Reviews 2019

Woodman Folk Club - Reviews

Ashes to Oaks

Les Jones 3 May 2019

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The Woodman experience is always enjoyable and entertaining but this evening we were treated to the blossoming of a new band from small shoots to flowers in full bloom. Ashes to Oaks are very much a new band and this may well have been their first public performance. True they have played as part of a wider ensemble within their place of worship but after two rehearsals they launched themselves on a wider public. Musically they “err on the side of good” – their quote not mine; playing what they describe as “alternative country music”. They began tentatively, sometimes not knowing quite what to say about the songs or the situation I which they found themselves, but as the evening went on them grew more and more relaxed and as the confidence grew so did their use of humour and music. By the end they had the audience in their pocket; joining in the songs; rattling shakers and laughing with them. Speaking with them afterwards I found them to be keen to talk about their music and in the case of Jemma – a teacher – correct the errors in my review notes (though not in green ink).

The band are Jemma Lauren – vocals, guitar and ukulele; Russ Sargeant – vocals and double bass; Andy Shepherd – drums and cajon; Robin Tudor - fiddle and guitar – (albeit that Robin is an very old friend of the club and is known in addition to be able to play, banjo, accordion and keyboards).

In the first half they gave us original songs; All My Heart, Wayside and Morning Sun – from their EP and Russ lead vocals with You Can Go Your Own Way..

Robin kicked off the second half with Girls Just Want To Have Fun followed by an original song Write Us Into Life. Here came a glitch with the electrics but Jemma dealt with it so well, deciding to launch into a completely acoustic version of Stand By Me with Russ on double bass and vocals. It was amazing and they should be encouraged to keep it as part of the set as it is. There followed Freedom which for me was the best of their original songs and is the title track to the EP.

Though billed as an Ashes to Oaks gig they were joined by Matt Sayers, another very talented musician, who accompanying himself on guitar opened up for them in the first half with John Denver’s Country Roads and originals, Cardboard, Jericho and Keep You On My Mind. At the end of the second half he joined the band on stage for Neil Young’s Heart of Gold, Someday. The whole ensemble came together to sing Tom Petty’s Freefallin’ as an encore.

I for one would be keen to see the band and/or Matt back at the club again anytime.

The whole evening including the raffle – which I didn’t win again – was brought together by Bryn Phillips, who as a “Brilliant songwriter in his own right”, sang Cargo Cult and The Throckmorton Coat in the slot after the interval. The evening began by John Hoare giving us AJC’s The Broken Years and his own The Tin Man. Velvet Green sang Bright Blue Rose and Paul and Tony’s song The Night We Broke Away.

It was a wonderful experience being a part of the debut for the band, I’m sure they will continue to thrive.

As usual of course I should also mention:

A Wonderful Night Was Had by All.
Here’s to the next one..