JP Harris, John R Miller & Chloe Edmondson; JHC at the Cluny, Newcastle

JP Harris, John R Miller & Chloe Edmondson
Jumpin’ Hot Club
The Cluny II

Friday 10th March 2023

I’ve mentioned it before but in the year before the Pandemic and it’s assorted ‘lockdowns’ I, sort of, fell out of love with ‘gig going’. I can’t really explain it; but it all lost its ‘magic’ and subsequently now things are being restored I’m fighting that feeling with all my heart; which is why this week I’m going to four gigs in 8 days.
Sadly the first two (who shall remain nameless) didn’t ‘cut the mustard’ even though both were best part ‘sold out’ and received well by everyone else; but did nothing for me.
Which brings me to Friday night and my heart sinking on walking into Cluny II and seeing a guitar rack with FOUR banjos in it!
I scanned the stage for any hidden accordions, but thankfully there weren’t any, just two acoustic guitars and two fiddles.
The next surprise was at 8pm when fiddle player Chloe Edmondson walked on stage with someone who looked remarkably like headline act, JP Harris … who went on to introduce himself as … JP Harris!
As JP was tuning up the largest of the banjos; Chloe was nearly shaking with the cold and both blowing on her hands and rubbing them along her thighs to warm them up; which was a thankless task as she was still doing that 90 minutes later!
Had I known what was to follow I doubt I’d have come tonight; but once ensconced in my seat I decided to make the best of it; and … do you know what …. I actually enjoyed this evening of Appalachian ‘Old Time Music’ …. which JP went to great lengths to explain ‘was not’ Bluegrass …. “Big Difference” apparantly.
Even though Harris never mentioned any song titles in his intros he did paint some lovely pictures when he recounted who taught him each song.
If my notes are correct they started with something called Marry a Kings Daughter, followed by a Doc Boggs song which I couldn’t guess at the title.
With very little for me to go on, my notes were limited so for once I just sat back and enjoyed the music; not least Harris’s deep baritone and delicate playing of his banjo’s alongside Chloe’s exquisite fiddle playing.
There’s a good chance a song possibly called Mole In The Ground was about a ‘human in an animals body AND vampires’ and my notes say that ‘the harmonies were warmer than Chloe’s fingers!’ Which was followed by Dance Boatman Dance (?) which I gave two stars to.
JP eventually got around to telling us that he’d just recorded an album in this style and the finale ‘a shoot ’em up song’ (unnamed) was about boys getting drunk and ‘shooting each other’…..”nothing changes, does it?” the song itself started out with the duo harmonising a Capella before seamlessly bringing in the fiddle and gentle banjo playing to the fray.
Following a short break Chloe Edmondson, still not warmed up, took her seat on stage again alongside someone who wasn’t JP Harris; one John R Miller; thankfully with guitar in hand.
My notes say their first song was Muddy Waters, but the set-list (which I snaffled) says Red Eyes …. whichever the combination of rolling guitar and gentle fiddle made for a lovely song.
Again the introductions were very limited; but the second song the biographical Outset (?) featured the line “trapping possums for local restaurants” which has to be a first for RMHQ!!!
Shenandoah, on the other hand was incredibly tense and stark, with the fiddle playing it’s part in setting that mood.
There ‘weren’t many laughs’ in the songs in this set either, with most being introspective in one shape or another but the quality of playing and singing certainly made up for anything like that.
At this stage my notes are nearly incomprehensive; but I have given Nobody Has to Know Your Mind three stars, and something that looks like ‘stunning’.
Just before the smouldering Looking Over My Shoulder Miller asked for JP Harris to join them on stage; only for nothing to happen; as JP told us when he did materialise for the next song he ‘had been outside having a cigarette and drinking, totally forgetting he was needed on stage!”
The trio’s first song might have been called What Else Coulda Happened’ and had a joyous chorus “Nobody’s Angel/Nobody’s Star.”
Perhaps it was the added guitar and Harris’s voice; but this created a ‘larger dimension’ to the songs that followed; not least Truck Stop Angel (?) which was a highlight of the evening.|

At this stage JP started chatting about the tour and ‘this form of music’ which was what he grew up playing, before discovering Rock n Roll; and was grateful for the opportunity for sharing it around Europe.
Following a less than subtle ‘leaving the stage at the end’ the trio turned back for a well deserved encore; which for once actually came from a short discussion between the three; choosing a Carter Family song I Ain’t Gonna Walk Tomorrow which left an appreciative audience with smiles on their faces as they converged on the merch desk like musical locust’s.

Alan Harrison

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