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  • Writer's pictureNathaniel Keen

The true essence of the Blues

Updated: Oct 31, 2021

Musician: Nat Keen (guitar & vocals)

We started the day with a Spitz team meeting in the canal-side garden When the bright October sun was out it was toasty, when it hid we were frosty. The children in the rooftop playground of the school opposite Bridgeside Lodge had kicked their football over the fence and were looking for a passerby to hoof it back up to them. Spitz GM Thom excitedly remarked how he'd been waiting for years for this moment to happen! A man passing by confidently picked up the ball and attempted the feat, but sadly his efforts fell short.


We headed inside to assess potentially returning to our office space in BSL, which became something of a PPE storeroom during the pandemic. As we entered, we bumped into the daughter of resident AS who was preparing to visit her mother. She chatted about how important the music sessions are to her mum and how, only recently had she rediscovered her love for Spanish music. She also told me of her mother's story, living through the war in Spain and coming as a young woman to London to find work in the 1960s. We talked together about the music that our musicians have been sharing with AS and this filled her daughter with a great sense of comfort. I promised to visit her mum later in the day and made my way up to the top of the building to start playing.

My intention today was to visit some residents who aren't necessarily able to ask for music or respond in a conventional manner but may enjoy listening or experiencing a visit. With this in mind I knocked on resident SR's door who was sat there watching TV. I sat beside her and tuned my guitar into an open tuning and began to explore with some gentle finger picking ideas. Over the 5 minutes or so spent with SR there was no visible reaction or interaction but I hoped that she'd experienced the sound positively.

I next saw resident IF who seemed very defensive and keen on protecting herself/to attack any wrongdoers. I suggested that she might like to join me in the living room where I promised to play her a march from the highlands of Scotland. In fact, this week I'd be learning 'Athol Highlanders' with the sole purpose of appeasing her insatiable desire for anything Scottish. The tune is a chirpy, uplifting number with three separate sections and although she briefly seemed to enjoy it, after a few bars she was requesting Elvis. As I began 'Can't Help Falling In Love' she requested something Scottish.

I found it interesting how IF, although continuously and proudly describing the beauty of the Black Isle (where she's from) was able to tap her foot in perfect time to the music. Also, I noticed the way that she would sing her favourite song 'Scotland The Brave' juxtaposed over any other music that I was playing in a kind of musical conversation or interaction with me. For example when the phrase of my song would come to its concluding cadence, hers too would in fact slow down and finish. After we'd played the last song, she seemed a lot calmer and the prior defensiveness was replaced by a tranquil and tender mood.

“Thank you, I really enjoyed that'.


JC seemed worked up upon my arrival, he was upset because a neighbour had apparently accused him of stealing a hoover. He said he wanted to sing the blues, The Hoover Blues, and that's what we did. Within a few minutes I could see that he had visibly escaped into the world he loves so much. I remembered his words from a previous session

'Music helps me escape all the problems of the world'.

This to me seems like the true essence and definition of the Blues. JC then requested that we play something calmer and I suggested a piece that I'd played for him a few times before 'Streets Of Laredo' which he sang along with me. We talked about the journey of music, the hundreds of songs that originated in the U.K, emigrated to the United States, morphed into something different and then came full circle back to the U.K. JC pondered on this;

'It's amazing to think just how many songs are out there!'.

We wrapped up the session with his favourite song 'No Particular Place To Go' and then switched 'homes under the hammer' back onto his TV

'Sorry I was a bit grumpy at the start, I feel much better now.'

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