The flying fingers belonged to guitar/mandolin virtuoso Attila Vural, the squirrel to an as yet unrecorded song by Canadian guest Vince Andrushko, and the Tom Petty German style to wordsmith Gerd Schinkel. The weird and the wonderful – business as usual at Dotty’s Sportsbar for Bonn Folk Club Meet #84.
The evening’s theme was home made instruments, although in truth the nearest we came to that description was John Harrison‘s observation to begin the club that every one of us has a voice that was made ‘at home’. Oh all right, John did ‘make’ percussion out of two spoons to sing ‘Riding on a Donkey’. Certainly, although Attila Vural’s guitar was not one you would find on the wall at Bill Baum’s music emporium in Bad Godesberg, it was just as certainly not knocked up in the garden woodshed.
Anyway, I’ve jumped forward a bit. In between riding his donkey John was Begging (‘A begging I will go’) and playing some straight ahead acoustic Blues with Bill Broonzy’s ‘Nightwatchman’ (a song that could almost have been written for John and his ‘alter ego’ who walks the old City streets when the sun goes down armed with just a small harmonica and a big halbard). So pay attention when John Harrison plays!
Gert Müller was armed with a pretty devastating weapon too – a long poem completely in ‘Kölsch’ (German dialect). Something in there about loaves and fishes so a biblical theme set to a more local theme, and the Rheinische Grundgesetz (Basic Rhine Area Law) that ‘et is noch immer jut gegangen’ ‘Everything has always worked out okay in the past so don’t worry’.
Vince Andrushko was a first time visitor to Bonn Folk Club but hopefully will be coming back even if he does have to come from Winnipeg. Andrushko’s easy, casual manner made him an instant hit, as, with a glass of beer at easy arms length away on the floor beside his chair, he delivered some excellent songs in a style sandwich pleasantly containing parts Folk, parts Blues and parts Country. Delicious! How did he get such a big sound out of that little Tanglewood Java parlour size guitar? All down to the finger pick he assures me. The squirrel? A wonderful little nonsense song about such a little rodent who boasts about having “the best collection of nuts you could ever see – I’d show you too, if I could just remember where they were!”
The light touch of Vince Andrushko’s set made the complexity of Attila Vural‘s music all the more stunning. Vural’s beautiful Dobra-Mandola instrument, built especially by Swiss craftsman Mitgel Noldin, had it actually been handmade, would have been a jumbo acoustic with a steel resonator built in, together with a mandolin bolted onto the main guiter body. If it’s appearance is a little out of this world then so is his playing. How does he get that complexity of rhythm and melody out of just two hands? certainly by using every facility that the ‘guitar’ has to offer – finger tapping on the frame, harmonics plucked at the bridge, magic plucked from a genius that is certainly home-made.
Vural surprises too in his choice of writers, from Sting’s long time guitarist Dominic Miller’s ‘Scan’ to Jimmy Web’s classic ‘The Moon is a harsh Mistress’ and to a staggeringly eloquent take on U2’s ‘With or without you’. Vince Andrushko is one of those rare musicians who has to often wait a few seconds for his applause. Not because there’s a doubt of it coming, but because more often than not his audience is so stunned by what he’s played that they need a moment to process it.
For the many regulars at Folk Club it was great to see ‘our’ piano get such a good workout as it did on this October evening. Barry and Ruth made the perfect vocal duo (with Barry of course on the keys too) especially on Tom Wait’s Grapefruit Moon’ and Günther Peters, unmistakable in elegant white Panama hat, was a reminder of the roots of Folk Club, having appeared in FC#1 an amazing seven years ago now and playing tonight as I’m sure he played in 2010, with an obvious pleasure both to himself and to the listeners.
With it’s usual observance of great musicians sadly departed the Club also found a space for the shock departure of Tom Petty. Not an obvious contender as a Folk Musician, but proof that great songs are genre-less came from Gerd Schinkel who played through three Petty classics: ‘Learning to Fly’, Free Falling’ and ‘Great Wide Open’ not just in a different style, but in a different language – with unexpected German text versions. ‘Unexpected’? Well, of course, the unexpected is almost mandatory at Bonn Folk Club. That’s part of it’s magic!