2016 was a killer year for music (in all senses of the word). But for anyone bemoaning the loss of beloved heros, I recommend a dose of these wonders. There's so many great musicians creating today, & the bonus is, they are still alive! I even met some of them at concerts last year & they are decent human beings too! Here's some pop, jazz, folk, soul, ambient, hip hop, indie rock, country & just about every shade in between.
Check out: Santigold '99¢', Anderson .Paak 'Malibu', Shearwater 'Jet Plane And Oxbow', Cian Nugent 'Night Fiction', Yorkston/Thorne/Khan 'Everything Sacred', John Moreland 'High on Tulsa Heat', The Besnard Lakes 'A Coliseum Complex Museum', Benji Hughes 'Songs in the Key of Animals', Ben Lubeck 'Rented Rooms', Walter Martin 'Arts & Leisure', Mavis Staples 'Livin' On A High Note', Heron Oblivion 's/t', Eleanor Friedberger 'New View', Andrew Bird 'Are You Serious', Julianna Barwick 'Will', Glenn Jones 'Fleeting', Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop 'Love Letter For Fire', Sturgill Simpson 'A Sailor's Guide To Earth', Andy Shauf 'The Party', Psychic Temple 'III', Adam Green 'Aladdin', William Tyler 'Modern Country', Nice As F**k 's/t', M. Ward 'More Rain', case/lang/veirs 's/t', Kaytranada '99.9%', Brett Dennen 'Por Favor', Michael Kiwanuka 'Love & Hate', Margaret Glaspy 'Emotions & Math', De La Soul '& the Anonymous Nobody...', Okkervil River 'Away', Eluvium 'False Readings On', Adam Torres 'Pearls to Swine', Oh Pep! 'Stadium Cake', BadBadNotGood 'IV', A Tribe Called Quest 'We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service', Childish Gambino '"Awaken, My Love!"', Health&Beauty 'No Scare', Jeff Parker 'The New Breed', Lambchop 'Flotus', Yak 'Alas Salvation', NxWorries 'Yes Lawd!', Jim James 'Eternally Even', Yussef Kamaal 'Black Focus', Flock of Dimes 'If You See Me, Say Yes', Julian Lage 'Arclight/Live in Los Angeles', Jank 'Versace Summer', John K. Samson 'Winter Wheat', Esperanza Spalding 'Emily's D+Evolution', & Weyes Blood 'Front Row Seat to Earth'.
This list is in no way complete. I made quarterly posts on my Facebook page of my current listening habits & some albums that I kept going back to. This pulls all those together. There's still so many albums I am checking out after reading Best Of lists & I am still deciding whether they are keepers or not. And I haven't even listened to Beyoncé's 'Lemonade' yet. Yes, Bowie's 'Blackstar' & Leonard Cohen's 'You Want It Darker' were among the best albums of the year, but let's build some new idols to worship.
“You are 16, going on 17...” What a strange old year that was! A lot of people are glad that 2016 is over. It's true, a lot of famous people died, celebrities I never met but admired, & their incredible work moved me. In a few cases, they actually changed the way I see, hear or feel about the world. Carrie Fisher was one of my first crushes, possibly because she was such a powerful female role model. As a kid, David Bowie freaked me out & I loved every moment of it. Prince gave me funk before I knew what it was, or what to do with it. George Michael made great pop music, empowering & most of all, fun. Leonard Cohen was a gift that just kept on giving - the more I listened, the more there was to find. Gene Wilder lived up to his name & showed me how 'manic' can be inspirational. There are others who played key roles in my development: Leon Russell, Michael Cimino, Ralph Stanley, Glenn Frey, Sir George Martin... the list seems endless, but let's be thankful for their gifts.
And let's not forget that 2016 was an amazing year for music, with cracking releases from Margaret Glaspy, Michael Kiwanuka, Andy Shauf, Psychic Temple, Eleanor Friedberger, Anderson .Paak, Childish Gambino, Julian Lage, & oh so many more... (I'll post a full list of my favourite albums of the year next, in case you missed my posts on Facebook!)
Politically, 2016 was a highwater point for confusion, misinformation & existential angst, proving - if we could ever forget - that it is so important to engage & stay motivated. For all the dark moments though, I can't help thinking 2016 was pretty amazing. Once again, I met so many wonderful people who kindly gave my music their time & support. I travelled new lands & took a long break - playing a mere 77 concerts! I was able to look back on how far I've come, & see clearer where I want to go next. I managed to implement a lot of overdue changes - I finally went vegan (something I've wanted to do for as long as I can remember) & stopped drinking alcohol - & it was much easier than I thought. While that kind of lifestyle may not be your cup of tea, I feel better than I have for a long time & didn't get sick once! No judgements, I'm just happy to still be alive!
As for the fifth album, it took a backseat in 2016, but I hope to start work on it again soon. The studio in which I was recording relocated, & it is currently being rebuilt. I also had to track down a bassist who was right for the project & has enough free time to commit to recording it. That is harder than it sounds, trust me! However, I did get around to releasing the first EP in a series of concert recordings - 'Live in Little Paris' (you can read about it below) - & I am checking out more archive recordings for another edition soon. If you have some money left lying around after Christmas, go ahead & drop it on a digital download!
So once again, that you for listening, watching, reading, following, liking & generally being you. Your support means so much to me, & as a living, breathing musician who is not a celebrity (thank the stars!), I will do my best not to die this year! I know that I'm naïve, but let's hope for the best of all years in 2017!
Taking a step back from the demands of constant touring this year, I had a chance to take stock of the fruits of my labours so far. It surprised me to see I have played over 1000 concerts since I moved to Praha in 2006, making many great friends & fond memories along the way. In fact, live shows have been my bread & butter since I became a full-time independent musician over 7 years ago. But though I always make a conscious effort to get photos from every gig, unfortunately live recordings are sparse & often poor quality (not to speak of the quality of my performance!) So I decided to root through the random jumble of audio files scattered over old hard drives to see if anything was redeemable. To my amazement, a few recordings were half-decent. Listening through now, I was able to see how songs had developed on stage; grown from folky bedroom ditties into fully-fledged rock behemoths (or so I believe).
Over the years, a number of people have asked why I haven't put out a live album, since my solo shows can be markedly different to my studio output. They wanted something which resembled what they had just seen - me thrashing around onstage or pouring my heart out by myself, tweaking songs until they appeared like quite different beasts. In some ways, these versions are closer to the original visions I had while channeling the muse & scribbling frantic notes - trying to chase down the elusive acoustic chords or precise words that sang directly from my soul. In other ways, they take the album versions & warp them - speeding them up, giving them some bounce, or extracting all the studio trickery until the polished bare bones of the songwriting glint in the stark spotlight.
Give the people what they want, goes the mantra. So here it is, the first EP in (I hope) a series of releases from 'Al's Archive'. I am a bit of a perfectionist, so the idea of putting out a full show gives me the willies; instead, I cherry-picked the best tracks. The umbrella concept is to offer superlative live versions of a wide variety of my material, from different locations, over a number of EPs. They aren't meant to be definitive, just as the album versions are just 'one way' of playing my songs. Every concert is unique & I hope you'll accept these tracks in the same spirit!
'Live in Little Paris' was recorded on Sunday 10th July 2016 at Malá Paříž, a weekly outdoor musical event organised by Antonín 'Tonda' Moravec during the sunnier months of the year. Tonda puts a lot of effort into curating an incredible international line-up of acts to play at the Altán in the gardens of the Zahradní dům in Teplice, Czech Republic. I've played it four times now, & I cannot emphasize enough how essential his work is - not just to the musicians he supports, but to the local community. It is so important for people to have a place to join together in a shared cultural experience, to discover something new & find out that they have more in common with their neighbours than they thought.
Of course, there is no sound without a soundman, so I must mention the extraordinary skills of Jaroslav Pufler, who mixed the show so beautifully. Meanwhile Mirdas was wandering around taking photos, including the classic pose he captured that now graces the cover. The recording was taken directly from the soundboard, & ably mastered by Geoff, my comrade-in-arms at Geoff Tyson Studio in Praha. Multi-talented Renaissance man Ken Nash patiently designed the cover while I came up with 'helpful suggestions'. Many thanks to you all.
So if you want to check out a piece of my musical history, please consider buying this EP on iTunes or Amazon - it'll cost you less than the price of your morning Pumpkin Spice Latte, or a craft beer in an English pub! 'Live in Little Paris' is dedicated to the folk who keep turning out to shows - not just mine - & asked so nicely for some live material. You are keeping music alive - I hope you like it.
At last, it is my unbridled pleasure to introduce to you my third album, the aptly-titled 'Third Time Lucky'. It was recorded in Prague under the steely, unwavering gaze of über-producer Geoff Tyson, and as previously mentioned in this blog, I am honoured to have been working with some of the best musicians in the business on this tertiary effort. 'Third Time Lucky' is comprised of ten road-tested, blues-soaked, folk/jazz-flavoured, rock-solid pure gems. Those of you who have followed my crooked career path may be pleased to note that it includes crowd favourites 'Last Song', 'The Prophet' and 'Waterbabies' – songs that have been part of my live set for a few years. And I think you might be pleasantly surprised with what we've done to them...
Firstly, I would like to thank all the many permutations of my band over the years for having bothered to learn these songs and helped me remember the lyrics – guys, I hope you like what you hear! A big shout out in particular to the immeasurably gifted bassist Martin Landa, who has jammed through a lot of these songs since they were born, right up to the present day. I would also like to tip my hat to diamond geezer Tom Smith, who aided me immeasurably by recording the demos of 'Someone New' and 'I'm Not Here', which have become stand-out tracks on the album (IMHO).
Most of all, I would like to eternally cuddle the fine musicians who appear on the album, and name my first-born child after Geoff Tyson for holding the project together. He is the genius responsible for recording, mixing and mastering this little beauty, and if you've heard any of my other CDs, you know why I asked him to work on this one. The line-up on the album is as follows: Alasdair Bouch (vocals, guitar, harmonica), Jirka Vidasov (piano/keyboards), Martin Kapusník (double/electric bass), Míra Matoušek (drums/congas/percussion), Jakub “Steve” Lenz (guitars) & Kate Powers (backing vocals). A truly international band, hailing from England, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the USA. Have I mentioned yet that they are all incredible?
Props to Richard and his minions at Studio Faust for letting us crash their busy schedule to record Míra's drums, and Jirka on their gorgeous Steinway. A massive debt of gratitude to P.L.Kopecký for allowing me use of his ethereal, other-worldly artwork for the front cover and CD label, Adam Bartas for his majestic portrait on the flipside and the one-man entertainment factory that is Ken Nash for his eye-catching, mesmerising CD layout. I am honoured to have the acquaintance of such talented people.
2012 has given me many wonderful experiences and treasured memories, but 'Third Time Lucky' has to be this year's crowning achievement, and I couldn't have done it without any of you. You are blooming marvellous, one and all. Now go, before I cry like a little girl.
Not to sound too dramatic, last year almost finished me off. After a slight altercation with a glacial mountain in France (involving a helicopter and last-minute promises to Mother Nature to recycle more), I was spared an ignominious death and still managed to play a concert that night - shaken, and not a little stirred. Having cheated Death, this year I managed to play a few other concerts (around 170, in fact) in Germany, Belgium, France, Austria, England, Poland and (of course) the Czech Republic.
There have been many highlights. Among other things, I was honoured to make four appearances at Prague's prestigious United Islands festival; appear live on Belgian TV's flagship current affairs programme Koppen; and record my third album with the best musicians and producer that grovelling, weeping and blackmail can buy. More on that later (you get your own post, guys!)
* I would like to thank all the club, bar, čajovna and restaurant managers who have allowed me to strut my stuff. You are not too numerous to name, but I know you are a modest lot who like privacy and sitting in dark rooms, so I'll spare you the embarrassment. You know who you are – and if you don't know who you are, lay off the hard stuff for a day or two, and you'll be right as rain. (Bonus points to Stano & Hanka – and my landlord thanks you too.)
* A big hand to Iby, Steve, Dudu, Kuba, Lukáš, Omar and Alexei, who made all those pub, corporate and private functions so much fun. Thanks a million guys! A special mention goes to Martin Landa here, because he is undeniably special. Sir, you are a legend, and quite possibly, half robot. How else can you wake up fresh-faced at the crack of 4pm every day?
* Fond wishes to those heart-burstingly lovely couples for whom we played wedding parties. You brought a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat (which may or may not have been wedding cake). A courteous bow to the incredibly gifted artists & photographers who invited me to play at their exhibition parties - you are all wonderful exhibitionists.
* A massive thank you to the kind, generous and daring hosts of my living-room concerts this year. Having never met me, you invited me into your homes and trusted me to entertain your friends. You are too good for this world, and if I overdid it with the striptease at the end, I'm sorry.
* A warm handshake to the DJs and radio hosts who gave my tracks a spin on the airwaves, and journalists who only printed the best lies about me – keep spreading the news! A worthy pat on the back to Jan Řepka and Michael Kyselka, who both deserve a medal for their services to local culture. To hell with the cost - give them a medal each! You have both introduced me to so many Czech and Slovak artists - a veritable wealth of homegrown talent - and I salute you.
* I would also like to thank the awesomely talented bands and singers that I had the pleasure to share a stage with, among them: Ondřej Galuška, Charlie Straight, Markéta Konvičková, Gravity, Marek Dusil, XXLive, Travis O'Neill & his Cardinal Sins, Kieslowski, Eliška Ptáčková, Peter J. Birch, Eddy Allen/Justin Lavash, Aquajazz, +Thom, Terne Čhave, and last, but certainly not least, Pedestrian Mathematics.
* Finally, the mother of group hugs to all the friends, fans and utterly lovely people who supported my music this year. Whether you attended a show; bought a CD (or two); disseminated wholesome information about me online; hosted or organised a concert for me; took photos, made videos or designed posters; whispered to your friends about this strange English musician; or gave me emotional support... you are the wind beneath my wings. And you know I'm serious if I'm quoting Bette Midler.
Stay tuned for more news about the third album... I don't want to ruin anyone's surprise, but it's awesome. Much love and light to you all, and let's all try to cheat Death for another year! Alasdair x
[Continues from Part 1...]
Now to the important part:
* A huge thanks to all the musicians I played live with in 2011, particularly: Martin Landa, Iby Baro, Jakub “Steve” Lenz, Martin Kapusník, Lukáš Klusáček, Dudu Morais, Matěj Slezák, Filip Lorenc and Robin Lefner.
* Heartfelt thanks to everyone who participated in recording and creating 'Second-hand Lullabies': Jakub “Steve” Lenz, Martin Kapusník, Martin Landa, Martin Tidmarsh, Joe Wakeford and Erin Dickinson. A special thanks to my producer Geoff Tyson, and not forgetting Michal Mecner for the wonderful cover photography nor the inestimable Ken Nash for CD layout.
* Thanks to all the talented artists and bands with whom I have shared a bill or stage: Martina Trchová Trio, Adam Katona, Kateřina Myšková Duo, Žofie Kabelková, Eliška Ptáčková & Acoustic Sound, R.OneCzech, Tomáš Kvasnička, Sunbeam, Tim Cleeton, Jan Richter, Quite Quiet, Two Men, SoUsedi, Emozpěv, Snowpetals, The Wavemen, Petr Bende, Kofe-In, Two Men, Los Rumberos Trio, KMBand, Jamie Marshall & Dani Robinson, Heartbeat, Kieslowski, Bad Light District, Paula i Karol, To Masz Chce Bo, Maja Koman, Daniel Boczniewicz, Václav Havelka III, Ibyalone, Jill MacDonald, Jagalmay, Docuku, Peter J. Birch & Tomáš Krejčiřík.
* Thanks to the festival and concert organisers who invited me to perform at their events and venues – you know who you are, you lovely beasts! And a special mention to the fantastic Bartek Borowka, my Polish brother from another mother. You're the bomba.
* Lastly, but certainly not least, thanks to all the kind, generous folk who welcomed me into their homes, hosted house concerts, gave me lifts when I was standing in the freezing cold, and generally supported me and my music this year by attending concerts, buying my album, telling their friends about my music or just writing nice messages. You're the best and I couldn't (and wouldn't) do it without you!
Love and light, Alasdair xxx
What a year! Things stepped up another gear in 2011, and they haven't really calmed down yet (which is why I am writing this in April 2012...) This was the year that I finally admitted to myself that running two jobs (a full-time music career and teaching English) was biting off more than I could chew. What with composing/writing lyrics, recording, booking shows, touring, promoting, managing PR, updating websites, designing posters, etc, music was taking up more than its fair share of my time. On top of this, I was still helping out various venues with their musical programs by booking other bands, and running a regular arts & crafts fair for local designers.
My social life suffered a miserable, protracted death, and I apologise to all the friends with whom I dismally failed to keep in touch. Part of this was my reticence to spend my rare evenings off in a smoky bar, drinking booze, since I would only be back in there the next evening, entertaining the crowds. On the other hand, I was so exhausted by all the late nights and hard work that a lazy, quiet evening in front of a movie was what I really craved. My life lacked balance, but somehow it was paying off workwise.
I continued to play in beautiful, interesting towns throughout the Czech Republic like Uničov, Olomouc, Jeseník, Chomutov, Veselí nad Moravou, Jablonec, Topolany, Mohelnice, Brno, Valašské Meziříčí and Štramberk, and played in legendary Prague venues such as Malostranska Beseda and Blues Sklep.
I also toured through France, Germany, Austria and played my first two tours in Poland, taking in 17 shows there. When time between shows allowed, I practiced my Eco-conscious mode of touring (hitchhiking, ridesharing and Couchsurfing) to reduce my carbon footprint - and still made it in time to all my shows. I played more house concerts, which continued to inspire and affect me with their intimate simplicity and warmth.
The biggest leap my musical career took in 2011 was the release of my second album 'Second-hand Lullabies'. Over three years in the making, it was certainly a labour of love, surviving a band break-up, collaborators departing for distant lands, and numerous technical mishaps. With the kind help of some exceptional musicians and thanks to the infinite patience of producer Geoff Tyson, we finally finished it in December. I don't want to say it's a masterpiece, but you are welcome to.
[Continues in Part 2...]
It's been a year of firsts, and there are so many people to thank for the opportunities I have been given. I've been playing at new venues, in new countries, to new audiences, on a new album, and with new musicians.
* Thanks to all the venues who have hosted me, with special notice to: Dubliner (Hanka), Sofa Lounge (Antonio, Dino), RedRoom (Ian & Deniska), Royal Oak (Gill & John, Duncan), Belushi's (Shannon, Kristýna, Twig... everyone!), Jáma Steakhouse & Jáma Bar & Grill (Max & crew).
* Thanks to all the musicians I have played with, particularly: Martin Landa, Lukáš Klusáček, Iby Baro, Julian Knapp & Byron Asher. Also to Lucy Fillery-Murphy, Lucie Glajcová, Anj Mahabir & Annie Brechin for our Fringe appearance.
* Thanks to all the amazing artists and bands with whom I have shared a bill or stage: Lil' Tower of Dudes, Justin Lavash, Kate Powers, Travis O'Neill, Don Kendrick, Around Cube, Lo Dost Acoustic Duo, Turpentine Ray, Jan Řepka, Tomáš Homuta, Viki, Quite Quiet, Terezie Palková, Ibyalone, Karel Kunrt, Mindphones, Petr Dvořák, Kojoti, Eliška Sýkorová, SoUsedi, Two Men, Michal Pavlíček, Dana Houdková & Whispering of Soul.
* Thanks to the festival or demonstration organisers who allowed me to perform at their events, especially: Fringe Festival Praha (Steve, Carole & Giles), United Islands (Mike Kyselka), Zažít město jinak (Jan Řepka) & Člověk v tísni (Marek Svoboda).
* Thanks to everyone who participated in recording, creating and promoting my debut album, 'First Person Singular' – they got a special mention in a previous blog ;)
* Last but not least, thanks so much to all of you who have supported me and my music this year, by attending concerts, buying my album, telling your friends about my music or just writing nice messages! You make it all worthwhile!
There's a lot planned for next year: another album, more musical collaborations, a bigger tour... It's gonna be a blast. I hope we can enjoy it together! Best wishes, love and light x
Ladies and gentlemen, it is my unbridled pleasure to announce the long-awaited arrival of my debut album 'First Person Singular'. Perhaps the most oft-repeated question to reach my ears over the last year-and-a-half is 'when will the album come out?' I thank all of the friends and fans for your patience, and hope you will find it rewarded with my humble offering. It has been a long time coming, but all good things come to those who wait...
I am deeply grateful to my musical collaborators for their invaluable contributions: Byron Asher (clarinet /saxophone) Lucy Fillery-Murphy (cello) Mathieu Gautron (accordion) Tom Smith (piano) Geoff Tyson (bass)
I highly recommend the capable hands, keen ear, and intuitive mind of producer Geoff Tyson (www.geofftyson.com) to any musician looking for a genius to work magic on their material. Huge props to Steve Meyers for his incredible cover and CD artwork. Last but definitely not least, the warmest thanks to Jiri Trunecek for his tireless, unflagging help in easing the CD through its final stages. If he wasn't an expert in the manufacture of CDs in the Czech Republic beforehand, he certainly is now! I couldn't have done it without him.
*First posted 01/04/10
'First Person Singular' is the debut album by Alasdair Bouch. A throwback to when music was wooden and meant something, 'First Person Singular' fuses homespun folk music to confessional urban blues. It is the sound of your lover leaving for the last time, the sun rising the next morning, and the calm before the next storm...
Alasdair is joined on 'First Person Singular' by a magnificent pocket orchestra, featuring Byron Asher (clarinet, saxophone), Lucy Fillery-Murphy (cello), Mathieu Gautron (accordion), Tom Smith (piano) & Geoff Tyson (bass). Produced by Geoff Tyson in Prague, 'First Person Singular' is chock-full of sweet soul-stirring serenades of lust, longing, and loss. It includes live favourites 'The Conquistador Repents', 'The Whip Hand', 'Blind Spot' and 'Charlie Parker's Postcard'. For a little taster, check out 'Charlie Parker's Postcard' and 'Plain Girls' on MySpace, Bandzone, ReverbNation or the Facebook fanpage.
Serving suggestion: 'First Person Singular' is best suited to cosy coffee shops, rugs next to roaring fires, rainy nights and sun-kissed summer holidays. It's also excellent for impressing potential dates with your immaculate taste and sensitivity. Dim the lights, lock the door and turn it on...
Stay tuned for details of how to get your very own copy.