On John Jones & the Reluctant Ramblers at the Nettlebed Village Club


I will admit that one of the reasons I wanted to join John Jones’ White Horses Walk was that I was fascinated by the scenario:  walk the English countryside from gig to gig–live performances at pubs, clubs or other small venues.  This is the fourth year John Jones has planned these adventures out; this year, he’s done two–the first back in June from the old site of Oysterband’s Big Session Festival to the new, and this one in July, from Goring to the Village Pump Folk Festival.

A gig every night, after a long day’s walk.  Wow.  As I’ve already written, the first day’s walk was from Goring to Nettlebed, over the Thames Path and the Ridgeway,  a distance of twelve or so miles.  The ultimate destination for that evening was the Nettlebed Village Club, home of the Nettlebed Folk Club.  A large open hall with a stage at one end and a bar at the other, the club featured rows of chairs interspersed with small tables for your pint.  Thanks to the marvelous Alison, one of my walking and dinner companions, I ended up in the front row for the show–and a lovely show it was, considering its lead singer, lead guitarist, and fiddle player had all slogged through mud and rain to get to it. (They all looked much better than I did, as I was still sporting Oxfordshire mud from ankles to knees–when the club host asked Ramblers in the audience to raise their hands, I was fairly obvious.)

On this night, John Jones’ Reluctant Ramblers, a band which over four years has had a somewhat fluid

Rowan Godel

membership, was made up of John and Rowan Godel on vocals, Al Scott on lead guitar, Benji Kirkpatrick on bouzouki and banjo, Dil Davies on drums, and Tim Cotterell on fiddle.  John Jones, of course, might be best known for fronting Oysterband, but his solo album, Rising Road, is a gem in its own right; and the night’s music was peppered with offerings from that collection as well as new work.  Rowan Godel provided backup vocals on the CD (she’s also the gorgeous voice on Oysterband’s “Street of Dreams”), and her vocal blendings with John onstage were magic.  Al and Dil are well-known to any Oysterband aficionados.  Tim Cotterell is a performer and producer who recently released a CD (Gatheredwith Nick Burbridge.  Finally, the multi-instrumentalist Benji Kirkpatrick has been

Benji Kirkpatrick

a staple of the big sound of Bellowhead for ages.  A stellar line-up, and one the entire room, myself and all my fellow walkers included, was buzzing to hear.

Hear we did.  John Jones started us off, appropriately, with “Walking Through Ithonside”–a song about walking, by a walker, for a bunch of rabid walkers.  The band did two sets, mostly together, though Rowan Godel, Benji Kirkpatrick, and Tim Cotterell all were featured in their own numbers.  To hear the purity of Rowan’s voice as she offered up an a capella piece–breathtaking.  Tim’s fiddling when he took center stage was more than enough to get even the most tired feet (mine) pounding the floorboards.  And when Benji, after a joking ten minutes (or so he claimed) tuning up the banjo, launched into Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile,” I fell in love, as I’m sure everyone else did as well.

The group meshed well.  It might sound like gushing if I marvel over how well John and Rowan’s voices intertwined…but I found myself holding my breath at the beauty of “Searching for Lambs.”  They were unsettling together for “Boy in the Window,”  a song the lyrics of which have haunted me since I first heard them:

Clocks beat time in a burning hall

And the wicker man burns in the shopping mall

Burning cities on a burning plain

Tears run down the window pane

Tears run down the window pane

Burning cities on a burning plain

Lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely

Go to sleep lonely boy go to sleep my honey

Rowan’s echoing repetition of that last line–an attempt at reassurance in a crazy world–made me feel like crying.

In “Henry Martin,” which does not, on the CD, feature Rowan, she was a surprise and a joy with her harmonies.  (“Henry Martin” was one of a couple of songs John introduced by saying he liked lyrics featuring people running away from home–a theme which appeals to me as well.)  Finally, when the entire bunch threw themselves into “Fire Marengo,” a wild and abandoned piece done by many including Bellowhead, and which appears on Rising Road, the house joined in lustily at John’s urging.  The gig ended with a feeling similar to that at the end of the walk:  we had started the journey as separate entities, but by the end, we were all one.

Marvelous.  Thanks, to John and all the Ramblers, and to all the people with whom I was able to journey to this gig.  Yes.  I will be back.  Next year I’ll go to more than one gig with you all, too.

Postscript:

More on this recent adventure:

On the White Horses Walk

On the Gardens at Hampton Court Castle

On Touring the Herefordshire Countryside in Tiaras

On the Bus and in the Car: Day 4

On Hampstead Heath and Thereabouts

On the Publication Party for the Man on the Bridge

On the Bus: Day 1

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4 Comments

  1. Oh I am so deeply envious! What a wonderful performance you heard, and in such a great venue.

    Like

Trackbacks

  1. On the Old Year « Anne's Awesome Adventures
  2. On Bellowhead: Broadside « Anne's Awesome Adventures

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