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SIMON NICOL (Fairport Convention) " Garry's work shows a happy meld of youthful bounce and spirit with a mature sense of the inner value of the driving melodies seemingly tossed off without apparent effort.: at the same time this man is no mean tunesmith and he can make his fiddle sing with real depths of emotion "
BARRY DRANSFIELD " Listening to Garry Blakeley for the first time was for me one of those rare happenings where the reality far exceeded the well deserved rumours which inevitably grow around a fine player. Whilst his elegant playing of English music reflects "laid back" Sussex perfectly, his grip of Irish music is something very special which surely comes from the echoes of his Irish and Gypsy roots now further exposed in his song writing. Self-effacing and honest in his approach, Garry is a pleasure to listen to. Sit back and enjoy - I know I will "
PETER KNIGHT (Steeleye Span) " Garry is a good friend, a wonderful fiddle player and a lovely singer - he has always been recognised and admired as one of the few English fiddlers who has captured the lilt and spirit of traditional Irish dance music "
BRIAN McNEILL (Feast of Fiddles) " One of the best fiddlers and fiddle composers in the country "
THE TABS REUNION GIG - REVIEW
Lucky for some – the crowd who squeezed into the Burton Room at the Royal Victoria Hotel in St Leonards for the Tabs Reunion Gig on Friday 13 December were treated to an early Christmas present writes Paul Way-Rider. Anyone leaving the packed Royal Victoria Hotel last night would be sure that they had just witnessed something a little bit special. The Tabs, a Hastings folk/rock band formed in the early 90s, had just played their first reunion gig. The original Tabs gigged all over the UK for over 15 years, including the world famous Fairport Convention Cropedy Festival. During this time they also released four widely acclaimed albums. Changed a little from the original Tabs which included Pete Fyfe, the line-up of Garry Blakeley (fiddle, lead vocals), Roger Carey (bass guitar, vocals), Edd Blakeley (banjo, mandola, guitar, vocals) and Roger Flack (guitar, talk-box, lead vocals) reads like a who’s-who of top musicians. We were both entertained and mesmerised by the top-class playing while they worked through trad folk tunes and original songs written by Garry Blakeley and Roger Flack. An encore of The Doobie Brothers’ Long Train Running and Chuck Berry’s No Particular Place To Go continued the Tabs tradition of including covers in their offering. What was really exciting was the special Tabs folk rock sound that had melodic, funky tunes and a driving beat that got everyone on their feet or dancing in their seat. Garry’s fiddle playing was superb, effortless, with thrilling bends and slides. Roger Carey’s bass playing was both rhythmic and melodic and totally breathtaking. Edd Blakely seems to be able to play any instrument brilliantly. If you gave him a kitchen sink to play I bet he wouldn’t even need to ask how to tune it! Roger Flack produced some very nifty rhythm and lead guitar work which often featured a talk-box effects unit (remember Peter Frampton’s Show Me The Way?) Early on in the show Garry invited people to come up and dance. Throughout the gig more and more people appeared on the dance floor, the ages ranging from teens to golden oldies, all rocking together and having a great time. As one member of the audience was heard to say afterwards, “Well, that’s fiddle playing for you. Nobody can play like that. Brilliant!” Long live the Tabs – four super musicians, one superb sound with a mix of thrilling rock and folk and a pounding beat that carried us all away. You can see Garry Blakeley with the Garry Blakeley Trio at the Royal Victoria Hotel on New Year’s Eve. Look out for more Tabs gigs. They are lined up to play at next year’s Jack in the Green festival.
Garry Blakeley, Magical Master Fiddler at the Stables Theatre
Review of Garry Blakeley's show 'Celebrate' at the Stables Theatre, Hastings on April 26th.
We came to 'Celebrate' on a damp, misty night at the end of April to be whisked away by Garry Blakeley and his Band, first to Thomas Hardy's Day and then to the Celebration of the May. The show was a telling, a singing and a playing to celebrate the changing seasons, woven together with glorious fiddle playing backed by the excellent musicians in Garry's Band writes Angie Phillip.
Stories about Thomas Hardy, pictures and verse about the changing seasons and the story of Jack-in-the-Green by Rose Blakeley were bound together by the music, which was all either arranged or composed by Garry
What a huge talent from a man, who says he is never satisfied with what he achieves. Garry's compositions and arrangements are prodigious and masterly, his creativity overflowing and delightful. In performance, he requires every note, every cadence, every rhythm to be perfect and yet when we listen we don't notice the technique, we hear only the pure sweet notes.
Some pieces were lyrical. There was one piece in particular in the second half of the show where the notes soared, slid, quivered. When Garry plays, there is no longer a man and a violin, they fuse into one, into sound that carries you with it as he speaks to you through the music. Other pieces were so infectiously rhythmic that there was not only a clapping of hands and tapping of feet in the audience around me, but actual bouncing up and down as people danced in their seats.
It was fitting to take a step back to Thomas Hardy's time reminding us not only of what the people did then, but showing us that we're not so different now. It reminded us, too, of our mortality, our fragility, our transience set against Nature which wheels and turns eternal. As Rose Blakeley writes:
'...I wonder, to me, now what will befall?
As I stand here alone, I, one so small
But I hear your words, as the great boughs sway -
Then in your emerald arms I gently lay.'
(from The Green Man)
As I type Rose's words, I hear Jane Downes' voice as she spoke them during the performance. She has a memorable voice, perfect for narration. Words that Jane speaks that you think you've forgotten are somehow still there long afterwards. Maybe it's the clarity of her speech, but even more, I think, it's the warmth in her voice that reaches you.
The Band deserves special mention. Edd Blakeley, Garry's son, played superbly on bass guitar and keyboards, as did Phil Hudson on guitars and Jon Ewen on drums. They grinned at each other as they played, perfectly together, enjoying each moment, giving it all they'd got. It was a wonderful performance.
The theatre was full and as I listened to people around me in the bar at the interval, I heard two of Garry's violin pupils chatting about how wonderful he was. You hear about Garry all over Hastings in musical circles. He is the master fiddler widely revered, who always has time for people and everywhere I go, I hear how much he is appreciated.
I looked at the audience, too, to see who might win the prize of Rose Blakeley's art work for the best dressed Green Spirit. We found the drummers who started the second half of the show, all dressed in green and looking spritely. There were others, too, with flowers in their hair and many dressed in green, but in the end it was Jill Levick who won the prize. It was the ears that did it. She was attired not only in gorgeous green with shiny skirt and leafy top, but she had the right ears – see the photo below!
All too soon it was over and we left with spirits raised, steps light and heads full of music. I heard someone say as they left 'Superb! Wonderful playing!,' while other comments echoed the same. What a celebration!
THE WHEEL OF THE YEAR REVIEWS:
PETE FYFE (writer & musician) It’s amazing what you can achieve at home these days and also where it literally becomes a ‘cottage’ industry. This couldn’t be more true than in the case of fiddler, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Garry Blakeley who has managed to keep it in the ‘family’ by collaborating with his wife Rose’s lyrics and son Edd (production, mixing and engineering) along with contributions from Dave Mattacks, Hugh Crabtree and Steve Hampton. The Wheel Of The Year features a song cycle using festivals, ceremonies and customs as the main thrust for linking the component parts of the project on an album that really focuses on the nostalgia of the ‘folk-rock’ genre and the ‘glory days’ of Fairport and Steeleye in the early 70’s. Call me ageist if you like but certainly this was the best era for this kind of music and personally speaking is as relevant today as it was then. Britain’s heritage proudly nails its colours to the mast including a very General Taylor-ish “Nelson’s Victory” complete with rally inspired acapella singing accompanied only by stirring drum recruiting rhythms and followed by some nicely placed fiddle and electric guitar power chords on the instrumental ending. On the track “The Last Post” with its condemnation of the futility of war followed by the towering “Battle Of The Somme” shows Garry’s loyalty to his country without the use of overt jingoism. Wisely opting to put the prodigious lyrics of the songs on the project’s website where you can also find plenty of background information this is a CD well worth adding to your collection!
ANDY GUNTON (www.pierlessmusic.co.uk) The Wheel of the Year is the new album from legendary folk fiddler Garry Blakeley and his wife Rose. The theme of the album is of a journey through the year and the seasons, incorporating old traditions and festivals along the way. The album features 14 tracks, very nearly one for every month and includes 11 originals, with the music being written by Garry and the lyrics by Rose. ‘Sons of the Soil (The Ploughboys' Song)’ kicks the album (and the year) off in fine style, complete with a guest appearance from former Fairport Convention drummer Dave Mattacks on drums and bodhran. Apart from this guest, nearly all of the instruments on the album are played by either Garry, or his son Edd. They are both very accomplished multi-instrumentalists. ‘Wheel of the Year’ was recorded in Garry and Edd’s home studios, engineered by Garry and produced, mixed and then mastered by Edd. To complete the family connection the artwork was done by Rose Blakeley, making it a real family affair. The remaining 13 tracks vary from toe tappers right through to ballads, with many stops in between. There is something here for everyone who likes their Folk music, including the rockiest version of a Christmas carol that you are ever likely to hear. Track 2, ‘Wassail Night’, includes a very infectious chorus which will have you singing “Here we go round the apple tree, the apple tree, the apple tree” for hours afterwards.One of my own personal favourites is the version of ‘The Last Post’, combined with ‘Battle of the Somme’, which I suspect was originally written with bagpipes in mind. Not that you’d really know that by listening to this interpretation. The final track, ‘The Cold Farewell/The Night Sky/The Frosty Morning’ is a great example of the varied styles and tempos present on ‘The Wheel of the Year’. It’s a perfect way to complete the album and indeed the year. A couple of the tracks have appeared in different versions on previous albums. ‘The Summer Polkas’ featured on a recent album by Garry and Rose called ‘The Ceremony of May’. In fact ‘The Wheel of the Year’ compliments that past album very well and Hastings residents may well spot a few local references in the lyrics here, some of which verge on poetry. The Wheel of the Year is an ambitious project, but it has been carried off very well. I’ve no doubt that many of these themes and topics have been covered and recorded by various Folk musicians over the years? I know that I’ve heard a few of them myself. In my humble opinion though, these interpretations are surely up there with the best of them.
KATHY & BOB DRAGE (Around Kent Folk Magazine) This CD was inspired by a deep passion for the patterns of the year and its associated festivals and customs. Our ancestors had great respect for the seasons and many unusual and wonderful traditions arose. Starting with ‘Sons of the Soil’ – a tale about the ploughboys thro ‘Wassail’ – celebrating the apple tree and ‘The Valiant Knight’ (St. George) to the short but delightful ‘Guardians of Time’ – the green man and Morris dancing. The tune ‘Summer Polkas’ heralds summer with the longest day, summer solstice, sunshine being celebrated in ‘The Golden King’. The gathering in of the harvest and its festivities – suppers, corn dollies, dancing and general merry making in ‘Harvest Home’ – but always remember to leave a sheaf in the field for the harvest spirit. Defending the king in ‘Herne the Huntsman’ and remembering battles with ‘Nelson’s Victory’. Sadder times of war with ‘Last Post/Battle of the Somme’. On to happier times ‘Winter Solstice’ and yuletide – a glorious rock version of ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’. Garry is a superb fiddle player and multi-instrumentalist who has taken Rose Blakeley’s descriptive lyrics and put them to arrangements going from folkrock to subtle acoustic moments. A rich roller coaster of a journey through the annual cycle of life and customs with intriguing events and colourful celebrations. The CD is all the songs/tunes from a show which includes narration and poetry. Ideal for festivals and gatherings at any time of the year. Lyrics for the songs are on the website. See the show if you can. Greatly enjoyed.
Folk with Garry Blakeley and the Garry Blakeley Band (hastingsonlinetimes.co.uk)
Garry Blakeley is a fiddler and singer extraordinaire who will make your heart sing and your feet dance. He has played all over the UK this year with many wonderful events but the biggest highlight of all was the marvellous Wheel of the Year show that toured the southeast from September through to November.
In Hastings the Wheel of the Year was on at the Stables Theatre where it was, unsurprisingly, sold out. It was mostly original material with songs by Garry and lyrics by Rose Blakeley, a musical feast that was held together with short narratives and poems, which led the audience from one end of the year to the other.
Jane Downes of the Catsfield Steamers was the superb narrator whose warmth and humour kept the audience gripped throughout with not only poems but reports of weather “of bibilical proportions” that the UK had suffered in various years. It was a masterstroke, the weather reports, because we all remembered them and the Wheel of the Year story became our story.
Most of all we thrilled to the music. The excellent Garry Blakeley Band included guitarist Phil Hudson, drummer Jon Ewen as well as Garry’s son Edd Blakeley on bass and acting MD. Most of all there was Garry who sang and played with heart and soul. Every note was perfect, sheer delight and even now, months later, as I write this review I can feel my feet start to tap.
THIS IS WHAT THE AUDIENCE MEMBERS ARE SAYING ABOUT THE LIVE SHOW:
"Thoroughly enjoyed the show tonight at the Stables. Well done to everyone involved. How far you have come Garry from those early folk club days! John knew how lucky they were to have you accompanying them as a young lad and that you would soon move on to greater things. Good luck with the rest of the tour. x "
"Thank you for tonight it was brilliant and very uplifting :-) "
"Brilliant, amazing, laughed out loud in places, a fantastic evening. If you haven't seen it, book your tickets now!"
"Thank you all for the MARVELLOUS show at the Stables theatre, Hastings last night. The songs and story telling were a perfect mix. Thank you, Jane, for taking us on the journey of poems and songs - mixed with the weather reports where we heard of weather 'of biblical proportions' that had been visited on parts of the UK (some of which we remembered from our lifetimes). Most of all, thank you for the music. Bass (accompanied by Edd's smile which lit up the theatre), guitar and drums were excellent - and Rose Blakeley's lyrics were perfect. The music was moving in every sense - I danced in my seat. Most of all, thank you, Garry, your fiddle playing was amazing, formidable, unforgettable. Thank God you had CDs for sale - it's playing as i write this. Paul and I thank you all from the bottom of our hearts."
"Excellent show. Lots of unexpected bits. I thought I could guess which seasonal poems or songs might be selected but I was wrong and was surprised and delighted by the choices."
"Thanks for a great evening yesterday. We really enjoyed the show"
"Fantastic evening - great atmosphere and superb music! Thank you!!"
"Brilliant evening guys - congratulations on a job well done - CD is great as well - Thanks for a great night"
"wowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww had a fabulous evening - would love to see this again xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx ♥
thanks so much EVERYONE involved - so many dedicated talented people all together in one room - im so blessed to have been there - cant believe it xxxxxxxx"
"WOW, THAT WAS AMAZING!! XX"
"Having just spent the 'evening of the year' at Rye Community Centre I just had to say how fantastic the whole arrangement was. The musicians, narration, lyrics and overall presentation was so heart warming I can't wait for the band's next offering in May next year."
"ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh my gosh - this show is just so fasbulous it should be on a nationwide tour - delightful and mahoosively entertaining - i was fascinated by the whole caboodle - just wonderful !!! i mean comonnn where on the planet will you hear a rawwwwwked up folk version of 'god rest ye merry gentlemen' ????? - so loved the whole thang - everyone involved is a hooooge star and overly overly talented (not fair hhmmppff heheh )
THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for such a marvelous experience xxxx ♥ xxxx ♥ xxxx ♥ xxxx"
Paul Johnson (folking.com) interviews GARRY BLAKELEY & JANE DOWNES during THE WHEEL OF THE YEAR tour
LIVE SHOW DELIGHTS ON ONE WET AND WINDY NIGHT IN RYE IN SUSSEX!
If Garry Blakeley ever had to bullet point and compile a CV it would probably read something like this:
Garry Blakeley – Amazingly brilliant fiddle player, Marketing Director, PR Manager, Record Producer, Recording Studio Manager, Singer song writer, Tour Manager, Web Site Designer, long standing associate member of ‘Feast of Fiddles’, and Band of Two.
This is because Gary Blakeley and his close friends and family are masters of their ever growing and highly successful ‘Cottage Industry’!! not to mention a great family man with his son Ed firmly rooted in this successful set up as the hugely talented bass and key board player, who Garry affectionately calls the musical director. Then of course there is the brilliant Rose Blakeley writing excellent well crafted and clever lyrics and a book!! This really is a recipe for success as the recent tour of Garry’s latest album ‘The Wheel Of The Year’ has proved with ticket sales rocketing and venues selling out!
I was however, lucky enough to get hold of a ticket for the last gig in a current run of Garry Bakeley and his brilliant bands ‘Wheel Of the Year’ show. (More shows are planned for next year)
On a wild wet windy night in Rye I ventured to The Rye Community Centre to be given a warm welcome by Garry and Rose Blakeley, where before they took to the stage I managed to talk to him and Jane Downes who narrates poems and archived news items spanning years both on the stage and on the album which adds a dramatic and intriguing twist, both the live show and the album drawing you in to a fascinating living tradition folk tales and hearsays interspersed with modern snippets of information – clever – really clever – and most enjoyable! The show was excellent musically uplifting and powerful laced with humour a brilliantly tight band to boot!
THE CEREMONY OF MAY REVIEWS:
RICHARD DIGANCE (BBC Radio Devonfolk) The Ceremony Of May is a 'concept' album in the tradition of Ashley Hutchings “The Complete Dancing Master” where the spoken word plays as integral a part as the music. Respected fiddle player Garry Blakeley (Feast Of Fiddles) utilising his wife Rose's poems joined by Jane Downes (the narrator) has created a CD featuring some excellent folk-rock and acoustic based songs as well as the outstanding bonus orchestral arrangement of “The Green Man” by Garry’s son Edd. A must buy purchase for anyone interested in the folk-rock genre!
ALAN TITCHMARSH (BBC Radio 2) " This will set the blood coursing through your veins "
CHRIS LESLIE (Fairport Convention) ' The Ceremony Of May is a lovely celebration of English roots'
KATHY & BOB DRAGE (Around Kent Folk)
This is the most outstanding celebration of the 1st of May and Jack-in-the-Green we have ever heard. Tunes, songs and narration all delicately weave into one another like the leaves and branches of the green man himself. The words are taken from Rose Blakeley’s book ‘A Pathway Through The Seasons’. Her ‘Green Man’ poem begins “Step into the forest, warm and bright. Drink from the cup of golden light”. The music is highly mystical and uses keyboards to good effect – Garry is a multi-instrumentalist and a superb fiddle player. The arrangements range from folk-rock to subtle acoustic moments and provide an evocative atmosphere for the narration by Jane Downes. Garry’s son Edd provides a wonderful orchestral arrangement of the Green Man. We’ve noticed that the green man is featured in many cultures, not just English – in the writings of Rumi he’s called Khidr. It’s interesting to see how many young folk, especially in the morris, who follow the old ways. This CD, the show and the book will entertain and be of interest to everyone.
DAVID KIDMAN (Folk Roundabout)
"Garry’s musical settings are impeccably executed"
COLIN ANDREWS ( Editor of Devon Folk Magazine)
Magic - the word describes both the atmosphere of the Hastings Jack in the Green Festival and this CD of music, song and spoken verse that celebrates this May Day tradition. The Ceremony of May is based on poems from Rose Blakeley’s book, A Pathway Through The Seasons, with music composed by Garry. Rarely have I heard a stand-alone album which so successfully captures the essence of a live performance, let alone the spirit of a whole weekend spectacle. Dawn Awakening, the opening instrumental track, is aptly named, for who could resist the temptation to leap out of bed and dance to the captivating rhythm and melody of drum and lead fiddle? It’s followed by the haunting song, The Beltane Bud, which is interspersed with narration by Jane Downes, who presents the main Ceremony poem at interludes between the songs and tunes. The album is a very skilful mix of genres - spoken word, traditional sounding songs & tunes, but also full electronic and folk rock treatment used with great effect on some tracks to create, well, an ‘electric’ atmosphere! There is even a full orchestral arrangement in a reprise of The Green Man. From the Morris-like whistle & drum on Jack’s Release, the fiddle lament for Jack, and the lively Summer Polka, the music always seems absolutely right for the context of the story. Garry and Edd Blakeley provide most of the imaginative instrumentation, with extra fiddle from Tom Leary on Jack’s Lament, and melodeon contribution from Hugh Crabtree.As I said at the beginning - pure magic !
BRIAN McNEILL (Feast of Fiddles)
' Riveting. As potent a mixture of music and words as I've heard in a long time - a beautifully modulated voice added to the artistry of one of the best fiddlers and fiddle composers in the country. On the first hearing I felt as though I'd tapped into something ageless, by the third I felt I'd known the tunes and the poems all my days.'
OZ HARDWICK (R2 Magazine)
The roots of this cycle of songs, tunes and spoken word lie within Rose Blakeley’s book, A Pathway Through The Seasons, a collection of narrative verse which, in turn, drew its inspiration from English seasonal lore and custom. Who better to set this material to music, then, than Garry, a singer and multi-instrumentalist probably best known for his work with Feast Of Fiddles? As such a pedigree may suggest, the playing and arrangements are firmly in the best tradition of English folk-rock, with echoes of Fairport (‘Sunrise/A New Day Begins’) and early Steeleye Span (‘The Green Man’ and ‘The Summer Polkas’ in particular). Garry’s no mean singer, either, with the delivery of the plaintive ‘Farewell To Winter’ reminding me a little of Jon Boden. Narrative links are read expressively by Jane Downes. This is certainly a well-constructed, evocative whole, with a number of particularly strong individual tracks that can stand alone outside the confines of the album.