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Clive Palmer Memorial Concert, 29 November 2015

Review by Grahame Hood

A year since Clive’s death, his good friend and Penzance-based club organiser Mic McCreadie put together a superb tribute concert to him. It was not without its problems; originally due to be held in Penzance itself, booking issues meant he had to cast around for a new venue, eventually finding the Lowenac Hotel in Camborne, fifteen miles further east up the A30. While the distance may have deterred a few who would have come had it still been in Penzance, the venue was still full, including Adrian Whittaker and Deena all the way down from up-country. No admission was charged, with a voluntary contribution of £5 per head suggested, making it clear that no-one who could not afford that would be turned away, a nice gesture. A new CD of Clive recordings made informally at Pipers folk club over the years was on sale too. I’ll tell you more when I’ve had time to listen to it.

The introductions were done by John The Fish, a true stalwart of the Cornish folk scene, who sang Clive’s A Leaf Must Fall before Mic’s trio Bisquitry (guitarist Adrian O’Reilly on largely inaudible lead guitar and ex-Rhombus member Dick Reynolds on bass) took the stage to play a short set of acoustic folk and rock songs. Next up was Tony Corden and friends, including myself on dulcimer and vocals. We played two Clive songs; In The Deepness Of A Summer Night, ruined by bad sound, though at least the feedback was in the right key, and Evening Air, with which I personally was delighted. Tony then swapped guitar for whistle to back Bob Devereux on a lovely Suns & Moons. Stonebreath’s Prydwn, now living in Wales, brought his harp to the party and played C.O.B.s Sweet Slavery apologising in advance to Mick Bennett for any liberties taken. None were; he was excellent. Peter Berryman played an instrumental “spot the tune” medley of Clive-related tunes before Noel & Pam Betowski came on, a guitar/bouzouki and fiddle duo, playing a mixture of Hot Club de Penzance and trad Irish, getting the evenings first (and only?) encore. Did I mention the “Special Guest”? To no-one's great surprise it was Ralph McTell, who played a four-song set of mainly newer material, much of it dealing with stories of his early days in music, busking in Europe and hearing Robert Johnson’s music for the first time. I have to say I’m not a great McTell fan, my problem rather than his, but you could not help but admire his musicianship and complete command of the audience.

After the interval there was a raffle in the best folk club tradition, the first prize being Clive’s own walking stick with a lion handle he had carved himself. This was donated by his widow, Gina, who unfortunately did not feel able to attend in person. First up in the second half were The Pyschamores; Mick Bennett and Pete
Berryman with newly added member Steve Hunt, late of the highly rated Cornish duo Corncrow. They did three original songs and everyone in the room was knocked out by Mick’s voice, he really is one of the greats. I was willing him to sing Chain of Love or even Didikai Aye but it was not to be. Mick also performed a poem in honour of Clive’s famous (and obviously much envied) blue cord trousers and a haiku sent all the way from Thailand by John Bidwell, complete with explicit instructions in how to perform it.

Praising Clive’s organic take on music the last line was; ‘Cornwall changed’. The trio’s name, by the way, comes from the fact that both Mick and Pete now live in flats in the same block; The Sycamores. Mike Silver, a singer/songwriter with strong Cornish connections was next; backed by local lead guitarist Jo Partridge (and if you don’t know who he is, Google him, you’ll be amazed!), again, not entirely to my taste but a good entertainer and with the command of an audience gained over a lifetime of gigging. I liked the song about his wife’s gardening abilities! Jonathon Coudrille was sensational. All I knew of him before was that he was very much involved in the early days of the Cornish folk scene and once greatly impressed Shirley Collins by picking her up in his Rolls-Royce at Penzance station to drive her to a gig. He still has an air of eccentricity about him, dressing like a successful Wild West gambler and wearing a monocle. He sang a song in Russian, read two poems, and reverted to his true Cornish voice with Let’s Go Down Lizard Town played on a 7-string banjo and accompanied by a mandolin player, whose 70s style attire was making a
statement of its own. Mr Coudrille is a star.

Lastly, but certainly not leastly, was Tim Wellard, a man whose role in the life and music of Clive is far too often under-rated. Joined by John Bickersteth (Charlie Cool, Zambula) on melodica and the bassist from Clive’s last band (Nick?) they played a four song set, two of Tim’s own songs with him on guitar and vocals and then, moving to banjo and doing an excellent take of the Palmer style, Clive’s Big City Blues and the Stockroom Five’s When The Train Come Along. A great evening, and hopefully, the first of what deserves to become an annual event.

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