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Early Summer News!

Hi there folks.

Greetings from Hummingbird Towers.

There’s only one week to go until my first Redwood Mountain show at Summerhall in Edinburgh on April 27th. This is part of Tradfest and is a Soundhouse Promotion.

‘Redwood Mountain is a brand new duo featuring acclaimed singer-songwriter Dean Owens and traditional fiddle player Amy Geddes.

Redwood Mountain perform transatlantic folk songs. Most of them are built around the lyrics of the classic folk songs featured in The Book Of American Folk Songs by archivist Alan Lomax. Re-imagined with new melodies, Redwood Mountain breathe new life into these wonderful old songs.

Add in a few Owens originals and some other transatlantic classics, stripped back to just vocals, guitar and fiddle and you’ll find a heady brew – a pure and organic blend of the old with the new’.
Here’s a taster:

Ticket info:

Amy and I are really looking forward to this one. We will have copies of our debut album available for the first time at this show.

There are other Redwood Mountain shows in the pipeline over the summer, including The Catstrandin New Galloway on July 21st and the Southern Fried Festival in Perth 27th-30th July (details for this one coming soon).

I’m delighted to announce I will be playing the Maverick Festival on July 1st. Details here:

I’ll also have some news very soon of more summer solo shows.

A few of you have been asking me when the follow up to Into The Sea is going to be ready. I hope to have exciting news on this in the next few weeks, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be out until the new year. I’ve just had so much on this past year or so with various projects and I need to give them some of my time just now. Between recording stuff with Redwood Mountain, The Whisky Hearts and the Buffalo Blood project there’s not been a lot of free time.

Having said this, the new album is now pretty much in the bag and just needs a little bit of tweaking. I’m extremely excited about it and I think it will make a great follow up to Into The Sea. I’ll tell you more about it in due course.

As well as the Redwood Mountain release I plan on releasing something else with The Whisky Hearts before the year’s out. Not sure what form this will take yet, but we have some recordings ready to go. Again, it just depends on time.

Another wee project I’d like to do this year is a ‘Best Of’ solo record. Basically I plan on going into the studio to record a bunch of songs chosen by YOU! Yes, if you’d like to hear me re-record a solo version of one of my previously released songs then let me know your favourites. Maybe limit your choice to two and I’ll see what I can do. It can be anything from my back catalogue, including the songs I recorded with The Felsons. I think this could be a fun thing to do and I’d really appreciate your help choosing the songs.

That’s about it for now folks.

I hope to see you at one of the shows over the Summer and remember if you’d like to see me play a venue near you or if you’d like to host a House Concert of your own then drop my manager – Morag Neil a line at:

Thanks again for all your support.

Cheers for now.


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Festivals, Jason Isbell, Buffalo Blood, Danny & The Champs and Hank Williams!! Summer/Autumn 2016

Dean Owens

Hi there folks.

Edinburgh festival greetings from Hummingbird Towers.

Hope you’ve been enjoying the summer and getting some nice weather wherever you are. It’s not been the best summer in Scotland, but thankfully I’ve witnessed some blue skies on my recent trips to New Mexico, Nashville and California.

The first thing I want to tell you about is my new Go Fund Me page. I’d be very grateful if you would click on this link and take a look at how you can help me make my next record – Southern Wind:

I’m very excited about getting the chance to go back to Nashville to work with the Into The Sea team again and would really appreciate you sharing the link with your friends.

Some of you have been asking me what I was up to out in New Mexico. I was making an album and documentary with the musicians/filmakers/producers of Neighbourhoods Apart Productions– Neilson Hubbard, Joshua Britt, Jim Demain and Audrey Spillman. The project is called Buffalo Blood. The songs deal with the subject of the displacement of people, migration, immigration and refugees set against the backdrop of the Native American story and the demise of the buffalo. The songs are full of both real and fictional characters and events. We recorded and filmed in the stunningly beautiful canyons of New Mexico in Georgia O’Keeffe country. It’s going to take us some time to put it all together, but we hope Buffalo Blood will see the light of day next year sometime. It’s one of the most amazing things I’ve ever been involved in.

I’ve been very busy over the past few months and got to play some great festivals and shows. Really enjoyed my time at Summer Tyne in Gateshead and Southern Fried in Perth, plus a lovely wee show on the island of Easdale. I played the first of my Hank shows – Settin’ The Woods On Fire at Southern Fried with The Celtabilly Allstars – my old friends Kevin McGuire and Stuart Nisbet.  We had such a blast. Next up it’s our big Edinburgh Fringe show at The Queens Hall on the 24th August. For this show we’ll be joined by our special guests from the Shetland Islands – singer-songwriterSheila Henderson and fiddle player Bryan Gear. Tickets are still available for what promises to be a special night ,celebrating the songs of the one and only Hank Williams. Get your tickets here:

I recorded a limited edition album of Hank songs for these shows with Kev on double bass and Stuart on lap steel and guitar. This will be available at this show only and this is the final Hank show of the year. Here’s a taster –

Coming soon is the Deluxe version of Into The Sea. This will be released in the early Autumn onDrumfire Records and features some bonus tracks.

My next single will be Virginia Street (Bob Harris’ at BBC Radio 2′s favourite track on the album) and there’s a new video to go with it. I’ll be sharing this very soon.

Going back to the shows. I’m playing a wee set at the Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh next Friday: and I’m really looking forward to opening for both Jason Isbell in Edinburgh on Monday 22nd August and a full tour with Danny And The Champions Of The World in September. Jason is one of my favourite artists around just now and Danny & The Champs are a brilliant band. Check this flyer or my ‘dates’ page for dates:

One of the shows on my tour I’m looking forward to playing for the first time is The Convent in Stroud. You can get tickets here:

and you can also watch the show online by clicking on this link: 

I hope I’m playing a venue somewhere near you at some point over the coming weeks. If I’m not then please do let my manager Morag Neil at Scary Biscuits know about your local venue. Also if you’d be interested in hosting a show of your own or House Concert don’t hesitate to get in touch with Morag.

Thanks again for all your support. It’s greatly appreciated.

Enjoy the rest of the summer.



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Summer News

Hi there folks.

Greetings from Hummingbird Towers.

Well I guess summer is here….kinda!!

It looks like it’s going to be a busy one. I’ve a pile of gigs coming up over the summer months. Here’s the ones that are confirmed so far:

There will be more added so just keep an eye on the website and Facebook etc.

There’s so many I’m looking forward to. Really excited to be playing SummerTyne in Gateshead with Gretchen Peters and The Convent in Stroud for the first time and of course the wonderful Southern Fried festival in Perth again.

Southern Fried, the Glad Café and the Queens Hall shows are all Settin’ The Woods On Fire shows. Celebrating the songs of Hank Williams. I’ll be doing these shows with The Celtabilly Allstars, featuring my old pals Kevin McGuire (The Felsons) and Stuart Nisbet. Other guests include Martha Healy for the Glad Café and from Shetland – singer-songwriter – Sheila Henderson and fiddle player – Bryan Gear. I feel very lucky to have such great guests. These should be special shows.

I recorded a limited edition album of Hank Williams songs for these shows with Kev on double bass and Stuart on lap steel and guitar. Settin’ The Woods On Fire will be available at these shows only. Here’s a taster –

Speaking of recording, I’ve just been in The Slate Room recording studios with engineer – Garry Boylerecording some new material with The Whisky Hearts. Very excited about this. I’m not sure when it will see the light of day at the moment, but hopefully something will be released this year.

My single – Cotton Snow was warmly received and got a fair bit of airplay. Just incase you missed it, here’s the video and iTunes link –

Going back to the shows, I’m really looking forward to opening for both Jason Isbell in Edinburgh and a full tour with Danny And The Champions Of The World in September. Jason is one of my favourite artists around just now and Danny & The Champs are a brilliant band.

Some other stuff:

The recording of the new Ags Connolly album went really well. I was on producer duties and look forward to it’s release.

A special Deluxe Edition of Into The Sea is almost ready and will be released on Drumfire Records. It features a few bonus tracks. I’ll let you know when we have a release date.

Massive thanks to those of you who made it along to The Men From Leith concert. What a special night that was.

A gig you may want to check out over the summer is the Hannah Aldridge & Lilly Hiatt gig in Edinburgh. The best deal is if you email to reserve (no booking fee) Should be a good one.

I’m just getting ready to head off to the States again on a very special road trip. I’ll tell you all about it soon.

I hope I’m playing a venue somewhere near you at some point over the summer. If I’m not then please do let my manager Morag Neil at Scary Biscuits know about your local venue. Also if you’d be interested in hosting a show of your own or House Concert don’t hesitate to get in touch with Morag.

Thanks again for all your support. It really is greatly appreciated.

I’ll leave you with this – One of my favourite Guy Clarksongs. Guy sadly passed away last week. He was a truly great singer-songwriter and a big inspiration to me and many of my songwriter friends.

Take care.


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January 2016 Gig News!!

Greetings from Hummingbird Towers.

Just a brief bit of news for you.

Here are some up-coming shows:

16 Jan – Celtic Connections (with Patty Griffin)

27 Jan – Celtic Connections (Sister Cities Tartan Ties) – The National Piping Centre, 7.30pm, £13

29 Jan – The Tower, Helensburgh (Sister Cities Tartan Ties), 7.30pm, £10/£8
Ticket sales not online yet; tickets – tel 01436 820869

30 Jan – Paisley Arts Centre (Sister Cities Tartan Ties), 7.30pm, £10/£8

31 Jan – Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh (Sister Cities Tartan Ties), 7pm, £10 (adv)/£12 on the door (cash)

1 Feb – opening for Gretchen Peters, The Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, 7.30pm (£18.70 (inc bf))

Emoji1st March – Leith Folk Club

25, 26 Mar – TBA (Shetland) News on this very soon.

6 May – The Men From Leith (Dick Gaughan, Blue Rose Code and Dean Owens & The Whisky Hearts), 7.30pm, £16
A night of celebration of the songwriting and musical talents of three Men From Leith – outstanding musicians who all hail from the same small corner of Edinburgh

Hope you can make it along to one of the shows.

Cheers for now.


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Dean Owens

Hi there folks.

December’s here! I guess that’s us well and truly into the festive season.

I can’t believe how quickly this year has gone by.

There’s been a lot happening and there’s still a few exciting things to come.

Thanks to everyone who made it along to the recent shows. I had some great gigs with my band The Whisky Hearts, especially The Glad Café in Glasgow and The Spiegeltent in Edinburgh. The band is just going from strength the strength. We’ll need to think about doing some recording together in 2016.

The first thing to tell you about is the very exciting news that I will be on the Bob Harris Country show on BBC Radio 2 this Thursday at 7pm It really was a huge honour and thrill for me to meet the great man and sing a couple of songs for him. We had a lovely chat so be sure to tune in.

Next up I’m going to re-boot the Snowglobe campaign throughout December. You may recall that I released the track Snowglobe as a single two or three years back to help raise some funds and awareness for the mental health charity Mind. Mind do a great job and I’d really like to support them again with Snowglobe. Here’s the video for the single –
Please share with your friends and request it on your local radio station. Funds raised from the download of the single will go to Mind. This time of year in particular can be a very tough time for those who are battling depression and mental illness so let’s shine a little light on the great work Mind do. Here’s the link to the download – and the Mind website –

Moving on into January and it’s my Celtic Connections show with the wonderful Patty Griffin at City Halls on Saturday the 16th. I’ll have The Whisky Hearts with me for this one. Can’t wait for this as I’m a massive Patty Griffin fan. Get your tickets here:

There’s tons of stuff in the pipeline for 2016. A special show has just been confirmed and this might be one you’ll want to get in your diary now – The Men From Leith – Dick Gaughan, Blue Rose Codeand Dean Owens & The Whisky Hearts at The Queens Hall, Edinburgh May 6th.

Very exited about this one. Dick Gaughan is a giant of the Scottish music scene – the only performer to hold the dual honours of a Lifetime Achievement award by BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards and induction into the Scots Traditional Music Hall of Fame.

In the space of a short few years and two stellar albums, Blue Rose Code, Leith-born Ross Wilson, has gone from songwriting in the obscurity of an East London flat to being celebrated as a legacy artist. Details about the show will be available soon. In the meantime you can keep an eye on the Queens Hall website:

I’ll keep you updated as more live dates and news comes in.

I want to play as much as I can in in 2016, especially with The Whisky Hearts so if you’d like to see me with the band or solo at a venue near you please let us know about that particular venue. Just contact my manager Morag Neil via my website – It’s always great to hear about new places to play. Also drop us a line if you’d like to host a House Concert of your own. Speaking of House Concerts I’ve just agreed to play one in Paisley on Saturday the 12th December. This is one of my favourite house concerts to play. If you live in that neck of the woods and would like to attend there are still a few places left. Just contact me or Morag and we’ll give you the details.

If you’d like to give Into The Sea or any of my albums as Christmas presents then please make your purchases via my website asap to guarantee getting them in time. I also have some vinyl copies ofWhisky Hearts back in stock. It’s red vinyl with a gatefold sleeve, plus you get the cd with it. I’m not advertising these on the site so drop me a line if you’d be interested in getting hold of a copy.

That’s it for now folks.

Massive thanks again for all your support over the past few months.

Have a great festive season.



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Hi folks.

Autumn greetings from Hummingbird Towers.

Wow! October is here already.

September was fun. I’ve had a lot going on these past few weeks.

I got the chance to return to one of my favourite places – Nashville and had an amazing trip.

I was over there for a few things, including AMA week (Americana Music Association festival and conference), but mainly to lay the foundations for a brand new film and album project. I don’t want to say too much about this just yet as it’s very early days, but it’s a very exciting new collaboration with the producer of Into The SeaNeilson Hubbard, musician and filmmaker Joshua Britt, photographer and filmmaker Jim Demain and singer-songwriter Audrey Rose Spillman. I’ll tell you more about it when we’re much further down the road with it.

While in Nashville I also got to do a fair bit of writing with my dear friend Will Kimbrough. Will truly is one of the very best musicians I have ever had the privilege to work with. We wrote a bunch of songs which hopefully will make it onto a future record. Might be my record, might be Will’s record. Could be both!

Will and I also played a wee show together during AMA at The (new) Family Wash. It was an amazing night of music in this fab venue featuring a whole host of singer-songwriters, including Kim Richey, Gareth Dunlop, Jeff Black, Will and his band, Phil Madeira and Sam Lewis. It was so great to play a show with Will on guitar and it was made even more special when Kim joined us to sing with me on Evergreen.

It was also fun to hang out with my old friends The Mavericks down at The Ryman. Congrats to them on their Group Of The Year award.

Nashville is such a fantastic place. Can’t wait to return there in 2016 to continue with the new project.

I have a few things coming up over the Autumn and Winter months. Here’s what’s confirmed so far:

My big news is that the video for my next single – Up On The Hill is finished and here it is:

I’m over the moon with how it’s turned out. Massive thanks to Ruth Barrie and Dylan Matthew at Waltzer Films for doing such a fantastic job and to Jonny Magowan for his beautiful drone camera work, plus all those that donated through Kickstarter.

Up On The Hill will be released on October via Drumfire Records.

This coming Tuesday, 6th October I’m doing a session for Another Country with Ricky Ross on BBC Radio Scotland. I’ll have The Whisky Hearts with me for this one. Tune in on the night for our live session Should be a great show. Ricky always plays some fantastic music.

Here’s my upcoming gigs:


25th Bridge Inn, Aviemore



3rd Lemon Tree, Aberdeen (with The Whisky Hearts)

6th House Concert, Darlington (contact Morag Neil via the website for details)

7th Slaughtered Lamb, London (part of London Folk & Roots Festival)–roots-festival–dean-owens-the-slaughtered-lamb/

12th Glad Café, Glasgow (with The Whisky Hearts)

14th Village Hall, Pathhead Midlothian (with The Whisky Hearts. Contact Morag Neil via the website)

29th Spiegeltent, Edinburgh (with The Whisky Hearts. Part of the Edinburgh’s Christmas Festival 2015)


There will be more shows to follow. I’ll let you know about these ASAP.

That’s pretty much it for now folks.

I still have have a very limited number of Dean Owens T-Shirts available directly from me. If you’d like to buy one drop me a line and I’ll give you the information. They’re only available in M, L & XL.

Remember that Into The Sea is available direct from me via the website, plus from all good record stores and all the usual online outlets.

If you’d like to see me at a venue near you on the next tour or host a House Concert yourself then drop my manager Morag Neil a line at with your suggestions.

I hope to see you somewhere over the coming Autumn and Winter months.

Cheers for now.


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To all those of you listed here, thanks so much for all your help with my Kickstarter campaign to make the video for Up On The Hill –

Paul and Ashley Adsett, Ruth Bailey, Ros Barclay, Graeme Barrie, Paul Begley, Stella Birrell, Garry Boyle, Colin Bradshaw, John Campbell, Keith Carlyon, Ray Canham, Carol Cooper, Paula Cuccurullo, Hilary Dawson, Van DeLisle, Diane Dixon, Alan Doak, Brian Doig, Gordon McDowell, Michael Elliot, Sue Fernott, Kevin Ford, Helen Forrest, Bev Forsyth, Amy Geddes, Lorna Harbour, Jean and John Jones, Colin Larmour, Gillian Learmonth, Cat Leeper, Derek Lees, Donald McAllister, Ralph MacGillivray, Michael McGuire, Allan MacKay, Kelda Manley, Mel, Craig Murray, Laura Norris, Cometary Orbit, Mike Pass, Phil Penman, Jonas Rieback, Jesse Stern, Rob Van Vlijmen, Willie and Morag.


Dean x


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Hi folks.


Greetings from Hummingbird Towers.


I hope you’re enjoying some summer sun wherever you are.


I’ve just finished my run of dates down in the London area. I had a great time playing the shows and doing all the various radio sessions.


Into The Sea continues to receive great reviews. I think this is the best reaction I’ve had to any of my albums.


I have a few things coming up over the next few weeks.


My next show is a solo show in Gateshead during the weekend of the SummerTyne Americana festival. I’m at The Central on the 18th July (this Saturday). Tickets –


Then it’s onto the Southern Fried festival in Perth where I’ll have The Whisky Hearts with me. I’m really looking forward to this one. I love this festival and have played it many times. We’re playing The Salutation Hotel at 2pm on the 1st August. Here’s the details –


On the 2nd of August I’ll be with The Whisky Hearts again at the Traquair Fair in Innerleithen in the Scottish Borders at 4pm –


On August 15th it’s my special, one off Edinburgh Fringe show – Cash Back (Songs I Learned From Johnny) at Central Hall. For this show I will have my old mate from The Felsons – Kevin McGuire with me on double bass, plus some special guests. The show is based around my Cash Back album and will feature songs I learned from listening to Johnny Cash, plus songs he inspired me to write in both my solo career and with The Felsons. It should be a fun night in a beautiful venue. Get your tickets here –

I will be doing more touring later in the year. I’ll keep you posted on this.


It will soon be time for us to shoot the video for Up On The Hill. We’ll be filming soon in the Edinburgh area and may need some ‘dog extras’ for the video. If you’d like your dog to be in the video them drop me a line and I’ll pass it on to the director. Ha ha. Rock n Roll!!


Here’s the Slate Rooms Session I did for the good people at Folk Radio UK

This was recorded live by the awesome Garry Boyle at his lovely new Slate Room Studios in Pencaitland, just outside Edinburgh.


I also wanted to share this cracking review of my recent show at The Hat Club in Beaconsfield with you. This comes from Paul Woodgate at Eye Level With The Stylus


That’s pretty much it for now folks.


Remember that Into The Sea is available direct from me via the website, plus from all good record stores and all the usual online outlets.


If you’d like to see me at a venue near you on the next tour or host a House Concert yourself then drop my manager Morag Neil a line at with your suggestions.


I hope to see you somewhere over the summer.









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Hi there.

Greetings from Hummingbird Towers.

It’s been an extremely busy past few weeks with the Into The Sea album launch shows, radio sessions and press stuff.


All the album launch shows went really well. Thanks to everyone who came out to support me.


For those of you who missed the shows hopefully you can make it along to one of the following:


8th June, GlasgowBBC Music at the Quay (Iain Anderson show) – Free 1.30-3.30pm. With The Whisky Hearts.


11th June, Dundee – Clarks On Lindsey St


12th June, Leith (Edinburgh) – Leith Theatre Sessions @ Thomas Morton Hall (part of Leith Festival) With The Whisky Hearts


19th June, Stirling – Tolbooth. With The Whisky Hearts.


29th June, Brighton – The Greys



Wed 1st July & Thur 2nd July, London – The Green Note, Camden.


3rd July, Twickenham, Venue TBC


4th July, Beaconsfield – The Hat Club.


1st Aug, Perth – Southern Fried Festival.

Afternoon show with The Whisky Hearts at The Salutation Hotel, 2pm.


2nd Aug, Traquair (Borders) – Traquair Fair (details TBC) with The Whisky Hearts


There will be other shows so I will keep you posted as new dates come in or keep an eye on the website.


Here is a fantastic review of my London album launch show at the Green Note in Camden thanks to


It was a fantastic night.


While I was down south I was invited to do a session at the legendary Bob Harris’ home with his son Miles Harris for an Under The Apple Tree podcast. You should be able to see this around the middle of June here –


There’s some exciting news to come on a future session.


Into The Sea continues to pick up rave reviews. I’m over the moon with the reaction to the album. If you don’t have a copy yet it’s available from all the usual outlets and also directly from me via the website.


Something I’m looking for your help with is my Kickstarter campaign to help make a video for the next single Up On The Hill. Me and my dog Alfie are hoping to go up on the hill with some of his furry buddies to make the film. Find out how to get involved by watching the short information film here. Really appreciate your support with this –


It should be a fun thing to do and if you want your own dog to be in the video let me know via the campaign page. Thanks.


Well that’s almost it for now.


Remember that if you want to see me play in your area and know of a venue I may not have heard of then drop me a line with the details or you could also consider hosting your own House Concert. It’s very easy to do and can be a fantastic experience. If you have any questions about hosting a House Concert then ask away.


I hope you get some early summer sun wherever you are and that I see you down the road somewhere soon.


Thanks again for all your support.


Cheers for now.



PS remember you can ‘like’ my Facebook page here: and ‘follow’ me on Twitter here:

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Hi there.


Springtime greetings from Hummingbird Towers.


Just a wee news update:


Copies of my new album – Into The Sea have arrived at Drumfire Records. Hurrah!!! And are now ready for pre-order here:


It’s not officially released until May 11th, but you’ll also be able to pre-order soon on iTunes. Plus you’ll be able to pick up a copy at the up-coming album launch shows listed below.


My special exclusive Into The Sea track this week is It Could Be Worse. This might be my favourite track on the album. It was such a special moment in the studio when we recorded this. You can listen here for the rest of this week only – A new track will be available from Monday.


Here is a short film Into The Sea ‘The Making Of’ Part 1

Part 2 coming soon.


On the live front here are my confirmed dates so far. Unless noted otherwise these are all with The Whisky Hearts Calais Brown, Amy Geddes, Jim McDermott, Nico Bruce, Sean Pugh and Mike McCann.

This weekend –

April 10th Shetland, Muckle Roe Village Hall (Duo show with special guest Arthur Nicholson)


April 11th Shetland, Mareel, Lerwick


(Tickets for both Shetland shows are available from the Mareel box office)


Can’t wait to be back in Shetland again.


April 26th Glasgow, ALBUM LAUNCH SHOW Glad Café


May 4th Edinburgh, ALBUM LAUNCH SHOW Traverse Theatre Bar—dean-owens-and-the-whisky-hearts-band.aspx This is organised by our friends Douglas and Jane Ann of


June 11th Dundee, Clarks On Lindsay Street (Solo show)


June 12th Leith Theatre Sessions at the Thomas Morton Hall, Leith, Edinburgh Details soon.


June 19th Stirling, Tolbooth


There will be some other UK dates confirmed soon.


I was a guest on Off The Ball on BBC Radio Scotland last weekend with Stuart Cosgrove, Tam Cowan and Sanjeev Kohli (Navid from Still Game). You can listen again to all the nonsense here:


I’ve added the final part of my short story – The Motel And The Highway at the end of this newsletter, plus parts 1 & 2 just incase you missed them. While you’re reading have a wee listen to these classic songs to help you get in the mood:


Townes Van Zandt – Pancho And Lefty


Ray Price – Crazy Arms


I’ll have news of a special Edinburgh Fringe show to give you soon that I’m very excited about. It will see me re-uniting with some old friends.


Look out for my Kickstarter campaign being launched in the coming weeks to help with a new video project.


Thanks again for all your continued support.


Please follow me on twitter here – and go ‘like’ my official Facebook page here –


If you have any ideas of places to play near you or you would like to arrange a House Concert please contact my manager Morag Neil here:


Cheers for now and enjoy the light nights.



Here’s the story…………

The Motel And The Highway


Part 1

Johnny left Jessica in the motel room and headed out onto Highway 395. It was a beautiful summer morning. A cool breeze was coming down off the Sierras and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

It didn’t take too long before a truck pulled over and the driver asked him where he was heading. ‘North,’ was all Johnny said.


Jessica woke up to find Johnny gone. The note he left her simply read, “Sorry, but I just had to go. Take care of yourself. Love you, Johnny”. She was sad, but not surprised. She always knew it would happen someday. She knew he would go.


For a while Johnny and the driver never spoke. Merle Haggard was on the stereo. Johnny just stared at the road ahead. The sky was still blue but there were some dark clouds making an appearance to the North.

‘Where you from, son?’ asked the driver.


‘You’re a long way from home friend. Texas is a big place.’

‘Yup,’ replied Johnny.

‘Whereabouts in Texas?’


‘Plainville?’ replied the driver. ‘Ain’t never heard of Plainville.’

‘Think yourself lucky. It’s near Waco.’

‘I heard of that place.’

‘Yeah. Who ain’t!’ said Johnny with a bitter tone in his voice.

‘So what brings you up here to the Sierras?’ asked Bill.

‘Fourth of July celebrations,’ answered Johnny.


Jessica had seen it in his eyes for a while. Sometimes he would just gaze along the highway watching the trucks. She wasn’t sure why he’d brought her to this small town in the middle of nowhere on the 4th of July. Independence Day. I guess that says it all. Independence Day. He must have had it all figured out. Nah, Johnny wasn’t like that. She knew there was a darkness inside him. A melancholy. He couldn’t get enough of Townes Van Zandt. Sometimes he’d play Townes’ White Freight Liner Blues over and over again. He’d even learned a few chords on his brother’s old beaten up guitar and could play a version of the song, but it was a real slow version and that made it all the more hopeless sounding. She kinda liked it though. Nothing wrong with a bit of misery now and then. Her favourite Townes song was Flyin Shoes. Another song about getting away.

Where was he heading? Only the mountains knew that.







Part 2

‘I’m going as far as Lake Tahoe. I got a load of ski equipment to drop off up there. That any good to you? I’m Bill by the way. Bill Mason of San Bernadino. It’s not much of a place neither.’

‘I’m Johnny, Johnny Nelson. And Tahoe’s fine thanks. I got no real plans. As long as I’m moving North.’

‘Moving’s alright with me son. It’s what I do. But we all gotta stop sometime. Buddy of mine moved around so much he left himself behind.’ Bill smiled and winked at Johnny.

Johnny closed his eyes and listened to the sound of the wheels, the engine, Bill Mason and Merle Haggard. His thoughts turned to Jessica.

How had she reacted to his note, he wondered. He really didn’t want to hurt her. She deserved better than him anyway. He was far too much of a dreamer and knew his grasp on reality wasn’t very strong. She had high hopes for them as a couple. She’d talked about marriage and kids and he’d been into the idea too.


He’s probably gone South, thought Jessica. Back to Texas. Although he hated his hometown. Maybe he’s heading to Austin. Looking for Willie Nelson’s house. Always thought he might be related to Willie. Ha. He sure was a dreamer. Wouldn’t surprise me if he was. She was missing the fool already.

She was from Santa Barbara, California – well Montecito to be exact. It was a great place to grow up. There by the ocean, overlooked by the Santa Ynez Mountains and the desert only a few hours away. Her parents had bought the place for next to nothing in the 60’s then watched their home become a million dollar house in the 80’s when lots of big movie stars had moved into the neighbourhood. She loved going home to visit her folks there. Santa Barbara was such a laid back place. The actor Jeff Bridges – The Dude from the movie The Big Lebowski – was a local and to Jessica he kinda summed up the spirit of the place.

Strangely enough it had been at one of his gigs in Santa Barbara where she met Johnny. As well as being an actor Jeff Bridges was also a bit of a singer and played occasional intimate shows. She had been home from LA visiting friends and family one weekend and had gone along to the show. Johnny had come up from LA to see a Townes Van Zandt concert but the show had been pulled at the last minute due to unforseen circumstances, which probably meant Townes was incapacitated in some motel room somewhere on the edge of town. Some girl on the door had told Johnny about the gig and with nothing better to do he’d gone along to see if he could get in. But he got there only to find out it was sold out. By chance Jessica had a spare ticket and was waiting in line when she overheard Johnny trying to get in. She was supposed to be going with Ruby, her old room mate from college who was coming down from San Francisco. Only Ruby hadn’t showed up. She was a real stoner and always did this kind of thing so Jessica wasn’t concerned. Feeling sorry for Johnny she offered him her ticket. He insisted on paying for it. They didn’t sit together during the show, but had got talking afterwards at the merchandise stand. That was how they’d met.


When Johnny woke up they were parked up in a truck stop in Mammoth Lakes. Mammoth’s not that far from Yosemite National Park and Jessica had always wanted him to take her there to look for bears and mountain lions.

Bill Mason was asleep beside him. Bill was skinny and had a lived-in face with a thick head of grey hair. He wore an old black western shirt, jeans with a big belt buckle with a buffalo head on and brown cowboy boots. Plus a bootlace tie with an eagle design. He had a strong, sharp profile.

Johnny could just make out the song on the stereo. It was Johnny Cash singing Give My Love To Rose. He loved that song so he turned it up. He’d really hoped to have been a bit further up the road than Mammoth by now, but what the hell. No destination, no hurry.



‘So you like the old Man In Black do you?’ Bill Mason was awake again. ‘I met him once,’ he mumbled.

‘What, you met Johnny Cash?’

‘He came to play for some of us out in Nam with his wife June. Man did we appreciate that. He really lifted us out of there for a short while. I remember watching them board the helicopter when they were leaving. It took me all my strength to stop myself running after him and pleading with him to take me with him.

‘That’s amazing. I can’t believe you met The Man In Black.’

‘Yeah it was kinda special I guess,’ replied Bill. ‘Anyway, you want to get some coffee kid?’

‘I’d rather keep moving to be honest, if you don’t mind?’

‘In a hurry to be nowhere are ya?’ laughed Bill. ‘Well I’m driving and if I don’t get some coffee in me then the next time you wake up it might just be in some ditch by the side of the road or some hospital. That’s if you wake up at all. Besides I got a bad shoulder from years of hauling all these tarps and it’s killing me.’

‘I’ll take a latte then,’ said Johnny reluctantly.

‘A latte! What the fuck’s that?’


Jessica packed up her things then sat outside the motel room and lit a cigarette. Maybe he’s gone down to Joshua Tree to stay with his Uncle Jack. He’s got an old trailer out there on his Uncle Jack’s land and he loves to go out there to the desert to spend time with his uncle. He always talked about moving out there someday. Old Jack and his wife Sarah have a wildlife sanctuary out there. They look after all the injured critters that people bring to them – usually found in the national park or out on Highway 62. Coyotes, birds, desert tortoise. That kinda thing. Someone even brought them a bear cub once. Sarah mainly looked after that. Raised it until it got too big to handle. It once almost tore half her face off.

Maybe that’s where Johnny was heading. Jessica kind of hoped so. The thought gave her some comfort at least. She loved his Uncle Jack.

When she’d finished her cigarette Jessica gathered up her things and loaded the car. She felt numb. Sad but not upset. She thought about it all, Independence Day, freedom. Maybe it was time to move on. She’d certainly had enough of Johnny’s mood swings. Maybe a fresh start was what they both needed. Or just some time away from each other. The old guy at reception took her key from her and told her to have a nice day. She didn’t think there was much chance of that but thanked him anyway. Even the car looked forlorn sitting in the motel parking lot. She got into the driver’s seat but just sat there looking up at the beautiful snow capped Sierra Nevada Mountains. There, standing higher than the rest, was Mount Whitney. They’d talked about climbing to the top together one day. That day looked a long way off now.

She thought about last night’s fireworks: small town fireworks sponsored by the local funeral parlour. ‘Not a bad way to scatter some ashes,’ Johnny had joked. The thought gave her the creeps. It had been a beautiful summer night with the mountains on either side of them and the California stars above.

But that was last night and this was this morning. It had been a beautiful blue sky start to the day but now there were dark clouds gathering. Soon Mount Whitney would be hidden from view. It looked like rain. She started the car.


Part 3

Johnny waited in the truck listening to Bill’s Country music.

Why am I doing this, he asked himself. What is this darkness that creeps up on me and takes over?

Sometimes he felt like he was walking around in a trance. Sleepwalking through life. Halfway between dying and living. He felt so tired all the time.

He didn’t want to leave Jessica or be without her and he couldn’t believe he’d just walked out on her.

What have I done? What am I doing? I’ve got to get back to her. She’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me, he thought to himself. This was how it was for him. When he had to stay he wanted to leave and now that he’d left he was wishing he’d stayed. What an asshole. He sat there thinking, If there’s a town called Loserville I should move there.

‘Here’s your latte son,’ Bill said sarcastically when he returned. ‘Lots of milk with a little bit of coffee is what it looks like to me. I got you a blueberry muffin, but if you don’t like it I’ll eat it so don’t worry.’

‘I do, thanks. How much do I owe you?’

‘Ah don’t worry about it,’ Bill replied. ‘How do you know about Johnny Cash, a young guy like you?’

‘Oh I like a lot of that old Country stuff. I’ve an old uncle who likes nothing but Country music. In fact he has a saying – If it ain’t Country, it ain’t shit!’

‘Ha ha. I like that,’ laughed Bill. ‘He ain’t wrong. If it ain’t Country it AIN’T shit,’ he mumbled to himself.

‘Well I don’t know about that but some of it’s ok. Though a little can go a long way.’

‘So who do you like son?’

‘All kinds. Anything that’s good.’

‘Yeah, but who’s your all time favourite?’

‘That’s a hard one. I’ve so many favourites but I guess it would have to be Townes Van Zandt.’

‘Townes Van Zandt. I think I’ve heard a couple of his songs but never heard him sing them. One by Wille Nelson and Merle Haggard. Eh, Pancho and Lefty isn’t it? Ain’t he a bit of a miserable son of a bitch that old Van Zandt guy?’

‘I guess so. But there’s more to life than enjoying yourself,’ replied Johnny.


The trip back to LA was pretty uneventful. The rain had started to fall heavily so Jessica stopped at Kramer Junction for coffee and a breakfast burrito. As usual the portion was far too big for her. She struggled with her burrito while being surrounded by some of the fattest people she’d ever seen who were eating twice as much as her. They were probably heading for Vegas and the Casino buffets. All you can eat for 10 bucks and these guys can sure eat a lot. What a gross sight. Once they’re in Vegas they’ll be lucky to see daylight while they’re there. They’ll go from slot machines to the buffet and back to the slot machines before taking the elevator up to bed. Their only exercise will be walking from the elevator to their room along the puke design carpets.

Or maybe they were on their way to Bakersfield to see Buck Owens at his Crystal Palace. She and Johnny had gone there once with his Uncle Jack and Aunt Sarah. Johnny had a real soft spot for the old Country stars thanks to his Uncle Jack. For Jack there was only Country music. Nothing else came close. She could picture Jack sitting there at the table by the window in the living room preaching to Johnny about the greatness of Country music and playing his favourite song, Crazy Arms by Ray Price, over and over while he kept the beat on the table. Jack collected LP’s, CD’s and even cassettes along with magazines, biographies, photographs, you name it. Jessica actually found herself laughing out loud thinking of the time Johnny was flicking through one of Jack’s Dolly Parton biographies when Jack, not realising she was in the room, excitedly said to Johnny, ‘Hey she talks about giving her first blow job in that one’, only to turn round and see her standing by the window. It was the only time she’d ever seen Jack blush. She liked Jack. Everyone did.

That’s one of the saddest things about breaking up. It’s all the family you probably won’t see again and friends you made together who don’t feel so comfortable with seeing you anymore. They don’t want to be seen to be taking sides.

It’s so easy to become strangers again.


Back on 395 Johnny Nelson was still thinking about what he was doing. Where he was going and what he was leaving behind. He did love Jessica. It was himself he had trouble with. What had he done with his life? He was a loser and that was that. Everything he’d ever done in his life had ended in failure. Every job he’d had he’d either quit or been fired from. He never stuck at anything. Even quit high school early. He’d been fired from his first job after only a few weeks. His boss had told him he was letting him go because Johnny’s head was full of rock ‘n’ roll.

After a few phone calls to his boss Johnny’s father managed to persuade him to give Johnny another chance. He was supposed to show up at work on the Monday morning, apologise and promise to try harder. So Johnny listened while his boss told him what was wrong with his attitude and what he needed to change about himself but when he offered Johnny his job back he told him, ‘No thanks’, and said that his boss was right. His head was full of rock ‘n’ roll. Threw the job back in his face and walked out. His boss couldn’t believe it.

When he got home and told his father he went crazy at Johnny.

Luckily a week or so later his big brother helped him get a job with another firm, though they turned out to be a right bunchof cowboys so that job didn’t last too long neither.

Jessica would be better off without him. He hoped she’d understand and forgive him in time. He really should give her a call though. It would be the right thing to do.

The rain fell heavy on the windshield. The small towns along Highway 395 passed by, Lee Vining, Bridgeport. He had no grand plan. Hadn’t thought it through at all. He had an old aunt in Reno who he hadn’t seen in years but had always been good to him when he was a kid. He knew where she lived. Could always crash with her for a bit while he got his head together.

Or there was his old buddy Mitch in Portland. Mitch had been on at him for ages to come up and visit him. Sounded like a good place. Lot’s of cool bands there. Mitch always fancied himself as a bit of a singer. He was a big fan of the singer/songwriter Elliot Smith. He’d opened a couple of shows for him before Elliot Smith was big news. Mitch thought he could maybe follow in his footsteps, jump on the Portland scene bandwagon. Johnny hoped he didn’t as Elliot Smith had recently just supposedly stabbed himself to death!!

‘Not too long now till we hit Tahoe.’ Bill Mason broke Johnny’s train of thought. ‘What are you gonna do when we get there son? It’ll be late. I’ll be sleeping in this thing once I’ve dropped off my load. What about you? This rain looks like it’s set in for the night. You don’t want to be stuck outside with your thumb in the air tonight. Tell me to mind my own business son, but are you running away from some trouble? You worry me. You sure you’re gonna be alright?’

‘I’ll be fine and don’t worry, I’m no fugitive. No trouble to worry about. I’m just rambling.’

It was getting dark now and Johnny stared out into the grey dim light. He couldn’t see the mountains anymore. Couldn’t see much at all. What the fuck was he going to do with his life.


Back on the road again it was getting dark and the lights of tinsel town were just beginning to sparkle in the distance. It all looks so nice and inviting from a distance. You can’t see any of the grime or the lost and the lonely of LA from out here, she thought.

Jessica’s phone suddenly started ringing. Maybe it would be Johnny. She hoped so. Her phone was in her handbag that was lying on the back seat. Desperate to get to it before whoever was calling rang off, she didn’t see the car pull out in front of her until it was too late. She clipped the back of the car in front and was sent spinning round facing back Northwards and the oncoming truck.


He felt he at least owed Jessica a call. Just to check she was ok and to tell her he was sorry and that he would be in touch again. He was soaked through standing on the sidewalk trying to call. The street was flooded around him. The 5th of July and flash floods had brought certain parts of northern California to a standstill. Bill Mason would be tucked up cosy in his truck cabin listening to Willie, Waylon or one of those old Outlaws.

He was miserable alright. He wished she would answer.