21st June 2022
What a wonderful way to celebrate Midsummer! Well, not the middle of summer necessarily, there’s plenty more of that, but it is the Summer Solstice today.
So many excellent musical performances and so much variety.
I will thank Jason and Simon at the front of the blog for setting up the sound system earlier in the day and for Jason working tirelessly to bring us good sound as swiftly and smoothly as possible during the evening, with Lance stepping in briefly when Jason was performing. It took a while for everyone to arrive but as more performers turned up we had what seemed to me to be a high energy positive vibe going on with several new faces, well, new to me.
Following my first offerings of Joni Mitchell’s ‘For Free’ and Ricki Lee Jones’ ‘Danny’s All Star Joint’ on keyboard, Bev and John performing as Tilsmore, took the evening forward in country-style, with ‘The Dark End of the Street’ by James Carr, and Bev’s song ‘Shotgun Wedding’. Both playing guitar and giving us some lovely vocal harmonies.
Jason and Lisa also both playing guitar, but in a very different style, sang the Ry Cooder song ‘Travelling across the Border Line’. Again we had some lovely harmonies and additional support and embellishment from Helga on flute. Bill Munroe’s ‘Blue Moon Kentucky’ continued their characteristic harmonies and musical threads.
Manus sat to play his recently restored 70 year old acoustic Spanish ‘Tatay’ guitar to give us a Spanish inspired interpretation of ‘True Colours’. The song written by Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg was made famous by Cindi Lauper. Reflecting on Jimi Hendrix’s Native American heritage his next song was ‘Little Wing’. The wandering song speaks of a woman who embodies the wild spirit of nature, communicating her positive energy through shining light.
Helga returned to the mic and played Tanquillos, a flute piece composed by Juan Pakia (apologies if I don’t have the name quite right) followed, with guitar support from Jason, by Dimming of the Day, a song by Richard Thompson.
Simon began with Gillian Welch’s ‘Barroom Girls’ … Oh the night came undone like a party dress …. Followed by Danny Schmidt’s ‘Company of Friends’, remembering the words was apparently a test of his memory. He passed, of course.
All of our performers were receiving loud appreciation, which really built the vibrant energy of the evening.
Lance was at the mic next with a song called ‘Time is a Stealer’ observing the changing of life’s tides and fortunes. His second song reflected the beautiful countryside along the Downs between Seaford and Beachy Head. (One of the most beautiful places on the planet as far as I am concerned!).
With a complete change of presentation i.e. total absence of musical instruments, the lovely ‘Botticellis’ trio of Joey, Gillian and Lynn sang exquisite harmonies starting with the Kinks’ song ‘Lazy Afternoon’, joined by Lisa for a temporary quartet before they went onto ‘My heart goes out to You’ a song written by Anders Bagge, Allan Rich and Rick Nowels for Belinda Carlisle but also known for a version by Amy Sky, Olivia Newton-John and Beth Nielson Chapman. This lovely trio had travelled from the distant shores of Littlehampton, Southwick and Brighton to join us and we felt suitably privileged that they made the journey.
How the styles swept one way then another as Keith took over to present something of an ‘homage’ to the American songbook (if I heard him right) with his song ‘Can I love You Enough to Let You Walk Away’. James joined him on percussion for this and the next ‘Slow One’. This song also included Helga on flute with a solo spot, as the mood went sliding from jazz into blues. It’s in the name, but the Six Bells Folk and Blues Club doesn’t often see much blues, or folk, in its more traditional sense, but plenty of other genres with country often making an appearance. Tonight was an exceptional cross-section of material and style.
Sophie stepped up with her guitar to sing two of her own songs in soft contrast to the greater intensity and complexity of Keith’s two-song set. The first was ‘This Life of Mine’ a quietly confident observation which she followed with a new song that doesn’t yet have a name but went along the lines of ; ‘ It’s a special thing to love and be loved in return, …. One thing I’ve learned’.
Neil has been to the Bells before, but apparently not since before lockdown. He was definitely playing blues, starting with a Billy Boy Arnold song: ’Don’t Stay Out All Night Long’. Mississippi John Hurt was inspiration for the second piece and both songs were very powerful and complex, well I say complex, I think his fingers were becoming a blur.
Always a welcome contributor, Jayne came to the mic and sang ‘Across the Great Divide’, a Kate Wolfe song. Her second song was one of her own: ‘Freedom Bound’ which contemplated waiting for the right time to make a move with some lyrics about the last train running freedom-bound…. and I’m thinking with the current rail strikes there could be a joke in there somewhere, but I don’t think the sentiments of the song were joking.
Monica had decided to join us tonight and borrowed a guitar to sing ‘Streets of London’ by Ralph McTell which offers a reality check to those who may feel hard-done-by. She encouraged the audience to join in, and so we did. Thank you Monica.
With everyone having played, we moved into second appearances which some of us decided to miss as time was beginning to run short.
Bev and John (Tilsmore) sang ‘Diane’ by Cam, starting by singing in unison then brining in their guitar accompaniment. We moved swiftly onto Manus’s self-penned song ‘Desperate Don’ a blues about living in darkness under the duvet. We had some very accomplished blues singing and playing tonight.
Keith’s song ‘Baby Steps’ about taking chances in life went at a pace that reflected the title in its slow and measured progress. He was again supported by Helga on flute and James on percussion. Moving from baby steps to chains, the Botticellis gave us ‘Chains of Love’… baby’s got me locked up in chains, got a hold on me …. Then into another blues from Neil inspired by Eddie Taylor a musician and singer in his own right who was also well known for supporting or working with the likes of Jimmy Reid and John Lee Hooker.
It felt like the evening had reached a crescendo and it fell to Jayne to bring us gently back down with her song ‘Queen of Procrastination’. For her it was bluesy and wandered along, very laid back, bringing our midsummer evening of music into a soft landing.
It was a wonderful collection of performers and performances and I felt really privileged to be hosting. I was going to sing Woodstock by Joni Mitchell, had there been more time, but still felt it was important to echo her line ‘we are stardust’, because technically we are actually formed from elements created through various super-nova stellar events over unimaginable millions of years, and I wanted to reinforce that idea that we truly all are stardust and carry that spark. I think the spark was working very nicely, thank you very much, this evening. Thank you everyone and I hope those who are regulars, those who are newcomers and those who are returning, will join us again, soon.
The person that runs the evening writes the blog
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