15th December – The Hardy Tree and Dave Watkins

One of the highlights of my year has been discovering Frances Castle, viagra aka The Hardy Tree and Claypipe Music. Not only because she’s great company and fast becoming a new friend but also because she made my personal favourite album of the year.

A lot of my favourite music at the moment seems, to me, to deal with memory. The Hardy Tree sound instantly familiar but also strangely remote and exotic. Also in a world of dwindling record sales and bespoke, boutique releases, Frances really does the most beautiful limited, handprinted record sleeves.

Me and Frances will be releasing a record together with WIAIWYA records next year.

Go and buy something now and support one of the good guys. – Darren

www.thehardytree.co.uk

www.claypipemusic.co.uk

The Hardy Tree – The Fields Lie Sleeping Underneath

Dave Watkins has played with me for years in both the Secondary Modern and Hayman, Watkins, Trout and Lee and I was delighted that he has decided to make his songwriting debut on the Christmas advent. I was shocked that it was a six minute prog opus. Here Dave explains.

Dave Watkins: vocal, ukulele, banjo, electric guitar, children’s shakes
Dave Sheppard: parlour guitar, drums, children’s glockenspiel
Steve King: electric guitar
Ruth Atkins: electric bass

Recorded by Jon Clayton at www.onecatstudio.co.uk

When Darren suggested contributing to a musical advent calendar, I immediately thought of Dave Sheppard. I haven’t recorded that much stuff on my own, and I wanted to partner with someone I like and could trust to help. With us were Ruth and Steve, who both work with me. (Ruth also plays bass in Crumbling Ghost, one of Stewart Lee’s album choices for the year.) We had a really fun Friday afternoon with Jon Clayton making this.

For my two daughters, snowmen, Christmas and winter are synonymous. My daughters are three and a half years old, and for weeks they have been asking me when The Snowman is coming to visit. They want him to live in the sitting room. Raymond Briggs is responsible.

Being a father has given me licence to love Christmas again. I once felt an obligation to be dismissive of its tinselly rituals. But now I believe they are magical – truly. And, because my own childhood was spent in the West Midlands during the 1970s, that sense of magic has found its expression in prog-inflected hard rock. – Dave Watkins

(and remember it’s 6 minutes. It’s not over until you’ve heard the Glockenspiel – Darren)

Dave Watkins – Snowman Parts One and Two