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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Monday, November 07, 2005
    John Jorgenson and the Larry-Leon connection
     
    Nashville musician plays Childwall! A very special night as Frank, friend and sidesman from my previous parish, brings his pal John Jorgenson over for the only English date of his current tour, a parish club in a Liverpool suburb.

    Frank's done this a couple of times before - scooped a local gig by this international 'A'-list session man. Jorgenson has played with artists as diverse as Elton John, Luciano Pavarotti, Bonnie Raitt, and Benny Goodman, as well as fronting bands of his own and co-creating The Desert Rose Band with Chris Hillman. Tonight the hall contained some of the region's finest guitarists, sat among mere punters like me, all gazing in awe at the man's hands working that instrument like magic.

    The whole evening was great, but the highlight for me came early. Jorgenson's covers are excellent and he unearthed one which I love: Leon Russell's Stranger in A Strange Land. It's a masterpiece of tumbling gospel-blues which I know, of course, through Larry Norman's treatment of it on Streams of White Light Into Darkened Corners. Dear, contrary Larry, wanted to satirise those mainstream artists who were bringing Jesus into their songs because it was fashionable at the time. With the likes of Spirit in the Sky he succeeded, but Russell's song, along with the Stones' Shine a Light, were just too strong to diminish.

    And Larry's style, which in fact owed so much to Jagger / Russell and other great contemporary rock showmen, brought the song alive for me. It made a deep impression which has stuck. John Jorgenson revisiting Stranger in A Strange Land was one of those truly fine moments - an epiphany in a smoke-filled bar room. That's what great musicians can do.