There were some very welcome new acts this evening as well as many familiar friends; there was even a smattering of audience. The variety of genres and topics on offer was spicy indeed.
I opened with Mean Old Frisco, a song I learned from Eric Clapton’s 461 Ocean Boulevard and haven’t played since my 1980s blues days in London. Lee, a newcomer to the club, but not to the Six Bells, came up to do two of his own songs. Lee has played in the much heavier Friday and Saturday night sessions, but came to the club happy to be able to do his own stuff. His original subject in 29/5/53 was the ascent of Everest, told at epic length and from memory. He then picked up his admirable 12-string to do a same-sex love song for a sailor. A great wordsmith and very welcome to come again, just like the next new act up, Anna. Anna read an epic poem – a fantasy based on a conceit of Eve having a dinner date with The Devil. She read from her pamphlet with language which varied from the exotic to the erotic, with lots of gourmet food and drink thrown in. Anna can be seen at an open mic in Lewes.
Lisa, unusually performing without Jason, who was prevented from singing by a cold, performed The Bolt from the Blue in her wonderful soprano voice. She was joined by Laura, her tambourine-wielding twin, for Let Your love Flow, originally by the Bellamy brothers. Lyric sheets were handed round and Laura’s infectious enthusiasm catalysed a good old sing-song.
Manus, the resident jazzer, paid a tribute to Jeff Beck with Charles Mingus’s Goodbye Pork Pie Hat. Jeff, who was a resident of nearby Wadhurst, can be seen playing the song on You Tube. Mingus wrote it on the night he heard that Lester Young had died - tributes within tributes. I did my best on the jazz chords under Manus’s bluesy plucking. We went on to do I Ain’t Superstitious, a much less taxing three-chorder.
Chris Martin, the prolific songwriter, sang his own Tick Tock, with Laura on Tambourine. Followed by a satire on blues playing ‘Scuse Me While I Play My Scrappy Blues.
Emma writes laconic lyrics to die for. Strumming on her ukulele, and declaiming in a low register sprechgesang, she dealt admirably with dogs and doggy poo. We were very amused.
Another newcomer, Nancy, walked on clad in clogs. We hastily assembled a rhythm section to back her, made by Helga on flute, Laura on Tambourine and Moi on guitar. We managed to cobble (!) together a kind of appropriate backing as she danced a reel and then a march. Let no one say there is not variety at the Bells.
Helga was up next with flute. A free improvisation in the Dorian mode with Manus on guitar.
She then called me up to do my own Baby Steps, which has plenty of space for her beautiful melodic lines.
Heather, now with many songs and recordings under her belt, delved into the world of civil engineering, specifically concrete, with a catchy little number Granular Sub-Base Type 1, which even managed to include a kind of singalong chorus. She followed up with her song of relationship-related obliviousness Yes Dear.
Jason, wielding a new solid-body electric, performed his own tribute to Jeff Beck, using many of Beck’s techniques. At the end Brenda announced ‘That was serious guitar playing!’ Oh yes.
It was Brenda’s birthday and we had a special short break to eat the cakes she’d kindly brought and, of course, to sing Happy Birthday. Having managed to reassemble the throng from their conversations (probably the reason we don’t usually have breaks) she performed a political poem Empathy about the attitudes of the rich towards the poor. Oh yes, again. She then turned to a story of unrealised love Aspects of Love.
Steph, with her unique haunting voice, sang Don’t Leave Your Husband in Winter, a song about how it’s never the right time to leave someone, but ending on the positive note: ‘just run for your life.’ She then did the pop ballad You Say it Best When You Say Nothing at All.
John played a very convincing opening to McCartney’s Band on the Run, getting the very individual tone of the guitar track just right, and then launched into Hendrix’s Hey Joe. Thanks to John for patiently waiting his turn as the audience progressively thinned, and the same to the very last act Frank. With great drive and enthusiasm, as always, Frank played Carmelina and finished off the evening with Dylan’s Love Minus Zero, No Limit.
Thanks to Jason on sound and those who set up and dismantled the PA. It really was an exciting evening, with lots of new faces, much original material and a thoroughly engaged audience. One of those evenings when you remember why you do it.
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