Live review: Songwriting Live (30 Sept ’14)
On 30 September, Songwriting Live once again saw six of the southwest’s finest singer-songwriters performing at the Fringe Bar in Clifton, Bristol
Tuesday, 30 September 2014 once again saw the cream of southwest songwriting talent playing at Songwriting Live, our monthly live showcase event at the Fringe Bar in Clifton Village, Bristol. Joining hosts Sarah Menage and Andy Davis on this occasion were Matt Woosey, Teri Bramah, Sam Brothers and Shaun McCrindle (a last-minute replacement for the advertised Paul Garry, who’d had to pull out).
Andy Davis was first on the bill tonight, opening his set with The Road To Venezuela, a song he wrote for The Man In The Bowler Hat (1974), the third, George Martin-produced album by Stackridge. Andy then swapped to ukelele for How Many Tears Will You Cry Me?, a song that he seldom performs as he originally wrote it for a female voice, and then to piano for Hold On Girl, which he described as “my attempt at a big, American-style soft rock ballad… but no-one wanted to record it so it obviously wasn’t that successful!”
After Andy the first of the evening’s guests took to the stage. Teri Bramah opened with This Isn’t Love, a ballad about a non-starter relationship and the nature of, well, love, with lots of space for Teri’s guitar to breathe. Next came Somebody, which Teri described as “the closest I’ve come to a political song. It’s a social song, really – a series of snapshots of things I saw around me.” Each of the verses – which addressed topics as diverse as a break-in, a couple having a domestic and a daughter emigrating to Australia – ended with the refrain “somebody lied, somebody lied, somebody lied…”, accompanied by Teri’s very fluent fingerpicking. She then ended with Get Out Of Jail, a folkier, more angsty affair that she’s “still trying to finish”.
Next, it was the turn of Sam Brothers, a young singer-songwriter who’d travelled all the way from Brighton, to show us what he could do. He started with Now I Know, a song that “came from the tuning” and that, with its tumbling, fingerpicking style, sat somewhere between John Denver and Ed Sheeran. He then retuned his guitar (joking, “this is a very common part of my set”) for Remind Her Of My Name, a Mumford/Lumineers-ish indie-folk tale of a broken heart, with some great lines such as “if she offers you peace, the treaty will be tainted”, before ending with Still I’m Here As Always, a love ballad written on a train journey and featuring some clever pre-chorus couplets.
As ever, after the first three performances there was a Q&A session with the artists concerned. As well as answering specific questions about their work (such as the chord sequence used in The Road To Venezuela), the three discussed such topics as writing for other people and the relative merits of playing solo or with a band, before there was a short break.
After the break, our other host Sarah Ménage got the ball rolling again. She started with Like A Yo-Yo, a song whose jaunty, fairground organ-ish melody was brilliantly contrasted by its melancholy lyrics. That was followed by Bristol Took My Heart, a light-hearted number referencing many of the city’s landmarks and characters, and then by To Be Free, another sad song “written in attempt to save a struggling relationship”.
Shaun McCrindle then took to the stage to play his three songs. Not Happening came first, a brash, thrashy, Billy Bragg-ish tune that Shaun was playing live for the very first time, and that dealt with themes of disappointment and disillusion. That was followed by Long Delays Ahead, another brand new number that Shaun revealed “isn’t really a metaphor for anything… I just kept seeing that sign everywhere!” Shaun’s set then ended with Grandpa Was A Navy Man, a more folksy track that Shaun normally plays with his band, Mister Shaun.
The evening’s final solo performance came from Matt Woosey, who gave us three songs from his new CD Wildest Dreams. Starting with cascading, folky fingerpicking, Love Is The Strangest Thing reminded us strongly of someone we couldn’t quite put our finger on… it WASN’T The Eagles, Steely Dan, Gerry Rafferty, Fairport Convention or Fleetwood Mac, but you get the idea! Nowhere Is Home followed, a slice of rootsy Americana inspired, Matt told us, by living out of his van for several years while relentlessly touring. He closed with Don’t You Tell Nobody, a bluesy rock number about an affair with a married woman (“I’m not saying whether this is autobiographical!” laughed Matt) that showed off his virtuoso guitar skills.
That wasn’t quite the end of the evening’s entertainment, though. Of course there was the obligatory Q&A session, in which Matt and Sam discussed their guitar-playing influences while Sarah helpfully revealed the source of that fantastic organ sound on Like A Yo-Yo (it’s the ‘lower organ’ voice, for all you Roland FP-7 owners out there!). But there was also, as per last month’s innovation, the small matter of a live jamming finale, which saw Matt, Sam, Andy and Shaun improvising a suitably rough-edged and rabble-rousing version of the Hendrix classic Red House.
Their impressive performance rounded out another great night at The Fringe. Don’t miss the next one on October 28!
Words: Russell Deeks Photos: Tessa Beeching
If you’d like to perform at Songwriting Live in Bristol – or if you’d be interested in hosting a Songwriting Live event in your own town – then send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org