2nd August 2019
This was headed as one of Chris’s Singer/Songwriter evenings and hosted by Chris, who was on the sound desk doing an excellent job, as usual. So, I took over the list, photos and blog!
It was one of the busiest evenings I had seen in a long time with 6 newcomers and some people being a real, live audience! I did try to spend a little time with each of the new people because I remember how friendly and welcoming people were the first time I turned up with my guitar. It can be quite daunting.
The list was pretty daunting too, with several people being shuffled around because of other commitments, or preference. And time ran short. A very big thank you to Clive who chose not to sing so that we could finish on time. Double helpings next time Clive.
At 20.10, 5 of our performers were still lined up at the bar, so we had the almost inevitable late start.
Chris kicked off with a welcome to everyone and songs number 86 and 87 on his mission to give all of his songs at least one airing this year. His first was ‘The Future’s so Vague’ from his band years in 1995. I do know how much trouble he takes to try to present a one-man acoustic version of a song originally performed with a full band and a female vocalist, and he did well. There were lovely oriental style semi tonal chord changes in the introduction and breaks that were very pretty. Then he played one of my favourites- because he wrote it for me! - ‘Out of the Blue’. I have to have a soft spot for that. He does describe my music as ‘diddly’ music so he especially wrote and performed a little break of jig music near the beginning. Thank you, Chris.
Jane followed. I had commented on shirts at the last Singer/Songwriter night. There were a couple of very noticeable ones. Jane did want me to mention hers. It was a lovely hand-painted white cotton, with beautiful many-coloured and silver brush strokes on one side of the front and the middle of the back. See. I noticed. 😊
Her first song was the really amusing ‘Hysterectomy Blues’. I have heard this before, and she handles a rather delicate topic with a lovely wry sense of humour, accompanied by her lap slide guitar,
‘My Mojo it’s stopped working, and my hoochy coochy is too sore’
Her second song was a cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Anthem’. It’s a beautiful song, and worked well with the melancholy slide guitar. It’s well worth looking up the words. They are so beautiful.
‘There’s a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in’.
Next was another of our prolific song-writers, Lance. If there was a theme this evening, it did seem to be the passing of time. Perhaps it’s our ages. I know I become more aware of it every day.
Lance’s first song described ‘Dementia’ so well. There were some lovely lyrics, and although it’s such a sad topic, I would like to hear it again
‘When the fog blocks the sun….I’m drifting away’.
His second song, ‘Time’, was about dreams and memories of a lost love. I’m sure we can all identify with that: Time…is the enemy.
Time will not wait for me’.
A newcomer, Mike, got up next. His first song was ‘Something in the way she moves’, a James Taylor classic. I really enjoyed his performance; a strong picked rhythm and a similar tone to his voice as my hero JT. The second song was his own, I think. ‘Two Minutes to twelve’. In keeping with our ‘theme’, this was also about time…how we are racing against the clock leading to the end of the world and have’ got to break free from the culture of greed’. Another very enjoyable performance.
Manus performed two of his own compositions. The first was inspired by his Granddaughter and entitled ‘Ukulalliah’ and featured Manus’s distinctive jazz chords and a strong steady rhythm. He dropped the E to a D for his second song ‘Estella’s Varsity Project’ and once again echoed the theme of losing time spending our lives away.
‘You’ve got those stars in your eyes again.
Spend, spend, spending your life away
Spending it trying to be someone else
Estella won’t you please come down’.
I do hope I’ve quoted that correctly. It was a lovely well-crafted song in the Manus style.
Sylvie popped up next and sang her version of ‘Westering Home’ unaccompanied, apart from those of us who joined us on the chorus. It was written in the 1920’s by someone called Hugh S Roberton and may be derived from an Irish Gaelic song. Westering does mean heading west, and Ireland is very west!
Next came another newcomer, Jim Murray, also with two of his own songs. These were more of a traditional folk feel. Jim moved down to London from the North East many years ago, but still has that lovely lilt to his accent. His first song was entitled ‘Tell Me’.
‘Oh dear me. It could really get you down.
‘Cus there’s no real work for the working man down in London Town.
His voice really grew into his second song ‘Now I need no God or King’. I wish I could remember more because I know I did really like this song and Jim’s delivery. It doesn’t matter if there is baby-sitting duty Jim! Come when you can please.
I’m afraid I had to cheat a bit. I lopped off the end of my left-hand index finger slicing a melon. So, I read a couple of my poems, which are very often the first step to a song. They were both about family. The first was Tabby’s Easter Holiday. My 5-year-old granddaughter is old enough to come and stay now, and we have such a lovely time, I made her a little book and poem about it. The second was ‘A Mother’s Christmas Dream’. I really did used to dream about when the children could help out at Christmas. It was such an exhausting time as a single parent. Poor me! And now they really do!
Jo and Ed or The Joe Robinson’s Band were up next. Again, these were newcomers to The Six Bells and I think Manus had encouraged them to come. They were still on the theme of time with their first song, ‘Every Second Counts’. I really enjoyed watching them play together. Guitar arrangements and vocals were well rehearsed and very tight. Joe mainly played the rhythm with Ed playing a lead over the top and adding harmonies.
Their second song, ‘Fake News’ was played in a similar style, the two guitars bouncing off and then entwining each other. (But I had to go to the loo and missed a lot of the lyrics. Very sorry (☹)
Helga and Keith came up next with three of Keith’s creations.
‘The Slow One’ was just that. A slow blues played and sung by Keith with Helga’s flute hauntingly slipping up and down beside the main melody.
I had heard the second song before and it is a beautifully sad tale entitled ‘The Acorn Song’. Legend had it that the two strong oak trees standing side by side were there because a young child had been buried with an acorn in each hand. I’m not saying more. Keith says it far better. Listen out for it in the future.
Their last song was ‘Home and Dry’, to give Helga the chance to take more of a lead on the flute. I do love the sound of Helga’s flute. It’s a good reminder of how lovely it can sound.
Bernard is one of Chris’s cycling colleagues and hasn’t been to The Six Bells for many years. I didn’t know what to expect at all, but he did have one of the more remarkable shirts!!
His first song was a combination of a Scottish song to an Irish tune which transformed into an Irish song with a Scottish tune….and a very nifty capo change to go with it. What a lovely voice, and what excellent dynamics. Is there a bit of classical training there? Bernard’s second song was a join in one sang with great gusto. Rawhide! Judging by the audience participation, many of us really enjoyed letting our hair (what we have left of it) down to that.
Our lovely Simon was up next. Simon does present us with a charming mix of covers and of his own songs. Tonight, was two of his own. I think the first one is called ‘There’s a Black Hole in my Garden’, and that’s what it’s about. Dry, amusing, and I do wish I could quote from it because it’s really very clever.
Simon’s second song was entitled ‘That Genius Trump’ and written to get Trump on our side once we press the Brexit button. Simon does take on some difficult topical subjects, but manages to do so in such a way as to get us to think, perhaps make us laugh, but never to make anyone’s hackles rise. That’s a real art.
Trump: ‘He’s as great as George Washington you’ll hear him say
And as wise as old Abe Lincoln with the looks of JFK’.
Nice one Simon.
Time was indeed passing and it was now Mark’s turn. He chose to only do one song. I hope it wasn’t because he felt he had too little time. He played his own instrumental composition entitled ‘The Appalachian Trail’. I actually walked a lot of the trail when I was 19 and teaching swimming in America. Anyway, it was a very effective and invocative tune and took me right back.
Another newcomer, Peter, was next. Although English by birth, he has spent many years in America and brought us a flavour of their type of open mics. He invited everyone to sing and harmonise with his two songs. He hadn’t known it was a singer/songwriter’s night, and lead us all in two covers; ‘All of Me’ and ‘Wagon Wheel’. It was really good fun to have a bit of a sing, and I heard all sorts of lovely harmonies coming through. Great fun.
We finished off with our lovely Jason. As always, beautifully gentle and melodic. The first song was his own, ‘To the End of the Waves’ and his picking did indeed trickle over the strings like small waves.
Jason’s last song was Richard Thompson’s ‘The Dimming of the Day’. Such a beautiful song, and a lovely finish to the evening. Well worth a listen if you don’t know it.
I’m so sorry this is such a long blog, but it was a very long evening with some fabulous performances and I didn’t want to miss anyone out.
A big thank you to everyone who came, and especially to Chris for managing to run the evening with his usual enthusiasm, whilst still managing to produce excellent sound.
HC Aug 2019
“Who he?” A collective murmur went round as I took my position, like the new curate in the pulpit. I had accepted a mission wiser fools might have declined – hosting a folk and blues evening at the prestigious venue of the Six Bells. After all, this club has been running fortnightly since the early nineties and some of the current stalwarts feature in blogs dating back to 2012.
Since I had only recently exposed myself to the ‘rabbit in the headlights’ experience of performing at an open mic, I felt I had valid misgivings. Not only do the usual suspects carry off the proceedings with aplomb, so also do they perform with an assuredness that will take me years to achieve. However, my concerns were misplaced; I have discovered this to be a welcoming, friendly, respectful and totally non-threatening venue. I also reckon well over 6oo evenings of folk and blues have occurred at the Six Bells since its inception, and similarly that number of blogs written.
Therefore as usual, now follows an account of the evening’s events - the performers and performances plus the occasional observation and reflection thrown in - not a school report by any means, since I’ve gleaned on the whole it’s not in the blogger’s brief to offer a critique; that being said and as an aside, I do admire those artistes who claim never to read their revues - good or bad, because I suspect even the most seasoned performer still desires positive affirmation.
Well, there’s none of that here - enough to know that on a recent outing I was described as making an irritating rattle; sufficient criticism perhaps to call a halt to all but the most deluded of folk - but maybe I should just take ownership in it now being my signature sound.
Before the evening had even started, an almighty explosive pop rattled the ice in my soda and elevated Ella off the piano stool in rigid shock – Chris had inadvertently pulled an unmuted plug. An involuntary Tourette like utterance betrayed my exterior calm, undoing all my earlier Zen based preparation.
The usual to-ing and fro-ing made for a fashionably late start once again, as armed with medicinal Tunes for my rough throat, I shakily launched off with a Lead Belly number variously entitled ‘Black Girl/In the Pines/Where Did You Sleep Last Night’. This was followed by the Jackson C. Frank composition ‘Milk and Honey’, a beautifully crafted song made commercially successful by Sandy Denny’s subsequent recording.
Gratefully vacating the hot seat, I made way for Ella at the piano, who cruised through Patti Griffin’s ‘The Long Stairs’ and Bob Dylan’s ‘Thunder on the Mountain’. Ella’s Boogie-woogie Dylan was something of a revelation. He’s a musician I felt I could take or leave after Blonde on Blonde, so leave him I did.
I could never leave Joni Mitchell though and her spirit was channelled through Ella and Manus on ‘He Played Real Good For Free’ - Ella on piano and Manus on custom Tele. Crosby, Stills and Nash also covered Joni’s ironic song about the disparity between a street busker’s fortune and their own obscene financial rewards. No Joni style giggles from Ella though.
On to song numbers 81 and 82 from Chris Martin, ‘Leaf ‘ and ‘Rules’ – the latter relating his sojourn in the Bow Street nick. ASBOs weren’t in vogue in those days even if Yuppies, Madonna and BMWs were. Just goes to prove all singer/songwriters are rebels at heart; and in that vein, Heather followed with the anti-war protest song ‘Travelin’ Soldier’ by the Dixie Chicks. To further stamp her credentials on stickin’ it to the man, she sang an Ed Sheeran number ‘The A Team’. Class A drugs in leafy East Sussex? No thank you ma’am – a pint of Slap-Ma-Girdle will do just nicely. Lovely guitar tone though.
Manus returned to the stage with more music from Joni Mitchell. His wooden guitar, electronically attached to a couple of shiny boxes topped with coloured lights conjured up a laid back swirly sound as he delivered ‘Come To The Sunshine’. Yes, there’s going to be plenty of that over the next few days. He followed with ‘Doors’, a self-penned number, the genesis of which followed a filmic encounter with Gwyneth Paltrow – Nice!
You tend know what’s in store when it’s the turn of Simon Watt (no s). His wry style was evident on ‘Ebola Blues’ (or ‘Quarantine Blues’ for the easily offended) – a potential ‘Springtime for Hitler’ moment. Whilst we digested this, he treated us to a simplified version (his words) of The Eagles ‘Girl From Yesterday’ off the ‘Hell Freezes Over’ album.
I’m always impressed by those who can sing from memory – Simon is one and Derry another. However, before Derry we had Roy approach the ivories to give us the original Lewis/Stock/Rose version of Blueberry Hill, a melodically different but still recognisable treatment that Fats Domino had a rock and roll hit with in 1950. More of the same please Roy, next time round.
Back to Derry, he of the exciting stage act. A couple of subtle but still discernable Townsend guitar moves accompanied his self-penned ‘Alone Again’. For his second number he had us guessing the artist/title/album/record label/era/ release date/amount of loose change…. The Killers? White Stripes? No – The Beatles! ‘Hey Bulldog’ off Yellow Submarine. Well done, Derry. You can come again.
A new face, Doug was up next. New to us but not I’m sure to performing. An accomplished player and singer, he gave us Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Kathy’s Song’ and then a Dubliners number, the title of which I didn’t catch. It could well have been ‘Maloney Wants A Drink!’ Heaven knows, I was in need of one myself by then - but the evening was still relatively young.
The ever patient Clive, our New Romantic balladeer, serenaded us with Francois Hardy’s ‘All Over The World’ followed by his ode to Ella, Don Maclean’s ‘Starry Starry Night’. Did I get that right? What was going on? Was it fifty years to the day that Van Gogh cut his ear shaving or was that the moon landing? Had Clive’s French made him come over all Marcel?
Thank you Mr Woodman, but it was time to clear the stage and make way for Keith and some gutsy low down dirty blues. Boy, even I was beginning to sweat now. His self-penned ‘Dusty’ went down a treat followed by ‘Keep on Pushing’. Bunjies Coffee House & Folk Cellar may have existed some time ago, but Keith still maintains an active fan base as witnessed by the adoring squeals of delight accompanying his performance. As a post script, imagine if you will the love child of George Melly and Sister Rosetta Tharpe….. just saying!
Chris and Heather closed the proceedings with Chris’s ode to his panda, Panyan. Heather’s spoken verse from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam lent true poignancy to the music, somewhat reminiscent to me of Mike Oldfield’s ‘On Horseback’.
So much then for four line stanzas and iambic pentameters, it was time to say goodnight and thank you to the audience members, to all the performers, to Chris as always for sound duties and to Simon for the set up, and a reminder that Chris is hosting the Singer/Songwriter night on 6th August, where apparently anything goes, original or not.
‘Sadness lasts forever’ so it does, to be sure!
Okay … come 8pm and we were still a bit thinned out along the benches with those empty cushions, laid out ready, grinning through. So we busied ourselves getting a sound-check with me and my minimal paraphernalia nonetheless beginning to wonder if perhaps I was being a bit precious with my own little tonal-centre going on; Chris worked on the monitor whilst handing the rig over to Clive for the evening and the missing links slotted into place. And it felt right as I opened with a couple of James Taylor songs to proffer some open-handed, contemporary-folk, sort of vibe before introducing Lance up to perform a couple of his own songs, laterally -- 'Space Traveler …' and 'A Very Hungry Caterpillar' setting the scene for a couple more originals from Chris. This time it was: 'Another Lonely Man' and 'Life Sentence Past' before he was joined by Heather on 'Norwegian Wood' and then moved over by 'A Million Dreams' on which Heather played guitar, in full flourish; pink-on-Pink in a picture of health whilst recuperating from a recent op – nice to see.
Another male/female duo ensued, quite different this time: Bob and Cristy-Lee with their own thing which, although difficult to define, was very interesting in that, once again, it proved to be another case of you never know quite who is going to turn up at these creatively open spaced, contemporary and often eclectic, evenings – so I'll be candid. Bob announced their first piece as 'Penultimate Song' so I don't know what it was called but whilst it was very long, it was also very, very good in its fastidious attention to detail in a gently applied kind of club soft focus. And we were silently captivated throughout. Obviously enough, 'The Second Song' followed on … some evocative imagery befitting this close humid summer's night ensued, taking us through previous eras of Havana and Guevara revolutionary chic, tempered by an underlying cold-war fire-and-ice subjective muse. Okay, I was flagging a bit by then but it left an aftertaste which carried over to the next day.
And as I write this, reflectively, their performance was still very much with me, leaving me wanting to be immersed in more of the same as if I'd just got back from Ronnie Scott's the night before [and I've been doing that, on-and-off, since I was 17 in the 60s so the more I think on it, it was somehow transcendental with the atmospherics and time-and-place parallel realities]. But, time out, I don't want to be over-analytical about it as I hope they will come back soon having whetted our collective appetite for imaginative their otherness [consensus].
Time to get Mark settled in and slope off for some much needed filter coffee. When I got back from the bar he was singing Jackson C. Frank's 'Blues Run The Game'; another atmospheric piece so I went for a splash [not a typo …] returning, refreshed and up for it: Neil Young's “The Needle And The Damage Done” – well, there you go, stimuli revisited.
And then some reassuring maturity in continuum as Clive preceded Simon in the chill-chain of frisson and eventualities; Zerox [alter-ego], in his patronizing cognitive dissonance often used to make a point of willfully confusing these two men until he finally realized that people were beginning to blank it out as just more self-aggrandizing white noise. Out-of-toner … it was unfair. However, there are the similarities of simplicity, in a good way, with these guys. Clive gave us 'Summertime Blues' and a nicely Mediitteranean uplift with 'Non Ho L'eta', so there was absolutely nothing nominally predictable about him all at all, tonight. And Simon, also on a slight detour, gave us 'Lifetime Blues in “C”' as penned, shelved and resurrected from the pen [bin] of wife Leslie, after 'Meet Me On The Corner' in which he had dialed down the charisma [simulated reverberation] happy to let the room run the game on his own bluesy English terms.
The next leg of the journey began with Jason and one of his favourite guitars [Lisa's Martin] playing 'Any Major Dude Will Tell You' from 1973s Pretzel Logic – classic early Steel Dan preceding Chris Martin's documented 'AJA' 'T' shirt chronologically [as worn by Chris last time] – It's an incredibly well structured song, beguiling in its simplicity as a harbinger of what was to come from them as a studio band; songwriting duo with a team of regular great session-players upping the musical arrangements. Joni Mitchell followed this template and I LOVE all of it!
Jason was joined by Lisa to sing Jimmy Page's 'Tangerine' and 'Georgia …' before Keith came up with Helga and her flute for their arrangement of Keith's 'Baby Steps' and another, this time more rhythmic/less rubato, original in 'I'm in Love With This [Scottish] Island', affectionately rendered as it was, it sounded great with its reggae undertones. Helga was then joined by Lisa returning with the reclaimed Martin guitar for Sandy Denny's 'Who Knows Where the Time Goes' – indeed. Very near the end, Ella arose from the wings with her acoustic guitar to give us a couple of [pre-73] Joni numbers; 'Chelsea Morning' and 'Creasy' I think it was entitled [I'm not familiar with that one so forgive me if I misheard it], it was, in any event, nice to hear these uncluttered, naturalistic era Mitchell songs from the Montreal-through-Greenwich-Village coffee bars era of the early singer/songwriter era across the pond but so nicely intoned to the swinging 60s of London – Often, I feel that I was born to misplaced geo-politically, but I got it from a distant TV and I was here in the second-person-narrative of it!
Anyway, by happenstance, Fred the poet was on hand in a very timely ultimatum – Fred recited his true story about ‘not knowing [he] could fly until he had to [fly]’, to see us out concluding with Cooper-Clarke's existential 'Suspended Sentence' – Democratically tongue-in-cheek, I think they should make Fred our new foreign ambassador to Don.
Okay; CD slotted in, windows wound down – lights! I hit the road happy in the knowledge that the chill-chain had indeed been more than adequately checked out in its linkage to that night in what turned out to be a joined up, eclectic evening for all concerned.
25th June 2019
I was a little bit late arriving, and was worried that everyone would be waiting,but when I got to the room, I found the door was locked, and nobody there yet! -- So I was ok. I was still ahead of everyone! Manus was next to appear, and we managed to get Richard to unlock and let us in. Simon had of course, been in earlier to set up all the equipment, and for security reasons, it becomes a no - go area, and locked until we arrive. The others did arrive, and all was well.
I began with a little bit of a history lesson in the form of the story of the battle of Cropredy in the English Civil War. This week is the 375th anniversary of that event in 1644, so I thought it would be worth a bit of a mention. Ralph McTell's composition, 'Red and Gold' tells the story well. The song features on Fairport Convention's album of the same name.
I chose to do one of my own songs as my second offering. 'Burning in my Heart' describes the feelings of someone yearning for a missing love. The guitar on this song is played in mandolin style, and has some interesting changes of tempo. For those who might want to hear my songs, you can search my name ( clive woodman ) and find them all on something called - 'Amazon'.
In second position came Jim and Pete, - The J P's. They gave us their story about The Bomber Command air crew with their song 'Scampton'. They followed this with 'Ordinary Bloke', about Albert Pierpoint the executioner who likes a laugh and a joke. The two guitars worked well together, and with some nice lead notes from Jim.
Jason Loughran and Lisa Jackson always bring us a lovely pure sound, and their guitars also work well together,and with both instruments and both voices in harmony, they never disappoint. Jason played some very nice lead notes tonight as well. They did their take on Willie Nelson's 'Funny how Time Slips Away', and Mick and Keith's 'Wild Horses'. ( Sounding better than Susan Boyle).
Then, sounding better than Barbara Dickson, Paula sang 'Caravans', written by Mike Batt (of Wombles fame), followed by her own song 'Empty Chair' -- "Thinking about you- -- - Coffee doesn't taste the same without you."
We had a new visitor tonight, in the shape of Thomas Ballantyne-Dykes. He gave us his take on 'Buddy can you spare a dime', written by Yip Harburg and Jay Gorney. He played some nice country style picking on this, and on his next song as well, 'Don't think Twice, written by someone called Bob Dylan.
Simon Watt took his place on our famous bar stool, and pleased us again with his humour and his still appropriate and topical dig at Kim Jong Un. 'Rocket Man' , one of his many compositions, is just right. ( Nothing to do with Elton John). Following the recent thunder storms and heavy rain, it was also appropriate that next, he chose 'Calm before the Storm', by Eliza Gilkyson.
Terry Lees also had the recent weather on his mind. He had been deluged by water at home in two different ways. Water was coming IN through his conservatory roof, and water was coming OUT of his washing machine. Oh dear! Terry dived in to the American traditional story of 'Stagolee', the cruel bad man, who shot Billy Lyons. He went on to give us a John Renbourne piece, 'Watch the Stars'. -- " See how they run at the setting of the Sun" -
Next on the list was Manus, who had been waiting patiently, and he took on the sound of Eric Clapton's 'Change the World', written by Tommy Sims/ Gordon Kennedy/ Wayne Kirkpatrick. Of course, Manus gave the song his wonderful Jazz style, which is always great to hear. His second piece was one of his own creations, an instrumental with the humorous title 'Boaty McJazz Face'. I wonder what Sir David Attenborough would say?
Tonight, Ella had brought her keyboard with her, and it was nice for her to be sitting facing us, rather than playing on the old rusty piano with her back to us. This proves to her,as she can see, that we DO sit attentively and listen to her while she plays and sings. Also, her keyboard sounds much better than the 'honky tonk'. She gave us 'He played Real Good for Free', from Joni Mitchell's 1970 album 'Ladies of the Canyon'.
Ella has a lovely new grandson named James, so in celebration, she has taken to singing James Taylor's 'Sweet Baby James'. " Thinking of women and glasses of beer" - will be some time ahead for him I think.
Lisa and Jason came back to the floor for a second time just for a while, for us to hear Lisa's own song, 'Just for a while'. She gave a tribute to the late Chris Liddiard, who she says, helped her with the song and gave her some advice. Then came 'The Glory of Love',written by Billy Hill. ( Not Benny Hill ).
We had time now for some second helpings, so first up was Paula, to sing Leonard Cohen's 'Halleluiah' with Terry giving some nice accompaniment on guitar.
Terry stayed in place, saying he needed to run through a quick rehearsal for his next gig,and he did Woody Guthrie's 'Do Re Mi'. ( Nothing to do with Julie Andrews).
This was followed by another "Alleluia" , with Manus putting a nice jazz flavour on Ray Charles' -'Halleluia I just love her so'. This word can have several different spellings.
Thomas -- the rhymer-- came up again to do 'San Francisco Blues', by Jesse Fuller. This was Thomas's first time with us tonight, and we enjoyed his sounds.
Simon played a number from Bob Dylan's 'Nashville Skyline' album. He told us that when he bought the album, he complained to the record shop about the short running time of it. -- As if they could do anything about it !
I'm sorry, but I didn't catch the title of Simon's song. This is one of the reasons I came up with the idea of Singer/Performer/Information/ Exchange/ Service. (S.P.I.E.S ). This is where each player would write down or tell the Blogger their song details. It is easy to get confused about everyone's songs during the running of the evening, and we don't want to give false facts or fake news. -- It's just an idea.
Anyway, thanks to all who came tonight, and to Simon for being in charge of the sound desk. We had three of our team unable to come tonight. Keith Willson emailed earlier, and I think Chris Martin was helping Heather Curry, who has just had a 'hip op'. She will be playing 'Hip Hop' music. We wish her a speedy recovery.
Roy -- yes- Roy, very kindly played us out at the end of the evening, on the piano, with the romantic piece by Hoagy Carmichael and Mitchell Parish, 'Stardust'.
--"And now the purple dusk of twilight time" - - - - - - - -
"High up in the sky the little stars climb."
When I arrived at the Six Bells, a man spoke to me about the jam nights asking about how good the musicians were. I explained that the folk club open mic nights were different to Chris’s jam night and that everyone was welcome no matter how experienced (or not) they are as a performer. He was unsure whether he could pluck up the courage, so I suggested he come along to listen and see whether it was the right place for him to start with.
I then had the opportunity to chat with Mark, before kicking off with the evening’s proceedings. We spoke about the sad news that Open Space Lewes had closed and Mark wanted to find out what other local open mics offered that same level of respectful and encouraging atmosphere. We both agreed that The Six Bells Folk and Blues Club (SBF&BC) suited us both for those reasons and more. However, I remember when it was a hugely intimidating place to perform at. The first time I came along (many years ago now), it was packed full of people, audience and great musicians – standing room only! I was trembling from head to toe and am still amazed that I even managed to get through the first song, let alone two!
And, whilst we now feel that we have a great balance at the club (we’re welcoming and friendly; there is humour and banter; we are supportive and encouraging; we have a great sound system for people to learn what it’s like to plug in, etc, etc), there is still a perception that the SBF&BC is ‘Folk’ in the traditional sense. A perfect number of performers arrived for tonight’s open mic, with a wide variety of styles and songs and abilities. It’s what we do well now. But one or two people said that they didn’t consider themselves falling into the ‘Folk’ category and weren’t sure whether our club was for them, or even that they would be welcome. And that is something we perhaps need to address.
“There’s only your guitar between us” was how I kick started the evening. And that’s all there is between us all really in a metaphorical sense! A self-penned song in open G tuning with a double drop D for extra twang, on my pixie-like Martin (suits me, sir). Jason (one of my favourite guitarists) joined me for a revisiting of the traditional ‘Black is the Colour of my True Love’s Hair‘. We rarely get to experience Jason’s guitar prowess, so tonight we had a glimpse of just how well he can play his dad’s Ovation, a guitar that could tell so many musical stories.
Lance, who I first heard at Open Space Lewes, thankfully is cow coming along to the SBF&BC regularly. He is a source of inspiration. His songwriting always surprises. Tonight, he advised us to eat all our veg or we won’t grow, which was accompanied by much tittering and joining in. A change of mood after this, with his brand new song ‘Who Can See the Wind’. This was thoughtful and moving, with a lovely chord sequence in the chorus.
Mark gave us a sensitive rendition of ‘No Frontier’ by Irish folk singer, Mary Black. I’ve included a video below of Mary’s version. Mary is a major recording artist in Ireland, but sadly, perhaps not so well known over here. Mark’s second number was an untitled instrumental of his own composition which had a rhythmic melody, which showed us his talent. Much enjoyed by us all.
Our resident prolific songwriter and soundman Chris Martin is on a mission to sing all one hundred of his songs this year. He gave us songs 76 and 77: ‘Falling from Glory’ was described as an acoustic version of a big rock number. The ooh oohs were indeed big and sassy! ‘Skeleton’ was next. Beforehand, however, Chris decided to show Manus how to play jazz chords. Brave man!
Indeed, Manus was up next. ‘Leyla’ was fascinating. I say that because Manus has a style of playing that keeps me guessing, I do enjoy watching his fingers explore the frets. They never stay in one place for more than a second! His own song came next which he has creatively based on an African chant ‘Ba Hi Shani Sa Ha’:
Gimme the means
to fulfil my dreams
Put me on stream
Pour in the cream
Coffee and toast
On the Ivory coast
Nya Ma Ka Lah……
“How do you follow that?” asked Heather. But she did, by giving us beautiful renditions of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Bird on a Wire’ (Take a listen to Joe Bonamassa’s version below!) and ‘Borne on the Breeze’ by Harvey Andrews, who I had not heard of and will be exploring more of.
The best guitar of the night goes to… John Stephens! His gorgeous Gretsch just looked wonderful. John braved Pink Floyd’s ‘Breathe’ and to my amazement, as I have never witnessed anyone tackle a Joe Bonamassa song at an open mic before, he played a version of Joe’s ‘Drive’. We all sang along to Floyd and tapped our feet to ‘Drive’. I’m looking forward to hearing him play that guitar again soon. John told us that Sandra’s video of him performing made him think about giving up! No, no, no, John. You were great. Bring back the Gretsch and never ever give up!
Debbie and Steve hadn’t been to the SBF&BC for seven years. I was thrilled that they came along. I’ve seen them perform many times over the years, but it has been a while and they didn’t disappoint. Debbie’s voice is like velvet, or strawberries and cream, or Cornish vanilla ice-cream. And Steve’s under-stated guitar playing accompanies her perfectly. ‘Entwined’ indeed. They performed Joni’s ‘Both Sides Now’ and a Civil Wars number ‘Oh, Lord what have I done…’
It’s so good to have Jason back, he has a controlled sensitive command of the guitar and a beautiful voice. He performed a touching softly-sung original, entitled ‘To the end of the Waves’. I then joined him for our own duet arrangement of Bruce’s ‘Tougher than the Rest’. Jason always tells me that he goes into the ‘zone’ when he performs. Perhaps that’s what I need to do - I wouldn’t make so many mistakes!
Simon Watt was joined by Simon the Sax for Willie Nelson’s ‘Funny How Time Slips Away’. Lovely to hear this again, as I used to sing it with Glynn. Strangely, the country take of this song worked brilliantly with Simon’s jazzy saxophone. Simon W then performed Willie’s ‘Good Time Charlie’, which I always thought was an Elvis song and didn’t realise that Willie Nelson wrote it. However, t’internet tells me it was written by Danny O’Keefe!
Clive told us about all the new builds in his area of Crowborough and wished that houses were being built in the right places, not the wrong ones. His song ‘Open Fields’ reflects his views on the spoiling of the countryside. Clive gave us a lovely rendition of Huw Williams ‘The summer before the war’ in recognition of the recent D-Day celebrations, both sensitively sung.
Keith made me cry. Well, his self-penned ‘Requiem’ would make the hardest of hearts melt and if anyone has experienced being with a loved one whilst they pass away… what can I say. His second song ‘Sometimes’ again was just lovely. Keith his in the middle of recording an album and told me that he wants it to be as natural a production as possible. I can’t wait to hear it.
It was so good to see Simon the Sax return to the SBF&BC. He has been missed. Hallelujah! I just love her so and ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’, accompanied by Heather on the piano. It was magic and a fabulous way to end an evening of eclectic music choices, at the best open mic night in town!
See you all next time. Lisa
28th May 2019
So this was ‘Folk’ evening. There was a lot of discussion about the nature of
folk: What is folk? It’s a good question that gave rise to a variety of
interpretations, but by the end of the evening everyone had sung some very nice
songs and the Folk Police were not there to judge.
As host, I opened the evening playing a very sad traditional song ‘I am stretched
on your grave’ involving the personal loss and tragedy theme, followed by Joni
Mitchell’s ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ from what I would call her folk years, written in
1970. This song takes one of the other apparent roles of the folk song and
makes a political statement, in this case and ecological political comment
about the planet being trashed. Shocking to know that this song was written
nearly 50 years ago and those things she sang about have only got worse and
Collin took the next spot and sang a song written in California at a Supergirls
surfing event ‘Whatever I do I’d still choose you’. He followed this with ‘The
Devil Said’ having observed a man on a bench with ‘pennies on his eyes’. Nice folky songs.
With no folk content whatever, Roy finally got to the piano and gave us a version of
‘Smoke gets in your eyes’ that he had originally prepared for the American
Songbook evening that Manus had run. It’s just great music, sensitively played
on an instrument that can be unpredictable. Hopefully he will summon his
courage and play for us again.
Manus followed with a song not written to be accompanied, by Ewan MacColl,
(folksinger, songwriter, communist, labour activist, poet, playwright and
record producer who influenced theatre and broadcasting, apparently. A busy
man). The song was ‘The first time ever I saw your face’ and the guitar
arrangement was strongly influenced by the Bert Jansch version. Manus went on
to talk about Dobell’s record shop in Charing Cross Road (1946 -1992) where it
was possible to buy a huge variety of music on vinyl that was just not
available anywhere else. These were the ‘old days’ before the internet and
local record shops would mainly stock records by performers of popular and ‘Top
Ten’ music. (Yuk!) It was also the age of pirate radio which was responsible
for transmitting some great music. I went to this shop also at some point. It’s
where I bought an Elmore James LP and probably hugged it all the way home on
the train. Manus also sang ‘The first time ever I saw your face’ a Tom Paxton song,
to some complex work on the frets. Tom Paxton is an American folk
singer-songwriter who is still very prolific and apparently touring here in the
UK for the 53rd year.
Mark then presented us with ‘Angie’ by Davy Graham, a folk guitar player’s ‘standard
of accomplishment’ which he said he was still trying to get right after 40
years. It sounded good (and familiar) to me. Davy Graham was a British guitarist
who had a huge influence on the British Folk revival of the 1960s. Fancy
fingerstyle. He also played ‘City of Stars’ which comes from the film La La
Land which I confess I have not seen. It worked well on guitar though and
suited the evening.
Chris played two of his favourite ‘folk’ tunes on an acoustic guitar with a clip-on
pick-up. He also sat to perform, which is unusual. The first was ‘Dangerous
Moonlight’ which had associations with his dad and a spitfire pilot and it
included a quotation from Bruce Lee, Van Gogh’s last words and ‘Sine, fine’ in
Latin which implies ‘without end’. A complex song. He was particularly pleased (which
included smiles) to be joined by the audience in the chorus of his second song ‘Excuse
Me’. Some very nice, spontaneous harmonies came through here.
In the true vein of folk music as a communicator of tragedy, Heather sang a very beautiful and poignant song about the drowning of ‘at least 21’ illegal Chinese immigrant cockle pickers in Morcambe Bay on 5 February 2004. The song ‘Morcambe Bay’ was written by Christy Moore, and with the soft Irish accent his performance is heart-breaking. Heather isn’t Irish, but without the accent, it was still heart-breaking. There’s a sense of a reluctance to applaud a song such as this, not because of the performance, but because of the subject: ‘Never try to race the tides on Morcambe Bay’. Beautifully done. Heather’s second song ‘The Weald and the Sea’ was written to be performed a capella, but tonight she accompanied herself on guitar again: ‘And if you don’t want to, I’ll go on alone. I will still love the views and I’ll search for a home…’
It was purely by chance that Lance followed Heather and sang his song ‘This is war?’about
the picture of the little boy that appeared in the national press, who was
washed ashore. The three year old Syrian boy turned up on a Turkish beach following his family’s attempt to escape Syria and get to relatives in Canada. These songs of tragedy are the very stuff of the folk tradition, offering, as they do, some way of expressing outrage,
anger, disbelief, grief, or whatever horror, giving some shape to feelings of
distress. In a traditional political folk vein, Lance sang his song about ‘Some
Peoples Lives’, venting his concern about dishonesty and focussing on how ‘some
people’s life is so damned hard…. So deeply scarred’.
With more stories of misery, Jason sang ‘Nobody loves you when you’re down and out’,
a song written by Jimmy Cox in 1923 from the point of view of a millionaire who
loses everything in the Prohibition Era in the US, reflecting on the fleeting
nature of wealth and the friendships that come and go with it.
The atmosphere in the room did not reflect the very serious content of some of
these songs. I hadn’t really noticed at the time, but in the midst of these
tragic stories, we were having a very good evening. The misery and sorrow was
channelled through the music. We didn’t need to cry.
Jason was joined by Lisa for one of their beautiful duets and sang about the ‘Cotton
Fields’ in Louisiana, just a mile from Texarkana, Surrey. This was written by
Huddie Ledbetter (Leadbelly) and was first recorded in 1940. Like many ‘folk
standards’ this song has been sung and recorded by a huge number people. I
would consider it to be ‘Folk’ whether it’s from the US, UK or anywhere where
slavery, or virtual slavery, goes on. Lisa took the lead in their next song ‘Careless
love’ with Jason providing some bottle-neck accompaniment to Lisa’s delicate
guitar playing. This is another song from the early 20th century in
the US by Buddy Bolden. It has also been sung and recorded upteen times as a
jazz, blues and folk standard by the likes of Bessie Smith, Pete Seeger, Fats
Domino, Eartha Kit, Leadbelly, Odetta, Dylan and Siouxie Sioux (!?) Another
sheet of paper please, this is a very well-loved and muchly performed song.
You’re in very good company Lisa. Beautiful musicianship and harmonies, as
Some very authentic traditional folk was delivered by Simon. As ever, Simon tells us
a good story about his innocent involvement as a young man, in a very serious,
bearded-man folk club in Winchester. (He didn’t mention any bearded ladies. Perhaps
they would have been unwelcome in this traditional context) The delivery of the
pedigree of the songs was apparently an essential and lengthy process. Simon mentioned
Cecil Sharp who is considered the founding father of the folksong revival of
the early twentieth century, collecting thousands of rural English songs as
well as songs from the southern Appalachians in the US. Sharp was also
responsible for reviving English country dance and actively promoted Morris
dancing. (Simon had looked this folk group up in later times and found that the
‘Young Tradition’ had actually made recordings.) In the traditional style, he called a line and
we, the audience were required to give a response, in his first song ‘Hanging
Johnny’, a nineteenth century windlass song. Travelling further back in time,
Simon sang us a version of Henry the Eighth’s ‘Greensleeves’. For our total
amusement he finished with Stevie Wonder’s ‘Moving On’, written in 1966. Simon
took his guitar and sang the song but the ‘beardies’ at the folk club never
spoke to him again.
Clive’s songs weren’t wrapped up in a story, but folk songs they definitely were. ‘Hard
times of old England’ was the first. This song came from the British folk
revival rock band Steeleye Span who were, like Fairport Convention,
commercially successful and still continue to tour. Most of their early music
came from traditional sources, like the Child Ballads, songs from England and
Scotland and their American variants collated by Francis James Child in the
late nineteenth century. Clive completed his spot with ‘The water is wide’ (or
O Waly, Waly), a sad love song published in Cecil Sharp’s Folk Songs from Somerset 1906.
Keith brought the evening to a close with his contemporary‘folk’ songs. Brighton Rock,
with lyrics that spoke of ‘cheating all through like Brighton rock’ called for
some chorus singing. His other contemporary ‘folk’ song was ‘Baby Steps’ a slow
and gentle song with Keith accompanying himself again on acoustic guitar.
It had turned into a rich and diverse expression of folk music, many lovely and
sensitive songs and a very nice vibe going on in the room.
As usual our thanks go to Simon for setting up in advance of the rest of us getting
there, or as he put it: Whack fol-di-diddle-o my dearies, the room is ready,
the traditional apparatus is in place, and to Chris and Clive for operating the
Thank you one and all for coming along and singing your songs, and for staying to
listen to everyone else singing theirs.
See you next time when Lisa will be running the evening, Ella
This was one of those evenings where the usual suspects turned up to play, thirteen performers in all, plus a couple of audience. I started the evening with a Danny Schmidt song Firestorm followed by Lucinda William’s song Sweet Old World. The title I have given this evening comes from a Danny Schmidt song, but I think it describes the evening’s company very nicely.
Next up was Clive with the evergreen, Green, Green, Grass of Home made famous by Tom Jones, unlike when the great Tom sings it, nobody in the audience fainted and to the best of my knowledge no knickers were thrown – you are going to have to try harder Clive. He followed that with Diamond Avenue.
Heather followed with a poignant and soulful version of the famous Scottish folk song Annie Laurie and the Black Jack David as performed by The Incredible String Band. This song also has the traditional feel of a Scottish reel. Nicely done.
Paula has been a regular visitor to the Six Bells and she started with her own composition Borrowed, and then a beautiful Lee Ann Womack number I Hope You Can Dance. Paula is really expanding her repertoire and playing the guitar with real skill now, no doubt due to the coaching of Terry Lees.
Terry just happened to be the next performer on the list. He started with the classic Church Street Blues “I’d string up this old Martin box and go and join some band” played on his old Martin box. He followed this with a Ragtime Medley that really highlighted his expert guitar playing. Needless to say, we all marvelled at his skill.
Most people play a couple of numbers when they come, in Chris Martin’s case quite literally. In this instance he played No. 66 and No.67, painting by numbers is well established – playing by numbers is new to most people. The names of these self penned tunes were Tomorrow’s Children and Stories to be Told (just in case the PRS want to check up on him).
We then came to the Lisa, Jason and Helga part of the evening. Lisa and Helga started off with Lisa’s own song Music Is All Around Us, a song that included some great whistling by Lisa and improv flute from Helga. Lisa and Jason then did “Bobs Song”, Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You. Magnificent harmony and it is nice to see Jason back again. They followed this with Handbags and Gladrags. Then it was Jason on his own singing There was a Young Man Named Me which as far as I know he wrote himself.
Keith was next up and sang us two of his own songs, An Acorn in Each Hand which is one of the best illustrative story songs I have ever heard and Terrible Portrait. We should count ourselves lucky because the calibre of the songwriters we have at the Six Bells is really impressive.
Manus then took to the microphone brandishing a home made effect box. This sadly suffered a technical problem and had to be abandoned so we will await its next outing with interest. He came up with a couple of real classic’s What’s New and Lovely Day.
Ella, on electric keyboard this evening, started with a slow rendering of The Nearness of You in the style of Norah Jones and lastly Woodstock with a funky organ accompaniment, reminiscent of that Hammond organ sound that became ubiquitous in the late 60’s.
Helga said she would like a spot to herself and elected to play a second song with Lisa, this was Lavender Blue, a Lisa arrangement with a haunting flute melody played to accompany her vocals and guitar. Helga has been away from the club for a while so it was nice to see her back.
Next it was Sylvie’s turn and she sang for us her own composition called The Cleaning Lady about an ex-ballerina who while being “Oh, so very neat” was hopeless as a cleaner.
Lastly, to remind everyone that Ella is hosting a traditional folk night next time I played Here’s to the Feet and insisted the remaining audience join in – fortunately for me, they did. See you all next time.
30th April 2019
The shifting sands of the performers’ list brought some exiting new acts to the Bells, like Suzzane and Keith Drake, and made us miss those stalwarts like Ella, Jason and Sylvie who weren’t able to make this time. However there were enough regulars and new faces for two pieces each, and a second round of a single song. We even had a sprinkling of audience.
It seemed that the lyric, both spoken and written, predominated this evening, alongside some beautiful, and sometimes complex, playing. There was a goodly proportion of self-penned stuff, together with competent covers.
I opened with a poem: The Jazz Drummer. My chosen fast bop tempo was too fast for me and I had to bend the speed and timing to get it all out - a sign of age.
Aging certainly featured in Lisa’s Mid Life Crisis, her feelings about the menopause accompanied by great guitar work.
“Midriff’s hanging out of my jeans / everybody’s making me angry / … / getting too old to play silly games / ….”
“Something men know nothing about” Lisa declaimed which, of course, started some provocative comments, particularly about disputes over central heating as far I could make out. Ah! The joys of thermoregulation!
Bluebell Knoll, her second song was pastoral and reflective and calmed the febrile atmosphere of sexual politics. A mildly jazzy groove crept nicely into her guitar playing.
I’d hoped that Manus would be there to represent jazz. He did so, in a surprising way, with a version of Singing the Blues (any one old enough to remember Tommy Steele and the rival version by Guy Mitchell?). Incredible playing - it really swung. He then did Hoagie Carmichael’s timeless classic Georgia on my Mind - even lovelier chords. Between songs, surprisingly, he switched between two identical guitars with capos at different frets. Cheaper than roadies I suppose.
Chris Martin is on a mission this year to sing all of his 100 songs registered with the Performing Rights Society. Number 62 was Dream from his Standing Room Only album and 63 was Mask, written in 1994.
Simon Watts is an old friend whom I met at the Bells as long ago in 2002, when we accidentally stole each other’s guitars, having similar taste in cases. He writes many a comedy song laced with gentle and dry humour, but tonight his country persona played. A song by the Lonesome Brothers All Around You and then a Mark Knoppler song Ticket to Heaven, about a telly evangelist. He played a 12-string guitar which was so accurately-intone it sounded like a six string. Don’t know how long it took him to tune it though.
Keith and Suzanne Drake, a performance poetry duo, were on next – and perform they certainly did. I’d invited them after having seen them many times at the Poetry Cafe in Eastbourne (late of the Underground Theatre but currently at the Vinyl Frontier nearby). They started with more sexual politics - a dual between female and male voices declaiming many improbable and wittily-rhymed reasons why one gender or the other is best: I Outrank You! Then came Ban Milk! introducing us to an even more improbable universe of anti-milk agitation. Great entertainment!
Clive is one of our very regular regulars. He sang an appropriate May Day song from Padstow. “Unite, unite”, came the cry. Then he introduced his own lyrics, one of the first songs he had written, If You will be my Friend. The intro and outro were long, but the middle was worth waiting for. “If we can talk about it / if we can try hard / if you say you will – say you will! “
Heather covered Cat Steven’s How Can I Tell You that I Love You and then introduced Leonard Cohen’s Hey that’s no Way to Say Goodbye as not a love song but really as a way of dumping someone whilst telling them not to cry.
Good to see Paula back for a visit. She has been a supporter of the White Horse Folk Club for many years, from its original incarnation at Bodle Street Green (run by the legendary Chris Liddiard), to its latest venue at Deanlands in Golden Cross on alternative Mondays. Paula started with her own song, Hesitate, which commented on too much rushing about in general: “Busy people everywhere / it can’t last / take the lead/ kill the speed / hesitate – look around”. Hear hear! Her second piece was an instrumental.
John has been to the club before but it was the first time I’d seen him. He had a clever electronic box that produced an electronic drone (based on sampling his sound) to accompany his ably-performed traditional songs. The first was a whaling song: “fifty-six sons sailed on board/ fishing for the Humpback Whale.” He followed this with Maggie: Arise and pick the posies/ the lily-white pink and roses”.
I finished the first cycle with Baby Steps, which I’m planning to record later this month, and a song from Calmer Waters: The Worst Thing
So we started the second round with one song each. Unfortunately Suzanne and Keith said they had to leave early to comply with the Bexhill curfew on elderly folk.
Lisa’s second set song was Jeanie’s got a Fancy Man, followed by Manus with a bossa nova: Masquarade written by Leon Russell and recorded by George Benson. Chris Martin took a breather from his sequential mission and played a song he’d already sung this year: Little Red Car from 1990.
Simon co-opted Sylvia from the audience to play a tambourine on Wagon Wheel. Heather’s third was her own setting of The Owl and the Pussycat - a love song that breaks interspecies barriers. Paula performed Campion, a song about bluebells and a Canopy of Leaves.
John did Ralph McTell’s song Maginot Waltz, which starts off cheerily with a trip to the seaside, with Albert and his banjo prompting sing songs. But then comes the chilling surprise: Albert and his pal are off to fight in World War 1 the next day, with all the misplaced optimism of that time.
I finished off the evening with a blues, The Slow One. Thanks to everybody that played, sang, set up the PA, ran it, watched, laughed, heckled and generally made for a chirpy evening.
For my videos this month I’ve chosen two by the Jazz vocal/trumpet legend Chet Baker and a rendition by Lianne Carol of A Little Mercy Now.
Singer/Songwriters’ Night.- April 16th 2019
This was Chris Martin’s Big Event: his chance to encourage other musicians to come prepared with their own compositions, and a chance for singer/songwriters to share their creative talent. The Facebook notice apparently reached 760 people which is brilliant, but only 13 people came and some of those weren’t aware that it was a singer/songwriter night because they don’t use Facebook. So perhaps we need to try to spread by word of mouth a little more? Posters? Ideas?
Still, we had some lovely writing and really excellent performances, and as usual, the sound from the beautiful PA was a pleasure. Thank you Chris and Clive.
Chris started off with 2 of his own compositions: ‘Fade and Disappear’ and ‘Journey’. I hadn’t heard him perform ‘Fade and Disappear’ live before and Chris gave a lovely performance with plenty of fading on the hook lines. ‘Journey’ is a lovely song with some very pretty and gentle guitar runs and Chris does perform this more often. His precise picking style really brings out the beauty of this composition.
Personally, I find I do enjoy people’s own songs more once I get to know them a bit. I hear Chris’s quite a lot, and really grow to enjoy them more and more. So, stick at it Song-writers. It’s not a bad thing to repeat performances of your own songs!
Jane was up next with her slide guitar on her lap and her foot on her box. I do love the humour in Jane’s lyrics and also listening to a different sound from a different instrument. She started with The Broken Leg Blues. This was 2/3 written by a young man who was an excellent sportsman, a skateboarder, I think? Jane wrote the 3rd verse from her own life experience. She followed this with a lovely song she wrote called ‘Road to Santiago’ which she’s moved from a major to a minor key, which really did suit the tone of the song far better. It was written from her own experience, with sections in Spanish and expressed something of the feeling of isolation you can have when travelling alone.
‘If I can speak in all those tongues,
Then why can’t you talk to me.’
Simon was up next. He often performs his own songs and I really do enjoy his dry sense of humour and topical wit.
He opened with ‘There’s a black hole in my Garden’
‘Black Holes are really useful,
I don’t need a wheely bin’
Excellent sentiment, and a very interesting idea….although I know I’d worry about my dog or Grandchildren falling in!
Simon’s second song was ‘Take my Hand. He was asked to write a religious-style of song that was spiritual rather than actually religious. That’s a bit of a tall order, and he did very well. It had exactly the right musical nuances for a free church, religious song, but the words were carefully non-secular. And it sounded good too.
Then came Keith, with his guitar this week, playing Brighton Rock Blues. I do love Keith’s guitar style. It’s rich and expressive, fluid and natural. Actually, I’m rather jealous but hey!
And his lyrics are clever too. Grr.
‘Life’s like a Brighton Rock.
You make the Politicians richer by paying them more’
Then came ‘Terrible Portrait, which was not Keith’s usual style, more of a ballad, about a man who thinks he can be a painter just because he’s going through the mid-life crisis and having an affair. He finds his painting in the attic many years later, and although it looks nothing like his loved one, he just can’t make himself throw it away. It was a lovely song, and as Keith explained, because of his jazz background, he had to give a simple 3 chord song at least 9 chords. It worked very well.
We had a newcomer next. Sophie had been encouraged to come by friends who sometimes come to listen. Sophie always sings her own songs, she told me, and I really had no idea what to expect. She played ‘If the World’ and ‘The Darling’. What a beautiful voice, and what lovely songs; almost Joni Mitchellesque, accompanied by a simple, effective rhythm/slap guitar style. I think we all wanted to hear more and we did later on.
Sophie was followed by Manus. His first song was ‘One Man’s Flood is another Man’s Wave’ inspired by a leak in the ceiling at The Elephant and Castle. It was written and played in Manus’ distinctive jazz style, with a good tight rhythm, which made it easier for me to enjoy. I’m a bit of a pleb and can get lost with the jazz thing sometimes. Topical lyrics: ‘Money like Raindrops falling on the Few.’ Then Manus played Handing it Over, which he has recorded in the past. He’d rewritten the introduction which he felt really improved the song. I did really enjoy both of his performances, and songs. More really clever playing!!
I followed Manus. Not easy that! I’d decided to bring my keyboard because a lot of the songs I’d written this year were for keyboard and I chose two I especially liked. However, my sustain pedal decided to play up. It was working back to front which totally flummoxed me. I battled through ‘Missing you’ which sounded very odd to me with the detached ‘harpsicord’ effect. So, I turned around to play ‘Mum Song’ on the in-house piano which felt a bit better. But not brilliant. I do love these songs and I feel cross with myself when I don’t feel I do them justice. I think we all feel like that!!
Then it was back to taking photos and making notes for The Blog, and Lance was up on the Hot Spot.
Lance is another song-writer I really enjoy. We really do have some excellent talent around. ‘In a Gardener’s World’ came first. I could really identify with that because I love my garden too.
‘In a gardener’s world,
We follow the Seasons,
And live them one day at a time’’
He had some whistle breaks too. Chris upped the reverb and it sounded amazing!.
His second song was very different, and rather sad. ‘The Fault in our Stars’ was about someone dying of cancer. Beautifully poignant.
Then came Clive. I always enjoy Clive’s choices. ‘All of the love will remain’ came first. This was a touching song about sad goodbyes with a really well-formed walking bass. I do love a good walking bass.
‘I want you. I need You. I love You’ came next. Apparently, Clive’s wife never reads the blogs so I can say that Clive said the inspiration was generic and not actually all about his wife, although she thinks it is and it earned him Brownie Points’. Either way, I think we could all identify with the sentiment if we ever have been in love with anyone!
George and Mary didn’t know it was Singer/Songwriter’s night and quickly adjusted their set to open with a song with lyrics written by Chris Liddiard that George had put to music called ‘Green is the Shamrock’. It was played in a gentle Country style and worked well with George and Mary taking turns to sing the lead vocals. They followed that with Dylan’s ‘If Tomorrow’s such a long Time’. George really has quite a crooner’s voice and it sounded lovely with Mary, who seems to have changed her register recently to sing far more strongly and balance George’s voice very well.
Becky and Terry were the last people to come up. They really didn’t know it was a singer/songwriter’s night and don’t really have any of their own material. It’s always a pleasure to hear Becky’s lovely, resonant voice though, and Terry holds it all together with his guitar. Becky lets him sing a little on occasion, but not this time! They treated us to ‘You’re no good’, Linda Ronstadt, and ‘Promise Me’ by Beverly Craven.
Chris came up to say thank you to everyone and played ‘Mr Preacher Man’. He was obviously feeling a bit more relaxed now the evening was nearly done, the world hadn’t caved in, and the sound had been beautiful. So, he gave a lovely clear, faultless performance with excellent guitar and vocal work. He’s on a mission to give each of his 100 songs an airing this year and this was number 58.
By consensus, new girl Sophie was asked to finish the evening with another of her songs. So, she came up and treated us to ‘I used to cry in my Sleep’ wonderfully performed in her distinctive style and with her beautiful voice. Just lovely. Thank you Sophie.
P.S. Everyone’s photo has already been put up of the Facebook page, but I did want to include these two. They boys seem to be upping the anti with interesting and unusual shirts, so I’ll be keeping an eye out for more to add to this collection. Girls too if you want!!!
2nd April 2019
Clive and I started jotting down the running order of performers, as they arrived, in lieu of Jason, whom was the billed host for this evening but had been unavoidably detained – However, he's back in the game and busy at the day job so that's good news in itself in the scheme of things. My list totaled up at 13 but as Jason never made it, we ended up as 12 in all and Jamie, at No-2 was thereby brought forward, moving up the list to a new beginning, reborn and backed-up by Martin. L on bass with supportive introductions by Clive whom was by now keeping a tally of who was doing what having already helped Chris in assembling the PA as Simon had delegated this over to other key-holders due to a bout of flu; there will be lots of colds and snivels to come now he's a grandad ... #2 I’m now informed and he’s graduated to Man-Flu to boot.
So, Jamie and his guitar kicked off with 'Nutshell' by Alison James and 'Plush' by Stone Temple Pilots. Then it was Chris, ascending up the running order from the desk to follow on from that. But he didn't seem to mind filling the second slot – it's never bothered me either as it happens and he started with 'Outta Here' as a solo then bolstered in his second original singer/songwriter piece by Martin on bass again with 'Martinette' vocals by Lisa and Heather on ‘Scrapheap Blues’ – all of which, in an it's-all-in-a-name sort of way, reminded me of a great little pre-Brexit/New Labour novel I once read entitled 'Martin Martin's On The Other Side' – an unavoidable mnemonic slip: there’s a Martin in it and I couldn't help it, sorry ... Anyway, in the here-and-now, a man called Mark was also invited up to complete this ensemble with his highly polished metal slide guitar [in lieu of John Oddie’s resonator of old, we were told] and there sure woz a lot of deputies at work tonight!
Then Clive introduced himself again and proceeded with 'a jaunty 'High Heeled Sneakers' by Tommy Tucker and another song called 'Dark Eyed Molly' before introducing Heather to recite a poem, 'People’ whilst her guitar-tech man sorted out her instrument c/w partial-capodastre, which sounded rather interesting to my ears with an open top 'E' string ringing out its dissonance [which I like] but which had to be appropriately readjusted for her rendition of Joni Mitchell's totemic 'Both Sides Now' – I've seen life from both sides now … contemporaneous indeed on both sides of the pond, in limbo, hanging on it. I bet Joni is pleased to be of Canadian descent … I know Heather and Chris had attended Joni's 70th celebration concert recently and were still buzzing from it – Heather concluded the set with 'The Town I Loved So Well' from Phil Coulter.
Mark, c/w slide guitar, came back on his own terms with Muddy Waters's [blues singer] 'Can't Be Satisfied' of the transatlantic Jagger/Richards Rolling Stones era [I Can't Get No ************] Blues Packages of the 60s. He brought us up-to-date with his own tautology in 'The Shining Sun' – a very long piece on a very shiny guitar with a blurry bottleneck breaking over the fingerboard of frets like metallic rays, and hotspot f-holes resonating to the rising mercury of the Delta atmospherics going on under the fan [inactive this time] ….
I had to follow that!
So I took a leaf out of C J Martin's playbook and invited Lisa and Heather back up, joined by Ella this time, to support me in the refrain of a couple of rhythmic vamps I'd built in to 'True Colours' since recording it recently – there was an extended coda to do with rainbows and they positively shone on that, too. It was like a triple sunshine beating down on the, you know … beats. Ahem, I did a brief medley comprised of 'Ain't No Sunshine/Summertime' but that's another sunny story altogether so I won't go there, then.
It was definitely warming up, though, as we had duo spot coming on with Kat Black and Mr White [but he doesn't know why …?] From Peacehaven-on-Sea, Kat and Andy played 'Stay' and Dylan's 'It's All Over Now Baby Blue' which was nice to hear – there was more Bob to come, ultimately from Oliver but now it was time for the ebullient Lance to perform, uniquely, his own songs: 'Every Day' and 'Get Up And Dance' with which he had me jiggling on the stool with his sunny disposition acting as a bit of a livener.
More Joni now, this time from Ella in a stand-up performance with her flat-back bouzouki strapped on to provide a nicely twangy backdrop [Ella felt that there may have been a bit of a tuning problem here but it has to be said that, up to a point, a little variance in each pair of strings on these type of steel-string instruments can add a modulation of its own that can be effective, expansive even – like a chorus pedal would simulate, and people pay good money for such paraphernalia – subjective though it is, it's worth taking a chance on it I would vouch] as she played 'Carrie' and 'I think I understand' – replete with ‘like stepping stones on sinking sand’, what a line to tread … what a line to write, eh? Straight ahead, all good here!
What a lineage to follow? In a nice bit of programming of opposite numbers tonight, it turned out like the roll of the dice to be Lisa's time to come back up. Also in solo mode, she sat down on the high stool and gave us her interpretations of 'I Have To Say I Love You In A Song' from Jim Croce and 'Song To A Siren' by Tim Buckley as a nice offset to what had preceded her reflective performance.
John Stevens covered an off-the-shelf version of 'April Come She will' ... well he got that right. It was Paul Simon whom had ascribed a gender to this month of months that we find ourselves in whilst he was working with Garfunkel, in harmony; Simon being the preeminent songwriter. But then [after a nice, harmoniously sunny March, mostly …]. Star Man.
Oliver: 'Gold-Watch Blues' and the other Bob Dylan song of this long night – “She Belongs To Me” which had enough gravitas to act as an apt conclusion within the atmosphere it seemed to generate, just like any good folk club at its best – my inner Sun-God was turned back on again and fully appeased.
So, looking forward to Chris Martin's, on the other side of songwriting night coming up next time, as a platform for all singer-songwriters with hearts, and minds, and songs of our own [as opposed to the singer-songwriter genre at large, as a general theme]. But, on the sunnier aspect of things, I don't know which gender I would apply overall to 'Summertime' and other covers anyway, which is just as well because I'd probably get booted out for being so subversive, and rightfully so!
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