BRITISH SUMMERTIME Like many of you, Paula and I went to see Carole King at Hyde Park on Sunday 3 July to perform the legendary 1971 album Tapestry in its entirety, along with a greatest hits selection – and she didn’t disappoint. It’s amazing to think she is 74 years of age, but her voice remains strong as did her showmanship. King had the crowd eating (or singing) out of her hand and put on a fabulous show.  I can’t say the same Don Henley, though, who didn’t live up to my expectations. Whilst playing some of his great hits, some Eagles’s classics and a few covers, he played a few obscure tracks from his back catalogue, but didn’t touch anything from his excellent album Cass County.  Other set lists from his tour seemed to have a good variety, but this one was a disappointment – for me, at least.  Maybe he didn’t appreciate being second on the bill!  I was, however, impressed by Michael Kiwanuka, who I’d never come across before, so much so, that I’ve downloaded his most recent album  Love and Hate which was Radio 2 album of the week a couple of weeks ago – well worth checking out (see below).

BRENTWOOD FESTIVAL We went on the Sunday and enjoyed ABC, Tony Hadley and the Boomtown RatsABC were as polished as ever and played a few songs from The Lexicon of Love II along with their greatest hits. Tony Hadley still has a great voice and played a selection of Spandau Ballet songs and covers which were very crowd pleasing (especially for Paula, who won a competition for a ‘meet and greet’ before he played.  As did Ben on the Saturday with Mark King from Level 42). The Boomtown Rats seemed to have caused a bit of controversy – but they are/were a Punk band and it goes with the territory it seems to me. I first saw them in 1977/78 supporting Dr Feelgood and they were provocative then!  However, once Politics and goading the audience (about wearing Primark) were over, they played a tight-knit set and I enjoyed the re-working of their hits! I’m pleased we stayed to the end and didn’t leave early as many of the crowd seemed to do.  A shout out must go to Essex based Northern Soul band The Signatures and cover band Expose who both played great sets.

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 a free ticket to the Liverpool show.

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) 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 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, However, it should, in the longer term, make things much easier for all of us.  Can’t do anything about the fees, I’m afraid, but they are not much more than a first class stamp!

REVIEWS Elsewhere on my website I’ve written about my visit to the Durham Miners Gala which might be an interesting read as might my review of Bob Harris’ autobiography Still Whispering After All These Years along with a few other articles!  A sure-fire cure for insomnia!

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:

  • Michael Kiwanuka: Love and Hate.  This album has a genre which is hard to define, with sounds reminiscent of Isaac Hayes soul and Pink Floyd rock with a hint of blues and gospel thrown into the mix.  Great background music!
  • ABC: The Lexicon of Love II.  This is the follow-up to the 1983 Lexicon Of Love I with the same lush strings arranged by Anne Dudley.  Three of the songs are rather poor and ones I constantly pass over when listening!  However, a pleasing nostalgic album for 80’s children!
  • The Delta Jacks: Trouble Ahead.  Billericay based, with a growing fan base, who describe themselves as ‘Cow Punk’ but are really a fun-loving band, mixing traditional Country and Bluegrass, with a swing, who are excellent live.  A cracking first album.
  • Kyla Brox: Throw Away Your Blues. The first album in seven years from multi British blues award winner. Brox’s vocal range and textured songs are a joy to listen to. Brox is playing the New Crawdaddy later in the year.
  • Hilary Scott & Family: Love Remains.  The latest member of Lady Antebellum to release a solo album, this time with her family! A country Gospel album that works – some originals with several covers.  An album of hope in a world that badly needs it!

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, too.

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

Keep on keeping music live!