GIG IN THE GARDEN Thank you to those of you who supported my Mini Fest on Saturday 25 June.  It was great to see some familiar faces as well as a number of first-timers!  Weather was, as you might expect, typically British and so we set up in the church hall around small tables – which turned out surprisingly better than I thought it would! Dan Pierce (with Ben and Annabel), robhalligan.co.uk and tinderboxacoustic.com were enthusiastically received by all who attended and many commented how much of a privilege it was to be part of such a special evening.  Someone emailed me to say: “All three acts were superb and I think I could have sat there for another hour listening to Tinderbox.”  Thanks to Richard on the PA who always does an excellent job. I know this event was a clash with the Leigh Folk Festival (it was a case of the availability of artists) but I will try and ensure there is no clash in 2017 – though there always seem to be something going on somewhere!

BILLERICAY COMMUNITY CHOIR Are presenting  A Journey Through The Seasons on Saturday 2 July at Emmanuel Church at 7.30 pm. Admission is free but all donations will go towards Saint Mary Magdalen ‘The Church in the High Street’. This is sure to be a fun evening with a wide-ranging set list. BCC meet at St Mary’s on Thursdays from 2 to 4.00 pm if you are interested in having some musical fun – no experience necessary.  Further details from Vince on 657169 or Chris on 656904.

BRENTWOOD FESTIVAL Takes place from Friday 15 to Sunday 17 July.  Not sure if any of you have attended this in the past – we thoroughly enjoyed The Human League last year! I remember when it was a beer festival with music and now it’s a music festival with beer!  This year has a 1980’s feel. We’ve got our tickets for the Sunday with ABC and Tony Hadley amongst many others, and we’d love to share our dancing space with you!  More details can be found here

LAUREN HOUSLEY & BAND Play St Mary’s, Billericay on Friday 7 October 2016.  This will be the 21st gig I’ve promoted since arriving in Billericay and, it has to be said, is the one I’m looking forward to the most.  Lauren is simply one of the most assured and accomplished ‘new’ artists I’ve seen in a long time.  If you haven’t picked up ‘Sweet Surrender’ yet you’re missing out on a fantastic debut album!  I’ve raved on about Lauren for quite a few months now and this will be simply one of the best gigs you’ll attend this year!   Support will be from Dan Pierce, who impressed many of us at the Mini Fest (along with Ben and Annabel).  Tickets are available from Lauren’s website (look under shows) www.laurenhousley.co.uk and more details can be found on my wordpress site here

EMILY MAGUIRE Makes a welcome return to Emmanuel on Saturday 3 December 2016 along with Christian Dunham (Bass Player extraordinaire and husband). Emily has always been warmly received when she’s played here in the past and is one our favourite artists – we’re guaranteed another outstanding evening!  Support will be a friend of mine, Chris Hutton, who is making a name for himself on the Essex acoustic scene.  More information can be found here and tickets can be purchased direct from WeGotTickets

MARTYN JOSEPH Looking ahead to 2017, I’m pleased to say that I’ve provisionally booked Martyn Joseph to come to Billericay on 10 June 2017.  Martyn has been around a long time, is one of Bob Harris’ favourite artists (check out his Radio 2 playlists) and it will be a fantastic evening of music and storytelling.  I’m going to say that he’ll be playing at St Mary’s but, if interest is high, we can relocate to Emmanuel.  It’s probably a bit too early to have this as a Gig in the Garden, however, if the date changes that might be a possibility.  Watch this space but book the date in your diary!

TICKET SALES I’ve made a decision not to be handling cash or using the SAE system anymore!  It should make things much easier for all of us.  Can’t do anything about the fees, though, I’m afraid!

ROBERT VINCENT Plans to release his new album I’ll Make The Most of My Sins on the 16th September 2016. Keep an eye out for details about launch parties as those of you who pre-ordered will receive free ticket to the Liverpool show.

WHAT AM I LISTENING TO? Like many of you, I’m always interested in what’s new and I have a few recommendations for you:

  • Megan O’Neill: Coming Home. Megan’s debut EP is well worth a listen (saw her supporting Lauren Housley in February).  She has been described as the Irish Carrie Underwood.  She has a new album out soon with her band The Common Threads.  Definitely one I’m trying to book for 2017.
  • Keb Mo: Live – That Hot Pink Blues Album. A long-awaited live from multi Grammy award winner Kevin Moore.  Americana at its best – going to see him in a few weeks at Union Chapel!
  • Beverley Knight: Soulsville. Her latest album with some STAX covers and a couple of newbies thrown in. A great voice and she always delivers.
  • Paul Simon: Stranger To Stranger. Always innovative and broadening musical horizons. However, this one is taking a bit of getting used to, I have to admit.  Needs a few more listens.
  • The Steel Drivers: Reckless and The Steel Drivers. Two albums from the band that CMA award winner Chris Stapleton played with before going solo.  An eclectic mix of Country, blues, rock and bluegrass and it works.
  • The Lake Poets: The Lake Poets. Still listening to this fantastic debut album of memorable folk songs from Sunderland songsmith Martin Longstaff. No, I don’t know him – but I knew his aunty from school and youth club!  I’m hoping to get Martin to come to Billericay.
  • Mickey Newbury: ‘Frisco Mabel Joy. This is an old one (1971).  Famous for writing ‘An American Trilogy’ recorded by Elvis, I saw Mickey on an Old Grey Whistle Test repeat on BBC IPlayer and thought I’d source the album!  Does anyone have this first time around?
  • Carole King: Tapestry. Not really a new album but one of the all time classics. I’m listening again ahead of going to see Carole in Hyde Park on Sunday 3 July (a birthday present). I know of a few of you who are going too – perhaps we’ll bump into each other.
  • Don Henley: Cass County. Released last year but listening again because he’s supporting Carole King – see above!

Don’t forget that we have a couple of excellent Blues Clubs in Billericay the New Crawdaddy Blues Club who are based at Billericay Town Football Club and meet on Friday evenings and Blues at the Farm who meet on Saturdays at 2.00 pm at Barleylands Social Club.  They both have some excellent acts appearing and it’s worth keeping an eye on their websites or signing up for their emails.  There are also a number of Folk Clubs around Essex which are well worth a visit.

Do let me know of any gigs in your part of the world that might be of some interest.

Keep on keeping music live!