It was a good night at the Swan Acoustic. Provided of course that you don't mind interesting reworking of Beatles songs or hauntingly good Country and Western.
Brian kicked us off with his usual high quality musicianship and ability to find and deliver interesting songs. He gave us John Williams by Jonny McEvoy which is about leaving Ireland for a new life in America - and then finding you've sailed on the Titanic. This was followed by Neil Ingham's tale of the Nearly Man. Success was just around the corner - for 40 years. All of which was hugely entertaining but left this guest blogger in need of a quick bout of optimism.
This was provided by James. Not the entire Manchester band led by the singer with the high voice but instead James from Skipton giving us an excellent rendition of Have You Got to Hide Your Love Away written by a little known group from Liverpool. Cheerful song. Great delivery. Miserable lyrics. Fortunately we finally got a properly uplifting song written byCarole King which is normally delivered as A Natural Woman but James transformed the Aretha Franklin version that I knew into his own invention of A Natural Man. We live in liberated times so he'll probably get away with transforming the iconic song of the feminist movement into a piece for a man.
Talking of liberty leads me to Phil who liberated himself from the tyranny of the 6 string guitar. He went for 12 strings and a harmonica break instead. This enabled him to produce a fine version of Red at Night by the Gaslight Anthem which includes the cheery line "Ain't Nobody Got the Blues Like Me". This was followed by a U2 number called 'All I Want is You, complete with a quick flourish of Ruby Tuesday thrown in for good measure. Lively and interesting stuff - as always from Phil.
I was up next. Which means that I can write myself glowing reviews. I will, however, resist the temptation. I delivered a four chord Dylan song "One too Many Mornings" followed by my version of the Plain White Ts doing Hey There Delilah.
Any illusions I might have had that I was holding my own were immediately shattered when Graeme came on. As usual he offered impeccable musicianship, excellent singing and a wide range of material. Well wide ranging provided that Al Stewart appears with sufficiently great frequency. This time we had to wait for the second half for that treat and got Don McLean's Stary Night about Vincent Van Gogh. I was always taught that Vincent was a bad tempered selfish guy who fell out with everyone he ever knew apart from his brother who he sponged off instead. For some reason Don McLean missed out that verse. Graeme went on to show that he too can do very good justice to a Beatles classic giving us a very nice reminder of "And I Love Her".
Cath then picked up the smallest guitar I have seen in a long while and proved that it is still possible to get your fingers between tiny gaps between strings and play the thing properly well whilst wearing nails. It is not a trick I think I will attempt to learn. She made it seem effortless and sang the lovely old classic folk tale "The Low Lands of Holland" excellently accompanied with some very nice pipe breaks from Brian.
Pam then gave us the hauntingly wonderful Country and Western that I mentioned in the introduction. Willie Nelson's 'Back to Earth' was followed by Iris Dement 'You've Done Nothing Wrong'. Slow soulful stuff coming out of the mid West. Admittedly the mid West of Bradford but when the delivery is this good who cares.
The second half saw Brian delivering a couple of Irish songs. Who would have thought it! He gave us a fine rendition of John Condon the song about the youngest soldier to die in the First World War. It is a great song - which may explain why it took three people to write it - R. Laird, S. Starrett, and T. McRory no less. Micky McConnell however gets all the royalties from Only Rivers Run Free but if he's expecting anything from our session at the Swan then he's out of luck. In fact I think he should probably be paying Brian for doing such good justice to his material.
James then did the Sam Cooke song, Bring it On Home to Me, that I know best from an Animals version. As usual he made the song his own which I always like to hear. He did the same with Don't Bring Me Down a John Lennon song by those Beatles we heard so much from on the night. Again nice to hear a song made interesting and fresh rather than just copied.
Which is exactly what Phil did to T Rex. A good lively version of a song that always cheers people up. Can't help wishing Marc Bowlanhad stuck to writing songs about cars instead of driving one much too fast into a bridge in Barnes. Phil, however, is more of a survivor and keeps writing his own material which always contains some good crisp lines. This one was called 'Gravy Train'. Your blogger wishes to adopt it as his campaign song.
Talking of writing your own stuff lead to my second halfcontributions which were the only cheerful song I've ever written "Some days it all goes so Easy" (about one in a hundred for me personally - thanks for asking!), a cheerful poem and a more typical piece of deep contemplation on the pointlessness of existence in the face of the enormity of space and time, called "Don't Give up the Day Job."
Graeme then blew us all away with a fantastic version of Gordon Lightfoot's "If you Could Read My Mind." What is not to like about hearing a song you've almost forgotten brought back to life with skill and sensitivity. Equally good was - I don't think I spoiled any surprise by revealing this earlier - an Al Stewart Song. This time Manuscript. How can anyone write a song that good when they begin it with the opening words of "Prince Lewis Battenburgh"?
TantraTickaram also knows how to write a good song. I confess to never having heard of her but knew the song "Good Tradition of Love and Hate" that Cath did such a good job of giving us as her second half contribution. Only half as many songs as everyone else but a lot more talent that most of us! More please.
Pam then sang "The Whisky Makes you Sweater Than You Are" - a theory I wasn't able to test out as I was driving. I had to rely on the word of Laura Cantrell, who wrote the song, and on Pam's soulful rendition. Promising that her next one would be more cheerful Pam then offered us "The Desert of Your Love" by the Mockingbirds. Excellent song. Well performed but I can't say I was convinced that the theme wasentirely cheerful.
We finished off with a quick guest appearance from Quinniewho had snuck in with his exceptionally well behaved dog but no guitar. On a borrowed axe he gave us "I'm Asking You Sergeant Where's Mine" by Billy Connolly - thus demonstrating how good both the author and the singer can be. This was followed by a self penned number called Johnny Jump Up which sounds like a classic.
To celebrate we finished the evening with a series of better known classics in a jam session that at times was remarkably un-ragged. Must have been because most of us were drinking very weak dark mild and no one had dared to explore the whisky bottle after Pam's dire warnings!
This review was brought to you by Andy.