Welcome to our April Newsletter
On Friday, 12th April 2019, we are proud to present
What you may have missed...
Gordon Giltrap supported by Tsarzi (Friday February 8th 2019)
Review by Dave Banks
Inviting a young cabaret pianistka, with a bagful of epic songs and keyboard flourishes, to support an instrumental prog-folk guitarist of titanic stature (i.e. he's an old geezer!) would not seem an obvious match. But that’s the beauty of music – sometimes opposites complement each other perfectly.
I've seen Sarah Sharp, aka Tsarzi, several times before, performing beautifully crafted keyboard-driven poppy songs, either solo, or with her band. When we told her that she might be able to wangle the use of Chesterfield Library's grand piano for the evening, there was no containing her enthusiasm. And rightly so… the grand piano allowed Sarah's classical training to come to the fore, and her music to blossom to a new level. It did pose some technical issues – the sheer acoustic volume of the instrument caused some difficulties obtaining a balanced sound around the auditorium, but Steve Swallow eventually cracked it, as we knew he would. Sarah and Gordon immediately got on like a house on fire – indeed, they were so busy gassing backstage and scoffing chocolate biscuits, that Sarah almost missed her call.
I don't think it's any secret that Tsarzi is a big fan of Pulp and the influence is apparent not just in her choice of instrument, but in her songwriting. Songs about the great British seaside, and our Glory Days ("Pain is just a symptom of a sentimental mind") could be channelled direct from the Cocker canon. And her songs about friends' or lovers' obsessive hoarding of ornaments or miscommunication in aging relationships "You don’t like books – as much as I do; You only like your old records and your songbooks. But you don't play for me – not anymore" are delicately balanced between the uncomfortable and the affectionate. I'm a sucker for songs which are about weird stuff… not about lurv and trees and sunshine…and Tsarzi delivers on all levels. My favourite was the wonderful "Let's Go Down to the Sea", a musical delight with washing, wonky piano scales evoking the ebb and flow of waves on Brighton shingle. When coupled with lyrics portraying the denizens of the foreshore ("There's a man on the pier - sing you any song from the last 20 years….as long as it's The Fairytale of New York"), it becomes a thing of perfection. Tsarzi’s album – "The Last Decade of Love" – is wonderful and available at https://tsarzi.bandcamp.com/.
And what of Mr Giltrap? I will admit that I have been unjustifiably biased against resurrected rock gods of the 1970s – I, for some reason, always expect to be disappointed. But I am ageist and unfair and plain wrong – mea maxima culpa. The fact is that I have had my expectations confounded once by the recent visit of Wizz Jones, who was a bundle of pure laid-back delight, blues and anecdote. And now doubly confounded by Gordon Giltrap, who proved to be the most delightful visitor to our Club, with a dry sense of humour and a bulging bag of musical styles and guitars. Gordon's sound-check, for all the complexity of his music, proved to be one of the simplest we have ever done, thanks largely to the fact that he effectively brought along his own pedal-powered mixing desk in the form of a foot-operated Helix effects and looper box. Gordon sat down, surrounded by a mere six guitars, and took us through a stunning range of instrumentals.
His opening number was one of my favourites –Appalachian Dreaming, played on a five-quid car boot guitar with a ping-pong delay effect. Gordon guided us through a variety of weird tunings. He played us Robert Johnson blues; he played us new material (The Kissing Gate); he played us Elizabethan lute music (The Lord's Seat); he played us Davy Graham's "Anji" and he (of course) played us "Heartsong" – but cleverly constructed as a medley with the more folky "Ring of Kerry". A whole set of instrumentals – did we have a problem with that? Not at all! In many songs, Gordon made extensive use of electronics – did anyone shout "Judas"? If they did, they shouted it very quietly. I've tried to use electronics with guitars – and cocked up spectacularly – so I have the utmost respect for those who can bend electrons to their will. Gordon's most "loopy" song was probably A Dodo's Dream, where he systematically overlaid layer upon layer of beautiful intricate guitar-work to create an orchestral tapestry of sound (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aeQ8D_IW20). I just love performers who treat electronics as a (particularly complex and interesting) instrument and who manage to use it to enhance folk and blues. More, please!
Elbow Jane supported by Ichabod Wolf (Friday January 11th 2019)
Review by Dave Banks
It was coming on Christmas and I was cutting down trees and I was looking forward very much indeed to welcoming Kathryn Williams to play Chesterfield Folk Club on 11th January. For my money, Kathryn is amongst the very best singer-songwriters to emerge from these isles in the past 20 years – so it was with a big sigh of despond that we received the news that, due to unavoidable (but very understandable) family circumstances, she'd had to postpone the concert.
But, the good news is that Kathryn will hopefully be returning to Chesterfield at a later date to play the gig.
The other good news was that we were able to persuade the mighty muzikk machine that is Elbow Jane to step in and travel over to Chesterfield to headline the evening in Kathryn's stead.
And the third good news was a young songwriter called Ichabod Wolf. Well, he's actually called Kieran Smith, but for some reason he feels that that moniker doesn't carry enough stage gravitas. Which matters not a jot – because I and number of friends have been going to hear Ichabod/Kieran perform at clubs and pubs - dingy, friendly, malodourous, fresh, political and secular - for some time. I can put my hand on my heart and say that his music is something special. OK – I'm biased – but BBC Radio 6 agrees with me in terms of the recent airplay they’ve been giving him.
Ichabod’s opening set in support of Elbow Jane did not disappoint – his surprisingly deep, rich voice and deceptively effortless guitar style perfectly complement his songs about love and Artex ceilings in the murk of Chesterfield, and the competing charms of prison and booze. Ichabod’s set contained old favourites such as Fall of Saigon ("A fourteen year old boy with a gun / shoots the sky in sycophantic syncopation") and Painted Horses ("we begin again, when we go to sleep") and newer material such as Some Things Just Aren't Meant to Be ("a pretty face on the radio / Chris Moyles on TV"), The Weight of Human Thought and Ichabod Sells Out. I have only one further thing to add – if you want to support real talent and culture from our home town – pop down to Tallbird Records or bandcamp (https://ichabod.bandcamp.com/album/carry-on-crow) and buy Ichabod's album Carry on, Crow, without delay. It’s a thing of beauty (and credit to Tom Nash for his production of it, too).
And we're still only at 8 pm, awaiting the main act – Elbow Jane. They'e been to Chesterfield before and have obviously done something right, because the audience is one of the largest for some time – upwards of 140. Elbow Jane come from a mythical place called "The Wirral" and reportedly have a background in heavy metal (I was left unsure if this rumour is a complex joke, or the reel trooth). Throughout the evening, they continued to deliver a rousing set of immaculate musicianship (bass, keyboards, percussion, 2 x guitars/mandolins/bazoukis + vocals), with a mixture of original songs (So the Story Goes, Long May You Stand, Ballad of John Wren) and well-chosen covers (Still Crazy after all These Years, Have You Ever Seen the Rain, John Martyn's May You Never).
Their patter between songs was funny and well-honed, and involved much teasing of guitarist Joe Topping for his tendencies to lust after solo albums. On a couple of occasions, Elbow Jane's music veered over into more bluesey material (Steamroller), which, for me, lifted the set to a whole new space. Feedback from the audience on 11th January was some of the most positive I'd heard for a while, so Elbow Jane obviously hit exactly the right note with their upbeat choice of set. I know I'm probably in a small minority here, but I would have liked to hear more of the grittier blues material that they're obviously more than capable of delivering – or even a flashback to those heavy metal days. Elbow Jane – we salute you! Thanks for turning out in our moment of need– and welcome back in the future – especially if you pack more blues into that musical bag of yours!