I can’t tell you how delighted I am to have been able to arrange for folk legend Keith James to play, once again, at Billericay Rectory on Friday 21 October 2022. This is a guy I’ve loved for nearly 40 years who also happens to sing one of my all-time favourite songs: A Bottle Of Wine Guitar And Sax! Taken from Keith’s 1983 album The Swallow.
In my review of Keith’s Southend gig Songs of Leonard Cohen I said that I’d asked Keith to play an evening of Yusuf-Cat Steven’s songs. This is an amazing opportunity to experience this finely tuned artist perform a masterclass of sublimely beautiful, timeless and insightful music.
It is hardly surprising that, to mark its 50th anniversary, Yusuf-Cat Stevens has entirely re-recorded and re-released his remarkable Album Tea for the Tillerman, with each of the unforgettable 11 songs re-conceptualized and re-imagined and gifted back to us among all the uncertainties of 2020, 2021 and beyond.
During the early 1970s, amassed body of music from this hugely popular and sincerely loved singer/songwriter made for a collection of ‘must have’ records across a whole generation. Tea for the Tillerman and Teaser and the Firecat were on everyone’s turntables and on every radio station. Songs such as Wild World, Father and Son, Moonshadow and Where do the Children play have been covered by hundreds of Artists worldwide.
Keith weaves the story of Cat Stevens’ life from his early pop career, life threatening illness and spiritual journey around a performance of his beautifully-crafted and memorable songs.
However, this concert will give you far more than just the music itself. Keith will introduce us to the background and embryo of each song; some of which will be performed as all of us remember and some, carefully and intuitively re-voiced; respectfully re-interpreted with rich, balanced guitar arrangements and a more personal vocal approach.
Yusuf-Cat Stevens campaigns on many educational and humanitarian issues, he was awarded the ‘Man of Peace’ award by the Nobel Peace Laureates. In 2015 and he received the Lifetime achievement award from BBC Radio 2 and the Ivor Novello Award for outstanding song collection. He has received two honorary doctorates and awards for promoting peace from two organisations founded by Mikhail Gorbachev.
Musicians brave enough to make the music they really believe in. Keith James is one of these. Bob Harris
Some of the most atmospheric and emotive music you will ever hear. The Independent
Keith James has become a pillar of trust. A sublimely intimate and engaging voice. Sunday Times
Certainly the UK’s most celebrated and evocative interpreter of golden music. The Guardian
A sensitive and pleasingly understated delivery, all the better that the songs might speak for themselves. Acoustic Magazine
About Keith James
Keith has become one of the most active and inventive concert artists currently performing in the UK. A very accomplished sound man with a BBC Maida Vale background, he worked for more than a decade as a record producer (1991 – 2004), working on Albums with many of this Country’s profoundly talented musicians and writers.
Realising his definite preference for live performance and following a detailed study, 2001 witnessed Keith begin a UK wide tour of concerts based entirely on his love of the songwriter, Nick Drake. As Nick’s music had never been heard live by today’s music audience (he died in 1974) these concerts soon became a huge success; over the course of 17 years, Keith has played over 1500 of these shows in the UK, Ireland, Holland, Spain, Italy and France and almost every British acoustic music festival including Glastonbury. In fact, Keith’s first ever House Gig in over 1500 performances was here in Billericay Rectory!
On from this, Keith has performed many different concerts over the past decade, each one centres on studies and transcriptions of revered poets and writers and includes a significant amount of biographical and anecdotal material. The most notable of these are 2 CD albums and many successful concerts featuring the poetry of Lorca set to Keith’s music – The Gypsy Ballads 1927 and Poet in New York 1930. Other important projects are a CD album and concert tour featuring a collection of Poetry by Dylan Thomas and an ongoing busy schedule of bio-doc concerts spanning over 7 years featuring Keith’s interpretive approach to songs by Leonard Cohen.
Keith is fiercely independent and therefore his career has for many years, existed in a parallel universe, almost under wraps, esoteric and secretive. He has enjoyed very little radio exposure, he doesn’t fit easily into any music category, has never signed a recording or publishing deal. Despite this, he has released 13 CD Albums, all self-produced and self-published. The most recent from 2017 is Tenderness Claws which features all settings of poetry to music including work by Jack Kerouac, Pete Brown (1960s British beat poet) William Blake, Allen Ginsberg, Federico Garcia Lorca and some of Keith’s own. This time, and rather unplanned, he teamed up with the amazing producer / sound artist, Branwen Munn.
A double Album – Captured. The Best of Keith James – was released in 2019 featuring 33 songs taken from each of his Album releases over the past 30 years. Keith lives in a writing retreat, way up in the hills of Powys, Wales and some months of each year in Andalucía. Since the mid ‘70s, his third home has been the Island of Naxos, Greece. He currently performs around 100 concerts per annum in Theatres, Art Centres and occasionally in other inspiring boutique spaces such as Galleries, Arts Cafes, Poetry and Literary festivals.
In one of Keith’s most exciting projects yet, he has chosen to work with the astonishing work of Pablo Neruda, Maya Angelou, Kahlil Gibran, Frida Kahlo and Kate Tempest. Keith’s most recent album Can You Imagine? was recorded during lockdown and expresses many of the hopes and fears we experienced during that time.
About House Gigs
A House Gig provides a unique experience for both artists and audience in an intimate setting and is quite unlike any other gig you will attend. That’s why artists are always asking to come back! Some of my most favourite gigs have taken place in my lounge!
A House Gig is a private invitation only to the Rectory from Paula and myself. You can contact me on email@example.com if you’d like to be considered for a place and I’ll get back to you to confirm your attendance. Maximum two tickets per person – spaces are limited! I usually receive more applicants than places but I do set up a reserve list.
Doors will open at 7.00 pm (or 6.45 pm if you’re so excited you can’t wait or you simply want more drinking time!) and Keith will play two sets from 7.30 pm (ish!). We’ll provide some hot food during the interval (with a veggie option) all for the amazing price of £20 (payable in advance, please – I’ll give you details about how to pay when your invitation is confirmed). There will also be a reasonably priced honesty bar available!
A House Gig is a cosy (!?) affair and, whilst we provide seating for most people, some of you will be required to sit on the floor – we’ll provide a comfy cushion for you (we have plenty of these) – so you might want to dress accordingly! Just so you know, we always encourage folk to swap around for the second set!
Please remember a House Gig is a listening event rather than a talking event. Please read before you come Shhh … there’s a band playing!
COVID Whilst numbers are lower that we have had in the past, attendees will be in close proximity with others. Please can we ask that each person achieves a negative lateral flow test, to be taken on the morning of the concert or the day before. We will not be asking for evidence of this but kindly request that people comply with this as a courtesy to others attending.
PROCEEDS From this event will be given to the Purple Community Fund working in The Philippines. I spent three weeks there in July/August 2019 working alongside some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in Asia, many of whom live on the largest rubbish dump in the world.