Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Flights of Fancy

          Only A Wingbeat Away is a 2020 album recently released by Steve and Julie Wigley. They are a familiar sight on the Midlands Circuit so I  already knew that they were confident performers and assured and competent musicians. Having sat near the two of them at various Folk Clubs,seeing them perform, or watching them myself from up on a stage,I also already knew that they had fine voices. Here they combine in nice harmonies, well delivered.
           The album  also reiterates the fact that  between them, Julie and Steve produce fine original material. Julie has worked hard on penning these songs. The end result is an earnest and thoughtfully written collection of gently observed sound pictures. Best epitomised by "Knights of The Road," celebrating the lives of two elderly gentlemen cyclists. They are the antithesis of those sweating Lycra clad pelotons of sweating, designer clothed pedal bullies who emerge like moths from a chrysalis each spring to clog up country byways. 
       "The Form" is also pretty well unique in that it is a song dedicated to a bench. It would make any anthology of rustic seating! It has plenty of contemporary references which show that Julie can tackle modern themes too. Banksy and the Tate Modern get a mention and there are some witty rhyme schemes with a Victoria Wood/Sally Ironmonger flavour to them such as "rogueish knaves armed with buckets and spades," or "room to spare for at least three derrieres." 
          "Like a Cinnabar," is clever. On one level it is entertainment  for lepidopterists such as Bob Brooker and myself.. On another it is an ironic comment on dressy folk parading on an elevated stage.  It works both ways. A few weeks after my mum died, I was singing on a Folk stage,midwinter,when a beautiful Red Admiral butterfly emerged from the darkness out of nowhere and settled softly on my cheek. Those in the audience who knew my mum,and her avowal to be reincarnated after her funeral as a butterfly,just held their breath.  
        Julie is a modern writer and the duo are an ambitious team prepared to give anything a go. So included on this set list are a sea shanty,a "traditional" folk song,a gentle protest song and a tribute to the R.N.L.I.. And if that wasn't enough ground covered,"Prince of Suburbia" is about  pigeons. Not the first song about them-artistes as diverse as  Duncan McFarlane and Cyndi Lauper have both previously done homage too. 
      The overall effect is that Only a Wingbeat Away is homely without being schmaltzy, reflective without being sanctimonious,and affectionate without being patronising. It is perhaps most essentially, relevant. In that it deals with themes and subjects anyone can relate to. 
       The watch case is nicely produced with some attractive art work,(pictures by Steve-talented guy!) Sleeve notes on songs are included in a booklet insertwith track listings and timings included,and a list of musicians credited. (All this may seem obvious but not all artistes think to include this).  Julie plays guitar and accordion,Steve plays guitar and additional accompaniment is added by Sarah Matthews (strings) and Richard Collins (bass and percussion). Currently it can be obtained by contacting Julie via Facebook,or just contact me and I'll pass your query on. 

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

And Yet....The Wilderness

          The Wilderness Yet is an eponymous work from  a Sheffield-based outfit of the same name comprising Rosie Hodgson ,Rowan Piggott  and Philippe Bourne. It  is a new departure for all three musicians and although they have broad experience elsewhere, this is a debut album. Potentially they are one of many duos or trios with a similar sound, in a competitive market place. Even more so since Lockdown. With "live" public performance currently limited to the point of non existence,TWY  will be judged on social media and/or recorded output. The good news is they are distinctive enough to stick in the memory and the album merits a second (and a third) listening. 
           It's a nice sound with plenty of style and originality. Some bands take several attempts to achieve this enviable level of performance. TWY  manage it on a first release. Going deeper into their background,this comes as no surprise. Although a new venture despite all three being comparatively young they are  well versed in this sort of material having had plenty of experience solo and in other outfits. Already old hands at gigs and festivals,their pedigree shines through. 
          Musically,all three can handle lead vocals and their harmonies are well arranged. Rosie is yet more talent from Sussex (Bird In The Belly:Mike Reinstein:Hickory Signals and Green Ribbons). She writes some of the material and her sibilant voice is  in great evidence. It is one of those crystal clear quintessentially English voices,clearly enunciated and emotionally phrased. Rowanalso writes lyrics and  adds fiddle,viola double bass whilst Bourne contributes whistle,guitar and flute. The recording is further bulked out by Evan Carson (Bodhran),and vocals from Charlie Piggott (button accordion) and Johnny McDonagh (bodhran),both of  De Dannan. 
        The Wilderness Yet take their name from a Graham Manley Hopkins poem. The twelve tracks are mostly original material but are written in a traditional context. The atmosphere  and content are both ethereal and metaphysical. They have a real aptitude for songwriting,evidently putting a lot of effort into it .They show a critical understanding of what constitutes traditional folk. There are tune sets as well as songs making it a rounded listening experience.  The overall tone is of loving Nature,wild life and growing things. 
        They acknowledge the influences of Terry Pratchett, Eric Bogle Pete Lyons and Ben Paley and there are Nordic and Celtic strands woven into the composite sound. 
         The CD comes in a triple gatefold watch case with a picture disc. There is wonderfully sylvan/rustic artwork from Adam Oehlers throughout. Comprehensive sleeve notes detail the background of each song.  Lyrics are available via their website-which is where you can order this. The official release date is July 24th 2020. 
      
        

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

From There To Here

From There To here    Jacqui McShee and Kevin Dempsey      MCDEM RECORDS
          Kevin Dempsey is a bit of a hero of mine. He's a regular guest at Nuneaton Folk Club and a welcome guest at all the other local venues too. His work as a solo artiste or as a member of Dando Shaft and Whippersnapper is legendary. As an icon he has earned the right to be a bit aloof and a bit distant if he wanted to, but he never is. He is always the same lovely,grounded fellow that I've known for years. I like his guitar playing,his singing voice and I like Kevin Dempsey. I'm also honoured to say that occasionally he has agreed to jam in with my band,and we've been like starstruck teenagers on stage when he has. All the photos show us grinning and him focussing on the guitar! The man is just Boss. It says everything that he dropped the copy of this album round at my house. In person.
Kevin Dempsey with Nunc.
       Now we've got that out of the way,let's move on to Jacqui McShee. I've never met her,but I adored Pentangle too, especially the stuff she did with them. Basket of Light is in my top ten Folk albums of all time . Her vocal contributions on The Cuckoo, House Carpenter and Once I Had A Sweetheart were (and remain) sublime. As a Folk Jock I've played their stuff and Kev's many times. When I heard they were doing an album together...just...wow!
       This new album contains some of my favourite Folk Songs. I've always loved Brigg Fair and Lord Franklin for example. I have many versions of Lord Franklin,and have always admired John Renbourne's version most. Turns out it's Jacqui's favourite,as well! I have always had a soft spot for Nature Boy too. A brave project but as Jacqui says, "this is a song we have both wanted to sing for a long time."   And of the trad arrsJack Monroe just has that indefinable Dempsey kick and swing to it. Both in the picking and the singing.
        The coincidences just keep on coming. Many centuries ago ( I exaggerate slightly) I studied English Literature at a London College and qualified to teach it to "A" Level. One of my areas of study was the work Of William Butler Yeats-who of course all scholars will know was Irish and not English! . My own life took a different course and so I never did get round to sharing his poetry with a group of Sixth Formers, Innisfree though was always one of my favourite poems by the great man -and blow me down here it is on this album put to music! 
       They are not afraid to stray away from covers and to tackle their own writing projects. Beautiful Island is credited as being a McShee/Dempsey composition but I suspect the lyrics are Jacqui's alone as it refers to a personal experience. Frankie too is very personal. It is about Jacqui's dad although by coincidence Kev's dad is also a Frankie.  
          Telephone Lies reverses the credits so I'm assuming it's one of Kev's. " it keeps the yearning at bay," he suggests in the notes,referring to the occasional bit of judicious editing when reporting home whilst on the road. Leaving is their final effort together-a lighthearted reflection of Brexit which again I have to say I have a great deal of sympathy with. 
        The sleeve notes are meticulous- a wonderful asset for a Radio Show presenter! I always like to study credits,check on a written version of a lyric and absorb any background if provided. The artwork and photography is subtle and Joe Broughton has done a fine job on the mastering. 
         There's no getting away from it, voices change and evolve over time. ( I speak from personal experience!)  Listening to myself singing on vinyl in 1978 is not quite the same as hiding behind a settee when I'm on You Tube nowadays. Luckily for Kev and Jacqui,that special timbre and intonation is still there. Like a fine Madeira, it may have matured with age,but whether solo or in a duet together here are two immaculate,perfectly phrased voices. A Collectors Item and a musical treat.  It is available in all digital forms and can be ordered from Kevin's or Jacqui's websites. 

Sketches

    Like many other Folk outfits,Sally Ironmonger and Brian Carter have not been entirely inactive during Lockdown. They have been proactive and have managed to issue a new album. In the past, despite hailing from Kent (that's almost Brittany in my part of The Midlands), they have (deservedly) been regular guests at almost all Warwickshire venues. This newest release is an ideal way to keep in touch, for anyone currently missing them. 
     They take their songwriting seriously,whether compiling albums or assembling "live" performances. Consequently they are always entertaining in both formats. Like their live shows there are (as always) plenty of laughs in this collection,a lot of good music,some singalong choruses and an occasional sublime lyric that sticks in your head for ages afterwards. It's not all nudge nudge wink wink,although there is a certain Bamforth Postcard End of The Pier quality about them. 

      The title song is a nod to Boz who illustrated many stories and articles by Charles Dickens. It's an apt reference because like Sally, Dickens had a strong Kentish connection. He also loved to draw little pocket-sized caricatures of people,which the work of Boz complimented.  A typical example of an Ironmonger sketch is The Bitter End which combines Sally's unique vocal style with some poignant subject matter and clever wordplay. 
      Having myself written a song putting Piracy into a modern context  (Risk Assessment in my case), I loved "Threadneedle Street."  Here they are at their angriest,describing "Tax evading asset stripping crocodiles," but  waspish humour provides a good vehicle for making a serious political point.  "The bastard sons of Blackbeard now walk Threadneedle Street," Sally croons,reasonably. I've joined in with this song at a live performance, singing merrily along with the choruses and echoing Brian's simple one word counter refrain of "Bastards."  It was a very liberating experience. 


     In previous reviews of Sally's  releases,I've mentioned her affinity with the late,great Victoria Wood.  They both write in rhyme but the lyrics here are never forced or contrived thereby avoiding the trapdoor of end-of-line doggerel. In fairness, this admiration of VW is no secret and Sally does tend to finish her stage act with a brilliant homage to her. For those of us still missing that  Woods-style brilliant observational writing,Sally is a most acceptable substitute. She has the same acid touch to some of her lyrics and imagery, managing to pack so much into each single verse. 
        The songs on Sketches are far from superficial. Some indeed are full portraits. They have a witty,clever,reflective content. The targets are often everyday themes we can all associate with. Sally's delivery is wry,tongue in cheek and sometimes vernacular. She makes no attempt to mask her accent,so good for her. "Sometimes a song appears waving a flag and demanding attention," the sleeve notes observe,adding,"and sometimes it is like trying to squeeze toothpaste back into the tube."  Well...quite. 

             "Backstreet Boozer" rightly laments the passing of many of our great British pubs,no doubt currently being hugely accelerated by the horror of Coronavirus. Those of us who loved sinking a pint of Redemption or Tring in the Bree Louise whilst waiting for a train home from nearby Euston, now hope that the Bowler Hats responsible for its compulsory purchase( for HS2 clearance and subsequent  demolition), choke on their Gin and Tonics.   
         When I first saw them, Brian's role was not as forward as it is nowadays. He tended to play a few instruments,add occasional colour to Sally's magnificent vocals and was the straight man in those amusing verbal asides to the audience. On Sketches he contributes guitar (including  some cheeky little solos), mandicello, mandolin, banjo and Shrutti box. AND his name appears first in the writing credits. Nine of the twelve tracks are theirs,whilst the others are by Ian Petrie, the Chumbawumba team (no less!) and one is a cover of a Traditional child ballad which is over one hundred years old.  
          The songs are all of a sensible duration,between 3.30-4.50 mins. I know I bang on about this but as a Folk Jock and Club organiser, this is a godsend. So many artistes make the mistake of writing (and then recording) interminably long songs which won't get airplay and will send an audience off to sleep. If you can't get a strong message, a moral standpoint or a good story condensed into less than five minutes then you are at odds with an ancient Folk Tradition. You're neither a balladeer nor a troubadour. 7+ minutes of preaching or overkill will only engage Folk Nerds of the most seriously committed kind. 
         Much to admire then,in this fine collection. Their songs make you smile, shake your head,nod in agreement and develop a yearning to throttle some of the objects of their penmanship. If you've seen this duo already or own any of their previous albums,I'm preaching to the converted. If not-get it. It's available via their website as a hard copy or download. By clicking on the link here  you can also sample snippets of each song-so you can see I'm not fibbing!

      http://www.sallyironmonger.co.uk/

Monday, 6 April 2020

New Album Review

A Day Will Come              Will Pound                    Lulubug Records


           All that  has happened since I first received a review copy of this album makes Will’s chosen title seem profoundly prophetic. Which was not his original intention. The title is a Victor Hugo quotation made in 1849-and Hugo was talking then about a United Europe. In the advance publicity Will explains “this was never a pro Remain or pro Leave project-it’s about identity music and the subject of home.” And that's what this album is. An homage to what we seemed about to lose at the time of recording. 
          Time to fess up here. I know harmonica and melodeon player extraordinaire Will Pound in person. Only to nod to, but he's a Facebook friend, I've seen him "live" a few times and I own some of his previous albums. He's a complex guy who doesn't always find it easy to remain politically neutral. Music stirs him greatly. I know he loves Europe especially travelling and performing abroad and they love him there too. Like many of us Will didn't find Brexit easy,nor does he wear his heart on his sleeve much. He is blessed to be a fine (no,a gifted musician) and so is in the fortunate position of having the armoury to make a statement without words.
           Because he has (on demand and consequently of necessity), over time mixed and performed with an International Who's Who of European musicians, he already had the basic subject matter in his head Will stores music in there like many of us keep photographs or memories. In performance he appears sometimes to pluck tunes riffs,licks,etc out of the ether,adding them to a piece as he goes along. But what is evident in this case is that he has also done considerable background research, adding to what was already a remarkable memory bank.
           And here is the end result for all to listen to. The burgundy coloured album cover cleverly resembles an EU passport with a booklet inside explaining the background to each tune. (Those of you familiar with him will recognise this attention to detail).  The content is an album representing traditional music of the countries which represented the EU at the time of recording. It's a fair bet that Farage,Tim Martin, Gove et al won't listen to it much. (Worth buying perhaps, for that fact alone?). 
         He had to learn 27 tunes from the member states and then work them into a recording. They were compacted down to 14 tracks,most of which are paired. (Only Ireland gets a solo track). For some this would have been a daunting nightmare. For Will,it is a dream come true and a labour of love. The music itself burns with the intense passion that is his trademark. It is impossible to hide the way he feels about each of these countries. 
       The guest list, as one might expect, is remarkable.( Who wouldn't jump at the chance to accompany someone like Will Pound?) And yet. as I know from direct experience, even though he is an Internationally famed musician, when at a loose end he is just as likely to turn up somewhere in his beloved Warwickshire and listen,or play along with,local people. I remember on one occasion taking to the stage in one venue and being intimidated by seeing Will in the front row. After we'd begun, my heart sank as he rested his head on the table. I thought that was despair but someone told me later this is how he likes to listen to music. I took comfort from that! 
          Probably the biggest name additionally involved is percussionist Evelyn Glennie. She evidently recognises a fellow genius and makes no secret of her admiration for Will's music. Also part of the ensemble, (one formed specifically for this album) are Bodhan Piasecki, Patsy Reid, Jenn Butterworth, the ubiquitous Jude Rees and John Parker. Guesting occasionally are Liz Carroll, Gudrun Waither and the Stream of Sound Youth Orchestra. 
           The project,understandably, had the backing of the Arts Council England. If you are expecting a stream of pithy, acidic protest songs about Brexit, forget it. There are no lyrics apart from Piaseckis poems, but this is as eloquent as any wordy songwriter's epic. More so probably, because the music and the imagery it invokes does the talking. 
         The gatefold sleeve contains a detailed leaflet giving individual track credits and details of all the tunes and songs involved. A Day Will Come was originally intended for release on May 8th 2020 and was to coincide with a brief tour taking in Somerset, Yorkshire,Suffolk and Oxfordshire before concluding on home turf at Warwick Arts Centre. Obviously,that won't now be happening,but plans are afoot to tour next May instead. Clips are available on You Tube and you can download the whole album at https://willpound.bandcamp.com  With a running time of 70 minutes plus,it will give you plenty to listen to. 

Friday, 6 March 2020

A Bird In The Hand

        Frankly I was dreading this one. Not because of the Guests, Bird In The Belly. (whom,for the sake of brevity we will refer to from now on as BITB).  No, I knew they would be brilliant. (And they were). I have played tracks from both their albums regularly on Anker Folk and have published glowing reviews of both CDs online and in magazines. I have also dearly enjoyed albums from Hickory Signals and Green Ribbons who include BITB personnel in their number. I was also confident about the individual strengths of each of the floor spots. And Nunc had actually put in a rehearsal and a gig between the last NFC night and this one,so we were looking forward to airing some new material.
                No, my apprehension was a mix of trepidation infused by the impending Coronavirus and a longstanding family anxiety connected with that which (finally) resolved itself later the following morning.  Absolutely nothing to do with panic or fear of enclosed spaces or big,smelly,sneezing groups of people. Oh and it was cold,so very cold. ( Even though the hall is fully centrally heated)  "And those stairs are so steep! " ( Right here I'd like to pay tribute to one of our most dedicated followers, Doreen Tiernan, who struggles up those stairs pretty well every NFC evening, even though she's on two sticks,and has been been since Day One. God bless you and Patrick, Dor!      
             We'd had house full notices on the first Wednesday in February,thanks to the pulling power of Kevin Dempsey. My greatest fear on this March Wednesday  was not of being struck down by the Four Horsemen, but purely dread of not enough people turning out to welcome a band who had travelled all the way from Brighton to entertain us.
           Entertain us they did. The video clips I'd pasted up on the NFC Facebook page beforehand obviously did the trick. The place was busy. Not rammed, but comfortable,with a fair sprinkling of new faces. I felt an almost paternal pride as BITB concluded their second fabulous set with the infamous ear worm "Give Me Back My Heart Again." The opening (unaccompanied) section was mesmerising and the following more upbeat part got the whole hall rocking. With some imposing synchronised clapping. 
          Nunc got the evening under way by running  some new material past the NFC audience. We were,alas without our lead guitarist Paul Moore (he won't mind me calling him that),so it was down to Hammerhands, John Kearney to be both the engine room and the supercharger.  "All Gotta Die Someday," was a late change to our running order. That  wasn't new of course-it has become a kind of anthem which we start our set of with when playing elsewhere. It had never seemed more ironic or appropriate. Once that was under way and we'd all had a good (if nervous) laugh at ourselves, it was time to lower the mood a little.
          Both John and I have lost good friends recently-its the penalty of growing older together-and Nunc had been working on arrangements of "Dark End Of The Street " and "My Old Friend The blues." We had only done them publicly once before, but they went o.k. Must admit I found singing both quite emotional. 
           Up came Nuneaton Virgin John Oswin to follow that. I'd seen him twice elsewhere so I knew the NFC crowd would appreciate him,and he certainly went at it right from the off.  With his Trilby shades and tin star and his midwest Straight Out of Broad Lane drawl, he transported us all away across the plains and onto a Mississippi porch somewhere. Y'all. Doing all his own stuff, too with a very authentic ring to it. We'll be calling him back.
           Wes Hall, carer,NFC regular and all round Good Egg followed. He got the audience singing and was also going like the clappers until he fell briefly off the horse with his final number,"Buddy Can You Spare a Dime." An odd one that, as I've seen him perform his adaptation of that song flawlessly in many other venues. But let me tell you,being up on that stage sometimes does things to you.  With the neatest of shimmies,Wes was back in the saddle and left the stage to a deserved ovation. Thanks for your company, Wes!
             We were anticipating the JP's but as it happened only Jane Moss of that duo was available,and she too had a stormer. The Uke is not always an instrument you associate with belting out hot rhythms,but that gal certainly whacked the hell out of it in her first song-she's quite a player. We will certainly not ever look at Crows in the same light again,and (by request) she finished her set with a song which was unanimously judged to be the winner in a recent songwriting competition. Joined by Jon Harrington and John Kearney, it was a classic NFC collaboration. All this despite Jane having been traumatised by the Onion Roundabout beforehand,and a brief ten second warm up and run through at the bar before the night got under way. 
             Adam Wilson is another NFC regular. He'd brought copies along of a new album with him but modestly (unlike some people I know!!!) hadn't pressed them upon anyone. He gave us his version of "Sandy Grey" and (at my request) "Old Man." I'm sure he's really had enough of doing that at NFC and would much rather share some of his other, (excellent) self-written songs with us,but there you go. Perks of the Folk Club Organiser. NFC followers will be pleased to hear that they get a credit on the album! 
            So then up strode (or rather hopped? Flew?) BITB. Laura Ward with her soaring, peerless vocals and haunting flute playing. Local lad Ben Webb,with distinctive,at times anguished vocals merging and floating and counterpointing with Laura in a way that was at times hypnotically spooky to the point of gothic. Adam Ronchetti providing percussion and alternating on acoustic guitar whenever Tom Pryor switched from guitar to violin and back which was quite often. Shrutis of various sizes also changed hands several times. Collectively very versatile and with Tom also joining in on vocals,each song was impeccably arranged and professionally delivered.        
              After the interval Nunc returned and ran through "Landslide,"  "Freedom/Ohio" and "Vigilante Man."  We'd already raised the body count well before the raffle draw and then  BITB returned to close the evening. All my favourites were there over the two sets.   "Bees"   "Shoreham River."   "All You Females,"  "New Gate Stone" and many more. 
        They always put an enormous amount of thought into researching,collecting and orchestrating their material. There is much emphasis on resurrecting or restoring Victorian lyrics. With all the Austerity we've had to put up with, with the country swinging to the right and turning its back on Europe as if we still owned an Empire,some of these old songs are  eerily somehow still appropriate. "Tobacco" for instance, extolling the virtues and health giving properties of pipe smoking (!!) Or the spectacularly morbid "Coal Black Wine" which really does make the hairs on your neck stand on end. 
            Absolutely certain to be having them back. Stupid not to. Hopefully before some enterprising BBC Producer engages them to write the background music for the next Dickens or Eliot t.v. dramatisation. We wont be able to afford them then! 
             As usual thanks to Aaron for running the bar (loved the Dropkick Murphys waistcoat) for young Harvey for getting the room ready and running the sound. And to Rich Burlingham for the support he continues to give us. The room and the bar for free. Newly commissioned fliers and posters ready for distribution on the tables by 7pm. ( See above and below). 

      Also thanks to Rich, a new,bigger  Club banner (watch this space) is coming soon. And more locally provenanced Church End Real Ale is available on  draught NFC evenings in the Crew than you'll find anywhere central in the town. Some people are happier drinking lukewarm John Smiths elsewhere but there's no accounting for taste. I much preferred the Goats Milk. 
         So farewell (for the time being) to our new chums from Brighton. Photographs used in this blog btw,in the absence of any others received are all by Mags and I. Except the selfie below which our Flossy took after the show. We had a blast! Can you tell? 

            

Friday, 21 February 2020

Tumping for Joy

         The Tump, based in the Humber Hotel in Coventry is in recovery and many local musicians will applaud that. Lovingly cared for by Karen orgill, it has been Tumping along there ever since it left its previous base at Coombe Club on the outskirts of Coventry. Prior to that it was based in Brinklow, where the Mound (or Tum) of the Norman castle is visible from all over the village. Hence the name.
        For 2020 Karen is holding weekly sessions combining local guests with a plethora of local floor singers. This  formula is bringing a few extra numbers in. She'd asked me to host an evening some time ago,with Nunc fitting in a couple of sets around the other performers. So we obliged last night. The full Nunc line-up this time with myself,Paul Moore,Jon Harrington,John Kearney and Flossy McDougall. 
             It was at times like herding cats. The singers arrived thick and fast,(mostly thick) and rarely stayed in one place longer than a few minutes. Karen soon had a sheaf or crumpled notebook pages in front of her as she wrote and re-wrote a running order. The whole session was delightfully relaxed with the added bonus that it was so eclectic we really did get a little bit of everything. 
            Bette Smith started proceedings, accompanied by Mick. Bette's redoubtable signature tune about being relocated from  low-rise to  high rise accommodation was the highlight. Complete with hand gestures and with a very catchy chorus. Everyone knew "Room Up In The Sky,"  and all of us joined in. I know the hook lines off by heart. Indeed I was singing it even before she'd started.
            Jane Moss followed. Lovely voice with a tiny Ukele: a bit of a pocket dynamo like herself. One of the Coventry Singer-Songwriters, well known to NFC audiences and Anker Folk listeners, Jane did two songs,one of which apparently was a little bit cheeky. 
              Wes Hall's debut  had been written in and out and in again on the running order, but yes,he was there,finally and he did two capital songs. "Nobody Knows you" and "Times They are a Changin'. I happen to know that Karen has added him to her secret list of "good" artistes last night,so he'll be back at The Tump again soon. Hard to believe that until about 4pm yesterday he was keeping the Nuneaton & District Elderly Gentlemen's Binge Drinking Society in order in his designated role as Carer. 
           Ralph Overton followed. We had a bit of Country there from him with a proper good drawlin' vocal style. I'd seen Ralph at Bedduff a weeks back and he made an impression then. When BPS ran a Folk Club in Brinklow,Ralph's brother Bernard used to be a regular visitor. He would nip across the road and do a floor spot for us. Usually with a clutch of hand  made woodwind instruments in his hand. Talented family. 
          Rita Vincent,in remarkably good nick for someone a couple of years older than Campbell McKee, was up next. Once again Mick Smith was providing her with guitar accompaniment. She did a lovely version of "Somewhere over the Rainbow, " which is where Campbell is going on his next holiday,having explored the rest of the planet already           Speaking of which,Rita's departure meant that it was turn for The McMaestro himself to step purposefully up and whisper a couple of songs. Demonstrating a very interesting guitar style,Campbell  took us through a truly memorable version of a Bob Dylan song. He stopped periodically along the way pretending to highlight fine imagery or to discuss a choice lyric. We humoured him,although we all knew it was really just to turn a page over,or to try to get his breath back. Classic stuff,Campbell. It will genuinely haunt me for years. 
           It was a bit of an anticlimax for Nunc to have to follow that,but we did,and we launched into several new songs. "Dark End Of The Street" went fairly well as did "My Old Friend The Blues." Two popular songs which got everyone singing-verses as well as choruses in some cases. Jon Harrington was hurled into the spotlight to frame his own composition "If There's Any Justice."  This is quite jolly for our usual set list with a relatively low body count for us. We did "Bring It On Home,"  "Angel from Montgomery," "Landslide" and a spot of Irish Reggae before finishing the first half with "Knocking On Heaven's Door." We usually get our audiences to sing a verse of each of those last two unaccompanied. On this occasion The Tump Choir did not disappoint.
                The interval passed swiftly,mostly due to the fact that everyone but me had forgotten to bring any Raffle Prizes. Never mind. We had decided corporately to donate our appearance money back to the club so that should tide them over and help pay Wes Finch's bus fare next week. 
                We started the second half by giving Mick Smith his own spot. Seemed a bit odd seeing him up there alone without a lady by his side,but he gave us two rousing examples of top class Americana. Nigel Ward followed, throwing my pre-prepared introduction into disarray by playing his guitar rather than  appearing with his beloved fiddle. I had just assumed it was permanently attached to his chin but no,Nigel can function and breathe fully without it. 
                Music Chaser Robbo aka Rob Oakey was next, quipping arguing and heckling well before he burst into song and then proving that a good Octagenarian can keep up with the kids by rocking Da House with something we could all have danced to if we were not all so  arthritic. Floor singers were coming as fast as Usain Bolt on a pedal trike now. The clock ticked remorselessly onward as John Ossie Osbourne gave us two raunchy numbers with some very punchy guitar work,looking like an ersatz Doc Holiday in his black hat and with a tin star pinned to his jacket.
                    At some stage I had to let the cat out second half. Not an allegory-just a troubled tabby with its paws crossed. Not herding it-it went more willingly than some of the floor singers. Anyway, Paul Monks then got out his instrument and decided we should all have Sax together. For a few moments the room was like a New Orleans basement as he blew some steamy jazz horn and most people's minds with a couple of moody instrumentals.
                     John Wainwright was next. Karen had pencilled him into the running order cryptically as Wally One Chord, but that was far from the truth. He started each song by strumming one chord it's true,but as his songs got under way,the picking accelerated and was certainly far from mundane. I loved his books on Fell Walking too.
                  The next singer was Chris Sidwell. We had discovered during the course of the evening that we knew each other from a different space time continuum. Chris is a leading light in Crokodile Tears and a Band called The Trees. I have at least two of his albums and we both know David Goody. Small world,eh? He did one of his own and then got everyone singing with "The First Cut is The Deepest."
                  Just time left for Nunc finally to squeeze a few more tunes in. Flossy's Magnum Opus "Guilty," a Neil Young segue, something from that there Kacey Chambers and for a big finish,"Copperhead Road."  We've never finished a set with this number before. I have to say it was glorious. Loud,boisterous and enthusiastically sung by band and audience alike. John Kearney's shrieks and whoops (some of them choreographed),even aroused Campbell from his slumbers. A good night. A great night.  Some epic performances all round. 
            Seriously-it's Wes Finch next week. No floor spots but still not to be missed. Give it a shot. Photos by Campbell and Jon.