Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Kenneth J Nash & Friends at the Pomfret Arms

The Kenneth J Nash & Friends concert tour, which I'm proud to be a part of, landed at the Pomfret Arms in Northampton on Sunday. Playing out in the barn at the back of the building on a windy afternoon, several musicians , one band and two poets performed to a modest but approving audience--which included my friend Martyna's daughter, who can be seen running in and out of shot on at least one of the videos filmed at the show. This tour is growing in style and confidence already, and we've only done two gigs.

I can't single out star performers because I genuinely liked them all. Star moments? Ken Nash performing 'Like A River', the chorus dreamed Coleridge-like by his mother Carol. Jay Jones' song 'White Feathers', which all of us were impressed by. Jono Bell's beautiful ukulele song for lost friends. Chris Browne's exceptional guitar playing. Curtis E. Johnson generally. Sheila Mosley's self-penned song in defence of the NHS (she said she doesn't write many, but if that's any measure of her talent she should). And Bridged, the three-piece rock band from Thrapston. I cadged a free ep from them at the end of their set; I'll write about it here when I have time.

The only poet on the bill this time, other than yours truly, was the Bard of Northampton, Nathan Jones. I invited Nathan to top the bill when I curated the spoken word stage at Woodfest this year because he's a very good performer. His poems mix light and shade in a way that's perfect for performance, and he never strains for the laughs, even though he's funny. The judges at the Picnic made a good choice when he was awarded the big blue cape of Bardage.

Next stop on the tour is the Carpenter's Arms in Irchester on Saturday night. In a month this fabulous band of travelling musicians and poets return to the Pomfret, and between there's a gig at Market Harborough. The line-up varies from time to time so even if you've seen it once, come out again and have another look. Some of the greatest talent locally will be playing for you.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Chris Browne BrowneProject

This is 'Silver Sun' by Chris Browne. He's from Rushden in Northamptonshire and usually he busks on the streets around the county (although lately he's played indoors a few times with the 'Kenneth J. Nash and Friends' travelling show).

Chris has an album out called 'Busker Rhyme', which you can get on iTunes (I think that's how you spell it). And next weekend he's auditioning for 'Britain's Got Talent'. I hope he does well. If there's any justice he should blow the competition out of the room--although he's far too nice a bloke to want to blow anybody anywhere.

Watch this for proof of what I'm saying. He's a hell of a guitar player. And he's singing this one at the audition.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Songs of Experience: 'the fall of Eden' by Kenneth J. Nash

There's not much that satisfies more than getting an album as good as Kenneth J. Nash's 'the fall of Eden' in the mail for review. His last, 'the brewer and the dealer' (I think that was in lower case too), was a sophisticated pleasure indeed; nothing I heard in 2013 surpassed it, although anyone who knows me will be aware of the enthusiasm I have for Dubvocaliza and the Scrumpy Bastards. But if anything, 'the fall of Eden' is an advance on Ken's last outing, with mesmerising production (by Mr. Nash himself) matching quietly dramatic songs of love, loss, memory, death and renewal. Here is an artist who has been through several circles of Hell and come out on the other side a better, because more humble, man.

Instrumentation is one of the keys to the beauty of this album. Mandolin, Irish whistle, cello and double bass give songs a full, luscious sound that recalls (to this poet) the aesthetic joys of the Island folk output of the early 70s, as well as nodding towards contemporary Americana; and to seduce you even further, Ken adds to these church bells and the sea. The waves, seemingly recorded at Brighton by Ken's cohort JM Jones (a considerable musician in his own right) come at the end of 'the way that she moved', a song in which Ken's gifts as a poet also show themselves. He describes an old lover (we presume) who 'just couldn't dance' but moved wonderfully anyway, guided by some inner grace. In the first verse she's listening to bad music, 'singing along out of tune with her long hair falling about'. How great is that? Then she's dancing under fairy lights in the night. I've had that image in my head all day now.

Lyrical marvels are everywhere, though, not least in 'Strong', probably the most naked song on the album musically, vocally and emotionally. We can guess at the story behind this from the dedications on the sleeve; no need to go into it too pruriently. But we all have loved ones who are 'sleeping on the other side', and some of them left in such a way that it's a fair question to ask, 'Would you be born again if you could?' Ken Nash reads William Blake and hangs out with poets as well as guitar players; but he can hold his own with the best of us.

The musicians playing on 'the fall of Eden' are too numerous to mention. Let it suffice that as a unit and individually there's no finer bunch on the circuit. One note should be added: Fran Taylor sings with Ken again and weaves her lovely voice around his in a way that she now owns completely. Busking these songs, the two of them might stop traffic on Abington Street--if the borough council ever finish the roadworks to make their benighted de-pedestrianisation something more than a massively unpopular dream.

'the fall of Eden' is available from or--I believe--at Ken's gigs. And you're bound to see him somewhere, sooner or later. This is an artist who works so hard he makes Bob Dylan's tour itinerary look positively lazy.