Reviews - Out & About

Updated
25 Sep 2017

If you would like to write a review for this section, please have a word with Bryn Phillips at the club

11 March 2010 Anthony John Clarke Bromsgrove Folk Club
26 March 2009 Marie Little Brewood Acoustic Music Club
12 July 2008 Anthony John Clarke Bromsgrove 2008 Folk Festival
28 March 2008 Waterson Carthy Swindon Arts Centre
11 April 2007 James Taylor Civic Hall Wolverhamton
2 March 2006 Jethro Tull Symphony Hall, Birmingham
12 March 2005 Anthony John Clarke 
& Tony Portlock
The Attic Folk Club, Chesterfield
2 March 2005 Tom Paxton Huntingdon Hall
14-16 May 2004 Wheaton Aston Festival Wheaton Aston
10 March 2004 Little Toby Walker The Sutton Blues Collective
25 October 2003 Martin Carthy The Newhampton  Wolverhampton
15-17 Aug 2003 Red 10 Burntwood Folk Festival
5-6 July 2003 Wolverhampton Folk Festival Northycote Farm
8 April 2003 David Gates Symphony Hall, Birmingham
15 March 2003 Bill Jones Trio Swindon Arts Centre
12 March 2003 Tommy Emmanuel Huntingdon Hall
2 Feb 2003 John Renbourn Galleon Acoustic Club, Stourport
21 Nov 2002 Mike Sanchez Huntingdon Hall
Sept 2002 James Taylor MEN Arena, Manchester
25 Aug 2002 The Spike Drivers Bridgnorth Folk Festival
16-18 Aug 2002 Burntwood Folk Festival Burntwood
20 July 2002 Michael Roach Upton Blues Festival
4 July 2002 Bryn Phillips Lighthouse
23 June 2002 Alcester Folk Festival Alcester
19 June 2002 Ian Parker Fiddle and Bone, Birmingham
20 May 2002 Wheaton Aston Festival 2002 Wheaton Aston, Staffs
21 April 2002 Loudon Wainwright III Huntingdon Hall

13 April 2002

Upton Cajun Festival

Upton-Upon-Severn

 11 Feb 2002

Kieran Halpin 

Katie Fitzgerald's 

 10 Feb 2002

Fairport Convention, Vikki Clayton & Waterson Carthy 

Birmingham Symphony Hall

 24 Jan 2002

Ralph Allin

Fiddle and Bone, Birmingham 

 29 Nov 2001

John Wormald

The Lighthouse, Halesowen

 22 Nov 2001

Jethro Tull 

 Civic Hall Wolverhampton

 13 Nov 2001

Catfish Keith 

Huntingdon Hall - Worcester 

24-26 Aug 2001

Bridgnorth Folk Festival

Bridgnorth

27 June 2001

Tala

Folk Plus, Boundary Hotel, Walsall

18 May 2001

Wheaton Aston Festival

Wheaton Aston

18 May 2001

Roger McGuinn

Huntingdon Hall - Worcester

5 May 2001

Lindisfarne

Robin - Brierley Hill

10 Feb 2001

Fairport Convention

Birmingham Symphony Hall

 

Fairport Convention (Birmingham Symphony Hall) - 11 February 2001
Pete Brown

What a good night this was!

The evening started with Steve Tilston, who gave a superb and polished performance. His songs were sensitively sung and the balance between voice and guitar was just right. Next we were sung to by All about Eve, who were not at their best. However, this was the prelude to who we had really come to see, Fairport Convention.

There was an excellent turnout from the Woodman Folk Club, and they were certainly not disappointed even allowing for the long trip to foreign territory, Birmingham's Symphony Hall. I did not find any ice creams at half time, so had to make do with two bottles of beer. Luckily we were able to drink at a leisurely pace because being unimpressed with All about Eve we had exited before the end of their spot. This was not true for others who were still waiting to be served when we went back to our seats on the top shelf for the main act.

Fairport were good, well they were more than that, everything they did was so professional, so polished, so balanced that the time passed too quickly. I suddenly realised that we were cheering for an encore. The highlights for me were, Who knows where the time goes - a tribute to Sandy Denny, The drumming of Gerry Conway, never intrusive but totally expressive and the contribution of Chris Leslie. Of course Simon, Ric and Dave were their usual impressive selves. Try their new album 'The Wood and the Wire'.

See you all at Cropredy.

 

 

 

Lindisfarne - Robin - Brierley Hill - 5 May 2001

This gig had been postponed from 16.9.00, due to the petrol crisis, and perhaps due to other commitments - the beer festival at 'Katy Fitzgeralds', the support was not 'The Bushbury's' as listed, but Eddie Morton doing a solo spot. Although he did an excellent set, the audience were restive for the main attraction. He failed to get any attention, despite his costume of shorts bum bag, and great big bovver boots, until the last number which was a lovely unaccompanied piece.

LINDISFARNE took the stage with three original members, Roy Laidlaw, Rod Clement, who looks older than God's dog, and Billy Mitchell along with two newer members whose names I didn't catch - sorry lads. The whole night was one of nostalgia, with audience participation at maximum for songs such as 'Meet Me On The Corner', 'Lady Eleanor', 'Mr Dreamseller' and 'Run For Home' There were two that I seemed to have heard before somewhere 'Born At The Right Time' and 'One Day'. The most rousing rendition was for 'Fog On The Tyne' - especially the naughty bit - you know the bit I mean don't you.

Unfortunately for those of us who see new material as the proof that the band is still alive and not just relying on their past for a living, new numbers were very thin on the ground, which is a shame, because this bands repertoire is vast. Only one or two were tried, with 'The Devil of the North' featuring in the encore.

Nevertheless a great night was had by all, a great set by a great band. Keep rocking lads.

 

 

Roger McGuinn (Huntingdon Hall) - 18 May 2001
Rob Johnson

I remember seeing Roger McGuinn with the Byrds at Birmingham Town Hall in the early 70's, so his solo concert at Huntingdon Hall, Worcester was a trip down memory lane and a rare opportunity to hear a veteran of the American Folk/Rock scene.

He did not disappoint. Opening with Bob Dylan's "My Back Pages", McGuinn switched effortlessly from electric to 12-string guitar, providing interesting musical anecdotes en route and performing songs from the Byrds' back catalogue during his association with Gene Clark and David Crosby as well as exploring his roots from his Gate Of Horn folk club days.

The Byrds were always renowned for their covers of Dylan compositions, and during the week when the Bard turned 60, it was no surprise that McGuinn's set included a fair smattering of his songs, remembering to sing "Pick up your money and pack up your tent" on "You Ain't goin' Nowhere" as well as versions of "It's Alright Ma (I'm only bleeding)", "Chimes Of Freedom", and, of course, an extended rendition (though not the full four verses) of the 1965 hit "Mr. Tambourine Man" - the song that first brought the Byrds to the attention of British and American audiences.

Established hits "Ballad Of Easy Rider", "Chestnut Mare", "Mr. Spaceman", "So You Want To Be A Rock 'N' Roll Star" and Pete Seeger's "Turn! Turn! Turn!" were included before finishing the main set with a storming acoustic version of "Eight Miles High", where his guitar solo echoed marvellously around the old
church venue.

He returned on stage to mention his forthcoming CD release "Treasures From The Folk Den", a collaboration with noted guest folk musicians of old, and to perform two sets of encores, ending the evening with his own composition, "May The Road Rise", written with his wife and including the lyrics "May the road rise to meet you and the wind be at your back", Lovely sentiments on which to leave an enthusiastic and fully appreciative audience on this nostalgic musical journey through the 60's and 70's.

He had only played on stage for an hour and twenty minutes, but it is difficult to see how he could have included more. It was still too late to return to the Woodman for the end of Lee Collinson, so we retired to the bar to reminisce further about our old hippy days.

 

 

 

Wheaton Aston Folk Festival, 18-20th May
Dave James

Well it's not a folk festival as a lot of people thought that's for sure, but it is a dammed good music festival. It has everything .... Trad Folk-----Folk Rock-----Jazz----Bands--& singarounds, but not enough of the latter in my opinion. (Please can we have more singarounds).

When Bonny & Eddie Tonks stopped organising the festival it was it danger of folding then Hilary & Julian took it on and I think they have made a good job of it.

I am known as an out spoken old Traddy & I thoroughly enjoyed it & will certainly be there next year.

Most festivals, including my own, take a particular direction i.e. Trad Biased or Contemporary. Give this one a try if you fancy something a little bit different.

It needs a few TTTT's crossed & a few iiiii's dotted & it should be fine. Keep up the good work Hilary & Julian.

Guests included;
Kieran Halpin & Maartin Allcock, Shave The Monkey, Cuckoo Oak, Red 10, The John Richards Acoustic Band Caliche (Chile), Bob Wood, Mike Silver, Ken Wood & The Mixers, Mark Gwynne Jones, Keith Kendrick, Lvivski Muzyki (Ukraine), Tomorrow's Ancestor, Ceili House, The Real Deal, Jon Brindley, Mike Raven & Joan Mills, Wishful Thinking, The Fiona Simpson Band, Epic45, Portal, Claret, Feet First (Appalachian), Hoverla Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, Black Pig, Ryknild Rabble, Castle Clog, The Emerald Set Dancers, Skylarks Theatre Company

 

 

Tala, - 27 June 2001, Folk Plus, Boundary - Walsall
Pete Brown

It was built the early '60's but with only two lanes each way. They didn't even build wide bridges to make it easy to increase the number of carriageways. So, when it was widened in the mid '80's all the bridges had to be demolished and reconstructed. It has three lanes each way now and it gives you freedom, freedom to roam and to travel quickly to gigs. But, due to an unfortunate accident near Junction 5 it didn't give the freedom of a clear run from Ross on Wye to The Boundary at Walsall. The red shirt brigade made it OK though after a hot and frustrating journey.

When we got there the sound check was in full swing, and it sounded good. The club was packed, the night was hot and the music enchanting. I had never seen Tala before. Sarah Jones and Duncan Gibbs I know and admire and now Lisa Watt was there to complete the line up.

The truth is that they were very, very good. Well, alright then, excellent.

We were treated to Sarah's faultless guitar playing, Duncan's effortless keyboard backing together with some dulcimer on Nos Dda Cariad. All this and the melodious, breathless imperative of Lisa's voice that blended so well with Sarah's confident tones produced a magical evening. It ended much too soon but this happens to all good things. As a further treat for the encore we did get 'Avalon', which I particularly liked.

Are they special? - Yes

Do they captivate an audience? - Yes!

Would I travel to see them again? - Yes!

Do I recommend them as a band to see? - Yes!

Listed below are the songs sung at Folk Plus

Songs in Bold are from their new CD 'Freedom' which was launched at Folk plus.

Dangerous Woman
And I Will Lead You 
Sing My Blues Away 
Wash Me
You're What I Need 
Nos Dda Cariad
Don't I Know 
Coventry
Right Heart
Freedom
Go For My Dream

Dear Beloved
Avalon 

 

 

 

 

 Memories of Bridgnorth 2001
Pete Brown

Arriving on a beautiful summer's evening - finding the campsite already nearly full - finding enough spaces to keep friends near. Blow up green aliens - colourful flying kites - lemon drinks from the lemon lady. Meeting old friends and making new - the smell of early morning bacon - picking bits of grass out of dropped fried eggs - coffee at Café Express. Seeing the Peace Artistes - trying to work out if they came from France or Italy - deciding that they were from Sicily and then finding out they were from Bradford. The precision of the John Wright Band - sadness that they would be splitting up next year. Kristina Olson, Chris While and Julie Matthews singing together - what a powerful combination. The sessions at the Swan - the incredible diversity of the songs and the talent of the artists - the silent poem - Chico Mendes.

Sunday car-less High Street with street dancing - Jugnu Bhangra Group - Imbongi -Flag and Bone Gang. Real Ale - red wine - surprisingly clean portaloos - luck with the weather. Summer night 2.00 a.m. shanties - dew on the tent - eating in the fresh air - waiting half an hour for the kettle to boil. Seeing Mrs. Ackroyd Band for the first time - O Sole Mio, this is my fish - earwig 'O'. Keith Donnelly on top form - Jessica - the Tee shirt swap. Realising you can't see it all - feeling tired - sad it was over -looking forward to BFF next year.

 

 

 

Catfish Keith - 13 Nov 2001 - Huntingdon Hall
Bryn Phillips

I had first heard Catfish Keith at the Gloucester Blues Festival about ten years earlier in or around 1992. When he came on stage, the memories of that festival came flooding back - he was wearing the familiar trilby hat, together with a purple shirt and tie and brown trousers - a figure straight out of the forties - but ... where was the rusty old National Steel Bodied guitar? It had been changed for a much smarter steel-bodied model - just as sweet but perhaps missing the nostalgia.

He started off with one of his early numbers which I remembered from his last performance which he followed up with an old blues standard Po' Boy - but I'd never heard it played quite like I heard it that night.

.....Catfish's style is unique - but at the same time contains echoes of all of the old time bluesmen - Son House, Skip James, Robert Johnson, Bukka White, Howling Wolf, Blind Willie Johnson, Big Joe - yes they're all there and more, much more. It's like the sum of the parts being greater than the whole - but don't get me wrong, he's not one of those musicians who faultlessly copies styles - he doesn't. He has a unique distinctive style all of his own but the elusive shadows of the great blues legends surround him.....

I'd remembered the steel-bodied guitar, but forgotten the three quarters wooden acoustic. "This is my little bitty guitar, an' I'd like to play you a coupla' numbers...". Physically the guitar was small - but the sound - the sound was fuller than the largest jumbo I've ever heard. He started off with "Have you Seen my Eagle Bird High on a Lonesome Hill", a blues he called a "hypno-blues", which was so good it was ... well, just so good. This was followed by the title track off his new CD - a "Fistful of Riffs"

.......His overall style is typical blues, a steady driving rhythm, accompanied by an intrusive, but necessary insistent foot tapping, which acts as the vehicle for the repetitive riffs, snatches of tune and glimpses of a rare guitar mastery. I was spellbound by the sounds he managed to get out of his guitar and particularly by some of the techniques he employed. The neatest was in his right hand playing. Somehow he back-flicked a string with a finger of his right hand and then damped the string with another finger of the same hand, and then, almost simultaneously, produced a harmonic - amazing. There was also the chuckapuckpuck sound he managed to produce - no idea how, but it was something special....

"Now I'm going to do an original number" as he introduced "Why don't you take Mr Catfish's advice" a wonderful self-penned number with some great lines "Treat that woman like she was a pair of dice", again played with that driving rhythm. This was followed by an old Gospel Song which had been previously performed by Blind Willie Johnson and Washington Phillips - I don't think it had been performed by Son House, but his shadow was there - creeping across the stage. Then for something completely different - a Clifton Chenier (King of Zydeco) number - " I got a Pepper in My Shoe", which was more blues than Zydeco, (Lord be Praised) and was strangely reminiscent of "Baby Please Don't Go"

After the break, he went straight into Jitterbug Swing - a Bukka White classic.

..... The way he handles the volume and pitch in his music is a trademark - his voice goes from a deep-throated Rev Gary Davies roar , to a thin Skip James Falsetto, to a whisper and then back to regular singing - and his guitar is no different - he slaps the strings and then pulls and strains on a single note - til' it seemed like he was bending the air itself - the note rises and falls and fades as he slaps the strings again to wind up the volume - sometimes he bends entire chords - how can he do it without breaking strings?...

(I was impressed by the way he handled the broken string. If you hadn't seen it break and seen him dispose of it with a flourish, you wouldn't have known. He didn't waste time changing it on stage - he just swapped guitars and then got a guitar picker from the audience to do the job for him. Now that's professional.)

He did another self penned number around the eagle theme followed by a great rendition of Brownskinned Girl which in turn was followed by a Johnny Shine's number to which he attributed the title "I got nineteen bird dogs and one floppy eared hound, it takes all of them dogs to take my baby down" - great title. At last he did a Rev Gary Davies number. It was the first Rev Gary Davies number he had done that night, but again, I realised his shadow had been with him on the stage all along. Then another original - "Weep Like a Willow, Howl Like a Morning Dove" - you could tell he was proud of his own numbers - there was something in his attitude - this was the best so far - "Howl like a Morning Dove" - great imagery.

His "last" song of the evening was a request. Hawaiian Cowboy - notable for it's unintelligible lyrics, but otherwise not overly special. And then the encore. This was it - the high spot of the whole evening. He had to do it, I knew he would - that haunting Blind Willie Johnson number "Dark was the Night Cold was the Ground" - this was played with feeling - he made the notes glide through the air - hanging until you'd swear they'd break - and suddenly "Walking Blues" that Robert Johnson classic led us into a medley of up-tempo blues cliches - a final treat to a night of magic. Yo.

 

 

 

Jethro Tull - 22nd November 2001 - Civic Hall Wolverhampton
Malcolm Jeffrey

Following the frankly splendid outing of Jethro Tull on the Dot Com tour, this gig was advertised back in April, and I got Bob's and my tickets immediately. It was so long ago that, without consulting the tickets, I had no idea whether the gig was seated or standing, and whether I had got any for anyone else! As it turns out, I only find out while in the Civic that we're sat, upstairs, and that our colleague Ant is along for the ride on his first Tull gig ever. Bob and I get some beer in and listen to a bit of Willy Porter, who's a trad-sounding, tight folk player supporting Tull tonight - and when his set finishes we pop into one of the new upstairs bars, bumping into Ant on the way. Ant, Bob and I chat while watching the stage crew set Tull's working environment up, frequent the new upstairs loos which are Green with a capital G, and then head for our seats as the lights dim.

There is a nice comforting JT logo over the stage and Tull all rush on in the dark to warm, anticipatory applause from the Civic crowd. They're straight into "My Sunday Feeling" and it all sounds very tight from the off. Ian Anderson's flute is nicely miked up (though his vocals are a tad quiet all evening), Martin Lancelot Barre is already going for it with lots of controlled octave harmonics in his soloing, Jonathan Noyce is solid and tight, counterbalancing his red Precision both by leaning carefully backwards and by sporting a shiny red leather jacket, Andrew Giddings is throwing himself into his fluid playing, and Doane Perry, in familiar orange headgear, is once more being wonderful, 30 feet up in the air on the world's tallest drum riser ever. Ian Anderson ricked his knee at Cropredy, I understand (Flute Playing Troubadour In Bizarre Folk Accident), so I'm prepared for a downscaling of lower limb sprightliness : and indeed, he comes on seemingly limping a bit and visibly favouring the other leg, but you couldn't tie him down if you tried as by the end of this opening oldie he's lifting and flexing his leg as if he can't stop himself, striding, swaying and crouching into his playing with customary gesticulation. hurray !

Next up, prompted by a cry of "Ma-RY !!", many people up in the balcony audibly go "oh !?!" as Tull treat us to "Cross-Eyed Mary", another unexpected one, nicely played and with Martin and Jonathan sounding good and comfy together. Ian Anderson is bedecked with a red bandanna and a reddish embroidered waistcoat, and at one point in the song, out of the corner of my eye, what with his tidy goatee, I get a sudden mental picture of a hyperactive, folk Ali G (just thought I'd tell you)... anyway, after we've shown appreciation for these two old favourites, Ian says Hi to us and, touching on September 11th's sad events and resulting secular intolerance, introduces the appropriate "Roots To Branches", from this line-up's first album together, and gives us some spirited and exotic-sounding flute playing. next, picking up his tiny acoustic (it's a "parlour guitar", I seem to remember), IA introduces another treat for us - "Songs From The Wood"s solo track "Jack-In-The-Green". all of the others stand stock still for the start, Jonathan Noyce especially so with his arms crossed 007-fashion, while Ian treats us to an all-too-rare glimpse of his fine folky-rhythmic picking and when they join in to complete the song it sounds tight and true to the original. this despite Mr Anderson's rather pithy demystifying of little Jack and his carrying of the green flag prior to the song !

Following this, Ian Anderson reminds us that amongst Tull's many past orientations, including Folk-Rock, Blues-Rock and Jazz-Rock, they have at times been describable as Prog Rock, and as such have been responsible for the odd "concept album" - the two dreaded words flash large on the backdrop as he intones them ! Ian promises us sincerely that they won't be performing such epics tonight (well, only 8:52 of one anyway), and gives the lie instantly, rather splendidly bosting straight off into a largely unedited big chunk of "Thick As A Brick" - accurate, intricately played and prolonged much more than the usual couple of verses we're usually treated to. I found myself anticipating where the performance could possibly be cut short and being happily surprised to find little Milton's epic continuing on past them all : what a treat! Andrew Giddings seems to be thoroughly into this one - he's swaying and foot-tapping, in constant motion throughout the song, and Anderson's playing is first-rate. then we get "Sweet Dream" - a far heavier arrangement than the orchestrated single, with Martin Barre, resplendent in his usual Ritchie Blackmore outfit and matching beret, fluid and effortless in his riffing and soloing.

Tull step back to their recent output next, with "Roots To Branches"s "Beside Myself" : IA tells us it's about a little girl he saw lost in Bombay from the window of his air-conditioned limo - consequently the song is about shame and self-loathing... at this point I take advantage of the new upstairs layout of the Civic - the upstairs corridor surrounding the balcony is open for standing spectators - and I have a little walk round to get different viewpoints on the band. Tull play me their riff-tastic homage to the pussycat, "Hunt By Numbers", as I make my way round to stage right, and by the time I find a nice arial view of the band, Ian Anderson is recounting a story of an old attic bedsit he used to live in : his downstairs neighbour used to practice JSB tunes at disturbing volume, and in riposte Tull wrote and performed "Boureé", which is up next. from my new vantage point, I watch as Doane Perry effortlessly and beautifully dispatches a slowly-growing drum roll, maintained over 8 bars or so, and get a good view of Jonathan Noyce's jolly bass solo and concluding jaunty salute to boot. I have a note here that reminds me that Mr Noyce is trimmer this tour, but possibly a touch widow's-peaky in exchange : is it the curry-eating, I wonder, that affects the follicles of this beat combo ? anyway, Ian and Jonathan perform a nicely intricate duet to conclude the song, with Mr Giddings peeking over his home-made Hammond to see what they're up to : the whole instrumental is splendidly tight and well-appreciated by the Wolvo crowd.

Doane Perry scales down the South Face of his drum riser to come down the front with some bongos, and this heralds a little acoustic section of the set : while they're settling, I sprint round the corridor to the opposite position above stage left and find myself above Andrew Giddings on that fearsome nipple-trapper machine named the accordion, and Mr Noyce permanently poised with a tin Indian drum. as with the last tour, it's a top instrumental version of "The Water Carrier" : Eastern, fearsome and intricate, but with a Tull twist of theatrical humour, as an interplaying double-act between Noyce and Giddings unfolds involving play-pushing and arguments, with Jonathan promoted on this tour (at the Symphony Hall his principal duty in this song was to bring Andrew's horn onstage on a cushion) to very occasional drumbeats. all the while, an exotic lady water carrier wanders past their backs with a dubious bottle to sell. no-one takes her up -once bitten, twice shy, I understand... meanwhile, Barre and Anderson are joining Giddings in maintaining the evilly complicated tune : the whole performance was delightfully entertaining. this is followed by a sprightly, swinging "The Habañero Reel", that tribute to the world's hottest chili pepper, and a short and bittersweet rendition of "Set-Aside" to complete a fine trilogy from "The Secret Language Of Birds". finally, Martin Barre gives us a heated "Pibroch" instrumental - he sheds his black jacket to set about the task manfully, revealing a huge black elbow support on his picking arm - and produces his finest playing this evening so far, delightful to see him letting go and letting rip.

As I finish my upstairs tour and return to my seat, those Tull members who had sloped off for Sanatogen during Martin's solo now return and Tull give us a marvellous "A New Day Yesterday", with Ian Anderson magnificent on harmonica and Barre with some absolutely excellent little fills and solos, and great syncopation from Doane up there at the back. after our appreciative applause has died down, Mr Anderson informs us of the legendary drinking prowess of their contemporaries, Fairport Convention - when an amateur quaffer in the audience slurs some heckle out, Ian say "they certainly love to drink - even more than YOU, sir !" - and the next instrumental is duly dedicated to peripatetic Fairport bassist and ex-Tull member Dave Pegg, who, like the tune, may be at this very moment "In The Grip Of Stronger Stuff"... it seemed to me that this well-played "Divinities" tune was bringing a sweat to Jonathan Noyce's brow, but it certainly needed a tight band to pull it off and we were not disappointed.

Next, we get a splendidly played "Budapest" from "Crest Of A Knave" with Ian Anderson's playing and singing particularly emotive ; a brief but happy "Passion Jig", featuring a guest appearance from the Hare, who had lost his spectacles right up until the last tour (they were in Martin Barre's pocket all the time !) ; and then the familiar opening lick of "Aqualung" brings a cheer from the auditorium, as Tull pull out all the stops, with even the stolid Jonathan Noyce moving and head swaying on the heavier bits. when Martin Barre hits the front for his solo, Ian Anderson tries to catch him in full pose with an Instamatic camera, but he always turns away at the last minute, spoiling the shot : eventually, IA turns to the front row and takes a picture of a punter instead ! "Aqualung" is super, however, and when Tull finish and take this opportunity to nip off for a rub-down with the Radio Times, the contented audience waste no time in appealing loudly for their return.

It's not long clapping in the dark before they're back, though. lights stage flash around the Civic, and on the left, two guys in white coats and miners helmets come on, playing around the audience first, and then illuminating Mr Giddings' playing : it's a slower arranged start to "Locomotive Breath", punctuated by a little phrase from Martin Barre on the right - the helmet lights spin to show him and then return to Giddings like small spotlights. the song soon explodes into the full metal version of "Locomotive Breath", though, and is fine and true to the original, which gets the audience up in full enjoyment mode, with Ian Anderson parading the song before us with all of his accomplished frontmanship and nary a sign of a gammy knee anywhere, and Martin Barre's playing true and exciting. then, as on the last tour, we're treated to "Living In The Past", with Jonathan Noyce nailing the tricky arpeggio bassline, Mr Giddings in constant motion doing a little feet-tapping thigh-slapping dance throughout, and Ian's flute ringing delicately above the quieter moments and soaring through the crescendos. finally, with the old instrumental "Protect and Survive", Mr Anderson headbutts the expected white balloons into the audience and the traditional fun and games follow as the band whip up the tempo to wind the night up : up in the balcony, for the first time ever since my first Tull gig in Birmingham in February 1977, a balloon approaches !! leaping up with all of the stamina of my 40 year-old, 60+ Marathons legs, screaming "IT'S MINE !!!" I finally get to pat one after 24 years, much to the chagrin of the taller, thwarted Bob to my left. then it's "Cheerio" from Tull and time for us to hit the Exchange over the road for a last pint before hometime. as we down the last pint of the night, somewhere in a carefully researched curry emporium in the vicinity, 5 recently towelled-down men are presumably checking the menu for the presence of Habañero peppers...

Hurray ! well done, Tull. all the usual traditional numbers, enough recent ones to woo new recruits, a healthy smattering of oldies and rarities, visual jokes and droleries a-plenty and all without exception played to the highest standard by this collection of "proper" musicians. With the spectres of Mr Anderson's knee and Martin Barre's elbow looming, they were still spot on and entertaining all evening. Here's to the next one - I'll certainly be there...

(more Malcy fun can be found at http://freespace.virgin.net/malcolm.jeffrey/Malcolm.htm !)

 

John Wormald, 29 Nov 2001, Lighthouse Folk Club
Bryn Phillips

 The Lighthouse is a friendly informal folk club situated in the upstairs room of the Lighthouse pub in Halesowen. It's acoustic, no PA system, and unless you knew the venue, not the place you might expect to find John Wormald, Bluesman Extraordinaire.

He had about three trips up and down the stairs before he started. That was to bring in his instruments - which ranged from a Dobro, through to an amplified miniature guitar, not to mention the Venezuelan Cuatro, the Mandolin and the regular acoustic guitar. And that's what he started of his first set with, as he sang Blind Arthur Blake's "Ditty Wah Ditty", followed up by a great version of Robert Johnson's "Sweet Home Chicago". Those numbers set the scene. "Ditty Wah Ditty" gave John the chance the launch the set with some fine guitar playing and Robert Johnson numbers are a perfect fit for his powerful vocal style. The surprise came when he got out the red amplified miniature guitar - I said it's an acoustic club - it is - but John's Lil' red Guitar is equipped with an equally miniature amplifier/speaker and the overall sound is a sort of fuzzy Jimi Hendrix Unplugged sort of sound. Anyway, what ever it is it works and it worked brilliantly on Baby Please Don't Go, an old Muddy Waters ("His real name is McKinley Morganfield", said John -"Are you taking notes?") standard.

Then the Cuatro came out - a peculiar choice for blues, but again it works. This was used to accompany an non-standard arrangement of Cocaine Blues. He finished off the set with the Dobro, playing slide for Little Red Rooster.

His second set was equally varied with numbers from Memphis Slim, Ry Cooder, Sleepy John Estes ("He's a narcoleptic - hey you at the back are you taking notes? - there'll be questions later") and of course Robert Johnson - but interestingly none of the songs are played in necessarily the same style as the originals. They are all interpretations - no attempt to imitate, which spoils a lot of contemporary blues acts - and all in different styles. John Wormald hasn't got a single distinctive sound - his performance is as varied as the instruments he uses.. The variety of his act was summed up by the Lighthouse's Sue Paynter "Well, I've seen a lot of acts but this is the first time I've seen someone bring along a different instrument for each song".

If you get the chance to see him , catch one of his gigs, you will be in for a treat. Alternatively you stand a good chance of seeing him at the Woodman or the Lighthouse on Singers Nights.

 

 

 Ralph Allin - 24 January 2002 - Fiddle and Bone - Birmingham
Pete Brown

 For those who have not heard Ralph and his band play, you missed a musical experience second to none.

Ralph plays violin; well he not only plays, he involves his whole being into an integrated rhythmic and melodic experience. This is what you get when you see him.

Perhaps very importantly he also injects humour into his music. This is not immediately obvious to the uninitiated, but I've known him over a number of years and grown to enjoy the hints of humour. They take the form of snatches of other songs, imitations of birds and animals, and sometimes they are at the expense of his fellow musicians. It all goes to make an evening with Ralph outstanding entertainment.

At the Fiddle and Bone, Wednesday, we had all the jazz classics. There was the title track of his latest CD, 'I Got Rhythm' together with 'Lullaby of Birdland', 'A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square', 'Cheek to Cheek', 'Lady be good' and a host of others. They were all performed with wonderful precision, style, and artistry. Especially evocative was 'Autumn Leaves' played a little up-tempo to normal.

Ralph isn't on his own though, he now has a quintet. Special mention should be made of Steve Street on drums and Jadie Carey on bass if only for keeping up!! However they are excellent musicians in their own right. To complete the line up is Al Gurr, piano, and Max Gilkes, guitar. They both provided excellent solo breaks.

It was an evening to be treasured and remembered.

 

 

 

Fairport Convention, Vikki Clayton, Waterson Carthy - Birmingham Symphony Hall, 10 Feb 2002
Trevor Durden

The evening opened promptly at 7.30 pm at a packed Symphony Hall with a very accomplished set from Vikki Clayton. After just 4 songs (we could have done with more) she gave way to Waterson Carthy, probably the greatest folk dynasty of our time. Norma was in her usual fine voice ably supported by Martin, Saul Rose and of course Eliza.

Anyone seeing Eliza Carthy for the first time could not fail to be impressed not only with the quality of her voice but also the quality of her violin playing. To do both at the same time is quite amazing. The set was entirely traditional, drawing from the works of such folk icons as Walter Pardon and Seamus Ennis. Fine harmonies, powerful voices and strong playing took us nicely to the interval and the scramble for the bar.

The second half started without preamble, the band walking on to stage without any form of announcement. Picking up their instruments they bade us to "Walk Awhile". It was fairly obvious from the outset that the band was musically very tight and the audience very receptive to the invitation. A frantic Morris song followed to cement the fine start. From the explosive start the set, for me, went somewhat downbeat. Fairport were joined on stage by Anna Ryder to perform one of her songs – sorry I can’t remember the title - and then went on to play several numbers from their new album. Whilst the songs were pleasant, from a personal point of view, I found them somewhat short of power.

The evening changed with a truly wonderful rendition of the John Richards classic "The Deserter". This has always been one of my favourite songs and it was great to see it back in the repertoire. There then followed a solid hour of vintage Fairport with the expected pyrotechnics from Ric and unbelievable mandolin playing from Chris Leslie. Portmerion, Crazy Man Michael, Matty Groves, Hiring Fare all followed before the other artists joined the band on stage for "Meet on the Ledge". A splendid evening finished at about 11.15pm having given brilliant value for money.

 

Kieran Halpin, Katie Fitzgerald's, 11 Feb 2002
Trevor Durden

I find it quite difficult to be objective when talking or, as in this case, writing about Kieran Halpin.. The reason for this is quite simple. Kieran is probably my favourite artist and is without doubt one of the finest wordsmiths in Britain. To my mind he should be declared a National Treasure.

His appearance at Katie Fitzgerald’s followed a horrendous 9 hour journey from Penrith and he looked tired; that is until he took the stage in front of a small but highly appreciative audience. Kieran did what Kieran does best. He exploded into the distinctive strong rhythms as he took us through some of the songs from his forthcoming album. Kieran doesn’t just write songs, he weaves an intricate tapestry in words – listen to the words on "A Child Lies Sleeping" - truly wonderful.

Old favourites such as "Mirror Town", "Closing Time in Paradise", "Too Long Away" "All The Answers" were all sung with the same verve and energy as the new material, all interspersed with Kieran's own brand of sardonic humour.

Thanks Kieran for yet another super night and we look forward to seeing you at the Woodman in May.

 

Upton Cajun Festival, 13 April 2002
Pete Brown

It was a coldish night when we got out of the car in Upton. We were all ready for a new experience, trying our skills at Cajun and Zydeco. After a quick reconnaissance round the town we found that the dance was about two miles away in Hanley Cross School. Our arrival time luckily coincided with tuition on the dance steps. This was good news because without it we would have been useless, instead of semi useless.

The music and dance from South Louisiana are very specialised due to roots in Africa and France via the Caribbean and Canada. The following description gives an insight into what is involved.

Origins of Zydeco and Cajun Music by Tom Dempsey, Seattle, WA. May 1996

"The rubboard (type of washboard) player often drives the energy of zydeco music by emphasizing strong, syncopated rhythms. Zydeco usually has no fiddle, and the music resonates with sounds from jazz, rhythm and blues, and more recently, hip hop. Cajun music, which usually has no rubboard, sounds closer to country music, often melodic and sweet. Cajun musicians tend to play two-steps and waltzes in alternation, whereas zydeco musicians play mostly two-steps, and few waltzes.

The distinctions between zydeco and Cajun music affect the dancing styles. Cajun jitterbug, with its many turns and unique broken-leg step, is smoother and more precise; but zydeco dancing is more soulful, as expressed through greater hip action. Small, crowded dance halls have kept zydeco dancers in place on the dance floor, rather than circling the room like Cajun dancers. Dancing in a tight space to the pulsing and syncopated zydeco beat promotes a bouncy, vertical style with few turns. In contrast, dancing around the room to melodic Cajun music encourages smooth, horizontal movements with more turns."

I always find you learn a lot by watching other people and certainly there were some interesting styles and techniques. Once the basic steps are mastered you can develop a personal style and improvise. The evening flew by. Joe Le Taxi played the music.

How can you forget ‘Who put pepper in the Vaseline’. You could eat tradition Cajun food such as Chicken Gumbo. It was an excellent evening. The Festival covered the whole weekend. Thank you Upton.

 

 

Loudon Wainwright III - 21st April, 2002
Malcolm Jeffrey

The Huntingdon Hall is an old converted church hall with a newer restaurant/box office annexe : as we walk in a nice twiddly bit of guitar is being picked in the hall auditorium, and, peeking in, there’s the great man soundchecking there. The upstairs bar/restaurant is full of awful geometric oil paintings – Bob points out a sign advertising the art work as the output from a group of jazz musicians, and remarks that it’s just the kind of painting that a jazz muso would produce… still, we avert our eyes to the menus and a nice waitress takes our food and beer orders. When the drinks arrive a weird variety of cockups has occurred, but they’re all drinkable so we tuck in : by the time Neil, Ralph and Annie, Ant and David and Yvonne arrive in their turns, we look up and find a huge queue for the bar has sprung up and there’s little chance of a second round before the gig starts. 

So it’s time to literally take our pews downstairs : the church hall is a nicely preserved, Victorian-style Methodist Church hall, with serried ranks of wooden pews, an upstairs balcony supported by iron pillars, and at the back of the stage is a tall pulpit reached by left and right spiral staircases and flanked by two huge plaster eagles.  Memorial plaques to prominent worshippers long since gone on, a board listing the incumbent clergy from 1872 to 1968, and panels bearing such mottoes as “Enter Into His Gates With Thanksgiving And Into His Courts With Praise” still adorn the walls and are beautifully preserved : all of which make the grand piano, two guitars and mike stands on stage look out of place. The whole effect is oddly charming, a touch unsettling and sufficiently bizarre enough to have most of the party talking about the setting with a broad spectrum of religious guilt, fascination and nostalgia. On stage, a young lady m/c takes a spare mike, jolly, confident and comfortable in front of a roomful of strangers, with a faint whiff of the no-nonsense air of someone who’s used to being obeyed, like a schoolteacher.  She cheerily welcomes us all to the Huntingdon Hall and then explains at great length about their future programme, the upkeep of the hall, and heavy plugging of the raffle and the potential crapness of some of said raffle’s prizes… then she briskly introduces Loudon’s support tonight, Peter Blegvad. 

A gangling figure shambles onto the stage, faintly hunched of shoulder in the manner of the rather tall, sporting a shock of grey hair, like a geriatric Monkee : this is Peter Blegvad, who will introduce himself as a similar performer to Loudon Wainwright III, but with a sufficiently surreal twist to allow their “prickly egos” to coexist on tour together. He’s the owner of a big hooter (like yours truly), from New England, and faintly lisps, which is why I’ve written “Barry Manilow” in my notes describing his voice, but the overall impression is that of Tom Waits tinged with Bob Dylan - thoughtful, literate, introspective, and often whimsical in his introductory patter. Predominantly, though, he’s a rather lugubrious performer, so although there are more than a few similarities to Loudon, and he’s a guitarist who certainly knows all the chords, his well-played songs are still frequently downbeat and melancholy, and, as the hall starts to get hotter and stuffier, it’s the kind of stuff it’s hard to get into.  still, pretty fine and interesting, all told, with several odd sideswipes at life and a healthy attitude to accountants, and he’s warmly applauded as he leaves the stage.

There’s a huge queue for the upstairs bar, though, and sadly no-one seems to know Worcester enough to be sure of where the nearest pub is (apart from the already departed Ant), but it’s a nice warmish night outside so we take some fresh air while a few of the party light up hungrily.  There’s ice cream for sale in the foyer, so it’s tubs all round and chats for half an hour then it’s back into the still stuffy hall to seat ourselves penitently on our pews again. We’re barely sat down when, before the gig starts, mind you, and with the lights still up, Pete the Glass and Ben arrive, just in time to have the Cheerful Schoolmistress return to the stage to announce the raffle prizes.  For completeness’ sake and in random order, they were : a T V Times Barry Bucknell In The House annual, a very late Easter Egg, some CDs of recently appearing acts, a do-it-yourself Hero Kit and some free ticket vouchers. Only you will be able to sort them into advancing crapness order…

Then, without further ado, Loudon Wainwright III is on stage to a huge bellow of appreciation from the Huntingdon masses.  he’s in light blue shirt and tan slacks, looks in pretty fine fettle and there is no sign of any scary beardage.  He gives us all a grin and starts off with “One Man Guy”, with all the end-of-chorus yodelling intact and punctuating the song with mock-pained grimaces, and he sounds excellent, accurate and clear too.  Next up is the bouncy, bluesy “It Had To Be Her”, and it’s clear that Loudon has already clicked into high gear and is enjoying himself, flexing his left leg involuntarily and giving it lots of feeling.  Next, there’s the hopefully pre-cognitive and thoroughly amusing “There’ll Be Lots Of Drinking In Heaven”, following which he says “hi” to us all : the Brits all politely mutter “hello” back and, amused, Loudon asks us “So how’s it going in Worcester ? - this is where you make the sauce, right ?”…  also, the old chapel layout includes a balcony that goes right the way round the back of the pulpit/stage area, and Loudon apologises to those punters up there behind him for their enforced view of his “bald spot”.  

Peter Blegvad has, however, stolen his thunder by doing the same gag earlier. Declaring a sort of theme to the evening of Wainwright family matters, we get the succinct and jolly “Bein’ A Dad”, and, from a spookier, more contemplative angle, “Four Mirrors” : Loudon has been exploring his growing similarities to his late father in his recent work, and this personal, wistful song continues this very public healing process as he catches four sights of his own reflection and momentarily mistakes them for those of his dad.  expanding this mood a touch, we get the family history tale “The First Loudon” where the Loudon resemblance is extended back a further generation to the first Loudon Wainwright and evokes much anguished expressions, following which the mood is lightened as “You Don’t Want To Know” recounts a Seventies’ cold snap when it was “colder than a witch’s tit”, and the mischievous “Unhappy Anniversary” follows to cheer us up too, with Loudon’s tongue poking itself out like some sort of wild animal !  then we get “Out Of Reach” from the new album “Last Man On Earth”, which is deceptively light-hearted but poignant on closer examination, followed by the splendid and ultimately self-critical “Walking In Your Street” : all of these performances are applauded with deserved enthusiasm from the Worcester attendees. 

At this point, Loudon puts down his guitar and, with a greedy twinkle in his eye, walks to the grand piano at the back left of the stage.  “Is it a Steinway ?” he muses aloud… “Yes !” he answers himself gleefully on sitting down : “I wonder how many it took to lift it…”  maybe some part of his enjoyment of this piano interlude stems from the fact that he knows he’s only going to do one number on the instrument ! - as, after starting up a cod snatch of Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock” with a mischievous grin, he continues his set with a song appropriate for the ex-church setting, “Sunday”.  Then it’s back to the front with the guitar, and he fixes us with a quizzical look.  “You’re very well behaved,” he says : we chuckle politely.  “Tomorrow night we’ll be in Glasgow,” he tells us - “I expect things could be different…”  then, as if a final effort to get the Brits involved in the show, he says “Do you wanna hear anything in particular… ?” and seems a tad taken aback as the audience explode in a cacophony of shouted requests, as if they’ve just been waiting all night for permission to speak !  Picking one delightedly from the huge list, Loudon gives us “School Days”, from his very first album, and then he grooves down to the magnificent and merry only-fooling-himself-blues, “I’m Alright”.  Following the applause, more requests are called out and our party have summoned up enough courage to call out for “Colours” or “The Acid Song” but Loudon deftly ignores us all and, pausing only to rip the piss out of a drunken punter at the back (who has all along been whooping, clapping on his own after the third note played in true US fashion, and who now calls out for a song he doesn’t even know himself) he picks “White Winos”, (“from the new CD !”, LW3 says in mock surprise…).  it’s a song written for his recently deceased mother and is poignant, moving and excellent, and he follows this with it’s stablemate, the even more painful and cathartic “Homeless”.  having hit us with two whopping emotional haymakers, he rounds up a trio of Mum Songs by responding instantly to a lady’s request for “Rufus Is A Tit Man”.  here’s hoping he still is !

We are now treated to a lengthy bit of tuning - LW3’s guitar just won’t get in despite several attempts, and the stuffiness and warmth in the hall has continued to build up - and when he’s eventually got it playable he’s got the capo on too high a fret : he apologises for the near miss we’ve had to “the chipmunk version” !  All sorted, he plays us the confessional, though unrepentant, “April Fools’ Day Morn”, followed by a song with “the whole damn family” in it, the light-hearted but guiltily reflective “A Father And A Son”, which proves to be his last of the set and he leaves the stage to a huge and appreciative demonstration of the audience’s appreciation. fairly briskly, he’s back on again though, flanked by Peter Blegvad, and the two of them proceed to do a small duet : “That’s My Daughter In The Water” is one of Peter’s, with vocals shared in turn by each of them, and Blegvad doing some nice soloing over Loudon’s strumming.  their second number is the more familiar and oddly pervy LW3 favourite “When I’m At Your House”, with Loudon’s prehensile tongue and facial leering only adding to the seedy feel of it all !  Then they’re off again for a brisk milkshake, while we all clap and cry out for more. But we drag him back again, this time on his own, for a rousing and public-spirited “Tip That Waitress” : after only the first strum of the song, Mr Drunken Fan at the back bursts into a solo bout of applause - amused, Loudon says “… and there’s just a piece of it, ladies and gentlemen !” before restarting it.  Finally, the evening ends on a thoughtful, almost philosophical note with “Final Frontier” and then Loudon is out of here, with his satisfied public warmly and fondly applauding before it’s time to go home.verdict time then…; it was great, I thought.  erudite, witty, odd, idiosyncratic, and with his own fair share of demons to exorcise, I found my first gig with Loudon to be gentle, entertaining, intensely personal, easygoing but often poignant to the point of being unnerving. Mr Wainwright proved to be a fine singer and musician, genuinely likeable and genuinely liked, and capable of rousing strong emotions and empathy through his songwriting, and if that isn’t one of the hallmarks of an exceptional artist, I dunno what is.  splendid.  if anything, I found myself a tad embarrassed by not owning enough of his stuff.  looks like I’ll have to sort that out, then…

 According to Ralph Moore, Loudon Wainwright III was once a copious tourer, but when Bob and I find out that he’s back in England again it seems such a rare event that loads of people are interested : Bob, Shirley and Stewart, Ralph and Annie, Yvonne and David, Neil, Ant, Pete the Glass, Ben, Graham and my good self all jump at the chance to see this legendary, idiosyncratic performer. On the night, Graham’s firm is sending him to Scotland the day after (bastards) so he can’t go, but Bob, Shirley, Stewart and I all set off to Worcester in plenty of time for pre-gig food and beer.

 

 

Wheaton Aston Folk Festival - 17-19 May, 2002
Bryn Phillips

Strictly speaking this review covers part of the Saturday as I was only there for the afternoon and evening. Trouble is unless you're a hardy type, it's a bit early in the year to camp, so in common with quite a few other people, I just "day visit".

Usually, when you arrive at a festival it's dèja-vu, the months disappear, and it's just like you never left. When I arrived I looked for the craft fair, which last year was opposite the Coach and Horses - gone! In it's place a new housing development. As a result the festival was laid out slightly differently this year. Another pub, The Hartley Arms, at the other end of the village hosted a music session singaround with The Coach and Horses remaining the main festival venue with a semi-covered outside stage and a back-room music session. There was still the Village Hall stage with the ubiquitous aroma of heavily spiced food coming from the side room and of course the village square complete with maypole and Morris dancers. Oh yes, the craft fair was still there, complete with Lemon Lady, stilt walkers, things for the kids to do and as an added bonus archery. A thoroughly nice festival - well done organisers!

James Davey introduced one of the acts announcing that he hadn't heard of them before. "What do you really want" he asked, "a festival full of well known artists you've heard time and time before or the chance to hear some new top quality acts?". Well to be absolutely honest, people tend to get attracted to the festivals by the big name acts - but he had a point. Some of the acts I hadn't seen before were really good and I'll look out for them again., but regardless of that the festival had a few headliners; Colum Sands, Brian Peters, Marie Little, The Bushburys. Unfortunately they were spread out over the three days, so I only had the chance to see Colum Sands and Marie Little who were excellent as always.

Three of the newer acts to note:

Simon Barron and Rosalind Brady - Very accomplished guitar work from Simon Barron and lovely vocals from Rosalind Barry. They are at their best when they are singing together - the harmonies are quite exceptional. I'm sure we'll see a lot more of this remarkable duo from the West Country.

Andy Guttridge, Martin Green, Roger Innes - Between them, this duo came up with a very full sound which moved along relentlessly. Andy Guttridge, singer songwriter, performs in various collaborations and this one worked well, with Martin Greens bluesy accompaniment blending in faultlessly, so much so, at times you could think you were at a jam session. Now, where's my guitar?....

Doug B Smith - Someone I hadn't heard before, that I'll certainly look out for again. The "B" gives it away really, doesn't it! Doug Smith could have been a folk singer, but Doug "B" Smith had to be blues! Well almost. There was a very strong blues influence running through everything he did. If you haven't hear him think of a blend of "Martin Simpson" and "Michael Chapman" and you'll be close to the sound. Reverb, open tuning, precision picking - great stuff!

The full line up for the festival over the three days (in order of appearance) was as follows: Claret, Brian Peters, Simon Barron and Rosalind Brady, Liza Fitsgibbon and The Fiddler, Coinneach, Daz Barker and Anna Bearne, James Argyle, The Harvesters, The RBB Band, Mike Nicholson, Banoffi, Andy Guttridge and Martin Green, Colum Sands, Firebrand, e2K, Penny Bould, Doug B Smith, Marie Little, Bandamania, The Fiona Simpson Band, La Strada, Sheila and Robert, O.D. Slope, Fantazia, The Bushburys

 

 


Ian Parker, 19 June 2002
Pete Brown

Ian Parker, Morg Morgan, The Fiddle and Bone. This was a combination I couldn’t resist. The night was fine, the beer good but even better was Ian’s music. What was surprising, so few people were there.

The evening started with acoustic numbers from his new Parker Morgan 4 track CD.

These had more of a country feel to them. They were very good and suited the combination with lack of drums. (By the way you can officially download this CD from his web site). Soon we were back with the Ian style that we knew best. That soaring guitar, intricate patterns, controlled and dynamic, he takes you to a different place. You get lost in the music and just want more. All in all a brilliant evening.

You may wonder why this review is on the Woodman web site when we all know Ian as a Blues/R&B man. Well, he’s at the Bridgnorth Folk Festival on 24 August this year. Yes, Ian and Friends are multi-talented so I’m looking forward to that date.

 

Alcester Folk Festival 2002
Pete Brown - 23 June 2002

Sunny days - moonlit nights - excellent venues - wonderful music, this was Alcester Folk Festival 2002. The ancient oak construction of the Town Hall roof - the half timbered houses - beautiful flowers - many, many traditional pubs - the selection of real ales - Rivers Alne and Arrow - interesting shops - Chinese and Indian Restaurants - free plentiful parking, this is the friendly Warwickshire town of Alcester.

I didn’t get to Alcester last year which I heard was excellent. This year, the third festival, has been equally excellent and successful. The line up, headlined by Chris While and Julie Matthews, catered for all tastes. If anything the number of acts and venues meant that you could not see all the artists you would have liked to have seen.

Outstanding were Chris While and Julie Matthews. All the favourites were sung. There stage act is so professional and their attitude is we are going to enjoy ourselves, so come along with us. Chris tried out a new song on us (playing the banjo)!

Ben and Joe Broughton were on top form. Top form from them is 100 mph playing, musicianship par excellence, humour, audience participation. They leave you breathless.

Marie Little was underrated judging by the numbers in the audience. She is such a proficient and involved artist she deserved a bigger turnout.

What can you say about Keith Donnelly, except, go and see him!!

It’s my belief that you should keep reviews short. So, sorry to all the other artists, session singers I haven’t mentioned who played so well and added to a really brilliant Alcester FF 2002.

 

 

 

Bryn Phillips – The Lighthouse, 4 July 2002
Pete Brown

It was a good night at the Lighthouse. All the usual artists were there including Tommy, George, Tommy Dempsey, Mike James, Nick, Trevor, John, and of course Sue who runs the club ably assisted by Pat. In addition Nothing to Prove, residents at the Woodman, Kingswinford, came along and gave us some songs. All gave their best to provide a miscellany of different songs, tunes and styles.

Tonight was different from usual because it was Bryn’s guest night. At intervals Sue and Pat put on a feature night for long established artists. John Wormald and Nick Evans have been on previously.

Bryn started with ‘The Ironbridge Ferry Disaster’, a song based on a poem by Sheila Turner, in which 27 people died. This immediately made Paul start a headcount of the number of people who died in Bryn’s songs. The problem with this was, that the song, ‘Are You All Cowards?’ is about the First World War so the death count of the evening was over five million plus one sheep that caught pneumonia. The final song of the first half was ‘Vicar and the Frog’ by Fred Wedlock, the only song of his set that was not self penned.

The second half was just as good with, ‘Pay Day’, ’The Throckmorton Coat’, ‘Terracotta Warriors’, ‘Samuel Bates and the Devil’, ‘Chico Mendes’ and finishing off with an encore of everyone’s favourite ‘Silver and Gold’

It was just another brilliant evening at the Lighthouse.

 

Michael Roach – Upton Blues Festival 20 July 2002
Peter Brown

It was in the back room of the Kings Head. What were we expecting? It was to be a Blues workshop to last approximately one hour. The room was packed so it turned into a demonstration of, and discussion about, the origins of the Blues.

Michael was really good and he was able to hold the interest of everyone in the room for two hours. Yes, the minor session turned into a major event. We learned about flat picking East Coast style. Oh, it’s easy if you get your thumb to keep playing the bass line while your fingers follow the tune you’re singing. We learned that you can develop this technique at the Blues week 2002, 11th - 16th August at Exeter University. www.euroblues.org. (01242 701 765).

Then followed some children’s clapping songs. Who can forget ‘Did you ever, ever, ever in your long legged life see a long legged sailor with his long legged wife.’ Luckily a brave member of the gathering volunteered to clap this with Michael. She got a copy of his CD ‘Good News Blues’ for her efforts.

Finally two guitarists and two harp players from the crowded room joined Michael to jam some blues numbers.

It was an afternoon to be treasured.

 

Burntwood Folk Festival 16-18 August 2002
Trevor Durden

I like Burntwood Festival, it has been running now for 3 years and I have been to each of them and all being well will continue to do so. Of all the festivals this has to be the most friendly and probably the most fun. The Woodman were well represented and made themselves quite visible with a collection of blow up toys for Bryn and a rather unconventional flag flown on Pete’s flagpole!

The festival this year took a significant change of direction with more local acts supplementing the headliners. Without hesitation I can say that this change of policy worked. The effect was to make the weekend even more relaxing and easy going.

Everyone will have their own favourite moments from the weekend, Grace Notes on Friday night were one of mine. The blend of the 3 voices is quite exquisite. Also on Friday we had the raw power of Chris While and Julie Matthews. They never cease to amaze me with their power and did not disappoint.

Saturday was John Wright day. John has so much charisma and complete with a new band, including Maartin Allcock gave two accomplished sets.

Sunday was Gravelly Hillbilly day. If any other act in the country can work an audience in the way they can I would be very surprised. I’m not too certain if they did anything new, but if they did, it would have been familiar anyway. They have a good formula so why change!

If you are very lucky, you will come away from a festival with an outstanding memory. For me I was absolutely astonished at the talent of 14 year old Charlie Button. Charlie plays fiddle with a skill and talent that belies her age. She did a set with her father on the Club Stage and later played with Tony Portlock. There is no doubt in my mind that this young lady is going to be a folk superstar and organisers should book her now whilst they can still afford her!

Having had so much fun it is difficult to find fault. The camping arrangements were excellent – toilets cleaned at least once a day – the stewarding and security were discrete but nevertheless in evidence. Perhaps there could be more continuity between the acts but this is a minor glitch of which I’m sure the organisers are aware.

 

 

The Spike Drivers - Bridgnorth Folk Festival 25 August 2002
Bryn Phillips

The Spike Drivers was the band that everyone at Bridgnorth was talking about this year. In the afternoon they played to a half full marquee – but in the evening the same marquee was full to over-flowing. What was so special? It was probably that the whole act was so complete. It wasn’t just the music – it was the body language; the interaction between the musicians; the choice of material – everything was just right. They set the scene with "Hey, Hey" – a fairly routine blues number – but immediately you could see where the magic was coming from.

There are three elements to a successful blues. Imagine a solo country blues guitarist. The first thing to do is to drive out a steady rhythm with the thumb – moving around on the bass strings to give some distinctive bass riffs. The second thing is to provide the distinctive blues runs and riffs on the high strings – that gives it the style; that’s what makes it exciting. Finally you need rhythm – a solo acoustic blues artist will tap his feet - maybe use bottle tops on his shoes, maybe use a sound-board – the result is a solid driving sound. Now imagine the bass riff is actually played on bass guitar, the blues runs are picked out with precision on a single guitar and the whole thing is kept moving with a solid, deceptively simple, driving rhythm played with brushes. Now imagine the timing’s perfect – as perfect as the solo guitarist – but with the added depth and volume. That’s the sound. The Spike Drivers’ steady driving blues train (hence the name – the spikes are used to drive the sleepers into the tracks.) Finally the look of the band was immaculate. Ben Tyzack in his black hat, blue shirt and black braces, Constance Redgrave looking stunning in her long black coat, and Maurice McElroy – super cool in the straw hat .. all of them working together to give that single multiplicity of sound – Yo!

Their content was well mixed. It went from laid back country blues, all the way through to swing and almost-jazz. They also sported a couple of unusual intruments – there was Constance playing the strap on wash-board with hair-brushes and Ben playing the Brasso Tin Kazoo – looked weird – sounded good.

From their publicity it looks as though this band spends most of it’s time on the blues circuit, but judging from the reaction from the audience at Bridgnorth – they should think about getting more folk bookings. They were a knockout!

 

 

 

James Taylor - MEN Arena, Manchester, September 2002
Malcolm Jeffrey

The Manchester Evening News Arena could have been separated at birth from the NIA in Birmingham - a concrete indoor arena with seats stuck on, at one end of an oval arena with the unused half curtained off and surrounded by a semi-circular concrete corridor with food and drink outlets, "bars" ("we don't sell halves", a dour barmaid tells me, pushing the button twice to serve me a pint), t-shirt stalls and loos. Graham is already there when Bob and I arrive and there is just time for some beer ( they may not serve halves but you can take them in) when the lights go down and a black-suited James Taylor follows his band - Jimmy Johnson on bass, Steve Gadd on percussion, Larry Goldings on keyboards and Michael Landau on guitars - onstage to warm, prolonged and echoey applause. JT has a carpet of some description spread out, centre stage, for him to stand and play on in comfort, and the keys, bass, drums and guitar are arrayed clockwise around the central mike.

Mr Taylor casually straps his Olsen guitar on, does a few sus-4's to check the tuning and then, stepping slightly towards us, he nails his colours firmly on the mast by starting straight into the frankly tremendous intro riff to the title track from the new CD, "October Road". Several things hit you instantly - he's straight into gear with his trademark picking, fills and control, while his singing voice is as clear and accurate as I've ever seen him with. Barely have we had chance to clap when the familiar, opening synth chord to "Copperline" rings out and JT is off again, laid back and exquisite, guitar ringing clear and tight : his picking fingers hardly pluck at the strings, just little knuckle movements, so his guitar must be picked up at a loud level, but there's no fret noise or scratching at all, just any number of wonderfully controlled fills, acciaturas and little riffs which are seemingly added just on feel. When the song ends, the applause is warm and, this time, more immediate and when it subsides, James says, disarmingly, "Nice arena you've got here..." and everyone is on his side at once. "We've got some new songs : sorry about that", he tells us - "If it's any consolation, we've spaced them out... anyway, they sound just like the old songs." As if to bear out his whimsical comments, he continues the set with a faithfully performed "Whenever You're Ready" from the new album and it does sound as if it could have come from "Flag" or something...

Next up is the testimony to the dedication of the National Geographic Magazine, "Frozen Man", with full, entertaining and gently derisive story-introduction from James : lovely, gentle picking and chord structuring underpins this song and Michael Landau's own guitaring accompanies and reinforces sweetly. Following that, JT plays us the song which got him his break at Apple Records, the little-heard "Rainy Day Man" - there are 4 front-of house speakers on the apron of the stage (to give the front rows some actual sound for their money, as the side stacks will miss them altogether) and Taylor sits on one of them to watch Larry Goldings' fluid piano solo. After, while we are suitably showing our appreciation, JT puts down his guitar, and elegantly wriggles out of his jacket - uh-oh, he means business on the next one, then ! It's odd to see Mr Taylor squaring up to the mike with no guitar, but we're all glad he did as the next song is the presumably autobiographical and frankly splendid lounge-blues "Mean Old Man" from the new CD. It's confessional, tongue-in-cheek, and features Jimmy Johnson's super blues runs and a super tinkly piano solo during which James Taylor strolls about his rug, rolling his shirt sleeves up (uh-oh, he really means business on the next one, then ?). Following a lengthy bout of applause for this top rendition, James Taylor shrugs on his guitar again and goes for the big crescendo at the end of the first set, beginning with a rollicking "Everybody Has The Blues", with a quite raucous (for JT) guitar segment which triggers off much foot-tapping, leg-flexing and dancing about on James' behalf. This is followed by a driving and incisive "Slap Leather" with Michael Landau soloing with passion and Steve Gadd just being magnificent, a pared-down and beautiful "Fire And Rain" and then winding up with "You've Got A Friend", played with the control and dexterity that a guitarist would dream of. As James is taking his bow, a lady punter runs down to the front and passes him a small bunch of flowers, and, for all the irony and self-effacing bravado in his spiel, it seems Mr Taylor is touched and unsure of what to do : eventually, he gauchely leaves the flowers in the grand piano (!) for later and exits the stage after his excellent supporting musicians.

An interval trip to the loo and bar, followed by a quick commemorative t-shirt purchase, and it's back to our seats in time to have the lights dim again and to show our appreciation for James and the band's return : he indicates to the curtain behind the stage which bifurcates the auditorium and tells us that he's been busy himself during the break - "there's a whole other audience behind there". Then he kicks the second half off with a sensitive reading of "Never Die Young"s "Valentine's Day" and a rare and up-tempo "(I've Got To) Stop Thinkin' 'Bout That" from the following album, "New Moon Shine", both enthusiastically received and applauded, followed by the new "4th of July", somehow a quintessentially James Taylor style song and played slow with feel and skill by James and his band, with the rhythm section of Steve Gadd and Jimmy Johnson just exquisite in their restraint. While we're clapping after the song JT clamps a capo on, and even the creak and click of moving the cheating stick into place produces a tidy, controlled rhythm of its own - I glance at fellow guitarists Graham and Bob, and the shared look between us says "what chance have we got if even his capo plays tunes by itself ?"...

The next song is "Raised Up Family", another from the new CD, introduced as a sort of flip-side to the celebration of the extended family in "Shower The People" : it's a bouncy, almost funky number, punctuated with great, punchy pignose riffs from Michael Landau, and featuring more JT dancing, grooving and rubber leg waving - he seems so much more physically active and expressive this tour than the previous visit to the UK when I saw him in Nottingham. Following on, we are played another one from "October Road", "Caroline I See You" and on this slower, more mellow number James Taylor's voice is just fantastic - my notes say "huge long phrases, lovely breath control" and it's all so effortless, so easy to hit the notes clearly and to hold the phrasing seemingly as long as he wants : along with the control and apparent and deceptive ease of his guitar picking, it's all the hallmark of the truly great musician who makes it seem so easy to do until you try it yourself. Michael Landau, meanwhile, is producing some lovely, Bill Frizell style Hawaiian guitar chords, and Larry Goldings ekes a super, breath-controlled harmonica sample sound from his keyboard which was as convincing as any I've heard : the knowledgeable anchester attendees give this rendition a real good clap, and in reply JT tells us "that's it for the new stuff"...

Next up is the old traditional "Diamond Joe" trail song, also covered by Dylan and featuring JT almost frailing, banjo-style, on his guitar :"give my blankets to my buddies", Taylor sings with a big grin on his face, "and give the fleas to Diamond Joe"... Then the lights fade off the band and he's just standing in the spot at the front, starting the riff to "Carolina In My Mind", straight solo start, awesome quality picking, with the band joining in individually in turn to build into the full recorded sound for the finish, and while the audience are pounding out their approval he tunes down to dropped D for an outstanding "On A Country Road", with the extended a cappella section James sings still raising the hairs on the back of the neck as the instruments kick back in after 16 bars and he's still nailed the note. Then it's a splendid version of "Your Smiling Face", great singing from Taylor and four-string joy on the bass from Jimmy Johnson, and having whipped us up to a frenzy they're all off to the dressing room to play the "tease the audience shuffle" while we all bay for more in the arena.

It seems as if we have to work quite hard to coax them all back, it has to be said - several waves of 'clapping for as long as possible and then pausing for a rest' have to be maintained before roadie-held torches at the side light the way back on stage for the four musicians and, following, Mr Taylor, to return. Now we've got him back, James gives us a reworked and up-tempo "Steamroller", in a less walking blues, almost funky rhythm than the live CD version, and then they all pretend to slope off again, pausing instead at the back of the stage for a teasy chat about what to do, the naughty minxes... In the end, they seem to come to some conclusion and return to their places, and JT plays us a faithful and outstanding "Up On The Roof", accompanied with enthusiasm by each of his band members : then they hastily scuttle off again while we applaud enthusiastically. This time they're off for ages in the dark, and several audience members with deadlines for travel or babysitters are already peeling off and leaving : much raucous screaming for "more" is attempted and only after a good set of lung-fulls are we rewarded for our efforts with the return of the ensemble for a bouncy and enjoyable "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)", which coaxes more dancing and perambulation from JT before they gather for a group bow, Taylor remembers to retrieve his flowers from the piano and, unbelievably, they're off again ! Although it's been an exemplary evening of the highest James Taylor standard, you do start to feel a little bit thwarted at this point, victims of an ever-so-teeny bit of disdain, maybe, as the longest in-between gap since the interval is foisted upon us and much frenzied clapping and shouting has to be wrung from us before, finally, James Taylor returns on his own to make it all alright again. The audience in the stalls has run to the front and the stage lighting is centred on Mr Taylor, so much so that only a circle enclosing him and the first few rows is lit : as the audience quietens, I realise that even in this concrete arena, just standing there James Taylor has generated the cosy, personal atmosphere you'd find in a folk club, as if we're all there in a pub lounge somewhere. There is an audible sigh of breath from the crowd as James picks out the familiar chord runs introducing "Sweet Baby James" and it's just him and us, him with his clear voice, and us gently breathing out the lyrics along with him, and then all too soon the song is over, the moment of intimacy has passed and with the raising of the lights the evening is over. It's time to put "October Road" on the CD player, sing along, and head off southwards from Manchester, sharing the motorway with a dozen coachloads of Manchester United supporters who, oddly turn out not to live locally to their team, but who are commuting back to the Home Counties...

Verdict time then. It seems to us that James Taylor reached a very high standard of writing, playing and singing somewhere in the early '80's and he's "simply" maintained that level ever since - his playing and singing carries all the ease and effortlessness of the truly great artiste, disguising how tricky it is to perform to that standard and underlining the control and expertise he displays. Super playing, singing better than ever and songwriting still on a par with his best work : what more could you ask for ? Add that to a phenomenal band and mix in more than a soupcon of JT dancing and clearly having a good time, and it all made for an outstanding evening in the company of a talented and much-loved performer still at the height of his skills.

 

 

 

Mike Sanchez – Huntingdon Hall, Worcester - 21 November 2002
Pete Brown

"Three months, three, weeks, three days" - this was the second song after the interval. It was a delicious rhythmic R&B number reminiscent of Fats Domino. It was superbly delivered and a joy to listen to. But by then we had the whole of the first half to savour. When he first came on stage I was not too sure if Mike Sanchez’s music was my scene but by the second number he had captivated the whole audience, including me. He kept it that way for the whole evening. Mike heads up a seven-piece band, wears a red suit and attacks each song with his very personal and intimate style. The piano is his main instrument but he seems equally at home on guitar. What a superb evening it was, Huntingdon Hall was packed, people were dancing in the aisles. There were teenagers and recycled teenagers and all age groups between. Visit his web site www.mikesanchez.co.uk where you will see that he was;

"Born in London to Spanish parents in 1964, Mike took up piano at the age of ten, developing a strong love for 50's American roots music at high school. As a teenager he taught himself guitar and formed the Rockets, a rockabilly trio.
Mike was introduced to former Chicken Shack, Savoy Brown and Steve Gibbons multi-instrumentalist Andy Silvester by Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant, which led to the founding of the Big Town Playboys in 1984, specialising in authentic post-war Rhythm & Blues." And;

"With latest CD, ‘Blue Boy’ Mike has gone back to his rockin' roots to create an album of quirky covers to go on the record once and for all about where he's coming from. Where's he's going, only time will tell, but I for one want to be there."

Mike is not alone on stage, the other six members of the band perform superbly both as part of the overall band and as individuals. I was particularly impressed by Al Nicholls on sax, Andy Silvester on lead guitar and Al Gare (ex King Pleasure) on bass. We were treated to some brilliant solos by them all. Finally congratulations to the soundman. The balance all evening for the whole band was just right.

With music like this Mike will be around for a long time and the good news is he is Kidderminster based. Look out for his local gigs!

 

John Renbourn, Galleon Acoustic Club, Stourport, 2 February 2003
Nigel Blay

On Sunday 2nd Feb I visited the Galleon Acoustic Club in Stourport (along with Bryn and Pete) to check out 60's legend John Renbourn. Several years ago I saw the great man at the now defunct Bredon Bar in Birmingham but the noise from drinkers at the bar all but drowned him out! The audience at the Galleon were far more respectful.

Having first removed his shoes - to the dismay of the front row - Renbourn kicked off with Anji, a tribute to his friend and contempory Davy Graham, followed by a crisp rendition of Rev. Gary Davis' Candyman. Other first half highlights were a Celtic hymn tune which blended effortlessly with a Caribbean calypso and a lovely arrangement of an old Peggy Seeger song. The first half ended abruptly when Renbourn broke a thumb nail and the lurking gremlins finally took over the sound system!
After a lengthy break to repair both, the second half began on a higher plane altogether and for the next hour or more John Renbourn showed why he is still rated amonst the elite of acoustic guitarists. The key to his appeal, apart from the consummate mastery of his instrument, is the variety of the music he plays and the range of styles.There is literally something for everybody; a Mose Allison blues - "I ain't downhearted...but I'm getting there! , some nifty Travis picking, two beautiful Irish airs, " Lord Franklin",  some rare English tunes including the ancient hymn "Who would true valiant be" - and many more. 

The evening finished - all too soon - with Kokomo Arnold's "Kokomo Blues" and a full house at the Stourport Boat Club went home happy having seen and enjoyed one of the undisputed masters of his craft.

 

Tommy Emmanuel – Huntingdon Hall – 12 March 2003
Peter Brown

At one point I was listening to a very good drum solo, so good that it was better than many drum solos performed by professional drummers. That’s strange because at another time I was lost in a foreign land hearing the oceans waves falling on the shore. Another time I was convinced he had a backing track. All these convictions were wrong – it was just one man and a guitar.

Tommy Emmanuel is just very, very good. He can make his guitar do all of these things and a lot more. Underlying the unusual effects he gets from his guitar is immaculate and superb musical talent of a man that has been playing the guitar since the early sixties. "I’ve spent all my life from the age of 4 playing music and entertaining people, I never wanted to do anything else", he says, … "Music brings people together." This is what he says and that is what he does. It was the most enjoyable musical night I have ever spent.

The late Chet Atkins had this recollection:

            "Tommy is big in Australia and over in Europe, but guitar fans in America have just been learning about him the past few years.  He appeared at the Chet Atkins Appreciation Society Convention a few years ago and brought the house down.  People have been talking about him ever since, and his fame is spreading.  He’s about the only guitarist I’ve heard who can come close to what Lenny [Breau] did with harmonics, and he’s got a style all his own.  I think he’s probably the greatest finger-picker in the world today.  He’s inventive, fearless and has a flawless sense of rhythm.  He’s a great showman, too.  You can’t watch Tommy perform and not feel happy.  I just love him.  We made an album together in 1996 called The Day Fingerpickers Took Over The World, which I’m very proud of.  It’s got some beautiful tunes on it, and our playing blended well.  Tommy is going to give the world a lot of great music in the coming years"

You can see what a master guitarist Chet Atkins thinks about him, so, the only thing you can do is to see him. You won’t be disappointed!! http://www.tommyemmanuel.com/

 

 Bill Jones Trio, Swindon Arts Centre, Saturday 15 March 2003
Trevor Durden

I have to confess that I don’t really know Bill Jones’ music, having only seen her briefly at Bridgnorth Festival and heard the occasional track on the radio. It was therefore without either expectation or preconception when we took our 2nd row seats on Saturday night.

The trio of Miranda Sykes, Sarah Wright and Bill Jones took to the stage, totally unannounced by the organisers, to play to an appreciative but small audience. Even being a fair way from home there were faces in the audience that I “recognised” from various festivals which only goes to show how incestuous folk music circles are!

Over the past few years, Bill has carved out a fine reputation for not only her own songs but also her interpretation of traditional material and this was ably demonstrated. Bill’s voice has a breathless, wistful quality and is pleasant enough; however from my own point of view it lacks variation. I doubt that Bill would ever be a rocker but a change of tempo would have been welcome.

The impressive Miranda Sykes (Double Bass, Guitar and vocals) and Sarah Wright (Flute, Bodhran and vocals) ably supported Bill. Miranda is an accomplished performer in her own right (Firebrand, Rob Johnson Band) and Sarah is a quite outstanding Bodhran player. The band was very tight and it was clear that they were enjoying themselves and this transmitted itself to the audience.

The evening was most enjoyable and I would go to see them again but possibly at a smaller venue.

 

David Gates, Symphony Hall Birmingham, 8 April 2003
Malcolm Jeffrey

David Gates then : former singer with Bread, composer of "If" and "Everything I Own", and owner of one of the most legendary voices in 70's popular music. I bought Bread's "Guitar Man" single in 1972 - maybe the 4th record I ever bought at the age of 12 - but after Bread split, reformed, and split again, David Gates seem to disappear into Greatest Hits Land and there were never any UK dates, so I've long believed that I'd never see him. And what happens - it's 2003 and he's playing the Symphony Hall...

So Kay and I catch the train to Brum and arrive at the Symphony Hall - it's maybe 40 minutes since the support act was supposed to start at 7:30pm, but it's already the closing stages of the interval and the bell rings out to take our seats as we get there. Once in our seats in the balcony, it's only a short wait before an eight-piece string section walk on and arrange themselves on a tiered seating area stage right, followed by a follically-challenged bass player with a semi-acoustic bass and a mop-top guitarist with a red Strat. As latecomers, Kay and I are still unsure whether this is the support act or not, but a trim figure walks on stage to a warm round of applause, and David Gates is there, slim, resplendent with a sparkly gold-and-black shirt, black cowboy hat and boots, string tie, and that impressive moustache. In pops the jack plug to his acoustic guitar, and with no introduction, he's picking the instantly recognisable opening chords to "Make It With You" : although quietish in the mix, his famous voice seems to still have all of that ethereal tenor/alto mix and he looks and sounds great, complemented beautifully by the string section. The song finishes, triggering a big show of appreciation from the Brummie crowd, and David Gates thanks us all for turning up, is very complimentary about the Symphony Hall, promises to try and do all of the hits we want to hear, and tells us an amusing story about "Make It With You", Bread's first big hit from 1970, and how his mother wanted to herald his return home after the song's success with a local paper article. Somehow the information got garbled and the paper ran a story about Local Boy's Hit Single "Naked With You". :)

At the end of last year, a new David Gates album came out called "The David Gates Songbook", featuring several new songs as well as a retrospective of his solo and Bread back catalogue. The next song, "The Mustang" , is one of several new ones off the new album Mr Gates will play for us tonight, and it 's a fine, bouncy number with a steel country feel to it : the string octet are not needed for this one and they can be seen nodding, swaying and waving violin bows in time to the song, which they'll spontaneously do all night when not needed to play. And then, the bassist and guitarist sit down at the back and David Gates hits us with a little bit of magic : once again, with no preamble, he steps solo up to the mike and plays us "Diary" - it's beautiful, absolutely breathtaking, with sweetly delivered singing and great guitar-picking faithful to the original. I've got "wow" written down in my notes, and I guess that the whole audience felt the same, as when the song finishes a deafening and prolongued response fills the Symphony Hall : it would have been worth the entire trip just for that one moment.

Next up is "Love Is Always Seventeen", a rare, less recent work, with the guitarist switching to an acoustic : another romantic, well-performed number from Mr Gates, although I do notice he's occasionally guilty of glancing off to the side and thereby singing off mike, which when coupled with his still being quiet in the mix results in him fading off under the instruments a tad. After this song, he reveals a little more of his whimsical nature by going straight into a joke - an unoffensive and clean one (what else ?) about a teacher, Jonah and the whale which raises a smile. I'll collect these jokes and pop them on the end for those of you who are interested ! Then he's straight off again, and I'm personally delighted to find he's playing "Guitar Man" for me - once again excellent, accurately delivered and beautifully sung, with some lovely overdriven/wah guitar work worthy of Larry Knetchel's original from his guitarist : the electric section are occasionally very boomy - have been all evening, actually - but Gates easily holds his own vocally, and the string section behind takes the whole song to the dimension needed with a soaring arrangement. Following our substantial appreciation, Mr Gates still seems to be in whimsical mode - his second joke of the night is the "Blind Man and the Blondes Joke" story.

While people are still groaning from David's joke, he plays us a pretty new song from the "Songbook" CD - "Mirror, Mirror", a sweet, innocent three-verse story about a girl musing on the future in front of her looking-glass, asking the same questions on her wedding day in the second verse and giving reassurance to her own daughter in the last. Finally, he introduces the two band members - they are revealed to be Jerry Flowers on bass, and, coincidentally, his brother Randy Flowers on guitars. Then he sings us another ballad from his solo back catalogue, "Heart, It's All Over" , all wistful and full of regret, his effortless voice complemented by some evocative, economical chord-picking. This is followed, once again, without any indication, by a splendid and instantly recognisable rendition of "Baby, I'm A Want You", featuring some subtle, mellow guitar lines from Randy and good, highish harmonies from his brother : it's a definite crowd-pleaser for the Symphony Hall attendees and is suitably applauded. Next, he gets around to actually plugging the "David Gates Songbook" album - although he's been playing songs from it all night - and tells us that the next song can also be found on it : it's a fabulous, melancholy love song called "Find Me", spellbinding, moving and contemplative, and made even more poignant by his vocal delivery. As I glance over to Kay while clapping my approval, she's wiping her eyes : as the applause dies away, David tells us "I do like to sing that song." I'm not surprised in the least.

Uh-oh ! It's Gates Joke time again - this time the "Chemist Cyanide" joke - and then it's straight into another Bread classic, "Sweet Surrender" : a trusty reproduction, with fine singing from Mr Gates, fluid bass-playing and implausibly high harmonies from Jerry Flowers, and beautifully arranged strings - still a tad boomy from the electrical section though, but by now faint singing-along can be heard from the Symphony audience : as the following applause dies away, David says "Doing these songs again, I'm finding they're so high ! If I'd known 25 years ago that I'd be still singing them now, I'd have written them in a lower key !" Hello - I think to myself - there's one incredibly high song I've been particularly waiting for that he hasn't done yet. and I've guessed right, as with this sort-of-introduction, the two Flowers brothers sit at the back of the stage again, and Mr Gates plays us the other song I came here to hear : "Aubrey". My notes say "wow", again, I'm afraid - a simply stunning, effortless performance of his moving, timeless old song, with great support from the string octet and David Gates' heartbreaking voice. Just beautiful.

It's time for a brief rest for David's voice now, as he makes guitarist Randy work for his fee with his own, virtuoso instrumental arrangement of "Over The Rainbow" on acoustic guitar : short but intricate, very Joe Pass, during which Mr Gates has seated himself at a grand piano we've all but forgotten has been there on stage all the time. Proving as economical and skilful on keys as well as his guitar, David sings us "Goodbye Girl", a simple but effective arrangement with subtle string section accompaniment, and following this he gets round to introducing the string octet to us : they all turn out to be Brummies, which evokes a huge, local burst of proud applause from the audience. David tells us that the next one will involve each musician on stage in a large orchestral-type arrangement : "It's 9 minutes long - buckle up !" he says, and then launches into an attractive, nicely arranged two-part piece I've found to be called "Clouds Suite" - it reminded me of John Miles' "Music", changing pace and mood throughout the arrangement, and it's roundly appreciated by the audience. Then David's got a solo song for us that he's never apparently recorded - it's a sweet, romantic number which might be called "Promise" as that's all the singer of the song has to give to his loved one, and it's delightful and beautifully sung for us. Last joke of the night is next - the "Skiing" joke - and, while he's still sat at the piano, we get a fine, almost anthemic "Lost Without Your Love", sung clear and with pathos, once more arranged and performed true to the original recording that I'd guess is in the collection of everyone here tonight. Finally, Mr Gates leaves the piano, straps his guitar back on, checks the tuning with a little picking and then says, simply, "I wrote this in memory of my father", and plays us a poignant, wistful and sensitive "Everything I Own". Kay tells me later that she had the original album and the sleeve notes told of the history of this song, but I had always assumed it to be about a lost lover : all of a sudden, I'm forced to re-appraise a song I've known for just over 30 years as I hear it sung to me, and it's a moving, almost extreme experience, the emotional high-water of the evening. Then David takes a short bow as the applause echoes round the Symphony Hall and he and his two guitarists leave the stage almost before many members of the audience are rising to their feet in recognition.

However, the string section are still seated, which is a sign that the evening may not be over : and, after barely enough time to get to the dressing room door and back again, David Gates strolls back to the mike. "We forgot one !" he says, and, with his band all plugged in, the familiar Bread arrangement of arguably Mr Gates' most celebrated work begins and David Gates sings us "If". Touching, stirring, all with that clear, high voice, it's a brief but mesmerising moment and although he nods and leaves the stage again while we're belting out the applause and calling for more, how could he top that ? Sure enough, the lights come up, the show is over and although my watch says it's been only an hour and a quarter in David Gates' company, he's taken Kay and I tonight on a journey far longer than that.

The jokes !

A teacher tells her class that it is physically impossible for a whale to swallow a human because even though it is a very large mammal its throat is very small. A little girl states that Jonah was swallowed by a whale. Teacher reiterates that a whale could not swallow a human : it is physically impossible. The little girl says, "When I get to Heaven I will ask Jonah". The teacher asks, "What if Jonah went to Hell?" The little girl replies, "Then you can ask him".

A blind man enters a bar and orders a drink. After chatting to a lady customer for a while he asks her "Do you want to hear a great Blonde joke ?" A deathly silence falls over the bar. The woman next to him says "Before you tell that joke, you should know something. The bartender is blonde, the bouncer is blonde, and I'm a 6' tall, 200lb blonde with a black belt in Karate. What's more, the man sitting next to me is a blonde weight lifter. That fellow over there, the hairy, mean-looking one, a blonde and looks like a pro wrestler. Think about it seriously, Mister. Do you still want to tell that joke ?" The blind man pauses to think, and says, "Nah, not if I'm gonna have to explain it five times."

A man goes into a chemists and asks for some cyanide. "I can't sell you that stuff" says the Chemist. "It's toxic !" "I know", says the customer. "I want to kill my wife." "I can't sell you that then, it would be illegal." "Have you seen my wife ?" says the man , producing a photograph. The Chemist looks at the picture. "Oh, sorry sir. I didn't know you had a prescription."

Two friends, Bob and Jim, are on a cross-country skiing expedition when the weather worsens and they get lost. They stumble upon the gates of a mansion and bang on the door, and an attractive middle-aged lady appears. "Yes ?" "Could you put us up for the night till the storm breaks ?" ask Bob and Jim. "Er, yes, certainly," says the lady, "but I've only recently been widowed, so I wouldn't think it was appropriate to be alone with two strange men in my house : but the caretaker's cottage is empty tonight so you're welcome to stay there." Jim and Bob thank her, sleep in the cottage overnight and in the morning, the skies are clear and they go on their way, leaving the widow a thank-you note. Nine months later, Bob gets a solicitor's letter from the widow's legal firm. He opens it and realises what's happened and goes straight over to see Jim. "Remember when we got lost in the storm on that skiing trip and we stayed at that widow's cottage ?" he asks Jim. "Yes." "Did you happen to sneak out of the cottage that night and pay a midnight visit to the widow, at all ?" Bob says suspiciously. "Yes." says Jim sheepishly. "And did you happen to give MY name when you were with her, by any chance ?" "Might have." says an embarrassed Jim. "Cheers, mate !" says Bob. "She's just died and left me a million pounds

 

Red 10 – Burntwood Folk Festival – 15/16/17 August 2003
Pete Brown

I was very sad to learn that Red 10 are taking a year out. It’s a bold decision and I’m sure they will come back even stronger. I’m looking forward to September 2004 when they are back on the scene.

I’ll always remember Annie’s stage talks with Chris quietly standing there patiently waiting while Annie goes on with her long stories of everyday happenings. We were all enthralled to hear of the little presents people leave on stage for her, the courgette, the cake, Annie’s family summer Olympics, her job requiring her not to talk for 50 minutes. If you know Annie then you will realise this would be very difficult. Their sets at Burntwood were a joy with a balanced combination of superb music, delicate humour and wonderful songs.

Red 10 were formed early in 1997 when they decided to develop their own material and find an audience that would appreciate it.

Their name originated when they were filling in a form to enter a local pub talent competition and on reaching the section marked 'name of band', They had to make a decision so it was Red for Annies' hair and 10 for the amount of strings on the guitar and fiddle. To find out more visit their web site: www.red10.net