I have been tinkering with my recorded works just lately, trying to make some of them sound better and giving them tracklistings that fit together, so I thought I would do a quick run-through of what is on offer for the discerning listener.

The End Of Being Afraid was recorded in April 2005 by John Ablitt at his home studio. We recorded all ten tracks live with just me and my guitar. I kept making mistakes on ‘Don’t Call It Love’ so this was replaced with ‘Further Away’ instead. These songs were written over many years and I still love a lot of them today. It was my first chance to hear myself recorded properly.

One Lonely Night was recorded live at The Swan in the Rushes, Loughborough on 14th October 2005. It features some new songs and also ‘Don’t Call It Love’ which was left over from The End Of Being Afraid. This gig was the first of the Singer/Songwriters’ Charity Showcase nights that I organised with John Ablitt at The Swan. I like the sound of the recording but some of the songs are a little weak. Stand-out tracks for me are ‘A Note Of Goodbye’ which I wrote to be a song to open gigs with, ‘One Lonely Night’ which was inspired by The Passion of the Christ film, and the aforementioned ‘Don’t Call It Love’.

Harsh Light Of Day was one of the recordings that I gave a bit of a brush-up as it was a very raw recording from the mixer by Chris Thorley. I just added some compression and reverb to give it a fuller sound. It was recorded live at The Sun in Leicester the day after I had played at Picnic in the Park in Loughborough. I took this gig as an opportunity to play some of my darker songs. The recording is the gig in its entirety apart from a cover of Marillion’s ‘Sugar Mice’ which I did at the end and, to be honest, it wasn’t very good so I’m happy for the album not to have it on.

Dancing In The Stars is my epic live album featuring songs from two gigs at The Swan in the Rushes from 16th June and 27th October 2006, and the final track being from 6th January 2006. I think ‘Growing From The  Outside In’ is one of the best tracks I’ve recorded as, like a lot of the songs on here, it features Nigel Lawson on harmonica. I’ve included as many of the songs I did with Nigel as I could, even though some are duplicated on the ‘No Further To Fall’ album, because I wanted the stuff I did with him to be available for people to hear as sadly Nigel is no longer with us.

No Further To Fall was also recorded with Nigel on harmonica and Mark Haynes on percussion and, like my previous recordings, was also produced by John Ablitt. The gig took place on 12th January 2007 and our set included two songs by Mark’s band, ist. It was a joy to play with my mates and although my guitar playing wasn’t at its best on the night, we had a good time and I hope the recording captures that. John deliberately cut out the crowd noise as I had been talking about doing a recording session with Nigel and Mark and I think he did that to give it a recording session sound rather than a live gig with audience sound. The final track was recorded at The Catholic Club, Loughborough on 16th February 2006.

Burnt Rose was recorded with my other collaborator, Amos Parkinson, at his home studio during 2007. We recorded the songs over two sessions and then he added the drums later. I think this album contains a couple of good songs, namely ‘The Twilight’ and ‘Mary Said’, and I’m happy that it has a really different sound to the other recordings and hopefully sounds more like a band. ‘Out In The Night Rain’ was recorded during 2011 but I added it to Burnt Rose as it was also recorded with Amos and features his son, Dan, on bass guitar.

The songs on Sailing Home were written after Burnt Rose when I felt I could no longer write my usual singer/songwriter-type songs. I started writing about sea stories and researched into the historical detail for many of them. I wrote most of these songs on ukulele but this recording is from a gig at The Donkey in Leicester where I played the songs on guitar. It was recorded by Chris Thorley on 11th March 2011.

Merry-Go-Round was recorded in early 2014 at home. I had been writing for some time and, following a break-up, I wanted to do something positive and creative, so I set about recording the songs I had been writing over the previous couple of years. Growing up, I had listened to The Barron Knights and The Bonzo Dog Band, so writing comedy songs seemed a natural evolution after the sea songs. Being Suddenly Single and Make Or Break were added later as they seemed to fit in well with the other songs.

I hope this has been of some help in navigating through my recorded works as they currently stand.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Gary Delaney ‘There’s Something About Gary’ review


I have seen Gary Delaney quite a few times over the past couple of years and have never come away disappointed. I booked to see his new tour as soon as I heard about it and deliberately avoided seeing his stand-up performance at this year’s Leicester Comedy Festival as I wanted to hear all his fresh jokes on the tour show, although I did see his panel show, Panel Beaters, at Firebug during the festival which I’ve reviewed previously.
Gary’s support for this show at Loughborough Town Hall was one of his co-panellists on Panel Beaters, Andy Robinson, who was terrific.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Gary is a one-liner comedian who is often on Mock the Week and his shows are crammed full of jokes but with other items now and then to give a bit of variety.
The material he has in this tour show is hilarious and for someone like me who writes one-liners as a hobby it’s great to see a master of the art at work. I also like the points where Gary breaks character to chat between the batches of jokes as he comes across onstage as really likeable.
I always enjoy Gary’s shows and this one was particularly great. His ‘There’s Something About Gary’ tour continues so catch him if you can.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Charnwood Minstrel Part 4: The Songmistress

Autumn at Queens Park2.jpg
Since her first appearance there, Autumn Dawn Leader has become an integral member of the Loughborough Acoustic Club family. She has a rich, powerful voice and plays piano as well as the lyre and various other instruments. Her songs include beautiful piano ballads, delicate harp songs and the occasional happy song which sneaks in when she isn’t looking.
She has recently released an album called ‘The Other Side‘ which was produced by Amos Parkinson and features Amos on drums, Bob Breeze on guitar and Asher Rossell on bass.
Autumn is originally from Chicago, grew up in Florida, and moved to the UK in 2004.

Not only is Autumn a terrific solo performer but she was also lead vocalist in a band called The Chairs. She performs in a duo called String Theory with Mark Pimperton on guitar and vocals, and has recently been collaborating with Steve Cartwright in a duo called The Way Out.
Autumn’s songs deal with heartbreak, sadness, loss, dreams, mythology and fairy tales, a really rich mix of subject matter for her beautiful music.
Autumn’s new album ‘The Other Side’ is available here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Dragons Ten

I love a fun B-movie almost as much as I love an awful pun. Some of my favourite low-budget films are from the fantasy genre. When I was young there was very little to whet this particular appetite. A very rare appearance by Beastmaster or Krull on TV was nothing like the fantasy film smorgasbord we have available today. So I would like to take this opportunity to direct your attention to ten of my favourite low-budget fantasy films. Please bear in mind that they may not be amazing films by normal standards, but what they lack in the quality of their special effects or acting is usually counterbalanced by heart and enthusiasm.

1. Merlin and the Book of Beasts
The dream of Camelot is dead, Merlin is nowhere to be found and a mysterious sorcerer is beginning a reign of terror. Only a small band of knights have any hope of restoring peace to the ravaged land as the sorcerer begins to unleash the terrible power of the Book of Beasts.
This film is one of my favourites. James Callis plays an excellent grumpy Merlin as he and the knights go up against a fun selection of monsters in their quest to overcome the evil sorcerer. It’s a really enjoyable adventure, the FX are fun and the acting is fine.

2. Mythica: A Quest for Heroes

This is the first film in a series starring Marek, who has emerging magical powers and seeks to escape a life of servitude, and her band of companions which she meets along the way.
This is a film made with real heart and passion. The FX and acting are absolutely fine, the heroes are likeable and the heroes battle some excellent monsters. The script is a lot of fun and keeps things light-hearted without going into parody. Marek is a very engaging hero and her developing friendships with her companions are very believable. I look forward to seeing more from the series.

3. Dragon Hunter
This is a film by The Asylum, who, when they get it right, create some very fun films. The dragons in the land are getting out of control and causing chaos across the land. Only the prophecy of a mythical dragon hunter holds any hope for human survival.
A little of the acting is a bit below par in this film but it is shot really nicely with beautiful forest locations and some good characters. There is also a neat extra ability that the dragons have in this movie which adds more danger.
The story of someone realising and trying to fulfil their destiny is very satisfying and all in all it’s a really fun film.

4. Dragon Quest
This is another Asylum film and stars Marc ‘Beastmaster’ Singer as a crotchety old warrior who has to train the chosen one so that he can try to battle an evil monk who is trying to take over the world with the use of a terrible dragon. The young Arkadi must try to overcome many trials to win the stones of virtue in order to defeal the evil monk, Krill.
The acting is pretty okay, although Arkadi’s accent sometimes seems difficult to pin own, but it’s not too distracting. The tests that Arkadi has to overcome are nicely thought out and although the monsters aren’t amazing they don’t detract from a very fun adventure.

5. The Dragon Chronicles: Fire and Ice
A terrible fire dragon begins to destroy the kingdom of Carpia whilst leaving the neighbouring kingdom untouched. Could the wayward Princess Luisa possibly find a banished knight, if he is still alive, and get him to help?
This is another nice-looking film with some very interesting dragons that look a little like manta rays, which adds a unique touch. John Rhy-Davies is excellent as the young hero’s companion. I couldn’t accept him as a baddie in Dragon Storm, a film which fails to put across why you should care about any of the humans as they all seem pretty awful, but in this he plays a wise and ingenious old warrior and inventor. There are some weak points in the acting but it doesn’t detract too much from the story and overall it’s an exciting and fun adventure.

6. Dungeons and Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God
I think I can say without fear of contradiction that the first Dungeons and Dragons film was awful. It totally went against the teamwork principle of the game and Snails was the most irritating film character since Jar-Jar Binks. This second film, however, is an entirely different kettle of fish.
The evil Damodar has returned to wreak revenge upon the kingdom of Ismir and only Lord Berek and his companions have any hope of stopping him before he wakes the Night Dragon and lays the world to waste.
The acting is fine and some of the monsters are excellent. The story is really enjoyable and the whole adventure is a lot of fun with some ingenious ideas for tricks and traps which the heroes have to overcome. A proper tribute to the game the film is based on.

7. Dungeons and Dragons: The Book of Vile Darkness
The third D&D film has a much darker tone and more adult feel. A young knight has to infiltrate a group of evil warriors in order to find out where his father is imprisoned and to take revenge on whoever wiped out his chivalrous order.
Some of the acting is a bit ropey but the monsters are excellent, one in particular being genuinely terrifying. Some of the characters are very good and the exploration of the young knight, Grayson’s, conflicted loyalties are pretty interesting.
This isn’t the joyous fantasy romp that the other films are but it is very intriguing to journey through a fantasy world from the point of view of a powerful group of warriors who use their power for their own selfish ends.

8. The Four Warriors
This film was written by its star, Christopher Dane, and has only two major problems. Most of the cast are fine and the story is that of a village under attack where some brave souls turn up to help the villagers fight back. Standard stuff but nicely done nonetheless. There is character development and believable friendships between the heroes.
The first problem is that the baddies and their leader look like an afterthought. Their masks just look cheap, uninspired and ridiculous. It’s hard to take a chief baddie seriously when he looks like a pre-school art project gone wrong, despite his cool flaming sword.
The other problem is the cameo role by Kristian Nairn whose acting is so much worse than the rest of the cast that it detracts horribly from the film. Clearly he is only in it because of his association with Game of Thrones. I don’t like being negative but his performance and the poor baddies almost ruin an otherwise fun film.

9. The Dark Knight
The DVD cover of this film gives the impression that it is set during the crusades but, thankfully, that is misleading, as it is a lot more interesting than that. It opens at the advent of a battle where a warlord’s warriors are preparing to destroy their enemies and steal a hoard of treasure. However, some of his soldiers have other ideas and make off with the booty into a forbidden land, supposedly haunted by terrifying monsters.
It is hard to like the protagonists at first but after a time the band’s leader’s true plan and motivation is revealed. It is a film which grows more likeable as it goes on.
The monsters aren’t great and the assasin’s masks look a little cheap and silly, but they don’t detract from the intriguing post-apocalyptic world and exciting story.

10. Dragon Crusaders
The final film I have chosen for this list is another by The Asylum. It is a film that has many flaws, not least the universally poor acting, but there is also a lot to like about it. The main highlights are the excellent fight sequences choreographed by Cecily Fay. She is an absolute hurricane as her mysterious warrior character dispatches the baddies left, right and centre. She also wrote and stars in a film called Warrioress which almost made this list but missed out due to even weaker acting than Dragon Crusaders, despite it also having great fight choreography and some very neat ideas.
Back to the film in hand, the evil wizard character is a lot of fun and the way the dragon’s curse works is pretty good. The only thread seemingly left hanging is who the mysterious guy with the bow is. He seems to be the wizard’s henchman but his character just seems a bit incongruous and the point of his presence in the film is somewhat vague.

I won’t claim that you will enjoy all or any of these films but some are definitely worth a look if you like a fun bit of low budget sword and sorcery.
Some fantasy films you might like to avoid are: Dragon Storm, Red Reaper and Age of the Dragons. The only crime a B-movie can really commit is to be boring and these three are guilty as charged.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Charnwood Minstrel Part 3: Monkey Business

This third part of my Charnwood Minstrel blog focuses on those acts who don’t take themselves terribly seriously.
When I first came across Phil Doleman and Ian Emmerson they were performing as a ukulele duo called The Re-entrants. They would perform pop and rock classics with all the intricate arrangements of the original songs included, but on two tiny soprano ukuleles, and they sounded wonderful. Since that time Phil and Ian have dropped the Re-entrants act and moved on to music that is perhaps much more dear to their hearts, that being early jazz and blues. Phil plays ukulele, banjo and banjolele with Ian accompanying on guitar. Their gigs are joyous affairs and they have recently recorded a new CD together called Can’t Get Enough Of That Stuff.
You can see a video of Ian and Phil performing a track from that CD below.

When I first started playing there was a duo on the local music scene called R.A.F. (Roger and Frank). They started being accompanied by a wonderful harmonica player called Nigel Lawson. Nigel also started playing gigs with me and we played across the East Midlands as a duo. When Roger lost interest in performing Nigel and Frank started playing as a duo with Nigel doing most of the singing and Frank singing a few songs as well. They also recorded a CD called Straight From The Harp. Lawson/Johnson Ltd soon took on a percussionist, Brian Rodwell, and bass player, Andy Chorlton and became The Dangerous Dogs. They played blues songs, their own original songs, mostly written by Nigel and Frank, and also more quirky stuff like songs from The Jungle Book and the theme to Dad’s Army. They recorded a CD called Bark to the Future and later accordion player Fiona joined the Dogs’ line-up.
Sadly, Nigel passed away in February 2015 and left a huge void in the local music scene. His love and enthusiasm is terribly missed. He never thought much of himself as a singer but when I hear other arists playing songs that The Dogs have played I always think “Nigel did it better”.
The Dogs still perform now and again with Frank, Fiona, Brian and Andy. The video below features Frank singing Monkey Business.

When I first set out to perform in the turbulent maelstrom of the East Midlands music scene, the first musician I came across with Eric The Turtle. Eric is an exceptionally talented songwriter, specialising in quirky, humorous songs, but also venturing into more heartfelt and serious songs, like his tune ‘Man Made Of Smoke’. Eric is also the frontman of his band Dead Man’s Handle who recently performed Eric’s epic show To The Edge Of The World, which is a Viking Saga telling the tale of Silas, a bold adventurer seeking a new home for his people. I’ve seen Eric play electric and acoustic guitars, mandolin, ukulele and bhodran. He’s a terrific songwriter and To The Edge Of The World is an excellent piece of work. There is a link to the title track below.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Charnwood Minstrel Part 2: Absent Friends

I thought I’d piggy-back International Women’s Day with a Charnwood Minstrel blog about some hugely talented chums I’d like you all to listen to. I’ve called this one Absent Friends as it covers three artists who used to be based in the East Midlands but have since moved away to pastures new.

The first artist I’d like to mention is the wonderful Hannah Brackenbury from Derby. Hannah is currently based in Brighton and writes wonderful comedy songs influenced by Victoria Wood and Tim Minchin. Her new CD ‘Jumbled’ will be available on her current tour during April and her previous album ‘Postcard From Brighton’ is available on her Bandcamp page.

The next artist on my hitlist tonight is Alice Rock. I first me Alice when she was a solo acoustic act from Kegworth. She is now based on London with Tabby who forms the other half of her band. She painstakingly recorded her first album on her own, the second was a transitional step with Tabby on drums and the third album, ‘Kill Or Cure’, was really well mastered and sounded terrific.

The final artist I would like to mention is Fay Brotherhood, originally based in Coalville and now  residing down Welwyn Garden City-way. Fay has a wonderfully strong and rich voice and writes magnificent folky songs. She also happens to be a wonderful fine artist as well as being an exceptional musician. Fay’s music can also be found on bandcamp.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Charnwood Minstrel Part 1: The Pineapster Years

I was going to do this as a podcast but quickly realised that my strengths do not lie in that area.
This blog is to introduce you to some of my favourite local musicians from the East Midlands.
My first subject is the band known as ist

ist formed in 2001 and have recorded three albums, Freudian Corduroy, King Martha and Toothpick Bridge which are available from their bandcamp page.
I first met ist in 2005 when I played on a bill with them at The Attik in Leicester. I think they had played at Summer Sundae that afternoon and may have been on the pop. They ended the gig with their trousers round their ankles. They are lovely and and hugely talented musicians and they even let me borrow their very attractive drummer a few times.
Not long after I gigged with ist for the first time I met Kevin Hewick who I got on with instantly as he is really lovely. A week or so after I met him someone pulled out of a gig I was organising and so I asked Kevin if he would fill in and he happily agreed. Kevin is an amazing musician and gives his heart and soul to support the Leicester music scene. His recent albums All Was Numbered and The Heat Of Molten Diamonds are available from his website.

The final act I would like to mention is Mr Plow who has found great acclaim for his dark Americana and even recorded a session for BBC Radio 2.

Mr Plow was another artist I met through Pineapster, an East Midlands music forum. He also played at one of the gigs John Ablitt and I used to organise at The Swan in the Rushes in Loughborough. Two of Mr Plow’s albums are available from his bandcamp page which feature his full band.
So I, an unknown Herbert from Hobbiton, have introduced you, dear discerning reader, to three amazing artistes. You’re welcome.
As I mentioned before, I tried to do this as a podcast but it’s just not what I’m best at. I hope you have enjoyed the videos. I hope to introduce some more amazing acts soon.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment