Wildflowers Album Released

 

This Album was conceived in early 2018 and most of the new original songs were written during late 2017 -mid 2018. This was personally a very difficult period for me as after undergoing surgery I also endured 7 months of Chemotherapy, in the middle of which I relocated from the USA to the UK.

It was a time to reflect on life and the things that were important and also look back on some periods in my early life.

It is intended to be played as an entity with an intro and an outro, which is not cool in this time of streaming, but ultimately that is personal choice.

In the main we recorded the tracks initially as a live “one take” acoustic recording adding additional parts over time in a variety of locations  in the UK and in Florida .

I need to say a big thank you to a few people who were involved in this project:

Andy Boyd : I have worked with Andy for almost 40 years now from early recordings in a living room in Faringdon to this album. Andy provides a massive amount of support and technical expertise to the recording process . We spent a number of long days taking over the living room at the barn and converting it to a studio with its own clear acoustics. Andy also supported me on a personal level during my difficult period of treatment and I am forever grateful to him for that.

Ted Fordney : Ted worked on the tracks from Florida and spent many hours working with my quirky songs and then sending back often 2 or 3 different bass parts to choose from .He also adds some great backing vocals and a ghostly voice on Nightmare !  We haven’t had the chance to play together in person for almost a year now , but I look forward to that day immensely .

Tessa Mapp : Once again I roped in Tess to add some beautiful cello to a number of tracks . We were lucky to be  able to capture these just before lockdown struck.

Pete Young : Along with Andy I’ve worked with Pete for nearly 40 years and he played the fabulous piano part on Wildflowers , bringing to life my idea for that  track.

Rick Hardeman : Rick and I have played together on a number of occasions during my time in Florida including on this track Taken Away.  He very generously agreed to give me the time to record his flute part on my visit to Florida last year.

Corey Blanchette : Corey helped me in the recording of Ricks flute part as well as providing an electric guitar solo on Sunrise which stretched me in another direction.

Josie Maskell : For the fabulous photography and artwork

Wildflowers is available to download from my Bandcamp site www.alanmaskell.bandcamp.com

It’s also on all the major on-line music sites to purchase , and can be streamed on Apple Music, Amazon, Spotify etc. I have produced a short run of CD’s which were planned for sale at  gigs, but if you’d like a physical copy message me and I will try to arrange it.

I’m not looking to make any money from this album, but in the current climate would encourage you to give your support to the many talented songwriters and musicians who rely on this for their income and are currently suffering due to the effect of Covid .

Track lyrics and notes are available on this website if you click on the tab and download the file, you’ll be able to understand the background to each song , or just sing along if that’s your thing!!

Breaking The Silence and Lockdown recordings

It’s been a busy few months and I decided to take a break from any on-line presence .There was just too much negativity around this summer .

In May ,following the first relaxing of lockdown, we moved into our new home in the English Countryside in Herefordshire. This was followed by the sale of our barn where we’d lived for 22 years , and we finally moved everything out at the end of August.

I now have a new music room/studio in a Shepherds Hut in the garden , where I can get back to writing and developing my playing .

I’ve really missed playing live and it looks like it will be a long time before  we’ll be back to any sort of normality in live music venues. Somehow playing to a video camera/phone with no audience doesn’t give the same buzz.

As we (hopefully) avoid going back into Lockdown again, I’ve decided to make available the 3 tracks I recorded during the original lockdown in early Summer.

All three tracks were a bit of an experiment with recording techniques and styles and I was joined ( safely socially distanced by more than 2000 miles) by Ted Fordney on bass and backing vocals and general useful suggestions.

Gemini

This is a jangly pop song , written back in February and demo’d very differently at that time . Tried to get a 60’s psychedelic pop feel.

Country Flowers

An alternative take on the title track to the new album. A chance for me to experiment with the Lap Steel guitar and try to achieve an intentionally country folk feel .

Twelfth Night

Another brand new track demo’d acoustically in January. This is intended as a sort of chilled, percussion driven mix for a song about post Christmas blues.

These songs are very much early versions and over time and playing live may well develop and change but the recordings at least capture a period in time.

The new album Wildflowers  is about to go live on streaming services and on my Bandcamp site . Will Post all the launch details next week  . Watch this space

 

Different Times

I didn’t manage to post in March for a number of reasons and also have no new song to add this month , but I’m sure we’ll catch up in a few weeks !

March began badly with the news that our good friend from Sarasota , Tony Neubroch sadly lost his battle with Cancer after more than 7 years. Tony and I shared a certain camaraderie 2 years ago as I was going through my treatment and I am honoured to have known him. For those  who didn’t know him, he was a poet and would often appear at Open Mics to read  a selection of his work. To quote from Tony’s 2015 book :

” It has often been said that our time here is short and to make it as meaningful as we can. We cannot know what lies beyond today or all our tomorrows. With this thought I am reminded that our life is nothing but a feather’s touch”

The latter part of March saw the world change with plans altered and lives put on hold as we face the biggest global crisis of our lifetime . It’s a time of great stress, hardship and worry for so many people and for an ever increasing number personal tragedy.

We have limited ability to change things personally , and it times feel pretty helpless. I have resorted to playing music to keep me sane during this period of “lockdown” and whilst not writing new songs , have been revisiting old ones, and started recording the occasional live video to put out on facebook and Youtube, to stay in touch with people both in the UK and US . The Four songs posted to date are:

Rose Tattoo

Learn to be Still

Labour Day

Sally

I decided to delay releasing the Wildflowers album for a while as I certainly won’t be playing live anywhere soon ,although I may make it available on-line only in June as a starting point. All the tracks are recorded , mixed and mastered and Josie is finishing off the artwork so we’re pretty much good to go.

As an additional pastime I’ve been recording some bonus tracks with Ted Fordney ( with 2000 miles social distancing) and at some point soon studio versions of Twelfth Night, Gemini, and an alternative take on Wildflowers will appear here.  This has given me the chance to learn bit more about the lap steel guitar and play the recycled lap steel I built in February which has been good fun .

This was built from a 25 year old plank found in my garage, plywood, aluminium angle and a pickup and controls from an old electric guitar. It sounds suitably sweet and is great fun to play.

That’s all for a while but a new post will follow shortly with the stories behind some of the songs from the new album.

Stay safe and for now at least stay home !

February Blues

February tends to be the worst month of the year in England and this year the weather excelled itself with buckets of rain and some really stormy weekends .

As we wait to move house I’ve managed to finish the recording work for the new album with some beautiful cello on 3 songs played by Tess , and the final song Wildflowers recorded live with just a piano played by Pete. Ted provided the finishing touches with some backing vocals to add to his already superb bass tracks.

Now we are in the process of mixing which will take a few weeks and visits to Andy’s studio, but for now as promised here’s the provisional track listing :

Flo’s Tune

Missing

Darker Side of paradise

Simple

Lost in a Moment

Sally

Up in the Clouds

Ultimate Nightmare

A Life in Words

Wildflowers

Taken Away

The Swamp

Learn to be Still

Sunrise after the Storm

Toby’s Tune

Yes, there really are 15 tracks and a running time of 75 minutes as it stands. In the old days of Albums, this would probably warrant a double . The title for the album is still in debate, so that will wait till next month when work on the sleeve starts.

I have kept up my new song a month regime for 2020 and this month’s offering is called “Gemini” . This is still very much a work in progress , but as ever I recorded a simple demo , this time playing the Bouzouki . My star sign is Gemini and whilst not in the schizophrenic bracket, I definitely can have two quite different sides and the song picks up on that theme.

Gemini:

Next Month will be a busy one as we finally get to move to Herefordshire and our new house and village , but I still hope to complete another song as I already have a couple of themes I’m working on . Will be playing a solo gig in Bristol at The Seven Stars mid-month again before joining Pete and Gus there for a mini band reunion in April .

Twelfth Night

Two years ago , encouraged by Ted Fordney, I set out to write one song a month in part as a distraction to the ongoing medical treatment . I made it through to June and the songs from that period will form part of the the new acoustic album I’m looking to complete later in the spring . I’ve decided that it is a really good discipline to focus on at least one new song idea per month and this year I intend to go one step further and as well as writing the song, record a demo version to put into a monthly posting on this site.

To start this process this month is a topical song “Twelfth Night” written around the night of the same name . This is a emotionally charged night as it is the closing of Christmas celebrations , the real starting of a New Year  and also the start of the worst two months of the year in the UK where it is damp, grey and just a waiting period for Spring. Anyway this year there was the added irony that the christian origin of twelfth night is the coming of the wise men bringing gifts from Persia ( Iran and Iraq).

So here is a rough first demo recording of Twelfth night which will continue to develop over the year .

Twelfth Night 

For many years I have played with Pete Young on keyboards , both in Ulterior Motives and in acoustic duo/trio formats . One standard in our set since the early 80’s has been a version of Swan Lake (From Tchaikosky’s Nutcracker) with a reggae feel, which originally came from Madness. It was often a set closer or encore and Andy Boyd discovered he had something like 20 versions on video through the years , from shows and rehearsals. Anyway he recently had some spare time so put together a compilation of Swan Lake through the ages and the 23 minute version is here : Swan Lake 

Finally on 12th January we played a 30 minute set in The Seven Stars pub in Bristol where Andy once again shot a superb HD video so I thought I’d post it here as well for anyone who missed it on Facebook .

Seven Stars 12.1.20

And so now as we also prepare to move house I’m busy working on a slightly longer than planned acoustic album , tentatively titled “Wildflowers” but that could yet change. Will confirm the track listing in next months post .

Back in the UK

Well we’re back in the UK now after 5 mainly enjoyable years in Florida.
We made lots of great friends who we’ll miss, so will have to make trips back to visit them periodically.
I plan to have a quiet summer musically although I played at The Seven Stars in Bristol with Pete Young on the 11th August .
For those that missed it the show was recorded by Andy Boyd and can be seen here :Seven Stars 11.8.19

I just starting work this week on a new recording project which will be a return to a much more acoustic sound than Harvey . I provisionally have 10 brand new songs, a couple of older songs to be re-visited and a surprise cover, in the working version of the album. Working Title is “Wildflowers” but that may change .
We’ve temporarily converted our living room at the barn to a studio and Andy Boyd and I are recording day long sessions over the next few weeks .This room has a great natural ambience and sound for recording. On Monday we completed the basic tracks for 4 songs , set up templates and a working protocol, as well as the odd demo for Pete to use to develop a piano part.
Plan is to use a variety of guest musicians over the next few months to add some variety to the tracks, and news of some of those will follow !


News Update – Shows and Recording

It’s a while since I posted so thought I should put something new on here.
I’ve been back in the UK for a while and getting used to the Bouzouki whilst playing a few open mics and meeting up with my old musical partners Pete Young and Gus Mills and even Jim Stewart before his departure to India.
Here are a couple of clips from those nights courtesy as ever of Andy Boyd !
Full Psychedelic Set from the Swan Christmas Open Mic
Overload at the Shoulder of Mutton

This saturday I’m playing the Seven Stars in Bristol, which for those that haven’t visited is an Old Pub near Bristol Docks with historic associations with the Slave Trade . It always has an ever changing selection of great and unusual beers and on saturday and sunday afternoons features acoustic music shows which have been hosted Alfie Kingston for more than 10 years.There is always a good mix of some of the best local artists who are all booked to play 30 minute slots. Saturday I’ll be playing with Pete Young on keyboards for a mix of old and new songs and possibly even a Russian Folk Song.

On March 9th I’ll be back at Common Grounds in Northport , Florida, but this time playing Mandolin and guitar on a few songs with Wendy Kaneko. Wendy has her own show that night called “A Journey of the Heart” and will also be joined by Rico and Kate on percussion and bass.Wendy is a great original and emotional singer and songwriter as well as a good friend.
The following weekend on March 16th I’ll be playing a show at the Elixir tea rooms in Sarasota. This is a small , intimate, but very relaxed venue and the chance to play a few rarer covers and original songs.
Looking forward now to the sunshine and warmth of Florida for a few weeks !!

Guitar Bouzouki

During September and October 2018, I was lucky to be able to spend a month in the Workshop of Richard Osborne, a luthier in mid Wales(website), learning the art of guitar building. During that time I built a Guitar/Bouzouki which is a beautiful instrument. The soundboard is Sitka Spruce and the back and sides English Cherry , which is beautifully figured and will develop a rich Orange colour over time.

After we finished building , we went for a curry and some drinks, returning to the workshop late at night to collect and play our instruments and here is a video of Cornelius ( a friend of Richards) playing it on some traditional tunes.

Finally, I had about 24 hours to play the Guitar/bouzouki, before I flew to America, so I recorded a version of my song “Taken Away” on my phone , which although it’s in the wrong key and lacks bass is taster of what’s to come:
Taken Away
Looking forward to getting back and really playing this instrument now !