Bernard Hoskin at The Chapel Newbold
Folk on the Water's second monthly evening concert of 2017 had a superb collection of artists to entertain us. Head of the bill was the excellent Bernard Hoskins. Bernard is a singer songwriter who is inspired by sights and sounds of nature with added input from world events and his family. Songs like "Twenty One Swans" and "An Ordinary Day" could hardly be more different. The first being about a pastoral scene of a group of swans on a lake, the second about the London bombings on 7th of July 2005 (was that event really twelve years ago?). So it was with some anticipation that Barbara and I entered the chapel on Friday evening. His first song of the set was "I believe in you." His clear and precise diction adds so much to his performances, so it is with this song leaving the listener in no doubt as to what is on offer, the line "I leave you to believe in me as I believe in you" explains it beautifully.
From a musical family, Bernhard's mother sang Joan Baez and Julie Felix songs to her own accompaniment on guitar. As they neared their teens, he and his elder brother took up mum's guitar with such keenness that a strict rota had to be installed to settle disputes over whose turn it was to play. Eventually the boys got their own instruments and Bernard formed the opinion that guitars were better than girlfriends, (He has since been disabused of this position) hence his offering to us on Friday of another self penned song "My Guitar". He quoted an eminent musician who once said "A man who knows how many guitars he owns, does not have enough" I happen know someone who holds the same idea about ukuleles.
Whilst a prolific songwriter himself, Bernard also loves songs of others, indeed he has put out a whole CD of covers of people that he admired as musicians Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Paul Simon are just three of those featured on the CD entitled "Under the influence." He also delves into traditional song from time to time, "Lord Franklin" is one such that that tells the story of the ill fated attempt to find the North West passage round the coast of Canada when both ships became stuck in the ice and the crew perished. Strangely they were killed not by the ice or cold, but by lead poisoning from the canned food they had taken with them.
An altogether different song is "From Frank to Mary Jane" about a bench Bernard found in literally the middle of nowhere which had a plaque affixed commemorating the fact that this couple used to like that particular spot. Bernard is the second artist in a week (the other was Jack Blackman) to mentioned Bert Jansch, John Renbourn and Steve Goodman in the same breath as influences and it was one to the latter's songs that next appeared for our pleasure. "City of New Orleans" tells the story of a train ride from Chicago to New Orleans. Although invited to sing along, the audience were at odds with each other because there are so many different versions of the song by the likes of Arlo Guthrie and Willie Nelson amongst many others. This proves the popularity of the song, verified by the reaction to Bernard's contribution in which he showed why he is so much demand due in no small way to his skilful guitar playing. Family raised it's profile in a Hoskin composition entitled "Be Good To Your Mother" celebrating the fact that Bernard is now a grandfather. This great news is leavened by the fact that Elliot the Grandson, now lives in Long Island, New York, but there is always Skype, something that the three year old takes in his stride.
A trip to the Cambridge Folk Festival in 1973 proved influential in Bernard's musical education in that Jim Croce who was at the time Number one in America, just turned up and hoped they would let him play. Would they? Of course! Incidentally a full weekend ticket for the festival was the grand sum of £2.25. Sadly Croce was killed in an plane crash three weeks later and that appearance proved to be his only UK gig. His song "Operator" recalls long lines of servicemen queuing to use the solitary telephone on their base to talk to their girlfriends back home. Many of them were to receive the equivalent of a "Dear John" letter in those calls. A more uplifting mood was presented in the final song of the set, "Moving Forward" containing the lyric "I'm moving forward and never looking back." It was an altogether instructive and exceptional evening in the company of this justifiably well regarded and popular singer, who gives great value in his performances.
Another songwriter who produces thoughtful and sometimes though provoking songs is Kellimarie. Fourteen years old and already prolific, she is currently one of the eight talented young people taking part on CBBC's "Got what It Takes?" the "it" in this case being the stamina and expertise to make a career for themselves in the music industry. The maturity of this girl's lyric writing is staggering. A fiercely independent note set off this section of the concert in "Better On My Own" in which the disappearance of a boyfriend off the scene is dealt with defiantly "You're just a heartbreaker, you're just a risk taker, You deserve what you get." During the filming of the show, which is not yet complete, Kellimarie has made many friends and this lead her to think about what may happen when they each move on to other things The stresses of competing with each other and the bonds that are created through so doing are reflected in "Under The Same Stars" containing lines that illustrate the highs and lows of being on the show. "Sometimes I feel like giving in" competes for our emotions with "I love you no matter where you are." There is no doubt that irrespective of who "wins" the show, they will all have gained a great deal from taking part.
For her set, Kellimarie was trusted with "Kevin," Dutch Van Spall's favourite guitar. The fact that the Newbold Chapel gigs are now unplugged had passed her by and she turned up with her new glittery electric guitar. I have only ever seen one other person play that guitar, and I am not surprised. One of my favourite songs of hers is Kellimarie's "I Got You" about her mother and the guidance and sacrifices that her mother (a performer herself) makes to help her daughter. "You are the bravest soul, I want you to give up that role, 'cos I got you," is part of the refrain. I suppose if you have written over thirty songs, you can't sing them all regularly and if you don't do that, you can easily forget the order of the verses and even sometimes the words. This is what happened the Kellimarie on Friday. However instead of letting it get to her, she turned into a audience hum along, the catchy tune making it easy for us all to join in. What a professional! I won't use the adjective that one audience member used about that performance in case it embarrasses her, but suffice to say it was extremely complimentary, turning a potential disaster into a complete triumph.
Another of her own songs is "You're not mine" about unrequited love (he's going out with another girl when it should be ME!) There are a large number of similes that rack right through this song, of which two are "I need you like fish needs water" and "I need you like a dog needs a bone" etc. The number of these must near double figures. It is a very clever lyric which is typical of the girl. Two covers and another original completed the set, Sam Smith's "Stay with Me" and "One Last Time" which is a song Kellimarie had to learn for the CBBC show, but being who she is she's changed it to suit her style, which after all is what all major stars do anyway. She's learning fast and growing up I love watching and hearing her play and sing. Her final "own song" was "You Without Me" which retains the theme of love unfulfilled. For such a happy girl, she does write on some miserable commentaries. But she is always ready to laugh and make her audience do so too. She is a star.
Rachel Louise (Cameron), follows her father into music who is a member of the traditional music band Floot Street. Rachel's first offering was far from traditional as she sang, standing at the keyboard, Imagine Dragons' "Bleeding Out" which contains sufficiently dark lyrics to gain the listener's attention. " I'll bleed out for you, So I bare my skin and I count my sins and I close my eyes and I take it in and I'm bleeding out." What it also did was to give Rachel the ability to give vent to her full sounding voice, the richness of which is like bathing in cream. Her simple vamping on the piano highlighted the starkness and the somewhat intricate vocal structure of the song. The musical range of the song is something that many other singers would not attempt to deliver with such power. I didn't like the lyrics, but did like the performance. Rachel is a fan of Christina Perri songs and was no surprise to see one such in her set. "Tragedy" is another defiant song declaring that "I won't be made a fool of, don't call this love" appears to be a disdainful rejection of someone else's impression of their relationship.
Rachel's proper job is in the PR department at Big Help Music and whilst holding down this, she is not only learning song but learning to play the guitar too as she demonstrated with her rendition of Skinny Love released by Bon Iver a band which includes the singer song writer Justin Vernon who I suspect is the real author of the song. This song too has to do with a poor relationship. This girl doesn't have much fun does she? That said, someone recently cheered her father Ewan up tremendously when they mistook him to be her boyfriend. I am not entirely convinced that Rachel was quite so enamoured with the mistake. A Leonard Cohen song was to follow, he was not noted for the most cheerful of songs, but his biggest hit "Hallelujah" which has been covered by everyone and his brother proved to be a great sing along number and was very popular. Rachel's closing number was appropriately "The Parting Glass" which brings us back into traditional territory and was a fine note upon which to end the set.
When one goes to intimate gigs with a well known artist heading the line up, sometimes you have to sit through other less able acts and grit your teeth. This situation does not prevail at the concerts at Newbold Chapel put on for Folk on the Water by Big Help Music. Their ability to attract quality acts to this lovely venue always meets a positive reaction from the audience. Some of the youngsters may lack experience, but having been schooled by BHM, they offer quality and sincerity of performance. These concerts need greater publicity in order to attract audience sizes worthy of the stature of the acts that appear. The concerts are held on a monthly basis (cost £5 per head) on the second Friday of the month ( excepting April = Easter 2017) there are concerts in May and June before taking a break for the summer and then Folk On The Water proper starts running from middle of June to the end of the first week in July. Look out for the posters, all gigs are free and held at canalside pubs throughout South Warwickshire. Really top acts ASK if they can play at this festival so that gives you an incentive to attend at least one gig.