty miles south of Artesia, New Mexico. We’ve seen pecan groves, brush, telephone and electrical lines. And then the occasional oil jack pump and cattle. Did I say it is dusty?

 The Pecan Groves in New Mexico April 6, 2018

The Pecan Groves in New Mexico April 6, 2018

In the morning after Conway we headed for Texas. We made tracks to Abilene. We had a reservation at the Abilene State Park near Buffalo Gap for Wednesday night, April 4. As we drove to Abilene, we listened to the many tributes to Dr. Martin Luther King on the radio. We got to the park just before dark and were able to get the tent set up just before the sun went down. Abilene State Park was much quieter than Toad Suck. At Toad Suck, there is a dam, and it creates a white noise, which I don’t mind for sleeping. But at Abilene, the nights sounds were the sounds of nature, various night birds and the occasional coyote.

We just reached Artesia. We just passed a car wash, and there were several RVs in line to wash the dust off. It would probably be a long wait for the rain to wash it off here. Did I say it was windy here? One thing we noticed was the litter. There are strong winds here, and it must be difficult to keep the litter from blowing everywhere.  Artesia has the railroad running through north/south. We saw some cars like we’ve never seen, most likely hauling oil. 

 

 Train heading south in New Mexico April 6, 2018

Train heading south in New Mexico April 6, 2018

 Train cars probably filled with oil. New Mexico April 6, 2018

Train cars probably filled with oil. New Mexico April 6, 2018

We rose in the morning at Abilene and packed up and headed south on SR 277 to SR 67 south. 67 was a two lane with gas and oil on both sides. At times you could smell the oil. The oil fields were scattered with the jack pumps and compressor stations.

 Compressor station in the oil fields. West Texas April 4, 2018

Compressor station in the oil fields. West Texas April 4, 2018

We’re twenty seven miles from Roswell. We’re either gonna fill up or beam up. The state roads heading north and south are straight and long. Towns separated by thirty or forty miles. In Red, our Volkswagen Golf, we are a minority. The road is traveled by mostly trucks, semis and pick-ups.

 Straight road, trucks and big sky. Highway 285 New Mexico April 6, 2018

Straight road, trucks and big sky. Highway 285 New Mexico April 6, 2018

Seven miles outside of Roswell and we’ve already felt signs of an alien presence.

 Roswell, New Mexico April 6, 2018

Roswell, New Mexico April 6, 2018

Heading north now on 285 on to Santa Fe, next town up, Vaughn just went by the 44 Ranch, looks like miles of brush. They had a neat brand with a non-angular, curvy 44. 

 Cowboy in New Mexico April 6, 2018

Cowboy in New Mexico April 6, 2018

I read a short story by John McPhee about cattle rustling in the west and the many different brands that ranchers use. John pointed out in the story how some brands are easier to duplicate and others that are easy to change, like an F to an E. The curly 44 may be one that is safe when it comes to changing. Just passed mile marker number 155. Just passed 156…dusty, flat and wind blown.

Much Happiness, Billy and Sue April 7, 2018…