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One month on from my decision to make Northern Sky a monthly review magazine with an accompanying radio show (also monthly), things seem to be working very much in our favour. Rather than being swamped with weekly (and sometimes daily) updates, our regular readers/listeners can just pay us a visit once a month, which in our busy quick-fix lives, seems to suit. Fifty-two radio shows a year down to just a dozen does mean a much more selective process, but there again the possible inclusion of a throw-away track in the show is now very much diminished.
On this week's show we have a nice mixture of new and old, from current releases by the all-female collaboration Songs of Separation, the young fiddle player Ciaran Algar, the North Carolina songstress Jane Kramer and The Rails, to older appearances by David Crosby (Vinyl Junkie #238), Colin Blunstone and we could hardly let January go by without a mention of both David Bowie and Glenn Frey, with a couple of choice inclusions Life on Mars and Take it Easy. A full playlist can be found in the Radio drop-down box.
January kept Northern Sky relatively busy with a few Northern Sky Choice gigs, including The Pitmen Poets at Cast Theatre in Doncaster, The Rails at The Greystones in Sheffield and the Senegalese singer and multi-instrumentalist Cheikh Lô at the Howard Assembly Room in Leeds, all of which have been reviewed in the Live Reviews section. I also got to speak with Jez Lowe and Benny Graham before the Pitmen Poets concert in Doncaster, which you can find in the Media drop-down box. Keith Belcher was up at Celtic Connections in January and reports on two events, Chris Wood at The Art Club in Glasgow and also the special Ballads of Child Migrations event at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, featuring amongst others, Barbara Dickson, Eddi Reader, Belinda O'Hooley, Heidi Tidow, Chris While and Julie Matthews and a bunch of guys too, all of which looked exciting. Keith's piece is illustarted with some great photographs courtsey of Bryan Ledgard.
New releases reviewed this month include CDs by Nathaniel Talbot, Jane Kramer, Low Lily, Jon Hart, Marion Fleetwood, Songs of Separation, Ciaran Algar and Gretchen Peters. The Northern Sky office is literally piled with CD submissions, together with a pretty full Dropbox, but the March edition should see some serious catching up. Also watch out for this month's Northern Sky Choice gigs, which includes Vieux Farka Toure, Malatu Astatke, Gretchen Peters, Ryley Walker and Danny Thompson and The Shee, together with a quick nod towards the Moonbeams March Weekend, which takes place at the beginning of next month.
I would very much like to have reported a much better beginning to the New Year in terms of the general music scene but sadly, the month was plagued with upsetting and highly unexpected bad news. We lost David Bowie, Dale 'Buffin' Griffin (Mott the Hoople) and Glenn Frey (The Eagles) all in a matter of a few days, each in their sixties and therefore too young to leave us by anyone's estimation. Their collective loss is incalcuable but each has left an impressive body of work. We also lost a broadcasting great, Terry Wogan, whose voice resounds in my head from memory even as I write. Well picking ourselves up after all the bad news, certainly in the case of Bowie, the month has been spend re-assessing his work, ploughing through his albums and getting to know his parting statement BLACKSTAR, which was hardly off the turntable throughout January.
Also in January, I did something highly unusual, I attended a festival with absolutely no intention of writing a single word, taking a single photograph or bothering a single musician for an interview. The Great British Rock and Blues Festival over on the east coast resort of Skegness, provided the perfect place to blow off the Winter blues, all the minor indulgences of the festive season and the spate of recent bad news, with some fine performances by Courtney Pine, Eugene 'Hideaway' Bridges and Martin Turner's Wishbone Ash.
Thanks for dropping by and let's hope February is kinder to us all.