Liam Merriman has been flying the flag for a Folk Club in various formats and in various venues and the present revival is in the hallowed grounds – the back room – in Downes. There was a time I seemed to live there and the world was a freer and an easier place for songs, arts and poems and posers. There were shape-changers and shape-throwers and all kinds of soul craziness.
From memory, Downes was a place of dowdy down-at-heel magic and now it’s all green mint paint, ornaments, photographs and plush red banquette seating. Bob Dylan was playing on the tape-deck, proclaiming It Ain’t Me Babe and that Mr. Tambourine Man was lamenting Ain’t no place I’m goin’ to… as an audience gathered in twos and threes.
Liam Merriman opened with a Woodie Guthrie lyric, Way Over Yonder, that Billy Bragg put a tune to. Then it was a typical Merriman song in progress that could be called The River Dreams, about a song I’ll never sing for you, as the river dreams of you and sings. He eased into Mr. Bojangles from Gerry Jeff Walker and it was mellow to a yawn under mint green walls and a green light on the speakers – he talked of life. Do people go to folk clubs to talk of life?
Paul Grant dropped by to share some CDs from Kevin Evans, as Wexford guitarist tuned up. You get a lot of tuning at folk events. Nick is a songwriter and his Months Of The Year was about transience and the vulnerability of life with the capo way down on the frets. His guitar action was ornamented and free-wheeling from Rose Park about meeting his wife in Cardiff. An instrumental tune had angry passages of snap, bang with stray notes corralled back into the continuing tune. Hard on the strings and the tuning.
He lashed the guitar into a vigorous action against the gentle lyrics of Joni Mitchel’s Eastern Rain.
Sean Hayes, an old folk club favourite, in his deep throaty voice, delivered a fine US Civil War song, Last Letter home, and sashayed into Merriman’s Daisy Lady and the years were rolling back for me.
Christine Deady, who had her first gig in The Kings some years ago, was in plaintive soul mood with songs of longing, angels, sorrow in her soul, experience denied and a woe woe woe oh oh oh refrain. She introduced a work in progress, for the craic, about dreams, night ice, soul and memory of you. A Coheny toney poem in a breathy style before she eased a cover of To Love Somebody (more Bee Gee than Nina).
Then there was a long pause of tuning as Sarah Bates shared songs she is laying down in the studio these days. Very folkie sadness, Behind Every Smile, a suicide, a heart full of pain and babies who can’t find their way home. Sarah smiles a lot, in a shy way, and when Graham McCarthy joined her for two fine songs, Lie To Me and a bluesy Verge, you felt you couldn’t wait for her CD to be ready.
Paul Grant brought Going To And Coming From by Kevin Evans to the club. Songs mastered in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Helvick. It’s a gem of easy listening and multi-recording of all the instruments mostly by Kevin. Even Rock And Roll Song seems easy on the ear.
You will enjoy the amazing version of My Bonnie Lies Over… and a blue-grassy slice of Cohen’s much recorded Halleluiah. My favourites are No Other Love by Dawn Trainor Thompson, a beautiful version of Fair And Tender Ladies and Restless Jennie by Kevin.
He adds a clever touch of humour with Any News Of The Iceberg, about a polar bear and the Titanic. And a 1971 Ray Davies, Have A Cuppa Tea, is a fun surprise.