Review : Helen Watson – Birkenhead

Posted on: Sunday, Nov 19, 2006

Birkenhead Priory: 17/11/06

As part of the International Guitar Festival of Great Britain, the smallest venue used, the unique Birkenhead Priory, was host to a superb evening from the supremely-talented Helen Watson – who enchanted the audience with two most varied sets, touching on jazz, blues, folk, soul and more!

From the heady days of her big-label debut album “Blue Slipper”, recorded in Los Angeles in 1987 and featuring a host of top session players, through her own band and collaborations with the likes of Christine Collister and Chris While, her beautiful voice has remained as good as ever, gracing a most diverse choice of covers – from Slim Harpo to Peggy Lee and Bruce Springsteen to George Jones.

Armed with just her acoustic guitar and rack harmonica she chose to start with a beautiful a capella version of the blues standard “You Got To Move”, then picking up the guitar for the Sun label classic, Junior Parker’s “Mystery Train” and the wry “She Still Thinks I Care” from the pen of country legend George Jones.

The intimacy of the room make for a great rapport between artist and audience, with Helen Watson’s between song patter recalling childhood stories, how she came across certain songs and various stages of her career.

Other treats in the first set were Georgie Fame’s “Yeh Yeh”, which she saw on “Ready Steady Go” on television; and Bruce Springsteen’s “Ain’t Got You” – delivered virtually a capella, apart from egg-shaker percussion – lovely stuff!

After a short break, when we were warmed up by some lovely mulled wine, another fine set saw a dip back into the sixties for the Unit 4+2 hit “Concrete And Clay” and a whole mix of jazz, folk and blues tunes from the likes of Peggy Lee, Slim Harpo and Steve Earle. Another highlight was a Helen Watson Band song, the stirring “Magnificent”, her crystal-clear vocals to the fore.

This was another great night at this most diverse of festivals – the organisers are lucky to have such fine venues to use. I certainly have never been to a gig in a building, parts of which date back to 1106!


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