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Jennifer Crook

Venue: Twickfolk
Town: Twickenham
Date: 08/5/16

In 2014, the year of Pete Seeger's death, his half sister Peggy Seeger, paid tribute to her brother by suggesting that folk clubs up and down the country should record themsleves singing "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?" with all proceeds from that evening being dedicated, via Armistice Pals, to the British Red Cross, the Malala Fund, the Tim Parry/Jonathan Ball Foundation For Peace, and Peace Through Folk. Twickfolk, a music club in Twickenham ran an open mic night, and at the end of the evening put together a rousing performance and the resultant video was put on youtube and Peggy Seeger herself commented that she really appreciated the video.

During the earlier part of that evening, all the musicians there got to do a solo spot, all really wonderful performances, but one song, performed by Kate Rouse, really impressed me. Playing on her hammered dulcimer, Kate sang a song, which she introduced as having been recently written and recorded by a friend of hers. The song was "Carnforth Station", the site where the 1945 film "Brief Encounter" was filmed. Loved the song, but I completely forgot the name of the author. Kate (along with Daria Kulesh, who was also at that Twickfolk charity event), are members of a band called Kara, and I was so taken with both of them, that I've since seen them three times. Again, at one of those gigs they played "Carnforth Station", and again I managed to forget who wrote it.

Just glancing through the interweb, I noticed that there was someone playing at Twickfolk called Jennifer Crook, noticed she played a harp, which appealed to me, so I looked a little further, and discovered that the title of her third album was "Carnforth Station", so I realised I simply had to go and see her. Talked to her before the gig, explained how I knew the song, and put in a request for it. It was only later, when I visited the merch desk that I realised that the tour was named "The Carnforth Station Tour" so I must have looked stupid requesting a song that was clearly going to be on the set list, but Jennifer was gracious enough not to make me feel like an idiot.

The support was Camilla Larsen, a Norwegian who comes from a place called Hell. She opened with a Liz Simcock song (claiming that she is probably the only person in Norway who knows Liz), and also did a cover of a Ryan Adams song, but the rest of her material she had written herself. For some reason, the pick up on the D string of her guitar had developed a buzz, so after the first two songs, she switched to being completely unplugged. She thought that the guitar had suffered from the change in environment between Norway and England. Her song "Euston Train Station" is about being a long way from home, though of course, many people might argue that Euston Train Station is a lot nearer to Hell than might appear on a map. Very impressive the way she coped with the technical difficulty. Would definitely have bought an album from the merch desk, but stupidly I'd only brought enough money to buy one album, and I was not intending to leave without a copy of Jennifer's third album.

Jennifer has apparently played three times at Twickfolk before, but this was the first time I had seen her. Sad I missed her previous visits, but I'll try not to to miss her again. She was billed this time as "The Jennifer Crook Duo" and was accompanied by guitarist and accordian player Mike Cosgrave. Mike appears on her latest album, along with cellist Beth Porter.

I adored Mike's dry wit. Paul Vile, the evening's Master of Ceremonies introduced her by saying that this was her fourth visit, each time accompanied by someone else. Jennifer took to the stage and said how nice it was to be invited back, and Mike butted in "I wonder if I'll ever get to know how that feels." At the interval, Paul announced who was playing in the forthcoming weeks, and announced that Twickfolk would be closed one week due to the rugby. (Whenever there is a major rugby match at Twickenham Stadium, the town is more or less forced to close due to the massive influx of supporters). Mike then said, "Did I hear correctly? There's going to be rugby here?" He pointed out the health and safety issues involved in trying to play a match between the pillars. Jennifer then explained that Mike was always confused by modern living and cited an example of how he had been puzzled by Reading Service station selling scarecrows. Mike then described a potential boardroom scenario where someone had to confess that they had accidentally over produced scarecrows and how the situation could be resolved by exploiting a gap in the market for scarecrow buying consumers on the M3. Think I'm with Mike on that one. Does seem a very strange thing to sell at a garage.

Apart from his wit, Mike was also a brilliant musician, switching effortlessly between accordion and guitar. An example of just how good he is was the song "May Madness". On her first album, "Merry-Go-Round", made with Boo Hewerdine, Jennifer had written a song called "Come September". She got the idea of writing a song for each month, so this year she is writing and recording a new track each month, with the aim of releasing an album at the end of the year - a kind of Vivaldi's Four Seasons with greater resolution. She had just recorded her May song and played it to Mike for the first and only time that morning. He had had no rehearsal, never played it before, and had only heard it once, so as he said, there was a fair chance of it being a train wreck, but of course, they both played it as well as if they'd been playing it for years.

Jennifer too was brilliant. I had gone with very high expectations, and she surpassed them. As well as the harp that I had seen in the original picture that had attracted my attention, she also plays guitar and banjo. She bought the banjo at a bluegrass festival, and on getting it home she realised that she didn't know how to play it, so she sat down and wrote a song with it in order to learn how to use it. The song was called "Black Fly" and, accompanied by accordion, is exquisitely beautiful. I was also blown away with how beautiful "The Net" and "Apples" were, and, to be frank, everything she played. She did include one bluegrass song in her set list, "I've Forgotten Everything", but just to be different, she plays that on her harp rather than a banjo.

Always impressed with how Twickfolk manage to attract such excellent talent. This time they excelled themselves.

Set List - Camilla Larsen
By The Way (Liz Simcock)
Johnson's Cafe
Euston Train Station
Oh My Sweet Carolina (Ryan Adams)
I Won't Say I Love You

Set List - Jennifer Crook Duo
One More Day
Carnforth Station
Angel In Disguise
Come September
May Madness
The Net
Long Drive Back Home From Love

A Rose In Morning
Only The River
When Time Stood Still
Cruel Spring
Black Fly
I've Forgotten Everything

One Little Song (Gillian Welch)

We'll Meet Again Sometime

Pete Bradley

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Carnforth Station

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