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Saturday, 29 September 2012

Josienne, Ben, Sam and Hannah go vintage at the Green Note

At a time where the young are often jobless and as a result the golden "olden days" telescope backwards from the 1980s, everything retro and handmade has recently grown an undeserved glamour. This has got to be a good thing for the Green Note in Camden, where the same red velvet curtains appear to have been hanging for at least the past thirty years, their folds retaining the flavours of delicious vegetarian meals long eaten and - if you listen carefully - pockets of music from the folk dimension linger, to be emitted in faintly fluorescing puffs as the lights dim.

The place has a kind of magic.

My friend David Firn came along with his camera to try and capture some of it the other night, when Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker supported Sam Sweeney and Hannah James. He previously did the same at The Old Queen's Head for O'Hooley and Tidow and Bella Hardy, with some success, I think.

Ben jumped up early to re-tune his guitars again, producing nods of agreement between Josienne and Michelle, Ben's girlfriend, that this was a symptom of his, um, fastidiousness when it comes to anything with strings.

Josienne (above) and Ben had tailored their set to the idea that they were at a folk club, which on the one hand meant that they gave a reverence to the standards. We got Silver Dagger - beloved of folky fathers everywhere for the line "My daddy is a handsome devil" - Green Grows the Laurel and an encore of Who Knows Were the Time Goes? On the other hand, they've just started doing a version of Dolly Parton's Jolene but left it off the list for being insufficiently trad, which made me droop a little with disappointment.

A good song is a good song, whatever accent it comes wrapped in. You can hear their stunning recorded version here.

That's Josienne doing her thing.

By the way, if you carry on down that Soundcloud playlist, you may well find that the two of them have written a superb country song called Homemade Heartache. It's been covered several times already, despite being only a year old.

Sam Sweeney and Hannah James had driven down from Sheffield for the gig.

These two are only in their late twenties but have a timelessness about them. Sam is the multi-instrumentalist whose wild fiddling kicks off Bellowhead's New York Girls so that the hairs stand up on the back of your neck (complete there with a ludicrous introduction by Jools Holland, also a classic of its kind). And Hannah, whose stately accordian and unerringly tuneful voice are set off by the precision and muscularity of her clogging. 

There is an attractively closed quality to her: she has a stage presence like a tiny fist. It's as if the two of them were reincarnated from somewhere where all the light is sepier and dray horses still rule the cobbles. And I know it's not Sheffield because I was there recently...

Congratulations on your engagement to a long-haired forest ranger, Hannah.

He was at the back, near the bar.

And there's the set list, which saves me the trouble of running through it. Something really unusual about Sam and Hannah's sound is that sometimes it's really hard telling the accordian part from the  fiddle as they wrap around each other, which is surprising when you think how unalike the two instruments are.

Things we learned during the course of the evening included that there is a place near Shrewsbury where the bunting is knitted (Woolverhampton?), Hannah has a diary with a picture of Alan Titchmarsh on the front, and that until Sam took part in something called Men on the Fiddle recently, no one had ever referred to him within his hearing as "a man".

Other reminders of his youthfulness included that when he was growing up he believed the term "primadona" referred to anything that had taken place before the advent of Madonna, the singer.

I know.

He also speaks good French and once, we were told, introduced a gig entirely in that language, which seemed to go well, right up to he point at which it turned out that the word for "ring" is easy to confuse with the word for "sheep". Clarification arrived in the form of 600 French-speaking people baa'ing at him.

This gig was wonderful, there was no baa'ing this time and if you missed it the good news is that Sam and Hannah have been invited back to the Green Note early next year. Get in.

* You can check out the Green Note's forthcoming gigs here. Ben and Josienne are playing there again on October 15.

* If you'd like to receive posts from this blog directly into your Facebook news feed you could *like* its Facebook page. Or you could follow me on Twitter @emma1hartley

1 comment:

  1. A pedant writes:

    Late twenties? Hannah is just 25 (last week) and Sam is even younger! Sam is only 23! :-)


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