After my exertions for Haiti of a couple of weeks ago (when I joined my daughter’s karate class for a sponsored fitness session to raise money for Haiti and couldn’t walk without pain for four days afterwards…) tonight saw a much more civilised way of parting with a bit of cash to help the earthquake hit island, by attending a money-raising concert in the City Screen’s Basement Bar. Five acts, all “single bloke with guitar”, acoustic – not my usual fare, it has to be said.
First to take the stage was Andy Gaines, who I think I’ve previously seen with The Runaway Sons. (Although the link above states that he is now solo, which might be why we haven’t seen the Sons for a while.) Andy played just four songs, mostly downbeat although the third, about a drunken fight with a girlfriend, was more upbeat and tinged with humour. The vocals were crystal-clear and the songs entertaining enough – a solid start to the evening.
Next up was Mark Wynn, another singer in the same mold as Mr Gaines. I’m afraid that his vocals were far from clear from where I was standing, although the set wasn’t helped by people talking (more on that later) and one couple actually getting up to leave. Five songs this time and, if anything, the first four were even more downbeat than those of Gaines. The fifth, however, was a very much more upbeat bluesy number which, for me, included by far the most interesting guitar playing in the instrumental middle section.
James McKay (I think that link is correct – if anybody knows different, give me a shout) took to the stage next, complete with jerry-rigged guitar (the pick-ups were blu-tacked on to start with and taped on after the first song), glass of wine and burnt thumbs from a pancake day accident. The vocals were back up to scratch for this set which started slowly and built to a nice climax. His best song was, in fact, a cover which he introduced as being by Dave Dondero (again, I’m not sure of the link – partly because James said that he might be touring with Dondero later in the year, but the link is to an American West Coast singer).
I think the next act was Tom Reeve (he didn’t introduce himself), who provided a change of pace with some tongue-twisting lyrics, if only in terms of the speed of his singing The Cuckold And The Whore. Tom was, for me, the best act so far – a bit more American Folk than the rest. Grave The Ballad Of John Brown’s Corpse is a superb “story” song about grave-robbing and the curse that goes with it, while Jessie was a bitter-sweet song about an eighteen-year-old dog. Alongside the superb lyrics was some brilliant and mesmerising guitar playing, during which Tom’s fingers seemed, at times, to fly along the frets. Recommended.
Finally and, unfortunately too late for me to be able to stay for the full set and still catch the last bus home, Boss Caine arrived on stage and, almost immediately, got annoyed with the impolite loudmouth sitting in the audience. (Rightly so, it stopped me from doing it just before I ran off to the bus stop.) I can only remember seeing Mr Lucas once before but tonight he proved that his songs are not only memorable but also as comfortable as a well-worn in pair of slippers – at least three that I heard tonight were not only instantly recognisable from the gig last year, but I found that I could pretty much remember the choruses straight off. There’s an album in the offing (and already on pre-order for me) and I really hope it includes the likes of Smoking In My Back Yard, Leaving Victoria (assuming that’s the title) and the one about drinking wine. Assuming it didn’t go vastly downhill after I left, this was a very assured and enjoyable set.
It is, perhaps, indicative of my knowledge and experience of this type of music that the only name that sprung to mind as a comparison to any of the acts tonight was Ralph McTell. I’m not sure whether the guys would appreciate that and suspect that they (or at least some of them ) would be aiming more along the lines of Bob Dylan.
Unfortunately, tonight saw a very small crowd in which I felt a little out of place as I seemed to be the only person not related to or a friend of the performers. I doubt that the amount raised will raise any eyebrows but, on the basis that every little helps, this was well worth shelling out for and there was at least a couple of acts that I wouldn’t mind seeing again.