Woodman Reviews 2003
|Cathryn Craig & Brian Willoughby
It’s always a pleasure to get over to the Woodman Folk Club. It’s a bit of a trek from the Telford area along the Rabbit Run, but the warm welcome makes the journey worth it.
Malcolm Jeffrey was the star turn in every sense of the word. His timing on the song about the man no one remembers was spot on. The Jake songs were delivered with a great sense of humour and a wicked grin when the risqué bits came. If you are a Jake fan or hearing him for the first time there is a great double Jake Project CD to be bought via Malcolm.
I think he had us all sussed with his songs. We all suddenly became Scary Weirdoes…. me in my Aran sweater, and I’m a Volvo estate owner! To cap it all the Road Rage song talked of splatting a Lollypop Lady… my sister is one of those unfortunate ladies that regularly suffers near misses from ignorant road users!
How anyone can remember the Periodic table song I don’t know, but Malcolm has and gave a very humorous rendition. He ended his second set with The Band Played Waltzing Matilda… there were Aussie guests in.
Woodman regulars, Nothing to Prove, of Radio Shropshire Folk Show fame, put on a great performance… we all fluff songs at times!
The Bica Band came in for a lot of stick with Ian’s guitar solo, raucous applause aimed at putting him off! The accordion player, Corinne, has come on a treat.
My friend from the Boat, Bob Hadley, sang a Black Country version of Mattie Groves, much to the appreciation of the local audience. Bob finished with a favourite of mine The Hills of Isle le Haute….. not Idaho as some of the Boat regulars thought!
Thanks again for the warm welcome and I look forward to seeing you soon. Next time I’ll brave a singer’s night. I've been practicing!
"Who is Pete Morton then?", was the question Pat asked me in the
car on the way to the Woodman. I explained that we had wondered in and out of
his gig at The Bridgnorth Folk Festival, staying only briefly because the place
was packed, then from the back of my mind I recalled 'One Slice Short Of A
Loaf", "I'm sure that is one of his songs" I said and began to
hum the tune, "Ah, yes I think I know who you mean now" Pat replied.
Anyway we arrived at The Woodman, said our hellos, caught up with a few folks,
ordered our drinks then sat down to relax.
Kirsty McGees' first visit to THE WOODMAN will hopefully not be her last. An "emerging" talent of 10 years varied experience, she plays flute and guitar, writes songs and sings them most proficiently.
She initially demonstrated a voice range to rival that of Cathy Mundy, only just stopping short of the screeching Kookaburra! But her songs are generally gentle and haunting, with words well worth listening to that lift her music out of the ordinary. Songs that stood out were "Put Back The Start", "Lara's Party" and "Take Only What You Need".
Her new album "Honeysuckle" is receiving good press and getting played on BBC Radio 2 and although I wasn't compelled to buy it on the night, I enjoyed her light hearted between - song style and generally had a pleasant evening's entertainment. Trevor has just told me that although I didn't buy the CD he did - Praise indeed!
Probably Kirsty's best advice of the night was not to hitch hike in Ireland as 1there is a paucity of cars outside Dublin. A point worth remembering should I ever take it up in later life.
Thanks Kirsty and thanks also to the able support provided by Dave, Mr Bryn Phillips, Nothing to Prove and the BICA Band
We meet in the fragrant foyer, Cathryn and Brian in excellent spirits as they
have already sensed the atmosphere of the Woodman, which is becoming even more
warm and friendly these days. An enjoyable night is in prospect.
Ann & Ian Munro already on stage, to be followed by Barry Priest and Nothing to Prove. Cathryn & Brian are then announced and begin as usual with my favourite song, Two Hearts [One Love], a wonderful ballad with an extended guitar coda.
Next is Walk Slowly Through This Life, good advice, followed by Alice’s Song, written for Brian’s niece and released last year by The Acoustic Strawbs as a single in aid of the Autism charity. Then follows the best and most interactive rendition of The Snake that I have witnessed.
Cathryn lives in Nashville Tennessee, and her family home is in Franklin County, Virginia, by the Pigg River in the Appalachian mountain region where Bluegrass was born. The songs her great grandfather sang were pure English folk songs documented by Cecil Sharp during the years of the Great War. These were supplemented by slave songs like Carry Me Back to Old Virginie, her father’s favourite. The Rejected Lover, new to the set on this tour, is a great example of one of those old English songs.
Rod Stewart is called Rod Stewart because it would suit his voice almost as much as it suits Cathryn’s. Mystery solved.
During the break I borrow Cathryn’s guitar to join the Bryn Phillips ensemble, (thanks Cathryn!), then we hear some favourite songs from the North East.
Opening set 2 is the title track of the current album. Rumours of Rain is an important new song. Cathryn woke up one morning in Nashville with this song in her head. Whether it was apprehension due to her forthcoming transatlantic flight or the television broadcast she had seen where a civilian victim likened intensive aerial bombardment to a "rain" of bombs, who knows. Whatever the case, this song was recorded last week and Brian called in some friends to help out with it. Cathryn is quick to point out this is not intended as a political statement, more one from the heart, namely why is war still necessary in 2003? The list of friends is impressive and is shown below. Where this will lead?
That emotional German goodbye song follows along with Mr Jefferson, then Cottonfields/My Window faces the South ends the set, and rousing applause brings them back for another new composition, This Night, These Dreams and You. The title may change before recorded release but this is another superb song.
Cathryn is a wonderful singer with a sweet but powerful voice, and an excellent songwriter, especially in collaboration with Brian, a versatile guitarist and master of his instrument, who not only provides exciting lead breaks but also offers such subtle and exquisite phrases in his accompaniment.
Lets hope they return to The Woodman very soon.
Two Hearts [One Love] (Porch Songs)
Brian’s friends currently on Rumours of Rain recording:
To be recorded:
Rachel, Ben, Colin and Chris are an exceptional group of musicians.
Rachel has a voice that is confident, expressive and melodic. It has wonderful clarity without being dominant. Rachel sings to each member of the audience so that you are drawn in to the song and feel it is your own personal experience.
Ben, that multi-instrumentalist, how we all wish we could play just one instrument as well. In Ben you get superb musicianship on the flute, bass flute, Irish whistle, Uilleann pipes, harmonica, cittern and fiddle. And he also sings!
Colin is the pen behind most of Roam's repertoire, much of the remainder is made up of beautiful lyrics penned by such poets as Tolkien, Oscar Wilde and Walter de la Mare set to Colin's melodies. He has a natural flair and this is apparent in the arrangement and delivery of the songs.
Chris provides the beautiful notes of the Celtic harp and bouzouki. He gives the lift to the overall sound that puts many of the songs on a higher plain. He is an established soloist, with several recorded albums. He has been a full-time freelance musician for 13 years with Celtic harp as his main instrument.
So, it was another magic night at the Woodman. The highlights for me were, Bluebird, Don’t take it down the Road, Shadow Bride, Autumn and Count the Stars.
I would like to see them again, so, Ian please book them for next year. ‘If you want to hear more, buy a CD’. Now where have I heard that before?
Yet again it was a good night that was had by all at the Woodman Folk Club, it was so nice to see so many there for the feature artists Risky Business.
It was one of those nights where everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves in their own way; this also includes the noisy corner who seem to getting themselves quite a reputation (?).
Firstly the evening started of with one of our resident groups Nothing to Prove, who seem to be getting better with every week that goes by, and have now got themselves quite a distinctive sound with varying types of musical instrumentation and a varied repertoire. Carry on the good work!
This was then followed by Barry & Corrine half of the Bica Band. It was nice to see Corrine playing the guitar so well supporting Barry with his songs that I have never heard them play before ( well done )
Bryn followed with his usual style of music. I don’t think any one got killed or maimed within the two songs like they do normally or perhaps I missed something. I do know that they buried the terracotta army. I don’t know where he gets all his ideas from to write songs like Silver & Gold. This is now so popular within the club and also with other artists performing this song; it speaks for itself.
The main attraction of the night was Risky Business I have seen them now for the 5th time and I have yet to be disappointed. Ruth the lead singer was her usual self with her interactive banter especially with the noisy corner when they decided to join in with their own brand of percussion. When Mike Harrington arrived they carried on with goading him because Wales got the wooden spoon in the six nations rugby. I think it was Ken Powell that was his tormentor. It was Mike that I happened to overhear saying to a group around him that Risky Business were not only good but smooth with it. Now, that’s a compliment!
Risky Business played a mixture of new & old songs & although I say it myself we knew the songs as well as they did. I think Ruth did state that, poor old Dave had forgotten his glasses and had to play his way through by touch for most of the night.
For all the people that were there - maybe its the way my mind works - but can you remember the joke that Ian Munro told about an old woman lifting her so called arm up when a pint was on offer revealing a so called hairy armpit, and Ruth talking about her black pussy covered in Immac, is there some correlation there? Well, I'll leave it up to you to make your own mind up.
The strains of 'That Lucky Old Sun' greeted us as we approached the room - 'Just intime' I thought. From then on words and music rolled around heaven as Maggie, Linda and Helen charmed their way to another successful evening. Grace Notes are a classic example whereby the total is greater than the sum of the individual parts. Equally happy with traditional material - 'Witch of the Westmoreland' (from Barbara Dickson) and contemporary - John Mulhem's powerful 'Magdelene Laundry' the trio moved seamlessly through the first set. Songs from the Waterson family linked the two halves - Mike's 'Stitch in time' in the first and Lal's 'Migrating bird' in the second. The range and variety of material are an essential part of Grace Notes appeal, accapella versions of 'The gardener' and "The stocking girl/Bold lace weaver' contrasted with the instrumental 'Wind that shakes the barley' with Maggie's beautiful flute playing to the fore. All too soon the evening ended with a couple of'greatest hits' Richard Thompson's 'Withered and died' and the almost traditional 'I'll follow the sun'.
Bryn and Steve provided a suitable musical sandwich between the sets - 'Bryn's'Round and Round' is fast-becoming another winner….. but isn't it a little light and jolly for Bryn???
Quicksilver, Hillary Spencer and Grant Baytham, H & G, HG, Hg, the symbol for Mercury, Quicksilver. Clever eh? A bit too clever for my liking. Just like his guitar playing and songwriting – too clever by half. And Hillary’s voice – clever isn’t enough – just about one of the most powerful voices on the folk circuit.
So, if you put two very talented musicians and performers together – what do you get? In fact it was a bit of a surprise. A total mixture with something for everyone. A mixture of songs, styles even languages, sometimes blended perfectly together, and occasionally delivered as solos.
So what did they do? Well, they started off with a rousing rendition of "Sing In the Day", the first of several songs off their new CD. It is the sort of song you’d really like to join in with, but as we didn’t know it we didn’t. However, for those people who bought a CD – listen out the next time around! They then hit us between the eyes with an amazingly faithful rendition of a Jake Thackray song "The Hair of the Widow of Bridlington". Hillary’s voice is just perfect for Thackray’s material – a touch of Yorkshire helps – and Grant’s guitar playing as ever was exemplory.
A lot of the material they played had a jazzy feel to it – clever guitar playing, jazz chords (the difficult ones) and some precise vocals, nifty lyrics – but these songs weren’t to everyone’s taste. These were the songs you either loved .. or didn’t. However these songs were interspersed with a lot of different material, some of which deserves special mention. "Middleton Hiring Fair" was an example of how these pros can really pull out all the stops and work together to produce a great song. The words and music just flowed back and forth between them. Powerful stuff. Talking of powerful – Hillary’s version of Tam Lin, totally unaccompanied, is probably one of the best I’ve ever heard. Certainly the most expressive. For me, the best song of the evening – if not the year. Come to think of it, we don’t get much traditional folk at the Woodman and when we do it’s a treat. A song which again showed another change of direction was Edith Piaf’s "La Vie en Rose", expertly sung, which lit up the faces of the Piaf fans in the room. You’ve got to be good to do Piaf.
The support artists as usual helped to add variety to the evening. Ian and Ann started the first half off with "Speed of the Sound of Loniliness" followed by a great version of Anthony John Clark’s "Gloria". That song is so good – and Ian and Ann do it proud. Then we had "Nothing to Prove" who were in banter mode and decided that they were probably the most unwell band to perform at the club. Anyway once they got going they didn’t sound unwell – in fact they sounded well good to me. Paul’s newish song "Traveller’s Tale" is really coming together now – it’s going to be another NTP classic. The advantage of doing the review is that you can’t review yourself. If someone else had done this review they might have pointed out that I forgot the last couple of lines to The Throckmorton Coat in my spot after the interval. Luckily, as I’m doing the review I can sweep it under the carpet.
Selected Press Quotes
On live performance...
"A vivacious, bubbly, gentle,
entertaining woman is about the most apt description for Fil Campbell."
"With the release of Beneath the
Calm, her third album, Fil Campbell steps out of the shadows as a gifted
songwriter to add to her reputation as a discerning cover artist. She has come
of age with this recording and it will bring repeated pleasure to
On CD "Dreaming"...
"Fil Campbell has assembled
a fine collection of songs … and given them effective, understated
arrangements which highlight her own intimate, lilting voice."
"Blessed with a voice that could
melt you while singing the telephone book…"
Yes, Fil was all of these at the Woodman on Friday night. I’m glad I didn’t miss such a wonderful evening that was packed with delightful songs from Fil and augmented by exacting percussion from husband Tom McFarland. We could have all stayed and listened all night and I think they would have played all night except they had to travel to Stranraer the next day! Don’t leave it five years to book them again Ian.
It's nearly 8 years since Cosmotheka did their last Christmas gig at the Woodman, much water under the bridge since then. Dave, appearing as a soloist for the first time since the untimely death of Al in 1999, quickly won over the audience with his easy patter and winning smile-despite occasional lapses into his Ben Turpin eye-roll! It's all too easy to forget that Dave played the interjector to Al's front man in the old days, so having to play a very different role cannot be easy after more than 30 years as the foil. The material varied from old favourites such as 'It's a great big shame' and 'Up went my little umbrella', a little known sequel to 'Albert and the lion' - 'Albert down under' complete with reference to Rolf Harris in the final lines plus a smattering of 'new' music hall material with the usual preoccupation of avoiding going out to work. But the most impressive innovation was 3 original numbers, penned by Dave in the music hall idiom. These were very convincing, clever, brilliantly delivered and highly entertaining - 'They rang down the curtain on me' my personal favourite.
It was great to see Dave back after so long and evidence of the evening suggests that he has a great deal to offer as a soloist. Although I enjoyed hearing 'I've only come down for the day' for the first time in years, the balance of the act will probably move gradually from the Cosmotheka angle to more distinctively different material, in this Dave should have no problem drawing crowds and pleasing them as he did at the Woodman.