Tuesday 23 December 2008

Christmas Blog

The end of the year is nigh- The Sufjan Stevens Christmas box set is out and playing a soundtrack of merry melancholy and mellifluous mayhem (that man is so good damn him) and I always find myself thinking about highs and lows both personally and in the wider world- kind of summing up the year in my head. Though my summing up is a poor reflection of reality I’m sure!

It’s been a rollercoaster of a year really- Finally launching the Red Tree album back in May was a brilliant time. A great launch party night, some fantastic reviews, and the opportunity to work and perform with some very talented musicians in the gigs that followed- that really is the fun side of the job!! And more recently BBC Radio Two playing of Red Tree on Whispering Bob’s (he probably hates that name) Saturday program is definitely a high! The downside has been trying to keep the momentum rolling as it has been a little more stop-start than was planned with more gigs being cancelled by promoters than I’ve ever experienced before as well as two of the festivals that I was booked to play over the summer also cancelled. It seems that a lot of it has been a direct effect of the credit crunch- I have had many of conversations with others about this. Some are telling me its all in the mind and nothing is changing but it does seem to me (at least from my struggling in the garret to make art type level) to have had quite an impact. That said I want to take my hat off to all of you and those promoters who have carried on regardless and continue to support live music!

I personally have been to some fantastic gigs over the year. Leonard Cohen at the Manchester Opera House comes out at the top- but also up in the highs were- Sigur Ros’s beautiful soundscapes and mindblowingly stunning display of visuals, Ani Difranco and her performance full of passion and energy, Jose Gonzales intense intricate and unique guitar style songs and Cerys Matthews who’s powerful set was full of diversity, self deprecating humour and soulful delivery. All very inspiring and energising!
I’ve opened for some great acts also this year- Jackie Leven being one of them- his storytelling was very engaging.

Obama was elected! I almost hadn’t dared to hope after the disappointments of the last elections. The great Odetta passed away. Somehow Hallelujah was performed on The X factor- ok so its not the Cohen, Cale, Buckley or KD Lang version all of which wax and wane between mystical and earthy content of the lyrics- but hey its still a surprisingly astute choice for X factor!

And finally to wrap these rather randomly assorted thoughts- I want to say something about the current situation in Palestine this Christmas. I guess having worked out there and experienced a little of what life under occupation is like- I can’t think of Bethlehem at this time of year (all the carol and Christmas cards etc) without talking about what the situation as it is. I was involved last week in an ‘Alternative Carol’ event called Carols by Check Point that included traditional carols, alongside re-written versions telling the story of Palestine today under occupation. I’ve included a bit of blurb about Bethlehem that was in the program, below and also would like to draw attention to an inspiring and courageous campaign headed by young Israeli teens known as ‘THE SHMINISTIM’ who are refusing to do their compulsory military service as they cannot morally partake the inhumane practises of the occupation. This means that they are in and out of prison continually for the 3- 4 years that they do not do their military service and will of course have repercussions on employment opportunities etc… http://december18th.org
Follow the link here to the website and find out more and sign their petition letter ….

So all that remains is to wish you a Merry Christmas- look forward to seeing you all on the road some place soon in 2009.

(oh yes and the live album- well it will happen sometime in 09 so watch this space… as always everything takes 100 times longer than my optimistic forecasting!!)

Bethlehem Blurb

Bethlehem Today
The 'little town' is smaller than once it was. A 9-metre high snaking concrete wall splits it, dividing people from their land; residents are prevented from moving around the Palestinian territory of the West Bank, not to mention the application process for permits to get to Jerusalem (some of which is also Palestinian) - these are only given to those in employment, only last 3 months and there is no guarantee of renewal or that the checkpoint allowing access will be open at any given time. Jerusalem is six miles from Bethlehem, so this effectively cuts off secure employment opportunities for thousands and thousands of people. Checkpoints do not only exist between Palestinian and Jewish Israeli areas but also within Palestinian territory; simply to get to the neighbouring Palestinian town or village (without going anywhere near Jewish Israeli dwellings), Palestinians frequently experience military checkpoints which can cause disruption, delay, humiliation or simple prevention from passing through. Access to work, emergency medicine, routine healthcare, family and land is routinely made difficult, slow or impossible.

International law states that an occupying force is not allowed to settle its citizens in the territory which it occupies. Israel has been illegally settling Israeli Jews in the West Bank consistently over the years and continues to do so, as other nations tacitly support this with their silence. These settlements generally take the form of towns on the top of formerly green hills, often clearly visible from the Palestinian towns and villages from whom the land has been 'confiscated'.
The settlements are connected by roads accessible only to the Jewish Israeli residents. Local Palestinians cannot use them or cross them. The joint effect of the road, the settlements, the checkpoints, the roads reserved for one people group, and the Wall, is what Jeff Halper (a Jewish Israeli) describes as the 'Matrix of Control'. He says "The Matrix of Control, then, conceals behind a facade of seemingly innocuous administrative devices and ostensibly justified military and physical constraints a repressive regime intended to permanently deny the Palestinians self-determination, citizenship, and basic human and civil rights." (from 'Obstacles to Peace', p.23).

The local population call for us to hear the stories of the present as well as the stories of the past, and to consider the reality of the place when we sing of Bethlehem in our Christmas celebrations. They ask us to learn, to go, to remember, to tell their stories and to act on what we know.

THE SMALL PRINT I: International Law. The International Court of Justice ruled in 2004 that the “construction of the wall being built by Israel, the occupying Power, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, and its associated regime, are contrary to international law”, that “Israel is under an obligation to terminate its breaches of international law; it is under an obligation to cease forthwith the works of construction of the wall being built in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem, to dismantle forthwith the structure therein situated”, and that “Israel is under an obligation to make reparation for all damage caused by the construction of the wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in and around East Jerusalem”.
THE SMALL PRINT II: Britain’s Approach. The UK Government response to the ‘barrier’, as described on the FCO website, is exactly as follows: “We fully recognise Israel's right to self-defence and agree that a barrier is a reasonable way to achieve this. However, we call for the barrier to be built either on or behind the Green Line.
The route, which the Israeli Cabinet approved on 20 February 2005, takes in a number of Israeli settlements, whose presence is illegal under international law. It also threatens to split the West Bank in two, which in turn undermines the prospects for a two-state solution.
We are profoundly concerned at the impact the barrier has on the lives of Palestinians, and deplore the destruction of Palestinian homes and the confiscation of land associated with its construction.
We have made our concerns extremely clear to the Israeli government and will continue to do so.”
Settlement and wall building continues apace. The raising of concerns does not appear to be a particularly strong deterrent.

Thursday 11 September 2008

Summer and beyond...

Can't believe it's September already- (I always start a blog like that it seems!) Totally depressed by the lack of sun here in the UK these last months, very British of me I know to talk about the weather but it has been bloody awful!- There was one day back in May when it was hot and Bill and I stopped by Wilcos and picked up a £5, paddling pool, anticipation those long summer nights in the garden etc... not once- but anyway moan over- off for a 10 day break in Tenby at the end of this week and can't wait...
So the highs of the last few months-some fun gigs- the stand out ones were-
Opening for the very lovely Rachael Sage at the Green Note- always enjoy that venue- the food the atmosphere and was good to hang out with the other musicians...
Zac's Place in Swansea with Karen and Rosy- we managed to record some footage of that evening which I've posted on the myspace and will post a you tube link below here in a moment...
In recent weeks- opening for Jackie Leven at Barfly (a special mention to the Llanelli and Port Talbot groupies who were so encouraging!)I'd never heard Jackie perfom before and was very impressed with his songs and story telling...
The M.A.D.A (music against domestic abuse) Charity event in Exeter last week was great fun to be a part of.

Really enjoyed seeing Jose Gonzales and Cerys Matthews performing at The Tenby Folk Festival...

I am beginning to work at mixing the live recording that I made at The Point earlier this year- the theory is to have a product ready for Christmas- so fingers crossed that all will go according to plan!

So here's the you tube link to various videos from Hushland http://www.youtube.com/mrhushland -

Friday 20 June 2008

Leonard Cohen

Bill and I saw the great Leonard Cohen at Manchester Opera House on Wednesday.
It was absolutely brilliant- every song a masterpiece and such an energetic, soulful and humerous performance from the man himself now in his 70s...
'There's a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in'

Sunday 1 June 2008

Live at The Point

Just a quick blog to say that I've loaded some photos now of the gig at The Point onto the Pic's section of my website and also the slideshow of the myspace page (see links at the side of the blog there) The recording that we made on the night is great and so there will be a live album coming some time (probably December or in the New Year)There are also more tracks from the album on myspace, with videos to follow...

Wednesday 21 May 2008

Red Tree Officially Released

Well it's all official now- the new album is released as of today!
To order your copies online please visit the websites below,
All the best


Postitive feedback and reviews have been coming in for the album over these last weeks and we've included a couple of quotes below...

'Individual and compelling songwriting talent, with a striking singing voice to match'
David Kidman Folk in The Round Magazine

'Wonderful overall feel and incredible range of emotion. The musicianship is amazing!'
David Kushar- www.spiralearth.co.uk

Rachel Taylor-Beales has a talent for story telling, with an eye and ear for the ‘real’ world around her. The mix of Folk, Jazz, Country and Americana blends to create a sublime sound that stops you in your tracks. With a New album and a tour on the horizon it’s about time you got on the band wagon.starting here! www.slow2fade.co.uk

We really liked Brilliant Blue, but Red Tree seems a huge step forward, we are seriously impressed !! www.fourdogsmusic.co.uk

No "difficult second album" worries for Rachel Taylor-Beales. 'Brilliant Blue', the Cardiff-based singer/songwriter's 2007 debut, was a lovely piece of work, but 'Red Tree' -- the second in a planned colour trilogy -- is a more than worthy successor.
Sarah Mcquaid- Irish Evening Herald

The launch gig at The Point was sooooo much fun. I was thrilled at the turnout and vibe. Huge thanks to all who came along to be part of the night. We managed to record the evening so there will be a 'Live Album' in the not too distant future!
I will be posting up photos soon and loading some video footage of the event onto the various websites soon, so watch this space...

Tuesday 18 March 2008

All About Red Tree, The New Album

Release Date 21/05/08 on Hushland
CD Launch gig at THE POINT, Cardiff Bay on the 14th May

About the album
Red Tree is the second of a colour themed trilogy of albums.
The title track was in part inspired by ‘The Red Tree,’ story book written and illustrated the Australian author Shaun Tan. I had been on holiday in the beautiful countryside of West Wales, and remember photographing a whole series of brightly coloured red trees that were planted outside my window. I knew that the colour inspiration for the next album would be red- and so was on the look out for anything that would spark my imagination. Just after this time I came across Shaun’s book and was totally struck by the depth and imaginative illustrations that followed a young girl’s journey of hope through depression and confusion waiting for her dream of ‘The Red Tree’ to become a reality. This in turn became the starting point for my Red Tree song and from that the album.

This CD also includes 2 tracks, ‘What if I Said’ and ‘Kindly Leave’ that were composed in collaboration with poet and BBC radio 4’s Broadcaster, Stewart Henderson as well as one track ‘ Find Me’ written by Bill Taylor-Beales. As a singer I enjoy interpreting the words of others and felt that as my previous album Brilliant Blue was entirely written by me, there was definitely room to explore other voices alongside my own on this album.

Working with Martyn Joseph as a producer was a great experience. He was very keen that the recordings be ‘live takes’ so that we could capture as much intimacy of interpretation as we could in the performance of them. So we began a process of singing through the tracks as a whole and recording each take until we felt we had ‘the one’ This was a very different experience of recording for me as I’ve always worked layer by layer in the studio adding the vocals at the end. The result though is I feel a very authentic and personal sound, and the process has certainly helped me to really inhabit the songs as a performer.

Martyn also lent his excellent musicianship to the project. He would often start a session by saying that he’d been experimenting with different sounds and ideas on the tracks- and pretty much each time I’d end up saying- ‘Yes that has to stay on it!’
There are also appearances from the wonderful Karen Chalk who has sung and performed with me since 2004, as well as Bill Taylor-Beales, guesting on his own track- Find Me. Charlotte Eksteen’s cello parts were the last to be recorded and in my opinion her contributions have taken the album to another level. Her playing and interpretation of the tracks was stunning, and I remember at one point in the studio Martyn Joseph and myself both simultaneously saying Wow- after her moving rendition on the Moses Basket track.

Friday 8 February 2008

CD Launch Gig 14th May

Have just had to re-schedule the Red Tree CD Launch gig date to May 14th at 'The Point' Cardiff Bay (the venue double booked) But it is set to stay!!

Monday 4 February 2008

New CD coming soon...

The new CD Red Tree is now set for release on May 1st and a Launch Gig will be held on Wednesday May the 7th at The Point here in Cardiff, with more dates to follow. I'm planning lots of live art to accompany the gig and will post more info as and when...

In the mean time I am very excited about this new product and will be posting some taster samples on my website and Myspace pages in the weeks running up to the release.

The album has been produced by Martyn Joseph and also features him as a multi- instrumentalist along with the beautiful haunting sounds of Charlotte Eksteen's cello, some fine backing from the ever faithful Karen Chalk and Bill Taylor-Beales also makes a special appearance on one of the tracks... Watch this space...