Moore:Music ®

Witch Cross • BC Sweet • Gonads • Christie

Vagabonds of the Western World – Recording in Cong, Ireland by way of South London

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Last Thursday I set out for Alicante, spending the night in a nearby hotel in order to feel remotely human when I caught the 7.30am flight to Stansted, England. This however, was not my final destination, but any further headway would be denied to me until gone 5 o’clock that afternoon. Faced with a mind-numbing day in this most soul-destroying of airports, I had sought alternative possibilities, and given that Witch Cross had been invited to participate with a track for a new German release tribute album, I jumped on the train down to South London, where our guitarist Mike Koch has his studio. “I can give you two hours” I said, and we set to work laying down as much vocal as I could manage. Things went so smoothly, he even had time to make me a ham and cheese bagel, so, a good result there!

Speeding back to Stansted I cast off my cloak of metal and surrendered to the folk music demos that my old friend Steve Bonham had furnished me with. As I escaped the hubbub of the city for the countryside, greenery flashing by, it seemed that my environment was mirroring this musical transition. I’d lived with this collection of Steve’s songs for a week or so, and had spent time in my studio firstly playing along, then expanding and weaving my own bass ideas around the well-crafted songs and lyrics. The last time Steve and I had collaborated musically seemed like, and in fact was, a lifetime ago. There was still an Iron Curtain, a Yugoslavia, and a Shah of Iran. The Beatles were all alive, and perhaps even more scarily, had only broken up a mere 3 years or so previously. We were young lads, stumbling over our instruments in the confines of our various parents’ garages, and it was a lot of fun. We didn’t play by the rules, because we didn’t have the slightest idea what they were. As I think I’ve mentioned before, it is a source of immense pride to me that our little village and surrounding environs on the outskirts of Derby has produced so many musicians and songwriters. Adrian Foster and I went on to perform in 80’s band Tubeless Hearts, and we still play together in ‘Yellow River’ hitmakers Christie to this day. Steve, and another couple of friends from those days, Tim Gadsby and Paul Bunting, went down the Folk route, culminating in a successful band with a number of album releases under their belt – Firkin the Fox. Enlisting the services of Fairport Convention/Jethro Tull stalwart Dave Pegg to their cause certainly did them no harm at all, and boosted their credentials. Steve and I may generally follow different musical paths, but scratch the surface and the similarities are surprising. there is a mutually deep respect for the written word, the importance of a lyric, the unwavering conviction that the ‘story is king’. It’s something I like a lot in Steve’s lyrics. They evoke emotion, create imagery, as all good songwriters strive to do.  It was a deep pleasure to be asked to perform on this collection of songs, closing a musical circle that’s been left open for some forty-odd years.

Tom & Steve in the control room

Tom & Steve in the control room

As the plane came into land at the fantastically remote Knock airport, I surrendered to the moment, and embraced this land of myths and legends, of tall tales and romantic visions, of relentless green and rushing rivers. From the moment ‘Matt the Taxi’ greeted me, I was among friends, some old, some new.

King Canute required....

King Canute required….

Mountain View studios awaited…but not before a meal in Ryan’s Hotel on the Friday night, when we ate, drank and were indeed merry!

Me & Tim

Me & Tim

So good to see dear Tim Gadsby again, who had generously lent me his basses for the session. Robbed of his ability to play the bass as he did so well due to the effects of Ataxia, I was honoured to have him by my side casting a watchful eye over proceedings as I laid my parts down. More than anything, I needed him to be satisfied with what I’d done.

Laying down some bass with Pat Coyne at the desk.

Laying down some bass with Pat Coyne at the desk.

I connected wonderfully with Tom Leary, a superb guitarist and fiddle player, who tours with the likes of Lindisfarne and Clem Clempson. We swapped stories, songs and generally had a great time.  I was stunned by the talents of Pat Coyne, who, in between making sure everything was recorded correctly, would  randomly pick up a banjo or guitar and play like he was hard-wired to heaven. Similar moments that had me scraping my jaw off the floor were the arrivals of Stephen Doherty….a likeable lad who wandered in and played the flute with such feeling and grace that I began to believe in the supernatural.

Whistle while you work...

Whistle while you work…

This train of thought was further strengthened when Jimmy Higgins arrived and raced through his percussive bag of tricks, layering a Celtic groove rich with the sounds of brushes, snare, bodhran and shakers that alternately caressed and drove the songs in equal measure. To say he was ‘on the money’ would be an understatement.

Jimmy on the Bodhran

Jimmy on the Bodhran

The atmosphere in the sessions was relaxed, though workmanlike, as there was a lot of stuff to get through, not least of which a new song that Steve dropped on us upon arrival! Chris Lydon, a.k.a. ‘The Bishop’ provided a steady hand along with Pat marshalling the sessions to maximum effect and getting the very best out of everyone for the good of each composition.

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On the Sunday morning, I stole a moment after breakfast to explore the village of Cong, where Mountain view studios is situated. Despite a grey veil of drizzle and the intent of the lakes and rivers to take over the roads, I found it a charming place, boasting a beautiful old Chapel, and a myriad of brightly coloured cottages that seemed to be only outnumbered by the local hostelries! There was a statue near the church, of a smiling man holding a laughing woman in his arms.

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The face seemed familiar, as did the name of one of the pubs I had just passed – ‘The Quiet Man’. The penny dropped. The statue was none other than John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara, who had starred in the film of that name, which was filmed in this very village. Matt the Taxi told me, as he drove me back to the airport after three wonderful days, that he’d had a call some years ago, enquiring if it would be possible to book a room at his Bed & Breakfast for a lady.  He’d asked the name as he took the booking and, upon hearing it, refrained from making any humorous comment, which turned out to be a wise decision, because the lady in question turned out to be Maureen O’ Hara herself, revisiting the site of what she refers to as “….my personal favourite of all the pictures I have made. It is the one I am most proud of…”

Matt himself was most impressed that she would want to stay in a B&B , and not one of the fancy hotels nearby, and indeed he describes her as a lovely down-to-earth lady. As I write she is still with us, aged 93, and I wish her good health. I understand why she would want to come back here. I do.

ryans hotelL-R: Chris “The Bishop” Lydon, Tim Gadsby, Tom Leary, Me

Kev Moore

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March 1, 2014 Posted by | Music, Recording, Thoughts, Touring, Writing | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Whirled music

Market Day in Had-Draa

I experienced some Gnawa music in Essaouria, Morocco, before Christmas. A style that clearly falls into the category of World music, but perhaps should better be described as ‘whirled music’, given the staggering acrobatics performed by one of the percussionists at the evening concert I attended. It was in a small restaurant, and the rather comical attempt to get what we ordered, not to mention our mint tea, inspired me to write a song in a World Music style.  You can listen to it by clicking on the player at the bottom of this post . It’s called “The Tea Song” and the lyrics are below:

The Tea Song

Sitting on the cushions in a distant dark medina
Where the cutlery could be cleaner
And I order the Tagine, a dish that’s famous around these parts

And ‘when in Rome’ appeals to me
So ordering some sweet mint tea
We sit and watch musicians three
Play Gwana music from their hearts

And the whirling and the twirling
and the cymbals and the band
try to obfuscate the problem that lies readily at hand

Namely not a drop of tea appears
No chicken, cous cous, so the tears
of desperation flow unbidden all across the land

Where’s me tea?

You’ll get your tea

Where’s me tea?

You’ll get your tea

There’s a tiny little hatchway in the old medina wall
Where precious little food comes through
if anything at all
And the soup I ordered vanished
Like a mirage in the sand
And the couscous without spices is unenviably bland

Where’s me tea?  etc

Sitting and receiving of the bill as we are leaving
Makes for interesting reading
And I’m having trouble breathing as creative accounting starts

The dishes three, we thought were free
A substitute for soup you see
Were never complimentary
But cues for our sinking hearts

And that sweet moroccan delicacy
Tea thats made from mint
May well never now be served by some be-veiled and slothful bint

She’s too busy doin nowt to put the kettle on the boil
And I’ll never get to try it while I’m on this mortal coil

Where’s me tea? etc

Lyrics and Music © 2012 Kev Moore

January 21, 2012 Posted by | Home Studio, Music, Recording, Touring, Writing | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Jammin’ in the Jemaa el Fna!

Miki and Kev pretend to know what they are doing

When you enter the square of Jemaa el fna in Marrakesh, you can see why it’s classed as one of the wonders of the modern world. It is a huge open space, and upon arriving you are assaulted by tour guides, snake charmers, trinket sellers, the works. You are also assaulted by musicians, as you can see in this pic!  I had a lot of fun jamming with them, but trying to avoid paying everyone of them individually was less fun!

Kev digs in (again)

At night, a host of outdoor restaurants magically appear, and we took advantage, eating delicious Moroccan cuisine under the stars, washed down with mint tea.

You know when you've been Tango'd

Surrounding the square were a myriad of Orange juice stalls, where you could by a glass of freshly-squeezed juice for about 20p. Amazing!

Kev Moore

January 12, 2012 Posted by | Music, Recording, Thoughts, Touring, Writing | , , , | 3 Comments

Gnawa (Gnaoua) – Music of Morocco

Every year, on the Northwest African Atlantic coast, in a cool little Moroccan town called Essaouira, the Gnaoua World Music Festival is held. It creates a fabulous melting pot of fusion for musicians from all cultures, to mix with the mystical gnaoua, or gnawa, musicians of Morocco.

Gnawa music is a mixture of sub-Saharan African,Berber, and Sufi religious songs and rhythms. It combines music and amazing acrobatic dancing. The music is both a prayer and a celebration of life. Though many of the influences that formed this music can be traced to sub-Saharan Africa, and specifically, the Western Sahel, its practice is concentrated in North Africa, mainly South-western Algeria and of course, Morocco.

The music is almost trance-like, with very repetitive lyrics, and some songs can last up to several hours.  It largely emphasises the tonic and the fifth, and the pitch play, and especially the flattening, around the third and fifth, is clearly the language of the blues.

Central to this fascinating music are the two main instruments. The Qraqab, which are large metal castanet-like percussion instruments, usually played furiously when the dancing and twirling begins, and The Hajhuj, which is a three string instrument, a direct ancestor of the Banjo.

They are harder to play than they look, requiring a sort of ‘claw’ posture from the hand to pluck and bounce off the animal skin soundbox.

We spent a few days in Essaouira, sadly not at festival time, but I met a young guy who made Hajhuj’s, and very beautiful they were too. Luggage restrictions made it impossible to take one home, but when we go over with the Motorhome or car next year, you can be sure one will be heading for my studio!

We managed to hear some real-live Gwana too, as we went for mint tea and couscous in a restaurant in the heart of the Medina, a Gwana trio entertained us with some mesmerising music and dancing. The next Essaouria World music festival is on June 24th 2012.

Kev Moore

December 30, 2011 Posted by | blues, Music, Recording, Thoughts, Touring, Writing | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tinariwen – the magic of the desert

Now THATS what I call a roadie......

I just got back from a wonderful trip to Morocco. The sights, sounds and smells of a country  a mere hour away on the plane, so fundamentally different from our own, truly provides one with a culture shock so profound, that it stays with you for most of the trip. You never really get used to it, nor do you want to. It is its difference from the norm, its implied exoticism. that appeals. Our first port of call, literally, was the fishing town of Essaouira. This has long been a favourite stomping ground for musicians, Jimi Hendrix had a house 25k down the coast in Sidi Kaouki, now a haven for windsurfers. I wonder if the wind that whips across the beautiful beach there cries Mary?

Essaouria is to be found at the end of a gleaming new four lane highway that cuts across the desert from Marrakesh, but the predominant mode of transport we encountered was the donkey! We were booked into a Riad in the middle of the Medina, the walled ‘city within a city’ that is a wonderful maze of streets and alleyways with wall to wall shops, cafes and stalls.  We had a great time here, and I’ll write more about that elsewhere, but this site is dedicated to music.

We ate out at a restaurant in the Medina to the sound of local Gwana musicians playing and dancing – quite spectacularly – in a confined space, and whilst it was interesting, and clearly proficient, it didn’t move me beyond the pleasure of seeing traditional music performed in a traditional setting. But one afternoon, walking through the narrow streets, we passed a music stall, and the most amazing groove assaulted our ears. It literally stopped us in our tracks. That was the moment we became fans of Tinariwen.

I asked the guy at the stall who it was, and he produced the album Aman Iman, their third, and it became the constant soundtrack to the rest of our trip. Its fabulous grooves, hypnotic singing and clever weaving of electric guitars in, around and between the traditional instruments.

With further research, I discovered these guys have been around for some years, originating in Mali, and with a fascinating background as Tuareg freedom fighters. These were truly proper rock’n’roll rebels!  Their leader, Ibrahim, has the potential to be a modern day Bob Marley, but that really does him and his compatriots a disservice. They have become a rallying point for the salvation of an entire culture, and I think it is that single achievement that sits them head and shoulders above most ‘social conscience’ bands. It seems that a number of famous musicians now carry a torch for them, Robert Plant and Carlos Santana amongst them, and it’s plain to see why. I’ve never really been a huge fan of World music, but there’s something about Tinariwen that speaks to your soul. Needless to say, I now have all four albums. Check them out, they are truly unique.

 

Kev Moore

December 28, 2011 Posted by | Music, Recording, Rock, Thoughts, Touring, Video, Writing | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments