Saturday, 28 February 2009

Gig 10 Trotwood. 20th February 2009
Seaford Folk Club
Dane Road
Seaford BN25 1DX

Attendance: 60
Price: Donations
My Location: Back row!

Record Recommendation: Talkin’ Bout a Revolution: Tracy Chapman.

I’ve heard it all now! On a news bulletin it was announced that Ryan Air are considering charging customers to use the toilet facilities on their flights. Apparently these are a ‘luxury’. In their “bid to drive down costs for all passengers”, Ryan Air may take a fee for using the loo. One of the few things that annoy me- I find the list of annoyances, like my age, seems to be on an irreversible trend of upward- are companies who dress up money making policies as ones which are beneficial to the punter. Someone has worked out that Ryan Air can make more money by lowering fares (probably not increasing them more like) and charging for the use of the facilities- which are, let’s face it a basic human need. If the change wouldn’t make a profit, they wouldn’t even consider the policy. I most sincerely thank the benevolent Ryan Air for being so considerate to its customers!

As for charging people to use public toilets, that is a scandal of the highest order too. There is a public convenience in my hometown of Weston Super Mare, on the edge of Grove Park, which used to be maintained by two ladies. Between them, they kept the place sparkling, well stocked with cakes of soap, and freshly cut flowers in vases, and had piped music playing to relax you while you went about your business (I haven’t used it for a while so things may have changed, in case you visit and are disappointed with the experience). When you visited, you could feel the sense of pride the ladies took in keeping their loo clean. On the way out was a bowl for donations, which I felt happy to contribute to.

However, the same cannot be said of the facilities at Waterloo Station. As the venue of the majority of our busking ventures- Waterloo Station, not the loo at Waterloo- both Lambert and I are regular users. Where as Lambert has resigned himself to paying the 30 pence!! fee, I refuse to bow to the injustice of having to pay. The turnstile has a bit of play in it, so you can pull it toward you and slip through the widened gap it creates. You can then enjoy what I think is everyone’s right, the free of charge toilet!

I was reminded how great Talkin’ Bout a Revolution is on the chartered coach from ski resort to airport at the end of a recent holiday. The driver was playing a surprisingly fine collection of tracks from a CD that he must have compiled himself; I haven’t seen an album with those tracks in any store. When we were caught by the opening bars of Talkin’ Bout over the system, my companion Hollis (who should know better as he is a part time DJ) and I were racking our brains as to who the artist was. Hollis suggested Dylan, but I recognised the song as more contemporary- for me 1988 is modern!

When Tracy Chapman’s unmistakable vocals broke in, it was obvious what the song was. The thing that is not obvious to many, is that it is Chapman’s song- the lyrics have the feel of having been lived in, like they’ve been around for a while. When I heard the song for the first time, I was surprised that it was Chapman’s original- I am a real cynic when it comes to good music. If I hear a great tune from a new artist, I find myself checking the back-catalogue to see if it’s a cover. Sadly to say more often than not, if it’s good, it’s a cover.

Not in the case of Talkin’ Bout a Revolution. Chapman sings about starting a quiet revolution, and about fairness and getting rid of poverty and the injustice that accompanies it. It sounds as if it’s the song Dylan inherited off Guthrie, it really is that good, of that flavour, and of that quality.

The great thing about the tour I’m on is that I have no choice of where the road will take me. Throw in the crazy world of folk and I need to “expect the unexpected” “be prepared” “baton down the hatches” have strings in my bow, feathers in my cap, nails in my coffin, and any number of other clich├ęs written for raising the spirits one can think of. If it wasn’t for this tour, I would never have gone to see a French family play Irish folk music, let alone drive for a couple of hours to get there! But that is what I did when I went to see Trotwood at Seaford Folk Club.

Club nights for Seaford Folk take place in the conservatory of the Beachcomber Pub. The Beachcomber is in a prime location on Dane Road, on the seafront. I was very impressed with the bar- it was one of the longest I’ve seen for some time! The place was a bit run down though, and due I hear, for demolition. Not much incentive then to refurbish the place and turn it into the thriving business I’m sure it could be. If you’re new to the area, don’t be put off by the outward appearance; a warm welcome will greet you into the club.

Seaford was the friendliest club I’ve visited so far. The evidence for the why the place is so welcoming, has been gathered scientifically on my tour! They are, I consider: the small(ish) room, the layout of the tables- you have to sit close to people, which encourages interaction, and, most importantly, the openness and affability of the organisers. The club also admits children, which changes the dynamic of the evening- some may not enjoy it, but the fact they were present at this gig- performing and being inspired I’m sure- was a positive. I expect that this year, I will take young Morris- the son of a friend- to see some folk. He’s just getting to the age where he will appreciate what’s happening, and may even decide to learn an instrument, or how to dance and carry on the tradition. The lad has seen The Woodcut Process, and says they are his favourite band- the honesty of children is a wonderful gift!

Back to the organisers of the evening- John Cave had been expecting me, knew I was in a band, and asked if I wanted to sing as a floor spot. I politely declined, although I am starting to think it’s about time I learned to strum at least one of The Woodcut’s tracks and play it when I can. I will, I admit be a poor-man’s version, but it will give people a flavour of the band’s material.

The venue was starting to fill up, and John and his “assistant” for the evening Roger graciously collected extra chairs from the bar for all to sit on. They then started proceedings with and instrumental- John on guitar and Roger playing accordion. Next they played Froggy Went a Courting. It was good to hear people singing along- it’s a simple song and lends itself to being accompanied. John took his leave to let Roger sing No John. This was the first time I had heard properly how the shrewd character of the tune turns the lady’s No Johns into an affirmation to marriage. Roger then played and appropriately rustic version of Ring a Ring a Rosie.

Pearl and Collin were next, singing acappello Bring us a Barrel, followed by It’s all Gone Away. It was at this point that all the lights went, as Roger dimmed them enhance the cosy feel of the place. Floor acts were coming thick and fast now- Steve Dodd up next singing Gallows Tree. I really enjoyed this as Steve sang well, and I have a soft spot for the darker tune! Stuart and Denise Savage followed with Maggie May (trad version), and a cracker of a tune about a lumberjack in New Brunswick called the Ballad of Peter Emberly.

After all this entertainment, Trotwood made an appearance! Trotwood are a family act boasting three generations, playing at least three musical styles, on accordion, concertina, flute, banjo, cello, fiddle, guitar, penny whistle, and harp- yes harp, not harmonica. Christmas at their place must be insane! Right from the off they had the audience clapping along with an Irish waltz. This was followed by Yellow Red and Blue, and Castle of Dromore. When the whole family sang, the vocalisation was lovely, as was the harmony they put in.

The family’s appreciation of the English language was excellent. The father did most of the introducing, with Grandpa and mum explained a few as well. Indeed it was the said matriarch who introduced King of Fleisch. The song was about the head of a state in historic Ireland, who due to the small population of his subjects couldn’t raise many taxes to pay a large army. To deter invasion, he ordered his musicians to compose a fearful marching tune that would terrify the enemy. The out come was a limping marching tune, and a generation or so later the throne of Ireland. The ensuing march that Trotwood played was excellent, they switched instruments half way through- whistle for fiddle, and harp for banjo- and provided a tremendous build up.

A change of tempo in the form of The Midnight Special was next. With Roger sitting next to me and singing lustily, not even I could resist joining in with the song I had first been made aware of on an old Creedence Clearwater Revival LP. Although not really my cup of tea, the family then played Does Your Chewing Gum Lose its Flavour, which got some enthusiastic members of the crowd dancing! Although they were part of Trotwood’s “rent-a-mob”, it was great to see them twirling and skipping to the song!

During the interval, I had a good chat about all things folk with the floor singer Steve Dodd. He told me of the thriving scene around the South Coast area, which included several music, and a couple of Morris Dance clubs he had belonged to. It was good to talk to someone who had an excellent appreciation of the local scene, and he inferred that around there, the Morris scene was doing well, which is always good to hear.

Floor spots started off the second half with a local grandfather and grandson act of Noel and George. They sang Horsham Farming Lad, and Wellies. It was great to see George- about 12 or 13, strumming away and singing without a hint of embarrassment for the audience. Frank and Barbara were up next putting in a valiant effort of Matt Highland. Ray followed with a lowland ballad. Two thirds of Cornflower Blue, Chris, and Jill came after Ray. They played the self- written track Beside the Sea. I really enjoyed it, and to be honest, they were a cut above the average floor spot and played the song in a mellow relaxed manner. Grandpa Trotwood played fiddle for them on the Everly Brothers French song Let it be Me as the final floor spot song.

The Trotwood’s were soon attacking their instruments with vigour kicking off their second set with an instrumental, followed by Molly, Gentleman of Kent, and Tack of Barley. My favourite tune of the second half was Red is the Rose. The song is played to the same tune of the more famous Scottish You take the High Road, but instead of being about Loch Lomond, it’s about the lakes of Ireland. It’s a wonderful tune, and always good to hear. Trotwood then sang the Monkey Song, which was in a similar vein to Does Your Chewing Gum, before the youngest member of the band, not to be outdone by the local youth, sang I’ve Got Sixpence. Although she did look a bit self-conscious, she had a lovely voice and sang with great clarity.

During the penultimate song, I noticed the difference in playing styles between the youngest and oldest members of the band. Both were on fiddle for the toe-tapping Gold Ring Jig. The young ‘un was stroking like mad, with elbow up and down, and all over the place. Grandpa, meanwhile was economical with his strokes- the years making him a more wily protagonist of the instrument. The encore had everyone in the venue clapping along, and Roger accordion-ing away with the tune.

As I said cheerio to the organiser, John, he invited The Woodcut Process to play at Seaford. Biggs is back soon, so I don’t think it will be long before we take up the invite and restart our touring with a night at the most hospitable club I’ve been to yet! They even gave out flyers- the next leg of my tour is to The Open House, Brighton, on the 7th March, to see Barber and Taylor. I’m already looking forward to it.

Hope to see lots of fellow music fans there too. Mark.

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