14th May 2018
It was my pleasure to host another evening of music at the Six Bells and I was thrilled with the number of people who turned up. As before my job as host was made all the easier by my friends who set up the PA and prepared the running order. All I had to do was stand behind the mic and be the anchor man!
And so I started off the evening with my own gentle ballad 'Simple Smiling Face' following it with 'Handbags & Gladrags' (Michael D'Abo). As I mentioned, the other Rod Stewart classic that I considered covering was 'Do you think I'm sexy?' but I need more courage to don those leopard skin patterned tights for your delectation. Maybe next time!
One of the advantages of starting the evening is that I don't have to follow such guitar masters as Terry Lees, who played dazzling versions of 'Vincent Black Lightning' (Richard Thompson) and Scottish bag-pipe tune 'Eilean Donan'. I sat right in front of Terry and was just in awe of how he played his Martin guitar.
And then another of my favourite guitarists on the scene, Manus McDaid, took the stage and treated us to his unique jazz stylings as he performed wonderful versions of 'Goodbye Pork Pie Hat' (music by Charles Mingus with the later added lyrics by the divine Joni Mitchell) and 'Georgia on my Mind' (Stuart Gorrell / Hoagy Carmichael) on which he played many beautiful chords. My relatively pedestrian guitar version of 'Georgia . . ' would be heard later in the evening, as I accompanied my dear friend Lisa who sang beautifully as always.
George & Mary performed a lovingly gentle version of The Doors classic 'Light My Fire', with a nice hint of Jose Feliciano's version, following with an engaging ''Storms never lost' (Miranda Lambert).
For rousing and gutsy classic blues our next performer always delivers and Penny was thrilling as she stormed through 'Trouble in Mind' (Richard M. Jones) and 'This Train' (the traditional US gospel song, originally made famous by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, after the song was discovered by folklorists John and Alan Lomax). Penny was brilliantly accompanied by Terry Lees on guitar and Keith Willson on piano. And yes, the piano may have a few out of tune keys, but that added to its bar-room credibility, and Keith played it for real.
Glyn then played a deeply moving couple of songs, 'How times slips away' (Willie Nelson) and the chilling 'Hurt' (Trent Reznor), which, of course, we all remember as covered by the great Johnny Cash. Glyn just understands and loves this music so deeply and it was quite emotional watching him sing and play at such close distance.
Paula's performances I have always enjoyed, having seen her play at several open mic nights in recent months, and tonight was no exception as she treated us to her lovely song 'Jug of red wine' and an engaging Elizabethan guitar instrumental. I hope to hear more of Paula's music in the future.
Now if an award for most sartorially controversial T-shirt is to be made then hands-down winner has to be Simon Watt sporting his Kim Jong-un emblazoned piece of apparel. Well, we need to move on from Che Guevara, don't we? Anyway, the music! Simon played gentle versions of 'Sometimes we cry' (Van Morrison) and 'Firestorm' (Danny Schimdt).
As well as doing a fabulous job on the sound desk Chris Martin also treated us to two of his own songs. Chris is probably one of the most prolific song-writers on the scene and tonight he performed 'I want to learn' and 'Hanging on', which he is currently recording for his new album, which I look forward to hearing.
Bob Aldridge is a beautifully gentle performer and he engaged us yet again with the classic 'Sweet Baby James' (James Taylor), effortlessly inspiring us all to sing along. His equally subtle version of 'Your Song' (Elton John/Bernie Taupin) calmly followed.
It is always pleasure to have a new performer join our scene and Heather Curry is a lovely lady and most charming singer and guitarist and she opened with 'Little Green' (Joni Mitchell) from the classic 'Blue' album. Heather is wonderful to have on our scene and I was also glad to have her play at my "Open Space" music evening in Lewes last Sunday. She followed with her mirthfully cutting song 'Show me yours' and we all hope she will regularly return to play at the Six Bells.
It was a lovely evening particularly as we enjoyed a variety of female performers and Anita Jardine is another rousing performer who always makes one smile and tonight she beguiled us with 'Wicked Game' (Chris Isaac) and her own socially aware song 'Little Bit Gypsy'. Aren't we all? Absolutely. And we must thank Terry Lees, who once again provided brilliant improvised accompaniment to Anita.
I was lucky to be able to perform a couple of songs with my dear friend Lisa, with whom I have been building up a duo act with in recent months. Lisa is the loveliest singer and guitarist and it was beautiful to go back to our original favourite song 'Georgia on my Mind' (Stuart Gorrell / Hoagy Carmichael). Some songs just define one's life and help us through and this is just one of those. The road leads back to you, indeed. Lisa played some lovely guitar as well as delivering the prettiest vocal of the evening. Another song we are really finding expression in is 'Wonderful World' (Sam Cooke / Lou Adler / Herb Alpert), which is so simple, but resonates so much.
Yet another of my favourite guitarists and musicians on the scene, Keith Willson, got up next to play his bittersweet 'Too sad to sing the blues', picking out his own rootsy melange on that most handsome guitar of his. I do enjoy the dynamic of poetry interspersed with music at these evening so it was so welcome to hear Keith read his poem 'The Organist' from a published book of his verse.
Our dear friend Clive got up next to play his topical song 'Marry Harry', featuring his new lyric to The Beautiful South's evergreen classic pop hit. He then treated us to 'Lilac Wine' (James Shelton) to ease us towards the end of the night.
Sylvie then got up to lead us all into a singalong 'Sing me a song, Mr Blue'.
And so we finished with John Pontefract, who played 'The old, old house' (George Jones) and 'How can a poor man stand such times and live' (Woody Guthrie), with a nod to the great Ry Cooder.
Such a full evening. I was very touched by everyone's support.
Let's do it again and fill that room with love.
Until then, you all take care, my friends.
Once a year they let me run a ‘sing us a song of your own’ night and this was the fourth edition. I also get to pick 3-videos from You Tube to go with my report.
I bang on about song writing and wonder why everyone doesn’t do it - for me, it’s so much better than recycling the same old songs (even if they’re great). Open mic person puts their heart on the line singing ‘Summertime’, well, I’d still pick the Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong version, or the Janis Joplin interpretation. But, when open mic person performs their own song, they don’t have to compete with Ella, or Janis and it’s real and tells us something about them.
Song writing: You have the melody, musical arrangement and the lyric. I could write a hundred blogs on lyric writing, but will spare you that for another day! But, one thing I’d say is, ‘what do you want to say’ and always use a ‘cliché alert check’ when editing your own lyric - be tough.
I’m currently working on my 99th song and am excited about reaching the big ton. I don’t wish to repeat myself musically, or lyrically, so it’s a challenge to find new ideas. I’m happy with my new material and the more I do it, the more I enjoy the search for the next song.
We have our influences and people we admire and the music that we grew up with. I don’t sound like any of my music heroes and have often wondered where my songs and my sound come from - the 3 YT videos give a clue. As a youngster I studied classical guitar, which was a lot of J S Bach arpeggio type stuff. My picking style has evolved over the years, but I still lean on this basic technique and love my arpeggios, and I rely on my fingernails to give me my sound. I’ve had a lot of chats with other bearded (and some clean shaven) old chaps about nails, quite a few have brilliant white false nails on their picking hand. I stick with my own, but they do break and sods law dictates, just before you need them for something important.
My second video is that Boston song, which I find quite annoying these days, but the opening D thing clearly influenced me, as I still use variations of it today. The David Gates number: back in the 70’s I had (I’ve still got it) a book of Bread songs and I just loved those songs. So, it’s Bach, Boston, Bread and the rest is just me.
Ok, that’s enough about me and my songs - sorry, having done a lot of blogs, I just wanted to do something different this time which relates to the subject of the evening.
We had a fab night with 16 performers, most of all whom did their own stuff. We also had some listeners which really helps fill the room and lift the evenings. Here’s a song list with brief notes.
I opened with ‘Insomniac’s Dream’ & ‘On paper wings’ - both feature on my album, ‘The Last Song’.
Paula: ‘Lifeline’ & ‘Empty chair’ - two of her own songs that have real meaning to her.
Glyn: ’Magnolia wind’ & ‘All she wants’ - both by Guy Clarke. Glyn borrows his songs from great dead songwriters.
George and Mary: ‘Misty morning blue’ & ‘The day I struck gold’ - George said he’d only written about eight songs and played one which he’d composed about 25 years ago. And to finish, a song written by our good friend, Chris Liddiard.
Natasha: ‘This living nightmare’ & ‘Bees wing’ (by Richard Thompson) - the opening number was written 30-years ago by Natasha and this was its world premiere - a fascinating insight into the young writer’s life at the time and a great example of why you should write your own songs.
Manus: ‘Under a glass ceiling’ & ‘Red blues’ - about a cult of desire and a red car.
Jane: ‘Homesick blues’ (a poem by Langston Hughes with music by Jane) & ‘Hysterectomy blues’ - now what can I say about that!
Silvie: started with a mic but then put it on the bar - one day I’ll get her to use the PA. Two a cappella numbers about Mary Queen of Scots and other stuff from circa 1542.
Simon: ‘Bernard the fireman’ & ‘The furniture song’ & ‘Summertime’ - classic Simon songs with subtle humour and then he demanded a third song - well, what can I say (see above)!
Heather: ‘Double Entendre’ & ‘Weald and Sea’ - first song with guitar and second a cappella. It was Heather’s first outing at the Bells for 25-years (see photo).
Clive: ‘All the love will remain’ & ‘Padstow’ - a sad, but pretty song of his own and a cover for May Day of a Steeleye Span song.
Keith: ‘Dusty’ (a song about his old typewriter) and a poem, ‘The double bass seeks love’.
Kevin: ‘Winter long’ & ‘Contradictions’ - I loved the first song. I’m currently recording my next album in Kevin’s studio (see photo below).
Lisa: ‘May the wind be forever in your sales’ (wins the award for longest song title of the evening) & ‘Bluebell knoll’.
Jason: ‘Sunday afternoon’ & ‘Strange sailings’ - Great stuff from Lisa & Jason, both playing their own songs.
And that was it - kick off 8:45 - final whistle 11:15 - thanks to Simon for setting up the PA, Clive for doing the sound - PA packed away, a bit of a natter and out the door at 11:45.
Next up it’s Tuesday 15/05/18 and your MC will be Jason Loughran
C J Martin x www.cjmartin.info
Although Simon was due to run this evening at the Six Bells folk and blues, he is hiding away somewhere downing antibiotics. He has made his video selection, but all other duties were shared between Chris on sound, Clive on introductions and me, Ella taking notes for this blog.
It was a later start at about 8.45 and we got underway with a modest list of nine, but as often happens with a smaller gathering, it turned into a very varied and enjoyable evening, of course. Clive opened the evening with the upbeat ‘Meet me on the Corner’ (Mr Dream Seller) from Lindisfarne’s second album Fog on the Tyne. He followed with ‘Terminus’ from Ralph McTell’s second album Spiral Staircase. What’s with the second album thing Clive?
Pat followed Clive with two beautiful clear a cappella songs: ‘Edwin’ (Edwin of the Lowlands Low) as performed by Steeleye Span, as well as others. Her second song ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’ taken from the George and Ira Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess.
More clear singing from Natasha came next. With some accomplished guitar accompaniment she sang ‘The Creggan White Hare’, a delightful song about the white hare escaping from the huntsmen and their hounds. I could have cheered for the hare. She went on to sing the traditional ‘The Tides are Flowing’…. ‘one morning in the month of May….’
Chris the Sound took the stage next, telling us that this had been a sad and gloomy year, which prepared us for his two songs ‘Wreckage’ .. ‘we’re out doing nothing and it takes up all our time ..and ‘Routine’. It’s all in the title. The year is still young, so here’s hoping the mood will improve.
I followed at the piano, with an attempt at Joni Mitchells’ beautiful early (1969) song ‘He Played Real Good For Free’ and my version of Lady or Lord Franklin. There are many versions of the song, which developed over the many years until Franklin was considered lost. Lady Franklin did sponsor her own search for her husband. I love the old piano, but playing it is always a bittersweet experience. Whether I complete a song successfully or less so, the dear old thing responds gallantly but is woefully out of tune. A selection or sequence of notes relatively in tune is divinely satisfying.
Frank followed me with Dylan’s ‘One of Us Must Know’ (Sooner or Later) which reminded him of his first girlfriend and the classical edifice that is Birmingham Town Hall. His second song was ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’, Procul Harem’s debut song which was released on 12th May 1967, went to number one on 8th June and stayed there for six weeks. No wonder a whole generation remembers it so well.
Just as on the last Bells evening, a band turned up unexpectedly. John, Brian and Megan travel under the name ‘Grasslands’. Brian and Megan are also a duo as ‘Red, Green and Blue’. Slightly confusing. ‘Twenty Years’ was their first song;.. ‘there’s a note under your front door that I wrote twenty years ago’ from a favourite band The Civil Wars, who have seriously broken up. Perhaps there’s a clue in the name they chose. On a lighter note, they sang John Martin’s ‘I’m Coming Home’. They produced some well-rounded sound and harmonies with guitars and mandolin. Having travelled all the way from Lamberhurst, they were invited to sing a third song: ‘Forget-Me-Not’.
Jason and Lisa ran their four songs together, starting with Jason’s own song ‘A Little Soul’ with characteristic fingerstyle accompaniment. Lisa joined him, for one night only as ‘Captain Bracegirdle’ from Noel Coward’s ‘Blithe Spirit’ (apparently) and together they sang some very lovely harmonies on Stephen Still’s ‘So the Task Begins’ (I must learn to live without you now) from his 1972 album Manassas. They performed Tom Waitt’s ‘Heart of Saturday Night’ with Lisa adding some sparkling guitar along with her vocal harmonies. She went on to sing Jimmy Cliff’s ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ solo (it’s gonna be a bright, bright, bright sunshiny day). Very Nice.
With plenty of time to go, Pat sang to us again, this time a Don McLean song ‘The Sea Man’ where ‘.. the fish that were left, were too poisoned to eat’. Natasha followed with Flora ‘Lily of the West’, a traditional Irish song that has become a traditional American song. ‘Enchanting’ said Clive.
I struggled to decipher the name of Chris’s third song ‘Ghosts’ in my notes, but there it was, with Lisa adding some pretty harmonies. (Just one third of the Martinets as Chris reminded us). I followed with Neil Young’s ‘Hurricane’ on the dear old piano. Jason sang the second Dylan song of the night: ‘Only a Hobo’ from his very early Gaslight album of 1962. Frank took to the piano to sing Hank Williams’: ‘Lost Highway’: I’m a rolling stone on the lost highway, just another guy on the lost highway.
‘Grasslands’ rounded off the evening with two folk songs. The first ‘Take Me Out Drinking Tonight’ as sung by Michael Marra, and the second, a popular English folk song by some different rolling stones: ‘I can’t Get No Satisfaction’.
According to Chris’s accounts there were 27 songs and 11 performers bringing music to the hallowed halls of the Six Bells this evening. I hope that Grasslands make the journey from Kent to see us again and that Simon will be germ-free to join us at Chris Martin’s Singer/Songwriter night on first of May.
See you soon, Ella
Six Bells Blog: 3 April 2018
The evenings have become lighter and the long winter is finally shuffling off, at last. Plenty of musicians had gathered, but as sometimes happens, not many non-performers at the beginning. However, it would be fair to say that initial impressions can be very misleading. We went on to have a very varied and action-packed evening.
St Patrick’s Day has been and gone. Because I missed that episode at the Six Bells, I started the evening with a traditional Irish song: P stands for Paddy, followed by Joni Mitchell’s: 'I think I understand', from her early album ‘Clouds’, accompanying myself on bouzouki.
George and Mary stepped forward to follow with Red River Valley and a second song that I failed to make a note of (sorry), but both were performed with characteristic confidence and lovely harmonies. Annie from Ashurst took the stage after them and performed beautifully a cappella, the traditional ‘Let no Man Steal Your Thyme’. Carey Mulligan sang this in the 2015 film ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’. As a traditional British/Irish song, there are several variations. Pentangle popularised the song in 1968. Taking up her guitar she then sang ‘Dimming of the Day’, written by Richard Thompson (of Fairport Convention fame).
Manus sang an Elvis B-side ‘Little Sister’, a rock and roll song written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman recorded by Elvis in 1961. Manus said he had heard this performed in country style, that would probably be Dwight Yoakam, and by Ry Cooder, with a collection of musicians and backing singers without the rock’n’roll edge, but this evening’s performance was more modest. He followed this with a Keith Willson song ‘The Worst Thing’ and Keith had arrived by this time to appreciate the performance of his work.
Stepping out from behind the sound desk, Chris Martin performed two of his own compositions. The first was ‘Journey’ and the second was ‘Another Journey’. The names were rather misleading. The two songs were distinctly different and spoke of different things. Whilst ‘Another Journey’ appeared more upbeat, the warning was that ‘the crash is coming’.
Paula climbed onto the stool and sang us her song ‘The Empty Chair’, waiting for someone to arrive and ‘my coffee doesn’t taste the same without you’. Her music flew away and Clive rushed forward to remedy the situation with a peg. Continuing in gentle guitar fingerstyle, she then sang the 1973 classic by Roberta Flack ‘Killing Me Softly’.
Glyn followed Paula with quiet confidence, singing his version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ from his 1984 album Various Positions. His second song by David Gates, was ‘Guitar Man’ from the 1972 album of the same name by Bread.
Simon gave us an Eliza Gilkyson song ‘Calm Before the Storm’ ….. ‘easy does it darlin’, let the good times roll’. A guy called Simon Watt is on Youtube singing this very song at the Six Bells about eleven months ago. His second song ‘Company of Friends’ by Danny Schmidt, Simon likes for his different approach and sentiments.
After a good deal of banter and some furniture moving, the Golgis: Ade, Tony, Nigel and Wolf, took the stage. They had travelled all the way from Worthing, across the border in West Sussex. This four man band had apparently last performed at the Six Bells fifteen years ago. Much to the delight of those gathered, Rupert Cobb was also joining them in their performance. We were promised a lot of volume and their first song was accompanied by a six string and twelve string guitar, snare drum and djembe. Whilst apologising for the noise they were about to make, there was total resistance to turning down the volume. I don’t think I got the name of the first song, but I did get the name of the second ‘Wayne’ twice instead. Sorry. This song included the playing of a very large recorder, a teapot and some impressive hat-juggling. Then a spiralling plastic funnel on the end of some plastic tube trumpeting in circles over our heads and a very long sustained note that had us holding our breath. To say this performance was unusual would be an understatement.
Their third song was a sing-along ditty about the ‘Hagfish’, an extraordinary and exceptionally revolting eel-like fish that creates huge amounts of defensive slime. I daresay some could equate this behaviour with that of various politicians. Over to those of you who write political songs. The actual fish is very unusual in that it has a bony skull with many alien-style teeth, but no backbone. It’s been operating successfully for 300 million years apparently. The song required the audience to respond to ‘It’s the hagfish’ with the reply of ‘What’s he like?’ It featured the ukulele and some virtuosity from Rupert. We were promised some even more piercing noise on the last song ‘Doc’s Tash’. It was very loud and like the other songs included powerful percussion. This one included the modest, wandering tambourine, more exquisite trumpet from Rupert and the totally irreverent bagpipes assaulting everyone’s ears. The bagpipes left the room, they returned to the room and ended on a traditional Scottish note.
Our senses were suitably stunned whilst being totally engaged. As they left at the end of the evening I wondered how they might describe their musical style. I was thinking musical theatre, circus, or something particularly colourful. Apparently they are ‘alternative folk’, maybe very alternative. Musical pantomime? ‘It’s the hagfish’…’What’s he like?’
Clive did immensely well to re-engage the audience following this delightful assault on the senses, making a joke about fish dinner then invoking Sunshine. Very appropriate for the obvious and very welcome change in the season. Clive has an apparent library of songs about the seasons. He produced another strong Cornish mining song ‘Cousin Jack’… ‘follow me down cousin Jack’.
Keith Willson brought the evening to a conclusion with his ‘Blue Passport Blues’ making observations about the political whys and wherefores of colour choices and his final song was ‘Climbing up a Rusty Ladder’ with the advice ‘don’t look down’. And so ended an unusually mixed and varied programme of artists and material.
Simon will be hosting the evening on the 17th. See you then, Ella
Tuesday March 20th.
Spring has arrived, even though the weather has recently not been behaving itself, and we find ourselves here again at The Six Bells at the Spring Equinox. Three days ago was Saint Patrick's Day, which is also a time to celebrate, even if you aren't of Irish descent, so it had been arranged for tonight to be Irish Theme night.
As with other theme nights, it is not obligatory to stick to the theme, but it is good to have a go at playing something that is not normally in our own repertoire, and is perhaps out of our own comfort zone.
We suggested that everyone should be drinking either Guinness or Irish Whiskey, but that also was not obligatory. On the theme of whiskey (Irish spelling) -- not whisky ( Scottish spelling), I poured out 'Whiskey in the Jar', a song that has been done by many people, and with each version having different lyrics. Then came 'Sweet Sixteen' best known performed by The Fureys but written by James Thornton, an American performer, but born in Dublin in 1898. My third tipple was Phil and June Colclough's 'Song for Ireland', well known as being sung by Mary Black.
It's always nice to see Jason Loughran and Lisa Jackson singing together , and they took to the floor to give us 'Running on Faith' by Jerry Lynn Williams, Tom Waite's 'Looking for the Heart of Saturday Night', followed by 'The Lifeline', one of the songs written by Jason's father Gerry Lockran. Jason and Lisa play with a pure and sensitive touch, yet powerful.
The same could be said of Simon Watt. So I'll say it. Simon gave us a powerful, yet pure and sensitive take, on 'From Galway to Graceland' by Richard Thompson, and 'The Mountains of Mourne' by Irish composer Percy French. He followed these with one of his own ,always clever, compositions: 'Rocket Man'. ( RE: Kim Jong Un). He tried to convince us that Kim Jong Un's Great Grandmother was Irish, so that his song has an Irish connection. Fake news !
Next up was Manus McDaid, with a different guitar tonight, a Spanish acoustic, and he began with a great version of the traditional 'Blackwaterside' played in the style of Bert Jansch. He then brought out two of his own compositions: 'Above the Ether' and 'Whatever', both played in his brilliant jazz/ blues style.
Another keen performer of self - penned work is, of course, Chris Martin. Chris gave us one of his clever 'protest songs' which points a finger, or should that be two fingers? - at so many things that are wrong about our nation. 'Funked -up Country'. I said funked -up country. This was followed with 'Something to Believe', and then the story of his road trip in the USA, 'I went to America'. Thanks Chis, and for being in charge of the sound desk as well.
Terry Lees always plays brilliantly, and tonight he decided to save his singing voice and just give us some Irish tunes. He launched into a medley of three , beginning with 'She moves through the Fair', then 'Planxty Irwin', composed by Turlough O'Carolan -- ( there's a great Irish name) ! -- Then 'Johnny's gone to Hilo'. Manus came back then to accompany him on guitar with 'The Rakes of Mallow', with Terry playing the lead on his resonator mandolin.
There was time then for Jason to come back to do a couple of solo numbers: 'Love me Two Times' from The Doors, and his very nice version in his own style, of Bob Dylan's 'Tonight I'll be Staying here with You'.
Then it was Lisa's turn to sing us a couple of songs on her own. She kept us warm with 'Ring of Fire' by Johnny Cash ( although some say it was written by June Carter Cash) ? She finished with 'Everybody's Talking at Me', the Harry Nilsson song written by Fred Neil. Lisa and Jason had played beautifully as a duet earlier, but it was nice to hear them both playing solo as well.
There was still time for some more songs, and Chris came back to do his cycling -inspired number: ' I want to Learn' .
No- one else wanted to come back up, so we decided to finish at 10.45, which is unusual, but quite nice for a change. It was a less busy evening tonight, but it was nice and laid -back and casual.
We can't have an Irish night without a mention of the city of Limerick, and an example of a short rhyme named after that place.
On the breasts of a barmaid in Kinsale
Is tattooed the price of her ale
And on her behind - for the sake of The Blind
The prices are written in Braille.
So, if you ever find yourself down in Kinsale, and you are blind drunk, ask for that barmaid.
See you next time !
From Where The Coffee Came – 6-3-18
I have to endorse the Brazilian Musos every so often – the least I can do is drink in the works of Antonio Carlos Jobim [as I grind the beans …] and he was prolific as he introduced the Bossa Nova beat, distilled from the variously rough-and-ready Samba rhythms to The United States of America [from THE Americas, proper] whilst overseeing the subsequent inclusion of these novel song-forms into the greater mainstream: 'The Great American Songbook'. I chose to perform Jobim’s 'Wave' and the now totemic 'The Girl From Ipaneema'; I had Paul Delaney along on the bass to anchor the groove for myself and for some 'live' experience for him – we didn't really nail it but there's no shame in that. We live and we learn. It was a preview of things to come when it brightens up in due course.
Then there was the man in red – Pierre/Peter, colourfully, if not chromatically tripping out on a couple of songs to an acoustic guitar backdrop mined from within some personal orbit that was kind of alien to me. But there you go it was an interesting insight into another man's eclectic bubble of self-absorption ….Terry Lees stepped up to restore that special pro-am [professional/amateur/symbiotic] touch as always, to balance things out again whilst giving us an extra vignette with the instrumentally sublime: 'Sally River Bells'. Chris J. Martin gave us 'Tree' followed up by 'My Son from Baby Child to Man' which obviously took him a long, long time to write [there's an holistic life's journeyman in there, mate]. But I think the point was that it takes real time to perfect such heartfelt, biographic undertakings, as we all must do at some point in life, I guess.
Simon brought on the cowboy chords in service of a couple of good songs: Nicky Moore's 'Let Sleeping Dogs Lie' and Leonard Cohens's 'Bird On The Wire' – his acoustic, steel-strung guitar was microphone amplified and sounded notably mellow in comparison to the DI'd counterparts so ubiquitous these days, I thought.
Dear Sylvie was also microphone amplified tonight, for some fine folk singing in the traditional sense [inspired by a book with a curious family twist on a Robbie Burns study]. Her ‘The Afton Water' was courageous in its distinction from the preemptively published title/namesake.
And then, Clive with his very own 'Diamond Avenue' which is as enviably evocative a title as one [me, for one] could ever wish for, followed up by the folk song, 'Hard Times of Old England' – sort of crossing that undefinable hinterland between the 'folk club' and the 'open mic session' [with all of the connotations inclusive of Karaoke, for some …].
And just when I thought I'd finished faffing around with plumping up that ghastly greenish cushion at the piano stool, up came Ella with the Whitest, Everest, Luckiest cushion I’d ever seen – and when I'd done with admiring it [it has this wonderfully tactile cross-hatched thing going on with it, hard to explain … I want one] Ella proceeded to sit on it and sung 'It Don't Come Easy' by Patti Griffin and Neil Young's 'After The Gold Rush' – notwithstanding how narcotic driven Young was during that period, it pales into insignificance when you hear these songs of his pared down at the piano. Without the indulgence of induced intensity, it reveals an inner beauty from the chaos – admirable in my book, but it has to be said it doesn't negate the original in any way. It says a lot of the quiddity of the man that his songs could be reduced in a synchronistic way without sounding at all dumbed-down the way in which C & W always seems to do. It’s the second time I've been struck by this happenstance that keeps creatively conceived music alive, I feel.
A change of pace/permutation:
First, in some second round of events, Jason brought on the 'Ovation -73' to give us his original ballad: 'Sunday Afternoon' which [being a hopeless sucker for ballads, generally, I enjoyed immensely] – again, that pared down intimacy only now to be further enhanced with the equitable addition of Lisa, all complete with her mahogany C. F. Martin guitar and the crystalline vocals [next to Jason's, an emotive vocal nuance], they did a personal take of this great soul song that I know – and love – but can't for the life of me remember the title of -- 'I don't know much about Trigonometry … the History I took … but I know …' Got it, yeah …! Whatever, it's great. Then, as a duo, it was time for Jason's late father's piece, 'The Lifeline' – always good to hear this one.
Lisa held her ground as they subbed in Helga for Jason so that she could augment the incumbent with some deft improvisation on flute, which was to continue in solo form in the form of an flute instrumental [obviously, unless you happened to be the duplicitously dexterous Roland Kirk!] although Helga did introduce a percussive wooden frog during these proceedings, overall. And there was some whistling going down there at one point, intermittently.
Back to the Folk:
Penultimately, Bob Melrose performed a self-assured rendition of 'High Above The Ground', a new song in his repertoire followed by, I think, Paul Simon's 'The American Tune' [reiterating my initial American/Americas preview in a rounded up kind of way I thought] then making way for a very patient David Foster-Smith with his memories of the Six Bells as a venue of 1982 [patience is truly a virtue, David] and he proceeded to shake us up a bit with his own, stridently performed, 'The Bottom Line' which is reflective of his own 'moderate success' as of what it was, and he concluded the evening with the American band LOVE cover of a love song c/w flamenco overtones.
Well, you just have to go with the lurve, I say – ta-dah.
Before my taste in music moved across the pond, I’d grown up with 70’s British rock music. A perk of being MC, is you get to choose three videos to go on the website home page for two whole weeks - power hey. I’ve gone with ones featuring the best UK rock singer, Paul Rogers, the coolest UK rock guitarist, Richie Blackmore and my fav UK rock bassist, John Entwistle and I’ve picked some raw recordings of them, on (probably) their most famous songs.
A room full: We had 15 performers and a few non-playing listeners - so, I needed to keep the chat down and execute quick changes. I thought about banning on-stage tuning, but knew that was a step too far for the folkies. Why do you need a different tuning for each song, EADGBE works for me. Anyway, my mission was to give everyone two songs and get us out before the witching hour.
I fired up the distortion on my old Shadow electric guitar and launched the evening with one of my riff driven rock songs, ‘Always there’. Then, some ping-pong echo from my old Zoom processor for ‘The future’s so vague’, which it is.
Mr 3 coffees, jazz Manus gave us a Chuck Berry style thing for his granddaughter, with a song called ‘Pink Ukulele’ and then a lot of fast fingers on fretboard on an instrumental called, ‘Naima’, written for sax by John Coltrane.
Jane without a Y and her Dobro lap steel was inspired by the Anthony Newly version of ‘Feeling good’ and the Bessie Smith song, ‘Looking for my man’ and she sent her man out to the car for a first-aid kit to rest her feet on!
Our leader was up next, we call him Simon and he was proud to announce the world premiere of ‘The dummy in the Tesla’, inspired by Elon Musk and his rocket launcher and featuring a crash test dummy and some space odyssey. And then an Eagles number, ‘It’s your world now’ - sure, when hell freezes over.
Some of the White Horsers had set up camp in the far corner and Glyn was first up with the 1928 number, ‘California Blues’ by Jimmie Rogers - followed by, ‘Get rhythm’ by Johnny Cash, which, when I was a boy was the punch line to a joke about condom machines - sorry. Moving on, there was also something about bum cheeks, but I didn’t understand.
Glyn returned to White Horse corner and was replaced by Paula, with a song for peace, ‘From a distance’. As you know, I like a self-penned number and Paula closed with one of hers, ‘I promise’ - I hope she keeps it.
What can I say about Frank, well, to be frank, quite a lot! He dug an E harmonica out of his box of said instruments and regaled us with a couple of his ditties - first up, ‘Call me dog call me Rover’, which reminded me of the Hendrix lyric from Fire, ‘Move over Rover and let Jimi take over’. ‘The rending of the veil’ is Frank’s magnum opus and tells the complete history of the world in a four-minute song - now that is ambitious.
We had two Aldridge brothers in the room, Michael was just here to listen, whilst Bob was next up and gave us two songs that I could sing along with - which is good fun for me, but probably not so cool if you’re standing next to me. ‘Whatever happened to Saturday night’ - good question, I could ask Glenn Frey, but he’s sadly left the building. And to finish, we had ‘El Paso’ from 1959 by Marty Robbins, although the version I’m familiar with, is by the Grateful Dead.
No mic Silvie: although she did have a go at dismantling the stage area much to the chagrin of our soundman - the enforcer, known simply as Clive. A big shout out for Clive at this point, for doing a top job as soundman. Once the mics were safe, we had a bit of Rabbie Burns a cappella style - all about, stormy seas and being far away.
The soundman’s turn: Clive gave us two of his own - ‘Can’t imagine’ and then to quote Clive, ‘a happier song, about walking on the South Downs Way and Skylarks in February’ - called, ‘Is it summer so soon’.
Clive was back on the desk and next up it was Jayne with a Y, who’d been hanging out at White Horse corner. Following Glyn’s lead, Jayne launched with ‘I still miss someone’ by Johnny Cash and then with her capo on fret 4 she finished with ‘Killing the blues’, before returning to coin de cheval blanc.
Ella was a little disorganised tonight, she’d lost her Bouzouki pickup and had forgotten her specs. Anyway, we stuck a mic in front of her instrument and she delivered Patty Griffin’s ‘Useless desires’ in a style influenced by Joni Mitchell, and followed that with a song by the Canadian song writing legend, ‘Urge for going’ - and then she went, all the way back to her front row seat in anticipation of number 13, a man with a driver.
Dave Dyke has an esteemed history at the Six Bells Folk & Blues Club going back into the last century. He also had a driver, his wife/partner of 50 years, who he dedicated his songs to. ‘In the heat of the summer’, is a political song by Phil Ochs. To finish: Dave said he was big fan of the late Tom Petty and he’d just learnt to play, ‘Running down a dream’.
Terry Lees was the last visitor to the stage from White Horse corner and opened with a dexterous interpretation of the Leadbelly song, ‘Pick a bale of cotton’. After a quick retune, Terry closed with ‘Blues run the game’ by Jackson C Frank.
Last, but not least, we had Nick Cant, our second a cappella artist of the evening. ‘They carted him off on a stretcher’, by a Kentish group called Pigs Ear was followed by an amusing rewrite of The Beatles number, ‘When I’m 64’, in celebration of Nick’s upcoming 65th birthday - Happy Birthday Nick.
The last man exited stage left at 11:10pm - the crew dismantled the mighty PA and left the building. I got home five minutes before midnight. Thanks to all our performers, there really was a lot of different stuff tonight, which made for a great evening. See you next time. x
6th February 2018
So, here I am, as your new host, who is delighted to have been asked to join in the running of this long-standing local music club. Well, my first ever night as host was great fun, and I was made to feel most at ease by all of you who came along. Especially as I was taking the place of my dear friend, Mike Aldridge, who is stepping down after years of loyal support.
Billed as a 'Blues Night' I, therefore, opened the proceedings with my self-penned song "Blues is a Country", my own rally cry for the forgotten heroes of the Country Blues, whose influence is so often around us, but never really fully credited. One of those heroes being Arthur "Blind Boy" Blake, whose mirthsome little song celebrating the sins of the flesh, "Diddy Wah Diddy", I did follow with. And I gave a nod to another Blues legend, Big Bill Broonzy, by top and tailing the song with a piece of his guitar blues boogie. I also threw down the gauntlet in trying to fashion the evening's most stretched out, and ever-so-slightly-self-indulgent, ending to a song. I have recently attracted a degree of opprobrium for this habit of mine, so I felt I had to fight back! Ha! Ha! Only joking, of course, as I only wanted us all to fill that room with love!!!!!
Anyway, the stretched lips from certain quarters of the audience began to relax as I put down my guitar and proceeded to introduce the fine gathering of performers, starting with Manus & Paul, who laid down some infectious electric blues. Paul on electric Fender Bass guitar was a cool foil to Manus, who rung out some beautifully cooking blues on his Fender Telecaster. Their songs were the classic "Drown In My Own Tears" (written by Henry Glover), Cream's version of "Crossroads" (written by Robert Johnson), and a lovely 12-bar instrumental jam to close their fine set.
Then Simon played a beautiful and sensitive set, including gentle readings of Marc Cohn's "Walking in Memphis", and you can't have a blues night without a nod to Memphis, can you? But then he topped this with a fine and fitting tribute to our dear friend, Chris Liddiard, by playing one of Chris's many simple and beautiful songs, "Someone Like You". Chris has been such a supporter of the local music scene and so many of us owe him so much. So, Chris, if you are reading this, I hope you are well and I want to say how much I have appreciated your efforts over the years.
Chris Martin is one of the most prolific songwriters on the local scene and a staunch supporter of so many open mic nights in these parts, so it was a pleasure to introduce him as he played guitar and sang his songs of experience including "Many Ways To Pay", "Life Ain't Been Easy". And then he did something really special as he sat at the old bar-room piano and poured his heart out on the beautifully chilling "Right For Me".
Penny then returned for her own set, accompanied by the wonderfully talented Keith Willson, who played some fantastic blues piano. Penny just gets into the classic blues with a heartful of soul and is always great to have along at any music evening. It was a classic set covering "Careless Love", "Walking Blues" and "Stormy Monday".
Lisa has been a regular performer on the open mic scene for many years and it is always a joy to hear her voice and accompaniment playing her sweet sounding Martin guitar. She covered two classics, one sung by her idol Elvis, "I need your love tonight" (written by Sid Wayne and Bix Reichner) and the incomparable "Georgia on my Mind" (by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell). That brought back sweet memories. And so it was an absolute pleasure to join her for a duet version of my father, Gerry Lockran's song "The Lifeline", a song about helping each other through the tough times.
I've known Helga for about 12 years and she has always been so supportive of so many music events locally and so I was delighted for Lisa and her to perform "Carrie", that most uplifting Joni Mitchell song, and The Everly Brothers bittersweet but upbeat "Gone Gone Gone". Then Keith once again provided fantastic accompaniment on guitar as Helga, on flute, and he treated us to an instrumental blues.
It is always great to welcome new talent to any of our open mic nights, and we were treated to a fabulous set by a young guy named Chris Shepherd, who played a beautifully resonant guitar and augmented his fluid playing with tapping and percussive slaps around the body of the acoustic. He covered three songs by Newton Faulkner, including "Teardrops", "Clouds" and "I'm not giving up yet". I've checked Chris out on Facebook via his 'Chris Shepherd - Guitarist' page and I think we need some more talented young performers like him to come along to our music nights.
Our dear friend Clive then stepped up to treat us to a sweet interpretation of Delta Blues legend Robert Johnson's "Love In Vain", a song that never loses its resonance.
Tonight was a joy for me, not least because we were treated to some lovely female voices from Penny, Lisa and Helga, and so Ella took her turn and sat at the piano and enchanted us with her sweet and special blues. Ella is a wonderfully engaging performer and her "Sporting Life Blues", Bonnie Raitt's "Love Me Like A Man", and Chris Smithers's "I'll guess you'll never know" captured the evening's mood so well. Beautiful, Ella!
Keith Willson then took the stage with his guitar for his own set, after providing so much great accompaniment, and laid out a melange of blues and jazz to close the evening so wonderfully.
So thank you all for your support. It was great fun hosting and I look forward to doing so again.
But I will see you for the next session which I understand is hosted by our dear friend, Chris Martin, who is deserving of the same generous support.
Until then, you all take care.
23rd January 2018
Another Tuesday and a bunch of musicians turn up to play at the Six Bells Pub in darkest Chiddingly. It was my turn to be “in charge” of proceedings although as always, proceedings have their own ideas about that. Along with the usual suspects (you know who you are) it was nice to see Pat and Natasha. James the poet made an unexpected appearance and we had a return of Simon Scardanelli who has now moved into the locality. Particularly pleasing was a visit from Ivor Game who had driven from Watford just to play and was very much enjoyed.
I started the evening determined that we would all get three songs, which we did. My opening song involved the Kazoo and even that failed to put people off, indeed, rarely for the winter we had an audience!
Manus followed with a Jazzy version of Summertime, his own composition Ambivalence and then You are my Sunshine I guess this was Manus’s attempt to fight back against a cold, drab January. Natasha was next so we listened to her charming vocals and gentle guitar playing while she sang Clydewater and Lily of the West.
Ivor Game, a singer songwriter, is a newcomer to the club and having travelled a long way to be with us I gave him an extended set. His short punchy songs quickly connected with the audience and we all enjoyed his performance. All the songs in his set are listed here, many with links to Youtube or Soundcloud; You Lovely You, Small, You’re the One, Together, Beautiful Umbrella, Water and Wine. Enjoy.
Pat followed Ivor and she gave up Joe Hill and The Seed Man, both of these are great songs and beautifully sung unaccompanied. Time for our own resident singer songwriter Chris Martin who was also our soundman for part of the evening his homespun tunes were Ghosts, Tick Tock and View from a Window.
Simon Scardanelli is a professional musician and it shows. If only we had time to focus exclusively on music maybe we could all match his confident delivery but I somehow doubt it. His songs are powerful and can be amusing.. Tonight’s offering included Whirlwind, Jesus and the Moon, and What Good is this old Guitar (a Hoya – Clapton owned one). Check out the Spotify links if you use that service.
James is a poet but an English teacher he met in a pub told him “this is not poetry, its verse” - well that’s English teachers for you. Does anyone really care what the definition is? No, we just enjoyed the words and the poetic delivery and we gave that an A* (bollocks to English teachers). His poems, verses or whatever were 2017, Hot Tap and Beard.
For those fed up with guitars we had reached a point in the evening when it was time for a change. Ella took to the piano and sang for us Who knows where the time goes, Danny’s All Star Joint (doink, doink) and Hurricane. Ella’s playing in particular was spot on this evening; she is getting some great sound out of the battered Six Bells piano these days.
Clive started with Going up the Country, the Canned Heat classic, Where can I go without you, by Nina Simone and finished with his own composition “Runaround” which I thought had something of a 50’s vibe to it.
Last but not least was Jason Loughran. Jason’s songs were The Heart of Saturday Night (Tom Waites), his own song A Little Soul and lastly a song by his dad, Jerry Loughran Blow Gentle Wind of Life. I am pleased to say that Jason will be standing in for Mike Aldridge who has to cut down on his performing due to problems with arthritis and other bone problems. We wish Mike well and hope he will be able to come along from time to time, even if he is unable to play.
So, what of my three youtube videos? The first is one of the most beautiful songs on that platform, the second, a misplaced Christmas song, disproves that the Americans don’t get irony and the third is a really sweet gospel song that will make you want to hug a homeless person (obviously not the one with the dreads by the station or, thinking about it, the rather smelly one by the card shop, or the one with the mirror in front of him who spends all day looking up…….. Oh, forget it).
All the best,
After the intensity of snow, gales and rain, and of Christmas and the New Year……….. this was a mellow winter evening. We had a nicely rounded number of twelve spots and we began, as usual, with the host opening the evening. I started the session with a Joni Mitchell song ‘Urge for Going’, an atmospheric early song about winter from 1966, then in a very different style, a traditional Irish song that just rolls along: P Stands for Paddy.
Jane followed playing lap-slide and singing Santiago Blues, which is more of a walking song, relating, as it does, to those on the pilgrimage trail to Santiago de Compostela. Her second song by ‘The Master’ (as she called him) was a Leonard Cohen song: Dance me to the End of Love.
Chris Martin followed and introduced us to his battered panda friend Panyan, with whom he shares a big birthday later in the year. Life’s a Race, his self-penned song about cycling ‘Life’s a race and the miles roll by …..’ was his first song, performing solo with guitar accompaniment. Keith Willson joined him with spoken words from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Nice words, very reflective: ‘The flower that has blown forever dies’.
Taking the stage alone, Keith went on to sing his song about Jesus, ‘Who’s that hippy in the picture’. He says he meant no disrespect, but he had Jesus buying a gun. Not the usual kind of song that gets sung about Jesus: ‘What happened to Jesus? …. Jesus just grew up’. He followed this cynical song with a love song called ‘The worst thing’ totally changing the mood.
Keith was still in demand (he’s a very versatile musician) and provided an improvised piano accompaniment to Simon on guitar singing ‘After you’ve gone’, first sung by Marion Harris in 1918. Simon gave Keith the chords, and with no previous rehearsal, they conjured up a nice jazzy version of the song. Music to smile to. Simon followed this with ‘Caledonia’, a Dougie MacLean song.
Kevin Jones, a newcomer and another songwriter chose not to sing his own material tonight, but sang ‘You’ve got a Friend’ written by Carole King and released on her first album Tapestry. James Taylor also released the song (which became a hit) as a single in 1971 and the song may well be more strongly associated with him than Carole. It suited Kevin’s voice as did ‘It Doesn’t Matter’, a Buddy Holly classic.
Jayne Ingles made one of her very welcome appearances this evening, singing Paul Simon's "Kathy's Song" ‘I hear the drizzle of the Rain’ … 'like a memory, a memory it falls'. She then gave her version of the classic ‘Summertime’.
Singing two of his own songs, Manus was next and gave us some technical background about 5-7s, a pattern of syllables. ‘Lightening in the Grease’ or the ‘devil on two sticks’, related to the Diabolo, a juggling device with a double-ended spinner operated with two sticks joined by a length of string. It is thought to have originated from an ancient Chinese yo yo and was first mentioned in the West in 1792. His second song ‘The Air Gap’ was all about painting ourselves into corners.
It was lovely to see Summer here for the first time. Accompanying herself on guitar and getting over some initial nervousness, her voice came through clear and strong as she sang the Dolly Parton song made famous by Whitney Houston ‘I will always love you’. She went on to sing one of her own compositions ‘Modern Day Prince Charming’ about her own aspirations for just the right man to arrive in her life: ‘When you took my hand, and we started to dance, I thought you were so cool ….’ I hope she joins us again soon.
Sylvie followed Summer and after an attempt to use the microphone, decided to abandon it, singing a personally significant song that compares the elation experienced at the first fall of snow with falling in love. Two romantic songs in succession in totally different styles from very different generations, but both so poignant.
George and Mary changed the mood again and sang ‘Little Old Drinker Me’ with lyrics that mused fondly over grapes growing in the California sun from the distant city of Chicago. They then sang the second Leonard Cohen song of the evening: ‘Tonight will be fine’, which reflects on a very intimate moment.
Clive brought the evening to a well-rounded close, singing only one song, for which Jane, Chris and myself were collected up and handed words for the chorus of ‘Goodbye Stranger’ by Supertramp. Released on their sixth album ‘Breakfast in America’ this was a far greater success for them in the USA than back here in the UK.
And so it was, we arrived at the end of another very enjoyable evening of varied material, including several musicians performing their own songs.
With endless gratitude for Simon setting up, Chris running the sound desk with Clive’s assistance and everyone who helped put the equipment away at the end of the evening.
See you next time.
The person that runs the evening writes the blog
Note - You can leave a comment - by click ing on the blue "comments" link at the top and bottom of the blog.