18th October 2016
This evening was, as usual, a wonderfully varied mix of performers and material. As host, I opened the evening with Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now’ followed by ‘The Lucky One’ written by Robert Lee Castleman, which I have on CD sung by the wonderful Alison Krauss.
Chris Martin took the second spot as he was passing through on his way to a cycling event. He gave us two self-penned songs. The first: ‘Tree’ was a song about a blackbird, a cat and a tree. This song related to the lovely singer Jayne Ingles, who has been on the minds of many of us in recent months. Love from all of us to you, if you’re reading this Jayne. Reflecting Chris’s passion for cycling, his second song was called ‘Life is a Race’, and was a song about cycling. It would seem that he is celebrating his new status as a Cycling Proficiency Officer. I don’t know if he was cycling tonight, but he was ‘on his bike’ very early in the evening. (Aarrgghhh …. That’s awful. Sorry).
John Oddy was also on a tight schedule this evening, so he followed Chris playing a classical (or is it Spanish?) guitar. A change of vibe from slide on the resonator. He played us two sensitive songs which he hasn’t performed for some time. There was a fluid quality to his voice that maybe we hadn’t been hearing for a while: ‘Eyes on the Prize’ by M. Ward and ‘4 + 20’ by Stephen Stills. Lovely stuff.
After John, came the JPs, two tall gentlemen who usually play in Eastbourne and Lewes. (Well, being a small person, I am very aware of the height of other performers, because going to the mic to do the introductions on this evening, it seemed to be permanently somewhere near the ceiling.) It’s always good to see different people. On this occasion, they performed Mark Knopfler’s ‘Postcards from Paraguay’ followed by Ralph McTell’s ‘The Hiring Fair’ written for Fairport Convention, accompanying themselves on guitar.
Our regular Clive Woodman stepped up to play two songs reflecting the season. The first ‘Moonshadow’ by Cat Stevens, was prompted, as Clive informed us, by the very beautiful Hunters Moon, which has been very conspicuous in the clear skies of the past few nights. So what is a Hunters Moon? I include some research for your information:
‘The full moon that appears in October is called the Hunters Moon. The first moon after the Harvest Moon is the Hunters Moon, so named as the preferred month to hunt summer-fattened deer and fox unable to hide in now bare fields. Like the Harvest Moon, the Hunters Moon is also particularly bright and long in the sky.‘ Focusing then on Halloween, Clive sang Jethro Tull’s ‘The Witch’s Promise’. Topical, as ever, thank you Clive.
Simon did not share his wit with any of his own songs tonight. The tone was different as he was saying farewell to his first guitar. Legend has it that Simon saved for two years between the ages of 15 and 17 to buy the Epiphone guitar, initially earning £4 5s, then £4 10s. Well it did a good job for Simon who now usually uses his Martin. The Epiphone is destined to move to Bournemouth where it will assist Simon’s nephew. His first song was ‘Good Time Charlie’s got the Blues’, a song by Danny O’Keefe followed by Nobel winning Bob Dylan’s ‘Shooting Star’. And so, fare thee well Epiphone.
Jason continued to draw on the repertoire of the Nobel Prize Winner singing ‘Only a Hobo’, a song he particularly enjoys from Rod Stewart and the Faces’ album ‘Gasoline Alley’. He followed this with ‘Simple Twist of Fate’ from Dylan’s album ‘Blood on the Tracks’. (I think I nearly wore my vinyl out, I played it so much) It’s always good to see Jason when he ventures out of Lewes where he runs a similar event at the Elephant and Castle.
Ray Whiteway-Roberts rejected the use of our wonderful sound system and went totally acoustic giving us two strong songs: ‘My Ramona’ – is this the Waylon Jennings song? And ‘Not this Time’ a song all about relationships by the Cathy Carrack Band. Ray runs a club in Uckfield and this is the first time in years, (yes years) that he has been back to the Bells. Maybe it won’t be so long next time. He was taking photos and filming through the evening but I have no idea (yet) what happens with this material.
Derry took us into another musical dimension playing a Chopin ‘Nocturne’ followed by a Chopin ‘Waltz’. How he makes the battered old piano sing.
The night was still young enough for those who were still there to sing a third song. Clive gave us a more upbeat Dylan song: ‘I Want You’ followed by Simon with ‘Operator’ a Manhattan Transfer number. I was privileged to shake the tambourine on this song. This really was the ‘Goodbye Epiphone’ moment.
The JPs returned for their third song with Pete on guitar and Jim on mandolin. ‘Matthew Flinders’ (an English Navigator and Cartographer) is one of Pete’s songs, about the first man to circumnavigate Australia, which he accomplished between 1802 and 1803.
Jason’s final song of the evening was a very, very nice blues classic: ‘John Henry Blues’, a song about a man who wielded the hammer to build railway tracks by hand. For your pleasure I include here some history:
John Henry is an African American folk hero. He is said to have worked as a "steel-driving man"—a man tasked with hammering a steel drill into rock to make holes for explosives to blast the rock in constructing a railroad tunnel. According to legend, John Henry's prowess as a steel-driver was measured in a race against a steam-powered hammer, a race he won, only to die in victory with his hammer in his hand as his heart gave out from stress. The story of John Henry is told in a classic folk song, which exists in many versions, and has been the subject of numerous stories, plays, books and novels. There is a statue of the man outside the town of Talcott in West Summers, Virginia.
Ray gave us a final song. I do remember a joke about a newt that he made at this point. The joke appears to have eclipsed my memory of the title of the song. Sorry Ray. No amplification again, but Ray really doesn’t need it!
And so we came to the end of another engaging evening of music and song which I rounded off with Steve Winwood’s ‘Can’t Find my Way Back Home’. There’s a lovely acoustic guitar version by him on Youtube. It’s a song he sang with Blind Faith and also with Eric Clapton. I have no idea how I find myself doing a version of it, but hey ho, life’s full of surprises.
Next time it’s ‘Time to Sing the Blues’, an evening hosted by ‘Blind’ Mike Aldridge so we look forward to seeing you there if you have recovered from the Halloween antics of the night before, see you then, Ella
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