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Once upon a time, when the world was young, I was in a gorgeous art deco hotel in Lytham Saint Anne's. At the time, I was the editor of a particularly dodgy magazine called Quest. The magazine wasn't particularly dodgy, but the bloke who published it was the worst shyster of any of the numerous shysters for whom I have worked over the years. He left a trail of bankrupt companies and unpaid debts wherever he went, and one of the major reasons I was in the northwest of England that weekend was to try and screw a couple of grand out of him (partially what he owed me, and partly just because I could). It has always been my experience in life, that the only way that one can deal effectively with shysters is to out-shyster them, and so when I had been in Las Vegas a few weeks before, as one of the guests at a monumentally uninteresting UFO conference, I racked up my expenses to an insane degree.

But I digress.

The other reason that I was in Lancashire that weekend was that I was a guest speaker at a conference put on by those jolly nice people at the Lancashire Aerial Phenomena Investigation Society (LAPIS), the residential part of which was held at this wonderful hotel called the Eden Field, which was - for all the world - like something out of an Agatha Christie novel. Sadly, it didn't have a library, but if it had done, you would have been surprised if it didn't have the body of a glamorous blonde starlet bleeding onto the carpet. A splendid time was had by all, and - I have to admit - I behaved quite badly, and racked up a bar bill of astronomical proportions. Most of this was due to the presence of two new acquaintances of mine: Jose Escamilla from Roswell, New Mexico, and a sturdy guy from Seaham-on-Sea in County Durham. I was probably too drunk to register his proper name, but all weekend he was known as 'Geordie Dave'. I still remember, with wry pleasure, a drunken conga line through the labyrinthine passages of the hotel, led by Geordie Dave, who was - all the time - singing a bawdy rendition of 'Singapore' by Tom Waits.

Two years later, I was back in The Eden Field for another LAPIS conference, and - this time, sober - the first person I met was Geordie Dave. It turned out that his real name was David Curtis, and over the course of this second weekend - and then a long, complicated, investigation which took place the following summer into a giant catfish which was attacking swans in a nature reserve at a place called Martin Mere, a few miles further south - we became fast friends. That autumn, I visited Dave, his lovely wife Joanne, and their little girl, Rosie, for the first time, during another investigation, this time into strange attacks on wallabies at an animal sanctuary just outside Middlesborough.

I soon discovered that Joanna was an angel in human form and that Rosie was a delightful little girl, to whom I almost immediately became known as 'Uncle Jon'. Sixteen years later, and I'm still Uncle Jon to Rosie (now 21, and studying computer game design at university) and David and Joanne are amongst my closest friends.

David has always been a musician, and the two of us have quite a lot in common musically. For many years, he was the frontman of a broadly indie band, which performed peculiar and often humourous songs of his composition. But a few years ago now, he told me that he was now playing in an acoustic blues duo with a bloke called Nick. I knew that Dave has always had a fondness for the blues, so this news didn't particularly surprise me, but when he sent me the first two albums he had recorded with this new band, 'Auld Man's Baccie', I was overwhelmed by how good they were. Although my record collection contains the complete works of Robert Johnson and various records by Billie Holiday, amongst others, I have always been fairly scathing about modern bands playing the blues. It is so often an excuse for self-indulgent fret-wanking, accompanying a dull routine of songs proclaiming that the singer's woman 'done left'!

But Auld Man's Baccie is something else. They draw on the same authentic sources as other blues afficinados across the world but - somehow - the noise they make is not only entertaining but genuine. And, moreover, the songs contain Dave's singular sense of humour, and whilst some of the songs are set in a mythical America, others - still containing tales of drunkenness, misadventure and ladies of ill-repute - still seem set firmly in the seedier parts of the northeast of England.

After two highly regarded studio albums, the band have decided to release a live record, showcasing what they do best; grooving in front of a massively appreciative audience. So, I thought it was a good time to phone the boys up and find out how life had been treating them...


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