'The Independent Music Show Magazine' November 2019 - Page 9

Psychologist - Writer - MUSICIAN - Steve Bonham

Wide brimmed hat. Long dark coat. Guitar slung on back. 21 years on the road.

A 100,000 miles and half a thousand hotel rooms. From the Berlin Wall to Atlas

Mountains, from Sahara Desert to the streets of Hong Kong: a

memory brewed in the long simmering soup of people and place. A

man who has learned to watch and to listen, to walk and talk in

the ebb and flow of meeting and parting. He is a chronicler of

the human spirit in words. and music.

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Writing songs is a discontinuous art – well at least for me. I had in mind for some time that I wanted to write

a ballad - you know one of those 25 verse, four line epics, beloved in traditional folk. They are one of the great carriers of story since time immemorial as people sat at night around a fire a sang of dragon’s; knights bold and bad; of milkmaids undone by soldiers; and highwaymen and the like. I tried a few things and, nothing really

came of it. But still the intention lingered like an old itch.

Then somehow, someway, as I travelled around the southern states trekking and road tripping, I

came across the strange story of Paula Angel – said to be the first woman to be hung in New

Mexico. She had been a lover of a soldier out at Fort Union, one Miquel Martin. Turns out he had a wife and five children, so when she discovered this, she stabbed him to death. Quickly arrested she was tried in front of Judge Benedict a heavy drinking lawman and friend of Abraham Lincoln. It’s

on odd story. As a crime of passion, she shouldn’t have been arraigned on first degree murder

where a guilty verdict must mean a death sentence. And then, when she was found guilty,

Benedict set the date for her appeal after her execution day! On top of it all, the gaoler, who

seems to have hated her, botched the hanging so she was hung twice.

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One evening as the sun went down, I visited Loma Parda, an old ghost town someway outside Las Vegas, the place according to a 92 year old Navy Veteran I had met, where she had lived. It was a strange empty place, a few bison grazed in the last rays of the day and a creek ran through one end of it. With my companion I scrambled around the ruins. It was completely deserted except for an old guy who lived at edge of town (but that is another story). We came across the old casino where the couple probably first met and I knew I had the perfect tale.

Getting back to England I wrote all the verses on a long train ride from Aberdeen to Derby where I lived. I then worked for a bit on the tune, trying out traditional sounding melodies, but it didn’t really work. It sounded pastiche and well, musically boring. And then I remembered a chord progression I had been playing with in the States at the home of my old friend, the songwriter Rob McHale. He had given me a ‘partial capo’ with which you can make really weird and lovely chords. A really nice sequence fell into place, so I put the words against them and everything just worked ! It was one of those lovely moments that happen all to rarely. People tell me that it has echoes of Dylan, the Doors and Steely Dan wrapped around some country blues.

I recorded it with my old mate Kev Moore who put on just the most amazing bass line, played some great drums and then finished the day with a perfect acoustic guitar solo. Chris ‘the Bishop’ Lydon dropped by and conjured up the vodoo as only he can on the piano and it was done.

Listen here..........https://spoti.fi/2N1gHuy

© Steve Bonham 2019

The Hanging of an Angel.

Recorded at the Harrison ,

King Cross, London - this is Steve Bonham with excerpts from his

'The Song and The Story show'

www.artisan-creative.com

(the writing of American Wilderness - a ballad for the times)