Posted in Uncategorized on November 24, 2015 by midliferocker

(photo courtesy Danid Yandell)

NRBQ’s founder brings his lifelong passion for a legend even more into focus.

By Steve Houk

Even as a kid, NRBQ founding member and piano man Terry Adams knew what he liked: music. And there was one particular musician that he felt a true kinship with, a kinship that would last a lifetime. And it got serious with a birthday request.

“When I first heard Monk, I guess when I was about 14, it immediately made sense to me,” Adams told me from Vermont during a break on NRBQ’s current tour. “At 15, my Dad asked me, ‘What would you like for your birthday? Let’s go see a baseball game,’ or something. I said I didn’t care about professional sports, and he said, ‘Well, where would you like to go?’ And I said, ‘You mean it? I’d like to go see Thelonious Monk at the Ohio Valley Jazz Festival.’ I couldn’t believe he did it, bought tickets for all three nights and down we went. ‘Course I left him back in our seats, and I was right down in front of that stage.’

Yes, Terry Adams clearly knew what he liked early on, and he has taken that adoration for Monk’s timeless music and melded it into the sound he has helped craft for his own legendary band NRBQ for the last 50 years. But it wasn’t until much more recently that Adams finally decided to put out a specific collection of Monk tunes with his own arrangements, Talk Thelonious. Adams and his current NRBQ lineup will play a few tunes from that collection as well as NRBQ faves at The Hamilton on November 28th.

Not long after that memorable 15th birthday, Adams headed up to New York to not only see his idol, but to get to know him. It was a relationship that would last up until Monk’s death in 1982.

“I’ve learned alot from him, so eventually it came back out finally,” Adams explained. “I had alot of opportunities to be around Monk and talk with him here and there and learn from the experience, and he’s always been a positive influence on me.  As far as the Monk record, it took while for it to distill in me. I’m glad that I was asked to do it, I hesitated at first but once I got into it, I realized that I was supposed to do this.”


Thanks to Adams, NRBQ has always had Monk in the mix ever since the early days. “We’ve been doing his songs since the 60’s, they’ve been in our sets or in the books and I was always workin’ to get ’em better, ya know. See what we could with them. Takin’ this music and puttin’ it in a place that is true to its intention and composition, but also where it could be ‘cuz that music can travel, it’s meant to. I think that the songs don’t have to just belong to jazz fans. I think that the songs can be heard in alot of ways and be appreciated by alot of people, and obviously they are now.”

It was a gas for Adams to get serious with more Monk music, and even more of a gas when he asked his current band to help him interpret it on his record.

“NRBQ, the guys on this record, it’s amazing how much they learned in a short period of time, and how as great musicians as they are, how on the edge of their seats everybody was. ‘Cuz it’s so easy to make a mistake, there’s so much to it. I could leave one note out of a chord and think, that doesn’t sound wrong, but is it really right?”

Adams and his fabulous band have put out a lot of great music over the last half century, I actually was at their 10th anniversary show in 1977 at Toad’s Place in New Haven. And Adams is damn proud of the music and the NRBQ legacy. But it’s Monk’s music that really is something extra special, something soulful, to Adams.

“It’s rich and beautiful. Beyond words, I think. It’s in its own class, it’s own place. One of the things I get from (his) music is it’s about being yourself and believing in yourself, and I think that’s a big message that comes through there. Beyond the notes.”

NRBQ performs November 28th at The Hamilton,  600 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20005. For tickets, click here





Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on November 11, 2015 by midliferocker


Two bluegrass legends keep the ties that bind strong for a half century.

By Steve Houk

You could almost call it a “crossroads” moment.

At one such intersection in a field in Virginia, three musicians would stand together, their soon-to-be world class careers in different stages of evolution, but already connected in profound ways. And they would carry those relationships close to their hearts for the rest of their lives. The stars were aligning.

“I played a Bill Monroe show in Warrenton, Virginia in the mid-60’s, a bluegrass festival, and David came in, we had met before,” Del McCoury told me, recalling an early encounter with fellow bluegrass legend David Grisman. “I was just getting ready to leave cuz’ I had to go to another festival somewhere the next day. David said, ‘Hey I want you to meet my new banjo player before you leave,’ it was real black headed guy, his name…was Jerry Garcia. He was playing banjo with David at this time, this was still in the 60’s. I didn’t see Garcia for a long time after that, but I’ve known David that long.”

Grisman and Garcia, who first met at a Bill Monroe show a few years prior to that encounter, went on to become close friends and collaborators right up until Garcia’s death in 1995.

“I think about Jerry every day and sometimes even dream about him. We had a very close musical sympatico in that our musical tastes were both diverse and similar. Our life experiences were also similar in that we both lost, at very young ages, our fathers who were both professional musicians. We also shared many other similar experiences, like taking our (then) five-year old daughters to see Pinocchio, or meeting as we did at a Monroe show. He also was a completely unique individual who was a very kind person.”

McCoury would also talk to Garcia about bluegrass music through the years, but it’s actually McCoury and Grisman’s relationship that would last for decades. And now in their seventies, they’re on the road with a tour dubbed “Del and Dawg”, just the two of them, playing their favorite music. They’ll be bluegrassing it up at The Hamilton on November 15th.

This is a friendship that started early. In his teens, Grisman would figure out that bluegrass was his thing by watching McCoury play with Monroe, beginning a half a century long relationship that is still going strong.

“I met David when he was just a kid, when I was working for Bill Monroe in ’63,” McCoury, 76, told me. “He came to shows, he said, ‘I came to the first show that you played with Bill Monroe’ and I was playing banjo actually then. So that’s when I got to know David. He and my brother Jerry played in the same band, Jerry was bass player, and David was mandolin. One day in ’65 or ’66, my brother said, ‘David wants me and you to go with him to Troy NY and play a show.’ I said OK, I’m not doin’ nothin’, so we went up to Troy NY and played this college up there. Years later (in 1980) David called me up one day and said, ‘You know what, I got a tape of that show we did up in Troy, I think I can clean that tape up and put it out on a record.’ So he did, he called it ‘Early Dawg.’ ”

“We’ve known each other for many many years,” Grisman, 70, recalled. “We’ve had many musical collaborations going all the way back to 1966 when we played our first show together. It’s always very special for me in many ways, especially the challenge of singing with him. Del is a unique musical force to be reckoned with.”

Their plan for this tour is to primarily dig deep, to harken back and grab the gems, to play the music that they feel best represents them and their mutual interests.

“What we thought we’d do is go back and get some of the really old songs from years ago,” McCoury said. “We only have guitar and mandolin, and I just play rhythm, he plays all the lead and we sing duets together. We tell folks a little history about the music from back then, they like to hear all those things, you know, that we all went through.”

Both men are traditional players at heart, but know full well that collaboration with and the success of young bluegrass musicians can only help get bluegrass out to more people.

“It’s great to hear and meet and play with some of the fabulous younger players that we have today,” Grisman said optimistically, yet with a caveat. “My son Sam is one of them, I’ve gotten to meet so many talented acoustic musicians through him. Understanding that tradition is not static, that it is continuously developing and evolving, makes it easier for me not to be too judgemental. Having said that, there are some who are trying a bit too hard to reinvent the ‘wheel’ so to speak. I keep going back to what Duke Ellington said — ‘There are only two kinds of music: good and bad.’  I prefer the good variety.”

“I’m really glad that folks take it up, young people, because it’s a great art form, bluegrass is,” McCoury continued. “They see a challenge in trying to play a mandolin or a violin or fiddle or a guitar or bass or whatever it is, you know. It’s a challenge to learn and get good at playing an acoustic instrument. And bluegrass is a big part of that. Those guys in Phish, they recorded a song I wrote, they got it off an album I put out years ago, and that’s how we got acquainted. I played their festival, Trey really knows his business. Youth is a part of everything. You have to realize that there are young people coming along and they gotta hear things they like, and it may not be hard core bluegrass either, you know.”

Both Grisman and McCoury clearly realize the importance of appreciating the past while looking towards the future. And it’s their very special collaboration, one that stretches back decades, that reinforces the ties that bind.

“All music is kin, it’s all related to somewhere, you know,” McCoury said. “Way back to when we don’t even realize. Everybody hears somebody when they’re young.”

Adds Grisman with a nod to his mentor, “And what could be better than hanging out and playing with Del?”

Del McCoury and David Grisman perform Sunday November 15th at The Hamilton, 600 14th Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20005. For tickets, click here.




Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on November 9, 2015 by midliferocker
(Photo courtesy Leslie Wood)

(Photo courtesy Lesley Wood)

A prog-rock guitar legend turns to a revered & feared creature for inspiration.

By Steve Houk

There’s something that feels totally appropriate about Steve Hackett dancing with wolves.

I can’t put my finger on it, but the thought of one of progressive rock’s greatest guitarists naming his newest record “Wolflight” — and in the stunning accompanying video singing and playing his astonishing guitar licks amidst a sweeping tale featuring these magnificent creatures — just seems to make sense, given the provocative fantasy-like images conjured up by previous Hackett compositions.

And maybe it’ll make even more sense to you after hearing Hackett beautifully describe the reason behind it all. Listening to him tell the tale, and you buy into it all — hook, line and sinker.

“The wolf is the wilderness, and shamanic totem of the nomadic tribes who roamed the Siberian and Mongolian wastes for thousands of years,” Hackett eloquently told me recently as he was preparing for the U.S. leg of his immensely popular “Acolyte to Wolflight With Genesis Revisited” tour. “The title track is about these wild and unpredictable people. The term ‘Wolf light’ was inspired by Homer talking about the hour before dawn when the dreaming mind is still active and the imagination roams alongside the prowling wolf. It was great to spend a day playing and interacting with wolves in the hills just outside Rome. Amazing creatures, potentially dangerous, but incredibly engaging.”

There, now you’re all in, right? Thought so. Hackett has taken his audiences on similar kinds of adventures for years, whether as a member of Genesis or in his solo career, so it’s no surprise his latest effort has that spiritual, deeply evocative tone that threads through so much of his work. And as he embarks on the next part of his world tour, Hackett is stoked about what kind of show he is bringing to the U.S. this time around, which includes a stop at DC’s Lincoln Theater on November 13th.

“It’s the kind of tour I’ve always wanted to do, with a range and scope of music that’s much wider and involved than before,” Hackett told me. “Running the gamut of styles from Rock to Choral to Progressive through to World Music. I work with a chameleon-like band who can turn their hands and voices to all things, from solo material of mine to early Genesis. I’m really looking forward to bringing this new set to the States.”

(photo courtesy Howard Rankin)

(photo courtesy Howard Rankin)

The pervading wolf theme of Hackett’s latest record has provided other inspiration for new songs that goes beyond just images of wildness and unpredictability. “The wolf is symbolic of freedom, too. The struggle for freedom is reflected in the title track, and also the desire to break free from slavery in ‘Black Thunder’ as well as the need for personal freedom in ‘Love Song to a Vampire.’ ”

By all accounts, Hackett seems to be at the top of his game, with his effortless and soaring guitar work as strong as ever. It’s continuing to raise the bar on his playing that keeps Steve Hackett the immense and rare talent he has always been.

“It keeps me challenged, and continues to develop. It makes a huge difference to my health, and quickens my heartbeat. It constantly surprises me. I always like to find new ways of playing, and discovering new techniques.”

Steve Hackett performs Friday November 13th at Lincoln Theater, 1215 U St. NW, Washington DC. $45-$65 available here.


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on November 9, 2015 by midliferocker
(Photo by Beth Herzhaft)

(Photo by Beth Herzhaft)

An 80’s superstar finally finds success and solace in a solo career.

By Steve Houk

In alot of ways, Colin Hay is just lucky to still be around. Like, above ground.

It’s an all-too familiar story, fodder for “Behind The Music” that often has a tragic last chapter. After a meteoric rise as the front man of immensely popular Australian 80’s rock band Men At Work — yes, I bet you still can’t get “Who Can It Be Now” and “Land Down Under” out of your head — Hay and his mates took their rocket as far as it would fly, and then everything pretty much stopped. The band disintegrated (they reunited a couple times but then it all stopped again) and Hay went into a spiral of sorts, trying to deal with both his own demons and really just what to do next.  Many weaker souls may have succumbed to it all, the addiction, the rampant uncertainty, all of it. Not Hay.

“I didn’t die. Not yet,” the engaging and sharp-witted Hay told me during a stop on his current tour. “I mean we all get to that point. There were some moments there where it could happen, it happens to alot of people, it’s not intentional but if you make money and you have success, it buys you time. And then if you couple that with some addicted proclivity, then you can really make a mess of yourself and not realize it until it’s too late. And I think that was one of the things that I’m glad about, that I really spotted the fact that I was in trouble, you know, before anybody else, and tried to kind of not get to the point where I was at the point of no return.”

Almost 40 years after his band went away and he began his next journey, Colin Hay, 62, is doing just fine, thank you. He has used superior songwriting and playing, a still very strong voice and a wry sense of humor to craft a damn good life after MAW.  He’s recorded 12 critically acclaimed solo records, including 2015’s excellent Next Year People, he sells out most of his gigs which are often just him and a guitarand largely through a combination of sheer talent and word of mouth, has garnered a loyal following and good success. He plays two sold-out shows at one of his strongholds, The Birchmere, on November 12th and 13th.

But rediscovering his path was something that didn’t come easy and took a while to catch.

“There’s alot of people in this situation I think, where you kind of peak early, or you have a huge moment in your life, which in my case was playing with Men at Work,” Hay told me. “And then you think that’s gonna be the rest of your life from that point on. Then that goes away, and then, OK, there’s a long life ahead, so what do you do? In my case, it felt like a walk in the wilderness for a couple of years, it was just really trying to find an audience more than anything else. So you would go out and tour, and play to nobody for quite a long time. I was on my own for 13 years without any kind of infrastructure behind me except my own.”

But luckily for Hay, he was good enough and kept at it long enough, and was able to garner his “next” audience.

“There’s some kind of foothold now where you get on this path,” Hay said, “and then people tell other people, and friends tell friends and friends come along, and what I’m doing seems to have some resonance with people. Somehow using the creative process to be some kind of salvation seems to be a great thing for people, you know, if you can let that be, it’s transformative in many ways. It’s not big revelations and huge spiritual awakenings as much as aw, wow, this is working.”


In addition to his well-received new record, Hay is also the subject of an acclaimed new documentary, “Colin Hay: Waiting For My Real Life” which debuted at the Melbourne International Film Festival. It was a way for the filmmakers to both tell the story of a life arc such as Hay’s and also give him a well-deserved publicity push. So did anything surprise him during the filming process, any personal revelations come out that he didn’t expect?

“I don’t know about surprising myself, but I sometimes get amazed at how many bad decisions I seem to have made over the years, you know?” Hay said amidst his characteristically hearty laugh. “How at the time it seemed like a great idea, or it seemed like you were really making the right decision, and it was just so fucking far off the mark. You think, jesus christ, what was I thinking?”

Colin Hay seems to have figured out how to survive the potential danger of an early peak. He’s simply used his deep bank of talents to stay afloat, and ultimately, to thrive. And he greatly appreciates the people who have come along with him on his travels.

“That’s one of the great things about keeping going. I mean, you can really only keep going if people let you, and they’re prepared to go with you on whatever journey you’re on, you know. I mean you can’t really go out and play if there’s no one to play to. The audiences have been increasing over the years, so it has a very, um, what’s the word, organic feeling to it, and has alot of strength and is quite nourishing in some way. So yeah it’s good. I feel good.”

Colin Hay’s two shows at The Birchmere are sold out. 

Steve Houk writes about local and national music luminaries for and his own blog at He is also lead singer for the successful Northern Virginia classic rock cover bands Second Wind and Heywoodja plus a Rolling Stones cover band and other local rock ensembles.


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on November 5, 2015 by midliferocker


Yes’ legendary voice keeps the band’s music alive amidst new landscapes.

By Steve Houk

Just looking at and listening to him today, even in his early 70’s, you can still see why Jon Anderson was born to be the lead singer for Yes.

Physically, he doesn’t look a day over 60, and still has that whole prog-rock thing going on, so ethereal looking, gentle features, blonde-gray locks. And when a spotlight shines on him, it is still almost God-like. And musically? He hasn’t lost much vocally, if anything. His stunningly high voice and wide range still manages to reach the edge of the stratosphere. Yes, Jon Anderson was, and still is, the essence of Yes.

And as he has done in the years since Yes splintered apart, Anderson has gone though his own series of awakenings, consistently doing solo work and collaborating with some of music’s most dynamic and revered musicians like Kitaro, Vangelis and Milton Nascimento. And all at the same time, perpetuating and sharing with the world the music of his legendary band in different and exciting new ways.

These days, he’s collaborating with another virtuoso, violinist and jazz composer Jean Luc-Ponty, on a tour and an upcoming CD/DVD called “Better Late Than Never” featuring the AndersonPonty band. And truthfully, he couldn’t be happier.

“Actually sometimes I can’t believe the talent of the band,” Anderson, 71, told me during a stop on his current tour with AndersonPonty. “The gentleness, the harmony, the energy of the people in the band, the warmth, the musical thoughtfulness and the driving energy, just ridiculous. It’s just fantastic. It’s a great time in my life to work with these kinds of people. These are the creme de la creme, it’s just amazing onstage. Really really a pleasure.”

Anderson and Ponty have known of each other for years, but had yet to truly collaborate. As well as music from Ponty’s canon, of course this band plays Yes music live, and Anderson sees every day what a thrill it is for these musicians to play his band’s epic tunes, and it’s easily as much of a thrill for him to work with them. The band plays the Howard Theater on November 10th.

“We decided to do this a year ago, and these guys are capable of anything musically, you just mention an idea,” Anderson said. “One day, I turned around to piano player Wally Minko and said, ‘OK, we’re gonna do a song called Wondrous Stories, it’s in this key’ and he would play and then I would start singing, and in the time it takes to just go through the song, everybody knew exactly the way we were gonna do it. Then I did a bit of reggae for a song called ‘Time In A Word,’ another classic Yes song, and they just jumped on it and picked it up and that was that. I didn’t have to speak much about anything, they’re already 90% there because they’re very talented people.”

Jean-Luc Ponty (L) and Jon Anderson (photo courtesy AndersonPonty)

Jean-Luc Ponty (L) and Jon Anderson (photo courtesy AndersonPonty)

Yes fans who are coming to hear letter-perfect versions of the band’s songs the way they played them in their hey day are in for a surprise, and by many accounts, a pleasantly eclectic one. This is the way it’s been with a number of the high-profile collaborators Anderson has worked with. Elaborating on and changing up some of the Yes classics seems completely normal to him.

“I make music in total honesty. I never think that I’m doing anything wrong. I always think I’m doing the best I can be. When I did the tour with Kitaro, we did some shows in Europe and in Asia, and the band was so excited to play [the Yes Songs]. Most bands, including these musicians today, are very excited to play ‘Roundabout.’ They just love the idea of trying to play it, because it is not an easy piece of music. And it’s like, let’s try something very different to present a song, like ‘Long Distance Runaround.’ Now it’s got a very sort of cosmic Indian energy, the Ragda, which is you play music in the morning and in the evening to greet the day and greet the sunset. It’s a very surreal sort of platform to sing ‘Long Distance Runaround.’ ”

In the days since he stopped playing with Yes, Anderson has made a point to work with young musicians, from his time with School of Rock to working with youth orchestras, even his current work with AndersonPonty includes collaborating with musicians sometimes 40 or more years his junior. It’s something Anderson loves to do, both for his own personal enrichment, as well as that of the young players he is working with who love the Yes music he brings to the party.

“It’s something that young musicians love to play,” Anderson said. “I’ve played with young musicians in orchestras performing Yes music and it transcends what you would call business. It’s just music that works, you know.”

And when Anderson harkens back to his days with Yes, all as he continues to bring their music to new generations, there is a sincere and palpable feeling of creating something special.

“35 years of excellence. And everybody, especially Chris who was there at the beginning, we climbed some musical mountains together. With Rick and Steve and Bill and Alan. Everybody that I worked with was committed to creating Yes music, which is really all that I could ever desire. That music transcends everything, and it’s music we were part of and helped create.”

AndersonPonty Band performs Tuesday November 10th at the Howard Theater, 620 T St NW, Washington, DC 20001. For tickets, click here.


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on November 3, 2015 by midliferocker

(photo courtesy Joe Del Tufo)

A piano master uses a serious health scare to craft more of his miraculous music.

By Steve Houk

The last time I interviewed George Winston, he was driving. It was about 4 years or so ago, and he was at the wheel of a rented Nissan heading from San Francisco to Minnesota for his next gig, talking away as he drove. It was amazing.

When I called to talk to Winston last week, lo and behold, once again, he was driving, to yet another show.

The more I thought of it, the more it makes sense. George Winston driving, out on the road gathering the motivation to write his miraculous music from gazing out at the different palettes of color and landscape and shadow and light that he sees while driving the highways and byways of America. It makes perfect sense.

Or maybe, it’s just a great time to work on his harmonica playing. 

“Yes, that’s when I work on it, mainly. You have one hand on the wheel, one hand on the harmonica. Sort of a hands free device.” 

Regardless what Winston does on his long drives, one of the world’s most unique and gifted musicians is back. Fans of Winston were concerned and rumors swirled when he basically dissapeared from touring and recording a couple years back, only to resurface recently, seemingly healthy and ready to get back to what he does best. Winston plays The Birchmere on Sunday November 8th.

“It was a bone marrow transplant, that technology is much more advanced than it used to be,” an upbeat and almost jovial Winston told me, yes, while driving. “I was at City of Hope in the L.A. area for oh, I don’t know 3 to 4 months. I’m glad it’s the 21st century, it’s pretty much like nothing ever happened. Going in the right direction instead of the wrong direction, so that’s always good.”

That is great news to his legion of fans worldwide, many of whom have made his wondrous and timeless music part of their lives for the past 40 some years. And it appears that while going through his recent health crisis, he managed to keep composing, keep writing music, not only coming out of the ordeal with his health, but also a few dozen new compositions.

“Where I was, and the great treatment, just that environment, definitely came into play, for sure,” Winston said. “Songs all came out of being there. They have a village and you can stay there if you have alot of appointments, and they also had a piano available anytime I wanted, half a block away, I mean how much better can you have it? So I wrote a bunch of tunes there and that’ll be the next record called Spring Carousel Cancer Research Benefit, it’ll benefit the City of Hope’s research, that’ll be out next year, it’s all recorded. I was practicing songs for when I’d be back playing concerts, but these other things just happened, kind of on their own. It’s just what was happening at the time. Just kind of emerged. Like a cat coming through a cat door or something. I think altogether there were 57 songs. So it’ll be a double CD, I’ll get back to the studio in January and gotta kinda see what fits together.”

For Winston, as many of his most loyal fans know, his glorious music seems to come to him almost by accident, there is no premeditated ritual or plan. It’s hard to believe given the depth and power of his music, but it really just…happens.

“I never try to compose anything, it just either happens or it doesn’t,” Winston continued. “I’m very neutral about it, it’s not bad or good. If I’m not composing something, I’m working on something else, like The Doors or Vince Guaraldi or Professor Longhair. I don’t know how people compose something man, I couldn’t do it. Kinda like noticing something happening, writing it down the next day, writing down the chords, that’s got a picture with it, there’s a season, that’s got a thing, it’s a song. Some of them evaporate away.”

As astonishing as George Winston’s music is, his humility is even moreso. After listening to any of his musical masterpieces, songs from his 1972 debut Ballads and Blues to the aforementioned cancer research EP he wrote while undergoing his own cancer treatment, you think he couldn’t get any better at playing the piano. Unless you ask him, of course.

“Playing’s improving slowly over time. Still working on it. I may be about two thirds of where I want to be, on a good day. Maybe on a not-so-good day, about sixty percent. But it’s great to be able to play for people, that’s why I play. Records are a secondary thing I do now and then. Once in a while that’ll be how things form. But the main thing for me is the live playing.”

George Winston performs on Sunday, November 8th at The Birchmere, 3701 Mt. Vernon Ave., Alexandria, VA. For tickets click here. Bring a canned good to donate to Carpenter’s Shelter of Alexandria. 


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on November 1, 2015 by midliferocker


A musical legend puts herself out there in the latter part of her career.

By Steve Houk

Recently, a friend of mine told me that when he was in college back in the 80’s, he went to his school’s coffee house one evening to see an unknown artist he wasn’t very familiar with, a woman by the name of Joan Armatrading. In no time, she transformed that non-descript little venue into a world class concert hall, mesmerizing my friend and everyone there with her very special talents, all right at the beginning of her illustrious career.

Well it’s 30 plus years later, and as far as transfixing audiences, not much has changed.

For an accomplished, world-renowned, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter like Armatrading, 64, there’s not much more she really needs to do to further cement her legend. Her songs are revered by everyone from my friend the everyman to the late Nelson Mandela, whom she once played for. So well respected that she was awarded an MBE in 2001, she speaks right to the heart with her songs, painting beautiful pictures of love, longing, loss and wonder all conveyed by her unique and emotive voice.

Armatrading lives and breathes her music, so even into her 60’s she wanted to keep touring, but was a bit weary of the endless dates and months on the road away from home. So she decided she would do one last major world tour, solo, just her and a guitar. Not that this would be an end to her touring, but it’d be the end to the grind of many dates in a row while traipsing all over the world.

“When I said to the people around me that I was going to do this tour on my own, they said, ‘But they’re used to seeing you with the band!’,” Armatrading told me while on a tour stop in Boston. “I think they were a little bit nervous about it. But I was really confident about myself, I know what I can do. And the response has been fantastic.”

The reviews for Armatrading’s Me Myself and I tour, which includes two sold-out stops at The Barns of Wolf Trap this month, have been raves, but the tour itself may appear like a departure for Armatrading given it’s not with her full band. But to her, playing them solo is how they were conceived so performing them solo seems very natural to her.

“What people have to remember is everything that they hear me sing, I’ve written,” Armatrading said. “And everything I’ve written I wrote either on the guitar or the piano. So I know these songs from this angle. It’s new to everybody else, but it’s not new to me.  And I do different things every night to, well, keep myself entertained.”

And even though she may be trimming down her touring schedule, it’s not like Armatrading is slowing down, not on your life. So what will she be doing after that last show at the UK’s Bangor Abbey in a few weeks?

“I’ll be writing!” Armatrading says, followed by her wonderful hearty laugh. “This is not a retirement, this is just about not doing such long tours. I just don’t want to be on the road for so long all the time, which is the way the tours in my career have always been. I’m actually itching to write, my mind is turning to the writing phase now, so I just jot down things. It’ll be something I’ve written once the tour’s finished. I don’t write on the road, there’s too much going on out on the road for me to write. But I’m a songwriter…why would I retire?!”


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