Live music is about so much more than just the performance and having to travel to the event can become part of the experience. It so happened that the launch of Amy Goddard's EP coincided with the first warm, sunny day of spring which made the drive down to Hampshire and through the lovely scenery of the Meon Valley, with friends, a real treat. Serendipity also played its part when a quick Google search and reprogramming of the satnav meant we found one of the best Indian restaurants, the Veranda of Wickham, I've ever visited and there have been a few. I could probably write a whole review on it and the rather pretty market town its to be found in but if you're ever in the area, do give it a try.
Once fed and watered a short drive took us to the venue for the night, the North Boarhunt Social Club is well appointed and looks out over green fields. Amy has used it before, for the “Secret Garden” album launch where we were led into a magical fairy dell. This time we entered a mine, the stage decked out with black material although the sparkles suggested there were diamonds in with the coal. It's that attention to detail that turns a show into a performance. The audience for the night were mainly friends and family so there was plenty of talking and mixing, saying hello to people you've not seen for a while, which generated a really happy and relaxed atmosphere before we settled down for the night.
George Wilson, well known on the south coast folk scene, opened the evening with a short but excellent set of songs and plenty of comedy mixed in. Whilst not a writer himself he certainly knows how to recognise a good tune and for me the stand out of his set was “Angel of Mercy” by Ron Trueman-Border, a song that has been described as “the Street of London for the 21st Century”. I'm amazed I've never heard it before as it is at least as good as its better known comparator but with a much harder edge.
Amy's first set was the EP sung through, mainly solo but with Dad Alan and husband Matt joining her on stage for a couple of the songs. With all the awards won, including FATEA Song of the Year 2016, and sets at Cambridge Folk Festival Amy has every right to go forward with a lot of confidence and that reflected in this event as she she looked very relaxed and happy, there were even some jokes during the set which was lovely to see.
The songs she's written for this album including “Aberfan”, the award winner, and “Green Is The Colour”, which opened the evening, show what many of us have known for a long time, that Amy is a writer of real quality and this exploration of mining related music has really given her the chance to fully explore the human condition. Her delicate voice, with that hint of vulnerability to it, is perfect for representing those who never get a fair crack of the whip because the circumstances of their lives condemn them to always being the underdog.
In releasing a whole EP of mining songs Amy didn't restrict herself to just the UK, or just coal. Dylan's “North Country Blues” fitted in perfectly and we really wouldn't have minded hearing all ten verses. By this stage everybody was enjoying the music so much we wouldn't have minded anything that would have kept the evening going for as long as possible.
The first half finished with a mining song not on the EP, Paul Metsers' “Farewell To The Gold”, and for this Amy had all her guests on stage; as well as those already mentioned Dave Phillips joined in. It's a song with a chorus that needs plenty of voices and they certainly did it justice. After a break to refresh glasses, Dave opened the second half and also gave a short but very good set of songs. It was starting to become a real folk club atmosphere.
Amy's second half featured some familiar songs from previous releases including the very sweet “Morning Train”, which is a song about her travelling from Cardiff to Portsmouth when she and, now husband, Matt were courting and the dramatic “Lover's Leap” for which Matt joined her on stage and in best Marcel Marceau fashion demonstrated the mimed version which helps him remember the words. We got some new songs including “The Hedgehog Song”, inspired by Matt's comment that Amy be a little prickly on occasions! He may have wished there was still a train journey between them after saying it but it produced another song that is full of charm and gentle humour. Of course no Amy Goddard set would be complete without her version of Bruce Springsteen's “Dancing In The Dark” and it's a version I really enjoy. Stripped of its stadium rock persona there are some very touching lyrics.
Yes, the encore was already on the set list but was still warmly and genuinely wanted by the crowd. Everyone came back on stage for Mervyn Vincent's “Farewell Shanty” and a fair number of the audience were familiar enough with it to join in. It was a fittingly beautiful end to the evening and there were plenty of memories to talk about on the trip home. It was a lovely day!
The EP is now released and is available through Amy's website. If you enjoy traditional songs, mining songs or just good music in general it come highly highly recommended and keep an eye out for new releases including possibly another EP. and the third album which is being recorded, in the future. There may be a few more trips to Hampshire.
Words and photos: Tony Birch
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