Special Guest at this month’s Bonn Folk Club Johannes (Hannes) Epremian from the band Le Clou looks very serious in my opening picture, and so he should – he’s playing The Blues Cajun Style. John Harrison (with Eva on violin) though, as always had the first bite at this evening’s theme of Stormy Weather, and gobbled up the obvious choice with relish – Arlen and Hoehler’s classic of that very name that first saw the light of day with Ethel Waters in the early 1930s. It’s been covered since by everyone – from Bing Crosby to Bob Dylan – and is probably as familiar to the people of this planet as oxygen. A song that you would almost expect new-born babies to recognize.
John’s second offering of the evening was almost as famous. T Bone Walker’s ‘Stormy Monday’ really isn’t a weather song at all. Monday is a stormy day because the eagle flew on Friday when the singer got paid and presumably remained airborne until all was spent by Monday… ‘the eagle’ of course was stamped on dollar bills. John’s final number of the night was clearly inspired by recent stormy events in Britain – Leon Rosselson’s ‘The World Turned Upside Down’ with its reference to the 17th Century Land Laws and a belief in the word of ‘the people’ being paramount:
‘In 1649 To St. George’s Hill,
A ragged band they called the Diggers
Came to show the people’s will’
But what exactly is the people’s will? Current events in Parliament suggest the answer to be anything the government decide they want it to be. But I digress…
Young Tim Henneken will be one of the recipients of the decisions and errors that are currently being made politically. Tonight though it’s Tim’s musical debut on the violin. He plays it very well too despite his tender age. Maybe that’s because his mother taught him well – Eva Henneken. My only complaint is that he looked completely under-awed at the prospect of playing. When I made my debut here I was absolutely petrified!
Gert Müller took the words of Michael Barfüß and the tune of Lou Reed for his ‘poem’ – ‘Wild Side Rap’ and got quite mobile in acting it out too. Lothar Prünte, on the other hand, took the comfy approach and sat down to deliver a storm-related number: ‘Take the Weather With You’ and Christopher Cross’ ‘Ride Like The Wind’. A quick advert for his live music shows at Elpi’s Cowico and he was gone.
Remember that famous rule of British Folk Clubs that anyone who walks in and wants to play has the chance of a spot? Well, I don’t know if Schajan was aware of it, but he got the promised spot and rewarded us with two excellent Persian/Spanish songs with guitar accompaniment. Certainly, welcome to come back again.
Isabel and Karolin were making their live music debuts as a duo, but the early nervousness quickly disappeared and they delivered some fine acoustic folk/pop including Bob Seger’s ‘Till it Shines’ and the jaunty Irish ballad ‘Star of the County Down’.
If you’ve lived in Bonn any length of time then you have almost certainly encountered the Cajun swamp groove music of the band Le Clou. Tonight we had the honour of an appearance by one of the band’s founders Johannes (Hannes) Epremian who was in Louisiana a few months ago. Why is that fact relevant? Because Hannes not only soaked up the local musical atmosphere, he also recorded there. The result is a disc choc-full of Cajun/blues material which he describes as “Very puristic and reduced: only violin and vocals. Really exciting. No overdubs, not even effects. Only the sound of the room”. Where better to introduce such a sound than the electrically prohibited confines of Bonn Folk Club?
People, I can tell you that when Hannes’ disc comes out on 1 October it will be very well worth a listen on tonight’s evidence. ‘Les Barres de la Prison’, was super in a bluesy violin style that I loved and who would have thought you could compress something from a Mozart suite into a violin solo piece? Well, the possibilities were spotted, and the result, ‘Michael Turner’s Waltz’, is a dream. Hannes recalls that whilst recording the new CD a storm broke outside the Louisiana studio and thundery rain is now a part of the mix. I almost wish we had actually had the stormy weather of our title tonight for the extra effect.
A welcome new visitor in May was Fritz Casper. I remember him being concerned about playing without speakers on that occasion. The reason for that concern became clear this evening when he returned, as this time Fritz (or FC as his website names him) brought his band – a pop/rock trio. I was introduced to his drummer and I wondered if – had someone not invented the Cajon many years ago – we would still have had so many youngsters come to play at Bonn Folk Club. Most bands today have a drummer after all. Whilst it removes a great part of the drummer’s musical arsenal, a simple Cajon box does have the positive side that the drummer gets to stand/sit alongside the rest of the band for a change instead of being hidden in the shadows.
Anyway, a very enjoyable set from the youngsters that included The Kook’s ‘Stormy Weather’ so well done for getting the title back from John Harrison lads with an entirely different song. If you know the original then you will know its a bit of a loud stomper. Tonight it was more of a less loud tap-your-feet affair. If you want to get back to stomping then check the band out as they are doing some interesting gigs – including one just passed at Blue Shell in Cologne. There will also be some recorded material on offer soon FC hinted. I certainly hope so. Oh yes, the band are called The Shift and very good they seem to be on tonight’s evidence.
A quick shout out of approval to Mario who finally got to introduce and support Sonia after illness prevented her appearance at the last meet. It was certainly worth the wait for her rendition of ‘Diamonds & Rust’. No-one is going to put more goose pimples on me during this song than Joan Baez did at Kunstrasen a few years back. John Harrison’s review at the time described the sheer magic of seeing this classic sung by its writer over her affair with Bob Dylan. That said though, Sonia did the song proud and Mario carried the tune impeccably.
A shout out too for two youngsters, Ulrike and Anouk, who came to the club together and each did a solo spot. Again, wonderful to see young musicians wanting to come on a stage and play, as I did, and John Harrison did, at Folk Club’s gone by in England. I think John would concur with me that that is really the heart of what Folk Club’s are about. Certainly, it’s their life-blood.
Folkad don’t need any introduction for their refreshing slant on Rock meets violin (another violin this evening?!). An excellent set that led into the second set of the evening by main guests AGAplus.
Formed following a school concert in 2013, AGA+ have as their main inspiration Klezmer music but take it into other styles too, particularly a jazz direction. Eagle-eyed Bonn music fans might also have recognized Frederic Schönbach from one of Bonn’s best up and coming bands, Rapture on double bass. No Rock/Reggae on offer tonight though, with the gentler sounds of Fiddle and accordion. Good melodies, well-played and with obvious enthusiasm for both Klezmer music and its history that brought the evening to a close. Another of those nights when ‘Jock Stuart’ could happily be asked to take a walk around the block so we can have a bit more music before that inevitable gentleman’s song brings proceedings to an end.