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Liverpool & Oswestry

Well, so much for the up-to-date in-the-moment viral content news and updates from the road- videos on twitter, daily photo blog, audio from shows, etc. How about an old-fashioned lengthy account (tends to be that way, coming from me) of the past few weeks’ tour in Netherlands and now England?

To start with the most recent, the past few nights have been excellent. I made it up to Liverpool on a train from Dover (crossed into UK via the P&O ferry from Calais, France, which is a decent enough place to get detained and stranded) just in time to be picked up by Vinny Spencer, the night’s first act, and brought to the venue for The Good Intentions’ final song. Few minutes later, I was playing and couldn’t have been more thrilled to be there. Great Tuesday night crowd at Mocha Lounge in the heart of downtown, near the Cavern Club and other Beatles’ spots. Enjoyed the show, and was well received by a nice audience of ‘Scousers’ (or ‘Liverpuddlians’; I was certain ‘Scousers’ must have been a derogatory term, but they’re perfectly happy with the moniker). Scott Poley, TGI’s lap steel and guitar player, jumped up for a few songs. Scott gave me a quick driving tour, past the new civic arena, through Sefton Park, down the street John Lennon grew up on (we weren’t sure which house. There’s a plaque apparently but we couldn’t see it in the dark) and over to Strawberry Fields. Saw the old Salvation Army-run home for children through the red gate and snapped a picture. Scott said it was a sort of hideaway for Lennon as a child- he used to walk to Strawberry Fields and listen to the Salvation Army band play for the kids. Sargent Pepper’s was initially meant to be an album of nostalgic songs about childhood memories. “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields” were written for it and it later morphed into a concept album which, although realized musically, was never fully realized in its original intent of childhood songs or secondary version as Billy Shears’ concept record. But no one’s complaining. Beautiful songs, of course.. “Living is easy with eyes closed”, “Penny Lane the barber shaves another coostomer”. Headed back to my friends Gabi and Peter’s (The Good Intentions) place an enjoyed catching up a bit, talking music and listening to Dwight Yoakam, Emmylou Harris, and others’ duets with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, had some dinner and wine. A good night’s sleep late into the morning, and spent some time with Peter having tea and talking shop.

Then off to Oswestry, south of Liverpool, for a show at The Ironworks- a beautiful venue with excellent sound, candlelit tables, and what I’ll call a high Bavarian-gabled ceiling, opening for Georgia belles Larkin Poe and their cool rhythm section from Knoxville. Seemed like the perfect town to start eating fish and chips here in UK, but we all ended up ordering tasty Indian instead. Good stuff. Wasn’t quite sure about accommodations and was figuring on going to the travel lodge with the band and getting my own room for 40 quid (the Great British Pound is dominating the dollar- 40 pounds is roughly $70 I’d guess) but in the closing moments of the upstairs bar a new friend, Keegan, invited me to crash in an extra bedroom. Cool guy who’s travelled to Austin loads of times and received the kindness of the fine folks out there, he returned the favor to a stranger and I’m grateful. We closed out the bar downstairs just as I was about to get a Welsh lesson from the bar maid, and headed to Keegan’s for some music listening, late night snack (fish finger buttie for me!), and ginger beer.

Had a bit of a slow morning and Keegan cooked an awesome breakfast of eggs benedict and tea. Caught a ride to the nearest train station, in Gobowen, and I’m riding down to London now to catch a show by Alex Berger (a singer/songwriter friend I was supposed to play with this past Sunday night at the good ole Slaughtered Lamb in London) and see my friend Philippa. And I know where I’m staying tonight so that’s a relief! Beautiful land here, mainly flat green fields and farmland dotted with sheep, the occasional town with its old churches and stone castles, and a single hill with a broken stone fortification on top. Looked pretty old. Turns out, on the train from Chester (south of Liverpool) down to Gobowen one passes from England into Wales and back a few times. Happy to hear that at the bar last night. So got to be ‘in’ Wales on the train for a bit. Like the little bit I saw. The station names were written on placards on the platforms in both English (black letters) and turquoise for Welsh. Two translations: ‘Chirk’ (a station name/town)- ‘Y Waun’ in Welsh. ‘Information’- ‘Gwybodaeth’. Interesting. Also liked the following sign on a Merseyrail train from Liverpool to Chester:

“Feedback from our customers shows us that people putting their feet on train seats is a habit they find particularly annoying. This also includes the framework sections between, and either side of, the seat cushions. Enforcement teams are on the Merseyrail network and may film and interview people who put their feet on seats, or any part of the seat structure, as evidence for prosecution. Feet on seats falls within the Merseyrail Electrics 2002 Int’l Railway Bye-Laws.”

As I hadn’t arranged an interview for local press or radio for the Oswestry show, it occurred to me I could at least get an interview on the train. At any rate, I was reminded to be on the most proper behaviour here in Britain.