(20 July 2003) The CRS Acoustic Sessions (CRS (UK) Hudrok002CD, 2003) was recorded at the Herringthorpe Leisure Centre, Rotherham on January 18, 2003 and features selections by Karnataka, Sleeping Giant, Miv Cameron Band, Gina Dootson and Tommy Binks. This is the first time The Classic Rock Society have mounted an all-acoustic evening, and the resulting CD is a well-recorded and -packaged affair, with design by Oliver Wakeman.
The contributors are largely regular visitors to the CRS stage, however the first two tracks are by young Rotherham singer-songwriter Tommy Binks. “Eskillater” and “Janet” are both direct and humorous, strongly influenced (to my ears) by post-punk troubadour Billy Bragg, and steeped in the quirks of ordinary living. He seems talented.
Gina Dootson is next up, and her contributions are somewhat more intense. The artist is well known to our visitors, she has an excellent voice, in the US folk style, and her songwriting is tuneful and perceptive. “Wrapped” has an excellent hook, and some frantic guitar playing from Gina, while “Crippled” is an haunting, slower piece. “Slide” is her last contribution, its repetitive hook building into a thunderous climax with her voice at full power. On the evidence of these three songs she sounds like a terrific prospect.
The Miv Cameron band, bring slightly more diverse instrumentation to their performance. Several guitars, some lovely vocal harmonies, and atmospheric keyboards give more weight to these gentle folk songs in a traditional vein. “I love you” and “The Empty Seat” are good examples, while”Kieran” adds some well-chosen whistles into the mix. Miv herself has a good, though unremarkable, voice.
Sleeping Giant are also well known to Musical Discoveries, so it would be interesting to hear what a full, acoustic band performance could do with their songs. In fact, the arrangements here are largely restrained versions of their electric counterparts, with Leon Parr’s drums replaced by conga’s and percussion, Dave Foster on acoustic guitar, Simon Crumley remaining electric on bass, and James Rimmer confining himself to piano. “When your best is never good enough” from the Primates mini-album is a good choice, with Charlotte Evans only slightly more restrained than normal, while “Nothing More,” from the “Embers” EP is a delight, with its lovely piano figure to the fore and Charlotte in fine voice. “December Moon” also works well, and actually manages to “soar” in the same way the electric version does.
Sleeping Giant offer faithful versions of songs without much rearrangement. However, Karnataka, performing as a three piece of Rachel Jones on vocals, Ian Jones on guitar and Jonathan Edwards on keyboards do something entirely different, presenting completely stripped down versions with an entirely different feel. “Must be the Devil” with Jonathan’s “Doors” like keyboard runs, is positively moody, with Rachel singing much more gently than she is normally able to do live. “Strange Behaviour” is a fairly straightforward version of the song as it must have been as it was written, with very subtle keyboard textures just hinting at its electric arrangement. “There Must be a Way” from their first album, is not performed live in an electric arrangement now, but the gentle version here is the album highlight, with Jonathan’s piano part absolutely perfectly arranged. Finally, “Crazy,” again, takes on a whole new life as another brooding acoustic piece.
Martin Hudson and the CRS should be congratulated for an excellent recording of what sounded like a memorable event. Each of the artists represented did themselves proud – and Karnataka fans will want this for the version of “There Must be a Way” on its own!–Stephen Lambe