Right - the new album starts in earnest as time is spent in the studio recording a demo of a new song as we start planning for the new album. The catchy new number was written by Virginia who spent a couple of hours teaching the lyrics to Andrew and then using feedback to make some subtle changes - great to watch the creative process at work and starting to feel the excitement build as band members get their teeth into something new.
22:36 - By Merry Hell
23:00 - By Merry Hell
Stockport Beer festival - 3 x 40 minute sets and we enjoyed every minute of the them. We didn't know what to expect and jokingly refered to it as our first stadium gig as it was held at the home of Stockport County FC, although we were in an executive lounge under the stand rather than out on the pitch. With little time in between sets and little opportunity to sample the drinks on offer (although we were assured they had all been passed by the management) the room filled up on each occasion and we felt througoughly appreciated - lots of names on the mailing list and we managed to sell quite a few of our lovely new t-shirts.
Everyone really enjoyed playing Darwen Live today - what a great set up - loads of venues throughout the town each with music on plus the main stage in the town square which we were lucky enough to be invited to play. Weather stayed good, had a good crowd who really seemed to enjoy our set and we came on after Band From County Hell who were excellent. Drinks after for some of us at Number 39 - be rude not to as all the staff turned up at work wearing Merry Hell t-shirts which was a bit special - and finally respect to Colin who cycled all the way from Wigan to watch. A big thanks to all concerned.
22:23 - By Merry Hell
It's been nearly 2 weeks without a gig and some of us at least have been getting really restless. Anyway, all this comes to an end on Saturday as we head off to Stockport Beer festival. We are playing the afternoon session and so will be onstage between 12 noon and 3.20pm but for 3 (count them) sets of 40 minutes. The other good news is that our t-shirt suppliers, Loomland, have come up with the goods again. Despite only receiving the final design at the start of the week, the shirts arrived today, looking very fine and the usual premium quality cotton! Hoping that everyone else likes them.
On Monday we will be heading off to Darwen to play the main stage at Darwen Live. We will hopefully have time to drop in to our favourite hostelry in Darwen, Number 39. Fine beer, fine company and fine entertainment as Monday also sees Numner 39 play host to Pauline Blackburn in the early afternoon. Pauline has played with us on a number of occasions and is well worth arriving in Darwen early for. later in the afternoon, Number 39 also hosts the inimitable Blowjangles, a purple and green bag of ferrets with saxophones - hope to see you there.
23:22 - By Merry Hell
Sunday night and an initation to appear on Simon Jones' Anything Goes, Roots show on Moorlands Radio - a fantastic show, great music, brilliant host - a man who has been really good to us over the years and so we really don't want to let him down by being late or anything. The show starts at 7pm, we arrange to be there at 6.15, Google says an hour and a quarter so we set of at just before 4 heading for the first of 2 pickups. All goes smoothly until we hit the M6 and promptly stop dead in non-moving traffic. We use the time profitably, discussing our favourite tracks and songs we wish we'd written as the band have been asked to select their all tuime greats for another radio show later in the week. It doesn't stop the stress levels rising though as we finally pick up Virginia and head for a rendezvous with John in downtown Holmes Chapel. John is stuck even further back on the motorway and is updating us on progress which is excruciatingly slow - particularly as he has to top up with petrol to make sure he doesn't run out. We have let the radio station know we are running a little behind and as John arrives at 6.24 - the sat nav tells us that it takes 35 mintues to our destination - we have a minute to play around with - which we lose by missing a turning.
Arriving shamefaced and apologetic at 7 minutes past 7 we are offered chocloate biscuits - it's a tangible sign that we are forgiven and our hearts leap accordingly. As Simon presents the show - we catch up with station director Tim, now an old friend from our previous visit, meet the producer Steve, sort out what songs are to be played and when and set up the equipment on the upper landing outside the studio room before getting down to the serious business of ordering and then eating pizza. As we take a break, Simon reas out a couple fo texts from our bass player Andrew Dawson, seemingly very relaxed with a glass of red wine and waitign for the session to start
For reasons of space, only Andrew, Bob, John and Virginia have travelled down to make the music and chat the chat and a brief catch up on recent Merry Hell activity is followed by 2 songs - This Time and Rosanna's song before a break for the news brigns the opportunity to make a cup of coffee. Another 2 songs after the break - a new one caled Build Me A Mansion, first performed on Friday in Grasmere but making its broadcast debut here, is followed by a rousing Drunken Serenade. Simon was the first DJ to play and Merry Hell and drunken serenade was included then - he comments favourably on the progress that the band has made and coming from a man so immersed in folk/roots/rock music it is praise indeed. The session is over and we should be thinking about getting home but more chat follows, unexpected but much enjoyed.
Eventually, we say our goodbyes, head back to Holmes Chapel, divide into 2 cars and make our ways home - tired but happy and still with that onwards and upwards feeling that is part of the band feeling at the moment.
For those of you that have internet access on a Sunday evening - wecan't recommend Simon's show too highly - a great mix of roots music from a man who both knows and loves his subject. Thanks again Simon - hope to see you soon.
11:58 - By Merry Hell
The end of an action packed week here for Merry Hell, with hardly a pause for breath. Tuesday evening saw 4 members of the band arrive in Chorley fora session with James Blatchley on his Folk Show. Arriving early allowed for a quick visit to the J Seas Fish and Chip Emporium just up the road from the studio. The food didn't disappoint, even given the claims about the quality on the advertising hoardings - but Bob had issues with them charging 20p for a squirt of Tomato ketchup from a large squeezy bottle and in the end no one opted for the chilli and strawberry dip on offer an 50p a tub.
Back at Chorley FM and greeted by James, we were immediately won over both by his enthusiasm and the offer of cups of tea and after a brief chat about what was to happen James went to prepare while Andrew, Bob, John and Virginia angaged in a little practice. The session itself was beset by a number of techncal problems - not least when James went to play the first track on the cd straight after the news only to be met with silence - I believe the radio term is Dead Air. James proved to be imensely resourceful - calmly interviewing the band whilst both he and John looked for the source of the problem. Refusing to be flustered he took the band through a range of interested and informed questions and bridged the time between the live songs brilliantly. Finally the source of the problem was found - 40 minutes into the show and everyone relaxed noticeably while BLINK... went balsting over the lancashire airwaves - still a good time was had by all - we enjoyed meeting James and the feedback on the session has been great.
Wednesday was taken up with a barrage of technical queries between the band members over travel arrangements to the Friday gig and Thursday saw an acoustic rehearsal down at John and Virginia's house which went on much longer and later than intended and I believe most people fell asleep as soon as their heads hit their pillows.
Friday night was gig night as we headed slowly up the hugely congested M6 trying to make it to the Ash Cottage Hotel for the agreed 7pm - Half the band made it - half were 15 minutes late. The acoustic sets are quite intimate affairs but with the hotel possessed of a PA system we were using a little electrical support and so there were the inevitable problems of sorting out an unfamiliar system. Although not all the band are involved in all the acoustic gigs, we were missing guitarist Tim who was in Dubai but with a little computer and telephonic jiggery-pokery Tim was placed on a laptop in the corner of the stage and watched the gig via Skype - an experiment that worked so well we may choose to develop the idea.
Having been made welcome by Barry - the owner of the Ash Cottage and upped the energy levels via Pizza and Chips 6 members of the band took to the stage and introduced Tim to the audience. We had decided to divide the evening into halves - a short half and a long half with a band set in each. The short half was opened with Drunken Serenade and ran for half an hour before being brought to a brilliant conclusion by a new song from Virginia called Build Me A Mansion - the crowd sing a long at the chorus suggested that it will soon become a live favourite.
The break was filled with drinks, some more food (fish cakes parrticularly outstanding) and a brief tour of the hotel with Barry - including his cinema extension - due to be fuly operational in the near future and featuring the world's most comfortable cinema seating - fabulous.
Anyway, back on stage and the long half proved to be every bit the equal of the first, starting out rousing with BLINK.. and ending up raucous with an encore version of Horses with John alone on stage but what seemed like the whole of the audience joining in throughout.
Anyway, a good time had by all, new friends made, old friends met and enjoyed, Barry duly thanked - although relieved of some money in the process - and invitations to return received it was back off down the M6 to get ready for what promises to be another busy week in what is surely the world's greatest 8-piece band from Wigan, St elens and Tarporley.
16:02 - By Merry Hell
Hope that you all had a jolly good weekend - don't you just love it when your hotel is hosting a wedding reception and that someone decides that what is really needed at quarter to 2 in the morning is a drum solo - I was so pleased I could barely contain my enthusiasm - but too much cymbal and too little cowbell took the edge off it.
Anyway, back with Merry Hell, the first review of teh album arrived over the weekend in the form of an online review at folking.com So a big thanks to Dai Jeffries and hopefully all the reviews we get will follow a similar pattern.
Read the review at: http://folking.wordpress.com/category/album-reviews-latest/
00:46 - By Merry Hell
Reports reach me that the new edition of R2 (Rock n Reel) magazine is out and features a Merry Hell interview - I can't wait to get my hands on it and have a read. To be honest it is quite an exciting time for the band and every day seems to bring new possibilities. Today has brought confirmation of another gig, arrangements for a radio session were firmed up, arrangements were circulated between band members for a radio session next week, discussions were had about the band appearing at another festival next year, a good review of our original demo appeared on the Folk North West website, further advertising was confirmed with a magazine and a long chat was had with an agent currently based in Vienna. To my mind that's not bad going for a band in our position and everything that has happened today holds the possibility of further developments. Onwards and indeed upwards.
16:41 - By Merry Hell
Spent last night in the studio building (down a long potholed dirt track) at a rehearsal for the acoustic gig in Grasmere next Friday (Ash Cottage Hotel - free entry you know). Spirits were high as we had received some good news about a couple of really interesting gigs. Andrew Dawson outlined his plan for a secret gig that will not be so secret that no one knows about it but will be secret enough as to make it interesting and mysterious. Best of all, Virginia introduced the band to a new song. Provisionally entitled Build Me A Mansion it is destined to become a join in the chorus favourite in the not too distant future - Brilliant!
13:29 - By Merry Hell
Great pleasure is being derived from receiving all the feedback about the DVD