Our village magazine carried the following listing this month:
Saturday, 9th November
The Black Feathers in Concert
“A gorgeous mixture of Americana, Folk and Acoustic Indie Rock … great tunes and sumptuous harmonies”
‘Absolutely wonderful’ Bob Harris Radio 2
The venue was Hoton Village Hall in the next small village to the west of us. There’s not a lot of music in these parts and this sounded like an opportunity not to be missed. But who are The Black Feathers? And are they really as good as the billing suggests?
These particular Black Feathers are Ray Hughes and Sian Chandler, partners in music and in life. Ray comes from Dublin, Ireland and Sian from the English West Country town of Cirencester. They are now based in Gloucestershire but their current tour dates will take them all over the UK and throughout the east coast of the U.S. from New York State to Florida and Louisiana.
Ray is a classically-trained guitarist; both of them sing. And, as you would guess from their heritage, neither feather is black. They write and perform gentle folk and Americana songs. It’s a little too close to country music and gets too sentimental for my taste at times but they do it exceptionally well. Here’s a video that nicely illustrates the Black Feathers style.
Crotchety Man has been in a sombre mood recently. It was probably brought on by the nudge of entirely ordinary events: the end of daylight saving time and a poorly cat, perhaps. But when I looked for reasons to be cheerful I could find none. The mass media are full of bad news stories. From the rash of violent stabbings in the UK to the bottomless pit of Trumpisms and from populism to the climate crisis the outlook is bleak. And there is one common factor: the apparently infinite stupidity of the human race.
We are heading for a general election here and many people will vote for the Conservative party because they are fed up with the on-going Brexit saga and believe Boris Johnson is the only politician who can put an end to the wrangling and uncertainty. But ending the uncertainty is far less important than getting the right deal. And in this blogger’s opinion there is no deal better than the one we already have within the European Union.
Besides, Boris’s Brexit won’t bring an end to the uncertainty immediately. He has only negotiated the so-called divorce bill; we still have to go through the lengthy process of agreeing our future trading arrangements with the EU countries and most of the rest of the world. If an end to the Brexit fiasco really is the most important thing to you, you should be pushing to cancel the Brexit process altogether. That is by far the quickest way to achieve your ends.
But human beings are not primarily rational beings. We are driven by our emotions. And fear is a potent motivator. It directs us to mistrust our fellow men for trivial reasons – perhaps nothing more than that they speak another language and have peculiar customs. We build barriers to keep out those who are different thinking it makes us safer. But when did increasing the divisions between us make any of us safer?
It was in that gloomy context that I sought a theme for this week’s blog post. A track called Blind from The Black Feathers‘ album, Soaked to the Bone, seemed to fit the bill. It asks how you would treat a friend if they had been born blind. Would you still comfort them in their hour of need? Or would you abandon them when they most need your help? The question it asks, I suppose, is “what sort of a person are you?”. Are you a “me/UK/US first” sort of guy or are you the good Samaritan?
As luck would have it the Hoton village date clashes with a prior engagement so there will be no Crotchety presence at that performance. That’s another reason to remain with Eeyore in his gloomy place for now.