As part of their Americana season, the Sage puts on some free afternoon entertainment and this was the final session. First Monkey Jump. The duo gave us a selection from the likes of Bukka White, Son House and Robert Johnson. We got Freddie King’s ‘Boogie Man’, some early Fleetwood Mac via ‘Shake your money maker’ and we were invited to get our mojos working to finish off with. Good start.
Former Mekon , Joe Longford, is on next. Plenty of original stuff, including ‘Nashville Radio’ which had more than a hint of Lindisfarne and reminded Her Ladyship of Lonnie Donegan! Bit of Johnny Cash and it was all amiable singalong stuff,but ‘alt-country’? Not sure, but (like Mr. Russell was later to say), why a need to categorise people? Having said that,next up were Polly and the Billets Doux (after a blast from the belaptopped DJ, of the Long Ryders ‘Lewis and Clark’, a forgotten classic that woke up a few senior citizens). New word, belaptopped?! Yes, Polly and chums were well-defined by the programme notes. How often do we read them and think we are watching a different act? ‘Smoky blues, country, folk, soul and gospel with a quintessentially English twist’. Agreed. We get that unmistakeable drum beat that warns us of the impending Bo Diddley and ‘Pretty Thing’ is served up. They finish with an unusual ‘House of the Rising Sun’ from the female perspective, as it originally was. They went down well. During the break, we get another cracker from the DJ, ‘Sin City’ from the Flying Burrito Brothers and soon on comes Brendan Croker accompanied by an outrageous guitar. (Is it the same man from York who made Catfish Keith his latest guitar? ) Back in the 80s we spent many a night in the Central in Leeds watching Mr C with the brilliant Mk1 version of the 5 o’ clock Shadows. Our last sighting was when he and Mark Knopfler played a Benefit Night at Leeds University. I had to admit to hardly recognising him as he launched into a singalong ‘Miss Otis Regrets’. He was soon into his Jesse Fuller stuff and we even got ‘Trail of the Lonesome Pines’ a la Laurel and Hardy. Finished with Charlie Rich’s ‘Feel like going home’, one of the Notting Hillbillies highlights. All was… ok, but I felt a touch disappointed. Scotland’s The Shiverin’ Sheiks were next and I was beginning to wonder when there was actually going to be a turn from across the pond. ‘Don’t let go’ was first up, taking me back to those 70s days of Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen. The sound was heavily dominated by the man with the Telecaster (who at one point seemed to playing a different tune to the rest!). ‘Sheik of Araby’ and ‘Slow Down’ were both in the early Beatles repertoire and we ended with yet more audience participation. Inoffensive rock n roll/rockabilly. We were promised much from the next lot, David Wax Museum, and they were indeed the best so far. Interesting Mexican folk stuff, very versatile and energetic, would gladly watch them again. And they were from Boston in USA, not Lincolnshire. Bob Dylan’s ‘I want you’ from the DJ precedes the arrival of Tom Russell. Long-time accompaniest Andrew Hardin is no longer there, we now have the excellent Thad Beckman. The recent tribute to Mr Dylan, ‘Mesabi’, starts things off and Mr R is in an almost giddy mood!This is a man who makes Jack Dee sound positively jovial, remember! Lots of stuff from the excellent ‘Blood and Candle Smoke’ cd, namely ‘Guadaloupe’,’Nina Simone’ , ‘East of Woodstock…’. Older tunes ‘Stealing Electricity’, ‘Goodnight Juarez’ , ‘ Tonight we ride’ and the nation’s favourite ‘Blue Wing’ all go down well, and the encore is the acutely acidic and accurate ‘Who’s gonna build your wall’. Great performance from a great songwriter. I am sure there were a lot there who hadn’t heard him before, but I am also sure there will have been some there who had travelled to Leeds from Newcastle last time I saw him in the Roscoe in Leeds.
A very good way to spend a Sunday afternoon…for free, too. My one slight frustration was that nearly everyone had to have a bloody singalong included, in what was only a 45 minute set each. Hopefully the organisers can ensure the funding for next year. Thanks very much.