Sunday 22nd January 2017
We were delighted to finally have Mick Ryan and Paul Downes at the Poppy Folk Club - they've been on our 'must get' list for a couple of years, as the Poppy Team have all enjoyed their music at other clubs and festivals. Mick has a gorgeously rich voice and is a prolific songwriter, as well as being the composer of several highly acclaimed 'Folk Operas'. Paul is a terrific guitarist with a back-catalogue of collaborators that includes such names as Phil Beer and Pete Seeger, and provides sensitive vocal harmonies to Mick's singing. They are also very entertaining on stage (and off) with the kind of jokes and banter that comes from people who really enjoy working together.
With a new CD in the making, we were treated not only to a number of new songs, such as 'The Midshipman's Boast' and 'All at Sea', but with many of their most popular songs from previous recordings. Personal favourites included 'Love is Life', 'Summer is a Comin' in' and 'The Lazy Man', as well as the eponymous Folk Opera song 'The Paupers' Path'. 'The Bells Rang Out' is another favourite, showing off Paul's guitar accompaniment a treat!
A noteworthy feature of Mick's singing is his amazing ability to hold a note, seemingly forever, and this was showed off wonderfully in two very contrasting songs. 'The Lark above the Downs' is a powerful lament from the Folk Opera 'A Day's Work' where it is sung by a conscientious objector before his execution - Mick sings out the final note of each chorus with an incredible control of breath. The other note-holding showpiece, in total contrast, is the song 'Oh Swine!' - a much more light-hearted song with Mick and Paul competing for the longest held note! I declare it a tie!
Throughout the concert, Paul had switched between guitar and banjo, both played with great skill. In the second half, he was given a solo spot to sing the Gerry Rafferty song 'Rick-Rack' (learned from The Humblebums!) - a nice touch!
For an encore, Mick & Paul sang a song 'Adieu Old Friend' which was written by Steve Thomasson - another great songwriter who spent many years in the Leicestershire area and performed locally. Following a bit of a minor medical emergency in the club room (everyone is OK) we had to ask if they would mind singing another, which they very kindly agreed to, so we were treated to a bonus 'Young Men All' to close the concert.
Many thanks go to Sheila Mosley and Dave & Julia Taylor who started each half of the concert with a song. Also thanks to those who stayed back to sing or play in the post-concert sing-around - Claire Halliday, Dave Walters, Stephen & Julie Wigley, Dave & Julia Taylor, Sheila Mosley, Martin Smalley, Alan Price, Ian Price and Andy Cooper.