The theme for this week’s JVG Radio Method poem is “…. Street’
Last year I spent three months in the UK, most of the time in Coventry, which those of you with a good head for geography will know is in the Midlands.
Suffering withdrawals, having not picked up a guitar in anger for a couple of weeks, I wandered down to an open mic night at ‘The Tin Angel’ a cafe/bar/venue/even record label on the Spon Road.
A terrific little venue and a great bunch of people, one of whom, Elaine Tierney, invited me to a session the following night at ‘The Nursery Tavern’, already my favourite pub.
Convenor of the night was Dave Bennett and his partner Brenda.
Originally from Wales, Dave lived and played in Coventry for forty years and was one of those people you warm to immediately – passionate about his music, supportive of others and still running two or three sessions a week at various venues around Coventry, as well as doing gigs and festivals.
I made a point of attending and performing as often as possible at the sessions Dave ran -‘The Nursery’, ‘The General Wolfe’ and ‘The Warwickshire Club’ on a Sunday arvo.
On my return from ‘The Apollo Bay Festival’ this week I received an email from Elaine to say Dave had died suddenly, having just come off stage at an annual Folk reunion at ‘The Maudsley Hotel’ – by all accounts he played, as usual, superbly and was chuffed with his performance.
He was a wonderful guitarist and a wonderful bloke.
I did not know him long and I did not know him well – but well enough to appreciate his enormous contribution to the grassroots music scene in Coventry.
He leaves big boots – they will not be filled easily.
The music playing in the background this week is a piece by the late Dave Bennett – Blues In D
You can hear some more of his work over at http://www.myspace.com/davenbrenda
To play this poem directly in your browser – just click the “play” button below:
Lord Street, Chapelfields; a rib off Allesley Old
A narrow strip of houses fused together, helter skelter
Summer, claims the calendar, but raining hard and cold
I’m using my guitar, not for music, but for shelter
Set amongst the terraces, an unobtrusive gem
Thank God, The Nursery Tavern, I’m through the door at last
A sodden Midlands Monday, just shy of 6pm
It’s belting down outside but my throat is drying fast
I order up a pint of the darkest brew on tap
My accent raises eyebrows and some half good natured jeers
Australia’s lost the test at Lords, they’re keen to give me crap
I pretend that I’m a Kiwi – next thing they’re shouting beers
But the purpose of my visit this particular occasion
Is as much to do with music as a pint or two of black
I’ve heard they run a session, welcomed even Australasians
I mop the water off my strings and head out to the back
Twelve or thirteen gathered, retirees down to teens
A friendly voice encourages “We can squeeze another in”
There’s barely room for instruments, jammed in like sardines
It’s like a peak hour train, when the voice chimes “Let’s begin”
That voice I soon discover belongs to one Dave Bennett
Slightly hunched, beard and glasses, an old folkie to the letter
A passion for the music seemed to be his only tenet
His Avalon guitar could want a home no better
A classic finger picker, a tradition carried on
His fingers dance the fret board, a discipline engrained
Echoes of Jansch and Fuller and Mississippi John
Though fast, not cheap and glitzy, the humanity retained
As we move around the circle, each a song in turn
Dave always finds a word, a positive to inject
Those who know their craft and those with much to learn
All, without exception, receive the same respect
Then too, as an accompanist, to know when less is more
In music, as in life, with Brenda, a duet
Understated, as it should, let the singer take the fore
Then retire out to the courtyard for a pint and cigarette
He came off stage last Sunday, another flawless set
Except, it seems, his timing, never known to fail
Aside from those he leaves I would think his one regret
When he went down for the count he left half a pint of ale
Life is more than music, its failures and successes
It’s only once departed we receive the accolades
Dave showed a humility not seen in many lessers
The respect he showed to others came back to him in spades
All the sing-a-rounds and open mics, festivals and folk clubs
The countless laughs and sessions, the tunes, the songs, the beers
The Dyers Arms, The General Wolfe and a thousand other pubs
Performer, mentor, teacher, spanning over forty years
His legacy remains in those he touched and those he taught
The many he inspired without knowing, all the while
The friendships, long or passing, the passion and support
Daughter Sarah bears his ethic in her own distinctive style
Now I’m writing in my bedroom ten thousand miles away
About a man, you could argue, in many ways, I hardly knew
Sometimes you have no choice in what you write and what you say
I guess that says the lot – a lot about Dave too
© Copyright 2010 Ian Bland