The long awaited and well
deserved spotlight of jiva
provided a Christmas special to a busy crowd at Ashington on
December 21. Not only do the visuals match but the co-ordination
of timing, harmonies and choice of material was as usual,
Kicking off the first of 2 sets at 9:30, Jimmy introduced their
own Dream On "rapidly developing as an opening number"
ahead of a JSD Band stylised version of Dylan's Don't Think
Twice (It's Alright). Melanie's Christmas Lullaby had a
wonderful build up and superb harmonies before, a personal
favourite they have introduced me to, their recruitment for peace
song, The Cause. "Tell the Brave Politicians" ........ if
only they were!
Switching to a 12 string for
a 12&6 combination brought us the Crosby Stills Nash & Young
number Four and Twenty before closing the first 30 minutes
with Linda Thompson's waltz, No Telling.
Second set was started on the 12&6 arrangement with Richard
Thompson's - Galway To Graceland. Local mining traditions,
and especially the routine drudgery of a life threatening
occupation, came over well next on All Day, Every Day. With
a most unusual capo arrangement next we had the "Woolworth's song"
finely executed in Nanci Griffith's Love at The Five and Dime,
based on E, A, and B7 chord arrangements. Now with Val on the 12
String we had a brilliant rendition of a seasonal tune - Silent
Night - absolutely outstanding, which saw Jimmy acknowledge at
the close, the enjoyment of the crowd singing with "Hey, Hey,
Hey", ..................or was that him practising his Santa
impersonation !!!! Closing with a pair of self penned songs, they
gave us Some Way Home, the first time I'd heard this one,
and, finally, One More Song - ahead of a well called for
and deserved encore of their own Different Dreams.
Well done to Jimmy and Val - not only for this special night but
for holding this Club up and supporting so many locals in fine
live music for years.
Tired and drained from
manhandling two PA systems in the Bothal Suite,
jiva were obviously
pre-occupied with running the night as usual, ensuring that all
floor-performers got a spot and that trainee soundman (Dave from
Cramlington) had all the advice he needed.
In the rush to get things ready (the Institute wasn't open when
they arrived) they only managed a partial soundcheck before moving
their mics and guitars off stage in preparation for the
floor-spots. After the floor spots the break was longer than
planned, as jiva's equipment was put back on stage amid a veritable
spaghetti of cables.
Jimmy introduced "Dream On", a jiva-penned song which is now
traditionally their kick-off number. It was obvious from the start
that there was something amiss with the sound - Jimmy's Brazilian
Rosewood Taylor 810-L1 Limited Edition sounded thin and weedy
while Val's Indian Rosewood Taylor 810-CE effortlessly filled the
room... "I think I might be a bit loud"
commented Val. Soldiering on, they played a creditable JSD-Band-influenced
version of Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright" - alas,
their beautiful harmonies couldn't disguise the fact that the
guitar balance was abysmal. Melanie's "Christmas Lullaby" was an
excellent choice of song for this pre-Christmas performance -
Jimmy downtuned his 6th string to D to change the timbre of his
guitar, Val sang well with feeling, and the song built up nicely.
Had the guitar blend been correct we could almost feel the
snowflakes falling from the fretboard. A change of pace next, as
they accelerated into "The Cause" - a self-penned song recruiting
for peace... ah yes, "Tell the brave
politicians" (if only there were any). Jimmy
switched to the beautiful big-bodied trim-waisted Taylor 855
12-string (affectionately christened "Missy"). The 6th pair of
strings were downtuned to D, which accentuates the deep rich sound
of this Indian Rosewood instrument, and complements the crisp
sound of Val's 6-string 810-CE... that's the theory anyway, but
sound gremlins continued to plague as Jimmy's deft picking
struggled to be heard over Val's two-capoed playing throughout
Crosby Stills Nash and Young's "4+20". Would the misery never end?
Switching the 12-string over to Val's settings as they finished
the first spot with "No Telling" improved the balance somewhat,
but it still left a lot to be desired. jiva's beautiful
arrangement sometimes brings tears to the eyes - well Jimmy was
sweating so much that it was running into his eyes, stinging like
hell and leaving him unable to open the left one at all through
most of the song!
Gimme a break! Sure enough, there was a 10-minute respite during
which time Val re-tuned the 12-string to standard E-A-D-G-B-E
while Jimmy checked and double-checked every connection... alas to
no avail, as his 6-string sounded no better, and his 12-string
settings yielded very little output - most curious as everything
had been honed to perfection over the past few weeks with the PA
no doubt annoying their neighbours in Blyth as they did their
customary hour per day rehearsals, perfectionists that they are.
Slightly later than planned, jiva were back on stage with the 12/6
string combination, Val singing lead on Richard Thompson's "Galway
To Graceland" - the guitar balance was a little better, but
somehow Jimmy's playing didn't come out from it's first half
hiding place. Jimmy then swapped over to 6-string for jiva's own
"All Day, Every Day"... and realised that, in the melee of
checking over the PA as the minutes ticked inexorably by during
the break, he had forgotten to return his 810-L1 to standard
tuning... if it ain't one thing it's another! Hurriedly re-tuning
(and, no he didn't take enough time time to get it spot on) he
sang lead on this song about the memories of the hard coal-mining
times for north east families and the legacy of unemployment, lost
friends, depression and coal dust. Normally the guitar arrangement
on this produces a magical and mystical blend that transports the
listener, but tonight it didn't quite get there - shame, 'cos it's
a such a beautiful song. With a double capo arrangement on Jimmy's
guitar they sang "Love At The Five And Dime", their own up tempo
take on a Nanci Griffith song which is rapidly becoming a
favourite with audiences as their picking styles counter each
other exquisitely (when both guitars can be heard) and they lift
the chorus so that it is almost impossible not to join in. Val
changed over to the 12-string for the Christmas carol "Silent Night" -
beautifully arranged. Jimmy acknowledged Ashington's singing
before introducing "Some Way Home", the newest song to emerge from
jiva's songwriting. This bounced along well - if you listened
carefully you could actually make out some of Jimmy's guitar -
but, just when we thought all was getting better, he totally
messed up the words to the last verse... so he stopped the song,
started again at the beginning of the last verse and they managed
to reach the end without further mishap. Another jiva-penned
classic was their closing number - "One More Song" which is great to
finish the night with as it reminds us all of the joy and warmth
of friends and music and swapping stories and memories... another
song with an irresistible chorus.
"Thank you and goodnight..."
What's that? Cheers, shouts of "ji-va, ji-va"
and "more!" - the customary
Jimmy and Val thanked everyone and encored with their
well-established semi-autobiographical "Different Dreams". "...
in the end it all turns out the same (just the same), in the end
it all turns out the same (every day), in the end it all turns out
the same" - let's hope not, jiva are capable of
much better than this.
"Goodnight! Merry Christmas!"
And an hour later, with bar staff itching to go home, Jimmy and
Val finally packed away the last of the Ashington equipment and
struggled down the fire escape to cram their own gear into the
car... it's amazing how much you you can get inside a Honda Jazz,
thoroughly recommended. It seemed a helluva long way home to Blyth
- "Some day, some way home..."