Good tidings from Hope and Social...

Hope and Social's Seasonal and mellifluous contribution to the Leeds based charity for the homeless 'Simon On The Streets'. This is part of a Christmas compilation of 14 other festive songs which can be purchased for a 'pay what you like' contribution from

Happy Christmas everyone!


Remembering Joe Strummer through Marley...

Bob Marley's Redemption Song sung by Joe Strummer in one of his collaborations after the heady days of The Clash. H/T to Billy Bragg for reminding us of Joe's untimely passing 10 years ago. In The Progressive Patriot Billy explains how The Clash changed his life at the 1978 Rock Against Racism (RAR) concert in Hackney:
The Clash taught me a valuable lesson that day, which I have in the back of my mind every time I write a song or step out on to a stage: although you can’t change the world by singing songs and doing gigs, the things you say and the actions you take can change the perceptions of members of the audience...

Sensing the Divine in engineering...

Have been a fascinated viewer of the Extreme Railways series on Channel 5 presented by Chris Tarrant. This week's edition featured the Konkan Railway which runs down the West coast, covering mountainous and marshy terrain thought by the British to be totally unsuitable for a permanent way. Built over 8 years between 1990 and 1997 by a wonderfully enthusiastic team who overcame some incredible obstacles despite a heavy price paid in life and limb. The highlight for me was hearing the Chief Engineer Rajaram Bojji proudly escorting Mr T to a vantage point to witness the incredible Panval Viaduct, at 210 feet the third highest bridge in the whole of Asia:
It never stops amazing me, it fills my heart with such a happiness I'm telling you. There must me some kind of ultimately divine spirit which makes humans to think and do things which look apparently impossible.

That Nativity Factor...

Yep, would you Adam and Eve it, there's been a competition to find a short 3 minute film about the Nativity. You can check out all the entries on The Nativity Factor website and although, in my not always very 'umble opinion, I think some of the entries are a bit naff, I can understand why they picked the winner. However, prompted by His Opinionated Vicar(age), I tracked back the link to the original slightly longer version of the runner up, The Christmas C(h)ord, and also concur with David Keen's view that this one is a bit good! I definitely prefer this longer version, all credit due to the Going Public Theatre Co., written and performed by Dai Woolridge, flmed and edited by Andy Toovey.

Of course, there is a very strong link to another theme from our book, The Secret Chord, it would be wrong not to mention it ;-) In fact, we researched a section about the link between the word 'cord and 'chord' which was edited out, maybe in the next mini-tome?

And now for something completely different, this stunning film has so much context, clarity and authenticity it would be even more wrong not to include it:

First spotted on my buddy Phil Ritchie's blog


ALAN LOMAX interviewed by Charles Kuralt in 1991

Muddy Boots Vol. 1 w/Husky Burnette, Lone Wolf OMB, The Scissormen, and more!

Following the Muddy Roots Festival this year the folks from Cracker Swamp Productions and No-Brow Media got some pals together to have a hoot n' holler at the famed Fry Pharmacy studio (The Most Memphis studio in Nashville.) Here's part one ::


Charlie from Old Gray Mule turned me on to this beautiful lady.
Sadly, she passed on earlier this year.:

Catching lightning in a bottle... Jools Holland

Last night's fascinating and insightful programme looking into Jools Holland's career in music and as a TV presenter. As well as an unbelievable player along with his encyclopaedic knowledge of recording artistes and industry history, he also commands great respect from many musical legends because of his talent. As a personal benchmark I often gauge an artist, band or solo, by whether they would be good (or quirky!) enough to appear on Later with Jools.

Throughout the programme there were many gems about music, notably in his demonstration about the difference between learning by ear and a typical piano lesson and then when he enthused about his band, "the perfect band". Describing soul singer Ruby Turner, an integral part of his big band line-up:
"she is us... it's not about the sound, it's about the feeling, and then you hear this sound and this is, like, coming from a completely different place to the modern world but touching a thing that's alive and vital now, and it's all those things of the church, of the blues, of everything all mashed up into this thing that hits you like a nuclear reactor."
Another succinct explanation of the core theme of our book "The Secret Chord"...

The full programme available for next 6 days.

Blind Boys of Alabama in the Real World...

From the Real World Gold collection, Peter Gabriel's label, recorded when the Blind Boys of Alabama were on the label. The song was originally written and recorded by Ben Harper but this version demonstrates a real connection to the song. Read more on the collaboration on Canada's CBC Music article here.

Another theme we touch on in our book The Secret Chord...


LONNiE HOLLEY - Just Before Music

@ Facebook // Dust To Digital //

Lonnie Holley is an outsider artist from Birmingham, Alabama that makes music as idiosyncratic and full of found elements as his art work. Made off the cuff with a dude from Deerhunter and a dude from Black Lips it's a wonderfully odd collection of deeply personal and evocative music. Is it blues? Sounds like it to me.

ALiVE AT THE DEEP BLUES FEST - Alive Records Artists Visit DBF and Record A Classic Live Scorcher

Chris Johnson @ Bayport BBQ where this was burned.
@ Alive Records // @ iTunes // Amazon // Bayport BBQ // Deep Blues Festival

This is the future's retro blues. This is our Blue Cheer, our Blues Magoos, our Buddy Miles, our Spirit, our post-Black Crowes/Keys/stripes music. Jimi'd and Jim'd, Sonny and revenant. The smell of weed in the woods and the Bad Company you keep playing filtered through the trees. This is that band you heard at the skanky bar under the bridge that one time that blue your mind with groove and  black lit stories....but it's ten years later and they're ten years older but still crushing the sound of your youth.  

This is the album you give your cool mom or dad or an old friend for xmas (after you burn it for yourself), sit down with 'em across the kitchen table with good bourbon and cold water, maybe you'll step outside for a joint, but this is gonna be your soundtrack and your going to remember the moment. 

Recorded at DBF founder Chris Johnson's Bayport BBQ joint in Minnesota June 29-July 1st 2012 it documents why Alive Records is such an important asset to hard blues based rock and roll. The seven bands here hail from Alive's stable and range from Radio Moscow's Van Halen Fair Warning played by Hendrix sound VS. Buffalo Killer's CSN/Cursed Diamond 'Crowes to Left Lane Cruiser's Zep-infected hill country with a knife behind its back and a big smile party blues to the tautly noisy polishing rag blues of the Welsh team of Henry's Funeral Shoe - yet they are all cut from the same cuffed and dirty worn just right pair of 501's. It's super rock with out posture, it's dirty ragged blues without a society, it's (D) All of the above. Get some.

Rolling Sideways with Hope and Social...

Photographed by Paul Webster

There's nothing quite like a Hope & Social gig! They are total entertainment, a 'proper' band, with a capability to play either acoustically to a handful, as a full band to a noisy throng packing out a pub or rocking it up with extra players on an outdoor festival mainstage. Each show ranges from energy filled mayhem through to poignant moments which land up captivating all beholders.

They represent one of the new paradigms of how to make a business out of a band, semi DIY and keeping control strictly in-house. Whilst the public perception may be one that borders on them being relatively corporate as a result of a highly creative and comprehensive online image, reality is a bit different. Their mission is to produce quality music, to go out and entertain by giving their all on stage and to do it all superbly. They are not phased by a lack of current worldwide success and have a refreshingly realistic attitude about the modest but desirable extra income that the band supplements with other sources of revenue. These sort of subtle distinctions set them apart and I'm confident careful analysis would reveal even more than covered here.

So despite all the full-on hard graft, the serious amount of traveling and all their crazy mishaps you come away from meeting them thinking they are actually quite happy with their lot. However, the first distinction would be to declare that 'Happy' does not convey enough about the Hope & Social (H&S) phenomenon and instead use the word 'Joy' in preference to 'Fun', and even 'Content' instead of 'Happy'. This is not to say they are not ambitious, but theirs is a compelling mix of quirkiness and contentment with a convincing lack of fear of failure.

They are quick to point out that one of the elements that helps define their musical identity is their studio, The Crypt, which is their inspirational workspace. This is mainly a private recording studio, a rented crypt(!) of a church near Leeds, which they have made their own. With recording equipment they describe as compact yet comprehensive they definitely make the most of it as listening to their recordings clearly shows. Whether the whole band or a subset are in residence there, they then becomes H&S at that moment, the music flows and develops without the potential open chequebook approach when working in a commercial studio.

There is also a candour about how the band works together. Clearly there are different skill-sets and abilities and, because other jobs get in the way, varying availability. However, there is a sense that there is not the strain of jealousy and demarcation that often is rife within other bands. They seem to operate in true community and long may it last!

Last night they nipped down to the metropolis during their current UK tour to play the iconic Union Chapel in London as part of the Greenbelt Festival's inaugral ADVENTurous day conference, of which more soon. It's inevitable that the venue adds or detracts from the performance, out in the audience last night they sounded superb, honed from their current busyness. Early on in the set singer Simon identified that the layout of the Union Chapel, with everyone seated in its formal pews, was radically different to their previous nights gig in a packed Working Men's Club in Halifax and maybe they were not quite as relaxed as usual, having to work harder to woo the seated 'congregation'.

They kicked off with a sublime version of 'Ripples Rock My Boat' from the CD 'April' and rattled through a relatively short set with favourites such as 'Pitching Far Too High' and the walk out into the audience H&S classic 'Looking For Answers'. Songs from their new album 'All Our Dancing Days' included 'Let's Be Bold' and the Springsteenesque 'One Way Home', all played with an exuberance and confidence that so characterises their shows.

H&S are an ultra hard working bunch of gifted guys who love what they do. They are proud of their material, committed to entertain as a primary artistic mission, all with the inescapable sense that the listener may take deeper meanings from the layered lyrics. They acknowledge the influence of the E Street band on some of their writing style and would be proud to wear 'What Would Bruce Do?' wristbands, yet turn out accessible music which is distinctly theirs.

These distinctions occur in the lyrics too. They maintain a balance weighed toward sentiment rather than schmaltz, whimsical rather than emotional and, as mentioned earlier, joy in addition to fun. Their songs make you smile one minute, then you're hiding the tears the next, and it is actually almost too easy to pick songs appropriate for weddings and funerals!

If success could be measured as commitment then they would rule the roost. When Hope and Social take to the stage, wherever and whatever the size, they do exactly that!

Catch them on the last few dates of their current tour:

Dec 04 - The Yorkshire House - Lancaster - buy tickets

Dec 05 - Hare & Hounds - Birmingham - buy tickets

Dec 07 - Fibbers - York - buy tickets