As part of Above the Arts’ Greenwich Village season, Room One have been paying tribute to an integral part of the area – New York’s early 60s folk scene. Interspersed between their Lanford Wilson double bills have been a series of gigs. The first pair were solo outings for John Dagleish, showcasing Dave van Ronk, Bob Dylan & some traditional folk songs.
Above the Arts is a lovely, intimate space, that has proven to be incredibly versatile over my four separate visits. For this season it is set up quite informally with a range of seating, including sofas & wooden fold-up chairs and laid out on three sides around a seat & mic stand. The bar in the corner is open throughout, with patrons encouraged to keep using it during the course of the evening.
This is a genre of music that I have a growing fondness for, thanks to a brother who loves Dylan, and getting to know some people at Sunny Afternoon who idolise him. Their passion for the man & his music intrigued me, and my brother suggested an ‘entry level’ playlist. And now, thanks to John, I have a few more avenues to explore.
Obviously my first experience of John singing was in Sunny Afternoon, and more recently as Autolycus in The Winter’s Tale. The latter was quite folky, but it was nice to hear him completely immerse himself in the genre, whilst retaining his own individual sound – his voice is naturally suited to acoustic folk. He also has a very honest & laidback performance style; clearly enjoying himself and not worried about the occasional slip-up on the guitar! It’s refreshing to see someone who is just very content to be doing the thing they love, and not lose that enjoyment when something goes a bit wrong.
The gig was an hour of pure loveliness. The set was packed with highlights – from well-known tunes to unexpected delights. It was, in part, Dagleish’s love letter to the Coen brothers’ film ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’ (which I have now finally seen, after meaning to for well over a year). The haunting ‘Hang Me, Oh Hang Me’ and ‘Fare Thee Well’ really are fantastic songs that need to be played over and over, and keep moving down the generations. The traditional songs were really wonderful; ‘St James Infirmary Blues’ (or ‘Gambler’s Blues’) a prime example of folk’s propensity for storytelling. I loved the inclusion of a little sea shanty (‘Leave Her, Johnny’), which elicited a little audience participation.
For me, the Dylan numbers were the real highlights. John coped admirably with the lyric-driven ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’, and ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ is simply a classic. Hearing ‘All Along The Watchtower’ in its intended form was great, and ‘The Times They Are a-Changin” being performed so near to the seat of Britain’s power, during a time of great political unrest, was special indeed.
John is a natural performer, and he thrives in this sort of environment. He has a final, joint gig with his dad on Tuesday night (‘Blood Harmonies’) to round off the musical element of the Greenwich Village season. Thanks to Room One, I will be there to review the evening – there are still tickets available if you want to come along too.