Friday’s theme at Bonn Folk Club in Haus Mullestümpe was ‘Freedom’ but it might also have been ‘Singer Songwriter; since we had a wonderful array of such musicians quite by chance. They had something to live up to where it came to the special guest of the evening though – Canada’s David Blair holds three semi-finalist awards for the USA Billboard songwriting contest and is a popular man on stages in Europe these days.
Many years ago – when people thought the Earth was flat and that dinosaurs would step right off the edge and tumble to oblivion – I used to write Folk Songs and even sung them at the local club. Discussions with other like-minded souls revolved around the ‘Angst’ that inspired our muse and which strings were best for a thick and crunchy backbeat.
It’s shortly before 7pm at Haus Mullestümpe and I’m sitting between two young musicians making their first appearances tonight – Phillip Ossen from Cologne and Dennis Ledermann. They are discussing Facebook presences, the best place to store soundbites and debating the ins and outs of using a pseudonym. The times, Mr Dylan (or Mr Zimmerman?), are definitely a-changing.
I look for support from my own generation but John Harrison is adjusting his youthfully magenta coloured headphones. It’s going to be an interesting evening.
John dedicates his set to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, Whistle Blower Edward Snowdon and Intelligence Analyst Chelsea Manning – all of whom have forsaken their own freedom to protect ours and this fits in perfectly with the evenings theme of ‘Freedom’ but his first song, about a garden gnome doesn’t though – although with it’s opening lyric of “I’m a garden gnome baby, and sometimes I wear headphones” does explain the magenta ‘ear warmers’. Y our search for freedom might necessitate a long journey so Robert Johnson’s ‘Rambling’ certainly does fit and and anyway I’m happy to hear Paulo on harmonica accompanying him on anything that has the blues.
Listening to John’s rendition of Kipling’s ‘If’ almost makes me forget that I’m on next so I scurry to the back room to grab my trusty Guild and scurry back hoping John hasn’t given up on me and pressed on with a busy evening of musicians.
It seemed to me that the theme of Freedom and David Bowie’s recent passing was the perfect time to to sing his wonderful snapshot of Germany’s own moment of freedom with the Wall’s fall – ‘Heroes’. A moment when everyone in Germany did indeed feel like a hero, if only for one day. I was glad of my choice given that other musical tributes this month would have been a folk version of Glenn Frey’s ‘Take it to the Limit’, Motörhead’s ‘Ace of Spades’ or even Terry Wogan’s classic ‘Floral Dance’.
The theme following me was also quite a serious one as Christian Storm from Haus Mullestümpe spoke of the ‘Betreutes Wohnen’ project that provides sheltered accommodation for the handicapped and therefore, along with employment at Mullestümpe itself, freedom for those who would otherwise not have it alongside the independence it brings.
Gerd Schinkel gave us a German version of ‘Bobby McGee’ which, with it’s lyric of “Freedoms just another word for nothing left to lose” fits the theme like a glove of course – except Gerd’s version doesn’t actually mention Bobby McGee anymore in a translation that made it less of a road song and more of a political/social statement.
Next up was the red headed youngster from my pre-club chat: Dennis Ledermann. His self-penned songs were all excellently written, sung and performed far better than I managed all those years ago at Portsmouth Folk Club. I’m pretty sure that if I had sung “What the f*ck you want from me” in those days though I would have been batted round the ear by the local Master of Ceremonies. ‘Drei Tausend Meilen’ had feet tapping to its tick-tick tact. All in all super stuff.
So many paragraphs and we still haven’t got to the main act this evening. Next up though is certainly worth a mention: Uwe Gilert is, like me, a fan of the blues so I was particularly pleased to see him take the floor with his son Max for three super numbers – the high point for me being ‘Before you accuse me’. Max is obviously a chip off the blues block too – with excellent accompaniment and lead fills throughout the set. More gentlemen please!
Finally it’s time for the guest spot, but this time with a difference. On this, his ‘Hearts & Hugs’ Tour, David Blair is not travelling alone but has brought with him a very talented young lady named Jessica Allossey, who managed to look radiantly beautiful even after a 7 hour trip to be here. It was in fact Jessica’s first ever show in Germany and she admitted to being nervous about the audience listening. Looking at her Facebook page this evening I had to smile then as fans had commented on my picture from the evening and how the listeners all seem rapt in attention during her set.
Jessica also made me think about my earlier pre-show conversation with the young songwriters around me. She taught herself guitar only 8 years ago by watching youtube videos and since then has earned over 5.5 million views on YouTube and more than 46 000 Social Media followers. David heard her, and now she has a real ‘hold in your hand’ CD available as well as a phone card sized download voucher (we didn’t have them either in 1978). A nervous start with the opener from her CD ‘Apple of my Eye’ but by the time she covered Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ the audience was eating out of her hands as we say. I liked too her new number ‘Bare feet’ inspired by her passing homeless people and having nothing to give them “All I have is my shoes, so I give them to you and dance in my bare feet”
I have to push on with what’s becoming a mammoth review (so much good music has it’s negative side!). Barry Roshto received a tribute (and some bottles filled with something tasty I gather) for his taking the Folk Club Blogsite http://folk-club-bonn.blogspot.de/ to a mammoth 128.000 clicks.
Our cameraman Janero Del Rosario stepped in front of the camera to divide the audience into a three part choir for the Oasis classic ‘Whatever’ which for someone with Janero’s cheerful smile was a piece of cake and he had everyone involved with the click of a plectrum singing ‘Octopus’s Garden’, ‘All the young Dudes’ and ‘Whatever you do’ in perfect harmony. Send Janero to Syria for the peace talks is my recommendation – he knows how to achieve cooperation.
Zaiten Pfeiffer always catch the eye when they come onstage – not least for the arrival of a hurdy-gurdy man. An instrument that looks as though you could play it, make sausages, strain spaghetti and grind butter all at the same time. These guys and girl would go down a storm in an English country fair I’m sure. Bright and cheerful music played by a bright and cheerful band, rounded off with a rousing version of Die Höhner’s ‘Wann jeiht der Himmel Op’ (well maybe not so perfect for an English country fair) It must be said that the folk club audience is as good at joining in as it is at listening.
Two more floor spots before the arrival of this evenings main act and again both were excellent and deserving of a main set. Phillip Ossen was the second of the two young men I had been chatting to pre-start and he is well entitled to claim a stage name (which in his case is ‘Neanias’ if you want to check out Soundcloud) Phillip is obviously one of life’s observers which is ideal, if not pre-requisite, for a folk songwriter of course.
‘Das Kleines Licht’ is about how the day to day stress of life means we miss so much around us – including people who don’t rattle their cages and say loudly “I’m here!”. “I’m a light that no-one sees” and some witty lyrics too as “I’m not much use at anything, If I was a fish I’d drown” (loose translation from German). It was his first song though, sung at the piano, that really caught my ear and had me hoping he would come back to play here again – ‘Die Rote Uhr’. The clock in question hung in Phillip’s Grandmothers home and came into his possession when she was moved into a hospital. Knowing she was terminally ill, Phillip decided that when she died he would stop the clock forever too. A touching song from someone who could have a very bright musical future – you heard it here first folks!
Also very much worth a mention were Second Movement and in particular the powerful voice of Janine Gündel whose ‘Leading me Home’ had John Harrison smiling with the name Tina Turner on his lips. Excellent stuff from Janine and Sascha accompanying on guitar.
So here we are, finally at the review of Folk Club 66’s bill topper Canadian David Blair. David’s advertising describes him very well: “Best known for his relentless smile, his stories and his energetic freestyle moves. Recently featured on the national German TV show ZDF Morgen Magazin, he cracked the top 100 in radio charts in Germany with ‘Alone Together’ in 2014, was a semi-finalist in Canada’s Got Talent, holds 3 semi-finalist awards for the USA Billboard songwriting contest amongst others, and has played over 500 shows all over the world!” A good example of the quality of musician that now graces the Folk Club floor on the first Friday of each month.
David has lived over here in Germany for a good few years now; first coming over to seek his fortune in Europe and finding it best in Deutschland. I missed his previous appearance and this evening he proved to be someone you really don’t want to miss. Blair rarely stands still for a moment and I began to even consider getting a ‘jump-shot’ which is normally only possible for lively rockers like The Brews Jason Barwick. Right from lively opener ‘This is the soundtrack’ it was clear this wouldn’t be a set of soft Folk songs.
David’s is generally a lively and poppy sound as heard on ‘Change the World’ well demonstrated in his declaration that even thinking about a special someone is enough to make him feel happy. It certainly had the audience feeling happy – and clapping furiously along. He also has the feel for a tingling piano ballad as he proved on ‘Stronger, Higher, Faster’ and the ability to get everyone joining in as he did to finish the evening in style with the classic ‘What a wonderful world’ and it is indeed a wonderful world where so much good music and laughter can be found if you know where to look – and having read this long review to the end, you do know now!
Full dates of David & Jessica’s ‘Hearts & Hugs’ Tour: