Tonight delivered everything that this show, as part of the Roots Unearthed on the 3rd Floor of St David’s Hall, promised to be; two hours of superb musicianship the blending, and mixing of British traditional music and blues in many guises and the common heritage of themes, lyrics and melodies the two traditions share. Above all this was the joy of listening to two musicians who devour the stories and share the joy with the audience with nuggets of information about the songs, the history, the narrative and emotions creating the perfect music experience.
We heard nineteen delicious songs that spanned country, vaudeville and delta blues with folk songs from the English lexicon we had ballads, sauciness and infectious guitar licks and the percussive quality of bones the ethereal piping of the quills and harp playing and the joy of banjo tunes played with skillful dexterity. Tonight like all of the gigs on the second tour of this duo was recorded with the tantilising and exciting promise of a CD celebrating the bond of common love of the songs they play and the mutual respect they have for each other’s talent as they uncover and share with us the power of tunes and lyrics that need to be heard and remembered.
Opening the show Martin delivered St James Hospital a traditional song and in reply Dom brings the ‘over-the-pond’ rendition of St James Infirmary the songs are similar rooted deep in musical memory but the translation and changes reflect the two nations. Like so much music nothing stands still the tunes and lyrics develop and modify to reflect audiences and the times in which they are sung. Music is an organic form nothing is set in aspic once musicians add their own interpretation and arrangement it is what keeps live music vibrant and the pure pleasure it brings to everyone in their seats tonight.
Tonight for many we were introduced to the Quills as part of the multi-instrumentalist repertoire that is Dom Flemons, the first outing for this pipe-like instrument was Bulldose Blues, inspiration for Canned Heat’s Going Up Country this combined with his vocals that have an authority and intensity as he spans the octaves with a purity and a mighty fine holler when required. Added into the mix is the superb finger work, finger picking and slide guitar of Martin Simpson as the music just rolled from their fingers and lips. We had a parody of Stephen Foster’s 1850 Hard Times Come Again No More, not the American Civil war soldiers re-writing Hard Tack Come Again No More; this is an English song during the Cotton Famine in the 1860’s due to blockades of Confederate ports during the Civil War and rename Short Times, found by the Martin & Dom when visiting Cecil Sharpe House, the archives of English Folk songs and dance. All too soon the first half was finished with a flurry as they delivered Leadbelly’s Poor Howard and Champagne Charlie with its links to the music hall tradition across the UK and Europe.
Opening the second installment with My Money Never Runs Out, Dom plays banjo on this Gus Cannon number. We heard about Minstrel shows and how their popularity spread across the world, segregation Vaudeville and the difficulties of early black musicians and and how blues changed and adapted. The wealth if historical knowledge was as deep and immense as the music they were playing. Stealin’ a jug band number featured a St David’s Hall Jug/Carafe and added another layer of tonal experience the evening bought. The evening closed far too soon with a rousing version of Little Liza Jane and enthusiastic singing from the audience, this was an evening that has that special element that you all get if you were sitting in the audience.
Every song they sung deserves a mention and the story that went with it but to get that go and see them live they are still on tour see below you will not be disappointed. They are touring extensively throughout October, November and December check out the dates and venues HERE
St James Hospital
St James Infirmary
Old Folks At Home
My Money Never Runs Out
If I Lose
Too Long/I’ve Been Gone
Little Liza Jane