So when last week went horribly wrong for me, it wasn’t just the Pathwalkers send-off gig in Brinklow I had to worry about. I was also playing a feature set at the Shakespeare the following Tuesday. Ian Bourne has been working to build a mid-week acoustic show there for some months now and I was pleased yesterday evening to see his work is beginning to pay off. We had a good crowd, who were also an audience (which isn’t always guaranteed!)
Part of what Ian offers to the people he books is a recording of the set, and that’s really useful for someone without their own gear at home. My entire SoundCloud was recorded by Ian, and beyond that, being able to hear what you sounded like to the audience every few months is a really good tracking system for technique improvements. But of course I was going into it without my primary guitar, so I thought this would be an opportunity to take Oak out in public for the first time. John at Noise Works had serviced him and given him a proper setup, and it was time to find out how he played through a PA.
I was up last, so I got to watch and make notes (or I would have if I’d remembered my note pad: bad blogger, no biscuit!). First act was Sylvia de Sousa from up Leicester way, with a strong, lyrical pop set that was either mostly or entirely original (I’m not knowledgeable in the genre to be able to tell). She has a lovely voice and employs it fearlessly: I’d like to hear her rhythm work and vocals supported by a back-line some time. Mr. Keith Fabrique is well-known about Coventry and always a pleasure to see out and about. Playing accomplished and occasionally esoteric blues and rock’n’roll numbers he can always bring a smile and usually gets a few people up for a bop. Then we had James Richards, who I’ve known around the open mic scene for a while. His guitar accomplishment has started to catch up with his vocal strength, and there were a couple of new numbers I hadn’t heard before, both delivered expressively and competently. Impressed! Last up was Lydia Scarlett, delivering a sound part-way between lyrical rock and something more urban, with a really cracking voice to carry it. Her vocals are expressive and emotive, with a blues edge to the timbre that I for one really liked. I enjoyed the original numbers, as well, but the stand-out was a slow-acoustic cover of Sweet Child o’Mine; I’m an 80s child and I’m not ashamed to admit it.
Learning to play Oak has been quite interesting, as Stephen Fry might put it. Not only has it been a long time since I played a twelve regularly, but I’m a different guitarist and Oak is a very different guitar. I used to think of twelves as mostly adding volume when acoustic and richness to chords, but I’m increasingly realising that Oak wields more like a mandocello on steroids. I’m having a lot of fun learning to be precise enough to abuse the lovely, lovely arpeggios that I can make if I get the flat-picking sequences right (which is, let me say, a complete pain in the proverbial to actually do…) But there’s definitely a few songs that he’s already made his own. I’m quite looking forward to hearing the recordings from this one, as it was my first chance to put oak through a PA, and I want to know if I have to get my left hand strong enough to play Roll On By on Oak by the 11th of July…  Ian kindly leant me his lovely six-string for my fingerstyle numbers, and the audience response certainly suggested that Oak went down pretty well front-of-house. Thank you to Ian, the other musicians and the audience at the Shakespeare for a pretty happy Tuesday!
All photographs © Ian Bourne Music.