Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Getting away for the day? Make sure you're properly dressed and accessorized for the occasion. Pop over to Closet-Folkie's Closet and have a look at some spiffing T-Shirts and sensible Tea Mugs.

There are several designs to choose from. Among them, is the Emma Robinson/Don Moore-designed Sunshine Drenchy Logo; the Away For The Day CD artwork, and the tasty retro-looking design above.

Thanks are due, again, to my long-suffering graphic artist friend, Don Moore, who has worked tirelessly to help me bring all these website and CD ideas to fruition. The man is a saint, and I couldn't have done any of it without him. Now you know who to blame.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Is that your vinyl answer? ... I'm hesitant to enter the fray and lament the passing of the vinyl record album. For one thing, it doesn't appear to have totally gone away yet. Witness the recent upsurge in bands pressing Limited Edition vinyl versions of both albums and singles.

I'm wondering how many of the fans purchasing these releases actually own turntables, but I suppose it really doesn't matter. They certainly have appeal as a curio-type collectible for a die-hard fan, and even if you can't actually play the thing, they still look considerably cooler than a CD or an MP3 title flickering on an iPod screen.

Speaking of iPods, one such monster will be winging its merry way into the Robinson household this Yuletide season. My 9-year old daughter informs me that she'll be distraught, nay, inconsolable should one not be in her stocking this year. Can't have that, can we?

I have to give the girl credit though--she may be enamoured with all things MP3 and USB, but she can still appreciate the aesthetic beauty of a good old LP. So taken, is she, with my collection of Beatles albums that she now has three of them mounted and framed on her bedroom wall. The thing is, I don't think she really associates these striking 12x12 images of the fab ones crossing leafy London streets, or all dressed up in their Peppery finery, with the songs contained within; they're simply like cool little posters to her. It's amazing to think that even though she loves all things Beatle, she's only ever heard their music on CD. If my trusty old turntable hadn't bitten the dust years ago, I'd dearly love to be able to actually play some of these records for her. It would be a great opportunity for me to do my best middle-aged-father knows-best routine; rocking back on my heels and imparting pearls of wisdom like -" There...that's how this music was meant to sound", or "That's bloody analog that is; can't beat it. None of your namby-pamby sterile digital shrillness there, love. Ah, just listen to that..."
Of course, she'd probably spoil it with a "What's that crackling sound, dad?" Fair's fair, I suppose.

With this particular bee in my bonnet, though, I've taken to leafing through musical equipment catalogues, of late. They all seem to offer several turntables for sale. Many have USB connections for easy computer hook-up, presumably so that we can take these vintage aural masterpieces of the analogue domain and compress the life out of them as we import them into our vast, squashed digital libraries (I know, I know--it's progress).

"Do you know what a turntable is, Emma?" I'd casually inquired of my little Beatle fan-in-training, over the weekend.
"No" she replied, off-handedly.
So, reaching for a nearby catalogue, I showed her a photograph of one of the turntables on offer.
"Oh-that's a disco machine, dad" she scolded.

Trying to ignore her allusion to DJs, and hoping against all odds that I could somehow make her aware that these beautiful devices were once the primary way of delicately delivering music to the ears of a generation of music fans, I prompted her with a rather hopeful -"Yes, but you know what you put on them, right?"
" Yeah--your hands", she offered, as she reached out and mimed a circular motion with both palms, redolent of a DJ scratching. Despite being crestfallen, I howled with laughter, and by the time she'd delivered an onomatopoeic "Whizzy-whizzy" for further comic effect ( with the flair and ease of a veteran comedian, I might add), I was in convulsions.

So, of course, the catch-phrase of the week in the Robinson household is "Whizzy- whizzy!", and it gets a laugh every time. Enjoy it while you can, little Miss Robinson, because when I finally get around to ordering that brand new Technics Disco Machine, you're going to be in for some serious listening.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Oh Darlington...
Off The Beaten Track is a delightful Podcast; a series of audio/video travelogues that focus on some of the more difficult to reach places(and people) of interest in the UK.

The recently aired episode Darlington Railway Centre and Museum featured my song "The Golden Age Of Steam", which pleased me greatly, since I'm quite the softie when it comes to steam trains, and feel oddly compelled to write songs about them at every opportunity.

Apparently, Darlington's North Road Station is said to be haunted. Quite appropriate then, that they picked a song in which I was attempting to face a few ghosts of my own.

Monday, April 10, 2006

American Idle?...

Ok I admit it. I upoaded a song to the American Idol Underground website. Since CDBaby members were given the opportunity to enter a song without paying the standard fee, I thought that it couldn't hurt.

I was wrong. The song appears to have won March's Folk Song competition, and part of the prize is a CD pressing/printing package courtesy of Discmakers. This means, of course, that there will definitely be a follow-up CD. You have been warned!

I must confess that I do feel a little guilty about not participating on the aforementioned site. It was a while back that I submitted the song, and to be honest It'd slipped my mind. Until I received the e-mail notifying me that "How The Mighty Have Fallen" had won (placed first out of 475 entries), I never gave it a second thought. Now, of course, I seem to be thinking of it quite often.

Actually, there seems to be a host of competitions on the site, some of which run concurrently, and it would appear that I'm still in contention in a couple of categories. I'm not suggesting that you go to my profile page
and rate my song there, because I'd hate to jinx things by campaigning for votes (besides, you really should be voting for Danny Schmidt
--he's quite brilliant).

I do believe though, that the Grand Prize in each genre is something approaching 200 billion dollars in cash and ownership of a Carribean island, so if you really must...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

It appears that "How The Mighty Have Fallen" is still hanging around and making a nuisance of itself over at The last I checked it was parked at #11 in the Folk-Rock chart, and on the strength of recent reviews it'll be featured as Folk Track Of The Week starting March 20th.

Speaking of Garageband, I continue to be impressed by some of the musical talent on display there. If it's intelligent well-crafted pop craft that you're after, you could do worse than pay Edinburgh's own David William a visit.

As far as the songwriting goes, this guy certainly wears the Neil Finn influence proudly on his sleeve, and why not? Like Neil, he has an instinctive melodic sense and lyrical approach that never seems forced, and there's a lovely relaxed power and self-assuredness in his delivery.The sound of his voice reminds me a little of Aztec Camera's Roddy Frame, and like Frame, William, still only in his twenties, seems to be hitting his stride at a young age. His first full length release is called One Way Ticket. Do yourself a favour and go and buy a copy.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Good for the wheat...

Folk music fans have a bit of a reputation for stuffiness. You know the stereotype: traditional types with their knitted sweaters, mildly greasy hair and wanton beards, sampling their real ale and designer-brand ciders, as they debate which artists are worthy of inclusion in the genre, and frowning upon artists who dare deviate from the traditional form and venture into, say, the pop or rock realm. From the American folkies who booed an electrified Dylan at Newport in '65, to Brits still recovering from Richard Thompson's 80's and 90's daring recording adventures, they can often come across as a rather sour and exclusionary bunch.

How refreshing then, to discover Woven Wheat Whispers , a site that dares to celebrate and promote all manner of folk and related music.

Although a newcomer to the digital download scene, Woven Wheat is quickly earning a reputation as an artist-friendly service that embraces all manner of styles. Genres currently listed in their catalogue include Celtic folk, Strange folk and Pre-folk alongside the Traditional and dance/Ceilidh acts. Actually, I'm not sure that I fit into any of their categories, but they let me tag along anyway.

Ian Southworth and Mark Coyle are the fine gents responsible for the Woven Wheat Whispers venture and deserve credit for their efforts in making their site a useful and entertaining one for the artist and listener alike. The largely upbeat and warm community forum is a welcome respite from some of the more morose and frosty ones out there (you know who you are), and they have a player that enables you to have a listen to the artists in their catalogue as you browse. Off you go then...Forum

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Weather with us...

Once again it's that time of year in Florida. You know, the time of year when the cruelly oppressive heat and humidity of the summer finally departs and leaves us with gloriously cool and sunny weather. Cause for celebration? You'd think so, but you'd be wrong.
For some reason, the very mention of the term "cold front" causes Floridians to go into panic mode, wrapping themselves in layers of woolly clothing befitting of an Arctic expedition, as they scurry from their heated cars to the next heated building. The whole charade annoys me to no end.
Understand that we're not talking about truly frigid teperatures here; a daytime high in the 60s and an overnight low in the 40s is all it takes for the TV reporters to brave the elements, cocooned in furs and earmuffs, as they offer the public advice on how many sweaters to wear, and how to wrap their plants, pets and loved ones to protect them from the impending, perilous chill. Meanwhile, over on the area's beaches, there are stout Minnesotans and pasty British tourists alike, clad in bathing suits , cavorting and splashing around in the Gulf like it's the middle of summer, wondering what the fuss is about.
I must admit that I find it perplexing that the cauldron-like summer months, here in Florida, are actually more comfortable in some ways. Sure the heat is oppressive, but as long as you limit your time spent outdoors, say, to about 35 seconds, you're usually safe. The thing is, the air-conditioning systems in every building are usually at full tilt, so that you'll often see people wearing sweaters inside offices and shopping malls. The aim seems to be to keep us cocooned at around 68 degrees, and since I seem to be less tolerant of the heat these days, I really don't have a problem with this. Why though, when the temperatures outside actually drop into that desirable range, do the heating systems have to be turned on? Not only turned on, but cranked to simulate the searing temperatures of summer?
I can't stand it much longer, and have already been contemplating life in a less tropical climate. My feeling is that residents of Colorado, for example, are a little less likely to turn their public buildings into incubators at the first sign of a cold snap. I would go and do a little online research on the Rocky Mountains and its climate, but first I have to go outside for a cool down; my wife just turned the heat on.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

With a little help from my friends...

Now that December's season of merriment and over-indulgence has given way to the harsh and sobering reality of January, and its requisite bloated credit card statements and well intentioned, yet already discarded resolutions, there's really no choice but to roll up the old sleeveys and get to work. For me, that means getting back to recording some of these songs that have been laying around, cluttering up the place.
It's becoming apparent that unlike the last project, this one will be more of a collaborative affair. I already have several drum tracks courtesy of my old mate, Danny DiPietra, and there's even talk of getting the Headlights into the studio again (possibly even at the same time!), so I'm hoping to get at least one track on the next album that features the whole band.
On top of that, the disturbingly talented Ed Woltil will be on board in some capacity, although exactly what he'll be contributing is up in the air at this point. Actually, I think it's quite big of me to invite him in really, especially in light of the fact that he recently burst into spontaneous laughter upon hearing one of the demos that had been, at least up until that point, up for consideration for inclusion on the next record.
I've also been talking with a couple of Lincolnshire folk musicians about a little transatlantic collaboration which has me excited enough to be wary of talking it up, for fear of jinxing it. So, I'll shut up about it for now. What I can't for the life of me shut up about, however, is a recent guest harmony vocal courtesy of Miss Emma("Dad, I'm already better than you on the piano") Robinson, on a new song tentatively titled "Real". It was her first time singing with a mic, and she executed like a pro. It might well be my most thrilling musical moment.