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Woodman Folk Club - Reviews

Anthony John Clarke 
& Tony Portlock:
Attic Folk Club, Chesterfield
Trevor Durden 12 March 2005

The Attic Folk Club in Chesterfield is held at the Tullamore Hotel in Springbank Road. The club operates monthly and is inevitably sold out. Perversely, it is not held in the attic, but in what used to be the cellar of Kate’s former family home!

We are all used to seeing Tony Portlock on home soil, so it was a pleasant change to see him playing an away fixture. Tony started the evening promptly at 8 o clock and it was soon evident that Tony’s bluesy voice and neat picking style were both on good form. His first set seemed to fly by so quickly as he took us on a journey starting with "This Ol’ Hammer" to "Walk The Lonesome Valley" visiting on the way, amongst others, Colin Pitts magnificent song about the Titanic "Let Her Lie" O’Carolan’s "Blind Mary" and the blues standards for which he is justifiably renown. The well-deserved applause had barely died down before Anthony John Clarke and Elizabeth Van De Waal replaced him on stage.

I was trying to think of one word to describe Anthony John Clarke and kept coming up with a multitude of adjectives. Determined to succeed I decided that the only word to describe him fully was "comfortable". He is comfortable with his songs, he is comfortable with his surroundings an, above all, he is supremely comfortable with his audience.

The set started with the lovely "An Acquaintance of Mine" before moving on to the appearance of the unfortunate "Dolores". The outstanding "Between Midnight and Blue" followed this hapless scapegoat before moving on to the bitter sweet "Broken Years" and finally the tragic "Gloria". Each of these songs was interspersed by Anthony John’s hugely entertaining patter and enhanced by the beautiful keyboard playing and sensitive harmonies of Elizabeth Van De Waal.

After a short interval Tony retook the stage for his second set. He was introduced as "probably the best support artist around." Although this was meant as a compliment it is not really doing Tony the justice he deserves. He is an accomplished artist and deserves more recognition. This was beautifully demonstrated in his second set where he used his allotted time to cram in the maximum number of songs interspersed with self – deprecating humour. I particularly enjoyed "Pallet on The Floor" and a soulful, haunting version of "Summer Time." All too soon he was singing his final song of the evening, "The Needed Time." To fulsome and well-deserved applause, Tony came back on to the stage to encore what has become, his signature tune, "Alberta."

Anthony John and Elizabeth started their second set with some "Smooth Old Talking" asking us what brought us here tonight. If we had any doubt, the next hour would provide an ample answer! Anthony John proceeded to take us on a roller coaster ride of emotions from the thought provoking "Irish Eyes" – (Who is right or wrong? Why should Irish Eyes keep smiling through it all?) to high comedy with "I Am My Own Grandpa" and "Tuesday Night is Always Karaoke" The imagery in this song is truly unbelievable! The final song in the set was the shoulder shrugging "That’s Life". Had it really been an hour? Inevitably Anthony John was recalled to the stage where he encored "Will You Sing A Chorus With Me?" – Everyone did!.

So ended one truly memorable evening. An evening full of songs that made you think, songs that made you laugh and performances that made you envious of the talent on display.

Finally, I would like to thank The Attic Folk Club for making us very welcome. Although a fair distance from the West Midlands it is well worth a visit. However, make sure you plan your visit in advance. They sell out EVERY month and you will need to book well in advance. For further information about the club and tickets you should contact David Davidson on 01246 277591.

Forthcoming Events:-

9th April. Colum Sands (SOLD OUT)
14th May. Johnny Silvo. Mick Peat & John Squires
18th June. Coope Boyes & Simpson