The Full House Blog

Indeed, Brian - a very full house and, for me, a glorious re-visitation.

As Brian so rightly declared late in the evening, he did not do a single song, but did sterling work accompanying and being featured on mandolin in other people's sets - read on!

First off, Mike on guitar and Brian on mandolin - a splendid start with "The Devil (or, rather, Divil) amongst the Tailors" - fast and rather wonderful - then "Speed the Plough" - which is even faster. A very exciting start - with the mention of a 'blackthorn stick', which (as the great Michael MacLiammoir said) is what is called by the English a 'shillelagh'.

Next up was Chris on guitar - accompanied by Brian on mandolin - backing "young Dave" (the only introduction), who sang and played oboe beautifully on "The Dawning of the Day" from, would you believe, Chris's wife's uncle Jack's book of Vocal Gems. As the second offering from just Chris and Dave, we had "Wherever You Go", again with Dave giving us fine singing and oboe-playing.

Then Francis gave us two reels on her amplified harp - although the electrification is now imperceptible – the harp singing out wonderfully on "The Green Fields of America" and "Leather Buttons".

Adrian and your blogger were next. When Adrian suggested adding a Velvet Underground song to the Gibson Bros repertoire, I was hoping for "The Black Angel's Death Song", but Adrian had picked "Sunday Morning" - also on the Velvet's first album, but a song left over from Lou Reed's stint at the Pickwick song factory. Adrian singing it sweetly, hardly impeded by my desultory harmonica playing. Next, I hardly did justice to Mr Cohen's "That's No Way to Say Goodbye" - the capo on the second fret was a mistake (complicated reasons) - but Adrian offered some nice harmony on the choruses.

John N gave us a fetchingly gruff account of his days as a truck driver on the Stereophonics' "Every Day I Think of Money" - John D’s heckle, pointing out that this is from a retired head teacher on a lavish pension was hardly called for - which of us has seen Bethsheba bathing on the roof, though many sing about it? John was then convincingly titillating on his rendition of Graham Parker's "Hotel Chambermaid".

There was also much conviction in John D's acts of devotion to Loudon Wainwright - "Hard Day on the Planet" and "What was I Afraid of?" - he's going to see the inimitable Mr Wainwright three times in May and wants to have his babies.

Mike gave us his familiar, but always engaging, rendition of Steve Earle's "Born on This Mountain" and then (the famous two capos in place) was, I am convinced, was heading for the tale of a certain sombre-hued, high-speed vintage motorcycle and the lovers whom it brought together, when he suffered an unaccustomed string break. Heroically surviving the ensuing heckling, Mike recovered to give us "Over Our Heads" (Zero 7?).

With Mike keeping the floor, but Andee taking the lead with her beautiful harp, we were offered two reels - "Temperance" and "Morning Star"; then two barn dances, "All around the Ferry Port" and "New Broom". I'm continually in awe of Andee's lovely playing and her seamless combining of tunes.

Ninth on the bill was James with, as always, wonderfully varied material - "The drugs don't work" (The Verve) and - one I do know and share James's affection for - Christine McVie's divine "Songbird".

Then, for me, one of the delights of the evening (since I've missed Gloria’s rare appearances since the move to the Swan) Gloria giving us her own "Elvis has left the building" - which I love - and the back-story to it - followed by four, possibly five, Irish reels on the flute - just exquisite!

Graham was concerned about being sandwiched between two flutes, but gave a splendid account of himself with one from fellow Collings-player John Hiatt’s, "Wicked Grin”. Then, again referencing the great Mr Presley, a spirited version of Reg Meuross’s "Your Lover or the King”.

A marvellous end to a long and splendidly varied first session came from Steve giving us several airs, which he didn't care to name, because people always disagree about titles.

Only slightly depleted of players, the second session did not so much start as gently drift into being.

I was so entranced that I did not get any titles, but Brian, Mike, Gloria and Andee co-evolved into an ensemble to which it was a privilege to listen.

More ensemble playing came from Chris and Dave - again with lovely oboe playing - with "Wildwood" and then, with Brian as the ubiquitous mandolin monarch, joining them for "Careless Whispers". Then keeping the floor, Chis and Dave attempted a communal effort (having been augmented by the Luminaires’ air-bass-player) for "Ho, Hey!" Audience participation never quite reached Snow White's magical figure seven - maybe tiredness was setting in.

Your blogger offered Tom Waits’ "Tom Traubert's Blues" - augmented by some nice harmony from Adrian - was pleased to find that Mike shares my affection for poor Tom’s three sheets to the wind in Copenhagen.

Then, we had John N and John D together (more or less) on Jagger/Richards "Wild Horses" with John N being, once again, fetchingly gravelly and John D just being a little horse. I blame that Findus lasagne! This is followed by another Jagger/Richards, "I used to love her" - happily the non-equestrian version.

Mike was back again with a borrowed guitar and Brian on mandolin to give us one of my favourite of his vocals, "Crooked Jack".

James was also back to perform "Just give me some candy" by Paolo Nutini (more the name of a posh Italian pudding) and Harry Nielsen's "Everybody's Talking" - a good one to revive.

Gloria was back, but felt too croaky to sing (sob). The gorgeous flute-playing on "The Clumsy Lover" and other Scottish thingies in A was almost enough compensation.

My little heart leapt when Graham started the continuo-figure of Mark Knopfler's "Romeo and Juliet" - splendidly sung - perfectly played - well, okay, maybe just more of a pout on "Hey, now, my boyfriend’s back"

Final individual performance was from Steve – playing a magnificent scarlet whistle - and this time there was no need to announce the title - Steve's rendering of "She Moved through the Fair" was just heart-breaking.

As if all these riches weren't enough, there were a few moments of jamming from the usual suspects - marvellous evening - I would been happy with an all-night lock-in!

Posted on April 16, 2013 .