In February 2018 this website, tarkablowpigmusic.com, came into being fulfilling a life long ambition of mine. I’ve always wanted to pass on my huge enthusiasm for music to others, to allow you all to find out why music became and continues to be the driving force in my life. To give an outlet for me to introduce more people to music both old and new that I hope you’ll all enjoy.
What I couldn’t have expected is where this new venture would take me, the doors it would open and the lovely people within the music business I would meet and become acquainted with. Indeed those I now call friends. Most importantly for me this venture has given me a confidence to be able to write and present, confidence that was dragged out of me as a teenager when being told by an English teacher that I had no ability in this direction. 30 years later I hope I have proven Mr.Mills wrong!
As part of this review there are a number of people I will need to thank, which I shall do as we go through the year in review. The first to thank though is the very talented web designer who not only set this website up but has continued to offer support and help to me; help that is vital to a technological luddite like me to be able to do this work. Mollie Tanner has done, I’m sure you’ll agree, a most professional job in creating TarkaBlowpigMusic.com, with her input instrumental in creating what I believe is a really good platform for my work that is easy to navigate and pleasant to use for the music fan.
As for the music I have always been clear that I see no genre boundaries, there is only a distinction between music I like and music that doesn’t, perhaps, hit the spots. I’ll never say that music is bad, far from it. I recognise that even if music doesn’t move me it may well move somebody else, yes even the Pet Shop Boys or ‘H’ era Marillion! And this is something I try to bring to the reviews I write, I’ll always try to be fair and respectful to the work by the artiste, and if I really don’t like something I’d rather not publish. Sometimes I’ll make, what I hope is, constructive criticism, criticism’s I hope, and I’m sure is taken by most artists, taken in the spirit given. I’ve learnt to, if not stop reading below the article (thanks to Scott Mackay and David Barras for that excellent advice) not take offence and what people think of my thoughts; after all no one has the monopoly of feeling passionate, if anything I admire and respect the passion people show regardless of whether they agree or disagree with me.
This year I have been privileged to have listened to an amazing amount of great music. I have been fortunate to have been sent music to review by people who have shown their support and belief in myself as a critic and reviewer. In particular I’d like to thank a work colleague, Gary Davidson, who has introduced me to music such as The Wildhearts and Bikini Death Race and whom has been an excellent source of advice and support when discussing our shared love of interesting and evocative music. I’ve also been sent an excellent standard of music, mainly from the progressive rock world, by Martin Hutchinson and David Elliot, who are the guys behind Progradar, Bad Elephant Music and Progzilla Radio. These two guys have not only kept me supplied with a constant supply of brilliant music, but have also been most supportive in their comments on the work I’ve done on their behalf and also had the right words at moments when the doubts have surfaced, particularly when I’ve read and reacted to the comments below the reviews.
So, what about the music I’ve listened to and reviewed. What’s been the highlights, what is my favourite album of 2018? Well, I’d like to tell you but at 7pm this evening (Monday 31st December) my Top 20 Album of the Year with the Jezzie Award for the best release of the year will be going out on http://www.radiobicester.co.uk/tarkablowpig so you’ll just have to tune in to find out. However, I can promise you twenty fantastic tunes, from twenty awesome albums…not a show to miss!
Which brings me to my next thank yous! In June this year I was lucky enough to join a great team at Ywe Media/Radio Bicester who’ve allowed me, some may say crazily so, to present a regular weekly recorded show on their format of some of my favourite music. Particular thanks have to go to Carl Vessey for helping with the initial introductions but mostly to Samuel Issacs, managing director and driving force behind this exceptional project. Sam has an absolute love of radio that is apparent in his enthusiasm to create an environment in which we presenters are able to create what I hope and believe is some of the very best online radio being created at present. 2019 is going to be a huge year for YWE Media, but under Sam’s stewardship, and with support from the likes of David, Jo and Adam, it is also going to be a hugely successful one, and one I am proud of, committed to and confident of being something very, very special indeed.
As Sir Terry Wogan used to say the secret to presenting radio is to speak to just one person. Yes, you maybe speaking to lots of people (in Sir Terry’s case millions) but it is important to retain a humility in what you do. I have a simple ethos, great music being presented with love. And I hope that comes over in what I’ve presented in the 20 odd shows I’ve now done for Radio Bicester. However, it is always gratifying to receive support, comments and, indeed, praise from regular listeners; it is always lovely to receive emails from friends we call the Cropredy Crew such as Ian Shaw and Stuart in San Francisco and to know they’ve tuned into the shows I produce. Thank you all who’ve shown their love and support in 2018 making the Tarka Blowpig Music Show what it is.
And in mentioning the Cropredy Crew I have to give special mention to a couple who’ve become more than just friends but to Shazza and I, family. Of course I mean Lisa and Tom Dixon in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who we were lucky enough to go over to see in February. We spent a week in their most beautiful part of the world reaffirming the special bond that has grown between us, one which is deeply embedded in a shared love of music. It has always been a pleasure to include music in my radio shows that has a special place in our hearts and souls, music that reminds us all of loved ones, and music that we have introduced to each other. We just can’t wait to welcome you both, and any others from WS/NC (Ruth-Ann, Clark, Donna, Jennifer, Ben etc) who wish to come, to the UK in 2019.
One of the many highlights of our trip to NC was the opportunity to meet up with an artist and band introduced to us by Lisa and Tom, that being David Brewer and Possum Jenkins. Producing their own unique sound within Southern Country Rock Possum Jenkins are one of those bands who deserve to be huge. The fact they do play, however, in small beer halls like the one we saw them in Winston-Salem says much about their lack of ego, their humility and their artistic integrity, says much about why they are so very good. And the fact I am now privileged to be able to call David, Jared and Nathan friends is just the cherry on top of the icing on the cake.
In 2018 I have been, along with my family and friends, able to experience some pretty amazing live music. From small beer joints to huge stadium gigs, 2018 has been a pretty spectacular year for gigs and concerts. Seeing John Grant in Bangor with Paul and Jenny, Roger Waters in Hyde Park with Claire and Adam, The Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican with my bonus daughter Gemma and her partner Andy are highlights. But seemingly we seemed to have enjoyed more and more gigs over the years with David and Sarah with John Grant in Manchester being spectacular. However, sharing seeing the Foo Fighters in the London Stadium with David and Sarah as well as Gemma and my step-son Sam, was, for me in 2018, the live experience of the year.
I cannot not also mention some very special highlights of the year, one of which is a regular almost pilgrimage, that being Fairport’s Annual Reunion at the Cropredy festival. I have now attended 31 of the greatest festival of them all, and each year never fails to bring excellent bands and music and also a fellowship of people who each year share that field with love for the music and each other. Particular highlights this year were obviously, for me, Fish performing Clutching at Straws as well as some new music which will be one of the standout albums to look forward to in 2019 and the mighty Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican. It has also been my good fortune to, after the festival, bag interviews for the Tarka Blowpig Music Show with the lovely Scott Doonican as well as Cropredy’s brilliant compere A J Clarke and bassist and folk legend Dave Pegg. Thanks guys for taking this time to support my little show. And hopefully in 2019 we can continue to do some more interviews with brilliant artistes – keep your eyes on The Tarka Blowpig Music Show facebook page for updates about, hopefully, Merry Hell (big thanks to Damian and the guys for sending me CD’s etc), Autumn Saints and many others!
And so to my final thanks, which go to my family. Firstly to my mum and dad who I know make every effort to listen into my shows despite the fact that often the music will not be to their tastes. I’m sure, on occasion, it must bring back memories of my teenage years and the arguments we’d have over the volume I would be playing the latest Marillion or Iron Maiden album at. But I do so appreciate your love and support in what I’m doing and I hope it makes you both proud of what I’m doing. After all with out you having the radio on in my formative years, even if the music you enjoyed was to my ears, bloody awful, I’m not sure I would have wanted to find out about more music, more to my tastes.
To Sam and Gemma I say thanks and love you, despite the fact that I on occasion (ok, most of the time) turn your lives into one long music quiz. What I do know is that both of you have developed a great love of all sorts of music, you always listen without prejudice, and I hope we all continue to enjoy many more music experiences together.
Most importantly I must thank my beautiful, gorgeous, wonderful and lovely matching looner soul-mate and wife, Shazza. Without her this website would never have happened, she is the driving force behind what I do and try and achieve. She is the person I wish to make proud by what I do. And she is the one person I have an overwhelming desire to receive praise from. She is always supportive, listens to my posts before I post them, gives great advice and constructive comment. I have found new music with her, introduced her too new music and been introduced to music that she feels that I’ll like. Ok, her aversion to Tom Waits and Gram Parsons is something I still need to work on, but she is more than happy to come along and enjoy the likes of Richard Thompson. Unlike Fish, a man with a reputation for a gift with words, I’ve never been confident in my abilities in this way. However, Shaz’s support, has given me that confidence, one for which I thank her from the bottom of my heart. And, again thanks to Fish, I say it maybe an old cliché, but I do love you so much.
And so all that remains is to say goodbye to the amazing and musically brilliant 2018 and say to you all I hope 2019 brings you all you wish and of course some more amazing music!