Jeff Warner is an American musician, singer, folklorist, collector of songs and stories, and an all-round fascinating performer. He usually spends the summer in the UK, performing at festivals and clubs, as well as giving talks and performances in schools and to other groups.
Jeff's parents, Ann and Frank Warner, travelled rural USA on folksong collecting trips and Jeff accompanied them on their later field trips - he is the editor of his mother's book, Traditional American Folk Songs: From the Anne and Frank Warner Collection.
Jeff plays concertina, banjo, guitar, bones, spoons and jews harp, and is usually accompanied on at least one song by his fascinating 'jig doll'. He is a captivating performer, holding the audience spellbound with his simple and authentic delivery and fascinating stories about the history of the songs and how they have developed and evolved in their migration around the World.
To set the scene, Jeff started with a version of the Bonny Ship the Diamond called 'The Striking of the Whale' - this version being, we were told, the one quoted in Moby Dick! We were then treated to a John Short shanty - 'Won't you go my way' - and a selection of songs accompanied by banjo; before switching to Jews Harp for 'Hickory Tree'; and a beautifully sung unaccompanied 'In That Storm' about the 1928 storms in the Southern states.
Then it was Jig Doll time, with the little wooden genius dancing to the song 'Lynchberry Town'. Very clever and rather lovely!
Jeff then moved to the Concertina to accompany one the songs for which he is well known - 'Her Bright Smile Haunts Me Still' - then a lovely Harry Lauder song 'There's Somebody Waiting For Me' which included the quaint line ' with a smile and a wee cup of tea'.
After a wee break, the second set started with a contemporary song - 'Chicken in a Pot', then 'Come and take a trip in my airship', and a logging song - 'When the Shanty Boy Comes Down', (a different sort of shanty - the loggers' shack). Jeff followed this with a lovely story, popular in the logging community, about 'Silver Jack'.
More versatility: Jeff then picked up his guitar and sang a really lovely 'Jolly Tinker' - probably my favourite moment on the concert - before an unaccompanied and almost equally lovely 'I won't be home tomorrow'.
With an encore of Stephen Foster's 'Oh Suzanna', Jeff had given us 110 minutes of music and songs - and everyone was totally absorbed by the performance.
Big thanks to John Bentham and to Ally & Juliet for their songs from the floor to start each set.
As usual, a Post-concert session followed, with a small but perfectly formed group of singers and musicians staying on to end another excellent evening.