Admiring the glorious sunset I ambled up Main Street to the Swan acoustic session, guitar in hand. Brian and Kath greeted me as I settled down to my first exquisite pint of Mary Jane (free pint next time I’m in, Landlord please), pulled expertly by daughter Lindsay. As we were still in the latter stages of this record breaking English summer, we pondered on who would chip up to ‘acoust’ their guitars.
The clock ticked on; no sign of Graeme Morrell, and conversation turned to blogging. Brian kindly proposed that Chris Thompson (your virgin blogger) be handed the torch given that attendance was unlikely to be of Olympic proportions, he would be able to cope. Your blogger was happy to accept, particularly when Brian started moving the tables and chairs into an intimate circle for the anticipated small but perfectly formed number of performers. But then they started arriving and by nine more than nine were grouped in an ever increasing circle. There would be plenty to write about after all. So here goes.
Brian and Kath Wylie are members of the band The Wild Geese and they were joined by fellow member John Boyle on violin in the first song of the evening. Rob and the blogger were encouraged to strum along as a fine tribute was paid to the memory of a former Wild Geese member (Dave Crolla) who had passed away just one year ago.
The baton then passed to Graeme, who with iPad scrolling silently, played a beautiful version of the Eagle’s song ‘Desperado’. Checks were made to ensure that this new addition gave no illegal digital enhancement, save large size words for myopic eyes, and there was once again agreement that Graeme plus one of his Collins twins is a musical treat. He followed up his song about a desperate man with a cry for help; ‘Help’ by the Beatles was performed accompanied by several vocal accompanists achieving varying degrees of success with falsetto harmonies.
Rob Watkins then announced that he had forgotten his wallet and, because so many people went to the bar to get him a drink, he had to wait until they all returned to form and audience for, quoting Rob, ‘a good miserable one’, Steve Earl’s ‘Over Yonder’. Rob, as usual produced an evocative performance. Passing on a second song, Rob commented that it was possible to have too much doom and gloom and any choice of song he could think of at that moment would have us sliding into the abyss. (Literally! Have you seen the snug at the Swan?)
So over to yours truly who delivered the Shore, Williams/Wills and David song, currently ‘made famous’ by Susan Boyle, in the much more appropriate style of Jagger and Richards; Wild Horses. Then a self penned song ‘She Never Knew Him’, about a girl who had in fact known him when he was younger.
To my left, in my mother in-law’s chair which had come over from Coleraine N.Ireland with mother in-law, sat Kath who sang a wonderful version of ‘Lullaby’ written by Dan Seals and some other people/person. (thought about witticisms about Kitty and Coleraine but gave up)
Over to Pam then, fresh form Whitby, with a haunting version of ‘Our Lady of the Shooting Stars’ ably accompanied by Dermot on iPod scrolling. This Mary Gauthier song was followed by Lucinda William’s ‘Am I too Blue for You’. Superb stuff as usual.
Then to Brian who announced that he would be transposing whilst playing and singing. Luckily he transposed both voice and instrument in the same distance in the same direction. He had earlier demonstrated the two hundred and sixty first instrument that he can play; the left-handed violin. The Flogging Molly song ‘If I ever leave this world alive’ was followed by ‘Go with me Joanna’ by Jon Allen. Great stuff. I noted that my granddad had been called John Allen. I don’t know why because there would have been lots of John Allens, he didn’t write this song, and in fact he was always called Jack however, he did play a mean violin.
The first half finished with our newcomer John Boyle who sang a soulful, unaccompanied version of “She Moved through the Fair’.
The sub-set of Wild Geese performed a rousing version of ‘The Musical Priest’ giving a thorough Swan airing to proper ‘diddly dee’ music. Some furtive fingers did fleetingly hover over expectant fret boards but the urge to join in was tempered by the musical enchantment that enfolded in front of us. All that was missing was the log fire, a whistle and a bodhran. More of the same please Brian.
I don’t know about you dear reader, but I always find that when I go into an Indian restaurant, after having spent ages reading and discussing the endless choices that abound sub-continental cuisine I always choose chicken Madras. And so it is that we come to Graeme and his long running musical equivalent to my addiction to Madras curries; songs by Michael Chapman. Two expertly played tunes followed; ‘Drinking again’ and the instrumental ‘Little Molley’s Dream’. Good combination, Michael Chapman and Graeme Morrell.
Rob then noted that Dave would have enjoyed the next song as he was a fan of the songwriter John Prime. A spot on version of ‘Long Monday’ ensued. Getting a little bit political now, what would Obama and Mitt make of the Boss’s ‘Youngs Town. Rob delivered a Springsteenesque performance. Classic stuff Rob, next time bring your wallet and Caroline!
No longer just doing the twiddly bits, the blogger sans the person (Ian Taylor, former partner in musical crime) but inspired by choices did the chords and sang a Boo Heweredine, ‘Bell Book and Candle’ followed by a Richard Thompson, ‘Persuation’.
More unaccompanied stuff next, not even the scrolling of an iPad, as Pam’s Eddie Reader/Robbie Burns inspired ‘Wild Mountain Side’ floated through the pub. Much appreciated by all. Pam finished with a Boo Hewerdine song written for Eddie Reader, ‘Follow my Tears’.
James, late arrival, then took careful hold of Graeme’s Collins to ‘human dukebox’ his way through ‘My Girl’ by Smokey (not the Ilkley based group – Alice who the f*** is Alice?) Robinson and Paolo Nutinis ‘Candy’. Lovely stuff. James always lifts the spirits.
John Condon, it is believed, was the youngest soldier to die during WW1 and his grave is certainly the most visited. Brian’s rendition of the song about this tragic young man brings a lump to the throat. He finished with a song about freedom … when daffodils still grow ….. only our rivers run free … you know the one! (I didn’t/don’t but it was a very good song)
So an evening that promised little became a veritable feast, that’ll be chicken Madras for me and a side order of Michael Chapman for Graeme.
Thanks to Brian for whipping us into shape and to M.C. David. Just time for three rousing sing-alongs led by Rob and Graeme drawing rapturous applause from the snug/abyss.
See you all next time Chris Thomspon