With the rain persisting and the temperature no warmer than a fridge, I look forward to an evening of folk around a roaring fire in one of the many snugs inside the Prince of Wales. However I am dismayed to learn, upon my arrival, that tonight’s musical entertainment will take place in the beer garden. Outside.
Luckily the Prince of Wales‘ garden is blessed with outdoor heaters and a large canvas, shielding us from the elements. But the weather is not backing down, and as Mellow Peaches take to the stage puddles form around my feet; the heaters not making their presence felt at my front row vantage point.
Fortunately Mellow Peaches, opening with ‘Mayflower’ – from their debut LP I’ll Go Down with this Ship, immediately transport me to the Mississippi Delta; the heat and humidity of this imagined place enough to warm me through.
Although lead singer, Amit Dattani, appears a little more detached than I am used to seeing him; eventually warming up after a few songs with partner Rich Harris and some of the gently amusing between-song-banter that so endears this talented duo. I guess we all need some help to fight tonight’s cold.
Chris Cleverley follows with a display of dexterous finger picking, but a sound that’s more firmly rooted in the familiar soil of Albion turf. Romantically wistful songs about wanting to be a missing person in a fishing village in Cornwall, and a delightful cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Carrie’, beat back the sound of rain hitting canvas and almost complement the weather conditions. Tonight Cleverley‘s rich guitar and delicate voice epitomise the cold nostalgia of England’s green and pleasant land.
The evening’s headliner, David Campbell, is a wise man of heritage. After a long and cold wait for his arrival, he begins his set with a trio of a capella ballads; the third of which tells the lamentable tale of a man from Waterford who took up with a slave ship. Campbell’s songs, whether traditional or from his own family line, tell tales that feel a little like a history lesson. But rather than wanting to escape from the descending cold to huddle round the open fire I know to be inside, I find myself transfixed, certain that this man is teaching me something vital.
Accompanied by the gentle strumming of a ukulele or the delicate plucking of banjo strings, Campbell continues with stories of men who avoided the D-Day landing and took refuge in Italy, and of soldiers disillusioned with the First World War, before inviting us to join him in singing three spirituals, which we do. It is a moment of unison like friends gathered around a campfire.
For the finale Campbell brings on his son, Nathan Jervis – who plays an enchanting trumpet, and the rest of the night’s acts; performing, as an ensemble, a number of American roots standards which are only hindered by a poor sound mix.
It is only at this point I begin to wish we were in one of the Prince‘s smaller rooms, huddled together as the instruments merge acoustically without the hiss of electricity.
But whilst the Prince of Wales may not be an ideal music venue at the tail end of winter, most of tonight has built a warmth I can feel on the inside; that communal sense of sitting around a fire, trading stories and songs.
For more on Mellow Peaches, visit http://www.mellowpeaches.co.uk
For more on Chris Cleverley, visit https://www.facebook.com/chriscleverleymusic
For more on the Prince of Wales (Moseley), visit http://www.theprincemoseley.co.uk