Jez Hellard and the Djukella Orchestra - Heavy Wood

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Top  Upcoming Gigs
April 27th Fri
7:30pm - 10:30pm
Jez Hellard & The Djukella Orchestra
Cafe Pippifax, Dilsberg, Heidelberg.
April 28th Sat
8:00pm - 10:00pm
Jez Hellard & The Djukella Orchestra
House Concert, GŲttingen.
April 29th Sun
7:00pm - 10:00pm
Jez Hellard & The Djukella Orchestra
Sinan`s Studio, Hamburg.

Top  50 metres of sheet-ce without a window...

After two days trapped in a frigid seafront car park (ice-rink) by a fifty metre incline of sheet ice, harried by the howling east wind and running out of food, scavenging frozen twigs from a skip in lieu of firewood and gaffer-taping towels over the vanís more profound draughts, it was deeply liberating to get out busking yesterday in the nascent spring sunshine.

There werenít many folks out and about, and the keen wind eventually drove me away, but those who were interested seemed generous, I was treated to lunch and a lattť by Broadstairs songstress, Siena Holihanís delightful mother (whose name sadly escapes me) and had a fine time talking guitar, painting and poetry with the nattily moustachioed Vito.

Some helpful soul decided to smash in the side window of the van last week which didnít really help in the blizzard, but my bodged wooden window seems to have made it through the storm. Again, gaffer tape is the most marvellous thing. At the height of it the entire van was sealed in a shroud of frozen rain, with vast icicles curved by the wind, extending all the way to the ground.

The ďBeast from the EastĒ was certainly a sight to behold, from all angles. After the longest (and perhaps prettiest) journey Iíve ever made for a single show, I just made it back to Kent before all became impassible, and thankfully escaped a 20 hour stretch on the M20 as some had to endure.

Fresh from the delights of Piotr Jordanís dazzling ensemble, Dunajska Kapelje at Balabam, Tottenhamís sweetest new venue, Iíd driven through the night towards Northamptonshire, but the roads were closed and on the diversion I ended up rescuing a very distraught and shivering woman, braving the cold in t-shirt and jeans (whose car had died in a stench of burned out clutch) and driving her to St Ives (Cambridgeshire, not Cornwall - donít worry, Iím not that mental) before heading to Wellingborough and catching a few hoursí kip.

In the morning I picked up Nye and we were blessed with a four hour journey south and west, bathing lizard-like in the winter-sun behind the windscreen as the wind howled outside. Via Brackley for ferrules and a bow, Stonehenge for a traffic-jam and a fine view, and Glastonbury, to find the friend weíd come to visit was nowhere to be seen (turns out the dog had escaped and all was hubbub and calamity in distant fields until he was found) then quick-smart up and over the Mendips to for the most astonishing reveal of the Chew Valley at sunset and the cosy welcome of East Harptree Village Hall.

Owain and Sue of Village Hall Gigs had teamed up with Taz of The June Apples to put on Jamesí Chewing the Fat show in a venue none of us had played before, and it turned out to be a corker. Thanks to all who worked their socks off to fill the place, to everyone who came for such a warm welcome, to the aforementioned June Apples for a beautiful opening set, and to Seamus, Dominic, Nye and James for a fine concert.

Just after dawn I was woken by the bustle of village ladies arriving in preparation for the next event, so I skedaddled for a gloriously precarious, sunbathed but frost-bitten drive along the very spine of the Mendip Hills to Sue and Owainís place in Priston to retrieve Nye and enjoy a leisurely breakfast, thanks to the beneficence of Sue and her freshly baked croissants.

We managed to pop back to Glastonbury and catch everyone we`d missed the day before ending up in Bristol to meet up with Theo, Jess, Baz and Rachel for a fine pub roast.

On our way back across the country to drop Nye in Wellingborough and hoss it down to Kent before the storm hit, we took a wee detour up the Ridgeway to the Uffington White Horse and were blessed with the finest views of all, seeing the anvil storm-heads of the impending tempest lined up against a clear blue sky to the east.

Again, the beauty was best enjoyed from behind the windscreen, out of the biting wind, and we soon thought it wise to get back on the road and beat the snow. My deepest thanks to the weather forecasters who kept me well-informed.

This weekend, we`ll be taking the svelt and streamlined Djukella Orchestra back down to legendary music/pastie/paleontology venue, The Square & Compass in Worth Matravers to play on Saturday night. If you`re anywhere near the south coast, come and join us. If you`ve never been there, you are surely missing out.

Posted: 8th Mar 2018 | Contact


Top  Sunbathing in February and a tale of two churches...

Lolling on my rickety old deck-chair beside the van, gazing out towards the incessant rumblings of Shoeburyness and the almost imperceptible pastel horizon, with the picturesque curve of Margate (the stench of rotten seaweed too distant to impinge) laid out to the right, and nothing but a procession of thirteen Brent Geese on their morning commute disturbing the foreground, Iím minded of the peculiar rhythm of the musicianís life.

I spend ten or fifteen days racing around various countries in unlikely triangular trajectories, sleeping rarely, wearing my fingers raw and singing my heart out, whilst trying to extract what nutrition I can from ale, service stations and late-night emporia, before returning to the tip of Kent for a few days to hibernate, potter about, marvel at sea-birds, type this blog and attempt to organise the next bout whilst catching up on an often massive sleep-debt. At this moment the sun is hot on my back (though the wind is admittedly a touch fresh on the arms) and all seems well with the world.

The past few weeks have been dedicated to the study (however errant), rehearsal and performance of Jamesí Patrick Gavinís fine new album, Chewing the Fat, with its epic everyman journey from the hills of Co. Fermanagh to the mean streets of London and back again, and to the passing of dear friend Roger Coulthard whose own epic journeys took him from Derbyshire to many a strange land before his final send-off in Barnwellís full-to-bursting parish church last Friday. Thanks to Ben and Tom for excusing my disappearance from the ceremony to race to Hampshire for a show, and thanks to James for composing such sublime music and for inviting me to perform alongside such a stellar crew.

All I have to do is let my mind drift back to the thrill of singing in Union Chapel to invoke an involuntary sharp intake of breath. I believe we were all humbled that five hundred souls had come out to hear us on a dreich and drear Monday evening in February. I was positively floating for at least three days after the launch concert, and still now, Iím transported back there at the drop of a hat.

It was a true honour to finally share a stage with Hugh OíNeill, J Eoin, Tad Sargent, the elusive ”rlaith McAuliffe, the inimitable Seamus Gavin and Adrian Lever, possibly the finest guitarist Iíve ever tried to decipher, and as always, Tommie Black-Roff, Dominic Henderson, Nye Parsons and The Gavinator himself make singing songs a real treat. Thanks also to mellifluous tones of Fiona Fey and her telescopic ensemble for a beautiful opening set, and to Radomir on the sound who endured an onslaught of instruments and came out smiling.

Performing in a hall, itís often the force of the applause that stays with me, but in Union Chapel, the applause just seemed to ripple around our feet, it was the actual singing of well weighted words to listening ears in such splendid acoustics that has remained so nourishing, encouraging the singer to linger over every line and watch each word land.

Since the joy of prancing around on the grand stage backed by some of the finest players Iíve ever met, itís been something of a rude awakening as Iíve had to attempt to learn everybody elseís guitar parts, songs and peculiar chords and smile gracefully through my howling mistakes. So far weíve taken the show to The Cheriton Sessions in Hampshire and the legendary Square & Compass on the Isle of Purbeck and this coming Friday, February 23rd we will be bringing it to East Harptree Village Hall, nestled in the Mendip Hills just south of Bristol.

All you Glastafarians, Bristolians and Bath-based music lovers, not to mention Trowbridgers, Fromers, Bradfordians and the like, get yourselves tickets and come along. Youíll be glad you did. Itís being hosted by the inimitable Owain and Sue of Village Hall Gigs, with an opening set from The June Apples.

I`ve you`ve yet to get yourself a copy of Chewing the Fat, go to www.jamespatrickgavin.com and clickety click. You won`t be disappointed. If you`ve yet to buy all the Djukella albums, all my money has gone on diesel and new tyres again (not to mention various brake parts) and I`d love to be able to afford some dinner. They`re all available through the link above.

I`ll be back in touch before long with news of the forthcoming Djukella Orchestra tour of Germany, various summer festivals and all the good stuff. Very much looking forward to catching up with many of you in the coming weeks. Until then, gird yourselves against the last of the winter winds and enjoy the hints of burgeoning spring.

Posted: 20th Feb 2018 | Contact


Top  Skeletons of cow-parsley at the crossbones of the year.

Frost-bleached scrub-grass and the skeletons of last yearís cow-parsley shimmer in the winter sun before the silent blue waters of North Foreland, as a patient procession of cargo-ships crawl almost imperceptibly along a horizon interrupted only by clusters of distant wind-turbines, quietly culling seabirds and doubtless raising the ire of legions of Ukippers, arranged sympathetically in bungalows up and down the coast.

The low sun is remarkably warm through this window and the wood burner has begun to alleviate the deep chill of dawn van, though it lingers stubbornly in the footwells, leaving me with a frigid micro-climate below the knee.

Itís been a good 2000 miles of winding roads and many a song sung since I last sat down to write. Despite my best intentions to post regular updates of our Scottish tour and encourage you to satisfy all your present-buying urges by purchasing copies of our albums (and most importantly tickets to Jamesí February 5th album launch at Union Chapel) for all of your friends and family, but the rigours of driving, entertaining, and daily coaxing of sleep-starved musicians from the warmth of a borrowed bed to the rattle and roll of a red van have proved more than sufficient in swallowing my time.

Since returning from the frosty glow of the wild north at breakneck speed down a slush-laden A1 in a futile bid to get The Gavinator to Stansted and thence to Sweden (we missed the train by five minutes) Iíve been suffering the inevitable cold I picked up on our penultimate day, largely hibernating in the back of the van and catching up on the exploits of weird-looking fish narrated by would-be assassin, David Attenborough. Weíre but a few hours from the turning of the year and Iím thoroughly looking forward to the gradual increase of daylight hours. Despite the glorious sunshine, it seems as soon as Iíve warmed my toes from the morning frost, the sunís starting to dip toward the tree line and weíre lucky to get enough wood in for the night before dark.

After a mammoth drive from the depths of Kent, we arrived in Cumbria in the knick of time for a night of glorious piping with the great Catherine Ashcroft and to bid her farewell on her way to tour China with Riverdance. From there we continued in a slightly insane zig-zag through the borders, first to the architectural feast that is the Eyemouth Hippodrome, perched on the harbour overlooking lounging seals, tethered boats and well fed gulls for a fantastic welcome from Paula and Ian, then back through the Pentland Hills and past The Devilís Beef Tub to Moniaive (replete with hints of Knochengorroch and crazy Englishmen) before wending our way past the central belt of metropolitan Scotland, on up the Tay and through the Cairngorms to reach Inverness just as dusk fell, with a piping bowl of Cullen Skink providing the warmest of welcomes.

After three nights of playing acoustically, or as near as damn it, Hootanannyís powerful sound system was certainly an awakening. As Bruce (the sound man) later explained, someone had bought the cheaper kind of cables which donít quite fit the DI boxes and consequently we found that tapping a foot, playing with gusto, or even just breathing enthusiastically was likely to provoke a gun-shot of electrostatic crackle.

Itís always a fascinating experience, performing music you know well, but with the snap, crackle and pop of outrageous fortune wanting to get in on the act, so having to gradually modify every aspect of technique, stance and basic human movement in order to scientifically isolate the offending variable while continuing to sing poetry. Itís certainly a form of mental exercise, but Iím not sure if Iíd recommend it. Instead, maybe try juggling ducks whilst polishing an otter, though this may well have you in serious trouble with an unholy alliance of the RSPCA, RSPB and perhaps even the Canals and Rivers Trust.

So after a wee jaunt down the side of Loch Ness for James to have a swim, and a beautiful sunlit drive to Aberdeen, it was an absolute joy to arrive at The Blue Lamp to discover that not only is it one of the most beautiful venues I know, but its sound system and attendant engineer are absolutely superb. Thanks to Sandy, Simon and Kevin for looking after us.

On our way south from Aberdeen the next day, we were blessed with one of those magical moments you canít plan. Rolling the radio dial through the remarkably listenable stations available north of the border, we chanced upon BBC Radio na Gael and James said, ďwait a minute, I recognise thatĒ. Not surprising really, as he wrote it.

They were playing a track from Jamesí soon to be released debut album, Chewing The Fat. It has only happened to me once before, years ago in Canada, but randomly turning on the radio to find your own record playing is a rare thing and a true joy. Iíd just like to take this opportunity to shamelessly advertise Chewing The Fat. Iíve been listening to it over and over, and it really is one of the most beautiful and moving albums Iíve heard in years. Featuring some of the finest exponents of folk music, Irish and otherwise, it tells a story of roots, roaming and returning, woven through with field recordings of birds, the odd train and Jamesí grandmother, Philomena Gavin, relating tales from the Johnny Moynahan Homestead, where she grew up, to Standing Stone, the house on Topped Mountain, Co. Fremanagh, where she now lives alone. The music is just stunning throughout. Iím honoured to have been a small part of it and if any semblance of sense remains in the world, I trust weíll get more chances to hear it on the radio.

On February 5th, the whole diaspora of musicians featured on the album will be gathering for one night only at Londonís Union Chapel for a deeply special concert. If youíve been to Union Chapel before youíll know what an incredible venue it is. Tickets are available from https://store.unionchapel.org.uk/events/2018-02-05-james-gavins-chewing-the-fat-union-chapel Itís a one off, and we could really use all the support we can get (itís a massive venue to fill) so anyone far afield whoís up for a day-trip to London, this is your chance to come and show James that somebody cares. What better way to spend a February evening? Tell as many people as you can, and buy them tickets, too.

Ahem, pardon my wanton commercialism, but needs must. From the unexpected Gavin in the Cairngorms, we wound, then raced our way past Stirlingís monumental silhouettes and on to Glasgow and a warm welcome at The Star Folk Club, reunited with old friends; Bill Morris of Celtic Music Radio, Jamesí Aunty Bernie and Gordon Conway of Small World and latterly BBC Scotland who, despite being laid low with some kind of lurgy, was kind enough to hospitalise us for a couple of nights us in his beautiful new flat in the Gorbals as the leaden skies and icy winds of storm Caroline set in.

We heard news from Aberdeenshire that due to red weather warnings, our show at Glenbuchat Hall had been cancelled, which left us sadly robbed of both the precarious journey through the snowy Highlands weíd been anticipating (particularly when it turned out that the storm was not what the weather forecasters made it out to be) and the riotous fun weíd been promised by the good folks of Aberdeen, whoíd heard tell of wild nights of musical mayhem in the glen. Weíre currently working on fixing a date for a Glenbuchat show at a slightly more clement time of year. Though we were left chomping at the bit and gazing wistfully at the distant mountains, it meant that after playing to a rapt audience at Falkirk Folk Club, we got to spend a leisurely day being housed, laundered, serenaded, fed and watered by the ever-beneficent Charlie Tibbles, and talking politics and poetry with Dick Gaughanís delightful sister, Margaret. Such a pleasure to meet you all.

In the absence of the promised blizzard, the temperature plunged below minus ten and the sky turned the brightest blue for the last leg of the tour. With time to have a quick look at the view from Stirling Castle, it was perfect day to journey from Falkirk to Fife, gliding past the sun-stroked curves of the Paps oí Fife and arriving at the legendary Letham Nights just as my old friend Michael Farrell pulled in waving and the sun slipped past the horizon in a glorious orange glow. As always the Letham crew did us proud with a full house, endless hospitality and some superb tango dancing. We got so carried away singing songs that we broke the curfew and no doubt got them all in hot water with the hall committee. Thanks so much to Roy, Claire, Michael, Anna, Mick, Emma, Louise, Megan and countless others for running the best musical community I know and to The Mnemonics for a fine opening set.

From Fife it was south all the way. First to Edinburgh for one of the finest house-concerts there is, singing to a crowd full of dear friends including Bill Morris, fresh from the Glasgow train, who may well have wandered past the venue and half way up Arthurís seat if we hadnít bumped into his frosty bearded form on our way back from the pub, Michael Mackenzie and Richard Shorter, who hadnít seen each other in 45 years, Ian Anderson, who we havenít seen for years and Marianne, Amy and Jim representing the Leith connection. Thanks to Douglas and Jane-Ann for hosting us and to Colin for playing ball. From Edinburgh we made our way once more through the borders to Hawick for a final show before the aforementioned slog down the A1 towards Sweden(?).

Thanks to James Gavin and Nye Parsons for being so utterly brilliant and long-suffering, and to all of you we met along the way for making it all worthwhile.

Touring Scotland last November, I was mesmerised by the amber hills and peat-tinted rivers in their autumnal glow. If you can handle the cold, December is arguably as beautiful, with the trees stripped back to reveal the bare bones of the land, the winding road a ribbon of reflected sunlight.

The sunlight from the start of this missive is sadly long gone (the urgent need for firewood did indeed tear me away from the cliffs of North Foreland) and I now find myself in the festive foyer of W.H. Higgins and Sons in Rutland, after a sleep-deprived, fog-blighted, mud-spattered and much redirected grind back up (and around) the A1 through the night, ready to spend all my ill-gotten gains making sure the vanís ship-shape for the next journey. The quiet joys of the touring life.

Yuletide greetings to the lot of you, wherever in the world you find yourselves.

Posted: 21st Dec 2017 | Contact