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Odette Michell

Venue: Twickfolk
Town: Twickenham
Date: 14/04/19

"Hello everybody, and welcome to my party," Odette excitedly cried as she hit the stage, indicating to everyone that this was not going to be an ordinary folk gig. As with many a folk concert, along with the main act there were some floor spots, but, as this was Odette's night, she took over the role of Master of Ceremonies and introduced the other acts herself. Don't think I've ever seen that done before at a folk club.

It was clear that this concert was going to be a sell out from very early on. You can almost guarantee on most nights that there will be tickets available at the door, but advanced ticket sales were massive for this gig, so there was such a risk that tickets would not be available, even I ordered my ticket on line in advance. This was definitely not one I was prepared to risk missing.

Twickenham has a thriving music base - many pubs host music or karaoke night, but the best is the Cabbage Patch. It is a stone's throw from Eel Pie Island, which was basically where blues in the UK was born. Eel Pie Club, hold a blues night at the Cabbage Patch every week, and the Patch also hosts a jazz night each week. On Sunday nights though, (apart from those nights when the town is gridlocked because of Rugby matches), they also host Twickfolk, so the music room at the Patch is accustomed to hosting large groups.

From the size of the advanced sales the Twickfolk organisers knew they were going to have problems fitting everyone in, so, ever ingenious, they rotated the stage through ninety degrees and tucked it into a corner so as to generate more floor space for chairs. As a consequence of this, the stage lighting was now pointing at the side of the musicians rather than straight at them, which I felt made the stage look much more atmospheric than usual.

Odette turned up unannounced at an open mic night at Twickfolk around a year ago in the hope that she'd get to play, unaware that that night Twickfolk were celebrating their 35th anniversary. Not only did she get to play, but one of the songs she did, a cover of Sandy Denny's "Who Know's Where The Time Goes?", completely encapsulated the mood of a club celebrating such a major milestone. Instantly Twickfolk loved her, and instantly she loved Twickfolk. Having mainly played pubs before, having an audience that were attentive and respectful was something that Odette appreciated, so when it came to her album release, she knew that Twickfolk was the place.

Twickfolk does seem to becoming THE place for people to release albums. John Rogers and Paul Vile released their album there earlier this year, and Black Star have an album release coming up later this summer.

Odette introduced the first of the floor spots: Craig Joiner. Craig happily announced that he had new glasses, and couldn't see those at the back, but could now see his guitar neck - an enormous improvement in his opinon. He performed a cover of "The Cottager's Reply" by Chris Wood and then his own composition, "Lolly's Song", about the day his wife, Laura, agreed to marry him. He laughed out loud at the audience when we all when "Ahhhh!" as he explained what the song was about.

Second up was David Gunawardana. He has a beautiful soft voice. Can't understand why he isn't famous. As well as writing such lovely songs, he is extremely photogenic - at least under the lighting at Twickfolk. If I was a teenage girl, (and I am neither), I would almost certainly have his poster on my wall. His first song, I believe, was called "Our Song". He followed that with a cover of the gospel song "I'll Fly Away". He invited the audience to sing along. 'If you know the song, join in. If you don't know it - learn it.'

Sue Graves, 'the home team representative', opened her floor spot with Leon Russell's "This Masquerade", made famous by the Carpenters. When she started she said, 'Must avoid knocking the microphone over.' Well, she did avoid it, but sadly that didn't stop the microphone stand collapsing under its own steam, without any help from her. She reached out and grabbed it, before it collapsed to the floor, which meant she had to stop playing the guitar, but without missing a beat she continued a capella, until someone was able to leap up and tighten the nuts on the stand. A complete professional. Sue chose a cover of Sandy Denny for her second song, but knowing that Odette was likely to repeat, "Who Knows Where The Time Goes?", she chose "At The End Of The Day."

For her album release, Odette had almost bitten off more than she could chew. She wanted to recreate the album sound as much as possible, which meant she needed a variety of different musicians to join her throughout the performance. At various times during the evening she was accompanied by Katie Grace Harris on backing vocals and recorders; Richard Lee on guitar, tenor guitar and backing vocals; Alex Duncalf on cello; David Gunawardana on shruti box, oh, and Phil Beer from Show Of Hands on violin!

Trouble is, swapping of personnel, introductions of the songs and the musicians and tuning and re-tuning of all of their instruments all takes time, time that could have been spent playing music. In addition, both Odette and Richard had quite a lot of witty banter, including the odd friendly dig at Twickfolk. Odette described how she had visited 'proper folk clubs' such as Cecil Sharp house, as Twickfolk, despite their name, proclaim that they are not just a folk club. Because of the delays, the first set overran, which didn't allow quite enough time during the second set to fit everything in that Odette had planned. Her main goal was to make sure that they managed to play all of the songs from the album, by which time she really only had enough time to invite Phil back to the stage to play a cover of Paul Mesters' "Farewell To The Gold". For an encore, of course, she played "Who Knows Where The Time Goes?", now quite definitely her signature song at Twickfolk.

Fatea are reviewing her CD, "The Wildest Rose", so I won't decribe the album songs in details, except to say that as well as accompanying her for her album launch, Phil Beer also appears on the record (which also features Stu Hannah (from Megson)), and that Odette has a remarkable gift for writing songs that feel like they are traditional, incorporating phrases such as 'bonny lad' and using iconography such as a raven that foretells disaster.

Twickfolk is under fairly strict orders to finish by 10:30. The pub staff have to pack up and I guess the local residents need to catch up on their sleep. 'The Parish Notices' is an amazing thing that Twickfolk generally do, which is to advertise what's on at other local venues. As all of the local folk clubs are all competing, this is a bit like Tesco promoting the special offers at Sainsburys. The Parish Notices are generally read out in the half time interval, but there hadn't been time due to the first set overrun, so even though it was beyond the cut off time, Sue asked if she could read them out after Odette's encore. Unaware of the time though, and forgetting that Odette had already played an encore, Sue finished the notices by inviting Odette back for one more song, so we were treated to one last, post encore track, a cover of Boo Hewerdine's "Bell, Book And Candle." Yes, the show finished well past the designated hour, but everybody was happy.

An absolutely brilliant evening. "The Wildest Rose" is a stunning album, and I enjoyed every minute of its release.

Set List
Light Up London Town
I Once Loved A Shepherd
Great Old Northern Line
The Banks Of Analee
The Rolling Shores Of England
Bless The Ground You Grow On
The Wildest Rose
The Eastern Seas

Dance Me Through The Night
True Lover's Farewell
Farewell To The Gold
Who Knows Where The Time Goes?

Bell, Book And Candle

Pete Bradley, words/pics/video

Other images from the gig can be found here Here

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