The Poppy Folk Club. The Poppy and Pint, Pierrepont Road, West Bridgford, Nottingham. NG2 5DX. Poppy Logo. Pint pot logo.
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Mike Wilson and Damien Barber
Sunday 20th September 2015

What a great evening this was!

Damien Barber, best known for his sell-out song and dance shows with the Demon Barber Road Show, is an excellent singer, concertina player and guitarist, with a genuine love and deep knowledge of the songs and singers of his native Norfolk.

Mike Wilson is the youngest of the five brothers who make up the fabulously powerful voices of The Wilsons. The Wilsons all have terrific voices, but (for me) 'our Mike' and 'our Ken' are in a special league. Between them, they make a lovely sound, and have a wide repertoire of contemporary and traditional songs. Featuring strongly in tonight's concert were several songs inspired by, or written by, Ewan MacColl, Peter Bellamy or Mike Waterson; but with room for Richard Thompson, Johnny Collins and Bob Copper, among others.

Starting with great unaccompanied harmonies on 'Drinking Song' (Well Boys …), most of the rest of the set was accompanied by concertina. Of the exceptions, Ewan MacColl's 'My Old Man' was sung to a lovely guitar backing.

Songs like 'the Pilgrim's Way' (Rudyard Kipling poem / Peter Bellamy tune); Mike Waterson's 'Charlady's Son'; and - title song of the duo's new CD - 'The Old Songs' (another Bellamy tune, but this time with Bob Copper's words) all showed off some terrific harmony singing, with a very Bellamy-like Damien Barber in great voice.

The whole set was full of excellent singing and playing, but my highlights of the night were all examples of the quality of Mike Wilson's voice on three beautifully sung and moving songs. Richard Thompson's 'Down Where the Drunkards Roll' (which followed neatly on from a version of 'Rag Fair') was marvellous; MacColl's 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face' was reclaimed for the folk tradition; and as for 'The Joy of Living' - well, it was eye-wateringly excellent.

A fine concert was topped off when Mike and Damien were called back to the stage for one last song, and finished in style with the cowboy song 'Santa Fe Trail' - collected by John Lomax and learned from Peter Bellamy.

Julie and Phil had been at a family wedding in Scotland, so it was left to Dave, Claire and Mary to set out the room and run the show. Dave stepped up to the mark admirably to mc the concert, and Juliet helped Claire out with the the tunes to welcome people in at the start of the evening.

As always, we started each 'half' with a single song or tune from the regular Poppy Folk Club attenders, and for this concert we say thank you to Marc Block for his song, and Wil Walker for a lovely pair of tunes on the fiddle.

We were well-served with instrumentalists in the song and music sessions which followed the concert. Songs from Lyn Cooper, John Bentham, Ian Price, John Whitelaw; AJAR (Ally, Juliet & Ric); and Poppy organisers Dave Phil and Julie; were interspersed with tunes from Claire (Poppy FC's ace melodeonist); Wil Walker, Alistair Bloomfield, Lyn Cooper and Phil Preen. Many thanks to them all.