Clive Gregson peeks out from under his thick-rimmed glasses and ponders, in his rich, Northern burr, on not knowing who Jimmy Buffet was when they were featuring on the same record. It was a Nanci Griffith version of Gregson’s song I Love This Town and Gregson was playing guitar. *1 thoughtwho’s the little fella singing his heart out?” he recounts, drolly.
This a man who spent a number of years living in Nashville and who now lives in Texas, someone who has played guitar with Richard Thompson and had songs recorded by everyone from Mary Chapin Carpenter to Smokie and yet he’s like an old friend chatting at the bar rather than on stage as he performs, solo, for a good hour and half. The man who was, almost, a new wave pop star looks even less like that then he did even at the time and yet the audience hang on his every word, his every effortless acoustic guitar solo and run, of which there are very many.
This is the latest gig in a fast-growing club night organised by Drumfire, the record label that released the debut album by Brit country darlings My Darling Clementine, and that has put out the pure country debut by Ags Connolly. Both have played here, along with others including Martin Stephenson.
Another Drumfire act, country-roots veteran Phil Burdett, is the support here tonight. A bearded hulk of a man he’s wearing a black leather cap and pink-rimmed glasses, something that he advises is unwise in a rugby pub, of which the Patch is one, with a match on the tele in the crowded man bar. He sits hunched over his guitar and, like Gregson, regales us with unlikely tales regarding his sometimes Gallic-tinged word of consciousness epics, many of them from his exquisite album DUNFEARING AND THE WEST COUNTRY HIGH.This one was written while listening to a load of bus drivers in a cafe in Penzance, he muses, reflecting that it maybe does not have the romance of Springsteen. But it is beautiful, percussive finger-picking music with growled vocals. Sometimes it gets to the point where there may be a chorus, sometimes not, but it does not matter as the music and singing form an indefinable fairytale soundscape.
Meanwhile, Gregson is digging deeply into his most recent album, THIS IS NOW, with the title track, Download, Haarlem and the latest single, the singalong My Kind Of Girl. He plays songs of quiet beauty (not least Northern Soul, a love song to his teenage days in the soul music mecca of Wigan Casino), but can switch instantly into a choppy rock, bringing back spine-tingling memories of his first band. Any Trouble. The band’s signature tune, Trouble With Love, is as toe-tapping as ever, and is followed by a thoughtful Touch And Go. The old blues tune, Barefootin, can’t fail to make you smile as he throws in riffs from half a dozen rock classics.
As always it is the subtle switch between hear-a-pin-drop plaintive numbers and the uptempo tunes that catch the imagination. Gregson is an unlikely star but one that keeps on shining. Nick Dalton www.divegregson.com