Reviews 2014

Woodman Folk Club - Reviews

Miranda Sykes & Rex Preston

Rob O'Dell 23 May 2014

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Rightly or wrongly I always tend to measure my enjoyment of a night at the Woodman by the Fidget/Ache formula; i.e. how much of the night I spend fidgeting in my seat and how much I’m aching at the end of the night from sitting on it! Last night, after watching the superb performance from Miranda and Rex I ended up feeling as fresh as a daisy having just enjoyed one of the best nights’ entertainment I’ve had for a good while.

Unusually for the Woodman they opted to do the entire evening totally acoustically and performed in front of the stage to be closer to the audience. All the instruments cut through beautifully and from where I was sat the voices were loud and clear also, but I must admit that for some folks, positioned on the sides or further back, a little amplification of just the voices might have helped.

Having said that, we were treated to a stunning performance from two absolute masters of their craft. Miranda has a beautiful, pure, crystal clear voice and is equally at home performing gutsy, jazzy numbers, wistful ballads or the kind of folk songs that we’re more used to at the club. To be honest, I think I would have been thoroughly satisfied if she’d sung her way through the phone book! Rex has not been singing for as long so the lion’s share of the vocals was left to Miranda however the few he did sing, he performed excellently and they harmonised beautifully on quite a few numbers.

Instrumentally they are both…..well, brilliant just doesn’t do them justice. Rex was listed in the club diary as being a virtuoso mandolin player and if you were there and saw them last night, you can’t fail to agree that the accolade is well deserved. He also used his recently re-set-up bouzouki on a few numbers and was obviously having the odd tuning problem with it, but again it sounded fabulous once he started picking. That’s the trouble with these cheapo instruments!! (With apologies to Phil Davidson).

Miranda is a simply stunning exponent of the double bass and, as any bass player will tell you, it is nowhere near as easy to sing and play bass as it is to accompany yourself on other instruments, but my goodness, she has really nailed it! During the evening she also picked up her guitar for one number and her ukulele for the encore and proved that she’s no slouch on them either.

Highlights of the night for me were, ….well all of it really, but if I had to pick out a few; they opened with their version of the Slaid Cleaves song ‘One Good Year’, a hauntingly beautiful rendition of this country song and treated quite different to the original version but equally superb. Kate Rusby’s ‘Old Man Time’ and Karine Polwart’s ‘Only One Way’ couldn’t be more different, the first a beautiful ballad and the second a really punchy, jazzy song but again both of them were delivered with such confident skilful vocals and playing – breathtaking. Another show-stopper towards the end of the night was ‘Me And My Sister The Moon’, the second of two songs written for them by a recent club visitor, Boo Hewerdine – the first was ‘Window Box’.

I could go on and on (well I suppose I already have, really), but to my taste, it really was a fantastic night and we must, Must, MUST have them back again. Thank you both.

Must just mention that they were ably supported by club regulars Paul & Sue Mathews (Velvet Green), Dick Woodhouse and in the second half John Langford.