Thursday, November 06, 2008

Review: Howard Coleman's Acoustic Session at the Doghouse...Tuesday 4th November, 2008...

I haven't been down to Howard Coleman's session at the Doghouse for a long time – my loss, if last night was anything to go by. He fronts a mainly acoustic night with a broad range of musics and performers – from the old to the young and back again. Always a lot of energy here – a place where you will experience youthful verve and headlong rush alongside more maturely honed performances. Which is as it should be – one of the reasons I avoid many a so-called 'folk' night is because of the age ghettoisation - safe musics by old people are just not interesting (with the occasional honourable exception). A place where the dynamic bounces between generations and styles - not all one way, either - is much more satisfying...

Starting with a young guy, James Lewis – at the beginning of his musical road. Breathy, sensitive, angst-y, yes, but he gets away with it because of his honesty. You get the feeling he is communicating something you should know about. Raw – and none the worse for that. Polish is overrated... (that's not a reference to a European language, by the way).

A duo – Becky Syson, accompanied by Rebecca Dawson on bass – which gave a fluid underpinning to Becky's reedy, assured vocals and songs that looked at family from various angles and generations – grandparents to brother to boyfriend. She seemed comfortable on stage... as Howard introduced her: 'sublime folk rock.'

Steve Stapley - for a generational shift. Clean picked open-tuned guitar and a husky voice that has the grit of experience rubbed in it. Steve has been around – in fact I had a strong feeling I had encountered him somewhere back down the road - his songs reflecting some low-life times in the States, spinning off Bukowksi, as it were, whom he name-checks. Joined by Linda Hayes for a couple of numbers, one an impassioned outburst against capital punishment. Skillful stuff...

Another jump cut – which is why I love this gig... Two young students, Ryan Meeks and Mikey, guitars, the singer equipped with a soaring falsetto that was stunning placed. They were good time energy, on a variety of songs by artists that ranged from Nina Simone to the appalling Oasis, their version of 'Wonderwall' actually very good, stripped of the neo-con bombast of the original.

Gren Bartley, tonight playing with Robin Melville on harmonica. It was good to see Mr B again – caught him in a very short set a couple of weeks back with his duo sidekick Tom Kitching down at Mr Marmion's (very good couple of tracks from their forthcoming album) but tonight gave him a chance to stretch out into different areas. Gren gets better by the month, his voice toughening (but not coarsening) over fast picking on guitar and banjo. His forays into blues and gospel (Leadbelly, Skip James etc) are fascinating because he does not go in for over-homage but comes at these problematic musics (for europeans) from a fresh direction. His own songs just get better, by the way... Robin backed him with subtlety and bluesy skill.

Tich Vango
to go out on... some minor key hard bluesy stories here, raw slices of life that finished off the night in downtown style. Sung with honest endeavour over minimal but effective guitar - someone who has lived the life he sings about, one suspects.

Another good and fascinatingly varied gig on Nottingham Road... thanks, Howard - and all who sailed with you...

1 comment:

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