This week I’ve been to two gigs and enjoyed some fantastic music. Also, through a retweet on Twitter, I’ve discovered a band whose music I really like. This is the great thing about music generally, but also about going to concerts. You discover new things all the time. New music which you love. It’s so inspiring.
I’ll start with the Twitter discovery. Courtesy of Bob Harris, Radio 2 DJ and the man who used to front up “The Old Grey Whistle Test”. There was a time when he was reviled – by the punks and others – but he stuck with the music he loved, and now he is back with an influential show. And he tweets with such positivity. That’s how I made my discovery.
Which was The Staves – “Mexico”.
I really like the simple plucked guitar rhythm and those beautiful harmonies. The band haven’t released an album yet, but they have a few songs on iTunes . The one I like the most is “Silver Dagger”. It’s an old folk song – I remember Bob Dylan and Joan Baez singing it – but the harmonies sung by the Staves are just so beautiful, in fact as beautiful as a song can get, I’d say. I just love this song.
On the Monday just gone, I went with a few friends to a gig at the Lexington pub on Pentonville Road, Islington. Organised by the Word magazine. The headline act was Eliza Carthy. First on the bill was a band called Left With Pictures. They played some lively folk music and I thought I’d like to see them again. Then we had Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo. They were wonderful. Four women, playing violin, cello, guitar and flute and other sounds. You’d call it folk, but there was an atmosphere, a lovely sound that really stirred the emotions. I don’t watch a lot of TV apart from news and sport, but it turned out that Emily’s tunes had been used for a couple of crime series, “Wallander” and “Shadow Line”. For the latter the song was “Pause”, off the album “Almanac”. It’s one of those songs which is so simple, but so atmospheric. Live, it was just Emily strumming an electric guitar and singing, with the three other band members singing harmonies. At the Lexington, it was truly captivating. I could feel the tears in my eyes. Really, really, lovely.
This video sort of captures it, but nothing compares with just being there.
Beautiful, simple music. For me that is always the best.
So, I’d already discovered two really wonderful bands – The Staves and Emily Barker – this week. Then I went tonight, Friday, to Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in Soho.
I love jazz, but for reasons I couldn’t possible explain, I never went to Ronnie’s until last year. Inertia, only.
Four of us went tonight.We had a great meal beforehand – the place is all tables – and were still scoffing our steaks as as the support act came on. But what an act. My third discovery of the week. Sumudu. A beautiful woman with a beautiful voice. She had the house band backing her up – they were superb: double bass, keyboards, drums. Subtle, inventive, pure quality. And with that backing Sumudu floated and soared. She sang mostly covers on the night, but with such ease and emotion. A wonderfully smooth version of ‘The Shadow Of Your Smile”, one of those sixties classics, sung by Frank Sinatra and others. A heart rending version of Stevie Wonder’s “You And I” and a rousing version at the end of “You Make me Feel (Like a Beautiful Woman)”, a song I associate with Aretha Franklin.
What can I say? What I loved about Sumudu’s performance was the simple beauty of the songs and her voice. She seemed to sing effortlessly and yet with real passion. Technique and feeling.
The video here is another Stevie Wonder song. “All I Do”, which I’ve just picked off YouTube. Gives a sense of that effortless voice.
The main act on the night was Mark King and Friends. Mark was bassist with jazz funk band Level 42 in the 80s. He wasn’t playing old hits tonight, just vibrant jazz rock. Unbelievably good technique throughout the band. And a sense of fun, right down to the garish shirts. I enjoyed it. Wouldn’t race to to hear it again on iTunes, but it was good live music. Some music just works best in the live environment.
As we left, Sumudu was there by the exit, selling her CDs. My mate Dave bought two, one for me. Even though I download everything these days. And I had to hand over the money! I didn’t mind – I’ll look forward to listening the album, hoping it will be as good as the live performance.
What’s so great about this music I’ve discovered this week – Sumudu, Emily Barker, The Staves – is that combination of simplicity and just truly beautiful singing. The very essence of the song.
What is so wonderful is that we can keep on discovering…