REVIEW: 58 Fordwych Road at Lighthouse Poole

THIS interesting, clever evening’s entertainment set me thinking – if Nick Harper could put together a two-hour concept performance based on the comings and goings at his parents’ home in the 1960s, then I should be able to as well.

Then I remembered that 37 Wallis Avenue in a central Kentish town never attracted the likes of Paul Simon, Sandy Denny, Bert Jansch and a host of other folk luminaries and that my father was not singer-songwriter, poet and sometime Led Zeppelin acolyte Roy Harper.

So, the living room of a small flat at 58 Fordwych Road in Kilburn, north London at the height of the swinging sixties has provided a much richer seam of musical memories than a few aunts or uncles chewing the fat in Maidstone ever could – sleepy Maidstone not exactly being the epicentre of the decade’s acoustic boom.

So here was Nick, an excellent singer-songwriter in his own right, on stage in the intimate Sherling Studio sharing the childhood memories from the times when Davy Graham or John Renbourn would jam or try out new tunes during late-night, after-gig gatherings at the flat.

His set comprised a sofa, the flat’s original small table, a lava lamp and a rug, plus a banner featuring some of the heroes of London’s mid-60s music scene. In a sense it was an homage to Jansch and Graham, with the former’s Strolling Down The Highway and Blackwaterside duelling with Graham’s Angi and Leaving Blues.

Nick’s self-deprecating wit and wealth of stories about the music scene, Morocco and Les Cousins’ Club in Soho (as well as his stunning playing) made this tribute to the acoustic guitar a night to remember.

The likes of Renbourn’s reworking of the 1611 song Earl of Salisbury, Simon’s version of Scarborough Fair, with Martin Carthy’s guitar part, the story of long lost and ultimately tragic fellow American Jackson C Frank (Google him!), the old wizard Roy Harper’s My Friend and Sandy Denny’s Who Knows Where The Time Goes all effectively recalled a time and place.

In the second half he mostly concentrated on his own material, though concluding proceedings with a gorgeous version of Moon River.

And if that all sounds a bit grandiose, it was not – it was an accomplished musician simply playing some great songs. He wrings out every last drop from each note, playing with such immense physicality that one feared for the strings.

Around since 1985 when he appeared on his dad’s Whatever Happened To Jugula? album and later championed by Squeeze’s Glenn Tilbrook, Nick now has around a dozen albums to his name since 1998’s Smithereens.

Often delving into his Wiltshire roots for inspiration, the endlessly creative guitarist continues to operate a little beneath the radar – which is wholly unfair to him but does allow us to see him in such cosy surroundings as this studio.