15th September 2020
Remember the days when the reception from Radio Luxembourg was a variable feast, dependent on air currents across the channel? So it was last evening at the 6 Bells Folk and Blues open mic. I had settled down in isolationist mode, idly toying with my iPhone, when lo and behold a Vodafone 3G signal briefly flickered into life, allowing me access to my emails - there was Simon requesting I might write the evening’s blog - and we were already two acts in.
It had been decided that the participants would be subject to the rule of six, one party in the marquee, the others arranged in sporadic fashion around the garden. We were all compliant, sanitised and ready to go.
A few players omitted to introduce their songs, something that I am also too often guilty. I admit laziness prevented me from trawling around for information, so relied instead on lyrical fragments and some mean detective work to establish their provenance. A few will go unacknowledged - apologies for that.
The marquee party had kicked off first, led by the indomitable Simon. I think enough people have expressed their thanks for his continued determination in keeping these evenings going. No finger could possibly be pointed at us for any violation of the rule - unlike the young overcrowded and socially cohesive table left of stage - the message not to kill your granny is obviously not getting through.
Simon began with ‘I’d rather be Lonely’ by Louden Wainwright IV. ‘Bernard the Fireman’ was next (I missed the back story to this SW original) and finally the Leiber and Stoller number ‘DW Washburn’ that was covered by The Monkeys. Two points to make, if you don’t know that Leiber and Stoller were two of the most important songwriters of the early days of rock and roll, you should look up their back catalogue and prepare to be awed by the breadth of content. The second is that Simon’s overall vocal and guitar sound was the best of the evening - knowing your own equipment has to be key.
Helga was next with the marvellous ‘Matty Groves’ - a traditional folk song made famous by Fairport Convention, who had set the tune to an otherwise unrelated Appalachian song called “Shady Grove’. She followed this with Ralph McTell’s crowd pleasing Streets of London - strangely, a song I have never considered worthy as his lasting legacy. In my view, he was a much better guitarist and songwriter than this song reflects. Helga finished with a lovely flute piece by Handel, all without need of microphonic assistance. That girl hasn’t half got a pair of lungs on her.
Jason and Lisa are the Sonny and Cher, no let’s say the Ashley Hutchings and Shirley Collins of the open mic circuit, since folk rock was definitely in the air this evening - more of which later. They started off with a number I believe was entitled ‘Acoustic Faffle’ - or maybe I’ve got that wrong and it was Ry Cooder's ‘Across the Borderline’ that caused a momentary hiccup - Jason at it again. Not withstanding, they followed with two self composed numbers entitled ‘Go gentle into that dark night’ and ‘Perfume Garden’. I hope I’m right on those titles. Both were penned during the lockdown period (nothing better to do with your time, eh?) and both were beautifully executed.
A relative newcomer, Chris was up next wielding an acoustic flat top bearing the signatures of several obvious guitar heroes, Tommy Emmanuel for one. Good choice I’d say. Another hero must be John Mayer, since he’d chosen to sing two of his songs, ‘In the Blood’ and ‘Slow Dancing in a Burning Room’. I’d always had my reservations about John Mayer, knowing him more for his high profile girlfriends than his guitar playing. However if you’ve ever seen him live, you’ll appreciate just how great a guitarist he is. Chris also offered us a song by Chris Stapleton, a title I didn’t catch but containing this inimitable line ‘…rock me mamma like a wagon wheel, hey mamma rock me…’. It’s not for me to comment, but dare I say it, for a newcomer Chris certainly has it.
Clive hides his light under a bushel. He graciously elected to sing only two numbers so as to compensate for the time wasting antics of his peers between sets. He started with the Proclaimers ‘I’m Gonna be (500 miles)’ and finished too soon with Steeleye Span’s ‘Hard Times of Old England. No, you definitely should have held out for more, Clive.
It was now time for The B Team to enter the fray. I must mention Lance’s sterling work in setting up microphone stands, plugging in cables and sanitising all within range. He started off with a song about man’s best friend - this time a Jack Russell that got in on the act at a recent open mic event. This was followed by the obligatory protest song condemning tax avoidance, ‘Follow The Money’. He finished with ‘This is War’, a song reflecting the present refugee crisis. I was half expecting an appearance by Gary Lineker on guest vocal, but instead the nearby church chimed the quarter hour in perfect harmonic unison. Celestial intervention or what? Just the usual clever and original work we’ve come to expect from Lance.
Chris Martin presented us with a meze of strumming techniques, purportedly as a result of Heather forcing him to go all Monty Don in the garden, ruining his nails in the process. Songs about The Man, Tomorrow’s Man and Standing Room Only morphed into a frenzied display of staccato strummage that had us all holding our collective breath. Women! They have a lot to answer for.
Heather calmed the proceedings down with another Ralph McTell composition, a song all about saying goodbye…. You'd better get Chris back in the house soonish I’d suggest. She followed with another protest song 'a cappella' style, followed by a haunting rendition of ‘Those Were The Days’. This Russian romance song was made commercially famous by the Mary Hopkins’ version, produced by Paul McCartney. Some lovely guitar work, Heather.
John Budden came on with the Rodgers and Hart classic ‘Blue Moon’ arranged for guitar and vocal - a nice and original take. ‘Leave Me’ was next, a JB original of which I'm particularly fond - unlike his next choice which I hate, as well he knows; Soft Cell’s ‘Say Hello, Wave Goodbye’. Ah well, each to his own.
I followed John, ploughing through Neil Young’s ‘Harvest Moon’, Pentangle’s ‘Circle The Moon’ and Sandy Denny’s ‘Fotheringay’.
Manus brought the evening to a close with his own take on Bill Wither’s ‘Lovely Day’, Antonio Carlos Jobim’s ‘Wave’ and finally some free form Bossa nova accompanied by Helga on floaty flute - a case of leaving the best till last and with impeccable timing, the curtain came down on the dot of ten twenty-nine.
My three video suggestions have to include John Mayer’s ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ live at the Crossroads Guitar Festival, Chicago; a modern rendition of Steeleye Span’s Hard Times of Old England and The BioEXFEL Trio playing Jobim’s Girl from Ipanema.
Where did all the time go?
The person that runs the evening writes the blog
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