A very short and biased history of an Alt Country (whatever that is?) webzine in the U.K.
OK apologies for the badly dropped Flyinshoes Motel badge..we all make mistakes brethren 🙂
I member of about 10 Nings already it gets confusing….:-)
I’m Shaun Belcher..50 years old…some kind of musician and even less of a singer…
I’m a fan of Townes Van Zandt from the day I found his ‘My Mother the Mountain’ vinyl album on RCA in amongst the Motown and Beatles albums my uncle had left on a radiogram (that dates me) in my grandmother’s front room next to a rusty piano…
After messing around at an institution described as an art college I did some record sleeves for Creation Records band The Weather Prophets and started playing guitar late and writing songs. I started imitating Nick Cave and Tom Waits (still do) and eventually started writing a bit about ‘folk’ music as it was then known in my hometown of Oxford, England.( yes that one the backdrop for Inspector Morse shows)
Then one day I got a job at the Bodleian Library Oxford and discovered the internet. They even trained me to make websites. The rest as they say is history. I now lecture in the subject at university..I’m lucky to have a job….at last…
In Spring of 1999 inspired by the mounting collection of No Depression magazines I’d managed to purchase from Tower Records Picadilly London and other outlets I set about trying to put Americana reviews online….indeed one drunk evening in The Borderline London Tom Bridgewater who founded Loose Records said I’d been the first …..maybe…but not the best..I did what I could..
Anyway I tried to keep the ‘webzine’ (whatever that is) going through an acrimonious personal split and moving cities ..to London then Nottingham..which I partly did..the full archive here
Throughout I tried to keep the webzine not for profit (nobody was paid ever) and keep it a publication that had integrity..indeed I even asked Townes widow for permission to use Flyinshoes as title…she said yes…I was honoured.
I received cds for review and gave to reviewers and NEVER sold them ..I also did not allow promoters to promote their personal acts at expense of other acts etc. Because nobody took money from the project it was truly a democratic and honest review..at its height there were eight reviewers…it was a small but important little review just like Omaha Rainbow ….my inspiration from the 1970’s. It was well written..mostly.
Being free it of course failed when times got really tough – I was unemployed for a while ..it finally died in 2004 but it also helped launch a charity CD and give exposure to many older acts ..e.g. James Talley and some younger kids on the block:-). I am proud of what I achieved on no budget and all it cost me was time..lots of time. It takes days every week to keep a webzine relevant and fresh.
Eventually the young guns did for it..I could not compete with the team at americana uk and I gave up trying.
I hope I helped the UK americana scene blossom..when I started there was just myself Pierangela and James Windsor joining together to try and help Neal Casal get around the country…maybe the first ‘alt-country’ tour in the U.K. who knows..
If 1999 was a significant date so too is 2009. A decade later we are here again trying to keep another boat afloat. This time the stakes are higher. With CD sales and production in freefall (how long before there no more actual CDS to review?) we can either hang together and keep No Depression ideal alive and visible or fracture into a thousand shards of american, folk, whatever …which would be a shame.
Flyinshoes Review finally came back as a short-lived podcast 2007-8 and finally turned into my NING – Flyinshoes Motel and Review….less work as all the content is user-created but a chance to welcome back some old friends and reviewers like Rob Ellen. Now the future appears to be NING centred certainly we have a chance to maybe bring all this disparate web activity into some kind of ‘federation of NING states’:-)
If there is any life left in the Americana tag and god knows there are times when I tire of another CD with a barn picture on the front or a third-rate Tom Waits like myself within but I continue to plow this stony field because of those gems..the things that shine like diamonds in the coal..The Kevin Meisels, Drew Nelsons, Vanessa Peters and Crosby Tylers of the world..the excitement of genuine creativity that still shines forth…
So I implore people join this NING ..bring all the other little NINGS in too and lets see more sunshine and less depression…in the words of the Carters..NO DEPRESSION here…
Its tough times so hang together or fade away alone seems the stark choice brethren..
for my personal world of scribble, rant and singing go to
all best from England’s least famous dead country legend Trailer Star 🙂