|Music In the Raw Special:|
By Wills Morgan
A tremendous night of weatherproof blues and soul.
The PRIORY TAVERN is situated in a location not too far from the Kilburn High Road overground station, though it’s not on the actual High Road. This means that this pub is far enough away from the local competition to attract custom to itself via its management’s unique selling point: a formidable expertise when it comes to cocktails.
If you can provide good food, good drink and really good cocktails you’ll be able to attract a crowd of folks in any kind of weather. So it is not unnatural that on this bleak, cold and double-damp Satur-night I find this place (the Priory) entertaining a selection of families, friends, trendies, oldies…and musicians.
I meet up with the hosts and co-creators of MUSIC IN THE RAW: the respected singer/songwriter Peter Conway, and guitarist/technical sound genius Darren David James. For the past eighteen months these two have strived to build a special kind of musical community. The success they’ve had is there to be seen: a large permanent mural above the performing space celebrates the reason why I’m here. And, despite the sparseness of publicity, it’s a full house.
Ordinary punters bump into legendary writers; rising up-and-comers sit easily with experienced professionals: managers and publishers turn up for more just than the drink. All are waiting for the start of the Priory’s flagship production: a wide number of tempos, styles, ages, and numbers put together and made to feel and sound nicer than nice.
The show (a theme night) begins with MARCIA MELLO playing a mixture of slide guitar, ragtime, traditional folk and pre-war blues on a beaten-up and battered guitar. Miss Mello has a style that is truly authentic: that is to say her music is completely lacking in the indulgences and sentimental values often to be found in performances of jazz standards in our modern age. She’s charming, smiley and altogether quite lively.
LAINE HINES is one of two extra guests (the other is Garry Lammin) to be shoe-horned into the line-up. He’s allowed a couple of numbers, and successfully earns the right to do a few more. Mr. Hines is not too tall in stature, and when seated he seems even more neat and compact. But his blues picking and playing has strength and intensity: and that unique vocal style he has is all the more admirable given that he is suffering from the outrage that is the rawness of the weather.
Marcia Mello returns to add a voice and extra guitar. The result is a conflation which captures and enthralls everybody who hears it. Marcia sits and sings without making a fuss: Laine’s picking ‘catches the light.’ As I watch them both, I seem to want to compare Laine in my mind to the young Bob Dylan. I don’t think I’m overdoing it.
DOM DURNER’s next: he starts with ‘Dock of the Bay’. The voice has an unusual tenor which seems to soar in a really quite attractive way: this is underlined by his guitar’s easy support. Ladies of all ages rush gracefully to the bar to bop in homage to Dom’s passion for music. Recently, he has made it to the finals of an internet competition taking place around the UK called ‘Live and Unsigned.’ Even if he doesn’t win, I predict that he will do well enough to project his burgeoning career as a solo singer.
The first person to stand up to play his set is CHARLES SHAAR MURRAY. This is no surprise to me: I’ve been a relatively quiet fan of his for a while, and I know what to expect. His stance is both ‘tyrannosaurus’ and ‘rex’. Charlie purses his lips and chews the blues; he chops and slides on his resonator guitar: he favours one leg whilst using the other as an imaginary claw. He plays with a real joy and confidence: he becomes the thing that is Music in the Raw.
It’s a privilege to hear Charlie do his version of Robert Johnson’s ‘Love in Vain’. The playing is naturally judged, and I like the edge and character of his vocal narration. Then on to the next thing…it’s back to untidy rhythm ‘n’ soul. I’m having such a good time that I get out my tambourine and join in with the dancin’.
After this a performing and writing duo get to make their first ever appearance in London. AMY LYNCH’s voice fills the Priory with a power and punch that you would not expect from a lady who is still nineteen. She’s tall; her handsome frame is crowned with a flower-head of hair: she gives her all in a sequence of ballads, two covers and four original songs.
Seated close by and providing the back-up is Amy’s partner ALEKSEY LOPEZ. He too is young, and has an incredible talent; he knows his singer so well that he is able to shadow any move she makes without turning towards her: without even having to open his eyes. I am extremely impressed. There will most definitely be more to come from this twosome. Watch out for them.
And…much later on…the faithful few left in the audience stay to see PETER CONWAY pick up an even more beaten-up guitar. I don’t realize that the song ‘It Ain’t Over (not for me)’ is from his upcoming album called ‘STAY’: afterwards, I curse myself for doing scant justice to a rather important new ballad.
Charlie Murray introduces his favourite singer, playing harp on the side of ‘Bring Me’. DARREN DAVID JAMES’ guitar joins in the set’s second half: I shake my thing on ‘I am not a Yes Man.’ Peter sings with grit and grace, dedicates tunes to close friends and continues to have himself a good time.
Finally, there’s a trio of performers. GIULIO ROMANO MALAISI struts and strums, poses and picks at his Malaysian guitar. On his right is the tall and lovely SHARLEENA RAY. And to the left is the especially lovely lady who leads the fray: the Canadian/Italian fusion that is JOY RENZI.
Joy is a live wire. Her eyes, her cheeks, her hands: her every move takes her to places where I would like to be seen. Miss Sharleena provides visual balance and additional vocal beauty: her part in the action should not be ignored.
In between the rompin, stompin’ jams there is a still and haunting version of the Hank Williams classic ‘I’m so lonesome I could cry.’ The ladies sing together in intervals of thirds, fourths and sixths. The noise made is lovelier than words can describe.
It’s just after one o’clock. The night is over. What an experience! I’ve drowned myself in a sonic cocktail, and I need to find a way to make it back to my home. Slowly I turn my back, and head past the Priory door towards the rain.
Music in the Raw is what it says it is: Raw, live music at its best. The next show is a birthday special for Darren David James: it takes place on Saturday May 12, and you’re all invited to the bandstand.
For an exclusive preview of Peter Conway’s new album tracks go to: http://www.peterconway.net/music.htm