Six Bells Blog: 2 May 2017
I was advertised as a cowgirl for this evening’s open mic session, so arrived looking a bit western to add a bit of atmosphere. I have to note that there was an inclination towards check shirts, cowboy hats and cowboy boots which is an effort I really appreciated. Fairly low-key, but then we are British aren’t we and pink fluffy hats and sequined tasselled jackets may have been a step too far. Special hat mentions go to Jayne Ingles, Chris Liddiard and Chris Martin.
I have to say that from early in the evening, I had the film ‘Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid’ on my mind. I think it was due to there being several Dylan songs and the sound-man Chris Martin, wearing a very western man-in-black combination which, down to the hand-made boots, could have had him wandering through the background of the film even though he was wearing a bowler hat. As a result, I had to select a video of ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ from the film. There is a sense of brutal realism to the film-making.
On a much lighter note, I started the evening, accompanying myself on bouzouki, with ‘Killing the Blues’ which I know from the Alison Krauss and Robert Plant version, followed by ‘Did I shave my legs for this?’ by Deana Carter. Then we moved swiftly on. The evening was very much about moving swiftly on, because so many people turned up to perform, which was totally brilliant, but not without its difficulties. I have to apologise to everyone who sang and played who may have felt they were bundled swiftly into the spotlight and promptly out of it again. Ending up with a list of 17, it’s just not possible to have every one play between 5 and 10.
Manus followed me with the first Dylan song of the evening ‘Don’t think Twice it’s Alright’ and then played a piece in his jazz guitar style by pianist Erroll Garner. I didn’t catch the name, but it was beautifully executed.
Keith and Chris, otherwise known as ‘Hemlock’ gave us a duet accompanied by both on guitar of ‘Good Morning America how are You?’ or more correctly ‘The City of New Orleans’, written and immortalised by Willie Nelson. They continued with ‘Leaving on Jet Plane’, written by John Denver in 1966 and made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary.
The second Dylan song ‘When the Deal Goes Down’ came from Joseph. This song is from Dylan’s 32nd album ‘Modern Times’ released in 2006. He followed this with ‘The Weight’, a song by The Band released in 1968. For a drummer he seems to get on well with the guitar.
Chris Liddiard took the spotlight after Joseph, flaunting rather a good hat and cradling the guitar he brought home from Florida in 1980. Tim Izzard was due to accompany him, but this was not to be. Chris sang ‘I love you Because’, a Jim Reeves song and one of his favourites, clearly and beautifully. His second song, ‘The Day I Struck Gold’, another tuneful ballad, was apparently recorded by one of his White Horse friends in Nashville.
Chris Martin gave the mood a shake-up with the help of Lisa Jackson and Jayne Ingles singing ‘Songwriter’. He introduced this as a ‘fluffy’ song prompted and encouraged by Jayne. Martin n sax joined Chris, together with Lisa and Jayne on his second self-penned song ‘The Man’, written for Johnny Cash. The sax and female voices weaving around Chris’s lead was very rich and textural. Very nice, a ‘song about freedom and the price that people pay’.
Jayne followed Chris with the support of bass player Stewart Grimes. In the key of D she sang ‘Grandpa (tell me ‘Bout the Good Old Days)’, a song by the Judds' released in 1985. The bass filled out Jayne’s guitar accompaniment wonderfully and this continued onto her next song ‘Jolene’. This Dolly Parton song was released in 1973 as a single and as title track of the album. It must be added that Jayne was wearing an impressive western hat and a check shirt, giving us a very country and western performance.
Terry Lees changed the style again with his unique guitar style playing the ‘Roving Gambler’, an ‘oldie’: ‘I am a roving gambler, I've gambled down in town, Wherever I meet with a deck of cards I lay my money down, Lay my money down, lay my money down’. He followed this with a medley of traditional Appalachian tunes, very fast …. sooo fast, foot-tapping dancing music. He mentioned an Appalatian tune called ‘Grace Valley’, which was in there somewhere I guess.
Several solo spots were then condensed into a spontaneous band that included Chris Mansell on guitar, John Oddie on slide, Stewart Grimes on bass, Martin on saxophone and Terry Lees on guitar. ‘Corrinna, Corrina’ could be remembered as a Dylan song. He recorded a version of the song on his second album ‘Freewheelin’ ‘. The song dates back to early in the 20th century and was first recorded in 1928 by Bo Carter, but there were many variations of the song before this time. So it says here on the interweb. Chris took the vocal on this one and John sang on the next one: ‘Angel from Montgomery’.
I’m unsure what the third song was because I cannot interpret my writing, but I can remember some very nice solo spots from Terry, John, Chris Mansell, Stewart and Martin (and Manus joined in at the end on piano too). Very nice indeed. Stewart’s bass playing was excellent. I hope he joins us again at the Six Bells. He plays a very lovely six string fretless bass which I heard him say to someone, allowed greater expression. I think we probably noticed. Thank you Stewart.
Natasha brought us back to a very different vibe. She plays in Uckfield and is performing at the Uckfield Festival later in the year. She sang a Mick Hanly song; ‘Past the Point of Rescue’, with her lovely voice ‘Last night I dreamed you were back again …’. ‘Blue Moon of Kentucky’ was her second song and she said that she’d only printed it out that day to sing as a country song. I wouldn’t have guessed.
‘The Calm Before The Storm’ ‘ was Simon Watt’s first song…. ‘ Easy does it darlin', let the good times roll’. Simon usually has some interesting piece of information or story to tell, but everyone was moving on and off stage too quickly tonight it seemed, so he moved smoothly into his next song: ‘One More Song’… ‘I was in a run-down bar in San Diego …’ . I’m under the impression that Simon probably knows many country/bluegrass or similar songs, (I could be wrong there) but he didn’t convince us of his western convictions by the wearing of a hat, or a checked shirt. Perhaps he left the cowboy boots in the car too.
Pat, who usually performs in Uckfied, like Natasha, sang two songs ‘a cappella’ following Simon. The first was ‘The Ballard of Joe Hill’. Like many old or traditional songs there is real history to this song which I will share with you. Born Joel Emmanuel Hagglund in Sweden, Joe emigrated to the USA when he was about 23. He became involved in the Industrial Workers of the World, organising workers and writing political songs, speeches and satirical poems. He was executed in 1915 unjustly (probably) accused of murder. The trial was a big media event in Utah at the time. It is believed that he may have chosen to be seen as worth more to the labor movement as a dead martyr than by remaining alive, so he did not testify at the trial and did nothing to seek a pardon. Perhaps you all knew that, but I found it interesting. I don’t know how he could have written his own ballad if he was dead, but perhaps he did not die.
Pat’s second song was ‘Scarlet Ribbons’, a song written by Evelyn Danzig in 15 minutes in 1949 with lyrics by Jack Segal. Following its first release in 1949 it went on to become a ‘standard’ recorded by many different artists.
‘Country is not country without sad songs’ said Michael Aldridge, and so he sang ‘Blue Dream’, followed by a Hank Snow song: ‘I’m Nobody’s Child’. Definitely sad: ‘nobody wants me ‘cos’ I’m nobody’s child’. Boo hoo. ‘Sometimes it gets so lonely here, I wish I could die’. Very, very sad. Mission accomplished in the sad song department I think Michael.
But we’re still moving on quickly and must stop weeping, dry our eyes and pay attention to Caroline who sang two wonderful songs accompanying herself on banjo, starting with ‘Grandpa, tell me ‘bout the good ole days’ mentioning a version by the Judds. Followed by her self-penned song ‘Emily’. Caroline gave us the story of the song which was written following an experience she had in Australia. In a little fenced area she saw two graves. The story was that two girls had traveled 12 miles by horse and sought a cup of tea at a house. The owner of the house was not at home. One girl went off to walk in the woods, the other dressed herself in the man’s clothes and went on to play with his gun. By some terrible accident she shot her friend. One of the graves belonged to the girl who was shot and it was believed that the other belonged to the friend who shot her. That was the content of the song, sung to some very nice banjo playing and suitably sad judging by Michael’s standard.
Clive forewent his position on the running list to give Jason the opportunity to sing. He had also encouraged Lisa to get up to sing, but she decided to give it a miss this time around. From Dylan’s album ‘Nashville Skyline’ Jason sang ‘Tonight I’ll be staying here with you’, followed by a Patty Griffin song ‘When it don’t come easy’ from her fourth album ‘Impossible Dream’ released in 2004, in his characteristic emotional style with guitar finger-style accompaniment. Jason brings some very nice songs to these evenings ‘Sometimes it feels like you’re heading in the wrong direction… if you forget my love, I’ll try to remind you, stay with you, when it don’t come easy, it don’t come easy….’
Clive bravely went on to conclude the evening. It’s a tough time to play, when everyone else has played and most people have gone, but he did a sterling job singing ‘Blanket on the Ground’ a song written by Roger Bowling and released by Billie Jo Spears in 1975. His second song was James Taylor’s ‘Sweet Baby James’, title track of his second album released in 1970. ‘Goodnight you moonlight ladies, Rockabye sweet baby James’ and so the evening came to a close.
Well, it was going to be a long blog with all of those different musicians and a great variety of material. Thank you one and all. It was great evening (except perhaps for those few who got lost at the end of the running list), but there will be other evenings.
Endless thanks for Simon and Chris Mansell for setting up, to Chris Martin for the wizardry at the sound desk and Clive as well for helping putting everything back in the big black box at the end of the evening. Thank you to so many people coming along to share their music. All good, very good. See you all again soon I hope, Ella
The person that runs the evening writes the blog
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