Sunday, August 16, 2009


Just returned to Los Angeles after six glorious weeks out in the world: touring, performing, singing, dancing! HEAVEN!

Everything started at Ty Unwin’s wonderful houseconcert in Oxford, England. Ty composes music for British TV and invited me to share an evening with singer-songwriter Ben Parker. Very festive atmosphere, with fans mixed in with people who trusted Ty’s (excellent) taste. : ) !!! After Ben’s sparkling and very funny set, I sang while Phil Stevenson accompanied me on guitar to a garden-full of people sitting / lying / sprawled on the grass at sunset. Ben noted dryly that it was the first time he had performed beside a garden shed!

Phil Stevenson and I looking very groovy in front of Ty Unwin's garden shed
w phil - darren's pic

Recording artist Howard Jones was in the audience: so positive and Present (Buddhist), and incredibly charming. He played us some wonderful tracks from his new CD before casually sitting down and singing, accompanying himself on dizzingly excellent piano. He blew everyone away. Houseconcerts are The Bomb!

Me and Tea in Deep Conversation with Howard Jones. I swear, that's the back of his head!
howard jones - back of head

Between Ty Unwin (next to me on my right) and Ben Parker (in hat on my left)

Darren Young (who took the above photos) and his dear "better half," Kevin, drove all the way from Newcastle to catch this gig! I am so blessed to have such Fan Friends!

Spent a couple of days bouncing around London. (I lived there for 12 years and it’s one of my favorite cities.) I caught up with friends, sat in my fave cafes, and walked and walked and walked! Then Phil Stevenson and I flew up to Scotland.

Like last time, Morag ONeill arranged the shows, and we stayed with her mad, merry, photographer friend, Marc Marnie and his lovely wife, Janet. They have a rambling, funky, converted, rabbit-warren-of-a house, love to cook and converse, and Marc uncannily knows what you might hunger for (a hot cup of tea, an omelette, a chunk of good chocolate) just before you realize you want it. When I went to take a bath, he had already poured it ... enormous, piping hot, and surrounded by candles! YES!!

Janet and Marc Marnie with Phil Stevenson
marc marnie and janet

That night, we opened for Senegalese artist / group Samba Sene and Diwan at The Bongo Club. Really great vibe, a good number of Scotland-based SeneGambians, and new DJ Souleymane Seck spinning top quality mbalax from 9pm until 4am.

Samba Sene, Khadim Thiam (keyboards), Jules Sow (guitar)
samba sene, khadim thiam, jules sow

The dance floor was so spacious, the tunes so tasty, and everyone so happy and festive, I literally danced for the entire 7 hours …. with 45 minute break when someone tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Uh, Ashley? Can you go up there and do your set, please?” Highly unprofessional, but I couldn’t help it! There are NO mbalax clubs in Los Angeles, so I was blissed out beyond description.

Our set was well received, but the downer was that someone told me minutes before I went on that Michael Jackson had died. You could feel the news’ impact on the whole room … afterwards, it was as if we danced all night long in his memory. Samba’s band put on an excellent show that night, too.

Arrived late (SO unlike me!) the next night at Glasgow’s WEST Brewery, due to slow cooking Senegalese food and slow-turning African time in Edinburgh. The restaurant’s well-soaked crowd was loud / having a ball and there was no PA to be seen (a miscommunication), so we had to hire a very expensive set of mics and amps at the last minute. Nonethess, we had a wonderful night. Once we got started, the music got through and I was sooo moved to see that Edinburgh’s Senegalese musician contingent (who had driven down to support us) get up to dance and sing “Lucky! Lucky! Lucky!,” I nearly burst into tears. That song is soooo for them!

The next day, flew home to London and was just leaving home for sound check at Inn on the Green, when a sudden heavy storm hit and the flat where I was staying in flooded … water POURING down the walls. I pounded on the door of the flat above, but the woman didn’t hear me for 10 minutes because the rain was so loud! When she finally let me in, I soon found myself with a bucket bailing out a huge deep blocked gutter on the roof, being pounded by rain and hail. What? We finally got the drain unplugged, but gallons and gallons of water still drained into the flat below. I threw towels everywhere, put cups and buckets beneath the dripping ceiling, and raced off to my gig. Surreal!

Because of the rain, many street and tube lines were closed, so the audience numbers were small. Carrie Slater and Chris Baker brought me take out Malasian food (bless them!) and some of my favorite friends and fans were there. Such a lovely night! Again, my Scottish-based Senegalese friends attended and the wonderful Jules Sow guested on guitar. Diene Sagna threw down some magic sabar moves and Phil Stevenson shone on guitar

The Senegalese hadn’t come all the way down to London just for me, though. That night, Youssou Ndour’s percussionist Mbaye Dieye Faye and singer Fatou Guewel were scheduled to perform in east London. After my show, I met with a plumber regarding the flooding, then set off on an epic 2 hour journey across London to catch the show. Arriving at 2:30 am, MDF was a no show, so it was Fatou Guewel and Salam Diallo. Salam spotted me as he came out of his dressing room and simply said, “Ash-LAY, kai fecc!” (Ashley, come dance!) before pulling me past security into the boiling festivities. Woohoo!!

The Irrespressible Salam Diallo in London in a gigantic boubou
salam in london

It was an awesome night: mbalax till dawn, tons of friends, two entertaining sets, and Jules Sow dragged me up the stage during Salam’s show to do a sabar solo. Who was I to protest? : ) !!! Arrival time home? 6: 30 am

After a couple hours of sleep, caught a 11am train to Bristol with Phil. Phil is an absolute DREAM guitarist and road companion: deeply musical, talented, sensitive, with a hilarious sense of humor, little ego, an even tempered, positive attitude, flexible, and the patience to put up with my unending stream of stories. I adore him!!

Roy Popham met us at the station, wearing a pink fedora. That should have given me an idea of the crowd we’d be playing for, but I couldn’t shake the image in my mind that a show at “Roy and Lindsay Popham’s for High Tea” would be a somewhat crusty British experience.

How wrong I was! Roy has long worked doing metalwork and set building for all kinds of events and his friends were “Intrepid Road Crew” material. One friend with tobacco stained fingers told me he had toured with the Grateful Dead for years. He and his teenage son both smoked spliffs in the kitchen. While Roy is a rollicking and colorful character, his wife Lindsay is warm and earthy. They were lovely hosts and their friends an intelligent, lively bunch of far-from-crusty characters. (NB: I have nothing against crusty, by the way. I love that type too!) We set up again in the garden and performed with Bristol’s Bay spread out before us. The Grateful Dead ex-employee came up me afterwards and said, “You’ve got major Californian balls, sitting down and singing like that!” Brilliant!

Phil, Lindsay, Me, Roy
roy and lindsay popham

Snoozed on the 9pm train back to London, but was hammered by texts from the Senegalese, begging us to come to Jules Sow’s house for a final gathering. Another night that ended at dawn, but this time I ended up face down on Jules’ couch, probably snoring and drooling!

Snoring and drooling on Jules Sow's couch at 4am

Will stop here! I LOVE ENGLAND!!!!


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