• Miles Hedley

CLIVE CARROLL & FRIENDS at Mycenae House


There is at least one guitar hero for every kind of popular music - folk legend Richard Thompson, bluesman Buddy Guy or jazz giant Wes Montgomery, to name just a few. Then there’s Clive Carroll.


Carroll would qualify as a great in these or any other genre because he seems able to turn his hand to everything, as he showed at Mycenae House on Friday evening with a spellbinding gig featuring tunes with roots in Celtic history, flamenco, Caribbean dance, Deep South rhythms, English medievalism, swing and the coolest of cool, all played in his trademark style of near-supernatural finger-picking enhanced with dazzling licks, percussive pulses and a unique gift for harmonics that gives his delivery an unrivalled richness and range of moods.


The word genius is horribly overused these days but I reckon Carroll is as close to being one as makes no difference.


He opened his 17-song set – which he interspersed with hugely entertaining anecdotes – by giving us Davey Graham’s Angie, played with a neat nod to Bert Jansch’s famous version, followed by a tribute to US country singer-songwriter Jerry Reed.


After a trippy, hypnotic and bass-heavy evocation of the West Indies with Café Guadeloupe Carroll devoted two songs to John Renbourn - The Abbot’s Hymn, recalling his old friend’s predilection for that particular beer, and the bluesy In The Deep, inspired by the steamy heat of Texas where the pair had once toured together.


A brief but witty digression into the works of Spanish composer Francisco Tarrega, whose Gran Vals is now best known as the source of the Nokia ringtone, was followed by eight minutes of wonder in Renaissance Suite, Carroll’s take on the medieval literary epic Sir Gawain and the Green Knight which he turned into a duet thanks to a pre-recorded accompaniment track.


He closed the first half with four songs for which he was joined by brilliant young guitarist Dariush Kanani, including the mournful Blackwaterside and a fabulous swing version of Mississippi Blues.


Carroll began the second half solo again, playing a beautiful Irish air before going uptempo with an old Celtic battle march followed by some of the fastest playing I’ve ever seen on a guitar. Django Reinhardt himself would have marvelled.


He was then joined by double-bassist Matt Ridley for a quietly funky take on Ralph Towner’s Anthem and a sublime cover of the Bill Evans/Miles Davis classic Blue In Green.


Kanani then returned to the stage – to the sound of Carroll playing Monty Norman’s iconic 007 theme – for three jazz standards including the incomparable Thelonius Monk tune Blue Monk and Sermonette by Cannonball Adderley, which featured Carroll’s only vocal outing of the evening. The trio ended with a jam of astonishing virtuosity, particularly by Ridley who played a solo that would have left Christian McBride green with envy.


The final song of the night was a stunning contrast – Carroll alone on the podium playing a heartbreakingly gorgeous version of the Lennon/McCartney ballad And I Love Her. It was the perfect end to yet another stonking gig set up by Sonic Promotions.


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