Reviews 2013

Woodman Folk Club - Reviews

The Gren Bartley Band

Rob O'Dell 27 September 2013

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It was slightly different from a ‘normal’ Woodman night (if there is such a thing), in that there were no choruses to be heard ringing through the room, no percussive participation from the large, attentive audience. No, but what there was instead was a polished, professional and very skilled musical treat from this trio which consisted of Gren on guitar, banjo and harmonica, Julia Disney (no stranger to the club), on keys and fiddle and depping with them, also on fiddle, was Charlie Hayes – of the Charlotte, not Charles variety!

In a set which consisted entirely of Gren’s own material, his lead vocal was beautifully enhanced by tasteful harmonies from the two girls and the twin fiddle accompaniment was delightfully worked out. It was obvious that a great deal of thought had been put into the arrangements of the songs.

One of the highlights for me was ‘My Time is Nearly Over’, a very authentic ‘chain gang’ song – my guess is one of a very few written in the last 100 years! This came in the middle of a three song ‘death set’, the first of which ‘Porcelain Hand’ was, despite its subject matter, quite an upbeat number with a country feel about it.

The second half was opened with a new song, ‘This Changes Everything’ which was written about the recent arrival of Julia and Gren’s baby daughter Beatrice. The title says it all! This was followed by ‘Brick’ an upbeat satire about one of our esteemed banking institutions RBS. If Show of Hands and Steve Tilston can do it – so can Gren!

Quite a few of the numbers through the evening were plaintive ballads but Bryn was delighted when his request for ‘Kings and Queens’ was fulfilled and their encore, ‘Sweet Traveller’ was a bright and bouncy finish to the night.

Personally I was slightly disappointed that Gren didn’t do a little more on the banjo as I understand he is quite an accomplished picker and frailer, but it only came out once, on ‘I Am Home’, a ballad which showed off the resonating technique of the E-Bow. This device straddles 3 strings and causes the middle one to resonate with a droning sound while Gren picked the notes around it.

Maybe if I ask nicely he’ll do a bit more banjo next time he’s at the club because, make no mistake, he will be back at the Woodman for sure.

Support was provided by the usual suspects, Bryn Phillips and Nothing to Prove, and a good night was had by all.