The Almshouse Collective
Double click on the images to meet the band.
August 2020: band voted "artist of the week" by BBC Radio Hereford & Worcester with a track featured every night of the week plus extra tracks and an interview on the final night.
Many thanks to the BBC for their encouragement and air time.
Extract from 2019 interview [with some current updates] answering commonly asked questions. Please post more through the contact page - always happy to answer if possible.
Who are The New Almshouse Collective:
It varies depending on what's required for a particular song but the current nucleus is:
Murray Esplin [AKA Wyson Lane]:
lead & harmony vocals / acoustic guitars / cittern / banjitar / harmonicas / whistle / hurdy-gurdy.
acoustic & electric guitars / mandolin / bass / percussion / keyboards. Link: Addaband Studio
fiddle / viola / accordion.
Occasional members are:
trumpet on "So Much More". Link: Tim's Violins
keyboards on "A Cold Wind Blows" & on Cornelius Bumble-Pratt's "Fuffock's Ache".
adds occasional additional instruments during mastering. Link: Zapp multimedia
Why the new band name:
I've been in blues, Celtic, ceilidh, jazz, mediaeval metal mayhem minstrels, folk and old timey bands in the past and none of them provided the right platform for these new songs. Also I didn't want the new venture to be linked to previous incarnations. I don’t want anyone to approach the new songs with any preconceived ideas about what to expect.
As it's a new venture a new band name made sense but the change to the personal tag, Wyson Lane, was an accident. The songwriting business is Wyson Lane Music and someone thought my name was Wyson Lane. It’s actually where I live! As I'm writing some songs specifically for the country music market and it sounds a bit "country" I thought I might as well not correct it. I've started wearing a baseball cap [see "thinking cap" photo] and I have been known to wear a checked jacket occasionally so the transformation has begun.
So why the previous anonymity:
I know it's a cliche but the music and message are more important than the messenger and I didn't want the listener to start making comparisons with previous incarnations. However, recently people have been asking for photos so the anonymity has had to go. After seeing the photos, particularly the baseball cap and lumberjack outfit, you might agree that continued anonymity may have been preferable!
Which genre would you say the music falls into and what are the main influences:
Don't like being defined by genre. There’s Country, Blues, Melodic Jazz, a sprinkling of Latino & Tex-Mex, Folk and Rock roots and plenty enough angst for all. It certainly isn’t Pop, but I hope it might be popular and I've even written a happy-clappy, gospel type song, “Love Is”. It's not our usual fare but I think it's worked out quite well.
With regards to influences, where do you start? Listen to the songs and you tell me.
Do you see yourself as a musician or a writer:
If you’d asked me a couple of years ago I would have said musician but now the answer’s definitely writer. Writing is now more important than performing - it might be an age thing.
[Update: there’s been no live performances since the beginning of 2020 thanks to the pandemic and we have no gigs planned for the foreseeable future].
You've brought the subject up of "age" so I've got to ask. Most people your age are slowing down and taking it easy. You seem to be doing the opposite:
There's lots of musicians rocking well into their 70s and even some in their 80s so I'm in very good company and I still feel I've got something to say. Anyway, I've cut right back on the performing to allow more time for writing and recording.
So if this is primarily a song writing venture do you want other musicians to cover the songs:
That's the intention - they're there for anybody to use and I'd be very flattered. All the songs are copyrighted and registered so there's no commercial problem.
What comes first, lyrics or music:
Usually the words come first which then suggest the melody and the form the music should take - but not always.
What's very interesting about the song writing process is how an initial idea can change. The song takes on a life of its own and you can end up with something completely different. I recently started a song about unrequited love and it ended up being about religious intolerance [A Cold Wind Blows].
What's most important, lyrics or music:
The words hopefully stand alone but the two are inextricably linked.
Full lyrics can be found on the Lyrics Pages to all the most popular songs.
As well as some very moving love songs and general observations you also address some very difficult topics. You write about mental health problems, refugees and the effects of war, suicide, old age and dying, child abuse and prostitution, drug abuse and alcoholism, our effect on the environment and, as you mentioned previously, the worst forms of religious bigotry:
Time to mount the soap box! I believe passionately that serious song writers, poets and prose writers have a duty to highlight these and other difficult subjects as well as commenting on the more appealing aspects of human nature. There are some sentimental love songs as well so hopefully there's a balance and it’s not all unmitigated angst!
My hope is that some of the songs might make the listener pause for reflection just occasionally in our overly-busy modern lives and maybe even become proactive in trying to make our world a better place. Check out "2020 Vision - Strange Times" which references many of the problems we are currently facing and most definitely not dealing with successfully.
The sound on the more traditional “Country” songs is generally very intimate:
The subject matter is often very important and I really want the words to be heard. I also wanted to get as close to a "live" sound as possible which still worked as an enduring recording and didn't want anything over-produced.
We've attempted to return to a more vintage vibe which is simpler and more immediately accessible. There's just no hiss, crackles and clicks this time round!
Can you explain the recording process:
Simple really. I write and record the songs with a multi-tracked acoustic accompaniment to a percussion and bass click track and forward them to Clovis at the Addaband studio.
Clovis then uses what instruments will work from my initial demos and adds to or replaces them with his input and from other musicians to create a 1st mix. We then edit and send an unmastered mix to Rich Michael at Zapp Multimedia for any final edits and mastering. It's like a writer / arranger / joint producers relationship but the demarcation lines are somewhat blurred - a very collaborative process which, we believe, works really well and has meant we’ve been able to continue recording during the pandemic lockdowns as we all record, mix and master remotely. We must be doing something right as many of the songs have been featured on BBC radio so a big thank you to Auntie BeeB for her support.
Do you have any tours and concerts planned:
Forward planning has always been difficult due to other commitments and is now impossible due to the pandemic but I hope it may be a possibility again from 2022 onwards. For now we’ll concentrate on writing, arranging and recording.
Any new releases coming up:
Working on them - albums in the "Songwriter" series due from 2021 onwards. Keep in touch and look out for:
Just Passing Through.
Out Of The Shadows.
Songs From A Small Room.
Many thanks, really appreciated – all the very best and hope it all goes well:
You’re very welcome - any time.
Addaband: Recording studio run by multi-instrumentalist, Clovis Phillips.
JAE: Songwriter and recording musician closely related to Wyson!
Tim's Violins: a true craftsman and closely related to Clovis.
Knighton Music: the best toy shop in Wales and probably one of the best in the UK.
Atkin Guitars: Alister makes a range of superb guitars including the featured SJ Deluxe.
Pickard Acoustics: Ivor made the excellent cittern used on some of the recordings.
Neil Brook: maker of the beautiful hurdy-gurdy featured in A Cold Wind Blows.
Trevor Jones: guitar tech and repairer who set up the Coletti archtop.
EmuBands: digital music distribution service. Superb advice and communication.
Music Gateway: music industry market place for promotion, A&R & syncing.
Big Effort Productions: Immaculate image and video creation.
Messing around with the blues.
Been asked to add some blues tracks so I've segued some solo tracks together. Yes, this is what I used to do before starting the "Country" project - just need someone to play the bass and lead guitar - and a real drummer would be better!