Jez Hellard and the Djukella Orchestra - Direct from the Shire

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Top  Upcoming Gigs
October 4th Thu
8:00pm - 10:00pm
Jez Hellard & The Djukella Orchestra
Nottingham University
October 5th Fri
7:30pm - 10:00pm
Jez Hellard & The Djukella Orchestra
Songs from the Curate`s Lounge, Long Buckby
2019 May 18th Sat
8:00pm - 10:30pm
Jez Hellard & The Djukella Orchestra
Glenbuchat Hall, Strathdon

Top  ...and the now green grass, buffeted by westlin’ winds,

Looking out at choppy waves churning at the cliff-bottoms as cotton-wool clouds cast their shadows across the olive green waters of Margate Bay, and the now green grass, buffeted by westlin’ winds, wriggles and shimmers in the low sun, it seems this fine summer is finally slipping away.

Since the end of the ever-delightful Small World Festival, fresh off the back of Purbeck Valley Folk Festival, I’ve suffered the inevitable total physical collapse which tends to accompany the end of a festival season. All of the hitherto resisted lurgies conspire to pounce on unsuspecting musicians who in turn take them back to their respective corners of the world to test immune systems anew. So I’ve been convalescing, learning songs (even writing songs, which is a rare treat) and practicing the guitar as much as I normally drive. How refreshing a break from the M25 can be.

Next weekend we’ll be heading to the west country for Priston Festival (perhaps the only free festival with a top-notch, professional line-up that remains in the UK), just south-west of Bath, run beautifully on and around the village green by our dear friends Owain and Sue. If you’re anywhere nearby, it is so worth a visit. There are five ticketed events in the Church and Village Hall which are essential for funding the whole endeavour, so if you’re local, or have local friends, and like a bit of fine music, get your tickets while there are still a few left and help to keep this show on the road (or the green, as the case may be).

This year they’ve got everything from the astonishing Kitty MacFarlane and Radio 2 Folk Award-Winner, Sam Carter to De Fuego’s flamenco magic, Solana’s celtic beats and Turkish alt-pop sensation Djanan Turan on the village green, Reg Meuross and The Fantasy Orchestra in the Church, and a whole smorgasbord of other acts on the chill-stage, with poetry, storytelling and kids activities galore. Come and join us, bring your aunt, bring your friends, bring the whole kids.

If of course you are indisposed on Saturday September 15th but would like to catch some Djukella Music while we’re out west, we’ll be joined by the inimitable song-smith and luthier, Nathan Ball for at show at The Hawthorns Hotel in Glastonbury on Thursday 13th, and we’ll be joined by the delightful Emma Pickerill at The Barton Inn, Barton St David on Friday 14th for an early show at 7pm. After Priston we’ll be heading to Bristol to join the fun at The Star in Fishponds for their “From Delhi to Dublin” afternoon, featuring Bhangra beats and celtic treats from Firepit Collective and Inu among many others. On Monday 17th we’ll be in Bath, back at The Bell, the best community-owned music pub in the west, with the original Djukella line-up (sadly sans the marvellous, mellifluous Jordan Kostov, who is in China right now, and unfortunately the wages don’t quite cover the air-fare).

If you’re anywhere nearby any of these gigs, come and join us. We have things to tell you.

Endless thanks to all the people who made Purbeck Valley Folk Fest such a delight this year, (rogue security guards notwithstanding). Firstly to my incredible Djukella Orchestra, and all the fine musicians who blew my mind over the weekend; Emma Pickerill, Jen and Laura Beth, The Carravick Sisters, Richard Thompson himself, and his majestic and oh-so-humble drummer Michael Jerome, TEYR, whose set on the Long Barn was pure magic, and too many others to list, to Paul, Catherine and the whole production/volunteer team for all their work, and to Anelise for looking after us on the last day. It’s been years since they first asked us to play, but we finally got it all organised, and I was honoured to stand in the footprints of Richard Thompson and share some fine Djukella music with a full house (or rather cattle-shed).

We were blessed on the Saturday with a last minute extra gig, when the Corn Potato String Band were stuck fast in the Purbeck bottleneck and unable to make their first show, and Nye and I just happened to be on hand, so I was golf-buggied across the site by one of the duracel-powered site-crew to get my instruments, then lickety-split to the Fire Stage, where the marvellous Steve and Steve had us up and running in no time and we improvised a fine little set. The great blessing was that this slot was immediately before the children’s fancy-dress competition so we had an entirely full hillside of folks, who gradually realised that we were not The Corn Potato String Band, but didn’t seem to mind. My only setlist was that I didn’t want to play anything we were planning to play with the full-fat Djukella Orchestra on the Main Stage the following day, so I just winged it, and what came out was mostly fairly transgressive and political songs, with the odd bit of flash harmonica playing thrown in for good measure, and it all went down a treat.

For the last song, Nye said on the mic, “Do you do requests?” in his gravelly tones to much mirth from the audience and mutterings of “Freebird”, and “Do you know any Oasis?” (they may have just been in my own head, can’t be sure). I asked what he wanted and he said (off-mic) “Sights and Sounds of London Town”, an early-90s Richard Thompson classic, which is about as transgressive as requests get (even before you encounter the lyrics), as Richard Thompson was the grand headliner that night, and was very likely on site. I mentioned the nature of the request to the audience and shouted “Sorry Richard!”, and for a moment, I saw myriad folky eyes freeze is fear, as everyone thought I was about to sing Beeswing, (which he is very likely contractually obliged to play every night for fear of a riot), but as we launched into the bluegrass clip of the song I felt them all unclench and join us for some brutal post-modern character sketches with a fancy ending; an updated “Streets of London, if you will… If you’ve yet to hear the song, seek it out, or if your lazier, wait until I finally put it on an album one of these days.

The end result of this marvellously unexpected show, was that we packed the big barn for our Hangover Set (2pm Sunday) the next day, with folks who really seemed to want to listen. Thanks to James Gavin, Tommie Black-Roff, Dominic Henderson and the Master of Space and Time himself for being the best band a man could wish for.

Our orchestra
is the cat`s nuts—

Banjo jazz
with a nickelplated

amplifier to

the savage beast—
Get the rhythm

That sheet stuff
`s a lot a cheese.

gimme the key

and lemme loose—
I make `em crazy

with my harmonies—
Shoot it Jimmy

Nobody else

but me—
They can`t copy it

(William Carlos Williams - 1922)

Posted: 7th Sep 2018 | Contact


Top  Waltzing with the Landlord, by the sun-stroked sea...

Just a quick note to thank Jaz Delorean and the astonishing Tankus the Henge for an epic gig last night at Broadstairs Folk Week and to wish them well on the road to Lake Guarda (I guess they’re half way across Germany by now), all the fine people who gave us such a smorgasbord of music and humanity along the south coast, and to remind you all that pretty much your only chance of hearing the Full Fat Djukella Orchestra is this coming Sunday, August 19th in one of Dorset’s most beautiful valleys with one of the best sound engineers in the business, in the footprints of the great Richard Thompson, at The Purbeck Valley Folk Festival, so if you’re free, get your tickets now and join us.

Last weekend we were blessed with every kind of sunstroke available and a wealth of human kindness, first with the great Zoë Moffat at The Cheriton Sesions in deepest ‘Ampshire, playing for my delightful nieces and all sorts of faces old and new, thence to the best pub in the world,The Square & Compass at Worth Matravers with the redoubtable James Patrick Gavin, to play the Square Fair and end up roped in for an extra day to play with and listen to some of the finest players I’ve met in ages.

On arriving from a four hour traffic jam from Winchester to Wareham with six minutes to show-time, I was attacked by a bizarre gammon-faced second home owner who’d apparently come down from Berkshire for the weekend to complain about the noise. Having successfully avoided him and cleared the rising blood with a good cobweb-shaking song, I had a great time with the lean mean Djukella Orchestra before James slipped off to entertain the upper crust on the classical scene and we were left to drink all the beer and listen to our mates Maurice Dixon and Catherine Ashcroft (fresh from Riverdance - “keep those knees up, Maurice!”) play a blinder.

Having no particular reason to leave the heaven-on-earth that is Worth Matravers, we decided to check out the second day’s music, and I’m so glad we did, sun-stroke or otherwise.

I was totally beguiled by the songs of Tori Reed, all the way from the ends of the earth in New Zealand, accompanied deftly by our dear friend Rick Foot, the only double-bassist in this country who could give Nye Parsons a run for his money. Her third album is currently in production, and if you fancy buying one of her first two, or even pre-ordering the new one, you’ll help her get it done as swiftly as possible. If you’ve yet to hear her songs, find out when she’ll next be in your area.

As her last chord drifted out across the Winspit to The Channel, the Rajahstan State Heritage Brass Band exploded out of the aforementioned gammonisto’s garden and round the corner, in full baffle-the-white-man bling; silk turbans, elaborate tunics, the best trousers you’ve seen, horns blazing, and gave us three full sets of delightful dance tunes in the baking sun. Kevin, your programming is truly magnificent.

My favourite part of the day, however, was being roped in to join the aforementioned Rick Foot and the inimitable Arnie Cottrell in a hastily improvised line-up of The Velvet Doonigans. If you’ve yet to experience Arnie, you must. A fine song-smith and teacher for many years, his patter has me delighted for days and his derrangements are just sublime. Here’s to many more times. Let’s record an album, gentlemen.

Deepest thanks to Paul, Retta, Charlie and the team for making Cheriton such a welcoming port, to my sister for bringing the whole Irwin clan down, to Kevin for immaculate taste, to Charlie for waltzing so delicately with me and for condoning the whole shebang, to all our delightful friends who turned up along the way and most of all to Nye Parsons, Zoë Moffat, James Gavin, Rick Foot, Catherine Ashcroft, Maurice Dixon, Tori Reed, Arnie Cottrell and the Rajahstani horns for being so darned amazing.

Anyone who is close enough and can get a ticket, come and join us this weekend for Purbeck Valley Folk Festival. Just look at the line-up! That’s the closest I’ve ever had my name to Richard Thompson’s. Marvellous. See you soon.

Posted: 16th Aug 2018 | Contact


Top  An American icon flying high over London, as a wrinkled

As the first tentative droplets of a light summer rain polka-dot the windscreen for the first time in at least two months, evaporating before their cohort can reach critical mass and even think about trickling, I’ve a moment to reflect on a truly sun-bronzed and balmy summer season so far. Endless thanks to the Djukella Orchestra, Rachael, Dean, Chezney and all those who made Priddy Folk Festival, and especially our Sunday morning Soul Service on the main stage such a pure joy, and to Zoë Moffat for some daemon fiddling at the blazing hot Devizes Beer Festival and the refreshingly shady Radford Mill Folk Festival. There’s a bit more about our mongrel musical exploits below, along with news of where we’ll be playing in the next few weeks, but first… (with apologies to Cam Neufeld.)

This past Sunday I was blessed to be one of the privileged many who crammed into Hyde Park to witness what purports to be the final European flourish of the great Paul Simon. Having documented the joys and sorrows of modern life since way before I was even a twinkle in my parents’ eyes, his song-writing and existential perspective have guided me through many a transition and remain a constant source of inspiration. Brought up on the harmonies of Simon and Garfunkel, Gallagher and Lyle, The Beatles, The Wailers et al, it was truly a revelation (as an eight year-old, sent out daily in an anti-apartheid T-shirt to play with village boys who’d start a bike race with the immortal cry, “Last one there’s a nigger!”) when my dad came home from work with a brand new cassette of Graceland and all the magic therein. We danced in the kitchen and nothing was quite the same again.

Later on it was a cassette of Bridge Over Troubled Water in an old walkman that soothed our teenage dawn souls by the locks outside Oundle, realising, in some far flung corner of Asia exactly what the third verse of Call me Al is getting at, and later still, driving through the Rocky Mountains for the first time was infinitely enhanced by “Once Upon a Time it was an Ocean”.

Excluding rather more dynamic situations such as riots, or helping to pull the juggernaut at the marriage of Shiva and Parvati many years ago, I’ve never in my life been in such a crowd, and I truly can’t think of any other situation when I might want to do it again, but when my dear brother told me he’d got tickets to Paul Simon’s last ever European concert and was I free that weekend I was already there, and it was sublime. He opened with the erstwhile theme-tune to Bernie Sanders Presidential run, America, the ever prescient Boy in the Bubble and a couple more hits, before launching into a deeply nuanced and devastatingly beautiful set of versions, arrangements and derangements of his songs, accompanied by his incredible band of the past two decades (sans the dearly departed Vincent Nguini, and the jumped-ship-to-tour-with-James Taylor-legend that is Steve Gadd), with the help of the New York based ensemble Ymusic, who brought a tantalising ripple of chamber-music to the vast wide-open.

The 76-year-old dynamo little dude managed to give us lashings of lesser-known and deeply poignant pieces of work, sung from the heart, peppered with key chart-toppers to reel the fair-weather-fans back into the fold, but delivered with idiosyncratic phrasing that gently shook off the karaoke-heros and drew attention to lyrics long mis-heard, and half understood. After two and a half hours and an solid encore of Late in the Evening, American Tune and The Boxer, he returned alone to the vast stage, and left us with a solo rendition of The Sounds of Silence, the very first song I ever attempted to play, on an old electric organ at the Brown’s house outside Lazonby when I was four. “And the people bowed and prayed…”

I was as deeply impressed by three generations of Hellards and a rogue Zarrouk (from my septigenarian parents to two-year-old Anelie, and one in utero - Jo, you’re a legend) following me at speed through tens of thousands of people to the sweet-spot in front of the sound booth, as the five hundred or so people behind us were unimpressed with our neighbour who’d lost his girlfriend in the crowd, yet managed somehow to retain her dinner, phone and wallet, and proceeded to hold her hand-bag aloft for approaching two hours in an arm-wrenching and ultimately ineffective approximation of a beacon to his desperation. Eventually, security came and expertly talked him out of being lynched by those behind him, and had him back with her, replete with two steaming hot, overpriced new dinners in a jiffy. Top notch.

As the sated crowed began to surge towards the exits, Yaz and I bid farewell to the clan and slipped through the crowd with amazing fluidity in the circumstances, then stomped, jogged and finally sprinted down Grosvenor Place to Victoria Station, rounding the final corner panting in sweat-drenched clothes to see the doors close on the last train to Thanet. So close, yet so far. We headed back out onto the street and bumped into Yaz’s dear friend Adam, fresh in from Australia, quite by chance, so enjoyed a delightful pint in The Shakespeare before the inevitable mail-train to Faversham and £60 taxi to Thanet. All I can say is deepest thanks to all those who made it happen, not least my father for buying me a ticket I plainly couldn’t afford, and Mr. Simon himself for a lifetime of inspiration. (That’s surely enough of that. Ed)

I had intended to join the orange baby baiters in London for Friday’s protest, as following our epic weekend folk festival marathon, Nye and I were in Ashdown Forest on the Thursday night, not too far from Pooh Corner as it happens, performing for students of geomancy, and were perfectly willing to dice with Southern Rail on the off-chance of getting to London. As it happened, we ended up babysitting (and being taken on a tour of Forest Row by) our two-year-old buddy, Elspeth, which was infinitely more fun. Sometimes it’s best to just switch off from the news-cycle and hang out with toddlers. On that subject, if you’ve yet to hear the great Scott Cook’s song, Dogs and Kids, do yourself a favour and check out his new album Further Down the Line.

On Mati and Beth’s return from work, after some furious go-carting with Alfie, newly released from school, we headed down to The Hopyard Brewing Co. for a trio gig with the inimitable Mati Congas, playing for a host of friends old and new, filled to the brim with pizza and fine ale.

This coming weekend, The Djukella Orchestra are bound for a hidden bottom in the south downs for Bimble Banada, where there are rumours we may have quite a fiddle section, and will surely have a fine time basking on the chalk downs. After that we’re heading back to our favourite corner of Hampshire for The Cheriton Sessions on Friday, August 3rd, then lickety-split past the New Forest and round Bournemouth to Worth Matravers to open the Square Fair whilst gazing out to sea at the legendary Square & Compass on Saturday lunchtime. Later in the month, we’ll be back down that way with the Full Fat Djukella Orchestra to play the marvellous Purbeck Valley Folk Festival alongside an incredible line-up including TEYR and another of my all-time heroes, Richard Thompson. If you haven’t got your tickets yet, snap them up before they’re gone.

Right now, I need to get to work booking all the gigs for next year. If you know of a house-concert, church, village hall, festival or theatre we should play any where in the world, let me know, and tell me how to get in touch with them, or vice versa if you prefer. If you just tell one friend about our music, one radio producer to put us on the playlist, or one festival director to book us, it literally makes the difference between singing songs to all you lovely folks and sitting sullenly in the back of a post-office van listening to numpties rattle on about maximum facilitation.

Thanks again to James Patrick Gavin, Tommie Black-Roff, Dominic Henderson, Zoë Moffat and Nye Parsons for being such superlative mongrel magicians. Thoroughly looking forward to reassembling the orchestra and bringing some more Djukella music to the highways and byways of this rather yellowing and pleasant land. See you along the way.

Posted: 21st Jul 2018 | Contact