(Please note: this page is work in progress and will have more information added very soon)

Original notes from the CD booklet
 
Extra information

Pear Drops and Fourteen Pounds (4'14")

I’m pretty sure my first paid gig was in a sweetshop in Broadwater Crescent, Stevenage, when I was about five. I’ve since been told that my mother was called and informed that her young son was playing in the shop for the customers, and I do indeed have a vague memory of singing Any Old Iron? and someone giving me a couple of ounces of pear drops. Some nine years later I played at a folk club at Kitson College in Leeds and was paid £14 for the performance. It was an outrageous sum, as in those days my weekly paper round paid less than £2. These two events had a massive effect on me as I realised that when I played my guitar, people would often give me things. Seemed like a reasonable plan, and nothing much has changed since then.

Do they still make pear drops?

 

 

The idea behind this tune was to come up with a recurring riff that would work equally well in three different keys, and therefore in three different modes. In the end I decided that B minor, G major and E minor would work quite nicely, so proceeded to turn the entire thing into a 7/4 piece. The working title of this tune was actually the Sevenoaks Fourstep...

Nollaig: violins
Roy: drums & percussion
Chris: acoustic guitars, mandolin, keyboard, bass guitar


Buddy, Can You Spare a Tune? (3'36")

Two tunes from the 1973 recording Kitty Puss by Kentucky fiddler Buddy Thomas. The first, Possum in a Simmon Tree, sounds very Scottish to me, and the second piece, Turkey in a Pea Patch, is just a lot of fun.

 

 

Extra information

In 2008 I was part of the Heartstring Sessions project with Arty, Nollaig & Máire. One of the pieces we played was an old-time tune called The Yellow Barber that Arty had learned from someone in the US. After getting some useful advice from from my favourite old-time banjo player Cathy Fink, and a bit of help from Amazon, I bought a CD by fiddler Buddy Thomas that contained the tune. The rest of the album was full of great melodies, including these two.

Roy: drums
Chris: acoustic & electric guitars, mandolin, double bass


Just a Drop to Steady Myself (3'47")

One evening when I was 17 or so I was doing a floor spot at my then local folk club in St Albans. The guest that night was Diz Disley, someone I knew only by reputation. He was, of course, an amazingly popular folk club entertainer with an enormous repertoire of daft songs (Rex the Piddling Pup and The Prune Song (‘a very moving song’) as well as quite ridiculous jokes that were so well-known that the audience would often join in with the punchlines. Above all, though, he was a fabulous guitarist. His own personal hero was Django Reinhardt, and there were very few players at that time who could play Django style as convincingly as Diz. Anyway, in those days if anyone in the room looked like they knew one end of a guitar from another he’d call them up to the stage to play backup while he did some seriously fancy stuff himself. That night I got the call. I was terrified. Scared to death. I needn’t have worried though as he was as nice as pie and asked only that I play the backup chords for Bill Bailey. I must have done it reasonably well as shortly afterwards he invited me to play gigs with him all over the country. He was a huge influence on me, and was solely responsible for my becoming interested in swing jazz on the guitar. On this track I’m delighted to be joined by Simon & Arty.

Incidentally, for those of you unlucky enough never to have seen Diz, this tune’s title really should continue (after a sip from a shot glass):

‘Sometimes I get so steady...I can’t move!’

 

Extra information

Diz really was a character - one day someone will write a book about him, but nobody will believe it!

I remember one time he bought a bottle of Grants whisky from a duty-free shop, and proceeded to despatch it in pretty short order. He'd noticed that the label on the bottle read "Grants - Stand Fast" and promptly wrote to the director of the company suggesting they should perhaps rename it "Grants - Fall Down" - an eminently sensible suggestion that they've never adopted for some reason.

This is a pretty conventional AABA tune in a swing style that starts in C minor and moves to E flat minor after a couple of verses. Simon plays a lovely mandolin solo before Arty pitches in on the Stratocaster. I start the last verse on the Ibanez then switch back to the Collings for the finale.

Simon: mandolin
Arty: electric guitar
Roy: drums
Chris: acoustic, electric guitars & bass guitars


Torrevieja (2'44")

During the late seventies/ early eighties I worked extensively with Fred Wedlock (of Oldest Swinger In Town fame). We did gigs in army bases, RAF camps, Students Union Fresher’s Weeks and Young Farmer’s events as well as numerous folk clubs and festivals. Following the success of the single in early 1981 we were offered some quite interesting trips, including a couple of visits to Oman and, in September 1981, ten days in Cyprus as part of a Combined Service Entertainments show. It was a great trip and found us alongside, among several others, the Tannahill Weavers from Scotland and the English speaking world’s finest raconteur, Derek Brimstone. The weather was gorgeous, the hospitality was terrific and the company was simply hilarious. There was a downside though. We had to play three shows. In ten days. Definitely one of those ‘life is hell’ gigs. This tune’s a nod in the general direction of the many evenings spent sitting by the pool with a Pimms swapping unlikely stories with all those great people, as we all sank slowly below the horizon.

 

Extra information

Ever since I first went on a package tour to the Costa Brava with my mother in 1965 I've had a soft spot for the type of tunes that the local bands would play in the hotel bar every night. I'd usually learn a few pieces and bring them back home with me after the holiday, then enjoy playing them again during the long winter evenings that would inevitably follow.

I came up with this piece during one particularly cold night last February.

Roy: drums & percussion
Arty: electric guitar
Chris: acoustic guitars, keyboard, bass guitar


Temptation Rag (3'05")

In 1981 I made a solo album, the imaginatively titled Chris Newman. One of the pieces I played on the record was Temptation Rag, composed by Henry Lodge and published in 1909. That particular recording is but a distant memory, but as I’ve always liked the tune I decided to record it again, albeit with a new ending.

 

 

Extra information

I was introduced to this tune over 30 years ago by Henry Davies, a bandmate from the Pigsty Hill Light Orchestra days. (You'll find a photo in the CD booklet of Henry and me singing backing vocals - yes, really - during a 1974 HTV programme called The Great Western Musical Thunderbox.) And I thought my titles were bad...

Chris: acoustic guitars, mandolins, bass guitar


The Humours of Kiltyclogher/ Gusty's Frolics (2'55")

Arty McGlynn is known, quite rightly, to be the very best when it comes to playing traditional Irish music on the guitar. There are lots of really good players these days who’ve overcome the prejudice against the guitar that was fairly widespread in traditional circles not so many years ago, but Arty can truly be said to be the one who blazed a trail for the rest of us. It’s great to feature him here on the first tune: the second is a very pretty slipjig that I first heard on a Seán Keane LP a very long time ago.

 

Extra information

I was very pleased to have Arty play electric guitar on a few of my own compositions, but it did seem daft not to take advantage of the situation and do some traditional tunes as well. We sat opposite one another in the control room of the studio, separated only by a screen, and played these two Irish tunes live. Arty then overdubbed a second rhythm guitar on the second piece.

Arty: acoustic guitars
Chris: acoustic guitar


The High Life (3'12)

In the late sixties my sister Linda went to live in East Africa for a few years. Based at Dar es Salaam University, she would often send me records of local bands and musicians, most of which were on the ASL record label. I absolutely loved those records (still do) and can remember sitting in my bedroom for hours on end learning the electric guitar riffs that are such a feature of that music. The bass players were crazy too, playing all sorts of impossible cross rhythms against the percussionists. It all seemed terribly exotic to a 13 year old schoolboy from Hertfordshire.

Many years later I found myself in the company of a bunch of African musicians in a restaurant near Bordeaux and at some point during the evening the instruments came out. I remember playing the introductory riff to a song called Camarade ya Kinshasa to the utter astonishment of a chap from Zaire who knew the song well and proceeded to sing it. It was a great moment.

This piece is very loosely based on the style of one or two of those old ASL records. Simon guests on mandolin.

 

Extra information

Some years ago Máire and I played for the second time at the Shetland Folk Festival. One of the groups on that year was Sierra Leone's Abdul TJ's Rokoto, a fantastic West African dance band. I'd been listening to East African stuff for years and was interested to hear which bits they had in common and also where they differed. Abdul was a very nice chap, and we spent some time messing around with various riffs and phrases, including the one that forms the background to this tune.

Simon does a great job on mandolin (as always) and came up with the idea of playing the octave drone at the start.

Simon: mandolin
Roy: drums & percussion
Chris: acoustic & electric guitars, bass guitar, synthesiser


Moanin' (3'56)

My older brother Mark was certainly my earliest influence on the guitar. When I was still far too young to go to a folk club (most of which were in pubs of course) he’d regularly visit the many clubs that existed in those days in the Leeds & Bradford area, and, in time honoured fashion, would pinch a tune or song from whichever visiting artist was in the area that week. He’d then bring the piece home and play it over and over again, and I’d sit in the next room and try to pinch all the licks he’d recently acquired himself. The folk process at work! Anyway, Mark’s been playing this Bobby Timmons tune for as long as I can remember, so I thought it’d be fun to have him play it again in the original key of F minor (he loves F minor) and go on from there. I’m delighted also to be joined on this track by my old friend Paul Buckley, with whom I did a lot of pub gigs in the mid-eighties. We made a long- forgotten cassette-only album called Red Hot Blues & Swing at the time, and I keep hoping I’ll come across a copy of it one day. Paul’s a great singer, and a very imaginative guitarist. He plays the first solo after my brother plays the tune. Mark then returns with a very Wes Montgomeryish (is that a word?) solo before stating the tune again for the last time. I’m quite happy to sit in the background with my Stratocaster and Ibanez archtop.

 

Extra information

This Bobby Timmons tune from 1959 has been recorded many times. I thought it'd be nice to go back to the original key of F minor and play it at about the same tempo as his original recording from more than 50 years ago.

My brother Mark takes the lead on most of this track except verse 2 where the solo's played by Paul.

When I listen to this arrangement I can almost see blue cigarette smoke coming out of the speakers...

Mark: acoustic guitar
Paul: acoustic guitar
Roy: drums
Chris: electric guitars, bass guitar


Québec Reels (3'53")

During the early eighties I often accompanied Cornish singer Brenda Wootton on tours of France, Australia and, in 1984, Canada. It was my first trip to North America and took us to the Québec Festival, an enormous event that featured musicians from all over the world. I remember hearing a band from Burundi one minute, the David Grisman Quintet the next and of course lots of French-Canadian traditional music. Years later I heard the absolutely wonderful Québecois band La Bottine Souriante, still the best live band I’ve ever seen. I got the second of these tunes from them while the first is a pretty piece called La Grande Chaîne.

 

Extra information

Roy Whyke, the drummer on this recording, is a stalwart of the Leeds music scene and has played with all sorts of people. For much of these sessions I asked him to play a piece in a particular way, but on other tracks I just asked him to do whatever he liked, and get stuck in!

He did exactly that on the second of these tunes, and I love it.

Roy: drums
Chris: acoustic & electric guitars, mandolin, bass guitar


Air on a Shoestring (2'37")

Another piece originally from my 1981 solo album. When I originally wrote the tune I wanted to call it Air on a Shoestring but was told by the powers that were that the title was too flippant and not at all suitable. Therefore it was originally called The Castle Green, the name of a pub in Bristol of which I have no recollection whatsoever. Anyway, here’s a completely different version of the same piece, recorded some 29 years later. With the proper title.

 

 

Extra information

Nothing much to add to the sleevenotes about this one. I've always been a sucker for simple and melodic tunes, so I suppose this is a fairly typical example of my early tune writing from almost thirty years ago.

Chris: acoustic guitars, keyboards, fretless bass


E major 6/8 (2'56")

I have always had a serious problem with tune titles. Coming up with a new melody has never been a big problem for me, but thinking of an appropriate title has always been a real headache. I find it difficult to think of something that sounds vaguely relevant but doesn’t sound pretentious, so on this occasion I decided to leave this tune with its original working title.

 

Extra information

Yes, I suppose I should have made more of an effort and given this tune a proper title, but it's such a headache. I wondered about Opus 21, All My Tomorrows, Psychic Intervals, Cosmic Pomegranates and lots of other twaddle...and decided to leave it well alone.

Roy: drums
Chris: acoustic guitars, octave mandolin, bass guitar


Around the Houses (3'41")

In late 2004 I bought my first Collings instrument, a fabulous OM-1E guitar from Dusty Strings in Seattle, WA. It was brand new and had arrived from the factory only a couple of days earlier. I thought it utterly wonderful and instantly produced the plastic. When, shortly afterwards, I was asked if I’d like to contribute a track to an album featuring Collings artists I was of course delighted, and wrote and recorded a new piece for the project. This version of that same tune is a quite different arrangement to the original recording, and I’ve changed the setting from D minor to A minor. Arty guests on electric guitar.

Incidentally, since then things have gone from bad to worse on the Collings front as I’ve subsequently bought a MF-5 mandolin and a OM-1AC guitar. They are both absolutely stunning and are the instruments mainly used on this recording. Were the house to catch fire they’d be the two things I’d grab on the way out.

 

Extra information

In my opinion (which is worth exactly what you paid for it!) Collings guitars and mandolins are the best factory made instruments available today. At a trip to the Martin factory in Nazareth, PA a few years ago I was really impressed by many of their instruments, but they do tend to be a bit variable.

I have five Martins right now, and they're all very nice guitars, but I have never played a bad Collings. I think the first one I played was a OOO-2H (small body 12-fret) at a festival many years ago. A while later I bought a brand new OM-1E, at which point I became hooked.

There's much more info on the instrument page.

 

Roy: drums
Arty: electric guitar
Chris: acoustic guitars, mandolins, bass guitar


Three Degrees of Separation (2'46")

For three years in the mid-nineties I toured with Edinburgh-based band Boys of the Lough. We went to the States twice a year (always in December and March - cold!) and played lots of European festivals, many of which were in Scandinavia. My first exposure to Swedish fiddle music was in 1995 at the Falun Festival and I was immediately hooked. The polska’s an integral part of the Swedish tradition yet bears a remarkable similarity to the 3/2 hornpipe that’s so popular in Northumberland. As I’ve never managed to get a clean note out of a fiddle I decided to write a tune in the style of both places, but played on a couple of mandolins.

The title? There are three degrees latitude between Northumberland and Sweden.

Told you I was terrible with titles.

 

Extra information

I first went to Sweden in 1995 with Boys of the Lough, to appear at the Falun Folk Festival and teach at the summer school held there. I was part of the "Introduction to Irish Music" class that was run by Cathal McConnel & Dave Richardson, and at one point spotted a pair of forty-something ladies, both playing fiddles, who were obviously together. They both had terrific tone, and were playing the tunes with real confidence. I got into conversation with them and soon ascertained that as they knew nothing at all about Irish music they'd placed themselves in the beginner's class. I complimented them both on their beautiful tone, and asked what they did for a living?

"We're both in the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra," they replied.

I walked right into that one!

Roy: percussion
Chris: acoustic guitar, mandolins, bass guitar


The Silver Spire/The Cattle in the Cane (3'03")

The first tune is a well-known Irish reel that works well on guitar while the second is an American piece that’s allowed me to have a bit of fun. I’m not usually a big fan of altered guitar tunings (I have enough trouble remembering where everything is in standard!) but on this occasion I put the main guitar of the second tune into DADGAD. I also changed a few of the bar lengths as well...and made up a new ending.

 

Extra information

This is a first for me as I've never recorded anything in DADGAD until now. The first tune's in standard but the different tuning seemed to suit the arrangement of the second tune quite well. It's normally played at a furious pace in bluegrass circles but I quite liked the idea of slowing it down a lot.

Roy: drums
Chris: acoustic guitars, bass guitar


Cardrona Spring (3'34")

Máire and I first met Davy Stuart of Christchurch, New Zealand when we were on one of the Guinness Celebration of Irish Music tours that ran through Australasia in the nineties. He’s a very talented instrument maker and musician, and built my octave mandolin as well as the Black Beauty guitar that I’ve been using on stage since late 2006. Many years ago he wrote this very pretty tune that I’ve always liked...so here it is. Due to the wonders of the web I’m delighted that Davy’s been able to play the fiddle part on this tune, even though he recorded it 11682 miles away from here. (Thanks Google Earth!)

 

Extra information

Last Christmas (2009) Davy and Libby were in the UK and spent a couple of days with us in Ilkley. I thought it an ideal opportunity to have Davy play on this track, which of course he wrote. The only problem was he didn't have a fiddle with him and it's not an instrument I own. Some while later we decided to try the great recording studio in the sky, so I emailed Davy the arrangement in mp3 format which he uploaded onto his studio computer. Having recorded the fiddle solo he sent it back the same way.

Isn't technology wonderful?

Davy: fiddle
Chris: acoustic guitars, fretless bass

 


Barndances:
My Fiddle/If there were no Women in the World/The Blue Heather
(4'05")

Máire found the first tune, the delightfully named My Fiddle in the Joyce collection. The second piece comes from an album made in 1983 by Donegal fiddler & singer Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh and Belfast flautist Frankie Kennedy. They went on to form Altan, a band with whom we’ve often toured in Germany, Australia and the USA. Frankie was a truly wonderful bloke who died far too early back in 1994.

The band has enjoyed much-deserved success since those early days and always comes up with interesting tunes, great albums and excellent stage shows. It’s great to see the good guys win sometimes!

 

Extra information

 

Roy: drums & percussion
Chris: acoustic guitars, mandolin, bass guitar, sythesiser


Not Likely! (3'46")

I’ve known Reading mandolinist Simon Mayor for over 30 years, and we’ve often played on each other’s recordings. When he and his partner Hilary had gigs in the north they often used to stay with me and Máire in Ilkley, but eventually they tired of my overcooked bacon sandwiches and bought a flat of their own a mere 200 metres from Old Bridge Towers. Since then we’ve had the daft idea of doing a duo album and calling it The Ilkley Lads. It might even happen one day, but in the meantime here’s a taster. It’s nothing more than a fairly rapid 12-bar blues in G major. Playing with Simon always makes me smile...

 

Extra information

I like this track a lot. It's only a 12 bar, but I thought it'd be fun to have a pretty fast piece that would give me and Simon something to really think about. After the rhythm track was recorded we both just blasted down the solo parts - great fun!

As long as we never have to play it live. On TV...

Roy: drums
Simon: mandolin
Chris: acoustic guitars, bass guitar


Closing Time (2'39")

On this final track I’m very pleased to be joined once again by Máire’s sister Nollaig Casey, a great violinist who’s graced countless recordings over the years. I thought it’d be nice to end the album with a quiet, reflective piece to contrast with some of the other, more boisterous, tunes. This was the very last track to be recorded, and as I’ve always thought B flat to be a lovely key, I came up with this.

 

Extra information (to be added)

Nollaig: violins
Chris: acoustic guitars, bass guitar

     
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