Close enough for Jazz 08/07/2010

  It's only natural that we should start the first Swan Acoustic Session back at The Swan with some nostalgic reminiscing. "Where did this table go before?" "What did we do with all these chairs?" "Are you sure we stacked the furniture in a big pile?" It didn't take long though to organise a performance space and seating for the audience. It felt good to be back. Nine musicians braved the beautiful summer weather and provided an evening of eclectic listening which ranged from Delta blues to Celtic airs. Brian Wylie kicked the evening off with the first folk song he ever heard in the Blackstaff Bar in Belfast, "The Galway Shawl" which has a sing-a-long chorus and is one of my favourites (for some reason I find the rhyming of "bonnet" with "on it" particularly satisfying--must get out more!). He followed with the Jack Savoretti number "Dr. Frankenstein" which was monsterously good (I'm trying to see how many dreadful jokes I have to include before I'm not asked to blog anymore!). In the second half, or part deux as our francophile friends would say, Brian served up a lovely slice of The Eagles with "Best of My Love" and finished with the muscular sing-a-long "Molly Malone". Great stuff from Brian, who now has a new custom-built studio at home where he is threatening to practice--something he has vocally disdained before. We await with baited breath! Next up was some silly blogger. What followed can only be described as "Over the Hill" by John Martyn and "Ruby" by the Dave Rawlings Machine. In the second bit I "Courted a Wee Girl"; well, I didn't but I did sing about it, ably assisted by Mr. Wylie. I finished with Tom Waits' "Innocent When You Dream", which Spiers and Boden do a great version of, too. Next up was a welcome return from Andee Craig who has been busy gigging recently--I feel sorry for her harp tech! Andee's harp was sounding great and apparently the strings were easier to see away from the social club's crazy carpet. She treated us to the air "Soft Mild Morning" followed by a slow Donegal reel "The Miser's Purse" which, coming from Lancashire, I always assumed was a Yorkshire tune! Andee's practising and gigging had certainly paid off as the tunes sounded fantastic. After the half-time oranges Andee returned with the three little jigs "The Rakes of Clonmel / I Buried My Wife and Danced on Her Grave / Andy DeJarlis" and a jazz remix of "Eleanor Plunkett"--well, there were some jazzy chords in there. Lovely stuff. Following Andee was Larry Anderson who's arrival drew a gasp from the audience (his beautiful Gibson almost had an unscheduled meeting with the stone-flagged floor!) Guitar juggling over, Larry decided that the only way to follow a harp is...with more harp. Blues variety this time, and slotted nicely into one of my favourite tunes Alabama 3s "Bulletproof" Having checked out the original I prefer Larry's version--raw and gutsy stuff! Next up was Gillian Welch's "Miss Ohio" which Larry rescued manfully after experiencing a CRAFT momenht in the middle. CRAFT moment? Can't Remember A F'ing Thing! In the twilight session Larry treated us to a new song for him, the Natalie Merchant song "Motherland", a beautiful song from her cool CD of the same name. A small wiki-bird told me that she dedicated the album to the victims of 9/11 as recording finished two days prior to the attack. This makes it the first of our 9/11 linked songs for the evening. Larry finished with a tale of Brownie McGee and the Cunard Cowboys and one of Brownie's tunes "Diamond Ring". Great stuff Larry, we'll have a music stand for next week! Mr. Gerry Cooper was up next and very nice it was to see him too--you know he's taller than he looks on Facebook! Gerry's been busy recently and in between gigs has managed to get a live CD out from a performance at Keighley Blues Club--get one while they're hot. Gerry started with a tune from Bog Dylan's first album, Jesse "Lone Cat" Fuller's "Youre No Good". Jesse was a one-man band who created his own foot-operated six string bass called the "fodella". Gerry apparently had left his at home, but still produced a fine version of the tune. Robert Johnson doesn't have a nickname that I'm aware of (Little Robert Dusty--when he was a nipper) but he does have one hell of a story. Gerry delivered a great version of "Love in Vain" which had the RJ fans in the audience singing along. In part deux our blues hot-shot told us the tale of Virginian barber, dentist and bluesman William "Bill the Barber" Moore, before cracking out "One Way Gal" a great blues tune that was new to this blogger. Gerry finished his spot with a rousing version of "I Saw Her Standing There". Good to have you back Mr. Cooper. Only one half of the notorious Dingham Hillbillies made it tonight but as the saying goes, "It's better to have one racoon in the trashcan than two in the kitchen."--wise words indeed! Our trashcan raiding bandit tonight came in the shape of John Nixon. We all expect a bit of rock -n- roll from Nixi and he didn't disappoint with the Bobby Womack written and Stones popularised "It's All Over Now". There is also a version by the little known but fantastically named Ozark Mountain Daredevils. John followed with Ray Davies' "Lola" which included some interesting scat singing as John couldn't read his lyrics--remember kids; size 14 font--you know it makes sense. Obviously we didn't put the lid tightly enough on the trashcan as Nixi escaped at half-time. Another returnee next and a man who is becoming rich in guitars--Mr. Ian Pucknall. Ian had brought his very nice new Stanford guitar along, which was a risky tactic as it hasn't had long in which to learn his songs. Ian must have bought the guitar with some notes already in it, though as it didn't seem to have too many problems keeping up with him through the Guy Clark song "Magdalene". I must confess to confusing Guy Clark with Gene Clark so I must put the record straight and report that Guy Clark is a country music artist and accomplished songwriter and he builds all his own guitars (like one of our performers tonight!), and he was not at any time a member of The Byrds. Ian introduced the next song by announcing his new membership in the bus pass brigade; it was of course Waylon Jenning's "Couple More Years"--very apt. After the watershed Ian delivered two more old favourites, "Let Him Roll" dedicated to Nigel Smith and another of my favourites (I was being spoiled tonight), Steve Earle's "Goodbye". Lovely stuff Ian. Graeme Morrell was next in the hot seat and started by giving us our second gasp of the evening by trying to wallop a beam with his lovely Martin's headstock. Composure regained, Graeme treated us to a nameless Michael Chapman instrumental which included a canine interlude. John Martyn got his second name check of the evening with a fine rendition of "Spencer the Rover"--a great song and a great version. After the half-time team-talk, Graeme came back strong with a Tom Paxton song about the fire-fighters who died saving people in the twin towers on 9/11 "The Bravest". It's one of those great songs that captures a feeling and a moment without overdoing it and leaves the listener with work to do. Great stuff Graeme. Graeme then took a change in direction and played a song made popular by Alison Krauss and Ronan Keating (separately) called "When You Say Nothing At All". It was a strange moment for your blogger as everybody else in the pub seemed to know the song and I'd never heard it before. The tune sounded good in Graeme's hands and had the rabble, sorry audience, singing along. Last but by no means least tonight was local boy made good Nigel Smith. Nigel was at pains to point out that the handsome and tone-rich guitar that he was playing this evening was hand-made--by him! this may explain why he didn't attempt any guitar juggling tricks. Nigel kicked off with Damien Rice's "The Blower's Daughter" a great version complete with jazz chords. He then played a hilarious ragtime tune from his band days, 'The Sweeper an' the Debutante", originally by George Gritzbach from his album "Gritz is Back". Very funny! Nigel was back in part two with a tribute to Ray LaMontagne in the form of "Jolene" and "Narrow Escape" from the excellent 2004 album "Trouble". Great stuff Nigel. And that rounds up the first Swan Acoustic Session blog. I'm not sure there were enough terrible jokes in there; think you can do worse? Well, the blogging gauntlet is down. See you all next Tuesday for another fantastic night at The Swan. MAC 

Posted on July 17, 2010 .