MESA At Willow & Toll's Music Parlour
MESA at Willow and Tool's Music Parlour.
Formed out of the Delta Blues Band when they found the music style had widened to encompass more that the name suggests, MESA (pronounced Maysha) are a Leamington based trio who play a mixture of country and blues incorporating much original material. Most of this is written by Neil Murray, (Guitar and lead vocals). On the occasion of their visit to Willow& Tool's Music Parlour, Dave brought a Cajon and a tom tom rather than the full kit that he sometimes plays, Paul brought a Stratocaster with special licence from the hosts and these gigs are normally acoustic only. They opened their first set of two with "Never Say Your Name" which showed off their country roots. "Wasn't My Thing" is a Murray original which allowed Paul to display picking, bending and tremolo with a bit of reverb thrown in. It was an interesting and effective combination with Dave's Cajon and Neil's acoustic guitar. The sound balance was just right between the different instruments.
We visited blues country next for Melody Gardot's "Your Heart Is As Black As Night" a story of a dangerous liaison the opening line of which is "Your eyes may behold but the story I'm told is your heart is as black as night." and goes on to declare "But if I let you hang around I'm bound to lose my mind." A plea from the heart in "If You Wanna Be My Girl" (you'll just have to say). Neil Young's "Old Man" allowed us to hear good harmonies with a compelling and exceptional rhythm throughout, afforded and led by Dave on the tom tom. It is a universal truth that lost love and bad situations provide better material for songs. No further proof of this is required than listening to "On Your Own" another Neil Murray original "Don't you want to know what it's done to me Now you're on your own." is a recurring theme in the song. The last song in this set was "Rodeo Clowns" which bemoans the life of those rodeo performers whose function is to generally to protect competitors in bull riding from being injured by the bulls. The humdrum of life in the rodeo is depicted in the first two lines of the song. "Sweepin' the floors, open up the doors, Yeah turn on the lights, getting ready for the night."
The second half kicked off with another original from Neil "Gonna Take You To My Heart" which has a lengthy intro involving the two guitars in soulful and perfect harmony. Some time into this Dave joins in with the Cajon, before Neil's vocal begins the declaration, "Gonna takes you to my heart, not being a foolish man, if I can." A man under pressure from others to change his ways but determined to live his life and to share it with his partner. It has a country theme running through it and memories of the wild west are brought to the fore with the next song "Snake Oil." A story of those travelling salesmen purveying stories from the bible and those all-curing concoctions to the townsfolk before moving on to the next town to make more money. This track amply showed off Dave's skill as a percussionist.
Blues was never very far away, being the metier of the original band, so it was that the MESA assured us that "I'll Take Care Of You" in appropriate style, before "Thank You In Advance" (for giving me a second chance). Then the singer suggested behind a throbbing beat that he wanted to do "Bad Things" (with you) perhaps we ought to leave the implications of that to one side to enjoy the musicianship of the trio.
The final number of the set proper was yet another original from Neil Murray, (what a talented man) "When Love Calls" which asks the plaintive question, "don't you know I'll be there for you? It's you for me." It might be expected that a final number might be more upbeat that this very effecting song, but it was beautiful. The last line, "Tonight it's you for me" being a final affirmation of the intention of the singer.
The start of the concert proper was delayed for the host band (by one whole minute). The blame for which was laid emphatically at Laurel McIntosh's door by her father, John. It seems that Laurel has recently moved house and one of the boxes yet to be found is the one marked "Flutes." As her "proper" flute was missing she had to resort to the one she had used at school as a fourteen year old. There was some doubt that it would survive a full gig without giving trouble. No doubt we would soon find out.
A heavy and lively riff on the big black double bass signalled the opening of the show, followed by the aforementioned flute. The Family McIntosh then being joined by Pete Willow's guitar and vocal with a solo on Harmonica from Keith Eardley, "Heart And Soul" was well on it's way. Apparently the day before, John's plans for a barbeque were well and truly stymied by a sudden rainstorm, resulting in a dash across the road to the pub for solace. There were worse places to shelter as mine host at the Harvester in Long Itchington keeps a wide variety of ales and beers to sample whilst watching the rain outside. All this prompted the second number in the set, "After The Deluge" which an K.Eardley adaptation of the Jackson Browne original "Before the deluge".
We then allegedly explored the depths of modern sex education (In my days at school, there was no such thing, experimentation being considered sufficient) with Teddy Thompson's "Everybody Move It." that said the line "Bump and grind, have a good time. free yourself and lose your mind" seems to indicate that things have not changed much in the last sixty odd years. Slim Harpo (aka James Isaac Moore) provided "I'm a King Bee" for the next number. We don't seem to have moved on much as the lines "Well I'm a king bee, buzzing around your hive, Well I can make honey baby, let me come inside" does seem to have procreation implications. Either way it provided an ideal opportunity for Keith to demonstrate his musicianship and vocal capabilities. The "school" flute was put through it's paces during the Irish folk song "County Down", it proved to be more that adequate. This caused John to wonder why over the years he had been called upon to spend so much money on newer Flutes. Don't musicians always want a better instrument?
Support for the main act is always of quality at Willow & Tool's Music Parlour. Add to that original, innovative, cheerful and fun and you might be getting near to what John Zetterstrom provides. His first song was inspired by a workmate who displayed the very worst kind of hypochondria. The song describes in graphic terms the sorts of diseases that make you wriggle in your chair. It was very funny, but excruciating at the same time. Next came a recitation about an incident where "something" dropped "something" in his eye, whilst out walking. We never discovered what it was nor who did it. John then related a story in song about a folk singer who sang songs for folk travelling round with a slightly out of tune guitar. There is more than a element of truth in this. I spoke to John about his singing career which began in 1958. His smallest gig was in a submarine and his biggest was Wembley, where he shook hands with Dolly Parton. John was keen on audience participation and as they seemed reluctant to join in with the somewhat grisly chorus of his first song, so for his fourth and final number he sang a medley of well know tunes the choruses of in which it was impossible not to join. I had not seen John before, his happy and amusing act is one which I look forward to sampling again.
There was second billing for husband and wife duo Campbell and Jan who have appeared at this particular music parlour before. This time, they began with a song about jumping to the head of a queue. This was lively with a slow section in the middle. It was called "Stay Away" and was a C&J original, what a feast of original songs we enjoyed this night. The next song was introduced as an Alex Campbell composition, but the lyrics seemed to be more similar to those used by the Dubliners in "The Night Visiting Song", perhaps I misunderstood, or perhaps Alex's proclivity for taking traditional tunes and adding his own words to them moved full circle. There was no doubt about the third and final song, it was "Midnight Special" and the audience were encouraged to join in. I liked the harmonies produced by Campbell and Jan and it was a good set.
At the end of the concert, MESA were joined on stage by elements of the Willow & Tool Band to form what was described as the "The MESA Big Band" and Keith Eardley made a major contribution to a jazzy "Sinner's Prayer" with his Harmonica. A livelier, more geared to audience participation song, "Pick A Bale Of Cotton" brought the concert to a rousing close.
The Harvester in Church Road, Long Itchington is not only a beer pub par excellence, it also has a restaurant and on music nights (at least) cake of such gorgeousness they can arouse severe temptation issues, even for a diabetic. Willow & Tool's Music Parlour is open on the first Sunday of the month. On next time (7th May) is The Way Out, a duo of multi instrumentalists from Loughborough, Chris and Autumn are always worth a watch. Supporting them are the Nuneaton Folk Club hosts, Nunc. Be there at eight so as not to miss the start.