4th August 2020
This was the second of our outdoor open mic nights because of Covid-19. People arrived with their pop shields and hand sanitizer and sat down for a full and varied evening of live music. Hurray! There’s not much of it about at the moment. We’d all got a bit cold a fortnight before, so this time people were better prepared with woolly socks and warm overcoats.
Simon welcomed everyone and opened up with ’Six Blade Knife’ by the wonderful Dire Straits accompanied by Derek on Cajon. He followed this with ‘Ripple’ from The Grateful Dead much to the delight of our resident Deadhead. I do love Simon’s version of this and the first time I heard it was the first time I realised I might be able to appreciate The Grateful Dead! I think his third song was Bobby Bradock’s ‘Hard Times’ which is rather appropriate for current days.
Chris plugged himself in and performed three of his own songs: ‘Ghosts’, ‘Insomniac’s Dream’, and one of my favourites, ‘Cry’. Simon’s amp balanced on a red beer crate worked beautifully to pick up the purity of Chris’s delivery. All of his songs can be found on YouTube and Spotify, and are recorded on physical albums.
Manus was up next with his socks on, playing a beautiful version of Hoagy Charmichael’s song ‘The Nearness of you’, made famous by Ella Fitzgerald and echoed by Norah Jones. He followed this with an instrumental jazz version of a Cleo Lane song ‘Wave’, which you canfind on his latest double album, Yin and Yang’. His fingers were flying!
Jason followed and performed a lovely gentle version of ‘At the Dimming of the Day’, written by Richard Thompson and originally sung with his then wife, Linda.
Lisa joined Jason and they sang one song written by them both, ‘Simple Smiling Faces’, and then one of Lisa’s own compositions, ‘Just for a while’. These two must put in a lot of practice! Their harmonies and rapport are such a pleasure. Nothing is left to chance and the results are beautiful.
Lisa stayed on to perform another of her songs ‘Jeannie has a Fancy Man’ accompanied by Helga on the flute. I have heard this before and I’d love to hear it again. To me it is both wistful and gently teasing.
Helga swapped instruments and played her iconic version of ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ on the guitar. Keith joined her on accompanying guitar for their version of Leonard Cohen’s song, ‘Suzanne’, with some lovely harmonies between the two guitars.
Keith then had his spot and played three of his own compositions, ‘Dusty’, and ‘Ode to a f---kin’ typewriter’, dry and jazzy, then ‘The Worst Thing’, a touching song in a more folky style with a lovely bass line, followed by ‘Swan Song’. Keith also records his music and it is well worth a listen if you get the chance…..or you could ask him about railways if you have some time to spare.
John and Mark settled in together and started with a song called ‘Riverside’ with Derek on Cajon again and Mark accompanying John’s rhythm guitar. They carried on with ‘Night Blindness written in 1998 by David Grey. Their third song was one I knew better, ‘Losing my religion’ by REM with John playing the mandolin and Mark the rhythm guitar. And a very good job they did too.
Clive came up and plugged in his own amp to give us ‘Sunshine on Leith’ with Capo lV, written by the Proclaimers and described as a ‘love song to Scotland’. As a child, one of the tongue twisters I never mastered was ‘The Leith Police dismisseth us’. Try it! Clive was the only person to sing a tribute to Peter Greene with ‘Man of the World’. A lovely version of a lovely song. He finished with the more upbeat ‘Summertime Blues’.
I was up next. It helped that I hadn’t got a frog in my throat like the previous open mic, so I managed to get through some of my favourites, because we never know how long we’re going to be able to perform with Covid, and the eventual move into Autumn. ‘Fields of Athenry was followed by Joni Mitchell’s ‘Little Green’, and Melanie’s ‘Brand New Key’. I do like a vocal challenge.
Derek finished off the evening for us. He left his Cajon and picked his guitar up to give us ‘City of New Orleans’ written by Steve Goodman and made famous by Arlo Guthrie. ‘The Wanted Man’, made famous by Dylan and Johnny Cash, with promises of blood and guts, but no sex, and finished the evening ended with Tom Paxton’s ‘My Pony Knows The Way’. All three of these songs were unknown to me, so writing the blog is a good way to learn new things. Thank you Derek.
The usual big thanks to Simon and the Committee for keeping things going, and the wonderful staff at The Six Bells for supporting us.
Please have a look on the Six Bells Folk ‘n’ Blues Club Facebook page for photos of the night and all of our performers.
21st July 2020
This was our fist Folk Club evening since March in the strangest year since the Six Bells Folk & Blues Club came into being. Thanks to Paul, Jacquie and Richard for making this possible. It was really nice to back and playing music with our friends once more. The fine evening helped although it did get a little chilly later.
Instead of the music, safety was our main concern. Looking at all the COVID-19 legislation it is impossible to decide if running a folk club outdoors is legal, so we proceeded with caution and did what due diligence we could.
Because the performances were open air and the pub had reserved some tables for us, we were able to socially distance. The sound system we used was a Fishman Loudbox acoustic amplifier with some extra inputs that Clive brought along. We were all very happy with the results and there was very little in the way of germ spreading knob twiddling to do.
Performers can be a little intimate with microphones so to reduce any risks from this everyone was given their own pop shield to put on when they started and remove again when the performance was over. This worked pretty well and meant that people could still get up close and personal with the mic. We also had hand sanitizer for use by people, when needed.
The night did not have a single host; instead, each player introduced the next at the end of each performance. This worked quite well and we will keep this going while the emergency continues.
I started the evening and played to the many diners in the pub garden, my performance was followed by the inimitable Chris Martin who played three songs from his COVID songbook. LOVE IS – “Sharing the same pop shield”. So Heather followed Chris and entertained the audience with songs that everybody knew while saving us a whole £ in equipment costs.
Heather duly introduced Derek who kept things light and again played some standards hoping for some audience participation. We only made a feeble attempt at this – sorry Derek. I think it is hard to get that intimate joiny-in feel in the great outdoors (while social distancing). Derek also brought a Cajon Box Drum which he played skilfully to accompany others.
Clive brought us some extra gear which meant that we were able to mic-up a couple of guitars that suffered unexpected battery failure over the four months of the lockdown. This was one of the less predictable hazards of the virus.
It was nice to see Helga who had been totally isolated in Ringmer having lost her internet connection and it was also great for her to get out. Once again she added flute to the mix, which is always welcome.
Keith followed with a selection of fine songs from the Etchingham songbook. Keith has been organising our Skype sessions every Tuesday evening for those of us who just want to chat – a virtual trip to the pub, when a real one was not possible.
Lisa & Jason teamed up and in my view gave us some of the best sounds the evening had to offer; some beautiful close harmony and great guitar playing. A really special set.
Manus closed the evening for us with his skilful Jazz vibe; another nice set to finish the evening on.
As usual I have selected three of the Youtube videos that have caught my eye recently. If you don’t watch anything else make sure you take a look at the extraordinary version of After You’ve Gone starring Sierra Hull on Mandolin.
Stay safe everyone
Having been volunteered to host this Duet’s Evening, I had emailed and had a note put on our Facebook page about the ‘Two Song Rule’. Sounds a bit ominous doesn’t it? Well, I was very pleased that I gave this some forethought rather than there being even more chaos at the start of the evening. I was unavoidably later arriving than planned due to work commitments and went straight into writing the play list. I already knew that some of our regular players would not be there due to illness or other committments, but we were not short of performers.
Christy-Lee was there with Dr. Robert (what a treat). Jim was there with Ray, and from more distant times, Turner and Wesson, (Ron knew the evening from the earliest Chris Mansell days and has visited at infrequent intervals.) Simple arithmetic therefore suggested twelve songs already. That two song rule was really about letting everyone get up and sing, getting a nice turnover of performers, and avoiding ‘four-song mini sets’ with soloists squeezed in between. Each person could claim two song spots but not in immediate succession where there was a duo. It did create a degree of extra stage-management and faffing with mics, leads, music stands, tuning and all of that, but nobody seemed to mind. It was certainly worth it for the music that came out of it.
Manus and I had been rehearsing by exchanging emails. Given a very disorganised start, it went remarkably well. We hadn’t done sound checks or anything. I was on piano and even playing that tonight, was complicated by the electric sockets (for the music light) not working. We played Joni Mitchell’s ‘For Free’ from her album Ladies of the Canyon. I played piano and sang while Manus embellished the piece with some jazz guitar. We got to the end in sych, and played out on a lovely long outro. Our second piece was ‘The Nearness of You’. Again I played piano with more jazz guitar embellishment from Manus. He sang a second ‘bridge’ to the end weaving his own interpretative path through the timing. Again I felt the ending worked well. It was a very interesting start to the evening.
Chris followed playing two solos. The first song written about his mother dying with Alzheimers was sung in tribute to her brother, Chris’s uncle, who also died with Alzheimers very recently. There is a funeral to attend on the Wirral shortly. His second song was a new one: ‘Tell me’…’the fraudulent fugitive on the run…tell me what it’s all about’.
With very little shuffling about this time, Simon took the stage. The Rocket, a song sung by Mary Gauthier, is one of those poignant songs about the tragedy of war and loss. I supported Simon with some extra vocals and low-key tambourine. In a complete and utter change of style, he continued with his new song, Corona Virus Blues which is a variation of his earlier piece ‘I’ve got the Ebola Blues’. He summoned Heather and myself to join him and put a word sheet in our hands. Ours were the red words. Simon writes some very wry songs. It was hilarious and moved the evening forward from the serious or sombre tone of the previous three songs.
Jim and Ray were a new duo. Jim, playing guitar, has joined us before, but tonight he brought Ray and his bass. Their first song was a different ‘take’ on ‘Route 66’ and the second was ‘The Highway goes on Forever’. Their new partnership looks to be working very well.
Another two-man guitar duo, Ron and Nigel, shuffled the equipment around and adjusted the sound. Ron has visited the club over the years and remembers the early days when Chris Mansell first established the Six Bell Folk and Blues club. I do not appear to have the titles of the songs they performed but these included lyrics about not getting on the liquor again, getting out the dancing shoes and forgetting about the whiskey. There was some very stylish and accomplished ‘foot-tapping’ guitar work going on. Ron is starting a new acoustic evening in Eastbourne on Thursday 12 March (6.30 – 9.30) going by the name of ‘Alice’s Attic’ at the Underground Theatre, Croft House, Cornfield Lane BN21 4NE in Eastbourne for those looking to find new venues.
Heather sang us a poem about friendship. She had put the children’s poem about Pooh and Piglet to music earlier in the day and accompanied herself on guitar. (She loves children’s poems). She followed this joined by CJ (Chris) Martin with ‘I want to make it with you’, that well-known song by Bread. CJ was on guitar and this time Heather added some flute. Heather plays a variety of instruments. It would appear that she is a versatile musician.
We were fortunate to have Christy-Lee and Bob (Dr Robert) joining us this evening to perform their own material. First up was a song called ‘I’m on Fire’, a simmering song about fire and passion: ’You fill me with such emotion… when you’re around me the temperature starts to rise …’ The words then appeared to call for help to put the fire out but it didn’t sound like she really wanted that to happen, to be honest. The second song doesn’t yet have a name but was a lively blues. Christy-Lee has such an expressive voice and Dr Robert’s guitar work creates an approximately perfect foil for the voice and the song.
Clive was next on and sang us two songs accompanying himself on guitar. The first was ‘Fiddlers Green Song’ recorded in 1968 by Tim Hart and Maddy Prior on the album Folk Songs of Olde England Vol 2. It is a sailor’s vision of the afterlife where the girls are all pretty and the beer is free, among other things. He then invited us to join in with him on ‘Moonshadow’, the well-known song by Cat Stevens. Choruses of ‘Moonshadow’ resonated around the room.
To accommodate every performer’s two songs, we started to go around a second time. I played a version of ‘Fly me to the Moon’ again on piano with Manus adding jazz guitar. He then performed ‘Georgia’ solo with a creative vocal and some great jazz accompaniment on guitar.
Chris and Heather sang Chris’s ‘Little Red Car’ together: ‘You, me, the need for speed…’ and we were looking towards the end of the evening by this point.
Ray and Jim sang Ry Cooder’s ‘Why don’t you try me?’ They were taking it in turns with the lead vocals and backing each other. Jim took the lead in this one. They completed their performance with another good singalong song: ‘Hi, Ho, Silver Lining’. A Jeff Beck song from far away 1967. Of course everyone joined in.
Turner and Wesson (Ron and Nigel in another disguise) were in the desert watching the stars with ‘Peaceful, Easy Feeling’ originally sung by the Eagles, much more recently in 1972. Their final song was Huddie Ledbetter’s ‘Goodnight Irene’. There was more singing in the audience.
Dr Robert and Christy-Lee brought the evening to a close. Christy-Lee was apparently singing ‘Billie Holiday’ then ‘Love Song’, a bluesy offering, through a wine fog and clutched her songbook to be sure the words were not far away. Dr Roberts guitar and foot-tapping brought the perfect accompaniment to Christy-Lee’s beautiful voice.
Aaaah, what a way to end the evening.
I felt really privileged to have been asked to step in to run this evening. With the jumbled start, the extra stage-management, tuning, adjusting of sound etc the outcome was a wonderfully rich and rewarding evening of music in many different styles, old songs, new songs, covers and self-penned, thank you all.
With thanks obviously also to the dedicated F&B ‘committee’ team present (Simon, Clive and Chris) for making the evening run so well in spite of the pervasive edge of chaos, setting up, sound management and cable handling/detangling then getting it all back into the cupboard at the end. I salute you.
I can start breathing again now. That was a bit intense! Hoping to see you all again soon, Ella
6 Bells Web log Feb18 2020.
Another wet, windy February evening with treacherous driving conditions on route. Who would be prepared to come out on a night like this? On arrival, tumbleweed blew across the deserted car park and a funereal atmosphere pervaded the bar. Appreciating why some people would prefer to be in the coffin rather than give the eulogy at a funeral, I anticipated that hosting an open mic whilst simultaneously dying a death on stage would definitely constitute a double whammy; yet overseeing one’s demise in a near empty room might be the best I could hope for tonight, unlike the subject of my first chosen video, who ably copes with one of the potential pitfalls of performing live - but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Once I’d felt my way round the walls and turned on the lights, I was very grateful to see that Simon had set up the equipment. Due to circumstances beyond his control he was unable to attend that evening; oh, how we’ll miss your sagacity and wisdom, your dead pan drollery, your reassuring presence - your clearing away the kit at the end of the evening.
I settled down for a long wait as the hour approached. Could this be a first? Inevitably not, for in dribs and drabs, bodies emerged from the gloom to present themselves for inclusion on the list. By eight-thirty, we had the makings of a credible evening of eclectic entertainment. Twelve performers in total, prepared to play solo or à deux.
I kicked off proceedings with the Hank William’s classic ‘You Win Again’ followed by ‘City of Stars’ from the film La La Land. John B. then joined me for ‘Fall at your Feet’ by Crowded House and as a finale we played ‘Riverside’, originally by the 1970’s acoustic guitar trio, America.
I duly resorted to my default position of wildly casting around for reasons why my performance was flawed - it had to be the frostbite, the foldback, the feedback, the acid flashback…sorry Lance, the sound man will always be the easiest target. Unperturbed, John B. soloed with his self-penned ‘Homeward’, and very accomplished it was too. No sound problems there.
A new face on the scene was Anthony, playing an acoustic with the appearance of a beautifully figured walnut burl top - either that or someone had had a go at it with a blow torch. Notwithstanding, Anthony gave us two self-penned numbers, ‘My Plastic Mind’ and ‘Day by Day’ - both agreeably professional and very well received. Was it just me or was there a hint of Eau de Gallagher detectable in the room? Anthony warned us mid song of an impending difficult chord - to my untutored eye a B♭7, or possibly a C911, a Cm11 or was it just plain old fashioned C11? I wish you‘d let on, Anthony.
Abandoning his desk duties, Lance of Seaford (Retired) was up next to perform two original numbers entitled respectively ‘Pick up Yer Dog S**t’ and ‘Mustn’t Grumble’ - the former self explanatory, the latter an unapologetic, unashamedly audacious pro-Tory anthem. Who’d have ever thought that of Lance, our very own South Coast Billy Bragg? A little bit of devilment on my part there but as always, clever, topical, insightful and melodic songs.
Ella arranged herself at the piano, laser powered LEDs flooding her sheet music, and gave us Joni Mitchell’s ‘Woodstock’, one of the most beautiful songs from the Summer of Love era (and Joni wasn’t even there, opting instead to watch the coverage on television!). Multi-instrumentalist Ella is a dab hand at the ivories - and so immersed was I by her technique, that I failed to note her second song. I can remember that it was also well received.
Up next was the turn of Penny accompanied by Keith on his ES-175 archtop, a splendid instrument allowing his prowess over a whole gamut of jazz chords to be ably demonstrated. Penny made light work of the blues classic ‘Careless Love’ à la Bessie Smith, and followed up with the traditional 12-bar blues ‘C.C. Rider’.
Keith continued solo with the Rodgers and Hart Jazz standard ‘My Funny Valentine’ and then a formidable a cappella version of an original piece entitled ‘Telescope’. I trust I got that factually right, Keith.
The ever patient and accommodating Clive followed next with Gerry Rafferty’s ‘The Royal Mile’, a performance that pulsed with energy and evocation. Gerry Rafferty obviously had a thing for popular odonyms and his most famous song featured a saxophone solo by Raphael Ravenscroft, who sadly died aged sixty. Ravenscroft claimed that ‘Baker Street’ irritated him because his solo was flat. Never mind, it reputedly earned him £80,000 a year in royalties. Clive’s second number was his own original ‘Is it Summer so Soon?’ - if only, if only.
Now the turn of Lisa and Jason. Lisa told us that she had come across one of Jason’s discarded poems, which was rescued and turned into the lovely song ‘Cat’s Cradle’. This was followed by Stephen Stills’s ‘Helplessly Hoping’. True to the spirit of Crosby, Stills and Nash, Jason forgot his lines thus rewarding us with another round. Such close harmony and beautiful intertwined guitars…I’ll say no more.
John came armed with an acoustic plus a seven stringed electric to perform a number from one of the greatest albums ever recorded… there, it’s in print! If you ever saw Pink Floyd or one of the tribute bands (which can sound better than the original) ‘Breathe’ is the track that personifies Dark Side of the Moon in it’s entirety. This was followed by ‘Another Brick in the Wall (Part Two)’, a Roger Waters inspired epic of a number. Even in the environs of a folk club, it prompted the audience to light up their iPhones and sing along to the chorus.
Helga Dittmar enticed Keith to accompany her on Joni Mitchell’s ‘Carey’, a song inspired by the man she spent time with in a hippie cave commune on Crete (Joni, not Helga). There followed a sad blues ‘Too Sad to Sing the Blues’ which involved bashing the guitar top for percussive effect - as Helga explained, ‘it does make it go out of tune!’ There’s room here for a very funny domestic joke… but I’ll stifle the urge. There appear to be several incarnations of this desperate blues out there, but unfortunately whatever I noted at the time was washed off the page by my tears.
The evening was drawing to a close and with what remained, I elected to ask Anthony to return for one number and then draw names from a hat. Anthony chose The Who’s ‘Behind Blue Eyes’, a behemoth of a number, but ably carried off all the same.
Penny and the indomitable Keith were then drawn and returned for another troubled blues number possibly called ‘Troublin’ Blues’, but I can’t say for sure since at this point I was having trouble keeping a lid on my own emotions.
Lisa and Jason were drawn next and elected to perform ‘What a Wonderful World’ - and what a wonderful end to a night that had initially shown so little promise.
Thank you to all the performers, the regulars, Lance on sound duties and Clive for stage management.
It just remains to mention my chosen videos. John Martyn’s live performance of ‘Solid Air’ begins three and a half minutes in, after replacing a broken string with the aid of his teeth (he did enjoy a drink!). Although a virtuoso rendition, it’s also a masterclass in how not to present yourself on stage - but I doubt he ever suffered stage fright.
Pentangle’s ‘Light Flight’ was used as the theme from “Take Three Girls”, BBC1’s first colour drama series in 1969.
Finally, Cara Dillon’s ‘Hill of Thieves’, written by Cara and her husband Sam Lakeman who is also performing on guitar.
Tuesday February 4th
It was a star- studded evening at Chiddingly. - But instead of studying the stars, we decided to play some music and sing some songs.
I began with one of my own songs, 'Runaround', which gives advice about avoiding the type of woman that might be trouble. "That girl's just a Runaround - She's gonna bring you down - She's gonna fool around with all the boys in town." This song has a guitar solo in the middle, but I chose to play the solo at the start, as an extended intro to the song. Have I ever mentioned that all my songs are available on line? Yes I have. ( Search Clive Woodman).
My second effort was a song that I was going to do two weeks ago, but I had a problem. - I wasn't here two weeks ago, so I couldn't do it!
This was 'The Weaver and the Factory Maid'. a song done by Steeleye Span, as well as by many others. In my video choices I have put the Steelye Span version, with Maddy Prior singing it as it should be done.
Some of you will have heard my story of Maddy Prior giving me first aid. Some years ago,Kate and I went up to a three day music workshop run by Maddy at Stone Barn. On one of the days, I fell down some steps in her house, and cut my knee quite badly. Maddy leapt into action, and kindly bandaged me up. I wonder how many other people could make such a claim?
There was a new face tonight, in the shape of Derek Walmsley. - Although he said later that he had been here years ago. Brave man to come back a second time!
He gave us a cheerful cover of the Bobby Darin song -'Things.' He managed to immediately engage us in audience participation, and we echoed the lyrics in the appropriate places, and 'Things'. - It's not often we get audience reaction so early in the proceedings.
Derek followed this with the song done by Gene Pitney 'Twenty four hours from Tulsa'.
My research tells me that the quickest time from Gatwick to Tulsa is 15hrs 40mins. (with 2 stops). If you add to this the time from Chiddingly to Gatwick, and check-in time etc. - you could still get to Tulsa with plenty of time to spare.
Mark Lynch took to the floor now, with delicious 'Milk and Honey', a song from 1965 by Jackson C. Frank. Then Mark told us of the influential style of Lonnie Johnson, who at one time played in Louis Armstrong's band. Mark did a cool version of the Johnson song 'Tomorrow Night'.
But this is still tonight, and next up, we heard Jim A'Court, with two of his own compositions. Jim told us some sad news about his bass player Gyn. She is very seriously ill, and he dedicated his first song to her. - 'Turning my heart'. He followed on with his 'Get out of here'. Thanks Jim, but we'll stay a bit longer.
Another new face tonight. Christine Halpin. Others have seen her before, but this was her first time here, and she gave us a couple of her own songs, 'Don't call me Baby ' and 'Not until the deal is done' A very nice pure voice, and guitar, and some clever lyrics.
The 'Grand Master' was next on the list. Simon Watt always gives us a cool and assured performance. 'Beauty Way' by Eliza Gilkyson was his first offering, followed nicely by Gillian Welch's 'Bar room girls'. Simon assured us that he knows very little about bar room girls.
Lance Maleski has kindly been on the sound desk tonight, but I think he was relieved to have a break from it when his turn to sing came up. He gave us two of his songs, the poignant 'This is war' came first, then 'No going back on love'. I think he might now want to compose a song called ' No going back on desk' !
Lisa Jackson and Jason Loughran make a very nice duo, with their calm vocals and gentle harmonies and pure guitar notes. We heard their take on Bob Dylan's 'Tonight I'll be staying here with you', and then changing instruments for Mick and Keith's 'Ruby Tuesday', Jason took Lisa's guitar, and Lisa, instead of picking strings, was bonging a Bongo.
Manus McDaid was back with us tonight, and with one of his fine guitars he accompanied Helen Hall as she sang the Bill Withers song 'Ain't no sunshine', followed by Curtis Mayfield's 'People get ready'. Manus then stayed on to do his version of 'Singing the blues'.
Patiently waiting in the wings was Keith Willson,this time without guitar or piano, to read from his own book of poems. He performed two of them with great gusto, 'Double bass seeks love', and 'The Jazz drummer'.
Keith stayed on the floor to be joined by Helga Dittmar playing flute to accompany his reading of 'Day job shoes'. This was followed by an over - long preamble to introduce
herself singing 'Take heart', a song in German ( 'Ermutigung'), with Keith on guitar now to accompany her. Although having waited rather long for it, we actually did enjoy it.
Luckily, there was still some time left before the end, so I invited Christine Halpin back again, and she gave us another of her own songs,' Partners in crime', and then I wanted Manus to do another, which was his version of 'Murrays bar'. Helen also did an extra song, unaccompanied , -'The ballad of Lucy Jordan.'
To end the evening, Derek took the floor again, and managing to get audience participation once more, he sang the Ben E King song 'Under the boardwalk', with us joining in with the lyrics of the title.
So, a star -studded night, and a moonlit journey home.
Thanks to everyone who came tonight, and the usual admiration to all 'The Crew'
There was frost my windscreen when I set out but it was a cosy evening for those performers who came along to the traditional folk or whatever evening. We were all there on time for a prompt start which didn’t happen. Ooops. The number of performers was not overwhelming and there was a relaxed atmosphere. The extremes of temperature had upset several guitars. This was an evening of more than usual tuning time. With a list of ten performers/duos, we also had time for a second go around.
I began the evening playing a medley of traditional Irish tunes on a whistle having mentioned that, whilst a lot of traditional songs are about tragedy, death and loss of maidenhead, or just good stories, there is a vast amount of instrumental music for marching, celebrating, partying and dancing. I started with Dennis Enright’s slide, followed by Apples in Winter (a jig) then The Templehouse (a reel). I am no expert with a whistle and was doubtless not up to speed, but it was an interesting start. I played bouzouki to the song 10,000 Miles/Fare Thee Well/The Turtle Dove. The song has acquired slight variations and different names over time.
Simon took on second position and gave us his version of ‘The Sussex Drinking Song’ which he had found in a book and created his own accompaniment. Ale was mentioned frequently, specifically ‘drinking strong ale with gentlemen’ as were the Downs and various places in Sussex. There was a line that said something about turning his face against the snow in November, so this is certainly an old song. November has become late summer now hasn’t it? Nicely done, thank you Simon.
His second song was a sea shanty kind of thing about walking the plank with a jolly refrain ‘Yo ho ho, yo ho ho, here’s to a dead man’s throttle and a dead man’s teeth in a bottle’. The later third song was ‘See what you lost’ when you leave this world, in his familiar country style.
I don’t remember seeing a piano accordion at the Six Bells before, but tonight Frank was playing one and started with ‘Wee Marie from Uist’ which Greg joined him on playing flute. The flute hovered and floated over the instrumental version on accordion of Edith Piaf’s ‘L’hymne à l’amour’ which followed. Their later songs were a version of ‘Greensleeves’ which at 500 years, Frank reminded us, was definitely an old song. Their last tune was a jig by Finnish composer Lars Hokpers.
As another first in my experience of the Folk and Blues club, there was a Coldplay song. John sang and he and Mark played guitar to ‘Fix You’. These were the first guitars to react to the variations in temperature. (I like enjoy listening to Coldplay) John continued with a solo version of ‘Let me Down Easy’ followed by Mark playing ‘Angie’. This instrumental was made popular by Bert Jansch in 1965, but was composed by Davy Graham and released as ‘Anji’ in 1962. There is a version of it by Simon and Garfunkel released in 1966 as ‘Anji’. On Youtube Paul Simon plays it with his brother Ed. It became a very popular piece. Last time Mark attempted to play this, there were various assorted gremlins in the sound system but this time it went very well.
Terry Lees sang us a song called ‘Canadie Isle’ about a girl being taken on board a ship dressed as a man and risked being thrown into the sea by the crew. In spite of the fury of the sailors at finding her on board, she eventually came to marry the sea captain and be dressed in silks and satins, like ‘the finest of ladies on Canadie Isle’. His very traditional folk music continued with a reel called ‘Princess Royal’ which is apparently a favourite with Morris Dancers. This was an intricate instrumental that might suggest needing more than the usual quota of fingers to play it. He played another instrumental later on: Miss McLeod’s Reel.
Chris Martin came to the stage next and mentioned Chris Martin (the other one) and how the fame of the other one lead him to change his name to CJ Martin and admitted that he liked the other one’s work. His guitar, apparently very unusually, had also reacted to the variation in temperature. His traditional intro was ‘Journey’ a CJ Martin song which lamented how ‘we find ourselves running out of time’. Time featured in his next song: ‘Tree’. He rescued a tree from outside Jayne Ingles’ door, so the story goes, took it home, planted it and watched it grow and reflected on the experience through this song. Later on he sang ‘Another Journey’, a song about the koi carp next door.
Jason and Lisa followed, having also to tune guitars. His first song ‘Simple Smiling Face’ presented under the name of Seamus O’Luterane was apparently in 13/27 time. Lisa added some percussion using a shaker and some lovely harmonies. Their second song which Jason learnt from his father was more in the blues tradition. This was ‘Glory of Love’, the one that goes ‘that’s the story of, that’s the glory of….’ by Big Bill Broonzy. ‘Black is the Colour’ (of my true love’s hair) is very well known Irish traditional song which was beautifully delivered as their third song of the evening.
Heather enjoys doing her research for folk evenings and tonight she started with a traditional song recorded by The Incredible String Band: ‘Black Jack Davey’, known by many other titles including ‘The Raggle Taggle Gypsy’ and hails from the Scottish borders, with it first being published possibly in 1720, in the Roxburghe Ballads. Like many old traditional songs it has many variations. Very nice. Her second song ‘The Water is Wide’, also known as ‘O Waly, Waly’ which she remembered being sung by James Taylor, but whose provenance is drawn from as far back as the 1600s and may reflect a true story of love that fades and goes cold. I love the sense of history around these very old songs too. Thank you Heather. Adding some humour to the evening, she later sang ‘Paddy McGinty’s Goat’ … ‘the angel with the whiskers on is Paddy McGinty’s Goat’.
Whilst we are in the realms of traditional folk, The Incredible String Band is worth a closer look. They became a strong influence of counter-culture in the 1960s, integrating a wide variety of traditional music forms and instruments. They were important in the development of ‘world music’. They were a hippy reaction to pop music and pop culture and the accepted norms of the time. One of the band’s founders, Robin Williamson, was a very accomplished multi-instrumentalist musician, songwriter and storyteller from Scotland. In1965 he recorded fiddle-banjo arrangements of traditional Scottish and Irish songs with Clive Palmer, a folk musician and banjoist and another founding member of The Incredible String Band (although he left very early on). In 1968 he recorded the live album ‘Wheel of Fortune’ with John Renbourn, well known for his guitar collaborations with Bert Jansch and his role in the band Pentangle. The Incredible String Band was established in 1966. The other founding member was Mike Heron, also a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He played sitar, amongst other things, which was very unusual. There were other members of the band including Licorice McKechnie and Rose Simpson. The band folded in 1974 but was reformed in 1999 and continued to perform with various line-ups until 2006. I remember listening over and over to the double album Wee Tam and the Big Huge released in 1968, as was their other very successful album The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter.
Helga brought us sharply back from the realms of history and heartbreak of the past to a more current drama which happened within the past two weeks. She had travelled with her six year old granddaughter to meet family in Germany and all went very well until they arrived at the airport for the return journey when Sophia collapsed. Helga was at her bedside in hospital for two days. Fortunately Sophia has recovered and the emergency has passed. Helga usually plays flute or guitar, but at this point she sang ‘Lili Marleen’ a cappella, in German. Sophia had asked Helga for her ‘lullaby’ and she sang this for us this evening. This song was one of the greatest hits of the World War II period and having become the most popular song for the German troops, it crossed the boundaries of war to become popular on all sides. It was originally recorded in 1939 by Lale Anderson.
Supported by Keith on electric guitar, in one of their improvisations, Helga delivered a very jazzy/bluesy version of St James’s Infirmary. It was first made famous by Louis Armstrong in 1928. Keith played some very cool guitar and we were temporarily transported into a smokey jazz dive atmosphere.
In absolute contrast to the previous emotional intensity, Keith went on to sing that well known ditty from the nether regions out there somewhere: ‘There’s a Hole in my Skoda’. ‘Use Isopon dear Henry….. too wet dear Lisa … use hardener …. Try Halfords … ‘ the song went on in the usual ‘hole-in-my-bucket’ style and raised some laughs along the way. It is very funny given the reputation that Skoda had when its cars first came to the UK. When I was doing my degree in Brighton, a fellow student regularly got ribbed and teased about his Skoda, which did look like a tin box on wheels. Of course the Czech Skoda became a variation of VW in 1991 and the reputation changed. The song’s relevance is possibly pre-1991.
Keith followed this outbreak of humour with a pastiche of tunes/songs that rolled themselves together when Keith was looking out on the Chiswick flyover at some point in 1970 at 3 in the morning. His final song with Helga joining him on flute, was ‘The Slow One’ about meeting up again by chance after years of separation: ‘Dance the slow one and make the slow one last’.
And so we arrived at the end of an evening rich in content and interpretation with differing styles and different instruments.
With thanks to Simon for setting up, to Chris and Mark on the sound system and everyone who turned up, especially to those who played and sang something from the immense and wonderful catalogue of folk music. I concluded with a simple version accompanied by bouzouki, of ‘The Parting Glass’… ‘Good luck and joy be with you all……….’
See you next time, Ella
On a very mild but rainy Tuesday we gathered in the pub ready to start a new year of music at the Six Bells Folk & Blues Club. I started with “Soft Spot” with a little help from Helga on flute and Martin on base. I followed this with a Tom Paxton song “When I go to see my son”. Having got the evening started I then introduced Mark.
Usually any problems with the sound system are remedied during the first couple of songs but sadly, for Mark this was not the case. His first song was Donovan’s “Guinevere” and the next was “Running for home” by Bert Jansch. Playing this was made almost impossible because the main speakers were powered down and all the sound came from the monitor. Fortunately Mark got another song later in the evening “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” a Rudy Toombs song from the 50’s which, with the gremlins ironed out, came across perfectly. Sorry Mark, but thanks for running the desk for the rest of the evening.
Next we had Chris who excited the audience by announcing that his next blockbuster album “Born Grumpy” is soon to be released. Counting the days Chris. His songs tonight were “On paper wings”, “Dangerous moonlight” and “Little red car”. I can hear the jingle of his PRS payments from here – ooooh aaaah.
Then it was Helga’s turn to shine and she sang us the only song she has ever written called “Monday morning lovecrash blues” (great title) followed by a slightly funky version of “Matty Goves” thanks to some guitar work from Keith with Ella on the bodhran.
More original music followed from Bob and Christy a bluezy song called “Love song” and then “Silent night” (no, not the carol), finally, in the second half of the evening they gave us the James Taylor song “You’ve got a friend” this was just the right song and the audience joined in.
Time for Ella - our only pianist of the evening. The songs she chose were Sandy Denny’s “Who knows where the time goes” and, because her grandson James was one today, “Rockabye sweet baby James”, the James Taylor song.
Clive next with what else but his annual rendition of the Abba song “Happy New Year” and then a song from Local Hero written by Mark Knoffler. Lastly, to finish the evening he sang the Emerson Lake & Palmers song “Lucky man”.
Keith is a great songwriter and musician, he gave us “Have you ever” and the slightly raunchy “Brighton rock” before being joined by Penny for “C C Rider” and “Walking blues”.
Heather ignored the heckling from Chris and sang us Melanie’s “Look what they’ve done to my song Ma” with plenty of joining in by the audience. Then Carole King’s “Will you still love me tomorrow”.
Finally Lance, another singer songwriter who had been patiently waiting his turn gave us “You’d better eat your vegetables or you won’t grow” (well it is Veganuary) and “Gardeners world”.
Thanks again to Lance for the sound and Martin for the base line.
My videos - I have chosen a little Country with Rodney Crowell, Roseanne Cash and John Paul White. Some cool jazz from Postmodern Jukebox (nice) and lastly the little guy Lafka Gravis from Taxi’s (you remember, with Danny DeVito) doing an imitation of Elvis Presley.
What a hectic and fun time! Opening the evening, and being completely overwhelmed by having thirteen acts at the start (there were more to come!), I arrived at the microphone having forgotten both to decide what to play and to bring my guitar on stage. I didn’t fancy parting the throng to get to my guitar at the back, so deep from my musical unconscious I sang Leadbelly’s Grey Goose accompanied by beautifully in-time handclaps and chorus singing from the audience.
Gathering Storm is a new three-piece band featuring Lance Maleski on vocals with Mark and John on guitar and electric bass. They played Hendrick’s Red House and Clapton’s Wonderful Tonight. Lance was then left at the microphone as the others skilfully cleared the stage of equipment and sang two of his own: Christmas Song and Wiggly Worm.
Mark, now a frequent visitor to the bells and now a Committee member teamed up with John to do REM’s Losing My Religion. They separated to do a song each.
David Hants did two of his own: Momentos and an instrumental.
Bob and Christy-Lee came next with their quiet sophistication and moody Give Me Your Loving and No Indication. Having first shown up a few clubs ago they’re becoming regulars.
Ella was on form with her piano playing supporting her two songs: Danny’s All-Star Joint, a stompy 12-bar by Ricky Lee Jones, and Neil Young’s Like a Hurricane.
Chris Martin, as always, played guitar for two of his own songs No Indication and Guy but, as he had a sore throat, Heather very ably did the vocals. There followed a spectacle. Chris and Heather put on a (shhh!) backing track , on the spurious pretence that we might like a good time as it was a party, and moved to Chocolate. Heather returned to sanity with White Christmas.
Blues jam alert! Penny Payne, backed by Terry Lees and Yours Truly on guitars, came up with her soulful blues. Muddy Water’s Hoochie Coochie Man and Sweet Home Chicago - that very same rocker that features in the Blues Brothers film and first recorded by Robert Johnson in 1936.
John Villiers had been very welcome at my last hosting back in August. The Bunjie’s veteran repeated his epic journey from Islington and played two self-composed instrumentals Over the Hills and Leaving Home Tuesday. He has a new CD too.
Helga, a stalwart collaborator with many of the Six Bells friends and relations, has reintroduced her own vocal and guitar performances. This time she did Joni Mitchell’s River. She invited me up for a blues, so we did The Slow One. They said flute would never work on the blues. They got it wrong.
A trio of Jim Neale on Fiddle, Sue Whittaker on guitar and James Asher on percussion entertained us ably. Jim and Sue are some of the brains behind the Crown and Anchor folk club in Eastbourne. James is a first-class drummer and runs a magic recording studio.
Terry Lees’ spider fingers filled the room with the rich sound of his open tunings. He played a medley of instrumental Christmas carols.
There’s not usually a break at the Bells, but tonight we took five minutes to get sorted with the cheesy concoctions, puff pastry delights, chips and dips on offer. A big thank you to our landlord Paul and the bar staff who make us feel at home at the Bells.
Simon Watt’s deserves honourable mention for fighting off the alien snuffle organisms attacking him and staying to the end. His song about the various interpretations of a penguin on a Christmas card by great artists is funny at any time, but was aptly seasonal tonight.
Now the mea culpa. I lost part of the scribbled notes I made on the evening. I know Clive did something seasonal but I don’t have a note of it. Sincere apologies to anyone else I might have left out. It’s you are all very memorable, but my brain’s too small to remember all of the (eventually) sixteen acts and what they did. And I should get this out before I’m lapped!
Thanks to our sound men throughout the year Chris, Lance, Simon. The mix is always great and feedback unknown. Champion!
Such a night! The days when we sang dirges in the dark are long over. A Happy New Year to us one and all!
For my videos this time I’ve chosen two exciting ensembles and a Jazz Guitarist.
Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys are a Cajun band from Louisiana, performing La Danse de Mardi Gras, and La Boutine Souriante are a French-Canadian band, doing Le Reel des Soucoupes Volontes.
Bill Frissel, the sometime avant-garde sometimes straight-head jazzman plays his version of St Louis Blues.
26th November 2019
I stepped in at the last minute to host the evening. The weather was foul and it meant the numbers of acts were down on previous sessions. As a consequence, some performers were able to perform additional songs if they wished.
I started with ‘Sadie the Flatulent Horse’ and ‘I’ll Do Anything’ and came back to perform ‘Dementia’ and ‘Gardeners World’
Mark was up next and performed these 3 songs ‘City of Stars’ from La La Land, ‘Anji’ and ‘One Scotch, One Bourbon, one Beer’
Clive Woodman performed the song made famous by Elvis Costello ‘A Good Year for the Roses’ and ‘Saltwater’ (written in 1991, I was wrong). Clive came back a second time and performed the amusing ‘Water Melons’ and ‘Over the Lancashire Hills’ a song made famous by Fairport Convention
Keith Willson performed his own songs ‘Brighton Rock’ and ‘Baby Steps’ a song about taking chances, not necessarily a song about babies. I requested ‘Requiem’ and Keith performed it. He finished with a song ‘The Worst Thing’
Neil Grove…I am not sure we were prepared for the shock. The best Dobro I have ever heard said Bob Taylor and I can only agree and I hope he comes again!! I am pretty sure his first instrumental was untitled but I was mesmerised and I might have missed the title…he definitely performed ‘Mississippi Blues’ and ‘Stormy Monday’
Bob Taylor and Cristy-Lee played 3 songs ‘Goodbye To The Blues’ ‘Billy Holliday’ and ‘Love Song’….beautiful!!!
Bob Melrose was our last performer and he performed his own songs ‘Asylum Day’ ‘Like A Summer’ ‘Seesaw’ and a song ‘Jelly Roll Blues’
It was a fab night with some fantastic talent!!
Jason’s Return (12th November 2019)
And so he shall always return
Holding sway at the dimming of the day
And so he shall sing of strange sailings
Remembering times with distant spirits so fey
And so we get armed with a lance
To keep faith with the eternal blues
And so to the thrill that never shall leave us
Nor shall our old gin house muse
And so the Wicker Man still burns within us
Filling our dreams as our heads lay on pillow
And so we obsess with the darkness
It curls around like the embrace of the willow
And so we let the dark ghosts linger
Forever returning through our song
And so brass snaking like smoke curling
Feeling the jazz life all night long
And so the star dust tries to settle
Getting caught in the prevailing wind
And so the song goes on forever
Let’s love and support our fellow kind
And so we watch the world go by
Beholding such beauty from afar
And so to those truly deserving
For they returned as light from distant star
And so we drink in the tea and oranges
From the hand of your intense new love
And I dream of your mind and body
The bird on the wire is our one dove
And so we were embraced once again
From root to branch of the laburnum tree
And so we welcomed the golden chains
Capturing such beauty that we all could see
And so we live in this world of pain
But our spirits never let go the celebration
And so we breathe the air and make love again
Not for new life, but merely pure elation
And so we struggle to avoid the street
Where poor souls live under gathering cloud
And so our dreams may wash away in the rain
Another homeless life ends under dirty shroud
And so we still sing of sin and the fallen
Flickering lights across the backs of the beast
And so to the fields and long may they feed us
For on love and food . . . and music . . . . we forever shall feast
Jason, November 2019
Thank you to Lance and his Band Unknown, Mark Lynch, Chris Martin, Heather & Simon, Bob & Christy Lee, Helga & Lisa, John, Simon, and Jim, for all your performances.
I hope this “blog” poem is something a bit different and that you enjoy reading it. J
The person that runs the evening writes the blog
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