Remembering the Halcyon days of the club followed by the wild swings in location and attendance during and after Covid, I was truly dazzled by the numbers of old friends and new faces that turned up on Tuesday. A few regulars appeared as expected, but then they kept coming, and still they came some more. Not only musicians. There were several people who said they'd 'just' come to listen. That activity is never 'just' – having an audience makes a real difference to how the musicians feel about the evening and I hope that audience enjoyed it and will come some more. There was such a variety of genre: country, blues, pop, jazz, folk, and such a variety of instruments: piano, accordion, flute, guitar, a capella vocals and even percussive dance.
To kick off, I did a piano version of my own Lives You Could Have Tried. The first guests were Pippa and David doing expert covers on vocals and guitar of Oasis' Live for ever, George Azur's Anyone and Fleetwood Mac's Dreams. Simon Watt was up next with a couple of country(ish) songs including Dylan's Spanish Stair. We weren't treated to Simon's self-penned humour tonight but if that's what you need he's just produced an excellent album God's Christmas Card which is on Spotify, Amazon, Apple and CD.
An exciting Celtic Duo Shindig followed, playing accordion and guitar. They started with Cherry Tree. It was during the second piece, a reel, that the accordionist let her feet loose and became the rhythm section too, emphasising the downbeat with dance, while still playing. A first for the Bells, I think.
Helga played the jazz standard Black Orpheus on solo flute and then invited up Jason and Lisa for her second song. With their close harmony singing and empathetic guitar playing they are a wonderfully matched pair. A rather unlikely, but entirely successful, choice for their song was Leadbelly's Old Cotton Fields Back Home – their sweet style a million miles away from Leadbelly's original blues shouting and blending well with flute. When it came to their own spot they did the poignant Handbags and Gladrags and a song by Jason's Dad, Gerry Loughlin.
Manus, the resident jazz phenomenon, did some bluesy plucking on Ray Charles' Halleluiah I Just Love Her so. Manus' arrangements always bring something new to standards and he writes original stuff too.
Welcoming Chris Martin to the Stage, I had no sooner remarked on how many CDs of self-penned songs he has produced than he pressed yet another into my hand. This new one is called Clearly Opaque. Chris sang about looking for a friend as one of his two originals.
Heather sang the folk song The Water is Wide known in many incarnations as Waly Waly and having roots in Scotland. She took many of us back to our halcyon days with James Taylor's You've Got a Friend – neatly replying to Chris.
Spider fingers Terry Lees, who appears on Radio Bexhill this weekend, did some intricate work on his own bluesy composition She's Bound to Love Me Some and then tuned down to low and rumbly open C for an instrumental Merrily Kiss the Quartermaster's Wife.
Paula reminded us of the times when Britannia ruled the Eurovision Song Contest by singing the last British Success Love's True Light. From a Distance followed, and nicely sung too.
Helen showed her usual bravada in solo a capella performances from the world of pop, with "All Round My Hat" by Steeleye Span and Moondance by Van Morrison. Returning to Scotland, Stephanie sang the Skye Boat Song and then did a Leon Rosselson number Coats Off for Britain. It was nice to hear his humour again and Steph's comic timing and intonation came off well.
Bob Melrose's return to the club was welcome and he gave us some assertive bluegrass picking on Like a Summer and then played Church Street Blues. By this time the angel's share of the audience had evaporated and Bob was one of the three patient souls yet to sing, all last but definitely not least.
Sophie sang well on one of her own Looking for a Place to go home and the final surprise was some fine vocal work, accompanying herself on piano, from Amanda Shaw. Eva Cassidy's Song Bird was great. All three of these late acts were very good and very welcome.
I finished with Too Sad To Sing The Blues with superb flute from Helga. A welcome reunion to complement all the new and old faces seen tonight and well exceeding any expectation of the night I had. Jason bravely tackled the PA. Thanks to him, Simon Watt and everyone else whose organisation made the evening a great success.
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