|Playing Cajun with Martyn Babb in |
England's West Country
Greetings from the sunny south of England. We heard on the BBC News that the "Blizzard of the Century" had swept through the northeast United States and we thought of you all. Our hosts just looked into the backyard here and remarked that the crocuses were starting to come up. We have to admit that we prefer a little English rain to a few feet of snow.
We are staying in Dorset County on the south coast. Several years ago we came to the seaside town of Weymouth and spent a day on the Coast Path, fourteen miles over hill and dale with the sea on our right. I have a wonderful photo of an exhausted Marsha, collapsed in the garden of a pub with her worn-out feet on a table at the end of the day. [See blog "Walking the Coastal Path."]
Weymouth is very proud of its relationship with King George III, which ought to make any American suspicious, but we love the place anyway. George used to spend his summers here, after he lost the American colonies, thereby helping to popularize the idea of going to the beach. You can probably blame him for "Baywatch" as well as the Boston Tea Party.
The grateful locals, who have benefitted from the influx of summer visitors, carved an enormous monument out of limestone on a hillside: the King on his horse.
|White Horse with King George III.|
During the summers Weymouth is packed with holiday makers from London and the other big cities, but at this time of year, it's oddly peaceful, empty video arcades, windswept beaches, and various holiday attractions getting their annual paint jobs. There is also the old harbor which looks like something out of a pirate movie, as do some of the bearded quayside characters. Many of them seem about to break into a sea shanty.
We are planning to base ourselves here for the summer, so we are laying some groundwork, meeting agents and musicians, club owners, pub owners and hoteliers, just anyone who might be interested in a couple of traveling American musicians. We have played several times in London, and have some bookings there in the next couple of weeks. Also, we have an agent for the London area, so now we are expanding towards the south coast.
The English are very much into different kinds of music and dance. There are jazz clubs and folk clubs. There are country music clubs where people gather dressed in cowboy hats and boots and indulge in quick-draw gunfights. (Using blanks I think.)
|Marsha with English cowboy.|
Because of our Louisiana background, we have been welcomed into the Cajun music scene with open arms. After all, we came here to promote our "Cajun Christmas" record, and we are quite familiar with the source of Cajun music in South Louisiana. Here in England you can hear bands playing Cajun waltzes and two-steps and singing in Cajun French. It's a bit strange, but there are probably more "Cajun" musicians in England than there are in Louisiana! Also, lots of interest in Cajun dancing.
At the "Ree-lay Gumbo" Club in London, the dance floor was packed all night. Music was supplied by a band from Hemel Hempstead, just north of London, We were billed as "Special Guests — direct from Louisiana!" None of our music sounded nearly as "authentic" as the fake Cajun band, but the audience thought we were quite a treat. They danced happily on.
The real Cajun fanatics take their holidays in Louisiana, where they seek out the legendary dance halls and music shows. There are special tours arranged for English people to sample crawfish boils and bayou cruises. We had been invited to Mardi Gras celebrations in Hemel Hempstead, but we'll have to pass because we've been booked into a Country-Western Club on the same date.
Last night we played with some real English "folkies." At least that's what we thought they were until we were told most of the tunes were Irish. They play an assortment of accordions, concertinas and melodeons, tin whistles, flutes, fiddles and guitars. One of the high points of the evening was our rendition of a gospel song, "I'll Fly Away," with about twenty voices joining in. These people are excellent musicians, but you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone playing purely English music.
It's the same with the food. English food has been humiliated to death over the years, but it's been replaced by the most delicious concoctions from around the world. Food from India is particularly popular here, and at least one variation, called "Balti," was probably invented in Birmingham, England's industrial center, which is home to a large ethnic Indian population.
While we've been writing this, the weather has changed from sunshine to showers, which is like springtime in Central New York, I guess, but since it's January, who's complaining? It's not very cold and who knows? In ten minutes the sun might return. Cheerio for now.