Special guests for the evening were Light Falls Forward all the way from London, but there was also plenty of homegrown musical talent to enjoy at Haus Müllestümpe as the Club celebrated it’s quarter Century (25th meeting) in style.
I knew something was up the moment I saw John Harrison walk in wearing a flat cap. This in itself was not so unusual, but only a few moments earlier I’d seen Steve Perry wearing one too. Curious…
It was however a capless Günther Peters that got us underway tickling the piano ivories. Rather Robert Johnson like, Günther’s piano was facing the wall, so he will have been unaware of the last minute rush for seats and the flurry of people who seemed to drift off to all corners of the restaurant and come back with something to sit on from somewhere better not asked. By the time John officially ‘whispered’ LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! in that quiet, 100 Db manner he has, most people were well and truly penned into their location for the evening by rows of chairs.
Thankfully John’s first number, ‘Hanging Johnny’ was not a call to violence against anyone of that name (there were at least three Johnnys in the room). Instead it’s a song about a hangman named Johnny. This was followed up with a bit of English History in the shape of Leon Rosselsons ‘Levellers & Diggers’ which oddly reminds me of lazy Summer schooldays sleeping through discussions about books with names like ‘The World Turned Upside Down’. If only the teacher had sung songs it would have been so much more bearable.
Ah yes, the flat caps… On this evening we were blessed with having not one, but two gentlemen who could speak that rare and oft misunderstood language – Yorkshire. “Oh Aye, That’s summat that is, and na mistaking” you may be saying. Glasses in hand, and with the help of printed lyric sheets, those non-Yorkshiremen amongst us were all taken up ‘On Ilkla Mooar baht ‘at’ – a famous song in memoriam of someone caught out on the freezing moor of Ilkley without a hat (= baht ‘at). I hoped no one in the audience was expecting me to explain that one during the break, with the all too regular “but you must know, it’s youre language after all!”. Me, I’m a southerner, and we leave our hats at home to avoid having them blown away by the sea breeze.
Richard Limbert was back again I’m pleased to say. This time laying out sheets of A4 on the floor before starting his session. No, it wasn’t a lengthy setlist, it Turned out that his songs for the evening were so knew he’d only added the tune to one of them this week. His song ‘Good & Great’ was what it said it was in equal parts. The second ‘Listen’ was also very listenable, the third one though got the biggest applause, particularly at the end when he proclaimed that it wasn’t just him, the whole audience was ‘losers’. I should add that this was the song title. I like the way Richard couches often quite barbed lyrics behind his warm smile and poppy tunes. Nice one.
“In the early days of the Folk Club” as John remembered, there was a dark evening when there were half as many seats in the Club as tonight and nearly all of them were empty. Reputation is built over time, and when nobody knows you, as the song goes, you’re down and out. He was rescued by Günther Peters piano playing on that occasion. This time around there is an ocean of seats with bottoms on, but even so Günther is very welcome. He settles at the piano to play as the mood seems to take him. ‘As Time Goes By’ comes to mind. Certainly a case of ‘name that tune’ and a very well deserved round of applause.
First special guests were Fernerliefen, a local choir headed, to start with at least, by none other than Steve Perry, this time ‘baht ‘at’ as they say in Ilkley. The ten strong choir took us on a quick ‘Zeitreise’ through Rock ‘n’ Roll history, kicking off with Steve, dark glasses Rockstar-like on his nose, singing ‘Hounddog’. In those days, as Steve pointed out, the young kids had one thing on their minds – cars. Because cars got you the other thing on their minds – girls! I especially liked Steve’s rendition of George Hamilton IV’s ‘If You don’t know (I ain’t gonna tell ya’) and the whole choir did a marvellous version of ‘Lady Madonna’. Surprise song of the evening for me was ‘Rote Lippen’. A surprise, because I know it better by Cliff Richard as ‘Lucky Lips’. Cliff of course was up to recording it in other languages and I guess in Germany red lips are also lucky lips. I had very little time to think about that meaningful lyrical alteration or imagine a time when Cliff was considered a Rockstar, before the break was upon me, a rush ensued to gulp in fresh air on the terrace, and everyone secured their seat/chair/elbow rest for part two.
Barry Roshto was back at the (now side-on to the wall) piano, still lamenting as he did last time, that ‘Kein Schwein ruft mir an’. This time though, that was the least of his worries – his problem to be mulled over on the piano now was what ‘Sylvias Mother Said’. “and the operator said 50 cents more…” Barry, you really have to get rid of your phone, it’s just trouble.
So Barry and his Mobile left the stage to great applause, and it was time for the main guests of the evening. Light Falls Forward is a rather clever name and the duo from London make rather clever music too. Indie Folk is how they describe it, and it’s as good a description as any for their very individual sound. Charles Evans on guitar/vocals and his partner Naomi Paget on piano/vocals have at times a trance-like quality about their music. The two are from North West London and met when one was making a music video. The music is very often a gentle backdrop to even more gentle lyrics, all of which are on their recent debut EP ‘Songs and Shadows’ which is a result of that meeting – when they resolved to release a disc between Christmas and New Year 2012. Their music certainly has a certain chemistry about it, a harmony that one hopes will bring them personally many happy years together and us many good recordings in the future. Mood music at its best. ‘Weather the Storm’ caught me by surprise as I was half expecting the Ralph Mctell song of that name. Instead there is a gentle piano driven piece with Naomi’s high but gentle voice promising “We both know, we’ll be okay”. I especially like the wistful ‘Here and Now’ but Charles calming tones on ‘Little Things’ promising “You are not alone” are equally soothing on the soul. Still, my favourite of the evening was ‘Here and Now’ with its desolate background guitar and insistent lyric: “And that is all that counts. And that is all you need to know”. Exactly.
Fernerliefern were back to round off the evening, and a song I haven’t heard in a long while, Roger Miller’s ‘King of the Road’, got an airing. As Steve pointed out, Miller was just a hobo until he wrote that song. After that, he quit hobo-ing. He even wrote a couple more songs. By this time I’d quite recovered from the linguistic challenge of Steve and John’s ‘Ilkley Moor baht ‘at’ so I had mixed feelings when Fernerliefen finished with the Bläck Fööss number ‘Kutt Jot Heim’. Okay, so I understood the title: “Travel safely home”, but after that it was all a blur – as was the Bläck Fööss concert I caught last year at Museumsplatz. The evening as a whole though was not a blur, it was good beer, with good music, in good company, and that has to be, well, good. So good in fact that in a moment of sheer madness I accepted the lyric sheet to ‘Jock Stewart’ that was offered to me on a sheet of A4 and joined John, Barry and a large chunk of the audience in a spirited rendition of said number. Even without amplification, I suspect a few houses in Grauerheindorf felt a light tremor from the volume, and the joy, of people having a good time.
Next month sees Irish singer Martin Donelly at the Club. Sounds good, and on the evidence of this months healthy audience turnout I’m wondering if it’s possible to bring a stool with me on the tram?
Finally, In case John sings ‘Ilkley Moor’ again and you want to join in, here’s a quick introduction to speaking like a real Yorkshireman…