After January 2021’s me-fest (a poem for every place I’ve lived – 31 in all) I’m looking in another direction this time and I welcome you to join in, contribute, come along for the ride. The plan just now is to focus on songs and, in particular, songs that I came across at the fortnightly folk club that I went to when we lived in the small Scottish/Angus town of Montrose (2004-18). I don’t know if there will be poems this time (maybe, maybe not, let’s see how it goes...). The idea for this focus came to me recently when I was listening to our music library on shuffle and heard a lovely song by a singer/songwriter that we heard at the club a few times (the first time in 2005). I hadn’t heard the song for a while (maybe years) and forgotten how lovely it was. Here’s the song (performed by the writer and his music/life partner – they perform as a duo, Dana & Susan Robinson, they live in Vermont, U.S.A):
There are quite a few folk songs called Safe Home, I think, but that’s my favourite (so far). And of course home has been something we've all had to think about more than ever in recent times. And it has been a really challenging time for musicians, especially those who aren’t mega famous and who rely on live gigs to keep their profile up and their fridges anything like full.
At folk clubs like the one in Montrose you get a mix of artists as the guest performers. You hear quite a lot of tunes/instrumental numbers (and I learned to appreciate them, folk club novice that I was in 2004) but it was always the songs that I was most interested in. Like many of us (maybe even most of us) I’ve been a song fan as long as I can remember and my tastes go pretty wide. At the folk club the songs played come under one of the following categories:
- Traditional songs (where most often the writers are ‘unknown’, Robert Burns kind of sneaks into this one as well though, he’s pretty unavoidable in Scotland).
- Songs by ‘big hitter’ songwriters of the 20th century, many of them, but not all, from over the big water to the west (Bob Dylan, Tracy Chapman, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, John Prine, Nick Drake, John Martyn etc.).
- The odd rock/pop song cover (and the more daring the act the more pop they go … a Fife band called Coaltown Daisies used to do a good Titanium when they visited).
- Songs by the visiting artist themselves (a mixed bag – sometimes amazing, sometimes less so, though of course these things are subjective).
- Songs by other less well-known songwriters (people who are only known on the folk scene or maybe not even known there).
I’m currently reliving my trips to the folk club in Montrose (back to those pesky/useful diaries again) and trying to pick 31 songs to write about (again one for every day in January). I’m trying to focus on songs in the 4 and 5 category (but I may creep into 2 now and again as well) and I’m going to try to contact the songwriters (where possible). There are songwriters who may have been in 4 or 5 when I first went to folk club in 2004 but who have so many great songs that they are now making their way into category 2. The final piece of the puzzle is that I’d like people to have a go at covering the songs in question and doing a rough recording if they can (rough is good). It’s a collective project I’m talking about here… a folk club, a ‘sing in the round’ kind of a thing, if you like. On YouTube.
So please get in touch if you’re a folk clubber and have any particular memories of songs you heard at the club and have never forgotten (comment on here or on Facebook or wherever you find yourself – I keep trying to get off Facebook but so many of you are still only there and I don’t want to lose you!). Or if you fancy having a go at covering one of the songs let me know that too (very alternative versions always welcome). There is plenty of time to practise before January. I will print up a list of the songs when it’s ready (I’m on the 2008 diary today so it might be a couple of weeks till I’m done).
Safe home (unless you’re already at home in which case just thanks for reading).