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All Along The Watch-repairers - A Look back At The Gigs of 2019.

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Well then; last night’s Paul Rose gig at Newcastle Cluny was the last one of the year that was 2019. A little change from the norm,  where the year closer has been Aynsley at The Cluny, but the way this guy laid into the Strat, it was no mere substitute; great show.

And that kind of been the thing of this year, I’ve been blues, but with a small “b”; been pushing genre boundaries. Some people call what I’ve been getting into “Alt.Country”: not quite sure what that means, probably in the way that Canada is an “alt.” USA, and certainty the Canadians have been at the forefront , mainly around the phenomenal Bros. Landreth.

2019 also saw me trying out a couple of new [to me] venues, such as Ashington’s White House Social Club, a “musician’s venue”. The Georgian Theatre in Stockton, combining the best bits of Darlington’s Forum and Newcastle’s Cluny in a discreet little corner. A lively little pub, The Castle Inn down in Richmond, N Yorks, had a convivial atmosphere for homeboys John Stainthorp & The Laughing Hearts in the summer, before the region was almost washed away in floods. Oddest venue ever though has to be Durham’s Old Cinema Laundrette; it is “exactly what it says on the tin.”

So, who’s been tickling my ears? Well, not as many as previous years as I’ve been wanting to move away from “the old guard” as it were, to explore new bands and new directions. Things started in fine form down in Hartlepool, with Liverpool’s Xander & the Peace Pirtaes, a band oft talked about, and rightly so, worth checking out if you haven’t already. Later in the month, and dodging any snow, up to Ashington for the 1st Canadian, Ariel Posen a top nod from Tilerman.

March was quiet, so it wasn’t until easter rolled round with another opportunity to enjoy a matinee show in Darlington’s Quaker House with one of my favourite singer/songwriter Stoney Broke and to end the month, back up to Ashington for one of the best gigs of the year, Joey Landreth.

April was another quiet month, but the return of The Mentulls at Stockton in May shook away the cobwebs, now a four-piece with a cracking singer, David Neil Crabtree and Andrew Jamie & Nick showed they were well rested and hungry to play again. Rebecca Downes came up to Stockton at the end of the month, to launch here cracking new album, More Sinner Than Saint, and she sings it like she means it, It was also a first chance to catch local lads John Stainthorp & George Parkes, who impressed in their opening slot.

Back up to Ashington for June’s only gig, the phenomenal Mike Farris, solo & acoustic, he turned the show into a near Pentecostal meeting before anyone knew what was happening, what presence, what a voice. Elles Bailey supported, also solo & acoustic and gave a fine account of herself too.

Earlier than usual, Buck & Evans visited Newcastle in July, always a treat. And then an invitation from John Stainthorp to catch him with full band [Laughing Hearts] at their “local” down in Richmond; blown away by their energy. The only “regular” I caught this year was Chantel McGregor in August. Seems to have been a while since caught a full Chantel show and word was out there was a new album too…

Far and away Gig of The Year though, came in September; finally after falling foul of airline machinations, Lincoln Durham returned to Newcastle. On paper, probably “the guy you’d least want to be trapped in a broken lift with”, but such a dramatic, dark energy, it’s hard to remember he’s a one-man-band. After that,  Darlington’s Free Blues Festival had to be their best for several years, so many good bands…

October, and my young protégé Felix Rabin was back in the country, for his 2nd headline tour this year (I’m missed his Spring one), starting the month opening for Chantel at Stockton and ending the month headlining at The Cluny with John Stainthorp supporting - he’s getting to be ubiquitous… October also saw a first chance to catch the feral-haired Hannah Wicklund,which was a treat worth waiting for. Also,  another of my recent faves, Curse of Lono swung by on a headline tour, intense but catchy.

November was the busy month, after seeing various parts, a last minute booking treat {at the band’s own insistence] Bros Landreth hit Ashington for one of the year’s highlights. A special treat for me wasn’t so much a music show but a chance to hear and meet a true legend in conversation - Earl Slick; don’t get me started on this guy. Finally, after 6 years dodging about, also got to see and hear Dan Owen, and what a singer he is. And then, to completely break any mould, the full, orchestral Sophie Ellis-Bextor; disco isn’t dead!!!

And so, all the way back round to last night’s Paul Rose Trio gig…  As I said, not many; not as many as previous years and probably not even a door on John Tate’s fridge, but all quality. Good music is alive and well, though sadly, one of my favourite bands Federal Charm called it a day back in September; hope as individuals they bounce back in some way or another, but as a band boy, they had the energy to jump start an aircraft carrier….

     

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