Our latest instalment from Carolan’s residency at the Folk Beeston folk club. Phil Harrison is a local guitarist and singer who has appeared as a guest at the club. He also hosts the online version of sister club the Carrington Triangle Folk Club that we encountered back in Post 79. Huge thanks to Phil for adding some lovely recordings of classic songs to Carolan’s repertoire. Over to you Phil …
About me …
I mainly cover modern singer-songwriter material, along with a few traditional songs, in my repertoire. Nearly all are with guitar accompaniment, and a few accompanied on a mountain dulcimer, a relatively recent acquisition. I play fingerstyle, without any thumb or finger picks, but with reinforcement of my right hand nails. This is usually by means of artificial nails or layers of silk and superglue. My daughters are horrified by this.
The songs I cover usually have a guitar accompaniment that I feel is as attractive as the vocals. My influences include Bert Jansch, Richard Thompson, Tony Rose, Ralph McTell, and Dick Gaughan, all accomplished guitarists with their own individual styles, and I try to reproduce their original accompaniments as closely as I can. This includes using non-standard tunings in some cases, mainly DADGAD and dropped D. My vocal range is not great so I sometimes tune my guitar down a note to reach the high notes of particular songs.
I am not a song writer, having written just one original song, but I have modified the lyrics of some other artist’s songs.
In my teens in the 60’s, my older brother had a spanish guitar and took lessons at the Spanish Guitar Centre, in Cardiff (this has now moved to Nottingham), and I was bought a second hand acoustic guitar which was very difficult to play, having a high action and worn out heavy strings. Luckily my Uncle and Aunt bought me a spanish guitar too, which made everything much easier. I had a book of American folk songs by Alan Lomax (I think) with a section at the back on different playing styles, including fingerstyle and syncopation. So I started playing and singing folk songs mainly inspired by Peter Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, Tom Paxton, and material from the “Reprints from Sing Out” books. I went to a couple of clubs in Cardiff but didn’t have the nerve to perform.
It wasn’t until I was living in Nottingham in the 70’s that I plucked up courage to get up and sing, at the Co-op folk club, and latterly Beeson Folk Club, at the Three Horseshoes pub. Marriage and children intervened and there was a long break before we ventured out again, this time to the Carrington Triangle club. I soon decided to switch to an acoustic metal strung guitar to achieve greater volume. I found the switch to a narrower fretboard challenging for my short podgy fingers, but persevered. I now have 5 guitars, each with their own charisma, a mountain dulcimer, and several other instruments that I will get around to learning one day.
I found the bass response was somewhat softer than I am used to on my other guitars. This might be because I don’t use a thumb pick or plectrum. However, the treble response and resonance was pleasing and suited my fingerpicking style. It had medium/light gauge strings (.012”) when I played it and the action was slightly lower than my other guitars, which made playing very easy. After a few days, I was inspired into thinking it was time I bought another guitar.
About the songs …
The songs I have recorded on the Carolan guitar are …
One for Jo, a Bert Jansch song with, for me, a particularly attractive accompaniment.
Fotheringay, by Sandy Denny, again with a catchy accompaniment.
Sylvie, a traditional song about a girl who has been dumped, another from the singing and playing of Bert Jansch, with the guitar tuned to DADGAD.
Oh My What a Shame, a nostalgic song from Don Maclean about what might have been.
Nettle Wine, a Ralph McTell song, one of the few happy songs in my repertoire, with an accompaniment I have arranged myself
Beeswing, a favourite Richard Thompson song, in dropped D, trying to stay close to his original accompaniment (but not very).