Reviews 2021

Woodman Folk Club - Reviews

Huw Williams

Bryn Phillips 19 November 2021

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The evening started off with a support session from Dick Woodhouse, which got the evening off to a good start with everyone singing along to “Sally Wheatley”. We then had a scary song about the Standing Stones of Stanton Drew, followed by Anne Lister’s “Icarus”, with “Valerie Wilkins” as Dick’s Grand Finale for which he dressed up in school cap and tie and gave us a great performance of this Roaring Jelly classic. His set put us all in the right mood for the main act, Huw Williams, introduced by our bilingual MC Chris Irving who not only introduced him in English, but also gave him a greeting in the Welsh Language, for which Huw later expressed his thanks.

Without further ado Huw Williams launched into his song “Flanders March” which of course is one of his many classics. Huw and Tony Williams last appeared at our club in July 1996, but as soon as he started it was like yesterday. The flowing rhythm with the powerful picking guitar accompaniment was just as I remembered, and of course the lyrics are so good. It’s not a surprise that his songs have been covered over the years by many professional artists and are still sung in folk clubs by local performers. After that we had another of my favourites, in my opinion one of his best, “People of the Heavens”, a song about the Zulu nation. Again wonderful lyrics, in a minor key, which, with Huw’s haunting voice, reflected the power, pride and ultimate sadness and bitterness of the song which culminates with

“And in the turn of a page you can see,
How we are robbed of our own destiny”

At this stage I was settling down to enjoy an evening of Huw’s back catalogue of his greatest hits, when the dynamics of the performance changed gear. Huw pointed to a bag which he said contained various memorabilia and he announced that he was going to tell us about his performing career. Instead of the usual intro – song – intro – song – intro - song etc which we have come to expect on a guest night, this was going to be different. The evening quickly transformed into a one man show which comprised songs, mainly from his earlier years, interspersed with humorous recollections of his career which ranged from learning to play his £9.99 guitar to being in the penthouse suite of a New York Hotel speaking to Ralph McTell on one telephone and Pete Seeger on the other. Apart from this brief trailer I’m not going to say anything else about his stories; to learn more you need to see the show. Suffice it to say that they were told in the relaxed style of a skilled raconteur and belied the work that had gone into crafting a superbly balanced performance. As it progressed I realised that although it worked so well in the intimacy of our folk club it would have worked equally well on a main theatre stage. In a word it was brilliant.

As far as the music went, there were, as expected, many of his well known songs in the show. “Jack of Kent”, "We Stayed Awake", “The Summer Before The War”, “The Right Side of the Footplate” and several more including some more recent songs. They were all delivered with very positive guitar work, and excellent vocals which had clear enunciation and always conveyed the emotion appropriate to the song. There was one extra treat in store and that was when he produced his melodeon and played the musically humorous “Pteradactyl Two Step”, one of my favourite folk tunes.

I asked him when he started to perform solo. He told me that his professional partnership with Tony Williams ended in 2001 and since then he has been involved in various ventures including teaching, clog dancing, touring with the late Maartyn Allcock, managing a band, and more recently performing as a solo artist, which he has done for the past 6-7 years. It is great to have him back on the Folk Circuit and his One Man Show is a great evening’s entertainment. His songs not only make you think but the arrangements are such that they often have a little hook which keeps them going round and round in your head for days after you have seen him.

Finally, to quote our regular reviewer, Les Jones, “A wonderful time was had by all”.