traditional and original music played on acoustic and electric instruments

find out more about All Blacked Up........

So how would you really describe All Blacked Up? ....Well, we see us as something like this:

Not truely traditional as we mostly learnt our music from the bands who helped relaunch the English folk tradition when it was dying out but.........As individuals some of us are pleased to have played in sessions with the source musicians upon whom the folk revival relied and we definitely see ourselves in the 'English Country Music' tradition that goes back to Thomas Hardy's 'village band' - your music is shaped by the instruments you play. If we were his village band we suspect we would also be banned from the church to be replaced by an organ....[insert your own joke].

Most of us have been involved with morris dance sides - squires, foremen, dancers, band leader and of course playing in the bands. As a result we really are focused upon the need for the music to fit the dances.....

We have the confidence to develop an arrangement on-stage. We don't only play straight folk tunes - with ABU you will hear interesting arrangements and our improvisations mean that all of our ceilidhs can be said to be unique....[another joke opportunity].

Occasionally we get described as Folk Rock, and whilst some of the music is under-pinned by a solid bass, guitar and drum rockish style, we feel that our music is much more subtle than that. The two melodeons playing strict tempo English melody and then the saxophone switching between traditional melodies, counter melodies, improvisation and what might be called world music riffs mean that we probably inhabit a genre of our own;-)

We see the melody as king so at an All Blacked Up ceilidh the melody will be prominent and the whole experience will not be over loud. But we also recognise that in the middle of a dance people are dancing to the rhythm as much as the tune - so you will regularly find yourself dancing to the drums and guitars.

So we are what we are - All Blacked Up - a band that works hard at keeping the music fresh and relevant, who are rooted in the music of England [where-ever it comes from] and who are pleased to allow fresh and interesting things to develop during the playing.

Is it surprising that the music of All Blacked Up is so often described as 'influential'?

We were pleased that Nick Walden, after calling for us at Chippenham Folk Festival [2010] commented "interesting things kept on happening - all ceilidh bands should be like this.......".

Paul Havell - In Memorium by Baz Parkes:

Paul Havell
I left Liverpool as a qualified teacher in 1976. Having an interest in folk music since school, and involved with the running of folk clubs both at university and college, I found myself increasingly drawn to traditional dance and its associated musics. I'd been to Cambridge folk festival that year, and, having seen Johns Tams and Kirkpatrick, fell in love with the melodeon and took one home. Uncertain as to what to do with it, I joined Giffard Morris and Sword Dancers of Wolverhampton, and it was here that I first met Paul, and here began our long friendship and musical association.

Paul was ever generous with his time and his tuition. I count myself fortunate to have been taught to play for Cotswold morris by one its finest exponents. I don't think (well, I know) he realised in just what high esteem he was held by both dancers and musicians. He taught me several valuable lessons...not least that it's the dance, not the musician, that's important. It's no secret that he liked a did we all...but it never affected his playing. There are stories of Bampton tying JInky Wells to a tree in order for him to play for the dance. We never had to do that with Paul...but I do remember a sundial in the grounds of a pub in Stourbridge...

We also enjoyed a long association outside the morris. Before I could drive, he took me along to folk festivals, encouraging me to play in pub sessions. He insisted I accompany him to the second English Country Music weekend at Cricklade, introducing me to revival players such as Rod Stradling and Mel Dean, and, through them, traditional players including Oscar Woods and Bob Cann. I can honestly say without Paul I wouldn't be the musician or indeed person I am today. Together with our first wives we formed Tettenhall Dick...and, following the "No Reels" mantra of the day played resolutely four square English music the length and breadth of the country (well, as far as Kinlett, Madeley and Chester.).

Eventually, first marriages, Giffard Morris and Tettenhall Dick all came to the end of their useful lives. We both found ourselves playing for and dancing with the Ironmen and Severn Gilders morris teams. We'd stopped playing for social dance until that fatal evening at a festival ceilidh when we found the band on stage a little wanting, looked at each other and said "We could do that..." and All Blacked Up was born. Once again it was Paul's rock solid playing that was the backbone of the band which quickly gained an enviable reputation. Eventually, though, having found time to propose to Jo in front of my fireplace, the pressures of renovating houses in both Shropshire and France and lecturing in Wolverhampton led him to leave the band...but only once he was sure it was in safe hands. Melodeon maker and player Rees Wesson (who's heard a few bands in his time) recently called Paul "The most precise English melodeon player that ever was. Thankfully, Lisa has preserved much of his style." Round about the same time, I moved from Broseley to Cheshire, and our paths crossed less frequently...but it was always with pleasure, and a rendition of "On the Road to Mandalay" when they did.

There's much more I could add. The pigs' lips incident in the Basque country. The "Ooh look at that" of delight as a vital bit of band gear was squeezed into the smallest of spaces. The inevitable "Which way did you come?" question on arrival at a gig, working as a surveyor for McAlpines having given him, before Tom Tom, an encyclopedic knowledge of the B roads of England. Fifty Watt Gob and his infamous grey cardigan. But, above all, the sheer joy and delight on his face as he launched into just one last tune set.

God bless.

Baz Parkes

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