YORK’S drag diva deluxe Velma Celli is on the move.
Out goes the Covid-suspended monthly camp cabaret Friday nights at The Basement, City Screen, York.
In comes a resplendent residency from next month at Impossible, York, Tokyo Industries’ new tea-room, cocktail bar, restaurant and speakeasy enterprise in the old Terry’s café in St Helen’s Café, latterly home to Carluccio’s restaurant.
“It’s happening!” says an excited Velma Celli, the exotic international drag alter ego of musical actor Ian Stroughair, last seen on a York stage in December as the villainous Fleshius Creepius in York Stage’s debut pantomime, Jack And The Beanstalk, at Theatre @41, Monkgate.
“Velma has a new residency!! My very first live gig at the utterly fabulous Impossible, York. May 21st. Doors 7pm. Show 8pm! My very special guest is [York soul sister] Jessica Steel (obvs). More special West End guests to be announced! Grab those tickets as it will sell out!”
Take that advice, Velma insists. “50 per cent of tickets have gone! If you want to come to opening night, don’t wait to book! This baby is flying!!!!”
“Basically, it’s replacing the shows at The Basement, where we don’t know when it will reopen for shows under Covid guidance as it’s a small space,” says Ian, as he switches from the impossible to Impossible, York.
“I met the Impossible manager, Stephanie, in December, meeting her between Jack And The Beanstalk shows, and then five weeks ago she knocked on the window saying, ‘I’ve been trying to contact you!’.
“And so the first Velma Celli Show there on May 21, up the stairs, in the fabulous Impossible Wonderbar setting overlooking the square, with more shows to be announced later. This one will be fun, comedic, with stand-up, impressions, the usual mix of rock, pop and the blues, plus Jess and guests.”
Ian first moved back to York for Lockdown 1 when the pandemic sent him home from a Velma Celli Australian tour and he plans to settle back in his home city permanently from May, travelling to London for three days a week when necessary.
Streamed concerts, first from a Bishopthorpe kitchen and latterly from a riverside abode by the Ouse Bridge, have kept Velma Celli’s voice in spectacular working order, sometimes accompanied by Jessica Steel, leading light of Big Ian Donaghy’s fundraising A Night To Remember shows at York Barbican.
“Jess is reopening her salon [Rock The Barnet in Boroughbridge Road] from Monday, so we did our last stream together last night, Last Online – A Grand Finale, that ticket holders can see until Sunday,” says West End star Ian, who has appeared in such musicals as Cats, Fame, Chicago and Rent, but had to forego a long run in Funny Girls in Blackpool last year, thwarted by Killjoy Covid.
FOR the first time, tonight Barnsley folk singer Kate Rusby will perform her lockdown covers’ album, Hand Me Down, in full on stage in a worldwide stream at 7.30pm BST.
Released on her Pure Records label on August 14 last summer after recording sessions with husband musician Damien O’Kane, the collection of her favourite songs brought Kate, 47, her highest-charting album to date.
Bar the odd part recorded remotely by a band member, Hand Me Down was made by Kate and Damien when dividing days between home studio and home schooling their daughters.
Tonight will be the first chance to hear the likes of Manic Monday, Friday I’m In Love, Shake It Off and Three Little Birds performed live by Kate and her regular band in a two-hour concert including an interval.
Hand Me Down debuted at number 12 in the Official Album Charts – number three in the CD album chart and number four in the independent release chart – and a vinyl version followed on January 15.
Tickets are available at live.katerusby.com, from where Kate’s globally streamed concert will be available on demand until May 22, a date that would have been the last day of her cancelled spring tour.
As with her streamed Christmas concert, Kate Rusby’s Happy Holly Day on December 12 last year, the location for tonight’s recording will be Cast in Doncaster.
To watch a trailer, go to: youtube.com/watch?v=7v7Ag1y_OcM
Hand Me Down’s track listing:
Manic Monday (written by Prince; a hit for The Bangles in 1986)
Days (The Kinks, covered by Kirsty MacColl, Elvis Costello)
If I Had A Boat (Lyle Lovett)
Maybe Tomorrow (from The Littlest Hobo, a Canadian TV series, performed by Terry Bush)
The Show (theme song for TV series Connie, written by Willy Russell, performed by Rebecca Storm)
Shake It Off (Taylor Swift)
True Colours (written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly; a hit for Cyndi Lauper in 1986 )
Carolina On My Mind (James Taylor)
Love Of The Common People (written by written by John Hurley and Ronnie Wilkins; a hit for Paul Young in 1983)
YORK Stage are to present Songs From The Settee – Live On Stage from May 20 to 23 at Theatre @41, Monkgate, York, in the wake of a hit series of online shows.
Director/producer Nik Briggs and his York production company never let the first pandemic lockdown grind them down, instead bringing together their performers, musicians and technicians remotely for a streamed concert season that played out over ten weeks under the title of Songs From The Settee.
“The idea was to keep the city entertained with top-quality musical theatre while we were in uncharted territory,” says Nik. “We thought the weekly publications would last three to four weeks, but before we knew it, we were at ten!
“We were blown away and driven by our friends and followers, who were engaging with the series and sending us messages, saying how we were helping them get through the week.”
The first online recording, Heroes All Around, was released on April 9 2020. “So, it feels like the perfect date, one year later, to announce what we’ll be bringing to our audiences as theatres are set to reopen with social distancing from May 17: Songs From The Settee – Live On Stage,” says Nik.
“From May 20 to 23, we have two different concerts that will run back to back under the same title at 7.30pm each evening.
“Musical director Jess Douglas will start the ball rolling with her band and some of York Stage’s finest vocal talents on May 20 and 21, before passing the baton to Stephen Hackshaw, who will bring in a new band and showcase more of the York Stage talent pool on May 22 and 23.”
The event will be staged in the Covid-secure John Cooper Studio at Theatre@41 on Monkgate, where audiences will be seated at cabaret tables, socially distanced from other bubbles around the studio. Drinks and refreshments will be served throughout the show with a table-service offering.
“Having produced a socially distanced pantomime, Jack And The Beanstalk, at Theatre @41 over Christmas, we know we can bring a show with full Covid compliance to the venue successfully and very much look forward to doing so,” says Nik.
The announcement of Lockdown 3 sadly stopped Jack and his Beanstalk antics short of the early January finishing line when theatres were forced to close on December 30.
“Up to that point, I’d been thinking about what shows I could be making for January and February, but as the days passed, I realised that was not to be!” he says.
“We knew it was coming, but the real blow was not getting our New Year’s Eve shows in. It felt like we’d been robbed of something we’d fought for after the most difficult year ever; to see through to the last day of the year weirdly seemed at the time as though it would have taken the sting out of the closure.
“But it feels so good to be returning to the venue and reopening public performances with these concerts. Boris says the reopening will be irreversible, so fingers crossed that it’s the first of many events for 2021.”
Tickets can be bought online at yorkstagemusicals.com from tomorrow (10/4/2021).
YORK theatre-in-education company Mud Pie Arts are launching Drama For Recovery workshops, marked by a cycle ride to every primary school in York on April 14 and 15.
The start of a new school term brings the promise of the return of visiting artists, York drama practitioners Nicolette Hobson and Jenna Drury, who want to help York children recover from a stressful year through drama games.
Drama For Recovery comes as a response to teachers reporting that some children are struggling to adjust to life back in school, finding problems in working together and concentrating on tasks.
Calling on more than 20 years’ experience in education and youth theatre, Mud Pie Arts understand that regular drama games can build skills in co-operation and focus.
“Drama is the ideal tool to build life skills such as teamwork and empathy,” says Jenna. “We know that drama lets children express their creativity. After a time of feeling powerless, our form of play gives children a voice and a choice. It’s powerful stuff! Plus, of course, our sessions are often full of laughter, which is a great stress-buster for all of us.”
Mud Pies Arts are inviting teachers to book a day of drama that will include every child in the school. “Teachers will have the opportunity to learn the simple games, so that, with regular bursts of drama play, all children will benefit,” says Jenna.
“What’s more, this week I’ll be delivering our leaflets to all 63 state primaries by pedal power! From Stensall to Wheldrake, Rufforth to Elvington, that’s over 55 miles of local lanes.
“We want to show our commitment to education with this gesture of determination. Luckily, we live in a wonderfully compact, green city!”
Mud Pie Arts also will offer primary schools a teaching package for eight to 11 year olds to build resilience through Operation Last Hope,a fantasy role-play that requires the children to complete a quest to rehabilitate an endangered species.
Nicolette and Jenna created the films, audio and resources for this scheme, after being awarded a micro-commission in January from IVE at Arts Council England.
Mud Pie Arts wasted no time in lockdown, writing and recording open-ended Cloud Tales and posting them as a free resource on their website. They have taught remotely and won commissions to make storytelling films for home schooling, and these stories and the duo’s film, Meet Florence Nightingale, are still available to all.
Schools can contact Mud Pie Arts to discuss bespoke drama or storytelling workshops. “We hope teachers will welcome artists back to schools soon,” says Nicolette. “It is possible to do this safely. The arts are essential for child development and well-being, after such a long year of disruption to young lives.”
To contact Mud Pie Arts, go to: mudpiearts.co.uk.
Did you know?
MUD Pie Arts deliver drama-based curriculum workshops and interactive storytelling performances to children aged three to 11 throughout Yorkshire.
NO reopening date has yet been announced for York Barbican, but Irish veteran Van Morrison’s shows are being moved from May 25 and 26 to July 20 and 21.
“Please keep hold of your tickets as they will be valid for the new date,” says the Barbican website, where seats for Van The Man are on sale without social distancing, in line with Step 4 of the Government’s pandemic Roadmap to Recovery, whereby all legal limits on social contact are potentially to be removed from June 21.
Morrison, 75, will release his 42nd album, Latest Record Project: Volume 1, a 28-track delve into his ongoing love of blues, R&B, jazz and soul, on May 7 on Exile/BMG.
The Barbican listings – and her own website – suggest Wakefield cabaret singer Jane McDonald’s Let The Light In show on July 4 could be the first show since Frank Turner on March 8 last year: aptly named as York Barbican has lain dormant and dark since the first lockdown.
A multitude of York Barbican bookings has been rearranged, led off by “The Greatest Rock & Roll Band In The World”. Who? Er, Leicester’s Showaddywaddy, apparently, it says here, Hey Rock And Roll, Under The Moon Of Love, Hey Mister Christmas, I Wonder Why, et al.
When? Yes, that was a hit too, number three in 1976. No, when is the re-booked date? “Our Showaddywaddy that was due to take place on 1 Aug 2020/ 29 April 2021 has now been rescheduled for Friday, 4th March 2022,” says the Barbican website.
Rumours of Rumours Of Fleetwood Mac’s tribute show moving are true, now in the 2021 diary for July 26, rather than May 21.
Born in Kingston upon Thames but Scottish, Daniel Sloss has re-scheduled his Hubris, his 11th solo show, for September 19 after his October 3 2020 and May 8 2021 dates were Covid-crocked.
Shagged. Married. Annoyed. With Chris & Rosie Ramsey, the Geordie duo’s 18-million-download podcast transported to the stage, has switched from June 16 to September 28.
The only way the Ramseys can have a conversation without being interrupted by a small child or ending up staring at their phones is by doing a podcast…and now a live show. As always, life, relationships, arguments, annoyances, parenting, growing up and everything in between, will be up for discussion.
Jimmy Carr: Terribly Funny foregoes May 2 in favour of November 4 2021, when the Channel 4 host of The Friday Night Project and 8 Out Of 10 Cat will mull over terrible things that might have affected you or people you know and love.
“But they’re just jokes. They are not the terrible things,” he qualifies. “Having political correctness at a comedy show is like having health and safety at a rodeo.”
Russell Watson: 20th Anniversary Of The Voice will now be marking the 21st anniversary of the Salford tenor’s debut album, released on September 25 2000. Moving his York show from October 9 2020 to November 7 2021, when he will be joined by a choir, he will perform career highlights such as Caruso, O Sole Mio, Il Gladiatore, Nessun Dorma, You Are So Beautiful, Someone To Remember Me and Where My Heart Will Take Me.
Kim Wilde is taking no chances, putting back her Greatest Hits Tour date from September 17 this year to that date next year in a case of keeping us Hangin’ On. Special guests, by the way, will be China Crisis, the presciently named Liverpool crafters of such Eighties’ delights as Wishful Thinking and King In A Catholic Style.
Dionne Warwick’s Farewell Tour, One Last Time, should have brought the silken voice of I Say A Little Prayer, Do You Know The Way To San Jose, Anyone Who Had A Heart and Walk On By to York on October 29 2020.
Instead, the show will go ahead on June 10, 2022, by when the City of Orange soul queen would be 81. “After almost six decades I’ve decided it’s time to put away the touring trunk and focus on recording, one-off concerts and special events,” said the six-time Grammy Award winner, forever associated with the Burt Bacharach & Hal David songbook, when she announced the tour in November 2019.
“I still love performing live, but the rigours of travelling every day so far from home, sleeping in different hotels each night, one concert after the other, is becoming hard. So, I’ve decided to stop touring on that level in Europe…but I’m not retiring!”
Tickets are on sale at yorkbarbican.co.uk or on 0203 356 5441. All York Barbican tickets remain valid for the new dates highlighted here, but ticket holders should contact their point of purchase if they have any questions.
COUNT Arthur Strong presents himself in And This Is Me! at York Barbican on June 3 2022 to mark still going Strong after two decades.
“After many years of giving his wonderful lecture talks of his he does, Count Arthur Strong has at last bowed to substantial pubic demand and allowed himself be talked into making the show about himself for once,” his tour spiel pronounces.
“And that had never occurred to him before because of him being highly magnanimous,” it adds, as tickets for his 20th anniversary tour go on sale at yorkbarbican.co.uk or on 0203 356 5441.
From his breakthrough Edinburgh Fringe show Forgotten Egypt in 2002, to turning the spotlight on himself in 2022, the droll creation of Leeds comic Steve Delaney has two decades of memories from his ten national tours, 15 years of his multi award-winning radio show and three series of his BAFTA- nominated self-titled TV sitcom.
Ticket sales start at 10.30am tomorrow for Genesis Visible Touch, “the ultimate Phil Collins-era Genesis show”, at York Barbican on March 3 2022.
For their 2022 Greatest Hits And Fan Favourites Tour, Genesis Visible Touch will be doing “exactly what it says in the title”: replicating Follow You Follow Me, Invisible Touch, In The Cage and myriad older fan favourites and live classics. The verdict? “The best exponents of Collins-fronted Genesis I’ve seen,” says Genesis producer Nick Davis.
Meanwhile, another Genesis tribute gig at York Barbican is on the move from this year to next, this one focused on the Peter Gabriel era . The Musical Box: A Genesis Extravaganza – Part III has been rescheduled from February 14 2021 to February 4 2022.
All tickets remain valid for the new date, but ticket holders should contact their point of purchase if they have any questions.
The Musical Box, the only group in the world granted a licence from Peter Gabriel and Genesis, will re-create “the greatest rock opera ever created” in its entirety, namely the original 1975 performance of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, staged in painstaking historical detail, right down to the original slide show.
The final collaboration between Gabriel and Genesis is to be “revived one last time in the end-of-an-era final chance to witness this unique live experience” in this 8pm show.
The Musical Box have performed to more than one million spectators worldwide, playing such prestigious venues as the Royal Albert Hall, London, and the Paris Olympia, and the group have had the privilege of hosting Phil Collins as a performing guest.
“The Musical Box recreated, very accurately, what Genesis was doing,” says Peter Gabriel. “They’re not a tribute band, they have taken a period and are faithfully reproducing it in the same way that someone would do a theatrical production,” reckonsPhil Collins.
“I cannot imagine that you could have a better tribute for any act,” says Steve Hackett, lead guitarist in the Genesis line-up of that era. “It was better than the real thing,” concedes fellow guitarist Mike Rutherford.
ROLL on Monday and Step 2 of the Government’s roadmap to recovery, when outdoor hospitality can resume and zoos, theme parks, drive-in cinemas and libraries can re-open.
Charles Hutchinson casts an eye over what’s on and what’s next.
Children’s stream of the week: Strawberry Lion in Five Children And It, via Explore York libraries
YORK company Strawberry Lion’s streamed production of E Nesbit’s novel Five Children And It can be viewed for free on @YorkExplore’s YouTube channel daily until April 14 at 5pm.
Suitable for children aged five and over, the show is written and performed by York actor, musician, writer, theatre-maker and company founder Anna Soden, who has set Nesbit’s 1902 story with the grumpy magical creature on Scarborough beach.
Exhibition launch of the week ahead: Jack Hellewell: Jack’s Travels, Kentmere House Gallery, Scarcroft Hill, York, from April 12
CURATOR Ann Kentmere is toasting Roadmap Step 2 Day by reopening Kentmere House Gallery on April 12 with Jack Travels, the first in a lockdown-delayed series of exhibitions to celebrate the centenary of the late Bradford artist Jack Hellewell.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Ann and David Petherick’s gallery in their York home, and Hellewell’s show will be open every day from April 12 to 17, 11am to 5pm, with extended opening to 9pm next Thursday, before Ann resumes her regular opening hours on the first weekend of each month and Thursdays from 6pm to 9pm. Or you can just ring the bell on the off-chance.
Walking tour launch of the month ahead: The York Dungeon, from April 16
THE York Dungeon will spring its “frighteningly fun but family-friendly” walking tour on this socially distanced haunted city from next Friday.
Taking The York Dungeon above ground on Fridays to Sundays, guests will be led on a tour of hair-raising historic locations by two of the Clifford Street visitor attraction’s most/least loved characters, who will tell horrible tales of York’s murkiest, darkest history, wrapped up in suspense and surprises. Start times will be throughout each day; tickets must be pre-booked at thedungeons.com/york/.
A day by the sea but inside a gallery: Scarborough: Our Seaside Town, Scarborough Art Gallery, May 18 to September 12
SCARBOROUGH Art Gallery’s summertime exhibition will look at life in a seaside town, as seen through the eyes of local people.
Curator Esther Lockwood interviewed team members from Scarborough Museums Trust, asking for their personal views and recollections of life by the sea year-round before selecting items from the trust’s extensive collections.
These will include an early 20th century ice cream cart that once operated on Scarborough’s South Bay beach; the East Coast resort’s Pancake Bell, rung to signal the start of the unique tradition of skipping on the seafront on Shrove Tuesday, and other seaside ephemera, paintings, vintage photographs and postcards.
Missing Grayson’s Art Club on Channel 4 already? Head to Grayson Perry: The Pre-Therapy Years, York Art Gallery, May 28 to September 5
GRAYSON Perry’s lockdown-delayed “lost pots” exhibition at York Art Gallery’s Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) will open at last next month.
This touring show is the first celebration of Perry’s earliest forays into the art world, re-assembling the explosive and creative works the Chelmsford-born artist, author and television presenter made between 1982 and 1994.
“It’s as near as I will ever get to meeting myself as a young man, an angrier, priapic me with huge energy but a much smaller wardrobe,” says Perry.
Audition opportunity: Pick Me Up Theatre, SpongeBob The Musical, Theatre @41 Monkgate, York
YORK company Pick Me Up Theatre are to stage SpongeBob The Musical from December 7 to 18 at Theatre @41 Monkgate, York.
Director Robert Readman and musical director Sam Johnson will hold auditions there in July and August for performers aged 15 to 23 and actor-musicians for the Bikini Bottom Band.
Anyone interested is asked to email firstname.lastname@example.org for an audition form.
Gig announcement of the week in York: Del Amitri, York Barbican, September 18
DEL Amitri will follow up the May 28 release of their seventh studio album, Fatal Mistakes, with a September 18 gig at York Barbican.
Justin Currie’s Glaswegian band last played the Barbican in May 2002, the year they released their last album, Can You Do Me Good?.
Greatest hits and new material will combine in a set supported by The Bryson Family. Tickets will go on sale tomorrow (9/4/2021) at 9am at yorkbarbican.co.uk.
Gig announcement of the week outside York: Spiers & Boden, Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC), October 20, 8pm
AFTER years of speculation, much-loved English folk duo Spiers & Boden are back together and not only working on new material, but also bringing a live performance to Pock in the autumn.
John Spiers, 46, and Jon Boden, 44, were the driving forces in big folk band Bellowhead, who played a glorious headline set at PAC’s Platform Festival at The Old Station, Pocklington, in July 2015. Tickets cost £20 at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.
AFTER years of speculation, much-loved English folk duo Spiers & Boden are back together, working on new material and bringing a live show to Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) this autumn.
John Spiers, 46, and Jon Boden, 44, former leading lights of big folk band Bellowhead, will perform in Pock on Wednesday, October 20.
PAC director Janet Farmer says: “Spiers & Boden are a fantastic addition to our live events programme, and the fact that Pocklington Arts Centre will be one of their first live dates after they re-formed as a duo, following a hiatus of several years, is just incredible. Tickets have only just gone on sale and are already selling fast.
“We cannot wait to welcome this talented duo, and of course our wonderful audience, through our doors for what will be an utterly brilliant night of world–class live music.”
Forming a folk duo in 2001, Spiers & Boden won a clutch of BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards: the Horizon Award for Best Newcomerin 2003 and the Best Duo Award in 2004 and 2006.
A sojourn in Eliza Carthy & The Ratcatchers included a performance at the Mercury Music Prize Awards. After years of touring, in 2011 they headlined their own star-studded show at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire to celebrate their tenth anniversary.
Meanwhile, they had built on their early success as a duo to found the ground-breaking folk big band Bellowhead, going on to achieve Royal Albert Hall sell-outs, Proms In The Park successes, multiple awards, signing to Universal Records en route to 250,000 album sales, and headlining PAC’s Platform Festival at The Old Station, Pocklington, in July 2015.
Inevitably, Bellowhead increasingly dominated their time and in 2014 Spiers & Boden made the tough decision to rest the duo, with Bellowhead bowing out two years later.
Since then, Boden has carved out a career as both a solo performer and with his own band, Jon Boden & The Remnant Kings, while continuing to work on his creative trilogy of albums exploring a post-apocalyptic world and his work writing music for theatre. On November 6 2017, he launched his album Afterglow with a solo gig at Pocklington Arts Centre.
Melodeon player Spiers formed performance collaborations with fiddler Peter Knight, of Steeleye Span and Feast Of Fiddles, and separately folk singer and fiddler Jackie Oates.
He is a member too of the Gigspanner Big Band, with Knight, percussionist Sacha Trochet, guitarist Roger Flack and the multi-instrumental Edgelarks duo of Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin.
What an autumn week this is shaping up to be at PAC: Irish chanteuse Mary Coughlan on October 19, Spiers & Boden, October 20, and Texas-born singer-songwriter Beth Nielsen Chapman on October 23. Tickets for Spiers & Boden’s 8pm Pocklington concert cost £20 at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk.
STAR of stage and screen Ralph Fiennes is to direct and perform in the world premiere of T S Eliot’s Four Quartets in his York Theatre Royal debut from July 26 to 31 as the zenith of The Love Season.
This solo theatre adaptation will feature Burnt Norton, East Coker, The Dry Salvages and Little Giddings, published together in 1943 in a quartet that ranges across themes of time, nature and the elements, faith and spirituality and war and mortality.
For full details of The Love Season and to book tickets, go to: yorktheatreroyal.co.uk. Full story will follow in charleshutchpress.co.uk.
YORK singer-songwriter Gary Stewart will release his lockdown album, Lost, Now Found, on June 14, the day before his 40th birthday.
“The album was recorded at home and is pretty much all me, with the exception of a few musical friends, like Rosie Doonan, Ross Ainslie and Mikey Kenney,” says the left-handed guitarist, who can also be spotted playing drums for Hope & Social on a regular basis.
Perthshire-born Gary cut his teeth performing on the Leeds music scene for ten years before moving to York. Writing songs in the folk/pop vein, and influenced by the major singer/songwriters of the 1960s and 1970s – Paul Simon, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Carole King and assorted members of The Eagles – he has released three albums and two EPs to date.
Now comes Lost, Now Found, comprising material written between April and June 2020, shortly after the first pandemic lockdown was announced.
“When Covid-19 struck in late March 2020 and it became apparent that the nation would be indoors for some time, I made the decision (after a short period of squander sponsored by I-Player and Netflix) to try and write some songs after quite a hiatus,” says Gary.
“As a professional procrastinator, my fear was that I wouldn’t stick with it or even bother to give myself a fighting chance. Thankfully, I took up the threads of a song, Leopard, that had been kicking around my head and notebook for 18 months or so and got to task.
“What emerged was a knitted patchwork of a song, drawing initially on one specific personal experience, but extended to a more general introspective of my character and unified under the familiar question: can a leopard change its spots?”
The answer: “Well, given that this self-confessed ‘pro procrastinator’ managed to finish a song in lightning time – by his own standards – and continued to write another nine songs within a period of three months, I would say ‘yes’,” says Gary.
“The speed at which Leopard arrived (boom) gave me the confidence to continue writing. The ‘stay at home’ rule allowed me the chance to spend time broadening my chordal vocabulary (something I have wanted to do since ‘discovering’ The Beatles last year); to go further than the usual ‘three chords and the truth’.”
“Technophobe” Gary ventured into the realm of D.I.Y musician for Lost, Now Found, playing, recording, mixing and producing the album as a solo work.
“Arts Council England enticed me to apply for some funding, with its Developing Creative Practice fund helping me to secure the purchase of a laptop, an interface and a couple of really nice microphones,” he says.
“This in turn led me down the rabbit-hole and into the Wonderland of home-recording, the next two months being spent learning a new trade on-the-go while recording the ten new songs.
“This involved learning how to place microphones; how to record tracks; how to edit and ‘comp’ takes; latency; how to use compressors and reverbs; how to be patient; how to ‘really’ shout and swear. At 39 years old, I did not expect to be in the position of being able to learn a new skill and apply that skill so quickly. Another facet that fits neatly into the leopard/spots adage.”
Multi-instrumentalist Gary has enlisted the help of a handful of musician friends to “add colour” to assorted songs. Rosie Doonan, who has worked with Peter Gabriel, duets with Stewart on Hot To Trot, Tu Eres Mi Media Naranja and Lost, Now Found, and Mikey Kenney, from Band Of Burns, lends string arrangements to Rainy Day Lover and Sailors And Tailors.
BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winner Ross Ainslie, from Treacherous Orchestra and Salsa Celtica, plays whistle on Front Lines, while Sam Lawrence and James Hamilton contribute woodwind and brass respectively to the opening track, Tailspin.
Lost, Now Found captures the sound and feel of a 1970s’ era singer/songwriter record. “My D.I.Y approach to recording, coupled with my musical influences, help give the album its lo-fi sonority: warm-sounding acoustic guitars and drums; plate reverb vocals, and instruments captured as naturally as possible, with very little effect,” says Gary. “Think Tapestry meets Tea For The Tillerman.”
Stylistically, the album embraces 1960s and 1970s’ artists alongside more contemporary folk/pop luminaries: The Beach Boys’ drums and vocal-harmony influence are apparent on Hot To Trot and Tu Eres Mi Media Naranja; John Martyn and Nick Drake bounce off each other in Tailspin; lead single Leopard has a Villagers vibe, while the plaintive feel of Still Crazy-era Paul Simon is present on Rainy Day Lover, Sadder Day Song and the title track.
“These are ten songs that I’m really proud of,” says Gary. “Songs that deal with themes I constantly return to both consciously and sub-consciously: fabrics of my character that I’d like to change (Leopard and Chest); procrastination (Hot To Trot) and redemption, coupled with new beginnings (Tailspin) and straight-up love songs (Rainy Day Lover, Sadder Day Song and Tu Eres Mi Media Naranja).
“Then there are the songs that are woven more indelibly and intertwined with the time and situation in which they were written: songs about the triumph over adversity of the NHS (Front Lines) and family loss, both physical and mental (Sailors And Tailors and Lost, Now Found).
“These compositions, to me, are a step-up musically and thematically from what I normally write. I think they’ve been captured really well on record and I hope you like listening to them very much.”
Gary Stewart’s Lost, Now Found is released on June 14 on CD, 12“ vinyl and download.
Just how multi-instrumentalist is multi-tasking Gary Stewart?
ON Lost, Now Found, he contributes vocals, backing vocals, acoustic guitar, hi-string guitar, electric guitar, bass, drums, keys, xylophone, glockenspiel, congas, bongos, shakers, triangle, tambourine, finger cymbals, temple blocks and…thighs. Oh, and he recorded, mixed and produced the album.
Did you know?
GARY Stewart plays drums for Leeds band Hope & Social and guitar for Rosie Doonan, performs at Big Ian Donaghy’s A Night To Remember charity nights at York Barbican and hosts the New York Greenwich Village-inspired acoustic hootenanny, The Gaslight Club, run by Dead Young Records every Monday at Oporto!, in Call Lane, Leeds.
He also fronts a seven-piece line-up that tours the UK with Graceland: A Celebration of Paul Simon’s Classic (plus a generous handful of other Simon classics for good measure). In the diary for September 18 is a York gig at The Crescent at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £12.50 (more on the door) at seetickets.com.