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Chris Wood

The Art Club, Bath Street, Glasgow
Celtic Connections 2016
Saturday 16 January 2016

In the past I think Chris has had some concerns about his acceptance north of the border. Tonight's audience certainly gave Chris a very warm Scottish greeting, leaving him in no doubt that he was both appreciated and welcome. His backdrop at the prestigious Glasgow Art Club was one of the grandest fire places I have seen outside of a stately home. Lighting was almost non-existent. I did think, for one moment he was going to come out with the old Groucho Marx joke about not wanting to be a member of any club that would want him as a member but he refrained.

He seemed in good spirits and unusually opened the show by thanking the sound person, a task usually reserved for the end, joking that it would serve well setting the bar high at the start. This gave a good indication that Chris was happy with the sound on the night. He opened with an almost whispered Cold Haily Rainy Night, keeping the lyrics and sound low as the song is, after all, about someone trying to quietly gain secretive entrance to a lady's bedchamber. "C'mon you remember" he joked to the audience. A change of pace and era followed with his travelogue None The Wiser followedwritten on the 2-month tour where he was Joan Armatrading's "bitch", his words not mine. A wonderfully true and witty observation on life as seen on the tour. His guitar style on this song emulates the rhythm of wheels on the road. Joking about his missed market opportunity he sang one of his grown up love songs, the very beautiful and poignant Sweetness Game. A good sign of Chris's happiness with sound is the speed he plays and sings. The better the sound, the slower and more extended the phrasing, this was evident tonight. A new as yet unrecorded song next, about another market opportunity, minor league football, a subject in his opinion not widely appreciated by his audience. Possible title could be Margate 3 Faversham 0 or Only a Friendly. Nevertheless, his acute observation of the commonplace and ability to put it to song is wonderful. He mused, to the amusement of the audience, on how anyone could have writers block with the current world around us. Another new song, a follow on to Hard, written about his daughter fell in his category of "empty nest songs". This song, possibly titled This Love Won't Let You Fail reflects on his grown up daughter, her flat, her mad landlady, part time employment, second hand hoovers and more insightful observations that Chris Wood excels at. I've heard this song a few times and love it, judging from the applause so did the rest of the audience.

Taking a risk Chris performed his version of the unofficial English National anthem Jerusalem, where he questions rather than makes statements without the strident Sir Charles Hubert Parry tune. A very funny impersonation of Billy Bragg doing the song preceded his version, he strayed briefly into political discussion, possibly testing his ground. The audience listened intently and the applause was great. A total change of tempo and weight brought the set to an end with Ronnie Lane's very jaunty The Poacher

I overheard many discussing the songs during the interval. Always a great sign for a songwriter. The second set opened with a supposedly true story, the traditional Lord Bateman. This was followed by the modern true story of Jean Charles de Menezes in the chilling song Hollow Point. A rambling chat about autodidactism and the origins of Chris's guitar followed the huge applause for Hollow Point and long distance walking. The connection being that the next song, another as yet unrecorded song This was another travelogue of observations from a long walk starting at Tower Bridge. I would imagine this song will be titled So Much to Defend. Definitely my favourite song of the last year. Who else covers topics such as cooking sauces, zero hours' contracts, using skype, yoga nights, take away food, gyms, fund raising charity runs and much more so eloquently in one song and with such a catchy tune that it could well eventually be covered by many others in many styles. He really should record and release this song (hint, hint!). Ray Davis of the Kinks was always regarded as the poet of the common man. I think his title has been usurped by Chris Wood in recent years. A massive amount of applause followed this song. A fair amount of banter was exchanged about "upper" songs before his other "happy song"-  My Darling's Downsized, another grown up love song, raising more than a few chuckles. Spitfire was repeatedly requested and eventually played. I haven’t heard him do this for a couple of years so it was a great treat. For anyone not familiar, Chris emulates the sound of the Spitfires engines while singing. A wonderful song. Before what is his usual finale Chris talked of the difficulties of an English folk singer playing in Scotland. On the evidence of tonight's reception, he need have no more fears about being welcome. The ever so slightly Country and Western More Fool Me, another unrecorded song officially finished the set. Those wishing to record his shows on their phones to put on YouTube should take heed of the lyrics. The crowd were not going to let him leave without an encore and what we got was Chris's take of Martin Carthy's version of Keith Christmas's The Fable Of Wings. This is a song he has taken to playing a lot just recently. I have said a lot about Chris's song writing but I really shouldn't neglect his sparing but superb guitar style. It's mainly delicate and seemingly restrained but couldn’t match his songs better. The notes in a similar way to Martin Carthy accentuate his words.

On the evidence of the night he need have no fear about future Scottish visits. Perhaps a tour to launch a long overdue album of new songs. I hope so in the near future. If there is room for one cover on any new CD then Chris's take on Smoky Robinson's I Second That Emotion would be a good contender. A whole new genre of Folk Soul!(Not performed on the night)

Keith Belcher
Northern Sky