Monday, May 23, 2016

British Blues Awards: Time To Call Off The Dogs.

Most of you will know that about this time of year, the Hat finds a new quill and writes a piece about the up-coming British Blues Awards voting. The final lists are now in and the public voting starts on June 1st. Get ready.

That brave little band of organisers have once again donned their hard hats and body army (sadly there is no Award for Being Mad Enough to Organise An Awards programme) and without doubt, the fans are already marshalling their voting troops - and the critics and the nay-sayers are already sharpening their witty green felt pens.

If you spend any time at all around the blues world, you discover very quickly that, for the most part, fans and gig-goers are kind, pleasant, cheerful, knowledgable, supportive people who are prepared to listen, to learn, to experiment with new music, go crazy about up-and-coming young talent and spend a lot of money on a regular basis punching the air and following their favourites.
There is a camaraderie that embraces the first-gig novice, to the gnarled veteran, from the club regular to the wide-eyed new visitor that is a wonderful part of the enjoyment of watching and listening in the blues world.

Every year, once all the final lists are out there and the voting begins, there is an outbreak of comment on the social media about who's hot and who's not. This can be hilarious reading, thought provoking and informative. This is the way with any short list. My dad played the concertina at funeral wakes and I always thought he should get an award for that...sorry I digress...

However last year, the genial banter brought with it some ugly commentary, some of it the worst I can remember – often from people who should know better. Inevitably there will be people, who for whatever reason are opposed to the's divisive, could be more inclusive, awards are not necessary and so on... I have no problem with that. Also, inevitably there will be people who failed to read the criteria and are outraged that their favourite musician isn't on the list – even though they didn't produce an album and barely appeared for a live performance last year. Go back and do your homework before tearing into your keyboard.

Last year, for a while, we were knee deep in experts who knew better. They hated the Awards, the voting process, the Panel – which was variously Useless, Ill-informed, Stupid and A Fix. The worst aspect for me was the fact that some of these critics chose to attack individual finalists who they felt had somehow got there by 'knowing people', 'having friends' - which in itself said more about the critic than the artist. Even the kind, gentle, sweet and Harmless Hat was abused by an expert'just blogging about his mates'...I fear his critical scatter-gun came from Toys R Us...

The debate about the BBAs is a good one, some would say it is a vital and necessary debate. Speaking personally, I am anxious that the debate continues and the process evolves. The BBAs are far from perfect and need improving in a number of ways. But, here's the thing, to my knowledge, none of last year's keyboard experts have come up with something better, some of them have declined to join the panel, none have come forward to help out - and most of them fail to realise that sitting behind your Facebook/Twitter page, criticising individual musicians who have worked their socks off, offering no actual constructive criticism – is not smart. It is not clever. It is shabby. It is the kind of side-line bullying that crops up all over the social media when someone you don't like does something good. Out come the Capital Letters and the Green Felt Pen. I think the blues community is Better Than That. Yes, please fill a page with some constructive, interesting stuff; start up some banter; flip us some wit and some wisdom.....otherwise go away and take your keyboard with you...

As you know, The Hat likes nothing better than quoting himself so here's something wat I rote last year at the time – let's hope it doesn't get repeated this year:

I don't care too much about those who hang around and throw mud. What I do care about is that the (current) Tower of Babel back-chat runs the risk of drowning out both the importance of the need for a Blues Awards of some kind and how important it is to salute those on the final lists who have plied their trade with such huge talent and huge pride. So let us stop, take a breath and at least acknowledge that."

I am still of that view. If you have something constructive, interesting - even witty to say, then join in now.  The finalists this year are all pretty amazing.

It's Time To Call Off The Dogs...  

Pip Pip!
The Blues Man in The Hat

(Thanks to Roy L for the image)

Sunday, April 17, 2016

7 Reasons Why The Hat Will Soon Own All Your Music....

I was thinking that I might get my solicitors, Sue, Grabbit and Run to sue the Whole Music World for ripping off my music and lyrics. They are gonna do it on a No Win No Fee basis, but I am pretty confident that very soon the Rights to All Music Ever will be mine and I will own Everything, including Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, The Zep and a lot of other Dead People. There are a number of reasons as to why I may resort to this.
First: As some of you may know, when I was a Small Hat and needed to sit on three cushions to play the piano, my favourite Aunty Winnie used to shut me in her parlour while I practiced my composition 'Thunder and Lightning' using my open palms and fists in a highly creative and original way. At the same time, I would sing loudly, mainly on one note, about Maureen with The Pony Tail, how my evil parents were trying to end my world, Misery and building exploding boats made out of Meccano. Only yesterday, I heard the Crush Metal band, Bruised Eyeballs using those very same random fist actions in their so-called original composition 'Maureen's Plaits'. I was angry, I can tell you.
Second: Whilst busy composing in Winnie's parlour, I stumbled across the idea that if I played 'Thunder and Lightning' in sections of twelve repeated Bashbits and then repeated the bit about Maureen and the Meccano in the middle, it would last exactly long enough to end just as Aunty Win came in with the Tizer and some bars of Kit Kat. She and I decided, over a drink, that my original work should be called The Twelve Kit Kat Bar Basheroo. You must agree that it has quite obviously been copied, sampled, nicked and ripped off ever since. I haven't seen a penny.
Third: At that time my little hands could not span an octave so I used two hands and in doing so I invented the trick Arpeggio and by playing on the black notes and white notes in turn I clearly invented Minor and Major stuff too. Next time you go to a gig, suss out the keyboard player. I guarantee he will be using both arpeggios and black and white notes.
Fourth: After a few divorces and a reckless plunge into the art market, I need to get my hands on some money to support all my expensive habits. I have been looking around for a dodgy grey area of the market that might be fertile ground for some gratuitous funding. I was thinking about a Wind Farm or some forest in Scotland but my friends at SG & R said they had spotted Old Music as a prime growth area.
Fifth: SGR's beautifully-suited 'Music is Fair Game' specialist attorney, tells me that cover versions of 'I Will Always Love You' and 'Hallelujah' are now the high spots of X factor and in addition the BBC is rushing out whole weekends of Fifties and Sixties music - where much ownership and royalties were agreed in a dark club between 'Jack The Weasel's Record Company' and the 'What Planet Are We On I Just Wanna Play Music' musician. He keeps sending me bottles of Stoly and telling me The Time is Right. He has a great line in cliches, like most lawyers, but he knows an opening when he sees one and reckons that Leonard Cohen's 'secret chord' is probably one of my Thunder and Lightning chords.
Six: Should anyone foolishly try to suggest that other people did this before the 'Thunder and Lightning Break-Through', we will take them on an expensive six month tour through my family genealogy and point out my connections to madrigal players, Shakespearean Hautbois and my earlier musical predecessors. Stick that bill in your expensive Attorney's pipe.
Seven: He has also pointed out that a lot of the people involved in this 'It's mine and I'll sue you' mallarkey are either dead, ill or in Fairy Land and consequently all those supposed 'spit on the hand' deals are hard to substantiate. If I were to put all my Aunt Winnie's relatives on the stand (she alas is Upstairs now, singing along to one of my compositions) and I offered half my proceeds to music charities, any court in the land (by which I mean America) would agree with me and not only would we clean up, but I would become a modern day folk hero.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Ok. You're Right. This is not a joke. No musician (or indeed, any creative artist) likes his or her work being hi-jacked, stolen or generally ripped off without any attribution, financial or otherwise. Hours, weeks, months and years may have gone into creating a piece. Although it is nothing new, over the last decade or so 'sampling' has become a quite common aspect of modern music and nowadays there are usually some solid arrangements in place and it gets done with agreement. Whether you have any time for those who do this to earn a living, is quite another matter. However when it is done blatantly without agreement it is Theft. Ask 'The Verve' how expensive that can be – and there are plenty of other examples. Also, every day, a thousand bands do a thousand cover versions of famous pieces of music. Again, that may not be your bag, but (to be very kind) they are probably not intending to overtly steal creativity and disguise it as their own. They put their hands up, publicly attribute - and we all understand what is going on.
Nowadays, musicians are much more savvy about protecting their material in both music and lyric form. They have better knowledge, better legal support, unions and hopefully, better informed managers and agents. It has long been the case that the lyric writer will be the recipient of richer rewards and the history of lyric ownership in particular is littered with the battered bodies of those who have fought and failed to clarify ownership. Again, that situation has changed radically for the better but occasionally when the sale of a song collection comes on the market the swords and writs get flourished once more. There are handsome prizes to be won.

However, what has emerged of late, is not the justifiable prosecution of Intellectual and Copyright Theft but what is becoming to look like a growth business in Music Legal Opportunism. It would seem that out there in the world of litigation, there are people employed to look for musical similarities, resonances, note groupings – even an 'atmospheric' likeness to previous work. This in turn has produced an industry of university 'professors', 'musicologists' and sundry 'experts' who somehow are looked to as the people who may 'know' whether a piece has been 'stolen' or not. Nobody, it seems is bothering to consult any musicians.

Clearly there have been many injustices which date from an earlier period, a lot from the fifties and sixties, when for many it seemed at the time, legal rights ownership was not a priority. Absolutely, some of these were wholesale fraud, some a clever adoptive sleight of hand; others were just crap lax management and quite rightly, justice must be seen to be done and compensation is due. Even today there are villains out there looking to take advantage of the unsuspecting and innocent. But musicians are, for the most part, getting smarter.

Nevertheless, when it comes to the hind-sighted public forensic analysis of the structure, notation and style of the composition of an established piece of work - that may have first been dreamed up by an artist on the back of an envelope - then we are now entering the world of Litigation LaLa Land. Listening to a lawyer struggling to claim that the whole of a piece of music has been stolen because the opening arpeggio was 'similar' to one used elsewhere would be funny if it were not so sad and damaging. 
The idea that serious musicians cast around looking for stuff to nick, when their whole raison d'etre is to produce something original is laughable. The scoundrels will sink. The originals will fly. We know that. However, when it comes to Music and Finance, all the lawyers in this area of litigation are Tone Deaf.

Anyway, soon I will own everything...or so Sue, Grabbit and Run keep telling me. Trust me. Your music will be safe with me.

Pip Pip!
The Blues Man in The Hat

(Reading this blog aloud to an audience does not constitute an infringement of my hereditaments or some such bollox etc etc etc.....)

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Quick! Find Me A Keyboard......Old People Are Dying!

....apparently he was quite famous....

Sometimes I feel I should leave my laptop drying out in a bowl of rice overnight, such is the lachrimosity that floods the social media these days. We are awash in tears for people who have got old and gone and died. That is sooooo unfair...

To me this seems now to have reached epidemic and embarrassing proportions in the music world. Suddenly it seems as though - for some quick-fingered posters - The End must be Nigh. A lot of old people are dying and every time one of them, keels over, pops their clogs, goes off to meet their maker and shakes hands in a sun-drenched far distant place full of Marshall amps and free beer, it seems as though it has become incumbent on everyone with access to a keyboard to offer up condolences, a YouTube clip, a reminiscence or just a straightforward RIP Full Stop.

Don't misunderstand me. I don't have a problem with displays of genuine grief. I have been there. Whatever the circumstances, the personal loss is shattering. The family, friends and acquaintances left behind can be devastated. Indeed, whether or not you knew them, the loss of someone who affected your life, was a personal inspiration or even simply brought about a sea-change in your attitudes can be easily understood.

However, it now seems to have become mandatory, obligatory, essential to pass comment - even if you only hear about the death through a fourth generation Shared Post and a quick check on Wikipedia. Er, who was he/she? Ah, yes, got it - now where's my keyboard...

The Public Automatic Response Condolence Note has become the Printed Selfie. Look at me. I am a sensitive and clued up music person. Check me out. I am a Leading Edge In Touch music buff – and here is my certificate of authenticity....RIP  - or Whatever....

I am not a hard-hearted misery but quite frankly, I am not interested in reading about Geoff Blog's life-changing moment when he once saw a recently dead bandsman at a concert at The Rainbow before they turned it into a church in Nineteen Hundred and Freezing. Any more than I am interested in hearing about how a radio 'personality' once rubbed shoulders with the deceased at a concert freebee...oooh listen to me, I am famous by association... Stop. Don't bring your memes into my house.

Look a bit closer. The deceased was 76. He/she hadn't played or sung publicly for decades. They may have been seriously unwell for many years. In addition, many of them might well have imbibed, sniffed and injected every substance known to man on their way to a cheerful 76. You didn't know them. You never met them and the fact that their stonking early music was good and, in its day influential, does not give you automatic ownership of the grief being suffered by those close to them. How would you feel if you were in mourning and an illiterate body snatcher came to the wake?

Guess what? This year a lot of old people have died. Certainly some of them did indeed bring about huge changes in our musical landscape and the sense of loss is mighty and deserving of remembrance. You will all know who they are.
I am affected, just like everyone else. However, most of them seemed to have had long and interesting lives. Most of the recent losses were of people aged 67, 71, 75, 80 and even 94. Because, for the most part, the age of 24hour rocknroll degeneracy has now virtually disappeared, few of them die young and join the tragic 27 club. It should come as no surprise that many musicians born in the Forties who produced world changing music in the Sixties are now getting old and vulnerable. Listen. That whole generation of musicians, the one that seems to have influenced so many who came after them are now reaching their old age and you need to get your head round the fact that the music Statistics Are Not On Their Side. It's time everybody got used to the idea that quite a lot of old people die when they get old. Yes, of course it is sad but I can get my own sackcloth and ashes. I don't need yours all over my inbox.
A while back, a blog I wrote about big Barry Middleton - the popular club manager and British Blues Awards Organiser - and his contribution to the blues world, went viral and was posted thousands of times around the globe. It was shared by people, not because of their personal loss, but because of what Barry represented and because people realised how the Barrys of this world really did make a difference. There were no claims of ownership, there was no hi-jacking of grief. There was, however a joyful acknowledgement of the contribution of all the Barrys world wide. That is how it should be. So keep your Instant Crocodiles out of my in-box...

As for me? Well my intelligent, streetwise children and friends have clear instructions to 'roll me up and smoke me when I die' and of course, I have already written a very long flattering obituary of Me Me Me which will be shared with anybody who has a keyboard.....

Pip Pip!
The Blues Man in The Hat

(Names of famous dead old people have been deliberately omitted from this blog)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Sometimes You Should Shoot The Music Messenger....

I was watching a YouTube video the other day. I can't tell you much about it. I didn't make it through to the end. It did involve music but I can't remember the names of the musicians, what they looked like, where they were playing or what they played.

I'll give you some clues though....and I bet you can guess...
It opens with a shaky image of a bald bloke wearing an Eagles 2000 Tour T-shirt carrying two pints of beer from left screen to right screen. He then shouts to some invisible people off the bottom of the screen that it was their round next. The camera then moves sideways past the beer-carrier's paunch and hovers over the head of a peroxide blonde who is waving her hands in the air shouting 'I Love You. I Love This Number. I Love This Number' to anyone who will listen and rather too close to the cameraman's microphone. We stick with this for a bit longer as we have noticed that there is a band on a stage making a noise in the background that might or might not be worth listening to. However, give credit to the tenacity of our film-maker though, as they push past the waving hands and bring one half of the head of the bass player into vague focus. Unfortunately, he is not actually playing and seems to be talking to the keyboard man whilst off-screen the guitarist rips into a virtuoso solo involving shred and distort that neither your computer or the cameraman's microphone are built to handle.
Ok, it's time we went and clicked on something else...

Recognise that movie? Well you should, as there are thousands like it, seemingly posted every day by gig-goers, fans and groupies of bands all over the world.....and, I fear, by some bands and artists. They are for the most part awful, shake like an exploding kitchen boiler, have sound that could be made by Stockhausen on one of his off days and usually make the mistake of being twice as long as a visit to the dentist. When you have finished tearing out handfuls of what's left of your hair, you can only ask the same question, over and over again...Why?

These videos are clearly posted in good faith to demonstrate support for the band or artist they went to see. My question is 'why bother?'  Many of them are almost unwatchable in that they are so badly executed that the subject matter is drowned in a sea of amateur iphone artistry. The sound – and after all, surely the premier issue is to hear what the artist sounds like – is invariably tinny and distorted, and worse, the tiny mic picks up all the ambient surround sound, often of people talking above the band in a bar. We can also do without the photo-bombing of bit-part-walk-on drinkers that feature prominently in these clips and why, oh why, do you think that shooting the backs of heads from the back of a crowd is, in any way, remotely interesting?

I can understand that this can be a dilemma for an artist or a band. You want your stuff out there, being shared far and wide and getting talked about and clearly YouTube can do that job pretty well. It is also incredibly rewarding knowing that you have fans who want to spread the word for you. However, you and I know, that it also spreads the word about dancing dogs, car crashes, cute cats, fat blokes in old T-shirts and all the dross in the world. If you are hoping that your live, trembling and raucous movie clip is a way of reaching out to more fans, a potential producer, a radio show host, a record company, a reviewer or a magazine – forget it. You are dreaming. If anything, they may well head in the opposite direction at a great rate of knots.
So. Think Carefully. Even the attractive magic world of instant viral fame comes with some shortcomings. Do you really want a boring, impossible to watch, painful to hear clip of your work out there in the ether? It really does you no favours and may well be unhelpful in its effort to help. This is your public video face we are talking about and believe me, noisy acne is not attractive.

Maybe you should intervene. Take some control where you can. Talk sweetly to the poster and point out the pitfalls. Get the Disaster Movie removed. If that doesn't work, then maybe you should shoot the messenger...

Pip Pip!
The Blues Man In The Hat

(Thanks to our friends at Pulp Fiction for offering their services,,)

Friday, February 5, 2016


Are you one of those people who would really like to find out Eleven Secrets of the Palm Pilot? No? Well maybe you just checked out the Six Favourite effects pedals used by Blues Gods and armed with that knowledge, you will soon amass data about their favourite jeans, ice cream and hair products....

Go on. Own Up. Stand up in a circle of close friends and say the following...”My name is (today I am going to be Dopey) and I am a Click Bait Victim. I have tried but have been unable to break my addiction. This very morning I looked at six pictures of American preachers who wear bad hair pieces and then I found myself scrolling through the ten top Stevie Ray Vaughan chord progressions that are most copied by pub blues bands. It was terrible. I couldn't seem to control my mouse. It had a life of its own. Therefore, I have come here to stand up bravely amongst my peers and give you Twelve Reasons why I need help....and when I have done that I would like you to give me Five Examples of how I can get away from here on a free holiday...”

If there were ever a colourful demonstration of how you can fool all of the people some of the time, it is the resident internet malarkey of what has become known as 'click bait'. Yep. We all know about it. We all love to hate it. We all protest that we are far too smart to go anywhere near it. This is the technique of headlining an article or advertisement with an eye-catching link that invites you to click and view to find out more. When you do so, along with countless others, the clicked content moves up the article popularity list making it even easier to access by a search programme and a lot of happy advertisers. It takes many guises from grainy images of the hot and trendy C-list celebrity to mad distorted science claims about aliens and unknown plagues. Sometimes it asks you a question..”How Many” and sometimes it tells you what to think “You'll never believe” and occasionally it orders you to view...”Click here to find”...and from time to time it just beckons you in with some near naked flesh, an insider trick to win stuff or save money and there is always an offer you feel unable to refuse.

But, like so much that is promised, you know that like listening to the man in the top hat on the door of the bearded lady and live mermaid tents, it will probably end in disappointment, disillusion and the regret that that You, the Incredibly Smart and Alert You, have just wasted another five minutes of your life.

The problem is that you cannot blame anyone else. It's not those smooth talking beautiful people reading stuff written for them by machiavellian marketeers. They are paid to do it. Every day we encounter hundreds of marketing devices that pander to your desires and emotions. We casually deal with them, shrug our shoulders, smile knowingly and move on.... and yet click bait continually seems to be the one that really sucks our brains out of our heads and slaps us later for Being So Stupid. Because it works, it will not be going away anytime soon - indeed it will get more subtle and sophisticated. Those people Vance Packard referred to in his book, 'The Hidden Persuaders' will continue to be one step ahead of us....subliminal images, the manipulation of our thought direction and the psychology of our need for possessions are all things that have become a permanent part of our existence in a commercial world.

Indeed, not only is it not going away, every branch of commerce, culture, music, arts and science is on constant look-out for better techniques to get us to look at, enjoy and maybe buy their stuff. Inevitably, some corners of the 'arts' are inclined to look at this with a peg on their nose to keep them at a distance from the wicked world of naked commerce. Sadly the short end of that view is often that the distant and aloof high ground will not be enough to get you heard amongst the crowd of similar projects baying for your attention. At one extreme, we all know that if the posters for the band gig stay behind the bar, then nobody will know and nobody will turn up....word of mouth is wonderful, but someone has to start with the first word. At the other end, even if the established artist is internationally known, they still inhabit a competitive world that is battling for access to your disposable income. The power of the social media and the internet search are now firmly established as part of the tapestry of that fight for attention. Click Bait might be pretty crude and disappointing right now but it will continue; it may get more subtle and less shouty and we will all continue to click away, hate ourselves for being suckers – and do it again tomorrow.

My advice is simple and two-fold.
First - you listen to Tom Waits sing 'Step Right Up' where you will learn, amongst other wise things, that 'the large print giveth and the small print taketh away'.
Second – You really must try harder. The Hat doesn't of course have any money to give away even if he wanted to. Bet you didn't see that one coming. Disappointed eh? However, as you're here now, I've found a nice picture of Helen Bonham Carter as bait...

Pip Pip!
The Blues Man In The Hat

Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie....why 'Culture' is becoming Another Planet

If ever there was a moment when a cuts-obsessed philistine Government needed a kick in the crutch from a well-aimed gaily painted Red Shoe – then this is it. All they have to do is look at the internet melt-down following the sad death of David Bowie.

Putting aside the millions of memes, which are a quite understandable and normal feature of the internet in mourning and turning a deaf ear to those cut and paste national broadcasters like expert Jeremy Vine - who buttock-clenchingly shoehorn their personal connections in to every word – the message here is quite simple....and it's not just the outstanding music.

Of course we expect an instant sound-bite from a Prime Minister but he, his 'Culture' Minister and his friends need to go back and take a long hard look at how a musician/actor/artist/writer affected and changed millions of lives, for the better. They were enhanced, many were given a voice, many went on to better things, many had their eyes opened and their prejudices challenged. People danced and sang and dressed up. People imitated, innovated and improved. People experienced Joy and Pleasure and discovered that the fringe can be quite an interesting and rewarding place. All ages and backgrounds, creeds and colours were affected. Access for All.

All of this is Good. None of it is Bad. There is a lot of love. Nobody went to war. Nobody gets hurt. This is what having a society that values its Arts and Culture means. 
But...for years now, that crucial idea has been under threat and battling for air.

The axe has fallen non-stop on arts funding, theatre grants, music venues and arts tuition, to name a few, as local authorities across the country have struggled with up to 40% cuts in their funding and loss of staff. Some authorities have cut nearly the whole of their arts funding whilst desperately searching for an answer. Many theatres have seen their grants evaporate, music venues close in the face of property developers, school arts classes and visits chopped.

Nearly a year ago The Warwick Commission published its phenomenal 'Report on The Future of Cultural Value in Britain'. If you believe in the power of arts and culture it made truly disturbing reading.

Bowie apparently did 'imaginative music and movement' in his junior school, played a mean recorder, and then did art and design at his technical college. This Government may not even remember those technical colleges but they should know that investment in education in arts and culture has been in total freefall for years. A snapshot tells us that after school drama and dance classes have halved, art classes dropped by 33% and higher education craft courses by 46%. Anyone remember school music tuition? The Culture Minister should go back and re-read this dire warning by the Commission...
'The Government needs to guarantee equal access for everyone to a rich cultural education and the opportunity to live a creative life'...not to do so.... 'is bad for business and bad for society...the DfE and Ofsted must ensure that all children up to the age of 16 receive a cultural education in order to ensure their life-long engagement and enjoyment as audiences and creators.'
Of course, they will say..'There is no political traction in the 'arts and culture'. It makes more political sense to have the BBC in your cross-hair sights'. Meanwhile, the Warwick Commission report has disappeared without trace.

Bowie was a hugely talented and important maverick. A brilliant star who shone brightly for many decades. Yes, not everyone can do that but his mere presence personified the power and relevance of a cultured society that appreciated and allowed him to emerge and for the rest of us to reach for those rewarding stars as well. The short-sighted threat to that fundamental access to culture is not only mistaken but also demonstrates a philistine ignorance and total misunderstanding of the huge rewards it can bring..

You've left us a lot of good stuff Mr Jones, Thank You and sleep easy.

Pip Pip!
The Blues Man in The Hat 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Words, words, words.....Shakespeare said that...

Well, it's that time of year again when The Hat traditionally hangs his big red balls on the front door of Hat Mansions, gets out that bottle of strange unfinished advocaat - (and puts it away again), tries to think of one Blessing to Count and writes his heart-felt Thanks to those of you who have stayed the Words course for yet another year.

We have rambled together all over the place this year – from Bonamassa Ticket Prices to the Blues Eating Itself and from the awful Charlie Hebdo to the unspeakable Kanye West. Fittingly one of the most read blogs, shared massively across the world this year was about losing big Barry Middleton, who even for those who had never met him, represented much of what is so good about those behind the scenes in the blues world - selfless, hard-working, caring and supportive to all and everyone in a tough and often wearying, thankless and unfair blues music world.

We also lost BB, moaned about austerity cuts in music education, had the usual 'chat' about the British Blues Awards, got the sun to rise by playing the guitar and worshipped (again!) at the feet of the ever-growing number of brilliant female blues and soul singers currently ripping our musical fermament asunder.

Despite some close attention this year from the brilliant NHS, The Hat is constantly amazed at his own Blogevity. By rights I should have packed up years ago – I believe 6-9 months is good going for any blog, especially an opinionated one peppered with Pointless Capital letters and lots of...interruptive...dots... But, am I bovvered? Is this the face of someone who is losing sleep? (Ok, don't answer face is not up for discussion...). Actually, I like my job. I am Author and Editor. I laugh loudly at my own jokes. I admire my svelte and subtle prose and I enjoy, every so often, Poking the Bear and being on a mission. Sometimes I put Stoly in a small glass, look at myself in The Mansions huge hall mirror and toast myself. Above all though, I remind myself that I just put words, words, words together and if nobody reads them then I am in trouble.

So this is my annual Thank You – to those of you who occasionally respond, to those who shout at the page and call me things that your Mother Would Not Like, to those that quietly read and nod, to those that share and those that join in. Above all, Thank You to those fine musicians, fans and DJs who give me an excuse to beam and ramble in print.

So, let's all drink to a terrific 2016 – when our music will flourish and fly and once again, I will attempt, and fail, to hide my pellucid light under a behemothic bushel....go on, look it up, you know you want to...

Take care out there next year my friends...
Pip Pip!
The Blues Man in The Hat

(No advocaat was drunk in the making of this blog.)