Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Gig alert: Yuletide Yarns

For those of you who are into Christmas carols and songs, this is a gig you won’t want to miss.

Set in the cosy surroundings of Liverpool’s longest running independent art gallery, the Domino, 11 Upper Newington (off Renshaw Street near Grand Central), Yuletide Yarns will consist of two sets; the first, Moss & Jones’ usual quirky, folk-inspired music, and the second, carols and Christmassy songs performed on a variety of instruments from bodhran to glockenspiel; from mandolin to accordion… and more.

They’ll also be performing their original carol, A Song for Mary, live at the event.

Between the pair, Ruth (Moss) and Marc (Jones) have over 10 years’ experience of performing carols, including in community orchestras and the Liverpool Philharmonic Choir! Christmas gigs last year saw people dancing around, glasses of mulled cider in hand, and clapping along, and the pair promise that this year’s gig will be even more fun!

Tickets are just £5 for adults and the event is free for under 16s. Ruth and Marc feel it is incredibly important to introduce the joy of live music to the next generation. As space is limited, if you are planning to attend, it would be helpful if you could email mossandjones[at]gmail[dot]com to reserve your spaces so the venue has an idea of numbers. Alternatively, tickets are available to buy in advance from the venue.

Festive refreshments will be available to purchase on the day.

There is a competition running on Facebook and twitter to win a pair of tickets, worth £5 each, to the event; the competition closes at 7pm on Wednesday 26th November.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Catalyst Studios, Saturday 25th October (by Ruth)

When Marc and I got married, quite a few of our friends bought or made us some amazing gifts. In amongst those gifts were some vouchers for a local recording studio, Catalyst Studios in St. Helens.

On the last Saturday in October we boarded a taxi with all our instruments and made our way down to the studio. I was slightly nervous; Marc and I had been in a studio together (not Catalyst) just once before and the sound engineer there had presumably been so cautious not to offend that he didn’t give us any idea how our song sounded, or offer any advice. Marc’s been in many bands and many studios before, but this was only my second time, and I was hoping that this time we’d be given just a little more direction (whilst not bossed around or told what to do and what not to do).

I need not have worried! Andrew, who runs things there, was marvellous (especially as he had to tread a fine line between explaining things very clearly to me whilst simultaneously not appearing patronising to Marc)! He was really helpful at giving us guidance on what sounded okay and what might need another attempt, but was also absolutely fine if we wanted to change something a little.

We took a break in the middle of the day for a picnic (I’d made butties and a cake).


My son joined us half way through the day after spending the morning with his dad. It’s fair to say he was a little bored but we’d brought along reading material, pens and pencils, paper, and even a DS which he played until his eyes got tired. He couldn’t understand why we kept going and singing very similar things over and over again so I had to explain the concept of harmonies! Still, he got to sit at the mixing desk.


We’d originally hoped to go in for a day and come out with a ludicrous number of songs. In the end, we came out with two with which we were really happy, with lots of harmonies and various parts. Compared to our last visit to a studio, where we came out with a song in a matter of two hours, but much as it’s lovely, it sounds more like a live take, we were very pleased with the results at the end of our session.

What would we do differently? Well, next time we go (and that’s a reminder to me… I need to sort this out!) we won’t sandwich it into a busy weekend of gigs. We did practise our parts of course, but they could have been even tighter. Also, I wrote harmonies for one of the songs literally the night before, and gave myself one or two notes that were too high for me to sing, due to me writing them at half eleven at night, knackered, and thinking “C#6? NO problem!” Of course, though I’m okay with A5 provided I’ve had a couple of cups of tea and it’s not first thing in the morning, and can even just about manage C6 at a push, with a clear wind in the right direction, that extra semitone? Nooo. Between that, and (me, not Marc, he’s blameless!) deciding to change a glockenspiel part at the last minute, I do think there was a bit of time that we wasted which with hindsight, could have been saved.

Andrew was also a great help with the violin part. I’m a very average violinist (grade 5; can’t get more average than that) but with a very good violin (hired from Mike Phoenix and kindly sorted out by boss band The Loungs with a little help from The Heart of Glass - long story, and more about that in later posts) and some studio magic, I think the string part actually sounds great!

One of the two songs we recorded was an original Christmas carol, and you can listen to it and download from Bandcamp. The other will be included as part of a future release.

We would absolutely recommend Catalyst Studios to any musicians who want a professional recording of their music. We’ll be going back there anyway!

Victoria Park, St. Helens, Sunday 26th October (Storytelling Festival)

What a wonderful gig - or more accurately, two gigs, or at least, two sets - this was!

Our first set in the afternoon saw us in the beautifully decorated Gate Lodge, playing a set of narrative folk songs with a little bit of a talk about the tales they told. It was a lovely set up with people wandering in and out of the area in which we were playing, and going in and out of another room to decorate glass lanterns for a later parade. Lots of children and young people were listening, which we thought was lovely.

Our second set (you can just make out Ruth’s son in this photo, dressed as Robin Hood, sat inside the bandstand where he told all  his mates he got the best view) was providing background music for the amazing Bring the Fire Project! They truly were amazing; they improvised several fire-juggling sequences as we played, finishing our set with our folky twist on 90s classic Ebeneezer Goode. One commenter said “I used to rave to this in my youth, but I preferred this version”, which we felt was a fab compliment!

Thanks to Vikki, Steve, Diane and everyone else for all the work that went into this amazing festival.

Moss & Jones at Sound Food and Drink, 24th October 2014

Our gigging continued last month with a set at the lovely Sound Food & Drink on Duke Street in Liverpool. We arrived early, had a pumpkin spice latte (get us; next thing you know we’ll be calling fairycakes “cupcakes”!) and got set up, with help from Jules, who showed us all the various dials and levers on the sound desk and what we needed to do.

We played for about half an hour, and included our new song, Ella Brown (coming soon to a soundcloud near you…) and although quite a few of the crowd had come for the book launch right after our set, we seemed to go down okay.

We finished off the evening with one of Sound’s amazing pizzas each. Goat cheese and pesto, mmmm!

Childwall Valley Music Festival

After we got married (we might have mentioned that) and went on our honeymoon (a weekend in Paris, where we stayed in a B&B with a piano and even had a little impromptu performance) we came back to Blighty and went straight back to gigging with a little set at Childwall Valley Community Theatre, as part of a festival organised by the lovely Andrew Hesford.

You may know Andrew as the chap who organises the last open mic night of the month at The Brink in Liverpool, and plays in band The Salty Seadogs. He put on this lovely event to raise funds for the community theatre and quite a few bands turned up to entertain people. We heard the gorgeous, soulful voice of Shirley Ellis with a band called the Kookie Ukies, and although we had to leave a little early due to a prior arrangement, had an enjoyable time.

The theatre is a lovely place; a really fab set up and even includes onsite recording facilities!