Although it was released in the middle of October 2021 it has taken David Lance Callahan until this April to hold the launch show for his excellent English Primitive Vol 1 that came out on Tiny Global productions. It's always good to be back at the Betsey Trotwood for another instalment of Clerkenville East/West and as ever it's a cool and packed night.
First on and also launching his new album Moonrider was Ben Phillipson who was joined by his other guitarist Ben Reed and some backing tracks.
They opened with the laid-back tones of Until We Dream (all song titles are guesses on my part) that was very calming and went down quite nicely, that was followed by a cool floaty instrumental perfect for a chill out session.
Home On The Grange was the song of Ben's that stuck the most an almost diffident tale set against the gentle caress of the two guitars as they wrapped around our minds. Hear it All the Time listed a few complaints familiar to most of us as the two Ben's kept things nice and mellow.
Ben introduced the next instrumental as On The Hills and it felt like a slow stroll up the hills to take in the glory of what you could see from them. For Your Love seemed to be about all the things Ben was prepared to do if only you would return his love. They then closed with another Instrumental piece that had the laid-back air of Luna at their most supine.
The second duo of the evening were Sairie who are a traditional English Folk duo from Newhaven East Sussex who were playing their first London gig to help promote the bands Scarlet And Blue EP.
They opened with I Lost My Heart (More Guesswork) that was very evocative and had Emma Morton's crystalline vocals casting a spell over the audience as Bon Griffin's guitar picked its way across the room.
Rich For All My Sorrows had them crying a lake of tears full of the sadness for a lost love gone in the embers of a flame that's been dowsed, and while I am no big English Folk music fan this sounded wonderful in a small room as the voices drew us into the band's world. This song could have been written at any time in the last 300 years or so.
Bon was quite entertaining between songs telling us all sorts of fanciful things as they began to sing us a tale about What Ails You the spectral sound he was getting from the simple things he played on his guitar were wonderful, as Emma's voice was nothing less than captivating.
Flowers Of The Spring had a funny intro about how sometimes you pop out to get something your other half wants and don't come back for seven years as you get way laid and end up in a pub or two. The song lyrics are indeed about something similar and it's a wonderfully dark tale.
Emma then strapped on her Autoharp for the bands EP's title song Scarlet and Blue that added another dimension to their sound and left me wishing she had played Autoharp on more of the songs. Either way it was a highlight of the set a wondrous song.
Winds Of Sirocco blew through The Betsey Trotwood like we were in the most bucolic of setting with nothing but rolling hills in front of us. They closed with what were introduced as two Folk Songs molded into one as the tale of The Boatman who once long ago would have weighed anchor by the cellar steps of The Betsey Trotwood slowly and magically deposited the man who held a Red Rose In His Hand and hoped to persuade her that his love was eternal. I wish my knowledge of these old folk songs was better so I could compare these versions with other classic interpretations, either way Sairie were wonderful to hear live.
David Lance Callahan began his set solo and explained that he would be playing songs from English Primitive Vol 1 and also some from the still to be recorded Vol 2 and maybe an older song or two from his rich back catalogue.
He opened with the raga like sound of the tale of The Montgomery and how it became a sunken Ship as David seemed to play all sorts of tricky things on his guitar. David then found his crib sheet to make sure he got the words to W.H.Audens Refugee Blues correct, it has to be said hearing this poem in a week that the British government said it was going to send asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing made this seem far more timely than it should do.
She Passes Through The Night was every bit as entrancing as it is on the album, as he sounds like a cross between Mazzy Star and Bert Jansch and we all hope she realizes just what she's lost. We then got the tale of The Goatman that seemed to shimmer as David wrung everything he could out of his guitar as we wondered if The Goatman would get us too.
One Rainy September is one of my favorite songs on English Primitive Vol 1 and this live version was brilliant, as this very sad story about PTSD and loss unfolded, about halfway through ex-Nightingales drummer Daren Garrett sat down behind the kit and transformed into a hyperactive whirl to really bring this song to life.
I think the next song was Beautiful Launderette and featured Daren on drums and maracas, while David's guitar seemed to be tripping by itself and as aghast as the rest of us at all the business shenanigans detailed in this song.
Born Of The Welfare State was as magical live as it is on the album and when they slipped into Bo Diddley's Pills Daren's drumming became more tribal as David listed all the things we should all thank the Welfare state for, as this is a timely reminder of just how magical an institution it is when properly funded.
She's The King Of My Life is as lovely a song of love and gratitude as you could want to hear and I hope she knows how loved she really is, and the crowd certainly loved it too.
They closed with The Parrot That David instructed Daren to play with gusto and aplomb which he achieved effortlessly and all the things that get parroted back to everyone unfolded.
They of course got an encore and David introduced it as a Murder Ballad For A School Friend, the tale unfolds in the Essex Badlands between Upminster and Goodmayes an area that I knew very well growing up, it's not too far from where one of my school friends dad's killed his mum and her lover with an axe, so I know it comes from that dark part of Essex where the bad things happen, as dark a tale as it was, it was still a great song to close a very cool night with.