I like traditional music and I also like traditions in music. One that is becoming a fixture is a trip to Hampshire to see Amy Goddard launch her latest album. As with the best traditions there's an order of ceremony to be followed, so a curry in The Verandah in Wickham is a must; it's probably the best Indian restaurant I've ever come across. Arriving early enough for a pint before eating I found that the pub just across the lovely market square was selling a beer called "Day Dreamer" and if that wasn't a good omen for the night I don't know what is.
"Always A Dreamer" is Amy's tribute album to John Stewart, a prolific songwriter best know for writing "Daydream Believer", but he was so much more than that one song. As MC Brian Player told us, in a career spanning 40 years Stewart produced 48 albums and has had a huge influence on Amy's song-writing and career. Certainly she's been interpreting his songs for many years and it's this writer who gave her her love of music stretching right back into her childhood.
The launch was another continuation of a tradition, being at North Boarhunt Social Club which has a good set up for music, with the bar being well separated from the performance area and Amy always produces a good staging for her events. The backdrop may be familiar but the decoration is tailored to each event, so we've seen a Secret Garden and a Mine, this time we had a room. Possibly it was a hotel room, something that must be all too familiar to a musician constantly out on the road. The mood was set by Stewart original vinyls being played on a proper record player.
Another tradition, and a very good one, is inviting local performers to open the evening. Dom Prag is a Southampton based folk singer who has appeared across the country at folk clubs and festivals. His short set, just three songs, showed why he's in demand. Two of his songs were about love, but took very different approaches. "Chemical reaction" looks at the biological side of love, where our bodies go through various chemical changes. It wasn't high romance, but it is a good song. "Young Man On A Ferry" is the more usual form of a love song, linking love to the safety of a vessel making its way on rough seas.
Second up was Amber Harris, who was making her first ever public appearance at the age of 16. In just one song she showed she was there on merit with her smoky, soulful voice receiving a lot of compliments and she performed confidently. I have a feeling she's caught the bug and there will be other evenings in the future.
There are 19 songs on "Always A Dreamer", which Amy wisely decided not to play in full. Instead the first half of the show covered seven off them, including "Daydream Believer" of course but Amy has put her own stamp on it with the final chorus repeats mentioning several other big influences, including our own Neil King and FATEA magazine! It was a heartfelt thank for all the support given to independent artists over many years.
In the past Amy has been joined on stage by several other musicians for songs, including Dad Alan Whitby and husband Matt. Alan did join for several songs and it's heart-warming to see them together. There's always a family atmosphere to Amy's shows and we learnt that Stewart's song "Cody" gave its name to Amy's first dog. We also found out that Matt thinks it fun to change words to songs so that Amy might just get them wrong on the night! That kind of information turns the whole evening into a gathering of friends rather than a performance and is something Amy does better than anyone.
On this occasion, though, there was something new as Daniella Johnson joined as a duo partner. Both have very good voices with an excellent range so harmonise really well, and can switch roles within a song. Also joining, another first time performance, was Jennifer Cann on piano and ukulele. The dynamic between the three worked so well and expanded out Amy's songs that I hope it's something that will be explored further in the future, as I think it has some real potential.
The second half of the show visited Amy's growing back catalogue, opening with "Just Be You" and my personal favourite "Make You Whole". These songs tell you a lot about Amy and how much music means to who she is; it's always lovely to hear them. There was also a solo song from Daniella, with Amy and Jennifer providing the music, Alan returning for "Dreamers On The Rise" and then a couple of 80s power ballads with a twist. "Holding Out For A Hero" became a country song, sung by Daniella, and has a completely different feel sung this way. "Total Eclipse Of The Heart" was accompanied by mass mobile phone lights being waved; lighters for the 21st Century and smoke alarms perhaps, but still a good effect.
Back to a personal level Amy did a solo version of Stewart's "Brining Down The Moon" the first song she ever played live, at a singaraound at Bideford Folk Festival and the start of the amazing journey that's now seen three albums, an EP and a FATEA Song of The Year award. There is, I know, a lot more to come.
Many people present had been to Amy's launches and performances in the past but the general consensus was that this one was special. Amy was happy and relaxed throughout, with plenty of smiles and jokes reflecting her growing confidence and assurance as both a writer and performer.
The album is, obviously, now released and available through the website and I will recommend it. Other people have produced albums based on one writer but this is a tribute and, I think, also a thank you to somebody who has had such an influence on who Amy Goddard is today. Combined with the beautiful singing it deserves to be widely heard..
Tony Birch words and pictures
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