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August 2006



I’m driving around L.A. on a late August afternoon in the year of too many Lords 2006, in a 1993 Chevy Suburban, formerly an LAPD Bomb Squad vehicle complete with kickout rear doors. This was the I See Hawks In L.A. tour vehicle until $3.00 per gallon gas forced it into retirement. Twelve miles per gallon doesn’t cut it if you’re traveling out of state. Now we’re trying to sell this beast. But it’s hard to let go.On this particularly hot day I drive over Topanga Canyon into the Valley to pick up 1000 more CDs from Rainbo Records in Canoga Park. And this climb over the canyon, this cruise up De Soto towards the North Valley hills, feels very good. I understand the lure of the huge vehicle, the Hummer and His cousins. This is the Father, the Hand of God, wrapping me in comfort and isolation from all that is outside, a high perch overlooking most of my road rivals.

A big bulbous new pickup truck, its immaculate bed burdened with a TV script and a case of Red Bull, swerves threateningly to my right, but backs off. Sorry, bro, but I’m bigger. I am your serene master.This feels good. How can we sell our beloved Beast? Global warming and the end of the oil economy are unstoppable. Would it be so wrong to bring them on, speed things up a little bit by upping my personal gasoline consumption? Just around town.

California just passed what is called a bold measure to reduce greenhouse gases by 25% over the next 20 years. Har de har, har. In other words, in 20 years we’ll be back to pumping out CO2 levels of the 1980’s that have already led to the highest greenhouse gas concentrations in millions of years. Dinosaur era levels. In still other words, it’s too late, folks. Our best hope is to remain optimistic and resilient, and open to real lifestyle change (i.e. eliminating the automobile, gross consumption, global trade patterns, and most air travel, and embracing localism and backyard vegetable gardening) and constant improvisation, as mother nature delivers her payback.Yes, this is an elaborate justification for driving this Chevy Beast eastward on the 101, but again: it feels so good. Back off Hummer! I am Suburban!


Morning in Swindon. Paul L rises, woken by the reliable cell phone alarm, realizes he’s in a dank room over a British pub, stumbles downstairs with his guitar and clothes bag, and the reliable taxi shows up, taking him to the Swindon train station. A very British train station, reliable and comfortable, with espressos, pastries, cheery baristas, and magazines in the early morning.

The train ride is a quiet caffeinated delight, through beautiful flat English farmland towards London, then a switch at Reading. Charm evaporates from the landscape, lots of modern suburbs as we pull into Gatwick airport on the outer ring of the London megalopolis. A train to the airport–this is a peak of civilization. From anywhere in England you can board a train, drink tea, read the paper, and arrive at the airport, a short walk to arrivals. Los Angeles missed out on this. Too bad.

Gatwick was in low key disarray, organized British disarray for the theater of multiple passenger checks brought on by the alleged UK airline terror plot. Paul L’s personal crackpot theory is that this latest wave of inconvenience will convince the public to agree to biometric ID and perhaps ID chip implants, linked to your personal record kept in a central databank and available only to the good people who want to keep you safe. Like Alberto Gonzales and Michael Chertoff. (Great Britain is way ahead of us in the march to totalitarianism. The CCTV cameras and their accompanying plaques are everywhere. Pumping gas into your car is a bit chilling for the old school civil libertarian. A sign at the petrol station informs you that the fuel will flow after the surveillance camera has scanned your license plate and cleared it with a central security database. And sure enough, after about 10 mysterious seconds, the petrol flows.)
But enough Orwellian breast beating. In fact totalitarianism may be necessary to control unprecedentedly dense urban populations in mega-cities. Don’t like it? Move to the country.
The lonely country.

Like Ireland. Loneliness can be found here. A tense plane flight to Cork, rent a car, reunion with the wife in touristy harbor village Kinsale, then a winding all day drive on narrow roads along the south Irish coast, past many small villages, ancient cemeteries, sheep on the stone wall-divided hillsides. A peaceful and beautiful land. In Bantry, on Bantry Bay, of course, a small town with a long history–like everywhere else on this small island with the epic story–Paul L and Victoria buy organic veggies, smoked fish and rice for their week’s stay. The next drive takes them along the south coast of the Beara Peninsula, one of many fingers of land jutting westward into the Atlantic. The more famous peninsulae are Kerry and Dingle to the north.

Beara is a bit neglected by the motoring tourists, and that’s a good thing. Sweet isolation on a tiny twisting road. Mist enshrouded gray slate ridges, ancient seabed, climb at wild angles to their unseen cloud covered summits. These would be called hills in the great geology of the American west, but their stature is immense, and foreboding. Wild mountain goats with ZZ Top length beards watch the passing cars, perched on rocks by the highway. We cut north nine miles across the backbone of Beara, west of the forbidding mountains, and arrive in Ardgroom village, 20 multicolor old buildings huddled back to back in lonely fields on a bay. We meet the laconic Mr. Shea, who owns the town gas station/grocery/bakery/internet cafe, and the farmhouse he’s renting us. He hops into his car, leads us up a gravel lane to the foot of a mountain. His family’s 200 year old stone house, renovated to modern convenience, is the only building for a mile around, and commands the plateau beneath the mountain, a vast commons of green where 52 local sheep owners, including our Mr. Shea, let their sheep graze, under the eye of a pink faced old shepherd who serenades the morning with commands to his sheep dog leading flock up the green slopes.

It’s nearing sunset, but the Irish summer day lasts forever. We dump our stuff in the house and walk downhill across fields to a stone circle we can see from the kitchen window. Our feet are wet from the boggy grass. The sun sets behind the mini-Stonehenge, its jagged tall stones forming a distinct circle in the farmer’s field. Pilgrims have left small offerings on a small table stone in the middle of the circle, many copper Euros and pence, a bracelet, shells. We leave a black mushroom found in a cowpie. It’s probably psychedelic, and Paul wants to eat it, but Victoria forbids him. On toxicological grounds.

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Ireland is a giant blackberry patch. We never found a lane or fence or stone wall not covered with thorned branches laden with fat ripe berries. We made blackberry jam, stored it in a Guiness pint glass in the fridge. We walked many miles on the Beara way, through abandoned stone Famine houses, small lakes, endless dramatic vistas. We took a rowboat onto a lake, preceeded by fearless upper crust British blond ten year olds, and figured out how to get out of a strong current that stopped us dead in the middle of the lake. Paul L got up his nerve in a pub and sat in with a trad Irish group on his new bodhran, seemed to get away with it.

bodhran.jpgThree times we found ourselves in breathtaking sunset moments, the second being a high mountain lake reflecting orange light under the black mountain slopes and cobalt to purple sky.

The third time was a transport to pre-Celtic times: a stone circle on a dramatic plateau overlooking a lake. To the left the fiery sunset cast the jagged circle into silhouette; to the right, an ancient oak and birch forest, somehow untouched by the harvest rape of Ireland’s forests in the 17th and 18th centuries, stretched along a steep hillside, its interior in twilight mist that surely sheltered fairies, sprites, and banshees.The narrow road at night is a forlorn link between the tiny villages. The car headlights disperse only for a second the lonely spirits of countless generations and tribes. They rush in behind us. This is a sad and haunted land.

In Eyeries village 5 miles away we drink Guinesses and Jamesons with a young Irish writer/adventurer, who covered the rave and concert scene for a Belfast paper and now works as a boat builder, working with his cousin on their own boat in the off hours, which they are going to sail around the world. A singer/guitarist sets up his PA and plows through a set of American country music standards, accompanied by cheesy mini-disc recordings. Locals stream in continuously, and suddenly the place is packed, and the dance floor is filled. We and a few other tourists leaven the pure Irish locals mix. We hit the dance floor for a waltz, realize there’s a long circle through the two rooms of the pub, get into the flow after a series of collisions with bemused locals. Next, four couples, including a tough old matron who glares at any misstep, take the cleared floor for a series of polkas and reels, and we’re treated to old fashioned Irish social dancing, a combination of rudimentary square dance type patterns with complex step dancing footwork, rather dazzling. Next, a beer chugging chunky lad with Down’s syndrome, wheelchair bound in a bright Cork Gaelic Football jersey (they just lost to Kerry) is wheeled around the floor by his aunt. The youth rocks out, swinging his arms gracefully in a self-styled dance, and his family swarms the floor, circling the wheelchair as the patrons clap and cheer.

On one of the last days Paul climbed the mountain-hill behind the farmhouse, drenching his feet within the first five minutes of the venture. This was a tricky climb, as grass and stones were soaked from the morning mist. Many encounters with sheep gazing the upper ridges, and the valley and bay below disappeared beneath the mountain mist. The summit was a long narrow rib covered in a thick red grass, and the mist hid the view of the mountains across the deep valley that surely lurked down the unseen slope.Lovely. Just lovely.


It’s the morning of the last day of the Hawks/Tony Gilkyson UK tour, or, broadening our parameters, the summer US/UK tour. Forty-three shows, 30 states, 10 counties, two and a half systems of government. It’s a lot for us to digest.

But we do, and also digest the cereal and fruit in our odd hotel? B&B? boarding house? not far from last night’s Musician club gig in no nonsense industrial Leicester. It’s a gloomy gray day, just the way half the band members like it. Tony, Kip, and Shawn are off to a radio interview/performance in Swindon, and Rob and the two Pauls are scheduled to do a voiceover session for a Nottingham family theme park. Much to our disbelief and skepticism. But sure enough, the theme park people call us on our cheapo UK cell phone, tell us to come over. We drive the rainy streets to a factory warehouse next to the Musician club, head up the concrete ramp, and sure enough, dynamic duo Dean and Dan, wife/husband team, greet us cheerily and escort us into the factory, past vivid molded plastic Wild West animated figures, life size, with hydraulic actuators jutting from their flannel shirts and cowboy hats. Robot builders paint, sculpt, polish guns and rifles.

How did we get this unlikely and impromptu gig? Apparently our a capella singing at sound check won the animators’ hearts. Now we’re drinking big cups of coffee and reading scripts, internalizing the motivation for a talking horse, a nervous bank teller, a cowboy getting a tooth pulled, a slick bandito.We also arrange two songs for barbershop quartet minus one harmonies, which we pull off to the delight of the producers. We then step into the sound booth one by one for our voiceover acting debuts, the aforementioned characters farmed out amongst Rob and Pauls. Great fun, mostly first takes, our faux/cartoon Western accents dazzling the blissfully uncritical Brits (actually, we did a pretty fine job, those hours watching old cartoons finally paying off). Dean and Dan pay us, take us out for Chinese food a rainy walk through industrial alleys, regale us with their daring tale of capitalization and entrepreneurialism (they do theme parks all over Europe and UK), and we’re on our way.

We missed the great Avebury Stone Circles south of Swindon, which Tony, Kip, and Shawn assure us were amazing, but after an arduous rainy traffic snarled trek to Swindon, we stumble into the Magic Roundabout, a massive traffic circle with its terror multiplied by five outer traffic rings surrounding the center roundabout. We closed our eyes and dove in, escaped onto the right exit and found The Beehive on charming Prospect Hill.The word Swindon conjures up the genius British comedy series “The Office,” and its lovingly psychotic portrayal of grim office politics. The actual Swindon town has a few gray business monoliths, but the Beehive is on a sloping ridge of back to back older houses, with a mid-19th century brick Baptist church across the street. Charming.

The Beehive is a classic pub, wood floor and ancient looking bar. (This is the norm in the British Isles. The Mecca of venerable drinking spots) We crowd our way into the rear of the narrow pub, set up our gear, play our last sets to a reserved crowd that becomes quite animated after the show, buying lots of CDs. British reserve. It’s real.

The guitar amp on hand is a solid state Marshall. This is perhaps the ultimate oxymoron.
The mystique of the tube guitar amp is not mystical at all. It’s like the mystique of flossing,
or seat belts. Solid state amps just don’t work. They don’t sustain, and they let you down in the heat of battle. Why? We leave that to the scientists to answer. But the guitar players on this tour have learned a harsh lesson–better to plug into the board than into a solid state amp.

But this harsh lesson is but a shiver in the warm and cozy evening. We bid farewell to the Beehive people, load up our vehicles. Hugs all around on the rainy street, end of tour. American Country Rock Heroes Tony, Kip, Shawn, Rob, and the Pauls are feeling very good about this adventure.Paul L stays behind to sleep in a gloomy room over the Beehive. He’s off to Ireland for a vacation with Victoria. Hawks, Kip, and Tony drive to Heathrow, where an airport Travelodge awaits their weary arrival. What airline security madness awaits them next morning?


We’re in the triple room inhabited by Shawn, Kip, and Paul Lacques. Tonight Kip will sleep in the middle bed and dream of cross country skiing all night. But right now Kip and I are sitting on the far bed by the wall, Shawn and Tony hang on the middle bed, PL and Rob Ellen sit on the far bed by the window. Joe West is hanging halfway out the window threatening to jump. PM stands by our makeshift bar. Rob Ellen is entertaining us with tales of the Christianization of Scotland. “How do you get a pagan to give up their traditional world view?” Paul Lacques asks. Good question.

“Skipping forward a few years to the 9th century,” Rob Ellen continues. We’re getting deep now. Paul Lacques is egging him on. The conversation on the religious transition of the British Isles is gaining momentum. But wait! Tony is leaving for bed, he’s got an early radio station thing. The conversation stumbles, then wanders. Gazing up at PM from my increasingly horizontal spot on the far bed, I recall the dream I had of him last night: the Marshall family had just moved into a large new flat. It was full of newly acquired treasures, still in various stages of unpacking. PM was particularly interested in showing us the new boats he’d just purchased. There were several of them. A large model sailboat. Some kind of jet ski. And a waterski boat made entirely out of a super light weight future fiber. PM showed us how light it was by easily lifting it above his head. At last, he lay down flat on the floor and started zooming around the apartment as if he were on a luge.

The night leads to a make shift film festival starring the blue quilt on the far bed. We each take a short digital movie with PL’s camera which examines the nature of the bedspread. The films are spectacular. In a sense, they challenge the very nature of cinema and turn it on its head. We’re artists in Europe, goddamnit. We’re going to do it all!Even though we have one more show in Swindon tomorrow night this room party has the feel of a closing ceremony celebration. Nearly everyone is here, the Hawks, Tony and Kip, even Rob Ellen. If only Rob Douglas were here the circle would be closed. Still, we party our asses off. Way to go, brothers.


It’s raining. We’re on the M5, a gray and sterile motorway that lets you traverse Britain quickly, unless a lorry has overturned. Shawn is driving, Kip navigating, Tony perusing today’s Times (of London). Your humble blogger sits contentedly in the rear, fortified by a cappuccino which has been additionally fortified by a shot of Bulliet bourbon, purchased by Rob W in Glasgow as a sentimental bookend to our summer’s touring. For it was Bulliet that we sipped in long ago and far away Phoenix, AZ, in the innocence of this tour’s first leg, in the 110 degree June heat.

All is cozy in our Peugeot on the M5. Two shows left, and then the great unknown: Heathrow and Gatwick airports. These are the weeks of the new terror, the arrest of the alleged second wave of air bombers, and this time it’s feeling personal. The bombers were purportedly targeting American Airlines flights from Heathrow to L.A., among others, Hey, that’s us. Most likely, instead of death in the skies, we’re facing possible crowd claustrophobia and delays on a new scale, and we’re worried about our guitars. We were able to carry them on board in soft gig bags in the pre-terror days of 10 days ago, and now we may have to put them on the conveyor belts that mangle baggage. Rumors of bags disappearing forever fill the British tabloids. Many flights are being cancelled. We’re nervous.

We’ve arrived in Leicester. It looks exactly like Worcester to these California eyes. Identical brick residences in long rows with the ceramic chimney stacks that seem to be made by the same factory. —–


We were wrong about the age of the Cathedral. It’s much older—begun in the 11th century and completed, like all cathedrals, including the unfinished Gaudi cathedral in Barcelona, over several centuries. It looks to be of enduring strength, like the pyramids. Each sandstone block bears the fine chisel marks of medieval stonecutters, and a look up the side of the massive and precisely mortared tall walls inspires visions of hundred or thousands of humble toilers, cutting stones under the exacting supervision of the masons, fortified by mead or strong ale under flocks of migratory birds in a bluest if skies. An architectural and engineering feat that can’t be surpassed.

The inside of the Cathedral is inspiring of awed silence, like all her companions scattered across Europe. The stones of the ceiling are bright pink. Luridly colored carvings of ancient kings and queens, lying staring at the ceiling on massive blocks, line the central nave. In the basement is a Norman crypt. The Cathedral site has been a holy place since the 7th century. We climbed the narrow circular staircase, past a cozy and rather decadent looking carpeted room, past the bell tower mechanism chamber, past the bell chamber, and up to blue skies shining down on our top of the tower perch, guarded by four ornate stone towers at each corner. Worcester has no tall buildings, and our view was that of the medieval bellringer, stretching to the soft green hills behind trees and hedgerows surrounding the town in all directions. The river Severn winds under many bridges through town and close by the Cathedral. We spy Rob walking along the river far below.

In the floor below the bell chamber a very complex 1870’s chain, pulley, sprocket, and counterweight system controls the ringing of the bells on the quarter hour. A classic of British industrial revolution design, the cluster of counterweights and flywheels go into a cacophonous frenzy as the bells ring, iron block weights rising and falling on greased chains. The massive iron pendulum swings serenely below us.A former bellringer told us that the bells are still rung by hand by a team of ringers on Sundays and holidays. There is a European bells competition among the great Cathedrals, and Worcester is currently ranked fifth. The bells can ring a single peal (a peal is a series of notes that don’t repeat a pattern) of 4050 notes. A bell master calls out sequences to the six bellringers, all of whom have to be trained musicians to play the complex bell pieces. The contemplation of the communal dedication and iron fisted discipline needed to harness humankind into these feats of scale and beauty is rather exhilarating. A grand chess game was the medieval period, with merchants, nobles, royals, clergy, and the builders and financiers all doing battle on the backs of the peasants. Tragedy and sublime beauty of a vanishing kind. Does democracy produce mediocrity, or is that simply modernity run amok?


The clouds are closer to the ground in the England. White on top, gray on the bottom, the heavy low clouds of Worcester seem to be more a feature of the ground than the sky. We’re on the fifth floor of the Travel Lodge, our un-quaint but budget accommodations. But the view out the window is much different than the typical motel room in America. No mall parking lot, no Interstate, no TGIFridays out this window. A giant narrow spire rises the highest over the red-chimneyed roof tops. But there are many towers in this town. The grand cathedral dominates the skyline. It is, not surprisingly, just so much larger in scale than any other building. We’re guessing it’s from the 14th, 15th, or 16th century. Ballpark guess, of course. It seems the Duke University chapel in Durham, North Carolina lifted it’s footprint, tower, and all of its gothic details directly from this site. It front of the cathedral is a wide meandering park that seems to be on the verge of going wild. Heavy dropping willows encroaching on the well trimmed lawns.

Worcester is a pretty town embracing its future as a tourist destination and in the midst of forgetting its past as a commercial center for the trading of hops. Perhaps we would all do better to forget our commercial ambitions and recline into a future built on the culture of past. At least it’s the approximation of a local culture with connections to something other than the bright lights of the television, euro-trash techno beats, and the tinkling digital dominance and perpetual interconnection of the cell phone age. As our trip comes to a close we fear and dread our return to Heathrow. There’s the big terror threat, naturally. But that only serves to amplify the previously existing condition. Airports are the worst, the ground-zeros of modernity where the chaos all comes together like ten thousand rivers crashing into one another, battling for one tiny overwhelmed outet. How we long for the ancient narrow unpaved roads of Scotland meant only for the feet of men and horses to travel. The Marr’s Bar gig was an under-attended affair made pleasant by the small crowd’s enthusiasm and the kindness and hospitality of Brian Marr and the Marr’s Bar staff who fed and watered us and made the room sound good. The place even had Wi-Fi, damn it. We’ve had gigs like this in America but this was the first truly dismal turnout on this leg of the tour so it took a little psychological adjustment. Our last gig was in front of hundreds of drunk admiring Scots in a packed tent on the Highlands.


Ah, Belladrum, Belladrum. Thank you, Rob Ellen, for introducing us to a perfect day. A day worth this entire journey.

We loaded up our gear with the kind assistance of the Glenrothes folks and headed northward on winding highways towards Inverness in the far north of Scotland. The skies were blue with billowing gray and black clouds, bestowing on us a kindly and dramatic lighting of the glowing green hills, and as we entered the wild north, the purple heather.Don’t tell anyone, but Scotland to the north is stunning. The hills are higher, with rushing streams and waterfalls tumbling through exposed rock, and heather in its ancient battle for hillside with green pasture, bounded by very precisely walled stone walls, some climbing to the top of a hillside. We pass distilleries with their distinct bright copper pagoda roofs. Alas, no time to stop.

There is much replanted timber in these otherwise wild hills, timber in straight rows for e-z harvest in 30 or 40 years, planted to precise legally specified ratios of pine to hard wood. The forests often end in an abrupt straight line up the mountainside, giving the glacier carved valleys the feel of a giant garden. A beautiful garden. Misting rain, then sun, then rain as we drive north.The Belladrum festival is a two day spectacle, with Arlo Guthrie and Echo and the Bunnymen the best known acts, and many modern pop and rave music groups unknown to the hopelessly retro Hawks but no doubt famous to the youth. (Tony Gilkyson does a pretty convincing senescent pan-Brit, wheezing and limping his way through faux regional Anglo and Scotch colloquialisms. As he points out, we mock that which we are about to become.)

We wind our bulbous rental van through narrower country lanes, into the woods, and the Belladrum signs appear tacked on fence posts and ancient stone cottages, guiding us to the artiste back road entrance. Through oaks and birch we spy the vast sea of tents, including rows of white teepees with thick blue white peat smoke rising, and we’re excited. These are our people. We park, walk, repark, guided by Belladrum officials into the heart of this lovely fest, a wide green field undulating over hill and dale, surrounded by thick woods, with a high ridge of forest gazing down on the frolic. This is a modern day Renaissance faire, quite unselfconscious. Families with graying hipping patriarch and wiccan mom with gray long hair and gleaming Celtic eyes camp in the soggy fields, and they’re prepared for it. Everyone’s in a mellow and, dare we say, happy mood. We are far from the travails of modern times. The intentions of Woodstock are alive and well in the Highlands.

The Hawks-Gilkyson-Boardman clans are of mostly northern stock, with much Scotch-Irish and Irish blood flowing, and that unmistakeable sense of home and belonging is palapable. We park the van next to the big Grass Roots tent, where we’ll play in the afternoon, and we wander the Belladrum grounds.Green grass trampled, big tents, small tents, organic beef stand, BBC Scotland tent, food stalls, stop atomic energy effigy, tents with music roaring therefrom, laughing running children, hippies young and old, towering young Celtic wenches blond and blue eyed and fearless, chatting in feminine energy clusters, Scottish rastas and their original brethren from southern climes, neo-druids entertaining painted-face children with raggedy violin and accordion, drum circles, sweeping vista of the huge main stage field far below, where bass and drum and other modern sounds drift into the surrounding woods, and a huge crowd pumps its fists for the lucky main act bouncing across the brightly lit stage, stage lights in the daylight. Ah, Belladrum!

We meet Rob Ellen, an ancient vibe Scot in cap (did he have a pipe?), who negotiates for us a real valve Marshall amp and a great Fender, likewise a valve amp, with reverb. We follow a retro-blues act from somewhere in Caledonia, and madly set up our pedals on the big stage, and tune our guitars. There’s a big crowd filling our tent. Tony and Kip play first, the crowd roars, then the Hawks step up, Tony staying for a rousing “Hecker Pass.” The crowd is with us. Not to toot our own horn too enthusiastically, but the Hawks bring the crowd to a mild frenzy. We’re almost weeping with gratitude from playing real amps and drums, the loud and crystal clear sound we hear in our minds. The roof seems to come off the tent during Golden Girl, as Rob chants “And I cried, I cried,” and the music builds and builds. This is the moment you wish for when you take up a musical instrument. The crowd freaks.

1052[1].jpgWe jump off stage a bit intoxicated, chat with our new Scottish fan friends, thank the super cool sound men who rendered us gigantic, sell CDs, drink beer, wander the fest. Paul Marshall decides this is the moment to try his hand at driving in the British Isles. He fearlessly backs the van out of our tight space in the muddy grass, swings the beast around, navigates throngs of fest campers, finds a parking spot close to our exit wooded road. This is a complex and fearless man.

We gather our unsold merchandise, gather our pay–500 English pounds–from a lovely lass in a temporary building, head for Alice’s Restaurant, another temporary building down muddy lane, and enjoy a hearty and simple artiste feast. A walk through the rain to the van, and we’re off, through winding woodsy lane along hedgerow, eventually heading north to the little village of Ord.berry.jpg

Our lodging for the night is a late nineteenth century public house, with charming small rooms up a staircase. A raging Scottish wedding is in full bloom, with bruisers in kilts with big silver purses dangling over their manly parts, beautiful young and old women in fancy dresses. It looks like Scottish nobility. “You’re going to play for us, aren’t you lads?” Of course we are.Tony G, Kip, and Paul L stow our stuff and take a memorable sunset ramble down the country lane and into the hills, invading a soggy green field and gazing out on the gray black clouds on hilly horizon.

Later at the roadhouse, Tony G and Paul L take their guitars downstairs and sit down on couches in the big fireplace room, and jam with the very talented trad/pop Seth Lakeman Band, who have also just played Belladrum. These guys kick ass on the reels and jigs, especially Cormac Byrne, young virtuoso bodhran player. But the Scots want to hear good old American country music, and they sing along through our hacked up versions of Johnny Cash and Hank Williams, demanding more. Hours later Cormac shows Paul L his radical new style of bodhran playing, which Paul is choosing to ignore for the moment in favor of the traditional grip he’s just now getting a grasp on. The two sit at the great and ancient bar, where their reward for playing the wedding is on the house drams of the local single malt scotch, Glen Ord. The pub proprietor is dead serious about his whisky, pouring as if delivering the blood of Christ to a chosen few. And the amber spirit did indeed bring on an elevated spirituality.


The next day was a curious blend of the cosmic and the dismal. We set out from our Highlands roadhouse and headed south, through the narrow and straight as an arrow valley of Loch Ness, the winding road bobbing and weaving into and out of hills alongside the legendary lake.We did indeed spot the Loch Ness Monster, several times in fact, but didn’t take any photos as we wanted to respect the monster’s privacy.

Our rent-a-van, already much despised by the Hawks/Gilkyson clan, broke down somewhere in the woods near the lake. We used our trusty department store band cell phone and called the agency, who promised that help was on the way. Much time passed. The band scattered down various trails into the hills. Paul L found Tony holding a small reptile which Tony claimed was a legless lizard. It looked a lot like a snake. Paul L suggested it might be the poisonous asp, and Tony pondered the possibility that he had just courted death (it turned out woodsman Tony’s guess was right–it was indeed the Scottish legless lizard).Back at the roadside Rob and the extended in-laws clan pulled up. More time passed. The tow truck arrived, towing us back northward to the nearest tiny town, where we consoled ourselves over the local whisky. Verdict: the hated van is dead. Rob and Paul drove north to the nearest large town, and picked up an extra rentacar. They raced southward, stopping briefly in a Lochside pub for a sandwich, where we witnessed the witless decline of local Scottish youth. Lots of screaming and threats, heavy metal on the powerful jukebox, and a giant screen TV playing a different video from the jukebox. Meth? PCP? What are these youth on?

Mad dash south, pick up the band in the two rental cars, and then a stunning drive through fairy tail steep hills and misty valleys, darkened by the certainty that we were missing our evening’s gig in Glasgow. England is covered in surveillance cameras. Supposedly they are recording every square foot of roadway on the Isle. At a gas station approaching Glasgow, the digital readout on the gas pump informed us that our license plate was being scanned. If we weren’t terrorists, the pump would be unlocked. To Paul L’s disappointment, we were clean, and we petroled up.

And arrived in Glasgow around midnight, pretty bummed about missing our gig. The Holiday Inn or whatever it was was pretty dismal, but in a great location in the middle of Glasgow.Which is a great old town, great pubs and restaurants, with a classic early 20th century architectural school that influenced the arts and crafts and other movements. We walked all over town, checked out the cathedral and a strange cemetery perched on the highest hill in town. The dead have a spectacular view of Glasgow and its hills.



Morning comes early for RW. He sneaks as quietly as he can out of the family room he’s sharing with PL at the Nottingham Travel Lodge. Down to the train station and onto a Virgin Rails train to Edinburgh where his family and in laws await. Good luck RW! See you Scotland!

The band woke with their usual leisure. Packing slowly but deliberately they made their way back to the minibus. There’s just no hurry today. It’s a driving day and we’ve got two days to go seven hours. In the USA, ISHILA would undertake such a drive in an afternoon, hope on the wide straight highways of America, set the cruise control at 85 and roll. But things are different here in Britain They left side driving, for instance, the roadabouts, and the wide narrow roads. So we’ll take our time. Further, we just like to adapt as much as possible to whatever region we are visiting. Things move a little slower over here and so shall wee. So it goes for this anti-global, international-traveling country rock band.


Robin Hood references abound. Our Travelodge is on Maid Marian Way. Statues of archers and merry men are everywhere. The Sheriff of Nottingham does not arrest us as we drive madly down the incomprehensible roads, trying to find the motel and the gig. We’ve violated many traffic laws, and circled endlessly through unmarked streets. We’ve passed that corner four times already. Shawn, Rob, and PL seem to have mastered the right hand drive from the left hand lane, but we still can’t follow the directions. Lookout for that roundabout! A great castle sits on a rocky hill overlooking the city, There’s a pub called the “Trip to Jerusalem” built into the base of one the cliffs at it’s base. The pub itself is connected to network of tunnels that rum beneath the old castle. You can sit and drink your pint at a table in the limestone caves.

The gig turns out to be great. To our delight and surprise, the house is full of enthusiastic ISHILA fans and new converts. One guy has driven 100 miles to see us (quite a long distance in the British Isles). We’re surprised and grateful. The staff runs out to get us great, huge, paper wrapped fish and chips. When Shawn opens his package he exclaims, “Oh my god! There’s a whole fish in there!” Indeed, there is. We devour the very hot food in the cold, half-outdoor dressing room. Yum. The amps don’t blow up, yet. Post gig we hang with the locals, drink tasty ales. RW gets bought shots by a Polish guy and his Greek brother in law. In younger days, RW would’ve tried to catch up with how drunk they were in an act of international cooperation and competition—sort of treated it as an Olympic gathering of drunks. But times have changed and the responsibilities of fatherhood, lead singing, and co-tour managing ground him into a two shot minimum.

We pack up the minibus, find our way back to the Travel Lodge only hitting two fast-moving British curbs, unload, even park with a new found confidence. We’re getting the hang of this.