Thursday, 4 May 2023

Cheers Big Ears

 It was for us an average seven days' build up leading up to the May NFC night. Three hospital visits  (some planned some not). Builders on site  throughout.  Skips, portable dunnies and tipper lorries everywhere. One (lost) play-off final, School runs and sleepovers (which at our age can be quite a culture shock). And to add a little bit of extra anxiety my Right Hand Woman was really poorly, on antibiotics and unable to attend. Those who know the club well will understand what a loss to a smooth evening that is. I was absolutely frazzled by the time I got there, delayed by traffic hold ups temporary signals and fencing contractors who simply did not want to leave. I could hardly walk due to various forms of arthritis and when I "popped" into Iceland to get a pint of milk it was closed. Oh! How I Laughed!  

 We started the evening by raising a glass to pledge allegiance to Nuneaton Folk Club. With a Kingly weekend coming up, it seemed only right to do something apt to commemorate You Know What on Saturday using  Church End's specially brewed and aptly named "Cheers Big Ears" as a prop.  I even thought of doing a medley of King's greatest hits to start with-Love and Pride followed by Alone With Out You ,The Taste Of Your Tears and ending with Wont You Hold My Hand Now?  But frankly they don't transpose well to the unaccompanied Folk genre and I couldn't get the boots on. 

Nevertheless we had a right royal evening. ( You can expect that kind of corny analogy and awful punning to run right through this account of the evenings events).   Andi Wolf, MC  of Temperance in Royal Leamington Spa (see what I did there?)  made a positively regal debut. I had already dropped the NFC banner twice, forgotten to put all the table leaflets out and neglected to email Ross the tech specs in advance so a measured, chummy set from Andi helped settle things down somewhat.

 I had not intended to sing at all and I kind of wished I hadn't after a half hearted and feeble rendition of "Albert Balls," during which my voice went completely several times. (Am I selling it to you?) Time perhaps to drop the comedy and go back to acapella unaccompanied  Folk songs. The band split is a year old now (did you send a card?) so it is time to get over it. Move on or move out. Anyway I had to fill in as I'd run out of waffle so I almost curtsied when Mr. Wolf loped onto stage. Here I am surrounded by two ghostly apparitions. 

 Our audience were surprisingly well behaved (at this point anyway) so all refrained from calling out "What's the time Mr Wolf?" He was very good. I thought he might be. There were some gentle bants with the assembled courtiers-both audience and staff-whilst he got the measure of the room, ( another thinly spread out audience) and Nuneaton's cryptic humour.  An audience that size would ensure "room full" signs at Temperance but distributed about  the cavernous interior of the Queens Hall it sometimes looks slightly intimidating from that huge stage. Andi's material and delivery was very  polished however and so was his guitar playing. I liked Andi's  songs, his voice, and particularly his natty Taylor guitar. Those in the know tell me it is a parlour guitar. It looked the shape and size which even gnarled and crooked fingers like mine could still actually make chord shapes on. Too late for me now, alas.  

It was good to welcome back Adam Wilson. A staunch and loyal NFC supporter, a fine songwriter, an excellent singer with a huge vocal range and a handy guitarist. He did a few older songs, one very new one and then finished with Neil Young's "Old Man." As I doddered back to the stage to thank him for an engaging half an hour, never had that title seemed more appropriate. 

Si then swaggered  up to take the stage for his first set. Actually that's very cruel. He really didn't. A more  modest, pleasant unassuming guy like Si you won't see the like of every day. He definitely  doesn't do swagger although he would be entitled to though.  His guitar playing and his arrangements alone are both extraordinary. Add to that a most distinctive singing style and there we have  a stage presence which is both engaging and attractive. I know for a fact that he puts a lot of time effort and research into selecting each song. He has a broad repertoire which is mostly (but not exclusively) traditional. It was good to hear some old personal favourites like "Copper Kettle," "The Blacksmith" and "Lovely On The water" given a new treatment. 

We should perhaps have finished the evening by standing and singing The National Anthem but why should we? Chaz and Cams have never been to us. They haven't even joined the NFC Stalkbook page yet. 

There were a few minor glitches last night and one slight problem with a noisier than usual audience member, (later remedied). A Court Jester turned up but not quite in the manner anyone had anticipated. The one thing he wasn't was funny. 

Rather than me banging on any more about last night here are some independent views from social media. 

" Yet another cracking night ..... quality songwriters, singers and beer: what more can you want? Many thanks to all concerned."- (Ray Buckler)

" Si Barron on stunning form as usual with mesmerising guitar playing and a well chosen set list.Great support from Andi Wolf and Adam Wilson. A night to remember." Max Wright

" has been a few years since I have seen and heard such a brilliant and talented English traditional folk singer !! Si tonight was breath-taking. Words are inadequate to describe his brilliance. " -Bobby Brooker

" Si was excellent as usual, but a big shout out to Andi Wolf, first time I have seen him, he was funny, Great tunes sung well and talented guitar player. ( A return to NFC soon please ). Last but definitely not least, one of my personal favourites Adam Wilson. Great songs and a fabulous voice, nice guy too  .Another excellent night. " Geoff Hardy 

All true. Thanks once more to Ross for expert sound control, to the lovely Holly for her patience and kindness in dealing with customers, and to Rich Burlingham and his staff for support, back up and just generally being there. The photos here are by Ray Buckler, Max Wright and moi. 

Si followed me back home after we closed up, as he was breaking the long journey back to Devon by staying overnight. Through Nunny's own Beverley Hills Area we wove, in convoy. Out towards Bramcote and getting a crack on before all the streetlights went out and I turned back into a frog. I'm sure I saw a milkman en route but perhaps the tiredness was making me hallucinate. 

We had a can or two of Beavertown Neck Oil before turning in. Si said he was planning to get up early and boy did he. The Dawn chorus woke me up but Si was already gone. En route for Devon and the peace of Dartmoor. I don't blame him. It must seem like heaven after a night in Treacle Town.

Friday, 7 April 2023

It's Good Wednesday

Good Wednesday is the Wednesday before Good Friday and The Easter Bank Holiday. ( I've just decided). Echoes in that title of Eric and Ern. "It's Good Friday," Ernie once opined slightly piously.  -"It's good any day" chortled Eric, slapping his comedy partner affectionately and with a cheeky side wink to camera.  Red Shoes were our guests on Wednesday and KC Jones along with Urban Fox supplied further entertainment. Our attendance was only slightly down on last month but respectable given the struggles still going on elsewhere, post Covid.  See how full and atmospheric the Queens Hall  looks and how far away the stage seems in this photo. 

Being band-less I don't always open with anything nowadays, but I kicked off the evening at 8pm with "Lord of The Dance." unaccompanied. It seemed appropriate to the time of year. I have always enjoyed singing it, but as I so rarely get back on the horse nowadays I had to keep referring to a song sheet. The audience gave it a fair go with the choruses so that went quite well. I then bottled it with "Twas On an April Morning," which I had rehearsed and fully intended to do. Nunc used to cover it but instead I sang Vigilante Man an old favourite which never dates due to "free" Nations' propensity for persecuting the Poor and the Homeless.  It's amazing how you can insert "Have you seen Suella Braverman?"  into the first line. (Try it!). She would have made a fabulous Railroad Bull in Woody Guthrie's day. Picture below by Karen Jones. 

That bit safely over with, Urban Fox stepped up to make their debut. I'd seen them at a few clubs locally and they'd got better each time I saw them so I was delighted to see that they embraced this opportunity with a lively set. A combination of Nigel's songs and jolly instrumentals got the audience warmed up. Two fiddles definitely creates a good sound. Their harmonies were well arranged and well sung too. An excellent start. We'll return to the Vulpine theme later in the text. "Coventry Weavers,"  " The Reluctant Sailor "  and their concluding fiddle medley were highlights for me. 

Local outfit KC Jones have been itching to get their new album "Roots" finally released. and their set included some new songs from it and a few crowd-pleasers like "Sonny" and "Ivory Battle." They included "Cut Throat Jack"  and "Stronger" among the newer songs, roping in Nigel Ward from Urban Fox for one of them. And also a cover (was it?) of a certain Adele song with a bit of James Bond theme picked out by Karen at the end. They finished  cannily, with  "Time For Us To Leave You." Which by then of course it was-that half hour or so had flown by. As pictured below they had drawn Nigel up to guest. It was that kind of "sharing" night and with our three acts coming from Coventry Nuneaton and Birmingham respectively there was a pleasing geographical symmetry to proceedings. 

Red Shoes had only last week celebrated their 40th anniversary of performing on the road. They stepped up to do the shorter of two sets to take us up to the interval. Carolyn, Mark and original bassist Derek  really have been together for that long. They had  played The Crew before-downstairs during a Ragged Bear Festival-but this was their first time upstairs on the mighty Queens Hall stage.

In the second half they declined to include their (excellent) and well-loved version of The Move's Blackberry Way but still showed they could rock out a good arrangement of a classic cover with Dylan's "You Ain't Going Nowhere."  The atmospheric homage to a Briar Rose ( a fine Brum pub: I know it well)- "All The way to Troon," featured Mark taking the lead vocal. proving that they both have fine voices. Derek's not bad either-proving that like Urban Fox they can handle nice three part harmonies. It wasn't actually about Wetherspoons-that's just my little joke. It's actually a rather sweet love song. 

 Red Shoes delivered a seemingly effortless sequence of songs about Love and Hope, Cruelty and Forbearance.  And eventually returned to that  vulpine theme. They actually once covered Reynardine , a favourite song of mine which I'd already discussed with Urban Fox members earlier in the evening. The Shoes did it justice I have to say. It featured on their double CD  "It Isn't Over Yet."  The Guest Beer on Wednesday was (appropriately and yet entirely coincidentally),Church End Brewery's "What The Foxes Hat," and only the night before, Mark Evans's beloved Villa had put those Foxes up the M69 into the bottom two of the Premier League. 

My own Grandad, Edgar Oldfield, once rescued and cared for a young orphaned fox cub. It became imprinted of course, and would not leave him, probably looking upon him as Mama Vixen. Some of his neighbours and relatives were scandalised by this sort of (what they judged to be) eccentric behaviour, especially when he took young Reynard out for walks on a lead. But those of us who preferred looking at foxes to killing them found it completely normal and very appealing. I loved him for it.  Carolyn has become both renowned and admired for the work she has put in to nurturing stray ones, poorly ones and those who just need help. Urban Fox were there on the night.  So after an instructive and interesting aside about foxes and why they scream at night (it's often family disputes as much as cries of ecstasy), we had Red Coat Ride an articulate song about the (non) glory of The Hunt.  

They gave us the  anthemic Celtic Moon. Covered by Fairport Convention and played on Radio One no less. And "Swansong" a tremendous finale/encore in which anyone who had an instrument was inveigled up onto the stage and invited to join in. What a way to finish. An inspiring sight and a beautiful sound. 

So let's hope it wasn't a Swansong or a Finish. Because I'm not sure that it's time  yet. The Folk Circuit needs its Red Shoes. Aye, and its KC Jones Duos and  Urban Foxes. Such is the demographic of most Folk Clubs  that there were many in an average audience (and a few on the stage!) who have felt the rigours of playing and performing regularly taking its toll over recent years. Certainly post-Covid There have been several times when Mags and I have discussed packing it all in. It's not just the travelling and logistics. Not just the toting kit up flights of stairs which brings pain into tired bones and worry into troubled minds in the middle of a sleepless night. It's families and friends: illness and the anxiety of modern living and the uncertainty and additional pressure they sometimes bring.  

Stagecraft. Competent musicianship. Carolyn's passionate vocals. Their well crafted and at times intense songs. Can we afford to lose all that? They are threatening to return after retirement to semi-retirement "playing for fun and sharing a few beers with friends," as Carolyn puts it. It's a nice thought which I completely understand.   Perhaps the Red Sandals? Or the Red Espadrilles? Or even...the Red Foxes? I hope so. I hope we see them again in some format or other. The Folk World isn't ready to say goodbye just yet. 

Friday, 3 March 2023

The Ides of March

       Who would have thought that five years have elapsed since Nuneaton Folk Club was made homeless overnight by the sudden closure of The Crown?  On learning one Monday morning  (via Facebook!!) that we no longer had a venue, I drove into Sunny Nunny shuffling options through my head as I parked up.  Because of previous conversations I decided to try The Crew out first.  Rich Burlingham was sitting on a bar stool in there and our first conversation was along the lines of " About time! I've been expecting you!"
        Rich and The Staff of The Crew could not have made us more welcome. Rich and co have gone out of their way to help promote Folk and Roots music in the town. By putting on the Annual Ragged Bear Festival. By staging one off concerts by artistes we could not possibly afford-Fairport Convention and the excellent Peatbog Faeries for example.  And by giving NFC five years of solid, generous support, helping us out with everything from promotion and publicity to linking up with local breweries so that locally brewed award winning Real Ale is available on draught on most Folk Club nights.  
        This partnership is truly something well worth celebrating, so we pushed the boat out. With a two hour "Anker Folk" Radio special reflecting some of the 100+ artistes who have trod the boards during that time. Broadcast on the night before and the night after the Folk Club itself. ( A playlist will be added at the bottom of this post. We hope to have The Special available somehow in a Listen Again format for those who missed it but would still like a listen. 
            We began the evening by sharing a special award presented to John B.Smith for his tireless work in capturing the essence of all our local Folk Clubs on camera. This was presented to John during a Folk Day at The Temperance Folk Club, Leamington, last Sunday. Most of the local organisers contributed to this surprise award. 
           We also reminded people that local artist Claire Botterill had set a stall out at the back of the room. selling prints, cards, worksheets and tuition, Claire also holds 5 week two hourly classes at her Garden Studio. For contact details see the "Links" button on the Home Page of the NFC website.  
          Then Malc Gurnham and I opened up the evening proper with three comedic songs. This was our third appearance at three different Folk Clubs inside a week, so unsurprisingly we were beginning to get things right by then. It was Malc who first talked me into relaunching a Folk Club in Nuneaton, which finally got under way in 2014. Malc has played along with me in Black Parrot Seaside and Mac Awe On Tour, so although I'm a bit ring rusty we seemed to please the audience with "Albert Balls" "The Odeon" and "Di Di The Ice Cream Man. " Whilst The Odeon was issued on a previous album, Albert and Di Di were going to be part of a new solo Album which Malc and I were working on just as Covid struck.    Who knows? perhaps we'll get it finished now! This photo by Max Wright is my favourite as it does show both of us smiling and evidently having a good time.
             Poachers Pocket were making their Queen's Hall debut, though I seem to recall Campbell Perry and Colin Squire making appearances individually or in other line ups at The crown. Supplemented by Carole Gillespie they gave us a very entertaining first feature length spot. Guitars, Banjos and Accordions all figured as they romped through an enjoyable set. [ photo by John B. Smith]
               Next up came an NFC favourite, Kevin Dempsey. A popular stalwart of the local and national Folk scene for many years. Although not 100% fit, Kev showed no sign of that affecting his performance. Most of us knew what to expect as he ran deftly through "Leaving in a Hurry Blues", "Love is Just Around The Corner" and "All For You." Always good fun though, to roam the room watching jaws drop as Kev's pyrotechnics. Photo below by John B.Smith
            Whipping a frenzied audience up into a crescendo, before we allowed Bird In The Belly to commence their first set, it was time to present them with the Treacle Town Trophy, awarded to them for topping the Anker Folk 2022 Album Charts with "After The City." Beating off formidable opposition such as The Magpies, Trials of Cato, The Unthanks, Lady Maisery and Thorpe and Morrison was no mean feat. Laura seemed a little nonplussed by The Poundland Egg glued onto a Poundland garden ornament, but she wore her crown proudly for the rest of the evening. BITB may well have been performing at Coventry Cathedral the following evening but I bet they were not honoured like this. If you look closely at this photo by John B.Smith she's also clutching the trophy itself. Clearly very deeply moved. Not the first time they've won this either, as "The Crowing" won the same accolade in 2018. 
           Then off we danced through a profusion of Victorian and Edwardian misery. Painstakingly researched material beautifully arranged. We had graveyards, workhouses, addiction,poverty, famines Plagues and battlefields. The body count rose progressively as BITB kindly obliged with a few requests such as the outstanding "Give me Back My Heart Again." and "Bright Light. " Photo by John B. Smith
          Following a brief break BITB continued their heart rending trawl through a succession of elderly songs given new life. How many times did we nod our heads sagely at our ancestors' wisdom whilst reflecting " You see? Not much has really changed. Will we ever learn?" Both Ben and Laura sing with a powerful emotion that is startling in its intensity at times. The band as a whole are tight-and I don't mean they won't spend money. Their musical togetherness was a comment I heard a lot during the evening and afterwards-just how well the harmonies work together and how well the musicians weave their patterns using a broad variety of instruments and effects. Here Laura demonstrates her versatility with the flite. And look! She is (as promised) still wearing that crown! 
             Included in the BITB repertoire were two newish songs commissioned by Coventry City of Culture-bringing (no less) a gardener's ancient diary back to life again. He had problems with cultivating growing and harvesting tomatoes too even back then. Bless. And so the evening came to a close. Don't forget to spread the word and here to help you is our latest flier, designed by Pete Willow and produced by The Crew. Next month we have an NFC debut from Red Shoes. Most famous for one of the finest covers of Blackberry Way, so well done that Bev Bevan sings on the album version! 
Finally thanks to Rich,Jenna, Holly et al, to Ross for his fine work on the mixing desk, and to my nearest and dearest Mags for all the work she puts in to help NFC swing along its merry way. And now that Anker Folk set list as promised. Apologies for the layout-cut and paste job which appears to have a mind of its own! 

song 1 Fosters Mill Dom Pragg 

song 2 Issi Come Down Bob Brooker 

song 3 Old Man  (Adam Wilson)                                           

Song 4 The Laundry Shanty (Des Patalong) 

Song 5 Foxy Lady  (Benji Kirkpatrick)                                

Song 6 Blackleg Miner (Craig Sunderland ) 

Song 7 Like a River (Brian Price)                                         

song 8 The Wild Goose  (Greengrass)                                      

song 9 Subconscious Cry for Attention (Keith Donnelly ) 

Song 10 Captive (KC Jones Duo)                                                       

Song 11 Chester Fiesta (Thorpe & Morrison) 

Song 12 What matters most (Jan Richardson) 

Song 13 Mrs. Allcock’s Millionaire (John Richards Band)

Song 14 Don’t Think Twice (Kristy Gallagher) 

song 15 Handsome Molly (Kevin Dempsey) 

Song 16 Always putting me foot in it (John Mosedale) 

Song 17 I’ve got my country back (Phil Hare)

Song 18 Just for you (Wilson Wright) 

song 19 Bees ( Bird InThe Belly) 

song 20 Candlelight Fisherman (Si Barron)                                

song 21 The List (Sally ironmonger) 

Song 22 I cannot remain (Winter Wilson) 

Song 23 The Doffing Mistress (The Redhills) 

Song 24 Gallows Pole (Scarecrow )

Song 25 Carolina Pines (Malc Gurnam & Gill Gilsenan)

Song 26 Turn to Blue (Steve & Julie Wigley)                        

Song 27 This changes everything (Gren Bartley) 

Song 28 Turn of the Tide (Jane Moss)

Song 29 Chicken (Tom Young) 

Song 30 Diggers (Thrupp’nny Bits )

Song 31 Bedlam Boys (Greenman Rising) 

song 32 It’s Come to This (Mike Reinstein) 

Song 33 Wild Mountain Thyme (Paper Circus) 


Thursday, 2 February 2023

Gauntlet Accepted

      I'd set a bit of a challenge to NFC Facebook Page members before Wednesday night's extraordinary attendance.  We have 472 members and I'd suggested that maybe if only a tiny fraction of those expressing an interest in the club turned out, we'd have a night to remember. Folk took up the challenge and filled the place. And we did have a night to remember.  But don't just take my word for it. Just read the reviews!

"A great nights entertainment, three top performances. (Wes Hall)

 "Great Evening at NFC with a packed house and the audience in good voice." ( Max Wright) 

" It was brilliant"  (John B. Smith).   

  " We had a blast."    (The Lost Notes)  

"Excellent Talent all round." (Les Jones)   

" A brilliant night out." (Doreen Tiernan) 

 .... "Just absolutely Five star from start to finish. It doesn't get better than this," (Bobby Brooker )  

" Great evening all round...brilliant entertainment." ( Geoff Hardy) 

" It was a cracking night." (Michele Kondakor). 

"Another cracking show last night. many thanks to all involved." ( Ray Buckler)

" Lovely Crowd in last night. Superb sound system. great atmosphere."  (Steve Redshaw.) 

If you've not been to this club then you have no appreciation of what a good club it is. Superb venue, great selection of beers, lagers & ciders, ensuite toilets, brilliant sound system manned by skilled experienced people. Go on give it a try!"           ( John B. Smith

       There are three recurring words here. From comments made online by audience members and performers. Not me. "Brilliant,"  " Entertainment" and "Show."  NFC isn't always for the purists. There are no candles in old Chianti bottles and soloists don't always stick their fingers in their ears when singing. We embrace every form of Folk Blues and Americana and we don't have Floor Spots. But what you do get is a show, every month. We try to mix up the artistes appearing so that (a) you don't always see all of them everywhere else all of the time and: (b) they are not all the same genre. We do have amplification and electric instruments sometimes, but it's a big hall and a big stage. It needs filling. People rarely drop off to sleep in the auditorium very often but that's how we like our music. 

     Our evening started with an NFC debut from Steve Redshaw. Actually billed as Steve 2 or The Steves, unfortunately, Stephen Boyer was too poorly to attend.( Hope you are better very soon Stephen).  So Steve singular was chucked in at the deep end and he did a masterful job. More front crawl than doggy paddle he cleaved through the set causing many a ripple and that's the end of the nautical analogies. Having been to the club previously as an audience member, he took to the stage like a seasoned regular and ran through a fabulous thirty minutes of songs. Well chosen and well arranged with a few stamped with an individual new take on an old format. Steve has a really pleasant voice and a deceptively relaxed guitar style. My personal favourite was "Lakes of Ponchartrain."  I love that song. It has an Irish American heritage dating back to the days of The Civil War.  I first encountered it through the work of Paul Brady. I've performed it myself in several venues and with different line-ups so I know it's not an easy one to get across. Steve did it justice. He left that stage to deserved applause. We'll certainly get him back. He flew the flag for Steves everywhere. ( Mr. Boyer: he did not let you down). Photo by John B. Smith

    A highly anticipated debut from the 3/5 version of The Lost Notes followed. Quite a coup to get them and John Richards on the same bill together, reflected in the room being near full before they started. Energetic, lively and very polished, they set to work with a highly organised collection of songs. Most if not all self-penned. Oli had a few minor problems with guitars which got Ross our Sound (very sound) man scrambling across the stage initially before the problem settled. It didn't affect the performance one jot. They finished to rapturous applause. Local Folkies can see them agaim almost immediately as they are on a Beduff next week supporting Paper Circus. I rather think they might be on at Atherstone in the future, too. They performed examples from a newly released album "Lowlifes and High Times." Their versatile vocal styles covered many genres with the fireworks on the last one making me describe as Folk's Tony Hadley. (Sorry ,mate!). Can't WAIT to see the five piece version. Photo by JBS

   John Richards and his band minus fiddle player followed. They too are working on a new album and they understandably wanted to showcase some of it. Thus we had a mixture of songs old and new, all with that distinctive JR style to them. "Did You Enjoy The Battle Sir?" was a popular early example of material. Covered by Robin Dransfield and Downes and Beer, no less. 

     The second half began, (much against my better judgement)  with me  joining the JRB for a first crack at "Chimnea."  This is a song written by John and I. He very kindly supplied the tune to my lyrics. it was his idea at first and then my own vanity spurred me on.  I am tremendously grateful for being honoured by being offered that opportunity. It's a song about some of the indignities we've all had to put up with over the last few years, mainly because of the input (or lack of it) of various Governments. All written whilst swigging a bottle of Pinot Noir on Summer Solstice and enjoying a clear quiet night outside around a log fire. I'd rehearsed it singing along to an MP3 of the tune JR emailed me. I was so nervous and tongue tied I sang it very badly. If you look at the photos I'm rigid with fear. Not usually like the swaggering braggart that I often am on stage. Oh well. perhaps I'll get another chance one day. People were very kind about it but I have to watch my vocal performance from behind a settee. Photo by Max Wright.

     Fortunately things soon bucked up again. The JRB continued with a further cross section of old and new material. "If You can walk you can dance" was a popular show stopper. I'd forgotten that John's daughter Em was so poorly with Covid last time they came to NFC that she couldn't appear. Gren Bartley stepped in and did a fine job. Nevertheless  It was good to hear and see Emma back again, though. Photo by JBS

 Jim did a couple of very natty bass solos and some sterling work on the Keyboard. He's a very understated and versatile musician: his work adds a lot to the overall sound. His bass guitar had what looked like washing line for strings but it gave a marvellous thumpy sound. And I loved his keyboard work in a song which reminded me very much of a Magnum Opus by Mr. Fox "The Gypsy" Photo by JBS I had been very measured and controlled over finding that some of my favourites were missing from the overall set list. I love "Polly,"  "Washbourne Road," " Billy Shaw," and "The Deserter" to bits for example. I was going to let their omission go until I heard an ugly rumour that "Shine On," would not feature. I'm afraid that during several encores wisdom prevailed and people power took over. Bob Brooker and I were invited to go up sing with the JRB. The audience singing was simply stunning. You just cannot let a song as good as that go. Even the bar staff were singing the choruses-and they'd never heard it before. Probably not even born before it was first recorded-but quality transcends generations. Photo by JBS

The usual accolades must be accorded to Ross Tidmuss on sound (great to have him back),and to Holly, putting in a really tough shift behind the bar serving a larger than usual audience. And big thanks to Rich Burlingham, The Crew Guuvnor. He continues to support Folk Music in the Town and lays on decent real Ale for us like last night's special " What The Foxes Hat?" 

             Finally congratulations on another NFC innovation: Claire Botterill became our resident artist by setting up a merchandise stall just inside the door and demonstrating wax resist painting in the auditorium during the interval. We hope to make this a regular feature. Claire is Nuneaton based. She runs courses, designs cards and teaching worksheets and will do special commissioned paintings of your favourite pets. Although I'm told she might draw the line (see what I did there?) at any life sized portraits of Bobby Brooker's Warthog, Montmorency Kingdom The Third. 

      Next month we continue this momentum with the return of Bird In The Belly. All the way from Sussex although vocalist Ben is a Nunny exile. Winners of Anker Folk's "Treacle Trophy" last month for being voted their 2022 Album of The Year, they are musically and vocally outstanding. Note the full house in this picture taken last February. 

Friday, 6 January 2023

Happy New Year

You would think that loads of people from Treacle who profess to know about Folk music would come along  to see and hear the mighty Kevin Dempsey at their local folk club.  And also to enjoy  the excellent Willow and Tool Band plus Nuneaton’s own K.C. Jones "on Home Turf." But you would be wrong. What a good job then that  Leamington, Bedworth, Coventry, Hinckley, Rugby ,Wolvey, Atherstone, Kenilworth,Tamworth,Southam, Banbury and Long Itchington ( to name but a few)  came along instead . Because these people, loyally travelling inward each month over the boundary and into the town, are the mainstay of our club. They swelled numbers to a respectable size for an artiste of the stature of Kevin Dempsey. (below).

There were also some newbies in attendance. On stage and in the audience. They were of course subjected to the traditional ritual humiliation of being welcomed via the P.A. as "That rare thing, a Nuneaton virgin."  Guffaws all round, eh? 

In fairness,  ill health has continued to poleaxe a fair few of the local Folk Community. And it certainly took out Ross Tidmus as a casualty. Ross, our usual Sound Technician, failed a late fitness test. Plan B entailed drafting in his mate Jack who travelled all the way down from Manchester to be with us. He was joined by an old NFC favourite Tom James who used to mix for us a while ago. Between them they got everything working and cranked that mighty desk into action.  Everyone-performers and techies-did monumental work to get us under way with only a 15 minute delay to our usual start time.  A triumph of goodwill and team work.

Typical of the Gremlins on Wednesday  was that we had issues with Kevin's lead during the initial sound check. I always carry a spare instrument lead with me for such a likelihood. Just think-Kevin Dempsey was going to use MY D.I. Lead!  Wow! But no. The sound guys identified a loose joint which needed re-soldering-and a substitute was hastily conjured up to replace it. 

Colin and Karen-KC Jones-started the evening's proceedings with a well chosen set list. They started without much of a sound check at all. It is a testament to their professionalism that they got the night off to a cracking start and despite a few glitches with foldbacks, provided 30 minutes of solid entertainment.  It was a master stroke to begin with Sonny.  They would have had to have done it anyway as I'd requested it, but opening with it was a master stroke. Although it is a tad schmaltzy I love it. More importantly, it got everyone singing straight away and established a good vibe which continued throughout the evening. 

For most of their set they were joined by Stephen Boyer on cahon. it was good to see Steve out and about again. He's been very poorly. He'll be back next month with another Steve as "The Steves."  KC Jones were also persuaded to perform their Christmas Song. All still quite legit for us non-secular types, as decorations were still mostly up at that time and The Works were flogging decorations off Rope walk. This all added to the general bonhommie and festive feeling. A tin of chocolates was passed round adding to the party mood. It was turning into a bit of a party. Colin even managed to blow some harp. Matron. 

Throughout this first half periodically there was the eerie sight of at least two mike stands slowly keeling gently over until the microphone itself was pointing at the floor. Often with no one near them. After being readjusted-off they went again. Was this vibration? Or a screw loose? Or was there a poltergeist in the Queen's Hall, suffering from erectile dysfunction? And then later Malc Gurnham's chair, already crash tested to destruction, collapsed noisily with Malc still upon it. What that man will do to draw attention to himself, eh?  

The Willow and Tool Band sustained the initial momentum with a storming set. They maintained the groove with versions of The Don's "Sunny Goodge Street," Slim Harpo's "I'm a King Bee," Dylan's "Rock me Like a Wagon Wheel " and a bit of Van Morrison. Epic stuff. And lots more collective singing. 

Kevin's first shorter set included the wonderfully evocative arrangement of  "Love is Just Around The Corner," " Handsome Molly" and finished with a fine version of "All For You." The solo in this is typical of his percussive picking style and earned a deserved ovation. It's always good to watch anyone who thinks they can play the guitar watching this and shaking their heads as he launches into that solo. Magic. 

An interval quickly concluded, Kevin kept up the tempo with favourites like "Lucy's Waltz" and "Resurrection Jack"  He also called up Steven Boyer for one number. Which was nice. He finished with an evocative  version of "This Parting Glass,"  which once again got the audience singing-softly and sensitively this time. But of course we had to have an encore or two and the final Fait D'Accompli was his unique version of "Postman Pat."  I'm not sure he really wanted to do this but the audience needed little persuasion in egging him on to do so and they loved it.  

It was good to have photographer John B.Smith back among us again. John had a very difficult end to 2022 due to a bereavement. He is greatly liked and respected on the Folk circuit. His work is much admired. All the photos used here are his. I'm sure all at NFC would join me in offering belated condolences to JBS. Welcome back, Sir. 

The appropriately named Holly did sterling work behind the bar. She tells me that another NFC favourite, Aaron, has worked his last shift at The Crew. A pity. He worked hard and kept up the banter, whatever happened. I was initially a bit worried when Holly told me  "He's gone back to butchery" but I'm hoping that's a reference to his work in retail trade rather than a nasty habit. All the best mate, hope it works out. Top Bloke. 

 Another quality night, despite a slightly delayed start due to initial sound problems. We had several newcomers in the audience ( and on stage) and some old faces returning. I thought all the acts were fantastic and the stand-in Techies' work was nothing short of heroic. Put February 1st with John Richards, The Lost Notes and The Steves in your diary NOW. Bound to be standing room only. Especially if we take away all the chairs.

Sunday, 11 December 2022

Felix Have Me Dad

( One of the classic Donnelly festive parodies from Keith's new Christmas album) . A song which is an homage of sorts to Jose Feliciano and the Three Tenors wishing us a Happy Christmas in Spanish/English. Of which more later.

There were many counter attractions competing for an audience at NFC on Wednesday. Elsewhere a hardy bunch of locals had braved the snow to trek North to Aviemore for some Costa Del Cairngorm thingy. There was apparently football on the telly, late night Christmas shopping, (though not in Nuneaton),the usual parking confusion (see next paragraph below) and various malicious continuations of seasonal Lurgies (great name for a band?).  Plus, the temperature outside had plummeted below zero well before the doors were even open.

As regards parking confusion, I need to point out again that there are two free car parks (Victoria Street One and Victoria Street Two), just across Roanne Ringway from The Crew, almost on the junction with Queens Road and The Ring Road itself.. Indeed the building itself is within eyesight once you get out of the car.  Both of these car parks are within a two minute walk of The venue.  We always use these two even though there is apparently also free parking (when there are spaces!) at the Abbey Theatre. To access the Victoria Street Car Parks, instead of turning up Queens Road towards Lidl, The Crew and The Theatre, turn left  (if coming round it from the North). Or turn right if coming to the lights along the A444, from the South. Follow this short spur of Queens Road past Johnsons the Jewellers, Iceland. The Lord Hop Micropub,The Co-op Club, Salvation Army H.Q. and the back of Rope Walk Shopping Mall on this two minute journey as it curves round to the right, almost a 360 turn before  It quickly becomes Dugdale Street and then Victoria Street. At the end of Victoria Street you can park free  6pm-8am  and virtually next to that four way junction just described. ( For Satnavs the car park postcode is CV11 5GE). Step out of the car and you are back next to Johnsons The Jewellers. Within under a minute on foot you are back at the junction where you turned, with its plethora of pedestrian crossings. The Crew (and so The Queens Hall above it) is visible, diagonally opposite where you have parked.  Try this link or just look it up on Google Maps.

    Right. That out of the way,  the Queen's Hall was warm and cheerful inside. The Church End Fallen Angel was frankly divine and thankfully,  enough people turned out to make the trip worthwhile for those who were performing. Not as many as in the Olden Days when local people supported their Local Folk Clubs everywhere, but fortunately our numbers were swelled by people coming in from Coventry and Birmingham. 

   Top of  the bill we had Lauren South and Keith Donnelly, seen on stage together at NFC for the first time . We had a debut feature from Folk rockers Fables and Lies and a classic traditional Seasonal set from our old friends Thrupp'nny Bits. 

Late last Wednesday I wrote on the NFC Facebook Page Last night was an eclectic cornucopia of Festive and traditional Folkie entertainment." A fair and accurate summation of what went on. Fables and Lies were making their NFC debut. An affable and friendly crowd of musicians, I'd got it in my head that they were from the far South of the County but far from it. They were from Rugby, Coventry, Corby and all over.. And Corby isn't even in Warwickshire. (Yet). They brought in a fully miked up drum kit, electric bass, electric lead, fiddles and all sorts of anciliary items. I'm sure there was a wardrobe being carried up the stairs somewhere. Ross, our techie, watched all this nonplussed. He's seen it all, and the sound check seemed to go well. They certainly woke the audience up with a robust and energetic opening set.

Thrupp'nny Bits then quietened things down a little with a selection of their Christmas and Seasonal songs. Most (if not all) of which, are available on CD. We had Shepherds Arising and those poor Wrens pursued, and Wassails of various shapes and sizes. Plus my personal favourite, The Pudding Hunt. Tally Ho! Nothing like the TB's to get one persuaded that its beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Which led us to the interval. A quick jug collection and a chance for a wee break before we romped off again. Some bloke dressed as a grumpy elf ,who'd been compering the evening read out his now infamous Christmas Notices and Answers to The Christmas Quiz. Then mercifully, it was back to proper entertainment. The photo of this idiot below is by Kevin Hargraves. There were none of our usual photographers there on Wednesday although I did spot a welcome (and newly shorn) Andy Jones later on, and he was busy snapping away. I've not seen any of his work the photographs here, other than Kevin's, are I'm afraid...mine.

We had originally got Phil Hare to come and headline this December 2022 spot, but given the weather, the long return journey and our attendances recently, I'm glad we agreed to rearrange and that Lauren and Keith were able to step in. Phil will now be playing in September next year. When (hopefully) there won't be any frost and snow. Although in this never know...

Both Lauren and Keith were in fine voice. I'm not going to reveal  too much about Keith except to say that he was very good, did lots of jokes, was very festive and very often, funny. ( Sometimes intentionally). This is because he's on at Atherstone Folk Club on the 21st December. So if you are not dancing naked round a bonfire that night (it's The Winter Solstice), get out there, support your local Folk Club and have a good time. Besides, if you weren't at NFC last Wednesday it will present you with another opportunity to purchase Keith's EXCELLENT new Christmas Album. Everything you would expect from this maestro of parody. The perfect late gift for that special Folkie in your life. 

     Lauren is a fine musician and has an immaculate voice. She is an accomplished writer (as is Keith) and as well as doing some favourites together they also showcased some thoughtful and tastefully arranged new material. As a duo it's an interesting combination of voices and content but it somehow works. It's a bit like Pork and Stuffing or Ice Cream and Strawberries. I'm not daft enough to identify which one is which but do try to get along and see them so you can decide for yourselves.

Finally a thanks to all those whose hard work during 2022 continued to keep NFC surviving in what have been at times challenging circumstances. Most importantly, audience members and performers. Then let's have a round of applause for Rich Burlingham for his ongoing support and wonderful husbandry of beautiful, locally brewed Church End Beers. Jenna and Pete Willow provide invaluable help with advance publicity.  Aaron and new kid on the block Evelyn, keep the audiences provided with refreshment, help putting the chairs out and just keep on smiling. Thanks also to Ross for his sound work (see what I did there?), mixing, adjusting levels, stage swapping and all round general expertise. And Maggie my right hand woman who despite sometimes being poorly, faithfully puts her hand to helping out with, well,  everything. God Bless Us Every One!

 A few people have chosen to turn their back on us this year and a few others continue to stay away. I regret that and hope that some of them  can see it in their hearts  to return one day. Christmas is after all, supposedly a time of forgiveness, Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All.