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Bow, blow and strike

Last week the guitar, in the hands of some world-class exponents, took centre stage.

Last week the guitar, in the hands of some world-class exponents, took centre stage.

So it seems entirely fair that other instruments attract the limelight this week, namely fiddles, saxophones - and even a tambourine!

The humble tambourine is something of a trick, though. The ancient percussion piece - it dates back to Roman times and is even mentioned in the Old Testament - is often thought of as a "woman's instrument" due to its lightweight construction.

Well, it also provides the title of the new album by North Carolina singer Tift Merritt, who visits the Cluny on Wednesday.

Her album defines the expression "genre defying" as it is a composite of soul, country, gospel and some radio-friendly rockier songs, too.

Tambourine (Lost Highway Records) showcases Merritt's vocals and includes contributions from the stunning ex-Lone Justice singer Maria McKee, Jayhawks' frontman Gary Louris, as well as Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench of Tom Petty's Heartbreakers.

Merritt is often compared with Linda Ronstadt and her debut recording, Bramble Rose, contained a clutch of songs about love and loss, themes often associated with Ronstadt.

UK outfit the Havenots open the show. Ticket information from (0191) 232 1232 or the venue direct.


The saxophone - invented by Belgian Adolphe Sax (a clarinettist, incidentally) in the 1840s and a mere baby by comparison to the tambourine - is in the hands of a regular performer in the region, Paul Dunmall.

He is at the Cluny on Tuesday. Dunmall, like so many jazz artists, has a range of performance guises but plays next week's gig with Philip Gibbs (guitar) and Paul Rogers on bass. He started his performing career in the progressive-rock band, Marsupilami, then moved to the US for a diet of spiritualism and Coltrane as a member of the Divine Light Mission.

He toured with Alice Coltrane, pianist wife of John, and with the Frank Zappa/Jimi Hendrix prototype, Johnny Guitar Watson. Returning to the UK he worked with the renowned folk musicians Danny Thompson, Kevin Dempsey, Martin Jenkins and Polly Bolton and the jazz drummer, John Stevens. Then came work with Keith and Julie Tippett and a host of others since.

He is still, with Paul Rogers (and his seven-string bass), a member of Keith Tippett's quartet Mujician.

This is a rare chance to see this line-up as Rogers is now resident in the South of France. Ticket information from the venue on (0191) 230 4474.


Fiddles, the European variety, date back to the 9th Century but were probably of Asian origin. However, two exponents of the fiddling art - Seth Lakeman and Jon Sevink of the Levellers - are English to the core and just happen to be in the area, on the same bill in fact, next week when they play Newcastle University on Thursday.

The Levellers, named after the 17th Century puritans who espoused republicanism, are a Brighton sextet with a 17-year pedigree.

The band, fronted by vocalist Mark Chadwick, have remained virtually unchanged throughout and have just released their eighth studio album, Truth & Lies, and a new single, Last Man Alive.

They have also had eight top 20 singles which is testament to their staying power in an era of ever-shortening memory span.

Early albums like See Nothing, Hear Nothing, Do Something (1993) and Levelling The Land before that, set the agenda.

The Levellers have often been associated with environmental and social causes and have a large following across Europe.

In fact, they have just returned from the continent with another tour planned for the spring of 2006.

Mercury Music Award nominee, Lakeman, has been touring with the Levellers across Europe but he, too, has been gigging for over 10 years despite the fact he is still in his 20s.

He has just been announced as one of the four nominees for the 2006 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards (as Best Folk singer). The results will be known in February - incidentally, local interest is pinned on Morpeth's Johnny Dickinson who is nominated for Musician of the Year.

Lakeman recently played a sell-out show at the Buddle in Wallsend with his trio and looks set for an even busier 2006.

His latest record, Kitty Jay (I-Scream Records), demonstrates his traditional-based writing ability, fiddle playing and his guitar work and vocals, too.


Guitars are never far away, though. Tonight, apart from Tommy Emmanuel at the Tyne Theatre (highlighted last week), there is a chance to catch-up with American Music Club singer/writer, Mark Eitzel, when he plays the All Saints venue in Newcastle.

The San Francisco musician has a new CD, Candy Ass (Cooking Vinyl), to promote.

His songs, a melange of folky-roots, punk-energy and an often jazzy edge, have impressed other songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Elvis Costello and PJ Harvey and his work has been covered by The Divine Comedy and Everything But The Girl among others.

Eitzel did make an appearance at the Evolution Festival, but the promoters, Jumpin' Hot Club's Graham Anderson and Adam Collerton, were delighted to secure an early return to Tyneside for a particularly busy and sought-after musician.

Ticket info from the Live Theatre box office on (0191) 232 1232.


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