30th April 2019
The shifting sands of the performers’ list brought some exiting new acts to the Bells, like Suzzane and Keith Drake, and made us miss those stalwarts like Ella, Jason and Sylvie who weren’t able to make this time. However there were enough regulars and new faces for two pieces each, and a second round of a single song. We even had a sprinkling of audience.
It seemed that the lyric, both spoken and written, predominated this evening, alongside some beautiful, and sometimes complex, playing. There was a goodly proportion of self-penned stuff, together with competent covers.
I opened with a poem: The Jazz Drummer. My chosen fast bop tempo was too fast for me and I had to bend the speed and timing to get it all out - a sign of age.
Aging certainly featured in Lisa’s Mid Life Crisis, her feelings about the menopause accompanied by great guitar work.
“Midriff’s hanging out of my jeans / everybody’s making me angry / … / getting too old to play silly games / ….”
“Something men know nothing about” Lisa declaimed which, of course, started some provocative comments, particularly about disputes over central heating as far I could make out. Ah! The joys of thermoregulation!
Bluebell Knoll, her second song was pastoral and reflective and calmed the febrile atmosphere of sexual politics. A mildly jazzy groove crept nicely into her guitar playing.
I’d hoped that Manus would be there to represent jazz. He did so, in a surprising way, with a version of Singing the Blues (any one old enough to remember Tommy Steele and the rival version by Guy Mitchell?). Incredible playing - it really swung. He then did Hoagie Carmichael’s timeless classic Georgia on my Mind - even lovelier chords. Between songs, surprisingly, he switched between two identical guitars with capos at different frets. Cheaper than roadies I suppose.
Chris Martin is on a mission this year to sing all of his 100 songs registered with the Performing Rights Society. Number 62 was Dream from his Standing Room Only album and 63 was Mask, written in 1994.
Simon Watts is an old friend whom I met at the Bells as long ago in 2002, when we accidentally stole each other’s guitars, having similar taste in cases. He writes many a comedy song laced with gentle and dry humour, but tonight his country persona played. A song by the Lonesome Brothers All Around You and then a Mark Knoppler song Ticket to Heaven, about a telly evangelist. He played a 12-string guitar which was so accurately-intone it sounded like a six string. Don’t know how long it took him to tune it though.
Keith and Suzanne Drake, a performance poetry duo, were on next – and perform they certainly did. I’d invited them after having seen them many times at the Poetry Cafe in Eastbourne (late of the Underground Theatre but currently at the Vinyl Frontier nearby). They started with more sexual politics - a dual between female and male voices declaiming many improbable and wittily-rhymed reasons why one gender or the other is best: I Outrank You! Then came Ban Milk! introducing us to an even more improbable universe of anti-milk agitation. Great entertainment!
Clive is one of our very regular regulars. He sang an appropriate May Day song from Padstow. “Unite, unite”, came the cry. Then he introduced his own lyrics, one of the first songs he had written, If You will be my Friend. The intro and outro were long, but the middle was worth waiting for. “If we can talk about it / if we can try hard / if you say you will – say you will! “
Heather covered Cat Steven’s How Can I Tell You that I Love You and then introduced Leonard Cohen’s Hey that’s no Way to Say Goodbye as not a love song but really as a way of dumping someone whilst telling them not to cry.
Good to see Paula back for a visit. She has been a supporter of the White Horse Folk Club for many years, from its original incarnation at Bodle Street Green (run by the legendary Chris Liddiard), to its latest venue at Deanlands in Golden Cross on alternative Mondays. Paula started with her own song, Hesitate, which commented on too much rushing about in general: “Busy people everywhere / it can’t last / take the lead/ kill the speed / hesitate – look around”. Hear hear! Her second piece was an instrumental.
John has been to the club before but it was the first time I’d seen him. He had a clever electronic box that produced an electronic drone (based on sampling his sound) to accompany his ably-performed traditional songs. The first was a whaling song: “fifty-six sons sailed on board/ fishing for the Humpback Whale.” He followed this with Maggie: Arise and pick the posies/ the lily-white pink and roses”.
I finished the first cycle with Baby Steps, which I’m planning to record later this month, and a song from Calmer Waters: The Worst Thing
So we started the second round with one song each. Unfortunately Suzanne and Keith said they had to leave early to comply with the Bexhill curfew on elderly folk.
Lisa’s second set song was Jeanie’s got a Fancy Man, followed by Manus with a bossa nova: Masquarade written by Leon Russell and recorded by George Benson. Chris Martin took a breather from his sequential mission and played a song he’d already sung this year: Little Red Car from 1990.
Simon co-opted Sylvia from the audience to play a tambourine on Wagon Wheel. Heather’s third was her own setting of The Owl and the Pussycat - a love song that breaks interspecies barriers. Paula performed Campion, a song about bluebells and a Canopy of Leaves.
John did Ralph McTell’s song Maginot Waltz, which starts off cheerily with a trip to the seaside, with Albert and his banjo prompting sing songs. But then comes the chilling surprise: Albert and his pal are off to fight in World War 1 the next day, with all the misplaced optimism of that time.
I finished off the evening with a blues, The Slow One. Thanks to everybody that played, sang, set up the PA, ran it, watched, laughed, heckled and generally made for a chirpy evening.
For my videos this month I’ve chosen two by the Jazz vocal/trumpet legend Chet Baker and a rendition by Lianne Carol of A Little Mercy Now.
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