And I know Mr Roosevelt in the White House can’t deliver no comfort down here

(Can’t believe how long it’s taken me to get this post out…)

If your idea of a good night out is to watch some lanky chap stand on a bar stool and play banjo, well, I’m afraid you missed a corking evening in Cheltenham last week. Me, I love this sort of thing (as I suspect you’ve guessed by now), and fortunately I was one of a large group of punters crammed into Slak to see a stonking set from New York City’s Curtis Eller.

Turned out, the evening was part of the Cheltenham Literature Festival, so there was, I’m afraid, a certain amount of performance poetry, but as this is a family Blog, we’ll pass a discrete veil over those proceedings and move on…

Curtis Eller
He’s a funny character, Curtis Eller, singing a mixture of songs about Richard Nixon, Buster Keaton and his daughter, and supplementing his banjo playing with a series of back-cricking high kicks. To avoid boredom (although I’m not sure whose) he also took to strolling around the tables, blowing out candles as he played, and at one point disappeared into the Gents.

And there was yodelling too. (Lord, that man can yodel.) Maybe not in the Jimmy Rogers class but still a new sound to me, and one that I’ll bet is not often heard in these parts. And he got the audience yodelling too. I’m not usually big on “audience participation” but to be honest he’s such a charming character, that before long I was yodelling like a good’un too.

It was easy, however, to let his sense of fun and charm over-shadow the fact that he’s actually a pretty good song writer. One of the numbers he got a hearty sing-a-long response from was the remarkable “Save Me, Joe Louis”, a song about what were reputedly the last words of a teenage black man, who died in the gas chamber in 1936. Sombre stuff…. You can watch it here (the sound and quality are not the best, but…).

I’m afraid I can’t find any mp3s from Eller on the net but you can buy his most recent album, “Wirewalkers and Assassins” here, (including the Joe Louis song). But in any case, it was really all about the performance; I haven’t bought the record yet but I don’t think it’ll capture quite the magic of the evening.

Instead, there’s a host of Eller videos on YouTube, all of them worth viewing. Here’s one which includes a feller called “Joebass”, whom the more eagle-eyed viewers of this Blog may well remember from another posting….

Answers on a postcard (or in the comments page, at least)…