Roots Vibes

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Fri 1st December : Good Guy Hank + Blue Lass @ Cluny2
Words/photos Juan Fitzgerald

With the first falls of snow on this celebratory 38th anniversary evening at the beginning of December, the warmth of the people, the wonderful music and the small heater on the side of the stage, meant we were on for one of Jumpin Hot Clubs best night of 2023 at Cluny 2. Increment weather was also a factor to this year’s Country Cantina in Easington Co Durham but both these ‘new to Jumpin Hot Club’ acoustic bluegrass act’s rose above the rain & high force winds out in deepest Durham during the summer, & many who witnessed Good Guy Hank & Blue Lass there , made the rather hazardous journey up to the Ouseburn tonight, such was their highly skilled performances. The Jumpin Hot Club was astonishingly 38 years old tonight & has championed & showcased many young local up & coming acts over the years. Although Blue Lass featured only one local lass (Philippa who was actually playing her farewell show tonight ) they were probably as good as the very best newbies & thrilled with their self – penned & traditional bluegrass fayre and what great musicianship too. Favouring the now standard, all around one – single mic routine, in close harmony ( as Good Guy Hank did ) they featured Philippa (fiddle ) Ruth( banjo) Abbey (mandolin) & Holly ( guitar) and Vince sitting in at the back on Double Bass. Stand out‘s were Abbey’s composition “Neon Lights “ all about coming back after a tiring but exquisite festival to her home comforts, then a lovely rendition of the Molly Tuttle tune “Crooked Tree” & a classy romp through the traditional old – timey song “Long Gone” to finish their set off. The band are about to record an EP which was crowd funded , as is the modern way, & that could be even accessed with a QI code. A juxtaposition if ever there was one.
Headliner’s and a few years ahead of Blue Lass in their music career were Good Guy Hank who had braved the roads from Perth, Scotland to get here. I doubt you’ll see much better musician’s here than Melbourne born Pepi (fiddle, mandolin) and Theo (double bass, guitar) or a better country roots singer than Donny, and the grand some is one of the finest acoustic trio’s you’ll come across. Heartfelt rootsy compositions of lost love mixed with a retro country cover or two, what’s not to like ??? When the singer was ten years old Donny was given a Mud record “Lonely This Christmas” that inspired him to write a song . That was indeed, many years later turned into the eerie & sparse “Shake down” which sounded pure Perth country soul. Another memorable song was “Esmerelda” and their classy close harmonies that reminded me of the sadly missed Stray Birds. Another song ” 99” was written after a chance meeting with a lady in 1999 and lyrics “I’ve a half empty glass, got to find the girl from 99” then meeting up 22 years later and inevitably their feelings had both changed. It was heartfelt & very country catchy. Bass man Theo switching to acoustic guitar, then took charge with a fast high and lonesome “Down Along The Dixie Line” shredding the guitar bluegrass style that earned him a standing ovation, while the last song was also a lovely innocent song composed by Pepi & written for her family, when her Gran had passed away . “So if your hurting, do not cry for me, smile for me ” . For the encore both bands joined forces for the lovely version of the John Prine tune “Sound Of The Speed Of Loneliness ” A fitting way to celebrate Jumpin Hot Club at 38 years old, and what with a few copies of Shippy’s new book “Where Good Music Belongs” being sold at the door, a winning result for everyone, even in a snowbound Byker !