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Singing with a sling

Chele will be singing with her fingers crossed at the Green Man Folk Club on Tuesday – at least with one hand.

The other is out of commission for a few weeks as he’s wearing a sling while she recovers from the second operation to her shoulder in as many years. This is the legacy of injuries sustained from lifting heavy camera equipment and zoom lenses at various music festivals. She’s hoping to be back on full shoulder-strength in time for this year’s Warwick Folk Festival in July and Fairport’s Cropredy Convention in August.

Meanwhile the show goes on. We’re looking forward to playing the Green Man in Long Itchington, Warwickshire, not only because it’s a great club, rescued from oblivion by Julie and Robert Neale, but also because we’re sharing the billing with the immensely talented guitarist Pete Jackson, formerly of Three Dollar Tag, so expect a big emphasis on American music that night.

In the words of Jed Clampett’s ballad – take your shoes off. Y’all come back now, y’hear?

BorderLine Crossing 2013

Back L-R: Dave Cook, Pete Townsend
Front L-R: Pete and Chele Willow

A fair amount of water has passed through the creek since our last post on this blog. Things went a little quiet for the band while Pete Willow was working on his PhD dissertation (more on that later – he’s still Mr Willow for the time being but we’ll let you know when to start calling him ‘Doc’!). However the band made one or two public appearances last year including main stage shows at Bedworth and Warwick Folk Festivals.

We’re delighted that Dave Cook is back in the pack. We were grateful for Matt and Becky for their wonderful guitarwork and vocals to keep us going while Dave was taking a break. They are now doing fantastic with their new line-up Nurse Roberts and the Medicine Man and they have kept up the monthly club at The Boat in Newbold.

We also had the services of an excellent percussionist for a while in the shape of Rob Newton. It was becoming quite a powerful rock sound and we were wondering if we should start saving up for a band bus.

As a new foursome, we’ve released a 6-track CD which has been selling well, both online and at gigs. You can check it out and buy copies from our website:

With a lot of new material under our belt, gigs this year include The Green Man Folk Club, Long Itchington (May 14th), Owen Street Arts Centre, Atherstone (June 15th) and our return to the Warwick Folk Festival (July 27th and 28th). We’ve more news and photos to share so do keep checking the blog and come and say ‘hi’ at one of our gigs.

Life on the hedge

Here’s the current official band pic. Left to right: Matt Powell, Pete Townsend, Chele Willow, Becky Roberts and Pete Willow.

This is likely to have a short life-span as our official photo however as we are anticipating a sixth band member joining us soon. Or perhaps we will make a photoshop addition?

Not sure that standing in front of a garden hedge is very rock’n’roll but we had fun posing!

We’re working on our set for our next public appearance – back at The Boat in Newbold-on-Avon on Monday May 16 with our special guest Rob Halligan.

Fingers crossed that he’ll include his classic song Dancing With Seagulls in his set – this is always a pleasure to watch and listen to, even though it’s one of his earliest compositions. Take a listen – it’s wonderful!

Rob has been getting a lot of media interest recently for good and not-so-good reasons. He’s had plenty of well-deserved interviews and air-plays and he recently performed one of his songs, Where Sweeter Rains Fall on BBC1’s Songs of Praise with another frequent Boat guest, Si Hayden on bass. The song was written after Rob’s 2009 visit to Bangladesh with the Global Care charity.

Earlier this week he was back on the BBC after he received a phone call first thing Monday morning, asking him if he could talk about his reaction to the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death. Rob is an easy point of reference for the media whenever a 9/11-related story hits the headlines, for the sad and simple reason that his dad was one of the thousands who perished in the twin towers.

Rob did agree to be interviewed on Midlands Today and talks about the experience and his own blog

This is something that Rob has never capitalised on although he doesn’t hide from it either and his last visit to our club included a beautiful and moving song based on memories of his father. When a tragedy of this magnitude touches the life of anyone, it can sometimes become the big ‘elephant in the room’ that no-one wants to discuss. But, as his blog shows, Rob allows space for thoughts and discussion, offering some very profound thoughts of his own, but quickly reminds us that life goes on and we’re back to the dance and the seagulls on the beach.

We’re looking forward immensely to having Rob back at The Boat this month. It will be a fabulous night out and admission is free. If you’ve not been there before, say hello and tell us you read about it in this blog!

Google ‘BorderLine Crossing’ and our MySpace page will appear high up in the listings. It should be a good point of reference for our band in cyberspace, at least until we have our own website up and running (for which we have just obtained the domain name by the way!)

The problem is that the MySpace page is giving out inaccurate information about us – and there seems to be nothing we can do about it!

In its slow and clunky way, it will accept updates to our gig list and allow us to share comments. But the profile information still describes our old line-up when we were a trio with a different lead guitarist.

For those few die-hards out there who still use MySpace, this is not because we are lazy or negligent in our social network marketing. It’s because we cannot get MySpace to accept the new text that we’ve provided for our profile. It’s all typed out in the ‘edit profile’ page but whenever we click on ‘save’ or ‘publish’, MySpace responds by completely ignoring the changes.

The only option left to us is to plaintively share a comment that the MySpace info is wrong and that surfers should go to Facebook to find out about our latest line-up and repertoire.

Here’s a link to our Facebook page, although you need to sign into Facebook to read the details. We won’t bother to include a link to our MySpace page until we can figure out how to get it changed. Any suggestions welcome!

If there is ever a good time to have a radical change of line-up, it is probably when you have a couple of imminent gig commitments lined up.

We might not have said so this time last week, after our lead guitarist announced that he would have to leave the band just over a month ago. Borderline Crossing had been billed for some time as the opening act for St.George, St.Patrick and the Blues, a one-off concert at The Charterhouse Club, Coventry headlined by Joe O’Donnell’s Shkayla and also featuring blues-rock band Rockpool. Four days later (i.e. last night) we were booked as featured act for a festival fundraiser night at Bedworth Folk Club.

Our new bass-player, Pete Townsend only joined us three weeks ago and, splendid musician that he is, has quickly picked up several key numbers in the repertoire and provided some great arrangements, including an impressive bass solo in one of our newer numbers. He made his first public appearance with us, after only two rehearsals, at The Boat just over a week ago and got a great reception.

Guitarist Matt Powell offered to step in to the breach just a week before the Coventry gig. A regular at The Boat, he was famiiar with a lot of repertoire anyway and hit the proverbial deck running by playing some excellent arrangements with us at The Charterhouse. He was really put to the test at Bedworth last night however when Pete had to pull out of the gig last minute because of a stomach bug. After only two practice sessions (and only one session for two of the songs), Matt provided some great musical support to Pete and Chele Willow and the new line-up (or at least three quarters of it) went down well with the packed crowd.

With our next gig on May 16 – back at The Boat with our guest Rob Halligan – we’ve got time to consolidate, tighten up arrangements and add new numbers to the repertoire. Meanwhile the band continues to go through its metamorphosis. We’re currently rehearsing Becky Roberts who will be providing additional vocals and we are sounding out a couple of candidates for the role of percussionist! We are also planning on recruiting another melody instrument soon – watch this space!

We did wonder a couple of times whether to ‘wimp out’ of the two recent gigs to give us time to rehearse the new line-up, but we’re so glad we didn’t! The encouragement and feedback we’ve had from local auidences and fellow musicians has been fantastic and to paraphrase the words to Sheryl Crow, the change has done us good!

Wayfaring Strangers

So much has happened since the last entry to this blog. Apart from more foreign travel and medical adventures, the band has now changed almost, but not quite, beyond recognition.

Our guitarist Dave Cook left the line-up after a wonderful but sad final public appearance at The Boat, in March. Joining Chele and Pete now are Pete Townsend on bass and Matt Powell on lead guitar. Our first public gig for this line-up was playing support for Joe O’Donnell’s Shkayla at The Charterhouse Club, Coventry this Easter Saturday – seemed to meet everyone’s approval and certainly had fun.

We’re also about to be joined by Becky Roberts on vocals and we’re in discussion with a percussionist and a possible additional melody instrument player – but that should be enough to keep you intrigued. We’ll do our best to update this blog more regularly as new info emerges.

Meanwhile, catch us at Bedworth Folk Club this Wednesday evening at the Bedworth Rugby Club.

It’s been a difficult summer! With the band’s guitarist and singer Pete Willow rushed into hospital and then convalescing after his operation,  BorderLine Crossing had to pull out of Warwick Folk Festival and rely on visiting musicians to help them through a couple of the Boat Inn nights.

So now it’s catch-up time and one job that has been screaming out for attention has been updating our online presence. Writing this blog is always a pleasure but battling with the recently imposed complexities of MySpace‘s events listing has been something of a headache. Or is it just us? We’re ignoring those cruel rumours that people no longer read MySpace these days and hope that the archive videos of our first public performance (Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre 2008) at least give some indication of how far we’ve moved on!

Our next challenge is to set up a Facebook site for the band. We’re getting there! Just as long as we can find time to play some music.

Meanwhile, to get you up to date – we did have an amazing time on stage at Coventry’s Godiva Festival last July. It was only a short set but the sound was great and we enjoyed the company of Jon Harrington, who used to play in Dave Cook‘s old band Little Mountain, looking resplendent in his hat and playing some pretty cool harmonica on Stoned Me and Heart And Soul.

The Boat sessions in Newbold have continued to go down well, with or without the full band line-up, and the venue has now been refurbished to look like a proper music room. Highlight for the summer was Kevin Dempsey and Rosie Carson who played there in August to a packed room. It was a good job that the eveninig was warm and dry as many audience members have to watch the entertainment from the outdoor patio.

Next Monday we have Wes Finch and Friends as our special guest act. Wes is probably one of Coventry’s most popular singer-songwriters who betrays the ‘rootsy’ influences of Delta Blues, The Byrds and Woodie Guthrie among others – another big stage act to appear in our intimate setting!

As for the BorderLines, we’ve finally been working on new material. Listen out for our arrangements of Buffalo Springfield’s’ For What It’s Worth and a raunchy blue number called Ton Of Lead, originally written by Pete Willow but now worked on so much by all members that it qualifies as a true BorderLine Crossing composition. And although we say it ourselves, this is turning into the best vehicle yet for Chele Willow‘s amazing vocals.

Enough for now – time to dip a toe into the Facebook waters. We’ll announce it when it’s done! We promise.

The American researcher Richard A.Peterson came up with the phrase ‘fabricating authenticity’ when he traced the history of country music. He tells us that the category ‘country music’ was invented as recently as 1952 – the time of the McCarthy witch-hunt which fingered Pete Seeger as a ‘Communist’.

Up until then, there were lots of categories to describe what we now call ‘country’ – ‘Old-time’, ‘’Old Time Tunes’, ‘Old Familiar Tunes’, ‘Hearth and Home’, ‘Hill and Range’, and even ‘Hillbilly and Western’ to name a few. Pete Seeger’s band at the time, The Weavers, described themselves simply as ‘folk’ (as did Hank Williams), but as soon as the Senate hearings demanded that Seeger testified, the music industry junked the term ‘folk’ and the new musical categories ‘country and western’ and ‘country’ came into popular use.

All this is described in Peterson’s book ‘Creating Country Music’ and you’re probably wondering by now why it’s being discussed here, next to one of Chele Willow’s photos of the wonderfully talented young singer Lucy Ward who amazed the packed room of music fans last night at our regular venue, The Boat Inn.

It goes pack to the original post on this blog on musical genres. At first sight, Lucy seemed to attract a distinctively ‘folk’ crowd. The evening started off with three songs from the unaccompanied trio Guthrie (GU3 – but actually they were three members of the established popular Leicestershire vocal group GU4 – Guffaw) and the second half was launched by an impressive set from singer and guitarist Colin Squire, also active on the local folk circuit. Lucy herself sang some songs unaccompanied, including the raunchiest version of The Blacksmith that most of us had ever heard, and she also played concertina on one number – an instrument that had not seen light of day our venue prior to last night.

In the middle of it all, BorderLine Crossing played a selection of our material, much of which was definitely not ‘folk’ – at least in the traditional English sense. We did play a couple of American ‘folk’ songs – Wayfarin’ Stranger (which has been covered by artists ranging from Emmy Lou Harris to Johnny Cash) and Pancho and Lefty written by Townes Van Zandt and recorded by the likes of Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. We sang a couple of more contemporary American songs – Jackson Browne’s After The Deluge and Patti Scialfa’s Town Called Heartbreak. And we even played a couple of Pete Willow’s songs – 5000 Miles and Heart and Soul – both acoustic rock numbers, verging into funk and rap! Is this the kind of music that could share a room with a concertina?

Well I’m glad to say that we didn’t disgrace ourselves, even within the very high standards of performance set by Lucy and our other guests. What was more refreshing was that the audience at The Boat only seemed to recognise one musical category – ‘live music’. Each act was enjoyed and appreciated on its own terms and the fact that they turned up to play and entertain was reason enough to listen, applaud and share the experience.

Music promoters and journalists are very keen to categorise styles and influences. It’s a useful shorthand way of describing a sound and targeting a fan base. But increasingly artistes are describing themselves in their publicity as ‘eclectic’ or occasionally ‘boundary-spanning’, which could mean anything but should guarantee variety. When we set up our Monday nights at The Boat, we did wonder how to describe the event – folk? blues? acoustic? In the end we decided to use all three and so far, the guests and floor-singers have covered these and more.

Next month’s guest on Monday June 21st is the amazing guitarist Si Hayden who combines flamenco with funk . One of the acts who’ll be supporting him features two ukeleles and bass in its line-up. Eclectic indeed and all good stuff.

Young folk singer with the amazing voice, Lucy Ward will be our special guest at The Boat on Monday 17th May and there’s already quite a buzz about her.

One thing about the UK folk scene is that it is very receptive to new young talent and for someone who remembers living through the so-called 60s folk revival, it is quite overwhelming to see the wealth of first-rate performances from teenage singers and musicians on the club and festival circuit today. And many of them, including Lucy, seem to take it all in their stride without any sign of a prima donna attitude.

Lucy is 19 and hails form Derby. Last year saw her in the finals of last year’s BBC Young Folk Musician Awards singing in front of 900 people at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. She’s supported many of the top names on concert and festival stages, including a gig with Seth Lakeman last October for an audience of 600.

Those who’ve been to The Boat know that it’s a much more, shall we say intimate venue. We could ask the landlord to build an extension but it would just lose the magic of the place! Anyway, our first encounter with Lucy was at The Songbird in Coventry – a bigger venue than ours but still small by Queen Elizabeth Hall standards.

Lucy will probably finish off the evening.  As well as Borderline Crossing we have a couple of other first-rate local acts line-up, including the talented local guitarist Colin Squire who has recently been showing off his composing talents by setting lyrics written by Bob Brooker to music with great success.

The music starts as usual around 8.30pm. It’s free to get in but have some change handy or we might not let you out ;o)

This month’s session at The Boat comes at a busy time for us with quite a few dates pouring into our diary at present, including three nights at The Sty Folk Club in Coventry before the end of the year. All good stuff and it will keep us off the streets and out of mischief.