That was a fun evening! And it really felt like we were back to Poppy's good times. Sherburn Bartley Sanders entertained us thoroughly on with their excellent musicianship and their friendly and comfortable banter. It was like having three good friends round for a music session and a good natter.
Chris Sherburn (concertina) and Denny Bartley (vocals and guitar) had been playing together for over 20 years, as a duo and with ‘Last Night’s Fun’. More recently, bringing Emily Sanders (fiddle and vocals) to the mix has added an extra dimension to their vocals, and introduced more English folk into their repertoire.
Among the songs were folk standards like ‘William Taylor’, ‘Sheep Stealing (The Brisk Lad)’, and ‘Adieu Lovely Nancy’ (this one led by Emily); along with a lovely rendition of Cyril Tawney’s ‘Sammy’s Bar’ and the classic ‘The Old Triangle’. Chris sat back and watched as Denny and Emily performed a beautiful ‘Bright Blue Rose’ together.
The band had a lovely rapport with the audience - a ‘full house’ under our current limits - many of whom were new or rare visitors to the club attracted specifically to see and hear their favourite musicians. It was great to see a good crowd having a great time.
A big thank you to Jim Hellewell for his quickfire harmonica tunes to start the first half, and to Patrick Gray (fiddle) and Kate Perrey (whistle) for starting the second. Patrick and Kate were asked up to the stage by Sherburn Bartley Sanders to join them in their encore tune set - a lovely finish to a really enjoyable concert!
(Thanks to Nick Murphy for the sound, and to Paul Carroll for the lighting and photography)
Dan was due to play for us with his trio in May 2020, but of course you all know what happened. It was a joy to have him with us, finally, and what an evening we had.
Having seen Dan perform in various formats before (including solo at the club back in 2014), it was hard to imagine that he could actually surpass expectations, but that is certainly how he left the audience feeling on Sunday. We got Dan's trademark instrumental virtuosity, versatility and variety in spades. As well as banjo and guitar, he introduced his newest instrument, a banjola. This is strung and played like a 5-string banjo but tuned like a mandola, so has a beautiful mellow tone. Magic. And as for musical variety, we got tastes of different cultures, traditional and self-penned tunes and songs, and jazz guitar, in the mix. Highlights of the evening were the Indian-influenced Whiplash Reel, with banjo sounding remarkably sitar-like, an astonishing "slap guitar" rendition of Paul Simon's song "You can call me Al", and remarkable jazz guitar in "It's a sin to tell a lie", dedicated to someone called Boris. In quieter moments the banjola came into its own in the traditional Irish song "The Suilin", and Dan talked movingly about his work in care homes and sang a song he had written for and about a resident who had been a professional singer and performer in his earlier life. There was ample opportunity for audience participation, particularly in the encore "Sleep with One Eye Open".
Making the evening even more special, we were joined by folk royalty from Somerset, none other than Julie Palmer and Phil Preen who founded the club in 2011. They were visiting the area so came to listen to Dan and check in on old friends. It was just like the good old days with them in the room - they don't seem to have changed a bit - especially as Julie started us off with the first "song from the floor".
We were told (by none other than Karine Polwart!) to expect something special, and our concert guests on Sunday, Janice Burns and Jon Doran, didn’t disappoint! In their two sets they showed us some incredibly well-crafted musical interpretations and really lovely harmony singing.
It’s obvious that they are perfectionists - everything was so carefully worked out, from the balance between the instruments (Guitar and Irish Bouzouki for Jon, Mandolin and Tenor Guitar for Janice) to the interaction of their voices, with Janice’s Scottish tones usually adding the harmony to Jon’s lead vocals. And all performed with a delightful lightness of touch which was evident throughout the concert. There were few big shocks or surprises, it was simply a really pleasant and relaxing, high quality, ‘listening’ concert - with a few ‘join-in’ songs interspersed.
They are very nice people too … and very knowledgeable about the songs they sing and their sources. They tell a good story about every song. Do go and see them, or buy their new CD though their Kickstarter campaign if you missed this concert. Our musicians have had a hard time (as have many others) and they need all the support we can give them.
A big thank you goes to our two ‘floor-spot’ performers who started each half of the night: Alistair Bloomfield played some excellent fiddle tunes, and Jim Hellewell gave us a good opportunity to sing with his rendition of ‘Young Banker’. We also owe a thank you to David Martin who stepped in at short notice to run the sound for the night after being the sound engineer all weekend for the Lady Bay Arts Trail performers!
Our double-header 'Extra' concert brought the biggest and best audience since the Poppy Folk Club emerged into the light from the restrictions of the lock-down years; partly thanks to both bands bringing in plenty of their own followers. In musical style, this was a bit of a departure from the club's regular concerts, but it worked very well, with Plumhall and the Phil Langran Band playing for almost an hour each and grabbing the audience's attention from the start.
Plumhall (Michelle Plum and Nick Hall) are a guitar and vocal duo from Yorkshire, playing self-penned songs ranging in feel from pop and rock, to Americana and folk. At times there were echoes of Dire Straits, sometimes the combination of voices reminded me of Robert Plant's Band of Joy (particularly on 'On that Further Shore'), with many songs having a big, driving acoustic guitar rhythm. After the first half a dozen songs as a duo their sound was superbly supplemented by Mark Walker (on loan from Phil Langran) playing bass guitar for the remainder of the set.
Michelle and Nick were delightful and entertaining throughout, both taking the lead vocal in turn - Michelle's vocals on 'Closing Down' (about the end of season at Whitby) being especially lovely. Nick, meanwhile, in a moment of madness, delighted us with a verse of Chumbawamba's 'I get Knocked Down' (Michelle toured with them) in the style of George Formby!
The Phil Langran Band (a previous Poppy Folk Day performer) features four excellent musicians in their own right: Steve Benford (acoustic guitar and banjo), Alistair Bloomfield (fiddle), Mark Walker (bass) and Frank McCarthy (electric guitar) - all feature strongly in their showpieces and all provide vocal harmonies - but their big role in the band is to highlight and double-underline Phil Langran's gorgeous songs. Phil's songwriting has been praised in higher places than this. I'll just say that for me the emotion and subtlety of the songs, delivered with a steady rhythm and Phil's slightly fragile (Lou Reed-like?) voice, really picks you up and carries you along.
Phil has a lovely, easy manner and a very dry sense of humour, making the song introductions almost as special as the music itself. It is evident that his band has a great respect for him and his songs. The opening track 'You Can't Go Back' showcased the whole band, each having their instrument featured in a solo. But individual members of the band had other moments to shine too. Steve Benford - we already know he's an excellent acoustic guitarist - brought out his banjo for a couple of tracks, 'The Crooked Mile/The Maid Behind the Bar', and 'The Diamond Wheel/The Star of Munster' (with Ali also rocking along well), and really picked up the pace. Frank showed his skills and subtlety particularly well on the solos in 'Snow Angels' and (the gorgeous) 'Time's Dark Wing', while Ali's fiddle in 'Bright Autumn Sky' was beautiful. Mark's bass provided a backdrop to most of the night, featuring in both bands' music.
The two bands have played together several times recently, so it was only fitting that Nick and Michelle joined Phil's band on the (tiny) Poppy stage for the final ballad: 'Injury Time'. Peter Poppy had never seen so many guitars in one place!
On the hottest evening of the year at the time, a lovely Poppy audience welcomed Jack Rutter to the stage for our 10th July concert.
Jack is a superb player of guitar and bouzouki and a strong singer of traditional and contemporary songs. His fan-fretted Fylde bouzouki sounded gorgeous and is worth a write-up of its own! Our concert included much traditional material, with plenty of well-researched information about the songs and their sources - Jack is nothing if not thorough! But we also had variety in the shape of more recent compositions, including a bit of Country music with Dwight Yoakam's tenderly entitled 'It Won't Hurt (When I Fall Down from this Bar Stool)' and one of the evening's highlights: Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill"
Despite hailing from West Yorkshire, Jack got his set off to a lively start with 'The Lancashire Liar' - pretty much a tour of all the towns in that county. Back into Yorkshire, Jack had set an Ammon Wrigley poem to music to give us 'The Hills of Longdandale' with very lovely guitar accompaniment. (Ammon was from Saddleworth, which WAS in West Yorkshire until they 'moved' it to Greater Manchester!)
Ballad lovers enjoyed 'Susan on board of a Man-O-War', and 'Fair Janet and Young James' (Jack joked that he was hoping for a call from Universal Studios when they inevitably make this latter story into a movie!). Jack also put down his instruments a couple of times to sing unaccompanied on 'The Hound Pup and Me' and, beautifully, 'Down by Derwent Side' - another highlight from the evening.
Finally, there was plenty of opportunity for audience participation, with Jack finishing the first set with 'The Dalesman's Litany' ("From Hull and Halifax and Hell good Lord deliver me"), and ending the night with a rousing 'John Barleycorn' and the 'Wild Goose Shanty'.
A lovely night, with a lovely talented performer who has moved up from the 'young, up and coming' category to become a key part of the current folk scene.
Finally ... a big thank you to Marc Block for a song to start the first half, and to Dave Walters for doing the same for part two.
Our first 'full house' since we reopened after the pandemic - and little wonder! John Doyle, who lives in the USA these days, was neatly intercepted by Juliet while he was between gigs and on the way to London to perform with Ushers Island (with Andy Irvine, Dónal Lunny, Paddy Glackin and Mike McGoldrick). John has performed alongside all the biggest names in the folk world, and is an incredibly busy and sought after musician - we were delighted (and very lucky) to be able to pin him down.
There's no doubting his incredible skill as a guitar player - he has admired and learned from some of the greats (Martin Carthy, Martin Simpson, Richard Thompson all got a mention) and is well on a par with them all. Several influential sources were cited throughout the set list tonight, with songs learned from Nic Jones (Going for a Soldier, Jenny); Martin Carthy (Cold, Haily, Windy Night); Dick Gaughan (from his singing of Miner's Life) and even Walter Pardon's Poacher's Tale. Other well-known and well-sung songs included 'Polly on the Shore' (learned from Fairport Convention); 'Fall Down Billy O'Shea'; 'Rounding the Horn'; and his own song 'Liberty's Sweet Shore' - all of which got the capacity audience singing along.
As well as being a truly exceptional guitarist and bouzouki player, John has written some terrific songs, particularly themed around the stories of Irish emigrants, his song 'Roscommon' was written in memory of his Great Grandfather who emigrated to the USA in 1915 and survived the SS Arabic being torpedoed! Another of John's great interests is in the poetry of W B Yeats, and the set included, among others, the poem 'September 1913' set to music by John. But my favourite moment of the evening was the first outing of a song written for his daughter when she left home for University - 'In the Mirrored Room' was beautiful and full of emotion, and brought a tear to the eye.
After some lively (and one VERY lively) tune sets, John ended the night with three singalong songs, finishing with the traditional 'Willie Taylor'. It had been a lovely and intimate night to remember!
A big Poppy thank you also goes to Norman Randall and to Steve Benford for their songs to start each half, and to Nick Murphy for the use of his expertise and PA equipment.
We always try to bring you something a bit special and festive for our December concerts. This year fine trio 'The Wilderness Yet' brought us songs from their latest CD - 'Turn The Year Round', with material that references the changing seasons, the environment, and winter landscapes. There were a few 'traditional' carols of course, but these (such as the Holly and the Ivy) had been neatly reworked to fit the theme. It was a refreshing change to the normal Christmas fayre and I would have gladly heard more (they interspersed the seasonal songs with other excellent pieces from their back-catalogue). The band are excellent musicians; past finalist of the BBC Young Folk Awards. Rosie Hodgson superbly takes on the great majority of the lead singing role. Rowan Piggott is well respected for his fiddle playing but also adds vocal harmonies, while guitarist and flautist Philippe Barnes, despite only recently being persuaded to start singing, adds a beautifully smooth bass voice to several songs. All are busy musicians working in a number of collaborations - Philippe, for example, is sought-after as a session musician on TV and movie soundtracks - and all contributed songs or tunes of their own composition to the concert. There was a good variety of songs, many with 'join-in' choruses, and there were a couple of excellent tune sets and some lovely unaccompanied harmony singing. Favourite songs for me were Barry Temple's 'Old Jackie Frost' and the traditional 'Drive the Cold Winter Away', but the whole concert was full of gems and the capacity audience was full of praise.
Songs from the floor, since it was a 'special' night, were provided by the Poppy's own carolling group, 'Loud Harold' (I'm sure you know the story of that name by now) who regaled the masses with three songs: Rolling Downward (from the Derbyshire village of Hathersage), 'The Sans Day Carol' (from St. Day in Cornwall), and the Sheffield carol 'Mount Moriah'.