Take a vastly under rated singer songwriter, a former jazz musician of the year and then add a former co principal of the National Symphony Orchestra and what do you get? You get an evening of musical pyrotechnics, dry humour and, above all, sparkling entertainment.
The band exploded into action with the Hungarian Dances, setting the tone and standard for the rest of the evening. Al’s violin blasting out the frenetic melody, Mick providing solid rhythm and Jadie developing well crafted and precise bass lines. One number down and we all needed to take a breather!
Mick soon showed his talent for working an audience with the echoing chorus; Hey There / Blast It before showing his more gentle side with the classic Napoleonic ballad The Bonny Light Horsemen. Yet another change of style followed; The Wonky Donkey was, to my ears, very reminiscent of The Hens March and was full of great musical humour.
It was then back to Mick’s material that we returned with the wistful Love On The Streets, a senseless search for love in Ibiza (Mick stressed the point that the song was NOT autobiographical!) before another traditional song The Mossy Green Banks Of The Lea.
But then came the pick of the crop with the Billy Joel song The Downeaster “Alexa”. The song is sung in the persona of an impoverished fisherman who, like many of his fellow men, is finding it increasingly hard to make ends meet and keep ownership of his boat. The fisherman sings about the depletion of the fish stocks ("I know there's fish out there, but where God only knows") and the environmental regulations ("Since they told me I can't sell no stripers”) which make it hard for men like him him to survive, especially with the conversion of his home island into an expensive resort for the affluent ("There ain't no island left for islanders like me").
A set of Irish tunes (Rakes of Kildare & Mason’s Apron) concluded the first half, The really good news was, however, that the second half lay before us.. It did, however take an inordinate length of time before doing so!
A set of tunes, starting soulfully and building up to a crescendo worthy of a Whirling Dervish started the second half before Mick gave us a wonderful rendition of Steve Knightly’s song The Blind Fiddler, the play out being a set of tunes. Al joked that he intended to answer this by writing a tune called the deaf guitarist!
One of Mick’s best-known songs is “Ball and Chain,” the story of a prisoner desperate to be out of prison but even more desperate to return having been released. The chorus just begs to be sung and the audience did just that!
After this we were treated to a dip into the catalogue of Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli with Minor Swing – built around just three chords, A minor, E minor and D minor ……………
It was then back to the tradition with Rose of Allendale, interspersed with the lovely Si Beg Si Mor. Another facet of this versatile trio was shown with the Doc Watson classic Deep River Blues. And so, too quickly, we approached the end of the evening.
Mick’s beautiful song The Arun Canal was written for his mum when he was just sixteen. It is a song well known to Woodman regulars because Ian used to do a very good version of it. Lusty chorus singing concluded the scheduled set but fortunately the trio had a suitable encore in their repertoire, the evening ending as it started with Slavonic Dances.
An evening of the greatest quality and enjoyment that must be repeated in the future. But let’s not wait another 20 years!
Did I win the raffle? No.
Did I buy a CD? Yes, they were THAT good!
All in all this was a superb evening of entertainment with very valuable support provided by The BICA Band and the inimitable Bryn Phillips.