Updated: 15 Dec 2007
DC: Shepherds Song
VM: Harvest Moon
DC: Josephine, For Better Or For Worse
VM: May You Never
DC: Grace Darling
VM: Sink or Swim
DC: Glimpse of Heaven
VM: Arthur McBride
DC: Hangman and the Papist
DC: Beside the Rio Grande
VM: Highway 29
DC: Never Take Sweets
VM: Long May You Run
DC: Joey And Me
VM: Lakes of Ponchartrain
DC: Beat the Retreat
DC and VM: Carrick Fergus
LANDMARK CENTRE, DEAL, 30 NOV 2007
Deal in Kent was the venue last night for a unique performance. Deliberately not widely advertised, and indeed not even mentioned on Witchwood or Strawbsweb, and therefore somewhat overshadowed by the excitement surrounding the Fire concerts, Dave Cousins and local Deal musician Vince Martyn took to the stage. They had hoped to book the hall on another date, but as this was the only time available they decided to go ahead and keep the event somewhat low profile.
The venue is a converted church, with the duo playing in the upper hall complete with vaulted ceiling, stained glass windows, arched wooden roof timbers and lit by candlelight. The high roof meant that there was a lot of reverb as the music and voices rolled around the room, but it all added to the fullness of the sound. Despite the foul weather, an audience of around 70-80 people gathered with little idea of what to expect from the evenings entertainment except the reputation of the performers.
Dave and Geraldine were surprised and delighted to see Mike and I there, as the rest of the usual Witchwood contingent were at the Fire concert. Deal being very local for us, we decided to get the best of both worlds by attending Dave's show on Friday and Fire on Sat.
Chatting quietly to Dave, he told me he was suffering the agony of toothache from an abscess and admitted to being a little nervous about playing solo for the first time in many years, in advance of his forthcoming solo USA tour. If he feels better then he hopes to also go along and support Dave Lambert at tonight's Fire performance.
The format decided upon by the duo was simple - they tossed a coin to see who would go first. Dave won the toss which gave him the choice of first song. From there on, they alternated with each playing a piece inspired by the words, emotions or indeed chords of the previous song. This led to a myriad of topics being covered, including love, water, cars, roads, military uniforms, sex, and religion.
Dave started the evening with "The Shepherds Song" which prompted a reply by Vince of a number I believe was called "Harvest Moon". Each told the stories behind their tunes and the reasons for selecting them as the next item. You could see that each was listening and watching the other intently, obviously enjoying the whole evening. Vince seemed a little in awe at working with Dave, and was clearly delighted with the fact that the audience were so engrossed in the atmosphere generated by the words and music. His usual performances are in the local pubs where the audiences are a sight less attentive.
Dave chose songs that spanned the whole of his musical career, from early pieces such as "Josephine, For Better Or For Worse" through "Beat the Retreat" up to the far more recent "Never Take Sweets" from the Boy in a Sailor Suit album. It was lovely to hear the tunes stripped back even further than they are when performed by the Acoustic Strawbs – just Dave and his guitar. As stated, the whole point of the evening was the words of the songs and no one would have guessed from the passion of the performance that Dave was feeling less than 100% as he raised the roof with "Hangman and the Papist" or "Beside the Rio Grande".
Vince has a great voice with just a slight gravelly edge to it, and is a very competent guitarist. His repertoire for the evening included a mix of some original songs, and some covers, but the choices made by each performer although very different in origin gelled nicely. I especially enjoyed his versions of the "Lakes of Ponchartrain" and "Arthur Mc Bride".
Dave's banjo had been sitting unplayed in the background, until the two musicians joined forces for the final number - a superb, gentle rendition of the traditional Irish song "Carrick Fergus", which brought a tear to the eye and the evening to a close with a well deserved standing ovation. As Vince said "I never thought I'd say this about a banjo, but that sounds really pretty" sorry Vince you were wrong there, it wasn't pretty – it was beautiful.
Those of you in the USA able to get to Dave's solo shows should book tickets NOW – you're in for a treat.
Photos by Sue Holton .