It nearly didn’t happen for us. Everything was organised for us to be away for a long weekend to support Amy Goddard and family - carers employed to look after my mother, who is bed bound and 96, and all other appointments shelved for five days - and then what Brits call “the dreaded lurgy” struck both of us down. Cough, bark, splutter, and the usual one-upmanship (which in the modern world should probably be one-up-person-ship - of arguing who was the least worst, whose turn it was to struggle out of bed to make the coffee and find the Acetaminophen.
We should have travelled to a place called Uxbridge on the outskirts of London that I actually knew very well in my pre-teen years, where Amy had a paid gig; and then the idea was to get to Hampshire for her own pre-launch concert the next day. As it happened, we only struggled down to Hampshire and then came back to Wales early afterwards. But we got to the show that really matters - a small venue, but packed out with over 70 people, and where in response to a diminishing number of requests, I still did a support slot, backed by Amy and her husband.
She did her album preview to close the first half. Her support opened the second half, and then the two of them finished the show with a number of standards from Snow Patrol, Extreme, and Simon and Garfunkel, that the audience could join in with. You know the scene - elderly arthritics dancing on the tables, that sort of thing. Her choice of performance slot was deliberate - some of the older ones tend to go home after the first half, but they all heard HER and a number pre-ordered her new album before going home to cocoa and bed.
Her songs from the new album included the title track, Secret Garden and her current single, Near the Sea. A local singer named Andy Adams, who I’ve seen perform before, duetted on The Maiden’s Leap, a Celtic legend song that actually - unbelievably - has a happy ending. You know - she leaps - and for once doesn’t fall to her death and come back as a wailing banshee. Apparently visiting a Scottish castle at a folk festival a couple of years ago, Amy heard the legend, and the sheer incongruity of a happy ending stuck in her mind. Another song was The Highwayman, based on the Alfred Noyes’ poem. Because she had to edit the poem - (even in the folk world, tracks that last 15 minutes don’t go down too well - it’s not exactly Stairway to Heaven) - she had to get permission from the Alfred Noyes’ estate for the edits, which they ultimately gave. She was accompanied by a whistle player and a hammer dulcimer player - apparently the hammer dulcimer has something like a 148 strings to blithely go out of tune at the slightest change of temperature.
The whole was professionally recorded from the sound console, and edited highlights will be on a local radio station in the coming weeks, which has featured Amy in songs and interviews before.
Her husband did the sound - something quite new to him because they were lent the sound system by someone for whom she is building a guitar - adding luthier to her CV or resume. But the sound was spot on.
And what about Occasional’s part? I hear you cry.
Actually, after barking like a dog and frightening the real dog at our accommodation, things held up very well. Dreamers on the Rise is my favorite John Stewart song of all time, but I may describe that in a future post. There is one line in it where you have to let rip - once past that successfully you can relax. As for Wimoweh, that only really works when the audience joins in the backing vocals - so we taught them the bass, and then the alto and soprano parts, before launching in what could have been Wimo-croak. This was probably the best it has ever gone, which may not say much for other attempts, but hey - you’ve gotta put a good spin on embarrassing the family. I may end up on YouTube yet - THINGS YOU SHOULD NEVER TRY WHEN YOU REACH (insert venerable age). Perhaps number 1 of a series - How to Grow Old Disgracefully...
One small segment of the audience was a group of people whom I had visited a few years earlier wearing smart suit, tie, briefcase of tricks and orthodontist smile. One fondly hopes that they were suitably gobsmacked by the Hyde incarnation of Brother Jekyll.
Amy told us that the big launch is to be in April. Two shows, one in what is now her home area, and one the following week in South Wales where she grew up and went to school, and possibly a showcase session at a well known folk club in between.. There are radio slots lined up with interviews, and if she gets as many as the last time that should be very encouraging. And now she is known within the limits of her “world” that helps considerably, because so many hopefuls never get past their first album or even first EP. She got her former art teacher to help with the cover art and a former music teacher to play violin on a couple of tracks. Most folk violinists just go with the flow, and improvise each time. A classical violinist often needs all the black dots written out, but since Amy teaches Theory of Music she was able to do the latter. It still sounded genuine and folkie and improvised to me. But as I have known Amy for a good number of years now, perhaps I am a little prejudiced.
I’m sure I will have told the same anecdote before, but apparently she got these same former members of staff from her school to come to her wedding over 15 years ago. As one observed on the day, he knew she’d been trying to inveigle him into her place of worship for years, but wasn’t getting married just a little bit drastic?