What Keeps You Real? (New Ear New Year)

What Keeps you real?

I recently decided to leave a company and job that I absolutely adored. I’d been with them for almost eleven years, 5 different job titles, a couple of periods of near burnout and one extremely humbling moment that will stay with me until the day I die. But even that immensely powerful, life-transforming first trip to India pales in comparison to the one moment that has humbled me more than any other during the last eleven years.
Coincidentally it was also a key contributing catalyst in my decision to leave my beloved Sky.

Let’s start by going back to those 5 different roles I mentioned. The first three came about by way of functional expansion, taking on additional responsibility, more people and ultimately new job titles. It was a good time for learning about new emerging technologies and gave me a good understanding of our key business drivers. I learned about some of the most important factors to consider when leading teams and undertook some big challenges. These involved steps out of my comfort zone but I was hugely supported throughout. The transition from the third to fourth taught me more about myself, and in particular, how, as people, we adapt to change.
Work flowing through our team was viewed as ‘in safe hands’ and we had the highest staff engagement scores in Scotland and amongst the highest in the company. The team always had each other’s back and had become like close family to me. Things were going great.
And I realised the point at which I got comfortable again.
I applied for a new role and got complacent in the interview. I knew everyone on the interview panel well and perhaps subconsciously saw myself as a shoe-in for the role. I prepared for it, but in hindsight, not nearly enough.
I didn’t get the job!
What I did get though was some pretty open, honest, direct feedback, the type that has the effect of feeling like you’ve been hit squarely between the eyes with a sledgehammer.
I’d written down that feedback but wanted to throw it in the bin. I thought better of it though and kept it although initially, a bitterness towards the individuals who had given me it. I thought they had got it wrong. I became unhappy, demotivated and sought counsel from a number of close friends at work. Soon I started to act upon the feedback, more out of curiosity than believing it to be right… but low and behold I started to become happier. Within a number of months, new opportunities seemed to open up. A domino effect ensued, resulting in the biggest opportunity of my time at the company. Another new role, this time a 12-month secondment presented itself. (You can read about it in a separate article entitled Leap of Faith)
It meant an enormous amount of change for me and I learnt more than ever before. I wasn’t just out of my comfort zone at times here, often feeling like I was in way over my head. Funny thing though, the more support I needed, the more it made itself available. I look back on this time fondly. It was transformational. Again, huge support where many colleagues became great friends. When the secondment was over I was left without a role to go into. One did become available though and it meant being interviewed again. I was given a choice of who would accompany the hiring manager on the panel. My previous manager or the person I’d received that feedback from around 18 months previously. It was a no-brainer.
I chose the latter. I prepared like I’d never prepared before. I realised that I was now doing all the things that had been suggested I should think about. I smashed the interview and got the job.
Six months into the new job, the company re-org’d resulting in significant change.
How would I deal with it? Those who had played a key part in my development were pretty clear.
Graeme has become the ‘King of Change’ and he will take it in his stride.
Quite a compliment, best live up to it, I thought. The next year brought much more wide-reaching change.
This time around, better equipped, I spent much of my time helping others deal with change.

And then, following my summer holiday last year something quite inspirational happened.
Probably the most humbling experience of my life laid on a plate for me by a ten year old girl.
Born with a small ear, (a condition known as microtia) my youngest daughter has been seeing medical staff since she was two, to track her progress. The option to reconstruct her small ear involved an eight-hour surgery where cartilage was taken from her rib and used to form a new ear. Incidentally, the technology used to create her new ear is fascinating. This short video explains it. And there’s more on it here.
Anyway, Charlotte spent a week in Edinburgh sick kids hospital recovering, on morphine and in significant pain for days following the operation. Even after coming home, it meant weeks of medication and discomfort.
How many times do you think she complained?
Every moment of every day do you think, perhaps once or twice at the most painful of moments?
Let me tell you….not one single complaint!!!
She just got on with it, battling through, determined to get just a little bit better every day. As did every other child we came across in the hospital. Children with serious, life-affecting conditions, many expected to seriously reduce their life expectancy.
Just getting on with it, positive attitudes and never complaining.

We’ve all seen it.
Change in the workplace can breed uncertainty & frustration, worry & anxiety along with many unsavoury manifestations of those emotions.

Meanwhile here is a ten year old girl, with more than a thing or two to teach us all.
I might have been King of change, but it pales in contrast to Queen Charlotte.

A few people commented that I seemed different after coming back to work after Charlotte’s operation.
They were right.
I’d received an almighty injection of humility. I’d been hit by a different sledgehammer, this time one carrying considerably more force.
It got me thinking about the important things in life. Like happiness! Self-fulfilment. Being myself, staying grounded & true to my core beliefs. About the things that we all take for granted every day, like our jobs, our health or the roof over our head. About the millions on this earth who will never have anything resembling the quality of life we have. And then, about precious moments we share with loved ones and why it’s so important that we give thanks, make the most of what we’ve got & never ever take anything for granted. We are responsible for the lives we build. As part of that, we must identify when we need change. After much thought, it became clear that the time was right for me to bring that part of my professional life to a close. And what a part it has been.
In a world where only one thing is certain, I guess change keeps me real.
And as I move forward into whatever the next chapter holds, I do so happy in the knowledge that I’ll continue to face change positively, embracing the wonders each new day holds.

Fatherson Play Hometown Secret Gig

When two students at Kilmarnock Academy told their Head of Music / Deputy Head Darren Ramsay that they’d really like to put on a gig in the school as an enterprise activity, Mr Ramsay was more than happy to help the pupils out.
So, with the help of their teacher, the two passionate music lovers Regan Kelly & Bryce Campbell set about pulling together an evenings entertainment to be hosted in Kilmarnock Academy on 06 March.
Whilst the boys considered sound requirements, advertising and promoting, ticket sales alongside the all important compliment of bands for the gig, Mr Ramsay wondered how he might be able to surprise the students with a bit of a reward and thanks for the idea and hard work they had committed too.
A couple of phone calls later, to some ex students of the Academy and the wheels of his surprise were set in motion.

Fast forward to Friday 6th March and early evening around 1815, I arrived at the school accompanied by avid music nuts Heather (my daughter) and her pal Kayleigh. Met by Darren and escorted through the school assembly hall, (whilst one of the local brass bands were still rehearsing) later to become our gig venue for the evening.
We chatted in his office a little about how the organisation of the event had gone and looked forward to the evenings entertainment.
Shortly before 1900 and not long before the doors opened to the waiting line of excited music fans outside, Darren led the girls and I back up to the assembly hall where he introduced us to Fatherson lead vocalist Ross and bassist Marc. I chatted with Marc briefly who told me how much the band had enjoyed the recent UK tour supporting Enter Shikari and how much they were looking forward to the evenings event.
It had all come together out of luck really, as the band were shortly heading across the pond to play a gig in New York before making their first appearance at SXSW (South by South West) music festival in Austin Texas later this month. All this amidst sticking to a rigorous university schedule.

With Fatherson having taken their leave to backstage, the doors were opened and the hall filled with what it probably best described as an intimate crowd. Perhaps no more than 50-60 were lucky enough to have a ticket.

The music started with Deficits, the duo consisting drummer and guitarist / vocalist, took to the stage. After only 12 days together as a band, they played a short set comprising original material and few covers by the likes of White Stripes, Black Keys and Royal Blood. A great start to the evening.
Next up was solo artist Liam French, who along with his acoustic guitar, I was told reminded Heather and Kayleigh of a combination of Nirvana, Ed Sheeran and Oasis. High praise indeed for the young man, who then duly covered Oasis’s Live Forever quite beautifully in his set also comprising a couple of his own self penned numbers.
New Frontiers burst onto the stage like seasoned rock n rollers and with the obligatory “Good Evening Kilmarnock” they were off. With front man clearly no stranger to the limelight and a quite outstanding lead guitarist, the bands eclectic blend of rock music hit all the right notes with the small crowd.
With penultimate act New Girls we were promised to be in for a treat. And even although the eccentric front man had to endure some fairly turbulent moments on stage (as his guitar string snapped and he searched for a replacement) the band took us through their reportoir with much aplomb. What better way to finish their set than with a rousing rendition of Seven Nation Army.

And so to the headline act of the night. Kilmarnock’s very own sons, Fatherson took to the stage just before 2230. Clearly excited to have the boys on stage the crowd erupted into what can only be described as a mini mosh pit…. quite quirky given the fact we were standing in a school assembly hall. Even more beautiful was the echoing cries from the front few rows of “Here we, Here we, here f$%&ing go.”
“We’re in a school, we shouldn’t swear really” singer Ross teased the crowd.
“Oh, go on then….BOOBS, he whispered.”
The band were on top form, music levels turned up and sounding particularly tight, vocals, guitar and drums combining to make their melodic, anthemic Scottish rock sound filling the hall quite sublimely.
They seemed right at home, as they told us this was them back to where they played their first ever gig it made the evening all the sweeter. I couldn’t help but think that years from now, the very lucky few in attendance will remember the night, and perhaps the evenings rendition of Hometown, with particular fondness.
It’s only fair that the last word though is that of much thanks and very well done to Regan, Bryce and Darren for putting on a fabulous show. Nice one gents!

The Rising Souls – Electric Circus 21 Feb 15

After years of gigging, last night was, embarrassingly, my first ever visit to Edinburgh’s Electric Circus.

Excuses, I have none, albeit perhaps that my musical junkets in Scotland have predominantly been in Glasgow,
save a smattering of Edinburgh gigs over the last few years.
Electric Circus is a quirky little place, the low slung ceiling giving it that very intimate feel as soon as you wander in. Through the front door and handily the bar is straight ahead. Seating to the right and off left just about 10 metres in front is the small stage.
As we arrived around 1945, Megan D, had kicked off the evenings entertainment (which had been put together by @JuliahMusic to raise money for Radio Forth’s Cash For Kids) warming up the already ample crowd. Following a short set, Ross Arthur and his guitar ran through a few numbers of his own. Fair play to the lad, not many would have the confidence  to cover Jessie J’s Price Tag for the waiting crowd. He pulled it off too, leaving to a well deserved cheer and round of applause.
As The Rising Souls took to the stage we stood up from the comfort of the leather lounge sofa’s we had somehow managed to acquire at the back of the room. The opening five chords of album opener “Don’t Say You Love Me” reminds me somewhat of The Doors Five To One.
Only though until ‘that’ voice grabbed the attention of my eardrums. Sounding far older than his years,
you’d be forgiven for thinking that around 60 Bensons a day were part of his regime. This is the gruff and yet sweet soulful sound of lead singer Dave Archibald. I wasn’t the only one immediately transfixed to the stage.
Three songs in and my personal favourite The Boxer had everyone mesmerised.
Three band members, somehow making the small selection of instruments sounding like so much more.
 To Dave’s right on bass is Kelso.. imagine what what Russell Brand might look like if he got his plentiful locks chopped a bit shorter. Side left, sitting on a box (sorry music peeps…. it’s a cajon don’t you know) was Tom, who hopefully won’t be offended if I say I thought there was a bit of a Scroobius Pip vibe being rocked. Well cool!
The evenings set was executed to perfection. More than one person told me they’d listen to this all night and I found it hard to disagree. Finding the balance between up tempo foot stomping, and laid back grooves seemed to be carried out absolutely seamlessly and with ease.
So what exactly do these guys sound like?
Well, I’d heard the first album the band made as a four piece and it definitely emanated quite a rock vibe. Perhaps with lead singer having the whole Mark Rankin denim jacket going on, I remember thinking a refined GUN, for those old enough…. But wait!
The four piece rather rock sounding Rising Souls came back as a three piece with musical direction taking a very, very interesting turn.
The voice contains the same passion and soul as I remember yet there is a definite more bluesy feel to the music.
More than a couple of times I’m sure I hear something a little Doorsey coming into the sound.
But what inspired the change of direction I wondered. It’s always interesting to see bands changing genre, particularly when the result is as satisfactory as this one. The edginess of Dave’s vocals, I thought was perfectly suited to the rock sound but mixed with the bluesy feel just seems… well, so right.
I asked Dave after the gig about the change of direction, which seemed like a natural progression, following a few acoustic sessions he and Kelso had done together, following the release of the first album.
Listening to the likes of Otis reading, Ella Fitzgerald and Sam Cooke he explained that writing music inspired by them is what had become the most natural thing to do.
What happened though is that the rock undercurrents still eminate and the result is something quite rather spectacular.
Opening lines of The Boxer sum this up perfectly for me….
I am a firecracker, I”m going to melt you down.
I’m not a lover, I’m a fighter whose in doubt..
Put on those boxing gloves and I will knock you down.
But the count to 10 aint long enough so throw that towel now.
Man you talk a pretty good game now but it aint so good
When your lying seeing double…..
Like most in attendance last night I could not disagree. This was a group of young men looking very comfortable, natural and thoroughly in love with what they were doing.
As the band name says, these boys have soul.. Watch them rise!Rising Souls

Little Fire album launch – Oran Mor Glasgow 05 Dec 14

Everyone loves a celebration!
And whilst Christmas celebrations may have started for some, the Oran Mor played host to a very special birthday celebration on Friday night.
But it was really only very briefly a birthday celebration when the crowd that had gathered, burst into song to wish the evenings main event many happy returns.
Little Fire was two songs into the evenings set which celebrated the launch of his debut album High Hopes.
So, it was no surprise then, that the audience and Little Fire were all in the mood for a party.
Support acts  Katie Hitchen and Rebecca Herd set the mood perfectly with their sweet, melodic vocals leaving the stage set for Little Fire and his soulful, love filled, awesomely cool run through of album tracks, crowd requests and a few other gems.
He loves to sing, which shows in spates, both in the emotion expressed in his lyrics and his regular positive interactions with his fans.
‘How’s everyone doing?’ he smiled as telling everyone that ‘Singing is the just the best feeling ever.’
Title track of the album High Hopes sums this young man up. He’s full of positive energy, full of gratitude for those who have helped him along the way, he holds his head as high as his hopes and a nicer guy you could not meet. Oh, and he can sing a fair bit too. I overheard him being compared as the Lionel Richie of Ayrshire by a member of the audience and like everyone in attendance, I wish him as much success as the old commodore.
Whilst Little Fire took his bow, I picked up my own copy of his album and left  the Oran Mor, getting a little emotional myself as I listened on the journey home.
Thoughtful, warming, soulful and positively uplifting throughout, whilst an all rounded relaxing feel leaves us in no doubt.
Little Fire.. Surely a big flame of the future!
Check him out here… http://littlefiremusic.com

Summer Solstice 2014

I’ve always loved these words of George Bernard Shaw. “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” The 21st Jun this year was Summer solstice. It also happened to be the date that 50000 fans descended upon Leicester’s Victoria Park to watch local band Kasabian. It was a massive homecoming gig to celebrate their 10 year anniversary. Most people know Summer solstice as the longest day of the year. “Solstice” literally means stopping, or standing still of the sun. The point in time when the sun is at it’s highest point. And so Saturday proved in more than just in regards to the big ball of fire in the sky. The occasion was as an appropriate reminder that although time can occasionally appear to stand still, the world keeps turning and in doing so changes. Much like people. We are constantly changing and growing, as we embrace new challenges in our lives. Chapters in our lives come to an end, and as quickly, new ones begin. That great big circle of life continues.

Last month, I’d been one of the lucky punters that managed to get a ticket to see Prince perform at Glasgow’s Hydro. What a venue, what an artist and what a performance! In the run up to the gig, I was touched by some of the comments made by Prince in defence of his no photos and no video veto across the entire tour. “Come along and enjoy the show. How can you truly enjoy the show and be in the moment if you are recording or taking pictures on your phone.” Those may not have been his exact words, but it’s what I heard. Around then, it struck me that it had been two years since I wrote my first music related article on my website. An article which proved to mark the beginning of a new chapter in my life. It was a piece about a metaphysical diner created by Tim Burgess of The Charlatans. A piece that would earn me the role of Tim’s very first writer in residence at Kendal Calling festival later that year. And, a piece that opened the door to many wonderful experiences and opportunities, of which I grabbed as many as I possibly could. Band interviews, free entry to gigs, exclusive single reviews, advice and opportunities from fellow poets, singer songwriters and bands. Pretty much a dream come true really. During those two years I’ve released my first book of poetry too. I also set myself the target of writing my first novel. Good times!

It might have easily been 10PM at Victoria Park Leicester on Summer Solstice, when my wife Karen said to me “Why have you still got your sunglasses on?” Hidden in that comment (unlike the usual hammer like bluntness of my dearly beloved) during the longest day of 2014 was a conundrum, perhaps one, only I would see. I thought, maybe, just maybe, there’s more to this solstice malarky than meets the eye!

In 1989, as a starry eyed 17 year old, I set foot in Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom for my very first gig. For me it was The Four of Us (Irish indie rockers) and GUN (Scottish rock band and future local legends) supporting headliners Roachford, hot on the heels of Cuddly Toy’s success. Everyone I know that loves their music treasures the memory of their first gig like parents treasure a child’s first steps. As you steadily enter the world of music and gigs, never really knowing the highs and lows they hold for you.

Back at Vick-eh Park Leicester during Summer Solstice, as Kasabian triumphantly left the stage and the fan led chorus’s of Lost Souls Forever (La, la la, la la la la la, laaaaaa) faded into the night, I realised I’m celebrating my very own milestone. Yes, the 25th anniversary of my first ever gig. A quarter of a century old love affair with live music. Who else is in this boat? That’s longer than married life, longer than most friendships have lasted, longer than the kids have been around, and most certainly longer than the time spent in a single job. Longer than any period lived in a single location, longer than even the most beloved item of clothing has lasted definitely longer than any single hair do has lasted! A few other things have changed as well. The one that trouble found has turned peacemaker, the over indulger has become sensible and responsible, the crowd surfer has turned dad dancer. No longer at the front swigging enthusiastically from the lead singers offered 1.5l bottle of JD. Gone are the days of not remembering the details of a gig and thinking that made it even more special. Chest bumping, mosh pitting, mud bathing, friend losing and much much more are all in the past. But happy to have experienced all of it, happy to be able to look back and happier still to move forward. Hundreds of gigs have come and gone, some more memorable than others. And of course we have our favourites. But the most important thing of all is that the love of music remains.

So, it is with a nod and a cheeky wee wink, that, to those who uphold the time-aged traditions of rock n roll, I salute you. To previous, current and the next generations of music makers and gig goers I say simply this
“Enjoy YOUR solstice…for when you’ve experienced your highest point in the Sky sun, (or daughter) you will know when the time is right to stand still and when the time is right to move on.

Embrace Come Back to What They Know – King Tuts Glasgow 12 Feb

Embrace’s first gig back in nearly eight years took place on Wednesday night.
As they took to the stage, arms aloft, lead singer Danny McNamara told the crowd
“First gig back in nearly eight years, where do we want to go first? We want to go to fucking Glasgow don’t we.”
And then, (not that the King Tut’s crowd needed any more encouragement) the roar inside Scotland’s finest small venue would have easily filled places 5 times the size.
They were off and running as new track Protection opened proceedings.
It’s dark mysterious beginning, rather in keeping with the mood of new single Refugees, gave way to Blue Monday esque drum machine beats being dropped on the crowd. A new direction for the band known for their anthemic sing along tunes? Perhaps only time would tell.
Second new track In the End is more up beat and reminiscent of the Embrace everyone remembers. As it closes, just in case any of the crowd were wondering, Danny chipped in,
“It’s fucking good to be back.”
Comeback single Refugees with Richard McNamara on lead vocals was given its first live treatment and received a tremendous King Tuts reaction, before red glow sticks ( a neat little touch the band had added to great effect, building atmosphere at one of their now infamous ‘secret’ gigs) were introduced for another new, slower number, again well received.
In traditional King Tuts style, the small space directly in front of the stage was packed full of the Glasgow faithful, known for their banter and ability to let the band in attendance know exactly what they are thinking.
As the opening chords of Ashes sprung to life, the low black walls and ceilings might have been mistaken for sweating themselves.
By this point, it was clear the band were not only relaxing into the task at hand but also starting to realise just how much they had missed the feeling they were so clearly enjoying.
Veciferous Scottish chants of “T in the Park” “Come on” “ya Beauty” amongst others were met with equal response from the band who were all well and truly strapped into the emotional roller coaster they’d been missing for so many years.
As the tempo shifted from song to song, each member of the band had on show, emotional displays ranging from sheer exuberance to that of thoughtfulness and contemplation.
Before ‘Gravity’, Danny caressed the microphone and closed his eyes briefly in a moment where a picture said more than a thousand words could. Likewise were the glances of sibling re-assurance that he frequently shared with brother Richard.
For a band who’ve been away so long, it was alway going to be an emotional return..particularly in a city world famous for the emotion and passion they put into everything they do.
The band showed there’s a new direction.. It’s not a million miles out of kilter from that which everyone previously knew but clearly they have been inspired to add enough of a smattering of experimentation combined with raw emotions to cement the new sound.
Set closer “Thief” Summed the night up nicely.
With its haunting intro, before the tempo was upped and some hefty reverberation on the keys gave way to crashing huge beats… Then another final twist of sheering, sawing guitar and the sudden closing thuds of the drum machine left the Glasgow crowd shouting for more.
Eight years out has revitalised the band, who appeared invigorated and inspired. What we have is a darker sound, but Embrace are emphatically Back!

Oh… They still have a sense of humour though.
“It’s like riding a bike” Danny told the crowd as they came back for an encore.
“What shall we play” he asked
The reaction was unanimous as King Tuts burst into its own chorus of Come Back to What you Know.
“Ah” he said “we’ve not rehearsed that, “We may fuck it up”
They didn’t, they rocked it, and as everyone left King Tuts, it was more than the odours of Glasgow sweat and beer that lingered…
Glasgow reeked of an emotional, triumphant return. A comeback? Yes, but to much more than what they or we knew.


Celtic Connections – A Concert for Alliance – Glasgow Royal Concert Hall 20 Jan 14

As part of this years Celtic Connections, Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall played host to a concert for Alliance this evening.
Some of Scotland’s finest musicians, both young and a little less young had come out to support a number of charities including Age Scotland, Sense Scotland, Carers Trust, Quarriers and Unity.
A celebration of all caring in Scotland, it was all about Letters life and Love.

Host for the evening Cathy McDonald spoke of how humbled she had been whilst reading some of the stories that carers from across Scotland had shared. And although the night was a celebration, bringing together some fine musical talent, it was evident to see just how much the cause meant to everyone. And of course, what would a concert celebrating caring be without carers.
In numbers, carers from Ayrshire, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee, Skye, Shetland and Orkney but to name a few places from across Scotland came and made their presence felt. After all, this concert was for them.

The music started with Little Fire. Hailing from Ayrshire, his acoustic melodies were just the ticket to kick start the night. Keep an eye out for his debut album later this year. Such a packed line up meant only time for two or three songs for each act and next up was the hypnotic voice of the mesmerisingly talented Siobhan Wilson. Simply put, her first track The Terrible Woman was acoustic bliss.
The guys from Kassidy followed, a sound, which rightly or wrongly reminded me of The Beach Boys meets kings of Leon with John McEnroe on bass. (Check them out, you might see what I mean) Their guitar sound and energetic drumming provided a really good groove. They gave way to Horse MacDonald, who started by sharing a story about caring that was very close to her heart. She told of the gift she had given to her own mother when she was dying… then duly shred the song “Carefully” with the audience. A very emotional rendition reminded everyone just why they were there.
Scottish favourites Hue and Cry then took to the stage and closed the first half of the evening performing Labour of love, Violently and the song they encouraged us all to make the opening song of the 2014 Commonwealth Games… Mother Glasgow.
Following the interval, Joe Nisbet Jr kicked things off with a few songs from his new album that took 4 days to record but he reckoned had been 30 years in the making. His blend of easy bluesy sound and sing along toe tapping had everyone back into the swing of things.
Next, Emma Pollack performed three numbers with the Cairn string Quartet including Don’t make me wait.
Tommy Reilly started off by fooling the light technicians by taking his seat at the piano for his opener, Out There Somewhere. Just Woken up on acoustic guitar was next. A super cool sound from a super cool guy.
Admiral Fallow then shared a couple of songs about friends, family, self evaluation – real life really, including Beatle in the Box.
And so Eddi Reader took to the stage, donning apparel we have come to know and associate with her so well. As had many before her on this beautiful evening she shared a few stories of caring, of ownership and of the love that makes the Scots such magnificent people. She closed with a fantastic rendition of Mona Lisa, delivered in the true style of that cigarette yielding Scottish Auntie that everyone knows and loves so well.
Finally, the whole gang of artist were then reunited on stage for one last song. And, as if anyone needed any reminding what the evening was all about, the closing number summed it all up perfectly. Lean on Me!
And who better than Tommy Whitlelaw, the man who organised the evenings event, to give the closing words.
Asked to be introduced simply as carer and son, Tommy told the audience his mothers life had been a love story.
And that the night had felt like a love story too.
I doubt anyone in the audience would disagree!


Welcome back Embrace!

Eight years after their last material, Embrace announced the details of the long awaited follow up album today.
And for dedicated fans, that’s been a very long 8 year wait indeed.
Over the last year, the band have emerged onto social media, making plans to release new material well known. But the questions on everyone’s lips have been the same for months now… What’s it going to sound like and more importantly when are we going to hear it?
In true Embrace style, those last few months have been the worst for most fans. At times, the waiting has felt like it would never end. Oh sure, for the lucky few able to secure entry to one of the secret gigs, it’s been heavenly! For the remainder of the loyal fans that have had to wait that little longer, after watching, listening, grappling for any little morsel of information, the reward came today.
And with news of an EP, album and mini tour, the question on everyone’s lips tonight may well be.. Was it worth the wait?

The single is called Refugees, released on 17 Feb.
What’s it sound like?
A classic Embrace piano intro is quickly accompanied by a drum beat emanating the urgency of a panic attacked racing heart.
Then it happens. The melodic opening vocals are that of Richard McNamara, which may come as a pretty big surprise to most Embrace fans.
It works though, his vocals adding not only surprise but plentiful amounts of intrigue and intensity.
We were promised something darker and Refugees does not fail to deliver.
Still very apparent is that Embrace sound everyone knows so well.
It builds like you’d expect an Embrace track to build, it delivers on the big sing along chorus and allows the tempo to drop again just when you don’t want it to… with a few keyboard shifts thrown in for good measure, the great Embrace story book has just booted down the door that opens the next chapter..
And just as the listener is shaking their head thinking ‘oh yes, tune’, up pops Danny McNamara to add a few vocals of his own, before, all too soon, it’s all over.
So… is it worth the wait?
Oh my good lord, you better believe it.
This is top drawer, Welcome back lads!

Watch the video to Refugees here.

Single, album and tour details here

An M&Ds Christmas Experience – Guest Review.

Time for another guest review folks, this time something seasonal, which I personally think will put a smile on the face of anyone suffering Ba Humbug type thoughts. It was written by a friend of mine who’d rather remain anonymous.
It made me roar with laughter…

Those of you who know me well will know that I am no literary genius, I leave that to my good friend Graeme Richardson. I am also a staunch , proud Lanarkshire man, having returned to my roots from being much travelled in my formative adult years. But today’s Santa experience at “Scotland’s Theme Park “, has left me feeling bewildered and needing to share my experience.

Storyteller, see Santa, real reindeers , ice rink and a free coffee/tea and a mince pie. An additional selling point was that the tickets were procured at a reduced rate…bargain?
Kids excited, buzzing , the decision was made to leave Edinburgh’s bustling German Christmas ’till next week.

Scotland’s theme park the sign says…Now, we weren’t expecting Universal Studios or Disney. We made the most of our “Fast pass” as my 8 year old called them and headed to the Storyteller. Excitement , anticipation as we entered the marquee done out like, well a crematorium with a Christmas tree and a rocking chair.

The lights dimmed and out came the story teller, fell over the table , knocked over a Christmas scene and sent the mildew table cloth flying. The kids loved it though, they laughed and he cringingly battered on telling a story about Santa giving a wee girl from East Kilbride an orange cat.
Well you’ve paid for it so you may as well enjoy it, I thought. He was more 1970’s working mans club than Santa elf, but he battered on.
It cannae get any worse I thought as he pointed to his wee pointy ears beneath his Santa hat and it was off to see the big man. Quite literally I thought, as he referred to Santa as some sort of enforcer and not the spreader of joy I know.
Santa’s little helper was sporting a black eye as if she had been hooked by a night club bouncer and her wee elfie pal with teeth as yellow as pissed on snow set the scene.
“Alright wee man, whit ye wanting fae Santa”, feck me was that a welcome or a challenge to fight I thought , but get in the spirit , it’s Christmas after all .
The pungent smell of real reindeer added an extra sense of realism to the experience as we waited in quiet anticipation to see the big man.
But wait, ” right youse go that way “, ” moan in this way ” as we were disorientated and marched into what looked like a sauna . “Alright Santa “, ” how you doing wee man, have you been a good boy”, the kids smiled , I shat my self and when the big man threw a couple of bags of gold chocolate coins at me , he gruffly threatened “look at the camera wee man”, and we were out of there into what can only be described as a hybrid of Disney’s small world and a scene from a Chucky film. I was half expecting the polar bear to shout “wanna play”?

Scary as fuck is the only way to describe it.

Santas little helpers showed us the door as I started to panic , was I ever going to get out? “it’s that wiy”, thank you , I said, with sincerity , “nae bother !” I have never been so happy to go up a fire escape into a good old fashioned amusement arcade, with it’s disorientating lights and noise.

“Please tell me this is over” , I pleaded with my wife. “No there’s the carousel ride still to do.”
I walked through a Christmas market, with glistening gifts, handmade and with talent. Metaphorically I had made it to safety. So I thought until, a woman mountain in a Santa suit and ugg boots dwarfed me. She menacingly pushed passed me. Her tiny Santa hat a poor cover for festive cheer.
But the kids enjoyed the ride as santas little elf in his new nike gutties battered on with his job of making it go round.
Back outside , through the Epicot of Motherwell and to the ice rink , now the excitement of hearing Des Clark welcoming voice blasting over the tannoy. A local radio DJ and comedian of national standing, a morning commute favourite of mine.
Sadly it was recorded. So onto the ice , all I can say is I survived, but that many blades in Lanarkshire has to be risk managed.

I gathered my family and into claim our last “freebie”, a coffee and a mince pie. You know what, they were gorgeous and the kids smiled as they tucked into theirs. My oldest devoured his hot chocolate in a rovers return textured pint glass.
I sat next to the precarious log burner inside the tent as we listened to Motherwell’s next big Xfactor wannabe .
It was over, we headed back to the car, adults bewildered and shocked, children , well happy even pointing out you get free refills here just like in Florida. Kids bounding home happy as we walked passed a big pink phallic boaby that smiled. I am now told was a hotdog.

A day to remember or a day to forget, I still don’t know, all I can say is M&Ds give a unique Christmas experience, that I for one will remember for years to come.

Merry Christmas.



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