Jumping Hot Club
December 22nd 2014
This was Martin Stephenson and THE Daintees 10th Christmas party at the Jumping Hot Club in Newcastle; and tonight’s ‘special guests’ were a new local band called El Cid; who coincidentally included Martin’s daughter Phoebe on bass. Playing tracks from their soon to be issued début album the young quartet’s rough and ready Alt. Country, especially Church Boy showed enough promise for me to blag a pre-release copy of their CD.
Next up was one time front personage of Punk icons The Chefs; Helen MacCookerybook who has been a solo singer-songwriter for more years than her girlish good looks would suggest; and sadly her short set was virtually drowned out by the constant buzz of chatter from the once a year visitors to the club. Mixing songs from her punky youth and her latest album; Helen eventually won the crowd over, but it was hard work.
Following a quick turnaround Martin Stephenson, wearing a pork-pie hat at a jaunty angle took to the compact stage with two original Daintees and three other friends; then started the party with fan favourite, Lilac Tree.
Without ever appearing to ‘break sweat;’ Martin and the Daintees treat us to a wonderful evening full of rare oldies like Home (dedicated to his late Mother and Aunt), She Left Me (featuring some beautiful Western Swing alongside Daintees Classics, The Greenhouse (My Grandfather and Me), Crocodile Cryer, Little Red Bottle, Left Us To Burn and the anthemic sing-along, Salutation Road.
As expected Martin interspersed the songs with stories, such as a scurrilous tale about sharing a room with Roy Buchannan in Germany; a drink addled Friday night bus journey sitting between Boy George and Bryan Ferry and how difficult it was being the only Punk in a pit village. More often than not, these stories leave you holding your sides with laughter as tears of sadness fill your eyes before a beautiful bittersweet love song is performed.
Only a couple of new songs from Haunted Highway made an appearance tonight; the dark side of Country on, Ride plus the gorgeous Black Eyed Rose which appeared halfway through another song; and even though 150 or more people were crammed into the venue MG Stephenson disappeared into a world of his own, serenading Helen McCookerybook who was sitting at the side of the stage.
When he’s on top-form Martin is one of the best and most memorable performers ever to emerge from the British Roots scene; and tonight was one such performance.