Woodman Folk Club - Reviews
|Malcolm Jeffrey||20 October 2006|
So it's off to The Woodman again for what's developed into an annual pilgrimage to watch the great Vin Garbutt. He's a year on now from his pair of serious operations, and Bob and I arrive hoping to see him back to full strength : from the size of the audience it seems that this is a common wish. Vin is standing by the bar wall and has regained the flesh tone which he lost when he was unwell, and it's a good sight to see.
Beer is bought and places taken and none too soon, as Ian Munro takes to the stage to welcome us all, and then to introduce Nothing To Prove, tonight's opening act, who warm us up with a fine "Close To The Wind", maintain the standard with Ralph McTell's "Hiring Fair", and, following a distinctly non-PC blonde joke from Medium Paul, finish with a jaunty "Green Back Dollar". Bryn Phillips is up next with a pair of his own songs : the first in celebration of "Good Dr Tonks" and the last the chorus-friendly "Tomorrow The Sorrow Begins", both warmly received by the audience.
Bringing the warm-up spots to a close, Sue Stevens and Nick Evans are called up to be the final entertainers. Sue and Nick often perform as a duo and their renditions of Sue's own, poignant "Sorry" and a nicely arranged version of Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Not Too Much To Ask" are enthusiastically received : and Nick completes their spot on his own with a heartfelt version of Cathryn Craig's "Walk Slowly Through This Life" and an equally impressive "It's All Just Talk", from the songwriting of Clive Gregson. Then, after the applause for Sue and Nick has died down, Ian calls Vin Garbutt to the stage.
Vin is straight out of the blocks with a witty nod at the average age of his current audiences : although he would have us believe that he had three pairs of knickers thrown on stage recently, they turned out to all be Tommy Dempsey's and he wanted them back... and while we're tittering, he's doing a quick crafty tuning check and he's off with "Forty Thieves", not the easy choice as a finger-warmer-upper, but dispatched with deceptive ease nonetheless. After a jokey reference to his recent hospitalisation - Vin contributing some traditional Scottish verse to help the opening of their new "Burns" unit ! - he sets his humour aside for "John You Have Gone", a heartrending song of personal loss from ''Word Of Mouth", and while he's mining a seam of some quality, he plays us a splendid "Punjabi Girl", whose story of mixed-race love triumphing over opposition has a more positive message.
After our substantial applause has subsided, Vin decides that it's time to tell us the full, gruesome story of his next song, "The Lover's Ghost". Never one to skimp on detail, Vin's preamble lasts for significantly longer than the actual song, has us all in stitches, and contains some elements which I can't say I actually heard during his eventual rendition... :o) However, it's worth the wait, as "The Lover's Ghost" proves a fine traditional ballad and is beautifully played, and then Vin brings his first set to a close with an exquisite "Morning Informs", whose rich pathos and clear, resonant singing earns him warm applause.
So it's the interval, beer is duly purchased, and Ian asks if I want to do a spot in his place - very sporting, I must say - so while I'm thinking of something to do, I find myself in front of Mr Garbutt's merchandising table. In a fit of weakness, I buy Vin's rather excellent "Bandalised" CD, have a chat and get him to sign it, and find out that he's got a poorly finger at the moment, so he won't be whistling tonight (deep sadness). But the second half is soon under way, and, loosely in the name of "entertainment", I subject the audience to "I Might Just Have To Murder James Blunt" (seems to strike a chord with the audience... :o) and Ian's favourite, "Stranger In Town". Could have gone a lot worse...
With fully justifiable relief, the Woodman crowd eagerly welcome Vin Garbutt back to start the second half, which he opens with a fine sing-a-long "Star Of The County Down". Ian gets him to draw the raffle (the two free tickets are won by none other than your Humble Correspondent) and then Vin presents us with a finely sung "Bold Robert Emmett", a super "Troubles Of Erin" and he's at full pelt by the time he gets to a top-notch "Not For The First Time", from "When The Tides Turn Again". You can't keep him serious for long, though - next, he tells us a jokey story of when he was healing from his recent operations, and he woke up with his stitches mysteriously covered in yellow flowers... the nurse had put fresh "gorse" on. :o)
Next up is one of my favourite Vin songs, "It Couldn't Be Done", both fiendish in lyrics and guitar parts, which is rewarded by a substantial round of applause, followed by an unfamiliar one possibly called "Teacher From Revola" which is nonetheless a cracker. All too soon, though, we discover we've arrived at the end of the night : Vin announces that, as it's The Woodman, he'd better finish by doing the song he's adopted from Bryn Phillips, "Silver And Gold". Vin says in the CD notes that he knew that it was a song he wanted to cover when he heard us all joining in Bryn's chorus with gusto : tonight is no exception, as The Woodman add full voice to Vin's rendition of "Silver And Gold" and bring the set to a close. But, as luck would have it, it's only just gone 10 past 11, so Ian invites Mr Garbutt up for a final number, which is a first-class "Wings" through which you could have heard a pin drop, before the assembled fans give up their final appreciation and the evening is over.
Verdict time then, and it's great to see Vin back to full match fitness after a substantial illness : I'll certainly be back on the strength of this, yet another night of outstanding entertainment from Vin Garbutt.