'Twas the last swan acoustic before Christmas and all through the pub not a guitar string was oscillating.. etc, etc, well I'm not going to write it all in the traditional folk tale style but you get the idea. And of course it was the last Swan Acoustic before Christmas so you can expect some Christmas songs but more of that later.
First and in his traditional anchor slot, Brian. The Blackthorn Stick and the Kesh Jig on the mandolin, as light and bouncy as every jig should be, Roddy McCourt on the tin whistle which was beautifully played and bordering on the transcendental. Technically impressive too with the bending on the high notes, The Big Four on the Blange (which looks like a mandola but has an extra bonus bass string) and then the funeral which is a sort of acapella tongue twister often performed to prove you are sober but typically having the opposite effect. Brian is certainly a multi instrumentalist with three of his instruments on display tonight, some might say a polymath, you can see when he plays the mandolin and suchlike he has some seriously impressive fretboard and plectrum technique.
If it's a traditional folk tale you're after then Barry is your man, Young Widow Brown by Waylon Jennings, Golden Guitar by Bill Anderson, Talk of the Town by Don Reno and Halfway Home Cafe by Paul Overstreet, with a Christmas joke and a musical history lesson thrown in for good measure. Barry's knowledge goes way back which makes it interesting for someone like myself with a relatively shallow knowledge of popular music. I'd compare his style to Johnny Cash but he might be insulted to be compared to such a johnny-come-lately. He's got an authentic Country sound and some nice walking bass lines and it's always interesting hearing the folk song stories.
Vic played Many a Mile by Patrick Sky, Golfing Blues by Louden Wainwright and Farewell to the Gold by Michael Metzger. We don't hear enough blues in our folk circles and we certainly don't hear enough golf themed blues, in fact I've never heard any before, ever, but good stuff. Vic has got a real glossy smooth flowing fingerpicking style and a warm baritone voice, made me think of Leonard Cohen but not nearly as miserable. A pleasant listen all round.
Alex played us some super trad, the Coventry Carol from the 1500's and Packingtons Pound from 350 years back, and some fairly contemporary material, Faithful by Marvin Welsh, and Space Oddity by David Bowie, both from the twentieth century. The latter in honour of Britains first real spaceman (as opposed to the glitter coated, drug addled Ziggy who penned the tune) who arrived on the international space station today. Alex showed us a good vocal range with some falsetto thrown in to add authenticity to the Baroque Carol and some good technical ability on the guitar. If he hasn't played classical guitar I'd be surprised but if not, he definitely should.
James opened with Christmas song number 1 of the evening, Lonely this Christmas by Mud (or Les Gray, of Mud perhaps) which I thought was Elvis, it certainly sounded like the Elvis version to me.. Then So Much Wine by the Handsome family played on a Timple, which is a sort of ukelele with a bonus fifth string. James always sings with passion and gusto but when the Ukelele forced him into the higher vocal register it sounded really good. Keep it going man.
Next up was me, which puts me in the rather unusual position of reviewing my own performance, Nine Crimes by Ryan Adams, Forever Young by AlphaVille, Waltz#2 by Elliot Smith and Fare Thee Well of traditional origin, All I will say is that I hope it was well received, you never can tell.
Graeme next, You're Sixteen by the Sherman Brothers, Shaking These Christmas Blues by Brooks Williams bringing the Christmas song count up to 2, To Make You Feel My Love by Bob Dylan, I thought this was an Adele tune but on inspection it was a later Dylan tune from the nineties which is presumably how I missed it, and a medley of Strangers Road Map of Texas and Twisted Road by Michael Chapman. Graeme is an excellent guitarist with some real nice fancy fingerstyle and interesting riffs and fills cropping up all over the shop (I suspect he likes Michael Chapman for those same reasons) and with his slick crooner voice it makes for a tidy performance.
Ian played us Australia by the Rails and Persuasion by Richard Thompson. Interesting fact: One half of the Rails is Richard Thompson's daughter Kami Thompson. I only know this because I looked up the Rails on google, and I only looked the Rails up on google because I liked their song Australia, and I liked their song Australia because it was played properly with a tubthumping guitar and solid powerful singing by Ian. Thanks for that.
Proceedings were rounded off with a group rendition (led by Graeme) of Christmas song number three, Merry Christmas by Slade and off we went for the Winter Break..
“Happy Christmas to all and to all a good-night!”