Florida review

“Somewhere up in hillbilly heaven, Thomas Fraser must have been smiling.”

I hope so!

That’s a lovely note to end the tour with – from a review of the Tallahassee shows at  www.tallahassee.com/article/20120213/LIVING/202130307/Turner-Auditorium-hosts-Long-Gone-Lonesome-


Top Ten Tour Catchphrases

1. ‘Superamente. Super….a…mente!’ (Guich Cooke, Hillsboro TX, and thereafter everyone in the band.)

2. ‘You want cheese on that?’ (Said at least once every meal by waiting staff, and thereafter by whole company at every opportune and many inopportune moments.)

3. ‘You finished working on that?’ (Said ¾ of the way through every meal.)

4. ‘Housekeeping! Housekeeping! Housekeeping!’ (While knocking on Dick’s hotel-room door at 8am.)

5. ‘Yeah, I had a great time on vacation in Scotland. My favourite part of Scotland was Wales.’

6. ‘The Leith police dismisseth us.’ (Emma’s pre-show warm-up tongue-twister.)

7. Duncan: ‘What do the following people have in common: Brownie McGhee, Donovan, Ian Dury, Itzakh Perlman, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Dick Levens.’ Juniata PA audience member 1: ‘They’re all Canadian.’ Juniata PA audience member 2: ‘They all wear wigs.’

8. ‘What’s the story, Dickanory?’ (James Gardner, man of a thousand quips.)

9. ‘Keep Austin Weird’ and Paul Baldwin’s version for Indiana: ‘Keep Lafayette Square.’ (Which he further elaborated: ‘Convention, Regulation, Elimination, Suppression.’)

10. Speaking of which, Paul Baldwin’s ‘Doughnuts, whiskey and shooting guns – it’s the American way.’ And so it is…

Top Ten Miscellaneous Highlights of Tour

It’s all over… Apart from Lynda, who is no doubt soaking up the music in Nashville’s Lower Broadway, the rest of us are back in the UK. We Orcadians are not yet home, though: we have a five-hour layover in Glasgow airport before the flight to Kirkwall leaves. What better way to while away a few hours than compiling a ‘Top Ten’ or two? Here’s the first: Top Ten Miscellaneous Highlights of the Tour.

1. Most touching moment. Tallahasee, FL: Dad took his young daughter to see the show for her 6th birthday treat. She told Dick it was her best birthday ever. Both dad and daughter were wearing very cool trilby hats.

2. Standing ovations. I think we got four: one in Austin TX, one in West Laffayete IN, one in Huntingdon PA, one in Tallahassee FL.

3. ‘Cool jazz solo, man’ round of applause for Dick’s bluesy mandolin solo in ‘Long Gone Lonesome Blues.’ Especially as it came in blues capital Chicago.

4. Most embarrassing moments of tour. No 1: Iain ‘Sprinkler’ Tait drinking too much coffee and having to relieve himself in highly inappropriate public places in both Nashville and Tallahassee. Luckily these cities have many more trees than Orkney and Shetland. No 2: Homeless hobo in Chicago tapping Dick for a few dollars, then saying, ‘Thanks very much buddy, and by the way, your flies are undone.’ Ever since Dick has carried out a ‘hobo check’ before leaving his hotel room.

5. Funniest moment 1 (according to Dick): Dick trying to teach Sir Peter Maxwell Davis’s ‘Leaving Stromness’ to Lynda – who promptly turned it into ‘Let It Be.’ You had to be there. Funniest moment 2 (according to Lynda): Dick asking our statuesque Tallahassee van driver, Samantha, if he could put his guitar case in her booty. Forgetting, you see, that a boot is called a trunk in the States. And that a booty is something else entirely…and putting a guitar there would be very painful.

6. Miscellaneous musical (LSSB but non-show) highlights: 1. Surprise gig in the Standing Stone Coffee Company in Huntingdon PA: 45 minutes of fun (for us) – just playing music to mixed coffee drinking/laundry washing audience, no need for scripts, lighting cues, costumes etc. 2. Doing interview and song selection at famous Austin TX singer-songwriter venue The Cactus Café. 3. Duncan and Iain sitting in with excellent honky tonk band Moonshine Mason and the Rot-Gut Gang in Lafayette IN’s Black Sparrow pub.

7. ‘Just like home’ moment on St George’s Island, Florida. Beautiful beach, palm trees, the Gulf of Mexico…and a howling gale, lashing wind and temperatures in the mid-thirties.

8. Most serene moment (experienced only by Duncan, Iain and Dick, I’m afraid): drifting down the Wakulla Springs on a flat-bottomed boat, watching manatee swim lazily by, alligators lurking in the weeds and an amazing profusion of colourful birds wading, flying and swimming by.

9. Best view: from 96th floor of the John Hancock Tower in Chicago, at midnight. Runners-up: Wakulla Springs, FL, for its huge trees draped in Spanish Moss, and Huntingdon PA for Jamestown Lake and Lincoln Caverns. And very special award for the Chicago Art Institute and its awe-inspiring collection of art of all sorts from all over – but especially for US icons like ‘Nighthawks,’ ‘American Gothic’ and various Pollocks, Rothkos etc.

10. Meeting people for the first time and immediately striking up a great rapport through shared loves of odd old music, barbecue, lefty politics, quirky honky-tonks, second hand bookshops, orange Gretsches, microbreweries, roadtrips, quality hats, and small-town bohemianism. Too many to mention by name, but heartfelt thanks to all of those wonderful, creative, hard-working, fun-loving folk who educated and entertained us.

Wrapping up Tallahassee

Last stop in our five week tour is Tallahassee. Two dates here, the first an appreciative and large audience (350 or so) the second about half that size but if anything even more enthusiastic, including a standing ovation at the end followed by a nice attack on the Strip the Willow. A fine way to end the tour.

Lynda departed first thing the following morning heading up to Nashville, but the rest of us had a whole day off. Even James was persuaded to leave his lighting plans and show reports and come in the hire car to the charming gulf coast village of Apalachicola, about 90 minutes drive from Tallahassee. We headed southwest through an extraordinary landscape of pines, decrepit trailer homes and highways lined with trash of all sorts, pausing only when Iain claimed to have seen a bear looming out of the forest. It’s possible: they do live in these woods. Eventually we turned west after reaching the coast and after a multiple-mile drive over an endless bride/causeway (which made the Churchill barriers at home look like bath toys) we arrived at our goal.

Apalachicola was, 100 odd years ago, the third biggest port in the gulf, a major departure point for cotton grown in Florida and adjacent states. Changes in markets and transport have lead to it being no more than a ghost of itself – but a charming ghost – with many abandoned or tumbledown buildings testifying to its grand past. The many bars, hotels, cafes and restaurants – and even a great looking 1912 theatre, the Dixie – are not filled with longshoremen and cotton traders as they used to be, but many of them survive to serve the visiting tourists who come to visit the stunning beaches nearby, or else to eat the Apalachicola oysters (best in the US, the locals claim.) We wandered the streets, feet crunching over the oyster shells that were scattered everywhere, we poked around the shops, we ate giant shrimp and grouper and gator sausage in the Owl Cafe. Most of all we looked at the fishing boats – some abandoned, many still in use for shrimp and oyster fishing – and thought of Thomas fishing those wild northern waters 5000 miles away.

Though with the weather being (a particularly poor for Florida) 35F, rain, and squally wind, maybe Thomas would have felt at home in Apalachicola after all.