Dave Hart & James Bowen

Club concert – 21 May, by Tony Kiesanowski
With the evening billed as an English double feature, James “Bar” Bowen began by introducing us to his view of some of the world’s characters he has come across in his travels. Reminiscent of the in yer face, no nonsense style of Billy Bragg, and displaying a touch of punk in both appearance and delivery, he soon pulled us into the varied lives of the actors in his songs. His skills in observing the human condition were well showcased.

In particular, he showed that his song writing skills had not lain idle during his stay in this country, with a moving rendition of “She is a Loving Mother”, taken from his experience of offering a lift to a late night traveller. His simple but effective playing style serves him well in forcefully delivering those songs with a social bite. However he also showed some deft touches on his more reflective numbers. He rounded out his performance with introductions which gave us a doorway into his thoughts and set the scene. His version of “Laughing Lenny” Cohen’s “Halleluiah” showed that he knew the canny performer’s trick of getting the audience to sing along in the encore. A fine appetizer.

The second half then saw Dave Hart, club stalwart, band lynchpin, and altogether solid and sound man, take the stage for our edification and amusement. Bantam less and Slim less, Dave proceeded to showcase his wide and varied repertoire, ranging from the rigours of the Australian outback to the delights of colo-rectal surgery. It was a surprise, but a welcome one, to be told just how fortunate we were in having Dave on stage playing for us, given that one of his forebears had been the favoured selection on an Indian menu. As always, Dave’s poetry renditions will move the mildest mannered audience to hooting and guffawing. This duly occurred with his rendition of “Bonaparte’s Retreat from Wigan”, complete with enthusiastic audience participation (at least for those wearing vests!).

A bantam then fluttered on stage in the persona of Sue Galvin.

Together, Dave and Sue performed a lovely traditional rendition of “Man of Constant Sorrow”, with Dave continuing to showcase his versatility by accompanying himself on autoharp. Dave really knows how to capture the idiosyncrasies of the English working class, and the highlight of the set for me was his version of Jeremy Taylor’s “Job’s Worth”, backed by Sue’s driving guitar work, and second fluttering bantam Jane Hart’s lusty trombone accompaniment.

For our fortunate benefit, Dave possesses all the qualities which make him a fine raconteur, singer and musician. His performance was literally delightful. Come back soon Skipper, you’re welcome any time.

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