It is 2013. Happy new year. Back in the old year I reported much on the Karamel Music Club – a favourite haunt. Free music, cheap food, good company, accessible premises. Well in this age of austerity, the collective’s masterful leader, Chris Sheehan, has only gone and opened another club night ‘The Northern Embassy’, dedicated to northern songwriters in the heart of Soho, which access aside retains much the same endearing qualities. And so it was, on a cold, wintry, snow laden day that I made my way to central London from the frozen wastes of Potters Bar.
Sansa had put more miles in. Flying to meet us from Helsinki. A strong, natural performer with expressive hands that stave off diva hell. She leads with her own songs. Her lyrics real; “I didn’t mean to make you cry. I’m sorry my love”, and what about this advice in the season of economical hell; “Create your own vision, let it set you free. Follow a path of your own. Be true to yourself.” Something’s Got Me Started, she re-arranges Simply Red, into a stately folky gauze wherein the lyric is given prominence over glossy, pop production. I never knew Hucknall wrote so well. Learn here Mick. Bring back the Stars to your eye.
Blair Dunlop is my main draw tonight. Scion of the revolutionary folkie Ashley Hutchings, Blair is on the crest of having his debut solo album released on vinyl this very day. It’s on sale by the bar and seems worth a peddle. Blair seems to have all bases covered. He has depth and lighter edges, covering all required bases. It seems sons of famous fathers shiver in the shadow of paternal achievement. Blair could yet prove the exception and may soar above the Thompson’s and the Wainwrights. A song about Christopher Marlowe sees him admitting, “I’ve seen a trick or two in my life”. Blight and Blossom takes you through a year in a relationship ending in the hopeful phrase; “My thirst is greater than it was at the start of the year”.
And then came the young, exuberant Dunwells all the way from Leeds. Certainly the crowd’s favourites, they “don’t need safety anymore”. This may not come over from the video presented here but tonight they are Mumfords without sham rock and Eagles who soar above the wasted scene. Their break up song; ‘Oh Lord’ speaks to me with its line “Oh lord, I’m calling out your name, oh lord, I feel so ashamed” – the guitar lines bringing spirit to the powerful sense of rhythm that rattles out tonight with enthusiasm and energy – as do lines given elsewhere; “Find your feet my friend, just go forward. Shit goes down just carry on regardless”.
Each and every highlighted lyric gives me a reason to believe in a better year a coming. They relate to true feelings and empower. The Northern Embassy adds to the creed being spoken. It’s too good to believe that this night will be repeated at the Karamel Club whose members show up in force to give their support to Chris and it’s hard to believe that Chris Sheehan will host a better line up this year but talking to the faithful Kevin, Sound Engineer, you know….. I think he will.
With respect to Tim Hardin