We played two packed (both musically and crowd-wise!) nights at Cranleigh Arts Centre for the annual christmas charity concerts put together and impeccably hosted by Paul Jones (BBC Radio 2, Manfred Mann, The Blues Band etc.) on December 19th & 20th!  Paul asked me a while back to put a band together to play a set each night and to back up some very special guests.  So, with the kind generosity of some great musicians and trusty cohorts – Randall Breneman, Ben Somers, Neil Waters, Pat Levett and Silas Maitland – we played long, varied and fun sets both nights, including backing up Paul Jones, John Wilson, Marcus Bonfanti, Cherry Lee Mewis and Bernie Marsden.  If you were perhaps wondering why it wasn’t announced on the website or elsewhere it’s because the tickets sell out very quickly to local residents, the proceeds going to the running of the Arts Centre and a couple of very honourable charities.

The journey down, through Guildford, was horrendous with the world and his dog out christmas shopping. But we still managed to get there with enough time to run all the songs for the guests, including a couple of classic christmas tunes led by Paul – ‘Blue Christmas’ and ‘I’ll Be Home For Christmas’. All the guests did great and were nice and varied, from the brilliantly electric playing of Whitesnake guitarist Bernie Marsen, the dirty grooves of Marcus Bonfanti, impressive minute long (perhaps some artistic licence there) high vocal notes of John Wilson, dulcet tones of Cherry Lee Mewis to the brilliant playing and wonderful chat of Paul Jones.  All the staff at the Arts Centre were brilliant and we were well looked after. Suffice to say, they were two fun nights all round, except for perhaps the stay in a 16-year-olds-puking-their-guts-out-in-the-streets filled Guildford. To put it in perspective, sitting in the bar of the Guildford Travelodge was infinitely less hellish. Are we getting old? A bit perhaps, but I’m sure I was never like that at 16…err…

More importantly, I imagine a fair bit of cash was raised for the arts centre and charities – we’ll find the figures out a bit later on…

Anyway, here’s a few pictures from the nights to give you a taster:

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I’ll be playing the Mustique Blues Festival again this year, January 26th-Feb 8th! It’s quite a jammy (in every sense of the word) gig out in the Caribbean and if it’s anything like last year, will be full of music, sun, sea and good times. It’s truly a unique and interesting place so I’ll be sure to keep a bit of diary going and I’ll remember to take my decent camera this time and get some proper shots. For a taster, you can read my little blog post from last year at Highlights from last year include rehearsing with Felix Dennis in the house that he bought from Bowie, a beautiful Burmese style palace built from imported wood, with cascading split-level lily ponds and a state-of the art games room/rehearsal room hidden in the rock below, full of pinball machines, instruments, bar etc. Something out of a Bond movie perhaps, um, without the Bond girls.

And apart from being a great little festival, all the profits go to the Basil Charles Educational Foundation, a local charity that has done amazing things in the surrounding area.