A couple of years before the plague I started making plans for two major projects scheduled for 2021 to grace your music decks and so by the time the world plunged into lockdown in 2020, I was already deep in the Last Music bunker. Behind the protective shield of a wall of tinned tomatoes and toilet paper, I was engrossed in the worlds of two truly great bluesmen. Undeterred by the knowledge that not a single record shop in the world had its doors open, I beavered away with the final production of “Chris Barber – A Trailblazer’s Legacy” and “The Jimmie Vaughan Story”.
Without a doubt, my daily immersion in the creation of these two box sets was a major factor in the preservation of my own good health and sanity during the worldwide chaos that affected us all. Hopefully, those of you who now own copies of these treasures have also had the pleasure of losing yourselves down the rabbit hole into their respective musical wonderlands.
Sadly, Chris Barber died shortly before his album was released and never laid eyes on the sumptuous four CD set and book that celebrated the monumental influence he had on a generation of musicians in the UK and beyond. I am grateful to his widow Kate Barber, Chris Musto, Alyn Shipton and Paul Adams for the invaluable assistance they gave in assembling this marvellous jigsaw from the huge number of pieces that Chris had stamped out and scattered around during his illustrious career.
My idea for the Jimmie Vaughan Story box set started taking shape a few years ago when I was visiting with him in Austin, Texas. Although Jimmie was keen on the general idea, he didn’t want a career-spanning anthology to give the impression that he was finished! We agreed that as 2021 would be the year of his seventieth birthday, it would be a perfect opportunity for us to celebrate his story so far with the box set release. Boiling down hundreds of potential tracks to six-hours’ worth of Jimmie’s music meant listening to tons of this great stuff over and over. At the same time, I was working on the images from his archive and incorporating them into the book. The whole process never ceased to be utterly absorbing and enjoyable. And just like it was with the Chris Barber set, every day I was reminded of what a privilege it is for me to be able to work in this business with such high-calibre musicians, awash in the kind of music that I love.
Jimmie of course is already working on his next album and that’s something we can all look forward to down the line.
2021 also saw the publication of a new hardback edition of John French’s epic memoir of his life and times with Don van Vliet. His “Beefheart: Through the Eyes of Magic” is still widely regarded by cognoscenti as the ultimate book on the subject. A Kindle edition was also published worldwide for the first time. Previous digital editions were limited to Europe. To coincide with the publication of the book we also issued his “Drumbo – City of Refuge” as a limited-edition 12” vinyl album for the first time with an outstanding piece of art gracing the front cover and a personally autographed item inside every copy.
More recently, the Hot Club of Cowtown recruited a new bass player – Zack Sapunor - to replace the retired Jake Erwin and so I took the opportunity to re-issue “What Makes Bob Holler” on CD while also making that available for the first time on 12” vinyl. It is tailor-made for listening on vinyl.
2021 on the road.
Heartfelts to all the musicians, crews, venues, businesses and everyone else in the game worldwide who endured the turbulence of the last year.
When we released Geraint Watkins’ “Rush of Blood” album, he hoped to start doing some shows with a band in 2020 to promote the album. Having only rarely performed publicly as an artist in his own right, he was looking forward to playing his own material to fans around the U.K. Lockdown put the kibosh on it that year, but eventually in November 2021 he hit the road with his band for a handful of sold-out shows. As a result of the ripples caused by putting those fifty toes in the water, there’s already a short UK tour booked in January 2022. And if we’re still allowed out of our houses by then, there’s a steady flow of gigs that will put Watkins and the band in front of audiences throughout the rest of the year.
Elsewhere, the James Oliver Band inevitably notched up a stack of shows as soon as it was permitted and is still pushing hard to outdo B.B. King’s virtually non-stop touring schedule by already being nearly back to his pre-lockdown level for the number of shows in 2022.
Hot Club of Cowtown were back on the road in USA and will be touring the UK in 2022. We will be releasing a new album in support of those dates. Details to follow in the new year.
Jimmie Vaughan did a run with his Tilt-a-Whirl band in the USA opening for Eric Clapton and then continued with the band for his own “Story” tour promoting the box set.
The indefatigable Bill Kirchen finished up the year putting rubber back on the road again with his Honky-Tonk Holiday tour and is also coming back to the UK for a two-week tour in July 2022. Watch for details soon.
Tony Kofi belatedly did his run of the “Portrait of Cannonball” shows to packed audiences in support of “Another Kind of Soul” which was released on vinyl just before we all shut the doors. He continues to perform with The Organisation, the “Monk” project and with his own quartet, all of which are booked through into 2022 and beyond.
Well, there it is. Once again, despite everything, we managed to get you some mighty fine listening on the decks and on the road and it’s a sure bet that we’ve got some gems and magic moments up our sleeves for you in ‘22.
If you feel safe, get out and see some of these guys in action. There’s nothing like live music and we’ve got to keep the wheels turning.