Pam was bewildered by the round of applause she got as she walked through the door. She hadn’t heard Brian’s announcement that the next musician through the door would write the blog. There was some debate on the definition of musician, but I’d gone straight to the bar so I was well out of it, I thought. Silly me. As I got to the table with the beer I was handed a pen and paper. So here goes, and apologies if I’ve got any names wrong. The session was introduced and compered as always by Dave Brimacombe, otherwise known as MC Dave.
Brian kicked off with that rare thing, a love song pure and simple: no heartbreak, no cheating (I’ve been listening to too much country) and no death (that comes later). The song was ‘Joanna’, by Joe Allen. Not the Scott Walker ‘Joanna’ though that’s a proper love song too. Brian followed this with one of his own songs, ‘Monkey Off Your Back’, a sombre song with heartfelt lyrics and a cheery tune.
I first saw Michael Chapman at Leeds Poly in 1973, thought he was brilliant and bought a couple of LPs. Then I moved on to other stuff and forgot all about Michael and his LPs. Until now. Graeme Morell brings it all back and did it again tonight with ‘Sometimes’ from The Twisted Road album. I was inspired to dig out my old LPs until I remembered we don’t have anything to play them on any more. Apparently Michael Chapman turned down a request from Elton John to join his band, but he did play on ‘Your Song’, which was Graeme’s next offering. The song’s title proved appropriate as it turned into a collective effort with the audience helping Graeme remember the words.
Guitar duo Larry and Adrian were up next and started off with the wonderful ‘Miss Ohio’ by Gillian Welch. This has a line that many of us will have empathised with at some point: “I wanna do right but not right now”. The rag top that Miss Ohio runs around in is a convertible and introduced a theme which was to run through the whole evening – travelling the road in a motored powered vehicle. No cars in the next one from L & A but some great singalong with the Everly’s ‘When Will I Be Loved’.
There’s a new acoustic session in the Guide, the biker’s pub in the hills at Hainworth and the organiser put out an email request for someone to do ‘Vincent Black Lightning’ to win over the metal-loving locals. Pam replied to say that the best version she knew was by Mike Craig. Sadly for the bikers, Mike was performing the song in Addingham, not Hainworth, joined by Brian on guitar. It’s the most requested song on American public radio, but you probably know that. And it continued the road vehicle theme. Mike followed that with another song about death, which was to develop into a sub-theme for the evening. This was ‘I Courted A Wee Girl’, from the most gruesome of folk music categories, the murder ballad.
Andee and Jane, otherwise known as Pennine Harps were next for some magical harp picking and two Scottish tunes, ‘Captain O’Kane’ and ‘Brose and Butter’. The latter is also a song with words by Robbie Burns and Eddie Reader does a great version. Quite rude too, once you decipher the Scots. Tae gully awa wi’ his dibble anyone?
John Nixon has a wonderful knack of choosing songs that make you think “Hey I haven’t heard that in ages but what a great song”. His first choice continued the road theme, sort of, with a song by the Cars. This was a great version of ‘My Best Friends Girl’, their second hit in the UK and better than the bigger selling ‘Just What I Needed’. John’s next was Tom Petty’s ‘Freefalling’, which is one of those anthems you play loud in the car, so I suppose that follows the road theme as well.
John Dauré was next with two songs by Loudon Wainwright. ‘Guru’ is a typical Loudon song, having a go at the dubious messiahs who set them selves up in an old ranch with a crowd of devoted and deluded followers. This was followed by the wonderful ‘Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road’ which is a song about death AND road travel. And does anyone know why station wagons are called station wagons?
James Porter started off in rasta mode with Bob Marley’s lovely ‘Three Little Birds’ followed by the Beatles’ ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’. James is another performer with the knack of choosing great songs which have been buried in your memory.
Pam Johnson followed with the classic country song ‘How’s the Word Treating You’. Written by Chet Atkins and Boudleaux Bryant back in the 1950s it was covered by The Louvin Brothers, Jim Reeves and Elvis Presley no less, but the version you are most likely to have heard is the duet by Alison Krauss and James Taylor. Next up was a song by Pam’s favourite, the very wonderful Mary Gauthier. True to form, ‘Long Way To Fall’ is not a cheery song, but it has beautifully crafted lyrics.
In the second half the death theme sort of, well, died, but the road travel theme kept on running.
There was a slight change of order, and Larry and Adrian kicked off with Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’. This was a proper duet with each singing a verse in turn and some great duelling guitars. The next song was in the ‘so bad it’s good category’. ‘Nobody’s Child’ was first recorded by Hank Snow and then revived in the 1970s by confusingly, Hank Williams Jr. The song makes Nat King Cole’s ‘The Little Boy That Santa Claus Forgot’ sound cheerful and uplifting.
Brian came next with The Eagle’s ‘Tequila Sunrise’, minus the B chord. Just barre it on the 4th was the advice from the floor. Just effing ignore it was Brain’s considered response. Back to the road theme next with the Saw Doctor’s ‘N17’, a song about the road from Galway to Tuam, home of the good Doctors and the last leg of their trip from Dublin. Not exactly Route 66 but it’s great song with some great guitar from Brian.
Graeme’s second set began with Del Amitri’s ‘Nothing Ever Happens’, another cheery one with lyrics like ‘lonely tonight and lonely tomorrow’, but some great picking from Graeme. Next up from Graeme were three guitar instrumentals, although I managed not to get the names of any of them. Reviewers usually use the word ‘dazzling’ for pieces like this and we all had to reach for our shades.
We had to leave the shades on for Mike, this time on bouzouki, joined again by Brian, playing a right-handed mandolin upside down. The tunes were ‘Maid Behind The Bar ‘and ‘Mason’s Apron’ (also known as My Son’s Prawn). Mike on his own next, playing mandolin on Junior Murvin’s ska classic ‘Police and Thieves’ which was also covered by the Clash.
Jane had to leave early so Mike joined Andee for a harp and guitar duet on two reels, ‘Come West Along The Road’ and ‘The Mountain Road’. Both tunes firmly continuing the road theme, I’m sure you’ll agree, although they may not have had station wagons when the tunes were first written down. Two highland flings followed, ‘The High Caud Cap’ and ‘Shandon Bells’.
In a night of duets, John Dixon was joined by Graeme for Eric Clapton’s paean to Patti Boyd, ‘You Look Wonderful Tonight’, followed by a real change of mood and style with great version of Robert Johnson’s 1930s blues classic ‘Dust My Broom’.
John Dauré went all high tech next with an iPad on the music stand. It held the words to the very low tech Ricky Nelson’s country classic, ‘Garden Party’ but it switched to screensaver before the end of the song. Maybe use a sheet of paper next time. The Addingham Hillbillies were having a night off tonight but John kept the flag flying with his next song, ‘When I’m Dead and Gone’ by McGuinness Flint.
James returned with another 1930’s blues classic, Bessie Smith’s ‘Careless Love’, since covered by dozens of people in dozens of styles but still a great, great song with some classic bitter lyrics. A change of mood with his next song, the Bee Gees ‘Somebody’. Reading through the earlier blogs I see that James is known as Jimmy Jukebox and I can see why.
Pam was last up and started with some good country honky tonk, Emmylou Harris’s ‘San Antone Rose’. No road travel in this one, but there was a fast train to Texas. Pam finished the evening off with the traditional Scottish song ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ which had everyone singing along loudly to the chorus.
Thanks to everyone for a great evening and see you all again on 2nd August. Well we won’t actually because we’re on holiday but we’ll be there for sure on the 16th.