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A Requiem for Jack Rose, Cafe Oto, London, February 16th 2010

February 18, 2010

Hush Arbors, Heather Leigh Murray, Voice Of The Seven Thunders, Michael Flower Band, C Joynes

On what would have been Jack Rose’s 39th birthday, a host of musicians, friends and those like me and Astral who loved his music gathered at Cafe Oto for a ‘requiem’. Perhaps ‘wake’ would have been more appropriate, as the pale ale straight off the barrel soon disappeared as the music started. This was the first time I’d been to the venue, a cheap but friendly space in deepest deprivedest Dalston (dripping pipes included). We need more of these spaces to allow musicians the chance to experiment, explore and share without the pressures of economics and all that drag.

Jack Rose was a force of nature – a big man with a passion for making pizza, friends and amazing music. His mastery of ‘American primitive’ fingerstyle guitar-playing a la John Fahey was second to none, but he was no slave to dry proficiency. And he was no pampered muso either, but a hardworking, big-hearted guitarist who helped fellow musicians and encouraged talent everywhere he went. It’s very touching to see how much he meant to so many people.

Mancunian guitar wizard Rick Tomlinson, aka Voice of the Seven Woods, aka Voice of the Seven Thunders, had the unenviable task of kicking off the evening’s music, and he was clearly nervous. He did manage to weave much of his raga-style magic, though, and eventually turned up the volume in the style of his latest (brilliant) CD.

The Michael Flower Band actually consisted of just Mike Flower – he normally plays alongside a drummer. His gnarly electric guitar distortion belied some beguiling tunes and half-riffs, and his instrumentals widened out into deep sonic territories. I could understand how Jack would have liked this music, despite its obvious differences to his own style. It’s all about feel…

Next up was C Joynes, a dapperly dressed, well-spoken chap from Cambridge who plays a mean resonator guitar in the old blues-ragtime way, but mixes it with some attractively weird sounds and diversions. At one point, he inserted a peculiar fret-stick type thing into the neck to get the strings buzzing and creating odd harmonics and rattles. It was a fine performance and perhaps the closest to the music of Jack – which was not the case with the next act, Heather Leigh Murray, who approached her pedal steel with venom, creating a huge wash of distortion and feedback. Over the top of this noise, she sang in a Patti Smith ululating style. Astral said she reminded her of Nico, which is true – slightly bonkers but very much worth a listen.

The final act of the night was Hush Arbors, aka Keith Wood, a young Virginian who plays  laidback indie folk-rock. Tonight he was playing with a five-piece band, who were fine, but it was Keith’s touching memories of Jack Rose that brought the evening back to why we were there – to celebrate a life taken away too soon. RIP Jack.

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