Monday, 24 February 2014

Travellin' Man.....

Well.......a very long time since I've been here, the better part of a year.  We spent the past summer and Autumn, until January, in a tiny cottage on the banks of the River Wye in Herefordshire, our old stomping ground and an area we both know and love. However, with the rain and high water, it was a tad challenging at times, though thankfully we were high enough to avoid actual flooding:

The summer was splendid, of course, with long hot days. But, sadly, we had no garden or outside space to speak of, so found it less than desirable. Our daughter LVP's child access case has now been largely resolved, save for some tweaking which should happen soon. As a result, she has reasonable staying contact and joint residence and we also saw the grandsprog, Hamish, on numerous occasions, including Xmas, which they both spent with us. Now, however, we're back home in France, where it has also been wet, with regular rain and strong blustery winds sweeping in from the Vendeen coast.

The past few days have been decidedly Springlike here, with clear blue skies, full sun and agreeable outdoor temps. We've spent our time out in the garden trying to get some sense into it; our local farmer from whom we get organic milk straight from les vaches, has offered to come over and plough a big veggie plot for us and also to then bring over a load of organic manure. So it's all looking promising right now.

I've been writing for most of the UK blues press for the past six months or more and  I am now also involved with a French blues magazine, 'Autrement Blues/Blues&Co' that is published nearby - by fortunate chance. I'm doing mostly CD reviews for them at present and will certainly contribute other stuff in the near future. In addition, they run a small blues festival in April and a couple of very good players (Toby Walker & Delta Moon) from the USA will be there, so I've already arranged to meet up with them while they're in France. Indeed JVP had to help sort out the visa for one of them who didn't understand a word of Froggospeak.

One of the nice things about doing this is, of course, the free entry to gigs/press access etc., and loads of free CDs etc. I also met up with one of my favourite US bluesmen, whom I last met in Sweden. I had a message to pass on to him from an old friend of his in Stockholm, so it was a nice reunion;

Eric Bibb:

I also had the good fortune to cover a gig in Oxford of a band from Alabama as they passed through the UK following a festival in Spain. By chance, both JVP and I had been at university with Debbie Bond and her partner, harp/keyboards-man Rick Asherson. Debbie was guitarist in the late Johnnie Shines band until his death and then followed this up by playing backing with the late Willie King until he, too, passed on. Willie was a great laugh and a guy I also knew, admired and was invited to Alabama to play with, prior to his demise.

Debbie Bond:

I also caught up with one of the finest slide pickers on the circuit today. Iowa-based, Catfish Keith, when he played in Wales, in Abertillery:

Catfish, doing what he does best:

From Catfish to cats: the cats are all well, and happy to be home, I'd say. Jack had a fair bit of surgery back in Wales towards the end of last year but despite his age - 14 - is seemingly fairly good. We have our Hens back from the Brits who looked after them for us while we were in the UK and they, too, are fine, giving us a couple of eggs a day, which is all we really need!:

Cats in the Wye Valley, keeping out of the rain:

Well I think that covers most things, and brings it up to date. I started doing this a few years ago following a minor TIA. It gave me a sort of focus. As I'm now a bit better, I might just carry on. I'm waiting to hear if I've got the job of Editor of the main Swedish Blues Magazine. Ironically, it might mean a move back to Sweden, a place we both pine for at times, and certainly miss in many respects. Though, it must be said, not for the expensive wine! Here we buy en vrac from the local Cave which stocks mostly Loire wines in bilk, at about 2.5 Euros a litre for a very acceptable Rouge D'Anjou or a Chinon. Can't be bad - except for the liver, of course, that organ of French mystery!

I'll leave with Toby, who is playing nearby in April and has promised to show me a raggy thing he learnt from an old Delta-blues man, Eugene Powell, many years ago, a piece I particularly like. This one, however, may be more apposite:

Toby Walker plays Travellin' Riverside Blues: