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February Edition


Just over twenty years ago, I recall sitting in a field at Cherry Hinton Hall, Cambridge, on a hot summer evening, with a freshly-poured glass of Guinness resting upon my right knee. My right knee bore the worst of the sunburn after spending the entire afternoon in the blistering sun watching one act after the other, most notably Peter Rowan and Jerry Douglas, who delivered some of the songs from their recently released duo album, which I think I knew by heart by then. Later in the evening I was watching the last few tunes by the Russian gypsy trio Loyko, patiently awaiting the arrival of the Main Man on the Main Stage, a Texas legend who I hadn't seen for six years, when he turned up in a Doncaster pub. This would be the last time I would see Townes Van Zandt perform live as he would be dead by New Year's Day, the result of a highly colourful lifestyle.  

Twenty years later, a copy of the songwriter's 1978 FLYIN' SHOES LP has found its way onto my doormat, together with the first time vinyl release of the subsequent TEXAS RAIN, both on the Charly label. These two LP records follow hot on the tails of James Edge and the Mindstep's double album which came along for review back in November. I have to say that this return to long playing records has been met with nothing short of enthusiasm around here in the Northern Sky office and the quality seems so much better than first time around. Reviews of those LPs can now be found in the review section.

January saw two major events on the calendar, firstly Normafest, which took place at the beginning of January over in Whitby. Two key players cried off through illness but all the other artists and bands made up for their absence and helped make it a memorable event. It was good to see such a legendary figure as Peggy Seeger once again, who knows instinctively how to get the best out of her audience. Strangely, even though I thoroughly enjoyed all the live music, my lingering memory is actually of sitting in the cinema at the Whitby Pavilion watching documentaries that celebrate The Watersons' hometown of Hull together with a film featuring the singing and wisdom of Sheila Stewart.

Then there was the Great British Rock and Blues Festival in Skegness, which came and went with a bang, so to speak. I realised I'd never actually seen Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel before and was pleasantly surprised at just how good the band was and what a great frontman Harley is. Liam and I watched the band's entire Sunday night set from the balcony above the Centre Stage and couldn't help joining in on the choruses of Mr Soft, Judy Teen and Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me), which came as an encore well into the early hours.

Once again, our Northern Sky contributors have been busy sending in their reviews, all of which can be found in the reviews section and once again I extend my gratitude to them for their well considered words. Hopefully readers will recognise their enthusiasm for the music they write about and the great service they provide, not only to the artists themselves but to the record buying public at large. These are horrible times, really horrible times, so thank goodness for the music we all love and cherish. 

Allan Wilkinson
Northern Sky