I have recently returned from a trip to Holland. That in itself, in these strange post corona and Brexit times still feels like quite the novel and exciting statement to make. In addition to all the good cheese, cycling and waterways I enjoyed, there was a significant music-related reason for my Dutch adventure. It all stems back to three years ago…
View from the North Sea
Cheese stall in Hooffdorp market
With the help and support of my good friends from the Raven Folk Club in Chester, I recorded the song Mississippi Summer onto my EP, Roe Deer. You can hear the track, if you wish via Bandcamp by clicking on this link: https://phoeberees.bandcamp.com/track/mississippi-summer
During the process of obtaining a mechanical licence to record Mississippi Summer, an email landed in my inbox from the song’s writer; singer, songwriter and civil rights activist, Si Kahn. He had written to say how much he enjoyed my rendition.
This really was the most exciting thing that could have possibly happened at the time and I had to do a lot of self pinching before it sunk in. So you can imagine my reaction when, in a zoom meeting soon after this initial email correspondence, Si asked if I would like to record a full album of his songs and for it to be released through a record label in Holland. What a privilege!
Fast forward to 2022, past the bumps and hurdles of the pandemic whilst navigating the early stages of a career as a professional musician along with a move to the north east of England to study a masters in music therapy. All of this whilst digging deep to find the musical creativity to put music to fourteen of Si’s songs; finally things came together and I was able to travel to Holland, where the record label Strictly Country Records (SCR) is managed by Pieter Groenveld.
Pieter has recorded and released albums by some wonderful country and folk musicians, several of whom I got the chance to listen to in front of the fire in the living room through Pieter’s 6ft quality speakers. I’ve had the influences of Deroll Adams, David Olney, Liz Meyer, Chris Jones and Michael O Connor ringing in my ears – the spirit of Bluegrass has definitely settled inside of me! Seven of Si’s albums have also been released and produced with SCR.
Si’s albums released through SCR
For three days I had the good fortune of collaborating with the masterful and talented Janos Koolen from Doornenburg Studios. It was a wonderfully positive experience and I felt completely supported, motivated and creative in our collaboration of bringing these arrangements to fruition.
Photos from recording and rehearsing in Doornenburg Studios
Other musical events on the trip included a local gig organised by Pieter where I heard Nina Lynn perform as well as the duo My Darling Clementine. Nina is in the process of recording her second album with Janos and you can hear her music via Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/album/37hVi73UvgVkn7zxnfMuPR?si=m0cpt0dsSvKvCxztEel_YQ
Her songs are lovely and I especially enjoyed that she included in her setlist her self-penned song Conwy Bay, after our conversation about how close I have lived to North Wales.
Jamming in Belgium
Before heading back home there was time to pop down into Belgium to the Banjojamboree festival outside Essen where Pieter had his merchandise stall. I got the chance to jam with some great musicians and enjoyed putting my new found love of Bluegrass and improvising in a live context!
There is still a lot of work to be done, a second trip to the studio and then all of the product design and promotion. All of this has been a real learning curve, challenging but rewarding and I am so looking forward to sharing this piece of work with people. It is an incredibly special opportunity for me to have had and I’m so grateful to Si for enabling my music to come out and to Janos and Pieter for encouraging me in the recording process.
More soon, so I guess… watch this space!