Although Simon was due to run this evening at the Six Bells folk and blues, he is hiding away somewhere downing antibiotics. He has made his video selection, but all other duties were shared between Chris on sound, Clive on introductions and me, Ella taking notes for this blog.
It was a later start at about 8.45 and we got underway with a modest list of nine, but as often happens with a smaller gathering, it turned into a very varied and enjoyable evening, of course. Clive opened the evening with the upbeat ‘Meet me on the Corner’ (Mr Dream Seller) from Lindisfarne’s second album Fog on the Tyne. He followed with ‘Terminus’ from Ralph McTell’s second album Spiral Staircase. What’s with the second album thing Clive?
Pat followed Clive with two beautiful clear a cappella songs: ‘Edwin’ (Edwin of the Lowlands Low) as performed by Steeleye Span, as well as others. Her second song ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’ taken from the George and Ira Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess.
More clear singing from Natasha came next. With some accomplished guitar accompaniment she sang ‘The Creggan White Hare’, a delightful song about the white hare escaping from the huntsmen and their hounds. I could have cheered for the hare. She went on to sing the traditional ‘The Tides are Flowing’…. ‘one morning in the month of May….’
Chris the Sound took the stage next, telling us that this had been a sad and gloomy year, which prepared us for his two songs ‘Wreckage’ .. ‘we’re out doing nothing and it takes up all our time ..and ‘Routine’. It’s all in the title. The year is still young, so here’s hoping the mood will improve.
I followed at the piano, with an attempt at Joni Mitchells’ beautiful early (1969) song ‘He Played Real Good For Free’ and my version of Lady or Lord Franklin. There are many versions of the song, which developed over the many years until Franklin was considered lost. Lady Franklin did sponsor her own search for her husband. I love the old piano, but playing it is always a bittersweet experience. Whether I complete a song successfully or less so, the dear old thing responds gallantly but is woefully out of tune. A selection or sequence of notes relatively in tune is divinely satisfying.
Frank followed me with Dylan’s ‘One of Us Must Know’ (Sooner or Later) which reminded him of his first girlfriend and the classical edifice that is Birmingham Town Hall. His second song was ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’, Procul Harem’s debut song which was released on 12th May 1967, went to number one on 8th June and stayed there for six weeks. No wonder a whole generation remembers it so well.
Just as on the last Bells evening, a band turned up unexpectedly. John, Brian and Megan travel under the name ‘Grasslands’. Brian and Megan are also a duo as ‘Red, Green and Blue’. Slightly confusing. ‘Twenty Years’ was their first song;.. ‘there’s a note under your front door that I wrote twenty years ago’ from a favourite band The Civil Wars, who have seriously broken up. Perhaps there’s a clue in the name they chose. On a lighter note, they sang John Martin’s ‘I’m Coming Home’. They produced some well-rounded sound and harmonies with guitars and mandolin. Having travelled all the way from Lamberhurst, they were invited to sing a third song: ‘Forget-Me-Not’.
Jason and Lisa ran their four songs together, starting with Jason’s own song ‘A Little Soul’ with characteristic fingerstyle accompaniment. Lisa joined him, for one night only as ‘Captain Bracegirdle’ from Noel Coward’s ‘Blithe Spirit’ (apparently) and together they sang some very lovely harmonies on Stephen Still’s ‘So the Task Begins’ (I must learn to live without you now) from his 1972 album Manassas. They performed Tom Waitt’s ‘Heart of Saturday Night’ with Lisa adding some sparkling guitar along with her vocal harmonies. She went on to sing Jimmy Cliff’s ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ solo (it’s gonna be a bright, bright, bright sunshiny day). Very Nice.
With plenty of time to go, Pat sang to us again, this time a Don McLean song ‘The Sea Man’ where ‘.. the fish that were left, were too poisoned to eat’. Natasha followed with Flora ‘Lily of the West’, a traditional Irish song that has become a traditional American song. ‘Enchanting’ said Clive.
I struggled to decipher the name of Chris’s third song ‘Ghosts’ in my notes, but there it was, with Lisa adding some pretty harmonies. (Just one third of the Martinets as Chris reminded us). I followed with Neil Young’s ‘Hurricane’ on the dear old piano. Jason sang the second Dylan song of the night: ‘Only a Hobo’ from his very early Gaslight album of 1962. Frank took to the piano to sing Hank Williams’: ‘Lost Highway’: I’m a rolling stone on the lost highway, just another guy on the lost highway.
‘Grasslands’ rounded off the evening with two folk songs. The first ‘Take Me Out Drinking Tonight’ as sung by Michael Marra, and the second, a popular English folk song by some different rolling stones: ‘I can’t Get No Satisfaction’.
According to Chris’s accounts there were 27 songs and 11 performers bringing music to the hallowed halls of the Six Bells this evening. I hope that Grasslands make the journey from Kent to see us again and that Simon will be germ-free to join us at Chris Martin’s Singer/Songwriter night on first of May.
See you soon, Ella
Six Bells Blog: 3 April 2018
The evenings have become lighter and the long winter is finally shuffling off, at last. Plenty of musicians had gathered, but as sometimes happens, not many non-performers at the beginning. However, it would be fair to say that initial impressions can be very misleading. We went on to have a very varied and action-packed evening.
St Patrick’s Day has been and gone. Because I missed that episode at the Six Bells, I started the evening with a traditional Irish song: P stands for Paddy, followed by Joni Mitchell’s: 'I think I understand', from her early album ‘Clouds’, accompanying myself on bouzouki.
George and Mary stepped forward to follow with Red River Valley and a second song that I failed to make a note of (sorry), but both were performed with characteristic confidence and lovely harmonies. Annie from Ashurst took the stage after them and performed beautifully a cappella, the traditional ‘Let no Man Steal Your Thyme’. Carey Mulligan sang this in the 2015 film ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’. As a traditional British/Irish song, there are several variations. Pentangle popularised the song in 1968. Taking up her guitar she then sang ‘Dimming of the Day’, written by Richard Thompson (of Fairport Convention fame).
Manus sang an Elvis B-side ‘Little Sister’, a rock and roll song written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman recorded by Elvis in 1961. Manus said he had heard this performed in country style, that would probably be Dwight Yoakam, and by Ry Cooder, with a collection of musicians and backing singers without the rock’n’roll edge, but this evening’s performance was more modest. He followed this with a Keith Willson song ‘The Worst Thing’ and Keith had arrived by this time to appreciate the performance of his work.
Stepping out from behind the sound desk, Chris Martin performed two of his own compositions. The first was ‘Journey’ and the second was ‘Another Journey’. The names were rather misleading. The two songs were distinctly different and spoke of different things. Whilst ‘Another Journey’ appeared more upbeat, the warning was that ‘the crash is coming’.
Paula climbed onto the stool and sang us her song ‘The Empty Chair’, waiting for someone to arrive and ‘my coffee doesn’t taste the same without you’. Her music flew away and Clive rushed forward to remedy the situation with a peg. Continuing in gentle guitar fingerstyle, she then sang the 1973 classic by Roberta Flack ‘Killing Me Softly’.
Glyn followed Paula with quiet confidence, singing his version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ from his 1984 album Various Positions. His second song by David Gates, was ‘Guitar Man’ from the 1972 album of the same name by Bread.
Simon gave us an Eliza Gilkyson song ‘Calm Before the Storm’ ….. ‘easy does it darlin’, let the good times roll’. A guy called Simon Watt is on Youtube singing this very song at the Six Bells about eleven months ago. His second song ‘Company of Friends’ by Danny Schmidt, Simon likes for his different approach and sentiments.
After a good deal of banter and some furniture moving, the Golgis: Ade, Tony, Nigel and Wolf, took the stage. They had travelled all the way from Worthing, across the border in West Sussex. This four man band had apparently last performed at the Six Bells fifteen years ago. Much to the delight of those gathered, Rupert Cobb was also joining them in their performance. We were promised a lot of volume and their first song was accompanied by a six string and twelve string guitar, snare drum and djembe. Whilst apologising for the noise they were about to make, there was total resistance to turning down the volume. I don’t think I got the name of the first song, but I did get the name of the second ‘Wayne’ twice instead. Sorry. This song included the playing of a very large recorder, a teapot and some impressive hat-juggling. Then a spiralling plastic funnel on the end of some plastic tube trumpeting in circles over our heads and a very long sustained note that had us holding our breath. To say this performance was unusual would be an understatement.
Their third song was a sing-along ditty about the ‘Hagfish’, an extraordinary and exceptionally revolting eel-like fish that creates huge amounts of defensive slime. I daresay some could equate this behaviour with that of various politicians. Over to those of you who write political songs. The actual fish is very unusual in that it has a bony skull with many alien-style teeth, but no backbone. It’s been operating successfully for 300 million years apparently. The song required the audience to respond to ‘It’s the hagfish’ with the reply of ‘What’s he like?’ It featured the ukulele and some virtuosity from Rupert. We were promised some even more piercing noise on the last song ‘Doc’s Tash’. It was very loud and like the other songs included powerful percussion. This one included the modest, wandering tambourine, more exquisite trumpet from Rupert and the totally irreverent bagpipes assaulting everyone’s ears. The bagpipes left the room, they returned to the room and ended on a traditional Scottish note.
Our senses were suitably stunned whilst being totally engaged. As they left at the end of the evening I wondered how they might describe their musical style. I was thinking musical theatre, circus, or something particularly colourful. Apparently they are ‘alternative folk’, maybe very alternative. Musical pantomime? ‘It’s the hagfish’…’What’s he like?’
Clive did immensely well to re-engage the audience following this delightful assault on the senses, making a joke about fish dinner then invoking Sunshine. Very appropriate for the obvious and very welcome change in the season. Clive has an apparent library of songs about the seasons. He produced another strong Cornish mining song ‘Cousin Jack’… ‘follow me down cousin Jack’.
Keith Willson brought the evening to a conclusion with his ‘Blue Passport Blues’ making observations about the political whys and wherefores of colour choices and his final song was ‘Climbing up a Rusty Ladder’ with the advice ‘don’t look down’. And so ended an unusually mixed and varied programme of artists and material.
Simon will be hosting the evening on the 17th. See you then, Ella
The person that runs the evening writes the blog
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