Contact"Nothing ever happens on the Isle of Wight . . ."
23 July 2009
Paul Armfield / JC, Larmer Tree 2009, Sixpenny Handley
Paul / JC Larmer Tree 2009 (Part 2)
I left Pete and his pink umbrella and Southampton Ukulele Jam friends we ran into in the main stage area and proceeded back through the mud making my way to the ARC tent.
The tent seemed filled with Islanders and soon had offer of seats. The resident lady who draws the artists each year took her seat behind her easel and waited like us for the empty stage to fill.
Tim the mc came out and announced Paul Armfield from the Isle of Wight and on came the big fellah, his great bushy beard and affable Dickensian persona a perfect fit his recent excursions of putting Tennyson poetry to song, and he fitted the Larmer Tree like a glove.
“They’ve put me on at the same time as Richard Thompson on the main stage,” he laughed. The way I looked at it I’d hear Paul and JC and catch the tail end of Richard Thompson’s set on the main stage. Over a lifetime these things even up and I want to hear how Paul’s songs sound at the Larmer Tree.
I know only too well that JC will add his own dimension to the set, They have played so long and so well together in all kinds of songwriter duo’s, gypsy trios, jug bands and syncopated jazz and down home blues combos. They’ve left their mark everywhere from the small bars of the diamond isle, all over Germany, the Glastonbury Festival and London’s Bush Hall. These song men are inspired and I’m blessed to be sat in quiet expectancy of hearing something special tonight.
Paul Armfield began a set of self penned songs shaped as though he were hammering steel on an anvil. Gathering hung on the hush of Paul’s bellowed voice, the flint spark of his guitar arpeggio’s forged in the coals of the fire. There is nothing hurried, each note, each chord, each song beautifully laid one after the other, like molten metal taking shape.
When JC joins Paul he plays mandolin through most of the set. The lyrical Lost To The Light sparkles, the whispered words uttered like whispered secrets falling over guitar chords dancing with mandolin melodies in a poetic confession. It is simply put a stunning song.
“I fell asleep surrounded by words, my pillow bursting with the wings of birds, when I awoke they had all taken flight like so many dreams that turn in the night they were lost to the light.”
Lost to the Light fell straight into Devil On Your Back like they were twins at birth, JC’s mandolin, gentle rain beating on the roof, Paul’s reference reminded me of Orson Welles taking to the pulpit in Moby Dick.
“Are you getting me ok,” Paul asked the artist at her easel who nodded her approval. “I bet your making JC look better than me . . .” he laughed.
Mid point in the set JC came to sing, a cracking old song of his recently pulled out from his treasure chest. In JC songs beautiful women make love to bohemian poets by the light of a Calor gas fire and listen to Dylan on dank afternoons in Ryde. And in the chorus the singer invites “Palola to come on over”. Gorgeous song, beautiful rendition, the set is littered with such gems.
Paul’s song Sloe Gin reminds me of my mum making it every Christmas and I return to my youth and see my Mum picking the sloes from the bushes by the river.
And its to the river I’ve been going every time I hear Paul Armfield’s Vapour Trails, during which the poet seduces a Newport gal under the Halogen light of a street lamp and implores her to come with him, steal a boat “and follow the vapour trails south.” It is a cinematic song and I’ve heard it performed with a string quartet and tonight Paul and JC nailed it with just two guitars.
A precious forty five minutes in the company of these islanders does wonders for my outlook on life, they continue with a biting set of classics to the final whistle, the wonderful uplifting Trigonometry, the haunted confession over bowed saw called A Little Something a song that sounds like an out take from Tom Rapp / Pearls Before Swine’s Balaclava album.
I never tire of hearing him sing If I Was A Woman, a back handed compliment to ladies if ever there was one. Politically incorrect and spot on.
As everyone drew breath after the set I trudged my way back to the main stage to see Richard Thompson.