Eyre Court Hotel 1st February 2017
The smell of mothballs was evident as Hazel and David started the evening with the song on which probably most acoustic guitar players cut their teeth: The Streets Of London. This gave everyone present a chance to warm up their vocal chords, and provided lovely harmonies for Hazel’s singing. The duo then performed Chris Rea’s Fool If You Think It’s Over, which also drew supplementary vocals on the chorus. It was once rumoured that Rea was going to collaborate with Dire Straits, but nobody wanted to run with the name Dire Rea.
Mike, Annie, Adrian and Gerry, along with their two guitars, mandolin and drum, took us back to the early 1970s with
the Michael Martin Murphy song Geronimo’s Cadillac (from the album of the same name). Once again the chorus demanded audience participation as the four bounced gently through the song. Gerry then put down her drum and sat out for the next number. When it was introduced as “the clean version” of The Beautiful South’s song, Don’t Marry Her, I expected the so-called F word (found in the final chorus of the album version I believe) to be replaced by the word ‘marry’, as on the single. The trio went one step further and removed the reference to the German-American actress Sandra Bullock: spotless!
Steve, with his acoustic guitar, returned to the 1970s, with his version of Gene Clark’s atmospheric song, Silver Raven. I would agree with Steve’s comment: it seemed very short and I’d like to have heard more of the mesmerising lyrics and hypnotic rhythm. Moving us seamlessly from Native Americans to the world of Spanish sailors, gold dubloons, pieces of eight and all that, Steve sang Roger McGuinn’s Jolly Roger. The song tells of life on The Cardiff Rose, and Steve caused great amusement when he invited Fran to play along on her flute, telling her: “It sounds really beautiful on the record.” No pressure there then, Steve. Do you know why pirates are called pirates? Because they aaargh!
Next we were treated to a singalong medley on piano accordion and keyboard from Andrew and June “in D or G”. Iwasn’t sure if Andrew meant he hadn’t decided the key in which he would play, or it was somehow optional, so my guitar stayed at my side as I enjoyed a selection of instantly recognizable tunes which included: Wooden Heart, It Takes A Worried Man, Putting On The Style, Camptown Races and She’ll Be Coming ‘round The Mountain. Great stuff.
The two then turned into June, Andrew and Pam, with June picking up her uke and Pam taking over on keyboard for a lively, and very inclusive version of Down By The Riverside.
Rob changed the tone completely by playing an old Kinks’ song from their 1971 album The Muswell Hillbillies. Ray Davies’ autobiographical song Muswell Hillbilly, anticipates attempts to get him to change his accent and conform. Defiantly, he vows to retain his cockney pride and never become a zombie. Thanks for bringing this back from some long-forgotten place in my mind Rob. Then Rob put down his guitar to sing a song he’d learned that morning while in the car (multi-tasking again Rob: men aren’t supposed to do that). Sparks is a song by the prolific songwriter Bob Kenward, and is really an electrician’s lament. The soft murmuring of people joining in on the chorus produced a sound not dissimilar to the gentle hum of a generator: clever stuff, and an effect I’ve not experienced before.
Then Steve M beautifully accompanied on his Bb concertina took over with the song On Board A 98 (a 98 being, in Nelson’s day, a Second Class Man O’War, a ship carrying 98 cannon). This fine set of words was collected in by Vaughan Williams in Norfolk. This pithy autobiography has everything: press-gang, storm, battle, bloodshed, perhaps optimistically followed by retirement, with a humorous twist in the final line. By The Dry Cardrona, with lyrics by New Zealander James Baxter, was Steve’s second song and told of the opportunities missed by the dipsomaniac singer (not you, Steve) owing to his illness. Food for thought.
Dave and Val then cast their spell, if not their nets, with a song called If Wishes Were Fishes. Fine harmonies and delicate fingerpicking ensured that we all sat up and listened. If Val and Dave were to sing pages 58-63 of Yellow Pages to the tune of Three Blind Mice, they would sound enchanting. Then there was a complete change of tempo and mood with a trip back to 1961 and Ricky Nelson’s hit, Hello Mary Lou, which gave everyone a chance to sing and play along. I have heard performers say they don’t like to eat before singing as it gives them indigestion; well the ham, egg and chips you had beforehand clearly did you no harm at all.
Having recovered her composure following her contribution to Steve’s Jolly Roger, Fran enthralled us with her charming rendition of Beautiful Dreamer. The 19th
century song, possibly the last written by Stephen Foster, was published posthumously in March 1864. The song tells of a lover serenading a “Beautiful Dreamer” who is oblivious to worldly cares who, many think, may actually be dead. Pam came in on the keyboard, and Simone sang along. Next came a compelling interpretation of Loch Torridon. Now then, Fran, if you can just learn Jolly Roger for next time…
Then, without any hanging about, Peter played the ever-popular Hesitation Blues. One of the things I like about this song is that, with so many versions, it is always likely that I will hear a verse or two I haven’t heard before (the melody is traditional, but various artists have written their own lyrics, and I suspect they have merged over the years). This was the case with Peter’s version, which included a verse about a duck on a river of whisky. Originally written for an interlude to cover an awkward scene change in Ewan MacColl’s 1949 play Landscape with Chimneys, Dirty Old Town was Peter’s next song. This was a lovely, respectful performance of a great old favourite.
Harry The Hat went hatless, but still navigated his way beautifully on his gorgeous instrument (resonator? Lap guitar? Dobro? In the end, we settled for ‘Paul Beard Dobro’) on his first song, Come All You Fair And Tender Ladies. This is a cautionary tale, which warns young women about the vagaries likely to be encountered in relationships with men. For his second song, Harry chose the haunting composition, Black Girl (sometimes called In The Pines or Where Did You Sleep Last Night). Some attribute the work to Leadbelly, while others say it is traditional. Perfectly suited to Harry’s skillful slide guitar playing, it tells the story of a woman whose husband is decapitated. Cheerful stuff.
Someone who didn’t lose her head, when closing the first session of the evening, was Pam, who marked the anniversary of, amongst other things, successful weather forecaster Sir Terry Wogan’s death by performing The Cornish Floral Dance on the keyboard. With plenty of opportunity for audience participation, the song just skipped happily along. I am sure Sir Terry would have approved.
Interval with lots of time to refresh!
In the second session, Simone and Stacey gave a lovely performance of Amazing Grace, with Stacey providing impressive vocals and Simone playing her recorder. Simone then recited a moving poem, a tribute to a deceased, much-missed pet, Ode To Mr B (whose ashes were to be scattered the following day). Simone promised to put the words to music, so that’s definitely something to look out for in the future. To conclude her set, Simone played her own lovely composition, Sail With Me on the recorder.
The remainder of the time was spent in a free-for-all, no-more-than-three-chords singalong jam session. Songs played in this section included: Da Slockit Lite, All Around My Hat, It Takes A Worried Man, Galway Bonnet, Down South In New Orleans and Banks Of The Ohio. As far as who did what,
and when, it’s all a bit like the 50 years for me: they say if you can remember the 60s, you weren’t there, well I was there on 1st February, so I’ve forgotten.
Apologies for inaccuracies, omissions or any offence I may have inadvertently caused.
All the best, David.
A wonderful write up written in a lovely style with much information. The icing on the cake is that it reached me the next day for inclusion in the Jurassic Folk & Jam website. Many thanks David, from June.