It was a frosty night that greeted the first Swan acoustic session of 2012. Inside The Swan the fire was exerting a strong gravitational pull. Performers sometimes talk about bridging the gap that exists between them and the audience, well tonight’s performers had a larger than usual gap as te majority of chairs were huddled around the hearth at the back of the room.
Before the first chord was struck, get well wishes were sent to the absent John Daure and an all-points bulletin was issued for the absent Graeme Morrell. Rumours began to circulate that Graeme had found the strain of living a double life too much and has had to settle for being Michael Chapman full time.
First footing our musical year was the one and only (thankfully!) Mr Brian Wylie who began in mellow style with ‘History of a Kiss’ which Brian attributed to Paul Milnes (however t’internet has no knowledge of this man and Mr Wylie did forget that the song contained a Bm chord, so his memory clearly cannot be trusted!). Brian then followed his ethos of minimal rehearsal bringing freshness to performance by treating us to an Ivan Drever song that he had recently learned and I have recently forgotten the title of, but very good it was!
In the second half Brian played more newly found material. Firstly a Kieran Kane (who used to be one half a hit country duo The O’Kanes) song entitled ‘This Dirty Little Town’ a country tinged delight. Brain finished with ‘Joanna’ a song by Winchester born songwriter Jon Allen from his album ‘Sweet Defeat’. Great song and a great performance from Brian.
Next up tonight was the first of tonight’s two newcomers to SAS, Ray Johnson. Ray had come all the way from Ilkley with his beautiful guitar that had come all the way from Chesterfield (sorry forgotten the name of the luthier). Nick treated us to some great fingerstyle playing and started with two English Morris tunes, ‘Young Collins/Cuckoo’s nest’. Brilliant stuff with a lovely ringing tone from the aforementioned axe and not a hanky or bell in sight! Next after checked that SAS is not a Dylan-free zone (we love a bit of Bobby Zimmerman) Roy delivered a great version of ‘Love Minus Zero/No Limit’.
In part deux Ray sang a version of trad song he heard from Whippersnapper (one of Dave Swarbrick’s many musical combo’s) entitled ‘Woodstock Town’ and finished a fingerstyle rendering of the O’Carolan tune ‘Si Bheag, Si Mhor’. Fantastic stuff Ray, hope you make it over from Ilkley again soon!
Your ‘umble blogger was up next and tipped the hat to the songwriting genius of Ryan Adams and A.A.Bondy in the first half. In the second half I decided to actually play the mandolin that I’ve been bringing along for weeks and managed to work my way through a couple of hornpipes before totally failing to sing a Damien O’Kane song (unlike Mr Wylie in my case, minimal rehearsal means total failure to remember words/melody etc.) finished by blowing the dust of 1952 Vincent Black Lightning.
Next up was SAS’s harpist in residence Andee Craig. Andee started with my new favourite harp tune, a slow march entitled ‘Wendell’s Wedding’. Andee then went on to play a set of tunes that included ‘High Caul Cap’(which is also an irish set dance) and ‘Shandon Bells’ which my trusty electronic researcher informs takes its name from the bells of the Church of St Anne in Cork. Lovely stuff Andee.
In the second half Andee went for a chilled out vibe with a laidback version of ‘The Star of the County Down’. This led into a tune called ‘Castle Kelly’ which apparently is the name of a utilities company in Stanhope, Middlesex although I’m not sure that’s where the name of the tune comes from. Andee finished her set with ‘Amhrán na Leabhar (Song of the Books)’ which is a slow air composed by schoolteacher Tomás Ruadh Suilleabhain on the occasion of losing his priceless library in a shipwreck in Kerry – which is rather careless. As the haunting tune wove its magic the listeners became lost in the music, and so did Andee to the point where she didn’t know how to end the tune. No-one minded though, the tune was beautiful and Andee was producing a lovely tone from her harp. Great stuff.
The music world has produced some legendary father/daughter teams to date: Johnny and Roseanne Cash, Nat King and Natalie Cole, Nigel and Nigella Lawson (no that can’t be right!). Well get ready for a new one, Chris and Lindsay Thompson who made their SAS debut tonight. Chris has played solo at SAS before and Lindsay has been along many if not all the SAS sessions that I can remember undertaking the most important job at any open mic session – serving the drinks! Yes, Lindsay has been hiding her light behind the bar when it turns out that she has a fantastic voice, sweet and soulful in equal measures. Chris is a man who knows his way around the fretboard (dusty end too!) so we knew we were going to be in for a treat! And we weren’t disappointed, In the first half Chris and Lindsay gave us Paulo Nutini’s ‘Last Request’ and Katie Melua’s ‘Closest Thing to Crazy’. In the second half they treated us to Adele’s ‘Make You Feel My Love’ and finished with a beautiful Eva Cassidy influenced version of ‘Autumn Leaves’. Brilliant stuff, we hope to see more from Chris and Lindsay at future SAS’s.
James ‘Jukebox’ Porter graced the stage (well, ok…stool) next and didn’t disappoint when delivering Hank Williams Snr’s ‘I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love with You)’, which was a new bit of Hank to me. James followed Hank with Mick and Keef and an early Rolling Stones track entitled ‘The Spider and The Fly’.
In the second bit James started with ‘If I Were A Carpenter’ which was written by Tim Hardin, popularised by Bobby Darin and was also the name of an episode of ‘Auf Wiedersehn Pet’. James followed this with the first song that he ever performed at SAS which was Emma Jenkin’s ‘Little Sparrow’. Grand stuff James.
Closing the first half was SAS’s own Van Lear Rose (or should that be Haworth Rose), Pam Johnson. Pam had a sleepy theme for the first half starting with the Kate Rusby song ‘Who Will Sing Me Lullabys’ and followed with a Eliza Gilkyson song entitled ‘Calm Before the Storm’, which is about sleeping too. Following the father/daughter theme, Eliza’s dad was the songwriter Terry Gilkyson who (Pam informed us) wrote many unremembered songs that he was proud of and ‘The Bare Necessities’ which he hated, but is well remembered!
After the half time oranges, Pam played a Billy Bragg song that I hadn’t heard before (it’s always nice to come along and hear new tunes!) ‘Tank Park Salute’ and finished with a song by Emmylou Harris (memorably introduced by Pam as “you know the one…played with Gram Parsons….too much Botox…Emmylou Harris!) entitled ‘San Antone Rose’. Lovely stuff from Pam, it’s always good to hear a little country at SAS.
The night was finished by a solo spot from Chris Thompson who left us with that slice of Scottish hopelessness and ennui, the cheery Del Amitri ditty ‘Nothing Ever Happens’ – it does have a good sing-a-long chorus though, and we did!
So that’s it and no doubt by the time this is finished there will be a whole 24 hours before the next one! See you there!