Welcome to the website of the band BLOWZABELLA where you can listen free to our music, buy albums, downloads and tune books direct from the band, get the latest news about gigs and explore our history.
The band has a lot of new material and are planning to start recording, filming and playing live and online as soon as it is possible to do so safely in terms of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Blowzabella is Andy Cutting – diatonic button accordion; Jo Freya – vocals, saxophone, clarinet; Paul James – vocals, bagpipes, saxophones; David Shepherd – violin; Barn Stradling – bass guitar; Jon Swayne – bagpipes, saxophone.
Blowzabella is a genuinely unique band that makes an inimitable, driving, drone-based wall-of-sound - played with a fabulous sense of melody, rhythmic expertise and sheer feeling. They compose their own music which is influenced by English and European traditional folk music and song. Many of their tunes are “standards” in the modern British/European folk repertoire and are played by people all over the world. Bands across Europe and beyond who experiment with folk music often cite Blowzabella as a major influence. Much loved and respected, there is no one else quite like them.
27th February 2021. remembering Ian Luff who passed away 4 years ago today.
Remembering Ian Luff who sadly passed away 4 years ago today. here's the Eulogy given by Paul James at his funeral...
I first met Ian in London in the early 1980s when he was playing with the Late Night Band and I helped them make their album the Kings Of Baroque-a-Billy. Who was this good looking young guy from Brighton with the hot guitar licks, the sharp hair cut and the quick fire humour?
People forget but Ian was a rock music guy, not a folkie, and yet here he was playing jigs and polkas with a skill that demanded attention. When he joined Blowzabella in 1985 he used to say with typical modesty “what do I know about folk music?” but we all instantly felt that he brought something special to the band.
Mostly that was a really strong sense of rhythm, he was like a one man rhythm machine. I always thought that he was a sort of folk Pete Townsend who played with maximum commitment, really driving the band along and we know a lot of musicians of different ages who are really influenced by him.
Ian had a great sense of humour with a typically English sense of the absurd and love of the eccentric. He used to do this slightly bonkers impersonation of Clint Eastwood which involved us trading lines from the Dirty Harry movies and we used to cry with laughter while singing a certain Peter Cook and Dudley Moore comic song which it really wouldn’t be suitable to sing here (come and see me afterwards). He could send up that stiff upper lip British black and white war movie type of character crossed with the wit of Kenneth Williams in the Carry On films.
But his humour was always kind, more about the absurdities of this world we find ourselves in than laughing at anyone’s expense. He was always fundamentally and at all times, a real gentleman in every sense of the word.
Playing music is a strange thing, you get to travel around a lot. You go to a very large number of places but don’t necessarily see much of them as everything revolves around the gig and you live in a kind of bubble. It sounds fun, and it is fun but it’s also hard work!
The band played all over Britain and Europe with Ian and toured Brazil and West Africa.
We also toured in communist East Germany before the wall came down.
It was a genuinely unique experience. We got invited by an East German cultural association. It’s difficult to believe now but half of Germany was a grim polluted soviet state and we were followed the whole time by the Stasi – the secret police. But, Ian really loved the people who were just brilliant and so pleased we’d made the effort to get through all the bureaucracy and crossed the heavily guarded no man’s land that separated East from West back then to come and play. Every gig was filled with excitement. We have friends still from that tour and many of them were really fond of Ian. The Uhlmann family from Leipzig have been in touch to send their condolences to the family.
An even bigger experience was Brazil in 1987. Take 5 ordinary British lads and send them on a tour around Brazil for 4 weeks. What an amazing experience. And Thank You The British Council. We didn’t get as far as the Amazon but we went to most of the major cities. It had a dangerous edge too but the people there are so alive and open to music. And so pleased to see us! It was a real eye opener. Ian absolutely loved it and he’d often talk about it years after with wide eyed amazement. We made a live album of that tour called Pingha Frenzy. Pingha is a kind of drink distilled from honey. There’s a track on it we recorded late at night called Poolside Polka which is classic Ian. Magic playing. You can hear the cicadas singing along in the background in the heat of the night. That was the last big tour we did with accordion player Dave Roberts who tragically died too young a few years later. A year or so ago we played at the wedding of Dave’s daughter Alice, and last week she gave birth to a son Casper. Alice still plays her dad’s accordion. I just mention that because, as the saying goes, life goes on. Anyway.. the album is hard to buy now but I’ll gladly make you a free copy so you can hear Ian giving it his all.
Ian lived with epilepsy for most of his life. It’s a life limiting and quite dangerous condition and he resented it I think for that reason. But he bore it. Only God knows how. Early on, when he joined the band, he said “what do you do when someone has an epileptic fit in the bath? Throw your washing in”. That kind of sums up his stoicism.
And it’s important to remember Ian as a strong person with a lot of drive, backed up by a real interest in the world, and a lot of talent. He was a good craftsman with an artist’s eye for what makes certain old documents special and that carried over into his music. He’d think about things, probably more than we realized at the time.
With Blowzabella he made 5 albums between 1986 and 1990. I listened to them all, back to back, this week – something I haven’t done for a really long time. What struck me was how, together, we evolved into a band that got good at composing and arranging music. Through those 5 albums there’s a sense of adventure and experiment which people responded to really positively at the time.
Ian was a key part of that, writing some great tunes which gave people in lots of different countries real pleasure. And in a digitally connected age people will continue to hear them for many years to come. That’s a great legacy.
So let’s listen to the man himself. Matilda asked if we could somehow play along with her dad. So what you’re about to hear is a recording of a great tune he composed for the band called The Willow Runnel. It’s a very original and deceptively simple tune and they are the hardest to write. You’ll hear Dave here - and Ian, playing cittern and then that will fade out as we play it live. When we do it will sound nice!, but you’ll notice that there is something missing, and that is Ian.
So, let’s think about Ian the musician, the friend, family man and a very proud and loving father - and remember a true gentleman who we all miss.
Paul James. March 14th 2017