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!
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.
1. One by One
2. Roving Woman
4. How Sad, How Lovely
5. Empty Pocket Waltz
6. Talkin’ Like You
7. There is a Vine
8. Lonely in the Dark (Johnson)
9. Down This Road
10. Fortune’s Child
11. Sorrow is my Name
12. Condor (Johnson)
Encore – All This (Johnson)
Enjoy! And please share, that’s what this project was all about from the get go – sharing these songs with as many people as possible.
It’s Sunday and I’m sat in my pyjamas on the sofa. I don’t have to go anywhere today. We’ve done a fair few miles over the last couple of weeks, so I think that’s ok.
After our unstoppable beginnings in Manchester and our smoother trip to Nottingham, we played a house show in Oxford, in the home of the former editor of Sandman Magazine, Sheffield’s indie bible back in the 00s.
On Tuesday we travelled to Birmingham and played at the rather beautiful Kitchen Garden Cafe. We also popped over the road to another cafe, Cherry Red’s, for excellent cheeseburgers and rootbeer.And I was given a lovely gift (thanks, Tony!) of this little solar powered light-up house. Note the tiny Neighbour of the Year sticker!
After the gig we drank wine and played Lexicon, which Hannah won 5 consecutive rounds of.
The next day we took a detour on our way to Cardiff into the Forest of Dean. It was such a beautiful day we decided to carry our instruments down to the River Wye…
…and filmed ‘Condor’, a song I wrote for Connie Converse:
And then Oliver and Katherine carried on playing…
That night we played at Gwdihw, an ace, gorgeous little place in Cardiff. Our guest that night was The Gentle Good, aka Gareth Bonello, who played an incredibly beautiful set accompanied by his wife Jen. I’m planning to bring Gareth to Sheffield in May, so watch this space.
It turned out that Jen there is a real master of zoology, and offered to give us a behind the scenes tour of the Cardiff Museum the following day, where we feasted our eyes on pickled spiders, cupboardfuls of beautiful beasts and birds and drawers filled with flies.
After eating the biggest sandwiches in the world (I failed completely)…
…we headed to London. We’d spent a bit too long (oops) in the museum and then we hit awful traffic, and ended up being 2 hours late for soundcheck, but it all turned out ok. Thanks to Ruth Barnes for hosting.
Me ol’ mucker Kev had come to see us, and I very much enjoyed getting the audience to boo him. He also got himself a Neighbour of the Year window sticker, as displayed here by him and his boys:
We were a bit giddy from a lack of food and too much booze as we left London, which led to us all confessing our secret love for Sheryl Crow to each other and singing along to ‘A Change Would Do You Good’ on youtube via Katherine’s phone in the car.
Somewhat sleep-deprived, and a little bit sad because we’d reached the end of this particular adventure, we arrived for our final show in Sheffield at the Greystones on Friday. It was the first time since Manchester that we didn’t have Mark Hadman with us and he was missed. Mark was our driver/roadie/tech support/sandwich locator/generally helpful wonderful man throughout the tour. THANK YOU MARK!
Sheffield gave us a very warm welcome home. We were filming this show for Sheffield Live TV, so it will be available to watch at some point. I’ll keep ya posted.
And so it ended. There’s nothing quite like travelling around with your friends and playing music every night in superb little venues. It was an amazing 10 days. Thanks again to Mark, and thanks to Chris at Hey Manchester!, Sam at Nottingham Indiepop, Jan & Emma, Brett at Kitchen Garden Cafe, James at Gwdihw, Chris at the Finsbury and Emily at the Greystones. And finally, a massive thanks to everyone who came out to see us on these cold nights and bought tickets and records, thank you thank you thank you.
The restrospective set:
Sheffield Shanty (The Bright Carvings)
Martin (The Bright Carvings)
Little Polveir (The Casket Letters)
Heart of Clay (b-side to Dirty Rotten Soul)
January (Roman Radio)
All This (Roman Radio)
Hedgehunter (I’m Across, I’m Ashore)
Straw & Hay (I’m Across, I’m Ashore)
Not Now, Horse (Neighbour of the Year)
March, March (Neighbour of the Year)
I’ve Been Shot (Neighbour of the Year)
Neighbour of the Year (Neighbour of the Year)
DOG (Neighbour of the Year)
Shelter (Neighbour of the Year)
Our next gig is at the Blue Sky Cafe in Sheffield on April 11th, as part of the ‘For The Common Good’ festival of events in support of the Sheffield Green Party. More details.
If you were in charge of the set, what Monkey Swallows the Universe / Nat Johnson & the Figureheads would you definitely include? (No promises being made). Leave me a comment below or tell me on twitter or Facebook.