John and Paulo had two down from the theme title in only the first number of the evening with their cover of Shel Silverstein’s ‘Whisky & Women’:
“Give me strong whiskey and weak women
Everything will be just fine
Give me weak whiskey and a strong woman
You’ll break this heart of mine”
Food for thought then already, and the final Folk Club of 2014 is only five minutes old. More food for thought came with John Harrison’s own ‘Trouble & Strife’ and it’s remembrance of the Siege of Sarajevo ’The longest siege of a capital city in the history of modern warfare’ as Wikipedia describes it. “A sniper killed my friend today” is one of the lines of this number. Very sobering, literally, after the previous song about women & whiskey.
An evening of songs mentioning whiskey has to include the Irish classic ‘Whisky in the Jar’. The most famous version is of course by my all-time favourite band Thin Lizzy and was part of the reason that the original Lizzy split up. It became a hit, and guitarist Eric Bell didn’t enjoy being in a hit band and having to wear platform boots and glitter shirts. Bell left, Twin guitar rockers Robertson and Gorham joined, ‘The Boys are back in Town’ was the result. I’m not complaining. I did miss an Eric Bell style electric guitar intro from Lothar Prünte thoughwhich I blame on John Harrison for banning electricity. Lothar’s second number wasn’t about Wine but it was sung by by a woman whose name fitted the bill – Amy Winehouse to be exact. ‘Back to Black’ is fast becoming a modern classic it seems and Lothar did it proud.
Folk Clubbers are used to seeing Werner Krotz-Vogel with female accompaniment as part of the duo Meoneo. On this occasion however he was guitarman for Claudia’s daughter Annette. ‘Lilac Wine’ was the beverage on offer and it’s a brave number for any vocalist to attempt; I remember first hearing it live by Elkie Brooks which shows the class of singer required. Hats off then to Annette for her rendition that, after a nervous start, was a real treat to the ears.
What’s this? A man playing a violin and wearing a Motörhead T-shirt? You might think this could be interesting, and you would indeed be right! Volker Lindner and Jan Hoffmann ‘Die Folksscheuche’ (The Folk Scarecrows) is how they were billed on my playing timetable. Take a sprinkling of Steeleye Span, a pinch of Deep Purple and a whole lotta Rosie (AC/DC) and you have at least a vague idea of what this duo are all about. I didn’t recognize the numbers they played but did spot a snippet of ‘Smoke on the Water’ coming from the violin. Confused? Me too. Enjoyable? You bet!
As always there were so many guests with so much music that I have to squeeze them all in with only a few words or else this review will become a book instead. Krabbe & Co featured Ute on flute/tin whistle and Genia on guitar. We had possibly the longest song yet played at Bonn Folk Club in the form of Mike Harding’s ‘Christmas 1914’. Mario, Janero and Jutta guided us through this tale of trenches, Christmas and football games that has become a popular theme recently.
A walk on the wild side was taken through GeWe Barbara & Thomas with some Lou Reed courtesy of ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ ‘ and ‘Femme Fatale’, and to even out the title themes I should add there was some ‘Summer Wine’ with Bastian on guitar and beautiful Violin by Svenja, who also lent some similarly beautiful violin to Mr Zimmerman’s ‘One more cup of coffee’. What’s that? Coffee? Well we needed something to sober us up after all that wine and whisky didn’t we?
Not that our main guest this evening would have wanted us to become teetotal. Simon Kempston likes a ‘wee drop’ of whiskey- the Scottish kind of course since he’s a native of Dundee. He actually drove from there, collecting Adam Nash en-route and getting “Maybe two hours sleep between us along the way” he says of his journey. “So please talk to us at the break as we’ve had only ourselves for company all day!” Why on earth should anyone drive all that way to Bonn for a show? Because, as Simon simply says, “Bonn Has the finest Folk Club outside of Scotland” that’s why. So there you are. It’s a fact, and It didn’t come from me.
If you were at the Folk Club last year you won’t need me to say that Simon is one of the best finger style folk players in Europe. I watched in awe as he literally teased out each note to it’s last drop. He has a way of vibrating his Taylor six string that coaxes out a last sound just when you think the note has been played and gone forever. Just watching him, little finger bent against the sound hole in a classic picking style, is to watch a craftsman at work. Again, if you saw Simon before you will know he can sing a great song and talk a great talk between them too. If you catch him again live though ask about the instrumental limited edition disc in the brown cardboard cover. It’s got a ballpoint pen number on the sleeve and the disc inside is as individual as the handwritten number.
There were some new songs, including one all about the consequences of a kiss, and one based on a less than pleasant encounter with the German Polizei that many a visiting musician will probably relate too. “You are a musician? Maybe you have some drugs? Come with us please…” A missed train but found inspiration for a song. Most of the old favourites were played. ‘The dust and the paint’ recalling those wonderful record shops, refuges of our youth, all too many of them, like the one Simon remembers, gone. The haunting ‘Estranged’ with its tale of a Falklands war veteran whose experiences have left him askingdesperately “Am I deranged? Or merely estranged?”. The song was made all the more poignant through Simon’s ‘Geiger Meister’ , Adam Nash. It was a pity at times that Adam was sitting so close to the clatter of beer glasses at the bar as his violin playing really was exquisite. He was certainly tall enough to have stood at the bar and demanded ‘Silence!’ Certainly his playing deserved it. There’ was room too for a bit of audience participation if you enjoy a good Scottish style ‘yelp!’ in the form of ‘A Young Soldier in Fort George’. Away from the military theme of many of Simon’s songs there was ‘The Bleeding Mile’ which brings Simon to the low point of this year in his eyes – that so many Scots turned down the chance for political freedom in this year’s vote.
Happier themes were also much in evidence too, and none more so than ‘The Bus to Nairn’. With it’s tale of sharing a drunken day with a fellow Scotsman this number has become Simon’s signature song. It’s a gloriously witty and perceptive number with a catchy tune that would have put him up there with Ralph Mctell and Don Mclean for commercial folk music in the 70’s. I’m pretty sure that Simon Kempston is rather glad it’s not the 70’s though and that ‘The Bus to Nairn’ hasn’t taken on a life of it’s own like Mctell’s ‘Streets’ or Mclean’s ‘Wonderful Baby’. If you missed Simon Kempston this year AND last year you will still have a chance to catch him NEXT year as he is already penciled in for December 2015.
So there we are. Lots of wine, lots of women and even more Song. There will be more of all of these next year at Haus Müllestumpe I’m sure. From me to all regulars at Bonn Folk Club – Happy Christmas and see you in 2015 for more Fun and Folk.