Thanks in no small part to the Local Folk Club, Bonn is starting to attract increasing interest from visiting Fok Musicians worldwide. An example of the excellent quality of music starting to come this way is Canadian James Murdoch. Seeking to combine a holiday with a few gigs, James contacted Bonn Folk Club. In the absence of a Folk Club meet though The Fiddlers Irish Pub snapped him up for a show. Armed with a borrowed guitar, some excellent self-penned songs, and a striking partner in the shape of girlfriend Amber Bissonnette on mandolin, James Murdoch set about changing diners and football fans into music fans.
It was not a date I would have wished on anyone for a concert at an Irish Pub. The day after St Patrick’s Day. On the previous evening an announcement had gone out on the Fiddlers Facebook page that the doors were closed, they were jammed full. Not surprisingly then the Pub was not doing great business when James arrived to set up for his spot upstairs in the Music Room next day. One Ace he did have up his sleeve though was that the room had just finished screening a football game with FC Cologne. Whether the people of Bonn would see that as reason to celebrate or to drown their sorrows wasn’t too certain – but there was an audience to be kept if he could set up and go quickly. There were thankfully still plenty of bottoms on seats when the show started, and, proof of the quality of music is that they were all still there when James finally ate a fellow prospector he’d shot in the Yukon (more of that later).
Very topically, the first words of James opening song from his 2005 ‘Between the Lines’ CD were “Sitting down in an unfamiliar City” from ‘Break Me Down’. It proved to be pretty archetypal of his musical style for the evening – Thoughtful lyrics sung over a smooth, soothing melody that stuck pleasantly in the mind. This is particularly so with ‘Building a Bridge’ which on disc is very reminiscent of John Mayer in style and even without a full band backing it’s still a catchy piece of Folk/Pop that with just the right backing and promotion could be a megahit. ‘Shooting Stars’ was next up and although it lacked the urgency of the full band production it still had plenty of passion in it’s delivery of a tale about the chances that we all have in life and the importance of taking them – even if the rewards are, like shooting stars, short lived: “You’ve got to shine, shine in your own life” thoughtful stuff for a Sunday evening, and food for thought to go with my Dublin Burger from the restaurant.
Fleetwood Macs “Secondhand News” with it’s catchy ‘down, down, down, down’ chant was an excellent choice for a duet. Generally I rather missed the extra textures of the original titles on the songs played live, but on the other hand, Amber Bissonnette’s slightly edgy vocal style provided an excellent counterpoint to Murdoch’s own very laid back sound. At times they had the hint of an Everly Brothers feel to their sound – especially so on the winsome ‘Junebug’ although it’s world-weary emotions are not the thematic style of the Everlys’ teenage angst hits. “How did we end up here?” is the simple question and the answer is simple too: “There’s comfort in the bottom of this bottle”
The bottle is evident in another favourite of the evening – ‘Canadian Summer’ showing Murdoch is no slouch at hitting a Country groove when the mood takes him. It’s very clearly as Canadian Country in style as the lumberjack shirt that James is wearing: “A song about getting as drunk as you can before the Cops catch you”. We on the other hand were trying to get as much enjoyment out of listening as we could before the time caught up with us. Suffice to say that there were numerous other songs that provided good reasons for me to be thankful that James Murdoch had decided to include Bonn in his holiday/tour of Europe (Berlin, Dresden and Prague are also on the list).
Ah yes, I mentioned the gruesome fate of a Yukon prospector earlier in my review. “You’ve all been there as well, I’m sure”, James recounted before singing the grisly tale of ‘John Wesley Jones’. “You’re out prospecting in the Klondike, you’re starving, you meet a fellow prospector, you shoot him in the back, then you eat him” as James recalled it. Everyday songs for everyday people – that’s James Murdoch. I’m hoping he’ll come back sometime that fits into the Folk Clubs plans. In his native Canada Murdoch fills Harmonie size venues with ease, and he really deserves to fill venues with his full band here in Germany too. Maybe he will, but until then he’s an insider tip, so keep an eye and an ear out in case he decides to holiday in your town and play some songs to pay for the petrol. Just don’t let him go hungry.
You can hear the tale of ‘John Wesley Jones‘ and find out more on the JAMES MURDOCH WEBSITE