Very Thankfully Pat Fish is back playing live after having a bit of a scuffle with that cancer malarkey, thankfully so far Pat is winning and looked and sounded in good health at this Songwriters Three show put on by Aldhelm Primitive down in the basement of The Betsey Trotwood by the banks of the River Fleet. This is also now just over 30 years since Pat played his first solo shows rather than full band gigs with The Jazz Butcher. I was one of the people lucky enough to have seen the first 4 solo shows in two nights at Le Troupeau in Paris back in April of 1989 and the basement of The Bestey Trotwood is the closest venue in London to looking the same as Le Troupeau and this crowd was almost as enthusiastic as that French audience was all those years ago.
By the time I had stopped chatting to Pat outside and had got into the Basement Dave Sutherland was already halfway through his set. Dave started his career as both support for and driver and roadie for Bert Jansch and he was introducing Most Of the things We Are when I got in, the song is about Cancer and a friends fight against that awful disease, He had a really nice tone to his guitar playing and as you might expect with his pedigree he is firmly in the English folk troubadour tradition a very thoughtful and thought provoking song.
The next song I heard was all about his years as Bert's driver and his journeys home after Dropping Bert off in north west London and going back to Deptford. Only From Vauxhall Tavern To The Deptford Broadway manages to conjure up quite beautiful imagery for a couple of not particularly beautiful parts of town, no matter how cool the Vauxhall Tavern can be on the right night I can't imagine many folk acts playing there.
He closed his set with Going Down To Georgia a great song about riding freight trains in the American South and he got a really good train rhythm going from his guitar to make us feel like we were riding those rails with him and of course while he was playing it we could hear an actual train going by on the Rail tracks that follow the course of the River Fleet just to add a nice touch of authenticity to it.
Next on was Matthew Edwards and one Unfortunate in the form of Craigus Andrew Barry on guitar for most of the set. Matthew is back from San Francisco for a short UK and French tour to continue the promotion for his latest album The Birmingham Poets which was also the first song they played with its sardonic references to his original hometown and the poets that emerged from there.
Ungainly sounded anything but Ungainly with some lovely playing from both Matthew and Craigus really bringing the emotions in the song to life. By this point there was a fair amount of in-between song banter about Birmingham mainly and how Matthew now felt Beside Myself and well how he has a desire to tell the truth which of course isn't always easy.
After a little dig or two at Craigus for his Amish styling they did Folklore that certainly tells an interesting tale or two as Craigus tried not to drop all his plectrums while playing it. Then came Ghost from Matthews first album a song about his partner at the time leaving him pretty much in the middle of the night a real-life ghosting and quite a sad tale really.
Matthew then asked if anyone knew what California Can You Wait was about or could tell him afterwards, well it didn't sound like a song about wild fires and hollyweird paranoia but it could have easily been that, but I doubt it, to find out the truth you may have to buy Matthew a beer and ask him nicely about it.
The next song was kind of for all the Brummies in the audience including the promoter Guy Haslam as they played a pretty cool version of Birmingham before Craigus switched to Omnichord for the final song of the set Our Boldest Daughter and the sounds he got out of the omnichord made the song have a very Nick Drake sound to it and of course it's great watching what you have to do to play this early synth style instrument a great way to end a nice set.
After the break Pat Fish came on and sat down to play and after introducing the first song as being a new song realized he had no sound coming from the really cool Gretsch Electromatic he was playing, so once the amp had been taken off standby, Pat opened with a new song The Highest In The Land that takes aim at some of the people who seem to want to run our country it had a good sardonic take on the state of things.
Black Raoul was introduced as being a song about a tiger which may have exaggerated Raoul's breed a touch, but this was a very cool version with some lovely playing on that Gretsch.
Pat then played the first cover in his set and apologized for playing covers at a songwriters show but when you've chosen to play a song as cool as Peter Blegvads Gold how could anyone complain and yes it really is the loneliest of metals a very cool version.
Pat then took us down to the Fishcoteque for a very cool version of Keeping The Curtains Closed which I'm sure more of us want to do these days than we may have once wanted too. He then reworked Shame About You a little bit into a wonderfully stark tale about his Lovely and where she may have gone.
Last Of The Gentleman Adventurers call to avoid ending up in the sunshine retirement home has a lot more poignancy both since his own illness and also from my own time spent visiting my mum in a similar home this song came close to reducing me to tears a beautiful version.
The intro to Melanie Hargreaves Fathers Jaguar explained how he got the song title from a conversation he had and it's a good story and of course a great song about cars getting torched that was followed by a really nice version of The Human Jungle that as ever made me smile.
Pat then played a song I requested while chatting to him outside as the first time I'd heard him singing about Elephants was at Le Troupeau 30 years ago and as ever I had to ask Pat to confirm the song is actually called Water rather than the Elephant song. Lets all make sure the Elephants can get a drink of water.
So how long has Pat had a thing for Shirley Maclaine well a lot longer than he's been singing this classic song for and it still sounds like a wonderful tribute. He then closed the set with a new song called Never Give Up that has a certain amount of wisdom in it in the fight to carry on and keep having a good life and it also managed to confuse me a bit with a chorus that goes "Well girl, it's not Condition Blue" but it's a great tune that really needs to be heard.
The rammed to the rafters crowd gave Pat the applause he deserved and he came back for an encore that was dedicated to all the musical heroes that have left us recently and he played a wonderful cover of Daniel Johnston's True Love Will Find You In The End that pretty much everyone sang along to that added a good bit of poignancy to this wonderful song.
Pat wasn't getting away with just one encore and soon had to come back for a second one that again got us all singing along this time to She's On Drugs and well these days who can blame her. Still no one wanted to leave and Pat had to play a third encore and finally gave into audience demand as two songs had been requested consistently through the set and no he didn't play Diamorphine but he did make sure lots of people were very happy to hear Love Kittens that had almost a choir like feel to the chorus as so many people joined in it was a great way to close another great solo set.