Welcome to the Dragon Folk Club

Welcome to the official blog of the Dragon Folk Club, which meets for a singers night every Friday at The Bridge Inn, Shortwood, Bristol. Everyone is welcome whether you sing, play or just listen.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Remembering Ray... and other stories

When I arrived at The New Inn last Friday I saw a large table of people being served with food where we usually have our session. I thought for a moment we had been let down again as at our previous venue. I headed back to the car, then I realised there were familiar cars in the car park. Should I put my guitar in the car and go to investigate, or should I just go and investigate anyway? I went to investigate, guitar case in hand. Sure enough, I found a group of our regulars in the other bar with drinks. No one immediately explained, so I just got myself a pint and took a seat.

Discussion got down to future themes. Mike wants a theme of "One song to the tune of another". He suggested two weeks' time (24 April) but Colin pointed out that would be our St George's session, being our closest to 23 April (St George's Day), so that wouldn't work. Mike then suggested mid-May but for some reason that didn't work either. Derek suggested sometime around when hell freezes over. Now, that's quite surprising coming from someone who only the other week sang all of his songs to the tune Youghall Harbour and who claims you can sing anything either to Blow The Man Down or to Villikins And His Dinah. Anyway, we seem to have settled on some date in the middle of June - exact date to be announced. Now we need to get down to the task of mixing and matching.

Along the way Mike told us of the Bristol Shantymen's tour of Poland when they scored a number one with Sloop John B (but that's another story). After a slap-up meal bought for about £2.50 a head, the long table was cleared. Mike, who had a former life as a rock 'n' roll musician, started a bass-man-style line with "Matty Groves-Groves-Groves" and the others joined in, in parts. Finally, John (an occasional visitor to this club) got up on the table, slid along on his knees, picking up a vase of flowers on the way, and on reaching the other end sang the long version of Matty Groves, thus completing a Doo-wop rendering of the said song. Derek told a story of his own, referring to something he seemed to consider an embarrassing incident, which has followed him to this day.

Finally everything became clear as Mike got up from his seat saying that it was about time the diners made way for us, so we would go in to our usual bar and make a start on the session. This we did, having an unaccustomed, semi-oblivious audience about fourteen strong, who continued to make loud conversation despite our efforts to entertain ourselves (and in the hope that we might entertain them too). Please don't get the wrong idea; we would welcome an audience, and if some of them took part in the session it would be even better. Also, these people probably had every right to remain in the bar at the end of their meal. It was just that some of us were less accustomed than others to singing in competition with a general hubbub.

Finally we got under way under the MC-ing of Colin who asked Derek to start proceedings, which he did with a parody of Eric Bogle's The Band Played Waltzing Matilda. According to my research, this parody was written by a friend of Eric's and he appreciates the humour.

Mike continued with Long Black Veil (Danny Dill and Marijohn Wilkin), which we are more accustomed to hearing from Jo (who was not present on this occasion).

Sometimes, when there is no official theme to a session, a single theme emerges. This time however several themes or threads came about spontaneously. Possibly the strongest of these was one which featured songs sung by our late friend Ray Croll. Colin started it off quite consciously with Streets Of London (Ralph McTell). Derek followed this up with a longer version of Rosie Anderson (Roud 2169) than Ray would have sung. Then came the spooky part, when Roger, who may or may not have known Ray but probably didn't realise it was one of Ray's songs, sang Brother Can You Spare A Dime (EY "Yip" Harburg and Jay Gorney). Simon shared a knowing glance with Derek and Derek later commented that Ray's spirit may indeed be present in the room. Simon himself was the last to contribute on this particular thread with Rudyard Kipling's Smuggler's Song.

Another small thread followed from Colin's singing of The Kipper Family's parody of Pleasant and Delightful, called Unpleasant and Frightful. This referred, in continued parody, to a song called something like "Tied up with a yellow handkerchief". Derek was quick to pick up on this reference and sung the real song, Yellow Handkerchief (Roud 954) on his next turn.

When Phil sang My Darling Clementine (Percy Montrose or Barker Bradford), Chris managed to get some of the well-fed fourteen to join in with the chorus; in fact they requested that we sing something they know all the way through. Not too long after this show of interest, Simon sang The Rout Of The Blues (Roud 21098) after which Colin asked Derek to sing again. Derek suggested we take our break at this juncture for there was an extra commotion emanating from across the room... and sure enough the diners were leaving. For the second time in the club's short history at The New Inn, Simon had single-handedly managed to clear the bar of non-folkies. I'm not sure this is a record of which to be proud!

After the break Derek sang After Aughrim's Great Disaster. He sang it, apparently, for the sole reason it would give me an opportunity to mention a new (he believes) web-based resource providing access to the Carroll Mackenzie Collection of recordings. The song Derek sang is represented in that collection by a recording of John Lyons.

I've gone on longer in this report than I have for many a week. Before leaving it though I must mention another theme that arose: one of misogyny. It has to be said that Chris, the only lady present, took it all in her stride and would not be drawn other than to say that she knew "what you men think of us". I don't know exactly where this thread started but we had Simon singing Laird of the Dainty Dounby which is about a rape that apparently turns to the good, followed by Derek with The Dumb Wife (Roud 434, a broadside ballad) which tells of a man who wants to make his silent wife speak but lives to regret it. Then Simon returned to the theme with Peggy Gordon which among other issues includes "I wish I was in some lonesome valley where womankind cannot be found". Roger clearly wanted to disassociate himself from this unpleasantness with Yours (Music by Gonzalo Roig; original title: "Quereme Mucho"; English words by Jack Sherr).

Finally Derek finished off the session in full misogynistic flow with The Wild Goose Shanty (Roud 328).

Here's a selection of the songs sung during this session.

(Number of people present - 7, of which 7 performed - plus about 14 diners)

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