Will Rogers : Misfits

The latest album to drop into my inbox is the soon-to-be-released offering by Will Rogers, Misfits.

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Will’s music is an open, honest mix of lyric-driven acoustic rhythms, no more so evident than in the title track, which cocks its hat very much in the style of Barenaked Ladies. But this album has many more layers and dimensions to it that the simple desire to cram as many words as possible into two minutes and fifty four seconds. It comes over very much as a labour of love and an insight into the musician’s soul.

Take the first track, More, which espouses all of the collective fervour of Billy Bragg’s social utopia with none of Bragg’s annoying political overtones. It’s a great little sing-along song with catchy riffs and a tagline that sticks in the head, leading to those embarrassing moments when you find yourself singing aloud in public. Together with Thunder, Misfits and Take A Leap, there’s a positive, almost jaunty feel that dares the foot not to tap along.

Cogs hits a sombre, darker tone, with a lyric that comes closest to angst-driven unrest and despair. It shows that Will is far more than a one-trick pony, with the ability to deliver both lightness and shade.

My favourite track, however, is the final offering, Dangerous Words In The Dark. There’s a clarity of message that cuts through so clearly, telling of the challenge facing a man desperate to completely open his heart and soul to his true love. As a contrast to the rest of the album, it takes you by surprise and really makes you sit up and take notice.

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I’m really glad that I got the chance to listen to Misfits. Finding a new artist, and getting to understand a little of what makes them tick, is the best thing about writing reviews. And it’s even better when the material is as refreshing as this.

Misfits is released on Saturday, March 7, 2015. For more info, go to http://willrogersmusic.com/

Of Sins Present And Past by John Aulabaugh

 

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New Music.

It’s a phrase that evokes a range of emotions, but these days, more often than not it sadly throws up a depressing image of kids with computers in bedrooms remixing and self-producing in the hope of becoming the world’s next YouTube sensation. Which is why, when a new artist comes along that defies the stereotype, we should sit up and take notice. John Aulabaugh is one such artist.

His debut album, Of Sins Present And Past, dropped into my inbox this week.

John is a musician, a businessman, a father, a son, a husband. He’s seen life with all its triumphs and challenges, and with this album, John brings all his years to bear when telling a story.

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Of Sins Present And Past talks of addiction and recovery, of secrecy and deceit, of compulsion and hurt, pain and recovery. And just as that journey is full of ups and downs, John’s music hits you on unexpected, and at times slightly uncomfortable levels. It sings of despair, desire, destruction, desperation and the hope of ultimate deliverance, through well-written, meaningful lyrics and intelligent, carefully crafted melodies.

If you asked me to pull out a few tracks as standouts? It’s tough, because they are all good, but I’d say that having spent a few days listening, the tracks that I find myself singing are the wonderfully acoustic A Road Less Travelled, the darker, more compulsive Strange, the more laid back, rhythmic feel of Awake, and the beautifully haunting Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. That these tracks each have their own feel and flavor just highlights again how John Aulabaugh has delivered a welcome, refreshing breath of fresh air with Of Sins Present And Past.

This new kid on the alt-country block has been round that block a few times, and his music is all the better for it.

John Aulabaugh‘s debut album, Of Sins Present And Past, is a habit well worth indulging. Featuring such renowned artists as Jessy Greene and Rami Jaffee, it’s at the same time both personal and universal, and deserves all the acclaim it will undoubtably create.

Of Sins Present And Past is released on March 30, 2015.

Just to be clear – I’m not Ableist

The past few weeks have seen me involved in some very interesting, very detailed, and very heated conversations on Facebook and on friends’ blogs regarding the subject of Ableism.

You may not know what this means – I admit I had to look it up.

Ableism means using language that discriminates against disabled people. In the past, this would have included terms (from my days at school back in the 70s) such as ‘spastic‘, ‘spaz‘ and ‘Joey‘, after Joey Deacon – a well-known television presenter and suffer from Cerebral Palsy – to indicate stupidity and lack of intelligence in the intended target . At the time, we were just being thoughtless kids. These days, however, such things simply wouldn’t, or shouldn’t get used as insults, and we all get that.

The accusations thrown at me haven’t been about this, however. They started when I described a phrase created by a US sports media company as ‘dumb‘. Which it was – in the ‘idiotic’, ‘ridiculous’ sense of the word. However, this has been the catalyst to a raft of statements being thrown at me, describing me as a ‘Great White Male‘, a throwback, and a bunch of other things. All for using a word in context and conforming to one of its accepted dictionary descriptions.

These people – the ‘anti-ableists‘, if you will – believe that ANY term, that could possibly be discriminatory to ANY person, at ANY time, should be banished from our speech. This would mean you can’t describe anything as ‘crazy‘, ‘lame‘, or any one of a thousand other terms. Including ‘dumb‘ – unless of course you’re using the word to describe someone without the power of speech.

My position has been misinterpreted by many – including someone who thought I should liberally sprinkle my language with the worst racist terminology possible as a test to see whether people take offence. So I want to set out my position clearly.

I am NOT ableist. I do NOT agree with the deliberate circumvention of language in order to offend people.

However, I am also not an ‘anti-ableist’, in that I disagree fundamentally with the supposed restrictions on speech that have been leveled at me and others who sprang to my defence.

If I can be described as having a stance, it’s more likely to be an ‘anti- anti-ableist‘.

The people picking me up for what they see as misuse of the word ‘dumb‘ are not mutes, nor have they checked this with mute people, to my strong understanding. The people responding to the conversations who might get offended by use of the word ‘lame‘ – due to disablilities they have – actually stated that they are not offended by this, as they don’t see the connection between themselves and the use of the word in context. It’s this perceived third-party offence that is all pervasive throughout the liberal end of society that actually offends me. and something that I am trying to eliminate from my language and behaviour.

So, when councils, company management, or organisations start talking about the ‘holiday season’ or – God forbid – ‘Winterval’, I will send them a Christmas Card, wishing them the merriest of Christmas. Because changing behaviours or speech because you think someone you don’t know, and haven’t spoken to, might be offended by something somebody says, is in itself offensive to me. There. Notice has been given, so please stop doing it.

Again – I’m not saying that anybody should deliberately offend others. What I AM saying is that the freedom to hold a position, to be a part of this great society we live in, and to live a life to the fullest, includes an implicit clause that means you won’t like everything you see and hear – much as others won’t necessarily like everything you say or do. And not to make judgement calls on what others may think, and not to get offended on their behalf. Disabled people, mute people, whoever – these people are more than capable of getting offended – or not – on their own. They don’t need others to do it for them, because that’s far more demeaning and patronising than anything I may cause by saying that American sportscasters say dumb things.

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I’ve been listening to some new music today.

It’s so new, in fact, that it’s still in the process of final mixing. The release date for the album isn’t for a few months yet. But the tracks I’ve heard so far have been very good.

I’ll go into more detail over the next couple of months, but keep your ears open – or pop over to John’s website.

Of Sins Present And Past by John Aulabaugh.

You heard (about) it here first!

The Riserdrummer Christmas Message 2014

Well, it’s that time of year again, when Christmas messages raise their heads over social and broadcast media. Never being one to break with tradition, here are my thoughts as we approach the season.

First of all, I’d like to forestall any comments from the usual suspects about acting like a Queen. I can assure you there’s no diamante and tiaras in my wardrobe – at least not just now. But just as HM Liz’s message always harks back to the year past and forward to the year ahead, so mine does as well.

Last year’s Christmas message (https://riserdrummer.wordpress.com/2013/12/23/the-riserdrummer-christmas-message-2013/) was one of emerging from challenges and a determination to push forward into new things, with the key phrase being this:

Life isn’t always smooth, some times the roller coaster goes up and down a bit quicker than is comfortable, but it isn’t what life throws at you that matters, it’s what you allow to stick. Choose what to allow into your life and what to shrug off.

That has once again been the theme of this year.

My family has seen some tragedies, with the sad passing of our lovely neighbour Fred early in the year, and then my Aunt Grace and my Uncle Andrew in October. Happening as they did within a week of each other, this was a very sad time, but one filled with memories of some special people. One of the lovely things to come from Grace’s funeral was when talking to our family from Dover, who all said they didn’t appreciate just how much we all thought of Grace. It’s brought us all that bit closer together, and whilst there it was wonderful to see my father and his brother chatting, as their relationship had been distant for some years. Good things can come from sad times. And we had decided to shrug off the oppression of grief and sadness, and allow the happiness and joy that Grace’s life embodied to cover us all.

Life has also seen some new starts. We have new neighbours, which still sometimes feels a little strange, but it’s great to make new friends. I’ve embarked on a career of amateur acting, having performed in two very different productions this year. I’ve loved getting to be someone other than myself for a while – it’s a new challenge and one I hope to continue next year. And musically, we’ve played some pretty great events – it’s wonderful to be part of Riser, getting to be at so many parties and weddings!

Friends have also seen some major changes and adventures, with new babies, new homes and new careers, plus several going on trips around the world, posting back pictures of amazing scenes that I’m really not that jealous about. Honestly…

And so on to 2015. What’s next year going to have in store for me, for US? Who knows? One thing I am sure of, is that the same attitude and approach that has seen me through this year will carry me on through the next. With the love of family and friends, a faith in God that underpins all I do, and a determination to choose what to carry with me and what to leave behind, 2015 is a step into the sunshine.

So, as this year comes to a close, I leave you with this thought….

May Christmas 2014 find you all well, warm, happy and loved, may the spirit of Christmas fill your heart and mind with joy, and may you have ample opportunity to share that joy with all those closest to you.

I Predict A Riot…

At our gig this weekend, our opening song was The Kaiser Chief’s “I Predict A Riot”. I mention this because sadly, that’s becoming a far simpler thing to do these days.

The last month has seen huge numbers of people on the streets of towns and cities across the globe. The causes have been different, but the results have been, predictably, very similar.

In Hong Kong, protestors against the Beijing-imposed government have been on the streets for two months in a bid to choose their own electoral candidates without what they see as undue interference from Big Brother China to the North. Whilst the action started as peaceful, events are daily becoming more and more violent, with police now using pepper spray, tear gas, and baton charges to repel the increasingly belligerent opposition.

In the UK, we saw more demonstrations from university students against tuition fees, with violent protests in London driven – it would appear – by activists from such organisations as Anonymous, who, the student bodies would have us believe, are nothing to do with them or their cause.

In the US, protests, marches and violence have – quite literally – exploded in cities across the country after the shooting of a young black man in Ferguson, Missouri. The resulting violence, arson, damage to property and looting took place even whilst the facts of the case were still being debated, and continued to escalate after the initial findings were shared. The similarities to the rioting in the UK two summers ago are clear for all to see.

All three of these events have been widely reported, with different media outlets putting their own slant on them depending on their own political position. But here’s the thing…

I don’t know the extent to which the Beijing government are interfering in the Hong Kong elections. I don’t know the impact this will have on how the future government will function. Whatever happens, I can’t see ANY government there being less than completely amicable with Beijing, so I’m not at all sure what the protesters are really going to achieve.

I don’t know the numbers for exactly how much money UK students will actually end up repaying (although I am very certain when I say that neither do they). I do know that there’s been massive misinformation spread by those on the No Fees side, and that their opponents have been very poor in setting the record straight as to what needs to be repaid, when, and how. However, seeing people in Anonymous masks hurling bottles and sticks, smashing up Starbucks, and posing for selfies with the utterly hypocritical, total waste of DNA that is Russell Brand, I can’t understand why the organisers don’t just stop, distance themselves from the rioters, and find another way to get their voice heard.

I don’t know what actually happened in Ferguson that day – the only people that really do are the police officer and the dead man. Everything else is speculation and opinion, until the detailed investigations are complete and the full findings published. However, how does burning down a church, smashing up businesses and shops, and going on a looting spree help get the truth revealed and the family the closure that is the only thing they desire. Without closure, they cannot move on and start to heal the grieving process or set their minds at some kind of peace. I’m not saying that to belittle their pain in any way, but the ONLY way that the town, the family, the police, the nation in fact, can move on from this tragic event is to know the truth and to have that accepted on all sides. One thing that will help now, however, is for the family to publicly condemn the rioting and ask for calm.

Ironically, this weekend did see a lessening in the riots in the US, but that was down to Black Friday more than anything else, and therefore the television they were looting the night before clearly wasn’t quite the steal it was 24 hours before. Didn’t stop them fighting over it, though…

Social commentators will debate root causes, with the liberals making excuses for the rioters’ behaviour and trying to shift the blame from the rioters to the system. But that doesn’t wash with me.

I even had one friend say to me “Aah, but we don’t know what it’s like to be black in Ferguson…” Which is true. I also don’t know what it’s like to be a police officer in Ferguson. But I do know that stealing a pair of Nike’s and an iPad before torching a store won’t help the family or anyone affected by the shooting feel any better or take them any closer to the truth. And it does potentially irreperable harm to their cause, just as smashing up London won’t result in lower University fees and confronting the Hong Kong constabulary won’t lessen the interference from Beijing.

There are better ways, people. More peaceful, more intelligent, and far less illegal ways.

When protesters realise this, maybe then we’ll start seeing some real social change.

Sad day, but so many good memories…

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I had a phone call this morning. Very sad news. My mother called to tell me that a favourite aunt had passed away.

That’s never a good call to have to make or to receive. And there’s a lot of sadness in coming to terms with the news. However, in spending time thinking about Grace, a huge number of wonderful memories have come to mind.

Aunty Grace lived in Dover, which meant that her house was an obvious destination for many summer trips during my childhood. This being pre-M25, we used to pootle along A-roads in Dad’s old Ford Anglia, the three kids sliding around on the vinyl cover of the rear seat, completely unrestrained in more ways than one. There was a roadside eaterie that we passed, which would always let us kids know we were getting close, as we’d just passed ‘Smellie’s Cafe’.

Grace lived at the top of her road, literally as well as metaphorically. The street wound up the hill in a series of sharp corners, and her house was at the very summit, looking down upon the other houses – in which, at different times and numbers – all of her three children lived. A call to Number 10 held as much excitement and trepidation in Dover as it did in Downing Street…

As kids we loved visiting, as the house had a huge rear garden and a front garden that sloped very sharply to the road, ideal for rolling down. There were cousins and friends we didn’t see that often, and places to go and play that were very different from our usual home life. There were games we didn’t have at home – a communal game of Mousetrap in the front parlour was a treat, not just because the game was fun, but because it allowed we children entry into a room we didn’t get to see that often. Life in Number 10 revolved around the kitchen and the back room, filled with Rayburn stove and lots of laughter. And in command and control of it all, was Aunty Grace.

She wasn’t a very big woman in her stature, but it’s amazing to think how someone so relatively small could fill everybody’s lives so completely. She was the centre, the gravity for the family there and here, and loved her family, her friends, and her life to the full. It was very possible to get in her bad books, but rarely would anybody stay there for very long. She had a twinkle in her eye and a busy, bustling walk that made you very aware that whilst she may take her time getting somewhere, by God she was going to get there.

As I grew older, she became much more of a friend, but no less of an Aunt – and an Aunt in the very best tradition of P G Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster. She was our Aunt Dahlia, friendly, loving, laughing, helpful, but never – be sure of this – never any less than in charge. And we wouldn’t have had it any other way.

The passing of her husband, my Uncle Bill, some years ago, was a big blow to her, but seemed to make her even more determined that this life was one of fun, family, and smiles. And although the latter years saw her less aware as illness took it’s toll, she will always be, to me, the lady bustling around the kitchen, making sure everyone has a cup of tea. She will always be the one sat in the Village Hall at the bottom of the hill, her family all around her. She’ll always be a Cheshire Cat, twinkling of eye and with a huge smile that is going to remain with us all, long after today’s sadness has softened.

Rest in peace, Aunty Grace. With all our love xxx

Edit: The picture above shows Aunty as a girl, abd the ‘babe in arms’ is my dad. It’s the only picture Dad has of himself as a child, and as such it’s very special to him. More so now after today’s sad event. Their mum died whilst both were still very young, and Grace took on the role of mother, helping raise my dad. She was more than just a sister to him. Look after yourself Dad, you’re part of a very special family xx