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  • Writer's pictureNathaniel Keen

Authentic grubbiness

Updated: Mar 16

Musician: Nat Keen (guitar and vocals)

The Spitz has recently begun a relationship with William Tyndale School in Islington, with Bridgeside Lodge playing host to our musical collaborations. Big Joe's lyric writing was clearly inspired by the visit of the 60 school children two days previously. He'd expressed how much he loved their energy and positivity and on several occasions asked me when they would be coming back.

‘"The memory of the children has stayed with me, they were so nice with me, they asked me about my favourite animals and my favourite colour"

It seemed fitting for Joe to feature these inspirational children as a contrasting source of optimism in his latest narrative which appears to describe a person suffering in some way, with Big Joe reaching out to offer a helping hand.

"When I'm walking along and I'm groovin on downtown

And I see your face and you're wearing a big frown

When you see the kids and they're wearing their big smiles

We can learn from them as they learn from us now.

Aren't you feeling the love or are you feeling the pain

Is there something I could tell you

Is there something that you don't wanna say"

Resident JG, who was sitting nearby and had previously offered some sound and productive literary advice (big fan of poetry!) was, on this occasion in the mood for a particularly cutting critique of his work; 'The song hasn't got any potential' , I thanked her for her honesty.

Her mood thawed a little when I took the guitar next to her and began singing some of her favourite old folk songs. In the background I could hear Big Joe pitching in with some angelic falsetto backing vocals.

Upstairs I found JC sitting alone, wistfully looking out of the window at the various happenings along the sunny canal. A lovely spot for taking in the world. We made up a song together and then ploughed straight into Chuck Berry’s 'No Particular Place To Go' (his all time fave). A family member of one of the residents presented me with some wet wipes and suggested that I clean the front of his guitar. I thought to myself, maybe he actually likes the authentic grubbiness of his old blues guitar?, but no, the wipe-down was welcomed and the guitar was laid to rest for the day in all its shimmering glory.

I then met a new (to me) resident, RS and her daughter. RS is extremely hard of hearing and our initial interactions consisted of me belting out an introduction so loud that most of the people in the area swivelled around to see what the commotion was about. She appreciated being reached though and I continued by playing some songs for her a few inches from her ears. She likes Bob Dylan but her daughter hates Bob Dylan and politely said that she'd go for a walk whenever that song would start. I started 'Don't Think Twice It's All Right' but chose a slightly softer singing tone than Dylan would characteristically use, strangely the daughter didn't recognise the (absolute classic) song as being by Bob Dylan and ended up sitting there enjoying it. 'Oh, that was lovely, I really enjoyed that......and who was it by?' . The unexpected benefit of playing very loudly for somebody is that the sound travels far, and as I was wrapping up the last verse, I looked over to JC by the window to see him gleefully strumming his air guitar.

P was in bed today but welcomed my musical offering. He seemed deep in thought as he stared towards the bright natural light filling his room. At the end of each piece there was an acknowledging smile coupled with the word 'yes'. We joked about this and that and explored a wide range of songs and styles and I noticed that he had begun to remember some of the lyrics of my current favourite Doc Watson song ‘Blue Ridge Mountain Blues'

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