Sunday, 30 March 2014

A surfeit of banjos.

In which I am embarrassed by a surfeit of banjo’s, confronted by a pink cowboy hat, and have my own hat stolen (again) but in overcoming  this series of  frightening misadventures have a rather good evening.

I went down to The Riverside Club for a night of Bluegrass. I have no idea what I was thinking of. With the exception of The Dixey Chicks, I can’t stand Country music. Now I think about it, The Dixey Chicks don’t even count as Country. Heck, in some Southern states listening to the Dixie Chicks is liable to get you run out of town.

I have a problem with banjos anyway. My only excuse is that I’ve been ill, got depressed and there was nothing  else to do. My 'tour' has got off to a slow start but I'm hoping there will be some news, soon. 

When I got in the club I was feeling bad about the whole thing anyway. As I came in through the door, I saw a group of about 30 banjo players sitting in a circle strumming (I think they call it pickin’ – whatever). There were some embarrassed relatives watching  from across the way and a lady in a large pink cowboy hat with a fur trim.

I lasted for 30 seconds – long enough to shake hands with the legendary Bob, take my hat off, look around aimlessly for somewhere to hang it and then…..I ran away.

At least I’ve learnt that Aversion Therapy doesn’t work.

So now I'm standing on the street feeling foolish. I drove off to the Barley Mow in Shepperton where Friday night is usually a little bluesy. It was;

This is ’20 yards Behind’ and when they came on they started with an in your face version of ‘The Blues had a baby and they called it Rock ‘n roll’ and then followed it up a rousing version of Dr Feelgood’s ‘Down by the Jetty’ taken from their first album.

That’s the one with the black and white photo’s and the sound in uncompromising mono.

Wilco Johnson, battling pancreatic cancer, is alive and still kicking, with an album high in the charts and a single riding high as I write this.

This was high quality, hardline rhythm and blues, all shaded up and ready for action;


“Its 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a tankful of gas and half a pack of cigarettes. It’s dark and we’re wearing shades - Hit it!”

My only worry throughout the evening was the accordion on the floor - I kept thinking of those banjos. Luckily whenever Rick Mills picked it up the feedback was so ferocious he couldn’t play it.

That meant a lot more of this;

And when we were very lucky some of this;

There was Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and with “I can’t get no Grinding” - Muddy Waters.

My highlight?  That would have to be; ‘There’s a Riot goin’ on down in Cell Block No.9’. Now that could have been Elvis but I don't think so - from the way it was played it sounded to me like the fabulous centre piece of any Dr Feelgood live set.

I’m catching them again, if I can.

And then when I came to leave I found my hat had been stolen. A quick hunt around and I came up with a rather large gent wearing my hat - at least a foot taller than me and probably the same wider.

Got the hat back. Good night that.
Neil Harris

(a don’t stop till you drop production)

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