Reviews 2020

Woodman Folk Club - Reviews


Woody* 14 February 2020

Click on photo to 
see larger image

Hi Woody, here again with another review. As you know I have not been hanging around The Woodman for as long as most of you guys, so I am learning and enjoying every minute of it. For instance, last week we were entertained by a band that have been together for 40+ years and had a wealth of experience on which to draw. Tonight, the exact opposite; Greengrass have only been together for just about a year, although it was easy to hear that as individuals they have musical skills that overcame their relative inexperience as a band.

Greengrass comprises of Lauren South on fiddle and lead/harmony vocals; Kate Vassalos on 6 and 12 string guitars and harmony vocals; Keith Nickless on Double Bass (on wheels), 6 string guitar and lead/harmony vocals. Their music is a clever mix of bluegrass and folk or the other way round depending on your preference. Keith tells me that the band name evolved from his (blue)grass and Lauren’s (folk)green. No, I’m not sure either. But it’s a lovely name that does describe them well. They play a mixture of traditional and cover songs with several of their own compositions, which stand up well against the more well-known songs.

Vocally Lauren has what I would like to describe as haunting; strong enough to carry all her songs but with an almost fragility to it. On occasion she has a distinct sound of Kate Rusby. I put this to her, and she was happy/complimented for me to say so. Keith on the other hand has a much more powerful voice which the band say is often much quieter if he sings “in the car park”. I think they were joking. Kate also has a lilting voice which is ideal for the backing harmonies she sings.

Musically, they are all very competent. Keith’s bass playing is never too much, providing the necessary pace for the songs, whilst his guitar work fits very well with Kate’s each taking it in turns to play harmonies above or below the other. Several people said to me on the night not only how much they enjoyed Lauren’s fiddle playing but how on earth she manages to play it and sing at the same time? I’m not the one to ask as I cannot get a note out of one without it screeching. As an ensemble it works extremely well.

Since I contacted Keith to provide me with any song titles I had not got, or mis- named, then I feel honour bound to record here for posterity.

In the first set we had:
• Karine Polwart’s - Rivers Run
• Black is the Color (of my true love’s hair) – a traditional Appalachian ballad
• Judith’s Song – Written by Lauren for a friend who was lost to us at a young age
• Another Karine Polwart song – Follow The Heron
• The Willows’ – Shores
• History – another self-composition described as a gentle protest song
• Lord Franklin – Keith’s version of the traditional tale. And finally,
• Rambling Man – The beautiful Laura Marling song.
The second set as usual followed (Where would we be without) the raffle.
• Maid of Llanwellyn – from Kate Rusby
• Tame Yourself – Sung by Lauren but written by Keith
• Searching For Lambs/David’s Jig – Two tunes, the former made famous by Steeleye Span and the latter written by Lauren
• Waltz – One of Kate’s songs, which speaks of flowers and waltzing across fields. Beautiful.
• Soft Words – written and performed by Keith during one of his quieter phases.
• Crazy Man Michael – From Richard Thompson and Dave Swarbrick
• Who Knows Where The Time Goes – Sandy Denny, a lovely version. And finally
• The Blacksmith – a somewhat upbeat version of the traditional song

Only it wasn’t the end was it as the was an encore.

• Until We Meet Again – a really beautiful song by Ciaran Algar which I had personally never heard before.

The band repeatedly said how knocked out they were by the reception and the kindness that was shown to them all evening. It is no more than they deserved. They are lovely band both musically and as individuals. It would be a shame it is was too long before we see them again.

Greengrass were not on their own of course. The evening was kicked off by two beautiful songs from Dick Woodhouse who had to endure the embarrassment of Happy Birthday – for Sunday. Or today as I am writing this. There the followed what I can only describe as an experience – a piece by Chris Irving. A lecture on Higgs Boson and the Large Hadron Collider in Cern merge with tale of Bold Bosun Higgs and his experiences at Saltley Docks. After the break and before the raffle we had two songs from Bryn Phillips which set us up nicely for Greengrass.

And that was it. So, here’s me, Woody, (with a little help from Willow), signing off for this time. And as usual.

A wonderful night was had by all, here’s to the next one.



* Notes taken by Les Jones, who also typed up the review, but the views expressed are 
  those of Woody, the club mascot.