Shipcote and Friends
22nd January 2016
To many people who attend Jumping Hot Club gigs Graham Anderson is the man who wanders around with a frown and a piece of paper at every gig; but to many of us he is his alter ego Shipcote; purveyor of something called Geordie-Swing; a delightful mix of Western Swing, Gipsy-Jazz, Blues, Folk and even a hint here and there of Ska.
Tonight was the launch of his latest album Old Is Cool, and the evening started with friends Kathy and Chet in duo form. Sadly I missed them as I was visiting my wife in hospital 25 miles away. On the second stroke of the ‘kicking out’ bell, I kissed her on the cheek and scurried to the car park. Forty minutes later I arrived at the Cluny in time to see the last ten minutes of Brendan Crokers set.
Looking a bit like a Hobbit dressed as a Hells Angel, he was sitting perched on a speaker on the front of the stage and singing ‘off-mic’.
If you’ve ever seen him before you will know his between song chat is as good as his music; and the short time I was in his company had me in stitches.
I only witnessed two songs; with I’ll Smile Tonight being an absolute delight; with sing-along chorus too; but Brendan’s story about buying his 1966 acoustic guitar from East German E-Bay for €62 (free delivery) was worthy of a stand-up comedian. His final song morphed into a delightful Tale Of The Lonesome Pine. It was obviously going to be ‘that kind of night.’
After the audience took advantage of the free promotional Hot Dogs (inc. Veggie option) Shipcote and Friends eventually made their way onto the stage, with Shipcote himself looking remarkably dapper in his Granddad’s double breasted Demob suit.
The set consisted of the album in chronological order with the delightful Rhumbatastic Saltwell Park Lilt instrumental, to set the mood.
The title track Old Is Cool came next; and I can’t think of a more suitable song for this audience; can you? It’s a lovely song with an even lovelier message; again; it was that ‘kind of night.’
Apparently a Mariachi Band had been booked to give a couple of songs ‘added spice’ but they had been held up at Customs in Sunderland Airport; so the Chet Baker of Tyneside, Graham Hardy manfully stepped in with his golden trumpet on Yes, Yes Blues. Evoking a smoky New York Jazz dive this song really came to life this evening.
On the next song Sometimes You’re Up, the band really sprang to life with the Geordie Segovia, Bryan Younger giving an absolute Masterclass on acoustic guitar; but never outshining the singer; which is some feat. We even had a mischievous reprise; when trumpetist Graham left the stage a tad early.
As the band name suggests; Shipcote and Friends this is actually a band of craftsmen (and woman) who surround and compliment an excellent singer-songwriter; with each bringing their own skill sets; to create a beautiful overall sound.
While in no ways a Rock Band; Graham made a point that they rarely do ‘slow songs’ but when they did on the touchingly gentle Amy; you wonder why they don’t do songs like this more often.
My favourite song on the album; Mr. Wonderful received a funny and silly introduction, with several people in the audience worried that the song could have been about them; not that it matters as this incisively observed song about vanity, is a diamond in its own rite.
Keenly proud of his home town, Shipcote’s North East of England is a doozy; and tonight’s passionate rendition had me thinking it should replace Fog on the Tyne as our unofficial National Anthem.
The songs from the album came to a pleasing end when Kathy and Chet were invited onto the stage to join Sue MacLaren on harmonies for Angel of the North (pt. II). While I thoroughly enjoyed this lovely song; my attention was taken with Brendan and Graham Hardy’s attempts at a Vegas style light show, with two torches and a hand held Disco ball. It really was ‘that kind of night!’
With twenty minutes to fill, Shipcote and Friends went on to regale us with a veritable Greatest Hits set including, Crazy Country Fool, Facebook, I’m Not Ready For Bed and Perambulating (featuring the vocal delights of Mr Studds Ramrod on harmonies.)
Okay I’m biased as a friend of Graham and most of the band; but this really was a delightful gig from a set of excellent musicians who lovingly regaled us with some fine songs.