Rychard Carrington reports on John Shuttleworth – The Junction Shed, 18 May 2007

Artist Visiting Cambridgeshire
Critics have often described Bob Dylan as a spokesman for his generation, but what about John Shuttleworth? He's about the same age as Dylan after all, writes catchier tunes, and eschews the loose surrealism of Whitman-cum-Blake poetic visions in favour of expressing the gamut of human emotions through resiliently quotidian imagery. Like John Lennon he draws artistic inspiration from frankly autobiographical sources, chronicling the highs and lows of his troubled personal life, in Sheffield with his wife Mary. Shuttleworth penetrates beyond Ray Davies or Morrissey to graphically lay bare the telling poignancies of contemporary English working-class everyday life, with sturdy accompaniment from his trusty Yamaha organ.

‘If music be the food of love, play on' wrote an earlier bard, William Shakespeare. Why, then, are there so many love songs, but relatively few food songs? Happily, at The Junction Shed, Shuttleworth redressed the imbalance with a plateful of food-related numbers. The self-styled ‘chef from Sheffield' regaled us with sharp new compositions such as the defiantly celebratory Serial Cereal Eater, the salutary Tummy Trouble, the grandly regretful Can't Go Back to Savoury Now and epic refrigerator drama Two Margarines on the Go (‘it's a nightmare scenario'). He then progressed to old masterpieces: chocolate-bar protest Mutiny over the Bounty, carvery saga Mary Had a Little Lamb (Green Beans and New Potatoes), peaking with Eggs and Gammon, which charts the demise of a daddy longlegs, a victim of the flatulence of Shuttleworth's next-door neighbour, Ken Worthington. The theme moved to drink for the aching nostalgia of Dandelion and Burdock: ‘looking back to a better time / when life was good and there was little crime / children played on their pogo sticks / and on Saturdays went to the local flicks'. The supreme moment was supplied by Shuttleworth's ultimate allegorical statement, Salad Bar: ‘in the restaurant of life your table's chosen for you / sometimes the wine is less than fine and the other diners bore you .../ life is like a salad bar, you only get one visit / take your bowl and follow me, I'll be your guiding spirit'.

A guiding spirit, yes indeed. If you haven't got John Shuttleworth in your life, you're much impoverished.

Writer: Rychard Carrington (with thanks to Josh Hatley)