Poppy Folk Day
Sunday 20th March 2016
The fifth Poppy Folk Day, and the upstairs room was set up and ready to go before the 10am deadline when the early morning song and music session began. A small but perfectly formed group of early-risers had lubricated their voices with coffee and croissants to get the day off to a very pleasant start. Joining us from Derby, Steve and Julie were on hand to sing us some lovely harmonies; Malcolm Goodall gave us songs accompanied by guitar and concertina (not at the same time of course!); Yvonne Dreyer’s chosen instrument was the Tenor Ukulele; and Pat Shore was persuaded to give us some lovely tunes on borrowed guitar. Along with Poppy organisers Dave, Phil and Julie, the day got off to a great start.
Julie Palmer drew the short straw and took to the stage for the first of the four spots that made up the early afternoon concert, and delighted the gradually growing audience with a broad range of songs. Starting with the Yorkshire classic ‘Swaledale’, she included folk standards ‘Linden Lea’ and ‘The Three Ravens’; Gillian Kemp’s ‘Cecil & the gardener’ and her own composition ‘Rustle & Thud’. Julie finished an excellent set with ‘My Darling Girl’, which she had learned for her parents’ anniversary after hearing it sung by Dave Fletcher and Bill Whaley.
Steve Benford is an excellent and versatile guitarist from Beeston who performs with the local Phil Langran Band and has a particular interest in the music of the Irish Harpist Turlough O’Carolan. But although Steve started his set with a beautiful version of O’Carolan’s ‘Fanny Powers’, the rest of the set was a very nice mix of styles, including Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘Early Morning Rain’; a bluesy ‘Walkin’ down the Road Feelin’ Bad’; and a lovely arrangement of ‘When First to this Country’.
Jenny Bell & Wil Walker, both regular solo performers at the Poppy Folk Club, first combined their efforts when Jenny was recording some tracks for her first CD, so it was a treat for us to hear Jenny singing some of her songs with Wil’s inventive fiddle accompaniments. The set included several of Jenny’s own compositions: ‘Mistletoe Bough pt2’, ‘The Colours of Harmony’, and ‘Oh Boy, Just Look at You Now’ showing of her song-writing and guitar playing skills; while ‘Drink to me Only’ was beautifully played on the Lute.
Paul Carbuncle headlined the first concert in his own, very unique ‘punk-folk’ style. His sets always surprise, entertain, and prod your mind into doing a bit of thinking! His first song, ‘Chopping an Onion’ is an example of all three, starting with a ‘regret to inform’ telegram and ending with ‘now when she chops onions, no-one asks why she cries’ – it’s a terrific song. Other memorable highlights in a very varied list were the crazy ‘Squirrels’ and ‘Pig Farmer’; folk standards ‘The Grey Cock’ and ‘Pull on the String’; Half Man-Half Biscuit’s ‘Restless Legs’; Dylan’s ‘A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall’; and his closing song, Les Barker spoof ‘Ben Kenobi’. Great stuff!
Norman Randall gave us a lovely, short set of songs in ‘A Human Jukebox’ last summer so we were delighted to ask him open the second concert today. Norman is a founder member of the shanty group ‘Trent Navigation Company’ so it wasn’t surprising that we had a few sea songs, but Norman has a lifetime of experience to call on and performed a lovely variety of songs in a warm and relaxing style. Norman’s set included plenty for the audience to join in with too, with ‘Ye Mariners All’; ‘A rake and a Rambling Boy’; ‘Adieu to Old England’; ‘Ten Thousand Miles’; and ‘So Long, It’s Been Good to Know You’. A nice version of ‘Brigg Fair’ and an American dust-bowl ballad completed the very enjoyable set.
On the Fence may be better known to local folk club goers as Dave and Julia Taylor, who run the folk club at Seagrave and have often been visitors to Poppy Folk Club. Dave’s sense of humour is priceless and he has written and performed some very funny songs, and released several CDs. Julia’s contribution in the duo is in the very fine singing of what I’ll call the ‘serious stuff’ – traditional and contemporary ballads – which she does very well. The set was pretty much turn and turn-about with first Dave, then Julia taking the lead; but both provide harmony or accompaniment to the other.
Julia’s highlights were the singing of ‘Midnight on the Water’ and Paul Metsers’ ‘Need for Wings’; while Dave exceled with ‘Daddy, Don’t Become a Morris Dancer’ and ‘Leonard Cohen’s Shanty Men’!
Marc Block has been a great supporter of the club since it opened its doors nearly five years ago. He is currently working on a new CD – to be launched at the club later this year! This afternoon he had made the decision to sing a set comprising only songs he has written himself – some very recent and some from his back catalogue. We heard ‘Eco Street’, ‘Black Dog’, ‘The Moon & My Sisters’ (a very early one!), ‘Windswept Island’ (my favourite), and the great singalong ‘My Young Man’s A Fine Young man’. Can’t wait for the new CD!
Next up The Strawberry Jammers. To bring a close to the late afternoon concert, we had invited the band we had seen at the club since their inception only a couple of years ago, and they’ve certainly come a long way in that short time! Put simply, they specialise in singing the songs we know and love - and enjoying themselves in the process. So we ended the afternoon with lots of choruses and some great songs: ‘Farewell to the Gold’ (from the excellent Paul Metzers); ‘Love Potion No9’ (there’s a surprise!); ‘Caladonia’ (Dougie MacLean); ‘Raggle-Taggle Gypsies’; ‘Hard Times of Old England’; and the tune ‘The Rochdale Coconut Dance’ (led by Jim Hellewell on harmonica); then ‘Roll Down’; ‘Go and Enlist’; and lastly ‘The Rambling Rover’ from the late, great, Andy M Stewart.
And so, after a cracking good MUSIC SESSION in the bar of the Poppy and Pint, it was time for the …
Claire Halliday, a key member of the Poppy Folk Club team, has been playing the melodeon since she was a very young girl and is sought-after as a musician for several morris teams. She has become a stunningly good player of English and European tunes and gave us a brilliant set here. On her first big support spot at the club she played the morris tune ‘Cuckoo’s Nest’; a mazurka ‘For Marion’; a bouree ‘Fil et Bobine’; Rosza; John Spiers’ tune ‘Jiggery Pokerwork’; and Andy Cutting’s ‘The History Man’. Very impressive!
Finally The Hut People. I first saw Gary Hammond and Sam Pirt play together as The Hut People at Whitby Folk Week and was amazed by their energy and talent. Sam is a lightning-fast and skilful accordion player who has played in several bands (Barleycorn Band, 422, AAAAG); while Gary is an incredibly versatile and clever percussionist who has played with The Beautiful South and Nina Simone, among many others.
The stage was full of percussion instruments – and several other assorted items that would make percussive sounds during the evening! Washboards, Cajon, Djembe – we’re familiar with those – but Mr Knocky was something I had NEVER seen!
The Hut People like to name their tune sets so they are relevant to the audience, so tonight’s opening set was spontaneously named ‘Quentin and Christine’s set’ after picking out two people in the room for that special honour. Much of the concert showed off the amazing versatility of Sam’s accordion playing and the frankly incredible skill of Gary’s percussion. Many tunes were their own compositions, but we were also treated to interpretations of a Swedish Nyckelharpa tune; the classic ‘Music for a Found Harmonium’; ‘The Wind that Shakes the Barley’; and ‘Napoleon Crossing the Rhine’.And while Gary was showing off his talents with helix hemispheres, washboards and assorted drums and boxes (sometimes with at least three rhythms going on at the same time!), Sam also joined in the percussive fun with terrific foot-stepping and Appalachian stepping – while simultaneously playing the tune!
A night of brilliant musicianship, skill and fun, to end a great Folk Day!