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The Wheelhouse is slightly different at this time of year; it is after all a summer house of course. As the dark wintery nights draw in, there seems to be more of an urgency to find your seat and less of an opportunity to congregate outside on the lawn before the show. It's a case of getting out of your car in the street, entering the property through the front gate, a few pleasantries at the kitchen door, then down to the bottom of the garden and into the 'shed'. That is unless you have an appointment with the visiting musicians, which usually means twenty minutes stop off in the Jones' dining room, where the guests are subjected to some routine enquiries, as Jools Holland puts it.
Meanwhile down at the shed, Mr and Mrs Jones make sure the Wheelhouse is all warmed upon your arrival and Andy is ready to pour you a drink at the bar. Both Catherine Maclellan and Tanya Davis describe the place as 'cosy', which it is. The night before, these musicians, along with Catherine's guitarist Chris Gauthier, were in the cosy shed with their hosts, throwing darts at the dartboard and generally hanging out. Tonight however, the Wheelhouse was prepared for an entirely different evening, one of music and communication, where almost forty people, probably the most that has ever tried to squeeze into the little wooden summer house, congregated for another memorable house concert. Some of those attending would have been well aware of who tonight's guests were, others came along trusting their host's choice and once again, Hedley chose well.
One or two of the regular visitors to this popular Wombwell house concert gave up their seats tonight in order for everyone to squeeze in, which came with its own rewards; not only did we hear the sweet music through the open Wheelhouse door, but we could see the stars and smell the roast spuds, chilli con carne and whatever the vegetarian option was tonight. Hedley more often than not welcomes his guest performers by flying the flag of their respective homelands above the shed and in tonight’s case, that flag would most definitely be the red maple leaf of Canada.
Tanya Davis is a Canadian poet and singer/songwriter from Halifax, Nova Scotia, whose highly personal poems and songs eloquently describe her place in the world. Tanya invites us into that world, especially with her opening poem How To Be Alone, for which the poet further invites us to check out the video online, where we can see the rail tracks of her town, her home with stained-glass windows, her bedroom/office where presumably many of her thoughts are committed to her note book; we also get to meet the cat. Tonight, Tanya accompanied herself on her electric guitar, gently picked behind the songs and poems, providing a highly engaging and thought-provoking set.
Tanya is the childhood friend of Prince Edward Islander Catherine Maclellan, who Hedley too referred to as his friend in his introduction tonight, having served as the singer/songwriter's tour manager last year. Once again Hedley is behind the wheel for her current UK tour and tonight was the second night of their short stay at Hedley’s home. Guitarist Chris Gauthier quipped that when Hedley picked the three musicians up at the beginning of this tour, there was a magazine in the van that Chris had put there a year ago.
Chris appeared tonight with his beautiful Gretsch, providing all the necessary Chet Atkins country twang that Catherine’s songs cry out for. The 70-minute set was filled with familiar Maclellan songs, particularly songs from her new record SILHOUETTE, such as Eastern Girl, Trickle Down Rain and Now and Then, but also with one or two from her previous record as well as a couple of new songs. Up until recently, Catherine has resisted performing any of her dad’s songs but tonight she treated her audience to a beautiful reworking of Snowbird, possibly Gene Maclellan's most celebrated song, which was a huge hit in 1970 for Anne Murray.
The atmosphere in the Wheelhouse tonight was relaxed, with gentle performances from all three musicians. With Jay Ungar's gorgeous Ashokan Farewell segueing seamlessly into Catherine's equally gorgeous Same Way Again, the atmosphere could hardly be anything else.