More on 6 strings at Meltdown
As the beautiful Annelise is word poor (her description) to-day, let me add some flesh to the bones of her post. Readers who have followed her earlier contributions will know that the great Richard Thompson is ‘curating’ (posh Brit word for hosting) a series of gigs in London – known as Meltdown. Monday’s show was called Six Strings – Six Guitars. It did what it says on the tin, and allowed RT to invite 5 guitarists who he most reveres to join him and each other in a unique performance.
I was going to use the word genius to describe acoustic player Martin Simpson, but in this company the word would get over-used. He developed out of the low-key English folk tradition, but much of his best work explores American roots styles, and he has spent many years living in New Orleans. He chose to exhibit the stunning clarity of his slide technique with a rather repetitive piece, and though he loved being in the show, his own work does not lend itself to multi-party collaboration. He introduced Nokie Edwards of the Ventures (apparently they’ve sold 100 million records!). Nokie struggled to walk on stage, but had no problem blazing through signature surf-guitar tunes including Wipeout. You could really hear how his spikey but fluid playing has influenced that of the Curator.
Next up was Dennis Coffey, a giant of the Tamla/Detroit scene. Looking like a late vintage Van Morrison, his heavy wah-wah smeared across the grey-haired audience so loudly my neighbour had his fingers in his ears. The English jazz player John Etheridge – once of Soft Machine – was the next guest to feature. He and Thompson go back to the 60s, and used to play in the same cricket team (contact me separately for a discussion of this addictive recreation). Etheridge gave a fizzing account of Mingus’ Good-bye Perk-Pie Hat, before later combining with Thompson to show off their brilliant musicianship on a couple of Django Reinhart standards.
Perhaps the biggest treat for ND types was the appearance of James Burton. He debuted on the Louisiana Hayride aged 14 in the 50s, and played with many of the emerging country stars of the time – including Elvis. Not surprisingly the ambitious Gram Parsons hired him, and he then became the leading light of Emmylou’s original Hot Band. The styles he has introduced ring loudly through the subsequent decades of country rock (for want of a better term). His presence and playing were inspirational.
Honourable mention to one-time folkie Christine Collister who belted out the rock and blues numbers. And to Thompson whose own playing – as well as his taste – managed to be consistently amazing, even in this stellar company.