Reviews 2023

Woodman Folk Club - Reviews

Kelly's Heroes

Rob O'Dell 27 Oct 2023

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Well, what can say, except what a cracking night we had on 27th of October! We were treated to a wonderfully varied programme of mainly Irish songs and tunes by the exceptionally talented band that is KELLY’S HEROES. Not, as you might have first suspected, Pete Kelly’s backing group, no not at all, they are a rollicking, rousing, fast-paced proper Irish band and have been entertaining audiences all over the world since 1983 in one guise or another but somehow they had escaped the clutches of The Woodman until now. I suspect that I can confidently predict that their debut appearance will not be their last visit to the club.

The band perform as anything from a trio to a 5 piece depending on venue and requirements and we were treated to the four piece set comprising Steve on guitar, Patrick on fiddle, Helen on button melodeon and Tony on vocals, bodhran (and San Pellegrino)! Tony handled all the vocals with a fine baritone voice even treating us to an acapella rendition of the old shanty ‘Leave her Johnny’ half way through the second set….but I’m getting ahead of myself.

They opened with a set of three tunes which set the tone for the evening and immediately demonstrated what fine musicians they are. Having had Colum Sands at the club a couple of weeks ago they followed the opening set with one of Colum’s songs, ‘7 Days In A Week’ an excellent witty ditty, one of Colum’s finest. I won’t list all the songs in the set but must just mention that they did a magnificent version of ‘Mick Ryan’s Lament’ which they had collected from Tim O’Brien. Although it’s a cheerful upbeat song, it’s actually a heartfelt tale of the ironies of war which tells a ghost story about two brothers who escape post-famine Ireland for the Land of the Free. Mick joins the army and ends up dying with Custer at Little Big Horn, forever haunted by the tune of “The Garryowen.” Brilliantly done! I’ll just mention one other highlight from the first set, the late Lionel McClelland’s ‘The Silent Majority’, a tremendously powerful song recounting the apathy of most folks to the injustices carried out by tyrants and despots the world over since time began. A final set of tunes ‘The Champagne Jig set’ closed the first half.

After the break one of the raffle prizes was, oddly enough, won by none other than our irrepressible MC, Bryn……not that I joined in with the chorus of ”fix, fix,” oh no, not me!

The second set again was a superb mix of songs and tunes too numerous to list but apart from the acapella one I’ve already mentioned their version of the John Doyle song, ‘Exiles Return’ was just magnificent. It tells the story of a voyage in famine times on the ship the Jeanie Johnston which apparently made numerous trips across the pond without a single loss of life, taking half-starved Irish men, women and children to a new life in prosperous America. An achievement to be proud of. Luka Bloom’s ‘You Couldn't Have Come at a Better Time’ was a rousing sing-along for the enthralled audience, and the encore, Silly Wizard’s ‘The Ramblin' Rover’ (Sober men a plenty) was a fitting conclusion to the night.

I’m reliably informed that we were actually in Kingswinford but you could have quite easily believed you were in a bar in County Cork enjoying the craic with a drop of the black stuff….albeit with ‘0-0’ on the can!

The first 30 minutes gave us a wonderful support set from Sue & Paul Matthews – AKA Velvet Green, once again on top form. Sue’s pure, soaring voice rang out filling the room and Paul’s sensitive, skilful finger-picking was exquisite, especially on their own song ‘Before Your Heart Breaks’. They opened with a lovely Charlie Dore song, ‘My Own Lone Ranger’, giving us a timely reminder that Charlie will be making her own club debut next March. A tremendous start to a thoroughly memorable evening.