Monday 11 April 2011

Going solo

Joe Solo

Regular readers will know that six months ago I left my city boy life behind, dropped down a couple of gears and pitched up in the country to a spot 100 miles north (and five degrees colder). After what I can only describe as a kangaroo start, I think I'm beginning to embrace rural life: I ramble (as in walking, I've always done the other sort), bake bread, prop up the bar of our local, I'm thinking of joining the local bellringers and I tut like a native when the flatlanders start arriving with their bloody caravans.

We still have culture, you just have to look for it in different places; concert halls and clubs have given way to village halls and backrooms in pubs. Much more civilized. Saturday night being a case in point.

It's only a hop, skip and a jump to the Memorial Hall where, playing to a near sell out crowd (it must have been nudging three figures), an all star bill gave of their time freely to play a charity gig in aid of MacMillan Cancer Support. David Quinn, Pick-a-String, David Swann, Four Quarters (well, One Quarter, to be precise, owing to illness), Sarah Dean and Anna Shannon performed with great aplomb and ensured they'll all be back by popular demand next time.

But the star turn, for me, was a veteran of the Hull music scene - Joe Solo. Once head honcho of Lithium Joe (John Peel used to play them in the mid '90s), he now plays, well, solo. These days he can be heard on Radio 2's folk programme where Mike Harding plays selections from his new album, If Peel Street Could Talk. His demeanor is a cross between Woody Guthrie and Joe Strummer, while his left wing credentials and anti-war material are pure Billy Bragg. But then Bragg never wrote anything as poignant as The Twelfth Of November: a song directed at war mongering politicians about burying the dead on the battlefield after peace has been declared - when he sang it, the room was deathly quiet. It's taken from his Potter's Field album which follows characters caught up in The First World War - he's also written an accompanying book, Stories From Potter's Field. He only played a brief twenty minute set but I could have listened to him all night.

This is from Peel Street.

A big thank you to Martin and Penny Robertson, without whom etc. etc.


  1. Being a countryside lass too I find myself at many a local mash up, some which suprise the **** out of me to be honest, and many are for charity of some sort. One I love is at the high school where Leeks young talent strut their stuff, its good to see the 'young uns' forming bands with passion

  2. Talented bloke. And you sound very content in your new life. That's what we like to hear.

  3. ISBW - He is. If you're ever up this way you must go and see him. Yes, I think I am content now; but as I said in the blog, it was as if we'd got kangaroo petrol in the tank to begin with - it wasn't the smoothest of landings! But that was then and this is now. Wouldn't life be very dull if you didn't have to deal with life's swerve balls from time to time?

  4. Interested in your comments and like the music, John. I've lived in the country for the last two decades. The great thing about local pubs is that you end up with more people to talk to than you can cope with, unlike the situation in city pubs. And the music can be good too.We've had some great musicians in our local village halls.Nice to have a drink and an easy journey home.Downside is that socialsing can be seasonal. Here we seem to hibernate in winter.
    I did live in Hull for a while: one of the weird places.

  5. Remember seeing the name Lithium Joe kicking around back in the day, but not aware of ever hearing anything. This sounds very acceptable though.

    I too love the local bash, takes so much of the stress and grief out of everything, knowing you are a half hour walk from home... The Leigh Folk Festival is fast approaching down these parts, our 3rd year. It's a cracker, and with The Lucky Strikes on the bill this year too, I'm dead happy!