Banjo players get a raw deal in the UK and we all know a few banjo jokes, but if ever there was a musician to dispel that image it must be Dan Walsh. Playing the banjo from the age of 13 and honing his skills on the now famous Newcastle University folk degree course, Dan has developed into a stunningly good player. Critically acclaimed as one of finest banjo players in the country, Dan has played to audiences across the UK and the World! He has played to packed houses in Canada, India and Germany, and was just about to set off on a month-long tour of New Zealand when we were lucky enough to have him play at the Poppy Folk Club.
In two brilliant sets he displayed a remarkable range of styles and influences, including bluegrass, traditional folk, eastern European music and even Arabic flavours. The music included tunes and (mostly self-penned) songs, and ranged through waltzes and ballads; incredibly complex Arabic-inspired tunes with much string bending and weird time signatures; to breath-taking, breakneck reels and jigs with blurred hands flying everywhere. Terrific stuff!
To break up both sets (apparently to prevent us from becoming "all banjo'd out" ), Dan displayed excellent talents as a guitarist - so good, in fact, that I could have happily listened to a whole night of that (maybe next time!). His version on Paul Simon's 'Call me Al' was terrific!
My favourites? Well, despite the shear brilliance of the blisteringly fast reels, it was a couple of slower tunes that really hit the spot for me - the opening tune, Alistair Anderson's 'Road to the North'; and the beautiful set of his own Waltz tunes. The mesmerising 'Turkish Delight' set was also something very special. It was, to sum up, another excellent concert!
It was, incidentally, the first concert to be performed on the new portable staging, jointly funded by the Poppy Folk Club, the Poppy and Pint, and the Lady Bay Community Association. Many thanks to all concerned!
Lastly, thanks to Steve Plowright and Juliet & Ally for starting off the two halves of the concert; and to everyone who stayed on for the post-concert song and music session. The evening ended with another of Phil's crazy ideas - Duelling Banjos with Dan Walsh playing the lead part and just about every other musician in the room playing (something like) the reply.