Tuesday November 27th
We all battled through blustery gusts and wet and winding roads to get here on this wet and windy November night. The room was very welcoming though, with a lovely roaring log fire crackling in the fireplace. I was a little bit concerned that we might be singeing while singing, but the fire soon settled down, and there was no need for me to be whingeing about singeing.
Tonight was going to be one of our famous ( And so popular) ! 'Theme Nights'.
'Travel Songs' was the choice this time. As with all themes, there is plenty of scope, and a whole lot of songs that can be found.
As host for tonight, I set off on the road with the Canned Heat song 'On the Road Again', written by Alan Wilson and Floyd Jones ,and I was accompanied on bass by Martin Lee, who had kindly offered to play along with anyone who wanted some backing. He has the smallest bass I've ever seen, a bass ukulele. ( U.Bass). He settled himself into place, and was there for the whole evening, giving us all some really nice extra sound. Thanks Martin.
Having done a song about being on the road, I thought about other ways of travel.... Ah yes! -- 'Trains and Boats and Planes'. So I chose Burt Bacharach and Hal David's song that had been a hit for him, and Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, and Dionne Warwick.
Ella Moonbridge kindly 'volunteered' to be on next, and came to the piano to give us a great version of Sandy Denny's 'North Star Grassman and the Ravens'. That's the way to travel, navigate by the North Star! She followed this with one of her favourite composer's songs, 'Woodstock' from Joni Mitchell. Ella always seems to make that old piano come alive, and there was a lovely high vocal note to finish.
Mark Lynch was here last time, together with John, but tonight just himself playing a couple of nicely done guitar instrumentals. Firstly, his own tune 'Moonrise', and then a good version of the guitar part from Led Zeppelin's 'Kashmir'.
They say that Richard Thompson has ' astonishingly nimble fingers', and the same can certainly be said about Terry Lees. Terry proved this by playing Richard Thompson's 'Vincent Black Lightning', and then treating us to a lovely Irish tune - 'Kerry Road'. He told us that travel in Ireland was very slow at the time he was there. Bad roads ? - Or too many pubs?
It was good to see Jayne Ingles here again, and she came up with two travel songs in the form of Train Songs, 'Nowhere Train' by Carlene Carter and Anni O'Brien, and Elizabeth Cotten's 'Freight Train'. This song was made known by Peggy Seeger, and became a hit for skiffle man Chas McDevitt with singer Nancy Whiskey.
Chris Martin travelled away from his place on the sound desk to the microphone to give us two of his own compositions, 'Journey', and 'Another Journey' - both of which feature on his latest CD 'Journey Part 1'. On the CD cover is a picture of 'Panyan ', who many of us will easily recognise won't we !
Number seven on the list tonight was our dear friend Jason Loughran, appearing without Lisa Jackson this time, and giving us the nice 'Time in a bottle' by Jim Croce, followed by the Tom Waits number 'The Heart of Saturday Night'. Songs by Jason are always nicely done and with great feeling.
Manus McDaid is the Jazz Master, and took to the floor to play us first his great version of 'Got me on the Run', and second, James Taylor's 'Fire and Rain'. This title could be a good slogan for tonight's gathering, seeing that we've had the log fire inside and the rain outside.
Despite Simon Watts' scepticism about 'The Self - Writing Blog', he did actually give some information of his intended songs in advance. I like to think that rather than calling the idea 'The Self - Writing Blog', I prefer to call it -- 'Singer/Performer/Information/Exchange/Service ( S P I E S) .
Simon chose two travel songs. He hopped onto 'The City of New Orleans', written by Steve Goodman, and made famous by artists such as Arlo Guthrie and Willie Nelson, and then he got behind the wheel on 'The Road to Hell' by Chris Rea. Simon played the long version ,with the slow tempo intro, and then was joined by Ella on tambourine and with Martin continuing with bass as he has through the evening.
John Stephens played some nice guitar sounds on Eric Clapton's 'I can't Hold Out', which he followed with a very good take on the Jimi Hendrix song 'Hey Joe', written by Billy Roberts. With Martin Lee taking the part of Noel Redding , all we needed was Mitch Mitchell on drums to make it a real Experience.
Sylvie had arrived earlier clutching a sheet of paper on which was one of her songs, and this was the one about the cupboard full of all kinds of booze, sung to the tune of 'In the Bleak Midwinter' (Gustav Holst). -- And partly sung in French. A votre santé!
Last on the list but not least we had Oliver Hill who was here for the first time. He had been waiting patiently for his turn, and he played us a nice version of 'Donna Donna Donna,' made well known by Joan Baez, followed by the story of 'Stewball' which was done by Peter Paul and Mary.
There was still time to have a bit of second helpings from a few players, so we were served up 'I Like to be Sad' from Chris Martin ( by Chris Martin) , 'Good Morning
Blues' from Jason (by Leadbelly), 'Lady Franklin's Lament' from Ella ( trad.) , and a nice piece to finish from Manus ( by John Renbourne).
So, thanks to all who came tonight, and to Chris on the sound and Simon for setting up earlier. --- Oh - and thanks for those who took part in 'The Thank you Jug experiment' !
Next time will be the Christmas Party ! ( With singers and players as usual).
We dedicate this evening to the memory of Chris Lidiard who sadly died on November 23rd. Chris was greatly involved in the music community and much admired. He was a good friend to many people. We send our love and sympathy to his wife Jenny and to all his family and friends.
8pm: all set up and ready to get going with the music, but it has to feel right, doesn't it? It was worth hanging back a bit, I felt. Dynamics are the key to a musically viable performance and I wanted to start off with a quiet, reflective piece with a bit of technology involved as bodies settled into their respective cushions, hopefully, attentively. Appreciatively, I am glad for the support; it's mutual.
My first song was 'Pink Ukuleles' and it’s all about growing up -- I’m currently working into my own stuff again whilst embarking on a fresh recording project with some new equipment, so it’s great to test out the solo arrangements, messing with the tempos and overall meter of this piece. Followed up by John Renbourn's 3-time 'Waltz', an instrumental that appears to have come to him as a derived take on the jazz-waltzes of Charlie Mingus compositions via the prism of Davy Graham’s acoustic guitar work – I focused on the bass end of things with a bit of echo to accentuate the big-band arrangements and jazz-waltz-gospel [tongue-in-cheek] feel of Mingus, the double-bass player, himself: “Better Git It In Your Soul' – “Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting” et al. And I do tend to throw myself into this sort of thing as a musician and hope for the best [soulfully]; entertainer: not-so-much.
Jazz-waltz is a great means toward syncopation and 'swing' with the built in triplets of compound time [see video selection with this sermon], I'm passionate about it; I love playing 3-over-4 also because you can't get it wrong and you can't get it right and you can't accurately score it and it confounds the time-signature pedants and it gives the musicologists a dog-with-a-bone to play around with – try it! Set your metronome at a medium tempo [most of us have internalized common 4/4 time] and stretch three over the four by strumming, soloing or whatever; you won’t be able to do it but, trust me, stuff will happen.
As I filled out the template, on the clipboard with the pen as provided by Ella, I was absolutely made up walking around like a fully equipped ticket inspector on the buses; I have the pass, already – I was about to shove the John & Mark duo on second when Simon stepped in to rescue them, astutely observing that it wouldn't have been the most welcoming of moves to place them quite so early on as they are new to us – fair play! He went second giving us 'Funny That Way' by the New Zealander Mark Laurent, husband of Chris Liddard’s sister, Breda and 'You Ain’t Going Nowhere' [written in 1967, first recorded in 1971, Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits/Basement Tapes 1975] on which he was accompanied by Ella as a prelude to J & M who came on with an instrumental from the flip-side of 'Albatross' followed by Steve Winwood's 'Can't find my Way Home'. And then we had another duo, George & Mary sang Ian Tyson's 'Four Strong Winds' and 'The Early Morning Rain' as they introduced more vocal harmonies than previous arrangements by them, which is progressive, I think.
Then, this bloke with a new album – Chris Martin soloed 'Wreckage' the division bell ringing out the broken hearts and dreams prior to lulling us back onto our cushions with 'Routine' both songs from 'Journey Part-1' followed on by the reassured solo performance of Paula with her own two songs 'Empty Chair' and 'Tonight' before handing over her nice acoustic guitar to Terry Lees – this was a real treat for me tonight [if perhaps less so for him, initially at least]:
Noteworthy new para here: Terry confided that he hadn't really been feeling fully up for it this evening, and due to some degree of vertigo felt it best to sit down whilst playing us his version of 'Judy', another John Renbourn composition, which was apparently based on the idea of Davy Graham's totemic 'Angie' and which, as a variation, is a far better tune in my opinion. Terry seemed to interpret it as such as he was playing soulfully great, feeling the harmonic movement, getting close to it – It's funny how being a bit off-colour can make one mellow-out, in the positive sense; plenty of players have used drugs to get to this kind of high-meloncholia, soft focus, kind of mood -- like it’s the holy grail -- but neurologically it’s where the mind just doesn't have the time for Show Biz considerations and cosmetic abstractions as it surpasses muscle-memory and truly gets right into the necessary essence of things at hand, in the moment. And Terry, having found his stride by virtue of having that already warmed-up instrument in his hands, decided that he would in fact continue with another instrumental, 'Living In The Country' which seemed to be as therapeutic to him as it was inspiring to me [I suspect that Terry himself never took any substance abuse routes as a detour to get-out-of-it-to-get-into-it, but I certainly did and to be fair, it was a bit hit-or-miss] in my youth. You don’t have to be ill or be getting stoned but it makes you think, doesn’t it – where do you want to be with it?
But, of course, you don't always have to suffer for the art. I introduced Jason Loughran as 'the most diplomatic ambassador of open mics [and spaces] ever' and he brought his sunny disposition to bear, in a balanced way, on 'Song For Our Dead Heroes'; he judged it right by not dwelling on the theme beyond the obvious tribute being conveyed. That's the way I got it, subjectively, as there seemed to be a lingering vibe of thankful reverence in the room when Lisa Jackson then came up to join him in an otherwise lighthearted arrangement of Broonzy's 'That's The Story Of Love' and, yeah, that's the glory of it, isn't it ... anyway, time to crack open the old Joanna I'd say, as Ella set herself down at the house piano with 'Fly Me To The Moon' which came straight out of The Great American Songbook tonight and some Americana with more than a mere nod to Bonnie Rait as she forged onwards and upwards with the less whimsical, earthbound but orgasmic 'Love Me Like A Man', a raunchy Barrel-house type of blues rendition indeed.
Nice to see Jayne Ingles and the applause she received before even playing a note which appropriately set the tone of respect felt in the house in the face of personal adversity – another soulful performance ensued as once again 'The Sun's Setting Down On Our Town' tonight.
Clive Woodman slipped me a piece of paper that goes like this: 'Over The Lancashire Hills as written by Stuart Marston and sung by Fairport Convention … the song refers to the opera singer of the early 1950s, Kathleen Ferrier … The Green Fields Of France written by Eric Bogle … the singer is talking to a WW1 soldier Willie McBride at his graveside' – well put Clive.
Time again for the J & M duo in their guitar/mandolin combination on John's original 'How Many Times' and 'Living My Life Without You' and Simon penultimate performance of Dylan's 'Paint My Masterpiece' from 1971 before Lisa & Jason graciously came back on to conclude the evening with 'Living On Faith' and a nice, bluesy take on 'Careless Love' – that was a surprise! Kept us on our toes, that did, featuring Jason's slide playing on an () guitar – nice one! Apologies to Lisa, though as my programming might have cut her out in her solo capacity as I may have press-ganged the two of them into playing us out so harmoniously, and I appreciate it. Thanks for being so adaptable, both.
Thank you all!
My 500th open mic night - 30/10/18 - C J Martin
Back in late 2012, I was recording an album called ‘Me and my Martin’ and a chap who was using the same studio said I should try an ‘open mic night’. Such events had never been on my radar and I was quite happy in the recording studio and making videos for You Tube.
A bit of rehearsal later and off I went to try out these mysterious things called open mic nights. Open mic No. 2, brought me to the Six Bells on 5/02/13, after which I found myself adding the open mic scene to my music lifestyle. You meet a lot of people, hear a lot of music, some people become friends and some music you love and some you don’t, but it is an interesting world and one that should be free of ego - as an open mic is a place where you ask people to listen to you and in exchange, you listen to them. No money is exchanged, it’s a very pure way of sharing music and ideas.
Tonight was my 500th open mic night and as MC, I launched the evening with the same two songs I played at my first Bells night. ‘My mum, Alzheimer’s and the care home’ - it’ll be 7-years on 4/11 since mum died and I find it quite cathartic at this time of year giving the song an outing. ‘Life’s a race’ was my other song and completed my recreation of that night in Feb 13.
I’ve just released my latest album, ‘Journey Part 1’ and gave it a little plug - my three videos (on the home page) feature the opening 3 songs from the album. For more on my music see: www.cjmartin.info
Ok, that’s four paragraphs about me and here’s a bit about the other 11 performers who joined me for a lovely evening of music. New blood is where it’s at and we had four new faces, along with some old friends.
Mark was the first of the new faces and like me in 2013, was dipping his toe into the mysterious world of open mic nights. Playing a nylon strung guitar, he gave us a self-penned instrumental, called ‘Instrumental’ and followed that with a bit of Classical Gas’. He seemed to enjoy the experience, so will hopefully continue his open mic journey,
Clive gave me the following info on his set: ‘The path’ (my own song). This is about time moving on and the years going by and all of us trying to find the right path to the future. ‘Good year for the roses’ was written by Jerry Chestnut and sung by George Jones and Elvis Costello. This is a sad song about breaking up (not gardening). Thanks Clive, that made my life easier, perhaps I should get everyone to write a bit about their set at a future night.
Jason opened with ‘Winter time love’ by The Doors and was then joined by Lisa for Dylan’s, ‘Tonight I’ll be staying here with you’. They followed this with a song written by Jason’s dad (Gerry Lockran) called, ‘The lifeline’. Jason then exited stage right, leaving Lisa to deliver her original interpretation of the Ray Davies number, ‘Waterloo sunset’.
Manus, complete with Telecaster and mini Fender amp was mixing the musical styles with Stevie Wonder’s ‘Boogie on reggae woman’ and the Leon Russell ballad, ‘This masquerade’.
Alan and Gary had ventured over from Kent (well one of them had) for their first evening at our little club and delivered three Fairport Convention songs. Two guitars and two voices filled the room with entertaining versions of, ‘Honour and praise’, ‘Who knows were the time goes‘ and ‘Too close to the wind’.
It was lovely to see Jayne, who gave us a pretty rendition of Carole King’s, ‘You’ve got a friend’ and followed this with one of her own, ‘My mama said’.
Terry kicked off with Woody Guthrie’s, ‘Do re mi’ and closed with the Ry Cooder instrumental, ‘I think it’s going to work out fine’.
Bob was the last of our first timers, he started with a Nancy Griffiths song, ‘Gulf course highway’, which I wrote down as Golf course highway! Bob said he’d only been playing for 3-years, before finishing with a confident rendition of ‘Close to you’, about a young woman missing a lover.
Simon wanted a late slot, as Lesley (Mrs Simon) was coming along with the new family dog, an all-black number that wanted to party like it’s 1999. Complete with 12-string he opened with his self-penned ditty, ‘Halloween song’, yes, it’s that time of year. It even has a reference to a well-known open mic character named after a copying machine! Clive took control of the club tambourine on ‘A little bit of love’, dedicated to Jason, who’s rather keen on love - and we all (even me from the desk) sang along on the chorus - you could feel the love in the room.
I asked Lisa & Jayne (original Martinettes) and Jason & Simon (aspirational Martinettes) to join me for a round of ‘Toast for one’. It was great fun and brought down the curtain on number 500, a memorable night. Thanks to all the performers and audience. x
The person that runs the evening writes the blog
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