Tonight I was privileged to be invited to a birthday party, not just any birthday party. This was a party to celebrate the sixth birthday of the remarkable Liverpool Acoustic Live. Run by Graham Holland and Stuart Todd, Liverpool Acoustic is the essential central resource for acoustic music in and around one of the world's great music cities [which is Liverpool, of course].
Graham and Stuart regularly present the best in acoustic music at Liverpool Acoustic's Live events at Ken Martin's wonderful View Two Gallery on the otherwise gaudy Mathew Street. Not for nothing did Liverpool Acoustic Live win the "Live Music Night Of The Year Award" for two years in succession [2012 and 2013] at the prestigious Liverpool Music Awards.
Tonight's brilliant birthday party line-up comprised The Perfect Voice [Roxanne de Bastion], The Piano [superb keyboard player from Echo and the Bunnymen, Jez Wing] and The Guitar [award winning Jo Bywater]. What a line up!
Jo Bywater opened the celebratory proceedings. Jo has a most distinctive songwriting and singing style and she plays slide guitar as if she had lived in the Mississippi Delta all her life. Jo is no stranger to Fatea Magazine, having won the EP Of The Year Award 2013 for her "Chasing Tales" EP. Also, in November, Jo won the Liverpool Acoustic Songwriting Challenge 2014 for her song "Riches To Rags". The contestants in this Challenge were invited to write a song inspired by a work of art in the Gallery and Jo performed her winning song tonight. Jo's trademark is playing a resonator guitar with a slide which produces a languid Country Blues sound. Jo's set featured three of the songs on the award-winning "Chasing Tales" EP, namely "Chopping Wood", "Woollen Hearts" and, my favourite "This Garden", in which Jo evokes the atmosphere of her parents' garden. You can almost feel the sunshine and smell the flowers. Jo told us that she is currently writing songs for a new album, which I look forward to with keen interest.
Jez Wing was a new name to me. Yes, I knew that he plays keyboards with Liverpool legends Echo and The Bunnymen but I was not previously familiar with his solo work. Jez accompanied himself on View Two's beautiful grand piano which was "like an old friend" according to Jez.
Not knowing what to expect from Jez, I must say that I was enormously impressed by his performance. It wasn't just his fabulously melodic piano playing that caught attention but also his gift for writing catchy songs and his most appealing vocals.
Jez has recently released an album titled "Believe Me To Remain" under the name "Cousin Jac" which refers to the name given to Cornish miners who went abroad to find work. The album [which I bought on the night] deals with the theme of moving away from home. From this excellent album Jez performed the hymn-like "The Lookout", the poppy "Passing Place", the haunting "Moonshine" and the engrossing "Waterwitch" which was named after a ship that Jez saw in a picture in Holland. Staying on the nautical theme was a new song "Steady As She Goes". Jez wrote "Motorcity" about the decline of the motor industry in Detroit whilst on tour with the Bunnymen and this excellent new song featured some wonderful piano.
Jez Wing is clearly a songwriter of considerable talent, as well as being a superb musician.
Topping tonight's birthday party bill [and the icing on the cake, so to speak] was Berlin-born-now -London- domiciled Roxanne de Bastion. Roxanne was brought up listening to The Beatles, so it is no surprise that she loves playing in Liverpool and that Liverpool [particularly Liverpool Acoustic] loves her.
In fact, Roxanne contributed to the fun-ness [as she put it] by bringing a birthday cake which was shared amongst the audience.
Roxanne is a most charming performer and is possessed of a wonderful voice. Accompanied by an excellent bass player [Stuart Irwin] and her own guitar, Roxanne's set featured songs from her recently released EP "Seeing You", including the Joni-like title track and "Wastleland" a terrific song about the changes that have taken place in Berlin [where she grew up] since the removal of the Wall that divided the City.
Roxanne moved over to the grand piano for her "first piano song", called "Rerun" which is also on the new EP. She encouraged us to spot the "Yellow Submarine" references in the song.
Further audience participation ensued in Roxanne's cover of Bob Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" and her own "Red and White Blood Cells".
This hugely enjoyable evening epitomised all that is great about Liverpool Acoustic- three superb artists performing in the relaxed, convivial surroundings of View Two Gallery and all for the price of a couple of drinks. Here's to the next six years and much longer, I hope.
Words Peter Cowley, Picturecredits, Arthur Gold
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