Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Herbs On The Heart

My first album is out of print. No longer in the catologue of the record company, which is sad. When it was published it got great reviews....'another Martin Carthy or Nic Jones' were among the many positive comments. If you own one hold on to it,its a fine album - sorry to sound imodest but it is somehow in its naeivity a pure album, no tricks, simple and clear.....and some of those songs take me back to my early days.
The album was published in 1983 on the Fellside label, courtesy of Paul Adams. It was recorded as I recall over two consecutive weekends in his tiny studio in Workington,Cumbria. Nowadays it tends to take me a year or more to make an album without the luxury of a 'Producer' like Paul.
There was always a problem with the cover pic on 'Herbs On The Heart' . It was excellent in its original black and white but an attempt to add a 'sepia touch' to it went wrong and for some unknown reason it was never corrected by the record company or the manufacturers. I think they expected me to fade into the woodwork and never make another album.
I have to say that I was taken aback by the many accolades the album received and the record company admitted that they hadn't expected such great feedback.
Anyhow the songs have stood the test of time. Songs such as Death Of Nelson, which I had composed a few years earlier, 'Whitby Whaler' which is still, despite its popularity, unavailable in its original form, on record at this time. 'Every Time' - loved by many in the folk scene , Sue Jones ,  a friend from the West of England related that many years ago she witnessed a Morris Side at Bromyard Folk Festival dancing to the very same tune.....
I am doing what I can to bring my repertoire 'home' to my own 'Klondike'record label and soon I hope that all these old songs will be once again available to the listener from my own catalogue.
I succesfully re-published my album 'Darklands' (1989) - available as a down load now on CD Baby, iTunes, Amazon etc and will be following it up with a CD in the near future.
If in the meantime you have a 'surplus' of any of my old vinyl LP's and you want to send it to a 'good home' then get in touch as I know there are people out there who would love to hear or own them..

Saturday, 10 July 2010

The Summer of 2010
The Merry Month Of June
has been a pretty good one- starting as it did with the feelings of success at our festival at Ryedale ,via a tour in Southern Ontario. The plans were to finish the tour in Barnard Castle via Bury St. Edmunds, Thirsk and Filey.
I suppose it really finishes in the recording studio for me,as thats where I'll be for the next few weeks until my new album is finished.

Ryedale Folk Weekend is an event that has evolved from being a Folk Day, four years ago, to a fully fledged weekend festival today. We hold the event at the end
of May over the Bank Holiday Weekend so its a four day affair.
Since starting the festival we have enjoyed the support of our long time partners and friends, The Ryedale Folk Museum . A little help from The Heritage Lottery Fund, hours of toil, and a little stress and here we are today.
The wonderful thing is that we gained the support of a growing number of loyal and willing volunteers.
Of course its been really easy - joking of course! as any organiser knows there's plenty of pain before you see any gain- but we have seen increased ticket sales each year and the letters of satisfaction keep coming in. Lets hope that continues.
The programming may be one of the more interesting and fulfilling tasks for me, but there are other vital ingredients too.
The Ryedale Folk Museum site in Hutton le Hole is a beautiful and interesting place.Check out their website at
The picture above shows John Kirkpatrick at Ryedale 2010 doing a great concert spot in the 16th century Manor House - the perfect setting. This was the best I've ever see JK perform -he was amazing.
I keep a keen eye on the overall quality of the programme and as a consequence our guest list has been packed with top class music and performers and most of our audience are those who are really interested in music of that magnitude.
The Real Ale Bar with, locally brewed, Croptons Fine Ales has proved a winner since we introduced it last year. How do I know that? Well, because I volunteered to look after the bar !- a great chance to meet people throughout the festival and its something I enjoy immensely! Not a drop passes my lips though - well until after the show.

Festival guests have included Jackie Oates,The Old Dance School,Dave Burland, Glasgow's Mick West Band, Maeve Mackinnon,Chris Parkinson, John Kirkpatrick, Paul Metsers, Mawkin, Martyn Wyndham Read, Dave Goulder, Steve Turner,

Ryedale Folk Weekend has not been slave to whats 'in vogue' at any particular time and I believe that is one reason the festival has become so well known for the quality of its music and the genuine friendly bunch of people who come in increasing numbers.
I just love to bring people in to hear great music that I have discovered on my travels. That's my main motivation when putting a programme together. Always looking for what I call ,the 'Wow- Factor'. This year once again The Old Dance School did it for me. Great band! `Oh not to forget Stealing Sheep a trio with a more eccentric approach which I think is just great...

The picture (right) shows them in The Green Room in full flight during their 'Meet the Band' spot.

The weekend at an end and my long - time friend Rick Bockner ( great guitar player and songwriter) who had been over for the festival and always a welcome house guest, left for Holland before going home to British Columbia.

The Grainger clan took off down The Yorkshire Coast to stay for a couple of days in Scarborough. We had a great time with the kids , the beach , Sea-life centre and all that, but as alluring as the sea-side may be with its long sandy beach and its fish and chips time marched on as it does,and it was soon time to leave for home, the lads for school, Jeanette for work and for me it was back to business..

Ontario 2010
The following morning I was heading for Newcastle Airport where I took a flight to Paris, a long- haul 747 to Montreal and finally my flight to Toronto.

Being pretty busy most of the time, I find I enjoy the solitude of a long haul flight. Its somewhere to lose your self in an idea. a song,make plans,make lists or simply update your diary. Oh yes you must have some lovely airline hospitality too,drink and eat and most importantly if you can get it, sleep.
The jet lag wasn't so bad as I had experienced after flying further afield. My various and wonderful hosts will remember me nodding off in Auckland and Wellington,New Zealand, San Francisco,Billy Bishop's (The British Legion Club) in Vancouver,Los Angeles - oh yes I've nodded off in a few places here and there. Its not so bad though doing a 7 hour flight to Toronto - the effect isn't quite the same though it still takes you a day or two to get your sleeping pattern back in to sync.
I was reunited with my cousin at Pearson International Airport,Toronto. I don't know if we worked out how long it had been since she left for 'the land of opportunity' but I guessed it must be 40 years. She later recalled that I played a song or two at her leaving for Canada party. But hang on I'm only 23!
It was there in Melody's Markham home I acclimatised to the Canadian Clock, spending a couple of days preparing the ground for the few concerts I had that week,while busily fielding emails from my lap top. I still try to lead that double life of musician and manager, though sometimes in can be a little too much. However me and the manager get on well most of the time.
I travelled by rental car south to London . Yes I know the names are very confusing,particularly for an Englishman. At one point I rang home from Ontario and commented that I had been to London and was on my way to Paris in transit to Dover, having passed through Scarborough and York. All of these are of course districts or towns in Canada.
My first stop was Sarnia , which features two particularly large bridges across the St. Claire River on the banks of Lake Huron. One of the many border crossings between Canada and the USA, this one would lead you down to Detroit in just 100km.
Here in Sarnia I did a house concert and thanks to Mike for putting it on and his lovely wife for holding the fort on the night while Mike had to drive down into the USA.
The photo opposite is of the tired troubadour
after his long drive to the first gig.

Theres a chippy beneath the bridges close to the shore and my friend Keith Wilson explained that the local tradition is to go to Sarnia to enjoy ' Chips under the Bridge'- Unfortunately it being so early in the day the Chippy was closed.Not to worry though because Keith's Mum was busy getting a big plate of bacon and eggs ready for us on our return.
I wondered whether these great bridges may have been built with Teesside Steel - I couldn't tell ( I did try to check - I always do wherever I go) because the structures were too high to catch any detail on the girders, but its not an impossible thought knowing some of the far away places Dorman's steel got itself to. My father Stan Grainger worked at the Teesside Bridge & Engineering Works and visiting the bridge yard as a child, as I often did, was inspired for life - with the real power and scale of the huge structures they made.

Keith Wilson's parents left Teesside some 50 years ago after leaving their jobs at British Titan Products in Billingham and joining the Companies Canadian counterpart's in Sarnia. Pat has a good life it seems in Canada and seems to have enjoyed the last 40 odd years in the country. As a bonus Pat hasn't lost any of her Middlesbrough charm nor her lovely Teesside accent. What great folk I meet and what terrific hospitality. After a terrific breakfast I even had time to take in the England Match before heading up to Cambridge.

Before I left the UK for Ontario, Keith Wilson had sent me a copy of a picture which I recognised as one of the well known Frank Meadow Sutcliffe series of pictures.
The amazing thing is that the lady standing second from left turns out to be Keith's great - grandmother who was seemingly pregnant at that time with the baby who would be his Grandad. Amazing - I've told you before about the special people I meet, well Keith turned out to be just one of those. What a guy!

My next stop was Cambridge, a couple or more hours drive from Sarnia and to play at Cafe 13.

Well this like many gigs was another revelation. Playing in Canada? It doesn't feel that way to me. It wasn't that far from being a good British Folk Club with some excellent residents.

Once again there was a Teessider present - Geoff Lewis who apparently used to drive buses around North Yorkshire and was born in Stockton-on -Tees. He had some very good songs too.

Fiddler Gwen Potter breezed to the stage and accompanied me on 'Scarborough Fishermen'. Good singing from the audience,and it was great to meet organiser Brad and a whole set of new friends like Campbell, Paul and Russ (fiddler Gwens partner)too. Good folk.

The next day I drove south to Kingsville a town down at the southernmost point of Canada on the northern shore of Lake Erie.
Mary and Marty were my hosts and what wonderful company they provided. After the gig we dined beneath the sultry summer sun on steak and salad and a drop of wine as the sun slipped down.

What a great old house they have,with an interesting history.

The next morning Mary and I chuntered for a couple of hours about life -as you do. However we didn't solve any mysteries though we tried really hard. Then again its bidding farewell time.

I had never put my trust so much in my GPS but this time I let it take me back to Markham the other side of Toronto and without fail I arrived some 4 hours later at the car rental depot after being navigated through what seemed like a moving car park ( the freeway around Toronto) - a term I usually reserved for the horrendous traffic around LA.

The next few days I was back to fielding emails in Markham but there were one or two really bright interludes including a visit to a lobster restaurant and to Niagara Falls.

If you think that these magnificent falls are set in beautiful surroundings somewhere miles from the city - you'd be quite wrong. Niagara Falls is a town , a resort,a sort of Blackpool, a Vegas. I was surprised as I always imagined the falls to be set out in the country or at least some miles from nowhere. It is in fact not the kind of town you would usually expect to find this man from the north.
Flashing Neon,Pizza Hut, Macdonalds, Amusement Arcades, Tourist Hotels and down the hill near to the falls, more expensive and exclusive Hotels for the more wealthy folk and those who come here to gamble at The Casino(s). I was never a great lover of Blackpool or Redcar as a kid(always preferred Saltburn or more picturesque places - boring mmm) so its hard for me to imagine how anyone would come and actually enjoy the amusement arcades and other such fun in the throng and hubub that is Niagara Falls town. However you should come to see the falls as they are magnificent, amazing, a wonder of the world. I am truly grateful to Jim for taking time out to drive me there.

The National Parks in the UK are a treasure and if Niagara had been in England, I am sure we would have preserved its wildness and beauty a deal more than this seems to have been here in Ontario - and I guarantee the National Park planners with whom I'm acquainted would never have allowed the growth of the mini vegas that is Niagara Falls town.
The Niagara Region is proving a popular choice for wine grower's too with the many vineyards making it look like another Napa Valley and the quality of their wines is up there with the very best.
The photo opposite was taken with my iPhone which is an amazing bit of kit.

The second half of this tour took me to London -a really great night with a smashin audience all singing the choruses and even laughing in the right places.

Because of a transport glitch ( I had to be down in Port Dover the following day by 9.30 am to do a workshop at The Port Dover Marine Heritage Festival) Singer Ian Bell kindly drove over from his home in Paris (I know I get confused where I am too) to London and picked me up after the gig. After a comfortable nights sleep and a midnight encounter with a huge 'pet' Rabbit in his loo I turned up unharmed at Port Dover on time for work the following morning.

This was a lovely festival in a gorgeous town. I spent the first day performing for local school children - mind you they did a fair share of the singing -and the other two days I performed in a couple of really nice concerts. Singer and Songwriter Ian Bell also curates the Maritime Museum and organised the festival. We have a lot in common - great work Ian. If you are heading down Port Dover way or spending time in Southern Ontario go check out Ian's Museum - Port Dover Maritime Heritage Museum-its truly fascinating.

Then hitching a lift with Gwen and Russ ( lucky for me their group Tethera were playing the festival too)- two friends I mentioned earlier this trip we headed back north to their home in Kitchener before catching the plane back to England.

After only a short while it seems Kitchener and Gwen & Russ's home is home base Ontario. Thanks so much for your help and support guys.

Was really good getting the music over into Ontario, something that had been long overdue. AS ever too I have to say its about people. Seeing my cousin and Jim after many years was great and making new friends. You know what I mean if I coin a phrase but 'Travelling is quite often a moving experience'.

My June tour finished where it started in North Yorkshire with a welcoming gig in Pickering at The Bay Horse. I was the guest at the monthly acoustic club, and a friendly bunch they were too.

Good people all'

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Hello and Welcome to Richard Grainger's Blog

Well this is fantastic to be able to put some thoughts and experiences from my dusty old road and from my home base too in Yorkshire- about my take on things in my very busy musical life.

I suppose this is a bit of change for me as I am quite confident in stringing words together in front of an audience and performing. I am o.k too sitting and writing songs and poems . But this is something different - actually stringing more than a few phrases together - a whole new field for me anyhow.

So be patient as I gradually hone whatever skills I might need to bring to this
It was my neighbour in Commondale , Chris - a mountain bike officionado who eventually inspired me to blog.
In the fullness of time I'll add her blog details and if you have an interest in mountain biking- then follow her blog - looks really interesting if you're into that kind of thing.

I actual enjoy riding my bike too,whenever I can - though at the moment it's broken and in need of repair. I'm in Ontario as I write this and although I love touring with my guitar at home and abroad my mind can so easily take me back to riding up there on the moors, with my two lads close to where I live up the Esk Valley in the small village of Commondale, one of them way ahead and the other way too far behind.

Anyhow my life is rich with music and musicians and maybe over the months I'll get a chance to introduce you to some of my favourites.

The main purpose is to give you a soundtrack to my own touring life, my music ,songs ,the wonderful places and people I have got to know and those I am able to discover as I wend my way through this incredible world of ours.....

I cant promise to write every day but once in a while if there's something to hold your interest I will put pen to paper
Before taking up the pen myself I have read several artists blogs and frankly they do seem to me to have spent a lot of time in airports, travelling, breaking down and generally telling people where they are going to or coming back from and not much more content than that.

I will do my best to make your reading time worthwhile - bear with me as give this blogging thing a try........

First of all I am here broken down in this airport on my way to, from......

Looking forward to it already

See ya !