8pm: all set up and ready to get going with the music, but it has to feel right, doesn't it? It was worth hanging back a bit, I felt. Dynamics are the key to a musically viable performance and I wanted to start off with a quiet, reflective piece with a bit of technology involved as bodies settled into their respective cushions, hopefully, attentively. Appreciatively, I am glad for the support; it's mutual.
My first song was 'Pink Ukuleles' and it’s all about growing up -- I’m currently working into my own stuff again whilst embarking on a fresh recording project with some new equipment, so it’s great to test out the solo arrangements, messing with the tempos and overall meter of this piece. Followed up by John Renbourn's 3-time 'Waltz', an instrumental that appears to have come to him as a derived take on the jazz-waltzes of Charlie Mingus compositions via the prism of Davy Graham’s acoustic guitar work – I focused on the bass end of things with a bit of echo to accentuate the big-band arrangements and jazz-waltz-gospel [tongue-in-cheek] feel of Mingus, the double-bass player, himself: “Better Git It In Your Soul' – “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” et al. And I do tend to throw myself into this sort of thing as a musician and hope for the best [soulfully]; entertainer: not-so-much.
Jazz-waltz is a great means toward syncopation and 'swing' with the built in triplets of compound time [see video selection with this sermon], I'm passionate about it; I love playing 3-over-4 also because you can't get it wrong and you can't get it right and you can't accurately score it and it confounds the time-signature pedants and it gives the musicologists a dog-with-a-bone to play around with – try it! Set your metronome at a medium tempo [most of us have internalized common 4/4 time] and stretch three over the four by strumming, soloing or whatever; you won’t be able to do it but, trust me, stuff will happen.
As I filled out the template, on the clipboard with the pen as provided by Ella, I was absolutely made up walking around like a fully equipped ticket inspector on the buses; I have the pass, already – I was about to shove the John & Mark duo on second when Simon stepped in to rescue them, astutely observing that it wouldn't have been the most welcoming of moves to place them quite so early on as they are new to us – fair play! He went second giving us 'Funny That Way' by the New Zealander Mark Laurent, husband of Chris Liddard’s sister, Breda and 'You Ain’t Going Nowhere' [written in 1967, first recorded in 1971, Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits/Basement Tapes 1975] on which he was accompanied by Ella as a prelude to J & M who came on with an instrumental from the flip-side of 'Albatross' followed by Steve Winwood's 'Can't find my Way Home'. And then we had another duo, George & Mary sang Ian Tyson's 'Four Strong Winds' and 'The Early Morning Rain' as they introduced more vocal harmonies than previous arrangements by them, which is progressive, I think.
Then, this bloke with a new album – Chris Martin soloed 'Wreckage' the division bell ringing out the broken hearts and dreams prior to lulling us back onto our cushions with 'Routine' both songs from 'Journey Part-1' followed on by the reassured solo performance of Paula with her own two songs 'Empty Chair' and 'Tonight' before handing over her nice acoustic guitar to Terry Lees – this was a real treat for me tonight [if perhaps less so for him, initially at least]:
Noteworthy new para here: Terry confided that he hadn't really been feeling fully up for it this evening, and due to some degree of vertigo felt it best to sit down whilst playing us his version of 'Judy', another John Renbourn composition, which was apparently based on the idea of Davy Graham's totemic 'Angie' and which, as a variation, is a far better tune in my opinion. Terry seemed to interpret it as such as he was playing soulfully great, feeling the harmonic movement, getting close to it – It's funny how being a bit off-colour can make one mellow-out, in the positive sense; plenty of players have used drugs to get to this kind of high-meloncholia, soft focus, kind of mood -- like it’s the holy grail -- but neurologically it’s where the mind just doesn't have the time for Show Biz considerations and cosmetic abstractions as it surpasses muscle-memory and truly gets right into the necessary essence of things at hand, in the moment. And Terry, having found his stride by virtue of having that already warmed-up instrument in his hands, decided that he would in fact continue with another instrumental, 'Living In The Country' which seemed to be as therapeutic to him as it was inspiring to me [I suspect that Terry himself never took any substance abuse routes as a detour to get-out-of-it-to-get-into-it, but I certainly did and to be fair, it was a bit hit-or-miss] in my youth. You don’t have to be ill or be getting stoned but it makes you think, doesn’t it – where do you want to be with it?
But, of course, you don't always have to suffer for the art. I introduced Jason Loughran as 'the most diplomatic ambassador of open mics [and spaces] ever' and he brought his sunny disposition to bear, in a balanced way, on 'Song For Our Dead Heroes'; he judged it right by not dwelling on the theme beyond the obvious tribute being conveyed. That's the way I got it, subjectively, as there seemed to be a lingering vibe of thankful reverence in the room when Lisa Jackson then came up to join him in an otherwise lighthearted arrangement of Broonzy's 'That's The Story Of Love' and, yeah, that's the glory of it, isn't it ... anyway, time to crack open the old Joanna I'd say, as Ella set herself down at the house piano with 'Fly Me To The Moon' which came straight out of The Great American Songbook tonight and some Americana with more than a mere nod to Bonnie Rait as she forged onwards and upwards with the less whimsical, earthbound but orgasmic 'Love Me Like A Man', a raunchy Barrel-house type of blues rendition indeed.
Nice to see Jayne Ingles and the applause she received before even playing a note which appropriately set the tone of respect felt in the house in the face of personal adversity – another soulful performance ensued as once again 'The Sun's Setting Down On Our Town' tonight.
Clive Woodman slipped me a piece of paper that goes like this: 'Over The Lancashire Hills as written by Stuart Marston and sung by Fairport Convention … the song refers to the opera singer of the early 1950s, Kathleen Ferrier … The Green Fields Of France written by Eric Bogle … the singer is talking to a WW1 soldier Willie McBride at his graveside' – well put Clive.
Time again for the J & M duo in their guitar/mandolin combination on John's original 'How Many Times' and 'Living My Life Without You' and Simon penultimate performance of Dylan's 'Paint My Masterpiece' from 1971 before Lisa & Jason graciously came back on to conclude the evening with 'Living On Faith' and a nice, bluesy take on 'Careless Love' – that was a surprise! Kept us on our toes, that did, featuring Jason's slide playing on an () guitar – nice one! Apologies to Lisa, though as my programming might have cut her out in her solo capacity as I may have press-ganged the two of them into playing us out so harmoniously, and I appreciate it. Thanks for being so adaptable, both.
Thank you all!
My 500th open mic night - 30/10/18 - C J Martin
Back in late 2012, I was recording an album called ‘Me and my Martin’ and a chap who was using the same studio said I should try an ‘open mic night’. Such events had never been on my radar and I was quite happy in the recording studio and making videos for You Tube.
A bit of rehearsal later and off I went to try out these mysterious things called open mic nights. Open mic No. 2, brought me to the Six Bells on 5/02/13, after which I found myself adding the open mic scene to my music lifestyle. You meet a lot of people, hear a lot of music, some people become friends and some music you love and some you don’t, but it is an interesting world and one that should be free of ego - as an open mic is a place where you ask people to listen to you and in exchange, you listen to them. No money is exchanged, it’s a very pure way of sharing music and ideas.
Tonight was my 500th open mic night and as MC, I launched the evening with the same two songs I played at my first Bells night. ‘My mum, Alzheimer’s and the care home’ - it’ll be 7-years on 4/11 since mum died and I find it quite cathartic at this time of year giving the song an outing. ‘Life’s a race’ was my other song and completed my recreation of that night in Feb 13.
I’ve just released my latest album, ‘Journey Part 1’ and gave it a little plug - my three videos (on the home page) feature the opening 3 songs from the album. For more on my music see: www.cjmartin.info
Ok, that’s four paragraphs about me and here’s a bit about the other 11 performers who joined me for a lovely evening of music. New blood is where it’s at and we had four new faces, along with some old friends.
Mark was the first of the new faces and like me in 2013, was dipping his toe into the mysterious world of open mic nights. Playing a nylon strung guitar, he gave us a self-penned instrumental, called ‘Instrumental’ and followed that with a bit of Classical Gas’. He seemed to enjoy the experience, so will hopefully continue his open mic journey,
Clive gave me the following info on his set: ‘The path’ (my own song). This is about time moving on and the years going by and all of us trying to find the right path to the future. ‘Good year for the roses’ was written by Jerry Chestnut and sung by George Jones and Elvis Costello. This is a sad song about breaking up (not gardening). Thanks Clive, that made my life easier, perhaps I should get everyone to write a bit about their set at a future night.
Jason opened with ‘Winter time love’ by The Doors and was then joined by Lisa for Dylan’s, ‘Tonight I’ll be staying here with you’. They followed this with a song written by Jason’s dad (Gerry Lockran) called, ‘The lifeline’. Jason then exited stage right, leaving Lisa to deliver her original interpretation of the Ray Davies number, ‘Waterloo sunset’.
Manus, complete with Telecaster and mini Fender amp was mixing the musical styles with Stevie Wonder’s ‘Boogie on reggae woman’ and the Leon Russell ballad, ‘This masquerade’.
Alan and Gary had ventured over from Kent (well one of them had) for their first evening at our little club and delivered three Fairport Convention songs. Two guitars and two voices filled the room with entertaining versions of, ‘Honour and praise’, ‘Who knows were the time goes‘ and ‘Too close to the wind’.
It was lovely to see Jayne, who gave us a pretty rendition of Carole King’s, ‘You’ve got a friend’ and followed this with one of her own, ‘My mama said’.
Terry kicked off with Woody Guthrie’s, ‘Do re mi’ and closed with the Ry Cooder instrumental, ‘I think it’s going to work out fine’.
Bob was the last of our first timers, he started with a Nancy Griffiths song, ‘Gulf course highway’, which I wrote down as Golf course highway! Bob said he’d only been playing for 3-years, before finishing with a confident rendition of ‘Close to you’, about a young woman missing a lover.
Simon wanted a late slot, as Lesley (Mrs Simon) was coming along with the new family dog, an all-black number that wanted to party like it’s 1999. Complete with 12-string he opened with his self-penned ditty, ‘Halloween song’, yes, it’s that time of year. It even has a reference to a well-known open mic character named after a copying machine! Clive took control of the club tambourine on ‘A little bit of love’, dedicated to Jason, who’s rather keen on love - and we all (even me from the desk) sang along on the chorus - you could feel the love in the room.
I asked Lisa & Jayne (original Martinettes) and Jason & Simon (aspirational Martinettes) to join me for a round of ‘Toast for one’. It was great fun and brought down the curtain on number 500, a memorable night. Thanks to all the performers and audience. x
16th October 2018
Another evening hosting at our beloved Six Bells. Another evening of friendship and music. And heavens, did someone need the lovely show of support that I was lucky enough to enjoy. And these early starts are the way to go considering how many performers we had to accommodate that night.
So I began the evening with a classic song of loss by Bob Dylan from that bittersweet album “Blood on the Tracks”. It has been two long years since I was filmed singing “Simple Twist of Fate” at the Six Bells and it is as poignant now as it was then. But after the loss there is the finding something new and so my own song “The day that I lost Fafaia” could be as much about moving on with a new hope as it is about loss.
And so to the first of our many guests, Jac, who is someone I only seen play a few times but his muscular strumming and gravelly voice make a powerful combination. He sang of watching the world go by and being a million miles from here but also proclaimed that the sun was still shining on him today.
One of the most warm and engaging performers on the scene is Keith Warner who treated us to a heartfelt rendition of The Everly Brothers hit “Walk Right Back” (written by Sonny Curtis), and then he covered a chilling socio-political song by Devonian Folk legends Show of Hands called “Cousin Jack” about Cornish miners emigrating to Australia.
The prolific song-writing of Chris Martin continues with the release of a new album “Journey Part 1” and tonight he performed maybe the greatest song that Johnny Cash never recorded, “The Man”. I could hear another voice inside my head accompanying him as he sang. And so I was sheltered from the pain. And then, he rolled out “Sanity”, full of humanity even through its dark, foreboding riff.
The un-accompanied solo voice can be most powerful and Zoe stepped up next to treat us to just such a performance. A brief but incisive version of The Zutons song “Valerie”, which was also sung by the late, great Amy Winehouse, another beautiful talent now lost. Zoe then dazzled with her fabulous blues on Willie Dixon’s song “I just want to make love to you”, famously sung by both Etta James and Muddy Waters.
I’m delighted to have become friends with Manus over the last year or so and his performances are always thrilling as cooks up such intoxicating brews and tonight, with his hollow-bodied Ibanez guitar and tiny amplifier, he stirred up those blues and jazz stylings with a unique take on Erroll Garner’s classic “Misty”. Breaking up the chords like none other, all the licks and chops were there as Manus continued by mixing up two classics by The Beatles and Cream as “We can work it out” and “Sunshine of your Love” entwined before us.
Sylvia also treats us to a beautiful un-accompanied vocal performance and her musical readings of Robert Burns poetry are always a joy to hear; tonight she performed a Burns poem as sung by Scottish soldiers, but to a French tune as they would not use English tunes.
Now for the most striking looking performer of the evening, my vote would have to go to Fred Meyer, who I have been delighted to have perform at my “Open Space” music and poetry evenings in Lewes. Fred gives the most arresting spoken words performances and tonight he made raw poetry out of a song by Punk legends Punishment of Luxury and then chilled us with the amazing Louis Barrabus’s “The Tell-Tale Hound”. There is nobody quite like Fred and he gives these evenings a thrilling dynamic.
Simon then treated us to his delicate country picking as he sweetly sang Iris Dement’s “Sweet is the Melody”. He then hilariously proclaimed he was considering performing “Wuthering Heights” by the divine Kate Bush, but had a problem with his leotard. Or something like that. I know the problem, but, ahem, maybe we should just get back to the music. Er, yes, let’s do that shall we? Er, well, not before we “get with it” (do people still say that sort of thing these days? Or am I definitely NOT “with it” by saying “get with it”?) . . . and finally cover some LGBT issues at the Six Bells because that has been sadly lacking from recent theme nights. So Simon re-addressed this Politically Correct imbalance that has blighted our scene with his mirthful and “hetero-normative” re-working of “Making Whoopee”, originally written by lyricist Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson. Who knows, maybe Gus Kahn could have written such a lyric himself?
Natasha Norodien, the most striking new folk voice that I’ve heard for a few years then stepped up and beautifully sang and played a version of 19th Century English Folk ballad “Canadee-I-O”. Natasha’s guitar playing is such perfect accompaniment to her beautiful voice and she is so worthy of covering such classic material.
My dear friend Lisa then performed a couple of duets with me and, as we are preparing for a concert with the wonderful Natasha and our other good friend Terry Lees, we played a couple of old favourites of ours. Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell’s “Georgia On My Mind” will always bring us back to you. As will Stephen Stills’s “And so begins the task”. And we can’t live without you now.
Another beautiful female voice followed, that of our dear friend Ella, accompanying herself on bouzouki, sensitively covering those two incomparable female artistes, as she sang Joni Mitchell’s “Urge For Going” and Patty Griffin’s “Useless Desires”. Songs with some sense of loss and how to deal with it. Lovely performances, Ella.
Heather also sang of loss and gave such an emotional performance. It was very moving to behold and she poured so much into a couple of John Denver songs including the beautiful “My Sweet Lady”. And . . . how long have any of us got? At the end, there is always some sort of loss.
Mark is a very direct and impassioned performer and sings his self-penned songs of powerful messages and tonight he reminded us of the tragic event of the Grenfell Tower fire. This darkness was then countered by his more light-hearted, but very relevant “A Boy Named Sue, A Girl Named Ian”, inspired by a member of the bar staff from a Deptford pub he frequented.
Cliff was another performer new to me and he treated us to the sounds of his mandolin and sang a song to remind us that this life is probably the only one we’re ever likely to have so let’s live it because we’re not yet ready to be pushing up daisies. Cliff then ironically delved back into the mid-19th Century USA to sing the folk song “I wish I was a mole in the ground”.
John is another very genuine performer and he gave us a heartfelt reading of Jimi Hendrix’s “Wind Cries Mary” before treating us to a glimpse of that other God, Eric Clapton, and played a simple and direct bit of guitar blues.
Closing the evening I was delighted to welcome Dave, who also hosts a very enjoyable open mic night at the Blackboys pub on the Tuesdays that are in-between our Six Bells sessions. Dave is a performer of great experience, knowledge and deep love for the music he plays, and he covered Magna Carta’s song “The Boatman” before rounding off the night with a another song of loss; the towering classic that is Marvin Gaye’s “I heard it through the grapevine” (written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong).
An evening that touched on loss was also an inspiration to move on and gain something new.
Thank you, all of my friends, for turning up to perform and listen.
I was so grateful for your support.
I needed it.
Until next time . . . .
18th September 2018
Arriving at about eight I found Terry Lees in the bar, eating a shepherd’s pie, which meant that he had first spot. This was doubly just, as he’d had to leave early last time without getting to play. Before he went on I did the obligatory host opening, reading a short poem How Bad is It? The poems, I discovered can potentially fill in dead air during technical hitches or frantic artistic policy discussions between jammers - better than telling jokes. However, this was not needed as subsequent performers always seemed to get on track by the time the poetry book was fully opened.
Terry’s first song was about an escape from the Bowling Green Kentucky State Penitentiary. “Long John – he’s long gone”, with a bloodhound after him it seems. Terry’s high –class twiddles on his Martin were as accomplished as ever. I often wondered who played those many-tailed tadpole notes (hemidemisemiquavers, I think) in the music-teaching books of our youth. Now I realise they were meant for Terry. His second piece was an instrumental by the blind Irish harpist Turlough O'Carolan, recorded by Planxty amongst many others. In the interests of even more justice Terry did a third song. He chose Jackson C Frank’s Blues Run the Game, bringing back memories of the old sixties folk club days when this was a standard.
George and Mary were up next. George gave a shout out for the annual Sixties re-creation charity event, normally held at the Underground Theatre but this year moved to Deanlands on Saturday 22nd. The duo did sixties songs by way of practice for the event: Build Me Up Buttercup by the Foundations and Cabaret (that’s George with G not Jeorge with a J).
Helen did an excellent unaccompanied version of Fields of gold and her second song Walk Away Renee (1966), was accompanied by George’s able strumming.
Manus Heard it Through the Grapevine and he heard it good, his ear tuned to jazz. He played his E string so as to recapture the bass playing of James Jamerson on the Marvin Gaye Record. He got some funky and jazzy sounds. Continuing with his intricate and original guitar backings, “We are Stardust, We are Golden” he sang, and we all agreed. He revealed later that said “E” string is actually at some unearthly pitch in his open tuning of E Flat Minor.
Chris Martin left the sound desk in the stewardship of Clive to do two of his own songs Time – “the most precious thing is time/you wasted mine/ but I don’t mind/after all it’s only my time” and Xeroxed Armies, both from his album Standing Room Only. Chris is firm in his resolution to do only his own songs – more power to him.
Simon came on next with two country numbers. “I don’t do humour” he said wryly when I told him people enjoyed his gentle humour. He did Ootischenia by the Be Good Tanyas with impeccable thumpy in-time country picking. He announced Sin City by Gram Parsons. “What’s it about” came a shout from the audience. “About a minute and forty five seconds” replied the humour-denier. Again, it was a joy to hear perfect picking accompanying Simon’s rich voice.
“Happy song or sad song?” Clive asked when he got to the microphone. “Happy!” came the audience response. So Clive did the traditional song John Barleycorn. “Fa la la la it’s a lovely day” we all joined in. Then he did his own song The Adventure of Life (which it is).
Lisa’s original song Strange Enchanted Boy was based on the Song of Nature - the voice and music were enchanting to match. Jason joined her and announced that they are taking part in a benefit gig for a Maternity Rehab Centre in East Dean on 3rd November. The second song was by Sam Cooke, Lou Adler and Herb Alpert: “Don’t know much about history….” Don’t you just want to start singing along at the mere sight of the words? Lisa’s tuneful jangles on the high frets beautifully complemented the deep sounds of Jason’s Ovation. The third song was by “Sir Michael and Keith” – Ruby Tuesday. Then Jason finished with his favourite song by his favourite musicians, Crosby, Stills and Nash.
Ella Moonbridge was once often seen bearing a Bouzouki but now concentrates on her ever more competent piano playing. The honky-tonk bar room sounds went well with Dylan’s Thunder on the Mountain from his Modern Times album after she had sung a quieter, slower song The Long Stairs by Patty Griffin.
Dave and Pam are becoming regulars with their guitar and Melodeon duo. The opening reel segued into Mexicana rhythms and all sorts of variations with great guitar work and a bright Melodeon sound. There was lots of semiquaver unison work with the two instruments in spot-on synchronisation. They were obviously enjoying themselves. I didn’t catch the names of the reels but hey – wow!
It was half past ten and after I’d read a couple more poems The Double Bass Seeks Love and Them and Us, we voted on an early night and that was that.
I’ve put up Martin Taylor as the first video this month. When I first saw him at the Pizza Express in Soho, years back I couldn’t believe I was sitting ten feet away from a genius. To paraphrase a line from Flann ‘o Brian’s The Third Policeman: “what he was doing was no longer beautiful, but terrifying”. Here on Georgia he does slow bluesy soul rather than his trademark impossible polyrhythms and walking bass. Noel Dumbrell is an authentic folk singer on the Sussex scene, with genuine links to the old ways and is simply a joy to listen to and a great entertainer. Etta James belts it out in the third video. The sound is not so good on this, but the rules of this blog state that we have to have live videos, where, as we know, anything can happen. I just love Etta’s total emotional involvement in everything she does. My favourite album of hers is Deep in the Night.
So thanks for coming and playing and listening and reading this blog, and hope to see many of you at my next night in January and, of course, before.
It was publicised as a Comedy themed evening and at times it really was funny. Some eager performers had taken up their seats well in advance of my arrival and the evening became ten increasing to sixteen, then diminishing to twelve and a half. Thirteen was a non-available number by demand this evening. Many people even sang ‘comedy’ songs, some of which would more aptly be described as sarcastic, cynical or scathing. We were all smiling quite a lot though, so it can be assessed as successful from that point of view.
I began the evening on bouzouki singing Mary Chapin Carpenter’s ’I feel Lucky’, followed by more irony from Iris De Ment’s ‘God may forgive you but I won’t’. To wind up the evening I later sang one of my all time favourite cynical songs made famous by Deana Carter: ‘Did I Shave my Legs for This?’ The country and western ladies have a very strong presence with social, as well as religious criticism, wrapping it up in humour.
Jayne, on her lap slide guitar followed with some shocking lyrics, but assured me she had not written them herself, singing Tom Waits’ song: ‘Chocolate Jesus’ which he describes as ‘an immaculate confection …. Something for the kids on Easter’. This piece of blasphemy was followed by a variation on the Moody Blues classic, Knights in White satin: ‘Tights in White Satin’ by Fred Wedlock. This had lurid lyrics including ‘a bikini so tiny she could use it to floss her teeth’ and something about a virgin, a vibrator and fillings falling out.
George and Mary took the stage after Jayne and sang ‘Little Old Wine Drinker Me’, made famous by Dean Martin, picking up the religious theme with prayers for rain in California, for the grapes. Prayers to Bacchus/Dionysus no doubt. ‘Obladi Oblada’ is a song I don’t think I’ve heard for so long, it must have been in the previous century, but it is remains an unmistakeable Beatles song from 1968. It calypso-ed along very nicely.
Woodstock, a Joni Mitchell classic, was Helen’s first song, sung beautifully acapella. George joined her to accompany the following song, another classic: ‘Out of Time’, but this time one written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, made famous in 1966 by Chris Farlowe.
Humour was back on the agenda with both of Clive’s songs. The first ‘Lovely Watermelon’ was apparently written by Justine Clarke and Youtube has a recording from the 60s which is about a watermelon farmer. However, the version Clive gave us was a different version that was performed by Pamela Ward and Paul Charrington at the Bells last year (so Clive tells me). These watermelons were in the plural and more about female assets. His next song ‘Ma Crepe Suzette’ attracted a genuine laugh out loud response. He had written a variation of the song penned by Kenneth Williams and Gordon Jackson and brought it up to date. The song links French words and phrases and the nonsense is very funny : ‘ John Paul Gaultier …. Eau de toilette … Gauloise cigarettes …. Hors d’oeuvres …. Jeaux sans frontiers … grand prix … Ma Crepe Suzette’, to mention just a few. Haha, very funny.
Mike Kerry, from Seaford came to the mic next with his harmonica to sing two more traditional style songs with humour in them: ‘Are you all right Michael?’ with an Irish association, involving some drama around a steam train, and ‘Dog Walker’s Lament’. ‘Here we go, my doggy lad, ploughing through the muddy field in the pouring rain again’, Mike’s own song, inspired by the experience of walking through the muddy field with his dog, in the pouring rain again, including the vivid description of the slobbery tennis ball being chewed up and spat out. Dogs, eh? No, I love them, best buddies going, like cats, and like many pets, they have got the hang of unconditional love. (Well, most of them) Nothing like it.
Manus was due to perform next, but just at that very moment, he was called away. Unfortunately we missed his contribution this time around. Chris Martin hastened to the mic to sing his very cheerful song ‘I like to be sad’. This is one of Chris’s more up-tempo tunes. His second song ‘What’s in a Life’ runs through an account of the number of times statistically we may carry out certain actions or activities in our lives, and how much of our life that that actually absorbs. Much food for thought that may be funny or less so.
Heather followed with a poem from ‘Albert, ‘Arold and Others’ by Marriot Edgar, called ‘T’ Magna Carter’, not the usual version of history. Her father had read this to her as a child, in a strong Mancunian accent, so did she. He had joined the family when she was four and Heather has very happy memories which formed the basis of her song about him: ‘He took on the business of Daddy and gave it his best shot’.
There were two things you could not avoid, death and taxes, but now there are three: death, taxes and Brexit. Thus spake Simon. These subjects are perfect for Simon’s very dry sense of humour. ‘When Brexit comes, we’ll sing the blues, run out of food and have to boil our shoes ….. or it may be OK’. It may not be laugh out loud stuff, but certainly funny and desperately pertinent. I wonder if there will be an update for a year’s time. His other joyful ditty was about Ebola: ‘My Baby’s got Ebola’ and ‘I’m waiting to see if she passes it to me…. I’ve got the quarantine blues’.
John Stephens was due next, but decided to leave it this time. I had to hasten Jason to take the stage and so he did, without a single ruffled feather. He started with a song by Arthur ‘Blind’ Blake called ‘Diddy Wa Diddy’. A euphemism for something, I can’t imagine what. Jason said it always makes him smile. Blind Blake became well-known through recordings made between 1926 and 1932 and has doubtless raised many smiles since that time.
By way of a joke, Jason introduced his second song as being a Chris Martin song, but it wasn’t, and it also wasn’t remotely funny, however beautifully it was crafted and sung. Neil Young’s ‘Needle and the Damage Done’ is a brutal reminder of the tragedy of drug addiction: ‘I watched the needle take another man….’, and so to Frank….
Very lurid lyrics featured in Frank’s first song about ‘a dancing girl with fruit on her head … way down in Havana…. Where the drinks were laced with lust ‘. You can probably get the gist of it. (Sorry, I missed the title). His second song a twelve bar that the audience was encouraged to join in for the chorus: ‘The Boogey Man’ll get you’, ‘if you keep on doing this stuff’: drink, smoke, drugs, pimp… etc. There was a bit of a sing-a-long going on here and I guess it sort of picked up on the subject matter of the Neil Young song, but in a completely different style. Apart from accompanying themselves on guitar, I believe that Jason and Frank could not very much more different as performers, but that is also the beauty (if you can call it that) of this evenings, because the performers and material are so very varied. It struck me, that the extremes of variety, were very pronounced on this evening.
Sylvie brought a totally different tone with her poem about ‘My cleaning lady’, who ‘leaves what is dirty … and cleans what is clean… she was a ballerina….’. I should have anticipated Sylvie only offering one item to the evening, and then discovered that our next performer had decided not to continue, which had me hastily calling on Keith to take the stage.
He has had some inner ear problems, so was not playing an instrument this evening but still gave us a version of a sailor’s jig: ‘There’s no point in learning to swim, boys’ …. It will only prolong the agony if you fall overboard and drown. Is this a comedy subject? Well, not everyone follows the theme ….. developing along ideas including ‘There’s no point in saving the world’ because the only ones in our uneven society, who would be saved are the usual ones who are best placed to save themselves ie the rich and privileged. Very political and cynical, Keith. He didn’t stop there, no, he continued with a poem by Simon Armitage called ‘Thanks’, as in ‘Thank you for waiting’. The poem takes us through the different layers of privilege and status in society as if waiting to board an aircraft. There were many different strata beginning with the most precious metals and greatest levels of automatic privilege going all the way down to the level of chalk and loam, ‘Thank you for waiting’…..’Welfare … Thank you for waiting’ … and eventually ‘Remnant, ash, pus etc …. Thank you for waiting’. It did attract some laughter, probably because the poem highlights again, the theme of who matters, or not and how much, or not. As a Yorkshire man, Mr Armitage was going to be to the point, wasn’t he?
Excellent contributions all round in this rather odd but very engaging evening. I did sing that last song ‘Did I shave my legs for this?’ and although it sounds rather lightweight on the heels of Simon Armitage, it is an equally eloquent statement about human nature and experience. Well, I think so, but then it’s written by and sung by a woman so may be more pertinent to half of the population, rather than all of it.
Hold on a minute, this evening was wearing the label ‘Comedy’ ….. and it has expressed humour by exposing the underbelly of human experience, bringing attention to what is ‘less acceptable or desirable’ as well as funny stuff that just happens and is worthy of recognition.
I’m very pleased to have a British sense of humour.
Haha, see you soon, Ella
21st August 2018
And so it was fun to be back again hosting another friendly, musical gathering at our beloved Six Bells.
I was touched by the number of people who turned up to perform and listen.
And in this sad week that we lost Aretha Franklin, one of the truly great voices of soul and gospel, there were kind mentions of her throughout the night.
I commenced proceedings with a song by another of those truly great voices, the black American blues legend Leadbelly, and I poured as much as I could into "Take This Hammer", its brief, direct verses of a much tougher life than I'll ever know.
Manus followed and gave us the evening's first tribute to Aretha as he was accompanied by Lisa, who sang lovely, understated accompaniment on "You make me feel like as natural woman" (which was written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin). Manus then treated us to another thrilling guitar instrumental which crossed boundaries with what looked like an awesome number of different chords!
Simon then calmed us with his plaintive 12-string guitar sound, accompanied again by Lisa, and our dear new friend Heather, and they performed a pretty bridal waltz, before closing with "Long may you run".
Another new friend I've made on the music scene recently is the wonderful Andy Melrose, who often just captures the most beautiful, elegiac moods, and tonight was no exception. Songs of tough lives sung with such depth and accompanied with his skilfully simple and sensitive guitar playing. Open G tuning and glass bottleneck playing to die for.
As well as his typically solid and reliable work on the sound-desk, our Chris, AKA C.J. Martin, took us on his life journeys with nods to the "Routine" that binds our days and his deeply moving "Panyan", a song with a sensitive spoken word performance, this time beautifully read by Heather. Any mother would be proud of such a song.
Keith then stepped up to our dear old Higel piano, and summoned up the spirit of Keith Jarrett through the bar-room prism. English singer and pianist Liane Carroll's version of a song by American singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier was Keith's next piece which he sang with his distinctive blues styling.
Heather then performed solo, bravely accompanying herself on her open-tuned guitar despite nursing a recently broken finger, wringing out folk ballad "Patrick McGinty" and the timeless "Me and Bobby McGee" (Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster).
It was lovely to hear Glynn again, and I've enjoyed his performances recently at the White Horse Folk gatherings at Deanlands, our neighbouring club across the way.
Glynn and his fine Guild guitar treated us to beautifully touching Americana with nods to the great Guy Clark and John Prine.
I have made lots of friends on this local music scene and there are some great characters who come together over a shared love of music and one of the most fascinating is Frank Xerox, who can cover such a range of emotion from the most hilarious levity to the darkest tragedy. Tonight Frank was on his own journey. Crazy streets and crazy afternoons hung in particular light.
The lone voice always has the power to overcome and Sylvie took the mic with a moving musically set Rabbie Burns poem.
It is always nice to welcome new performers to the Six Bells. We need to keep reaching out. So John & Beverley were a new treat with their affecting voices and lively strummed guitars, performing a Dixie Chicks war ballad "Travelling Soldier" and "Diane" (by American singer Cam).
John Stephens then took to the floor and celebrated those good old boys The Rolling Stones, and those two ancient touchstones "Ruby Tuesday" and "Wild Horses".
Making a welcome return was another of my favourite guitarists on the scene, Ron Turner, in a duo with the equally fine Nigel, who I've never heard play before, but I sure do want to hear him play again. Lively country picking but like all great players they were able to mix it up. They sang and played their own compositions, "Sun is up, moon is down" by Ron, and "Liquorhead". I hope they return again soon to play for us.
I like it that we have a some lovely female voices as part of our scene and I always find Ella most enchanting, and she played our dear old piano once again and treated us to another tribute to Aretha with a beautifully delicate "Chain of Fools" (written by Don Covay). And, of course, one of the loveliest female voices I've had the pleasure of hearing and working with is Lisa, and we performed duet once again on Paul McCartney's evergreen masterpiece "Blackbird".
Lisa has kindly helped me bring my dad, Gerry Lockran's own compositions back to prominence this year and tonight we performed his touching ballad "I may not have too much".
Another new performer was Vonny who stepped up to sing an impromptu version of . . . . "Summertime". HOORAY!
Accompanied by our guitar hero Manus, she sang a jazzy version of this George & Ira Gershwin and Dubose Heyward classic, which has become a bit divisive in recent times. I think it is a shame that a song so greatly capable of different interpretations should become a source of opprobrium. As if the song had itself committed some sort of heinous crime.
I welcome its performances and I'm not afraid of saying so! And so closing a long night was the incomparable Bob Melrose, yet another favourite guitarist of mine! Yes, I know have a lot of favourite guitarists, don't I! But I like the guitar. So just deal with it!!!! Ha! Ha! Ha! And Bob was accompanied by . . . Manus, for a couple of songs of full-shred guitar nirvana.
A long night. A great night. It was my pleasure to play host to you all. Here's to many more nights spent together with you all, my friends.
LOVE. LIGHT. PEACE.
Tuesday 7th August
In an overwhelming rush of enthusiasm, I offered to write the blog for tonight because Chris was ‘M.C.ing’ and doing the sound as well.
We arrived early so the Chris could set up the desk, to find people having their dinners in the back room. What??? A potential audience??? Some of them stayed once we started performing as well. I do hope they enjoyed their evening and come again. It’s so lovely to have an audience.
Performers arrived in dribs and drabs and eventually sixteen different people took part.
Chris opened for us, having set up the sound. He has now written and recorded an amazing 100 songs, and performed his very first one from 1986, ‘Angry Young Man’, and then his last, which will be on his album Journey Part 1, coming out later this year. Both were performed with his own unique style and clear finger picking / rhythmic style. I have a special fondness for ‘Out Of the Blue’ because he has a very convincing ‘diddly’ music break in it....but then, I am a little biased.
Jane followed on from that with her lap steel guitar. It really does make a lovely sound and her performances of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s ‘Love the one You With’ and Carol King’s ‘I wasn’t born to Follow’ carried well in the room. The arrangements were beautifully simple, yet effective.
Then came Jamie, who had previously performed with Chris as a Father Christmas double act! His first song was his own composition written for his wife, Pam. It doesn’t quite have a name yet. ‘Sunshine in the Morning’? ‘Stay another Night’? It was a lovely song played and sang with accuracy and conviction. Lucky Pam. His next song was ‘Nutshell’ one of Alice in Chain’s most popular songs. Again, Jamie played with a full sound and a clear, rhythmic strumming accompaniment. He says he’s still working on the guitar solo bit. We can look forward to that!
Sylvie is not long back from the Lake District where she spent a couple of her earlier years. She recited her own poem ‘Lioness of Skelgill’. This is a well crafted poem written in rhyming couplet style with lovely images of the Lake District and Skelgill water. I’d really like to sit and read it sometime Sylvie.
Manus performed two classics next: John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High, and Roy Harper’s ‘May you Never’. He had made his own arrangements of both songs in his own jazz-type rhythmic style which would be impossible for most of us to play even if we had ten fingers on each hand. How does he do that? Thank you Manus. I’ll keep practising.
I wanted to play a couple of Scottish songs this week because we’re off to the Isle of Skye on Saturday, so I chose a couple of my childhood favourites; Annie Laurie and The Skye Boat song. After some fiddling around at home, I decided I preferred my piano version to my guitar version so I played the piano and accompanied myself in public for the first time ever. Nothing too dreadful happened and it was really lovely to hear everyone join me in the Skye Boat song chorus. Thank you people.
Helen sang next. Her first song was ‘Reason to Believe’, accompanied by George. It was originally written by Tim Hardin and made famous by Rod Stewart. Helen has a lovely tone and vibrato to her voice which brought out the beauty of the song. Next she sang ‘Both Sides Now’ with George and Terry accompanying her. ...in ordinary tuning. Not a DADFsharpAD anywhere. It was a very soulful version and went down well.
Mary got up to join George next and accompanied him in the chorus of Ry Cooder’s ‘Across the Borderline’. George played with a lovely gentle guitar style and voice which was a pleasure to listen to. Mary took the lead vocal to George’s accompaniment for their next song, ‘A Life that’s Good’ from Nashville. It isn’t a song that I knew, but it is lovely and I enjoyed Mary’s singing.
Terry performed two instrumentals on his nylon strung guitar next. I do love to hear Terry play and had a few lessons with him a few years ago so I do know just how tricky it is. Classical Gas takes me right back and was really enjoyable. Then Terry played ‘The Auld Highlanders’ a Scottish jig, which I hadn’t heard before. I shall definitely look forward to hearing it again.
Paula performed two of her own compositions: ‘Without You’ and ‘Canopy’. Her strumming style is so graceful. ‘Without You is a very sad and wistful song and Canopy conjured up some beautiful images. Both were performed in her pure, clear voice.
Sarah was a newcomer to the Six Bells stage and performing for the first time in many years. She delivered ‘Rosebud in June’ a capella and managed to hold the pace and key well despite her nerves. Well done! She will be performing at East Dean Church on Saturday 3rd November accompanied by Terry in a concert to raise money for a Heart Rehabilitation Unit at the DGH and the Vickie Vowles Memorial Fund for Safer Childbirth. Her own daughter died in childbirth, which could have possibly been avoided if there had been a ROTEM machine. All support would be gratefully appreciated.
Simon was up next. His first song was an acoustic version of ‘Ripple’ which he dedicated to the Deadhead in the room. It had to be explained to me. A Deadhead is a Grateful Dead fan. That’s Chris. He was touched! I really liked Simon’s version. What a beautiful song! We also had an informative little discussion about The Chelsea Hotel. Thanks guys! Simon then played one of his own songs, Take my Hand, which he was asked to write for a gospel band. Apparently they didn’t perform it in the end. Their loss.
Jason came up after that. He performed ‘To the End of the Waves’. I’m sorry if I’ve got that wrong Jason. He sang to a skilful syncopated guitar rhythm. Confident, secure, gentle. Lovely. Then Lisa got up to join him, back from her holidays. Apparently they hadn’t had time to practise. You couldn’t tell! They sang ‘Into White’, a lovely Cat Stevens song from Tea for the Tillerman, followed by The Glory of Love, a blues standard that Jason’s Dad used to sing. Very tight. Lovely harmonies. They do seem to get better every time I hear them. Lisa sang one of her own compositions. It was one of her poems that she put to music. It doesn’t have an official title yet; ‘New Moon’? There was a full range of dynamics, picks and strums, and some really exciting discords. I do hope we get to hear it again. Great stuff Lisa.
Clive had another song from The Great American Songbook that he hadn’t had a chance to perform at the last gathering, ‘I got Rhythm’. What a fun song. I couldn’t help joining in along with several others. This was followed by a moving version of Vincent. Again, we were humming along. Lovely choices Clive.
Finally, we were joined by a group of young people from Belgium and one of their number got up to sing. Maxime is a singer and actress in Belgium but usually performs in French. After a chat with Terry and Manus, they accompanied her to Summertime, everyone’s favourite! Maxime was confident and professional with a lovely dusky voice. Terry and Manus were in full throttle, and a thousand notes swam out and around to accompany her. It was a fitting end to a really enjoyable evening .
Thank you everyone.
24th July 2018
Although originally put forward as an evening of “Jazz Standards” it was felt that as 99% of musical input here is conveyed in song-form, as sung, perhaps we should actually go-by-the-book. In this event the legendary American one.
In a point of interest, personally I am a long-term fan of Keith Jarrett's “Standards Trio” As the core of their [piano/bass/kit-drums] discography and concert footage is sourced from “The Great American Songbook” – unsung save for Jarrett's own vocal musings, in improvisation – it really is jazz standards all the way with them. So it's all a bit subjective, really – We were flexible on the guidelines but a great effort was made to pay homage, one way or another, by all who contributed – Thanks for that!
As host I opened the evening as the list of performers had filled itself out all present and correct – no alterations whatsoever; I still managed to screw it up though, by giving George and Mary a false start when it was meant to be Jane on the slide. So G & T were graciously slid back to pit-slot-3, and Jane, relatively unfazed [considering she thought she'd just got the sack] reinstated herself on lap-steel guitar at the low chair in order to accommodate her instrumental stance with “Love Is A River” and “Put The Blame On Mame”. Only then did the laid-back, brought-forward duo get to render up their versions of “Red River Valley” and “Valley Of Tears” which taken altogether sort of put a nice, neat crease in our stride[s]. Their friend, and ours, Helen struck out on her own, unaccompanied, this evening with “The Way We Were” and “Brother, Can You Spare A Dime” which was very well pitched whilst being poignantly evocative of depression era, USA – I thought that kind of attention to detail [accurate pitching with no reference points, instrumentally] was/is crucial to any respectful performance of history appropriately acknowledged and alluded to.
Then Simon Watt came on with his great American CF Martin country guitar and gave us a characteristically laconic rendition of Jerome Kern's “Lazybones” which suited him very well and is sure to be incorporated into his own repertoire I would think, along with “Try A Little Tenderness” – followed closely by CJ Martin without his great American CF Martin but totally prepared via otherwise Americana offerings: John Phillips's “Me And My Uncle” in homage to the ‘greatest American band’, The Grateful Dead and Jim Stafford's “Spiders And Snakes”. Then he went back to doing an admirable job at the sound-desk – all night [plaudits].
Heather came on with Dylan's “The Times They Are A Changin'” and you can't get more American than that – it just gets laterally post-modern after that! As did Paul Simon's “Homeward Bound” with it's allusions to 'itchycoodancing (?) ….'. But – as if by some higher connection, Sylvie then stepped up to the hand held microphone, radiantly; just back from Scotland and as if to be handing the Great Lakes baton over to Heather en route to the Isle of Skye, Sylvie recited 'The Lakeland Ramble' and another poem with a lakeside scene in its 'crepuscular' imagery as we headed onwards through the notional twilight of Rogers and Hart's “Blue Moon” as performed by Clive whom, as the great patrician here, incited some collective empathy to a recent tragedy visited upon a friend's family as he continued with 'You'll Never Walk Alone' for her, herself a performer at The Six Bells Folk 'n' Blues Club – Yes, we do have doves here from time to time.
I digress – it was a good time to welcome Ella Moonbridge up to the piano for a rubato rendition of “The Nearness Of You” which I adore; we spoke of this afterward as I'd recently come across Norah Jones's version as tacked onto the end of her own Grammy Award Winner album, “Come Away With Me” – like a gem it was there at the top of my head and the slow [almost out-of-tempo feel] of Ella's transcription brought it on home nicely. Cole Porter's “ Night And Day” was handled similarly couched on a pure white cushion.
Back to Guitar-de-ville with Bob Melrose who gave us an interesting solo arrangement of “Tainted Love” syncopated in the way of 'Soft Cell' – I put it in inverted commas in the American way because that, according to Bob, is where it came from, a pre-80s B-side [many of which were plundered if re-energized during the Thatcher era over here] it slipped into out vernacular – as did Paul Simon's “The American Tune” – Ha! And then, a highly intelligent looking performance by Jason Loughran of “Everybody's Talkin' At Me” and “Georgia ...” which I've heard him do in duet mode with Lisa Jackson as fresh, young committee members, and I've heard Lisa play it solo, as indeed I often hear myself play it solo. This, though, was Jason's solo arrangement and it was positively dove-like in its articulation – fly Jason, fly; that duo should be heard far and wide!
Once-upon-a-time – yes it's getting there, folks – Keith Wilson, in an inspired stroke of genius, wrote a great American songbook song entitled 'Too Sad To Sing The Blues' thus cannily stepping outside of the Afro-American genre whilst, in an interior way, positively owning [inhabiting] it – Howzat! In a nutshell he encapsulated some perfectly transatlantic closure to a great evening of music from our perfectly English folk, blues and jazz-standards oasis here within the backroom of this little Home Counties establishment, totally unaffected by the passing of time as we know it – in fact, I was talking to a couple of English emigres there, just over from Australia since the 70s since when they used to frequent this place, like they were somehow caught up in the 4th dimension [as I remember it, too].
And, seeing as I seem to have just turned myself inside-out I should of course acknowledge Keith's great performance versions of “My Funny Valentine” and his totally hilarious inversions of “Summertime” from The Great American Songbook, proper; here's to “Porgy & Bess” and all the great archives of the world of music.
Tuesday July 10th
Football. Tennis. - Tennis. Football. - Football and Tennis. - The Tour de France.- Theresa May's Cabinet 'Turmoil'. - Boris and Davis. - The good news of the cave rescue in Thailand. - The Centenary celebrations of The Royal Air Force. These are the things that people were occupied with this evening.
So, we were expecting reduced numbers at The Folk and Blues Club. My journey to Chiddingly, which is usually slow with traffic, was completely clear. I counted only six cars, one lorry and a bus, and they were all travelling in the opposite direction anyway. If only the roads were so empty all the time ! And so it was, that yes, we had fewer numbers, but we ended up with seven players, two backing singers, and a poet.
As this is a Folk and Blues Club, and it's summertime, I decided to take advantage of this and I started the proceedings with 'Summertime Blues' by Eddie Cochran. My second song was one of my own - 'Open Fields', which is a protest against over-development of green space. " The sun comes up over the open fields - Day by day they take away the places - Where the children used to play. The sun goes down over the crowded town."
Simon Watt agreed to be in charge of the sound desk tonight. Thanks Simon. He also agreed to come on at second place, and he told us that he and Lesley have acquired a twelve week old puppy. A mix between a Spaniel and an Alsatian. That must be a Spanalsatianiel - or maybe an Alspanielsatian. Simon gave us a song about a dubious landlady 'Mrs Canatalees', followed by the sad but lovely 'This sweet old World', by Lucinda Williams.
Lisa Jackson always brings us something nice, and tonight she sang ' All I have to do is Dream' by Boudleaux Bryant, made famous by The Everley Brothers. Lisa has a lovely ability to take a well-known song such as this, and change it into something beautifully different, in her own style. Her next song was also in her own style, being one of her own compositions,' Just for a While'. ( I hope I got that title right).
Fourth on the list came George and Mary Georgiou, with George on guitar, and Mary singing in duet with him. They gave us John Prine's 'The speed of the sound of Loneliness', best known done by Nanci Griffith, and 'That's how I got to Memphis', followed by The Mavericks' ' Back in your arms again'. George and Mary stayed in place to accompany Helen, who I earlier described as a backing singer, ( along with Mary), - but Helen sang the lead on her two songs, 'Eight days a Week' by Lennon and McCartney, and 'Dock of the Bay' by Otis Redding and Steve Cropper.
Manus McDaid has been telling us of his recent conversion to the work of James Taylor, and he has transformed some of these songs into his own masterful Jazz/Blues style. Tonight's pieces were 'Shower the People' and a very clever and complex instrumental version of Erroll Garner's 'Misty'.
Another masterful guitarist is ,of course, Terry Lees. Terry came to the floor to play the great tune 'Planxty Davis'. Terry can make one guitar sound like three playing. He once told us that someone had criticised him in the past for "playing tunes with too many notes". -- Well, -- I would say that you could never say that, and anyway, every single note is always perfect. This was followed by Woody Guthrie's 'Do Ray Mi'. - ( Nothing whatever to do with Julie Andrews) !
When Keith Willson arrived earlier, he told us that he had accidently sliced his little finger with secateurs while working in the garden. -- I say -Accidentally - Of course ! -- You wouldn't want to do that on purpose would you !
In view of this , Keith was not able to play guitar or piano tonight, so he gave us a couple of his 'Thought Provoking' poems from his anthology - 'Life, Love, and Landscape'. He read 'The Herring Run Cape Cod' , and later came back to give us 'Them and Us' followed by 'Dead and Alive'. Thanks Keith, my thoughts have been provoked!
Last on the line up was Mike , from Hove Actually. He began with one of his own songs about guitar heroes who have been and gone, lived and died, and then launched into Roger Hodgson's 'Give a Little Bit', by Supertramp.
There was still time to let those who wanted to do a third song -- to do a third song, so Simon came back on to tell us one of his 'Stories'. This was about the time when he had a contract to deliver plants to the Maidenhead Sewage Treatment Works. The main ingredient of the story was 'Stool Pigeons'. Then he gave us a fine version of 'Love is the Sweetest Thing'. -- Unlike the Sewage Works.
By this time, a few of the earlier people had to leave, so we were down to just six of us left, so we all moved in close to the front, to form an intimate and small group.
Lisa returned to play and sing 'Don't be Cruel' in a style that as she had done earlier, transformed the song into something quite different. Thanks Lisa.
Manus then Kindly finished the night for us with 'Every day I have the Blues'. And it was a nice way to end.
We could have gone on longer, but we decided to finish early, so we were done and all packed away by 11pm.
Manus himself will be hosting next time, with the Theme Night of 'The Great American Songbook'.
26th June 2018
It was a warm evening of variety, warm in weather and warm because there was a lot of support and encouragement in the room. I got the ball rolling with my own song ‘Wishes do Come True’. Luckily for me, as I hadn’t prepared a second solo, Jason arrived and we were able to give Cat Steven’s ‘Into White’ from the iconic Tea for the Tillerman album, its inaugural outing, successfully I think.
Another inaugural outing was made by Natasha’s cello, the first time I have seen a cello played at the Folk ‘n’ Blues Club. Natasha provided us with a beautiful ‘folk’ rendition of Sydney Carter’s protest song from the ‘60s, ‘The Crow on the Cradle’. Her cello playing gave it an ethereal quality that silenced the room. Take a look at Jackson Browne’s version with David Lindley on violin and also Show of Hands’ arrangement with Phil Beer’s adept violin playing. It is a song that can be interpreted in many ways. Natasha then showed us how finger picking those heavy cello strings works so well with a song such as ‘Matty Groves’, her second choice, a ‘Border ballad’ from up north pre-1635. (Should that be a ‘bawdy ballad’?!)
I watched our Sound Man Chris Martin’s D45 envy Fade and Disappear as his energies went into performing his own song of that title, while Clive took over the sound desk. Chris then asked the Martinettes Revisited (Heather and Lisa) to join him on his up-tempo Scrapheap Blues which had everyone tapping their toes. Chris does sterling work on our new all-singing-all-dancing sound desk and with mic stands donated by Manus, we really are fully wired for great sound.
Heather revealed her rather good French with her version of ‘Look what they’ve done with my song, Ma’. It was originally the B side to Melanie’s rather screechy release of ‘Ruby Tuesday’ in 1971. Lovely to be reminded of this song, Ma - and sweetly sung. Heather then performed her fresh out-of-the-oven self-penned ‘Old Friends’ which she described as being a modern song with a Scottish rhythm. I certainly wanted to do a jig!
It was Lance’s second visit and this time he sang his own songs. I’ve heard several original songs by Lance now and always enjoy the fact that he can write about so many subjects, serious and comic alike. His songs can make you laugh and make you think. ‘Meltdown’ was his first which had a poignant message, while ‘My Broken Heart’ touched a chord with a lot of us, I’m sure.
Simon with his warmly toned Martin started off with ‘Sin City’ by The Flying Burrito Brothers, after informing us that Simple Minds were once called Johnny and the Self Abusers. Don’t ask! Van Morrison’s ‘Tupelo Honey’ from his 1972 album of the same name, was Simon’s second song. Rather interestingly, Dusty recorded it in 1973. Simon’s rendition was compelling and sweet as honey.
Sylvie impresses me with her ability to pitch her unaccompanied songs. It’s a difficult thing to do, and even more difficult to keep the pitch throughout. Tonight, Sylvie put a poem called ‘Lord Neptune’ by renowned children’s author and poet Judith Nicholls, to her own tune, adding a chorus for us all to join in with.
Our jazz legend Manus has, I’m pleased to say, discovered James Taylor (better late than never Manus!). His interesting and inspiring guitar style recreated two very well-known songs: ‘Fire and Rain’ and ‘Mexico’. Manus has an inner groove and a command of that guitar neck that fascinates me. His arrangements hail from a jazz-influenced background yet incorporate many different techniques. Watch and learn folks!
A change of pace with John, who hasn’t performed at the club before, as he had us all singing rather exuberantly to the early Rolling Stones track and another B-side single, ‘Ruby Tuesday’ and Bowie’s 1969 signature opus ‘Space Oddity’. It was rightly included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped…you guessed it…Rock and Roll. (Snappy title.) But is it rock and roll, or classic rock, or even pop? A discussion for next time perhaps...
We all fell silent for Clive’s renditions of ‘London River’ a song by Rod Sherman from Fairport’s Red and Gold album and the lovely 1967song ‘Painting Box’ from Scottish psychedelic folk group, The Incredible String Band. ‘’When I look inside my painting box, I seem to pick the colours of you.” Just lovely. Clive never seems to sing the same song twice. How does he do it!
Ella brought her bouzouki! She sang confidently with that fine toned instrument, proving to us that it can turn a convincing folk phrase with the 18th century ballad ‘Fare Thee Well My Own True Love’, as well as a country riff with ‘Down at the Twist and Shout’ by Mary Chapin Carpenter from her 1991 album Shooting Straight in the Dark. Ella sadly recently decided to leave the committee, but she returns to support the club and it is always such a pleasure to see her performances, whether it be on piano or with her bouzouki.
It was coming towards the end of a varied and entertaining evening of music. The atmosphere was fun and friendly, with laughter, banter, respectful support of all the performers and encouraging words, which combine to make for a special open mic night. Jason and I performed two duets to end with. Stephen Stills lyrically stunning ‘Helplessly Hoping’ from CSN’s 1969 debut album, and Dylan’s ‘Tonight I’ll be Staying Here with You’ from his much lauded (also 1969) Nashville Skyline album. With Jason’s encouragement and support, I am learning the disciplines of timing, careful listening and creative arrangements. Oh, and how to play the guitar, as well as sing a song without looking at the words! We never stop learning. For all that, I thank you Mr L!
Duetting is a joy, but how else to finish than with a singalong from John. ‘The Air that I breathe’ had a shaky start, but once we got going, this Hollies classic created a rousing end to a great evening.
Music is always in the air that we breathe.
The person that runs the evening writes the blog
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