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Sunday, October 02, 2005

'Sandie' Sandridge

Bageleria ~ Sept 30

Tossed a coin between a Pavilion movie and the Friday night jam, and Reece Witherspoon lost.

Actually the decision I wanted, because I'd been re-discovering Tish Hinojosa's Culture Swing and rather fancied trying out Drifter's Wind with a straight strumming accompaniment instead of my fiddly finger-work. The only problem, I have no idea what sort of time it's meant to be in and cannot even play along with the record without losing the beat.

I don't care about the rest of the crowd, but Mike Murray's been turning up on a fairly regular basis and I so crave his gritty approval of my prissy plucking and tuneless vocals that the last thing I need to be performing is some tune whose beat eludes me even with a metronome.

Plus, Chele might be there and I haven't seen her for a while. I rip a copy of the album in case it's her kind of thing.


sandie and mikeBoth Mike and Chele are indeed there but she concentrates on her fiddling and ignores me. In fact, my arrival seems to coincide with her quitting the musical circle and preparing to leave. She clearly has no intention of chatting to me, so I have to mince up and interrupt her conversation and thrust the CD into her hand.

Unimpressed by this pathetic ploy, she dismisses me with a glance and returns to her chat.

sandie n mikeI make to resume my seat, but 'Sandie' Sandridge has made a rare appearance and is on such blistering form that I have to caper around snapping the proceedings, something that always annoys the hell out of the more serious musicians and sends their expressions into "thunder-brow" mode, a look I used to take for concentration before waking up to the fact that it was me 

Jim Griswold on guitar; can't remember harp playerActually, there is a goodly crowd of potential thunder-brows dotted around tonight so I quit my snapping for a while and tank up on my usual flagon of latte.

I'm served by la patronne  elle-même, with her usual dazzling smile and looking rather dishy in some lace blouse thing. Indeed, the sort of garment that, were I in possession of a fanciable wife, I would look distinctly askance before sending her out in mixed company - and unruly musicians, to boot.

chele n larryBut that just shows how insecure I am, and why John is at the helm of a booming business while I'm still flapping around, unsure even of the meaning of SKU.

Speaking of dubious garb and mixed company, guitar-maker Michael was sporting some pantaloons of glorious exuberance but I was too shy to snap them lest he misinterpret my motive and leanings. But they were quite something and I shall bag a shot next time round.

BlurAs quickly as they came, the old faces upped and split, leaving the remnants a somewhat solemn bunch - of unquestionable musicianship but not over-burdened in the barrel-of-laughs department.

I contented myself listening to an expert fiddler/guitarist (of whom even Chele seemed to approve) who turned out to have a crystal clear, swooping voice that filled the room even as it silenced it.

guitar_fiddler duetSomewhat cowed by the presence of such an abundance of talent and blessings, the round-robin singalong seemed to continue in technically accomplished fashion but distinctly less ebullient mood.

At my usual loss as to what to play, I kept mentally rehearsing a nonchalant glance at my Ross Perot chronometer, followed by agonized expression as if remembering some vital assignation.

jim griswold + fiddleBut my nerve kept failing and, being now down to a small group, it kept coming my turn to pick a communal tune.

Jim GI think it was Jim who sang a Hank Williams so I sang another Hank Williams in with which no-one seemed to feel like joining. Atop which, my mangled efforts to sound "kerntry" were coming out a cross between Merseyside accent and an off-key kazoo.

Of our diminishing circle, there were two  guitarists who played equally good harmonica: one switched from guitar to harp and blew a convincing storm.


Jim G sat by the window and expertly manoeuvred himself out of camera range every time I poked the Sony in his direction.

Jim G and 'The Voice' fiddlerHe also duetted with The Voice, but his solo was probably the most expert of the evening. As I Iistened, I thought of all the mis-spent youth that goes into acquiring such dexterity; and how young we needed to have been when we started, to be delivering such polished performances today.

Not so much in the case of my shaky technique - the result of years of imprisonment and cane-evading solitude in the English private school system - but as I looked round at the lined and mellow features, I pictured us as we might have been in the early days with our instruments.

It was fun to imagine the routes we might have taken to be sitting here - how many guitars we've been thru to be clutching today's high-end name-brand gems; how many lives we might've touched before settling down to current compromises.

Good times.


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