John Williams, of course, is a frequent visitor to our regular Singer’s Nights when he travels from Prenton on the chance of a floor spot and every time he delights us with his music. Tonight he opened the first set with one of his own compositions “Wellington Road”.
Sitting across from him was fellow Wirralite Phil Chisnall. It was Phil’s first visit since the club moved from the Cross Keys to The Feathers. His apology for a sore throat was totally unnecessary. He’d handled it like a pro, dropping the key of his songs a semitone or two. You’d never have known there was a problem as he delivered his first song “Every Morning Blues”, which Phil described as a ‘happy blues’ song that he had written on one of life’s good days.
The format for the evening worked really well. with both of our guests on stage at the same time, taking it in turns to perform their songs, occasionally accompanying each other, and with plenty of banter in between. It was nice to experience their individual songwriting talents as well as hearing some great covers as diverse as the Stereophonics’ hit, “Dakota” and Dylan’s “Wagon Wheel. And when Phil played “Albertross” on his acoustic, it drew audible gasps from the audience. Adding variety to the evening, Phil had everyone in stitches as he delivered a hilarious monologue, Stanley Holloway, style “Albert and the Lion”.
Knowing how audiences like to join in with the choruses but are sometimes reluctant because they don’t know the words, John had placed a sheet of paper containing the lyrics of all the join-in choruses on every table. The gathered throng didn’t hold back; the room was ‘comfortably full’ and the atmosphere was wonderful.
Before each of the Williams and Chisnall sets, we had a couple of songs each from a group of our regulars. To open the evening we had a duet from Penni Neale and Neil Martin. They sang the beautiful song written in 2016 by Sting, “The Empty Chair”. This first session also featured performances by Lynda and Tom Degney, Richard Ruthin and Joe Lyon.
After the break, Neil Martin and Penni Neale did their solo spots, as did Chris Birchall. Then we had a couple of songs from one of John and Phil’s former Merseyside mates, Gary Edward Jones. When I say ‘former’, they are still mates, it’s just that Gary moved to live in these parts a couple of years ago. 🙂 Merseyside’s loss is Ruthin’s gain.
John Williams opened their second set with the first song he’d ever written, “Peel Island”.
It was a great diverse set that included the fabulous Robert Johnson song “Walking Blues” by Phil on his resonator guitar and ending with the guys duetting on the rousing Old Crow Medicine Show/Bob Dylan song “Wagon Wheel”.
Then, before we hauled ourselves off home, they responded to the shouts for more with the Mark Knopfler song “Haul Away for Home”.