Frosty reflections on the year that was

Creatively speaking, 2022 has been both understated and brimming with life.

After pining for FloFest during two years of lockdown, it was a joy to sing there once again. It was particularly special because my Washingtonian mother and Berkeley-based best friend were able to be there, too. The cold and the rain could do little to dampen our spirits. I even caught the tail end of the dog show.

Rocking out on a canal boat was another musical highlight of the year. We entertained a bustling audience at Mount Place in Jericho, where there was beer on tap and sausages aplenty. Consuming both as I listened to Owl Light Trio fortified me for our set, as did drinking in our idyllic surroundings. When it was our turn to play, Colin Fletcher traded his guitar for his upright bass, transitioning seamlessly from Owl Light to Sometimes Band. His public debut with us was an exhilarating success, if I do say so myself. The audience was warm and receptive, and the setting was relaxed, professional and joyous, complete with mischievous children cavorting just about out of earshot from the stage. Thank you Towpath Productions for another magical gig.

Photo by Clare Rourke

Speaking of magic, the Howard Street Sessions never fail to transport and delight. But the one last November was, for me anyhow, extraordinary. Ben Smith (of Band of Hope and Acoustic Ballroom fame) opened the night with mesmerising loops of fiddle and guitar, pressing all the right buttons and pushing his artistic boundaries with bravery and grace. Then came our set. It included some new material, a sing-along classic, and glimmering finishing touches of raw beauty from Jane Griffiths on fiddle. This on top of Colin Fletcher’s sauntering bass, Hannah Gray’s melodious flute, Josh Robson-Hemmings driving guitar, and Tracey Rimell’s luscious harmonies. The Sometimes Band were in fine form indeed! I felt an instant connection with the audience, who were singing along – heartily, beautifully – from the very first song. I was riding a wave of deep contentment as I listened to John Smith close out the night. Sitting two feet away from him singing Salty and Sweet is a memory I will always treasure.

Over the past year, there has also been a fair bit of songwriting. Walking into town along the river, playing with a tune and a phrase or two as I watch the seasons change, is both energising and consoling. Even when – especially when? – the effort to leave the warmth of a winter bed felt positively Herculean, and the nettles were covered with frost.

So things have been gently but steadily bubbling away, as one day unfolds into the next. No huge tours or record deals. I have a day job I love, and a healthy family. I am grateful for both. But I also need music, and music is so much more satisfying when you share it. I have deeply ambivalent feelings about self-promotion in a digital landscape that is designed to fuel insatiable desires. But I will continue to throw my hat into the ring, in my own little way.

Thank you for joining me in this life-sustaining project. I hope you also find ways to nurture your creative spirit in the year ahead!

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