FolkWorld #49 11/2012
© David Hintz

Strong Songwriting Chops

John Wesley Harding @ Jammin Java, Washington DC - July 29, 2012.

John Wesley Harding @ FolkWorld:
FW#30, #31, #49 |

"My new theory is that we do not have to record these shows, tweet about them, or write about them online. We can keep them to ourselves because they are ours." Well... as much as I really do like this theory, on to the review. And my review can be used as a minor document of current journalism, a tiny particle of history, a point of comparison for music lovers, or a reminder of the fun of coming to these events and creating your own memories and position as patron of whatever arts you support.

This two hour John Wesley Harding (Wesley Stace) show is a good memory for me as it was the first time I have seen him where I quickly learned what an engaging performer he is. It is not too surprising, as his songs are good, he is creative enough to also have written two novels, and he has been around a while. He played lots of new songs such as his opener, "I can't Make Love to Bob Dylan" which was very fun with lines like "I can lie on my back to Roberta Flack, but..."

There is a Neil Innes quality to many of the songs, but he has some strong songwriting chops that head in the direction of Robyn Hitchcock or John Prine. Those are rather tall mountains, and he does not quite get there, but he leaves many other singer songwriters well behind the path upward.

He explained his songs were really short and the Dylan song would be a 12" single with this really thick groove, maybe the loudest cut vinyl record since "Oh Bondage, Up Your" by X-Ray Spex. I hope a few of these folkies remember that one, as it gave me a good laugh.

Quote of the Night "Are we allowed to ask for requests?" - "That in itself, is a request."

He was surprised how the time was flying by, but when you play engaging songs, tell great stories, use humor, the two hours did fly by, unlike a 35 minute set of a lesser talent. There was a touch of harmonica, but mostly a great voice, and good acoustic guitar work that was mostly picked. He did a few finger style moves, stopping to remind us that he had never played one passage as well as we just heard.

He took some requests although could not do many of them. He joked that he wouldn't do a request where the guy got the title wrong, but added the last time he tried that joke, some guy wrote a 3,000 word blog entry on what a dick he was. I think I will stop short of that length by saying this was a fun time featuring great music and conversation that I will surely catch again.

First published @

Photo Credits: (1) John Wesley Harding (unknown).

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