All the lyrics on this album are included in Maurice's book of the same title, along with their background stories. Some, like 'Sheep', 'Jam on It', 'Ripe Potatoes', Marmalade' and 'Cowboy Joe' are just silly, even childish. Others tell more serious stories, like 'John Newton' (the slave trader who became a priest and wrote Amazing Grace), 'White Feather' (recounting the fate of a conscientious objector in WWI) and 'Bound For Australia' (about the many thousands of children sent to Australia during the 1950s and 60s under the Child Migration Scheme).
Unlike many singer-songwriters, Maurice avoids confessional love songs but likes biographical tales, such as 'Saint Sebastian', which weaves autobiography with historical events, or 'Soho in the Sixties' that remembers the legendary Les Cousins and all the many acoustic music stars of the future who appeared there. Other songs celebrate great performers like Lead Belly (There's a Line), Woody Guthrie (Working Man's Blues) or Richard Thompson (The Man in a Silly Hat).
The Key to a Happy Life, both album and book, give no definitive suggestions on how to be happy, but they can help banish the blues and give listeners and readers something to think about - and maybe even raise a smile.
A new collection of original crumbs from this acclaimed North East based singer-songwriter – supported by some great musicians. The album is a mixed selection of humorous and serious songs inspired by themes of history, fame, murder, steam trains, fast cars, love, old age, politics, and other everyday stuff. Head over to the Quiz page to test your knowledge of famous characters (all with some connection to the album).
Jackie Manai (fiddle) has played violin since childhood, performing in orchestras including the New Tyneside Orchestra, accompanying Nigel Kennedy at the City Hall in 1988. She played in many folk sessions at Kingston Upon Thames University while studying Music teaching and also learned Northumbrian Pipes. Back in the North East she was a Primary school teacher and taught music at night, continuing with music sessions around Northumberland, joining Newbiggin folk band Below the Salt and later Northumberland Fayre which has included gigs at The Phoenix with Piranha Brothers Unplugged . She also currently helps run a family catering business.
Mike Hirst (melodeon) has travelled throughout Europe and the US performing, collecting songs, and collaborating with musicians, artists, anarchists and agent provocateurs. He has recorded in Nashville with legendary producer Barry Becket (Muscle Shoals, Paul Simon, Bob Seger, Traffic, Bob Dylan, John Anderson) and in the UK with Dub Reggae maverick the Mad Professor. Mike can be heard on recordings by Edward II and the Red Hot Polkas; Brendan Croker; Jim Eldon, and the Mekons. He has performed live with Michelle Shocked, Rory McLeod, Rhythm Sisters and the Black Spot Champions. Festival appearances have included Festival Inteceltique Lorrient, Sidmouth Folk Festival, Cambridge Folk Festival, Whitby Folk Festival, Womad, and Reading Festival. TV and Radio appearances have included BBC Radio 1; BBC Radio 2; and BBC Radio 4; Channel 4 TV; and France Bleu Nord.
Stew Rickard (melodeon and washboard) began as a harmonica player in the Sixties, backing numerous blues and R&B acts, he then learned melodeon in the Seventies and, moving to Cornwall, played in clubs and pubs as well as with Morris bands. Returning to the North East in the Nineties he ran a second-hand book shop whilst also playing in various combos. A well established part of the Newcastle and North Tyneside music scene, Stew has played in various local groups including, most recently, a great family combo called The Outfit. Stew specializes in playing lively Bluegrass, Cajun, Skiffle and, especially, Rockabilly.
Maurice Baker (guitar, banjo, keyboards and percussion) began performing in clubs around London and Southern England during the Sixties. As a teacher in the Seventies he produced music for various educational projects. In the Eighties he formed Sunshine Express, a band performing in schools and theatres. He also supported workshops for children with special needs at the Polka Theatre, Wimbledon. In the Nineties as a school Music Co-ordinator he worked on many musical and drama productions and other creative events. In the Noughties he worked in Special Education and returned to playing in folk clubs, winning several song writing competitions including at the Woody Guthrie Festival in 2011, travelling to Oklahoma to perform. In 2012 he published a semi-autobiographical novel, ‘The Singer-Songwriter’s Last Stand’, along with an audio music CD.