I’m not going to tell you how Mr Wylie got me to do the blog on the eve of 16th October, but Kath informs me that it’s the same method he employs on her when he wants a cup of tea. Enough said!
A nice wee crowd in the Swan Inn tonight; some new faces (which is always one of the joys of coming to Swan Acoustic Session) and a long awaited return from an old friend of SAS.
The evening was started off, as is customary, by Mr Brian Wylie. He had decided to start the evening rather unconventionally by beating a goat within an inch of its life while singing the traditional song “The Blarney Roses”. Oh, ok, so the goat was already dead….and skinned….and reformed as a Bodhran which Brian played with his hand. When I suggested that he was saving up to buy a tipper (a stick with which to beat said goat) he replied that “I get just as much control with me fingers”, make of that what you will! Moving swiftly on….Brian then switched to guitar and treated us to a lovely version of a song made popular by Christy Moore, “Irish Ways and Irish Laws”. The song was written by John Gibbs who apparently passed the song to Christy on an empty Majors (cigarette) packet after a Moving Hearts gig in 1984.
In the second half Brian started with a song that he had written himself (don’t think it was on a fag packet) called ‘Leenane’ and tells the sad story of the hunger march made during the Irish potato famine. It’s a beautiful haunting song and sung so well by Brian. Mr Wylie was born and brought up in a picturesque fishing village on the Northern Irish coast known as Belfast and he finished his set tonight with a song from a fellow Northern Irish songwriter, “Only Our Rivers Run Free” which was written by Mickey MacConnell. Great stuff, thanks Brian.
Next into the SAS spotlight tonight was a welcome and long overdue return from an old friend and my favourite blogger Mr Len Harvey. In order to motivate himself to get back into playing at Swan Acoustic Session, Len had bought himself a new guitar. It’s a stunning sunburst Blueridge guitar which has a lovely tone and quickly became the house guitar tonight as Len shared his new axe with those players who had arrived tonight sans instrument. Len started his comeback gig with a great rendition of Tom Paxton’s “Hold on to me”. He followed up with what I think is a song that Emmylou Harris sings entitled “Rollin’ and Ramblin’ “ which found Len’s guitar and voice in fine form.
In the second half Len kicked off with (very appropriately given his prodigal return), John Denver’s “Back Home Again”. Len finished his spot tonight with a song that I know from one of my favourite singers, Gram Parsons “The Streets of Baltimore” but i’m reliably informed by Mr W. I. Kipedia that it was written by Tompall Glaser and Harlan Howard in 1966 and first recorded by Bobby Bare. It was really great to have you back Len come back soon and write a flippin’ blog!
Following Len tonight was a recently new arrival to Swan Acoustic Session, Frances White. Frances came along to the last session and obviously wasn’t scared off as she came back for more! Frances brought her wee harp again and treated us to a brace of traditional tunes. First up was an Irish traditional song with several names:“Molly Malone”, “Cockles and Mussels” or “In Dublin’s Fair City”, take your pick. Whatever you call it, Frances played a lovely version of it and I was singing along in my head (safest place!). Frances followed this with a Scottish traditional song written by J.R. Bannerman in 1934 which also has several names (pesky traditional music!) “Marie’s Wedding”, Mairi’s Wedding”, The Lewis Bridal Song” or even “Mairi Bhan”. I know it from my Dad’s “The Corries” albums so it brings back fond memories for me (unlike Steeleye Span and Abba – but that’s a another story for another time!). Frances played the tune wonderfully and you could hear a pin drop in the pub while she played. Fantastic stuff Frances come again soon!
The next performer of the night was your ‘umble blogger. Modesty dictates that I can’t go into any great detail about the stunning, tear-jerking, heart-breaking, jaw-dropping performance that I delivered. However, I will tell you that I managed to completely cock-up the first verse of “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” by forgetting the chords and lyrics (this is more amusing to those who know that I was my most performed song when I started at Addingham open mics).Thankfully, I did manage to work my way through Steve Earle’s fantastic song “The Mountain”without too many incidents. In the second half I sang A.A. Bondy’s gorgeous song “Lover’s Waltz” (if you haven’t sought him out yet, go! Now! Do it!) and finished with a new song for me, Bruce Springsteen’s “ Racing In the Streets”without disgracing myself.
Now came a treat with some new blood for SAS, an usually all male (they had swelled their ranks with a female voice tonight – sorry didn’t get names!, bad blogger!) voice group from Bradford called…..”Voicemale” (see what they did there?). Although tonight they were “Voicemale +1” the +1 being the aforementioned singing ladyfriend. You can discover all about the group at www.voicemalebradford.co.ukwhich is their informative website. What I discovered is that the members are Dave, Keith, Dave Mc and Damian and in one form or another they’ve been singing together since 1988. Their performance tonight was enthusiastic, engaging, enjoyable and interactive and a performance in the true sense of the word. In the first half they treated us to a self-penned seasonal song entitled…”Seasons”, which cleverly includes every season and so therefore is always….seasonal. They then went a capella without the aid of a safety net to give a great rendition of John Tams’ “Rolling Home”. In the tradition of SAS newbies they were invited to do three song sets so they finished the first half with an evocative and thought provoking round entitled “Tonight”, which was inspired by a speech given by the Mayor of Oslo after last year’s tragedy there.
In the second half they introduced an element of theatre into their set with an amusing performance of a Leon Rosselson song which deals with the fact that no-one talks to each other while on the bus. I wrote down the title as “On the bus”, but I’m prepared to be corrected. This was followed by the second appearance tonight of a bodhran (keep them apart! Don’t let them breed!) which was used to good effect on a rousing rural harvesting anthem which had everyone singing along and I think was called “Reap and Sow” (honestly you can’t find a decent blogger these days, they just don’t do the research!). For their finale tonight Voicemale +1 took many of the audience back to their childhood (never a wise move with this lot!) with a cleverly adapted homage to Andy Pandy which had the crowd waving along and was entitled “Goodnight”.Excellent stuff, thanks so much for coming guys and gal and please come back soon!
Two latecomers to the party tonight were John Nixon and James Porter but no party would be complete without Mr Rock N’ Roll and the Human Jukebox. They escaped being pressed to perform in the first half but were pushed out front in the second and they were both keen to borrow Len’s lovely new axe. Nixi got the crowd singing along with a brilliant version of Joe Jackson’s “Is She Really Going out with Him? Once the crowd was warmed up there was no stopping them as they enthusiastically joined in with John’s second offering, Tom Petty’s “Freefalling” (spot the intro prize goes to Kath!) Jukebox James kept the sing-a-long going and took us to Motown with the Four Tops’ classic “I can’t Help Myself” and finished strong with Rod Stewart’s“Tonight’s the Night” great stuff James!
The night was finished off with an impromptu jam session consisting of Nixi, Wylie and the Blogger thrashing through “Brown Eyed Girl”and “Honky Tonk Woman” with loads of help from the Swan Acoustic Singers. All in all another excellent night with no serious casualties. Call me crazy, but how about we do it all again on the 6th? See you there! (MAC)