Despite ‘Gospels & Spirituals’ being the order of the day at the June Folk Club Bonn meet in Haus Müllestumpe (An der Rheindorfer Burg 22) John Harrison kicked things off with Robert Johnson’s ‘Rambling Blues’. Maybe the Devil does have all the best music after all? Have no fear, there was plenty of uplifting spiritual energy throughout the evening – and as usual a surprise or two.
To be exact the music actually started an hour or so earlier, in Bonn City Centre, as Simon Wood played some songs under the watchful eye of a press photographer to help promote the current Pro Busking Petition. It continued with a brief rehearsal in the tram to Grauerreindorf and the torch, so to speak, was carried on into Haus Müllstumpe.
John and Paulo Pacifico gave us a sampling of what was to come in their solo concert at Bonn Kunstgarten on Saturday evening and I particularly liked ‘Fare Three Well (Dink’s Song)’ first heard in the film ”Inside Llewyn Davis” The original lyrics refer to having ‘A Man long and tall…’ but John sticks to the object of his song as female and it really is a beautiful song beautifully sung. With ‘Rambling Blues’ and ‘Silver City’ John was of course on safe and tested ground and it promised much for Saturdays full gig.
Less public and altogether more low key was Jutta Brockmann, No Pictures, no video even, but actually her nervousness added to the beauty of her soft, lilting voice. In the absence of both pictures and sound you will have to imagine how she came over. Hopefully there will be a next time and we can put that right.
Dan Macleod was also quite reticent when he stepped up ‘to the plate’ but he hit a winner straight away, not just with the audience but also with his girlfriend, who was he said the inspiration for his first tender romantic offering. Maybe Scotsmen don’t like to appear tender and romantic? – that would explain the man from Edinburgh wearing a T-shirt proclaiming ‘University of Birmingham The good news for us all is that Dan will be around in Bonn regularly and with a bit of luck will be back again very soon (for a full set?). Maybe a duet with fellow Scot Simon Kempston? Who knows?
When John took the spotlight with Steve Perry, Paulo and Larissa Laë they had already done a short rehearsal in the 61 tram so it all came together very beautifully (there’s that word again already in my article – must mean something…?) ‘Bright Morning Stars’ and ‘Angel Band’ were good but ‘Ain’t necessarily so’ was just, well, quite beautiful.
Although I really must get off of the ‘beautifuls’ I’m afraid it really is the perfect word to describe Larissa Laë’s solo set. Maybe I can replace it with ‘heavenly’? I have three titles: ‘O Kari o madjan’, Sel Manja tua San’ and ‘Sol van ha ga mesh’ but that won’t help you much. You really needed to hear what she sang, because her music is all about the beauty of how words sound and the emotions those sounds convey. Heavy thinking? Just close your eyes and let the syllables swim over you. Seek calm in the consonants and shower warmly in the stanzas. Now grab a halftime beer before Simon Wood and Band takes the floor.
He‘s something of a celebrity now is Simon after his run-ins over busking. As a Liverpudlian I was expecting something in a thick ‘Beatle’ accent but actually a large part of Simon’s material is German. He does give us a very enjoyable take of the Waterboys classic ‘Whole of the Moon’ aided very ably by a young band of recruits who I‘m glad to say seemed to enjoy playing Folk music – a long future for the Bonn Folk Club seems more assured with every meet.
Whilst in Bonn Centre John wasn’t only taking signatures, he was also networking talent. Passing by as Simon played was a young man with a guitar who was quickly seconded to the evenings musical list and what a revelation of John’s that turned out to be. With a quiet smile but with a huge voice Daniel Cota from Mexico really was the surprise of the evening – in the best sense of the word.
Listening to Daniel I thought an echo was coming from behind me, but actually it turned out to be the next act up joining in on Daniel’s chorus. The Happy Thursdays Choir all the way from far away Bonn Endenich. Under the watchful eye and waving baton-hand of HansJörg Schall they got us solidly back on the spirituals track with ‘Down by the Riverside’ and took us to istant lands (well Cologne actually) with ‘In Unserem Veedel’ from Bläck Föös.
Having been pointed back on the Gospel track already when we laid down our heavy loads by the waters edge, Petra Koitka brought us thundering into the Church Station full steam ahead. Was this really the woman who had so quietly asked me where she should report when she arrived at the Club this evening? Certainly her musical passion cannot be doubted, and when she bid us to ‘Call His Name’ I was on the verge of making a note in my diary to get up early on Sunday and find out where those annoying bells I hear in my bedroom are coming from at 7am.
In a more laid back fashion those sentiments were carried on by our final guests – Artenis (Miliart). The duo, from Lithuania and Albania had some serious sounding spiritual tracks in their short setlist and also one with odd spiritual provenance in the shape of a number from Hank Williams ‘I Saw The Light’
”I wandered so aimless, life filled with sin / I wouldn’t let my dear Saviour in…”
Which has made me realise that we started off with a the Devils Music in the form of Robert Johnson’s ‘Rambling Blues’ and finished, after the intervention of Petra Koitka and Artenis by ‘seeing the light!’ Folk Club Bonn really is staring to have a life of it’s own. I swear that when Jock Stuart started no one was actually playing or singing… Was that a cash till I was putting my money into at the end or a collecting plate? Praise the Lord I saw the light!’