Jez Hellard and the Djukella Orchestra - Direct from the Shire

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Top  Upcoming Gigs
August 18th Fri
8:00pm - 10:30pm
Jez Hellard & The Djukella Orchestra
The Hawthorns Hotel, Glastonbury
August 20th Sun
1:00pm - 4:00pm
Jez Hellard & The Djukella Orchestra
The Bell Inn, Walcott Street, Bath.
August 24th Thu
8:30pm - 11:00pm
Jez Hellard & The Djukella Orchestra
Jam in a Jar, 599 Green Lanes, Haringey, London.

Top  A pallet load of jammy goodness...

Many thanks to all who have pre-ordered a copy (or even multiple copies) of our fantastic new live album, D’rect from the Shire, and to all the delightful audiences who’ve come to hear The Djukella Orchestra play around Kent, Sussex, London, Hampshire and Dorset these past couple of weeks.

I’m very excited to say that the physical copies of the album have now arrived, neatly stacked on a pallet of jammy goodness, and are both looking and sounding marvellous. I’m just sealing up envelopes for the first batch of lucky recipients and heading to the post office. (For those of you who think CDs are old hat, it will be available to download to your favoured device shortly.) Now we just need to pay £3000+ of invoices in the next 28 days… Eeek!

It will be released officially to the general public with a run of concerts in the cool winds of autumn, but YOU CAN GET YOUR HANDS ON ONE RIGHT NOW (or as soon as the Royal Mail can oblige), and help save us from going bankrupt in the meantime.

So if you’ve been thinking “I’d like to get myself one of those” but have forgotten to click the link and initiate its arrival, now’s the time to act!

If you have friends who like music, jam, poetry, wit, wisdom, singing and/or dancing, get them a copy, or tell them to buy their own (depends on the friend, I suppose). If you don’t like music, songs, jam or people, then buy several copies for people you don’t like. Everyone’s a winner…

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been lucky enough to wallow a little in the sights and sounds of the south coast, from the Isle of Thanet to the Isle of Purbeck (both are in fact peninsulae if you want to be picky) and back, taking in a touch of East London, with plenty of Hampshire downs and a good chunk of the High Weald thrown in for good measure; singing to a catholic selection of sailors, hipsters, gentlefolk and geomancers, ramblers, gamblers, musos and mermaids. It has been an absolute pleasure play for, sing to and chat with you all along the way.

Thanks to Kevin & Jean at The Square and Compass, Paul, Retta, Charlie and the Cheriton Sessions team, Andrew, Doug, Tony and all at Kipp’s, the incredibly hardworking Laura at Jamboree, Michelle and the crew in Wingham (not to mention Steafan, Saskia and Clan Hannigan… what a coincidence!), Chris Basford for saving our bacon at short notice and Nye Parsons, James Gavin and Alastair Caplin for being so darned brilliant.

Now to hit the streets and busk until I’ve got three grand to pay these bills, or my fingers fall off.

Much love to all of you.

Posted: 18th Jul 2017 | Contact


Top  D`rect from the Shire for your listening pleasure...

As the sun starts to burn steam off the trees and and the funk of this sweltering summer begins to rise once more, I find my self ready, at last, to send the new Djukella Orchestra album on its merry way to the factory. Resplendently swaddled in jars of the finest King`s Cliffe jam, chutney and home-grown chillies, and packed to the gills with the musical wizardry of Messrs Caplin, Gavin, Henderson, Parsons, Coulthard and Black-Roff, it really is the best thing we`ve ever crafted.

Recorded live in concert on consecutive nights last year, and entitled "D`rect from the Shire" it captures The Djukella Orchestra in majestic form, performing a repertoire described by one happy audient as "wall to wall bangers", and featuring amongst other wonders, the most incredible recordings of Nye Parsons caressing his double-bass we`ve ever managed to preserve.

We`ll be releasing the album to press and public with a run of shows in the first week of November, followed by a tour of Scotland in early December, but for those of you who are keen to get your hands on a copy, you can order one right away via the link above and help us pay the huge bill which will be on it`s way to us imminently.

I know it`s coming out a little later than promised, but it`s always worth getting everything just right, and between my endless ramblings on country roads near and far, I have found myself in recent months (even more so than usual) gawking aghast at the endlessly unfolding tragicomic pantomime of our news-cycle, and losing whole days to wondering just what on earth is going on.

To think that just a month ago, we were being promised a repetitive and tautological hard breakfast by a strong and stable answering-machine seemingly conceived in an unholy union between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a handbag, marching ever onward towards a total man date...

How things change. I must offer my sincerest thanks to all the people (and indeed unseen forces) who`ve contrived to reinvigorate our national political consciousness over the past few weeks. While our understanding of the world seems to crumble all around us, buffeted this way and that by outrageous fortune and increasingly mind-numbing and senseless tragedy, some are left agog, rocking backwards and forwards muttering "strong and stable...strong and stable...sarong and table...thong and sable...", but others are thinking.

For the first time in my adult life, it seems that people everywhere are actually starting to discuss really important issues. On the bus, in restaurants, in the pub, walking along the street, I keep overhearing people in lively debate about a host of issues, instead of the usual celebrity gossip and inanity, however hard the red-tops try to distract us. Sometimes filled with the old bile and vitriol, from whichever political angle, but often much more interesting than the mindless shouting which for so long has passed as debate.

As a performing musician, particularly in the less salubrious venues, I`m well practiced at singing meaningful songs whilst selectively tuning out "So Frank said to Helen, that Sue had been on the phone to Mike, and he said..." or that guy who insists on giving detail directions to the recycling centre centre round the back of the station in Basingstoke, "you know, the one down the lane just past that phone-box with the broken door, where John used to..." I still listen to it all, but have managed to train myself not to join in. So after years of developing this inanity filter, I find my ears constantly pricking up at actual snippets of real conversation. It`s often a little bleak, but so refreshing for these old ears.

Much has been made of the remarkable rise in young people`s engagement with the democratic process, but it`s not just confined to the young. I have been deeply inspired to find people of all ages, and from all walks of life, who`ve spent the past decade and more totally disillusioned and increasingly apathetic, develop a new-found engagement with their community and a distinct twinkle in the eye.

As Mr. Trump throws all of Obama`s toys out of the pram in a puce-faced septuagenarian tantrum across the pond, and our continental cousins look on in bewilderment and the strength and stability of our leadership, it seems increasingly apparent that we`d better just get on with sorting things out ourselves. The incredible community response to the wanton sacrifice of countless souls in Grenfell Tower last week may contrast starkly with the official response, but is testament to the resourcefulness and compassion of our citizenry. Admittedly there are some nutters out there, but the vast majority of us are more than happy to help out where help is needed.

Thanks to all the people who`ve come out to listen to us in London over the past few days, and to Seamus and Clan Gavin for hosting the best GavFleadh to date. At some points it has been so hot that I`ve been worried I`d melt into a puddle, but it`s been a joy to be surrounded by such abundant musical talent. Alastair Caplin and Nick Hart down at the Magic Garden, Johnny Cage and the Voodoo Olive appearing (as if by magic) from Cardiff, Amadis, Tell Tale Tusk and the Freddy-Stitz Rock n` Soul Collective at Jam in a Jar, and Hugh O`Neill jetting in from Armagh with his banjo, we`ve been inundated with music of the highest calibre.

The Djukella Orchestra will be back on the road for a few shows in July, first down in Kent, in Broadstairs, Wingham and Folkestone respectively, then a rare London show at our favourite bohemian hideaway, Jamboree, at Cable Street Studios in Limehouse, before heading to the south coast to Worth Matravers and Cheriton. All the dates and details are on the gigs page of the website. Looking forward to seeing many of you along the way.

Posted: 20th Jun 2017 | Contact


Top  Quite a trip...

Many thanks to all of the fine people who’ve welcomed Yaz and me, fed us, sung along, bought CDs, and generally sustained us from Sagres to Seville, Tarifa to Almeria, Catalonia to Bordeaux, Cahors to Adinkerke. I’m still trying to get my head around being back in England, with the steady hum of political bickering in the background, but spring is in the air, and great things are afoot.

I’ve just been listening to some sneaky previews of fine new albums from fiddle-maestro/composer, James Gavin (whom many of you will know from The Djukella Orchestra), The Undercover Hippy, my old Balkan touring compadre Jamie MacDonald, harmonious psirens, Tell Tale Tusk and the world’s most exciting pseudo-philosophical anarchic ukelele-pop group, The Burning Glass. From James’ all-star celtic arrangements to Billy’s potent political reggae-hop and Ed’s slightly profane homage to the National Trust, there’s a lot of exciting and inspiring music coming your way over the next few months.

Talking of albums, the new Djukella Orchestra live album, is coming along nicely (since the resolution of a hard-drive hostage situation) and as soon as I can gather the lads together with their young and finely-tuned ears, we’ll get it mastered and ready to go. We also have a new studio album in the works, featuring a fine selection of powerful and prescient songs, dazzling violism and smoking harmonicas.

I’m looking for sponsors to help us make both records a reality. They are packed with inspiring, witty and above all, relevant songs which really want to be released into the world, but without a record label behind us it’s hard to get these things funded and out into the public eye (or indeed ear). Patrons of independent music, and anyone with the desire and means to invest in us, get in touch. You won’t be disappointed.

It’s been a while since I last wrote, looking out at the Atlantic Ocean from the very tip of Portugal. Many miles and songs have passed in the interim, and now I’m back at the computer searching for gigs, trying to communicate with vodafone (I wouldn’t recommend it) and catching up on all the office-work which in theory pays our wages. Birds are chattering away in the bushes, and I’m minded to spin a bit of a travelogue for any of you who may be interested.

After Atlantic storms finally caught up with us, we decided to make a run for Spain, and a much needed spell of basking in proper sunshine in the grand old city of Cadiz. Yasmine and I had a delightful wander through the endless alleyways and squares of the old town, took in a fascinating archaeological exhibition and a vast array of S&M Christs in the city’s museum and generally soaked up the atmosphere of fried fish and sea air. In looking for a quiet place to park up for the night, we happened upon San Fernando on La Isla de Leon, which provided a grand, if windswept Atlantic prospect. When morning came, howling a gale and drumming on the roof of the van, we found a cafe and were helped decipher the tapas menu by an old boy who’d worked in England years ago, and really helped out with our broken, if not totally dysfunctional Spanish.

He was there having a swift half with his mate and seemed chuffed to be able to chat away in English for a while. When I asked them where we might be able to find some decent Flamenco, his friend got very excited, and after a bit of translation I realised that San Fernando de la Isla is the hometown of Camaron de la Isla, the legendary and lamentably departed Flamenco singer, and this guy was a childhood friend of his and used to drive him to all his gigs.

I’d been worried all we’d be able to find was a Costa del Sol type of flamenco show with castanets and a backing-track for the tourists. We couldn’t have fallen into better hands. They sent us to the restaurant where Camaron and Paco de Lucia played their first gig back in 1968, bedecked with as many photos of wailing singers, strutting Toreadors and miscellaneous bull-fighting bling as you could fit on four walls, where the barman told us exactly where to find live flamenco, that very evening, a short walk away, and for free.

I love it when a plan comes together. The duo who’d been hired to play the concert were fantastic (as was the fried squid and stewed beef-cheeks) particularly when the singer got up from his chair and sang off-mic, howling and raging at the room as a song reached the climax, but the real magic came when the stragglers, the hard core connoisseurs and a single guitarist coalesced in the middle of the hall and began to take turns singing their hearts out until the small hours and beyond. They were sublime, particularly two slightly shy old-timers with beautifully tobacco-stained tenor voices, who had the most delightfully understated flamenco “throw-down”, and brought the house down in turn, over and over again.

From San Fernando we made our way through the rolling hills and silhouetted bulls of deepest Andalucia to Tarifa, with its tantalising views of the Moroccan coast a mere 10 miles across the water, and ample park-ups for the world’s snowbirds, windsurfers and van-dwellers to look out to sea and dream of Africa. Being situated at the confluence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, the place is dominated by the winds, which the locals insist will drive you insane after a while, but we managed to stay relatively sane, busking on the street for pennies, but warmly welcomed by the locals.

After a few days soaking up the atmosphere but fast running out of money, we decided to make a dash for the deserts of Almeria, up the full length of the Costa del Sol, replete with endless leather-faced ex-pats and curry-houses, then snaking for a hundred miles between the “plasticos” from whence our supermarket vegetables originate, to be welcomed, wined, dined, thoroughly laundered and taken on various jaunts up mountains and down dry river beds by Frank and Sheena in Lucainena de los Torres. It’s not a journey I would do again in a hurry, as Granada and the Sierra Nevada look rather more tempting, but I’ll try anything once.

On the Saturday we were taken up to a jam session the other side of Sorbas, where I realised that despite the paucity of busking in off-season southern Spain, ex-pat music fans are hungry for music and in this time of deep uncertainty over their status in Europe, my most recent album, Heavy Wood, including our Djukella derangements of The Undercover Hippy’s “Borders” and Scott Cooks “Pass it Along” would sell like hot-cakes. After a few demoralising days putting in 3 hours of busking to earn 12 euros, it was reassuring to sing to a keen audience, and even make enough money to see us through the next leg of the journey. Thanks to Frank and Sheena for suggesting it and to Joe and the Johns for welcoming us into the fold.

From Lucainena, we only had a short jaunt to the village of Gafarillos to meet up with our old friends Turtle and Leigh, for a week of r & r, swinging in hammocks, and pottering about the desert, picking wild herbs and managing to avoid meeting any wild boars. Thanks to the folks at Almeria Strings Old Time and Bluegrass society for letting me play a couple of songs and replenish the coffers at their monthly acoustic night, to Turtle and Leigh for entertaining us and to Carol and John for putting up with yet more van-dwelling hippies in their home.

Next, after a good deal more winding roads, was a brief stop in Valencia to meet up with Johnny, Pilar and the family for paella and fiddle-tunes with their budding violinist son, on our way to Catalonia for gigs amongst the blooming almond groves of Ginestar, the carnival mayhem of Sant Feliu de Guixols and the golf-based lifeforms of Platja de Pals.

Thanks to a sublime twist of fate, on our way to Ginestar, we stopped for internet at a sweet little fishing village by the river Ebro, and not only found out that our hosts were all struck down with a stomach-bug and were under quarantine, but were simultaneously rescued by Lorenzo the Scouse farmer who took us up to his house on the Baranc de la Caramellos which was without a doubt the most beautiful place we saw on the whole journey. Swimming in the icy spring water pool of a waterfall, a short climb up the most glorious red-rock canyon, and basking on his deck, with a gorgeous view of mountains and plain, feasting on the finest gourmet eggs and beans I’ve had the pleasure of eating. By the time we made it Ginestar the next evening, Rob, Selina and the boys were all recovered and we managed to avoid the lurgy. Many thanks to all the folks who came out to hear me in the local bar, and to Rob for organising the whole thing and providing some sweet guitar accompaniment for my gob-irons.

From Catalonia, we made our way past Andorra, over the very top of the Pyrenees, where we managed to lounge in sulphurous hot-springs in the snow, with the whole mountain range laid out before us, on our way to see my old friend Mark, with whom I walked some 280km in the Himalayas 17 years ago, to be fed gourmet delights in his restaurant in Le Mas d’Azil, before heading onwards to play a fantastic gig at a folk-club outside Bordeaux. Thanks to Josh, Agus, Xavi and Xavi in Sant Feliu, Xavi (very popular name in Catalan) in Planoles, Mark and his kitchen crew, and Deborah and the whole gang at the Floc n’ Tea in Lauzun for the warm welcome and for sending us on our way in such style.

Realising that we had overtaken the spring and feeling monetarily replenished from the folk-club gig, we decided to spend another week in France, first with my cousin Harriet in Maryinhagues, then with the assembled crew at Cahors’ coolest bar, La Poule aux Potes, who rescued us in so many ways and sent us up the Lot to the River Célé for a few days amongst the crumbling cliff-houses and limestone canyons of Les Causses de Quercy. From there it was a fairly gruelling drive across the main body of France to Dunkerque and back into the bosom of the Kentish countryside where we happened upon a whole gang of our friends barbecuing in the hazy sunshine.

For any of you who’ve managed to get all the way down here, well done, your literary stamina is notable. My apologies for the speed of the last couple of thousand miles of travelogue, but right now, I must pack up the van and head to Hampshire. I have a few gigs coming up in the coming weeks (check the gigs page for details), and look forward to seeing some of your friendly faces along the way, but I’m in desperate need of more gigs, so anyone with any ideas, please get in touch.

Many thanks to all of the kind souls who’ve helped us on our way through Europe, but most of all, endless thanks to Yasmine, for being the best companion one could wish for. See you soon.

Posted: 1st Apr 2017 | Contact