Woodman Folk Club - Reviews
|The Woodman 50th Anniversary
Virtual Folk Festival
|Les Jones||26-28 February 2021||
How many of us do you think, who watched the 51 performances over the 3 nights of the festival can actually say where they were on Friday 19th February 1971. I for one cannot. However I can guarantee that one of the festival’s performers can. Mick Harrington was one of the founder members of The Puritans Folk Group who were responsible for setting up the original Woodman Folk Club on that very date, at The Woodman Inn, Mount Pleasant, Kingswinford. I’m pretty sure that even he would never have believed that 50 years later he would be performing at the club again, albeit from the luxury of his own home via the magic of the world-wide web. In the intervening years, that the club itself has moved only once, a couple of miles down the road to its current location is commendable, but to be celebrating its 50th anniversary is undoubtedly a magnificent achievement. Just for the record the first “guests” as they were called then, were Tommy Dempsey and Jon Swift. Tommy I can confirm is still going strong and his band Dempsey’s Lot appeared at the club as recently as 2015. Since then the club has played host to many luminaries of the folk world past and present, including Martin Carthy MBE and Chris While and Julie Matthews who helped us celebrate our 40th year anniversary. The original launch was not without its problems, one being that it was in the middle of the only ever national postal strike. Lasting as it did for seven weeks, when you consider that in those days, all contact with guests and audience was through the mail, it is a small miracle that the club got started at all. It has also survived other “mishaps” such as the fight between the guests and some of the audience in the second week, severe weather, various changes of band members for the Puritans and organisers and now of course a worldwide pandemic. It is, therefore, a tribute to all involved with the club that we have been able to enjoy the festival at all and celebrate what is undoubtedly an extraordinary achievement.
Not to be put off by lockdowns and other bans on gatherings, Derry and Debby have been running The Virtual Woodman Folk Club for the last year, having combined the theme of guest nights and singers’ nights to give as many people a chance to be involved as possible. So when they came to consider how to celebrate its half century an extension of that same principle was the obvious answer. In fact it was to prove such a success that when they wrote to previous guests asking if they wanted to participate in what they thought may be a single evening, as normal, it quickly escalated into a three night festival of Woodman Folk. Depending on whether you agree with my accounting or not I calculate that there were contributions from 11 Woodmanites, plus a 12 person Bromsgrove Folk Tribute. Additionally, it is amazing that no fewer than 41 guest artists gave of their time, humour, congratulations, club memories and above all their musical expertise. Once again it reflects the esteem in which the club is held by the “professionals”. The festival was a truly international event, not only of course, were we treated to delights from all over the UK but from Spain, France, and Canada and the independent republic of Tipton. Think of the airmiles we saved.
In normal circumstances everyone, guests and patrons alike would have to come to the club to relish in the delights on offer – including for guests perhaps an overnight stay at Hotel Jones. “A most comfortable bed in a spare room – Dave Gibb” - “Bed and Breakfast; a brilliant breakfast – Grant Baynham”. The need for a virtual festival has of course, changed all this temporarily, but has enabled us all to be invited instead into the “Homes of the Stars”, if only for a fleeting moment. And what revelations there were to behold.
Friday 26 February 2021: Part 1
As you would have expected the festivities began with a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday To You, led by our MC for the entire festival “And a brilliant singer songwriter in his own right – MR BRYN PHILLIPS”. This was followed by the presentation of “a shiny pewter mug” to Derry (Lyrics Copyright by permission…) and similarly to Bryn for all their efforts in keeping the Virtual Woodman going over the last year. And well deserved too.
And so the fun began:
Steve Tilston – a close up performance from his library showing a select array of books, including One Woman’s West by Martha Gay Masterson – inspiration for Slip Jigs And Reels perhaps – and Steve’s wedding day photo, on display. As far as I can tell he first visited the club in 2000, it may have been earlier, since when he has been 10 times. It is, he said, 50 years since he released his first CD, so it was appropriate that after giving the club brief congratulations he performed a snippet of a song called Daylight Rising from his latest CD.
Granny’s Attic – by comparison are new comers having visited us in 2016 for the first of 2 visits. Cohen made the initial introductions from what appears to have been his garage before handing over firstly, to George and then Lewis who had managed to get inside their respective houses. They then resorted to Zoom – where would we be without it – for a tune set (Riddles Hornpipe and The Circus) from their last album Wheels Of The World, released in 2019. It is pleasing to note that Cohen appeared to have made into his house for this section. Nice curtains.
Bob Fox – reminiscing from his tastefully decorated sitting room said that he had first been to the club, with Stu Luckley, when at the original Woodman Inn, in the 1970s. He has returned to the club on at least 7 occasions since, when not flying to all over the globe to perform as a solo singer and in stage productions of War Horse. What else could he have played for us but the song which he says is his most requested the Joe Wilson classic Sally Wheatley.
Mick Bisiker and Chris Radley – Mick gave his congratulations from a room whose walls were covered in guitars and other instruments before singing his version of Happy Birthday To You accompanying himself on the piano. This was sensibly sited on the floor. His first Woodman gig he recalled, was one of his first with the band Falstaff in about 1980, since when he has returned to the club on numerous occasions in various different combinations. They resorted to Zoom to perform a lovely version of Alan Hull’s Winter Song, complete with atmospheric photos, which they had recorded during the recent lockdown.
Gary Edward Jones – gave us his own song Coming Back Around from his living room, beautifully adorned by a background painting and plants. Since his third and most recent visit to the club in 2019 Gary has taken his one man Paul Simon show to the USA. We are waiting for him to do the same for us when the chance arises. As yet I cannot find that Gary has recorded Coming Back Around, let’s hope it happens soon.
Dave Gibb – provided the most outstanding backdrop to date in a gorgeous crimson, set off tastefully by a strategically placed toy lamb in the corner. Dave has been to the club 4 times since 2014 and will, I’m sure, be there again as soon as circumstances permit, if only so he can take advantage of the facilities at the Jones Hotel. His contribution Everything Is A Mystery To Me followed a strong roundabout hint from Debby and describes perhaps how many of our more senior members may be feeling after 12 months of lockdowns and live music starvation. He did ask politely that we join in. At least we were not exhorted to SING as is usually the case.
Velvet Green – were the first of the regular Woodmanites to perform this evening against a backdrop of Paul’s somewhat extensive collection of CD's, which he tried to hide behind a huge figure 50, but it didn’t work. An excuse was had to imbibe Champagne from the Matthews Wine Cellar – and all before breakfast. They had revamped one of their songs from their usual song list especially for the occasion. Multi-tracking the Sandy Denny classic Who Knows Where The Time Goes, to include additional vocals, electric guitar, and drums. Lovely version.
Kim and Andrew Lowings – conveniently Kim and Andrew are together over lockdown, so we were able to enjoy the duo actually together in the same room - a lovely selection of books. Kim’s first recorded visit to the Woodman was in 2012 but as she started by attending our Singers’ Nights her 8 “paid gigs” are probably nothing as compared to her “free” spots. She and Jarv performed a rendition of The Troubadour. A beautiful song, beautifully sung with accompanying guitars from each of them.
Jigantics – A clever opening from Martyn and the rest of the band via Zoom was the precursor to a stage performance recorded sometime before our various lockdowns featured Keith on guitar and Sarah on ukulele singing the Ralph McTell oldie Peppers and Tomatoes. I have to admit to it being a personal favourite of mine well delivered by them. Visitors to the club on 4 occasions since 2015 regrettably we last saw them in 2019.
Dan Walsh – has been to see us on 4 occasions since 2013 both as a solo performer and with his trio. Set against a background which showed his liking for board games – Articulate and Pie face to name but two – he was full of praise for the club citing it as one of his favourite clubs in the whole country. That surely must have earned him a return visit, without taking into account his undoubted talents on the banjo. It was a pleasure to hear a Dan original The Lion and a traditional tune Haggis, which surprisingly is a Scottish tune. Who’d have thought it.
Dick Woodhouse – is another of our Woodmanites who’s array of material ranges from traditional and modern songs and tunes to comic songs from the likes of Sid Kipper. Having ensconced himself this evening in what could have been an attic and spare room, or a very smart cell below ground he delighted us by being our resident Jake Thackray relating the romantic concerns of Worried Brown Eyes. Nice to see the Woodman Tee-shirt getting an outing.
Fragile Hearts – regular patrons at the club have inexplicably only ever played one paid gig at the club in 2019, of which there is no written review. Well the reviewer was on holiday he says. Couldn’t have been 2020 then? Seated as they were in what may have been a spare bedroom, with the most atmospheric lighting of the weekend, Steve and Helena gave us a self-penned tune which purportedly had only been finished a few minutes before. (Poetic licence?). I think so since my inside information tells me this was the third take. (OMG that was supposed to be confidential). A super song wishing Happy Birthday as well as extolling the excellent work put in by Deb and Derry Jones in running the club and name checking – I know because I counted them all (three times) – 25 other club members. At least someone remembers who we are. There was also some mention of one A J Clarke, but my legal representatives have advised that if repeat what was said disclaimers may not save me from future action.
What a way to end the first night.
Saturday 27th February 2021: Part 2
Bryn Phillips – the second day began as it rightfully should with our MC showing that he is a wonderful singer/songwriter in his own right. This time however through the magic of technology we were treated to two Bryns for the price of one, billed as Bryn and Mr Bryn. I’m not sure which was which, but one played the guitar and sang the other accompanied on piano. Set against a subtle background of light grey the Bryns sang an original Bryn Phillips song Where Have All The Good Times Gone.
And then, it was back to MC duties.
Grant Baynham – was well worth the fee we didn’t pay him. Before singing his amazing The Wine Song we were treated to;
· A guitar lesson concerning the beauty of the transition from Dmaj6 to A augmented.
· A partial life story which explained the plethora of folk clubs open to him in 1971 and why despite his attempts he had never managed to get a floor spot at the Woodman because he always seemed to forget to book. He does mention that his “go to” club was The Cut Above at The Lock Wolverley. Well Grant, if we were not your first choice then…
· If we ignore his accompanying Bev Pegg on two songs a few years ago, this, he maintained, was his first floor spot at the Woodman in 50 years.
He does forget to mention that he has been a guest at the club on at least 7 occasions with Hilary Spencer as Quicksilver.
The Wine Song was not only a humorous delight but a guitarists demonstration on how to play – including of course Dmaj6 and A augmented.
The Lost Notes – have only been to the club twice since 2018 but I am sure that will be remedied when normality returns. Lucy and Ben shared their living room and a photo of Oli Jobes with us to send us their congratulations before singing, Still I Come, which features on their new CD Low Life and High Times. Since they were too polite to advertise, allow me to recommend it partly because I gave them all sorts of trouble asking them to sign my copy before sending it in the midst of the current lockdown. The accompanying video took us into someone’s garden; benches, ivy, beer, and all. Superb.
Brooks Williams – American by birth but now resident in the UK, sent his felicitations from his red room before treating us to a wonderful display of his own particular style of jazz, blues influenced, guitar playing. The song Inland Sailor I’m sure was one of his although I’m not sure he said so. I can’t believe we have only seen him at the club 3 times since 2014. While researching background for this section I found a YouTube video of Brooks and Dan Walsh performing Columbus Stockade Blues over Zoom – well worth a listen.
John and Carol Hoare – another pair of Woodmanites, took the opportunity of their near 6th anniversary of coming to The Woodman to take us into their living room adorned as it was by a couple of delightful paintings. John recounted the first concert he ever went to which was in 1971 - Ralph McTell, of course – and he has the poster to prove it. Tonight’s song, First and Last Man, was on the set list. Lovely guitar work from John and piano accompaniment from Carol.
Will Morgan – as they say needs no introduction. More of a friend to the club than a paid guest, nonetheless he has spotlighted at the club on at least 7 occasions since the first record I could find in 2009 although I wouldn’t be surprised if there were more. Filmed in his home I am not sure whether I should mention the blurring either side of the film which may be an artistic feature or because he hadn’t had time to tidy up. Will is renowned for his humorous songs and in particular his regular performance of Jake Thackray songs. Tonight he sang a lesser known Jake song Tortoise, better known if you can have a better known lesser known song, as Crunchy Pies. I must I feel give a shout out to The Brewood Acoustic Music Club run by Will and others over Zoom on selected Thursdays not only because we need to keep live clubs going but because Thursdays do not intrude on Woodman nights.
Vicky Swann and Jonny Dyer – have been to the club twice since 2017 and were much appreciated for their music, skill and Vicky’s playing of the nyckelharpa which has to be seen to be believed. I liked their room which seems to be decorated with a film screen and little coloured lights. Most of us just have a TV but there you go. They requested we dance in our seats to the strains of Jiggle Your Old Bones. Appropriate I think. Please let us know if you actually did dance. I recall that during the first lockdown, if not since, Vicki and Jonny entertained their neighbours outside their house each Thursday during the NHS clap. Applause for them is well deserved.
Pete Kelly - is hard to define in terms of his relationship with the club which goes back years. Records say he has appeared at the club 11 times since 2006 but this is not the half of it. He is another person who can be regarded as a mate more than a guest artist who must have played on singers’ nights dozens of times. As cheerful as ever he seems to have set himself up with a special black background for recording videos so I can’t reveal any secrets about his household habits. When We Were Kings is one we have heard numerous times and enjoyed every time especially tonight.
Winter Wilson – have been to the club 3 times since their first time in 2015. Appearing in what must be “The Music Room”, adorned with guitars and posters. I noted that they have what appear to be 2 A4 sheets on the wall with Kip Winter printed on one and Dave Wilson on the other. Should we be concerned that lockdown has got to them to such a degree that they need such a reminder? They sang for us Tried and Tested, a song off their live album Live & Unconventional “Get the plugs in”. It also appears in case you want the original version on their studio album Far Off On The Horizon. A little club related story. During their last visit Bryn, before singing Sat nav Sally, had reason to ask, “No one here speaks Dutch do they?” “Yes I do” said Kip. Oh dear Bryn, always know the answer before you ask the question.
Paul Walker and Karen Pfeiffer – extended their congratulations to the club, Karen treating us to a partial rendition of a German song which I think may be their version of Happy Birthday To You, but I may be wrong, There followed Happy Birthday to both Woodmen and Woodwomen in English. They then swapped rooms and guitar to sing the Colum Sands’ setting of Goethe’s “Naehe des Geliebten”, which Colum entitled appropriately Goethe’s Song (All My Winding Journeys). Sung in English and German, it was accompanied by Karen on recorder and Paul on Guitar. Beautiful.
Sunjay – Records show that he has appeared 6 times at the club since 2011 but as with others he is a friend of the club having been to singers’ nights on a regular basis until his career quite rightly took off and he has spent more time on the road touring both as himself and in the show Buddy; The Buddy Holly Story, as the man himself. Sat as he always is surrounded by his amps and guitars, but playing only one, making it sound like more, he gave his superb version of the Chris Smither song Don’t Call Me A Stranger.
Flossie Malavialle – Was the first of our international guests at the festival. Having come to Britain over 20 years ago to teach in Stockton she soon got into the local folk scene and from there to clubs further afield before turning professional. Since when she has supported luminaries such as Show Of Hands and Vin Garbutt. She is also a regular on the festival circuit. She first came to the club in 2010 and has returned 6 times and is always very much appreciated. She in turn never knows what to expect from the audience at The Woodman. She was with us the week after France won the World Cup in 2018 – what a night that was, only to be surpassed by her last visit in November 2019 when her set was at times accompanied by flashing lights and tambourines. It was delightful therefore that she felt she was able to join us from her home. After her Happy Birthdays she sang Tracy Chapman’s Can I Hold You Tonight, having encouraged us to accompany her on whatever we had to hand. You wouldn’t say that if you were here. Finishing with her rendition of Happy Birthday the second “spasm” was brought to a close.
Saturday 27th February 2021: Part 3
Anthony John Clarke – Legend that he is has appeared at the club on no fewer than 15 occasions since 2002. The interim has seen him develop from folk club guest to international star, teaming up in recent years with the wonderful Dave Pegg to undertake tours and a couple of albums, as well as compering at the world renowned Cropredy Folk Festival as he will do once again this year, if the fates allow. Like Will Morgan he managed to blur the sides of his film in his case I think to hide his secret stash of CD's seen partially in the background or to prevent the lovely Julia from hogging all the limelight. His take on Allan Sherman’s Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh was much appreciated turning it as he did into a tribute to the club and all who sail in it.
Mumbo Jumbo – have appeared at the club 3 times between 2012 and 2017 and have a unique style unmatched by anyone around. Oliver cleverly perched himself in front of a painting of a cottage porch perhaps to give the impression he was outside. He would have got away with it too had he not to stood up to show his Mumbo Jumbo tee-shirt should we disbelieve who he was. After much appreciated congratulations and showing of wine glasses the band appeared in the middle of a forest to play the very appropriate Rejoice.
Liz Simcock – has performed at the club 4 times since 2014 and holds the honour if that is the right word of being the last live guest we had at the club before lockdown in March 2020. To prove it she read to us notes she had taken at the time. Compliments to Debbie for wiping the door handles, Derry for his work on the sound and Bryn for his compering. She also made some very nice remarks on the club itself. John and Carol get a mention as they asked if they could cover Liz’s song By The Way (what happened to that, guys?). Tonight she sang This Time Last Year from her Beachcomber album and delightful it was. I must mention Liz’s red wall on which I saw the very bouzouki that she left on the W3.
Mick Harrington – has quite rightly already been mentioned in this review as being responsible with the rest of the Puritans for starting us all off on this journey. How wonderful it was therefore that he should make a contribution to the 50th anniversary celebrations of his club. Mick also had managed to blur his edges but still somehow managed to conjure up a whole clubs worth of audience to join in the chorus of I’m A Rover all in harmony of course. Thank You Mick for everything especially for your panto scripts which are at present in my possession and are read every year when the decision is made which panto to do that year. They are certainly plagiarised where possible, so you are still contributing even if you were not aware.
Dave and Liz Walmisley – Another act it is not easy to work out how many times they have attended the club. Liz for certain has been to us as part of Scold’s Bridle with Sue Bousfield, Dave 3 times with Other Roads and perhaps 8 times with Risky Business but as you will see later Ruth Powell reckons it is much earlier than the year 2000 which is when club computer records began. I am really enjoying my tour of the star’s homes I hope they don’t mind my mentioning their décor, in this instance tasteful tones of blue. I have never heard Dave and Liz sing Dave’s song Vagabond Rules before. It was a delight.
Paul Bedingfield – needs no introduction, so I’m not giving him one. It was a loss to the club when he returned home to the North east after many years teaching here in the Midlands. He was of course a founder member of resident band Nothing To Prove, stand in compere whenever Bryn was unavailable and chief humper of heavy equipment before and after gigs. As such it is impossible to say how many times he has appeared at the club, so I am not going to try. He was so much more than that, but I have said enough. Seated against a window so as not to give too much away he accompanied himself on guitar while singing the classic Free song, My Brother Jake.
Emma Jones – accompanied by dad John Richards on guitar via Zoom – has never to my knowledge appeared at the club in her own right but must have done many times as part of the John Richards Band and other formats. Her performance of the John Hiatt song Tip Of My Tongue was beautiful. See you later in the festival Emma.
Coz and Baz – Woodmanites, stalwarts, former members of the BICA Band and club members for more years than they care to mention have transformed themselves over lockdown from a covers, guitar and accordion duo into songwriters and guitarist, pianists. So it is with delight that they allowed us into their home bar to sing their own song Welsh Whiskey Galore. A true story about a shipwreck off the Welsh coast in 1901. Barry taking the role of singer as he does most times but also playing piano this time, while Coz played guitar. A sing along song for better times if ever I heard one.
Keith Donnelly – another blurred edge guest, sat on his sofa, him, and his guitar, and a song entitled The Plagiarism Blues. I am surprised that records show that he has only been to the club 3 times since 2010, maybe there were other appearances under one of his many guises or before our computer kicked in. That said there can’t be many at The Woodman who have not been subjected to the Keith Donnelly experience either at the club or elsewhere and tonight’s performance was as should be expected a totally original piece of work from him. Having said this, he at the same time plagiarised at least 22 guitar riffs or lines from songs composed by others. How on earth he remembered it I will never know.
Eddy Morton – Another local “lad” who has guested at the club on at least 10 occasions since 2000 either under his own name or as part of The Bushburys. His contribution was filmed pre lockdown in a beautiful church setting in black and white. A lovely song written by Eddy called Sooner or Later Down The Road, was accompanied by three people I regret I did not recognise on piano, accordion, and penny whistle as well as Eddy on guitar. The whole piece had a wonderful Celtic feel to it.
Jack Blackman – was the penultimate guest at the club before lockdown for the second of his 2 visits since 2016. Seated in his music room, surrounded by pictures. I am a fan of Jack’s normally blues influenced work anyway, but he has gained himself a bonus points with me by displaying two Beatles and a Beach Boys poster on his door. Way to go Jack. Today’s offering was one of his own compositions, less bluesy but very upbeat, entitled Another Good Day.
Malcolm Jeffrey – known to one and all as Malcy is a regular at the club and has guested with us 12 times at least since his first recorded visit in 2001. I think it’s more than this. He expressed his wishes for a Happy Birthday to the club, but I am concerned that he may be stuck in a time warp since he was still wearing his green Christmas cracker paper hat. Mmm?? Anyway, enough of this. Malcy’s gift to us was to unwrap the Les Barker poem, Garden Waste. A task on which we may all have to engage soon enough, will be salvaging the garden after the Winter ravages. A thoughtful piece which I have listened to several times since the night. It has definitely convinced me that my beliefs about gardening are right. Hilarious.
And so ended the third quarter.
To bed, to sleep and look forward to the final quarter tomorrow.
Sunday 28th February 2021: Part 4
Jez Lowe – Another folk legend who chose to blur his edges. Jez is multi-instrumentalist, singer composer and author who has shared his talents as a soloist or with The Bad Pennies. Jez has been a guest at the club on 9 occasions since 2001 or maybe more before then. Playing his trade mark cittern and after some words of congratulation he sang his classic song Jack Common’s Anthem. I must repeat that it is wonderful that such folk luminaries as Jez have found time and hold the club in such high regard as to make the contributions they have.
LanderMason – have been to the club twice since 2016 and I am ashamed to say I managed to miss them on both occasions. A mistake I shall not be making again. Beautifully shot in their living room against a wall full of pictures they opened with a two part personalised accaplela Happy Birthday. Their main piece Benjamin Mee is an original song performed and shot in a more formal setting. I did not think it was possible to play the ukulele with such sensitivity as Paul did. It gave the perfect accompaniment to Fiona’s initial count of ten which formed the basis for the song. A beautiful song beautifully performed. Yes I shall definitely be there next time they come to the club.
Ian and Ann Munro – Our second international act this weekend, ran the club and were half of The BICA Band until they departed to live in Spain a few years ago. They took over from Mick Harrington and were responsible for bringing many of this weekends acts to the club in the first place. Impossible to say of course how many times they have performed at the club, but they have certainly sung at Singers’ Nights when returning home for visits (having booked their slot first of course – See Grant Baynham above) as well as playing in the WVFC since lockdown. As they said The Blue Cockade while being a traditional song has been given more prominent status by Show of Hands. Ian and Ann’s version was beautifully sung and played on guitar by Ian accompanied by Ann on flute.
Paul Downes – another legend of the folk scene sent his greetings from snowy Devon. He was able to embellish what I knew about his previous visits to the club. He recalled coming to the club with Phil Beer in the mid-1970s when Mick Harrington was running the club. Whatever happened to Phil Beer? Paul has returned a number of times since either on his own or with Mick Ryan. The Leon Rosselson song Let Your Hair Hang Down was given a new setting with Paul playing banjo.
John Richards – John’s second appearance at the festival but only one among numerous guest spots from him over more than the 20 years we have on record. He is an acclaimed singer songwriter who’s songs have been sung and recorded by many others including the aforementioned Show of Hands and Fairport Convention. His greeting was full of memories and praise for what the club had given him over the years. His song The Friendship Years was sung by John himself on guitar and supported by vocal harmonies and instrumental accompaniment over Zoom.
Becky Mills – has been to the club on two occasions that I can see – once with Patsy Matheson in 2013 and latterly with Ruth Angell in 2018. She is another of the folk scene’s go to musicians who has appeared with, accompanied, and supported many of folk’s finest; Pentangle, Fairport Convention and Barbara Dickson to name but a few. Seated in her bedroom, which she is longing to be released from, and after some birthday wishes, she sang for us an original song about her brother who is a singleton – “because it is hard to find love with the crazy hours that farmers have to work”. Reasonably enough she called it My Brother’s A Farmer. Lovely song. We hope you escape soon.
Gerry Colvin – has been a guest at the club 3 times since his first visit in 2016 as part of the Gerry Colvin Band. It is not often we see him without his band, but that’s Covid I guess. Subdued lighting gave a lovely atmosphere to the room – I love the painting Gerry, there are not many people who have a foot on their wall. The song On The Holly Tree – was inspired by a visit of discovery into his loft during lockdown and is on his latest album due out shortly.
Ranagri – Eliza and Donel were ensconced in their attic I imagine surrounded by microphones and other recording paraphernalia. Covid of course prevented us having the whole band but what they gave us was delightful. Amazingly I first reviewed Ranagri in 2014, where has that time gone? I spent quite some time trying to describe their musical style and failed probably. They have appeared at the club 3 times in all and are I know firm favourites. Courting Is A Pleasure being a traditional song, beautifully played and sung by Donel accompanying himself on guitar with Eliza singing harmonies and playing what I believe was a curved head flute, which of itself, has to be seen to be understood. It is amazing what can be produced with such limited resource.
Rob O’Dell – Another Woodman stalwart, Nothing To Prove member and producer of club news bulletins amongst many other things. It is not often we get to see Rob perform solo. It was a great pleasure, therefore, to see him, with his blurred edges playing a Phil Cunningham tune The Hut On Staffin Island. I asked myself though who could have provided the subtle guitar and bass backing for him. Who else of course but the wonderful Derry Jones. Is there no end to the man’s talents? By the way, interesting use of the visual fade in and out part way through the tune Rob.
Bev Pegg – I am starting a competition to see who of our guests appears to have the greatest collection of CD’s and vinyl on their walls. Bev stands chance of winning. What can I say about Bev that hasn’t already been said? A regular at the club one way or another for years, although I found evidence of 5 guest performances since 2013 I’m sure there are more, since he says he was there in 1971. His musical styles are varied from jazz and rock ‘n roll to other acoustic music. Bev is a wonderful raconteur and his opening to his song – an original Woodman 50th Anniversary number proved the point with tales about the 1971 scene and his garden and a metal detector (Needs to be heard). Max Bygraves as far as I know has never been mentioned at the club until now – I will never hear Gilly-Gilly-Ossenfeffer-Katzenellen-Bogen-By-The-Sea in quite the same way ever again.
Keith Judson – Is another of our contributors who has been to The Woodman more times than I can count either as a duo with son Tim or to Singers’ Nights and I’m sure other occasions not noted. He is a wonderful song writer as well as a singer and guitarist. Tonight’s version of his composition Irons & Chains was superbly delivered and has to be listened to in order to fully appreciate it’s meaning. His film of the performance was enhanced by strategically placed photo on the film to illustrate the lyrics, which were themselves also on display.
Debby and Derry Jones – There is little else I can add that hasn’t already been said over the weekend about this pair. So…!!
Derry’s composition So Sing Along was filmed in their living room. They must have spent quite a while shooting the video as they did from various angles, including tutorial shots of Derry’s finger work on guitar lest we should want to play the song ourselves and need to know the chords. Beautiful A minor Derry. Debby as ever accompanied on keyboard. The song has a chorus which I’m sure we will all be able to join in with in days to come. Another competition – Name another song with the word transfix in the lyrics?
Red Moon Road – The last of our international guests for the festival all the way from Canada. Sheena, her 4 month old puppy Winston and a red bobble hat took the lead for the congratulations and best wishes before introducing Daniel J performing Paul McCartney’s Birthday (From the White Album) on guitar and vocal via Daniel P-H’s mobile phone. Has to be the most unique contribution we have had this weekend, considering each of them was in a different part of Canada. The band have been to the club twice since 2015, and much appreciated they were. As an aside I must mention that Debby and Derry took them to Ma Pardoe’s last time they were here and introduced them to real ale. Do you think they will risk a return trip?
Ken & Ruth Powell – all the way from (according to Ken) sunny Wales and postponed by a technical glitch from Friday night, it is always a great pleasure to have Ken and Ruth at the club preferably in real life but if not over the inter-web net thing will have to do. Since the inception of the WVFC they have also made regular appearances. According to their own accounting records they have been coming to the Woodman either as a duo or with the legendary Risky Business since November 1996, and who am I to argue. Ruth Moody wrote the song Trouble And Woe which Ken felt was a song for today, we are all in trouble and woe but if we stick together then as is so by half way through the song things begin to look up. Playing his self-made, hand crafted banjo, Ruth’s voice was as usual just right for the spiritual feeling of the song. Even when seated in the spare room Ruth has an amazing ability to inject energy and soul into the song. I was a little concerned to note toward the end of the song the door behind them was opened by Mabel – their cat. She will jump up and put them off thought I. No, too much a lady and too old at 21 said Ruth later. All went well then.
Bromsgrove Folk Club Tribute – Just like panto night, without the panto and the costumes really. It was great to see the members of our sister club with their contribution. It would not have been right had they not have been with us this weekend. The session opened with a Zoom version of Happy Birthday from Bromsgrove Club members over 8 Zoom screens, including Mac Rawlins, Bob and Cynthia, Geoff Hawksworth and Chris Irving plus others I regret I did not recognise; sorry. Bob Bignell sent warm congratulations on the anniversary and reinforced all that that had been said elsewhere but added his very personal thoughts at the welcome he has always had from his first visit to now. Geoff Hawksworth who is also a regular at the Woodman on Singers’ Nights recited the Richard Stilgoe poem The Caithness Chair. To round off their contribution, the Darius Rucker classic Wagon Wheel – not the biscuit – was performed by Fairfield and filmed if my guess is right at an earlier Bromsgrove Festival. It featured Lewis Jones on fiddle, Luke Smith on guitar and vocals plus Bob Bignell on backing vocals and hands in pockets. The audience were joining in even before they had started singing and it continued throughout ending with rapturous applause and yelling. Isn’t that what it’s all about.
So there it is 50 years of The Woodman Folk Club celebrated despite Covid restrictions by the people who really matter; the artists, the resident performers, organisers past and present and most importantly the regular patrons who provide the fun, laughter, dedication and essentially the money in membership fees and ticket sales to keep this club going as it has over 50 glorious years. Thanks to you all from everyone at the club which of course, if you are reading this, includes you.
Apologies from Woody and Willow who have been unable to write this review for you as they would normally. They have been self-isolating for sometime and are too tired to be able to do anything - whatever that may mean.
They have asked me to say however that they miss you all and are looking forward to being able to hang around with you all again soon.
On a personal note it has been my pleasure to put together reviews on most, if not all, of this weekend’s guests giving me the opportunity to meet many of them over the last few years. I normally try to write the reviews anonymously, but I thought now would be an appropriate time to break cover and add my personal thanks to them all for the joy they have given us in the past and especially in making The Woodman 50th Anniversary such a success. If I have not said so much in each of their own little paragraphs then be assured I meant to.
The Woodman 50th Anniversary Virtual Folk Festival Weekend.
A wonderful time was had by all, here’s to the next Fifty Years.