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OK, it's not the cup of Christ or the sacred vessel of Arthurian myth.

It's more like...well...a reverb pedal.

But it's vintage, it's huge, and it's just so gosh-darned funky!

Right or wrong, I still get a typically teenage rush out of stuff like this. At my time of life, you'd perhaps expect a post like "Yah, well I paid £400 for it*, you know, but it was worth it because it came with the original box..." Then it sits on the shelf, waiting for the opportunity to be shown off to a fellow 'afficionado', no doubt with the intention of instigating some sort of guitar players' penis envy.

Well BOLLOCKS TO THAT! These things were made to be played.

Can't wait to try it out! Oooh, mum, I wish I had a gig tonight!

It's the Holier Grail! But it's not a sacred relic.

*I didn't pay £400 for it. I'm not that daft.


Hello again, and welcome to the second vid!

Presenting some classics this time. The primal blues vibe and element of darkness especially present in Howlin' Wolf's work are among the things that influence our original material. "Carol" is the other side of the coin - it's classic Chuck (from "Chuck Berry Is On Top" - NOT "Rockin' At The Hops"), upbeat and breezy, guaranteed every time!

Shake For Me (W. Dixon)
Smokestack Lightnin' (C. Burnett) /Spoonful (W. Dixon)
Carol (C. Berry)

If you detect a certain amount of nervous energy, well, that's the caffeine rush. I'd been up since the small hours and downed a good few cups! Until next time.


As promised, here's our set from the 2021 OBOD Midsummer Gathering. 

It was a great pleasure to be a part of the Solstice celebrations, and the set was very well received - thanks to our friends old and new. An honour to be working alongside Barry Paterson, Liv Torc, ZZ Birmingham, Damh The Bard and Spiral Dance. Shout out to Shaun Hayes for keeping it all together.

Songs performed (click 'read more' for lyrics):

King Of The May
Soul Quest
Dark Narcotic

We hope to continue with regular videos fusing Pagan elements with our Blues roots. ZZ Birmingham and myself have talked often about melding the two traditions - it's a work in progress. Take a walk with me, honey where the wild things are.

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Well, they tell me the end of Lockdown is just around the corner, but...we ain't there yet. So the Midsummer celebration and Eisteddfod of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids takes place in the virtual universe this year.

In December of 2020 I took part in the Midwinter Eisteddfod, performing a new song called 'Black Shuck'. I'd been extremely wary of 'virtual gigs'; it seemed a poor substitute for the real thing, and a very impersonal one at that (though throughout the Lockdown period many of my fellow musicians had made the very best of it and kept their careers afloat by embracing it. Typical that, as Lockdown appears to be drawing to an end, I'm only just getting on board...), but at Midwinter, reuniting with the Tribe and seeing faces old and new, there was a genuine sense of fellowship and of sharing the moment. Not for the first time, I realised I'd dismissed an idea without actually trying it. We live, we learn. We hope. Many thanks to Hilde Leisens and Liv Torc for saying "get off your arse, Poplar. People wanna hear you".

Long story short (I know I rabbit on but, hey, it's been three years) when the invitation came to contribute a set for the Midsummer gathering I was...slighty more amenable. Many thanks to Damh The Bard for saying...yeah, you've guessed.

So The Duchess and I recorded a twenty-minute set, to be broadcast on June 19, 2021. The video will afterward be added to this site, along with lyrics to the songs. It was an invigorating and healing journey, and I am grateful for the love and good will that made it happen.


When The Devil Comes To Collect 

Everyone knows the myth of Robert Johnson. The tormented Dark Prince of the Delta who made a deal at the crossroads; a deal that would endow him with talent, bring renown and worldly success. Only these things came with a price. Poor Bob had made a bargain with the Devil himself. The deal was for his soul and one day, Satan would come to collect. Robert Johnson died in a rooming house in Greenwood, Miss.; some say he was poisoned, some say he was stabbed. Some say he died bereft of his wits, on his hands and knees and barking like a dog. Either way, the debt had been paid.

There's a prosaic explanation, of course. Johnson loved liquor, loved women, and picking and wailing the blues beats the shit out of being a field-hand. He was living the life, and having a good time doing it. He messed with another man's wife and, in the culture of the time and place, got what was coming.

Only Bob was short-changed. The worldly success that Old Nick had promised never came. He was well known and well respected among his peers - as much as anybody who's good at their job. "Terraplane Blues" was a regional hit, but that was it. Then in 1938, John Hammond Snr. presented the "Spirituals to Swing" concerts at Carnegie Hall. And he wanted Robert Johnson. One small problem. Poor Bob was already dead. Consider that bitter irony, and its easy to see the Devil's hand in it. It was left to white, middle-class collectors of "folk" and "race" music - twenty years after the event - to present his music to the world as an archaic and dying art-form, yet still worthy of study. 

I don't write this to diminish Johnson's oeuvre or his tremendous power as a performer, only to illustrate how a white man's myth became attached to a supremely gifted black bluesman. And there's something in that myth. As a kid I had to walk away from it, it was too powerful. Frightening. Too much. The power and intensity of men like Robert Johnson and Skip James was more than I could bear. These men terrified me. Yet they were singing of something I would gradually come to understand, in my own way and from a personal, rather than cultural standpoint, as I grew older.

I's up this morning, Blues walkin' like a man; Worried Blues, give me your right hand

When your knee-bones go to achin', your body's getting cold: Lord, you're just getting ready for some old cypress grove

Early one morning, you knocked upon my door: I said "hello Satan, I believe it's time to go"

Blues, for me, is of course an entirely different thing than it was for Robert Johnson or Skip James. My Blues is not the cottonfields or the Klan or the fear of Judge Lynch. It will seem a paltry comparison - it seems so to me - but my Blues is the nameless, overwhelming terror that rips me apart from the inside and reduces me to something less than a man. My own Devil, a monstrous thing that can come upon me without warning and leave me broken, weeping and crippled inside, unable to work, make love or venture out of doors. There is no explanation. There is no reason or rationale. It's a fear of nothing, and yet a fear of everything. Fear of fear. Fear for fear's sake. I've just spent half an hour fannying on about Skip James and Robert Johnson so I wouldn't have to address it. And I wanna make this clear. This is isn't because I'm SOOOOO frightfully talented dahhhhh-ling that there has to be a pay-off somewhere. This isn't because I made some Faustian pact wherein the Prince of Darkness tuned my guitar to an open G, handed me a bottleneck and said "crack on!" I'm not, and I didn't. I'm an ordinary bloke, who plays a bit of guitar. That's it.

And this is my point. It happens to ordinary people. People who didn't ask for it, didn't invite it in. People who didn't even know it existed. "Anxiety" the doctors call it, but that's so horribly far off the mark. Mention "anxiety" to one who doesn't suffer and they'll most likely think of the feeling you get when you might miss your train. Oh shit, what if I'm late for work? I mean, seriously,  you're getting bent out of shape about that? Man up! Fucking grow a pair. If you described pneumonia as "a touch of the sniffles" you'd probably get the same reaction. Because the description simply isn't adequate (the irony is, for someone who DOES suffer with anxiety, the thought of missing that train COULD send them into a tailspin).

OK Mr Milway, what about "Anxiety Disorder"? How about "Acute Anxiety Disorder"? Are we getting warm? No, not really. But it's a start. People are generally beginning to recognise the condition, take it seriously and look at ways of treating it, more so now than even ten years ago. I don't know if that's because it's become more common or simply that people are more open about it. I know a man who used to sneer at "panic attacks" until he had one. And therein lies the problem I think. If you haven't been there, you simply don't know.

On April 3rd, with a line of promising gigs ahead of us and having rehearsed the new band for four months straight, it happened. Three days before our first gig as a new band, Anxiety struck like never before. I suffered a complete nervous breakdown. And I can't tell you why. I wanted those shows. I'd been living for that band. The dates we had booked would have been the culmination of all we'd worked for. That band was on fire. We were hot!

So why? 

I don't know. But I have come to believe that when you open yourself to inspiration and allow the Muse in, something else follows in Her wake. And you have to be strong to survive it. A friend and fellow-sufferer told me recently "people like us, we're wired different". The very thing that empowers you also makes you vulnerable. Robert Johnson has his modern analogues; Nick Drake. Ian Curtis. Kurt Cobain. Amy Winehouse. And consider those who lose their soul but remain trapped in the body, hollow husks, shadows of their former selves, burnt out at a young age but condemned to simply exist until their bodies wear out. Google "Fleetwood Mac" or "Pink Floyd" and you'll see what I mean. The deal wasn't for their body, breath or blood. It was for their soul.

I don't put myself up with these men and women. I don't know how they suffered. Their world is - thankfully! - not my world. I can't explain why I was suddenly inwardly crippled to the point where I couldn't perform, or even consider it. And I do not believe in the Devil or Satan as a malignant entity. That's something the Christians invented to scare their children. But I know that others who suffer as I do - and understand blues parlance - will empathise when I say that on that day, the Devil came to collect his due.

Won't you look-a here Blues, see what you done to me.

People who suffer with anxiety can become terribly afraid of  being a burden on those around them, and of letting people down. I want - I need - to thank Graham, The Duchess, Dan and Phil for their patience and understanding and love. Also those outside of the band who've given me real encouragement and help - whether they know it or not; Bill Faupel, Tam Gibbs, Gary Grainger, Nick Beere, Dave Sims, Debbi Burch, Bren Murphy, JJ Howell, ZZ Birmingham, Mark Fletcher, Richard Heenan, Joanna Prokop, Magda Wesola, Smokin' Mat Harrison and Davey Quo. And of course Simon Blyth and Si Williams, my oldest and best of friends.

Baby that's all right, I'll be up someday.


Phil Tait joins Poplar Jake Band 

At the close of 2017, drummer Dave Sims decided it was time to leave the Electric Delta Review. Dave's water-tight, swinging blues-infused grooves had been the backbone of the band from Day One, and it was this, as much as anything, that set the band apart. But The Guv'nor's always been a family man, and he'd reached a stage in life where that had to take precedence. He'd taught us a lot, he'd shared the laughs and he'd made us swing like f*ck, but All Things Must Pass, as somebody once said somewhere.

So how do you replace The Guv'nor?

With Mr Phil Tait, that's how.

Phil came along for a rehearsal in January 2018 and impressed us all by laying down that Mud-style Chicago groove in a fearsome fashion. That was his ticket in. Our first release, No More Signifyin' was steeped in that vibe, and it's been crucial to the band's sound ever since. But Phil also brought a splash of colour, and a bit of spice, and a whole shitload of enthusiasm. After we publicly announced Phil's appointment, we were beset by the good folk of the Wiltshire blues scene complimenting us on our choice and looking forward to seeing the new line-up. This man has his own following. Can't be bad.

To mark the transition, we renamed ourselves The Poplar Jake Band. The new band makes its debut with Phil at the Prescott Bike Festival, April 14 2018.

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