Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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Holiday Week Musical Round-Up – and a Billy White Acre Video

January 3, 2011
bradspurgeon

I did not intend to, but it turned out I took more than a week’s break from the blog – and actually from most musical adventures. But it was the period covering Christmas to New Year’s and so that makes sense, at least once in a while.

That did not mean I was without music. I carried my guitar with me just about everywhere I went, and played in people’s houses, in down moments, in moments of post-Christmas and New Year’s blues etc. The only things that really stand out for me in this whole blur as I enter the new year were a dinner at the home of Antoine, one of the members of the Euks rock band. The Euks is made up of four musicians, of whom one is my son Paul. So we went over and had dinner at Antoine’s place and the two members of the Euks played music and sang songs, and so did I. In fact, for two or three hours it seemed, we passed the guitar back and forth and exchanged music. It was great. The one thing I like about doing that kind of thing as opposed to performing on a stage is that I can read lyrics and chords and do all sorts of songs that I have not memorized for performance, and no one cares about the reading.

The rest of the week is something of a blur – or something of a secret, even perhaps from myself! – and it was on the first day of the year that I received a link from an old friend of mine showing off a new video he had just put online playing his wild and original guitar music. This was Billy White Acre, and I am putting the video below as any guitar loving music lover has to see and hear this cool video.

Billy and I met in the late 70s at an open mic – or a bar where he was already hired to play and sing – and eventually ended up living in the same rooming house, or co-op house, in Toronto in the Annex area. Billy was just starting out with his music, and I was just coming to the conclusion that I would quit mine…. For one thing, just looking at how Billy already played the guitar at that point after only a couple of years made me ill. He had picked up the guitar at 18 and was something of a maestro with his own sound by 20. He also had a great singing voice, as he had been a choirboy in a school in England – where he was sent on a choirboy scholarship, if I remember correctly – and he was writing some cool music and introducing me to the music of people like Egberto Gismonti!

Later, I went off to live in France, but Billy and I remained in contact over the years, and I visited him in 1997 on a trip to Los Angeles, where he has lived for a couple of decades or so and where he made some albums and music for films and television. His 1997 album, “Billy’s Not Bitter,” actually won a prize in the LA Music Awards as the best album on an independent label, if I remember accurately. Earlier, he had won in 1994 the singer songwriter of the year award at Billboard Magazine, when Frank Zappa was one of the judges, if I remember that one correctly (it would have been just before Zappa died). I love the Billy’s Not Bitter album, by the way, which he sent to me at the time. A fabulous mixture of every feeling from the Beatles to Hendrix to the grunge of the time – and his inimitable guitar playing and singing and haunting lyrics.

This new video is fabulous, and I see that Billy has lost nothing of his innovative guitar playing technique. Oh, and before I sign off on Billy – an inspiration for the new year – I must mention that his daughter Asia Whiteacre, is also a rising talent.

Also, check out the other video of Billy, “The Apple,” in which he sings a song from the Billy’s Not Bitter album and he plays a tiny guitar. Very coool….. Billy was also the subject of a front page story in Guitar Player magazine in 1994 as well, for his innovative guitar playing. “Bill White Acre’s solo acoustic playing invites comparisons to Hedges–highly percussive pieces based around moving chord shapes, open tunings, and careful counterpoint,” said the writer.

Oh dear, I almost forgot another high point of the Christmas and New Year’s week, and one that has a musical connection. I had for years been intending to go to one of Jim Haynes’s New Year’s dinners, and this year I finally did. I could write a book about Jim Haynes – who knew and helped the early career of David Bowie, by the way – but as it turnst out, Jim has himself written a book about his life, called “Thanks For Coming,” and published by… T.S. Eliot’s old company, Faber & Faber. So look him up!!! Suffice it to say that the evening was fabulous. I left to go to another party, and then a bar.

Happy New Year’s to all readers of this blog and thank you for your lecture over the last nearly one year that I have run it. I plan to continue the musical adventure around the world this year.

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