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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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Springing back to life

Oh my fine friends, it has been another trying winter. And we are still here! In a world that needs our creativity and playfulness more than ever.

I have been laying low, regaining strength and looking forward to reconnecting with friends, listeners and fellow makers as the frost begins to fade.

First stop is a housewarming hootenanny at the Oxford Poetry Library on 9 April at 7:30 pm.

Second stop is May Morning. I am overjoyed to be joining the Whirly Band to raucously welcome the rising sun on the steps of the Bodlean Library. This year the first falls on a Sunday, so there should be ample opportunity to nap later.

Both events are participatory, so dust off your poetry journal and your dancing shoes! Though if you are more comfortable watching quietly and just soaking in the energy, that is equally welcome.

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Silvester’s Primulas

Heavy as it is was with pandemic worry, my heart couldn’t keep from singing when I set eyes on the flamboyant blossoms in front of Silvester’s Stores on Magdalen Road. It is a real treasure of a shop, run by the son of the man who established it decades ago. A hodgepodge of birdseed, hardware, crockery, and other domestic items, its over-stuffed shelves harken to earlier times.

Some of the stock may be older than I am, but they also carry fine, fresh specimens for the garden. I usually just linger there on the pavement, soaking in the uproarious colour before going on about my day. But since my days have become increasingly circumscribed by the walls of my own home, last week I chose three lovely primulas to call my own. I couldn’t help but hum as I walked down the street with the plants in my arms.

As I arranged them on the window sill in our bathroom, a little ditty entered my head. The next day I put my phone on the music stand of our electric keyboard and pressed record. I then went back and took some more footage of the shop and its environs, watched some YouTube editing tutorials, and, over the course of a few days, stitched it all together into a teeny-tiny film which I released on Valentine’s Day.

I hope it captures some of the delight these flowers have brought to me on these dreary winter pandemic days. I like to imagine the wonder and vitality of their little blossoms careening through the ether, conspiring to connect us in spite of the lonliness of lockdown.

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Sh*tshow

A not-so-subtle analysis of the current political moment.

The idea for the song popped into my head one morning, fully-formed, as my percolating coffee burbled gently under the eerily calm voice of the newsreader. 

As the day wore on, I imagined singing this new song at the top of my lungs at a Bastard English Session. This fantasy put a desperately needed smile on my face. Since I knew James Bell was interested in doing another video collaboration along the lines of Newcastle to Portsmouth, I plucked up the courage to do a one-take video and shared it with him.  He added some wicked harmonies and recruited Calum Novak-Mitchell, Mick Phillips, Laura Theis, Trev Williams, Hannah Gray and Josh Robson-Hemmings (of Threepenny Bit) to join in the mayhem.

The awesome instrument Mick is playing is a nyckelharpa. It’s from Sweden.

Here’s hoping the tides turn soon. May the mean-spirited sh*tshow give way to a pile of benevolent compost, from which a new era might spring.

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It’s alive!

Grumpy by Sam Twigg and the Sometimes Band

We did it! We actually did it! Our lockdown video is finally live. Thank you Hannah Gray, Jane Griffiths, Colin Fletcher, Tracey Rimell, and Joshua Robson-Hemmings for contributing your talents on flute, fiddle, bass, vocals and guitar. This project kept me going and only occasionally drove me up the wall. I hope you enjoy it. If you do, why not share it with someone who has contributed to, and/or alleviated your lockdown grumpiness?