Water Wheel set

Yesterday, accompanied by the sound of the water wheel and visited by herons(!) we played at Shepherd Wheel in Whiteley Woods.


We themed the set to nature/landscape-inspired songs…

1 – The Pie Bird – from I’m Across, I’m Ashore. Set on a farm backdrop, among ‘the drama of hens and of foxes’.

2 – Talkin’ Like You – one of our Connie Converse covers, full of natural imagery. We didn’t have Oliver with us yesterday, who normally represents the tall trees in this song on the musical saw, so I sent Katherine off to find something else she could use to fill in for him. She came back with two broad beans, given to her by Hangingwater Allotments. Unsurprisingly, they proved to be somewhat unmelodic. You can download our version here.

3 – DOG – about walking and presence. This was dedicated to Amy the dog who had come to watch us. She wagged her tail in approval. Download it here.

4 – Formicarium – a new song about the challenges of switching from ‘doing’ to ‘being’, including references to my own experiences of trying to learn meditation, a splash of existential crisis, that kind of thing, all set to a background of local scenery including the Porter Valley, Rivelin Valley and Chatsworth Gardens. (Will get this recorded eventually!)

5 – The Magpie’s Campaign – inspired by the behaviour of the birds in my garden, this one is about inequality and demonisation of certain groups in our society by our sick government – written ahead of the last general election, it is still exactly as relevant. It was during this song that a couple of herons flew about above us, obviously in approval of the sentiment. Read more and download it for free here.

6 – Condor – sticking with birds, the lighter side of this song is about a sort of natural reincarnation. You can download it here

Thanks to Steve Vickers for the pic, to Scott and the Folk Forest for having us, and to everyone who came to listen!


Share Button

Shepherd Wheel @ The Folk Forest (Tramlines)

I wasn’t planning on performing at Tramlines this year (or anywhere this summer – I’m busy working on a project at the moment that I’m hoping to be able to share with you soon!), but when I was asked to play a short set on the Water Wheel Stage at Shepherd Wheel, I changed my mind.

It’s a spot I’m fond of anyway, but it’s a great idea for a stage, with music, drama, poetry and local history. For the music element they have chosen artists who are particularly inspired by nature and landscapes.

More info on the Facebook page. I’ll be on at 3.

P1090460 copy

Share Button

Coe-pious radio play

Gideon Coe’s Sheffield special on BBC 6 Music the other night featured three helpings of me – two Nat Johnson & the Figureheads session tracks from 2010 (Book Club and Wasted) plus Sheffield Shanty II. You can listen back to the whole show over here.

One of those Figureheads tracks, Book Club, was given away as a free download back in 2009 – you can still get it here.

If you want something else fun to listen to, my friend Johny Row over in Australia is keeping up his great little show over there. Here’s his recent covers show.

Share Button

MSTU Photos / Video / Downloads

Photos from the MSTU reunion are now up on Facebook. Feast your eyes!


And you can also now get the new MSTU t-shirts from Bandcamp.


Watch the whole show here! Or here’s Jimmy in balloon-o-vision:

You can also download some live tracks for nowt over here.

Share Button

The Breakdooown

I joined Joel and Steve as guest co-host of The Breakdown on Sheffield Live again at the weekend. You can listen back to the whole thing here.

I played tracks by Adam Green, Fear of Men, Mogwai, I Am Oak, the Unthanks and Chuck. But you’ll find the best part at 1:56:40.


Share Button

Out Today: Sheffield Shanty II & Groucho

Ten years ago tomorrow, on 27 February 2006, Monkey Swallows the Universe released our first album, The Bright Carvings, through cult local label Thee Sheffield Phonographic Corporation.

We organised a launch party at what was then the Halcyon, now the Old House. I’d made some little invitations that we’d wrapped up like scrolls and tied with red ribbon and scattered about town as flyers.

BC launch invite

We charged a quid in and it was rammed. So rammed that the tiny PA was not much help to us and our rather delicate sound, so unless you were standing right in front of us you probably couldn’t hear anything and as such everyone else was talking. We just got on with it anyway, played a really fun set and then got drunk whilst Chris Stride from Offbeat and the Long Blondes DJed. I think I was the last to leave the building, after I was politely asked to stop dancing.

I remember dancing particularly enthusiastically to this, after asking the Long Blondes to put it on, for obvious Sheffield Shanty related reasons:

Sheffield Shanty remains the most well-known song from that album. I remember writing it, I remember the first time we played it and I remember playing it on specific occasions and how people reacted. I remember a roomful of people in Leeds singing the whole thing along with us once. I started playing it again a few years ago and wished I could make a recording of it that I was happier with, which has been on my mind for a while now. We did everything back then in such a rush! When the opportunity came a couple of years ago to work on a version of the song with Damian Wileman and Cornerstone Brass Band for the Women of Steel concert, I knew that this was the version that I had to record.

So, eventually, that’s what we’ve done. I’ve slowed it down to a thirty-something person’s speed rather than a twenty-something’s, and you can hear how brilliant Damian’s brass arrangement is for yourself. Kev’s back on slide guitar and glockenspiel, and you can hear Damian on tuba, Adrian Wileman on cornets (three of em), Chris Allchin on tenor horn and Joshua Chapman on baritone horn. It was produced of course by that super man Dave Sanderson. And thus Sheffield Shanty II (aye aye!) is at last shipshape in my ears. As for the eyes…

Presenting the video, starring Kevin Gori as Paul Simon, and me as Chevy Chase:

Huge thanks to Joe Binks who produced the video. Also to Florence Blanchard and Ed Bradbury from B&B Gallery, Cat Powell (location scout), Hannah Cartledge (props), Meriel & Pete Murray (more props) and Chris Loftus (fixer). Hope you enjoy it.

Now download the single! You can get it from Bandcamp, iTunes and other digital stores. The B-side is Kev’s ‘Groucho’, an update of the secret song from the first album.

single sq2

Share Button

MSTU single incoming

Out this Friday!


And that’s Sheffield Shanty “Aye Aye” rather than “Two”.

We’ve been rehearsing today for the gig… not changed a bit, right?

MSTU Feb 2016 small

Share Button