Great music with a Worcestershire source..

So, yeah – welcome to 2017!  January is traditionally a bit of a live music hibernation and it’s been the same for me – until the last couple of days so I can sneak a couple of posts in before we’re into February and assorted tours beginning in earnest.  Home ownership diverts more funds these days so I’m having to be a bit more picky and choosy on dates but that’s okay – life’s all about balance isn’t it?

So on Sunday Ella and I headed on down to Droitwich.  All I think of when I think of Droitwich was the highly repetitive and irritating adverts around childhood Christmas for a furniture company who had a sale on, and outlets in Darley Dale, Measham and Droitwich.  I think it might have been DFS.  Tom Adams did the voiceover.  Anyway, I digress, it was an early start and finish, which is good as it’s about an hour’s drive to get there – and a couple of miles outside Droitwich proper we found ourselves parked up at The Maltstone Pub & Kitchen.

Definitely more eatery in aspect than gig venue, it was a really nice space – with a few locals hanging around awaiting live music – this evening being provided by Paul Henshaw and Nick Parker.  I’d cunningly deployed the slow cooker before leaving so we resisted the tempting looking menu opting just for drinks instead (although I still regret not succumbing to the ingenious idea of a bar snack comprising a Yorkshire pudding with gravy!).  Paul and Nick arrived and had their PA set up in the blink of an eye.

In researching the gig I’d worked out I was friends already on Facebook with Paul – but couldn’t remember why, probably because I’d seen him play under the guise of band name Scientific Simpletons at Farmer Phil’s in 2015 whilst attempting not to succumb to a food coma from a Nana’s roast dinner!  Paul took to the stage (well, floor) with his guitar – immediately giving a folksy vibe with a pleasing mixture of rhythmnic and intricate guitar work.

I’ll apologise in advance for being crap at song titles – hey, I’ve had a few weeks off these sorts of shenanigans.  We’ll Smile Wide started, followed up with I Declare Shenanigans (oops, two shenanigans in one paragraph – shit, three now!).  There was a decent number of folk in, but perhaps some just at their local for a pint to see out the weekend rather than watch music – but positioned as we were by the PA it didn’t really matter to us, we were engrossed.

You Really Just Wanna Be Me was next (I think), before he invited his other half Nikki on stage to provide melodic backing vocals for three tracks or so – I completely missed the name of the first one, the second was a cover of The Decemberists Down by The Water which sounded great (I’m not familiar with The Decemberists, something I might have to remedy).  Churches of Rome followed which was a treat – I’m gonna have to get myself his album I think.

Nikki withdrew to leave Paul to finish up – initially with a song covering the perils of whisky drinking (which needed to be self-censored owing to there being a couple of children in the pub, ha!) and after a quick crowd vote he finished up with a song about a pirate.  Cracking set – I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for further accessible gigs – Farmer Phil’s might be a goer on that score (well I’ll certainly be there!).

Nick Parker was on next – he’d been gently attempting to co-erce Ella into an impromptu duet with him to no avail, so he was armed with just his guitar.  He kicked in with Departures – a people-watching odyssey and a great example of his songwriting for the uninitiated (which if you are one of, get initiated!) – clever observations, a great tune and lashings of ill-deserved self-depreciation.

Never Been to Dublin was next – whilst it might be inaccurate now, it captures that yearning to visit a place when you’ve grown up with influences from there.  Down With The Yoof is one of my favourite funny songs, recruiting his son to lambast apparent mid-life crises by professing to not want to be the kid with a double-denim dad (one I think we first heard at Farmer Phil’s last year).

We heard newish Make Yourself At Home then too which was up next, probably a fitting airing as it covers the insecurities of not feeling ‘in place’, with a bit of a chatter coming from the table nearest the other side of the performance area.  More familiar Metaphor covered the rigours of looking after other people’s children, before he decided to utilise his dog to stick the boot in on himself with the hilarious An Open Letter to My Human. I love that song.

Because of the limited crowd engagement the placards stayed stowed for Es Tut Mir Leid (which I always previously referred to as The German Song) – a pity, on reflection I should’ve volunteered to get up and hold them up!  Nick’s a prolific tourer of Germany so this covers the continental viewpoint that English folk are too apologetic for trivial things – it’s a shame that the ones who inflict less trivial things don’t seem so apologetic!

He finished off a set I thoroughly enjoyed with what would normally be a crowd favourite Terry and June (certainly it was for us, and Paul and Nikki too) – it was an ‘in off the brown’ rather than an ‘in off the pink’ night, I’ve never ascertained the difference (although scanning that back it’s euphemistically dodgy, haha, sorry I have a filthy mind!) and then the very relatable I’m Getting Far Too Old For This and I’d Rather be in Bed – a lament to dreadful nights out in nightclubs.

Post-gig Nick seemed down – but frustrations about competing with chatter really don’t show to the observers.  It looked as a committed and empassioned performance as I’ve come to expect – of course, a more responsive crowd adds to that and fuels further energy from the performer, but for me it was well worth the drive down for two excellent performances to get 2017’s live music underway.  Nick has a new album in the works which is something you should certainly be keeping on the lookout for later in the year.

Once everything was packed up and goodbyes were made we headed up North, Nick accompanying us for the next leg of our extended gigging weekend – he was joining us as a punter to see Kevin Devine play a gig at The Bodega in Nottingham.  So we hotfooted it back up the motorway and back to the (if I do say so myself) rather delicious smells of Chicken Teriyaki bubbling away in the slow cooker.  The recipe is here if you fancy a go at it – easy and it was rather tasty!

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