On a cold, wet February Saturday morning, I made my way to Chester for the Chester Folk Survivors' February Folk Day at Hoole Community Centre. This was the twenty eighth such Folk Day and the twenty sixth in this hospitable and, thankfully, warm venue.
The main purpose of my visit was to attend the Official Launch of the new album by Pete Morton with Full House, titled "Game of Life" [Fellside Recordings].
I am sure that Pete Morton, as "one of the best the British roots scene has produced in living memory" [fRoots], needs no introduction to readers of this magazine .However, those readers living outside the North West may be less familiar with Full House.
Full House is one of the North West's premier folk bands, having been formed approximately thirty years ago. The band is a quintet, featuring all manner of acoustic instruments including melodeon and flute [Ian Jones]; bass and mandolin[Chris Lee]; fiddle [Clare "Fluff" Smith]; guitar [Nick Mitchell] and percussion and low whistle [Mark Woolley]. The members of Full House are all big fans of Pete Morton and they were delighted to be asked to accompany him on this new album.
Ah, yes, what about the album that is being launched here today? Well, the idea behind it is that Pete selected fifteen songs from throughout his recording career, which began in 1987, and revisited them with fresh arrangements and a consistency of sound and accompanying musicians, in the form of Full House. Having heard the album before today's launch, I can tell you that the idea has worked a treat, as familiar songs take on a new lease of life.
Take, for example, Pete's most famous song "Another Train", which opens the album [and opened today's launch show]. The new version has an almost orchestral arrangement, with flute, whistle, guitar, bass and fiddle, which adds majesty and grace to this wonderful song, which I never get tired of hearing.
In the relatively short time available [just over an hour], Pete and the band gave us another nine songs from "Game of Life" . The songs were a mixture of humorous /uptempo ["Related To Me" ; "Battle of Trafalgar"and "7 Billion Eccentrics"] and serious ["Disobedience"- detailing the history of peaceful protest, with superb accompaniment from Ian Jones on piano and Chris Lee on bass, and "Shores of Italy"-about the plight of refugees, which was, remarkably, written in 2003 but is still, sadly, just as relevant today].
One of my favourite Pete Morton compositions is "Shepherd's Song", which tells of John Clare's first journey to London, to meet his publisher. It is a gorgeous song and featured some lovely fiddle from "Fluff" Smith.
Another great song by Pete is the touching story of his mother's and Father's marriage, "The Luckiest Man". As with "Another Train", the song has gained a superb band arrangement, with double bass, fiddle, melodeon and percussion, in addition to the usual solo acoustic guitar . Today's performance of this most personal song was simply superb.
The final song of the launch show [apart from the encore of "7 Billion Eccentrics"] was the penultimate track on "Game of Life", the aptly titled "When We Sing Together", which Pete sang with Full House's lead vocalist Nick Mitchell. Full House regularly cover this song and Pete revealed that he had to learn their version. Chris Lee switched from bass to mandolin for this rousing chorus song and we did, indeed, all sing together.
It was marvellous to hear Pete singing with Full House accompanying him in a live setting. In the event that you do not get the opportunity to do the same, do not worry, you can still hear them together on the "Game of Life" album, which I unreservedly recommend.
There are only so many hours in a day and only so many gigs we can get to. We'd really like to expand our national coverage of the live scene as it remains the life blood of music.
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