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the pioneer of Dylan Studies; writer, public speaker, critic; became a Doctor of Letters in 2015 (awarded by the University of York, UK)

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Cerys Matthews at the Band Room, Farndale

Sarah, Magdalena & I went to see Cerys Matthews & her band at the Band Room, Farndale, here in the foothills of the North Yorkshire Moors last Saturday night. (Cerys comes into The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, because she helped Bucky Baxter build a studio in the woods... in a place almost as out-of-the-way as the Band Room.) Her website doesn't admit the existence of this gig at all, but in reality it was the opening night of her tour. How her big blue double-decker tour bus made it over the bridge at Low Mill I don't know.

This was the venue we wanted Dylan to come to, a year or two back (the idea was originally Sarah's): but though the attempt to get him generated much publicity, it was mishandled as a practical overture. The approach was made merely to the promoter of Dylan's upcoming big-venue UK dates of the time, so it was doomed to fail. They should have asked his office, and explained the idea properly. And still should, since every "name" act that does play the Band Room (capacity 80-100) finds it the most charming, funkily intimate venue they've ever played, and in the most beautiful possible setting.

Cerys Matthews certainly seemed to enjoy herself, and she was terrific: full of life, openness, playful zest and integrity - and an authority that didn't posture or ever become pseudo-masculine - and her fine band achieved a nifty balance between engaging thought-out arrangements and bright improvisation, setting Ms Matthews free to play as little or as much as she felt like, moment by moment, and to sing out with exuberant confidence.

The support act was a young man whose entire repertoire was sung in Welsh, though he addressed the audience in English between songs. He sang sweetly, and played excellent acoustic guitar, but as men with cigars will be telling him, if he wants to get anywhere he'll have to swallow his nationalist pride and sing in the global language of English.


Blogger ScottM said...

Maybe you can paste this comment elsewhere on your site so visitors can see it...I owe you an advance apology for something that will soon appear in the pages of "Isis." I penned a review of your book and took you to task on few things, including what I thought was your representation of Messiah College (in the entry on Bert Cartwright)--it not being affiliated with the neo-con far-right. If I had done my homework I would have realized that this was Jonathan Lauer's description of the college--not yours (you interviewed him). I tried to get it corrected but the issue had already gone to press. I come off looking rather foolish and I trust Derek Barker will let me issue an apology in a subsequent issue. So my hat is off to you on this one; if you find it in your heart, I hope I can be forgiven...

1:39 am  
Blogger Michael Gray said...

Dear Scott Marshall
Greetings. Thanks for writing. If you are going to publish a note about this in the next Isis that's absolutely fine. Think no more of it.

I didn't agree with some of your review, of course - I thought your recurrent defence of the Neo-Con Far Right bizarre: you seemed under the impression that they don't get much of a hearing in the current climate, which made me wonder what parallel universe you've been living in (clearly one in which George W Bush isn't President of the United States) - but I didn't think your review showed any malice, so I certainly took no offence.

Best wishes~
Michael Gray

12:43 pm  

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