John Harrison & Paolo Pacifico got the Live Music Season at GoVinum in Bad Godesberg off to a flying start on Tuesday. ‘Sans’ ampflication but certainly not ‘sans’ entertainment. Under the banner ‘A Bit of Blues’ The duo had a sizeable arsenal of musical ‘weapons’ at their disposal: guitar, dobro, tambourine, Jews Harp, a bag of harmonicas – and a kazoo. Shortly after 8pm the battle for our attention began in earnest with Sonny Terry and Brownie Mcghee’s ‘Strangers Blues’.
A veritable cornucopia of Blues standards followed, and for those interested in Blues history John Harrison was a walking Wikipedia with stories to tell about every song and it’s origins. It’s the music that matters though, and after a couple of numbers I’m reminded of a quote by the great Etta James:
“You can’t fake this music. You might be a great singer or a great musician but, in the end, that’s got nothing to do with it. It’s how you connect to the songs and to the history behind them.”
Paolo is not going to replace Kim Wilson in the Fabulous Thunderbirds and John isn’t going to be a Rolling Stone anytime soon – but they do indeed, as Etta so wonderfully puts it, ‘connect’ to the songs. So much so that John related how after a rendition of the mournful ‘St James Infirmary’ a listener once asked with concern “Have you had a death in the family?”. But I’m jumping ahead here, and that would mean missing John and Paolo’s mid session ‘walkabout’. It being hot there were a fair few diners outside. They had food, they had sunshine, but they didn’t have music – so the music came to them as John and Paolo headed outside with guitar and percussion. Whilst ‘Take this Hammer’ is more a work song than a relaxing song the smiling faces suggested that the ‘serenade’ helped the Flammkuchen go down a treat.
Back inside and our trip down a Bluesy Memory Lane continued. At one point John quipped that Bessie Smith would have been able to join in on everything played and he was probably (as always!) right. ‘Walking’ Blues‘ (Pablo on vocals this time), ‘Machine Gun Kelly’, ‘Rambling’, ‘Nobody Knows You’, ‘Loves in Vain’… everyone a classic; and whilst all where delivered with passion special mention goes to John’s tearful vocal on ‘Motherless Child’ and Paolo’s beautifully controlled and emotional Bluesharp on both this and the following ‘Summertime’ – for me the high points of the evening.
There were very probably equally magical moments in the second set. Sadly I had to leave early and just caught a lively rendition of Big Bill Broonzy’s ‘All By Myself’ and another tear-jerker in ‘St James Infirmary’ which always mysifies me lyrically: If the girl is “laying on a cold white hospital table” I assume she’s dead – so how does the line about “She can walk the wide world over, and never find another man like me” fit in? Hugh Laurie, it’s on your current CD – what’s your take on that? Come to that, it’s on YOUR last CD too Mr Harrison…
Altogether the evening was a marvelous introduction to traditional Blues Music. With John’s narrative and the songs themselves this would make a nice Music lesson for schools. How about that for a roadshow guys? I would have loved more Dobro/bottleneck songs, but that’s just my taste. John and Paolo clearly love the music and their enthusiasm is infectious. It made me want to grab my harmonica and guitar. If only musical ability could be passed on as easily as enthusiasm.
Ulf Breuer has only been running GoVinum for a short while but if Tuesday is anything to go by he’s onto a winner with the Mini Music Festival running right now. Add the excellent draught beer, Früh Kölsch, good wine and Flammküchen and he might need to knock down a wall or two to cater for demand before long.
There’s a chance to see/hear the duo again on 14 June when they present ‘A Bit More Blues’ at GoVinum!
Godesberger Wein- & Bierstube
Max-Franz-Straße 1 ( Ecke Burgstraße)
53177 Bonn-Bad Godesberg
0228 33 68 98 78