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  • Words Chris Farlie Pictures Pete Woodhouse

Midwinterfest 2019 - The Songwriters Round with Steve Black, Danni Nicholls & Jefferson Ross


The Songwriters Round as mentioned in our preview is always one of the highlights the weekend, the chance ti get up close and personal with performers as they give a little of the background behind their songs.

Sat on the left of the stage porting a trusty flat cap, is someone we have only recently discovered Jefferson Ross, in the middle of the stage the wonderful Danni Nicholls while to the far right and curating the afternoon was superior song smith Steve Black. This year by only having three performers let us really get to know each one just a little better and this format worked even better than it had in previous years and they had been fantastic in their own right.

Round 1 opened with Jefferson Ross making his first UK appearance in 9 years opens with “Two Horses”, able to deal with a mobile going off while making his intro, with a quip “if it’s my wife tell her I’m not here!”. With a booming voice and a nimble piece of guitar playing things were off to a great start with this tale of meeting "That sad old whiskey priest with a bible in his hand and a bottle at his feet". Danni chose to do her song standing and opened up with her Bedford based song “Long Road Home” the “that's where I ran from, that's were where I’m bound”, with its lovely intro riff and stirring chorus. Like Adam Sweet the previous night Danni pulled a number of faces as she attempted to extract every last note from her acoustic guitar. Steve chose to go with a new song so far played only once, You’re With Me Tonight”, was so new the lyrics were on the floor as an aid. It seemed to be about some sort of illicit hook up and choices to be made or had they already been made!

As Round 2 commenced Jefferson noted that since he last visited the UK that they’ve lost friends on both sides of the ocean. “Arvin” as we mentioned in our preview is a quite special piece of work and to be able to witness it being performed in the flesh was an absolute honour. A mixture of humour, truisms and details so vivid that they can surely can only have been pulled from real life events. Danni chose to debut a brand new song from her forthcoming record written with Ben Glover “Texas”. Even Danni did not seem sure exactly what it was about offering up "the power of human connection" as an explanation. It was another song full of intrigue as we tried to piece together the story. It came beautifully packed with lots of details and Danni's performance with her voice rich and warm with character, was simply delightful. Steve Black continuing the theme of friendship, with a song from "All I Saw" that had never ever played live until today. A song about drinking session with Jim Almand and Andy Bennett, an event In itself one would imagine, “It Was A Good Time” details to great effect just how the day unfolded.

Jefferson opened Round 3 with a song of voodoo and sacrificing chickens . from a woman who practices from a “77 Green Cadillac Hearse”. The song is about someone visiting her and then getting more than perhaps than they expected and end up "just wearing a smile"!

Danni opted to do the first singalong of the weekend with “Back To Memphis” from “Mockingbird Lane”, An engaging slow song that really builds to each chorus, with Jefferson and Steve joining in on harmonies as well as the audience which made it a special performance that gathered a large round of applause. Steve then took us back to his time in Alaska when the ocean used to freeze over. The lyrics under a gently strummed tune capturing the “vastness of nature” . These really were rounds of the highest quality.

The fourth round opened with Jefferson talking about his brother committing suicide aged 28. What would seem unlikely inspiration for a song ended up as “Isle Of Hope”. The song becomes about the things that Jefferson would get to do that his brother would no including seeing the aforementioned isle and having children etc. There was lovely lyrical wordplay “You checked in when you cashed out” and it had a heartbreaking line "They all thought it would be be me instead of you”. Danni’s contribution another new song about living yourself “Ancient Embers” included a hauntingly beautifully vocal part. not so much sung as "Ooohed" in a highly effective way. Steve debuted a song only finished on Thursday not even played out loud yet. called "You".

It’s hard to describe just how high quality and emotional this Songwriters Round was, For the final round Jefferson chose his selection from an audience request. “I Was Here” from his spectacular “Azalea” album.

Danni decided to close her set with the title track from her first album “A Little Redemption” including a section for audience humming giving us an almost spiritual feeling to the session. Steve chose as he always does the traditional curtain closer for these events, "Jack London" the story of his Grandfather and his interaction with him as a young child is before closing the session with a mass singalong of “Daisy Daisy".

The event proved to be something of an emotional roller coaster for artists and audience alike but we all came away from it feeling just a little bit better and maybe a little bit wiser.

#Midwinterfest2019 #JeffersonRoss #DanniNicholls #SteveBlack