Thursday, July 12, 2012

Review:Keith Christmas: Live At The Village Pump Trowbridge.

 On Tuesday a nice little package hit my doormat.It was the new album by Keith Christmas 'Live At The Pump'. It is the first album by Keith that I have ever bought in my life even though he has been releasing albums since 1969. I only discovered his music this year. It all came about like this.About a year ago I bought an album by Shelagh McDonald which blew me away and I wrote a review of it. During my research I discovered that Keith  was on the album.When I mentioned to Kim that he was on at the Village Pump she told me that she had met him once. I decided that we should go and see him so we set off with our friend Pete in a taxi for Trowbridge.
                        When I first moved to Wiltshire in the late 70's I used to go to the Village Pump Folk Club nearly every week. It is an amazing place.It must be the most unique folk club in Great Britain. It is in a converted stone barn at the back of the Lamb pub in Trowbridge. Tiny but with its gallery upstairs it has an almost Shakespearean intimacy. Its whitewashed walls are decorated with musical instuments and pictures of past guests. It first opened in 1974 with the very first guest  Keith Christmas and it is a miracle that it is still there 38 years later. The dedicated people who have kept it going deserve awards for their hard work. I have forgotten most of the people I saw there but one person I remember was Dave Cousins of the Strawbs because I was quite a big Strawbs fan back in the day.I also remember the early days of the Village Pump Folk Festival when it was held in a marquee at the back of The Lamb.
 We paid our admission of £8.00 which is a pittance compared to the cost of some concerts we have been to and we sat at a table at the back. The evening started with an open mike session and then Keith came on and he did two 45 minute sets. I thought he was superb. The guitar playing is par excellence. Pete plays the guitar himself and he was in awe of the skill displayed. Keith has a unique singing voice as well. The years have certainly not diminished his vocal power. I particularly enjoyed the love songs which were very moving. If I had to choose one song I think Travelling Down which was on his very first album was especially great.
    Keith was recording the gig so I hoped a CD might become available as I really wanted to hear it again and get more acquainted with the songs so I was really pleased when the CD plopped through my letterbox. The CD is beautifully designed and the cover has a great photo taken at the Milverton Acoustic Club. As soon as I put it in the player the memory of that great evening came flooding back.After listening a few times I love nearly every track, from the bottle neck guitar blues to the gentle ballads you realise what a fine body of work Keith has to be proud of. Particular favourites are Good For Me, Evensong, Duty Days, The Fawn and Forest And The Shore but it isn't really fair to pick out some songs as better than others because the whole album is great. There are also three bonus studio tracks which are equally great. One thing that the album shows is that Keith isn't relying just on his back catalogue he is also still expressing himself by writing new interesting songs. Keith is appearing at the Village Pump Festival next week at a beautiful site which is right here in Westbury below the famous White Horse and within walking distance so I am looking forward to seeing him again soon.

If you want to know more about Keith Christmas this is his website.

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