26th June 2018
It was a warm evening of variety, warm in weather and warm because there was a lot of support and encouragement in the room. I got the ball rolling with my own song ‘Wishes do Come True’. Luckily for me, as I hadn’t prepared a second solo, Jason arrived and we were able to give Cat Steven’s ‘Into White’ from the iconic Tea for the Tillerman album, its inaugural outing, successfully I think.
Another inaugural outing was made by Natasha’s cello, the first time I have seen a cello played at the Folk ‘n’ Blues Club. Natasha provided us with a beautiful ‘folk’ rendition of Sydney Carter’s protest song from the ‘60s, ‘The Crow on the Cradle’. Her cello playing gave it an ethereal quality that silenced the room. Take a look at Jackson Browne’s version with David Lindley on violin and also Show of Hands’ arrangement with Phil Beer’s adept violin playing. It is a song that can be interpreted in many ways. Natasha then showed us how finger picking those heavy cello strings works so well with a song such as ‘Matty Groves’, her second choice, a ‘Border ballad’ from up north pre-1635. (Should that be a ‘bawdy ballad’?!)
I watched our Sound Man Chris Martin’s D45 envy Fade and Disappear as his energies went into performing his own song of that title, while Clive took over the sound desk. Chris then asked the Martinettes Revisited (Heather and Lisa) to join him on his up-tempo Scrapheap Blues which had everyone tapping their toes. Chris does sterling work on our new all-singing-all-dancing sound desk and with mic stands donated by Manus, we really are fully wired for great sound.
Heather revealed her rather good French with her version of ‘Look what they’ve done with my song, Ma’. It was originally the B side to Melanie’s rather screechy release of ‘Ruby Tuesday’ in 1971. Lovely to be reminded of this song, Ma - and sweetly sung. Heather then performed her fresh out-of-the-oven self-penned ‘Old Friends’ which she described as being a modern song with a Scottish rhythm. I certainly wanted to do a jig!
It was Lance’s second visit and this time he sang his own songs. I’ve heard several original songs by Lance now and always enjoy the fact that he can write about so many subjects, serious and comic alike. His songs can make you laugh and make you think. ‘Meltdown’ was his first which had a poignant message, while ‘My Broken Heart’ touched a chord with a lot of us, I’m sure.
Simon with his warmly toned Martin started off with ‘Sin City’ by The Flying Burrito Brothers, after informing us that Simple Minds were once called Johnny and the Self Abusers. Don’t ask! Van Morrison’s ‘Tupelo Honey’ from his 1972 album of the same name, was Simon’s second song. Rather interestingly, Dusty recorded it in 1973. Simon’s rendition was compelling and sweet as honey.
Sylvie impresses me with her ability to pitch her unaccompanied songs. It’s a difficult thing to do, and even more difficult to keep the pitch throughout. Tonight, Sylvie put a poem called ‘Lord Neptune’ by renowned children’s author and poet Judith Nicholls, to her own tune, adding a chorus for us all to join in with.
Our jazz legend Manus has, I’m pleased to say, discovered James Taylor (better late than never Manus!). His interesting and inspiring guitar style recreated two very well-known songs: ‘Fire and Rain’ and ‘Mexico’. Manus has an inner groove and a command of that guitar neck that fascinates me. His arrangements hail from a jazz-influenced background yet incorporate many different techniques. Watch and learn folks!
A change of pace with John, who hasn’t performed at the club before, as he had us all singing rather exuberantly to the early Rolling Stones track and another B-side single, ‘Ruby Tuesday’ and Bowie’s 1969 signature opus ‘Space Oddity’. It was rightly included in The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped…you guessed it…Rock and Roll. (Snappy title.) But is it rock and roll, or classic rock, or even pop? A discussion for next time perhaps...
We all fell silent for Clive’s renditions of ‘London River’ a song by Rod Sherman from Fairport’s Red and Gold album and the lovely 1967song ‘Painting Box’ from Scottish psychedelic folk group, The Incredible String Band. ‘’When I look inside my painting box, I seem to pick the colours of you.” Just lovely. Clive never seems to sing the same song twice. How does he do it!
Ella brought her bouzouki! She sang confidently with that fine toned instrument, proving to us that it can turn a convincing folk phrase with the 18th century ballad ‘Fare Thee Well My Own True Love’, as well as a country riff with ‘Down at the Twist and Shout’ by Mary Chapin Carpenter from her 1991 album Shooting Straight in the Dark. Ella sadly recently decided to leave the committee, but she returns to support the club and it is always such a pleasure to see her performances, whether it be on piano or with her bouzouki.
It was coming towards the end of a varied and entertaining evening of music. The atmosphere was fun and friendly, with laughter, banter, respectful support of all the performers and encouraging words, which combine to make for a special open mic night. Jason and I performed two duets to end with. Stephen Stills lyrically stunning ‘Helplessly Hoping’ from CSN’s 1969 debut album, and Dylan’s ‘Tonight I’ll be Staying Here with You’ from his much lauded (also 1969) Nashville Skyline album. With Jason’s encouragement and support, I am learning the disciplines of timing, careful listening and creative arrangements. Oh, and how to play the guitar, as well as sing a song without looking at the words! We never stop learning. For all that, I thank you Mr L!
Duetting is a joy, but how else to finish than with a singalong from John. ‘The Air that I breathe’ had a shaky start, but once we got going, this Hollies classic created a rousing end to a great evening.
Music is always in the air that we breathe.
12th June 2018
The seventies produced some great songs some of which we attempted this evening with various degrees of success and no lack of enthusiasm. Lots of wistful, oh yeah, I remember that. For me it was one of those pivotal decades, marriage, a child, responsibility and Dire Straits (in my case financially - trying to make ends meet). I could see the same thoughts crossing the faces of others during the evening. This is what these nights are about.
I started things off with Albert Hammond’s “It never rains in southern California”, followed by Slow Hand’s “Wonderful Tonight” and later, Six blade knife by Dire Straits with Terry playing lead.
Clive decided to bracket the decade with 1970 “Wandering Star” he didn’t quite get the Lee Marvin growl but it came close. He followed this with Mike Batt’s 1979 “Bright Eyes” ever associated with rabbits. Clive also ran the desk for us and gave us some mellow sounds.
Manus took us to the seventies folk scene with James Taylor’s “Something in the way she moves” followed by John Rembourn’s version of “Sweet Potato” – a great choice.
Next up was Natasha with a charming version of John Denver’s “Annie’s Song”, I was always a John Denver fan so I particularly enjoyed that. It is time for a John Denver revival he wrote some great stuff. This was followed by Hal Ketchum’s “Past the point of rescue” from the 1990’s but we pretended not to notice.
Then it was time for a debut, it was the first time Lance visited the Six Bells and we hope it won’t be the last. He gave us Paul Simon’s “Slip sliding away” followed by “Knights in white satin” the Moody Blue (re-issue version). A couple of tricky songs to play and sing but he nailed them.
Sylvie was next with her own composition “In praise of Bobby Dylan” followed by her “Please, please will you do these little things”. Not enough songs about toilet training in my humble opinion.
Pat followed Sylvie and sang unaccompanied, Dusty Springfield’s “Goin’ back” followed by “Leaving on a jet plane”. We all remember these.
Enough guitars, time for Ella on the piano. Being a hippy chick at heart Ella was in her element, I did not catch the name of the first song but this was followed by “After the gold rush” and later, another Neil Young song “Hurricane”. Good stuff.
Jason was wearing a flower powered shirt, he sang us Bob Dylan’s “Only a hobo” followed by Cat Steven’s “Longer boats” and later (with Lisa) Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s talking”. Only the Cat Stevens song qualified 1970, the others were 60’s songs (but then who’s being picky – I would never point that out to him).
Time for Terry. He gave us the muscle memory version of Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” followed by another Dire Straits song “Romeo & Juliet”. This is what happens when you practice.
Lisa, another Hippy Chick had dressed in her seventies gear (including flares – I loved wearing those, long overdue for a comeback in my opinion) accompanied by Jason they sang the Beatles classic “You’ve got to hide your love away” and then “Wild Horses” by the Stones.
Finally we had Keith who gave us his own song “Little Strategies” and then, because he had to play it in public, Mozart’s Concerto No. 21 in C major. A catchy title but totally inappropriate for a 70’s evening, not that I would be in any way critical; he did at least add a funky ending. Why didn’t old Amadeus think of that? Anyway, Keith got his “played in public” box ticked!
Thanks to everyone who came along, particularly those who went to the trouble of learning a 70’s song for the occasion. Next time it is sure to be a packed house as Lisa is running the evening. I am looking forward to it. See you next time.
29th May 2018
When Simon asked a few weeks ago if I was prepared to compere an odd evening at the Six Bells I assumed he wanted me to run a normal evening, occasionally. He could have meant odd in the sense of bizarre though. I’ll do my best.
Attendance was neither phenomenal nor embarrassing. Ten performers turned up, which gave everyone a couple of songs, then, when we’d been round once, a chance for a happy few to do a third. There was even a sprinkling of non-performers. Hurrah!
I opened with one of mine, Too Sad to Sing the Blues from the Calmer Waters Album, followed with a poem, The Double Bass Seeks Love, from my new pamphlet of musical poems Day Job Shoes, which is ripe for shameless self-promotion.
Andy lives in Brighton and had visited the club a few times before. From tonight’s performance he’s very welcome to come again. He played harmonica and guitar on two original songs. The first, The Sound of Snow Falling, was gentle and reflective, about being warm and safe inside when it’s snowing outside; the second original, The Ghost on Brooklyn Bridge, had an upbeat Latin tempo and realised its ghostliness by the use of minor chords.
Silvie is a regular visitor with her poems and unaccompanied songs. This time she performed two of her poems Monet’s Garden, thanking the artist for the pleasure he had given to so many visitors, with all those water lilies and The Razor Tree, concerning inept razor management by adolescent sons. A couple of Sundays ago, at the Green Man in Ringmer, there’d been a large number of French visitors, who she’d hoped would be impressed by the Monet verse, but they perhaps preferred Manet. For those of us who played there it was probably the biggest audience we’d seen in a long time.
Retournons a nos oignons. Frank Xerox was next up. His self-penned witty ditty Way Down in Havana was about an exotic dancer. Somewhat Dylanesque in its narrative style, this throbbing ballad told of many steamy sights, including fruit on the dancer’s head. One of his five a day? The second song, which used some more of Frank’s many “accents”, was The Devil Went Down, thankfully not also about an exotic dancer but a come-uppance ballad about the Devil wreaking punishments a la Goya on those who were responsible for the financial crash of 2008. Frank explained that it was all in revenge for the bankers having repossessed Hades.
The prolific singer songwriter and recordist Chris (CJ) Martin, who I don’t think has missed a Six Bells evening in living memory, then did two of his songs Run and I Can’t Make it Shine. The world is full of a number of things, and Chris writes about them, singing acoustic rock with recherché chord sequences. At risk of repeating what has been said before, this man is good – buy his CDs. He also works the sound desk, which is a service to humanity.
We’d got this far with all original material - a record? Then on to some original interpretations of covers. Manus gave us some of his tasteful jazz chords and licks in a rendition of Hendrix’s Little Wing followed by True Colours. Manus related this song to Grenfell Tower; he’d lived in a clad tower block and always felt that colours were being stuck on the outside with nobody listening to the colours within. He got a good funky groove going too. Not a note out of place. Since there was no phone signal at the Bells, the Googligentsia among you may wish to know that True Colours was written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, although widely associated with Cyndi Lauper.
Heather is a balladeer with a great zest for life and has sung a couple of times at the Bells recently after a long rest from performance. In spite of suffering from what she called “Teacheritis” (a croaky voice caused by excessive educational effort) she gave us a Beatle’s cover The Long and Winding Road and then the Melanie version of Ruby Tuesday by the Stones. My croak-o-meter registered nothing during either of these.
Then, not realising the iconoclasticism involved, I called for a break. This is not traditional at the Bells and, ten minutes later, I found out why. Even Heather’s school teacherly authority did not help in speedily getting people out of their vibrant conversations and back to their seats. There was time during the break, though, for a group photo of that Kafkaesque body “The Committee”, which will no doubt appear on the website sometime.
Got going again with my song Requiem. Then we heard Simon Watt, again someone who has missed very few Bells evenings over the years. Simon is equally talented at performing covers (mainly country) and writing songs that express his own gentle humour. Tonight, the covers won. He told a tale of having seen “two old guys playing guitar” in a pub in Eastleigh and realising that, through their music, they were expressing friendship – just like us at the club. This, as in a Hollywood musical, led skilfully into a large orchestration of You’ve Got a Friend in Me (by Randy Newman) with Manus and Clive on tambourines, Andy on Harmonica and Frank on Guitar. A good country groove for the second number Bring it to Me by Sam Cooke.
Clive is encoded into the DNA of the club, ever present with his own compositions, his covers, his compering and his work on the sound desk. He did one of his own songs Blue Above the Grey emphasising positivity above negativity, then a Dylan song Tomorrow is a Long Time, which provoked a singalong.
Jason, who runs the Sunday Folk Club at the Elephant and Castle, Lewes, on the second Sunday of each month (please go, everyone), used his mellifluous voice to great effect in Thank You by “The Mighty Led Zepp”. There’s something of Elvis Costello in that tenor voice, with a nice deep resonance too. Lisa joined him with vocals and some good licks on his second song Tonight I’ll be Staying Here with You from Dylan’s Nashville Skyline album.
Lisa then did an incredibly original version of Elvis’s Don’t be Cruel, releasing it from its oomba-oomba rock and roll prison and turning it into a folk ballad. Then Jason joined her on So Begins the Task (S Stills) with some lovely harmonies.
And so, at around twenty to eleven ended the cycle of performers and the start of a quickfire second round – one song each and see how far we get. Andy went into open tuning to do Come Dance with Me, a song of the army and love in Northern Ireland, with some beautiful harmonies on the guitar. Silvie stood aside to let Frank perform both kinds of music (country and western) and we all joined in. Finally, Chris Martin did his legendary 12-bar hit Toast for One with Lisa, Heather and Jason as the backing vocals trio, Frank on lead guitar and Andy on harmonica.
Then there were the parish notices and the speeches of thanks and Simon reminded us to reconvene for the 70s evening in two weeks. As this was my debut, I was too overcome by what I’d undergone to remember to thank Chris and Clive on sound, so thanks to Chris and Clive, on sound. And thanks for lugging all those mysterious black cabinets about.
14th May 2018
It was my pleasure to host another evening of music at the Six Bells and I was thrilled with the number of people who turned up. As before my job as host was made all the easier by my friends who set up the PA and prepared the running order. All I had to do was stand behind the mic and be the anchor man!
And so I started off the evening with my own gentle ballad 'Simple Smiling Face' following it with 'Handbags & Gladrags' (Michael D'Abo). As I mentioned, the other Rod Stewart classic that I considered covering was 'Do you think I'm sexy?' but I need more courage to don those leopard skin patterned tights for your delectation. Maybe next time!
One of the advantages of starting the evening is that I don't have to follow such guitar masters as Terry Lees, who played dazzling versions of 'Vincent Black Lightning' (Richard Thompson) and Scottish bag-pipe tune 'Eilean Donan'. I sat right in front of Terry and was just in awe of how he played his Martin guitar.
And then another of my favourite guitarists on the scene, Manus McDaid, took the stage and treated us to his unique jazz stylings as he performed wonderful versions of 'Goodbye Pork Pie Hat' (music by Charles Mingus with the later added lyrics by the divine Joni Mitchell) and 'Georgia on my Mind' (Stuart Gorrell / Hoagy Carmichael) on which he played many beautiful chords. My relatively pedestrian guitar version of 'Georgia . . ' would be heard later in the evening, as I accompanied my dear friend Lisa who sang beautifully as always.
George & Mary performed a lovingly gentle version of The Doors classic 'Light My Fire', with a nice hint of Jose Feliciano's version, following with an engaging ''Storms never lost' (Miranda Lambert).
For rousing and gutsy classic blues our next performer always delivers and Penny was thrilling as she stormed through 'Trouble in Mind' (Richard M. Jones) and 'This Train' (the traditional US gospel song, originally made famous by Sister Rosetta Tharpe, after the song was discovered by folklorists John and Alan Lomax). Penny was brilliantly accompanied by Terry Lees on guitar and Keith Willson on piano. And yes, the piano may have a few out of tune keys, but that added to its bar-room credibility, and Keith played it for real.
Glyn then played a deeply moving couple of songs, 'How times slips away' (Willie Nelson) and the chilling 'Hurt' (Trent Reznor), which, of course, we all remember as covered by the great Johnny Cash. Glyn just understands and loves this music so deeply and it was quite emotional watching him sing and play at such close distance.
Paula's performances I have always enjoyed, having seen her play at several open mic nights in recent months, and tonight was no exception as she treated us to her lovely song 'Jug of red wine' and an engaging Elizabethan guitar instrumental. I hope to hear more of Paula's music in the future.
Now if an award for most sartorially controversial T-shirt is to be made then hands-down winner has to be Simon Watt sporting his Kim Jong-un emblazoned piece of apparel. Well, we need to move on from Che Guevara, don't we? Anyway, the music! Simon played gentle versions of 'Sometimes we cry' (Van Morrison) and 'Firestorm' (Danny Schimdt).
As well as doing a fabulous job on the sound desk Chris Martin also treated us to two of his own songs. Chris is probably one of the most prolific song-writers on the scene and tonight he performed 'I want to learn' and 'Hanging on', which he is currently recording for his new album, which I look forward to hearing.
Bob Aldridge is a beautifully gentle performer and he engaged us yet again with the classic 'Sweet Baby James' (James Taylor), effortlessly inspiring us all to sing along. His equally subtle version of 'Your Song' (Elton John/Bernie Taupin) calmly followed.
It is always pleasure to have a new performer join our scene and Heather Curry is a lovely lady and most charming singer and guitarist and she opened with 'Little Green' (Joni Mitchell) from the classic 'Blue' album. Heather is wonderful to have on our scene and I was also glad to have her play at my "Open Space" music evening in Lewes last Sunday. She followed with her mirthfully cutting song 'Show me yours' and we all hope she will regularly return to play at the Six Bells.
It was a lovely evening particularly as we enjoyed a variety of female performers and Anita Jardine is another rousing performer who always makes one smile and tonight she beguiled us with 'Wicked Game' (Chris Isaac) and her own socially aware song 'Little Bit Gypsy'. Aren't we all? Absolutely. And we must thank Terry Lees, who once again provided brilliant improvised accompaniment to Anita.
I was lucky to be able to perform a couple of songs with my dear friend Lisa, with whom I have been building up a duo act with in recent months. Lisa is the loveliest singer and guitarist and it was beautiful to go back to our original favourite song 'Georgia on my Mind' (Stuart Gorrell / Hoagy Carmichael). Some songs just define one's life and help us through and this is just one of those. The road leads back to you, indeed. Lisa played some lovely guitar as well as delivering the prettiest vocal of the evening. Another song we are really finding expression in is 'Wonderful World' (Sam Cooke / Lou Adler / Herb Alpert), which is so simple, but resonates so much.
Yet another of my favourite guitarists and musicians on the scene, Keith Willson, got up next to play his bittersweet 'Too sad to sing the blues', picking out his own rootsy melange on that most handsome guitar of his. I do enjoy the dynamic of poetry interspersed with music at these evening so it was so welcome to hear Keith read his poem 'The Organist' from a published book of his verse.
Our dear friend Clive got up next to play his topical song 'Marry Harry', featuring his new lyric to The Beautiful South's evergreen classic pop hit. He then treated us to 'Lilac Wine' (James Shelton) to ease us towards the end of the night.
Sylvie then got up to lead us all into a singalong 'Sing me a song, Mr Blue'.
And so we finished with John Pontefract, who played 'The old, old house' (George Jones) and 'How can a poor man stand such times and live' (Woody Guthrie), with a nod to the great Ry Cooder.
Such a full evening. I was very touched by everyone's support.
Let's do it again and fill that room with love.
Until then, you all take care, my friends.
Once a year they let me run a ‘sing us a song of your own’ night and this was the fourth edition. I also get to pick 3-videos from You Tube to go with my report.
I bang on about song writing and wonder why everyone doesn’t do it - for me, it’s so much better than recycling the same old songs (even if they’re great). Open mic person puts their heart on the line singing ‘Summertime’, well, I’d still pick the Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong version, or the Janis Joplin interpretation. But, when open mic person performs their own song, they don’t have to compete with Ella, or Janis and it’s real and tells us something about them.
Song writing: You have the melody, musical arrangement and the lyric. I could write a hundred blogs on lyric writing, but will spare you that for another day! But, one thing I’d say is, ‘what do you want to say’ and always use a ‘cliché alert check’ when editing your own lyric - be tough.
I’m currently working on my 99th song and am excited about reaching the big ton. I don’t wish to repeat myself musically, or lyrically, so it’s a challenge to find new ideas. I’m happy with my new material and the more I do it, the more I enjoy the search for the next song.
We have our influences and people we admire and the music that we grew up with. I don’t sound like any of my music heroes and have often wondered where my songs and my sound come from - the 3 YT videos give a clue. As a youngster I studied classical guitar, which was a lot of J S Bach arpeggio type stuff. My picking style has evolved over the years, but I still lean on this basic technique and love my arpeggios, and I rely on my fingernails to give me my sound. I’ve had a lot of chats with other bearded (and some clean shaven) old chaps about nails, quite a few have brilliant white false nails on their picking hand. I stick with my own, but they do break and sods law dictates, just before you need them for something important.
My second video is that Boston song, which I find quite annoying these days, but the opening D thing clearly influenced me, as I still use variations of it today. The David Gates number: back in the 70’s I had (I’ve still got it) a book of Bread songs and I just loved those songs. So, it’s Bach, Boston, Bread and the rest is just me.
Ok, that’s enough about me and my songs - sorry, having done a lot of blogs, I just wanted to do something different this time which relates to the subject of the evening.
We had a fab night with 16 performers, most of all whom did their own stuff. We also had some listeners which really helps fill the room and lift the evenings. Here’s a song list with brief notes.
I opened with ‘Insomniac’s Dream’ & ‘On paper wings’ - both feature on my album, ‘The Last Song’.
Paula: ‘Lifeline’ & ‘Empty chair’ - two of her own songs that have real meaning to her.
Glyn: ’Magnolia wind’ & ‘All she wants’ - both by Guy Clarke. Glyn borrows his songs from great dead songwriters.
George and Mary: ‘Misty morning blue’ & ‘The day I struck gold’ - George said he’d only written about eight songs and played one which he’d composed about 25 years ago. And to finish, a song written by our good friend, Chris Liddiard.
Natasha: ‘This living nightmare’ & ‘Bees wing’ (by Richard Thompson) - the opening number was written 30-years ago by Natasha and this was its world premiere - a fascinating insight into the young writer’s life at the time and a great example of why you should write your own songs.
Manus: ‘Under a glass ceiling’ & ‘Red blues’ - about a cult of desire and a red car.
Jane: ‘Homesick blues’ (a poem by Langston Hughes with music by Jane) & ‘Hysterectomy blues’ - now what can I say about that!
Silvie: started with a mic but then put it on the bar - one day I’ll get her to use the PA. Two a cappella numbers about Mary Queen of Scots and other stuff from circa 1542.
Simon: ‘Bernard the fireman’ & ‘The furniture song’ & ‘Summertime’ - classic Simon songs with subtle humour and then he demanded a third song - well, what can I say (see above)!
Heather: ‘Double Entendre’ & ‘Weald and Sea’ - first song with guitar and second a cappella. It was Heather’s first outing at the Bells for 25-years (see photo).
Clive: ‘All the love will remain’ & ‘Padstow’ - a sad, but pretty song of his own and a cover for May Day of a Steeleye Span song.
Keith: ‘Dusty’ (a song about his old typewriter) and a poem, ‘The double bass seeks love’.
Kevin: ‘Winter long’ & ‘Contradictions’ - I loved the first song. I’m currently recording my next album in Kevin’s studio (see photo below).
Lisa: ‘May the wind be forever in your sales’ (wins the award for longest song title of the evening) & ‘Bluebell knoll’.
Jason: ‘Sunday afternoon’ & ‘Strange sailings’ - Great stuff from Lisa & Jason, both playing their own songs.
And that was it - kick off 8:45 - final whistle 11:15 - thanks to Simon for setting up the PA, Clive for doing the sound - PA packed away, a bit of a natter and out the door at 11:45.
Next up it’s Tuesday 15/05/18 and your MC will be Jason Loughran
C J Martin x www.cjmartin.info
Although Simon was due to run this evening at the Six Bells folk and blues, he is hiding away somewhere downing antibiotics. He has made his video selection, but all other duties were shared between Chris on sound, Clive on introductions and me, Ella taking notes for this blog.
It was a later start at about 8.45 and we got underway with a modest list of nine, but as often happens with a smaller gathering, it turned into a very varied and enjoyable evening, of course. Clive opened the evening with the upbeat ‘Meet me on the Corner’ (Mr Dream Seller) from Lindisfarne’s second album Fog on the Tyne. He followed with ‘Terminus’ from Ralph McTell’s second album Spiral Staircase. What’s with the second album thing Clive?
Pat followed Clive with two beautiful clear a cappella songs: ‘Edwin’ (Edwin of the Lowlands Low) as performed by Steeleye Span, as well as others. Her second song ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’ taken from the George and Ira Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess.
More clear singing from Natasha came next. With some accomplished guitar accompaniment she sang ‘The Creggan White Hare’, a delightful song about the white hare escaping from the huntsmen and their hounds. I could have cheered for the hare. She went on to sing the traditional ‘The Tides are Flowing’…. ‘one morning in the month of May….’
Chris the Sound took the stage next, telling us that this had been a sad and gloomy year, which prepared us for his two songs ‘Wreckage’ .. ‘we’re out doing nothing and it takes up all our time ..and ‘Routine’. It’s all in the title. The year is still young, so here’s hoping the mood will improve.
I followed at the piano, with an attempt at Joni Mitchells’ beautiful early (1969) song ‘He Played Real Good For Free’ and my version of Lady or Lord Franklin. There are many versions of the song, which developed over the many years until Franklin was considered lost. Lady Franklin did sponsor her own search for her husband. I love the old piano, but playing it is always a bittersweet experience. Whether I complete a song successfully or less so, the dear old thing responds gallantly but is woefully out of tune. A selection or sequence of notes relatively in tune is divinely satisfying.
Frank followed me with Dylan’s ‘One of Us Must Know’ (Sooner or Later) which reminded him of his first girlfriend and the classical edifice that is Birmingham Town Hall. His second song was ‘Whiter Shade of Pale’, Procul Harem’s debut song which was released on 12th May 1967, went to number one on 8th June and stayed there for six weeks. No wonder a whole generation remembers it so well.
Just as on the last Bells evening, a band turned up unexpectedly. John, Brian and Megan travel under the name ‘Grasslands’. Brian and Megan are also a duo as ‘Red, Green and Blue’. Slightly confusing. ‘Twenty Years’ was their first song;.. ‘there’s a note under your front door that I wrote twenty years ago’ from a favourite band The Civil Wars, who have seriously broken up. Perhaps there’s a clue in the name they chose. On a lighter note, they sang John Martin’s ‘I’m Coming Home’. They produced some well-rounded sound and harmonies with guitars and mandolin. Having travelled all the way from Lamberhurst, they were invited to sing a third song: ‘Forget-Me-Not’.
Jason and Lisa ran their four songs together, starting with Jason’s own song ‘A Little Soul’ with characteristic fingerstyle accompaniment. Lisa joined him, for one night only as ‘Captain Bracegirdle’ from Noel Coward’s ‘Blithe Spirit’ (apparently) and together they sang some very lovely harmonies on Stephen Still’s ‘So the Task Begins’ (I must learn to live without you now) from his 1972 album Manassas. They performed Tom Waitt’s ‘Heart of Saturday Night’ with Lisa adding some sparkling guitar along with her vocal harmonies. She went on to sing Jimmy Cliff’s ‘I Can See Clearly Now’ solo (it’s gonna be a bright, bright, bright sunshiny day). Very Nice.
With plenty of time to go, Pat sang to us again, this time a Don McLean song ‘The Sea Man’ where ‘.. the fish that were left, were too poisoned to eat’. Natasha followed with Flora ‘Lily of the West’, a traditional Irish song that has become a traditional American song. ‘Enchanting’ said Clive.
I struggled to decipher the name of Chris’s third song ‘Ghosts’ in my notes, but there it was, with Lisa adding some pretty harmonies. (Just one third of the Martinets as Chris reminded us). I followed with Neil Young’s ‘Hurricane’ on the dear old piano. Jason sang the second Dylan song of the night: ‘Only a Hobo’ from his very early Gaslight album of 1962. Frank took to the piano to sing Hank Williams’: ‘Lost Highway’: I’m a rolling stone on the lost highway, just another guy on the lost highway.
‘Grasslands’ rounded off the evening with two folk songs. The first ‘Take Me Out Drinking Tonight’ as sung by Michael Marra, and the second, a popular English folk song by some different rolling stones: ‘I can’t Get No Satisfaction’.
According to Chris’s accounts there were 27 songs and 11 performers bringing music to the hallowed halls of the Six Bells this evening. I hope that Grasslands make the journey from Kent to see us again and that Simon will be germ-free to join us at Chris Martin’s Singer/Songwriter night on first of May.
See you soon, Ella
Six Bells Blog: 3 April 2018
The evenings have become lighter and the long winter is finally shuffling off, at last. Plenty of musicians had gathered, but as sometimes happens, not many non-performers at the beginning. However, it would be fair to say that initial impressions can be very misleading. We went on to have a very varied and action-packed evening.
St Patrick’s Day has been and gone. Because I missed that episode at the Six Bells, I started the evening with a traditional Irish song: P stands for Paddy, followed by Joni Mitchell’s: 'I think I understand', from her early album ‘Clouds’, accompanying myself on bouzouki.
George and Mary stepped forward to follow with Red River Valley and a second song that I failed to make a note of (sorry), but both were performed with characteristic confidence and lovely harmonies. Annie from Ashurst took the stage after them and performed beautifully a cappella, the traditional ‘Let no Man Steal Your Thyme’. Carey Mulligan sang this in the 2015 film ‘Far from the Madding Crowd’. As a traditional British/Irish song, there are several variations. Pentangle popularised the song in 1968. Taking up her guitar she then sang ‘Dimming of the Day’, written by Richard Thompson (of Fairport Convention fame).
Manus sang an Elvis B-side ‘Little Sister’, a rock and roll song written by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman recorded by Elvis in 1961. Manus said he had heard this performed in country style, that would probably be Dwight Yoakam, and by Ry Cooder, with a collection of musicians and backing singers without the rock’n’roll edge, but this evening’s performance was more modest. He followed this with a Keith Willson song ‘The Worst Thing’ and Keith had arrived by this time to appreciate the performance of his work.
Stepping out from behind the sound desk, Chris Martin performed two of his own compositions. The first was ‘Journey’ and the second was ‘Another Journey’. The names were rather misleading. The two songs were distinctly different and spoke of different things. Whilst ‘Another Journey’ appeared more upbeat, the warning was that ‘the crash is coming’.
Paula climbed onto the stool and sang us her song ‘The Empty Chair’, waiting for someone to arrive and ‘my coffee doesn’t taste the same without you’. Her music flew away and Clive rushed forward to remedy the situation with a peg. Continuing in gentle guitar fingerstyle, she then sang the 1973 classic by Roberta Flack ‘Killing Me Softly’.
Glyn followed Paula with quiet confidence, singing his version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ from his 1984 album Various Positions. His second song by David Gates, was ‘Guitar Man’ from the 1972 album of the same name by Bread.
Simon gave us an Eliza Gilkyson song ‘Calm Before the Storm’ ….. ‘easy does it darlin’, let the good times roll’. A guy called Simon Watt is on Youtube singing this very song at the Six Bells about eleven months ago. His second song ‘Company of Friends’ by Danny Schmidt, Simon likes for his different approach and sentiments.
After a good deal of banter and some furniture moving, the Golgis: Ade, Tony, Nigel and Wolf, took the stage. They had travelled all the way from Worthing, across the border in West Sussex. This four man band had apparently last performed at the Six Bells fifteen years ago. Much to the delight of those gathered, Rupert Cobb was also joining them in their performance. We were promised a lot of volume and their first song was accompanied by a six string and twelve string guitar, snare drum and djembe. Whilst apologising for the noise they were about to make, there was total resistance to turning down the volume. I don’t think I got the name of the first song, but I did get the name of the second ‘Wayne’ twice instead. Sorry. This song included the playing of a very large recorder, a teapot and some impressive hat-juggling. Then a spiralling plastic funnel on the end of some plastic tube trumpeting in circles over our heads and a very long sustained note that had us holding our breath. To say this performance was unusual would be an understatement.
Their third song was a sing-along ditty about the ‘Hagfish’, an extraordinary and exceptionally revolting eel-like fish that creates huge amounts of defensive slime. I daresay some could equate this behaviour with that of various politicians. Over to those of you who write political songs. The actual fish is very unusual in that it has a bony skull with many alien-style teeth, but no backbone. It’s been operating successfully for 300 million years apparently. The song required the audience to respond to ‘It’s the hagfish’ with the reply of ‘What’s he like?’ It featured the ukulele and some virtuosity from Rupert. We were promised some even more piercing noise on the last song ‘Doc’s Tash’. It was very loud and like the other songs included powerful percussion. This one included the modest, wandering tambourine, more exquisite trumpet from Rupert and the totally irreverent bagpipes assaulting everyone’s ears. The bagpipes left the room, they returned to the room and ended on a traditional Scottish note.
Our senses were suitably stunned whilst being totally engaged. As they left at the end of the evening I wondered how they might describe their musical style. I was thinking musical theatre, circus, or something particularly colourful. Apparently they are ‘alternative folk’, maybe very alternative. Musical pantomime? ‘It’s the hagfish’…’What’s he like?’
Clive did immensely well to re-engage the audience following this delightful assault on the senses, making a joke about fish dinner then invoking Sunshine. Very appropriate for the obvious and very welcome change in the season. Clive has an apparent library of songs about the seasons. He produced another strong Cornish mining song ‘Cousin Jack’… ‘follow me down cousin Jack’.
Keith Willson brought the evening to a conclusion with his ‘Blue Passport Blues’ making observations about the political whys and wherefores of colour choices and his final song was ‘Climbing up a Rusty Ladder’ with the advice ‘don’t look down’. And so ended an unusually mixed and varied programme of artists and material.
Simon will be hosting the evening on the 17th. See you then, Ella
Tuesday March 20th.
Spring has arrived, even though the weather has recently not been behaving itself, and we find ourselves here again at The Six Bells at the Spring Equinox. Three days ago was Saint Patrick's Day, which is also a time to celebrate, even if you aren't of Irish descent, so it had been arranged for tonight to be Irish Theme night.
As with other theme nights, it is not obligatory to stick to the theme, but it is good to have a go at playing something that is not normally in our own repertoire, and is perhaps out of our own comfort zone.
We suggested that everyone should be drinking either Guinness or Irish Whiskey, but that also was not obligatory. On the theme of whiskey (Irish spelling) -- not whisky ( Scottish spelling), I poured out 'Whiskey in the Jar', a song that has been done by many people, and with each version having different lyrics. Then came 'Sweet Sixteen' best known performed by The Fureys but written by James Thornton, an American performer, but born in Dublin in 1898. My third tipple was Phil and June Colclough's 'Song for Ireland', well known as being sung by Mary Black.
It's always nice to see Jason Loughran and Lisa Jackson singing together , and they took to the floor to give us 'Running on Faith' by Jerry Lynn Williams, Tom Waite's 'Looking for the Heart of Saturday Night', followed by 'The Lifeline', one of the songs written by Jason's father Gerry Lockran. Jason and Lisa play with a pure and sensitive touch, yet powerful.
The same could be said of Simon Watt. So I'll say it. Simon gave us a powerful, yet pure and sensitive take, on 'From Galway to Graceland' by Richard Thompson, and 'The Mountains of Mourne' by Irish composer Percy French. He followed these with one of his own ,always clever, compositions: 'Rocket Man'. ( RE: Kim Jong Un). He tried to convince us that Kim Jong Un's Great Grandmother was Irish, so that his song has an Irish connection. Fake news !
Next up was Manus McDaid, with a different guitar tonight, a Spanish acoustic, and he began with a great version of the traditional 'Blackwaterside' played in the style of Bert Jansch. He then brought out two of his own compositions: 'Above the Ether' and 'Whatever', both played in his brilliant jazz/ blues style.
Another keen performer of self - penned work is, of course, Chris Martin. Chris gave us one of his clever 'protest songs' which points a finger, or should that be two fingers? - at so many things that are wrong about our nation. 'Funked -up Country'. I said funked -up country. This was followed with 'Something to Believe', and then the story of his road trip in the USA, 'I went to America'. Thanks Chis, and for being in charge of the sound desk as well.
Terry Lees always plays brilliantly, and tonight he decided to save his singing voice and just give us some Irish tunes. He launched into a medley of three , beginning with 'She moves through the Fair', then 'Planxty Irwin', composed by Turlough O'Carolan -- ( there's a great Irish name) ! -- Then 'Johnny's gone to Hilo'. Manus came back then to accompany him on guitar with 'The Rakes of Mallow', with Terry playing the lead on his resonator mandolin.
There was time then for Jason to come back to do a couple of solo numbers: 'Love me Two Times' from The Doors, and his very nice version in his own style, of Bob Dylan's 'Tonight I'll be Staying here with You'.
Then it was Lisa's turn to sing us a couple of songs on her own. She kept us warm with 'Ring of Fire' by Johnny Cash ( although some say it was written by June Carter Cash) ? She finished with 'Everybody's Talking at Me', the Harry Nilsson song written by Fred Neil. Lisa and Jason had played beautifully as a duet earlier, but it was nice to hear them both playing solo as well.
There was still time for some more songs, and Chris came back to do his cycling -inspired number: ' I want to Learn' .
No- one else wanted to come back up, so we decided to finish at 10.45, which is unusual, but quite nice for a change. It was a less busy evening tonight, but it was nice and laid -back and casual.
We can't have an Irish night without a mention of the city of Limerick, and an example of a short rhyme named after that place.
On the breasts of a barmaid in Kinsale
Is tattooed the price of her ale
And on her behind - for the sake of The Blind
The prices are written in Braille.
So, if you ever find yourself down in Kinsale, and you are blind drunk, ask for that barmaid.
See you next time !
From Where The Coffee Came – 6-3-18
I have to endorse the Brazilian Musos every so often – the least I can do is drink in the works of Antonio Carlos Jobim [as I grind the beans …] and he was prolific as he introduced the Bossa Nova beat, distilled from the variously rough-and-ready Samba rhythms to The United States of America [from THE Americas, proper] whilst overseeing the subsequent inclusion of these novel song-forms into the greater mainstream: 'The Great American Songbook'. I chose to perform Jobim’s 'Wave' and the now totemic 'The Girl From Ipaneema'; I had Paul Delaney along on the bass to anchor the groove for myself and for some 'live' experience for him – we didn't really nail it but there's no shame in that. We live and we learn. It was a preview of things to come when it brightens up in due course.
Then there was the man in red – Pierre/Peter, colourfully, if not chromatically tripping out on a couple of songs to an acoustic guitar backdrop mined from within some personal orbit that was kind of alien to me. But there you go it was an interesting insight into another man's eclectic bubble of self-absorption ….Terry Lees stepped up to restore that special pro-am [professional/amateur/symbiotic] touch as always, to balance things out again whilst giving us an extra vignette with the instrumentally sublime: 'Sally River Bells'. Chris J. Martin gave us 'Tree' followed up by 'My Son from Baby Child to Man' which obviously took him a long, long time to write [there's an holistic life's journeyman in there, mate]. But I think the point was that it takes real time to perfect such heartfelt, biographic undertakings, as we all must do at some point in life, I guess.
Simon brought on the cowboy chords in service of a couple of good songs: Nicky Moore's 'Let Sleeping Dogs Lie' and Leonard Cohens's 'Bird On The Wire' – his acoustic, steel-strung guitar was microphone amplified and sounded notably mellow in comparison to the DI'd counterparts so ubiquitous these days, I thought.
Dear Sylvie was also microphone amplified tonight, for some fine folk singing in the traditional sense [inspired by a book with a curious family twist on a Robbie Burns study]. Her ‘The Afton Water' was courageous in its distinction from the preemptively published title/namesake.
And then, Clive with his very own 'Diamond Avenue' which is as enviably evocative a title as one [me, for one] could ever wish for, followed up by the folk song, 'Hard Times of Old England' – sort of crossing that undefinable hinterland between the 'folk club' and the 'open mic session' [with all of the connotations inclusive of Karaoke, for some …].
And just when I thought I'd finished faffing around with plumping up that ghastly greenish cushion at the piano stool, up came Ella with the Whitest, Everest, Luckiest cushion I’d ever seen – and when I'd done with admiring it [it has this wonderfully tactile cross-hatched thing going on with it, hard to explain … I want one] Ella proceeded to sit on it and sung 'It Don't Come Easy' by Patti Griffin and Neil Young's 'After The Gold Rush' – notwithstanding how narcotic driven Young was during that period, it pales into insignificance when you hear these songs of his pared down at the piano. Without the indulgence of induced intensity, it reveals an inner beauty from the chaos – admirable in my book, but it has to be said it doesn't negate the original in any way. It says a lot of the quiddity of the man that his songs could be reduced in a synchronistic way without sounding at all dumbed-down the way in which C & W always seems to do. It’s the second time I've been struck by this happenstance that keeps creatively conceived music alive, I feel.
A change of pace/permutation:
First, in some second round of events, Jason brought on the 'Ovation -73' to give us his original ballad: 'Sunday Afternoon' which [being a hopeless sucker for ballads, generally, I enjoyed immensely] – again, that pared down intimacy only now to be further enhanced with the equitable addition of Lisa, all complete with her mahogany C. F. Martin guitar and the crystalline vocals [next to Jason's, an emotive vocal nuance], they did a personal take of this great soul song that I know – and love – but can't for the life of me remember the title of -- 'I don't know much about Trigonometry … the History I took … but I know …' Got it, yeah …! Whatever, it's great. Then, as a duo, it was time for Jason's late father's piece, 'The Lifeline' – always good to hear this one.
Lisa held her ground as they subbed in Helga for Jason so that she could augment the incumbent with some deft improvisation on flute, which was to continue in solo form in the form of an flute instrumental [obviously, unless you happened to be the duplicitously dexterous Roland Kirk!] although Helga did introduce a percussive wooden frog during these proceedings, overall. And there was some whistling going down there at one point, intermittently.
Back to the Folk:
Penultimately, Bob Melrose performed a self-assured rendition of 'High Above The Ground', a new song in his repertoire followed by, I think, Paul Simon's 'The American Tune' [reiterating my initial American/Americas preview in a rounded up kind of way I thought] then making way for a very patient David Foster-Smith with his memories of the Six Bells as a venue of 1982 [patience is truly a virtue, David] and he proceeded to shake us up a bit with his own, stridently performed, 'The Bottom Line' which is reflective of his own 'moderate success' as of what it was, and he concluded the evening with the American band LOVE cover of a love song c/w flamenco overtones.
Well, you just have to go with the lurve, I say – ta-dah.
Before my taste in music moved across the pond, I’d grown up with 70’s British rock music. A perk of being MC, is you get to choose three videos to go on the website home page for two whole weeks - power hey. I’ve gone with ones featuring the best UK rock singer, Paul Rogers, the coolest UK rock guitarist, Richie Blackmore and my fav UK rock bassist, John Entwistle and I’ve picked some raw recordings of them, on (probably) their most famous songs.
A room full: We had 15 performers and a few non-playing listeners - so, I needed to keep the chat down and execute quick changes. I thought about banning on-stage tuning, but knew that was a step too far for the folkies. Why do you need a different tuning for each song, EADGBE works for me. Anyway, my mission was to give everyone two songs and get us out before the witching hour.
I fired up the distortion on my old Shadow electric guitar and launched the evening with one of my riff driven rock songs, ‘Always there’. Then, some ping-pong echo from my old Zoom processor for ‘The future’s so vague’, which it is.
Mr 3 coffees, jazz Manus gave us a Chuck Berry style thing for his granddaughter, with a song called ‘Pink Ukulele’ and then a lot of fast fingers on fretboard on an instrumental called, ‘Naima’, written for sax by John Coltrane.
Jane without a Y and her Dobro lap steel was inspired by the Anthony Newly version of ‘Feeling good’ and the Bessie Smith song, ‘Looking for my man’ and she sent her man out to the car for a first-aid kit to rest her feet on!
Our leader was up next, we call him Simon and he was proud to announce the world premiere of ‘The dummy in the Tesla’, inspired by Elon Musk and his rocket launcher and featuring a crash test dummy and some space odyssey. And then an Eagles number, ‘It’s your world now’ - sure, when hell freezes over.
Some of the White Horsers had set up camp in the far corner and Glyn was first up with the 1928 number, ‘California Blues’ by Jimmie Rogers - followed by, ‘Get rhythm’ by Johnny Cash, which, when I was a boy was the punch line to a joke about condom machines - sorry. Moving on, there was also something about bum cheeks, but I didn’t understand.
Glyn returned to White Horse corner and was replaced by Paula, with a song for peace, ‘From a distance’. As you know, I like a self-penned number and Paula closed with one of hers, ‘I promise’ - I hope she keeps it.
What can I say about Frank, well, to be frank, quite a lot! He dug an E harmonica out of his box of said instruments and regaled us with a couple of his ditties - first up, ‘Call me dog call me Rover’, which reminded me of the Hendrix lyric from Fire, ‘Move over Rover and let Jimi take over’. ‘The rending of the veil’ is Frank’s magnum opus and tells the complete history of the world in a four-minute song - now that is ambitious.
We had two Aldridge brothers in the room, Michael was just here to listen, whilst Bob was next up and gave us two songs that I could sing along with - which is good fun for me, but probably not so cool if you’re standing next to me. ‘Whatever happened to Saturday night’ - good question, I could ask Glenn Frey, but he’s sadly left the building. And to finish, we had ‘El Paso’ from 1959 by Marty Robbins, although the version I’m familiar with, is by the Grateful Dead.
No mic Silvie: although she did have a go at dismantling the stage area much to the chagrin of our soundman - the enforcer, known simply as Clive. A big shout out for Clive at this point, for doing a top job as soundman. Once the mics were safe, we had a bit of Rabbie Burns a cappella style - all about, stormy seas and being far away.
The soundman’s turn: Clive gave us two of his own - ‘Can’t imagine’ and then to quote Clive, ‘a happier song, about walking on the South Downs Way and Skylarks in February’ - called, ‘Is it summer so soon’.
Clive was back on the desk and next up it was Jayne with a Y, who’d been hanging out at White Horse corner. Following Glyn’s lead, Jayne launched with ‘I still miss someone’ by Johnny Cash and then with her capo on fret 4 she finished with ‘Killing the blues’, before returning to coin de cheval blanc.
Ella was a little disorganised tonight, she’d lost her Bouzouki pickup and had forgotten her specs. Anyway, we stuck a mic in front of her instrument and she delivered Patty Griffin’s ‘Useless desires’ in a style influenced by Joni Mitchell, and followed that with a song by the Canadian song writing legend, ‘Urge for going’ - and then she went, all the way back to her front row seat in anticipation of number 13, a man with a driver.
Dave Dyke has an esteemed history at the Six Bells Folk & Blues Club going back into the last century. He also had a driver, his wife/partner of 50 years, who he dedicated his songs to. ‘In the heat of the summer’, is a political song by Phil Ochs. To finish: Dave said he was big fan of the late Tom Petty and he’d just learnt to play, ‘Running down a dream’.
Terry Lees was the last visitor to the stage from White Horse corner and opened with a dexterous interpretation of the Leadbelly song, ‘Pick a bale of cotton’. After a quick retune, Terry closed with ‘Blues run the game’ by Jackson C Frank.
Last, but not least, we had Nick Cant, our second a cappella artist of the evening. ‘They carted him off on a stretcher’, by a Kentish group called Pigs Ear was followed by an amusing rewrite of The Beatles number, ‘When I’m 64’, in celebration of Nick’s upcoming 65th birthday - Happy Birthday Nick.
The last man exited stage left at 11:10pm - the crew dismantled the mighty PA and left the building. I got home five minutes before midnight. Thanks to all our performers, there really was a lot of different stuff tonight, which made for a great evening. See you next time. x
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