Friday 3 November 2023

Pinch Punch

 ...First of The Month. ( And no returns. Though we hope the newbies will give us another shot next month,  after what was another  highly entertaining evening). 

    It was the Wednesday after The Ragged Bear weekend at The Queens Hall. We were hoping we might use that momentum as a springboard to nurture further the modest green shoots now appearing at NFC. And so it proved. Just around  the 40 mark attended and whilst nothing like we used to pull in, that was encouraging as Storm Ciaran raged outside. It was nice to see one or two new visitors and some  old friends like Keith Donnelly, Des Patalong, Bob Brooker,  Jon Harrington Steve Redshaw and Andy Jones returning. It's encouraging to see such artistes and performers  among any Folk Club audience. 

There were still gaps and missing faces as we began  but small steps as they say.  Winter Wilson were the star attraction on Wednesday -and they they certainly were that-Star quality through and through.  After a Canadian Tour and a triumph at Costa Del Folk (where they had joined Benjii Kirkpatrick our October guest), Kip Winter and Dave Wilson are rightfully a big name on the National and International Folk Scene. In most towns their appearance would be a sell out. But this is Nuneaton. Even so it was nice to see most of the tables filled before the night got fully under way.

With Phil Benson indisposed, Bits and Pieces took a rest and I opened solo, sporting a huge baseball cap which was not to maximise stage presence but to protect a head wound. I am currently having medical treatment for an unwanted lump. ( No: I have not been kidnapped by aliens).  Yet. I sang "If It wasn't For The Houses in between," "Donkey Riding" and "Vigilante Man." Music Hall, a Shanty and a Woodie Guthrie Protest. song. Light and shade indeed. That's a poppy on my cap by the way. I couldn't think where else to pin it.  

Tyburn is now a duo. Hedley and Jan still create a lovely sound though with Jan's excellent vocals  complimented by Hedley's wonderful fiddle playing.  They played a mixture of covers and Jan's original material. She's a talented songwriter and a very underestimated singer in my opinion. A deceptively mellow style but she does occasionally let go to reveal the Inner Rock chick. This was the best I'd ever seen and heard them. A good mix of songs, carefully arranged. They had a deserved ovation at the end of their set. This photo below  like all those featured here is by Ray Buckler. An NFC stalwart. 

Craig Sunderland followed. He was just recovering from a heavy cold and The Toon were playing away at Old Trafford. Even so he gave all that up for us. How kind! We kept him supplied with scoreflashes as he introduced us to his latest acquisition a rather impressive Cittern. Bob Brooker seethed away silently. in the auditorium Bob has also been poorly and has also bought a Cittern. Fingers crossed we'll be hearing that one too soon. Imagine: Twin Citterns! It will be like Wishbone Ash or Thin Lizzy, won't it! 
As I said there were newcomers in the audience and any who played guitar were forewarned that they might want to burn them after seeing Craig's speed picking . I loved his version of Barrack Street and  The World Turned Upside Down. We  all forgave him stumbling over a line in a new working  of an old song. After all the Magpies were three up at half time. Craig outlined the pressures of having a surname like his when following Newcastle. "I  come from Sunderland," heckled Keith Donnelly from the auditorium, adding with heavy irony " So I don't like football."
 Then it was time for Winter Wilson's first set. They are a tremendously versatile couple. Kip plays accordion,  guitar and flute whilst Dave plays guitar and Banjo. Not all at the same time of course: that would be silly. Here is Dave with a banjo and Kip on guitar.
 After a short break they took us onward and up to the end of the evening with a selection of songs that have pleased audiences world wide. Their harmonies are wonderful-so carefully arranged. Dave is a really good blues guitarist and a fine vocalist with a deceptively relaxed style. He could be from Kentucky or Georgia rather than Sleaford. Kip's voice although Blues and Jazz oriented, suits all genres.  They can therefore tackle any subjects and inject pathos, sadness or a little bit of humour into any subject matter. No wonder so many famous musicians queue up to play on their albums and invite them to support them on tour.

        They finished with some audience participation during "What Would Johnny Cash Do Now?" and their encore returned to the same theme with " Still Life in The Old Dog Yet."  Is there though? Let's hope those words are right. It's been a tough year for some Folk Clubs, especially during a Cost of Living crisis.  NFC is no exception. We get the room, the bar and the Sound Engineer for free. He does his best to provide locally brewed real Ale very month. But that does not mean it isn't at cost. Bar staff and sound engineers draw a wage. Rich Burlingham has to pay heating and lighting bills for a 400 capacity Hall. He continues to offer us massive support and even pays for our fliers. But this cannot be a bottomless purse. Use it or Lose it continues to be a motto which needs to be remembered. 

 It's not even just about money. Phil Hare came over to us from Cambridge. Winter Wilson came across from Lincoln to play for us. I can tell you from my own time in a band-for a performer it is depressing travelling a long way to play to a room which is only one third full.
 Some would no doubt celebrate the demise of NFC at The Queens Hall.  In the New Year Winter Wilson return to Australia for another tour. It is rare indeed to get them in our area at all. A real treat. Remarkable then, that of the thirty or so musicians living within ten miles, only one turned up on Wednesday to  learn something new about delivery, song writing and and stagecraft. Or just to enjoy the craic.  Let's hope there is still a venue like ours to return to next time Kip and Dave are in the area. Fingers crossed, eh? 

Thursday 5 October 2023

Happy Ninth Birthday Nuneaton Folk Club!

         We had another top night last night, with some top music and a decent turnout. Thanks to all who came: the Live Music scene generally is still in recovery post-covid and so anyone who turns out to support it is a saint as far as I'm concerned. Without your support, we would fold-simple as. There are many things that are stressful about running a Folk Club. Personally, still performing locally myself, the greatest anxiety beforehand is the fear that despite attracting the quality of performers we always strive to recruit, they will eventually arrive and play to a half empty room. There is so much competition nowadays for the same limited audience that it takes a special kind of integrity to forsake the t.v. and go out on a Wednesday night, midweek and make the effort. Those who did this last night deserve a blue plaque on their house in my very humble opinion. The room was not empty, the chorus singing was enthusiastic and it was good to see some new and old faces.

Phil Benson and I began the evening. A few months back over a pub lunch. We began reflecting on the body count and general misery levels in many Folk songs. We mused about doing something to redress the balance and cheer things up a bit. Music Hall and Comedy songs and their waning popularity nowadays were discussed. The eventual outcome was Bits and Pieces. Opening proceedings last night was our fourth public appearance. We did " The Houses in Between" originally performed by Gus Elen and then "Jollity Farm." This latter began life as a music hall response to a song called Misery Lane. Its composer was Lesley Sarony. Many years later The Bonzo Dog Band revived it and it was a much loved track on their album "Gorilla." A lot of audience participation required in this one, with animal noises birdsong and football rattles among the props used. We finished warming the audience up with "My Old Man's a Dustman," a world wide hit for Lonnie Donegan. Thought to be derived from a Music Hall song, it got to Number One when first released in 1960. [ Photo below by Johh B. Smith].

John Mosedale has appeared at NFC a few times. He has been known to be the occasional comedy song too, mixing them up with more serious ones. Last night he did an entertaining 30 minute spot which included "Conspiracies" and "Northern Lights," from his recently released mini album "Magical Music." I hadn't really twigged that title before but John before turning to Folk Clubs worked a different circuit, wowing audiences with prestidigitation. He introduced "Twenty Seven" as "a medley of my greatest hit ." Far from the truth, as his Dog with Three Balls (which he did not perform last night), is another popular audience number. Bang up to date he then performed The Crooked House a sad homage to the vandalism which illegally reduced a famous pub in Himley to a pile of rubble a few months ago. Good set, John. Light and Shade and very entertaining. [ Picture by John B. Smith].

Mick Bisiker is a talented singer musician and songwriter who has been working hard on the local circuit. As part of the band Rack and Ruin, solo or with various combinations including his new wife Deb. The combo last night was Mick, Deb and bass player Chris Radley. Producing a lovely sound, they included the wonderfully singable earworm "Ball and Chain" a few other Bisiker compositions and a glorious finish with a great arrangement of "Rose of Allandale." A beautifully paced set. [Picture by John B.Smith].

That done it was time to welcome the multi-talented Benji Kirkpatrick to an NFC stage for the first of two sets. Benji played during the course of the evening, Bouzouki, guitar, Banjo and piano. All, it has to be said, played superbly and at a speed tempo and complexity which made most of us gasp. [Picture below by Ray Buckler].

Benji was showcasing ' Roulette" a new solo album to be released tomorrow. He had a bit of fun with the keyboard, wrestling it cheerfully into position before watching the stand collapse. Once re-assembled however he soon showed that he was as good on that as he was all the other instruments. [Picture by Ray Buckler].

Benji has worked with Bellowhead and Faustus to name but a few. One of his most enjoyable albums was a fond homage to the song writing of Jimi Hendrix. From it last night, he played from it Voodoo Chile, Little Wing and The Wind Cries Mary. His latest single from his new album "Roulette" was also aired plus a touching tribute to the greatly missed Paul Sartin,"Slaves" a song once performed by Faustus. [Picture below by John B Smith].

Benji does not hold back. His songs are erudite and intelligent. He writes about things that are of now and are challenging. Clever, thought provoking lyrics seamlessly intertwined with some magical musicianship. When he does do a cover he puts his own stamp on them-as with the Hendrix material and with "The Moon Struck One," a Robbie Robertson song from a 2010 album "Boomerang." it says everything about Benji's standing in the Folk Community that on the original album track, Seth Lakeman played violin and Benji's dad John played Button Accordion!
Once again Charlie and Ross drove the sound superbly from their desk up in the Gods and thanks should also go to Jane for sterling work behind the bar.
Rich Burlingham whose NFC patronage keeps us rocking on at The Crew had somehow conjured up the Tiny Rebel/Theaksons Peculier collaboration on handfuls and I have to say, it was magnificent. You won't often catch me supping stouts or porters but Ray Buckler's photo is proof.

My right hand woman Mags was poorly last night and so she could not come. So my thanks must also go to Phil Benson organiser of Atherstone Folk Club who helped out by taking the jug round whilst I was announcing and with counting up the collection.

Finally: Here's a little tip for anyone mystified by having seen their post suddenly disappear from The NFC Stalkbook Page over the last few months. This is solely because (trust me) nothing, irritates a Folk Club organiser more than seeing helpful posts appearing and telling us who is NOT going to be there. I'm not alone in this-I've know because I've discussed it with a few other organisers. We'd be far happier reading about who IS going to be there, than learning about your eighteen venue tour of Arkansas, your next album, your idyllic holiday on Mars, your pending appearance on Blankety Blank or a Covid update. It's actually much more positive for other potential attendees to read enthusiastic posts saying how much they loved it last time and how they can't wait to attend the next one. It's lovely for you that you've had more bookings than Taylor Swift, but really-it's often just a free plug for another venue, isn't it? And we don't do them. So... " Would have loved to have been there but we were supporting Dolly Parton at Glastonbury on Wednesday, " may actually be true but the Moderator's axe will fall across it within seconds.

Friday 29 September 2023

Welcome to Sleep Town.....

......" Dream Carefully,"  Vance Anderson and I would sing together, during the happy days when he was the drummer and I was the singer in a Coventry based Rock combo called Black Parrot Seaside. I just heard the devastating news that Vance has now actually begun his final journey to Sleep Town, over in the USA. What a talent. What a career. What a great band member to have. RIP brother. 
       Vance was the first musician we recruited by interview, having parted with several of our previous percussionists.  His "audition" was astonishing. We'd never seen anything like it. We wanted to go heavier: we had bought a big P.A. We were growing our hair out. We wanted a bass player and drummer who could drive our songs-many of them our own compositions-and project us into the top drawer of Rock Goddery. 
          That actually never happened: not even close: but for a while Dave Anderson (as he was then known)  was our distinctive, flame haired talisman. He was the only one we auditioned: we didn't bother with any more. He downed half a bottle of brandy before launching into an accompaniment which immediately fitted the music. His time keeping and mastery of the kit just blew us away. Working by day driving a truck delivering tyres for Dunlop  by night he would don leopard skin pants and woolly waistcoats to go ever so slightly bonkers from behind  stacks of high hats and snares. In the grainy old photo below Vance is second from the right. Wearing slightly less than usual. Alas, three of this line up are now no longer with us. 
         I have only croaky old fuzzy recordings of Vance's fiery work on songs like "Brutus" "Sleep Town" and "Small Maladjusted and Mean," but all those years later on it remains amazing. Vance (as he soon re-christened himself) bought into the whole BPS thing. All of us had silly stage names like Ted Explosion and Orville Cosmo. We dressed up. We had stage props.  And so Dave became Vance Ectomy. (See what he did there?) and joined in enthusiastically.  
    We performed angry, waspish, loud songs with vitriolic lyrics. We lampooned Punk, Rock, Folk, Country & Western and Reggae. We got "paid off" (i.e. asked to leave usually via a back entrance)  before the end of an evening at a few gigs where we had antagonised the management or wound up the audience with what is nowadays called attitude. 
       All this was right on the cusp of the Punk Revolution although we were not really aware of that at the time. We were more influenced by other angry bands like Heavy Metal Kids, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band and Edgar Broughton. We also shared a great fondness for the Bonzos.  In one song we staged a mock fight. It was all choreographed: a regular part of the act but one night upstairs at The Golden Cross we forgot to warn the Guv'nor beforehand. When I grabbed Vance round the neck and dragged him off his drum stool, bar staff  came out from behind the bar with a baseball bat and unleashed the pub Doberman. It took a while to calm things down.
    We developed a bit of a reputation. At a very early Godiva Festival some of our followers assured us that such a prestigious appearance would be enhanced by some pyrotechnics. What we didn't anticipate was a huge rocket going awol and detouring through the Police tent. Mercifully, no-one was hurt, the audience thought it was part of the act and the bobbies were very understanding as we apologised profusely. 
      In Cov we played pubs like The Climax,The Craven Arms in The High Street,The Dive Bar,The Campbell The Dog and Trumpet and The Smithfield. We played The Lanch (later Coventry University) and Warwick University. The students also greatly enjoyed Vance and I play fighting. A few joined in and suddenly an armchair found its way off a balcony and onto the stage. We also played a Melody Maker audition at Warwick, where for reasons I cannot remember, we destroyed a full sized mock up  of a grandfather clock on stage.
          We ranged further afield. Birmingham University. Nottingham University. Bogarts-a popular club right in the heart of Brum. We started getting support gigs. To Rocky Sharpe (later The Darts) at Hitchin Poly. Opening for East of Eden at another infamous gig in Nuneaton. 
          We were doing all right, the audiences were mostly getting our cryptic weirdness and we knew we being scouted by an agent or two. We even had some proper photos done at locations like Sutton Stop and Brandon Woods. 
            Throughout Vance kept us tight. He could improvise when necessary but could also be very disciplined.  We knew that we could not hang on to him for long. He was talented, ambitious and keen to progress. We could not satisfy his hunger for gigs and for performance so in a totally amicable parting, he joined another  Coventry band The Flys, They were getting far more gigs than we were. We were signed up and briefly were on the same label. Vance's departure could have broken us. He was irreplaceable and so we slid gracefully into Folk. We never had another drummer: barely even mentioned percussion again.  
           BPS continued to slumber and awaken in various formats until 2014 when we played our last gig together and finally went our separate ways. Vance lost the "Ectomy" and became Vance Anderson. He was known as that for the rest of his life. He continued to keep in touch, taking an interest in what we were all up to. When I started doing radio he sent me promos of the bands he was discovering out in Florida and I played them on air (Still do: The Well Pennies is one example).
       Abroad he thrived and achieved his ambition to work in music full time.  Vance worked ( I think ) with Diana Krall, Stevie Wonder and many other well known acts. He clearly had an affinity with Tony Bennett and was distraught when he died recently. I bet they are having a gas up there together now.

Thursday 7 September 2023

That night at NFC was HOT!

        And (thanks to the state of the art air conditioning in The Queens Hall), last night was perversely also very VERY cool ). Festivals aside it may be possible to get three talented Folk performers like Lauren South,  Kevin Dempsey and Phil Hare together inside three hours, one after the other and under the same roof on the same night, midweek-but I've never seen it before anywhere. With the added bonus that all three are really nice, grounded  people, supportive of each other and different enough in style and content to complement each other. Their talent, positivity and willingness to entertain radiated joy from the stage and into the auditorium. 

        Phil Benson and I ( aka Bits and Pieces-still a work in progress), began the evening with three songs designed to lighten the mood and a spontaneous version of Its a Long Way to Tipperary with which the audience enthusiastically joined in. This interesting  combination had been triggered over a pub conversation about the overall body count in traditional Folk songs nowadays. Plus a shared concern over the tendency of some performers to marginalise Comedy and Music Hall tradition. We'd already had one public run through at Phil's Red Lion venue at Atherstone earlier in the afternoon. There, we had  performed  versions of Jollity Farm, If It Wasn't For The Houses In Between and Owd Sammy Shuttleworth. That latter one allegedly a Mike Harding composition-but quite clearly influenced by Music Hall and Vaudeville tradition. The Dave and Al Sealey format of Cosmotheka set the bar for this kind of material and we would not expect to emulate them-but undoubtedly they were (and remain) an influence.

      Lauren South was a delight. She looked delightful: unflustered and composed despite the temperature outside and the fluctuating ones in the hall. She sang delightfully as she worked  through some newish material, soon to be released on a long awaited solo album. And she played delightfully. Incorporating a competent technique on the Sruti box thanks to a foot pedal, and employing delightful tones on the guitar and fiddle. As Lauren continues to  progress and grow she is developing a distinctive vocal style. For my money this puts her in an elite group of British female folk singers who can be identified within a few bars of first hearing. As a Folk DJ I get to hear hundreds in this genre. Lauren for me is up there with Kirsty Merryn, Kelly Oliver, Ruth Notman, Kitty McFarlane,  Kathryn Roberts and Laura Ward. 

     Kev as he always does, paced the floor at the back of the hall like a prowling and predatory lion as his cameo appearance began to draw near. He always does this to psych himself up beforehand whether on tour in Europe or playing a half hour set at a local club which is virtually home turf.  And once on he coaxed complex intros from the fretwork with popular standards like "Wicked Polly and the delightfully nostalgic "Every Time We Say Goodbye." What a gorgeous song and what a sophisticated vocal combined with elegant chords making the arrangement as sumptuous as a box of swiss chocolates  

      After an interval we got back under way as the evening was handed over to Phil Hare. I cannot think of anyone other than perhaps Keith Donnelly, to match Phil Hare for ingenuity, quality ad-libbing and nudging asides off camera. I think there are many on local and national circuits  who think they can do this with their pre-rehearsed patter treading the same ground  but few on the circuit imho can reach or surpass this level.  There is so much in Phil Hare's armoury. At the heart of it, immaculate and delicate guitar playing as in "Music for a Lost Harmonium." A wicked sense of humour. Both in his off the cuff patter and banter in between numbers and as in the satire of "Ive Got My Country Back."  Or his brilliant audience participation finale " Everyone's a Hard Man Nahhhhhhhhhhhh."  In his energy, grimacing as he wrings every last note, every harmonic from his guitar and making it look effortless. ( Clearly no such things as the sweat rolled off him and a towel was used to mop himself down after each number). 

        He ranges through stand up, bluegrass, jazz notes, blues, boogie and folk with style and aplomb. There is a sensitive side to him too, epitomised in some of his superb vocals. Besides being an extraordinary guitar player Phil is a good singer "Will You Marry Me?" took the mood right down and clearly moved a few people.  

        For various reasons it was important to make this a good evening for Phil. He's not been well but has decided that the best way to combat serious illness is to stand toe to toe and scrap with it. It says much about the audience that there were three Folk Club organisers there last night and ten local performers (all of whom who have performed at NFC previously). Plus a number of people who were newcomers, drawn in by the billing and astonished by the performance level. "First time here. Absolutely brilliant! How do you do that?"

  Thanks once again to Jane for sterling work at the bar, and to Rich for continuing to provide us (free of charge) with facilities well beyond those at some other venues. Thanks to those who came and stayed, and a special mention for Charlie. New to the mixing desk and supervised throughout by Ross, it says everything about his debut that no-one on stage requested any adjustment whilst performing. 

   Finally thanks to Ray Buckler, Sue Sanders, and Karen Jones for the photos and to Lauren for her videos uploaded to the NFC Facebook page. 

Thursday 3 August 2023

An August Occasion

    The Forecast was dire and our expectations had been lowered by some very disappointing turnouts recently. We were also worried that perhaps the weekenders at Warwick Folk Festival had been exhausted. Would people stay away? No. Last night was highly enjoyable with lots of faces old and new having fun, being  entertained and helping to  raise a magnificent £155 for Anker Radio in the process. 
   The hospital Radio station, displaced from the George Eliot Site, has had to record and transmit a 24/7/365 service from home over the last year or so. Including twice monthly shows like "Anker Folk" which continues to serve the Folk Community. 
    That sum raised will go towards completing a new studio in nearby Beduff-at The Saunders Club which has given us excellent support during our exile. It looks like becoming a fruitful partnership for the future. Good to see that some institutions in the Borough at least have a conscience when it comes to supporting charitable institutions near to home. Look at their screens! Never had this at the GEH!
  The weather forecast turned out to be nonsense.  The BBC issued a 12 hour Weather warning with a long line of its ubiquitous cloud and raindrops symbols filling their website page for the area. We were told that the area would be lashed by gales and storms. Didn't happen. Nunny basked in sunshine. The thermometers registered 22c by mid afternoon and shoppers in shirtsleeves and summer frocks were strolling about the market. 
      We had several new performers who had offered or requested a floor spot for last night. Singers Nights are often a problem for venue organisers. Trying to organise a running order and attempting to keep to timings is at times like herding cats. As we got under way a few artistes had declined a sound check so that  helped greatly in starting promptly and then keeping to a semblance of the original  timetable. 
         Yours truly kicked the night off with a trio of songs delivered acapella. Not by choice-but because (not playing an instrument), if I want to keep performing nowadays, that's how the cookie crumbles. I began with Dominic Behan's Auld Triangle and I have to say that from the off, the audience sang along with me gamely.
          As a promo for The Hawkesbury Trawlermen's appearance at The Triumph Brewhouse in Coventry this coming Sunday ( and to advertise our growing portfolio of gigs and set lists), I followed with "Donkey Riding."  Not the sanitised version which many of us had learned at school via BBC Radio broadcasts. No it was  a much saltier version which would have raised the coiffeured eyebrows of my Primary School music teacher. This was again well sung by the audience. 
        I concluded with a tribute to the 52 blissful years which my good lady and I have now shared together. "Need Your Love So Bad," was our first dance at our wedding Reception. For anyone keen at having a go at singing unaccompanied this is a good yardstick for you to try if you wish to ascertain if you are suited. On the Fleetwood Mac cover of the Little Willie John song there are large gaps filled by a lush string arrangements and also by Peter Greens superb guitar solos. Alone, on a stage, you have to imagine those, to keep the timing right. On the Queen's Hall stage which is (literally) a bit sticky at present, tapping your feet ( an essential requirement for singing unaccompanied ) requires more effort than usual. As the picture below by Max Wright demonstrates. 
          Talking of photographers, we were blessed last night. Our two regulars Max and Ray Buckler snapped away throughout but we were also delighted to welcome back John B. Smith. Photography wizard. Having successfully negotiated what he described beforehand as "the North Face of The Eiger," (our stairs) it was great to see JBS in familiar pose after a long absence away due to hospitalisation and convalescence. And (we must assume) he got back down those stairs safely at the end too, because I didn't get time to say goodbye and we were the last to leave.
         With a bit of juggling of the running order Stephen Tate kindly agreed to follow me. I'd seen Stephen perform  previously at a few other venues and he has often turned up at NFC to watch. Health was he has also had a fair amount of personal challenges so it was great to finally get him up there doing what he does. Which is to play with a lovely picking style and singing with a very strong Cov-influenced vocal style similar to Messrs Dempsey Stuart and Felton. 
         Including Stephen we had no less than FOUR performers making their debut at NFC last night. Kyle Boswell was not a stranger to The Crew as he helps out with their Radio Station. But he had offered to come downstairs (their studio is above the Queens Hall) and share some of his own compositions with us. Playing a standout red Gretsch guitar, Kyle delivered three songs with style and great confidence. He also opened a door into new pastures for some of us by explaining that his recorded material was available to download or stream on social medal platforms. For those Folkies still trapped in the era of the wax cylinder this caused a few raised eyebrows but I can assure you that Kyle's stuff is available to view or listen to via most of these media forms. Check him out on You Tube if you want to sample his material. But not on Wax Cylinder. he hasn't released one of those. or an eight track cartridge. Photo by John B. Smith.
           Not really a newcomer but under a different stage name came Matt's His Name. When we were at The Crown, aka Matt Mallen, Matt stepped in over there to help out by mixing the P.A. and running the sound  for a while. When BPS eventually split up our original tripod P.A. became surplus to requirements Matt bought it off us. And he turned his hand to performance. In fact I think he featured on Anker Folk's (so far) one and only "Live Lounge" sessions where we recorded and after broadcast a succession of local artistes. Matt's guitar picking has certainly proceeded to "Wow" territory since we saw him last-he provided a pyrotechnic background to accompany his self-penned songs. Photo by John B. Smith
            It was good to have a few younger performers in. Just  like Kyle, Matt  has material available to hire rent or buy on all kinds of Fancy dan interweb Malarkeys.  Bob Wilkinson soothed any troubled brows however by following with three songs. Bob had  visited NFC as an audience member previously but this too was a debut appearance. With a background in many bands including Little Mountain he is an accomplished guitar player and singer. Bob sang three self-composed songs. He has travelled a bit and so he took us on a journey around the world which stopped off in Argentina and  parts of Africa. Photo below by John B.Smith
        Gareth and Barbara Wyatt are not actually joined at the hip to their grandfather, Des Patalong. Together the three of them go out as  Thruppenny Bits. The TBs are regulars at NFC and on Anker Folk. Des was unavailable last night so Barbara announced mischievously announced that the two of them would be appearing as "Two Coppers." Whatever the appellation their performance can only be described as delightful. Three newish songs performed acapella with the usual impeccable harmonies. Light and shade as a contrast to the contemporary and traditional styles so far received and adding to the enjoyment of what was turning out to be a most eclectic evening. Photo courtesy of John B.Smith 
           Jane Moss is the pocket battleship half of Yonderland. Paul Monks was otherwise engaged, but Jane is easily able to hold an audience engaged on her own with her soaring vocals and with some excellent Ukulele playing. For her finale she very kindly invited me up to join her singing a duet of a song we have co-written recently together. By email as it happens, but it still seemed to work.. "Goodbye Stan" was an homage to a much loved cat we once owned. It seemed to bring a little water to a few eyes and that wasn't just because I was glued to the stage again. All thoughts of decapitated sparrows and hidden treasures deposited in the raised beds were forgotten. Aww!!  Photo below by Max Wright.
             And by now having whipped the audience into a near unbearable frenzy, what else could we follow that with but  that old War Horse Dave Fry who brought the first half to a close. Concluding with an old Strawb's hit the timeless if misguided "Part of The Union." Sung boldly by sections of the audience, as Dave led us across the picket lines, fists raised in exultation. This isn't the best picture of Dave. But it is by a country mile the funniest. It really made me laugh He looks as if he's trodden on a spike here. Photo by Ray Buckler

            Dave dresses so well in dapper shorts and usually takes a good photo. Just to put the record straight here is another one this time  by John B. Smith 
 Another good friend of NFC, Adam Wilson got our second half under way. Adam has a new album in preparation so he treated us  to  three of his own  songs. We had not a whiff of Neil Young but Adam is no one-trick pony.  He's a fine writer and I'm not just saying that because he is another I've co-written with. ( The Boy On The Beach,2021 He finished with an emotional performance of Your Daddies Girl which is from his Singer Songwriter and Sewing Machine album. Photo courtesy of John B. Smith.
                Malc Gurnham then ran us through a thoughtful selection of new songs including a John tams one and a cover of one written by Reg Meuross performed with his full blessing. Malc's powerful vocals certainly fill a room that size so much so that at times the P.A. seemed superfluous.  Photo by Max Wright
               KC Jones closed what had been a lovely night. Colin and Karen must be quite exhausted by all the public appearances they have been making lately, promoting their new album "Roots." Indeed they originally intended to come along and have a rest by masquerading as an audience. Fortunately they were persuaded to close the show. They opened with "Sonny"- a wise move as although the audience was tiring a bit by now this got them singing again-as it always does wherever they perform it. They followed up with another popular choice-The Ivory Battle. Also a request. Photo by Ray Buckler.
                And there was no other way to close a splendid  evening but a long rendition of what is rapidly becoming an earworm for some of us " Time for Us To Leave You." Sung along with enthusiastically by the audience. Eventually everyone  toddled off into the nights some of them clutching prizes.  Thanks to the performers, Evelyn behind the bar , Ross for mixing the sound, Mags for all her help with raffles fliers and banners  and to Rich for providing the venue and always laying on some lovely Church End real Ale sourced from just up the road at Ridge Lane. 

Saturday 8 July 2023

Nobody lives here any more.

That title is a line from "Carolina Pines"- a rather lovely Kate Wolf song. Malc Gurnham and Gill Gilsenan do a very nice version of it. 

I started Wednesday  evening by (literally) groaning out three unaccompanied Blues numbers. First Robert Johnson's epic Love in Vain. A recording  exists of Brian Phillips and I doing this cover and I based my version on it. I followed it with a Muddy Waters song: Standing Round Crying and finished with the Little Willie John Classic Need Your Love So Bad. I sang all three songs in tune: in the right key and I got most of the words in the right order. My voice didn't break down either. Photo by Des Patalong. That's Tool's Double bass btw. It's not mine.

Nowhere Club have been on the circuit a while. I last saw them at The Temperance Club in Leamington. Trying as we do to continue to bring new acts into NFC they put together a measured and accomplished set. Their harmonies are cleverly arranged their togetherness is evident and their material is original. I hope they won't mind me saying that they reminded me of Fleet Foxes and Simon and Garfunkel. Photo by Ray Buckler.

Nowhere Club were followed by Willow and Tool Lite. Lite. Initially the whole band were going to come but Lolly was poorly which is a shame as her vocals definitely add an additional dimension  to their sound. And Simon was otherwise engaged elsewhere so there were none of his fine harp solos. Nonetheless they did an excellent set which was well received. It was great to hear Pete Willow's vocals back to their previous strength again. ( Pete has had quite a few issues lately: suffice to say he's now part Bionic).  He's a top bloke-active in promoting Folk Music around our area and also very supportive to NFC by helping us out with advertising and promo. They did a couple of foot tapping Ry Cooder numbers and a few of their own. It was an opportunity for Lewis to air his excellent vocal and instrumental skills. My favourite was "How Can a poor man stand such times" which never loses its relevance. Photo by Geoff Veasey.

In a departure from the norm, we then held the interval earlier than usual and initiated the unusual move of having the jug collection. This  in the unique position of the audience not having heard the guest before contributing. I had heard and seen Sunjay several times so I knew they wouldn't be disappointed. It didn't take that long :it's a matter of minutes to take the jug round to 20 or so people scattered around a large hall.

In another departure from our usual format, Sunjay suggested doing a single set after the interval rather than the usual two slots we ask from guests. This gave the second part of the evening a more intimate "in concert" feel especially as he also decided to perform on the auditorium floor without a P.A.  Photo below courtesy of Paul Monks.

This worked well. He is a polished performer, an outstanding musician and a great entertainer. In between songs he took us through anecdotes about his professional career including his time playing the lead role in a stage music show  about Buddy Holly. Sunjay has a wry, witty sense of humour so these stories were delivered with great panache. His  own material was by turns funny, emotional and heartfelt. We were also treated to innovative covers of songs originally recorded by Chuck Berry (Tulane) and Buddy Holly (Not Fade Away). It says everything about Sunjay's enthusiasm and wide appeal that he got the room singing. (Really well, actually). 

Kudos to Ross for another expert demonstration on how to mix sound, to Jane for serving behind the bar and to Rich for always offering NFC his unflagging enthusiasm and support. We had two new acts making their debut. We had the return of the Willow and Tool Band. and as usual we had a fresh, locally brewed Real Ale drawn through and served on hand pulls. Would it draw in any additional audience?

No. It did not.  We actually had one less attendee than last month. A pattern is definitely emerging.  Seven musicians and 15 wonderful people  came along to enjoy top class live entertainment. We even had one bloke who had travelled over from Nottingham. We had 15 in last month too-but this month we were one less on musicians. Can we go on inviting National figures to travel long distances across the country to entertain the Folk audiences of Coventry and Warwickshire? When our audiences cannot surpass the 15 mark?  Long term this is probably unsustainable. Time for a rethink.

On which note-next month (August the Second) is a singers night. Last year only nine people turned up to see our booked August guest Mike Reinstein. He had travelled up from Sussex and had booked overnight accommodation.  Mike was professional and played a blinding set to a virtually empty room. If I could choose one word to describe that experience for me as an organiser it would be "embarrassing."   So we took the decision there and then to make this year's August Session a Singer's night. Fifteen minute slots only-as many as we can fit in-and the return of the  Raffle. Already booked in are Dave Fry, Jane Moss, Bob Wilkinson and Barbara and Gareth Wyatt. 

Thursday 8 June 2023

Jane joins in June

 I will deal with other issues on Wednesday night elsewhere in a separate Blog post. As usually happens, NFC reached the same high standards of public performance. All three guest acts were superb. I wasn't bad either. As you can see, thanks to this photo by Max Wright, Summer shirts are back in and the t-shirt says "King of The North." It's an homage to Greggs v. Pret A Manger. I sang  Thirty Foot Trailer and Peggy Gordon for openers, with the audience gamely crooning the choruses with me. I got the words right but time keeping was difficult as the floor was so sticky I could not tap my feet! 

   Craig Sunderland initiated the first thirty minute set. As always he was professional, entertaining and very accomplished. He did a great rendition of  The Diggers Song and an exemplary cover of The Galway Shawl. What a beautiful song that is, played and sung so sensitively. He demonstrated instrumental versatility by employing both guitar and cittern (though obviously not both at the same time.). Cittern envy seems to have broken out in the Folk Fraternity lately. It seems to be (after the Shrutti box) the latest must have. He had a go at a Nic Jones number which should correctly be retitled Seven gentlemen from The Travelling Fraternity. His enthusiasm for Folk music is infectious. Craig runs the Wurzel Bush at Rugby on Tuesdays which is well worth a visit.  Check it out. He's got some good guests on and the floor singers are often interesting too. 

Mick Bisiker had brought along Chris, his very cool and laid back electric bass player and they were joined, just as Craig was finishing, by Johann a new and frighteningly young fiddle player, hotfoot from a work commitment in Warwick. (See S.Warwicks folks? It's an easy journey up the A46 at this time of night: nothing to be scared of!).  Together they made an engaging sound. They got feet tapping and tables pounding with a few spirited jigs and reels plus a few of their own compositions. And they also added in a few popular Trad Arr. numbers. Despite being Nuneaton Virgins all three, they appeared very at home and seemed to have a whale of a time. 

The Paper Circus completed the first half with a typical cross section of traditional and contemporary numbers. Jennian's sublime singing backed by the smart instrumentation of Siraj and Merlin on guitar and bass (electric and double) respectively. We had a Beatles cover "Here Comes The Sun," some Rammstein (one for the old finger in the ear brigade there), and some of their own material. 

After the break I did a couple more acapella tunes:( "The Ould Triangle" and "The Poacher") before we returned to the proper stuff. "Golden Lady of The Sea," (she's an old romantic at heart really, Jenn is), and two requests from me Into Dust. and Teardrop. There were a couple of Mac/Stevie songs including Dreams. and Gold Dust Woman. Also My Laggan Love and the ominous "Desert" which was once recorded by Brand New.  A sentimental finish was completed with Parting Glass and  Those Were The Days as an encore. 

Praise Be to new barmaid (bar woman?),  Jane, to Ross and his immaculate mixing from the gallery up above and to Rich for putting up with us and always getting some Church End in. Oh and to Mags who has been on two courses of antibiotics since May's NFC night-and still comes out to offer support and love and tidying up skills. Plus she drove so I could pay proper attention to What The Foxes Hat? What a woman!