We have been given heroes’ welcomes on our arrival in California: ticker-taped American bear-hugs worthy of any in Yosemite. And they hardly know us.
We’ve been welcomed into the highly-toned belly of a Californian woman’s home. Sista Judy, the Bayou Brothers’ rub-board player (the Bez of the zydeco Happy Mondays) has taken us in like new family members, showering warmth and comfort on us two.
The stuffed fridge has been opened to us, we’ve been given the run of the house, our own bathroom each and ushered towards the jacuzzi at any stage of our stay.
We both knew we were amongst friends when we walked through the door to see freshly-roast granola cooling on the worktops, cooked by our host’s son (a 25-year-old man we’d later come to know as ‘The Prince of Chill’). They knew they were amongst friends when I produced my broccoli powder green drink. I am accepted here for the algae I drink.
We’ve been given our own room below-stairs, next to a separate apartment where Sister Judy’s Mexican tenants pound out their love for each other. “Isn’t that beautiful?” says loved-up Sista Judy.
Our musical arranged marriage has got off to a good start both in rehearsals and in those paid rehearsals we call gigs.
It could have been terrible. What if there’d been no spark after the first date? What if we’d woken up in bed with the wrong person? What if Bayou Brother Ric Lee’s vision had been impaired?
It’s been love at first rehearsal, I can report. Ours is a natural attraction between West Coast musicians from two different countries and cultures. We sing the same language. Plus we brought them welcome gifts of Dartmoor Chilli Sauce and t-shirts. Direct hit.
We consummated our marriage in bass-player Danny’s garage, tricked out as a permanent rehearsal room and watched over a little by Sarah the shaky chihuahua and Danny’s mum, who doesn’t want us to rest our instruments, cups and laptops on her new washing machine. No worries mom.
The musicians are just as respectful with my songs. They’ve worked hard to practise Mama tunes and want to ensure that the vocalist can be heard in rehearsal. “We like to rehearse quiet. Is that OK with you,” asks Ric. I’m in vocalist heaven.
Their playing puts the required hot sauce into the British-made R’n’B/soul stew I’m trying to cook up, plus Big Buzzard’s musical leadership, the wonderful charts he’s produced and his bird’s-eye overview makes sure the details are covered.
Their musicianship makes everything easy. And groovy.
We’ve tried out our Special Relationship in a few places in the lead up to the big gig at Gator By the Bay Festival this weekend.
We’ve played an airpot, a community church, the San Diego Wildlife Park for weary half-marathon runners. We’ve performed for kids in a library and now we’re about to do it in front of party-goers and food-freaks at the Festival.
The day before the event sees us doing breakfast TV slots. By 7am we’ve filmed for three channels. Ric keeps telling everyone to smile harder, but I can’t stop. I’m looking around, catching my shadow (with two giant feather ‘horns’), looking out across the marina and up at the big buildings.
I’m on tour in America.