Reviews 2014

Woodman Folk Club - Reviews

Stanley Accrington

Bryn Phillips 14 November 2014

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It has been ages since Stanley Accrington last came to The Woodman. He had checked in his diary and thought it was back in 1992, a full 22 years ago. So long ago that only three of us in the room remembered his last visit, and one of the three was Stanley himself. Back in those days the club didn't have a web site, and consequently all records of the evening have been lost.

He took to the stage wearing a woolly yellow and black jumper which he remarked wasn't the best choice of attire because of the black Woodman backdrop, and so later in the evening he changed to wear a red jumper with a huge capital "S" on. I also noticed "SA" inlaid on the neck of his guitar, so immediately you see a performer with a sense of identity and as we were soon to find out a great personality with a giant helping of humour.

He set off with a song which had been personalised for the club; it was all about the Kingswinford Coven. As well as featuring Kingswinford and The Woodman he also brought Derry (who was celebrating his birthday) into the song. We loved it, but there was a lot more to come. Most of his songs were topical, or had been when they were written, and covered subjects as diverse as the February floods in the south of England, events in the Crimea, Wayne Rooney, Prince Charles, The Pope, country music titles and even a song about nuclear physics. They were all very clever, often with irreverent lyrics which had been carefully crafted, fine tuned and delivered with the skill of an experienced performer with a great sense of timing. It wasn’t all humour though. There were a couple of serious songs. One about Nelson Mandela and another set in the first world war about a conscientious objector. The latter was particularly appropriate following the centenary commemorations earlier this week It was sung in such a way that you could feel the emotions of the man whose friends were not coming back, whilst he had to suffer the shame of being called “coward jack” and enduring the white feathers as he desperately clung onto his principles. These songs were in contrast to the rest of the evening, but added balance and depth to the performance and were well appreciated by the audience who listened with attentive silence.

It wasn’t only songs though. He pointed out that he is a multi-instrumentalist and gave us a brilliant performance on a tin whistle, which as expected was very funny, with lots of musical jokes, but also very well played. We were treated to an Olde Saxon one man play delivered by Stanley wearing a Viking helmet and brandishing a wooden sword. He delivered it in amazingly authentic accent which was somewhat reminiscent of Chaucer, but perhaps more reminiscent of the Muppets “Swedish Chef” with a hint of modern Italian thrown in. We also had Stanley Accrington’s history of England. A very fast paced monologue packed full of words and clever rhymes taking us right through the kings and queens of England and ending up with modern royalty. Finally we had “The Three Wise Women”, a brilliant re-telling of the Christmas Story, which in its original version is very male oriented. Beating the drum for equality Stanley did an excellent job in redressing the balance.

Naturally there was an encore. Now, at the Woodman we have had a mixture of encores over the years. Some are catchy and leave us humming the tune as we leave, some are quiet and reflective, and some are just contrived “Now is the time to say goodbye – Goodbye”, but this is the first totally surreal encore I can remember. We were left in total silence. He got us all singing a song which was basically a chorus repeated again and again, with actions. There was a twist though – in each repetition we stopped singing for one line but continued with the actions, with the result that in the last re-iteration of the chorus, everyone was silent, just moving their hands about. A bizarre ending to a brilliant and thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Support was provided by some of the Woodman regulars – Velvet Green and Dick Woodhouse did an excellent job in the first half and then I did a couple of songs before the raffle which this week, for the raffle purists, featured “Perpetual Peach” and “Mushy Green Pea” coloured tickets.