There are seven songs of mine that generally go well in just about any situation but the hardest part is choosing which one to start with. Do I open with something raw and rocking or something slow and expressive with jazz chords? I have a personal theory that an audience who has never seen or heard you before will decide within about 10 seconds if they like you. I spend a great deal of my practise time working on my openings. Choosing the right song is even more important. My friend Caitlin Smith says you should never second guess the audience’s taste – she says they just want ‘amazing’ – no pressure. I have a country pickin’ one, a funk groove, a light reggae, a slow blues-infused rocker, a bright swing number, a songbook style ballad and a rootsy boogie stomp. Seven hats. Currently, I’m opening with the blues-infused slow rocker called Hold Down Love with re-tuning of the b string down a tone to A.
Over the years I have learned to play many cover songs and standards, some more successfully than others and I am always amazed how some performers can remember hours of material – all those lyrics and chords! I find it easier to remember a few carefully chosen covers and just put my own spin on them. It takes a bit of work to turn a full band song into a solo number but if the melody itself is strong and well known it generally has a life of it’s own anyway. Sometimes I think playing covers is cheating a bit – it’s like standing on the shoulders of giants and getting a free ride. For this journey I wanted to concentrate on seven cover songs that would have wide appeal – songs I hoped people everywhere would know. Seven songs is about 30 minutes of performing time. It came down to selecting from some of my favourite artists: Jimi, Led Zep, Lennon/McCartney, Prince and of course, the one artist that seems to communicate more than all the others, Bob Marley. The title of this blog, Songs Of Freedom, comes from Redemption Songs ‘. . and all I ever had, were these songs of freedom, redemption songs.’ Bob recorded it as a solo acoustic number on the Uprising album – not quite reggae, more a folk song really, but that opening riff is so recognisable – it had to be in.
There’s more to come on the cover songs I chose.