I am the Doctor and this is my spoon!


It’s an inescapable fact that when a new Doctor comes along people immediately compare him to the previous ones, and there’s always those who (in spite of doing the same with the previous incarnation) state that the new Dr is not as good as the previous one and the franchise is doomed.

When Peter Capaldi was announced as the replacement for Matt Smith, many “new who” fans cried out in outrage that an old(er) man was being given the job – after all where was the love interest going to be, and who were the teeny girls going to drool over. (OK – that’s an unfair comment as both male and female latecomers were objecting, but the arguments often referenced the age of Capaldi and the dyanmic changes that would bring about)

Personally I was both pleased and intrigued by his appointment – he’s a genuine whovian and hearkens back to the first heyday of who with Pertwee, Baker (Tom of course) and even Davidson with a respectful nod to Harkness and Troughton.

Three episodes in to the new Doctors tenure in the TARDIS and I’m still intrigued. This Doctor has a mystique about him, an uncertainty about both his identity and his motivations. There’s a battle going on inside his two hearts that is trying to determine his morality.

And you know what – it’s fantastic! (Ecclestone nod there)

The Doctor has gone back to being this mysterious traveller who sweeps in with the delicacy of a bull in a china shop and then sweeps out again leaving as many questions as answers.

Don’t get me wrong – I thought both Tennant and Smith were brilliant, and Tennant sits joint favourite for me with Tom Baker. But there was something about their versions of the Doctor that lacked that question mark. Doctor Who became a statement more than a question (for most of the time – there were some excellent occassions where the question mark was most definitely present!)

So back to Capaldi – we’ve had 3 very different episodes. We’ve had the “I’m in a new body and am rather addled by the change”, we’ve had the “Dalek moral soul-searching” and we’ve now had the “Tongue-in-cheek Romp” and that gives us a good feel for the direction of the new Doctor.

When I look at his performance there’s a darker edge, similar but edgier than Ecclestone. There’s also that sense of a timelord who is ageing so much slower than the rest of us – and he is not backwards in coming forwards with that, or anything for that matter.

One other thing that seems to be recurring is a real embracing of all the Doctors. We’ve seen mentions, character traits, and even images of past incarnations and this is a Doctor who is the sum of all his pasts – but at the same time strangely lessened by them. He’s in conflict with all his characters and as a result we are catching glimpses of them all – just peeking out through the almost tortured veneer that Capaldi is wearing.

It’s too early to say for definite – but I really do feel that this Doctor has the potential to be amongst the best of the best.

Oh, and SPOON!

WAKE UP & Speak, Brother

Wake Up and Speak, Brother

Since moving to Rugby, one of the (many) things that has struck me is just how there seems to be a huge hub of creativity in the town and the surrounding areas. There are artists, writers aplenty and an absolute orchestral overload of talented musicians, songwriters, singers and more. You can’t turn around without discovering more new music, or hearing a new song or few.

What’s even more surprising is the QUALITY of the material – we’re not talking about stuff you listen to, politely nod and then issue that “well, that was…nice” comment. I’m talking about genuinely great music. Lyrics that have depth and meaning. Singers who are passionate about the music and the art, not compromising to become “The Next <insert name here>”

And that leads me onto two connected, but very different, artists. The first one is a worship leader at our church and a genuinely great guy (no, I’m not creeping!) – Jonny Shepherd. I came across Jonnys music a few years ago, before we’d ever even contemplated moving to Rugby, through somewhere like the NoiseTrade website. I picked up a free copy of his “New Day” album and really liked what I heard, so signed up for the mailing list and kept a distant eye on the music he was producing.

When we started to look at Rugby as our new home I got one of his email newsletters through and, much to my utter disbelief, saw that he was not only based in Rugby but also at the very church we were looking into.

Jump forward to now and I’ve gotten to know Jonny a bit and we’ve started to build up a cracking friendship.

Well, that’s all “nice” but what about the music. Well, those on facebook will have seen me push his last EP (Crown of Praise) rather a bit, and that contained some really good music on there – including an instrumental piece that is so good to lean back with eyes closed and listen to. And he has a new EP coming out at the end of this month!

It’s a simple task to nip on over to bandcamp and pre-order the EP, for which you get the title track “Wake Up” as an immediate download and WOW – this is such a different track. Electronic beats and pumping bass coupled with some really strong lyrics. I’m a little biased as it is clearly influenced by Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones that is in the old testament – and that is one of my favourite passages!

Watch the teaser video for the EP below, and then pop to bandcamp and place a pre-order to make sure you get hold of, what promises to be, a great set of new songs!


And here’s the seamless segway across to the second part of this post. When I signed up to join the worship team at New Life, Jonny and I got together at Costa Coffee in Rugby so that we could get to know each other a bit more and in the process he introduced me to a band who were, at that time, called the “James Herring Band”. With hints of Jars of Clay, Mumford & Sons etc I was immediately hooked by their music. During the performance James announced that they were renaming the band and were relaunching as “Speak, Brother”

At a local “Worship Hub” event, I went along to a guitar workshop with James and got chatting to him about music, life and various other things and found him to be such a down to earth, humble guy who is passionate about God and about crafting music that is original and personal.

On May 19th the band launch their debut single, “Dry Bones” – hmmm, ring any bells?, and on the 18th their is a launch gig at a local pub which the Mrs and I will be attending. Keep an eye on their website, follow them on facebook, and take a look at the below video recorded at one of their performances. Then, on the 19th, pick up a copy of “Dry Bones” – it’ll get your feet stomping, your head bobbing and you’ll be singing the chorus for days!


2012 – Prayer, Pride and Pauses

Hard to believe it, but we’re already half way through February 2013. It seems crazy that over 6 weeks have past since we bade a fond farewell to, quite probably, one of the most memorable and brilliant years in modern British history.

It was also a year that featured some major decisions as a family, and a frustrating delay.

With such an eventful year the only way to go about summarising it is to start at the very beginning (apparently it’s a very good place to start) – and probably jump about a bit along the way as well.

We went into 2012 knowing that we needed to look at moving house. With my job being over my comfortable commute time, it meant I was getting very tired during the week and not able to do much in the way of socialising in the evenings and the weekends were pretty much spent catching up on rest ahead of the next week of driving. The big question for us was “Where to?”

We’d prayed lots and looked at Google Maps plenty, before narrowing our search down to the west of Northampton – and specifically either Daventry or Rugby. As regular readers here will know we then proceeded to have some fun family weekends away to explore the area and the towns and to test-drive some local churches. Very quickly it became apparent to us that Rugby was where our next stop would be – there’s just something about it that felt right and it’s amazing how it feels like we’re going home when we visit. In fact, it feels so right that it genuinely hurts if we ever drive by there at the moment as we KNOW we should be living there.

So the house went on the market, following some hasty de-cluttering and re-decorating in some parts, and we started to explore houses on the market in Rugby. We even fell in love with a great house that was on the market for an amazing price and was perfect for us.

But it wasn’t meant to be, at least not straight away – we got to September and had to take the decision (due to schooling and exams etc) to pull off the market temporarily. We don’t know why we’ve had to hit “Pause” but we know there’s a reason and a purpose for it.

With the new year here it’s time to dust off the boxes, review “The Plan” and hit play again – let’s get the house on the Market and get moved!

A massively busy and intense, but wonderful and joyful, weekend in April featured not only my parents celebrating 40 years together but also my cute ickle baby bruvver tying the knot (at long last). It was a crazy hectic weekend but one that will definitely go down in the annals of Hartley history… just wish I’d had the courage to play the Hallelujah Chorus when the vicar announced “I now pronounce you man and wife”

2012 also featured London. A lot!!!

Beginning right in January with a trip to see “The Lion King” with the kids – an absolute joy and one that can be strongly recommended as it really is amazing.

With the uncertainty over house moves etc, we didn’t get any tickets for the Olympics – but we were glued to our TV set from first thing in the morning until well into the night, along with most of the country. We did manage to secure some amazing tickets to the Paralympics though – including a session in the stadium and a Park pass for the Olympic Park.

I said it numerous times on Facebook and Twitter during summer last year, but I have never felt so proud to be British in my life. I’ve always been patriotic, and unashamedly so, but last year we rose to the challenges of economic woes, of previous olympic games, and of previous successes – we rose and soared above and beyond. We didn’t try and pretend we weren’t who we are but we embraced our heritage, we grasped hold of our achievements and we then said “THIS is who we are!”

The Olympic tagline was “Inspire a generation” and there’s been much focus on wether or not there’s been an increase in sports take up since the games, but to my mind that is a very narrow minded view. Did the games inspire people to be proud of who we are? did the athletes inspire people to achieve goals and never give up? did the gamesmakers show that we can have a community spirit and that it’s a positive thing?

To top off our London festival, me and Mrs H had a nice weekend getaway which saw us taking our time around Stratford Westfield (and boy was it odd seeing the Olympic Park in a quiet state and with some bits being dismantled), wandering around London itself and taking in some gorgeous sights and sounds, and then going to see Rock of Ages at the theatre. With unbelievably wonderful company I can honestly say it was a brilliant weekend. The show was beyond excellent – getting the audience involved, ad-libbing and improvising (at one point to the intense blushes of the lead actor), and rocking out to some seriously classic ’80s rock anthems.

There was loads of other bits’n’pieces going on – but a lot of stuff got put on hold whilst we waited to see what the house situation was going to look like.

And that, in a nutshell, was 2012. A year that taught us frustration and patience in equal measure, and had us seeking God more than ever for direction, wisdom, and guidance. There were (and still are) challenges and trials, but there was a lot of joy and celebration. Looking back I think it’s safe to say that we all grew during the year, as we faced the imapct of our decisions and the subsequent delays – and I firmly believe we’re all the better for it. I don’t know why we didn’t move last year, we may never know, but we still came through it with resolve and conviction.

A pretty good year when all is said and done!

One to watch: The Digital Age

Band: The Digital Age
Website: http://thedigitalagemusic.com
Twitter: Mark / Mike D / Jack / Bwack
YouTube: http://youtube.com/thedigitalagemusic
Facebook: http://facebook.com/thedigitalage

It’s been a while since I’ve done a music review (sorry!) and then two come along in one evening! This is slightly different but I thought that these boys from Waco, Texas, deserve a bit of a Preview and are definitely worth having on your radar, twitter feed and youtube subscription list – not forgetting your list of favourite websites of course.

When the David Crowder*Band ended in January there were plenty of us who mourned the loss of a group who pushed the boundaries in terms of sound, technology, musical complexity (and simplicity) and also managing to fuse classic songs with new material and some real quirkiness thrown in for good measure.

It seemed to be a recipe that no other group could duplicate, and anyone who tried would surely be a pale imitation.

Then along came the announcement of a new band called “The Digital Age” – made up of the *Band part of the David Crowder*Band 😀

Continuing the “rockumentary” series of video blogs they launched the new band, deciding that they were “better together” and over recent months they’ve been working together on a new studio and posting some tasty rehearsal videos that really look good enough to drop the rehearsal tag.

Of the first two to be posted one was the great classic hymn “How Great Thou Art”, and it gave me chills to hear – resonating oh so well with my heart for a mix of the best of church history and modern worship (read my blog here for more.) The sound was that warming familiar sound we’ve come to know and love from such a talented bunch of musicians who have such worship-filled hearts, but it is also different. With the distinctive vocals of David Crowder taken away it has allowed for a surprisingly rich and diverse lyrical performances and the overall sound is recognisable but with enough of a difference to make you second guess yourself.

There are now 4 rehearsal videos out, “All The Poor And Powerless” being the other classic from the first pairing and then “After All (Holy)” and “Oh My God/I Am A Seed” taken from the last DC*B album. They are all worth viewing, over and over again. Repeatedly. Seriously!

With the promise of more videos and some released music coming you definitely want to get on board and join The Digital Age! Trust me, you won’t regret it.

P.S. Enjoy the 4 Rehearsal Videos below 🙂


Music Review: “Dubbed and Freq’d” TobyMac (and others)

Title:Dubbed and Freq’d (a remix project)
Artist: TobyMac (and others)
Genre: Rock/Hip-Hop/Dance

iTunes / YouTube / Spotify


  1. Made to Love (Telemitry Remix)
  2. No Ordinary Love (G-Man Remix)
  3. Showstopper (Capital Kings Remix)
  4. City on Our Knees (Golden Snax Remix)
  5. Tonight (Capital Kings Remix)
  6. Hold On (Telemitry Remix)
  7. Get Back Up (Broke Remix)
  8. Boomin (UTB Remix) (Featuring Shonlock)
  9. Lose My Soul (Shoc Remix)
  10. Captured (KP Remix)
  11. Ignition (Hot Wired Remix)
  12. Start Somewhere (X-Zach’d Remix)

Review: Taking well-known, and well-loved songs, and submitting them for a remix treatment can be a risky prospect. There are those who cherish the originals and cannot bear to hear any other version than the definitive first one. There are remixes that can miss the meaning and heart of a track, leaving an incoherent mess that doesn’t flow. There are remixes that are nothing more than ramping up the drums’n’bass, adding a techno beat and looping the odd lyric.

Then there are remixes that make you sit bolt upright and re-assess the songs you know so well and hear them in a new way, maybe even picking up on the significance of lyrics that you know but never fully grasped.

For TobyMac fans a remix project is an exciting prospect, especially following the previous remixes of the “Momentum” and some of the “Portable Sounds” albums.

“Dubbed and Freq’d” takes tracks from “Portable Sounds” along with “Tonight” and hands them over to a bunch of folks to work their magic.

Now I must confess to being rather nervous as to what people would do to some of the tracks, especially as “Tonight” is a personal anthem of mine and “City On Our Knees” really stirs my heart… but there was still that excitement – especially as it is a new TobyMac release (although I really am getting desperate for a new full-on album – which I’ve just found out is coming out in August!!!!)

Kicking off with the classic “Made To Love”, mixed by Telemitry, you’re greeted by the familiar tune that’s become a popular concert anthem coupled with some nifty electronica and, yes, some added D’n’B – but that’s not a bad thing. It’s not overdone, and it doesn’t overpower the track. It’s a fresh twist that cleanses and refreshes the palate ahead of the audio feast that lies ahead.

“No Ordinary Love” has been given the Red Bull treatment, with an added dose of steroids. The track is faster, more clubby, and I honestly couldn’t tell you wether I prefer the original or this one. It’s seriously good and the vocal treatment, and added little riffs, elevate this song to a “No Ordinary Love 2.0”

The crowd-bouncer “Showstopper” is given a bit of spit-and-polish, but not as extensive an overhaul as several of the other tracks. It would be great at concerts though, just giving a new and exciting face-lift to really keep the fans on their toes.

The first of the big tests comes in track 4, “City On Our Knees”. It took a little while to grow on me as I’m afraid I fall into the “cherish” category with some songs, and yet this is a genius piece of work. Stripped back in many areas, and giving the vocals a real emphasis, this is ideal for a chillout session and also as a bit of a prayer-time backing. Yes there’s the ever-present D’n’B which won’t be to everyones tastes, but for a different twist on prayer music this really would work well – especially with youth or the young adults.

Without the vocals of Skillets John Cooper, the Capital Kings remix of “Tonight” probably represents my least favourite of the new mixes. It’s not that it’s bad, or even that it’s different to the original – it’s just lacking the added depth that came with the additional vocals from the Skillet frontman. It’s a good track that deserves its place on the collection, but it is the weakest in my opinion. Add in the original vocals, and return the punch that the original had in the chorus, and I really think this would be a masterpiece.

I’m not going to go through each of the remaining tracks individually in detail as the first 5 really do give a good sample of what to expect. So here’s a quick run through of some of them:

“Boomin'” – a chilled out, laid back version that almost contradicts the “Boomin’ out your stereo system” chorus but works in a really surprising way.

“Lose My Soul” kicks off with some sweet piano and is almost a ballad – one to add to a chill playlist!

“Start Somewhere” is full of swoops, sweeps and synths to begin with before kicking into an almost random mix of higher-tempo bits, alvin & the chipmunks lyrics in part and a staccato backing that ties in nicely with the whole “shots we’ve fired” vibe. Can’t help but think there’s a musical elephant in parts of it as well (take a listen and you’ll see what I mean :-D)

Would I recommend this? Oh Yeah! You can’t go wrong with this. Yeah some of the tracks don’t fully work, but your mileage may vary… at the end of the day this is another cracking remix project and deserves a place on your rotation!

Score: 4.5/5