We moved house about 18 months ago, a few hundred kilometers south, into a part of France we know well and have long loved. Now based in a small village in the Charente region we are about 10 kms from the Dordogne and in an area surrounded by lakes - not as many as Sweden - and rolling countryside. All very 1960s Herefordshire in look and feel.
I've taken overe a editor with the UK's leading blues magazine, a full-colour print thingy that takes up much of my time and provides bags of music, passes, opportunities and little income, sadly! However, this past summer, we spent most of the time out in the USA, travelling around meeting musicians, attending festivals and generally having a grand time from Atlanta - known as Hotlanta, for good reason - Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Colorado, Utah and Oregon. All very pleasant but also a tad tiring given the travel demands and the vast distances covered.
New Orleans was a dissappointment, though we were based in a plush hotel right in the centre of the music action.The whole place is just way too busy, tourist over-run and dirty and noisy. Good music was hard to find and, in truth, we were glad to escape and return north to Tuscaloosa, Alabama,where we stayed a month or so with good musician firends.
Returning home to France, we were glad to be back to sanity and loads of cheap wine and decent food. However, after barely a week, we had to head to a music festival in the south of France, where we met many old friends and had a great time. T one point, to my astonishment, I was thrust a Mic and had to address the crowd in my basic French! Memorable but hopefully not to be repeated.
I had interview time with the legendary Carlos Santana who was touring Europe, and he has invited me over to USA, for the 50th anniversary Woodstock festival in summer 2019. He played the first, original and famous event and is again booked for the 50th bash; he wants me to join in and come on stage with him and his band. An offer that might prove hard to resist. Gotta be a blast!
I also spoke to my own personal gutar hero recently, Ry Cooder, a guy who has made a name for himself as the world's number one acoustic and slide guitarist, played with the Stones, and everybody else of note, and introduced the world to Cuban music with the Beauna Vista Social Club a decade ago.
Another surprisingly nice, laid-back guy I hooked-up with recently was the wild-looking ZZ Top frontman, Billy F Gibbons, while he was passing through London. Why do all these guys, generally rebelluous types, stay at the Savoy, one of London's most expensive joints, when in town? Could it be they now love luxury and food?
Led Zeppelin frontman, Robert Plant, was also a delight, a genuinely easy-going, interesting guy with absolutely no front. We shared loads of things in common having lived as near-neighbours in the Herefordshire/Monmouthshire border country for many years. So we had mutual friends, favourite local ales and ciders, and bags of other surprising links. He's invited me along to his London home, given me his address and seemed genuinely open and friendly. I must make an effort to keep in touch.
Another great time was had with Mr American Pie, Don MacLean, again he was touring Europe and was a delight to chat with. And so it goes.
Although we're now sort of settled here in SW France, I still hanker after and miss the wild beauty of Sweden, despite its startling low winter temps and the snow.....it just gets under your ski, I guess. We still visit at least once every year, now spending time mostly in Stockholm with musician friends, and going on a Press jolly, a Blues at Sea cruise affair where we are given first-class cabins, bags of good food and unlimited plonk! So, can't be bad. In addition, one of our musician friends, Brian Kramer, from Brooklyn, has lived in Sweden over 20 years and is married to a Swede, so we invariably hook-up and stay with them for a bit.
This year, 2019, we plan to spent the summer in Sweden and Scandiland doing the music thing and catching up with old friends and former neighbours etc. I'm already looking forward to that though I expect it will fuel my longing to return to the crazy place.
With bleeding crazy Brexashit looming, we are furious about it all. We could have easily had Swedish citizenship when living ther but now no longer instantly qualify as we've been out of the country for too long. This despite retianing strong links and addresses etc., in the country. However, on the plus side, Sweden has confitrmed it will give Brits who are either resident on Mrch 29th or with any implementation periad dates, the same rights as are currently available. The only snag with this may be the loss of Freedom of Movement, though in effect we have European registered cars - one French, the other Swedish - so can readily travel around freely in Europe as Shengen means no border checks for the most part. Only time will tell how that works out.
Well, that's about it for now. Odd to be here, blogging again but maybe I'll try to become a bit more active again. Who knows!
To close, try this one. He was a delight to talk to about this very song:
Or this one, a personal long-time favourite with a history I now know, straight from the writer/horses mouth: