Friday, 6 April 2018

Shine On

          A welcome return to NFC for the gifted John Richards on Wednesday,  this time with the additional bonus of being joined on stage by his old mate and bass player Jim Sutton. For our second evening at our new venue it was good to see a few more returning faces. All tables were fully occupied, with plenty more standing towards the back. Thanks to Richard and The Crew staff there was the further attraction of some warming chilli con carne offered as a treat towards the interval. 
         With a few sound glitches delaying the start,  Nunc finally kicked off events slightly later than usual, with the topical “Twas on an April morning.” I’d been battling a very sore throat all day so was more than happy to hand over the lead vocals to Flossie. She   did her usual professional job on “Angel from Montgomery.” Nice to hear the audience joining in the choruses on this one. Accompanied by Paul “I’ll play with anyone” Moore, we finished our launch spot with “Bring it On Home.” and then put the stage into to the capable hands of The J.P.s 

      Jane Moss and Paul Monk were as good as I’d ever seen and heard them. Jane’s vocals were particularly strong. Perhaps it  was a reaction to having a large audience to perform to or perhaps it was the presence of Mum and Dad in the audience but they seemed very focused,especially on the song about the demise of Kellingley Colliery. A good number this,from Jane although it possibly still needs a little editing or trimming down to be totally effective.
       As I gave Nigel Ward a glowing introduction, praising his exquisite fiddle playing,I was facing the audience. I had failed to see him unveiling a Cittern from a case.behind me, This was so he could start with “The Reluctant Sailor,” a Ward original I consider to be among his best. I like the words, I like the subject matter and I like Nigel’s delivery. For his finale he chose an instrumental featuring a segue of tunes expertly played. This got feet and tables tapping until,as Nigel’s playing became increasingly fast. It was funny watching them drop out-they simply couldn’t keep up with him,and they all had to give up! Some time ago I got involved in an online debate about the histrionics some of the more flamboyant fiddle players employ when being filmed for television. Nige wisely has no truck with any of this malarkey. He just plays his fiddle-as well as anyone else I know does. No gimmicks, no flailing and leaping and dipping about. (Good man!).
         Des Patalong, shorn of his Razors (see what I did there?),then donned his Billy Gibbons shades and mounted the steps for a solo session. The sunglasses were a precaution against glare: Des having done a risk assessment since his visit here last month. A quick grumble about the foldbacks and then he was ready to thunder out three shanties including "South Australia" and "Shallow Brown," both of which got the audience singing enthusiastically. 
         Gremlins had continued to  nibble sporadically here and there and they had clearly taken a chunk out of Dan Gascoigne’s guitar before he began his spot. Dan’s an old hand at NFC however, and showing cool and serenity way beyond his tender years, he  battled gamely through his first song as our willing young sound engineers strove unobtrusively to crawl at his feet readjusting DI leads. Dan is a great guitarist so wisely just let technique do the talking. Instead of moaning he delivered a trio of songs up to the usual high standard and ended with a very original take on ”Lord Franklin.” Those who hadn’t heard him previously were suitably impressed.
               Dragonhead's John and Anne Harris,have been doing sterling work running another great live music venue in the Town, Tuesday Blues Nights at The Anker Inn. So it was good to see them back at NFC doing their stuff up on the stage. This included a Cajun medley which included "Diggy Diggy Lo ". Ann was looking very sparkly in her red sequinned top, which John announced she was wearing only because,"She got to the wardrobe first.” Nonplussed by Des nicking one of their planned numbers, they repeated "South Australia” but more at a Rock tempo than as a shanty. By now we all knew the words ,so the audience singing was top class. 
          John And Jim then performed the shorter of the two Feature sets. When you are as prolific and talented a writer as John,it must be a challenge what to include and what to miss out. However many of his fans there had their requests honoured, over the two sets. It’s rumoured John uses Tungsten coated Titanium strings, and his voice projection is legendary,so he certainly gave our sound men a run for their money. Once stabilised, the overall effect was one was somewhere between iconic and outstanding. Jim’s contribution was immense:a great player with a feel for the instrument whether picking plucking or using the bow.
         After the interval, Nunc returned with "Down where the Drunkards Roll,” during which my voice went walkabouts again. Fortunately Flossy did a magnificent job on “Guilty” a song which  the pair of us regularly scrap over. And then came a very specially moment commemorating the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s cruel assassination. Des joined us on stage as John Kearney led us all in the protest movement's anthem “We Shall Overcome.”  At the point where we handed over the vocal to the audience,singing unaccompanied, it became a very emotional and genuinely moving experience. Will we ever overcome,some day?  I hope so. But I’m beginning to wonder. 
      John’s second set was equally as impressive as the first.  "Honour and Praise," “Polly,” “The Deserter,” " If you can Sing/Dance" were all in there along with other favourites. He had to finish his encore with the anthemic  "Shine On," of course he did.  We wouldn’t have let him leave without doing it.The song  means a lot to us Nuncsters ( as it does to many) for it has been a comfort through some hard times. John dedicated it to all those who understood and appreciated his music,
” You know who you are,” he grinned. And yes, we  do. All of us. 

Photographs and Single Malt Islay courtesy of the versatile John B Smith.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Blue Anker

       John and Anne Harris have been plugging away now for about six months with The Blues Jamm Sessions at The Anker Inn on Tuesday Nights. They have put their own money into advertising, yet attendances have been patchy-even though the turnout and support by local musicians has always been impressive. Last night was one of the best nights so far. 
      The "Blues" tag, as I have commented previously, is a misnomer. In 2018, most Folk Club followers I know expect to hear some blues,or blues-influenced work. Many performers throw a few bluesy numbers into their set lists anyway and on "Anker Folk" our twice monthly Radio show, Blues,Country Blues, Americana, Roots Music and Cajun are all regularly included. 
            Last night we had Blues tunes but we also has pop, soul and yes, Folk. Perhaps most importantly of all we had a damn good time! Blues is a state of mind-you can add a bluesy feel to almost any kind of music. 
One of several variations on the  House band get into Mustang Sally.

      The evening started well, as ace Photographer John B. Smith passed me some contraband-a couple of Islay Single Malt miniatures which we'd been discussing at The Sly Old Dogs gig on Sunday night. Nuneaton's own Dragonhead-John and Ann in person-started us off and it wasn't long after that before they started extending the mix to involve other audience members. Paul Moore seated himself on the Bodhran/beat box and started dusting the brushes in some percussion John Kearney led us in rousing versions of "You Never Can Tell" and "Bad Moon Rising," which really got the feet tapping. 
                     Tom Young was an unassuming young man who had travelled over from Leamington to make his debut at The Anker.  It was immediately established from his opening chords that he  was an accomplished picker. A self confessed admirer of earlier country-style blues,his fingers flashed nimbly across the strings as he coaxed and picked a remarkable variety of authentic notes from a diminutive Gibson. Added to an entirely appropriate vocal style,it was an enjoyable and authentic cameo. He performed three songs including Kokomo and an R.L. Burnside number.

Tom Young

          Messrs Harris Moore and Kearney had organised a cheeky Saturday rehearsal so I was cajoled up to have a pitch at "Some Day The Sun Won't Shine For You." This was an early Jethro Tull number we used to do occasionally in  Black Parrot Seaside days. Fair to say it needs further work, but the same line-up performed "Guilty" expertly and gave this fine Randy Newman song due respect, I felt.  
                 Pete McParland was then called to supplement a growing stage outfit and led the vocal on "Let's Work Together" which was appropriate in oh so many ways. Especially as he did not then slope off to do Open Mic up at Church End, but took to the percussion box as Lesley Wilson,(making her second consecutive appearance) was pressed into service.
Pete MacParland
      Despite her protests ,Lesley rattled off thoroughly competent versions of "Road To hell," and "Call me The Breeze" before finishing with a good cover of The Cranberries classic, "Zombie."  Good stuff. We've persuaded her to make her NFC debut with a floor spot  in May. 

Lesley Wilson

         Had we by now seen and heard it all? No. Not a bit of it. Up stepped a Paul Moore protege,Miles Walker, to make the second debut of the evening. He drew a slim white electric guitar from a case, like a gunslinger unsheathing a Colt 45 from a leather holster. He then proceeded to draw two remarkable Stevie Ray Vaughan solos from it. Firstly the instrumental "Lenny" and then SVR's signature song "Pride and Joy." He demonstrated a remarkable cornucopia of styles with (for me anyway) bits of Healey, Hendrix and Trower in there alongside an awful lot of Miles Walker's unique style. He used everything on the guitar including the whammy bar and held us spellbound. Wow! Watching John Harris's face as he  tried  to keep up with him, was a treat in itself alone
Miles Walker
             Nuncmonkey and Dr Bennett have both already guested in Feature Spots at The Anker. Last night Michael Luntley was a worthy addition to the List of Honour. He was every bit as good as I have ever heard and seen him,in fact, the best I had seen him. I told him so afterwards. He has quite evidently put a lot of work and thought into presentation and into honing technique. Last night he ran through two sets using both a mix of his own very original material and some impressive covers. His vocals are strong,and his guitar work is impressive. 
      Michael is a perfectionist. Talking to him afterwards,he was unhappy with a couple of "mistakes" he reckons he made,but which in all honesty I hadn't noticed. In a room full of guitarists and other musicians I was the only non-guitar playing vocalist there and it sounded mighty fine to me. Whether using his prettily embellished Taylor or a tastefully distressed Dobro,he got some  fine sounds out of both machines!  
Michael Luntley
               So it was an impressive Guest performance and the cherry on the cake was that we had not one but two young guitarists making their debut. Finally! Some more new blood. New performers and new audience members, for a second Tuesday at The Anker. Despite the (alleged) counter attractions of (apparently) England v Italy on telly and Flossy Maliaville at Brinklow. Back of the net. 
              Before Michael's second set, a newly extended House band ran through "Mustang Sally" (wuth Pete and Lesley on vocals) and "How Long Blues" followed by  "Standin' Round Cryin'" with me taking the lead vocal. Now those two are Blues songs, no getting away from it, but if Leroy Carr or Muddy Waters had wandered in just then I'd like to think either of them might have been been impressed. 
How Long has that evenin'train been gone? 


Friday, 23 March 2018

2021 Anthem?

 "We're The People of The Phoenix-and We Rise."

And they are?
Tim Boyce (guitars), Andrew Hudson, (bass,keyboards) Nick Moore (drums,) Jah-Man Aggrey (percussion) Skatta (aka Nathan) ,Vidish Athavale,Saher Robinson,Geoff Veasey (lyrics,vocals)   

What's rising and where?
       By the nature of the project, I had to be a little secretive about what I was up to  in my home town at the start of 2018. Now it has gone public I can finally reveal that for five weeks I was part of a very diverse collaborative group, recording and filming studios in Central Coventry as part of The Herbert Museum and Art Gallery Melody Makers project.  I was aware of this group's work beforehand,so I volunteered to try and add a Folk input to it, conscious of what an important part Coventry and Warwickshire Folk and Roots music has played in this area's cultural development. 

My Town?
           I was born in Coventry. I grew up there,went to school there and lived there for many years. I worked  there, in various guises, for around forty years. As a postman, or helping on a mobile shop round.   As a Saturday boy at Ball Hill Woolworths or selling goal tickets at Highfield Road .And latterly as a teacher. 
       During that time I had a modest input into several cultural aspects. Early doors, I was a choirboy at All Saints Church. (Just down the road from where we did these recent recordings). I became involved in Amateur Dramatics at Caludon Castle and in plays at The Criterion Theatre and in Coventry Catherdral. I read poetry  at the Cathedral, The Umbrella Club and anywhere else that would have me. 
          I came back to Coventry after a three year  stint  reading  English Speech and Drama at a London college I got involved in writing and producing Primary School music and drama. I ran school choirs,and had the honour to choreograph and produce a Reggae Dance Group,culminating in public performance in Primrose Hill Park and introduced by the divine Eartha Kitt. I also fronted  a rock band in the 1970's,later a Folk band and I am still playing music twice a month on a local radio station and gigging  in a Folk band called Nunc.( Two of whom are Coventry born and educated). 
        So despite being one of the oldest members in the Third Melody Makers Collective I came into it immensely proud of my home town,aware of most of its musical heritage and determined to carry on giving something back. I've always enjoyed giving back to Coventry,because it has done so much for me. It has provided me with roots,my children were born and educated there. It is why I am and who I am yet gets such a kicking sometimes from certain aspects of the media. (And indeed,at times,from some of its own inhabitants). 

       I am over the moon that Coventry has been chosen as City of Culture 2021. I hope it seizes the opportunity to embrace Warwickshire, too. As far as I am concerned, except  for a brief administrative blip (about which I wrote another song!) Coventry has always been part of the Old County.  Me too. My family story is very similar to that of many other Coventrians . My dad and his dad were born in Nuneaton after the Veaseys migrated there from rural Warwickshire during the 1890's. My Mum and her dad were born in Yorkshire but followed the same kind of migration south in the 1930's. The two families met and combined there as so many others have done before and since. It is a meeting place: a crossroads a melting pot -it is this kind of movement in and out of the city that provides such a rich canvas to work upon. Long may it continue.

Bits wot i done
      My part in "Home Town" was to contribute part of the lyrics,and sing them. It was written originally both as a homage to Fargos Village and a positive reply to "Ghost Town." A song I still love and admire, but which does not reflect the modern, thriving city.  My family grew up in the streets round Far Gosford Street. I find it incredibly satisfying that the area is still thriving. It was easy to write. I adore Fargos Village and Nunc have had some great nights there,playing The Twisted Barrel. We had tinkered around with "Home Town" as a band but  never got to performing it live anywhere. It is in every sense a very new song. 
       I got on famously with the whole Melody Makers group, but especially with Rapper Skatta, who was old enough to be my Grandson, and the other lyricist there Videsh. The whole group liked the ethos of "Home Town" and the melody-which is the original I first sang to them. As you still hear it on Soundcloud. Vidish Saher and I  evolved the ear worm of a Chorus and Nathan (aka Skatta-sorry Fam) wrote the Rap/Grime verses. The musicians were just incredible. They layered in percussion, guitars keyboards and some very complex chorus vocals. This made it entirely organic and gave the piece "life." 

The Engine Room
Behind all this, Pete and Julie Chambers from Coventry Music Museum and Darren Wood of The Herbert,offered advice,background,ideas,inspiration and hands on expertise. When The People of The Phoenix go up to accept The Grammy-it's these three we will dedicate the statuette to. 

The Future
     We created a unique chemistry together whilst recording. Several group members refer to during the documentary interviews. How it happened is exactly as they describe it. We even coined a name-People of The Phoenix (from the chorus).  All of us said we could imagine pumping that together out on stage at a future Godiva Festival, with 60,000 people holding up torches , singing the chorus.  Or doing a 2021 Promotional video with us all riding round the Ring Road playing it on the 1987 Open Top Cup Final Bus.  The whole piece creates a feeling of togetherness and a positive vibe which I feel (we feel) is possibly unique. Who knows? 

             Home Town on a Friday Night 

Soul Food, Street Food,Vegan bites,
Crepes and Burgers and sweet delights
signs lit up and the fairy lights-
Gosford on a Friday Night
Gosford on a Friday Night

Mango Citra and IPA
Saison and Porter brewed night and day
Sine Qua Non blows the blues away
Twisted Barrel on a Friday Night
Twisted Barrel on a Friday Night

You can get a haircut, you can get a shave,
Turkish four course if you're feeling brave
Have a real good night (as long as you behave)
It's all happening on a Friday Night
It's all happening on a Friday Night
It's all happening on a Friday Night

Winter Spring and Summer too,
You'll always find a welcome waiting for you
You'll always find something new to do
Home Town on a Friday Night
Home Town on a Friday Night

Buy a new Vespa or an old LP
Read a paperback on an old settee
Hear a reggae band,Open Mic for Free
My Town on a Friday Night :
My Town on a Friday Night

Craft shops, clothes shops,market stalls
Picnic tables and glitterballs
Headscarves,headbands,knitted shawls
Your town on a Friday Night
My Town on a Friday Night
Home Town on a Friday Night.

SKATTA RAP 1 and 2 


Home Town! On a Friday Night
(That's where I'm going!)
My Town on a Friday Night
(In The Sky Blue City)
Two Tone its in our hearts:
We're the people of The Phoenix and we rise!

Home Town On A Friday Night - By The Melody Makers Collective (Group 3)

Friday, 16 March 2018

Stylish Improvisation at BFC

        Most of us had gone along to the Newdigate Club, Bedworth, on Wednesday night just to get another hearing of the outstanding Kevin Dempsey and to enjoy more banter, poetry and fine musicianship from Brian Phillips. I'd also got some Folk Monthly magazines to sell and to add  to their Club Funds. And with surplus prizes left over from the previous nights Shenanigans at The Anker Blues session I wanted to donate a bottle of Chardonnay to the raffle. Strange how things turn out though, eh?
      When I arrived, just before 8pm I met Nigel Ward coming back out and hurrying into the car park. " That bad eh,Nige?," I quipped hilariously . " Kev's not playing," he explained,"I'm just coming out to have  a fiddle." (Good job you brought one eh,Nige?)
      Inside though,joking aside, it was all true. Kev had damaged his wrist and Brian was also unable to play. Both were there and looking concerned. Malc Gurnham was energetically readjusting a hastily-improvised running order and as things turned out, despite the disappointment of missing guitar fireworks from Brian and Kev we had a cracking evening. Including one or two real surprises. Off which more later. 
         Fortunately, there were plenty of musicians present some of whom had only come along originally intending to be spectators. Many were quickly roped in.  Malc and Gill (in fine voice and good spirits) launched the evening with some songs including.Shep Woolley's "Down By The Dockyard Wall." That got the audience warmed up and singing before Dave Webb was dragged out of the audience to give us a couple of recitations. Sam was summarily  told to pick up his rifle and Dave also reminded us of an unlikely meeting between an Angel and a Yorkshire Pudding. Heavenly. (Literally).  
              The Wigleys-Stephen and Julie-had travelled all the way over from Derby so Malc treated them to a neat little cameo of four songs. Some of which were written by Julie. Interesting stuff. 
           Nigel Ward, separated from the rest of the  Sly Old Dogs and his musical partnership with Mick Bissiker, stepped in next. He gave us a couple of songs and then finished with a fantastic bouncing medley of jigs and reels which got everyone's feet tapping. Nigel is coming out to the John Richards night at NFC next month so there is another chance to see and hear his flashing bow then! 
       David Parr was drafted in next and he was in fine voice. He got us all singing merrily once again with "Star of The County Down" and then tickled us all with his wonderful if slightly naughty Paddy Roberts song," When I was a Little Wolf Cub." Definitely music to wave your woggle about to. 

          During the first half Malc had asked me to do a spot in the second half. (Blimey,things must have been getting desperate-cheers Kev!).  I was sitting next to Arnold Chave at the time and during one of the acts changeovers I asked if he would like to join me in doing The Odeon together. Initially he declined,pointing out that he could not remember the chords or the words, but with a bit of persuasion,  a lend of Dave Parr's guitar and an impromptu half-time rehearsal,he agreed.
            So, after the interval Malc and Gill returned together before Malc did a couple of songs solo. Then I got up and did "Di Di The Ice Cream Man"  (unaccompanied)-for the second time that day . Amidst a fair bit of good natured heckling I then introduced "my young accompanist" and Arnie and I stumbled not only through "The Odeon," but finished with a classic version of "Albert Balls" as well. It had been four years since we had last performed these three songs together as Black Parrot Seaside -but (as they always do/always did) they each received warm applause. The audience knew the words to all three so the singing was magnificent, and muck chuckling ensued. 
       Follow that? Simple. Wheel out the Thrupp'nny Bits to conclude what had been,given the circumstances, a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Arnold and I discussed what Des keeps under his various hats and the way  Des and his beard seem to change appearance each time we see him,as they began.. (My opinion is-he wears extensions) They performed a selection of their many excellent traditional songs including "The Owl," and  a very cleverly arranged "Hal and Tow," concluding with a complex three part round of Summer is a Comin' In. They also added their popular and saucy bit of wordplay,"Bold Sir John," demonstrating ably that it wan't only myself and Dave Parr who could deal skilfully with a bit of smut. 
         All in all a very pleasant evening and all was not lost as (hopefully) Kevin Dempsey returns on March 28th with his guitar hand suitably repaired. Fingers crossed..(or perhaps not....?)
                                   All photographs courtesy of John B. Smith

All now in order at The Larder

        After a  burglary earlier this year,this delightful venue had to close for refurbishment. Heartless thieves attacked this lovely themed cafe in Atherstone's main street and it took a while to clean up the damage caused by these callous intruders. Over the last few weeks it has been getting itself right again and on Tuesday this week,with it newly reopened, I motored over for a spot of afternoon Cafe Cabaret there.
      It had been a long time since I had last dropped in there, because of the increasing workload involving in getting Nuneaton Folk Club, whilst  based at The Crown, ready during the first week of every month. I had missed a lot of sessions. Now NFC  have moved to The Queen's Hall, hopefully my first Wednesdays will be free again and I can perhaps join them more often?
       They seem to have recovered well and apparently people have been very kind by donating wartime memorabilia to replace those items damaged or stolen. It's a quirky venue. There's a comprehensive and nostalgic menu. Diners come and go, circumnavigating the players and singers, as they enter, and then sitting with a mug of tea, or munching spam fritters or sausage butties as the entertainment goes on around them. 
  It's always been a very hospitable and friendly place, so it was good to see them open and up and running again. The High Street I am told, has not been the same without them.  I sat with Ian Bourne. He has been really poorly until quite recently so it was good to see him out and about and on the road again.With Phil Benson also poorly, Ann and Steve Beeson hosted. Those also singing included myself,  Pete McParland and a couple from Kingsbury whose names I never did catch. 

         Ian did a typically enigmatic selection of songs,delivered in that  wide range  which is characteristic of his vocal style and lively performance. His version of the abrasive Gretchen Peters  song "Hello Cruel World" was particularly effective. It was great to see and hear him again.
        Steve and Ann did a wide ranging selection too,opening with an early Incredible String Band number "Painting Box." Those who have may have blanched at the ISB's later weirdness would probably find this simple love song perfectly innocuous. Steve and I share a fondness for the ISB's in all their 5,000 or layers  of that particular onion..Songs like this and "Witches Hat" prove only that their versatility and appeal is timeless. It was nice to hear Ann singing solo-her delivery of a song featuring a well known John Masefield poem was nicely done. We should hear her solo more often. 
         Having shared a stage with Pete McParland only the previous evening, it was good to see the old boy out on the road again. He had obviously decided to set aside the Isopon and caliper gauges for a couple of hours,and had decided that, rather than continuing restoration work on some old banger (!!) he would treat us to his very pleasant singing and guitar playing instead. Unlike the previous night he eschewed Mustang Sally and High Heel Sneakers and shared his softer side with us. More Gerry Rafferty and Elvis. 
       There was also a couple there I had not seen before. A lady who played guitar and who had a nice singing voice and her partner,with a folding wallet full of blues harps and a beatbox which he would occasionally sit astride and beat out percussion backing from. Very entertaining. Their version of "Diamonds and Rust " was haunting. 
      I went mostly for an unaccompanied Irish theme, what with St.Patrick's Day coming up this weekend. I began with my first ever public rendition of of  "The Galway Shawl." It went well so next I risked all and chucked in  my own tongue in cheek song  "The Impromptu Irish Band" next. I got away with that too, so I added "Di Di The Ice Cream Man." Other than singing "Peets and Shillows"  instead of Sheets and Pillows in the final verse, that seemed o.k. Over confident by now I went  back over the water for a finale with  "Peggy Gordon " All was going well until the verse about the pretty small birds went awol and I had to improvise.the following lines.. ( Serves me right for not concentrating whilst singing and looking at the signwriting on a shop front across the road too closely)
      I  will be back. And not just for the sausage sandwiches. 

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Use it-or lose it

This is a call to arms to the musicians of Coventry,Warwickshire and Leicestershire.  John and Ann Harris have put a lot of time and some of their money into launching advertising and promoting (yet another) good "Live" music venue in our part of the world. The Anker Blues Sessions, currently at The Anker Inn in Weddington Road, Nuneaton are on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month. A few others have put a few bob in too. Nuncmonkey featured there in January and donated our appearance fee back into the kitty,and loads of folk have donated raffle prizes. 

Our area is well blessed with many brilliant musicians,and receptive audiences. Three or Four decent Folk Clubs, the Fox Sessions in Attleborough each Monday, Sly Old Dogs out at Wood Farm Sunday Nights and plenty of Open Mic opportunities. But there is plenty of room for one more like this though, where solo performances, amazing band collaborations of like minded musicians take to the stage,jam and have a damn good time.
        John and Ann will lose the venue by July and already there is talk of where to take it on to next. ( There should be no "If" ). This is the most fun you can have locally whilst keeping your clothes on. The "Blues" thing is actually a  misnomer. Like all of our local venues you can hear Blues,Folk,Roots,Country,Americana,Rock and Roll, Soul, Cajun, Crossover and plenty of other genres besides. The sort of eclectic mix  we play on "Anker Folk" Radio shows twice a month. Come and have a look. There's a good stage, an excellent P.A. and some decent beer on. It's an ego-free zone-everyone is there to sing or play or sing along and have a good time. God knows we have few enough of those at the moment folks,eh? 
           So far there we've had Nuncmonkey, Michael Luntley, Pete McParland, Simon and Sally Anne Veasey, Rob Oakey, Dragonhead, Paul Moore, Jon Harrington,John Kearney, Geoff Veasey, Lesley Wilson,Angus Ellis, Wes Hall and many more. So get out there, second or fourth week of the month and enjoy The Craic. Free admission-funds are raised with an interval raffle. The pub has done lots to encourage live music and live theatre but the management is soon to change and so there is no guarantee that things will continue here.   
       Numbers were  thin on the ground on Tuesday-perhaps because Kevin Dempsey was scheduled to be on in Beduff the following night.It didn't stop us having an absolute blast-AGAIN! Both Lesley Wilson and Rob Oakey joined us for the first time and they were soon dragged into the action. Lesley protested that she was no Blueswoman-then got up and blasted out a couple of raunchy numbers using a borrowed guitar. Rob did a first half floor spot, but was also press-ganged on several occasions to come up and blow harp with several of the other acts. 
       Yes, there were some blues numbers. I sang "Guilty."  "If I Had Possession,"  "How Long Blues" and "Standing Round Crying."  When you are fronting a band that good it's easy to sound authentic. JK did "Copperhead Road " with a different line-up.Paul Moore did " My old friend The Blues," and "Hometown Blues " (We like Steve Earle).  Rob Oakey did "Cocaine" and "San Francisco Blues." And virtually the whole company piled onto the stage to do that well-known Blues "Mustang Sally " as a Finale. 
      Tuesday 27th March is the next session. Be good to see you there. 

Friday, 9 March 2018

A New Dawn for NFC

Wednesday 7th March 2018

Most of the Folk and Roots music venues I regularly visit serve a dual purpose. That is :to continue to promote quality "live" music and to offer a platform for the considerable local talent available in the area. It is clear that as far as the NFC relaunch on Wednesday is concerned, The Queen's Hall at The Crew is going to continue to enhance this process even further. With the The Crown having closed its doors to us, Richard Burlingham and his staff welcomed us with open arms. They pulled out all the stops to ensure that our swift and unexpected relocation went smoothly. Indeed, "Welcome" does not begin to describe how we were made to feel. From the publicity beforehand to the help with clearing the room afterwards. Magnificent. 
         Enough has been written about the previous venue,so rather than wallow in nostalgia or faded memories this first account of the new setting will concentrate on the positives. The (many!) things people praised,and the overall ground swell of joy at having found something broken now swiftly repaired. This is important,especially for those reading this,who felt for one reason or another, that they were unable to attend this first session. See what you missed! Photographs kindly made available by John B. Smith,Steve Bentley, Paul Moore, John Neal,John Kearney and a few are mine. Loads more on the NFC Facebook page-plus a couple of videos of Paper Circus and Alkevan. Even with the numbers down a little on last month for Phil Hare, there were sixty or more assembled as we started, as the photographs will show. 
A tiny Des Patalong helps put the size of the hall into perspective
             Plus,(and this is significant) there were new faces present also. Alkevan,our first featured Guests in our new home added to this sense of occasion with two sets of innovative songwriting and remarkable musical dexterity. They had an invidious task on paper. It was not only a new experience for them,it was for most assembled in the Hall, a new sensory experience,in a new environment. With a new Sound Crew. That everyone rose to this task admirably is a tribute to their professionalism and expertise.In this they were ably assisted by our usual high quality of floor spots.
      Here,compiled from audience/performer feedback (and my own observations) were the key positives in this new venue. It is an impressive list. 

1. The sheer quality of the Sound. All "In House," now so for Mr. Smart and I there will be no more (it seems).humping gear up and down stairs and spending hours assembling it and then clearing the stage/taking it away afterwards. This for me will make Tuesday Wednesday lunchtime and Thursday mornings very much more enjoyable. Manning a deck which looked as if it came from SS Enterprise were young Tom,(yup-another Tom!),Dave Smart and James,riding shotgun, did a brilliant job. Everybody said so. Thank you,Guys!

2.   The food. (Yes,The Food!Whole Platters of sandwiches  snacks and nibbles left on the bar counter for us to enjoy. Pork pies, cocktail sausages,the works:fresh,tasty and lovingly prepared by the staff. (Thank you,Ladies!) And thank you Richard. One of many nice touches. 

3.. The furnishings. Nice clean tables. Nice comfy chairs. Plenty of them, with even  more fetched out as more guests arrived. They filled the Hall and we filled them. Lots of room to spread out and not a drink spilled. .

4 The bar. Like the Folk Clubs I used to go to in Coventry and Brum, we had our own bar. Staffed by two delightful ladies. On draught were -Hobgoblin.Abbot and IPA. On tap-several lagers and a couple of Craft Ales for those seeking the hop. Plenty of other stuff available as well. No trekking downstairs and back up,  so the audience were able to see a lot more of the entertainment without leaving the hall. (Absolutely NO problem with sound,btw). 

5.  The facilities. There are stairs-but they are broad and wide and well lit,and broken up by a landing. Technically they only need to be negotiated on arrival and departure-so very much easier for those who sometimes find stairs a challenge. Clean toilets adjacent with hot water and working air blowers. They is no  need for a half mile walk there and back into the cold. The Queen's Hall has a separate street entrance or visitors can enter via the bar downstairs and view the rock memorabilia. The Hall also has separate loading access for bands and their equipment,handily placed right next to the stage.. 

6.   The ambience. Subdued lighting in the auditorium and on stage. Subtly controlled by the desk staff. No light burns for performers. No ants. No moths. Everyone was warm enough, and a few reckless souls (most of us) were able to take our coats off. Luxury indeed! 

7. The stage.  Well: it's a big 'un. Higher than the other one but we've played on higher,bigger ones, so most of us found it stimulating, rather than intimidating. Really nice to be able to move around without stumbling over spaghetti. Really nice too, to have all instruments stowed safely up there,meaning a much swifter turnaround.           

        It did seem at times as if The Gods were still trying to put obstacles in our way. The copies of Folk Monthly which we like to sell before and during performances never arrived. (Again). Nunc, our Resident House band, had been devastated by ill health and ill fortune. JK who usually needs a truck to stop him performing,had been poleaxed by the return of an illness which has torn him up before. He was dosed up on heavy antibiotics, but you would never have known from his guitar playing and his spirited vocals.
Flossy had already endured a Job Interview and an Ofsted Inspection amongst other things,that day. And I was fighting off a heavy cold accelerated by me ending up marooned in the snow in Nuneaton not once but TWICE the previous week.
      We had drafted in NuncMonkey's  Paul Moore to add some beef to the guitar in case JK fell over,but as Flossy circled the Ringway, desperately trying to seek an entrance to the Abbey Street Car Park,8pm approached, we had to launch the new venue as a trio.
  Frankly, it was a pretty good version of "How Long?" as we searched the back of the Hall wondering exactly that.Halfway through "Knocking On Heavens Door Flossy and Martin did arrive: perplexed by my poor instructions, and there was an emotional onstage reunion,with Flossy  joining in the final verses.
 .      Our final opener, Randy Newman's "Guilty" therefore, was bloody great, frankly, with Flossy pumping all the rigours of the day into the lead vocal. You go girl! 

         Jak and Jackie were as good as I had ever seen or heard them. More local talent, they have evidently been working hard on material and an onstage  rapport is gradually growing between them. I liked  the juxtaposition of banjo and accordion with the guitar. d guitar. They tried a chorus song and did it well, but I think the audience were still perhaps acclimatising:  in awe of the occasion and taking in the improved surroundings,so their joining in was a little more tentative than I would have liked.
         Nuneaton resident John Neal was very much on home turf,and he got the audience really opening up a little with "It's a Long way from Clare to here." A versatile chap,John. A good songwriter, you can also see the lovely wooden things he makes on a stall in Nuneaton Market some Saturdays. He's a sign writer too-a good one-and his cycling videos are entertaining and frankly, a little frightening. He runs an informal singaround at The Fox, Attleborough every Monday. Check it out.
        To my surprise, Des Patalong decided to ascend the stairs and use the P.A. I have to say that in doing so he looked very much the Rock star, and quite at home grasping a mike. Indeed he looked the part as he sang three songs with the usual gusto and aplomb and was received very well. 
          KC Jones wisely opened with "Ivory Battle" and followed it with "Sonny"-both crowd pleasers and both with good choruses. Sandwiched somewhere in between was a ballad mirroring their softer,more tender sadder side. This fitted Karen's voice perfectly. 

            The penultimate floor spot before Alkevan's first set was by Paper Circus. Brilliant as always. They did one of their own and stopped any newcomers in their tracks with their stunning arrangements. With  Suraj travelling in from Brum and Jim coming over from Leicester, we are lucky to have them. It was great to welcome them-and to hear Jennian's soaring vocals fill that big hall. We managed to squeeze an extra song from them. The video of "Wild Mountain Thyme is on the NFC Facebook page I believe,courtesy of Paul Moore. Album coming from them (at last!) in 2018,and we are thrilled to announce that The Circus and Nunc(with friends)  will do a set each as our December 2018 Guests. What a night that will be.

                                                                     Paper Circus. 
          And so back to Alkevan. I had seen them before, and so had a few more present, but for most, their two sets was a new experience. Bravely setting forth from South Warwickshire, they were the ideal match for a new night when everyone was getting to know each other. Alan, Kevan and Ann put together an entertaining package of songs. We had cello (again!) flute,guitar and percussion,all seamlessly woven into the songs,along with very nicely arranged harmonies. They concluded our first half, and also rounded the evening off superbly. And still managed to get home before the gates across the A46 closed.