7th January 2019
The new mood of punctuality was in evidence as I asked Simon what time the club started. “Fifteen minutes ago.” came the stern reply. I’d brought the electric piano and it was well set up, so opened with Albert Collin’s Too Many Dirty Dishes. Saw Albert in the Eighties at the Town and Country Club in London. He had a very distinctive guitar style, sharp and indeed cutting, - a Telecaster with a capo way, way up, I think on the 12th fret.
Simon was cajoled into doing the first spot and showed a soft spot for people in Hard Times. Then a tale of Chris Liddiard. Apparently, Chris had asked Simon out of the blue “Are you going to write a song about me when I’m dead?” So, Simon did - and a very fine song too: Now that the Songwriter’s gone. He said he played it to Chris, who made no comment, so we’ll never know what he thought of it.
Heather took up her guitar and did one of her childhood favourites, when she grew up in Scotland: Annie Laurie and followed with The Seekers’ the Carnival is Over. That brought back childhood memories for me also of my Dad singing Island of Dreams, with my Mum on piano and my Brother and me on guitars.
Manus did Little Sister famously covered by Ry Cooder on his Bop ‘till you Drop album and indeed King Elvis himself, but actually written by Doc Pamus and Mort Schuman. He followed with Tired of Talkin’ by Robben Ford. Manus certainly knows his way around those frets.
Good to see Mark and John, new faces at the ‘Bells, who did some unashamed pop on acoustic guitar and mandolin including Crowded House’s Fall at Your Feet. The etcetera in “The Six Bells Folk, Blues etc. Club” was becoming more and more evident.
Jason was next up with his own Another Year Another Song. Then Lisa joined Jason for a song written and recorded by Jim Croce in the early 1970s but released posthumously: I Have to Say I Love You with this Song. The poignant Handbags and Gladrags, known as the theme music to The Office, and covered by Rod Stewart among many others, showed off their perfectly matched voices and perfect timing together. It really was a beautiful sound. Lisa finished with the Carpenters’ On top of the World.
It was great to see Helga again after several month’s absence. She joined Lisa’s last song with her magic flute and then stayed on at the microphone in her own right. I stepped up to the piano for what began as a Blues in E but we soon escaped the chord structure into a much freer improvisation.
Chris Martin, performed two self-penned songs You're gone and Sanity. Simon Farmer, who is a very recent addition to the Six Bells Jamming Ensemble and very welcome too, joined Chris on the second song with his soprano sax, which he plays on Chris’s latest CD.
Simon Farmer then took the limelight switching to Alto sax as I stayed at the piano for Billy Taylor’s I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free, better known as the Film 98 (et seq.) theme, followed by Lover man, Billy Holliday’s iconic song, but, according to the Mighty Interweb, written by Jimmy Davis, Roger ("Ram") Ramirez, and James Sherman (who they? ED.) and covered by so many other greats.
It seemed that the ‘Bells was rapidly turning into an outpost of Ronnie Scott’s, Pizza Express or Jazz After Dark. The Etcetera was gaining supremacy. However, the blues fought back and Penny Payne, stepped up to do her gutsy stuff. Simon was drawn back by the blues force field and we had a trio. Penny sang Stormy Monday and CC Rider. She’d been at Deanlands in Golden Cross the night before, backed by the amazing Terry Lees on guitar. With adequate performing space and a mobile microphone Penny’s personality knows no bounds.
Jane came up with her guitar and did a flawless rendition of her own song I’ll Go Anywhere with You, ably supported by Helga’s Zauberflöte, followed by Paul Simon’s Cathy’s Song. I think Jane has the largest repertoire of any of us.
John Stephens did Hotel California accompanying himself on guitar with some basic chords from me on piano following a cheat sheet. John finished the evening off with Talk to me Baby, for which Simon Farmer once again speeded the Alto to the front for a jam.
The sound system being switched off and being packed away and the audience gone, we fired up the acoustic piano for a short jam of Take 5 with Manus on Guitar and Simon on Sax. We made an un-passible stab at the chords in the bridge but that’s the way of Etcetera - the new musical Genre ably premiered this evening.
For my vids this time (on the Club homepage) I’ve put up firstly the most beautiful piece of choral music: O Magnum Mysterium by Morton Lauridsen, a magnificent living composer. Is it my imagination or has more live footage of Leadbelly been discovered/posted recently? I couldn’t find anything a few months ago, but here’s Take This Hammer, performed by the man himself in 1945, as my second offering. Thirdly, Judy Collins talks about and performs her song My Father (missing out the second verse). I listened to her Who Knows Where the Time Goes? Incessantly in 1971; an amazing folk rock album with notable tracks: Pretty Polly, First Boy I loved and a country version of Leonard Cohen’s Bird on the Wire complete with pedal steel guitar.
6 Bells Folk and Blues Blog. Dec 11th 2018
Christmas time at the 6 Bells. It always strikes me as a wonderfully Christmassy place, with its traditional feel, open log fires and friendly atmosphere. So it was just up to us musicians to add to the already festive atmosphere. I’ve already posted photos, so you can tell most of us were up for it with Christmas hats, jumpers and festive tinsel.
As well as M.C.ing the evening, and doing the desk, Chris was up first to open up the floor. He performed a couple of his most treasured compositions, ‘What’s in a life?’ and ‘Toast for one’ with Ella on tambourine and backing vocals, Martin on bass ukulele and Simon (Farmer) on Sax. Both of these dispel the fact that Chris only writes gloomy songs! And it’s always really good fun to hear different instruments and Simon’s wonderful contribution to Chris’s own compositions set the evening off really well. Watching Ella is always a treat! Bass just grounds everything.
Next up was Jason, with a couple of soft, gentle and very emotional performances, Waterloo Sunset and Tougher than the rest. Both his vocals and his guitar were faultless, and again, Martin’s bass just added to his performance.
Simon (Watt) was up next and started off with his Brexit Blues: topical and to the point, ‘In ten year’s time we’ll be ok, you might just have to wait’......and in the meantime, ‘Let’s just get on with our lives’. Can’t really argue with that.
He followed this with a Mary Gauthier version of Fred Eaglesmith’s song ‘The Rocket. I did go and look this up and it’s well worth taking a good look at the lyrics and the story of ritualised grief of an old man returning again and again to the station where he sent his son off to war 40 years earlier. Really touching.
Lance followed with one of my favourites, ‘Sadie the Flatulent Horse’. Again, well written, and just....very enjoyable. He followed this with another of his own compositions, ‘Christmas Day’. All of the essential ingredients were in there, Santa, Carols, Dinner family, and of course, mobile phones!
Clive started with one of his own compositions as well. I think it was called ‘The First thing I do’ sung to the tune of ‘The First Noel, and listed a lot of pubs in Crowborough, ‘What is the point of a pub with no ale?’ I think a fair amount of research must have gone into it over the years. He then sang another of his songs, ‘Home for Christmas’ with additional bells from Ella. Charming.
Apparently Ella’s Christmas songs aren’t ready for the public yet, so she sang Danny’s All Star Joint by Rickie Lee Jones. Some great boogie playing and a really fun song. Then Ella played Neil Young’s song ‘Like a Hurricane’. It was a really lovely arrangement .
I followed with a version of ‘Mary did you know’, which I only heard of with the choir I sang with last Christmas.
It was time to treats and nibbles courtesy of The Six Bells next, while Chris and I set up my keyboard for the second half, and Simon and I adlibbed a couple of Christmas songs to help to get us both armed up.
We started off the second half with myself on keyboard and vocals, Chris on guitar and Simon on sax. I was pretty excited about this. We played a Hazel O’Connor song, ‘Will You’ from the film ‘Breaking Glass’. It’s been a favourite of mine for a long time, but I’d never known anyone who could play the sax part, and it has one of the most wonderful saxophone solos. Chris got Simon and I together and we had practiced the week before. We got through it in one piece, and I was really grateful to the boys for letting me perform with them. J
Oliver Hill sang two Donovan songs. The first, Jersey Thursday, has beautiful colourful lyrics and Olly sang it in a simple clear style. I thought the second song was something like ‘From the Land of the Crab’ but I can’t find it so I’m hoping Olly will enlighten me. Both songs were sung in a lovely clear voice with just a little crack from time to time - I do wish I could do that!
Keith sang one of his songs unaccompanied next. I think it was called ‘Jesus just grew up’. He really gets his voice and rhythm going even with no accompaniment and his words are very clever:
‘It was Christmas time in the harem,
The eunuchs sang through the halls’
Keith read out a poem he’d written for Chris Liddiard next. I must have been one of the few people there who’d never met Chris, but I’ve heard a lot about him and he sounds like a really lovely man. Keith’s poem was a wonderful eulogy.
John Stephens got up with his own made 12-string guitar next which did look beautiful. Sadly though, the changes of temperature had made it slip out of tune. So we never got to hear it this time. I did have a 12 string once, and tuning is definitely not a simple, or short affair, so John wisely chose to play his 6 string instead. He treated us to ‘Please be with me’, by Eric Clapton and then a track from Dark Side of the Moon which came over really well as he played lead while Martin accompanied him on his bass ukulele.
Paula followed with a little Christmas Medley of Hark the Herald, While Shepherds and Little Drummer Boy. Then she played a song she’s remembered from school because she loved it so much with ‘In the Bleak mid Winter’ as a mid section. Both songs were lovely and added to the Christmas feel of the evening.
Chris Shepherd came next with a very different style of guitar playing. He played ‘Summer Air’ which I think might be by the Italobrothers? Anyway, I love the way he uses the guitar for rhythm and melody. He then played Slow Dancing in a Burning Room by John Meyer. It’s really good to hear the younger musicians because they add new music and styles that I probably wouldn’t hear otherwise. Chris’s voice came over well-rounded and resonant and he seemed totally confident across all the fretboard. I was mesmerised!
Terry finished off the evening with a Christmas medley in his own inimitable style, always a pleasure to watch and listen to, followed by his version of ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ and a mention for the homeless who will have a very different Christmas to most of us.
It was a lovely evening, full of (slightly previous) festive spirit. I do apologise for taking so long to write the blog, and for any mistakes about names and writers of music performed! There have been rather a lot of festivities recently.
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
16th October 2018
Another evening hosting at our beloved Six Bells. Another evening of friendship and music. And heavens, did someone need the lovely show of support that I was lucky enough to enjoy. And these early starts are the way to go considering how many performers we had to accommodate that night.
So I began the evening with a classic song of loss by Bob Dylan from that bittersweet album “Blood on the Tracks”. It has been two long years since I was filmed singing “Simple Twist of Fate” at the Six Bells and it is as poignant now as it was then. But after the loss there is the finding something new and so my own song “The day that I lost Fafaia” could be as much about moving on with a new hope as it is about loss.
And so to the first of our many guests, Jac, who is someone I only seen play a few times but his muscular strumming and gravelly voice make a powerful combination. He sang of watching the world go by and being a million miles from here but also proclaimed that the sun was still shining on him today.
One of the most warm and engaging performers on the scene is Keith Warner who treated us to a heartfelt rendition of The Everly Brothers hit “Walk Right Back” (written by Sonny Curtis), and then he covered a chilling socio-political song by Devonian Folk legends Show of Hands called “Cousin Jack” about Cornish miners emigrating to Australia.
The prolific song-writing of Chris Martin continues with the release of a new album “Journey Part 1” and tonight he performed maybe the greatest song that Johnny Cash never recorded, “The Man”. I could hear another voice inside my head accompanying him as he sang. And so I was sheltered from the pain. And then, he rolled out “Sanity”, full of humanity even through its dark, foreboding riff.
The un-accompanied solo voice can be most powerful and Zoe stepped up next to treat us to just such a performance. A brief but incisive version of The Zutons song “Valerie”, which was also sung by the late, great Amy Winehouse, another beautiful talent now lost. Zoe then dazzled with her fabulous blues on Willie Dixon’s song “I just want to make love to you”, famously sung by both Etta James and Muddy Waters.
I’m delighted to have become friends with Manus over the last year or so and his performances are always thrilling as cooks up such intoxicating brews and tonight, with his hollow-bodied Ibanez guitar and tiny amplifier, he stirred up those blues and jazz stylings with a unique take on Erroll Garner’s classic “Misty”. Breaking up the chords like none other, all the licks and chops were there as Manus continued by mixing up two classics by The Beatles and Cream as “We can work it out” and “Sunshine of your Love” entwined before us.
Sylvia also treats us to a beautiful un-accompanied vocal performance and her musical readings of Robert Burns poetry are always a joy to hear; tonight she performed a Burns poem as sung by Scottish soldiers, but to a French tune as they would not use English tunes.
Now for the most striking looking performer of the evening, my vote would have to go to Fred Meyer, who I have been delighted to have perform at my “Open Space” music and poetry evenings in Lewes. Fred gives the most arresting spoken words performances and tonight he made raw poetry out of a song by Punk legends Punishment of Luxury and then chilled us with the amazing Louis Barrabus’s “The Tell-Tale Hound”. There is nobody quite like Fred and he gives these evenings a thrilling dynamic.
Simon then treated us to his delicate country picking as he sweetly sang Iris Dement’s “Sweet is the Melody”. He then hilariously proclaimed he was considering performing “Wuthering Heights” by the divine Kate Bush, but had a problem with his leotard. Or something like that. I know the problem, but, ahem, maybe we should just get back to the music. Er, yes, let’s do that shall we? Er, well, not before we “get with it” (do people still say that sort of thing these days? Or am I definitely NOT “with it” by saying “get with it”?) . . . and finally cover some LGBT issues at the Six Bells because that has been sadly lacking from recent theme nights. So Simon re-addressed this Politically Correct imbalance that has blighted our scene with his mirthful and “hetero-normative” re-working of “Making Whoopee”, originally written by lyricist Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson. Who knows, maybe Gus Kahn could have written such a lyric himself?
Natasha Norodien, the most striking new folk voice that I’ve heard for a few years then stepped up and beautifully sang and played a version of 19th Century English Folk ballad “Canadee-I-O”. Natasha’s guitar playing is such perfect accompaniment to her beautiful voice and she is so worthy of covering such classic material.
My dear friend Lisa then performed a couple of duets with me and, as we are preparing for a concert with the wonderful Natasha and our other good friend Terry Lees, we played a couple of old favourites of ours. Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell’s “Georgia On My Mind” will always bring us back to you. As will Stephen Stills’s “And so begins the task”. And we can’t live without you now.
Another beautiful female voice followed, that of our dear friend Ella, accompanying herself on bouzouki, sensitively covering those two incomparable female artistes, as she sang Joni Mitchell’s “Urge For Going” and Patty Griffin’s “Useless Desires”. Songs with some sense of loss and how to deal with it. Lovely performances, Ella.
Heather also sang of loss and gave such an emotional performance. It was very moving to behold and she poured so much into a couple of John Denver songs including the beautiful “My Sweet Lady”. And . . . how long have any of us got? At the end, there is always some sort of loss.
Mark is a very direct and impassioned performer and sings his self-penned songs of powerful messages and tonight he reminded us of the tragic event of the Grenfell Tower fire. This darkness was then countered by his more light-hearted, but very relevant “A Boy Named Sue, A Girl Named Ian”, inspired by a member of the bar staff from a Deptford pub he frequented.
Cliff was another performer new to me and he treated us to the sounds of his mandolin and sang a song to remind us that this life is probably the only one we’re ever likely to have so let’s live it because we’re not yet ready to be pushing up daisies. Cliff then ironically delved back into the mid-19th Century USA to sing the folk song “I wish I was a mole in the ground”.
John is another very genuine performer and he gave us a heartfelt reading of Jimi Hendrix’s “Wind Cries Mary” before treating us to a glimpse of that other God, Eric Clapton, and played a simple and direct bit of guitar blues.
Closing the evening I was delighted to welcome Dave, who also hosts a very enjoyable open mic night at the Blackboys pub on the Tuesdays that are in-between our Six Bells sessions. Dave is a performer of great experience, knowledge and deep love for the music he plays, and he covered Magna Carta’s song “The Boatman” before rounding off the night with a another song of loss; the towering classic that is Marvin Gaye’s “I heard it through the grapevine” (written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong).
An evening that touched on loss was also an inspiration to move on and gain something new.
Thank you, all of my friends, for turning up to perform and listen.
I was so grateful for your support.
I needed it.
Until next time . . . .
18th September 2018
Arriving at about eight I found Terry Lees in the bar, eating a shepherd’s pie, which meant that he had first spot. This was doubly just, as he’d had to leave early last time without getting to play. Before he went on I did the obligatory host opening, reading a short poem How Bad is It? The poems, I discovered can potentially fill in dead air during technical hitches or frantic artistic policy discussions between jammers - better than telling jokes. However, this was not needed as subsequent performers always seemed to get on track by the time the poetry book was fully opened.
Terry’s first song was about an escape from the Bowling Green Kentucky State Penitentiary. “Long John – he’s long gone”, with a bloodhound after him it seems. Terry’s high –class twiddles on his Martin were as accomplished as ever. I often wondered who played those many-tailed tadpole notes (hemidemisemiquavers, I think) in the music-teaching books of our youth. Now I realise they were meant for Terry. His second piece was an instrumental by the blind Irish harpist Turlough O'Carolan, recorded by Planxty amongst many others. In the interests of even more justice Terry did a third song. He chose Jackson C Frank’s Blues Run the Game, bringing back memories of the old sixties folk club days when this was a standard.
George and Mary were up next. George gave a shout out for the annual Sixties re-creation charity event, normally held at the Underground Theatre but this year moved to Deanlands on Saturday 22nd. The duo did sixties songs by way of practice for the event: Build Me Up Buttercup by the Foundations and Cabaret (that’s George with G not Jeorge with a J).
Helen did an excellent unaccompanied version of Fields of gold and her second song Walk Away Renee (1966), was accompanied by George’s able strumming.
Manus Heard it Through the Grapevine and he heard it good, his ear tuned to jazz. He played his E string so as to recapture the bass playing of James Jamerson on the Marvin Gaye Record. He got some funky and jazzy sounds. Continuing with his intricate and original guitar backings, “We are Stardust, We are Golden” he sang, and we all agreed. He revealed later that said “E” string is actually at some unearthly pitch in his open tuning of E Flat Minor.
Chris Martin left the sound desk in the stewardship of Clive to do two of his own songs Time – “the most precious thing is time/you wasted mine/ but I don’t mind/after all it’s only my time” and Xeroxed Armies, both from his album Standing Room Only. Chris is firm in his resolution to do only his own songs – more power to him.
Simon came on next with two country numbers. “I don’t do humour” he said wryly when I told him people enjoyed his gentle humour. He did Ootischenia by the Be Good Tanyas with impeccable thumpy in-time country picking. He announced Sin City by Gram Parsons. “What’s it about” came a shout from the audience. “About a minute and forty five seconds” replied the humour-denier. Again, it was a joy to hear perfect picking accompanying Simon’s rich voice.
“Happy song or sad song?” Clive asked when he got to the microphone. “Happy!” came the audience response. So Clive did the traditional song John Barleycorn. “Fa la la la it’s a lovely day” we all joined in. Then he did his own song The Adventure of Life (which it is).
Lisa’s original song Strange Enchanted Boy was based on the Song of Nature - the voice and music were enchanting to match. Jason joined her and announced that they are taking part in a benefit gig for a Maternity Rehab Centre in East Dean on 3rd November. The second song was by Sam Cooke, Lou Adler and Herb Alpert: “Don’t know much about history….” Don’t you just want to start singing along at the mere sight of the words? Lisa’s tuneful jangles on the high frets beautifully complemented the deep sounds of Jason’s Ovation. The third song was by “Sir Michael and Keith” – Ruby Tuesday. Then Jason finished with his favourite song by his favourite musicians, Crosby, Stills and Nash.
Ella Moonbridge was once often seen bearing a Bouzouki but now concentrates on her ever more competent piano playing. The honky-tonk bar room sounds went well with Dylan’s Thunder on the Mountain from his Modern Times album after she had sung a quieter, slower song The Long Stairs by Patty Griffin.
Dave and Pam are becoming regulars with their guitar and Melodeon duo. The opening reel segued into Mexicana rhythms and all sorts of variations with great guitar work and a bright Melodeon sound. There was lots of semiquaver unison work with the two instruments in spot-on synchronisation. They were obviously enjoying themselves. I didn’t catch the names of the reels but hey – wow!
It was half past ten and after I’d read a couple more poems The Double Bass Seeks Love and Them and Us, we voted on an early night and that was that.
I’ve put up Martin Taylor as the first video this month. When I first saw him at the Pizza Express in Soho, years back I couldn’t believe I was sitting ten feet away from a genius. To paraphrase a line from Flann ‘o Brian’s The Third Policeman: “what he was doing was no longer beautiful, but terrifying”. Here on Georgia he does slow bluesy soul rather than his trademark impossible polyrhythms and walking bass. Noel Dumbrell is an authentic folk singer on the Sussex scene, with genuine links to the old ways and is simply a joy to listen to and a great entertainer. Etta James belts it out in the third video. The sound is not so good on this, but the rules of this blog state that we have to have live videos, where, as we know, anything can happen. I just love Etta’s total emotional involvement in everything she does. My favourite album of hers is Deep in the Night.
So thanks for coming and playing and listening and reading this blog, and hope to see many of you at my next night in January and, of course, before.
It was publicised as a Comedy themed evening and at times it really was funny. Some eager performers had taken up their seats well in advance of my arrival and the evening became ten increasing to sixteen, then diminishing to twelve and a half. Thirteen was a non-available number by demand this evening. Many people even sang ‘comedy’ songs, some of which would more aptly be described as sarcastic, cynical or scathing. We were all smiling quite a lot though, so it can be assessed as successful from that point of view.
I began the evening on bouzouki singing Mary Chapin Carpenter’s ’I feel Lucky’, followed by more irony from Iris De Ment’s ‘God may forgive you but I won’t’. To wind up the evening I later sang one of my all time favourite cynical songs made famous by Deana Carter: ‘Did I Shave my Legs for This?’ The country and western ladies have a very strong presence with social, as well as religious criticism, wrapping it up in humour.
Jayne, on her lap slide guitar followed with some shocking lyrics, but assured me she had not written them herself, singing Tom Waits’ song: ‘Chocolate Jesus’ which he describes as ‘an immaculate confection …. Something for the kids on Easter’. This piece of blasphemy was followed by a variation on the Moody Blues classic, Knights in White satin: ‘Tights in White Satin’ by Fred Wedlock. This had lurid lyrics including ‘a bikini so tiny she could use it to floss her teeth’ and something about a virgin, a vibrator and fillings falling out.
George and Mary took the stage after Jayne and sang ‘Little Old Wine Drinker Me’, made famous by Dean Martin, picking up the religious theme with prayers for rain in California, for the grapes. Prayers to Bacchus/Dionysus no doubt. ‘Obladi Oblada’ is a song I don’t think I’ve heard for so long, it must have been in the previous century, but it is remains an unmistakeable Beatles song from 1968. It calypso-ed along very nicely.
Woodstock, a Joni Mitchell classic, was Helen’s first song, sung beautifully acapella. George joined her to accompany the following song, another classic: ‘Out of Time’, but this time one written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, made famous in 1966 by Chris Farlowe.
Humour was back on the agenda with both of Clive’s songs. The first ‘Lovely Watermelon’ was apparently written by Justine Clarke and Youtube has a recording from the 60s which is about a watermelon farmer. However, the version Clive gave us was a different version that was performed by Pamela Ward and Paul Charrington at the Bells last year (so Clive tells me). These watermelons were in the plural and more about female assets. His next song ‘Ma Crepe Suzette’ attracted a genuine laugh out loud response. He had written a variation of the song penned by Kenneth Williams and Gordon Jackson and brought it up to date. The song links French words and phrases and the nonsense is very funny : ‘ John Paul Gaultier …. Eau de toilette … Gauloise cigarettes …. Hors d’oeuvres …. Jeaux sans frontiers … grand prix … Ma Crepe Suzette’, to mention just a few. Haha, very funny.
Mike Kerry, from Seaford came to the mic next with his harmonica to sing two more traditional style songs with humour in them: ‘Are you all right Michael?’ with an Irish association, involving some drama around a steam train, and ‘Dog Walker’s Lament’. ‘Here we go, my doggy lad, ploughing through the muddy field in the pouring rain again’, Mike’s own song, inspired by the experience of walking through the muddy field with his dog, in the pouring rain again, including the vivid description of the slobbery tennis ball being chewed up and spat out. Dogs, eh? No, I love them, best buddies going, like cats, and like many pets, they have got the hang of unconditional love. (Well, most of them) Nothing like it.
Manus was due to perform next, but just at that very moment, he was called away. Unfortunately we missed his contribution this time around. Chris Martin hastened to the mic to sing his very cheerful song ‘I like to be sad’. This is one of Chris’s more up-tempo tunes. His second song ‘What’s in a Life’ runs through an account of the number of times statistically we may carry out certain actions or activities in our lives, and how much of our life that that actually absorbs. Much food for thought that may be funny or less so.
Heather followed with a poem from ‘Albert, ‘Arold and Others’ by Marriot Edgar, called ‘T’ Magna Carter’, not the usual version of history. Her father had read this to her as a child, in a strong Mancunian accent, so did she. He had joined the family when she was four and Heather has very happy memories which formed the basis of her song about him: ‘He took on the business of Daddy and gave it his best shot’.
There were two things you could not avoid, death and taxes, but now there are three: death, taxes and Brexit. Thus spake Simon. These subjects are perfect for Simon’s very dry sense of humour. ‘When Brexit comes, we’ll sing the blues, run out of food and have to boil our shoes ….. or it may be OK’. It may not be laugh out loud stuff, but certainly funny and desperately pertinent. I wonder if there will be an update for a year’s time. His other joyful ditty was about Ebola: ‘My Baby’s got Ebola’ and ‘I’m waiting to see if she passes it to me…. I’ve got the quarantine blues’.
John Stephens was due next, but decided to leave it this time. I had to hasten Jason to take the stage and so he did, without a single ruffled feather. He started with a song by Arthur ‘Blind’ Blake called ‘Diddy Wa Diddy’. A euphemism for something, I can’t imagine what. Jason said it always makes him smile. Blind Blake became well-known through recordings made between 1926 and 1932 and has doubtless raised many smiles since that time.
By way of a joke, Jason introduced his second song as being a Chris Martin song, but it wasn’t, and it also wasn’t remotely funny, however beautifully it was crafted and sung. Neil Young’s ‘Needle and the Damage Done’ is a brutal reminder of the tragedy of drug addiction: ‘I watched the needle take another man….’, and so to Frank….
Very lurid lyrics featured in Frank’s first song about ‘a dancing girl with fruit on her head … way down in Havana…. Where the drinks were laced with lust ‘. You can probably get the gist of it. (Sorry, I missed the title). His second song a twelve bar that the audience was encouraged to join in for the chorus: ‘The Boogey Man’ll get you’, ‘if you keep on doing this stuff’: drink, smoke, drugs, pimp… etc. There was a bit of a sing-a-long going on here and I guess it sort of picked up on the subject matter of the Neil Young song, but in a completely different style. Apart from accompanying themselves on guitar, I believe that Jason and Frank could not very much more different as performers, but that is also the beauty (if you can call it that) of this evenings, because the performers and material are so very varied. It struck me, that the extremes of variety, were very pronounced on this evening.
Sylvie brought a totally different tone with her poem about ‘My cleaning lady’, who ‘leaves what is dirty … and cleans what is clean… she was a ballerina….’. I should have anticipated Sylvie only offering one item to the evening, and then discovered that our next performer had decided not to continue, which had me hastily calling on Keith to take the stage.
He has had some inner ear problems, so was not playing an instrument this evening but still gave us a version of a sailor’s jig: ‘There’s no point in learning to swim, boys’ …. It will only prolong the agony if you fall overboard and drown. Is this a comedy subject? Well, not everyone follows the theme ….. developing along ideas including ‘There’s no point in saving the world’ because the only ones in our uneven society, who would be saved are the usual ones who are best placed to save themselves ie the rich and privileged. Very political and cynical, Keith. He didn’t stop there, no, he continued with a poem by Simon Armitage called ‘Thanks’, as in ‘Thank you for waiting’. The poem takes us through the different layers of privilege and status in society as if waiting to board an aircraft. There were many different strata beginning with the most precious metals and greatest levels of automatic privilege going all the way down to the level of chalk and loam, ‘Thank you for waiting’…..’Welfare … Thank you for waiting’ … and eventually ‘Remnant, ash, pus etc …. Thank you for waiting’. It did attract some laughter, probably because the poem highlights again, the theme of who matters, or not and how much, or not. As a Yorkshire man, Mr Armitage was going to be to the point, wasn’t he?
Excellent contributions all round in this rather odd but very engaging evening. I did sing that last song ‘Did I shave my legs for this?’ and although it sounds rather lightweight on the heels of Simon Armitage, it is an equally eloquent statement about human nature and experience. Well, I think so, but then it’s written by and sung by a woman so may be more pertinent to half of the population, rather than all of it.
Hold on a minute, this evening was wearing the label ‘Comedy’ ….. and it has expressed humour by exposing the underbelly of human experience, bringing attention to what is ‘less acceptable or desirable’ as well as funny stuff that just happens and is worthy of recognition.
I’m very pleased to have a British sense of humour.
Haha, see you soon, Ella
21st August 2018
And so it was fun to be back again hosting another friendly, musical gathering at our beloved Six Bells.
I was touched by the number of people who turned up to perform and listen.
And in this sad week that we lost Aretha Franklin, one of the truly great voices of soul and gospel, there were kind mentions of her throughout the night.
I commenced proceedings with a song by another of those truly great voices, the black American blues legend Leadbelly, and I poured as much as I could into "Take This Hammer", its brief, direct verses of a much tougher life than I'll ever know.
Manus followed and gave us the evening's first tribute to Aretha as he was accompanied by Lisa, who sang lovely, understated accompaniment on "You make me feel like as natural woman" (which was written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin). Manus then treated us to another thrilling guitar instrumental which crossed boundaries with what looked like an awesome number of different chords!
Simon then calmed us with his plaintive 12-string guitar sound, accompanied again by Lisa, and our dear new friend Heather, and they performed a pretty bridal waltz, before closing with "Long may you run".
Another new friend I've made on the music scene recently is the wonderful Andy Melrose, who often just captures the most beautiful, elegiac moods, and tonight was no exception. Songs of tough lives sung with such depth and accompanied with his skilfully simple and sensitive guitar playing. Open G tuning and glass bottleneck playing to die for.
As well as his typically solid and reliable work on the sound-desk, our Chris, AKA C.J. Martin, took us on his life journeys with nods to the "Routine" that binds our days and his deeply moving "Panyan", a song with a sensitive spoken word performance, this time beautifully read by Heather. Any mother would be proud of such a song.
Keith then stepped up to our dear old Higel piano, and summoned up the spirit of Keith Jarrett through the bar-room prism. English singer and pianist Liane Carroll's version of a song by American singer-songwriter Mary Gauthier was Keith's next piece which he sang with his distinctive blues styling.
Heather then performed solo, bravely accompanying herself on her open-tuned guitar despite nursing a recently broken finger, wringing out folk ballad "Patrick McGinty" and the timeless "Me and Bobby McGee" (Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster).
It was lovely to hear Glynn again, and I've enjoyed his performances recently at the White Horse Folk gatherings at Deanlands, our neighbouring club across the way.
Glynn and his fine Guild guitar treated us to beautifully touching Americana with nods to the great Guy Clark and John Prine.
I have made lots of friends on this local music scene and there are some great characters who come together over a shared love of music and one of the most fascinating is Frank Xerox, who can cover such a range of emotion from the most hilarious levity to the darkest tragedy. Tonight Frank was on his own journey. Crazy streets and crazy afternoons hung in particular light.
The lone voice always has the power to overcome and Sylvie took the mic with a moving musically set Rabbie Burns poem.
It is always nice to welcome new performers to the Six Bells. We need to keep reaching out. So John & Beverley were a new treat with their affecting voices and lively strummed guitars, performing a Dixie Chicks war ballad "Travelling Soldier" and "Diane" (by American singer Cam).
John Stephens then took to the floor and celebrated those good old boys The Rolling Stones, and those two ancient touchstones "Ruby Tuesday" and "Wild Horses".
Making a welcome return was another of my favourite guitarists on the scene, Ron Turner, in a duo with the equally fine Nigel, who I've never heard play before, but I sure do want to hear him play again. Lively country picking but like all great players they were able to mix it up. They sang and played their own compositions, "Sun is up, moon is down" by Ron, and "Liquorhead". I hope they return again soon to play for us.
I like it that we have a some lovely female voices as part of our scene and I always find Ella most enchanting, and she played our dear old piano once again and treated us to another tribute to Aretha with a beautifully delicate "Chain of Fools" (written by Don Covay). And, of course, one of the loveliest female voices I've had the pleasure of hearing and working with is Lisa, and we performed duet once again on Paul McCartney's evergreen masterpiece "Blackbird".
Lisa has kindly helped me bring my dad, Gerry Lockran's own compositions back to prominence this year and tonight we performed his touching ballad "I may not have too much".
Another new performer was Vonny who stepped up to sing an impromptu version of . . . . "Summertime". HOORAY!
Accompanied by our guitar hero Manus, she sang a jazzy version of this George & Ira Gershwin and Dubose Heyward classic, which has become a bit divisive in recent times. I think it is a shame that a song so greatly capable of different interpretations should become a source of opprobrium. As if the song had itself committed some sort of heinous crime.
I welcome its performances and I'm not afraid of saying so! And so closing a long night was the incomparable Bob Melrose, yet another favourite guitarist of mine! Yes, I know have a lot of favourite guitarists, don't I! But I like the guitar. So just deal with it!!!! Ha! Ha! Ha! And Bob was accompanied by . . . Manus, for a couple of songs of full-shred guitar nirvana.
A long night. A great night. It was my pleasure to play host to you all. Here's to many more nights spent together with you all, my friends.
LOVE. LIGHT. PEACE.
Tuesday 7th August
In an overwhelming rush of enthusiasm, I offered to write the blog for tonight because Chris was ‘M.C.ing’ and doing the sound as well.
We arrived early so the Chris could set up the desk, to find people having their dinners in the back room. What??? A potential audience??? Some of them stayed once we started performing as well. I do hope they enjoyed their evening and come again. It’s so lovely to have an audience.
Performers arrived in dribs and drabs and eventually sixteen different people took part.
Chris opened for us, having set up the sound. He has now written and recorded an amazing 100 songs, and performed his very first one from 1986, ‘Angry Young Man’, and then his last, which will be on his album Journey Part 1, coming out later this year. Both were performed with his own unique style and clear finger picking / rhythmic style. I have a special fondness for ‘Out Of the Blue’ because he has a very convincing ‘diddly’ music break in it....but then, I am a little biased.
Jane followed on from that with her lap steel guitar. It really does make a lovely sound and her performances of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s ‘Love the one You With’ and Carol King’s ‘I wasn’t born to Follow’ carried well in the room. The arrangements were beautifully simple, yet effective.
Then came Jamie, who had previously performed with Chris as a Father Christmas double act! His first song was his own composition written for his wife, Pam. It doesn’t quite have a name yet. ‘Sunshine in the Morning’? ‘Stay another Night’? It was a lovely song played and sang with accuracy and conviction. Lucky Pam. His next song was ‘Nutshell’ one of Alice in Chain’s most popular songs. Again, Jamie played with a full sound and a clear, rhythmic strumming accompaniment. He says he’s still working on the guitar solo bit. We can look forward to that!
Sylvie is not long back from the Lake District where she spent a couple of her earlier years. She recited her own poem ‘Lioness of Skelgill’. This is a well crafted poem written in rhyming couplet style with lovely images of the Lake District and Skelgill water. I’d really like to sit and read it sometime Sylvie.
Manus performed two classics next: John Denver’s Rocky Mountain High, and Roy Harper’s ‘May you Never’. He had made his own arrangements of both songs in his own jazz-type rhythmic style which would be impossible for most of us to play even if we had ten fingers on each hand. How does he do that? Thank you Manus. I’ll keep practising.
I wanted to play a couple of Scottish songs this week because we’re off to the Isle of Skye on Saturday, so I chose a couple of my childhood favourites; Annie Laurie and The Skye Boat song. After some fiddling around at home, I decided I preferred my piano version to my guitar version so I played the piano and accompanied myself in public for the first time ever. Nothing too dreadful happened and it was really lovely to hear everyone join me in the Skye Boat song chorus. Thank you people.
Helen sang next. Her first song was ‘Reason to Believe’, accompanied by George. It was originally written by Tim Hardin and made famous by Rod Stewart. Helen has a lovely tone and vibrato to her voice which brought out the beauty of the song. Next she sang ‘Both Sides Now’ with George and Terry accompanying her. ...in ordinary tuning. Not a DADFsharpAD anywhere. It was a very soulful version and went down well.
Mary got up to join George next and accompanied him in the chorus of Ry Cooder’s ‘Across the Borderline’. George played with a lovely gentle guitar style and voice which was a pleasure to listen to. Mary took the lead vocal to George’s accompaniment for their next song, ‘A Life that’s Good’ from Nashville. It isn’t a song that I knew, but it is lovely and I enjoyed Mary’s singing.
Terry performed two instrumentals on his nylon strung guitar next. I do love to hear Terry play and had a few lessons with him a few years ago so I do know just how tricky it is. Classical Gas takes me right back and was really enjoyable. Then Terry played ‘The Auld Highlanders’ a Scottish jig, which I hadn’t heard before. I shall definitely look forward to hearing it again.
Paula performed two of her own compositions: ‘Without You’ and ‘Canopy’. Her strumming style is so graceful. ‘Without You is a very sad and wistful song and Canopy conjured up some beautiful images. Both were performed in her pure, clear voice.
Sarah was a newcomer to the Six Bells stage and performing for the first time in many years. She delivered ‘Rosebud in June’ a capella and managed to hold the pace and key well despite her nerves. Well done! She will be performing at East Dean Church on Saturday 3rd November accompanied by Terry in a concert to raise money for a Heart Rehabilitation Unit at the DGH and the Vickie Vowles Memorial Fund for Safer Childbirth. Her own daughter died in childbirth, which could have possibly been avoided if there had been a ROTEM machine. All support would be gratefully appreciated.
Simon was up next. His first song was an acoustic version of ‘Ripple’ which he dedicated to the Deadhead in the room. It had to be explained to me. A Deadhead is a Grateful Dead fan. That’s Chris. He was touched! I really liked Simon’s version. What a beautiful song! We also had an informative little discussion about The Chelsea Hotel. Thanks guys! Simon then played one of his own songs, Take my Hand, which he was asked to write for a gospel band. Apparently they didn’t perform it in the end. Their loss.
Jason came up after that. He performed ‘To the End of the Waves’. I’m sorry if I’ve got that wrong Jason. He sang to a skilful syncopated guitar rhythm. Confident, secure, gentle. Lovely. Then Lisa got up to join him, back from her holidays. Apparently they hadn’t had time to practise. You couldn’t tell! They sang ‘Into White’, a lovely Cat Stevens song from Tea for the Tillerman, followed by The Glory of Love, a blues standard that Jason’s Dad used to sing. Very tight. Lovely harmonies. They do seem to get better every time I hear them. Lisa sang one of her own compositions. It was one of her poems that she put to music. It doesn’t have an official title yet; ‘New Moon’? There was a full range of dynamics, picks and strums, and some really exciting discords. I do hope we get to hear it again. Great stuff Lisa.
Clive had another song from The Great American Songbook that he hadn’t had a chance to perform at the last gathering, ‘I got Rhythm’. What a fun song. I couldn’t help joining in along with several others. This was followed by a moving version of Vincent. Again, we were humming along. Lovely choices Clive.
Finally, we were joined by a group of young people from Belgium and one of their number got up to sing. Maxime is a singer and actress in Belgium but usually performs in French. After a chat with Terry and Manus, they accompanied her to Summertime, everyone’s favourite! Maxime was confident and professional with a lovely dusky voice. Terry and Manus were in full throttle, and a thousand notes swam out and around to accompany her. It was a fitting end to a really enjoyable evening .
Thank you everyone.
The person that runs the evening writes the blog
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