Rychard Carrington reports on Miles Hunt + Sam Inglis – Portland Arms, Cambridge 15 April 2008

Rychard Carrington reports on Sam Inglis – Portland Arms, Cambridge 2 April 2008

Not being well-acquainted with The Wonder Stuff (not my generation, man), but having recently become thoroughly acquainted with Sam Inglis's quite brilliant oeuvre, rendered myself perhaps unique in the audience (Sam himself excepted), in hearing Sam's numbers as old classics, Miles's old hits as fresh numbers. Sam played to an audience who were not completely quiet, but who appeared to be listening slightly more at the end of his set than at the beginning. So a success, then, objectively. But what passed at least some of the audience by is that Sam really ain't just another quiet-spoken singer-songwriter with guitar, but one of the very best lyricists around anywhere. He can be funny, as in his relentless invective against minicab drivers, in which one reflects:

Sometimes I think about the books I've never read,
Like War And Peace
And The Highway Code
And the Cambridge A-Z

(‘Minicab Driver')

But more usually his wit serves original and poignant sentiments, often providing a fresh perspective on that over-ploughed subject matter, unhappy love, with a sharp sensitivity that recalls Loudon Wainwright (although with less ego):

He's thinking of you as he masturbates
With nothing but love in his heart
He's trying to rebuild the part
He plays in your life

So how can you promise him faithfully
When all that it takes is a touch
To cause you to self-destruct
You can't be his wife

And now as the jury returns with the verdict
Stop up your ears, pretend not to have heard it
Blame all the devils who tempt you
My little Miss Adventure

And now as the coroner speaks to the courtroom
Shuffle your feet, turn your eyes to the floor
Whisper that you never meant to
My little Miss Adventure.


And many other lyrics of this calibre. See my previous review for more on the great man.

Miles Hunt looks and acts like someone who's seen it all and is now well beyond any notion of cool. He reveals that he no longer has an agent, and indeed he acts very much like someone who just does as he pleases and doesn't give a toss about the reaction, let alone his long-term career. Which of course considerably enhances his appeal. He's very good at banter, and really does give the impression that it's all off the top of his head, that he won't even remember what he's said, let alone repeat it at future gigs. And it is witty, his cynical but lively take on his encounters. He bounces off audience comments most effectively. The banter runs off on its own spontaneous energy, going way beyond mere ‘introductions'. Until the last few numbers I think he spoke for longer than he sang. And although the songs were good, arguably the banter was actually more entertaining. Miles Hunt is the new Roy Harper.

As with Roy, the songs communicated original thought and strength of feeling, but require more than one listen for full appreciation. What was fully appreciated, though, was the quite beautiful fiddle accompaniment by Erica Nockalls, which enhanced the musical texture no end. More singer-guitarists should consider fiddle accompaniment, rather than the boringly orthodox bass and drums. So fiddle and banter carried the day for Miles, with songs in an effective supporting role. To be sure they are well worth checking out; just make sure you check out Sam Inglis's songs first.

Wryter: Rychard Carrington