Oct 282014

Mark Ayling 1 Acoustic artist Mark Ayling released his second album, ‘Out Of Step, Out Of Time’ this week, following on from his 2011 album ‘Memories and Ghosts’.

The Turriff-based singer-songwriter played with Justin Sullivan (New Model Army), Robb Johnson and Tracey Curtis at the 2011 ‘Raise Your Banners’ Festival and with many other fine musicians at various gigs throughout the past three years.

A lifelong drummer, with lyrics that range from personal to political, he has branched out to play acoustic guitar, taking the energy of punk and rock music to make his own style.

He will be embarking on a UK tour next month to promote the album.

The CD album will be available from http://www.markayling.net/, Four Dogs Music, Ethical Wares and Amazon. A download will also be available from iTunes and Amazon.

Oct 242014

Ags ConnollyfeatWith thanks to David Innes.

Ags Connolly, described as ‘the closest we’ve ever come to an English Willie Nelson’ by Duncan Warwick, of Country Music People, makes his Aberdeen debut at The Blue Lamp on Friday 24 November following on from his last Scottish show at Perth’s Southern Fried Festival in July.
His debut album ‘How About Now’ was released in February 2014 and reviews have been incredibly positive, especially for a first outing, and he has just released a video for his first single ‘When Country Was Proud

Almost Blue Promotions are excited about their coup in bringing Ags north, and this show is guaranteed to add to the agency’s already-excellent reputation in the city and its hinterland.

What the reviewers have said:

“One of the best records you are likely to hear this year…so strong is Connolly’s writing, dare I suggest that Ags Connolly is the closest we’ve ever come to an English Willie Nelson? Yes, he’s really that good, and his voice is unique.” – Duncan Warwick, Country Music People

“How About Now is a masterpiece of British country” – Maverick

“A compelling debut” – Independent on Sunday

“One of the most promising new talents on the Brit country scene” – Record Collector

“Drop all the qualifiers, discounts, and rhetoric about origin, Ags Connolly deserves to be considered right beside his Stateside counterparts as one of the carriers of the country music holy ghost whose carefully-crafted songs can speak to the human heart universally, irrespective of borders” – Saving Country Music

“Extraordinarily accomplished…hard to believe that it’s a UK product. As good a country record as you’re likely to hear from anywhere this year” – Flyinshoes Review

Tickets are available now for £8.80 from

http://www.seetickets.com/event/ags-connolly/the-blue-lamp/803674/ or http://www.aberdeenperformingarts.com/events/ags-connolly

Buying directly from www.almostbluepromotions.com/#!buy-tickets/cq91 will avoid the booking fee, or, if there are tickets left, they’ll be available at the door for £10.



Apr 252014

Patrick Duff brings his remarkable skills back to Aberdeen on 30th April, but this time with some exciting added extras. Esther Green writes.

Patrick Duff BnWPatrick Duff returns once again with Craig John Davidson as Special Guest, but this time as a collaborator in an exciting new venture – a white vinyl 7” split release single.

Because of the special connection the Bristol-based singer now has with the Granite City, The Blue Lamp has been selected for the Launch Party for the record.

2013 saw Patrick release two albums; Visions of the Underworld, now available through Rough Trade and Seven Sermons to the Dead, a record originally commissioned by Bristol City Council.

With that in mind, here are seven reasons why you ought to come along to what promises to be a fantastic night…

1) The Songs.  Patrick has an incredible body of work behind him, whilst trying out new material all the time.  He may include the occasional cover in his shows, rarely – if ever – dipping into his extensive Strangelove back-catalogue, but mainly taps the rich vein of his solo career.

2) The Stories.  He’s a man of many stories, all of them fascinating, many of them almost unbelievable and some hilarious. As well as the eloquence of Patrick’s delivery of these tales, their intensity and personal nature is something to savour.

3) The Atmosphere.  If you have ever attended one of Patrick’s concerts, you know what this is about.  The audience silence means something, an experience he often refers to “deep listening”.

4) The Special Guest.  A Fat Hippy Records favourite, Craig John Davidson’s talents are outstanding.  A great songwriter and musician in equal measure, he never fails to impress audiences with his finely-crafted guitar style.  He recently toured successfully with label-mates in Los Angeles and can be found playing various venues around Aberdeen.

5) The Single.  It’s a celebration of the friendship and musical brotherhood of its collaborators and we’re all invited. Patrick’s “Thought Birds” and Craig’s “Mr Manners” are popular live tracks among their respective fans and you will have the chance to grab a copy of this very limited edition collector’s item.

6) The Voice.  Patrick has the most beautiful singing voice – often unexpectedly courageous and cavernous, it is a soulful, pure and expressive sound.

7) The Experience.  You will never forget it.

Links and Info.


Pre-order the single

Upcoming concerts

Patrick Duff on Facebook

Patrick Duff on Twitter

New interview with Bristol’s Artscare Records

Craig John Davidson on Facebook

Craig John Davidson on Soundcloud

Links to previous Aberdeen Voice articles about Patrick Duff



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Feb 072014

By Bob Smith.
800px-Pete_Seeger2_-_6-16-07_Photo_by_Anthony_Pepitone lopro

Last wikk we lost a legend
Pete Seeger wis his name
The chiel he wis aged 94
Fin oot wis snuffed his flame
Awa back in his young’r days
The lad he wis a commie
Atween him an yon McCarthy
There wisnae much bonhomie
A folk singer o warld renown
An an activist forbye
Supportit the Spanish Republicans
In a war far mony wid die
A singer fa fair protestit
The arms race an Vietnam war
He supportit the Civil Richts
An wis agin the colour bar
His singer sister Peggy
She mairrit Ewan MacColl
A bet at faimily githerins
They wid hae hid a ball
A freen o Woody Guthrie
An a early backer o Dylan
Fin Bob wint aa “electric”
Pete didna fin es thrillin
A lover o the environment
Tae es life he wis a giver
An got thingies fair stairted
Tae clean up the Hudson River
A ca’ed the chiel a legend
O es a hiv nae doot
A singer o folk sangs
An an activist tae boot
Seeger, Guthrie an Dylan
Protest lyrics wis their thing
Sangs fer the common man
Wis fit es three did bring
©Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2014

licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
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Sep 172013

With thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

Gerry Jablonski

Gerry Jablonski and The Electric Band have long been one the most successful acts to come out of Aberdeen.

Their first 2 albums on Fat Hippy Records have sold to classic blues rock fans all over the world and both albums have had to be re-pressed to supply demand for their music!

On the 23rd September Fat Hippy will release their stunning third album Twist Of Fate.

Recorded whilst the band were fighting for their future as drummer Dave Innes (Midge Ure, Marillion, Fish, Bay City Rollers) battles with stomach cancer there is real passion and pain on this album and it takes the band and their electric music to a whole new level.

The band will play Aberdeen’s Lemon Tree on September 20th; other upcoming dates include 21st September at Non-Zeros, Dundee and 27th September in Edinburgh’s Voodoo Rooms.

With tours of Poland, Germany and Czech Republic already booked for 2013 and 2014 to launch the album and interest from the USA growing every day you should probably catch this band whilst you can!  More info:


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Aug 272013

With his first full length CD Do What You Love, recorded in Nashville, attracting considerable radio and media interest, Voice thought it a good time to send David Innes out to interview his fellow Banffshire native, Colin Mackay.  A Buckie loon and a Keith cyard meet without a fecht breaking out? The UN should take notes.

Colin MacKay 10

You’re still a bairn at 42, Colin. How long ago did you leave Buckie?

I left Buckie where I’d lived all my life when I was 18, to study at The Robert Gordon University.”

Was there always country or folk music on in the house as you grew up?

“There was always a lot of music in our house growing up. A huge eclectic range. My parents love so many different styles.

“My dad’s actually a trained tenor and I can remember going to see Handel’s Messiah where he was singing tenor lead. I sat at the back of the hall with a huge ghetto blaster recording it. I was only about 8 at the time. That guy Handel can write some nice melodies, I’m sure he’ll do well. 

“Dad still sings with Mario Janetta’s Big Band Sound, playing material in the style of Glen Miller, Count Basie, Sinatra and Dean Martin. Michael Buble has done a lot to make that style contemporary and popular in recent times.

 “I used to love going to rehearsals to watch the guitar players. I loved the melodies and how all the instruments gelled together, to produce that big band sound.

I’m sure that had an influence on me, although at the time I was struggling to play a B7 chord, and hadn’t even progressed to the mysteries of bar chords.”

The arrangements on Do What You Love are very full, come to think of it, but I’d never have picked up on a big band influence. What else has influenced you?

“I was only 6 when Elvis died (coincidentally we carried out the interview on the 36th anniversary of Elvis’s death), and that’s when things really took off. The TV was full of Elvis and that’s when I discovered my parents’ record collection – Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins. I wanted a leather jacket and a guitar!

“Similarly I was just 9 when John Lennon died, and I discovered The Beatles in the same way by digging into the records at home. Everyone else was into Duran Duran, and I’m obsessed by the White Album!

Colin MacKay 6

“I’ve always loved the raw energy that’s on those first 50’s Rock n Roll recordings. I find it totally infectious. I think if you don’t feel it you don’t have a pulse.

“In a similar vein The Rolling Stones are huge for me. I love how Keith Richards fuses rhythm and lead together and you can’t miss the Chuck Berry influence. I’m always picking things up from Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Mark Knopfler, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and U2. I pick up other new influences all the time. But to make a great song, I feel you have to make the lyrics read like poetry, the melody make you want to whistle and the rhythm make you want to dance. Get that right, then you’ve got something.”

What about bands you played in when you were a loon?

“I first played with my good friends Frazer Clark, Alan Mo Morrison, and Graeme Slapp in a school band called Exodus. We played the local pubs and clubs and wedding dances from when we were about 14 and carried on through university. Peter McKay and James Alexander, our music teachers were a great help to us.

“Our high point came in 1987 when we were placed third out of 600 bands in the UK Battle of the Band Competition, TSB Rockschool. We were on TV and radio and thought we were going to be the next U2. That’s when my writing really got an airing as two songs in our set had to be originals.”

Colin’s big break and the route to recording Do What You Love in the country music capital came when he was in Fochabers, at the Moray village’s popular Speyfest. His Sun Studios t-shirt was spotted by Craig Duncan, a big name in bluegrass circles and they got on famously.

“He invited me to Nashville and I was introduced to Bil VornDick, a producer who works with household names like Alison Krauss, Bob Dylan and Mark Knopfler. He liked what he heard of my demos and asked me to return to record an album. This was a chance I couldn’t turn down as he’s always in demand to produce records for big names.

“We sent mp3s back and forth across the Atlantic before the recording and he put together a session band of some of the most talented musicians I’ve had the good fortune to work with. These guys have played with some of the biggest names in rock and country music and I was continually amazed by their ability to find exactly the right lick or tone and by their humour and humility.

“I’m delighted with the records and to see my own songs up there beside the names of some of Nashville’s best writers delights me.”

Colin MacKay 9Are there plans to record over there again?

“Nothing concrete yet, but I am hopeful that I can work with Bil again. We’re still in contact and it would be terrific with his contacts if one of the big Americana names picked up on one of my songs and recorded it.”

Given that you don’t really want to give up your day job, how do you fit in touring?

“I’ve always been able to juggle the two, so far. It takes a bit of planning and flexibility and I always travel with a guitar.

“One winter I was snowed in over in Applecross and I met a helicopter pilot who also was an accordion player. We had such a great time that we were hoping for more snow!”

Country’s been described as the white man’s blues – is this a fair assessment?

“Absolutely, you don’t only hear the music you have to feel the music. Hank Williams? Robert Johnson? It’s the same thing. You know that music is coming from the heart.”

I hear a lot of soul on your album – do you have influences from that direction too?

“I love all the stuff that came out of Stax in Memphis, and all the Motown stuff. Wilson Pickett, Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Bobby Womack, so many greats.

“I feel the album is more Southern Rock, with shades of Lynyrd Skynyrd or the Eagles than strictly country. It was made in Nashville because that’s where my friends and contacts were, but there’s a lot more than country music coming out of Nashville. We used a pedal steel on the slow songs and that gives them a country flavour.

It’s amazing how just one instrument can change the style. I’d never worked with steel before and totally loved it. It did help that we had the legend that is Sonny Garrish on the session.”

Are there any particular Scottish or NE influences in your songwriting?

“We were influenced by NE giants Johnny and the Copycats. We supported them a few times, including their 25th anniversary gig. Now I believe they’ve recently been celebrating their 50th year playing. They were in Hamburg at the same time as The Beatles, and had a deal with EMI, a proper rock n roll band.

“I’m also friends with Gavin Sutherland, of the Sutherland Brothers who wrote Sailing among other greats. He records at the same studio as me and both of us are helped by the Beechwood Studio recording colossus that is James Hunter, one of the best sound engineers I’ve ever met.”

We’ve got a review copy of Do What You Love and it’s impressive. We’ll carry a review soon. It’s available from any CD stockist and as a download.

Thanks to Colin and to Martin at Birnam CD Ltd.

Jun 142012

Willows Animal Sanctuary announced two new patrons – Paul Rodgers and his wife Cynthia Kereluk.  The couple were at Willows answering questions, visiting the animals, even playing a few acoustic bars of Bad Company Songs last week.  Would the voice behind Bad Company, Free and The Firm be at home on an Aberdeenshire farm?  Yes, and then some, as Aberdeen Voice’s Suzanne Kelly found out.

When I last spoke to Paul Rodgers it was for a split second while backstage when The Firm – Jimmy Page, Tony Franklin, Chris Slade and Paul Rodgers – were on tour in America, playing massive arenas and Madison Square Garden… I was a very lucky girl indeed.

When I saw him next, he was petting a cat at Willows, comparatively in the middle of nowhere.  Willows had just celebrated its twelfth anniversary, and in these troubled times is financially stretched.

The Rodgers’ have been supporting Willows and adopting animals there for some time, but what more could Paul and Cynthia do?   And how in the world did they find out about Willows to begin with?

Well, they had to be genuine animal lovers, there is no other way they’d wind up in this part of the world.  The press conference started and Paul launched straight into the subject:-

He jokes about finding Willows.

“I thought we were on our way to Sweden, and Cynthia persuaded me this was a shortcut.” 

Cynthia explains in a little more detail

“We were on our way to Sweden where Paul was going to perform with Sandi Thom. She told us about Willows before, and we wanted to see it.”

Paul continues

“This past Christmas we decided to give our nieces and nephews sponsored animals as presents.  I think half of them are still wondering where their gift is.”

The couple sponsored a dozen or more animals for life last year around Christmas time, which was when I recall first seeing their names linked to Willows.

Cynthia continues

“We spoke with Jenny about fundraising. We wanted to help, and we’ve come up with a few ideas.  No one wants to see it shut.”

 ‘Two wounded creatures’ as Cynthia put it, had found each other and helped each other

The ideas they launched include an international raffle to celebrate the twelve years of Willows’ operations – the top prizes include an acoustic guitar played and signed by Paul, a painted tambourine, other autographed presents, and two mystery gifts.

There will also be an online charity shop (donations needed) and the plan is to raise Willow’s profile, particularly in Edinburgh and Glasgow.  Raffle tickets are on sale now, available online at http://www.willowsanimals.com/

Paul added

“I have a huge respect… I am amazed that they take in horses, donkeys, stick insects– ‘all creatures great and small.’”

Cynthia then brought up the importance of Willows to people.  She retold one particular story -there are dozens – about the animal assisted therapy Willows offers, and how it has changed, if not saved lives.  The story concerns a young boy who was anorexic, a rare but increasing problem for young men, who was involved with Willows therapy.

One day he arrived unexpectedly, just after Willows had accepted a very badly treated horse.  This particular creature had a fractured pelvis, yet its owners were trying to ride it.  The horse became understandably more and more ‘of a diva’ and when it was sent to Willows, the fracture was discovered.  By then the horse had little time or trust for people.

The horse was still in an upset state, and was in a field on its own.  Willows staff could see the young boy was going up to the horse and they were quite concerned as the boy didn’t know the horse’s sad story or condition.  Well, somehow the horse and the boy got along famously from the first minute they met.

‘Two wounded creatures’ as Cynthia put it, had found each other and helped each other.  The horse improved, and so did the boy, who is now living a happy, stable life.

 Cynthia has just been describing a cat they had, which had been hit by several cars in a horrible accident

The story of a little girl in a wheelchair was told; she was in a crowd visiting the sanctuary, and was having problems seeing what was going on.  A horse named Ninja put its head onto her lap and gently nuzzled her.  These may seem like little things to you and me, but for people who have problems, such little things can make an entire world of difference.  This is not sentiment, it is fact.

“There are over 300 animals here, and there’s a story for each one” Paul says, “and there’s a book in it.”  This thought gives me some ideas, we will see.

The Rodgers and Willows staff explain that the government does not give them grants any longer, due to the economic crisis and budget cuts.  They have had to be self-funding for the past year and a half.  Not exactly a great position when you are a last-chance sanctuary for so many unwanted wild, domestic and farm animals.

“The lives of animals are not something you can walk away from” Paul says, and that’s how I feel myself.

Before the press call got going, I had started to ask if the Rodgers had any pets.  I thought I misheard them, because I thought I heard ‘thirty-six cats’; (I put this down to my listening to too much loud music over the years).

“We had thirty-six cats at one point” Paul says – they were all rescued animals.

Cynthia has just been describing a cat they had, which had been hit by several cars in a horrible accident. This poor pet needed help with all of its needs, and it sounded to me like it wound up with the right people.  There is chez Rodgers, a Shepherd crossbreed which weighs 91 pounds, and currently they are down a mere eight cats. Somehow through all this it emerges that Cynthia is allergic to cats – my sympathies indeed, as I am too, despite having two rescue cats myself.

“We have had some interesting trips to Mexico” Rodgers says.

His experiences in Mexico are far from any rock star cliché – they go there and bring back abandoned cats.  They describe going back through US customs with several cats at a time, and because it is standard Food & Drug Administration procedure, they have to declare that the cats ‘are not for human consumption’.  Such are the workings of governments.   

“All of our friends have two cats now – we meet them at the airport and they just take the cats then.”

Well, you can’t say they’re not cat lovers.

The press call then takes a tour through Willows to visit the various animals, something I’d been greatly looking forward to doing again. I was on the lookout for some old favourites of mine.   Sandi Thom has adopted a giant, 18 hands high horse named McGill, who’s out in a pasture. We visit Arthur the cat, found living on waste ground in an empty paint can, the lovely three-legged Elly, and a host of other creatures, all warmly greeted by the Rodgers.

I ask Cynthia for a comment on what I see as being one of the biggest problems at present – people abandoning animals.  She has this to say:-

“People fall on hard times.  Reach out for help; don’t be embarrassed.  But you need to treat living things as you would like to be treated: pet ownership is a lifelong commitment.  There are those who will come behind and help.”

And on that note I leave her, tending to Arthur the cat that needs some medicine.   If you can come behind and help Willows, then please get in touch.

Coda:  Look out for Paul Rodgers performing with an orchestra works from his career.  Also look out for a Sandi Thom concert at Willows in July.


Jun 072012

PAUL RODGERS, iconic rock/blues singer and songwriter from FREE, BAD COMPANY and THE FIRM, along with his wife Cynthia Kereluk, visited Willows Animal Sanctuary on Tuesday the 5th of June. Aberdeen Voice’s Suzanne Kelly was on hand to meet the new patrons and say hello to some old friends.

Willows Animal Sanctuary received a huge boost when Paul Rodgers and his wife Cynthia announced this past Tuesday that they would be active patrons of the animal charity, which celebrates its 12th anniversary this year.

The couple spent a considerable time speaking to the media and to fans, sharing their (considerable) rescue animal stories, touring the facilities, visiting the animals – and crucially launching a raft of helpful fundraising initiatives.

To celebrate the 12th Anniversary of Willows’ services to animals (rescued or abandoned farm, domestic and wild creatures) and people (with animal assisted therapy), there will be a raffle, featuring prizes connected to and autographed by the new patrons. 

An acoustic guitar, freshly signed for the raffle by Mr Rodgers (or ‘Paul’ as he said we should call him) was used for an impromptu version of ‘All Right Now’.

The assembled press did not make for great backing singers it’s true – but it was a great deal of fun.  Other raffle prizes include:

  • a tambourine painted by Cynthia and signed by the couple;
  • a signed limited edition photo;
  • autographed CDS and DVDs;
  • two mystery prizes (but definitely not a horse)

AND a DVD will go to the first 50 people who donate £20 (so – do get in there!  – Willows website has details for donating via PayPal)

Along with their patronage and the anniversary raffle, the couple’s plans include:-

  •   an online charity shop – people are encouraged to donate goods (details tbc)
  •   an increased fundraising profile – the charity will increase its visibility, particularly in Glasgow and Edinburgh but internationally as well.

Willows, like other shelters, is under great pressures – economic downturn, increase in animal feed costs, unpredictable veterinary treatments, and unforeseen rescues all take a toll.  Despite the excellent results the animal assisted therapy delivers, Willows receives no Government funding at all.  As both Paul and Cynthia said, ‘We all want to see Willows continue.’

There is a full programme of monthly events, which will include a Sandi Thom concert on 15 July.  Ms Thom grew up in the area, is a long-time supporter, and has adopted several animals (including a beautiful, formidable 18 hand horse named McGill).

Thom was instrumental in bringing Willows to Paul and Cynthia’s attention.

Within the first few minutes of the press conference, it became clear Paul and Cynthia are committed, genuine animal lovers.

Their stories include homing more than a few rescue animals (36 rescue cats at a peak), and physically rescuing cats from Mexico (more on their experiences will be published next week).

This was their first visit to Willows, but it was clear they had done their homework, for they knew the majority of the animals’ names and the stories behind them.  For instance Cynthia knew several of the cats and had asked to see specific ones, and was soon tending to long-term resident Arthur, who needed some medication.

A clear favourite, a sweet three-legged cat named Elly seemed to be following Paul and Cynthia as we toured the farm.  They say that cats know who cat lovers are; it certainly seemed to be true.

“There are over 300 animals here, and a story for each one,” Rodgers said

“…there’s definitely a book to be written about Willows.”   

I do believe he’s right.

Sixteen year-old Kelsey was also on hand to help with the press conference; he gives some of his time each Sunday to come and help out – which is no mean feat with dozens of stalls to clean, hundreds of animals to groom, and a mountain of farm chores.  His favourite is a delightful pony named Amber.

Jenny Gray, Manager said “We are delighted that Paul Rodgers and Cynthia Kereluk Rodgers are visiting Willows Animals Sanctuary. We have talked extensively about the problems faced by Willows and it is wonderful that we are going to finally meet them! Willows is in trouble at the moment as we only have funding until the end of July.”

“Recently, we have been overwhelmed by the number of animals needing help and we urgently need more donations to help us to continue helping unwanted, abused and abandoned animals. We are entirely funded by public donations and receive no government funding.

“Unlike larger charities, we have no reserves of money and are desperately short of funds. We specialise in helping elderly or more vulnerable animals that have already been refused help by well-known large national charities. We can only continue to help needy animals with your support. 

“At present, Willows cares for over 60 horses, ponies and donkeys and more than 100 farm animals and birds, approximately 60 cats and dogs, 30 rabbits and many other small animals and reptiles. Many of these animals are very elderly, have been treated cruelly, neglected or are simply unwanted – Willows is their only hope.”

“We also have an on-going Animal – Assisted Therapy programme for vulnerable people in the community. This programme has helped many people gain confidence and new skills enabling them to seek employment or other opportunities. It has proved to be very beneficial for our clients’ on-going recovery and we helped hundreds of people each year. We need your support to keep this hugely beneficial programme going.”


“We are currently just down from 15 cats to 8 and have a 95 lb rescue dog, so my fingers are crossed that Cynthia does not fall in love with yet another set of sad eyes.Willows does such a great job, and we want to see how we can help them secure their future so that they can continue to care for, love and find forever homes for these abandoned sweet souls.”

Aberdeen Voice readers can contact Willows as follows (why not arrange a visit, adopt an animal and/or buy a raffle ticket?):-

Mar 012012

Aberdeen Voice photographer Rob and I attended Willow’s Animal Sanctuary Open Day on 25 February and had an absolutely wonderful time. Were it not for the snow which started when we were there, Rob would have had a hard time getting me to leave. Suzanne Kelly reviews a splendid day out.

It was a nice drive to Willows from Aberdeen; the countryside is beautiful.

Willows was well signposted, and a helper was on the main road to ensure people found their way.

It is a spacious and friendly haven for animals and people. Getting to know some of each was a pleasure.

I met Sue during the event, and she told me that when she and her husband moved to Scotland six years ago, they soon discovered Willows, had visited and supported them during that time and wanted to do more.

It was then that Kate found that there were like-minded people who really wanted to help, so they were introduced. Now they have a fundraising team who have thrown themselves into their task with a will.
Although they have only been together for about fifteen months, they have already raised over £9,000 through, to name but a few events, stalls at open days, coffee mornings and bingo evenings. The team now numbers eight, Sandy, Sue, Ann, David, Ashleigh, Leigh, Lorna and George.

There are many people who help with donations of prizes etc, and who help support the team in various ways. They have lots of new ideas for future events, so have confidence that the visitors will really enjoy themselves whilst supporting Willows

“Willows not only helps animals, but we’re definitely helping people as well,” Sue tells me, “We’ve seen people blossom.” 

The office has a noticeboard divided into several sections. There are general news stories and items about animal sentience.

Yes, they do think, and feel, and know both pain and fear as well as love and happiness.

One section was about the fantastic work Willows does in bringing people with special abilities together with the animals. Both sides benefit from this interaction.

We now know that people with conditions such as autism improve hugely through interaction with animals. Horses and ponies can provide unique, valuable therapeutic benefits.

Sue and I talk a bit more, and she tells me of a fairly new arrival, McGill, a gigantic horse at 18.2 hands.

“His owners had rented him out, and then of course, you never know whether there were any problems, and consequently, when he came to Willows he was very nervous. And he had some behavioural issues”, was how Sue described McGill.

Having worked with horses in my distant past, I was ready for a highly-strung encounter with a giant. Well, McGill was indeed a giant, but he had an unbelievably sweet temperament.

Rob and I stayed and stroked him for quite some time; many others did too. If this horse had had any emotional issues, they were a thing of the past. Sandi Thom has since adopted him. She originally had adopted another animal, but it had sadly passed away.

Well, we and families patted goats, sheep, pigs, llamas, ponies, horses and the most amazingly friendly selection of cats you could ever find.

The majority of them sat on a large hay bale, which the sun was hitting. They were all soaking up the sun and loved being patted.

I particularly fell for a little feline called Gingersnap, and another gentleman called Arthur.

Arthur had been living in a tin can in a bit of scrub ground when they found him.
Sadly, he lost both his ears to skin cancer, not uncommon in white cats. I was completely won over.

We finally had a chance to talk to Sandi Thom. Her family are from the general area, and they seem to have a love of horses going back generations. Sandi seemed genuinely glad to be there, and signed several autographs as we spoke.

She’d also donated a very gorgeous autographed acoustic guitar as a raffle prize. We mentioned the generosity of Paul Rodgers and his wife, who adopted some thirteen animals.

Paul has donated several signed copies of his new DVD for Willows to sell (yes, I’d bought one). Ms Thom commented that people she’d met in the music industry often seemed to have a soft spot for animals. She clearly did.

Before we left, we spoke to Mr and Mrs Reid, who seemed to enjoy visiting the horses and have been coming for quite some time.

If the snows hadn’t started and if we didn’t have a fairly long drive back to Aberdeen, I might have stayed until they threw me out.
If I didn’t already have two rescue cats which are just a touch on the needy side, I just might have adopted another.

Please visit the Willows website to learn more. Willows helps wild, domestic and farm animals – and people of all ages.

If you can help, please get in touch. http://www.willowsanimals.com/

Nov 242011

Voice’s David Innes reviews the new CD by Pharis & Jason Romero,  ‘A passing Glimpse’, with more than a passing interest.

Taking time off from building high quality banjos in a British Columbian forest, Pharis and Jason Romero, both already well-known in their own right in North America, release A Passing Glimpse, a delicately simple but emotional debut as a duo.

Drawing heavily on traditional ‘old-time’ sources and with accompaniment unadorned beyond their own instrumentation, A Passing Glimpse is a triumph of melodic and harmonic simplicity.

Their own compositions, credited largely to Pharos, including the outstanding ‘Forsaken Love’ and ‘Lay Down In Sorrow’, stand tall alongside those of The Carter Family, Leadbelly and others.

In delivery, the harmonising is resonant, intuitive and made to sound effortless, never better than on Dottie Rambo’s gospel ‘It’s Me Again Lord’. Limiting the instrumentation to guitar and banjo and featuring Jason’s considerable picking skills in tight, disciplined solos and an inspired instrumental attack on ‘Cumberland Gap’, adds to the back porch organic atmosphere of an album which has been an ever-present in American and Canadian roots charts since its release.

A Passing Glimpse