This week the folk world marks the sad passing of Al Cappella, one of the most influential singers ever to grace the floorboards of our great clubs. Who can forget the sight of him standing there, eyes closed, gob open, pint in hand and waistcoat akimbo as the last verse of Fields of Athen Rye once again rang out. And yet, he had, Gentle Reader, a secret.
He had views.
Thoughts, even. These thoughts he committed to parchment, but not public gaze.
As his executor, I came upon Al’s wisdom hidden in an old shoe box beneath his bed next to a harmonica and a chamber pot. A tough choice in the middle of the night.
So what wisdom did he leave?
Be welcome Gentle Reader and read on…
The main news this week is that we have been working very, very hard on our set for The Croxdale Folk Club. For your edification, FG will be at Croxdale, held in The Daleside Arms on Tuesday the 28th February. You can find out where it is here.
We will be playing a full set, and will indeed be using the much heralded bass pedals. But not to excess…
Work on recording the charity CD continues, but less so this week due to aforementioned practicing and re-arranging. Which brings me to…
Last night we headed out for Acoustic Chums’ jiva’s house for an exceptionally pleasant evening of chat, music and good food prepared by Val’s fair mitts. We sang each other nwew songs, traded ideas, discussed venues, made plans – all the usual in fact, and as usual, highly enjoyable. But – I’d taken a sampler CD of some of our rent recordings which Jimmy subjected to forensic analysis via his 5.1 super deluxe, hi-fidelity, hoojamaflip doobriedido stereophonical reproductive system. And forensic it certainly was, it really projected everything that we had been doing in the studio and in the main I was pretty happy with the results, some level tweaking to be done, Val said the lead guitar needed to be turned right up [ 🙂 ] otherwise not too bad.
Apart from my vocal line in one song which was just not quite ‘in’ and sounded horrendous!
Ah me, just as well to find out now. But this will probably cost more than the little time it will take to fix, wait until Carol sees the new hi-fi I want…
My guides on surviving folk clubs have proved popular. Only last week I received an email from an Acoustic Chum sent from his hospital bed, to tell me just how much use the last guide had been. With such success in mind, I propose, Gentle Reader to further enlighten you should you be a novice performer or visitor to our great and glorious folk clubs. I shall extract from the great Al Cappella’s secret diaries and share with you the insight of the great man. Take it from me, if you take notice of the words of wisdom below, you will be noticed and have an unforgettable time.
In a spidery hand, Al wrote back in 1965:
On your first visit to a folk club, you will struck by a number of unusual observations.
Folk clubs have an unwritten dress code. It states that:
a) If you can get into it, it fits.
b) If bits of you stick out of it, they aren’t yours
c) If it is still more or less in one piece, you can wear it.
You will notice that the great British folk club is the last bastion of the waistcoat. Not in any effete three piece suit manifestation of this illustrious garb, in fact a suit is the only thing you must not wear.
Waistcoats come in three main varieties.
a) The Standard, dark or grey suit-less WC. This should be worn over something it was not originally designed to be paired with. A T-Shirt, collarless shirt or an ordinary shirt of doubtful morality are all good choices
b) The Advanced. This can be brocade, padded, mustard, maroon, gold buttoned or otherwise a fancy manifestation of The Standard. If you elect for The Advanced Waistcoat, you will command instant respect and not be expected to be able to sing.
c) The Leather. This should only be worn by advanced folkies; generally by those who have little understanding of what a motor cycle or a Village Person is. You will be expected to be able to sing, but no-one will be surprised if you can’t.
You will notice by now, that the writing of Al has had a profound influence on my own style. Funny that.
In 1981, his diary notes the following as he muses on the folk club…
You will become aware that the folk club is the haunt of the strange bloke in the sweatshirt. Or most of him will be in the sweatshirt, the remaining bits will in fact be some distance beyond the outer reaches of the sweatshirt. Do not approach.
Casting your eyes about the room, which will either be very cold or very, very hot, your gaze will alight several times upon The Diva. Folk Clubs are in this sense unique as the term Diva is non-gender dependent. In fact there are far more male Diva’s to be found than female ones. I should know. Each club in fact has a resident Diva, and he or she will graciously acknowledge the existence of visiting divas before sneakily widdling in their pint.
You will notice, depending on the club type a number of little tiny suitcases under tables or perched upon knees. Fear not, this does not mean that room has been invaded by a herd of itinerant ventriloquists, rather these little cases contain The Melodeon. There are many, many different types of melodeon, yet all produce precisely the same effect on the sphincter.
And with those words of wisdom, and hoping to see you all at Croxdale on Tuesday, I notice the end of the blog looms; so as the ‘Best of..’ CD of hope hits the bargain bucket of reality, and the price reduction of shame reminds us that we are not in it for the money, I notice that it is the end of this blog.
Until next time Acoustic Chums,