Review: Dana & Susan Robinson

The last night of our American season saw the return to the Ryburn Folk Club of the hugely talented Dana & Susan Robinson. It’s always a pleasure to hear their mixture of traditional, contemporary and self-penned songs. It was also a chance to cheer ourselves up in these troublesome political times.

Dana & Susan Robinson. Photo: Andy Day

The evening kicked off with the usual overture of dance tunes provided by the Old Bridge Inn Sessionaires before letting Pete Coe loose with Vic Gammon‘s scathing song about the monarchy, The Kings and Queens of England. Alice Jones followed with Frank Kidson‘s collected version of Let Him Go. Gill Himsworth took me back to my school music lessons with Linden Lea, Chris Manners forsook the usual wry comedy to deliver his moving song about Napoleon on Elba, Lantern and the Moon, and Sue Burgess rounded off with the rather un-jolly but excellent song, The Unquiet Grave.

Without preamble Dana and Susan kicked off their set with Everyone Knows What’s Coming followed by their versions of Working On The Railroad, Katie Cruel, and into a self penned song from their new album The Town That Music Saved, a song called simply Shine – an inspirational antidote to bad news.

So listen up people and hear my song
We’re gonna find a way to carry on
It’s not about me and it’s not about you
It’s about all of us getting the message through
About how to shine, shine, shine, shine
Yea we got to shine, shine, shine, shine

This and many of their latest songs are rooted in their home town of Cabot in Vermont, to where they moved about four years ago from North Carolina. Everybody’s Got A Gig to Go To celebrates the abundance of musicians and venues in the town and we were able to look up the subject of Harry’s Hardware Store and view it on Google Street View.

A spirited version of the nursery rhyme Who Killed Cock Robin finished off the first set and featured Dana playing very effectively up ‘the dusty end’ of his mandolin.

Unusually, The Sessionaires were called upon to play another overture kicking off after the break. The tunes included a couple from Pete Coe’s latest venture about the Peterloo massacre, Ladds Dance & Roxianne from Manchester manuscripts. Huw Evans sang The Sheffield Grinder and Chris Coe delighted one of her fans, Susan Robinson, with a top class rendition of the ballad Love Henry.

Dana & Susan Robinson.
Photo: Andy Day

Dana and Susan’s evening continued with Ashville Blues, followed by Dana’s Spokane, a tribute to the late labour activist Utah Phillips and named after the town where he was resident at the end of his life.
Ain’t No Cane was followed by Rayna Gellert‘s Grey Bird. (Link)
Inevitably, the lively fiddle & banjo tune set Down The River I Go Joe featured the dancing feet of Sue Coe, joined on this occasion by the equally nimble feet of Alice Jones. Then the lovely Ola Belle Reed song Undone in Sorrow (we heard it from Riley Baugus last month too) was followed by The Cuckoo, and the last song of the set was James Keelagham‘s Walk On. ( link ) This is a rousing marching song co-written with Catherine MacLellen and of course it led to an inevitable encore.
Keep on walking till we all get home!

To finish the evening they sang a song that we are well familiar with – Chris Coe‘s Fashioned Of The Clay, which features on their album American Hornpipe.

It was nice to hear the pair playing duet guitar as they’ve previously not been able to fly out with both guitars. Having the two instruments liberates Dana somewhat and allows some nifty finger work. Susan’s banjo playing is beautifully understated and features a nifty little trick where she, in passing, flicks a percussive ‘note’ out of a dampened string. It adds a nice dimension to the sound and is reminiscent of the same trick impressively used by Nancy Kerr, where she plays passing pizzicato notes on the fiddle. These are the little things which suggest virtuosity without requiring ‘flames and explosions’ in the playing.

Great stuff!

Johnny Adams

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