Wednesday, 30 December 2015

So long, and thank you for the music.

This year, in some ways, has been amazing for us as a musical duo.

Highlights include supporting Mercury prize nominee Kathryn Williams, upstairs in renowned live music venue Leaf, Liverpool, playing to a huge audience, and having BBC 2 DJ Janice Long, who attended, say of us on her radio show that we were "mesmerising". Later this year we were honoured to support Louise Jordan at the Liverpool gig of her tour, upstairs in the intimate setting of the View Two Gallery on Mathew Street. Amongst those fond gig memories of this year we have to include a lovely, festival-feel gig at the Bombed Out Church (the venue in which we married in 2014) with our folk duo friends Penmann, too.

This was also the year we released our studio-recorded CD, Amateur Astronomy, to reviews which included comments like, "the sound of the resilience of humanity", "one eye on the music of the past but also one foot in amongst the stars" and " addictive and eloquent".

Ruth also wrote, and performed the violin parts for, a string arrangement on a song by The Loungs, an indie band with a large following, and seeing her name on their CD sleeve was definitely something of a buzz.

We had our single, Ella Brown, played by Mike Brocken on BBC Radio Merseyside, which was an amazing feeling.

We really thought that this might be the year we started to make some headway into finding more people who really wanted to listen to our music. We've never craved record label interest, or huge numbers of fans, or making vast amounts of money. What we've wanted, always, is to make music that we love, that really touches people's hearts, making them feel and think... and for our music to reach those people without us ending up utterly out of pocket.
Supporting Kathryn Williams at Leaf

However, after the highs of the summer, with its magical gigs, and the feeling of finally holding in our hands a copy of a CD that held our own music, our original songs, written, arranged and performed entirely by us (and made to sound fantastic by magic-working producer Andy Bowes), came the autumn.

Album sales were already disappointing by then. Given so many bands keep figures a secret at the risk of losing face, we're going to be totally open: we had 100 CDs made; we'd have preferred 50 but the cost per CD was so much cheaper at 100 that we went with that, but set ourselves the more reasonable target of selling 50. Our launch gig didn't go as well as we'd hoped, and although some lovely people ordered multiple copies of our CD to give to friends, all in all we have sold 37 to date. The CD was make or break for us, and it broke us.

Amateur Astronomy, our CD
Being online is also a demoralising experience; asking - begging, in fact - for "shares" but getting instead a handful of "likes" and even then only if we're lucky; asking people to listen to our music on Bandcamp and finding out most people stopped listening way before the end (in some ways being able to see statistics is really useful; in other ways it's a complete downer), and the awful self-doubt, and occasionally green-eyed monster, that creeps in when similar artists seem to have huge comment threads whereas we have tumbleweed. Constantly trying to work out if our music is just awful (and if so, why such good reviews?) or if we're somehow not playing the online game properly - is there a rule sheet? And what's the rule about buying music from and promoting online the music of other musicians - is it right to expect quid pro quo or not? How does it work? We've never found out any of answers to these questions, and suspect we never will.

Then came our worst gig ever; we've played to empty rooms before so it wasn't that, but it was the way the audience completely disappeared after the performer before us finished his set; we'd hoped people might stick around, but watching the large audience dwindle away to next-to-nothing before we were due to play, seeing scores of people leave as we picked up our instruments, was demoralising in a way that's hard to describe. It didn't help matters that at that point, Ruth was ten weeks pregnant, tired, and feeling a little faint; sadly the next day a scan revealed no heartbeat and shortly afterwards, the pregnancy came to an end of its own accord. Obviously the two were in no way linked, but any resilience we might normally have to cope with such musical disappointments disappeared with the ensuing grief. We also had to cancel a gig as Ruth had to go to hospital; having never cancelled a gig before we felt terribly guilty but it simply wasn't possible to play.

We thought about stopping there and then, but we couldn't quite let it go on that note. We'd planned to do a Christmas gig, as our 2014 Christmas gig had been so magical,but when we asked on our Facebook page who might be interested in attending, we only had a handful of replies so decided against it. In the end, we did play a gig at Christmas (as it was organised by someone else)and in fact, it was rather lovely. We played for half an hour in West Kirby library on the concourse to a relatively small but very interested audience, playing some carols and folk music, and just one original song. It was somewhat redolent of the very first time we'd played in public, back in 2012, as carollers, but our musicianship was infinitely better after three years of practising and playing together.
Our first ever time playing together in public, 2012

And so, that's it for Moss & Jones. We've managed to go out on a high note; the Wirral gig was a lovely experience; we even sold one of our CDs. However, we need a clean break from music, at least, from promoting, organising and feeling never-quite-good-enough about it. What we plan to do is sing around the piano at home, save up to buy Ruth a decent violin and Marc a better accordion, practice the instruments we have, and play together for fun, and get Ruth's son - Marc's stepson - involved too, if and when he wants.

It seems to us that perhaps we went about things the wrong way. Maybe we didn't reach enough of the people who love the sort of music we make; maybe we did, but our music just wasn't quite impressive enough to make them rave about it. Whatever the reason, we couldn't quite make it work for us.

Our CD, Amateur Astronomy, along with the rest of our digitally available music, will remain on sale for the next six months on Bandcamp, so if you do want to grab yourself a copy of a infinitesimally small piece of musical history from the folk music enclave, now's your chance.

We're grateful to the people who've listened to our music, bought our music, reviewed it, blogged about it, promoted it, encouraged us, given us pep talks, given us advice (yes, even unsolicited - thanks to a very dear friend who gave us the nudge to arrange our songs better), retweeted and shared our posts online, arranged gigs and put us on, let us use their venue, designed artwork for us, loaned us instruments, produced our music, organised open mic nights, bought our CD for their friends, played us on the radio, attended our gigs, brought friends to our gigs, and subscribed to our newsletter.

We suspect that one day we'll feel brave enough to put outselves out there in public again, but if we do, it won't be as Moss & Jones. If you'd like to stay with us if and when we embark on that journey, please email us - mossandjones [at] gmail [dot] com - and let us know, otherwise we'll take this opportunity to say goodbye, now, and thank you so much for the support you've given us.

"Summer won't be here forever - autumn will creep up on us before we know." - Shepherds' Delight (It's Not Time To Go To Bed), Moss & Jones.

Thank you. xx

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Rest and be thankful

We played a couple of gigs at the end of the summer... one at the Rendezvous, St. Helens, as part of a vintage fair (we played and sang 'oldies' on the piano, rather than our usual folk repertoire), one at Victoria Park, St. Helens (which we also compered) and one at The Brink, Liverpool, as part of Hope Fest.

The first was great fun; the second was very hectic and stressful but we appreciated the opportunity to reach a potentially wider audience; the third was very quiet but those who were there seemed to really enjoy themselves, and it was for such a good cause.

Unfortunately very shortly after those gigs Ruth became ill and had to attend hospital (nothing, we hasten to add, to do with any of the gigs).

Ruth's slowly but surely on the mend now, but it has given us a chance to reassess what we're doing with Moss & Jones. Obviously, we would still love for you to buy our CD (and if you have already, and you liked it, feel free to write us a little review on your blog, or Facebook, or twitter and @ us in) and we still welcome radio and podcast airplay, but in terms of gigs, we're going to have a little rest. We normally put on a Christmas gig, full of carols and Yuletide songs, but unless people are really clamouring for such a thing (or unless a venue wants to pay us to put on such a gig and help with the organisation...) we're going to take a break from gigging until the new year, although you can download our Christmas carol from last year if you like to 'tide you over'!

Come the new year, we want to try to build up more of an audience, so that when we put on gigs ourselves we can be assured of a reasonable turnout. We're going to take it all 'back to basics' - go to more open mic events, attend folk clubs, possibly even go busking... we're going to use the interim time to practise our instruments, and just play together for fun. It's so easy to lose sight of that side of things, what with having to have a 'social media presence', an up-to-date blog, a CD to flog in order to try to at least break even, 'networking' to try to do, and so on... it's meant to be fun after all.

When we started this, making music together, we agreed that if it ever stopped being fun all together, we'd stop. To be honest, we nearly did... but instead, we're going to make it fun again.

See you very soon!
Ruth & Marc
xx

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Why do I write songs? (by Ruth)

I love this blog post, why do I play music, by local musician Gary Maginnis. It's inspirational:
It can be really easy to doubt yourself when you think no-one is listening. When you lose confidence in what you are doing and questioning why bother. Stop and think about all the experiences that you could have missed out on, the people you might never have met, the people you now call your friends. 
I think of this quite a bit, actually, as I'm plagued by self-doubt. Bandcamp and Soundcloud, the two places where our music is hosted, give us ways to analyse how many people have played our songs. And not just played; whether they've played it for a second or two, half the way through, or all the way. (Actually, it's the half plays that intrigue and worry me most. A few seconds, then deciding "it's not my cup of tea," I understand. But why would someone listen to half a song and then bail? Was the arrangement too 'samey'? Was it the opposite; they liked it at the start, but the middle eight was a bridge (ha) too far? What did I do wrong with the song?)

We have come to accept - to some extent - that people will listen to music but not necessarily buy it, and learned not to measure success in terms of breaking even (although in the long run, I can see this leading to many independent musicians simply stopping recording albums, though not necessarily ceasing to make music. More on this in another post perhaps). However, I do still have a bad habit of totting up numbers of plays of songs. Surely part of the point in writing songs is for people to hear them?


But then I start thinking, "why do I* write songs?" (For the 'how', have a look at the links to our scrapbook for each song on our album, starting here. Why we perform them is another matter, too**.)
Well, it's easier to start with reasons that some sometimes cite, but which aren't the case for me.

I don't want to make lots of money. (My really out-there dream is to one day make enough to break even and even have a little left over to put towards more recording more songs.)

I don't want to be a famous star. (I'd like us to be well-known enough on the local scene to be offered good gigs that give us the chance of selling some more CDs, and so possibly breaking even, but that's about it.)

I don't want to create some kind of universal music to which everyone can relate. (In fact, given some of our songs and their nerdy, niche references, if this was my aim, I'd be doing a VERY poor job.)

I don't decide what will make a song popular and work backwards, though it is tempting sometimes.

The songs definitely don't 'write themselves' (although the initial spark is sometimes unbidden).


Then things that I fear might be true.

Maybe I'm seeking validation.

Maybe I'm showing off.


And what I know to be true, though it sounds a little narcissistic.

I need to tell my stories, and share my ideas.

Maybe if I look at the songwriting process, that will give me some ideas too. With many of my songs, they've started off as snippets, that have come into my head almost unbidden. What's made me see them through?

I'm a completionist. (Is that a word?)
I enjoy the process of writing songs (not always).
I want to hear the finished song myself (I need to hear the finished song myself)!


But it's also important to think about what I've learned about how the songs I've written are received. When I'm writing, I have an idea in mind (e.g. Shepherds' Delight is in part a memento mori). However people don't always see that, and sometimes, they even see something else, something that I didn't put in there (the lovely chap at a gig who said it sounded like a baby's first lullaby). It's as though the songs, released, take on their own life, their own personality, they reach people in different ways. And, just like one's own child or children, a songwriter has to accept that their songs aren't necessarily going to 'take after' them. That's actually quite hard sometimes. I'll think I've written a song of nostalgic longing... someone else hears a pretty jaunt (and vice versa). So even if I was writing songs to reassure myself there were people out there with the same emotional responses as me, that I wasn't alone... I'd be on a hiding to nothing.

Once the song has been 'released' (both in the music industry sense, and figuratively), it develops ideas of its own. It is like a child.... from the moment they are born they develop their personality, and an important developmental stage is when this personality starts to develop in completely distinct ways to their parent's/s' personality, and they are able to and allowed to take pride in that difference, to be themselves. (I'm speaking from experience here as a parent, too, before you tell me to get in the sea.) Good parents encourage this, accept that their children are different people to them, and love them for the people they are, take delight in this entirely new personality, find joy in watching them develop in ways they might not have guessed. My songs - I like that they are now separate to me, I still love them, but I love watching people react to them in ways I'd never have predicted. They have a life of their own!

So why do I write songs, then? It is simple, really. I write them so I can hear them, hear how my stories sound in their voice. But I release them so I can watch how they play with everyone else. With my nearest and dearest. With YOU.

Are you a songwriter? Why do you write songs? Feel free to comment!

*Marc writes Moss & Jones songs too, of course, and one of them is on our album - it's the title track, in fact - and obviously, our arrangements are pretty collaborative. But songwriting is so individual that I can't say his reasons for writing are the same as mine.

**I don't feel I need to write about this as I think Gary Maginnis' post speaks for most of us.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

The Egg Café open mic/floor (by Ruth)

Every now and again a local music paper will claim that such and such an open mic event is "probably Liverpool's oldest". This is (usually) my reaction:










You see, I remember 1997, when I was a student at Liverpool Uni, and helped promote a poetry-only open mic event at Liverpool's veggie hangout, the Egg Café. The event changed hands shortly after I'd left university, and it started to welcome musicians, too; I moved to London shortly after that, and didn't attend for a good many years indeed, but it continued, changed hosts yet again, and by the time I started singing unaccompanied folk songs in 2011... it was still there. In fact, it was the scene for mine and Marc's first ever gig together, in 2012, when we were two people singing and playing some carols, rather than Moss & Jones.


It's still going now, 18 years since I first started going. (In fact, it isn't the longest running open mic in town; that honour goes to the Dead Good Poets, at least, as far as I'm aware. But it's probably the longest running open mic that isn't just poetry.) It's changed so much in those years. Even in the last four since I started going again, I've seen a turnover of 'regulars' several times; sometimes it's students who come and perform for a year or so and then leave town on graduating; sometimes it's musicians in the early stages of their career who use the Egg's welcoming open mic as a starting board, and when they get a little more well-known, they go less often to open mic events; sometimes people just decide they prefer a different open mic, maybe one with a microphone, and take their friends with them. But new people always come and take their place; keep things going and busy. 

And certainly since I've been part of Moss & Jones, Tony Kehoe has compèred the event, his idiosyncratic presenting skills including lyrics performed as poetry, in addition to performing his own songs. A friendly chap, Tony always encourages the audience to give performers - especially new performers - all their support. His exuberance might take a little getting used to for newbies but it's definitely worth it.

Last night, Monday 3rd August, included the usual mix of poetry and music; covers and originals; it's great to see Tony Kehoe's daughter continuing to develop her skills as a singer and musician; Tony had some new songs which we enjoyed; there were quite a few of us who'd travelled over from St. Helens so it felt like we had a bit of a gang there, though the atmosphere is always supportive anyway. 

We played a couple of songs too and people seemed to like them; friends played new songs too and read old poetry and it was all marvellous.

One of the things I love about performing at the Egg is that it's completely unamplified. It's open mic in name only; a more appropriate phrase might be 'open floor'. It's great for us; that's how we practise of course, so we're very used to it. There's also no stage as such; performers are on the same level as the rest of the audience; they are on the floor, standing just in front of the people listening. For me that's a wonderful thing; it emphasises the fact that performers, too, are audience; there's no getting up and nipping to the pub for a pint once we've done our set; we stay, and we listen. Sans microphone and sans stage there are no barriers between performer and audience and personally, I really like that freedom. 

On a practical level, not having to sing through a microphone means that I am able to move a little more too whilst singing and playing. There are no wires and cables to trip over, either, and the sound is solely determined by mine and Marc's performances, not partly by an engineer. That does, of course, mean that if performing at the Egg, it's wise to remember this, and if used to singing through a microphone, it might be wise to increase the volume a bit. 

We now go to a variety of open mics, and play various full gigs too (this Sunday, we'll be back at the Bombed Out Church), but the Egg was where we started, it's my favourite café in town (I've been going since my late teens, so it's always been the Egg for me, rather than the Acorn) and we'll always go back to play every now and again... as long as they'll have us!

The open mic at the Egg runs the first Monday of every month except if it's a bank holiday, in which case it's the first Monday after the bank holiday Monday. 


Saturday, 1 August 2015

Creative Watch Area at Wirral Arts Centre, Friday 31st July

We both have Wirral connections; Marc is from the Wirral originally, and Ruth has extended family there. However, funnily enough, we'd only played one gig over the water before (at Christmas, when we won the Wirral Carol Competition with A Song for Mary), so we were delighted to be asked to play at the Wirral Arts Centre for Seba Rashii Culture Zine's Creative Watch Area.

The Wirral Arts Centre is an absolutely gorgeous venue; a former Unitarian church, it has a beautiful domed stage area with a baby grand piano and marvellous acoustics. It's a pleasure to play there!

After soundchecks, a cup of tea, and some chit chat, we settled down to listen to the first artist, storyteller Andy Johnson, with a musical ghost story to get us all ready for the night! He was then followed by the first musician, Tiki Black.

Tiki took to the stage with her piano, and played a selection of beautiful, haunting, powerful songs. Many of her songs were about the way we try to hide away, behind masks, from our full potential, and were taken from her album, Out of the Black, which you can stream on Soundcloud and buy on iTunes. Tiki has a wonderful voice with a fantastic range, and her dulcet piano playing the perfect accompaniment. Our favourite was the title track from her album, though hard to make a choice as they were all so profound.

Next up was Tom George who started with some poetry. Tom is a seasoned performer; our favourite was moving poem about silence, during which you could hear a pin drop. (Literally, as he made use of such a prop to demonstrate his point!) Then he played some music, accompanied by flautist George Roberts (who played at our wedding), and included the wonderful Dance with my Shadow in his set. You can download Tom's music from Bandcamp.

After Tom came storyteller Andy Johnson again, with a sweet tale, which he told us was originally from Africa, about love, death and family, accompanied this time by Tom on guitar. The pairing worked wonderfully; Tom's incidental music was ideal for the story, but at no point took away from Andy's primary role as storyteller. Andy's gentle voice drew us into the story, with its beautiful message that no one is really dead while they are still remembered.

Then it was our turn. We played a variety of songs from our album, though started with classic folk ballad (Roud 397) Reynardine, which was also the b-side from our recent single. We then used the piano to play a live version of our short choral piece, (No Such Thing As) Wandering Stars, followed by the title track from our album, Amateur Astronomy. We then set out our instruments - including the psaltery - to play a short, live version of our epic multi-instrument track, Stars and Moon and Me and You, Love, which we followed with our a cappella song for Ruth's son / Marc's stepson, When I Was Your Age (which is a bonus track on our album)

We had originally planned to play our single, Ella Brown, at the gig. However, after watching the amazing Radio 1 prom (orchestral versions of classic 1990s/00s dance songs) we decided to dust off our cover of The Shamen's 1992 classic rave anthem, Ebeneezer Goode. It's a funny song to cover, as we are never sure how many people at a gig will remember the original, but we felt that at least one or two people there did, and it went down quite well. Also, the sound man said of our set, "shades of The Incredible String Band," which is quite probably the best compliment we've ever had!

The evening ended with the talents of Vernon Fuller. A versatile, virtuoso guitarist, Vernon switched easily between jazz, blues and acoustica, with catchy songs and a magnetic stage presence. He enlisted the help of a harmonica player in the audience at one point, and then got all of us to join in on some of his songs too. His songs were hugely enjoyable, and you can buy his music via his website; for us, in fact, it was his (semi-improvised?) experimental instrumental with delay pedal that really blew us away and in many ways was the highlight of our evening.

Alas lack of budget meant we weren't able to buy everyone's album from the evening (and it would have been impossible - and possibly rude - just to buy one artist's work and not the others!) so we left empty handed (we weren't brave enough to offer swapsies for our album!) but we'll certainly be listening to their music and keeping an eye out for their gigs in the future. We'd definitely recommend that you go and check them out, and also, go to a gig at the Wirral Arts Centre at some point.

Huge thanks to everyone at Wirral Arts Centre for putting us on such a fantastic line-up, for the sound, and the cups of tea! Thanks to Seb for organising everything, and for the wonderful review of our album in the magazine, too. We'll definitely be back, whether as spectators or musicians, a wonderful place.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Louise Jordan, Chris Callander, Esme Bridie... and us! Liverpool Acoustic Live at View Two Gallery, Friday 24th July

We had an absolutely wonderful evening last night at the ever-relaxing View Two Gallery. It's always strange to think, when sat there in the chilled out environment, surrounded by art, that down a few flights of stairs and out of the door is Mathew Street, Liverpool's home for revellers and merry-makers.

We arrived a little early which gave us chance to soundcheck (and spend half an hour tuning our now-ancient mandolin, which slips out of tune with so much as a look), have a cup of tea, and just relax.

We got a little chance to talk to Chris Callander and Esme Bridie before the show began; Louise Jordan then arrived after having had an epic - and not particularly fun - journey up to Liverpool! After her soundcheck, the event started, first with Esme.

Esme immediately wowed the audience with her lilting voice and assured guitar playing. Our favourite of hers was a song called "Dirty Hands", with some captivating chord changes. We would really like to go and see Esme play again.

Next up it was our turn; we had brought along many of our instruments, but also made use of the gallery's wonderful grand piano. We played classic folk ballad Reynardine (Roud 397), b-side of our recent single, and then a selection of original songs, including a live version of (There's No Such Thing As) Wandering Stars, which we sat at the piano together to sing and play. Due to us both being sat at the piano, we went completely unamplified for this, but were told afterwards that our voices still carried.

We played a variety of songs from our début album, Amateur Astronomy, including the title track from the album, and a shorter live version of our epic mediaeval-themed song, Stars and Moon and Me and You, Love, for which we used the psaltery unamplified; the sound is pretty loud even without a mic! We finished with an a capella song, When I Was Your Age, which is not currently available for streaming but is a bonus track on our album.

We had a wonderful time performing but were glad to sit down and grab a coffee!

Next up was Chris Callander. Chris' songs are honest and passionate and his guitar playing is pretty much virtuoso! We especially loved his wonderful song Ghosts of the Old Casartelli, and spent a while racking our brains trying to work out where the landmark was! A wonderful set, and we've thoroughly enjoyed listening to his CD today too!

Finally came the headline act, Louise Jordan. Louise is a skilled musician; a lilting pianist and fluid guitarist. Her voice is a joy to hear; she makes it seem so effortless and weightless. She played beautiful, interesting songs, many in that folk tradition where the telling of the history behind the song is as much a part of the act as the song itself. Hard to pick a favourite, but her musical interpretation of the AA Milne song, Rice Pudding Again, was strangely haunting for a lullaby.

We bought her latest album, Veritas, and played it in the car on the way home. It's fantastic, and we would recommend it to all of you.

We hope she got back safely and that she returns to Liverpool again, soon.

Thanks to everyone who came; thanks to Graham for putting on such wonderful acoustic gigs; thanks Stuart for the sound, and Ken at the gallery for holding the event; finally thanks to Esme, Chris, and of course Louise for the wonderful music!

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Review: Liverpool Sound and Vision review of Amateur Astronomy

We've been blessed with another wonderful review of our début album, Amateur Astronomy, this time from prolific music writer, and poet, Ian D. Hall, at Liverpool Sound and Vision.

"...ample splendour offered by Moss & Jones..."
"...captures the imagination and asks questions of the listener..."
"...deeply profound..."
"In Amateur Astronomy they have one eye on the music of the past but also one foot in amongst the stars."

If you'd like to hear the music for yourself to see if it matches up to the review, you can stream it for free from Soundcloud or Bandcamp, and it's available from Bandcamp as a CD for £5+postage (Royal Mail: 95p in the UK) or as a digital download for £4. Both CD and download contain a bonus track not available for free streaming. 


Saturday, 4 July 2015

Debrief: launch gig, Sunday 28th June, The Ethical Glass

There seem to be two types of launch gig; those that are all-singing, all-dancing, a cracking line-up, a huge venue... and no CDs due to a miscalculation of the production time. I've been to more than one of these, and I think the problem is that to arrange something so huge, it has to be done months in advance, which means taking a guess at exactly when the CDs will be ready. I've always felt sorry for those musicians who've had this happen to them; arranged a magnificent gig only to have nothing to sell.

And then there's the other type; a low-key gig at a small, cosy venue. In order to avoid having no CDs, we opted for the latter. We waited for our CDs to arrive, then quickly arranged a free gig at a new-to-us venue in Liverpool called The Ethical Glass via a lovely chap called John who saw our 'venue suggestions please' post on the Liverpool Bands noticeboard on Facebook. 

We invited everybody and were chuffed when a not insignificant number of people turned up to hear us. We appreciated people taking the time on a sunny Sunday afternoon to hear us play in a basement! That's dedication and we're tremendously grateful! There's nothing to quell the nerves like looking out and seeing friendly faces there in support. 

After the Ethical Glass regulars played a lovely mix of country covers, we took to the stage. It's always great to turn up to a venue that has 'regulars' and some of them genuinely seemed to enjoy our set. We played some traditional folk songs, followed by playing the songs from our album, Amateur Astronomy, and its bonus track, too, utilising a large cross-section of our instrumental panoply, including psaltry, mandolin and treble recorder... and more. 

Ebeneezer Goode: "it's a bit like a folk song in that it's
a narrative tale about a roguish anti-hero."
Finally, because quite a few people clapped for a good long while at the end, we came back on stage briefly to play an encore; our folky version of 90s rave classic, Ebeneezer Goode.

Thank you so much to Mark at The Ethical Glass for letting us grace your stage, thank you to John for sorting it all out, and huge, huge thanks to everyone who came along to hear us play, and bought our music! 

Our next gig is playing for Liverpool Acoustic in support of Louise Jordan, alongside Chris Callander and Esme Higgins, at View Two Gallery in Liverpool, in the evening of Friday 24th July. Tickets are available from WeGotTickets for £5.50 or on the door for £6. 

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Amateur Astronomy: IT'S HERE!

We are absolutely delighted to be able to bring you our début CD, Amateur Astronomy

Our CD has been described by folk reviewer Helen Gregory as "the sound of the resilience of humanity, of all that is precious about our everyday lives which nevertheless knows full well that, although the world is too often a cruel and uncaring place, there is still respite to be found in making music and letting truth and beauty grow and bloom in their own time". 

When buying the CD online, the price includes an immediate download in case you cannot wait to listen; the download also includes a lyric sheet in case you wish to sing along. Please do tweet us @mossandjones when you've listened, and let us know what you think!

Lyrics to and influences on each track can be found on our scrapbook: Shepherd's Delight (It's Not Time To Go To Bed), (There's No Such Thing As) Wandering Stars, I See The Moon, Millbrook, Ella Brown, Amateur Astronomy, Stars And Moon And Me And You, Love, and our bonus track


All tracks are streamable for FREE on Bandcamp (with the exception of the bonus track, available on purchase). The CD, including immediate download of all tracks, is £5 to buy and is available from Bandcamp.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Two reviews

We have been lucky enough to have received two lovely reviews of our three-track single, Ella Brown

The first is from music reviewer and folk aficionado Helen Gregory. She says:

It’s a rare and welcome thing to find artists who draw their inspiration from a wide range of music, particularly folk, and yet still manage to add their own individual stamp and avoid sounding derivatively homogeneous.

Read the whole review on her blog.

The second is from Liverpool reviewer Ian D. Hall over at Liverpool Sound and Vision. He says:

Ella Brown is an acoustic high, a tremble of variety, the huge wedge of sincerity and unabashed sense of the natural, Ruth Moss’ voice towers above the set scene and lifts the story up high. 

The whole review is over at his website

Thank you Helen and Ian for writing about our single. 



Sunday, 14 June 2015

Kathryn Williams, Robert Vincent (and us) at Leaf, Liverpool, Wednesday 10th June

On Tuesday 9th June, all we had planned for Wednesday night was a quiet evening in.  However, we ended up opening for Kathryn Williams (supported by Robert Vincent) at Leaf in Liverpool City Centre.

Originally, The Coral's Lee Southall was due to open the gig, but unfortunately had to pull out at the last minute due to illness (hopefully he’s much better now). This left Kathryn Williams without an opening act, and a twitter call went out for a replacement.

(At that point we were sat in the back yard writing a shopping list.)

When we went back inside, Ruth’s ‘phone had multiple notifications flashing up. We wondered what had happened.  Then we checked our twitter, Facebook and email. It turned out that our friend Helen, writer for Folk Radio UK and generally lovely person, (and who recently reviewed our single, Ella Brown, on her blog) had suggested that we might be a good fit for an opener, and Liverpool Acoustic had agreed (thank you, Graham), and were we available?

Well, we were over the moon, and once we were told it was fine to bring along Ruth’s little boy on the night, we set to work, putting together a set list for the 25 minutes (including our single, Ella Brown, a few pieces from our forthcoming album, Amateur Astronomy, and some traditional folk songs), and rehearsing.

Thanks to Kev McCready for this picture of us playing our set.
The next day, we went straight from our separate workplaces to Leaf and when we arrived, we were lucky enough to catch the end of Kathryn’s soundcheck (which included a run through Mirrors, and involved loop pedals). After Rob Vincent’s soundcheck, then ours, we were raring to go; very excited, but somewhat daunted too. Kathryn and Robert were both lovely.

By eight o’clock a couple of friends had turned up to give us support, and the place was pretty full. It was probably the largest indoor crowd we’ve ever played to, and one minor finger-slip aside we thought we played a good, short, sweet set, and later that night, BBC Radio 2 DJ Janice Long (who was at the gig) seemed to agree; on her show, she said we were “amazing, absolutely mesmerising”.


Then, we could relax. Rob Vincent played a lovely set, full of mellow, tuneful songs, with lilting guitar and a wonderfully strong voice, ending with Demons, an incredibly honest song about overcoming fears. We'd definitely go and see him again. 

After that it was time for Kathryn Williams’ set. In addition to some earlier material, she played songs from her new album Hypoxia. As you might expect from an album based on Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, it got very intense at times (have you heard Cuckoo? Compellingly visceral and her performance was jaw-dropping) but Kathryn’s stage demeanour between songs added a light touch to it all. She ended by covering a Neil Young song with her sister on stage; a moving ending to a wonderful night. If you get chance to go and see her elsewhere on her tour you really must, and do buy her album!

We were so privileged to be able to open this gig, and we hope very much that people who attended to see Kathryn, and Rob, also enjoyed our set. A couple of people bought our album, Amateur Astronomy (it’s not out until 28th June but we took some copies along to the gig) and if that was you, we’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

Thank you so much to Ben, Helen, Graham, Kathryn, Rob, Dylan and all at Leaf for having us, and for such an amazing night, and thank you Janice for your kind words.


Sunday, 17 May 2015

Ella Brown, our new three-track single

We were watching a documentary the other night about Brian Eno and he talked about the idea of releasing a song being akin to setting something free. Well, Ella Brown, our three-track single, has been free to roam for a week today. We thought we'd tell you all about it!

Ella Brown
The title track is a love song of sorts. It's about being young, and feeling that you're falling in love with someone who happily lets you admire, adore and even worship them, but doesn't give you much by way of return. Many of us have been there, and it's about learning from that, and moving on.

Ruth wrote the song and we arranged it together for our voices, and ukulele, violin, mandolin and melodica (the latter was a wedding present from one of Marc's musician friends; we married late in 2014). The middle eight, as some of you have worked out, is loosely based on Thomas Tallis' choral work, Why Fum'th in Fight (also famously magpied by Ralph Vaughan-Williams).

Recording
We recorded the song at Catalyst Studios, St. Helens. Andy Bowes is a fantastic producer and as we hadn't spent much time in a studio before, he helped us through the whole process. We actually paid for our time in the studio with vouchers we'd received as wedding gifts!

The cover art
Ruth's colleague and friend Michelle Quinn is a fine artist whose quirky, semi post-impressionist style first caught our eye when she painted us a TARDIS-themed card for our wedding. We asked how she'd feel about painting a picture for our single cover and she agreed! We were chuffed when she came up with three designs for us to choose from. Initially, we preferred one of her other designs, however, when it came time to put out the single, we unanimously changed our mind; how could Ella Brown be represented by anything other than this painting?

The violin
The violin Ruth plays on Ella Brown was hired from Mike Phoenix Violins in Liverpool. Ruth does have her own violin but the tone isn't particularly mellifluous, and it's more for playing at home. In fact, it was while we were in the Bluecoat in Liverpool looking for an engagement ring that we chanced upon Mike Phoenix; he offered to let Ruth play one of his violins, and she remembered how much she loved to play the instrument. However, she put it out of her mind until a few months later. Noted St. Helens indie band, The Loungs, were looking for someone to play violin on one of the tracks on their new album, and Ruth said she would do it if they couldn't find anyone else, but pointed out she was hardly Vanessa Mae, and her violin was far from a Strad. They kindly offered to hire a violin for her; she contacted Mike Phoenix to see if he could advise on where to hire a violin... he said he could loan her one, but for a minimum of three months... and that's how we ended up with this gorgeous sound on our track!



The b-sides
Reynardine is a well-known folk ballad (Roud 397); depending on who you believe it's either a spooky tale of a charming werefox, or a song about a brigand who tricks a girl into doing his bidding. We've kept our arrangement simple, partly because we think it's the latter!

When researching the song, we wondered what the lyric '"oh no, no rake am I!" he cried, "brought up on Venus' train..."' meant, so we looked into it; apparently, it means that Reynardine exclaims that he cannot be a rake - a conman, a seducer - because he was brought up in the company of women. (Certainly some of us have heard something similar to that line before; it's as if he is protesting that he's not a misogynist; how can he be? He has a mother and sisters!)

Both of our b-sides were recorded by our friend Kerry Foster. Kerry has known Ruth since their children were babies, but recently, Kerry started doing a music degree at St. Helens College, and was looking for a band to record as part of her degree. We were delighted when she asked us, and these two tracks were the result. We think she's done an amazing job!

Molly is a jig based on Molly/Polly put the Kettle on, or Jennie's Baubie, which we play on violin and melodica. It's a simple tune but we love it partly because it starts cheerfully and breezily but as it progresses, it finds some depth. Plus, there's never a moment in our house when we don't have a brew in our hands. We played straight through this live in the studio while Kerry recorded it.


Reception
So far, we've had one amazing review of our single which called it "engaging and very listenable," and said lovely things about our voices and musicianship. We've also had some fantastic comments about it on twitter and Facebook:
... all your tracks are a "declaration d'amour"...
... brightens my day, causes me to hum along, and tap my toes!
EVERYONE SHOULD LISTEN
... cracking job on the tracks...
love these folky vibes! Beautiful vocal harmonies too :)
AWESOME! It's awesome! 
Lovely! I love the melodica on Ella Brown!
... haven't stopped chanting it for days...
Beautiful people need to hear beautiful things
Lovely couple pouring their hearts into some ... folk music
I just love this track...

and our favourite:

I've just listened to Ella Brown and whilst I'm not into folk music at all... I have to say I absolutely LOVE it.

So, what do YOU think? 

Pricing and licensing
We've decided to make this track Pay What You Like. This means that you enter whatever you'd like to pay - even nothing at all - into the Name Your Price box when you click Buy Now. Obviously, when our EP, Amateur Astronomy, comes out, we will have to charge for it (though nothing exorbitant), otherwise we'd be running at a loss and be unable to afford to make any more music. But for the single, we're happy for people to pay anything or nothing at all. We've also licensed it under Creative Commons; without going into too much detail, this means that the tracks aren't copyright; so for example, if you want to make a video and you're looking for a background track, you can use any of ours from the single without having to pay a penny, providing you credit us. It's another way we're saying thank you to people for supporting our music.

What can you do?
Well, if you've made your way through this blog post, you've already done something lovely for us! But if you'd like to help even more, we would love for people to share our song on Facebook. It's a very mysterious business, getting people to "share" content over there; there are myriad blog posts about it and a tonne of research but still no one seems to completely understand what makes people click the "share" button rather than the "like" button! So we're just going to ask; it would help us greatly if you could share our posts on Facebook. On twitter, mini reviews help us an awful lot. Even just a quick tweet to say "love the new single @mossandjones" or something similar will go a long way in persuading other people to have a listen.

At the end of the day, we aren't doing this to make money (if we wanted to make money from music we'd stick with cover songs and do wedding after wedding) but at the same time, we do want people to listen to our songs, otherwise we might as well just stay at home and play them to each other and to Ruth's eight year old child. (Obviously, we do that anyway!) So if you like our music, and want us to keep making it, it's as simple as this... download it, and tell your friends about it!

Thanks for reading!
Ruth & Marc xx
(Moss & Jones)

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Ruth on: releasing a single the weekend after a General Election

I'm going to try not to be too political here (I've already done all that on Facebook, and twitter) but I think most people who know me know I could hardly be described as "over the moon" about the thought of five years of majority Tory government. I think many - possibly not all, but most - of our lovely macramist fans feel similarly.

The trouble is, that for various reasons, our single was ready to release just days after the UK's general election result, and in the end, we decided to go ahead with it.

Ella Brown, the a-side (if you can say a digital download has an a-side) of our single, was in the pipeline for a very long time. In fact, the tune came to me about three years ago, before Moss & Jones even existed! I was singing traditional folk songs unaccompanied at open mic events around Liverpool, but had decided I wanted to try my hand at writing my own songs, and this was the tune I had. The new lyrics are totally different to what I had in mind at the time, and the bridge (heavily based upon Thomas Tallis' Why Fum'th in Fight?) is new, and of course, it's no longer unaccompanied. Obviously, three years is a long genesis for a song, and it's one of those songs that I've put aside and then returned to, fiddled with, arranged (with Marc) for various different instruments to see which worked best (on our recording there is melodica, ukulele and violin). We've agonised over the harmonies (was Marc's harmony too low to be loud?) and worked out which instrument to ditch when we play it live.

Not all our songs have been three years in the making, of course, but given that this one was, there was no way we were going to delay it once we had our b-sides ready.

However, we're also very aware that at the moment, the mood in many people's homes doesn't really suit a sweet but melancholy song, and more something angrily upset; a protest. Now, Ella Brown isn't a protest song at all; it's a sweet, melodic, wistful air about youthful love, and astronomy (sort of). However, Ella Brown is the song we've worked on and recorded, and to drop it at the last minute in favour of trying to quickly pen some kind of angry response to recent events would at best be a shame, at worst, seen as a cynical attempt to cash in on the recent election result in order to get new fans.

One thing we have done in the wake of the election is think about our pricing for this single. We've decided that we are going to stick with Pay What You Like, and license it under creative commons, so it can be shared around without the need for money to change hands. We're very conscious that people are skint already, and most are scared they'll be even more skint, so for the single release, we chose to make it possible for people to download it free of charge, should they so wish. Unfortunately, for the EP, we simply can't afford to do this (or we'd end up never being able to make music again) but we're still going to price it as cheaply as possible, and make streaming unlimited on Bandcamp rather than limit it to three plays before a fan has to pay.

In an odd way, releasing our single now, as planned, feels like a very small act of defiance. I'm not going to say "it's a protest in its own way" because it's not, and that's a bit insulting to those people who are protesting right now, but it certainly feels like we aren't going to let the current situation change our plans and change our music (though it may change anyway, organically, over time).

However, it's hard, because I don't think many macramists are in the mood to be particularly ebullient about music at the moment, which means fewer downloads, retweets, shares and so on. It's completely understandable too, and I'm not sure there's any way around it; we have to just accept that this isn't really a happy time in many people's lives, and people are obviously more interested in discussing politics right now than music. That said, I'm still glad we released it now, rather than waiting. Because if we'd waited, we could be waiting for five years, or even more.

And we're not going to stop making music just because of the Tories. ;)

If you'd like to listen to/download our single, it's on Bandcamp.

It's here! Ella Brown, a folk-inspired song of love, loss, and learning (with two b-sides!)



We're really happy to announce that our studio-recorded single, Ella Brown, is now available to download!

Ella Brown is an original song, written by Ruth and arranged, played and sung by both of us. It is about love, loss, and learning from both those things. It's played on the violin, the ukulele and the melodica, and there are lots of vocal harmonies! It was recorded and produced by Andy Bowes at Catalyst Studios, St. Helens, and will also appear on our forthcoming EP, Amateur Astronomy, out this summer.

On the b-side we have two tracks! Both were recorded by a talented student friend of ours, Kerry Foster, at St. Helens College. Reynardine is a classic folk song (which we play on the mandolin and accordion) about a trickster brigand (who may or may not also be a fox) and Molly, or Jennie's Baubie, is a jig, played on the violin and melodica, which most of you will recognise.

The single, with its a-side and b-sides, is totally free to download, though if you wish and are able, you can pay more to help support us in making future recordings.

You can download from mossandjones.bandcamp.com.

The cover art for the single was drawn by another talented friend of ours, an artist called Michelle Quinn.

We hope you enjoy the music and would love to hear from you about what you think!

Ruth & Marc xx

Monday, 13 April 2015

Ruth, on: listening to music with the left ear.

Marc, in our last blog post, wrote about spending eight months without listening to much in the way of music, at least, new music.

I've been lucky enough to have avoided this, but I've found something else happening to me since taking up musicianship on a "serious amateur" basis.

Until I started in Moss & Jones, although music was a huge part of my life (in terms of hearing the stuff; I rarely walked anywhere or got on a train or 'bus without my walkman/CDman/iPod/iPhone on) I rarely sought out new music; it kind of found me. I'd hear a song on the radio I liked and buy it; someone would recommend an album and I'd log into iTunes to download it; an artist I already liked would release an album and... well, you get the picture.

Also until I started in Moss & Jones, I never really thought about how the music made it from the band/musician/orchestra/soloist to my speakers. I suppose if I'd ever been asked I would have just guessed that they played a song, and someone pointed a microphone, and that was what happened. I never really paid much attention to arrangements and dynamics either; in fact, despite even having played the violin in an orchestra, so being well aware of how many different instruments can be involved in a piece of music, and how they can be introduced one by one, played at different times and so on... I never made the leap from that, to thinking of a composer, sitting down and adding all the parts together, arranging and slicing and making harmonies and so on.

I heard the music, but I never really listened.

Then I started going to open mic nights. In fact, this was pre-Moss & Jones; I'd been going to poetry open mics off and on since I was about 19 and reading my own work, but it was only when I met someone who convinced me my singing voice wasn't that awful (the Jones of Moss & Jones, in fact) that I learned some unaccompanied folk songs and sang them live instead. Obviously, in order to learn songs I had to find them and listen to them, and so began my interest in folk music, folk singers and folk bands, which expanded as time went on. My knowledge of folk started as being dimly aware that there was a bit more to it than Steeleye Span's version of Gaudete, to looking up Roud and Child Ballad numbers for songs, knowing the difference between a jig and a reel, and boring people to tears by telling them how the instrument most people associate with 'folk' (the acoustic guitar) is actually a relatively new addition, historically speaking. The more I learn about folk music, the more I realise I don't know, too, which is a heady mixture of thrilling and disconcerting.

Of course, nothing gets you a knowledge of the grass roots local music scene faster than 'touring' the local open mic nights and as such I started listening to many more local musicians than I ever had in my life. I started attending more and more gigs, and not epic sold-out arena gigs but small gigs by musicians that were well-known locally but barely heard of elsewhere. I discovered music via Soundcloud and Bandcamp which didn't have a hope of making it into the top 40 (or the top 200) but suited my tastes down to the ground.

But as time went on, something else started to happen too. The more I started to write music for Moss & Jones, and certainly after we visited Catalyst Studios for the first time, the more I started to notice what other people were doing in their music. I could no longer just hear a piece of music; I listened, too. I heard the arrangements in addition to the notes; it was like I had some kind aural equivalent of x-ray vision, where I could not only hear the flesh of the tune but also the skeleton it hung from. I was listening to the strings, for example, but also the point where they came in, how one violin would come in first, then another, then another in harmony, and so on, and where they'd leave, either suddenly, or one by one. I'd feel excitedly jarred by a surprising chord progression, and wonder what the musician had done. I'd get ideas; often for ways I could change or add to our own songs, but sometimes things I definitely didn't want us to do, too.

At gigs, not only would I be enjoying the gig and the stagecraft - I'd also be learning. I'd see how they got the audience involved at a certain point, and would turn to Marc and say, "we should do that", or occasionally, "we don't do that... do we?"

And it is still like that, now. I cannot listen to a piece of music without an ear to how it's been put together, and I can't go to a gig without applying it to our gigs; even if the genre is vastly different to our own. Even listening to the trance music I danced to in my early twenties, I analyse how it builds up and think of how that could be applied to a song or two of ours, for example, and there has been more than one occasion on which I've been listening to an indie tune I loved in my youth and thought "this should really be shorter. The last minute is just filler. Let's not do that with our songs". At the same time as I've fallen more deeply in love with music, I've also become a little more critical too.

But for all this, my love of music is never spent. It's just that I seem to be enjoying it in a far more analytical way than I ever did previously. I've even looked a little into the neuroscience and philosophy behind music; never too old to learn! Although I can no longer just hear and enjoy music without thinking about it, I certainly appreciate it an awful lot more, and am in awe of musicians even more than ever. I realise that "left brain versus right brain" is a false dichotomy, but for illustrative purposes, it would be fair to say, I'm listening now much more with my left ear.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Marc on...my eight months without music

A year ago I stopped listening to music. This wasn’t a sudden thing; I didn’t decide one day to ‘kick’ music, like I’d kicked cigarettes, or Twixes or going on cookdandbombd during working hours. I just gradually reached a point where I didn’t have any music on my mp3 player and didn’t listen to any during the working day.

I still came into contact with music, of course – you can’t be married to a gifted and knowledgeable musician without hearing a lot of good music on a daily basis, but as of one year ago, I stopped listening to, consuming, or buying music.

This development came as something of a surprise to me, and a worrying one at that. From my first listen to Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band aged 11, I had been powerfully obsessed with music; initially with sixties pop and rock, then prog, then the guitar bands of the nineties, then classical and krautrock and chart pop and chanson and dub and baroque and … pretty much everything I came into contact with.

From the age of 15 I bought monthly music magazines, and the weekly ones as well for a good few years. Not a month would go by without me buying at least two albums and my ears were pretty much constantly ringing from persistent listening to an ever-changing selection of music on my ipod.

So what was it that caused one of the abiding passions of my life to wane?

It seems to me now that a variety of factors was at play: in 2005 an old interest re-entered my life: Doctor Who. Fandom being what it is, a pretty fearsome range of magazines, podcasts, blogs and forums became available and I was (and to a large extent still am) immersed in this. Podcasts like Radio Free Skaro and Toby Hadoke’sWho’s Round became permanent fixtures on my mp3 player, and my monthly purchases of The Word (RIP), Mojo or Record Collector were supplanted by Doctor Who Monthly.

Another change in my life was that, as of about six years ago, I started taking writing seriously (or at least trying to). As I’ve written more and more comedy and looked further into how to be good at this, I’ve found Stuart Goldsmith’s Comedians’ Comedian podcast an invaluable learning aid. Each week Stuart interviews a different stand-up about their writing methods and views on comedy. Additionally, since being lucky enough to be asked to do some ‘additional material’ writing on Radio 4’s The News Quiz and The Now Show, both these shows have been added to the weekly download list.

Adding all those up, it doesn’t leave much time in the week (or space on the mp3 player) to listen to music. This element of the situation isn’t something I regret; when I’m walking around on my lunchbreak, I’m not listening to Hex Enduction Hour for the seventieth time – I’m learning how to be better at something I want to be good at.

The question remains, though: I wasn’t listening to my old albums over and over again any more, but what was stopping me looking for new music? This, I think, is where there’s been some kind of fundamental change in me. Simply put: I used to care about What Bands Did, but I don’t any more.

There are, of course, exceptions to this: I made my first music magazine purchase in three or four years yesterday to read the Blur interview in Mojo and I avidly keep up with any news on Beatles reissues, bootlegs, biographies etc. But the part of me which would have cared that the original line-up of the Thirteenth FloorElevators is re-forming for a gig in Austin this summer is, if not dead, then certainly dormant.

Blur and The Beatles are both old bands, though. Didn’t I want to hear any NEW music? It seemed not. Whereas in the past I’d have Youtube’d a new song praised by Pitchfork, or taken up friends’ recommendations, for almost a year I just…didn’t.

I know, to my occasional shame, that there is ridiculous novelty and startling new music out there and I’m not bothering my soon-to-be-thirty-nine-year-old arse to find out about it. Perhaps all this is a function of aging: at this time of my life, I’d rather write thousand-word blog articles about there being no good music than use the very computer I’m sitting at RIGHT NOW to find some.

In summary, podcasts took the place of music in my daily listening and I didn’t bother to look for new music to be excited by.

One question which people might ask, arising from this, is: ‘How can someone playing in a committed, active musical group just stop listening to music?’ The answer is: I don’t know. Not listening to music in no way affected the high level of enjoyment I get out of playing, performing and recording with Moss & Jones. It would be neat (in the non-Californian sense) to be able to say being in a band while not listening to music made being in a band in some way experientially different but that wasn’t the case. I loved playing music in Moss & Jones when I was a raging harmoniaphile and I loved it when I wasn’t.

As you may have gathered from some of the tense-jumbling in this piece, my amusical days are now behind me. For the past four or so months, I’ve been listening to music again, and enjoying it. The catalysts for this have been…

a.) Last November, someone very generously gave us a car. I commute to work in said car at least one day per week and, given that I’ve not mastered the jiggery-pokery necessary to hook the mp3 player up to the stereo, I’ve been relying on the vehicle’s cd player, and my long-discarded crop of cds.

I can remember the first one of these I put on in the car, in a ‘God, I hope I still like music’ way: Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book. I’d bought this years ago but never listened to it all the way through. Now, hearing it through reasonably good speakers at a time when I had forty minutes to do nothing but listen (and drive), was pretty much the ideal circs for reacquainting myself with enjoying music.

I wonder, in fact, if listening to so many compressed mp3s through cheap, hissy earphones was part of what put me off music in the first place? A podcast through crackly earphones is bearable, a favourite album is not.

b.) Over the past five or so months, a few of my musical faves have reappeared with new albums, giving me the incentive of hearing something ‘new’ while also knowing it’s something I’ll very probably like. A part of my soul rebels at typing those words: I used to pretty much despise people who only wanted to listen to stuff they already knew they’d like. I think at the moment, though, that new music by artists I’m familiar with is a good way of easing myself back into new music in general.

For the record, the music in question has been Half Man Half Biscuit’s Urge ForOffal, what I’ve heard so far of Blur’s forthcoming The Magic Whip and the utterly wonderful You and I Alone by Daphne and Celeste (if you’re not with me re that last choice, go and give their debut album a listen: 7/8ths of it is fantastic).

So, now I like music again. HOORAY! Looking back to that time, though, the notion that I’d somehow lost the ability to enjoy listening to music was a genuinely frightening one and I’m very grateful that that it seems to have passed.


One thing remains: the thing I most want to hear in all the world of music is Ridiculous Novelty. THAT’S what I miss, and it’s been a long time since something’s hit me like that. So, dear reader, this is open to you: What can I listen to that will surprise the FUCK out of me?

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Our folk music special: now available as a podcast!

Last Sunday, we sat down at half past eight with the internet radio tuned to Studio 109 Live and Online, ready to hear our very own radio show, full of a diverse range of talent from mostly local (one or two not-so-local) folk and folk inspired musicians. We live-tweeted the whole thing for anyone who was listening, and it was wonderful to see many of the artists featured tweeting to each other, and checking out each other's oeuvre. It's heart-warming to think that perhaps we've introduced some talented musicians to others, and possibly even helped people make new friends!

It was such a fun thing to put together, and we like to think that perhaps some people have a few new favourites now as a result!

If you missed it, the good folks at Studio 109 have kindly put it online as a podcast so you can listen to our show again in its entirety! We'd love to know what you think, especially of the first track, Ella Brown, which will be the lead single from our forthcoming album, Amateur Astronomy, out later this spring.


Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Our very own folk show THIS SUNDAY on Studio 109!

If you can, cast your minds back to December 2014, when our Christmas carol, A Song for Mary, was played on BBC Radio Merseyside and other local radio stations and podcasts, featured in the Liverpool Echo and even won a carol competition; one of the radio stations that played our carol was Studio 109. Studio 109 is a fantastic internet radio station for new music coming out of the North West and beyond. You can find them online, and also by using the TuneIn app on a smartphone.

Well, after they'd kindly featured our carol, the lovely folks at Studio 109 got in touch with us early this year and asked if we'd like to do a folk show for them. We debated whether or not it was something we could do; we'd never put together anything like this before. We were worried too; what if we asked for tracks but received too many and had to whittle them down, and risk disappointing or upsetting people? What if the musicians we did contact said no? How would we even go about putting such a show together? Of course, we said yes in the end, and decided we'd learn as we went along.

After researching podcasting, we learned that we could use good old Audacity to put together our show. We then set about looking for music to play. The only stipulations given by Studio 109 were that the music had to be original, and folk. Obviously, with a lot of music in the folk tradition being an artist's own interpretation of age-old songs, we've taken "original" in these cases to mean "an original interpretation". We decided that we'd try to make the show from local folk musicians where we could, but if we heard something amazing from further afield, we wouldn't leave it out. It made sense to include songs we listened to quite a lot at home; we also tried to make it so that the show had a wide range of instruments.

The show will be played this Sunday; the radio show itself starts at 8.30pm and our segment will start just before 9pm.

Musicians featured include:
Laura James and the Lyres
The Lost Lad
Elly the Folk
Under a Banner
Katie Rose
Pennman
Finch and the Moon
Derek King
Caitlin Gilligan
Merry Hell
Janey Turner
SheBeat
Laura & Claire

... and of course, Moss & Jones, with two tracks from our forthcoming mini-album, Amateur Astronomy.

We'd just like to say thank you to all the artists who agreed to let us use their tracks, and who got back in touch with us so quickly. We can't wait to hear your thoughts on the show this Sunday!