Reg Meuross 31 May 2017
We always expect to see a drop in audience numbers when the summer weather kicks in, but there was a a good crowd to see Reg Meuross on the last day of May. It included a few people who had travelled a way to catch him and as I had never heard Reg before, I thought that was a good sign.
The night was well supported with the usual residents and one surprise visitor, former guest at the club Matt Quinn, relaxing a bit after a hectic tour with The Dovetail Trio. His song The Serving Man was collected from Sussex singer Ethel Powell who resided in his home village of Portslade. Tim Edwards squeezed in a final May Song and Annie Dearman was joined by Steve Harrison and Chris Coe separately for Rosemary Lane and Broadstripe Trousers. Sue Burgess’ sung story Locks and Bolts contrasted nicely with Huw Evans’ spoken story about a bus load of cyclists en route to a meeting point.
Reg Meuross is an extraordinary song writer. His songs are on the gentle side but always have something to say – sometimes social and/or political comment and sometimes just cleverly observational about the human condition. His introductions and explanations are very long and detailed and normally one would be thinking “Come on, get on with it” but not so in this case. The back stories are as important and gripping as the songs themselves. We needed to know the circumstances leading to him singing a song about Dick Turpin in a relevant cell in York Gaol, about the fight undertaken by Headscarf Lily and the other fishwives of Hull to get safety measures in place on the trawlers carrying their menfolk out to sea.
An odd bit of information came allied to his song about Tony Ben’s Tribute to Emily Davidson, the suffragette who hid in a cupboard in the House of Commons on census night so she could state that it was her address. When Tony Benn installed a commemorative plaque in the cupboard may years later he was assisted by Helena Kennedy QC and a young Jeremy Corbyn. The touching back story to The Band Played Sweet Marie told of the fate of a violin belonging to a musician of the band on The Titanic. My Name Is London Town generated complaints when it mentioned a fishmonger in Smithfield Meat Market, except such a thing did exist.
Using both strummed and claw hammer techniques, Reg plays a 1944 vintage Martin guitar which he bought as a wreck and had restored. Given the wartime circumstances of the Martin factory it was likely that it wasn’t made by a man and this is set out in his song The Hands of a Woman.
It would take too much space to comment on all of his songs, but being something of a political animal, I am delighted to have discovered Reg Meuross and hear the title track from his forthcoming album, Faraway People, which name checks a number of people off Calum’s List, people who died after being pronounced ‘fit for work’ following an ATOS assessment. I fully expect the track to be banned by the BBC like his other song, England Green, England Grey.
I can recommend Reg Meuross!
Rosie Stewart 26 April 2017
Gathered together on a chilly night the assembled audience were warmed up by a jig or two from the rather depleted Pit Band (due to holiday absences and a plague of moths in Ripponden, I do not tell a lie). Pete Coe and Steve Harrison manned the fort manfully. Many bravura performances ensued from residents and floor singers. Several music hall songs kept the audience chuckling. Lovely to hear the full versions. We were given two May Day songs (not long to go now) and traditional songs appropriate for the time of year, plenty of self penned songs and even a Native American Indian song. An eclectic mix indeed.
A frequent guest at traditional clubs and Festivals in England and Ireland she delivers her songs with faultless professionalism. Rosie’s dark toned voice is perfect for her choice of Irish songs, lending itself to witty and funny items such as ‘Star of the Bar’ and ‘My Son in America’ and the thought provoking ‘Bunch of Damned Whores’. But of course the evening would not have been complete without a number of serious songs; notable examples were ‘Do me Justice’ and ‘Follow the Flag’. I look forward to seeing Rosie at Whitby Folk Week in the summer sunshine, I hope.
Johnny Handle and Chris Hendry 29 March 2017
Chris Coe writes:
Some of our club singers have known Chris and Johnny for over 40 years, and always loved their performance – the sureness of the songs and singing and the dedicationto the music, language , landscape and people of the North East and Scotland. All of this warmth and sharing made for a very special night.
Chris is one of our great singers /interpreters, particularly of the ballads. Her rich sure voice draws you quickly into the songs and the introductions were just right, giving us often a very visual experience and context of the songs. We were left in no doubt that these stories were about real people and their daily lives and struggles – with their pride, fortitude and humour. The same goes for Johnny and his songs of the Pits – often recounting his own experiences in the coal industry and we enjoyed the fruits of his wide research. His voice is mellow now and his musical skills arranging the accompanied songs on the accordion and putting to poetry of the regions show a light and sure touch.
The first half took us into the area of the farming – the bonnie plough boys-idyllic sometimes? A poem by Aaron Watson (The Mackerel Song) now has a fine tune by Johnny telling of the overfishing and the activity putting out the fishing boats when mackerel appear in the bay. It’s a story of hard times but refusal to give in – a degree of acceptance. The tones of the accordion suit Chris’s voice well. This set finished with a real treat as Chris sang the Ballad of the Four Marys. This is a strange, savage song which they put to two tunes, deepening the contrast between the cruelty of the child murder and the acceptance of Mary of her fate – which almost draws the audience into feeling sorry for her. A complex song, hard to sing and Chris told the details of the story in a controlled way. It was a masterful piece of storytelling. Chris and Johnnie have no problems working with the emotion of a story.
The second half dealt with the lives of the workers in the shipyards of the Clyde and stories of the colliers in the pits of the North East. Chris sang one of my favourite songs – Archie Fisher’s Fairfield Apprentice and I cried as I always do when it’s sung well! In this set the landscape shapes we saw as hills and coast were translated into mighty rivers and cranes painted bright colours and up to 300 feet high. (The Crane Song written by Barrie Temple is a fine piece of writing.) Songs and stories of the 2 industries with the onset of hard times, the battle for a decent wage and better conditions and their final demise up to today. The lives and struggles of the women. The songs, monologue and tunes painted a vivid picture of Northern industrial history and the people who lived and worked in it.
Altogether a wonderful evening of warmth, humour and love of the people and their songs, performed by 2 skilled musicians dedicated to the material. It was good to hear Johnny’s mad accordion interludes again– always done in the best of taste! And Chris’s wonderful controlled, expressive voice.
Thanks to them and to all our quality residents who make such evenings possible and successful.
Niamh Boadle 22 February 2017
Niamh Boadle entranced our audience last night at the Malt House with beautiful singing, virtuoso guitar and bodhran accompaniments, and wonderful tunes on the fiddle.
Niamh performed traditional songs such as “Young Hunting”, “Maid on the Shore”, and “Creggan White Hare” (with a wonderful bodhran accompaniment), and recently composed songs such as “The Only Life Gloria Knows” (Anthony John Clarke), “I’m a Fading Day by Day”(a combination of traditional with modern by Elizabeth Smith), plus two of her own compositions “Bill’s Missed the Last Boat Back” (about her grandfather’s experiences in WW2) and “Red Dust Road” remembering a road trip in Australia). I was impressed with the way she moved her voice to lift her songs. In between the songs she played some beautiful tunes on the fiddle, including a haunting set of “Dear Irish Boy”, “Waterman”, and a “Shetland Reel”.
Thanks to Niamh, the Pit Band and the Residents for a wonderful evening.
Tom Lewis 25 January 2017
High boots and pigtail hanging down behind, it was not hard to imagine that the guest at Wednesday’s Ryburn 3 Step Folk Club would regale us with things nautical.
Tom Lewis proved to be a very interesting and entertaining ‘turn’, splicing songs and stories in a very craftsmanlike fashion. His collection of songs was trawled from many experiences throughout his long life, (though his appearance belies this).
Born in Belfast (he briefly mimicked his grandfather who worked in the city’s shipyard), his own eclectic accent hinted that this man was much travelled. This was revealed throughout the evening as he told of his of his time at sea and of living abroad for many years. Time spent as a naval submariner and of subsequently living in Canada gave him the opportunity to develop his engaging style of delivery and hone a strong voice, well suited to songs about the harshness of life at sea and reflecting the humour needed to cope with often difficult situations.
Tom accompanied himself on melodeon and ukulele several times through his performance which included several items written by Cicely Fox-Smith, including the stirring ‘Eight bells rang from the foc’sle’.
His audience of around 45 strong at the Malt House were told of his early childhood memories, principally his affection for radio programmes, in particular ‘Green Sailors’ which helped foster his burgeoning fascination for the sea. Tom reflected on his musical influences, mentioning Lou Killen, Peter Bellamy and Cyril Tawney. These luminaries of the folk revival inspired Tom to write and sing thereby telling his own story as a seaman in the Royal Navy. Tom also ‘strayed onto land’ with a very fine rendition of the Bellamy classic ballad, ‘Hobden’.
Prior to the whole event the audience found themselves walking into a BBC Sport television recording in which local folk celebrity Joe Stead was being interviewed. Joe enlisted residents and audience members to sing the chorus of ‘Swing low Sweet Chariot’ for reasons too long to go into here but was broadcast on the BBC news on 3 February as part of the introduction to the ‘Six Nations’:
The club residents were in fine form. Pete Coe, Johnny Adams, Andy Day, and Steve Harrison opened the evening with a lively set of tunes. There were subsequent contributions from residents Annie Dearman and Steve Harrison, Tim Edwards (making his first appearance as an official club Resident), Sue Burgess, Terry Evans, Chris Manners, Alice Jones and more. Another splendid and highly successful Club evening.
Christmas Party 21 December 2016
What a night of seasonal song, music, and dance we had last night at the Malt House!
The Pit Band was on fine form to start the evening with some lively tunes, and then there was a succession of ‘seasonal songs and novelties’ ranging from carols, songs and poems to dancing and pantomime.
Brian Peters 30 November 2016
The R3S Folk Club’s guest on Wednesday 30 November at the Malthouse, Rishworth, was Brian Peters who presented the audience with two lively and highly accomplished sets of songs and tunes. He is a skilled exponent of the melodeon and anglo concertina, playing tunes and song accompaniments, and also accompanies himself on the guitar with an equal amount of expertise. He admitted that he had recently taken up the banjo so that he could sing ballads from his repertoire of
Appalachian songs and ballads, and we were treated to examples of his extended talents on this instrument!
As well as being a superb performer, Brian has an extensive knowledge of folk songs and their origins. “Turpin” was the first song, which he described as being an early example of ‘post-truth’ reporting, since it contained only one true statement. But it was a good song none the less. After a rendition of “Georgie” came 3 interesting tunes on the concertina, and then a version of “Barbara Allen” to an unusual tune. The first half finished with one of Brian’s own variations on a broadside, “Factory laws”, and in the 2nd half Brian started with “The grim ghost”, moving on to “Ranzo”, a lusty shanty, and then to unusual versions of two tunes, the “White joak” and the “Black joak”, from Thomas Watts.”Our captain calls all hands” (to the tune of “to be a pilgrim”) was followed by one of Walter Pardon’s songs, “the Rambling blade”.
Brian’s range of expertise on the melodeon was wonderfully demonstrated by his rendition of “Bright lights, big city”, with ranges of chord progressions that I didn’t know were possible on a melodeon….. Overall a great evening from a knowledgeable and accomplished performer.
The residents and ‘pit band’ are a great strength of the R3S Folk Club, and they were certainly on form. An addition to their songs and music was a step dancing spot from Sue and Ellie.
Jody Kruskal 7 November 2016
Last night (7 November) Jody Kruskal http://www.jodykruskal.com/ entertained an audience of some 25 eager listeners with an eclectic mix of American old-time and blues songs and music, singing to his fabulous accompaniments on his Anglo Concertina. What a performer!
After Jody’s concert, he joined with many of the musicians in the audience in a transatlantic session across the great Northern English – North American divide. It was pretty good. Thanks to Pete and Sue Coe for organising the event and hosting it in their house.
This photo is not of Jody, but is from his online gallery of vintage concertina players.
Jimmy Crowley 26 October 2016
I hadn’t seen Irish singer Jimmy Crowley performing live before, so I was greatly looking forward to this event. It was a delightful evening with our residents and a highly accomplished and knowledgeable performer who immediately established a comfortable rapport with the audience. Accompanying himself on bouzouki, guitar, and harmonica, Jimmy sang many songs from his hometown of Cork, and introduced each one with a story explaining how he found it, collected it, or wrote it.
Jimmy started with ‘Salonika’, about life for women in Cork after WW1, followed by the self-penned ‘Queen of the White Star Line’ and ‘My love is a tall ship’. We then heard about the ‘Girls of Ballytrappeen’ and how one day in Cork Jimmy had met the man who was probably the last person to sing it from the tradition. I had never heard of the subject of the ‘Bankers coup’, and the ‘Laughing laptop’ was in comparison a lighthearted play on modern communications. Jimmy’s accompaniments on the bouzouki and guitar demonstrated Jimmy’s virtuosity as did a couple of tunes on the harmonica.
The club residents did their bit – Chris Manners sang two songs from his ‘back catalogue’ which I haven’t heard before – to set the standard for the evening, but overall it was Jimmy Crowley’s night. He engaged the audience in the lovely room at the Malthouse from beginning to end. Marvellous stuff.
Huge thanks also go to the staff at the Malthouse in Rishworth for welcoming the Club to the new venue at very short notice!
Dana and Susan Robinson 28 September 2016
Last Wednesday evening, Ryburn 3 Step Folk Club at
the Works was treated to a fantastic evening of American Old Time music from Dana and Susan Robinson on the penultimate date of their UK tour. It was a great start to a wonderful season of music, song and dance which runs right through to June next year.
Dana and Susan gave us a delightful evening of songs and tunes with guitar, banjo, fiddle and mandola. Some were traditional Appalachian, and some were self-penned and contemporary, and all were performed with the enthusiasm and accomplishment that is the hallmark of this fine duo.
Audience participation was not confined to the choruses; the dancers amongst the regulars were delighted to engage in vigorous Appalachian stepping to the driving rhythms of Dana and Susan’s tune sets.
Granny’s Attic 29 June 2016
It is always a pleasure to attend an evening at the R3S Folk Club at The Works, the abundance of quality floor singers, and the wide range of songs sung by them, sets the standard of the evening and last night was no exception. In a week when politics and sport have not been very reassuring, it was so reaffirming to listen to songs and tunes played in surroundings that are familiar and comfortable and which are going to be carried forward into the future. After last night’s guest performance I think we can all be assured of that.
Granny’s Attic have developed a remarkable reputation which has travelled before them, and for me it was the first time that I had heard the three band members perform together.
So young, I could almost hear everyone say, and compared to the audience , they were! Age was not an issue and was soon forgotten as they delivered two sets of songs and delicious tunes, still on my mind is a Polish tune that was so tempting to dance to, familiar songs Poor Old Man , The Coal Owner and the Pitman’s Wife, The Highwayman were delivered with just a flavour of Bellamy, not a bad thing. They gained the respect of the audience and in return gauged so well the amount of information that was needed in their introductions, respect reflected, the less said by them the better. Flipping clever, fabulous and brilliant, were some of the comments I heard and agreed with. They were entertaining and joyous to watch, I think they enjoyed themselves just as much as the audiences did.
Highlights from the evening for me were: the opening tunes by the resident band , Pete’s Rolling Down The Ryburn, and Lynda Hardcastle and Alan Rose singing Dave Goulder’s January Man, but most memorable was the Granny’s Attic performance, a joy to behold and a reassurance that they are doing what they do for the same reasons as ourselves, which is our love of the music. Long may they continue!
To top off the evening I won the raffle and have a CD to remind me of a great evening.
Jeff Warner 25 May 2016
Wednesday night was the very welcome return of Jeff Warner to the Ryburn 3-Step folk club, where he has been a previous guest two or three times over the last 20-odd years. Based in New Hampshire, Jeff is a fine singer and musician, playing banjo, guitar, and English concertina, with an extensive knowledge of the North American folk song tradition, the latter inspired by his late parents, the noted song collectors Frank & Anne Warner. His stage approach is at the same time engaging and informative without seeming pious or didactic and his set list for this show contained some old favourites (such as ‘Little Black Train’, ‘Shanty Boy’, ‘Old Moke picking on the Banjo’ and Grandpa Jones’s ‘Eight more Miles to Louisville’) and some material that we hadn’t heard before (including words to the well-known old time tune ‘Booth Shot Lincoln’, Harry Lauder’s ‘Somebody waiting for me’ and ‘The Bold Harpooner’ (with some resemblances to the ‘Bonny Ship the Diamond’). Jeff asked for requests for his encore, the result being an emotional ‘Southern girl’s reply’.
As ever in our *proper* folk club, there were some fine performances from the floor. Pete Coe deployed his unique mountain dulcimer technique to accompany himself on ‘Across the Western Ocean’, Alan Rose & Lynda Hardcastle (once again visiting us from the Bacca Pipes club in Keighley) sang Sean Mone’s ‘Lovers and Friends’, John Bowden & Vic Shepherd (visiting from Sheffield) sang a splendid extended version of ‘The Nobleman and the Thresherman’, and Alice Jones reminded us how hard it must have been to make a living in textile mills at both sides of the Atlantic. Following the usual introductory dance tunes from the pit band (which included Chris Partington and Alice Jones), Annie Dearman and Steve Harrison opened the evening’s singing with the ‘Bedfordshire May Song’, sourced from the collection of Lucy Broadwood. Another great Club night all round.
Bill Caddick 27 April 2016
This review is tinged with sadness as Bill Caddick has announced and confirmed on the evening that he will not be touring any more so for many of us this was the last chance to hear him outside his own home patch in Shropshire. I won’t list all the bands, projects and ensembles he has been involved with over the years but I think it’s safe to say that he has made a unique contribution to the folk scene over some 50 years.
An audience of 60 was first serenaded by the pit orchestra of Pete Coe, Johnny Adams, Steve Harrison and Andy Day in fine form, followed by songs from Pete, Chris Coe and Annie Dearman (a version of Cold Blows the Wind with stunning imagery), Bob Butler and Sue Burgess.
Then Bill came on, starting with The Song must go on and then launching into a sequence of his songs from across his career. One of the great joys of Bill’s performances is re-discovering songs you’ve loved in the past and finding gems you’d somehow missed (more later).
It’s not as if it’s a list of greatest hits – he is so prolific that many well known songs couldn’t be fitted in but selfishly I’m pleased to most of my favourites were included! A personal selection from the first half included Lilly Marlene Walks Away – a brilliant example of Bill’s haunting if at times disturbing imagery – Cloud Factory, and that wonderful song of childhood lost Oller Boller.
The second half started with songs from Annie & Steve, Tim Edwards, Lynda Hardcastle and Alan Rose (Bob Pegg’s lovely Instructions to a Young Lark Man), Phil Cerny, and a welcome appearance from that well known caller, entertainer & musician Dave Hunt, tonight appearing in a new role as Bill’s roadie!
Looking back on it the second half was dominated by Bill putting together pairs of matching songs to great effect – Eights and Aces/Wild West Show, The Reaper/Writing of Tipperary, Old Man’s Song/Unicorns (I could go on) – superb songs which really complemented each other. Talking afterwards it was said rightly that Bill knows when to stop and is not embarrassed to write a short song – a rare gift.
However despite the rollcall above for me and others in the audience the highlight of the evening was Bill’s reworking of the brutal ballad Long Lankin – Lankin’s Revenge – which is the one I had managed to miss. Usually I don’t enjoy rewriting of old songs but for me Bill here expressed a humanity I’ve never found in the rather too bleak original (don’t expect a happy ending though!)
The evening ended with two more special songs – one of his most recent– Latter Days – and by popular demand John o’Dreams. A fitting end to a very special evening and if I’ve made it sound almost too good – well, why not? The man’s a wonder and we’re really lucky to have him.
Pete Coe at the Square Chapel, 10 April 2016
Last night was Pete Coe’s 70th birthday concert at Halifax’s Square Chapel, where we joined an audience of 90 or so, probably half of whom we knew personally. It was a genuine solo show – a remarkable 2.5 hours of Pete’s singing and reminiscing, broken only by an Appalachian step dance from Sue Coe and Ellie Lang, with Pete on banjo. Of course, there were were no great surprises for us – we’ve heard Pete on many occasions over the last 25 years – but, curiously enough, that enabled us to enjoy proceedings all the more, from opening song (Colin Cater’s ‘Penny for the Ploughboys’) to closer (Pete’s own highly personal and emotional ‘Rolling down the Ryburn’) to encore (Bob Zentz’s ‘Light from the Lighthouse’). All great songs, but our personal favourites from the evening were a great version of ‘Spanish Ladies’ (originally from the late Al O’Donnell, with additional verses from a folk club informant) and a fabulous ‘Banks of Red Roses’ (given to Pete many years ago by Sarah Makem’s next door neighbour). It’s not necessary to list all the songs from the evening, but it’s great that Pete is helping to keep the memory of the late Terry Conway alive with performances of ‘Walls of Troy’. And of course Pete and Chris Coe’s ‘Seven Warnings’ was never more apposite, as indeed is Matt McGinn’s ‘We’ll have a May Day’. Pete is, of course a master of many instruments, all of which were pressed into service for song accompaniments. His melodeons, like most of Steve’s, are 1930s Hohners. His Sobell bouzouki zings and bounces its way through songs, whilst his mountain dulcimer (from the same maker) is played in a unique style. Pete’s long-neck Stacey banjo, with Eric Gill-ish peg head devil, is also deployed in unmistakeable fashion. And Pete has returned to guitar after a gap of several decades, with the late Tony Rose’s old Harmony acoustic in DADGAD tuning. A night to remember!
John Kirkpatrick 30 March 2016
The usual ‘pit orchestra’ was supplemented by Keith Kendrick on concertina, who later on took the stage with Sylvia Needham giving voice to the song Too Fond of Honey, a sailor’s song new to me and hopefully to appear on their forthcoming CD.
Annie Dearman and Pete Coe took similar stances with her Fighting the Fight book-ending Pete’s rendition of Utah Phillips’ Singing Through The Hard Times, with accompaniments from Steve Harrison and Johnny Adams.
It was a night for contemporary songs ranging from Alice Jones’ Woody Knows Nothing (trad but reworked by Erik Darling), through Chris Manners’ new song Nothing More to Say, Nick Dow’s much requested Tom Walsh song The Faithful Horse, set at Appleby Fair to Terry Evans’ new song The Dream, which sported a narrative perilously close to her January rendition of Jolene!
Even our champion of the the traditional song Sue Burgess gave us a new set of words under the title of Once I Loved a Maiden Fair, but it was as traditional sounding as Bob Butler’s only slightly tardy Week Before Easter. Phil Cerney’s Ranger Song sounded as American as he is and paved the way nicely for John Kirkpatrick, who took to the stage with button box and launched straight into two Shropshire tunes – Wednesday Night and The Great Eastern Polka from manuscript sources.
Continuing one of the sub themes for the night, his first song was a union song from the 1840s Potteries – On The Road To Freedom. He doesn’t hang about and without starving us of contextual information he managed to cram a dozen songs/instrumentals into the first half. Notable inclusions were an unusual Waterloo song from Irish born Shropshire farmworker Ray Driscoll, entitled Pompalarie Jig, a song about Coalport China with a tune reminiscent of Mrs Merry’s Ball (George Fradley) and a suite of wartime songs (1st and 2nd) ranging from Florrie Ford to the Thomson and Heneker classic popularised by Gracie Fields:
I’m the girl that makes the thing
that drills the hole that holds the ring
that drives the rod that turns the knob
that works the thing-ummy bob
I would venture that not so many people could have a room full of folkies singing that fit to bust.
The second half took similar shape and notable inclusions were The Lawyer and The Cow, collected by Nick and Mally Dow off Beth Bond, a song learned for Shirley Collins’ 80th birthday celebration concert but crowded out on the night – The Captain with his Whiskers, a translation of Bara Grimsdöttir’s Icelandic hymn Füni with its wonderful phrygian mode tune, and a delightful song written for a kids project about Where I Live.
Finishing off with George Grossmith’s 1886 comic song, See Me Dance The Polka was a sure route to the inevitable encore, the result being a masterful and obviously heartfelt rendition of Blue Moon.
Overall it was a shambolic performance in the way that we’ve come to know and love. Few people could crumble halfway through a complex tune, play a very Les Dawson-esque section and then continue leaving the audience feeling even more entertained than if he’d got it right. He shines on the one row melodeon making you wonder how many notes the instrument actually does have, his walking basses on the button box leave accordionists chuckling and wryly shaking their heads, and his concertina playing is just, well, masterful. Add to that a large dose of self-deprecating humour and you’ve got the ingredients for a classic folk club night. 5 stars!
Bob and Gill Berry 24 February 2016
Bob and Gill Berry were the guests at February’s Ryburn 3 Step Folk Club. The upstairs room of ‘The Works’ in Sowerby Bridge was filled with a goodly crowd for Bob and Gill. The couple have run Devizes Folk Club for many years and are the main organisers of Chippenham Folk Festival. Their literature mentions a number of shows they have produced and that they run Wiltshire Folk Arts.Their years of experience as seasoned performers was evident both in the thoughtful arrangements and the blending of their powerful voices often in harmony as well as renditions individual solo pieces and others accompanied by Bob, mainly on guitar and bouzouki.
Their material was very varied and I can only mention my personal favourites here. The period song ‘All you who are good fellows’ was sung to a tune that may date from the C17th. Amusing and unusual songs included ‘I was much better off in the Army’. We were given a lovely version of ‘The Shearers Song’ collected by Alfred Williams. Their stirring rendition of ‘England’s Glory’ written by John Prosser, tells of the struggle of ‘match girls’ for safe working conditions at the Bryant and May factory in the famous strike of 1888. The round ‘Patapan’ showcased the duo’s well-matched voices.
It was rare treat to see this duo in the North of England and their presence at the club attracted a number of excellent floor singers. Very notable performances were given by former guest at this club, Nick Dow who gave an attentive audience a beautiful rendition of the ‘Grey Cock’. A sparkling performance of the ‘Golden Vanity’ on concertina and voice, elicited cheers from the audience for young Cohen Braithwaite- Kilcoyne who will be the club guest as part of ‘Granny’s Attic’ in June. Other spots (too numerous to mention by name) by rare attenders and regular residents made for a thoroughly enjoyable event. Such a wealth of talent gathered together on a cold winter’s night in West Yorkshire, and all for the modest sum of nine quid! Long may this unique club thrive thanks to Pete and Sue Coe and the team for their continued work in running the show.
Harp and a Monkey 27 January 2016
The January Ryburn Folk Club night got the new year off to a good start with guests Harp & a Monkey supported by a wide range of resident and visiting singers.
After the usual instrumental warm up by ‘The Sessionaires’, Pete Coe led some of us in his anthemic Red Shift song ‘Seven Warnings’ followed by probably the most varied set of songs we’ve heard at the club for many a year. These included a brand new and somewhat different style song from resident songsmith Chris Manners, a fine ‘Locks & Bolts’ ballad from Sue Burgess, a Dylan song (North Country Blues) from Chris Coe who also joined forces with Annie Dearman on the somewhat racy traditional song ‘Fancy Lads’.
Later in the night we heard ‘Banks of Newfoundland’ from Annie Dearman and Steve Harrison, Dave Pawson’s ‘Lizzy Lindsay’ and a very authentic sounding ‘Silver Dollar’ from Phil Cerny. A very un-authentic sounding ‘Jolene’ was delivered with concertina accompaniment by Terry Evans whose husband Huw himself delivered another of his rambling anecdotes about life, with no great punch line but plenty of laughs along the way.
Harp and a Monkey polarise opinion. Many of the audience had travelled specifically to see them and knew what to expect. Some people who didn’t know them were a little put off by their pre-recorded backing tracks. Instrumentally they share banjo, guitar, accordion, glockenspiel and, not unexpectedly, harp. These were often doubled up on the backing tracks along with additional content like sound effects, atmospheres and some very carefully chosen and occasionally highly emotional oral history interviews, underlining the content of a song. The nearest I can get to it in description is to liken it to a live version of the Radio Ballads. For me it worked really well, but I’m not only a Radio Ballads fan but a qualified film sound designer and I felt completely at home with the concept – and their interaction with the tracks was masterful.
To even things up acoustically, PA was a necessity but there is no getting past the fact that it does create a barrier between performer and audience. It wasn’t a problem when we had Nic Jones last year but then it wouldn’t be would it? Here, it did restrain the audience a little and the opportunities to join in chorus and refrain lines were not as readily taken as usual. This was more than compensated by the friendly, amusing and engaging presentation from the three excellent performers.
The songs themselves were high in social comment. Apart from a couple of traditional songs (The Manchester Angel and The Molecatcher) and a re-working of Harry Boardman’s ‘Bolton Yard’, it was self penned stuff. Three songs from their ‘wartime suite’ started the second half, ‘The Gallipolli Oak’ being the most memorable. The story is of a man taking an English Oak sapling to plant somewhere near the unmarked grave of his slain teenage son, bribing a Turkish gardener to water it. Generations later the Turkish man’s descendants are still watering the tree and the soldier’s family still visit the tree. At the other end of the scale was a song about the plight of men who survived the war but didn’t successfully survive the peace.
The ‘allegedly’ Playford tune, ‘Oats and Beans and Barley Grow’, gets a new set of words under the title ‘Payday’. A song which had particular resonance for me, having visited some of the Spanish Civil War museums last year, was ‘Walking in Footsteps of Giants’, a comment on the fact that many northern men who took part in the mass trespass on Kinder in 1932 also went on to walk across the Pyrenees and join The International Brigade against Franco’s fascists.
There could be so much to say about all of the songs.You won’t find any tub thumping, as they approach both the hardness and the beauty of life from most unexpected directions and are beautifully crafted. Rather than produce an academic treatise here, I would urge you to open your mind, go and see the band and, better still, buy the CDs. You’ll be rewarded with a hugely thoughtful performance dressed up expertly with a music that often belies the content. As they remarked from the stage – the darker the material the more the instrumentation starts to resemble a ‘Peppa Pig’ backing track. Don’t be fooled – there’s humour, pathos, blood, sweat and tears in there!
Christmas party 16 December 2015
Seasonal celebrations for R3S started at ‘The Works’ in Sowerby Bridge on 16 December with the Folk Club Christmas party. Over 20 of our residents and regulars performed seasonal songs and novelties much to the delight and amusement of all who attended. As well as the singers and musicians, the Ryburn Step Dancers and the Ryburn Longsword Dancers gave flashy displays of f
ancy footwork and sword wielding, and the Ryburn Singers charmed us with their harmonies. And there were party food and mince pies as well!
Christmas Party capers – Huw Evans
One of my favourite Christmas recollections is of the time that Tony Blackburn played Steeleye Span’s ‘Gaudete’ and on its conclusion remarked that he didn’t think it very Christmassy. You will have to have the strange convolutions of my brain explained to you to see the link with the Christmas party held down at The Works in Sowerby Bridge: some of the festive clothes worn by performers were definitely on the gaudy side and as all students of the English language know the origins of the word gaudy lie in the Latin ‘gaudium’ meaning joy. Not only that but the evening’s proceedings were a veritable cornucopia of Christmas cheer: all manner of performances from a seemingly endless supply of talent, vocal, instrumental and terpsichorean providing ample quantities of joy and rejoicing on all sides so that even Mr Blackburn would surely have appreciated it.
The programme, planned by Steve Harrison and Annie Dearman, flowed seamlessly through no less than thirty-two separate performances from a splendid opening with Pete Coe singing the rousing Sheffield carol “Sweet Bells” through to the grand finale of Pete, the Pit Band and the Ryburn 3-Step Step Dancers leading the audience through Wassail Song.
In between there were songs traditional and modern, sacred and secular, readings, recitations and story-telling. What price a version of ‘Ugly Duckling’ Danny Kaye never dreamed of, the cautionary tale of a (temporarily) flying baby, or the travails of a young lad whose ambition it was to be a pantomime dame? Or stories and songs from Gloucestershire, Wales and the Appalachian Mountains?
It is impossible to do justice to all the performances,but some still linger in the mind. Chris Coe and Annie Dearman sang delicately, precisely, beautifully ‘Westrun Wynd’ and, in the second half ‘Bonny Boy’. Keith Kendrick and Sylvia Needham, having endured a nightmare four hour drive, got to sing twice: you could have heard a pin drop. Chris Manners demonstrated his versatile dexterity as wordsmith and musician. Alice Jones, all sequins and feathered wings, pumped her harmonium and sang like an angel. And, of course, holding the evening together, was Pete Coe, performing solo, as half of a duo and as part of The Pit Band.
Who else? The Ryburn Three-Step Step Dancers (whose enthusiasm almost lead to their downfall when they discovered that the stage was smaller than they thought) and the Ryburn Longsword Dancers who knotted their blades into a semblance of a Christmas tree, Steve Harrison, Terry Evans, Tim Edwards, Gill Heritage, Pauline Jones, Sue Burgess, Sue van Gaalen, Phil Cerny, Tim Edwards, Sue Coe and Huw Evans. What else? Melodeon, tenor guitar, English concertina, fiddle, hammer dulcimer, harmonium, guitar, octave mandolin, harmonica and a virtual yoyo…
Dave Webber and Anni Fentiman 25 November 2015.
The room at The Works in Sowerby Bridge was full for Dave Webber and Anni Fentiman on 25 November. Dave and Anni have been singing together for 30 years and their accomplished performance of songs from Dave’s own writing and Anni’s native North-east have earned them a fine reputation on the Folk scene in the UK and abroad. Their voices seem perfectly matched for two-part harmony, while the occasional solo demonstrates the personal character of their individual interpretations.
Starting with “The bonny ship the Diamond” Dave and Anni immediately gave the audience something to sing about. We then spotted the deliberate mistake in the murderous intent of ‘Sweet Randall” (‘Woody nightshade’ doesn’t actually kill you but then ‘Deadly nightshade’ doesn’t rhyme), and were treated to two insights into the peculiar attractions of colliers and keelmen. A poem (one of “Two Songs”) by C. Day-Lewis and set to a tune by Roy Harris told how the ‘Flowers of the town’ were lost in the Great War. Dave’s song “Charlie Fox” was followed by the “Ullswater Hunt” to give an interesting pair of viewpoints. They finished with “Roll on another day” and “My lady of autumn” as an encore. In between the songs we heard about where the songs came from and how they had developed, while Dave and Anni’s marvellous enjoyment of performing them was evident throughout.
Songs from the residents and floor singers included “Byker Hill” from Pete Coe (with Johnny Adams, Chris Coe, and Steve Harrison), a lesser-known version of “The black velvet band” from Steve Harrison and Annie Dearman, and “Young Hindhorn” from Chris Coe. Cohen Braithwaite-Kilcoyne gave a terrific performance of “Tom the Barbour”, accompanying himself on Anglo concertina, and Sue Burgess sang “Ramble away”. Sue van Gaalen, Chris Manners and Terry Evans gave the audience food for thought at the start of the second half, and Tom Lewis’ song “Radio times” gave us a history of popular music from the 1950’s on.
Laura Smyth and Ted Kemp 28 October 2015.
The mood of this particular event was apparent from the start as the residents and guests produced well-crafted songs and tunes, one after another to give a gentle and thoughtful tone to the whole evening. The guests were Laura Smyth and Ted Kemp;Laura, whose day job is Director of the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library at Cecil Sharp House and her partner Ted Kemp (who is also a librarian) proved fine bearers of our native song tradition.
Their set was packed with a selection of songs from north and south of the country, always chosen with a variation of tune or words to delight the discerning traditional music audience. There were so many notable songs from the duo it is hard to pick one from the bunch but their performance of ‘The female highwayman’ was excellent and reflected Gordon Hall’s much loved rendition without being a parody which could so easily happen in the hands of less sensitive performers. Laura accompanied some songs on concertina and cello, whilst Ted accompanied Laura on banjo and guitar for many of the songs, but also added gentle vocal harmonies to a number of her songs, notably Frank Hinchliffe’s ‘The Golden Glove’, to subtle effect. Well-known songs such as ‘The Manchester Angel’ and the Coppers’ ‘Shepherd of the Downs’ sounded fresh in these performances. All lovely stuff.
A spirited set of tunes from the evening’s ‘pit band’ (Pete Coe, Steve Harrison, Johnny Adams, and Andy Day) opened proceedings. Pete Coe gave us two songs during the evening. On the first song he was accompanied by Steve and Johnny for his brilliant version of Spanish Lady which he sang in memory of Al O’Donnell (who passed away recently) from their days together at Cheltenham folk Club back in the 1970s. Later in the evening, Pete sang the seasonal soul-caking song ‘Welcome Cold November’ a very poignant recollection of his childhood in Cheshire, ‘Soul-caking’ round the streets of Northwich. Chris Coe showed yet again her mastery of the classic ballad form by singing ‘The wife of Usher’s Well’. Sue Burgess regaled us with ‘ Blue-eyed Sally’ and Sue van Gaalen sang her version of a ‘Died for Love’ ballad. Alice Jones also sang a traditional song ‘The Cruel Mother’. All added to the evening’s sense of songs well chosen for the occasion, some reflecting the approach of Halloween. For the fashionistas amongst you, Alice’s dress was printed with lurid spooky monsters! Annie Dearman and Steve Harrison dug into their back repertory for ‘The Besom Maker’ and their anglicised version of ‘The Roving Ploughboy’ with words taken from Robert Burns and tune from Jane Turriff, both accompanied on melodeon. The audience were invited by a very welcome guest floor singer, Terry Evans to sing along with her in Tim Hardin’s ‘Reason to believe’, proving just how well known and much loved the song is, whilst accompanying herself admirably on concertina.
How lucky we are to have so many people able to create such a great atmosphere at our club.
Nic and Joe Jones 30 September 2015.
The opening night at Ryburn 3 Step’s Folk Club on 30 September was a stormer. Nic and Joe Jones entertained a packed audience with a mixture of accomplishment, humour, and nostalgia as Nic sang many of the songs that are indelibly associated with his unique style, and Joe’s guitar accompaniments displayed great virtuosity while being very much in the spirit of Nic’s original arrangements. For many people who were around in the folk scene in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, Nic Jones was one of the most exciting, innovative, and talented singers of the folk revival. Sadly this was cut short by his serious accident in 1982, and for many years afterwards it seemed unlikely that this great talent would ever be heard again. But in recent years he has returned to the stage accompanied by his son Joe, and the R3S Folk Club run by Nic’s great friend Pete Coe was honoured to have this remarkable duo opening its 2015 / 16 season at the Works in Sowerby Bridge.
Joe plays the definitive accompaniments on Nic’s rebuilt guitar,occasionally joining in the vocals with the harmony line. Nic’s singing still displays his trademark mastery of phrasing and nuance so that if you shut your eyes you could be transported back to the folk clubs of 35+ years ago. But this live performance was more than recreating the songs – the father / son banter kept the audience much amused, and the overwhelming impression was that of two outstanding performers enjoying a really good time.
The songs we heard included The Indian Lass, Canadee – I – O, The Drowned Lovers, The Humpback Whale, The Little Pot Stove, Barrack Street, The Flandyke Shore, Farewell to the Gold, Rapunzel, and Ploughman Lads. In introducing his version of Loudon Wainwright III’s Swimming Song, Nic invited Pete Coe, Chris Coe, and Johnny Adams to join him for the performance, delighting the audience with the recreation of the ‘Bandoggs’ sound.
Thanks for a fabulous evening go to Nic and Joe and the floor singers; Liz Conway on dulcimer who came down from Hexham and with Pete performed The Walls Of Troy written by her late husband Terry Conway; Johnny Adams and Chris Coe; Steve Harrison and Annie Dearman; Sue Burgess; Chris Manners; Sue van Gaalen; Keith Kendrick and Sylvia Needham; and Bob Butler.
Aileen Carr – guest at Ryburn 3 Step Folk Club held upstairs at ‘The Works’ Sowerby Bridge on June 25th 2015.
A long awaited visit from Aileen Carr, a Scottish singer, well known in traditional folk circles for her lovely voice and sensitive rendition of songs learnt both from printed collections and from the great source singers in the traveller community. Aileen captivated the ballad aficionados and general audience with full and interesting texts to raunchy songs such as ‘The weaver’s gone to ma’ apron and ‘The Town Clerk’, and beautiful renditions of classic ballads including ‘Queen among the Heather’ and ‘Cruel Mother’.
A particular delight was to hear her version of ‘The pear tree’ so familiar to Yorkshire folkies from the singing of Frank Hinchcliffe and more recently, his son, Roger. Aileen’s version differs from Frank’s in which the story ends with a coat left under the tree, becoming in her version, a gown. An example of the variability of text as songs move around this country and further afield.
Singers from the floor included Chris Coe (accompanied by Johnny Adams) who sang the George Dunn version of ‘The Wager’. Pete Coe gave us ‘Harry Wharton’, one of the late Terry Conway’s many wonderfully crafted songs. Other floor spots were provided by Tim Edwards, Sue Burgess, Phil Cerny, Sue van Gaalen, and Annie Dearman& Steve Harrison. As is often the case, the high standard of floor singers was commented upon by the guest and this occasion was no exception.
Review of Bruce Molsky May Folk Club 2015
Bruce Molsky was the guest at Ryburn 3 Step folk club, upstairs at ‘The Works’ in Sowerby Bridge on 27 May 2015.The 90-strong audience were treated to a very varied and excellent programme from this master of every instrument he plays. So there were great solo performances on fiddle, guitar, 5 string banjo, and of course voice. His fiddle and banjo playing of dance tunes naturally delighted the American old-time aficionados in the audience, especially when Phoebe Ophelia Douthwaite and other past and present members of Sue Coe’s Appalachian step class danced to Bruce’s fiddle. And his singing, too, was wonderful – gentle yet electrifying, one might say. The record crowd clapped and cheered through to the dot of eleven o’clock.
And it should always be remembered that this is a proper folk club, with resident singers and musicians many of whom are performers in their own right. Pete Coe sang his unusual version of ‘Shenandoah’, with his lovely distinctive self-accompaniment on Appalachian dulcimer. Singer-songwriter Chris Manners performed a great new song, whilst other song spots were ably filled by residents Sue Burgess, Bob Butler, Alice Jones and Annie Dearman & Steve Harrison. The evening was opened with instrumentals by the club’s ‘pit band’, all experienced ceilidh band musicians.