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Sidetracks And Detours present PASS IT ON 32 weekly walkabout Sunday, 24th December 2023

Sidetracks And Detours



weekly walkabout Sunday 24th December 2023

Hello, it has been a very busy month for the arts here on Lanzarote, as you might imagine, with so many wonderful Christmas related events wedged into what is already a crowded arts calendar. That is true around the world perhaps so today we bring you news of Opera from the UK, as well as a report on a slightly strange live Opera from here on Lanzarote that we have filed under X files. We also visit the USA to meet Big Joe Turner the boss of the blues. We hear gospel music from the States, too, and in a little town square on a tiny island we hear names fall out in conversation of poets from Spain, Manchester UK, Wales and America. We return to the UK to bring you more news of Jazz In Reading. We find an idyllic Place For Poetry and accompany the late artist, Cesar, to Gran Canarias. So, come follow your art down sidetracks and detours around the world, from the comfort of your favourite reading chair. All you have to do is make a note of what you like as you look and learn and PASS IT ON.



Researching History

Humble Fare


Opera Manchester

New Location for National Opera House

report by I Love Manchester NEWSLETTER

Live Opera Lanzarote

Garage In A Wrestling Arena



Big Joe Turner, The Boss Of The Blues

written by Derek Coller


Live jazz

events in the new year

previewed by JAZZ IN READING

A Reader´s Perspective::All Points Forward:

Tinsel, Treats And Token to redeem


Island Insights

The Gospel According To Joshua

A Place For Poetry

Cesar Manrique Travels To Gran Canaria


Researching History

Humble Fare- Ben Brierley’s Old Lancashire Christmas


first published in

The Bugle

Royton Local History Society’s Newsletter

Chairman’s Message

We’re halfway through our season and approaching our winter break. I don’t have a lot to report other than our new secretary, Frances Stott, has been busy organising talks. She has arranged interesting and intriguing talks that will take us well into 2025 and I’ll soon be producing the programme for the 2024 season. In the meantime, we’ve plenty to look forward to going up to June 2024. The full programme is printed up and can also be found on our website www.rlhs.co.uk.

We will resume meetings on 11th March 2024. and I look forward to seeing you all again then. But for the moment I’d just like to wish you all the very best for a Joyful Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Geoff Oliver, Chairman

Christmas and New Year in Royton


For a few years now I have reported on the local seasonal celebrations of a hundred and fifty years ago. I began by reporting the festivities of 1860 and this year should have been reporting on 1873/4. It was a simple task really in that all I did was peruse local newspapers and notes I may have made during my research over several decades. But it was only time-consuming in that I had to use sometimes hard-to-read microfilm on readers at Oldham Local Studies and archives. I did not just peruse December and January but scanned the year as well to make the stories make sense of context. I usually did this in November. Alas this year I was away for part of November and returned to find that the Local Studies and Archives on Union Street have temporarily closed due to removal to new premises. The old Post Office building housing the books, documents and maps etc is being converted to other use in context with the new planned theatre complex. So access to the microfilm archive will not be available until possibly April when the microfilm readers will be transferred, again only temporarily, to the central library a few yards away. Sadly this means that I was not able to access our old Newspapers, Oldham Chronicle and Oldham Standard. I do a lot of my speaking, dialect entertaining, and historical work outside of Oldham these days.

I have been very busy with other work so beg forgiveness for instead offering you a glimpse of Christmas of the 1860s and 1870s through other local eyes of the day. I refer to local literature in the Oldham area, some of it in dialect. I am former chairman of the Edwin Waugh Dialect Society and am a current member of the Lancashire Society and the Lancashire Authors Association, all of which cherish local writing in all its forms.

And now I offer another lament. Many decades ago now, when the old hard cover volumes of all the local newspapers were sent to be microfilmed and disposed of, I was offered the soon-to-be discarded hard copies by the then Local Studies officer. I felt thrilled but after some thought I had to admit I did not have the room space, or adequate transport, for scores of bound, and very heavy, volumes of a hundred or so years of the two main newspapers and other titles as well. If I had somehow found room I could have referred to the Christmas and New Year of 1873/74 in the comfort of my own living room with the aid of a solid book rest. But no room, no volumes, and now regret.

You may recall I reported on the village Waites or Waits (carollers) turning out at midnight of Christmas Eve / Christmas Day to sing Christians Awake round Royton, horse waggons and carts decorated with candles in the odd freezing Christmas, decorating with holly boughs, the new-fangled Christmas tree put up at St Paul’s school hall in imitation of the German custom adopted by Queen Victoria, and the long term Christmas festivities of the local public houses. With apologies I give you an article I originally wrote for St Mark with Christ Church Parish News several years ago. Like Ben Brierley I wish you all a ‘Good Kesmas un a happy New Year’. 

Humble Fare- Ben Brierley’s Old Lancashire Christmas

In Ben Brierley’s day there was no Christmas tree; the custom had not yet been fully borrowed from Europe and North America. According to this much-loved Failsworth writer households used to hang from the ceiling a ‘kissing bush’, a small holly bush intertwined with mistletoe. Other bunches of holly were used to decorate the room. The traditional meal for dinner was the Christmas Goose, for which turkey was then  a novel substitute. But a good all-purpose ‘rib-shifting’ potato pie, baked in a washing tub was the dream-meal of the house in Brierley’s story, Little Dody’s Christmas. The ingredients included mutton. Cow heels, Spanish onions, oysters and diced bacon.

After the ‘button braster’ meal we are reminded that the after-dinner entertainments are all home-made: toasts to the ladies, dances to the strains of a fiddle, kisses under the ‘bush’, storytelling by the burning ‘Yule-log’, and singing by turns. In Cast Upon the World he echoes the world he knew as a youth in the 1840s. The crippled fiddler Humpy Dick is having a party for the young folk. The lads and lasses have clubbed together their pennies for weeks and were to have three scolding potato pies, called ‘steam engines’ consisting of 1lb mutton to 5lb of potatoes. And on the menu were weak ale brewed three quart to the peck of malt more than that given to the haymakers, two oranges for each guest, a wassail bowl of punch, nuts for cracking, gingerbread and a portion of ale specially warmed and spiced for the girls. The Grace is said before eating.

After the meal the tables and chairs are cleared away for dancing and each lad toasts the kissing Bush, alluringly lit up by the hearth fire and its shadows, and then each lass in turn. Then they all dance to the popular fiddle tune, Off She Goes, before singing by turns, with anyone refusing having to suffer a forfeit. Then they play a game called Hitch-Hatch Under My Lap, the Kissing Bush eventually claiming its victims.

But Brierley’s How they kept Kesmas in the Olden Time captures the essentially short vigil and celebration which is the essential part of the festival. Local churches formed their own Waites or bands of carollers and musicians to serenade the neighbourhood at stroke of Christmas Day. The hero of the tale, Ab o’th’ Yate,leads eight singers and four musicians with bassoon, base fiddle, small fiddle and flute. They leave the local chapel at midnight, singing the one and only carol known, the ’Kesmas’,or Christmas ‘Hymn’ (Christians Awake, written by John Byrom of Manchester) to those ‘mussled up i’ blankets’. Folk get out of bed to offer them rum, spice or sugar, And at the wealthiest house in the village they are offered a whole meal of half a turkey bird, crumbs of toasted bread, Christmas pudding and punch.

Perhaps the folk of Brierley’s tales, and in his real life, spent variously at Hollinwood, Failsworth and Moston, crammed more into their two days of celebration than we do in our longer and commercialised winter festival. Not everyone got a holiday then and many had to save all year to afford festive cheer. But Ben Brierley does make them sound happy nonetheless, as much to anticipate the end of the vigil and the striking up of ‘Christians awake, salute the happy morn’ as any Dickensian story.

Royton Local History Society on the Internet at www.rlhs.co.uk

A member of The British Association for Local History

A member of the Friends of Real Lancashire                                                                      

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The English National Opera Moving to Manchester

reports I Love Manchester NEWSLETTER

In a cultural coup, English National Opera (ENO) has chosen Manchester as its new home, heralding a new era.

In a significant move for both the English National Opera (ENO) and Manchester, the renowned opera company has officially announced its decision to establish its future home in Greater Manchester.

This monumental decision comes a year after Arts Council England (ACE) mandated ENO’s relocation from London, providing the company with a partial funding reprieve until 2029.

Manchester is currently the largest European city without a resident opera company.

Fortunately, it has emerged as the front-runner among five potential locations, including Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool, and Nottingham, continuing the city’s amazing musical and cultural renaissance.

The decision to move ENO to Greater Manchester is hailed as a cultural triumph, bolstering the city’s reputation as a hub for artistic expression and creativity.

On Tuesday, ENO revealed an exciting partnership with the Greater Manchester city region, expressing enthusiasm for collaborative opportunities within the region’s vibrant arts community.

The move is set to inspire and create works for new audiences and communities in Greater Manchester, aligning with the city’s commitment to cultural growth.

Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, emphasised the pride in hosting one of the UK’s most exciting cultural institutions.

Burnham highlighted the shared vision for a future where ENO continues to produce groundbreaking opera, collaborates with northern artists, and extends its award-winning learning programs to local communities.

Bev Craig, the leader of Manchester city council, echoed these sentiments, stating that ENO and Greater Manchester are a “perfect fit.”

The city’s remarkable transformation over the last 30 years into one of Europe’s fastest-growing creative hubs solidifies its status as an ideal home for ENO.

ENO assures that its new base will be fully established by March 2029, with plans to stage performances across Greater Manchester leading up to that date.

The company will continue to have a substantial annual season, both in Greater Manchester and at the Coliseum in London, maintaining its presence in the capital.

Arts leaders in Greater Manchester have welcomed the news with open arms.

Speaking to the Guardian, Julia Fawcett, Chief Executive of the Lowry Arts Centre in Salford, expressed being “absolutely thrilled,” while John McGrath, Chief Executive of Factory International, looks forward to exciting new co-productions that explore the future of opera.

Senior figures in the opera world have also applauded the move.

Alex Beard, Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House, described the news as “an enormous relief,” emphasising the importance of a thriving opera ecosystem for the country.

Laura Canning, Opera North’s General Director, highlighted the collaboration with ENO to develop audiences and expand the reach of opera across the region.

This strategic move by ENO signifies a momentous step towards enriching Greater Manchester’s cultural tapestry, establishing the city as a powerhouse for opera and the performing arts.

As ENO finds its new home in the heart of the North, the stage is set for a harmonious partnership that promises to resonate across the city’s cultural landscape for years to come.

Live Opera Lanzarote

Garage In A Wrestling Arena


Editor´s Note We found ourselves double-booked a couple of weeks ago, but were delighted that our two best under-cover investigative journalists offered to stand in for us and collect the X Files by attending A Night At The Opera.  Aka DSI Cannotbenamed and DCI Willnotbenamed, our equivalent of Woodward and Bernstein, produced the following.

II Lanzarote Opera Festival

LA BOHÈME by G. Puccini

Tias, Lanzarote, November 2023

This Opera is traditionally set in what might be an attic, or an atelier d´artistes in the Latin quarter of Paris; but tonight it could have been in the Bronx and the atelier could have a car mechanic´s workshop.

Tonight´s Opera House was replaced by Terrero de Lucha Canaria in Tias, a venue that was first built as a wrestling arena, that being a very popular sport on Lanzarote. We usually like to eat somewhere prior to a concert but when we arrived in Tias at 5.30 for a 7.00 pm start it seemed to be a sleepy time in town. We found a place where could order a meal, but had to leave it unfinished as we ran out of time despite the best efforts of the skeleton staff working at this time.

So we walked across town to the a venue shaped as a semi-ampitheatre and has around 300 seats, with all the rows so elevated as to afford an unobstructed view of what is quite a huge stage

This version of the much-loved Opera, however, had been promoted as a Garage Opera, and it became apparent why as soon as we took our seats and saw it set in a mis-en-scene lay-out of a car mechanic´s garage, which also lent a freshness of approach.

That also included the full orchestra that usually accompanies performances of La Boheme being replaced by a single musician…at the piano, and he played non-stop, brilliantly, for the duration of the performance. Of course, one of the most well-known musical passages in the Opera lends itself perfectly to a piano interpretation.

The vocal performers all delivered well and the acting was energetic, and this was all deserving of a full house rather than what we estimated as being only at fifty per cent capacity. Perhaps the slightly avant-garde approach, the less-than-traditional venue and the surfeit of events, including road runner races and food festivals going on around the island, had an impact, too.

It was, though, an excellent delivery by all concerned.


‘Feel So Fine: Big Joe Turner The Boss of the Blues’

by Derek Coller


For those who enjoy the challenges of Victoria Coren Mitchell’s highly popular BBC 2 quiz show ‘Only Connect’ here’s a conundrum that you may like to solve: What connects the leafy Berkshire town of Wokingham to Kansas City, USA in its wide-open days of Prohibition, when the lawless streets were filled with the rocking rhythms of jazz and blues?

Worlds apart in time and place they may be, but firmly connected in the person of Derek Coller, who lives quietly near the centre of Wokingham. His exhaustive bio/discography of ‘Big’ Joe Turner, the legendary alumni of KC’s colourful past has been recently published to critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic.

‘Feel So Fine: Big Joe Turner – The Boss of the Blues’, is a massive study of the ‘original blues brother, a true legend and the man who first recorded “Shake, Rattle and Roll”.  A man of huge physical stature with a voice ‘that rolled like thunder’, ‘Big Joe’ was born in the African American quarter of Kansas City on 18th May 1911. He cut his musical teeth in the city before stepping onto the national scene in the late 1930s, followed in post-war years by travels to Europe, Australia and Mexico.

‘Joe Turner was like a force of nature,’ writes Derek Coller. ‘Small bands, big bands, trios, pianists, rock groups, choirs, all styles of accompaniment rocked to his rhythm, making everyone feel fine.’

Big Joe kept up this irrepressible lifestyle over five decades, from KC saloons to New York’s Carnegie Hall until his death at the age of 74 on 24th November 1985. Sadly, like so many other great figures of the music business, Big Joe died in poverty. Thankfully his legacy lives on through a wealth of recordings and now in the pages of ‘Feel So Fine’.

But what was the fascination for Joe Turner that prompted Derek to seek out every scrap of evidence he could find about Turner’s life and times and listen to every recording he ever made?

‘Big Joe’s recordings with pianist Pete Johnson caught my schoolboy imagination way back in the 1940s, along with Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet and Bessie Smith. They were the pride of my early record collecting days,’ Derek told Jeff Harris in a recent interview for the New York based radio show ‘Big Road Blues’.

‘Those were the days of hefty 10” 78rpm records,’ Derek continued. ‘Unlike today when you can download music in an instant, I had to save up my pennies to buy a record.  They were in short supply, especially jazz records.’  Finding information about who was playing on the treasured discs and where they had recorded was even more difficult. Undaunted, Derek began to compile notes and press cuttings about his favourite musicians, correspond with other enthusiasts around the world and sometimes with the musicians themselves. ‘I made two trips to America to search for material at first hand,’ Derek recalls.

‘My notes gradually accumulated over the years,’ Derek declared, ‘and provided the source material for books on pianists Dick Cary, Johnny Guarnieri and Jess Stacy, clarinetist Tony Parenti and jazz in Chicago as well as many articles and contributions to reference works such as ‘The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz’. ‘Feel So Fine: Big Joe Turner – The Boss of the Blues’, is my latest offering.’

Derek’s writing is rich in detail, but what really stands out is his love of the music and love for his subjects. This is especially true of Big Joe Turner and ‘Feel So Fine’.

Derek was fortunate enough to see Big Joe perform with the Humphrey Lyttelton Band on a UK tour in the mid-1960’s. Joe arrived at Heathrow Airport without a work permit. ‘You’ve got a nerve,’ declared an officious immigration officer. ‘That’s what it takes these days,’ Joe replied. He just wanted to sing and have a good time.

‘Feel So Fine’ is a handsomely bound portrait of Big Joe Turner, the greatest of the blues shouters and without doubt a founding figure of rock ‘n’ roll.   In addition to the biography it includes a full discography of Turner’s recordings, a bibliography and a list of his compositions. It is lavishly illustrated in both colour and black/white with photographs, personal letters, posters, tickets and record labels et al. It will appeal to lovers of jazz and blues and anyone with an interest in the roots of popular music. As you turn the pages you will be irresistibly drawn to listen to the music.

‘Feel So Fine: Big Joe Turner – The Boss of the Blues’ is published in both hardback and paperback by Hardinge Simpole (ISBN 978-1-84352-232-5) and available to order online.

With such a monumental achievement under his belt one might expect Derek Coller to take a well-earned rest. But no, he is already hard at work to rescue more of his jazz heroes from obscurity.

The full interview with Jeff Harris, host of Big Road Blues (Jazz90.1 Rochester, NY), accompanied by many of Big Joe’s classic recordings  can be heard on https://sundayblues.org/?p=28402

Live Jazz

events in the new year

previewed by JAZZ IN READING

Monday 22 January 2024

The Crooked Billet, Newlands Lane, Stoke Row RG9 5PU
Arrive between 6.30 – 7.00 pm (pre show dinner) on stage 8.30pm
Full regular menu, £30 music cover charge.

Experience the ultimate fusion of musical brilliance as four extraordinary artists come together to form a band like no other. Get ready to be mesmerized by the enchanting melodies and captivating performances of Lollo Meier, Wawau Adler, Filippo Dall’Asta, and Jonny Gee.

Lollo Meier, the legendary Dutch Gypsy Swing guitar master, brings his unparalleled expertise and undeniable passion for Django Reinhardt’s music. His pure melodious playing, coupled with his remarkable style, transports audiences to a bygone era while keeping the music as fresh as ever.

Wawau Adler, an internationally acclaimed Gypsy Jazz guitarist, is hailed as one of the best in the world. With his virtuosic skills and profound dedication to Jazz Manouche, he captivates listeners across continents. From his debut at the prestigious Django Reinhardt festival to his triumphs in America, Adler has earned a place among the finest guitarists of our time.

Filippo Dall’Asta, the Italian Gypsy jazz maestro, infuses his compositions with a progressive blend of Gypsy jazz, bebop, and classical music. His innovative style and collaboration with a diverse range of musicians create a mesmerizing experience. Prepare to be transported on a musical journey that seamlessly merges the erratic energy of Gypsy jazz with meditative sonorities of Indian music.

Jonny Gee, the versatile double bassist from the UK, brings his boundless energy and eclectic expertise to the mix. With a rich musical background spanning genres from baroque to jazz, salsa to tango-nuevo, Jonny’s performances are marked by his dynamic presence and unwavering enthusiasm.

Individually, these artists have left an indelible mark on the global music scene. Together, they form an unstoppable force, fusing their talents and creative prowess to deliver a concert experience that will leave you spellbound.

Don’t miss this extraordinary opportunity to witness the magic unfold as Lollo Meier, Wawau Adler, Filippo Dall’Asta, and Jonny Gee take the stage together. Brace yourself for an unforgettable night of musical brilliance and join us in celebrating the artistry of these four extraordinary talents.

On air sign background

Jazz On Air

Hot Biscuits served by STEVE BEWICK

We are continuing toi broadcasrt our current programme until the New Year, wehn we wioll return woith a new programme. There are plenty ofshows in our mix cloud archives if you are looking for a jazz-filled Christmas..

Best wishes to all our listners.

A Reader´s Perspective. All Points Forward

Tinsel, Treats and Tokens To Redeem


Buying books and cd’s for others as Christmas gifts is a risky proposition unless the intended recipient has made known their preferred choices or you definitely know their preferred authors or artists. It is therefore no surprise that book or gift tokens are high on the list of stocking fillers. So what am I going to do with all those tokens stuffed in my pillowcase (I wish!)


Mick Herron: The Secret Hours

I have been ploughing through his Slow Horses series for a few years now and it was no surprise when Apple TV adapted them for television. I have yet to watch them but they have become very popular and are now into season 3 and following the book chronology, so I am well ahead of them. The latest and seventh book of the series-Bad Actors- was published in 2022.

I am not a big fan of spy thrillers but the humour, plots and vivid portrayal of the characters for me puts the books on a level beyond most other writers of the genre.

Since I have gone through the book series I will use my token to buy this stand alone book which has recently hit the bookshelves. The Secret Hours is described by Amazon as ´A gripping spy thriller from the bestselling author of Slow Horses´, about a disastrous MI5 mission in Cold War Berlin—an absolute must-read for Slough House fans.

Set in the MI5 world of Slow Horses, now an Apple Original series from Apple TV+ starring Gary Oldman and Kristin Scott Thomas, the book is described by Amazon, who tell  us  that Two years ago, a hostile prime minister launched the Monochrome inquiry, investigating “historical over-reaching” by the British Secret Service. Monochrome’s mission was to ferret out any hint of misconduct by any MI5 officer—and allowed Griselda Fleet and Malcolm Kyle, the two civil servants seconded to the project, unfettered access to any and all confidential information in the Service archives in order to do so. But MI5’s formidable First Desk did not become Britain’s top spy by accident, and she has successfully thwarted the inquiry at every turn. Now the administration that created Monochrome has been ousted, the investigation is a total bust—and Griselda and Malcolm are stuck watching as their career prospects are washed away by the pounding London rain

Until the eve of Monochrome’s shuttering, when an MI5 case file appears without explanation. It is the buried history of a classified operation in 1994 Berlin—an operation that ended in tragedy and scandal, whose cover-up has rewritten thirty years of Service history.

The Secret Hours is a dazzling entry point into Mick Herron’s body of work, a standalone spy thriller that is at once unnerving, poignant, and laugh-out-loud funny. It is also the breathtaking secret history that Slough House fans have been waiting for´,.

James Lee Burke-Flags on the Bayou

I have similarly ploughed through his huge output for a good many years. JLB is an American novelist whose work focuses on characters based in Southern Louisiana. Many of his books have been adapted for film. He has published a number of books in the Dave Robicheaux series, as well as stand alone titles. This book is a stand alone title published earlier this year. I have yet to be disappointed with any of his books.

Of Flags On The Bayou, Amazon says  ´the book is From New York Times-bestselling author James Lee Burke comes a novel set in Civil War-era Louisiana as the South transforms and a brilliant cast of characters – enslaved and free women, plantation gentry, and battle-weary Confederate and Union soldiers – are caught in the maelstrom

In the fall of 1863, the Union army is in control of the Mississippi river. Much of Louisiana, including New Orleans and Baton Rouge, is occupied. The Confederate army is retreating toward Texas, and being replaced by Red Legs, irregulars commanded by a maniacal figure, and enslaved men and women are beginning to glimpse freedom.

When Hannah Laveau, an enslaved woman working on the Lufkin plantation, is accused of murder, she goes on the run with Florence Milton, an abolitionist schoolteacher, dodging the local constable and the slavecatchers that prowl the bayous. Wade Lufkin, haunted by what he observed—and did—as a surgeon on the battlefield, has returned to his uncle’s plantation to convalesce, where he becomes enraptured by Hannah. Flags on the Bayou is an engaging, action-packed narrative that includes a duel that ends in disaster, a brutal encounter with the local Union commander, repeated skirmishes with Confederate irregulars led by a diseased and probably deranged colonel, and a powerful story of love blossoming between an unlikely pair. As the story unfolds, it illuminates a past that reflects our present in sharp relief.

James Lee Burke, whose “evocative prose remains a thing of reliably fierce wonder” (Entertainment Weekly), expertly renders the rich Louisiana landscape, from the sunsets on the Mississippi River to the dingy saloons of New Orleans to the tree-lined shores of the bayou and the cottonmouth snakes that dwell in its depths. Powerful and deeply moving, Flags on the Bayou is a story of tragic acts of war, class divisions upended, and love enduring through it all.

I think that perhaps Norm, our editor at PASS IT ON, would like me to use some of my tokens on music books, so here goes:

Music Books

Bobbie Malone-Traveller,The Musical Odyssey of Tim O’Brien

Published in 2022 I have been planning to buy this for some time now but have not yet done so. If I buy it early in the new year with my book token I will ask him to sign it at his Manchester gig in late January.

The same sales platform as for the aforementioned books, , notes that for five decades, as a singer, musician, songwriter, and producer, Tim O’Brien has ceaselessly explored the vast American musical landscape. While Appalachia and Ireland eventually became facets of the defining myth surrounding him and his music, he has digested a broad array of roots styles, reshaping them to his own purposes. Award-winning biographer Bobbie Malone and premier country music historian Bill C. Malone have teamed again, this time to chronicle O’Brien’s career and trace the ascent of Hot Rize and its broadening and enrichment of musical traditions.

At the beginning of that career, O’Brien moved from his native West Virginia to the Rocky Mountain West. In just a few years, he became the lead singer, mandolin and fiddle player, and principal songwriter of beloved 1980s bluegrass band Hot Rize. Seeking to move beyond bluegrass, he next went to Nashville. O’Brien’s success in navigating the shoals of America’s vast reservoir of folk musical expressions took him into the realm of what is now called Americana

Holly Gleason-Prine on Prine-(Interviews and Encounters with John Prine)

Published this year, this is the latest in a number of books on the great American singer songwriter. Having read Eddie Huffman’s bio- John Prine In Spite of Himself, this will provide a different perspective as it is more of a compilation of interviews and thoughts from fellow artists, than a walk through his career.

Amazon says of the book that Prine on Prine definitively presents the iconic American songwriter’s songwriter across the many eras of his celebrated life, career, and songs in his own word
John Prine hated giving interviews, but he said much when he talked. Embarrassed by fame, delighted by the smallest things, the first songwriter to read at the Library of Congress, and winner of the Pen Award for Literary Excellence, Prine saw the world unlike anyone else.

The songs from 1971’s John Prine remain spot-on takes of the human condition today, and his writing only got richer, funnier, and more incisive. The interviews in Prine on Prine trace his career evolution, his singular mind, his enduring awareness of social issues, and his acute love of life, from Studs Terkel’s radio interviews from the early ’70s to Mike Leonard’s Today Show packages from the ’80s, Cameron Crowe’s early encounter to Ronni Lundy’s Shuck Beans, Stack Cake cookbook, and Hot Rod magazine to No Depression’s cover story, through today.

Editor Holly Gleason enjoyed a longstanding relationship with Prine and his longtime co-manager, and she often traveled with him on tours in the late 1980s and represented him in the 2000s.


Not being a Swiftie I won’t be buying the video of the Eras Tour or anything from Taylor´s hugely popular output, although millions will be.

Its a shame really because she started her career as an Americana singer songwriter but like others has crossed over into the more lucrative pop market and there is no going back.

So I will spend my token on the forthcoming Brace-Jutz album Simple Motion but I’ll have to wait till February for that.

Meanwhile Google says, somewhat enigmatically that the dvd was filmed over her Los Angeles dates at the SoFi stadium, Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour is a two-hour, 45-minute chronicle of her hit tour. For fans who are familiar with the tour, this raises some questions as to what has been cut from the film.

Mark Knopfler has a new album completed and like other of his projects, most notably the Henrik Hansen film documentary, I´m sure that, like me, all his fans feel its like  Waiting for Godot. Its done and has been for some time but it has already shifted from 2023 release to 2024-sometime!

Iris De-Ment-Workin on a World

Her last and long awaited album went down the gospel path and my previews of it were not favourable. This new album has a different and more uptempo feel. So I might be tempted with it.

Bandcamp informs me that On her transcendent new record, Workin’ On A World, Iris DeMent faces the modern world — as it is right now — with its climate catastrophe, pandemic illness, and epidemic of violence and social injustice — and not only asks us how we can keep working towards a better world, but implores us to love each other, despite our very different ways of seeing. Her songs are her way of healing our broken inner and outer spaces.

With an inimitable voice as John Prine described, “like you’ve heard, but not really,” and unforgettable melodies rooted in hymns, gospel, and old country music, she’s simply one of the finest singer-songwriters in America as well as one of our fiercest advocates for human rights. Her debut record Infamous Angel, which just celebrated its 30th anniversary, was recently named one of the “greatest country albums of all time” by Rolling Stone, and the two albums that followed, My Life and The Way I Should, were both nominated for GRAMMYs. From there, DeMent released three records on her own label, Flariella Records, the most recent of which, The Trackless Woods (2015), was hailed as “a quietly powerful triumph” by The Guardian. DeMent’s songs have also been featured in film (True Grit) and television (The Leftovers) and recorded by numerous artists. Fittingly, she received the Americana Music Trailblazer Award in 2017.

Workin’ On A World, her seventh album, started with the worry that woke DeMent up after the 2016 elections: how can we survive this? “Every day some new trauma was being added to the old ones that kept repeating themselves, and like everybody else, I was just trying to bear up under it all,” she recalls. She returned to a truth she had known since childhood: music is medicine. “My mom always had a way of finding the song that would prove equal to whatever situation we were facing. Throughout my life, songs have been lending me a hand. Writing songs, singing songs, putting them on records, has been a way for me to extend that hand to others.”

With grace, courage, and soul, Iris shares 13 anthems — love songs, really — to and for our broken inner and outer worlds. DeMent sets the stage for the album with the title track in which she moves from a sense of despair towards a place of promise. “Now I’m workin’ on a world I may never see / Joinin’ forces with the warriors of love / Who came before and will follow you and me.”

She summons various social justice warriors, both past and present, to deliver messages of optimism. “How Long” references Martin Luther King, while “Warriors of Love” includes John Lewis and Rachel Corrie. “Goin’ Down To Sing in Texas” is an ode not only to gun control, but also to the brave folks who speak out against tyranny and endure the consequences in an unjust world. “I kept hearing a lot of talk about the arc of history that Dr. King so famously said bends towards justice,” she recalls. “I was having my doubts. But, then it dawned on me, he never said the arc would magically bend itself. Songs, over the course of history, have proven to be pretty good arc benders.”

Bending inward, DeMent reaches agilely under the slippery surface of politics. She grapples with loss on the deeply honest “I Won’t Ask You Why,” while encouraging compassion over hate in the awe-inspiring “Say A Good Word.” Album closer “Waycross, Georgia,” encompasses the end of the journey, thanking those along the way. As she approaches subjects of aging, loss, suicide, and service, an arc of compassion elevated to something far beyond words is transmitted. The delicate fierceness encompassed in the riveting power of her voice has somehow only grown over time.

Stalled partway through by the pandemic, the record took six years to make with the help of three friends and co-producers: Richard Bennett, Pieta Brown, and Jim Rooney. It was Pieta Brown who gave the record its final push. “Pieta asked me what had come of the recordings I’d done with Jim and Richard in 2019 and 2020. I told her I’d pretty much given up on trying to make a record. She asked would I mind if she had a listen. So, I had everything we’d done sent over to her, and not long after that I got a text, bouncing with exclamation marks: ‘You have a record and it’s called Workin’ On A World!’” With Bennett back in the studio with them, Brown and DeMent recorded several more songs and put the final touches on the record in Nashville in April of 2022.

The result is a hopeful album — shimmering with brilliant flashes of poignant humor and uplifting tenderness — that speaks the truth, “in the way that truth is always hopeful,” she explains. Reflecting on the lyrics of the song “The Sacred Now” (“see these walls/ let’s bring ‘em on down / it’s not a dream; it’s the sacred now”), DeMent is reminded of Jesus saying the Kingdom of God is within you and the Buddhist activist monk Thich Nhat Hanh saying the rose is in the compost; the compost is in the rose. On Workin’ On A World, Iris DeMent demonstrates that songs are the healing and the healing arises through song. 

Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit-Weathervanes

I’m not a huge fan. Some of his output appeals and others do not. This new album falls into the former category, so I might consider spending a cd token on it.


Maestro-Leonard Bernstein

After a short tour of the indie cinema circuit in the UK, it was shown at the Manchester Home earlier this week, it has now gone to Netflix streaming. It seems I.m not the only fan as you will read from the Google quote below. This is certainly on my wish list.

To put it bluntly i think this is the pinnacle, the stellar star movie of Bradley Cooper’s acting, and I’ve seen many films of his and he’s always been such an amazing actor and kept improving but this was the first time my brain genuinely could not believe that it was Bradley Cooper I genuinely saw Mr Leonard Bernstein throughout the entire movie from the first til the last second.

Berlin Philharmonic Digital Concert Hall

I was able to stream some of their output for free during COVID and was mightily impressed. Not only do you get to watch high quality classical concerts in the comfort of your own home but you are also treated to pre and after concert talks with the conductors, artists and members of the Orchestra. Nothing beats the live experience but I think that this is as close as you will come to it. I’m hoping they will accept my gift tokens in lieu of payment for a subscription.

Robert Plant and Band Of Joy-Live from The Artists DenI watched an abbreviated and heavily advert break laden version of this Blu Ray earlier this year on Sky Arts. Shot in Nashville it features the Americana version of Robert Plant singing Led Zeppelin classics and new songs. Importantly for me his Band Of Joy features Buddy Miller, Patty Griffin and Darrell Scott. Each has a brief solo spot, but more extended on the dvd/bluray, as well as providing vocal and instrumental back up.

In this format the otherwise unpalatable Led Zeppelin songs in their native format became instantly appealing for me and I resolved to purchase the extended Blu Ray with the added attraction of no interference from advert breaks.

As a Christmas wish I’m hoping for Jackson Browne to make a long overdue return to the UK after extensive tours in the USA, Australia, Japan. You name it-anywhere but the UK since 2015. I’m also hoping that I will not have to keep travelling back and beyond to see some of the few Americana artists that are visiting these shores since COVID.

I used to think nothing of traveling from Manchester to York Winning Post to see John Stewart but these days as old father time kicks in I have to think twice about nocturnal long distance travel. Especially in the depths of winter. Probably, so do the artists!

Happy Christmas and Best Wishes for 2024.

Island Insights

The Gospel According To Joshua


The Soul of Gospel is not only a musical show, but is also an experience that leaves no one indifferent. The Soul of Gospel is rooted in the best African-American musical traditions and represents a community culture where free expression and beauty go hand in hand. 

We met our two anonymous friends at a location that we can´t divulge, and they drove us to the venue, via Teguise so we could enjoy a meal. Because the kitchen had closed at our favourite El Recoveco,  and they re-opened for us, it all became a little bit Fawlty Towers in terms of service, and the waiter and owner returned to our table several times to say that what we had just ordered was no longer available. It ended up pretty much a luck of the draw as to what we were going to eat. Two of us  had lamb, one had a mushroom risotto kind of thing and the other had a vegan hamburger, which seemed a tasty contradiction in terms. The service though, was always smiley, and we noticed that having re-opened the kitchen, they were being inundated  by new orders from those who had been drinking outside.

Whatever impression the paragraph above might create I ought to tell you that there were around forty people at the outside tables drinking wine and laughing and chatting, and twenty yards from our table there was a beautiful Christmas grotto, an authentic Father Christmas and a children´s carousel, with softly played Christmas music. The square was exquisitely lit by colourful lighting, just as dusk was ceding to darkness- It was magical and peaceful and felt as if we had travelled back to a gentler time.

There was then a slight mix up over the bill el Recoveco de NarA, but it was amicably resolved and we set off down the road to San Bartolome in plenty of time to park up and walk to the Teatro..

The walk from the car to the theatre was glorious, with the long trunks of the palm tress beautifully adorned by Christmas lights (left) as was the theatre entrance and the main town square, accommodating this year´s Belen was dream-like.

Inside, as we took our seats, we realised the theatre was already very nearly full, and by the time tonight´s guest´s took to the stage, we were only a few seats short of a full house. We have enjoyed a few gospel events on Lanzarote over the eight years we have been here and were fans particularly, of the Lanzarote Gospel Choir, which was a bundle of energy, musicality and merriment.

Tonight´s act from America took all this to another level. Before the lights went down we had noticed there were four chairs situated on stage and a piano, and these were then filled by Joshua Nelson on the piano stool and three female singers and one male on the four chairs. Not that they sat for long. After two soulful numbers had opened the programme it became a swaying and sashaying show, and to keep the alliteration going, sincere outpouring of religious and joyous emotion.

Joshua himself is a force of nature, at times a Jerry Lee Lewis figure, all vamp and musical stamp and at others as if an old jazz man gently tickling the ivories. In looks and attire, however, he cut a Stevie Wonder character and in fact as I write that I realise that is who his rich and raspy vocal style most reminded me of.

The Walls Of Jericho Came Tumbling Down, The Saints Went Marching In and When Jesus Washed Our Sins Away  it was indeed a Happy Day and as I looked around me at an audience that was on its feet clapping along, and swaying as if enraptured to the music, I wondered, not for the first time about Lanzarote´s relationship with gospel music. Everybody here seemed to know the songs and to understand the ambience of the event, whether they were grandparents, mums and dads, young couples or pre-teen children in attendance.

Joshua Nelson told us between songs that he and his singers had played on Lanzarote before even though they are based in America and the extended encore of a medley of popular Gospel songs saw him running up and down the aisles of the theatre singing out in his attractively gravelly voice and beseeching we in the audience to ever more fervent call and response sets.

As Joshua Nelson and his singers finally left the stage I asked a young family in front of us, mum, dad, and a little lady of about six or seven perhaps, whether there is a gospel church on the island. When there replied that they didn´t know of any I asked where, then, had they learned all this music and these moves and where and how they acquired such joy and obvious love of a music that can surely hardly ever hear on the island.

The couple, and young daughter too, just smiled beatifically and said we don´t know where it comes from…but we just love this music ! It feels right.

As the audience exited the theatre, chatting animatedly, many of them headed off through the steeply stepped town square to admire the newly installed Belen, (a crib installation).

Because I´ve had a couple of tumbles already on an island where there is literally no soft place to fall, I took the risky assumption that after I had been so vibrantly singing his praises for the last couple of hours, The Good Lord, might guide my way down and through a gorgeous panoply of Christmas lights and images. He saw me down the steps, and then as if by a miracle and to this Christmas will truly a Wonderful Life, God seemed to lead me into A Place For Poetry.

Island insights

A Place For Poetry

discovered by NORMAN WARWICK

It´s funny when you turn round in a crowd and bump into someone you know and it´s even funnier when you bump into somebody you know, but can´t remember their name . Of course, to turn that into comedy gold, its priceless if she can´t remember my name either. And to ensure the canned laughter can be heard for miles around, its even better if she speaks Spanish and I can speak only English  and we can share less that twenty words between us. By asking very short, slow questions of each other we established where we had previously met.

It was a poetry reading that was held five or six years ago at the El Patio bar and restaurant in Teguise.  The readings were being delivered by the members of a ladies poetry-writing group in the town, and there were around twenty of them , and although the poems were written and read in Spanish I could still feel a rhythm and acadence and tonal quality that gave a clue as to the mood of each piece.

This lady I had almost knocked over as I skipped in the final few steps into this idyllic square had been the chair of that group, which is why I remembered her, and I had gate-crashed the party by asking if could be the only male to take part and could I speak my poem in English.

I delivered my work, called So Have I, with theatrical gestures and change of vocal tones to try to get my story across.

It was all very amiable, and I returned to the outside dining table from which I had seen and heard them.

When their performance finished half an hour or so later, the chair lady came over and said goodbye, and there was little reason to think we would ever meet again.

Now, after all these years, we discovered we had been to a Gospel Choir performance, and drawn by the reel of the flickering lights, found ourselves together in this strangely hued town square.

Having penned two articles here under the title of A Place For Poetry, and being ready to go home and write my review of the Gospel explosion, I now found I had this third short article to continue the series.

And surely, whenever we find A Place For Poetry, it should be on a balmy night under a starlit sky, with the moon rising behind the castle on the mountain behnd the town and fairy lights twinkling around the square.

And the conversation should be duo-lingual in Spanish and English of poets like Simon Armitage from England and Mercedes Mingeula from Spain. And just a bit of Bob Dylan and Dylan Thomas.

So tonight´s Place For Poetry was in a town square, in the shadow of a Theatre ´lit by fairy lights illuminating the fountain and the wishing well .´

Island Insights

Cesar Manrique Travels To Gran Canaria

by Norman Warwick

The Atlantic Center of Modern Art (CAAM) hosted the presentation of the book ‘César Manrique y Haría. The artist and the beauty of the place’, by Francisco Galante, professor of Art History at the University of La Laguna, member of the advisory committee of the César Manrique Foundation and a prominent expert on the life and artistic career of the Lanzarote artist.

The author spoke at the event, along with Nilo Palenzuela, Pedro Hernández and Ángel Vázquez, on Thursday, December 14, at 7:00 p.m., in the CAAM multipurpose room, with free entry until capacity was reached.

Francisco Galante’s book has been published by the Haría City Council and the University of La Laguna, through the César Manrique Cultural Chair, and sponsored by the Art, Culture and Tourism Centers of the Cabildo of Lanzarote.

FRANCISCO GALANTE is a professor of Art History at the University of La Laguna, director of the César Manrique Cultural Chair, member of the Institute of European Culture, based in Brussels, of the Higher Council for Scientific Research and of the advisory committee of the César Manrique Foundation.

In his field of study, and as specific areas of research, he has addressed the phenomenon of integration between art and nature in contemporary architecture, oriented towards the analysis and reflection of environmental, landscape and ecological issues, dedicating, in this sense, special attention to the work of César Manrique.

Likewise, he has dealt with artistic and cultural relations between Flanders and the Canary Islands, as well as Spanish cultural heritage and its links with Europe and Latin America. On the other hand, he is interested in the study of the city that he has analyzed from the perspective of cultural image of collective memory.

With reference to these disciplines, he has published numerous books and research works while giving specialty courses and conferences at various universities and scientific institutions (Bologna, Antwerp, Ghent, Breda, Havana…), as well as at the Cervantes Institutes. in Bordeaux and Maastricht, and in the Spanish embassies in Berlin and Brussels.

Another of his activities is aimed at the organization of international exhibitions, working, on the other hand, as a writer, essayist and art critic, also creating scripts on various cultural topics for film, television and other media.

In recognition of his professional activity, the Government of Spain has recognized his research merits and his capacity for teaching innovation with numerous distinctions.

NILO PALENZUELA (Los Realejos, 1958) is a writer and professor of Spanish Literature at the University of La Laguna. His creative and research activity has been developed in the domain of literature, art and thought.

His creative books include Arachnid Oracle (Espacio el Mar, Tenerife, 1983), Poetic Prose; Nameless Slits (Mérida School of Art, 2008. With drawings by José Herrera). Poems; The dry leaf (Vitruvio, Madrid, 2014). Poems

Another Sea, Another Soil (El sastre de Apollinaire, Madrid, 2022). 

Poems; Stop To Go Out Into The Countryside (Asphodel, El Rosario, 2004). With original engraving by North American artist Denis Long). 

Fragments, Thought, Poetry; Passages And Departures (Tenerife, La Caja Literaria, 2011). 

Fragments, Short Stories, Thoughts, Poetry, Impure Animals (Libros del Innombrable, Zaragoza, 2017. With drawings by the Cuban artist Sandra Ramos).

Fragments, Short Stories, Poetry: The Camera Obscura (Mapfre, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria/Santa Cruz de Tenerife, 2009. With photographs by Carlos Schwartz). Story.

He has collaborated in well-known publications of art, philosophy or literature: Revista de Occident, Quimera, Er-Revista de philosophy, Espacio/Espaço Written, Ínsula, Hora de Poesía, El Signo del Gorrión, Cuadernos Hispanoamericanos, Anthropos, Letras Libres (Mexico) , Vuelta (Mexico), Equis (Mexico), From Freud’s Garden (Colombia), Missives (France), Third Text (England).

He has collaborated sporadically in the newspapers El País, Diario 16, Abc, La Jornada (Mexico). Currently he collaborates in the supplement Papel Literario, of El Nacional (Caracas); He also coordinates a monographic issue of African culture for Guaraguao a Latin American culture magazine. He is an advisor to CAAM’s Atlantic magazine. His essays and lectures on art were published by CAAM in 2018: How silence was chased away. Art Writings.

t is Christmas Day on Monday but we will set off again on our wanderings, returning to the UK to cobbled end of the motorway, to loo at the rise and fall of Boddingtons Brewery, and meet a Corrie star, Jane Danson, and two of her former cast colleagues, Julie Hesmondhalgh and her character Hayley Cropper, and Kevin Kennedy, The Boy Who Gazed At The Moon. We will publish Sidetracks And Detours every day next week as always, and all you have to is to find plenty to read in our daily not for profit blogover the holidays is click on the link below and PASS IT ON to your like-minded, arts loving friends, and that way we can all have a Happy Christmas.

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