It’s unusual, not to say unfashionable, to have certain audience members at a gig perform the duties of ‘light monitor’, ‘drinks monitor’ and even ‘window monitor’. But staging an event is always more complicated than the average punter realizes, it’s just that they’re more upfront about these things at the Bacca Pipes folk club in Keighley.
The cellar at the Ukranian Club doesn’t have a bohemian ambience, or even the cosiness of a living room, but the 25 or so people who were there tonight did their best to overcome this, as they sang, joked and clapped their way through 2 songs apiece from Jim Lawton, Jean Ellison, Mal Jardine and Joe Griffiths, in addition to 2 sets from fiddler, raconteur and singer-songwriter Jim Eldon.
Jim plays on the Yorkshire Belle, a ferry which makes a round trip from Bridlington to Flamborough Head on the East Yorkshire coast throughout the tourist season. Tonight he’s in a different setting, with no chit-chat, motors or seagulls to compete with, and he mixes it up. alternating between fiddle and voice, just voice, just fiddle and even a bit of storytelling towards the end.
Have you ever heard a singer accompany himself on violin? I use the word ‘violin’ cautiously because Jim’s playing and technique are the complete antithesis of the classical approach. he holds the thing halfway down his left arm, the chin rest nowhere near his chin, and plays with a complete lack of finesse. he scrapes a tune in B Major, constantly sounding the open ‘G’ string, completely dissonant but somehow hypnotic, before abruptly stopping with the words ‘ we’d best ‘ave no more o’ that’.
Humour and that unpolished DIY mentality – welcome antidotes to the slick, professional so-called folk music that seems to dominate the scene – are integral parts of Jim’s appeal. A couple of his own classics, ‘I Wish There Was No Prisons’ and ‘Waiting For My Pools Win’, are warmly received. Alternate versions of ‘Birdhouse In Your Soul’ and ‘Red Sails in the Sunset’ are enjoyable novelties, and not surprisingly, the man does a brilliant sea shanty, helped out by many cherry vodka-enhanced voices:
Stormy old weather
Windy Old Weather
When the wind blows
We’ll all pull together