So what do you do when you run a Folk Club and your main act cancels at the last moment? ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ of course. In the case of Bonn Folk Club’s second meet of 2013 the problem wasn’t so much who to add as replacements but more the problem of who to leave out.
Fans of Atila Vural were perhaps rather taken aback to find the master of guitar technique had called in sick at late notice – the poster on the door at Haus Müllestumpe advertising his appearance was further proof of the sudden wind of change that caught everybody with their capotastos down. Everyone that is except Messrs Perry, Harrison and Roshto. Hearing that there was a gap to fill I even offered my own (meager it must be said) services on the fretboard – only to find that gaps had been filled in the famous ‘null komma nichts’ and I was squeezed in almost with a shoe horn between the Whistle of Ceolma and the twelve string of Richard Limbert.
Having threaded me into the proceedings as if by a needle, John Harrison opened the evening with reference to another such instrument: Neil Young’s ‘Needle & The Damage Done’:
“I hit the city and
I lost my band
I watched the needle
take another man
Gone, gone, the damage done”
A sobering start then, followed up with something much more romantic in the form of the old traditional ‘Nevertheless I’m in love with you’ that I shamefully remember from the New Seekers but John I think remembered from the much more hip Count Basie (or was it the Barry Manilow version John?). No problems with the origins of John’s last number ‘Gypsum Sack’ though as it’s a self composition of his despite it’s authentic Delta Blues sound. In typical Folk Club tradition Paulo walked in the door just as the song was about to begin. “How about joining me on Harp?” asked John. Rehearsals are for wimps, the best Paulo could hope for was John telling him what key he was about to play in.
Stefan Decker, like Paulo Pacifico, is blessed with playing a musical instrument that is infinitely portable. In Stefan’s case it’s that rather underestimated instrument the tin whistle. If I think of all the tin whistle players I’ve heard in the last year I can think only of The Pogue’s Spider Stacey. It’s not something you play to be famous. When played well though it is a wonderful sound to behold and Stefan was mesmerizing, as were Uwe Becker and Werner Nitsche who under the name Ceolma (Irish = Good Music) lent Bohdran and vocal expertise to a very enjoyable set of ‘Darby Oleary’, ‘The Graceful Swan’ and ‘Good Ship Kangaroo’. Their music stems from Irish traditional jigs and reels to self compositions and they are certainly a trio that would make ideal main guests for a future FC meet.
A year or so ago John asked if I played guitar. The fact that my guitar had only four strings and had laid gathering dust in my cellar for five years didn’t deter him of course. John Harrison is not someone you can fob off with simple excuses. Replacement strings were found and the dust was surgically removed at Norfried Baum’s Music Store in Bad Godesberg. I was quietly confident though when I turned up on Friday – ‘Sorry John, would love to play, but it’s raining and I don’t have a guitar case…’ “That’s no problem John, borrow my guitar…” was his reply. So, for those who weren’t there, I played Jack Savoretti’s ‘Harder Than Easy’ (and for those who were there but couldn’t hear what I was singing – that was it!)
The only concession that I wrung out of John was that I could play before Richard Limbert. I didn’t want to follow anyone who owned a guitar and knew how to play it. Also, Richard doesn’t just sing, he entertains. Whereas I found the audience a little bit scary Richard actually looked at their faces and talked to them. Not only did Richard have the courage to play an instrumental so new it had no name, he even did a short walk-about round the hall during The Band’s ‘The Weight (Take a load off Fanny’. Van Ronk fan that Richard is we were also treated to ‘Chicken is Nice’ which oddly enough is a song about not wanting to marry rather than chickens. All very entertaining, and the only fault I could find was that Richards beard made it impossible to get a picture of him with autofocus.
Having started the week without a main act it was still a challenge to fit in the performers. Steve Perry gave his planned spot to the evenings ‘Walk-In’ guest, a gentleman named Gerhard who had actually walked in to hear Attila Vural but must have liked it enough without Attila’s appearance since he not only stayed but sang a couple of comic songs in German, one of which contained the refrain “Du bist nur ein Armes kleines Würstchen” a moving song about self pity – or small sausages, I’m not sure which.
Barry had everyone’s attention early on with a volume attack on the piano that meant he didn’t really need ‘A little help from my Friends’ to get part two underway. He had a little help from Paulo on Bluesharp though with ‘Mr Bojangles’.
Mario and Jutta were a new duo although not new as Folk Club visitors or even musicians. They made an enjoyable duo too, but Mario’s ode to German Sausage stole the set with it’s refrain: “Deine Grillbraune Haut, die habe ich lieb!” which maybe is the companion piece to Gerhard’s earlier ‘sausage song’.
So here we were at the ‘Special Guest’ spot and no special guest. It really depends on your definition of special of course, and I have to say that Werner Krotz-Vogel proved to be a rather special surprise guest. Together with Claudia Huismann they make up the local jazz duo Meoneo and in fact did a pleasant version of their own composition ‘Lux’. I say only ‘pleasant’ because if you check out their new CD you will find a bright and breezy version with Werner on electric guitar that is super. The rest of the short set was given over to Werner’s talents as a Jazz guitarist and talented he most certainly is. Tommy Engel’s ‘Angelina’ and The Beatles ‘Mother Nature’s Son’ had everyone’s undivided silent attention, but the number that most impressed me was ‘Inhale Pink’. Werner coaxed each individual note out of his acoustic for this number, waving it lightly to get each melancholy note from the soundbox. There is a lot of melancholy in the story of it’s writer too as Werner revealed: Billy McLaughlin was established as a top Jazz guitarist only to be diagnosed with the incurable neuro-muscular disease Focal Dystonia. After twenty years playing, McLaughlin was unable to play his customary right handed style. Not deterred, he amazingly re-learned his entire repertoire of music left handed and within five years was back on the concert circuit.
What can you say about such an evening? Apart from the dodgy vocalist murdering the Jack Savoretti tune they were all heroes. An evening that proved what a wealth of musical talent Bonn has, it just needs a bit of jiggling about when things change at short notice. When John announced a raffle prize of a floor-spot at the Club, someone smilingly suggested it could be sold to a hopeful musician later; they may not have been joking.
- participating artists of the Folk Club Meoneo are involved in a vote on WDR2 for the best of 4 submitted songs from NRW bands… have a look and a listen (and vote!) DETAILS HERE
Finally, Here’s Jack Savoretti in Bonn last year with a much better version of ‘Harder Than Easy’: