70's Martin 'Vega' 6 string acoustic

September 25, 2015


R.I.P ~ Arturo Vega

July 4, 2013


the bells ring. . . . . . . 
and now, all that we have,
is a final word.

we give heartfelt tribute 
to those that we love 
and to those whose love 
has touched our lives 
and whose message 
has been heard. 

with love and respect x S

"I only met Arturo Vega once, in passing. On the occasion of Never records exhibition in London, he had a solo show and seminar at the Tate an had passed by the studio to catch up with Ted. I had just recorded my version of this tune, and i remember Ted played it back enthusiastically on the vinyl he had just cut, as he commendedly does, and we all listened. Its a common feeling i have in the presence of respected artists, when demonstrating such themes or reflections, that leads to the perhaps unspoken thought of "what are you trying to do with this, like its been done already ... " and i remember this feeling pervading every second of the playback, perhaps my own or subtlely reflected from the guys, whilst we all stood there quietly and listened and mused as to what to make of it playing, and the song choice and the sounds ... like "is this Art? ... really? or um, i've heard that before, now what do you do?". I remember the reaction was slight, Arturo recognised the Gary Davis reference and commented on the good playing, and then asked if i write my own songs, to which i responded with something like my usual response of "thank you, well, i'm just working through the paces", which is of course a deliberately confusing and distracting answer to basically end that line of conversation, and avoid any certain judgement being passed. 

As it happens, I don't really believe there would be any judgement anyway as in that moment, we all quickly were passing by, and both of those fellows were busy in the midst of their own workings, enough not to dwell on the subject, or discuss it further, and in part to trivialise these workings of my own sub-conscious, its not that important a subject to be considered either way. 

Arturo seemed very fit, and healthy looking with a glowing vitality. Like the look of someone who worked very hard at life but played equally hard. His slim, vibrant and young in stature appearance obviously masked the transferance of these thoughts into human years with more silver shaved hair and lived in weathered skin, i would have, if asked, placed him as a young looking early to mid-50's yet still carrying the energy of someone perhaps 15 years his younger. I only work out now, he would have been 64 years old/young on this occasion. 

Now, two years ahead, he has passed on from his time here.

I only met Arturo Vega once in passing. I didn't know Arturo Vega, other than gathering from Ted how much respect, love and admiration he had for him as a friend and mentor and through this, gather his great influence to many others in this way too. Yet i felt this moment fitting on seeing tributes to pay all the respects i can, as i know through listening to Ted, just how deeply him leaving this life will leave a loss in the lifes of those who did know him well and loved him for the life he gave and the love he shared. 

R.I.P Arturo Vega (13th Oct. 1947 - 8th June 2013) ... 

memorial prayer card (photo - H.McCracken)


Death Don't Have No Mercy (davis) 

This is my take on another Blind Rev. Gary Davis song. i heard it on his Harlem street singer L.P from the late 50's. 

I felt inspired to play this and approach this theme, through the passing of my father just months before. I feel its not so much about sadness because he wouldn't have wanted that, but more personally coming to terms with the loss and in the greater, something which is out of your control. 

Ringing of the bell. 

R.I.P - Hew Blackwood Downes ... Aug.1946 - June.2012 ... x bless up Pops x

NEVER Records U.K Film Tour 2013 ~ Return to Derry

June 16, 2013

Its been two years now since New York artist Ted Riederers' NEVER Records came to these shores for the 2nd installment in Derry, Northern Ireland. On this occasion in May 2011, he was joined by friend and photographer Jason Wyche who felt that this project might provide the perfect platform for an exploration into film making and video, and together over the following weeks they set out, Ted recording the community and cutting the sounds and audio to vinyl and Jason documenting the proceedings and performances in visual form. Over the following time till now they have lovingly edited all the footage and created a film documentary, detailing the process, effect and joys that NEVER's visit to Derry had, entitled ~ NEVER Records "You Are Not Listening".

After premiering the finished film in April 2013, Stateside at the Victoria Film festival in Texas, winning 'Best of Fest' award, the guys deemed it only right to return to the U.K to reconnect with friends and collaborators and show the film at choice venues along the way. With a lack of funding available the guys bravely decided in true DIY spirit, to just come across anyway and what came about in the planning of a few independent screenings, then became whats best described as a mini-tour road trip. With film screenings and live shows planned at Liverpool, Derry and Belfast, we arranged to meet at Manchester airport and make the journey, 5 man strong including girlfriends/wives, in my small trusty motor from town to town via ferry to Ireland.

First up, was Liverpool. This was where NEVER Records first touched ground in September 2010, cutting records after an initial display in New York's abandoned Tower Records building, and was also where i first met Ted, whilst living there. Andrew Ellis (samizdat) who helped so much in making the original visit a success, arranged for the screening and live sets at the ( in my words 'epic') Camp & Furnace bar/project down on Greenland Street and our talented friend Helen Weatherhead who works as assistant producer at Radio 6, and interviewed Ted first time around for a great article, arranged for some great promotion in the form of an interview and radio ad which went out the next day on the airwaves.

It was great being back in Liverpool, albeit for a short time, to play and catch up with friends and also with the re-connecting of the first NEVER experience we noticed that the original poster was still up on the building in Seel Street opposite of where Ted and the gang were staying that night ... (top right corner, below ... photo T.Riederer)

... And On to Derry. This was the main aim for us to make in many ways, as it being the city that the film centres around. As an often ignored and i would say certainly misunderstood place, this side of the pond at least, it is in many ways in its element this year being given some of the extra attention it deserves on a greater scale, in the form of the U.Ks inaugural City of Culture award. I'll be honest, these tags don't really hold much with me, as i was in Liverpool when it was awarded with a similar 'accolade' in 2008, yet aside from any cynical view (sorry, i can never resist to soap box about this) on how the places really benefit from this kind of national treatment, i can see the positives in the short term improvements and display and for the time at least, as was in Liverpool, energies and positive drive during the heightened activity and entertainments made this visit as exciting as it could be.

Of course our trip had nothing really to do with this, as in relation to the project and the film it was already focused on the culture, art and music in Derry in 2011, and it seemed that this kind of went under the radar of the local culture chiefs in charge now, but this wasn't important as a brilliant schedule had been arranged by local musician and NEVER Records 'cohort' Conor O'Kane aka Teknopeasant, for the film screening and week ahead with the main night being at the glorious and seldom used Orchard Cinema @ St.Columbs Hall (est.1886) ... here the crew! ...

and the theatre (pre-show soundcheck) ...

One of the great supporters of the original visit was local BBC Radio Foyle DJ Stephen McCauley, and it was great to finally meet him as he arranged some brilliant publicity and a magnificent pre-show live broadcast for the film screening, on his weekly show Electric Mainline. Stephen had previously played my version of the Frank Stokes tune 'How Long' that I recorded in Derry in 2011 on his show, and was delighted that as part of his live show before the screening, he invited me along with local band 'Wood Burning Savages' (formerly 'The Cue'), to play some songs and have a short interview too on our NEVER records experiences. With a great and enthusiastic 'home' crowd in for the film, it went on to be a joyful night with a good handful of excellent local artists and bands present to play 'live sets' through the evening after the film. 

Aside from the musicalities and NEVER shenanigans, one of the most joyful parts of visiting Ireland this time was going for an extended drive on the Friday. With Derry being close to the borders we ventured a short distance north, into Donegal (which by then is technically South), to what i can only describe as some of the most lush & beautiful landscape i have encountered. I can only imagine that the fine people there would probably like it kept that way so I won't harp on, but apart from being kindly assisted by a lovely elderly couple when we got lost, by practically leading us 5 miles out of town to a stunning setting at Duncree, where remains a Napoleonic hillfort with equally stunning views to match ...


we also encountered a great drive through 'The Gap' between hills ...


leading to a beautiful beach, doused with the tropical sun which had accompanied us all the way ...


"Home At last, my journey is done!!" ... 

Well, not quite complete without a pint!! ... well 4 pints of Guinness & a Rusty Nail (for Rose) :) ...

Any visit to Ireland wouldn't be complete without an impromptu session, and again beholden to Conor for organising a night at local pub and venue, Bennigans bar, we weren't let down by this most musical of places. So that night, 'Teknopeasant & friends' is what it said and rang true as gathered on the Friday were so many friendly faces, having met Conor on 3 of the NEVER occasions, including London & New Orleans, we were all welcomed along with a collection of Derry musicians, connected parties and passers by, to amount to a lovely evening of open mic performances and collaborations into the wee-wee hours ... (photographs courtesy of local legendary chronicler Jim Cunningham)

with lovely and gracious landlord Jo, jumping in brilliantly at every chance! ...

to all the crew! ... thank you Derry!!!

And on to Belfast ...

It was a lovely thing indeed, that Belfast artist Seamus Harahan, one of the artist/musicians and friends we met and who had participated at the original Derry installation, arranged for a film screening in Belfast on the Saturday night of the 8th June. Located at a great little pub / music venue called the Sunflower Bar on Union Street. I wandered down to check it out in the day, while folks were catching up on rest, I had a sneaky pint and got shown around and straightaway saw this was set to be a magical evening. 

What a great bar, with homemade Irish Stew (YES!!) and an afternoon blues duo, and early evening Appalacian session, the day just got better.

Great posters too! ...

The film was recieved great by a bouyant crowd and for the live sets after the film, i played a few tunes, then was followed by local musical legend Robyn G Shiels who ripped it up with a great set, then we proceeded back to Seamus' for another late drink fuelled and jamming night till the early hours. 

Thank You Belfast!!

Shit!!! ... Sunday 11am, here we go again. Its like a running theme that every time I'm booked for a ferry I arrive with seconds to spare before the gates close, and waking up with a few hours rest just had, and 3/4/5 miles outside the city centre in North Belfast, with little to no funds, it seemed it was gonna be another interesting challenge to get into town, meet the folks, to then all drive to Dublin, for me to catch the ferry at 3 and the NEVER crew to then be ready to depart back to New York. So I hot-tailed it at brisk canter into town, took like an hour!!!

kinda nice view of the hills on the way ... (11.30am)

this was cool too!! ... (11.55am)

and we're off ... no time for coffee!! ... very gutted!!! x (20 mins past noon)

Racing Southwards ...

and Rest! ...
(literally 4mins to spare ... phew, close shave!!) ...

(it should be noted for unsure seafayers, that in the war of ferries, as I politely mentioned to the nice Stenaline lady when she phoned to ask me how good they were, on a survey, that whilst Stenaline had Internet and things seemed quite new and modern, P&O on the otherhand had two free meals and outside seating on Upper decks for the same price, which was very welcome indeed!)

and Homeward bound ...
(Farewell sweet and beautiful Ireland! ... to see you again soon i hope x)


Oh so many Joys!!! ... yet with the joys come the sorrows ... The saddest news that was recieved on this trip very kindly waited till the final day. On meeting Ted, Jason and the folks at the hotel before the trip onto Dublin, they shared the tragic news that Teds good friend and legendary artist, Arturo Vega had passed, after a recent and quick battle with illness. I only had the fortune to meet him in passing one time during the NEVER Records installation in London, and it struck me this morning when writing this, how much even in a subtle way his influence carried into the making of this project. The film sub-title "You Are Not Listening", Ted remarks in the film came directly from Arturo and so I mentioned that in whatever strands, that his work and influence continue to shine on, through this work, as it progresses and grows and with that simple thought, I send my sincerest blessings to Ted and those who knew Arturo well, and with the greatest respect in his memory.

x R.I.P x 


NEVER Records Film & Live Show posters ~ June 2013

May 9, 2013