Reviews 2015

Woodman Folk Club - Reviews

Keith Hancock

Keith Hancock

John & Carol Hoare 22 May 2015

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A feature of recent Woodman guests has been the wide range of different instruments they have brought along. In contrast, Keith Hancock was definitely going to be a one-instrument performer (though it would quickly become apparent that it was not going to limit his range or style of songs at all). Whether that was a factor in Dick Woodhouse choosing to open the evening using a different instrument for each of his three songs isn’t clear, but it made for a lively and varied opening to the evening. As always, Dick provided humour. The dextrous finger-picking of a traditional dance tune was a bonus. Was the guitar in open tuning?

The evening continued with the smooth harmonies of Velvet Green. There are not many singers who can carry off a Sandy Denny song; Sue can, so the highlight of their three offerings was the haunting ‘Who Knows Where the Time Goes?’

All was now set up nicely for Keith Hancock to make his return to the club after twelve long, and it soon transpired rather eventful years. There are artists who play music. The better ones develop a rapport with an audience as the evening proceeds. Then there are performers like Keith Hancock – those who seem to invite the audience into a conversation. The Woodman, with its encouragement of heckling, is the ideal venue for such guests. Before a note had been played, we got an insight into the detrimental effect of melodeon playing on the spinal column, an appreciation of the (high) quality of medical care in Thailand, comments on the appalling bedside manner of Thai doctors, and an insight into the worrying implications of Buddhism for the seriously ill!

With the audience already on board, the melodeon player with the bad back (and don’t forget the dodgy heart!) proceeded to take us through a range of topics and emotions; drug addiction, love, protest, political comment, nostalgia, war … even, to use Keith’s words, his ‘happy song’. To say that Keith is an accomplished melodeon player would be an understatement. Quite how it is possible to perform a blues number on a melodeon, I’m not sure, but he managed to squeeze that out as well (sorry, there had to be a ‘squeezebox’ pun somewhere in this review).

After the interval, Keith’s driver for the night, Mike Billington, played a couple of tunes on the bagpipes. He recovered admirably from Debby’s comment that, “You didn’t say you were going to play bagpipes when you asked for a spot”, to demonstrate considerable skill on both ‘doodie’ and ‘border’ pipes. The Woodman audience now knows a little about bagpipes, including how to tune them.

The squeezebox is commonly associated with whaling songs, but that was to be the end of the wailing for the evening! The audience was ready for Keith’s second set of anecdotes, humour and fine self-penned songs. At the end of an entertaining evening, for the first of his well-deserved encores, Keith did ‘Everybody Knows’, by his musical hero, Leonard Cohen. He finished with the haunting ‘Absent Friends’, a song covered by the Fureys, and guaranteed to make eyes water; the more so when you know for whom he wrote the song.

Well done Debby and Derry again – let’s try to squeeze him in again before another twelve years pass!