We thought we’d said goodbye to 2021’s High Fives but here’s a late contribution from Mike Butterworth with some great shots from gigs he’s managed to get to this year. We may have a final Hogmanay contribution from Allan on the 31st; who knows?

Photo courtesy of Johnny Ng

Like last year many of my usual festivals were postponed again and many of the independent and small venues were not open for business, this includes The Half Moon at Putney who were forced to close and break their run of live music every day since they started in 1963!

Nile Rodgers @ The Big Feastival, Oxfordshire

At only my second festival of the year there was an amazing headline performance by Nile Rodgers. An incredible musician and although I was aware of his broader influence, he played songs from several artists, as well as classic Chic songs.

Nile Rodgers & Chic – The Big Feastival

With Bernard Edwards (also from Chic), Rodgers wrote and produced music for other artists, including the songs “He’s the Greatest Dancer” and “We Are Family” for Sister Sledge and “I’m Coming Out” and “Upside Down” for Diana Ross. After Chic’s breakup in 1983, Rodgers produced several major albums and singles for other artists, including David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, “Original Sin” by INXS, Duran Duran’s “The Reflex” and “Notorious”, and Madonna’s “Like a Virgin”. He later worked with artists including The B-52s, Jeff Beck, Mick Jagger, Grace Jones, The Vaughan Brothers, Bryan Ferry, Christina Aguilera, Lady Gaga, and Daft Punk, winning three Grammy Awards in 2014 for his work on their album Random Access Memories.

Nile Rodgers & Chic – The Big Feastival

Leddra Chapman @ The Jazz Café, Camden

Like many gigs this year, a lot of them were ones that were rescheduled from 2020. This gig was supposed to be played on the 10th anniversary of the release of Leddra’s debut album ‘Story’, but as it was postponed for the third week March 2020, we had to wait 19 months! She rose to prominence when her debut single, “Story”, was released on 7 December 2009 to much critical success and strong radio support and play from Terry Wogan on BBC Radio 2 during his last weeks as host of the station’s breakfast show.

Leddra Chapman – Jazz Cafe

Playing to a full house, and so pleased to finally be playing to an audience, Leddra perfomed all the songs from her debut album.

Leddra Chapman – Jazz Cafe

Cloudy Galvez @ Servant Jazz Quarters, Dalston

Cloudy is an up-and coming artist pioneering the introduction of a new sound: 12-string progressive soul with a touch of pop. Whether accompanied by drums and bass, or solo, Cloudy delivers one thing live that other artists don’t: the non-stop set. The songs flow from one to another through beautiful improvised transitional sections, allowing the music to breathe and do the talking for itself. It truly is a captivating continuous mix of original material, packed with push-and-pull, catchy hooks and beautiful melodies inspired by her Colombian heritage, designed to catch your attention and stay in your head for days.

Cloudy Galvez – Servant Jazz Quarters

This evening, being her first full gig since contracting long COVID, she was only able to play a six-string guitar as her usual 12 string is still too heavy. Another notable difference was her more conventional set, with breaks between her songs – as she still doesn’t have the energy to play continuously. That said, her slightly lower tone to her voice, requiring a lower key for one of her songs, was sounding amazing and a remarkable achievement given her situation a year ago. Many of the songs were reflective of her last 18 month, not only of lockdown, but the dramatic changes in her own life as a result of COVID.

Cloudy Galvez – Servant Jazz Quarters

Lauren Housley @ The Half Moon, Putney

Lauren is a singer and songwriter hailing from Yorkshire, UK. Her love of music started early, with a deep connection to great songs, the craft of storytelling and an emotive vocal performance. “It was like magic to me, that music could have such an impact on the way I felt. It became my therapy.”

Lauren Housley – The Half Moon Putney

Lauren Housley is the ‘GIRL FROM THE NORTH’ whose new album was released in April 2021. Dealing with love, loss and the turbulence of growing up and learning about life, Lauren brings a refreshing air of optimism and heart-warming hope with an empowering belief in oneself to overcome obstacles. Hear some of Lauren’s new, unreleased material in a stripped-back intimate setting.

This was the first gig at The Half Moon Putney since their closure in March 2020. Lauren, the band, and the audience were all so appreciative of this opportunity to be part of a live performance.

Lauren Housley – The Half Moon Putney

Natalie Shay @ The Camden Assembly

Natalie Shay is an indie pop/rock artist & BRIT School graduate hailing from North London. The multi award-winning musician has established an ever-growing presence, media acclaim and a loyal fanbase through her explosive live performances and viral-worthy anthems, recognising her as one of the UK’s hottest emerging talents.

Natalie Shay – Camden Assembly

Shay sold out two headline shows in 2019, with her music continuing to pique the interest of notable publications such as Billboard, Clash and The Line of Best Fit. To date, she has amassed hundreds of thousands of streams, with her single, ” being placed in Spotify’s New Music Friday, New Pop UK & Wholesome Editorial Playlists. She has also worked on EDM tracks, racking up over 2 million streams to date.

Natalie Shay – Camden Assembly

Natalie is now set to release her latest 80s inspired single, New Wave, delivering a relatable anthem for those new lovers.

She performed a powerful and accomplished set headlining what was going to be the release party for her last EP, but as that was released in April 2020, we all had to wait 18 months because of COVID restrictions. However, it was well worth the wait, especially as she included a new song about coming to terms with who she is, past, present and future – that she wrote during lockdown. The full band added to the depth of the performance. These are just a few of the many amazing performance I’ve seen this year. It was really nice to be back as some great grass roots venues. Another great year of live music, in spite of the limited access due to the pandemic.

Just when we thought this year’s High Fives had run out of steam, this one appears out of the Northern mists from our regular contributor Steve Jenner celebrating ways of not retiring, a subject Allan knows a lot about as well. They were both bitten by the music bug at an early age and the infection seems to be getting worse with each additional year they put on the clock. Here’s Steve’s take on things to celebrate from 2021.

Well, what a weird year and a very personal set of High Fives to match. I must be one of the very few people in the broad and massively varied ‘church’ that is the music ‘industry’ who has done quite nicely out of lockdown, thank you very much. I don’t feel terribly comfortable about saying that knowing how many of my fellows of all ages have had whole futures trashed, but the truth is the truth and I can’t pretend anything else. Without a penny coming my way via the government, I’ve had, paradoxically, the most fulfilling broadcasting year I’ve had for ages. Here’s why/how.

Home broadcast studios. In the right hands, a few hundred quid’s worth of kit which is just about OK to knock out the odd dodgy podcast, can be transformed, with admittedly hours of work on jingles / production components / music sourcing and working on such fascinating subjects as mixer pre-sets, into a right little killing machine. In the space it takes for a school desk, in the corner of the spare bedroom. Do not omit the ‘hours of work’ bit though. With this, you only get out what you put in.

Retirement. Is lovely but isn’t quite so lovely when you can’t go anywhere or do much. And anyway, you don’t ‘retire’ from the ‘music’ ‘business’; if you stop before It’s Your Time, it gets back in touch with you. First part of the ‘memoirs’ have been written and 90% sold, and in recent times through the Radio Caroline bookshop. But the Devil Makes Work For Idle Hands…and the mind starts to wander. ‘So… I wonder how Radio Caroline recruits presenters? It might not be ‘conventional’ but there’s got to be some kind of… way… and lo and behold, after a while, I’m offered a gig on the ‘heritage’ channel of The World’s Most Famous Radio Station. Up till then I’d been doing a few shows for the local community stations and thinking, ‘well, that’s about it, then’.

The Radio Caroline Flashback SOS, 8AM–10AM Sunday mornings. The whole point of Caroline’s ‘Flashback’ channel is it plays oldies from the time before Caroline went to air in early 1964, as much of the stuff they played early doors was pre–‘64 anyway; lots of 50s, lots of pre-Beatles; through to the end of offshore broadcasting in 1990, with the focus on 60s and 70s pop singles so folks who remember and /or enjoy the Caroline ‘glory years’ have a chance to do so once again. The main channel plays both classic and contemporary/new album tracks, as Europe’s ‘first album station’, but that’s not my gig right now. And you kind of have to be a bit careful assaulting the ears of a generally more ‘experienced’ listener base at that time on a Sunday morning with too much ripped straight from Slade’s Greatest Hits et al. So, it takes a degree of subtlety to weave listenable audio textures and remain ‘pop’ whilst still delivering a show which has substance, heart and soul, and still rocks, albeit gently at times. And there’s no point delivering everything as if you’re ‘curating’, as far as I’m concerned; you’re given a great jingle package to play with, and if you set the studio up right with sharp–sounding software you can drive that thing hard, the way it was back in the day. So that’s what I try to do, and it is massively rewarding when it works. Suddenly going from being a local commercial radio presenter to receiving e mails and messages from listeners in over 20 different countries so far is mind-blowing. Far Out, Man, in a truly cosmic 60s way, in fact.

But, lovely though it is to do the Sunday morning show, I was only massively made up when I was offered a shot at a new 9PM slot on Friday nights as well, The Caroline Flashback Weekend Warm–Up. Yes please, I’ll have one of those. Because this meant I could play all those huge, thumping great upbeat hits from the years in question in a quick-fire, up and at ‘em Friday night style with pace and directness; just like you had to do when playing 45 singles on a boat at sea and armed only with a few old school cartridge tapes to squirt in amongst the vinyls to give the DJ a chance to breathe. Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition. I get to the end of one of these and I’m absolutely worn out. They need energy, plenty of ‘front’ and in order to keep all the Caroline Flashback shows immediate and fresh-sounding, I record them ‘as live’ in one hour segments, straight through, no VT or other mucking about. And that focuses the mind somewhat.

And then the local commercial radio stations we sold in 2019 sold through again to one of the two major broadcast companies who now control the vast majority of UK commercial radio… who promptly networked them and gave them national branding…..thereby creating demand for a new, local commercial radio station on our ‘old’ patch… and so we set up Peak Sound Radio as an online radio station to carry on from where our old High Peak Radio service left off! And starting in September, I got the Monday breakfast show and the late-night Lovetown slot 6 nights a week, all of which recommences after the New Year Bank Holiday and the schedule changes which Christmas and New Year always brings.

Bring on 2022. Muso comment of the year? ‘Getting an extra hour in bed when the clocks went back this year was like getting a bonus track on a Black Lace album….!’ Push pineapple, shake a tree, pop pickers.

Graeme’s been contributing to this feature since 2015 and all of his contributions have been entertaining. We all know that it’s been hard to find positives over the last two tears, so we really appreciate the effort that’s gone into this one to pay homage to Charles Dickens with the presents of Christmas past and a Christmas yet to come. It’s a great memoir from a working musician and songwriter and we’re honoured to be publishing it here.

Present Number 1 – Abbey Road.

This was a present from my best friend’s parents to me when I was a nipper. I think it was 1970, probably years after it was released. But that didn’t matter to me at all. Music was timeless then. I was into the Beatles before I knew anything about music. Before I knew why it mattered. Maybe their music WAS why it mattered. Dunno, cept this was my first “grown-up” album. So grown up and in pristine condition that it was allowed onto my Dad’s enormous stereo player rather than just my Dansette. So I heard it loud and clear. Time and time and time again. I’d lie on the floor, speakers to either side and vanish. OK, it’s not a perfect album. In particular, Maxwell’s Silver Hammer is a stinker and Octopus’s Garden is a bit desperate. But the rest? Paul’s bassline on Come Together might be as significant to bassists as Sunshine of Your Love or Under Pressure – sheer genius. Here Comes The Sun? I Want You? Oh Darling? Something? All great songs. Then there’s the Medley. I’d never heard anything like it at the time. It was weird and wonderful to me. This was the first album where I was starting to think of myself as wanting to be a musician songwriter and I listened with ears that were trying to fathom what was going on. I must have learnt a million things from this album cos I must have listened to it a million times, but the one thing that springs straight to mind for this High 5 is hearing a love song that finds a clever way to say “I Love You” without being obvious.

“Something in the way she moves….. something in the way she moves ME”.

Thank you George. I learnt something from that.

Present Number 2 – Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs

This was also a Christmas present given year a few years after it was released. I had no idea at the time that the subject matter of the album was also the subject matter of Something but the cry of pain across the whole of the album resonated with me and my discovery of blues music which was picking up pace at that time. I was heading backwards into my Dad’s record collection finding he had Bessie Smith performing one of the tracks from Layla “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out” and my friend and I were trawling the record shops of Newcastle looking for old blues albums to listen and learn more about this fascinating music that spoke to us from another world. From the howl of Layla, the sob of Bell Bottom Blues, the wasted grief of Have You Ever Loved A Woman?, the torn soul of Thorn Tree In My Garden, I heard songs being used to communicate deep feelings lyrically and musically. I didn’t know how to do that, but I knew it was what I wanted to do. Just couldn’t put it into words or find the right notes! Sometimes you have to live a little.  Or a lot. But maybe not so much that 3 years of heroin addiction and 15 years of alcoholism is required to get over it. The first thing that comes to mind from this album now is again a new way of saying the old things. “There’s a thorn tree in my garden, if you know just what I mean”.

Present Number 3 – The Futurama Mk111

My first electric guitar. It was second hand and cost a whopping £25.00. I think I was vaguely aware that you got more guitar second hand than new. I have only ever bought one or two new guitars since. It came in a case and with a bottle of Selmar guitar polish. I was never the best guitarist, but I had the cleanest guitar. I can still recall the aroma of opening the case and smelling Selmar guitar polish. As heady a perfume as Sunday Dinner gravy, Fish and Chips, and all the other great aphrodisiacs. But here’s the thing. I’m left-handed. Now, I know Paul McCartney played left-handed, I must have even seen pictures of Jimi Hendrix playing his strat upside down. I probably hadn’t seen pictures of Albert King playing his Flying V upside down with the strings also upside down, and I don’t think that would have helped any. When I sat down and took out the cleanest guitar in all the world and my hands went one way and the guitar neck went the other, I sat and thought as my head swam. I’d persuaded my parents to buy me this guitar because my life depended on it. I couldn’t now go to them and say “err, I have a problem”. The guitar, to be honest, was already something contentious. It was being played on TV and Radio by people like said Mr Hendrix and other persons not on the family Christmas card list (you know who you are). My family were all old school trad jazz or even music hall. I was already swimming a little far from shore. So, I took the left arm and attached it to the neck of the guitar and the right hand was taped to the body of the guitar and I said to myself, get on with it. I think I was 14. We played our first gig when I was 16. We were awful. We split up after our second gig. Musical differences between us and music. It’s been on and off ever since.

Present Number 4 – Gibson Thunderbird

I can’t recall when I made the change permanently from guitar to bass. I know why I made it. Cos my best friend was 100 times better than me on guitar. So it was easier to change than remind myself every time we played. In my defence, I’d always really loved Paul and Jack. Great songwriters, singers and players. Then along came Andy Frazer, Phil Lynott, James Jamerson, Flea, Sklar, Carol Kaye and so many more into my line of vision and inspiration. It never really bothered me that Paul played bass with a plectrum. He was the bassist in the greatest band in the world and had written the greatest pop songs that will ever be written. I broke my wrist snow-boarding many years back and so, ended up using a pick more and more myself.

I have bought and sold many basses. Hofner Violin Bass, Gibson EB0, Rickenbacker 4001, Fender Jazz, Kramer, Status etc. This one will be the last one. I had to venture into the dark dangerous underworld in order to rescue it. It was held captive in a stygian dungeon called North London. I found it wounded and wasted and managed to carry it to safety and civilisation, South London, of course, and hence straight to the local Vet for shots and restorative care. (a shout out to John Procter – luthier of this parish – https://johnprocter.com/ ). What makes it so special? Dunno really. The Fender Jazz and the Status are easier to play. Almost all of them are lighter. It’s just iconic. I love the look. Are there any major bassists who have played one? John Entwhistle springs to mind. He also modified it into a Fenderbird. I just think it appealed cos of it’s total lack of obvious appeal! Anyway, what’s done is done. It has gotten under my skin like it or not.

Present Number 5 – The No Nukes Concert DVD

OK, this is the Ghost of Christmas Presents To Come. I have asked Santa for this pressie this year, but I dunno if it’s gonna be under the tree. I think I’ve been a nice boy all year. Christ, there’s not been much chance to be anything else! I am hoping it will be there on Christmas morning but the tree is currently still in the loft, so, who knows? If he’s checking his list once or twice, he ought to know this. Brucie was probably the last of the 20th C great songwriters to overwhelm me. I’d been overwhelmed by John and Paul, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Paul Simon and Leonard Cohen at various points. I think I’d been aware of Bruce but pre Darkness on the Edge of Town, he’d seemed less relevant to a kid in a small town in the industrial north of England. But then, through the airwaves, I heard something.

“Badlands, you gotta live it everday,

let the broken hearts stand, that’s the price you gotta pay

keep pushing til it’s understood

The Badlands start treating us good.” The guy across the water was as miserable as me. And as articulate as Joe Strummer and Elvis Costello. I learnt a lot more about songwriting. And then I saw him and the band. Nothing really prepared me for that (maybe Rory Gallagher). Three hours plus of sheer soul, glory, rock and roll. Delivered. I have never seen a better gig. Seen some I’d put up alongside it, but never bettered. Not by Brucie either I’m sorry to say. For me, and this is just for me, The River is a dreadful album. Too many awful fillers. I felt very let down by that album. So, it’s with Great Expectations that I’m looking forward to Christmas morning to be looking back to 1979!!

Now, what if I’m disappointed with the concert?

What if, on review, I decide that Abbey Road isn’t as good as I originally felt?

What if I decide that I can’t accept the genius of Layla with the foolish old man that Eric Clapton seems to have become and have to lay it aside?

What if my fingers get so stiff from lack of use, that I accept my playing days are over? In that case, I have prepared here for Allan my list of 5 Rules of Songwriting THAT CANNOT be broken under any circumstances, they are, in order of importance, as follows:

We know that Allan likes to try to capture something out of the ordinary occasionally when he’s shooting gigs so we asked him to share five images that move away from traditional gig photography without getting into the abstract realm. We quite like his selection.

I do like a bit of variety; with the best will in the world, it can be quite a challenge creating an interesting image from the same basic elements time after time, so I start to look around for a bit of a change, whether it’s something visually different at a gig or something out of my music comfort zone. The first opportunity I had to take a slightly different direction in August 2019, when I photographed two poetry events. Within 6 months, I’d shot three poetry gigs involving the same two poets, one in a conventional gig venue, one on a canal boat and one in a library. Then along came COVID to wipe out most of 2020. The next opportunity to see these two poets again was in the basement of The Bloomsbury Theatre in October 2021. Actually, calling it a basement’s a bit unfair; it’s lovely performance area and well-lit for photography. The first two photos are from that gig.

Ralph Dartford @The Bloomsbury

Another of those gigs that was postponed because of the plague, but finally happened a couple of months ago. The gig was arranged to promote Ralph’s second volume of poetry, “Hidden Music”. I loved his first collection, “Recovery Songs” and I’d seen him perform three times so this was one to look forward to. Ralph’s poetry is firmly grounded in his early life in Basildon and his struggles with addiction and “Hidden Music” continues to explore these themes along with Ralph’s extensive globetrotting. Ralph’s a huge music fan as well and “Hidden Music” is a concept album; each poem has a piece of music recommended as a companion piece. I may be slightly biased but I recommend both of the books. Ralph’s a very intense performer and I hope this captures some of that intensity. I went for monochrome because the colour of Ralph’s clothing.

Phil Burdett @The Bloomsbury

I’ve known Phil Burdett for a few years now, seven to be precise. I reviewed his wonderful “Dunfearing and the West Country High” in 2014 when I was recovering from a knee operation. I was blown away and it had nothing to do with the pain-killing medication. Phil’s lyrics have always leaned towards the poetic and the move into poetry was fairly logical. It happened four years ago when Phil was recovering from a serious operation and poured his creativity into painting, prose and a film script (currently in production). Phil was finding it difficult to get back into live music performance after a traumatic spell in hospital and came up with a compromise solution; combine a performance of his first volume of poetry (“Rhyming Vodka with Kafka”) with a few songs accompanied by fiddler/mandolin player Steve Stott at a joint promotion for Ralph’s “Recovery Songs”. They’re both from Basildon and both appeared in the documentary about their hometown, “New Town Utopia”. Unlike the picture of Ralph, this worked well in colour with Phil limned in the purple light.

Dean Owens & Jim Maving @CTZN Brew

It’s surprising what you can improvise at short notice when the pressure’s on. I’ve started to dip my toe in the waters of backstage portraits and this was a good opportunity. I know Dean and Jim pretty well, so it was quite a relaxed vibe apart from time pressure (they were due back on stage in a few minutes) and a suitable location. The best lighting we could find was outside the toilets (a bit like The Borderline after the refit, really), so we dodged between customers making calls of nature and managed to get a few shots. With reasonably bright, but harsh, lighting, I was able to keep Dean and Jim in focus. Dean and Jim then went back upstairs to deliver a storming set of (mainly) Dean’s songs with Jim supplying harmonies and some stunning acoustic solos as Dean delivered powerful vocal performances including a new version of his Felsons song “Shine Like the Road” and an a cappella Frank Sinatra cover. These guys are the real thing and they sound even better with Tom Collison on keys and bass. This shot was used on a poster for a run of December Scottish gigs which was blown out by COVID.

Flashmob @St Martin-in-the-Fields

As COVID restrictions loosened over the summer, Talentbanq promoted weekly outdoor gigs at St Martin-in-the-Fields church opposite Trafalgar Square. Tourists were starting to return to London, and this was a perfect venue for a drink in the sun while listening to some great live music. I shot a few of the events and they were great fun; the performers were chuffed to be playing again and the audiences loved the renaissance of live performance.

Sometimes you look around the audience and spot a particularly lively group that are worth keeping a eye on because they’re joining in enthusiastically or just because they look like a lot of fun. Well, there was a group like that in mid-August. Between performances by Devon Mayson and American band We Three, while we were listening to the Ray Jones party playlist, the stage was invaded the instant The Macarena kicked in. Sometimes the great shot comes from watching the audience.

Vintage Christmas Cracker @The Grove Theatre, Eastbourne

A theatre shoot, why not? An acquaintance was directing and acting in an amateur Christmas show at The Grove Theatre. Why not take the cameras along? It was a chance to do something new and learn a bit about a discipline that has a lot in common with the work I normally do. What were the differences? Well, it appears that theatre lighting (in smaller theatres anyway) is still predominantly tungsten filament as opposed to LED, which is fairly common in gig venues. I know that LED is more energy efficient, but tungsten is warmer and less harsh; it’s just a nicer light. Unlike small rock gigs, even tiny theatre gigs will place an emphasis on a good lighting plot. It makes such a difference, as you can see in this (almost) perfectly evenly-lit shot.

Today’s High Five contribution is from Chuck Melchin of The Bean Pickers’ Union. We reviewed his retrospective collection, “Greatest Picks” in the late summer of this year and Allan loved it. Chuck’s decided to share his appreciation of some of his favourite guitar players with us. Apologies in advance for the Emmylou video that refused to embed.

I’m a guitar player. I’m not an especially good guitar player, and my friends probably think of me more as a songwriter than a player. But I do play enough that I have developed an educated appreciation for certain guitarists and their work. To me, it’s not speed or pyrotechnics. It’s playing for the song, it’s leaving space, it’s tone, it’s complementing the vocals and, yes, it’s tearing open the sky when that’s what the song wants. I hold these guitarists in the highest regard, as they all check all the boxes and then some. They may or may not be in your top 5, but remember I’m not calling them the best guitarists, I’m calling them my favorites. In no particular order:

Buddy Miller – when I say “plays for the song” there is absolutely no one I can think of that does so as effectively and beautifully as Buddy Miller. I first heard Buddy play when I bought wife Julie Miller’s gorgeous album Blue Pony. Right from the get go, the opening riffs on A Kiss on the Lips gave me goosebumps. And later how his guitar blends together with Phil Madeira’s organ as a single instrument on the solo section of All the Pieces of Mary. I was hooked. I dove into his catalog, spent countless hours searching for information on Buddy’s gear, lusted after his Fulltone tape echo, and was in awe of his strange Wandre Davoli guitar (which he found in a pawn shop, and which years later I broke a string on while working stage crew for him. He doesn’t know, please don’t tell him!). Over the years I have listened in wonder at how he becomes integral to the sound of everyone he plays with, from Emmylou to Robert Plant. With Buddy it’s always about playing for the song, playing with great tone, and as you can see in this video of him playing in Spyboy, he can flat out shred, if that’s what the song wants.


Waddy Wachtel – I am a liner note geek. I really miss the vinyl albums of my youth, where I would hold the record jacket and read the credits as I listened. One name kept showing up playing guitar on so many of my favorite records from folks like Karla Bonoff , Jackson Browne, Warren Zevon and James Taylor. The strangely named Waddy Wachtel (often along with the similarly strange names of Russell Kunkel on drums and Leland Sklar on bass) played again and again exactly what the song needed, with extremely tasteful lead guitar parts, and rhythm guitar that had me experimenting with open tunings trying to mimic the chord sounds he was getting. His solo on Karla Bonoff’s Someone to Lay Down Beside Me remains a benchmark of guitar solos in my mind. I finally got to see him play live just a few weeks ago when his super group, The Immediate Family, with Kunkel, Sklar, Danny Kortchmar (no slouch himself) and Steve Postell came around on tour. He is in his mid seventies and as good as ever. Here’s Waddy with a young singer named Linda Ronstadt covering Someone to Lay Down Beside Me.

David Rawlings – David Rawlings has described himself as “a guitar player in a band called Gillian Welch”. His guitar playing as her partner is instantly recognizable by his way of playing passing notes outside of the usual blues rock patterns, the tension and resolve he creates and how once he plays a run, you wonder why you hadn’t thought of that. He has influenced so many of the new wave of string band players. I find the most direct disciple that I’ve heard to be Kenneth Pattengale from the Milk Carton Kids. Like Buddy Miller, David obtained his trademark axe, a 1935 Epiphone Olympic, in an unusual way, finding it dusty and stringless in a friend’s garage. Always the consummate sideman for Gillian’s amazing songs, he has over the years earned a great deal of respect as a songwriter. But in my mind, his playing on the record Revival, the first of his playing that I ever heard, is what separated him from the pack of really excellent acoustic guitar pickers creating such beautiful sounds across the Americana genre. I hear tell he has recently purchased a “new” guitar from Gruhns on Broadway in Nashville (a 1959 D”Angelico Excel for you fellow geeks) which can be heard on 2017’s Poor David’s Almanack. Here is the “band” playing Gillian’s song Annabelle, with David providing great harmony and looking so cool:

Gary Louris – I don’t think any songwriter has influenced my songwriting more than Gary Louris. If I could be in any band from any era, it probably would be the Jayhawks in 1995. On top of the ridiculously great songs, Gary stands out as a guitarist by being everything I pointed to in my first paragraph – his solos and fills tie the songs together often with a repetitive riff that comes around again and again in prechoruses and interludes, and his solos are well thought out, and make musical sense, really elevating the songs without dumping on the rest of the instruments. He’s an amazing singer, both main vocals and harmony and his song arrangements are nearly perfect. That covers of his songs are almost always done really closely to the original, attests to his talents as arranger. I think all of this might overshadow his guitar playing, and he might be underrated. Except by me. Listen to him rip it up in this version of Tailspin, one of my favorites from the vast Jayhawks catalog:

Andy Santospago and Gary Goodlow – Tied for 5th place, I can’t mention my favorite guitarists without mentioning my favorites from my own band, the Bean Pickers Union. Gary Goodlow played guitar for the BPU for maybe 8 years before moving to Nashville, and he totally elevated the sound of everything he played on. A monster of tone, watching Gary play his guitar is like watching a prizefighter work the ring, always in motion, small tweaks to volume and tone knobs, tremolo bar, and pedals, he always has the right sound for the song. Listen on bandcamp to our Halloween show as Wilco back a few years, for example. Or the song Glory which can be found on both our Archaeology and the Greatest Picks records. As if having Gary in my band wasn’t enough good fortune for one lifetime, I have also had the distinct pleasure of having Andy Santospago play for the BPU on many shows and many recordings. Andy is probably the most versatile musician I know. An absolute virtuoso on guitar, he’s also a fantastic lap and pedal steel player, and a great bass, mandolin and banjo player. It’s Andy playing the dueling lap steel and electric guitars like Dickie Betts and Duane Allman trading leads on my song 16 Pounds of Mary. It’s also Andy tearing it up on lead guitar on the alt.country rocker Amy Jean, both on Greatest Picks. Andy is also one of the finest songwriters I have ever met, and Exhibit A when I try to make the case that there are some people who should be household names if the universe was fair. Here is maybe my favorite song of his, with him playing all the guitar bits:

Check out Gary cranking out the lead guitar on Warrior and Andy bringing the voodoo to the song Burning Sky right here:

Gary –


Here’s Allan talking about some of the artists he encountered in the important half of 2021; that’s the half when we had live music again.

I may have said this before, particularly if I’ve met you at a gig, but I love gig photography. Apart from the obvious aspect of actually taking pictures, there’s a whole social scene around gigs. I’ve met some wonderful people on the gig scene, artists, managers, promoters, venue managers, security staff; you name it. It’s taken me to all sorts of venues, from the larger venues with photo pits to the small rooms where one of the major concerns is not obstructing the view of paying customers. These are the sort of venues where you see artists for the first time and where, sometimes, you discover artists that make an instant impact. I’ve seen a few of those over the last few years and, even in a truncated 2021, I’ve seen a few more. Here are a few of them. I thoroughly recommend seeing all four of these performers live. Spoiler alert – one of my five isn’t a performer.

Kat Neocleous

Kat’s a very gifted and versatile performer. She sings, acts, does journalism and works as a presenter on London Greek Radio. She’s now learning to play drums. I met Kat on social media a while ago, then bumped into her unexpectedly at a gig I was shooting at Pizza Express. Soon after that I shot her supporting The Lapels in Finsbury Park, and then at her sold-out headline gig at The Camden Chapel. Kat’s music is soulful; r’n’b with a splash of pop and hugely influenced by the confessional singer-songwriter tradition. Her voice is strong and I’m positive she has perfect pitch – her live performances are something special, even when backed by just one guitar. Her songs are powerful

and she knows how to deliver them to maximum effect. One of the highlights of her Camden Chapel show was her relatively new song “Warrior Heart” which is the headline track for her upcoming “Warrior Heart” EP.

Si Connelly

I’d heard a lot about Si Connelly over the last couple of years but somehow always seemed to miss his gigs because of clashes. 2021 was the year when I finally managed to put that right. Everything I’d ever heard about Si was really positive; I wasn’t disappointed when I finally got to see him at the Hope & Anchor in November (amazingly, my first shoot at the iconic venue) at a Success Express event. I’d thought of Si as mainly an acoustic guitar player (don’t ask me why), but he came on stage with a band and a Strat and proved that he’s a gifted electric guitar player. I saw him a few weeks later doing an (almost) solo acoustic set where he played acoustic guitar and piano. His songs are strong, but what really stands out with Si is his performance. He gives everything onstage, personifying the Andy Murray quote “Leave nothing out there.” From a photographer’s point of view, he’s one of those artists that you instantly know is going to do interesting things. I’ve shot Si at two gigs and I haven’t put the cameras down for a second during his sets. He’s visually and sonically stunning.

Brooke Law I first saw Brooke as a solo acoustic performer at the Talentbanq Eccleston Yards sessions over the summer (which are still continuing even in the deep midwinter). She did a solo acoustic set which convinced me of a couple of things. First that she’s a hugely gifted writer and performer and second that I wanted to photograph her under stage lighting. She’s lively on stage, very watchable and just looks like a rock star. Since then, I’ve had a couple of opportunities to shoot live photos, firstly at Folklore in Hackney and secondly at the Girl on Fire all-dayer at Blues Kitchen in Brixton. Both of these gigs featured her full band and demonstrated that she can perform like a rock star as well as looking like one. I’m not sure that she’s settled yet on her musical direction (I think she’s leaning towards indie/rock, but she’s already had a country hit, so who knows); whichever path she chooses, I suspect she’ll do very well.

Vincent Bugozi Vincent’s from Tanzania and he’s a force of nature. He’s an enthusiastic and energetic performer who knows exactly how to play a room. I saw him first at a charity gig at Leyton Orient Football Club (where I’d only ever been as a visiting supporter) where he and his band were dressed in suits from Tanzania that were as lively as his performance and were perfectly suited to the bouncing African rhythms of his songs. He loves to get off stage and mingle with his audience, using his extrovert radar to pick out willing participants for his performance. It certainly worked at The Orient because he picked out Nuala, one of the earlier performers on the bill. It definitely worked at The Bedford at the end of November, as you can see above. If you want to see an artist that throws everything into his performance and creates a party whenever he plays, go and see Vincent.

Laura McKay, Band Manager

Not an artist this time, but a manager and an interesting story. I had a message on Facebook from a Laura McKay. My first thought was that my sister’s FB account had been hacked (she’s also called Laura) but when I checked the mutual friends I realised that this was a genuine person involved in the music business. You can’t leave a coincidence like that hanging, so I got back to Laura and told her about the coincidence. Here’s the best bit of the story – Laura told me that people in the business had been asking her if she had a brother who was a photographer. I’ve now photographed both of the bands that Laura manages, Sins and The Slacksons (see, I managed to get new bands in there) and I’m looking forward to working with her again in the future. Got to love the independent music scene. The photo is with Sins outside The Fiddler’s Elbow in Camden.

If you live in the UK, go and see any of the bands or artists I’ve mentioned; they’re all great and passionate about what they do. You might even be able to buy me a beer to thank me for the recommendation.

Bob Bradshaw’s a bit of a regular around these parts. We’ve reviewed four of his albums and this is his third contribution to our High Fives feature. His songs are exceptional and original and his albums are examples of sequencing a series of songs to create a coherent entity, particularly on his 2019 album “Queen of the West”.

Photo by Rafi Sofer

Podcasts were a life-saver for me over the past year and a half, especially music podcasts. Here’s my high five, with examples (sometimes drawn from previous years but I heard them for the first time in 2021).

Cocaine and Rhinestones.

Tyler Mahon Coe’s wildly opinionated, rip-roaring podcast about the history of Country music is a trip. His use of sometimes obscure song clips to illustrate points is masterly. He’s devoting the whole of the present season to George Jones. This episode from the first season about Buck Owens and Don Rich is terrific:

Music Makers and Soul Shakers.

Steve Dawson is a fine guitar player/producer himself and this is one of the best nuts-and-bolts podcasts for and about musicians I’ve heard. There’s some great stories in this episode with Marc Ribot:


My Favorite Album.

Host Jeremy Dylan has interviewed Daniel Lanois, Mitchell Froom, and Max Weinberg, among others. In this episode the great Nick Lowe explains how he puts a live show together:


Love That Album.

Maurice Bursztynski’s wide-ranging, low-key approach is perfect for discovering new music, or revisiting old favorites. Steve Berlin, from Los Lobos, talking about their 2021 album ‘Native Sons’ is a good place to start:


Dangerous Amusements: The Elvis Costello Playlist. Perhaps only Dylan or Bowie are worthy of this level of scrutiny (and there are podcasts about both that I don’t think much of.) Fellow musicians, journalists and music business folk discuss (with host Stu Arrowsmith) what Costello has meant to them over the years, and pick one song from each of the five decades Costello has been producing his idiosyncratic catalogue. There’s plenty good stuff in this interview with Glen Colson who did publicity and promotion for Costello in the early years:


Time for a few more of Allan’s shots from 2021. Just by way of a change, they’re all colour shots.

I do a lot of black and white work these days, for various reasons, mainly to do with getting the best results with low lighting levels, but I do still like a splash of colour. Here are a few shots from 2021 (well, the part of it where we actually had gigs to shoot) where the colour treatment works well. Three of them are helped along by brilliant sunshine as well. Here we go:

Stilt Walker @Becontree 100 I’m fascinated by stilt walkers, possibly because my balance is so bad that I could fall off the floor. At any music festival you can guarantee that you’ll see stilt walkers. You can also guarantee that they’ll be colourful and glittery. Another helpful thing is that they’re entertainers and part of their job is to engage with the public, including photographers. What sets this apart from the majority of my gig shots is that I wasn’t trying to get a background as close to black as possible; exactly the opposite, in fact, and the colours really pop against the almost completely white background, and the long zoom allowed me to crop tightly to get rid of any extraneous background.

Duncan Menzies @Hackney Wick Duncan Menzies is a member of the London folk trio Copper Viper but at this gig, he was playing fiddle for Dana Immanuel and the Stolen Band at an outdoor gig as lockdown restrictions began to lift. This shot was taken during the interval as Duncan was preparing to rejoin the band for the second set. It’s a striking outfit and the contrast between the traditional clothes and hat and the reflective sunglasses is what makes the picture work.

Cloudy Galvez @Servant Jazz Quarters, Dalston This shot isn’t packed with vibrant colours but it has a very warm feel that conveys the atmosphere of the gig. The shot has a glow that matches Cloudy’s smile, which was pretty much fixed during the whole set. It was a very special night because it was the first gig for Cloudy as part of her recovery from long COVID. It’s been a long journey but she’s back on stage again doing what she does best. I think this shot captures the ambience of the evening.

Georgia South (Nova Twins) @Becontree 100 The reason I was at Parsloes Park in Dagenham was to see Nova Twins. They’ve spent the last five or six years working their way through the lower reaches of the music business and it’s just beginning to pay off. Georgia South makes some amazing sounds with her bass and a battery of effects to complement Amy Love’s guitar playing and vocals and spends a lot of time dancing around her pedals stomping on footswitches. Nova Twins always help photographers out with bright clothes and Georgia’s hair is always striking. She does a great smile as well.

Eleni (Echo Wants her Voice Back) @Pizza Express, Holborn Pizza Express is a bit of a challenge. The lighting’s a bit bland but you can work around the cabaret seating to get some decent shooting angles. If you want a green room shot, take along an ultra-wide lens. You can around the lighting and get good results in colour if an artist’s wearing something colourful. Eleni was pretty helpful in that respect, wearing a shade of green that worked perfectly in those lighting conditions. The other thing that makes the image striking is Eleni’s long black hair, particularly falling across one side of the face. Eleni’s a powerful performer, but it’s always nice to catch a shot where the artist is totally in the moment, almost serene.

When Allan reviewed the album “Just Beyond the Shine” at the start of 2021, it shone a light all the way from Laurel Canyon into a cold British winter. The album was all warmth and light, in stark contrast to the grey and dismal London still in the grip of a COVID lockdown. It was a beacon in the dark days pointing to a better place. We’re pleased that Jonny Miller from Peach & Quiet has shared his 2021 high points with us.

Ok, let’s try this, in no particular order:

BBC Scotland album of the week: the ever-amazing Geraint and Deb Jones introduced our duo to Europe, and even landed us a plum spot as BBC Scotland’s “album of the week”! As a major Jimi Hendrix fan myself, it was surreal to be on the BBC, as I’ve loved listening to Jimi’s BBC moments. And for Heather, who was born in Wales, I know it was a pinnacle for her as well.

Clark Becker, drummer: LA drummer Clark Becker is one of the most musical and artistic drummers I’ve ever worked with, and I know someday the rest of the world will feel the same. Due to the pandemic, we both doubled down on our remote recording skills and gear, and have been cooking up some tasty tunes. A bromance for the ages, miss ya brother!

Union Tube and Transistor “More” guitar pedal: what can I say about this pedal that hasn’t already been said? It is the key to many electric guitar players “sound”, and I can’t imagine going back to playing without it. Big shout out to Paul Rigby (if you don’t know who Paul is, look him up, he’s a legend out here in Western Canada) for turning me on to Union, and that particular pedal. Thanks man!

Curried coconut miso lentil soup: I’ve been making variations on this soup for years now, but I think I’ve reached new levels of yum during the past year. Currently I’m rocking a mix of red and French lentils. One of the keys to this soup is using multiple types of lentils, which creates a complex and rounded flavour profile, to my taste buds at least. Just writing this is making me crave a bowl of this hardy nectar of the gods and goddesses.

Home: is there anything more important than liking where you live, in these times? Being here, amongst the trees, between a lake and the ocean, with our little feline pal, Miles, has kept us (mostly) sane. I can’t imagine being anywhere else (except on tour in Europe … someday … hopefully!).

We asked Allan to come up something a bit different this year and he went all sociological and autobiographical on us before digging into music theory and sexual politics. We find it’s best just to let him get on with it. Here are his not-so-guilty musical pleasures.

You probably already guessed this, but pop culture and pop music fascinate me. The music that you grow up with is part of your identity, it’s part of the uniform of the tribe you belong to or aspire to. I have fairly broad musical tastes and I try to judge artists on merit rather than by which genre or sub-genre they belong to. The roots of those eclectic tastes are in my teenage years in the East Midlands where I grew up on an estate that was built to house an influx of families from Scotland, Wales and the North-east and North-west of England to deal with a labour shortage in the Nottinghamshire coalfields. I passed the Eleven Plus and went to a grammar school with mainly middle-class boys and that’s where my musical schizophrenia started. At home, at the local youth club, I heard lots of singles; Motown, Stax, Northern Soul and a bit of ska. At school I was exposed to albums; rock and prog mainly. There was virtually no overlap; it was all very tribal and each of the groups hated the music of the other group. I loathed my school years but I learned to value music rather than tribal allegiances and that’s never changed.

And that’s a bit of a long-winded way of getting round to today’s theme of songs that I loved (and still do) that weren’t seen as particularly credible at the time. I took flak for loving some of these singles but I didn’t care (and I still don’t). In no particular order.

“Run Baby Run” – The Newbeats

This was originally released in 1964 in the US and was an American hit in 1965 but it was picked up during the Northern Soul era in the UK and was a Top 10 hit in 1971. This was at a time when anything with a four-to-the-floor beat, a BPM over 120 and a vaguely soulful feel would get a speculative release to cash in on the Northern Soul phenomenon. I loved the song, unreservedly, from the first time I heard it. It doesn’t waste any time; two bars of the bass riff and drums, two bars where the riff’s doubled up on over-driven guitar and two bars of the riff reinforced again with the string section before the harmony vocals come in. One of my favourite intros, and there’s even a falsetto vocal to come later as well.

Lyrically, it’s a really simple teen love song. There are no stunning insights there; that’s not the point, it’s a pop song, a great pop song, beefed up by a powerful rock arrangement. They were designed to be catchy but disposable; to be sung or hummed until the next hit came along. “Run Baby Run” bucked that trend by becoming a hit eight years after its original release. Even better, nearly forty years later, the riff resurfaced on “Up the Dosage” on Paul Weller’s 2010 classic, “Wake Up the Nation”. So much for the ephemeral pop tune. I don’t know if all of the UK single pressings were slightly off-centre, but mine is. I bought a Newbeats CD so I could hear a digital version, but I still prefer the analog, even with the slight wowing; it’s more authentic.

“Isn’t It Time” – The Babys

January 1978; punk had run its course, New Wave and Power Pop were still in the gestation period and disco reigned supreme; it was a good time to be a DJ and absolutely the wrong time to release a four-minute single that went through various tempo changes and breakdowns, had strings, brass and backing vocals and featured an androgynous singer in the Bowie mould. The album “Broken Heart” had been released the previous year and, to be fair, the band was probably being aimed at the American market but it was never going to fly in the UK. I’ve been blessed with the awkward gene and I didn’t care about that. “Isn’t It Time” pushed all of my buttons; the lead vocal was stunning, the backing vocals were superb and there was a huge dynamic range, from the quiet piano-backed verses to the gloriously over-the-top chorus with strings, brass, thunderous bass and huge BVs. I’m partial to a bit of overkill now and then and The Babys certainly fulfilled that need in January 1979. I picked up a copy of the album a few years later on a market stall and I still say “Isn’t It Time” was a great single; I can still enjoy it today. Here’s a couple of observations: this widescreen, two kitchen sinks, almost operatic style that would never work was actually the same formula that worked for Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman a few months later. That stunning lead vocal was by a guy called John Waite who, seven years later had a global hit with “Missing You”. Sometimes it takes a while.

“It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” – Graham Bonnet

Released at around the same time as “Broken Heart” was Graham Bonnet’s eponymous solo album. Bonnet had seen modest success as a singer with The Marbles in the late Sixties but had moved into making advertising jingles in the Seventies. The album was the attempt to break into the music business; it was to take a little while.

“It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” was the album’s first single. Bonnet wasn’t renowned as a songwriter and the album’s packed with covers of standards including “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”, “Tired of Being Alone” and “Rock Island Line”. Looking back at it now with a greater knowledge of how the business worked, it was obviously a showcase album covering a variety of styles as part of a longer-term strategy to break through. If you can’t write great songs (and the only Graham Bonnet song on the album definitely isn’t great) then do an interpretation of a Dylan song. Fair play, he did a great job.

It’s a rock treatment of a folk song with a bit of Talk Box lead guitar and a sinew-straining vocal from Bonnet that was later to become his trademark. Again, I fell in love instantly when I heard this on Radio 1. The single did nothing chartwise (except in Australia). The album did even worse but a couple of years later he was singing with Rainbow on “Since You Been Gone” and “All Night Long” and in 1981 he got his solo hit single with “Night Games” and he’s been in and out of rock bands ever since.

“Build Me Up Buttercup” – The Foundations

The Foundations started their career as a soul band. “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You” was a classic piece of early piece of British pop/soul. Following that they were condemned to walk that line between soul credibility and pop success. Like many Sixties bands they had management problems, personnel problems and issues around the production of their songs. “Build Me Up Buttercup” straddles that line between bubblegum pop and soul. It’s catchy and I’m fairly certain it was never intended to be anything other than an ephemeral sixties hit. It didn’t quite work out that way. For me the performance of Colin Young (who replaced the original singer Clem Curtis) elevated the song to classic status. And it’s stuck around; when I was doing a weekly DJ set to a packed 1500-capacity student venue in Canterbury, it was a guaranteed floor-filler with people that were born at least ten years after it charted. You can call it cheese, I’ll say it’s a mature classic.

“I Will Survive” – Gloria Gaynor

This song is a bona fide anthem. When it was released in 1978, it was a bit of a lightning rod for the anti-disco sentiments that were coming from the rock world. Looking at it from a twenty-first century perspective, it wasn’t about the music, it was homophobia pure and simple, and I think I knew that at the time. Disco tracks were being made by hugely gifted musicians (Nile Rodgers is an international treasure now) and they were complex rhythmically and melodically. More importantly, they were hugely popular. A couple of years ago, I looked up the chords to the song. I hadn’t really thought about it before, but I wanted to try an acoustic guitar version of the song. It was a bit of a wake-up moment; the song’s chord progression is circular, moving up in fourths from the tonic chord of A minor and eventually finding its way back there via a few jazz chords. Sorry for the basic music theory, but it just confirmed my gut feeling that the song was a bit special. As for the reaction to the song in the Seventies, two things. I’m Scottish, don’t tell me what I should and shouldn’t like; I love rock music, but I don’t take kindly to homophobia from hairy-arsed rednecks – burning albums isn’t so far from burning books and look where that ended. This is a great song.

If there’s a message in all of this, it’s to be open-minded and respect the musical preferences of others. All the best for 2022.

Sorry if I got a bit carried away with this one.