I’ve contributed ‘March, March’ to the #SaveDevSt album, which is available as part of a crowdfunding campaign to protect some independent businesses on Devonshire Street in Sheffield. There are more than 40 bands on the album, including Big Eyes Family Players, 65 Days of Static, Hey Sholay, The Skipping Forecast and Magpies. Find out more here.
Big news, Connie fans! We’ll be performing our ‘Roving Women‘ show at the Hebden Bridge Trades Club on Wed 1 July!!
It’s part of the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival, which this year features the likes of Richard Herring, Wolfgang Flür from Kraftwerk, Tracey Thorn and I Am Kloot. The Trades Club is an ace and much-loved not-for-profit social club and I’m rather excited about playing there.
Altogether now, People say…
Tickets here or get them from the Box Office (no booking fee) in person.
Because I thought I could avoid politics in the park. I tried to leave politics at the gate as I walked in and smelled the flowers, saw the grass – and for a moment I saw happily that the people in the park were just people, not voters.
Like everyone I know (yes, I’m one of those people with a completely left-wing social media feed who doesn’t seem to have a single ‘out’ Tory friend) I’m devastated by the result of Thursday’s election and terrified for the future. I spent Friday grieving; I wept for the NHS, for the poor, the hungry and the disabled, and for the many people I’m worried will actually lose their lives – not just what little quality of life they have – because of the people in charge of our country. Then I had to pull myself together and focus on Saturday’s gig, and in doing so, told myself to take a break from thinking about it (as much as possible) for a couple of days.
Yesterday was Sunday and day two of trying (and mostly failing) not to think about our new situation. After I’d seen Gareth off at the station, I went to the Millennium Gallery to look at a photography exhibition. It was great, except a photo of Cameron and his family took me by surprise and I hurried past as if it was a spider. I went home and tried to take a nap – we were up late – but I couldn’t sleep, so I set off for the woods.
On the way there I felt a pull to the park – my brain said it needed an open space to be in, to find some kind of perspective – so I headed to the middle of the field and sat on the grass for a while. It felt good to be in the midst of so many different groups of people and I wanted to be around them all, not alone in the woods just yet. Other people were on my mind, not just me. Unlike some. And so, though I had tried to leave it at the gate, politics found me again, in the park.
On Friday, a part of me was scared of being really upset for a couple of days and then slowly beginning to get on with stuff as usual; an act of acceptance, submission. I keep finding myself making painful ‘jokes’ now; the clock in the living room stopped and I blamed the Tories. A friend told me about the free dental care she gets on the NHS as a new mum and I told her they’re taking it away (she believed me for a second, and why shouldn’t she?). But every time I say something like this, my stomach lurches, because it’s not a joke. When I decided to take a couple of days to not solely dwell on the news and its consequences, I was also making a vow. I was telling myself – take a break now, because there’s going to be lots to do over the next five years.
I don’t know what I’m going to ‘do’ yet, or how much I can help – I’m listening to other people’s ideas and waiting to see where I can fit in – but whatever happens, I will do more than moan.
Later, in the woods: white noise on the bridge, a bluebell path, two hearts carved on a tree, wet dog footprints but no dog.
Enormous thanks to The Gentle Good, 99 Mary Street and our wonderful audience for a perfect evening, just what we all needed I think. And TWO magpie protest songs to boot. Such an honour hosting Gareth here in Sheffield and an absolute pleasure to sing with him. Safe journey back to Cardiff, Gareth!
Gareth’s Welsh Music Treats
The music scene in Wales has always been a bit cut off from the rest of the UK and I often find myself thinking that this has been to its benefit. After a brief flurry of interest from the UK music industry in the ‘90s (Stereophonics, Manic Street Preachers, Catatonia, Super Furry Animals etc) we’ve been largely left to our own devices. The scene here has always been independent from the rest of the UK, coloured as it is by the creativity of isolation and the uniqueness of a Celtic culture and language.
I don’t claim to be any sort of authority on Welsh music but I have been part of a very busy and extremely diverse scene since the mid 2000s. Below you’ll find a list of many of my favourite Welsh musicians. It’s in no way a comprehensive list as that would take far too long! I hope you enjoy!
1. Euros Childs – Bore Da – ‘Bore da’ is Welsh for ‘good morning’ – this is ex-Gorky’s front man Euros at his boisterous and psychedelic best!
2. Sweet Baboo – Let’s Go Swimming Wild – Steve Black (aka Sweet Baboo) began performing in Cardiff and now gets to play all over the world thanks to a raft of beautiful songs like this.
3. Meic Stevens – Can Walter – Meic is one of the original stars of the Welsh music scene and a phenomenally gifted songwriter and guitarist. Apparently Bob Dylan once called him ‘the greatest folk singer in the world’. I don’t know if that quote is true, who am I to disagree?
4. Y Niwl – Undegpump – Surf rock instrumental phenomenon fronted by the excellent songwriter Alun Evans (aka Alun Tan Lan – check out his solo work too!). One of the best live bands I’ve seen and familiar to footie fans everywhere as writers of the theme tune to ‘Football Focus’! Undegpump means ‘fifteen’.
5. H Hawkline – Moons In My Mirror – I’ve been a fan of Huw Evans’s music since his fantastic early psych-folk releases on Cardiff label Shape Records. On his most recent record he’s retained the quirkiness and added an infectious groove that is pretty irresistible.
6. Tystion – Byw ar y Briwsion – Tystion were a hip hop band formed in 1996 by MC Sleifar (Steffan Cravos) and MC Mabon (Gruff Meredith). One of the first Welsh language hip hop bands, they were always highly political and anti-establishment. The title means ‘living on the crumbs’.
7. R.Seiliog – Mt. Essa – R.Seiliog is the stage name of Robin Edwards and as well as being a fantastic musician Robin is a whizz with electronics and production. This track comes from his most recent album ‘In Hz’ which is absolutely brilliant.
8. Richard James – Tir a Môr – Rich is a great Welsh songwriter and guitarist and has released several great records in recent years that have been criminally overlooked. This track comes from his debut solo album ‘Seven Sleepers Den’ and is one of my favourites. He also played in one of the greatest Welsh bands of all time; Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci!
9. Cymbient – Arced – Cymbient is the musical output of Cardiff-based psychedelic artist Andy Fung. As well as being a great musician, Andy is a highly skilled visual artist and a central figure in the psychedelic scene in Cardiff. This track comes from their most recent album which was released on Folkwit records earlier this year.
10. Super Furry Animals – Pan Ddaw’r Wawr – Ok it was bound to happen wasn’t it? Here’s a track from the soon to be re-released Welsh language album ‘Mwng’ the highest charting Welsh language album ever (it got to number 11!). It means ‘When the Dawn Comes’.
11. Trwbador – Sun in the Winter – Sun in the Winter – A great duo from Carmerthenshire made up of Owain Gwilym and Angharad Van Rijswijk they mix up folk with techno and a bit of hip hop to make spellbinding music.
12. Datblygu – Y Teimlad – Datblygu formed in 1982 and led the way for the Welsh rock scene for years to come. Made up of David R Edwards, T.Wyn Davies and Pat Morgan, the band were known for Welsh language lyrics that reflected disillusionment with life in West Wales in the 80s. This song means ‘the feeling’ and was covered by the furries on ‘Mwng’.
13. Gwenno – Chwyldro – Gwenno is a musician from Grangetown in Cardiff that has a drive to place welsh language music into an international context. Her most recent album ‘Y Dydd Olaf’ (The Last Day) experiments with layered, home-fi keyboard sounds wrapped in dreamy vocals and musique concrète-inspired beats. Chwyldro means revolution and the song refers to Wales’s industrial past.
14. Oce – Geraint Jarman – Geraint was raised in the same part of Cardiff as Gwenno, and is one of the original stars of the Welsh rock scene. He was heavily influenced by many of the musicians in Cardiff’s Butetown area and introduced Reggae to the Welsh scene. This track comes from his recent album ‘Dwyn yr Hogyn Nol’ (Bringing the boy back home), which is a brillant record.
15. Georgia Ruth – Codi Angor – Georgia is a songwriter and harpist from Aberystwyth and here brings her silken tones to a traditional seafaring song from North Wales. She is joined by Iwan Hughes, another great songwriter from the Botwnnog in the Llŷn Peninsula. Georgia won the Welsh music prize in 2013 and this track was nominated for a Radio 2 Folk award for best traditional song. Gorgeous!
16. Cate le Bon – Are You With Me Now? – Orignally from Penboyr in West Wales, Cate spent many years in Cardiff before moving on to Los Angeles. Her music is a fabulous blend of folk, rock and psychedelia all delivered through one of the most gorgeous voices you’ll ever hear. This track is from her most recent album ‘Mug Museum’ but do check out her earlier work as well it’s great!
17. Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci – Patio Song – idolised in Wales and by those in the know all over the world Gorky’s are undoubtedly a huge influence on many Welsh bands to this day. This is one of their best known songs and is famous for the image of Euros’ flaming patio. Enjoy!
This election is depressing the hell out of me. But out of misery often comes music.
I’m fond of the magpies who live in a tree at the bottom of my garden; I’ve watched them make their nest these last three Springs; they move a little bit each year. They’re very territorial though, magpies, and aren’t very friendly when smaller birds come hopping about; the blue tits, the blackbirds, the robins. I put some crusts out the other day and watched as a little blackbird helped himself to a bit, until one of the magpies swooped down and chased him off. The magpie then collected the bread for himself, now and again flying around in the direction that the blackbird had scarpered in, making sure he didn’t come back. Sometimes the magpies seem to be just strutting, really smugly, around the lawn. It looks like they’ve got their hands behind their backs and are going ‘yes yes, this is all mine.’
So I fancied that the birds were putting on a play for me, with the magpies playing the part of the tories (sorry magpies), and the little birds being, well, the majority of us. And every time the magpies flew back to their nest I thought perhaps they’d just returned from doorstepping the local flora and fauna, promising if they get reelected to their tall tree they’ll continue to keep the nasty little ones down; misdirecting the electorate by badmouthing and blaming the poor blackbirds for all the problems whilst making themselves seem harmless and sensible.
“The Magpie’s Campaign” (not to be confused with Newcastle Utd’s season), was written and recorded at home today, 3rd May 2015.
Here’s one of my magpies. Lyrics below.
“So I go shaking hands with ferns:
‘Leaves to meet you, I don’t know if you’ve thought about how you’ll vote?
“You’ve seen me around? Well see that tree – yeah that’s me. I’ve moved a few branches but I’ve been here most my life.
“This is your chance now, Flora Fern – let’s hear your concerns.
I’ll tell you mine first.
“You see from my tree I see them all – hungry and small
Come looking for stuff – I chase them off.
“They should learn to live on less
They only need a little nest
They’re vicious too; they’ll peck at you and they’re moving in next door
And bigger birds with clever words – and pretty ferns – deserve more.’
“All the shiny things I keep, keep me warm and help me to sleep
Trust in me, you know right is right
Just like me it’s all black and white.”
Oh there are monsters in our midst
Smiling and pointing, sleight of hand
Pushing our whole heads in the sand.