Le Clou on the Roof

French band Le Clou have their roots in Mississippi and have just recruited a Scottish guitarist.  The band is as eclectic as their music – a broad muddy Cajun sound that tips it’s hat in the direction of music that makes me think at times of Dire Straits and, at others times, of Dr Feelgood’s Wilko Johnson.  It’s an interesting mix that made for the perfect way to spend a sunny Summer Sunday ‘up on the roof’ at the Bundeskunsthalle for the General Anzeiger’s Sommergarten Season.

Steve Crawford will be known to Bonn Folk Club visitors for his spots, often with Sabrina Palm on violin.  More recently Steve recorded with the Folk group Ballad of Crows, releasing a fine CD with them.  Out of the blue came an invitation to join the popular French band Le Clou.  After 42 years, band founder Michel David had told the band he was calling it a day.  Crawford’s name came up in conversation and rehearsals revealed that the amiable Scotsman fitted in very well – even giving the other band members pause for thought and going back through their huge song repertoire in search of something old that would be new again.

The enjoyable result could be heard on Sunday under a beating sun, with heat so intense that  Johannes Epremian regularly apologized for his guitars going out of tune.  The tunes themselves though were refreshing to hear, and even though Epremian’s calls for people to get up and dance fell (understandably, given the heat) largely on deaf ears, the music was clearly going down a storm.

 

New-man Crawford stuck mainly to rhythm guitar and backing vocals admirably well – he’s still getting into playing with people who clearly by now instinctively know each other’s styles and habits.  Yves Gueit is apt to leave the stage and hunt through music sheets in between songs before returning to select from his fascinating display of instruments.  Various styles of accordion lay on the floor, beside them a saxophone and a half dozen flutes stick up from a stand that looks curiously like the holder for alter candles on a church.  They range from tiny birdlike affairs to a huge pock-marked wooden affair that looks like it might need two men to lift it.  All are played wonderfully well, and the array of instruments, great and small, is also a sign of the musical array that we get to feast our ears on.

 

Swamp-Cajun, Folk Ballad and Mississippi Blues courtesy of a wonderful steel guitar ülayed, as all steel guitars should be – with the light touch of a bottle-neck.  Three sets of great music, blue skies, sunshine – if anyone should ask me to describe what makes Bonn so special it would be venues and events like this one on the Kunsthalle roof.  Unique and wonderful!

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