Friday, 30 November 2012


Live Review


It’s hard to remember there being a time when the Fureys & Davey Arthur were not around but the great thing about the Irish folk band is they have never lost their common touch ‑ making their concerts feel like an intimate gathering of invited friends.

Fresh from their tour of Holland, Eddie Furey opened proceedings with Clare To Here a country sound accentuated by the picking of both Eddie and Davey Arthur.
Brother Finbar then took over with one of a handful of ballads which were inspired by lost family and friends with The Old Man which had a moving Harry Chapin Cat’s In the Cradle type lyrics which spoke of lost opportunities.
So things didn’t get too morose, they swiftly moved into a full on jig before Davey regaled the audience with one of his wild stories as a precursor to Eddie singing Her Father Didn't Like Me Anyway, a somehow northern sounding ditty similar to Dirty Ol Town which spoke of an unhappy love affair.
The Fureys & Davey Arthur at the Robin2, Bilston
- copyright Danny Farragher
They had some fun with the audience too with a song inspired by Robbie Burns, Leezie Lindsay, where Eddie sang about love and romance before the band moved into The Mad Lady and Me, which comes from Cork, and which is one of those wonderful folk songs which manages to see the funny side of tragedy and inevitably throws in death, wild living and drinking.
Things were slowed down a little then with Steal Away a ballad which soon had Eddie passing over the singing of the chorus to the audience who took up the mantle enthusiastically.
Leaving London from their the latest album, Songs Through The Years, had more than a feel of Ralph McTell about it with a country undertone brought in by the voice of Finbar. The band then finished the first half of the set with Sweet Sixteen which remains their biggest hit to date, reaching inside the top 20 in the 1980s and of course the familiar words were soon picked up by the appreciative audience which left them wanting more for the second half.
They came back on stage to another favourite Leaving of Liverpool which started the fans where they left off – joining in with little prompting.
Finbar began a solo Leaving of Nancy but was soon underpinned by the harmonies of Eddie and the rest of the group for the chorus.
They dedicated The Lonesome Boatman to all the fishermen around the shores and began with a tin whistle intro and guitar imitating the rolling sea before Davey came in with his mandolin giving it a strangely spaghetti western style undertone.
The tempo was kept upbeat with their version of the classic Goodnight Irene before moving into the nonsensical and fun country tune The Rooster Song about a virulent cockerel.
No Irish band can get away without singing songs about emigration and The Fureys were no exception with a solo from Finbar called Absent Friends which was followed by Davey singing I wonder before moving into Dublin 62 which is about people who met in the Fair City before leaving the Emerald Isle for good.
Paddy In Paris was another from their new album with Davey showing his picking skills on the banjo while the French flavour was added by some superb accordion playing.
Davey had another chance to show off his picking skills with a Tom Paxton number I Will Love You which complimented Finbar’s singing in a wonderfully melodic way.
The band finished the night with the Spanish-style Red Rose Cafe before moving into probably the second best known song of theirs, the anti-war ballad Green Fields of France, and finally ending on a high with Go Lassie Go.

Friday, 23 November 2012


Live Review


Dan Whitehouse
The Robin2, Bilston

The Dylan Project is no ordinary tribute band, for one thing, front man Steve Gibbons doesn't try to look like the iconic singer and although there are times when he slips into sounding like him the group essentially play Dylan's catalogue in their own way paying tribute rather than trying to imitate.

The familiar name which fronts the Project also gives a clue to the pedigree of the group which has a lineage which includes Fairport Convention, Jethro Tull and Pentangle.
Gibbons on vocals and guitar, bassist Dave Pegg, drummer Gerry Conway, keyboard player Phil Bond and guitarist PJ Wright have a wealth of experience most bands would die for.
Steve Gibbons fronting The Dylan Project
picture courtesy of
He kicked off with Freight Train Blues which had more of a country/honkytonk start to it before it moved into the more recognisable blues rift.
They then cherry picked their next songs from Dylan's Blonde on Blonde with Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands which was given an almost comic ballad style with a slight Gallic undertone.
This moved smoothly into another track from the album I Want You which was given an upbeat skiffle treatment.
You're a Big Girl, which came from Blood On The Tracks, had the more familiar Dylanesque rant-style lyrics which eventually gave way to the instruments for more of a rock sound.
The Project went back to Blonde on Blonde for Pledging My Time to which they gave the Chicago blues treatment with Phil Bond coming in with a barrelhouse backbeat.
Gibbons then gave the Robin2 audience a piece of unadulterated Dylan with She Belongs To Me. 
Born In Time, from Under The Red Sky, was a heavier sound with a strong backbeat that was given a Duane Eddy colouring from PJ.
The full sound of the band was let loose for Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window which was highlighted with more than a smattering of Latin melodies.
Guitarist PJ Wright
picture courtesy of
Gibbons again went back to the classic Dylan rant for Sweetheart Like You before moving into a rocker billy sound of From A Buick 6 which then slipped into an electric solo.
They regaled their audience with It Takes A Lot To Laugh, It Takes A Train To Cry from Highway 61 Revisited, this went on into Handle With Care from the Travelling Wilbury's which had more of  a pop feel to it.
Towards the end of the set Gibbons got romantic with Make You Feel My Love from Dylan's Time Out Of Mind which, strangely, had a country feel sung in a tone reminiscent of a pub-singer.

Dan Whitehouse

Supporting the Project and on his home turf was Wolverhampton's own Dan Whitehouse who is building quite a following and is maturing into an impressive singer/songwriter. 
With his eponymous first album under his belt and the second one already in production it won't be long before Dan will be looking for his own support act.
With songs from his album such as They Care For You Dan gave free rein to his softer tones and was a perfect showcase for his vocal range.
Somebody Loves You had a Pink Floyd undertone and his strong lyrics were accented perfectly by his simple guitar chords.
If you want to get a proper feeling for his full repertoire then you should catch Dan at the Birmingham Conservatoire (Recital Hall) on December 15. Dan will be headlining with a full backing band.
Doors open at 7pm and tickets are £6.
For booking information visit and for more information about Dan visit

Thursday, 15 November 2012


Live Review

Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton

One of Wolverhampton's best kept secrets played host to two veteran folk musicians, husband and wife team, Kathryn Roberts and Sean Lakeman who were more than ably assisted by Scots lass Patsy Reid.

Coming with a folk pedigree as long as the hall carpets in Buckingham Palace the extrovert Kathryn kicked off their set at the intimate folk club venue in Whitmore Reans with The Maid With The Bonny Brown Hair, a soft ballad to ease people into a night of cracking music.
This was followed up by Lifetime Of Tears which brought husband Sean to the fore with his strumming guitar beat that opened up the bluegrass-style sound to which strings player Patsy added a country feel with her fiddle.
Kathryn then moved on to the flute for Red Barn which was a traditional song telling of tragedy which was woven with a Celtic strand that was perfectly complimented with Patsy's fiddle playing.
Huldra a mystical tale about siren-like women waiting in the woods to ensnare passing men gave Kathryn a chance to show her talent for a cappella with a wonderful backing harmony from Patsy.
Then came a track from their album 1, Lord Gregory which is a light slow air that, again, was accented beautifully by Patsy, this time on the cello.
Kathryn changed the tempo with Lusty Smith, an upbeat bawdy song which gave husband Sean a chance to shine through a duet with Patsy back on the fiddle.
With Kathryn this time on the keyboard, she brought out the retrospective Ballad of Andy Jacobs which was inspired by the miner's strike which happened when she was still a young girl. She later revisited the events as an adult and penned this song
There was more of a country feel to Saving Grace which started with Kathryn's clear and strong vocals before Sean came to the fore to provide a blue grass sound with his guitar.
Georgia Lee, another track from their 1 album is a Tom Waites' ballad which was an unadorned country song once again about tragedy and questions of life.
The group moved back to simpler themes about love at the village fair with Money & Jewels from their latest album Hidden People.
They then went on to the light-hearted ditty called Mrs Beeton inspired by the original domestic goddess and finished the set with another country-style ballad Safe In Your Arms.


CD Review

25th Anniversary Tour

I first encountered The Saw Doctors in the early 1990s through a TV documentary which took its title from one of their early hits Sing A Powerful Song and that seems long enough, but the Galway gang is celebrating 25 years of touring and creating great, down to earth songs which connect with ordinary people and ordinary lives.

The band have produced another best of album appropriately called 2525 which revisits many of their old favourites and in some cases puts a new slant on them.
Starting in Belfast on November 23 the Docs tour kicks off in the Mandela hall and covers the length and breadth of the UK from Edinburgh on November 30 to Southampton on December 12 and of course more importantly for me and my fellow Midlanders they will be blasting the windows out of the Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton on December 9, for full details of the tour visit

Some of the highlights on the album, which is really part two of their best of collection, include their most recent big chart hit Downtown with the original hit maker Petula Clark. 
There is an a capella version of Red Cortina and live versions of I'll Be On My Way and I Useta Lover both recorded in their home county of Galway.
Many of  the favourites are there too including an original recording of their unofficial signature tune N17 along with Galway and Mayo, Bless Me Father, Share The Darkness and Tommy K.
If you download the itunes version there is the added bonus of a 17 minute commentary with Leo Moran and Davy Carton explaining some of the inspirations behind many of their most famous and best loved hits.
For more information visit

Sunday, 11 November 2012


Wolverhampton musician Scott Matthews will be playing the Town Hall, Birmingham Saturday December 1. For tickets contact the box office on 0121 345 0600

Gemma Hayes is at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin on Sunday December 9.

Tuam tearaways, The Saw Doctors will be playing the Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton on Sunday December 9. They have a best of album out now called 2525 celebrating 25 years of music and touring, for the gang from Galway, with 25 tracks.

On Friday, November 30, Geordie singer Bob Fox will be playing at the Woodman Folk Club, Ashwood Marina Social Club, Ashwood Lower Lane, Kingswinford DY6 0AQ. Tel 01384 831263. 
Wolverhampton's Dan Whitehouse is making a name for himself
Wolverhampton singer/songwriter Dan Whitehouse will be supporting the Dylan Project at The Robin2 Bilston on November 21 and will also be playing at the Birmingham Conservatoire, recital hall on Saturday December 15.

Lisbee Stainton, picture courtesy of
Musician, Lisbee Stainton who has been on tour with Seth Lakeman, will be playing the Marrs Bar in Worcester on March 21 2013. Call the box office on 01905 613336.

Kildare balladeer, Christy Moore is playing the Sirius Arts Centre, Cobh, Co Cork on Friday November 16 then on January 10 2013 he will be at St John's Theatre, Listowel, Co Kerry. 


CD Review

 Dead & Born & Grown

The luxurious harmonies of the Staveley sisters blend so wondrously that it’s a bonus they play instruments so expertly, and if you want to hear how good they are then their debut album is the perfect introduction.

The Staves have put their time in and the trio’s eagerly awaited first album has already received acclaim with appearances on national radio and Later with Jools Holland. The tracks do capture wonderfully the precision singing and song writing of Emily, Jessica and Camilla.
Their close harmonies are there right from the start with Wisely & Slow, and from the off you get the clarity and synchronicity of their mellow sound which picks up towards the end of the track.
It has and will continue to be their trademark that their superb voices on tracks such as Gone Tomorrow, The Motherlode and Winter Trees will always be what makes them stand out.
Eldest of the trio Emily Staveley-Taylor, says: "I think being sung to is the nicest thing in the world. There's nothing more comforting or enjoyable." When they sound as delightful as her and her siblings then there is no room for argument with this statement. Without wanting to take anything away from their remarkable talent, their excellent playing skills will only ever be the punctuation in the stories their songs unfold. The Staves have worked at creating images and feelings with their harmonising and it shows. In tracks such as The Motherlode, you can almost see them riding across the backdrop of Monument Valley, Arizona with the sunset ahead.
In complete contrast there is the wonderful yet almost lazy and poem-like Pay Us No Mind you can imagine the singer looking out of a window on a rainy day expressing their emotions for no other reason than for the daylight to take them away.
Their three part harmonies come through so playfully on Facing West, which has a reggae back beat feel providing the tempo for the doleful voices. This blends seamlessly into In The Long Run which is one of those tracks you put on after a hard day and feel it drain the stress out of you.
The Staves, picture courtesy of
The title track uses a single guitar as the rhythm and is pretty much a capella which then moves into Winter Trees which although keeps the rhythm of the previous track starts of with a pseudo-sitar sound which then builds up slowly until the fuller sounds come in giving the sisters chance to vocalise their harmonies again.
Tongue Behind My Teeth, the single which is out now, has that American road trip feel to it you could almost hear it blasting out from an open top Cadillac as it travels down route 66.
One of their more familiar tracks, at least to their growing army of fans, is from one of their EPs Mexico which weaves their harmonies in and out of that single guitar providing the rhythm once again.
Snow has more playful harmonies and is a much lighter sound than most of the tracks on the album which then moves into the final track Eagle Song which is a ballad that has more of a country feel to it.
If you are not into folk music you should buy this album and if you are then you should buy two.
There is a chance to hear them live at the Hare & Hounds, Birmingham on November 28.
Dead & Born & Grown is on the Atlantic label and available now. Visit

Friday, 9 November 2012


Live Review

Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton

The stage of the Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton could barely contain the 11 piece folkchestra that is Bellowhead and the hall itself was only just about capable of containing the rainbow of sounds this eclectic mix of musicians produce.

The set opened with the single tone of the marimba but quickly built up to a wall of sound that exploded into Black Beetle Pies from their latest album Broadside and even with little room to manoeuvre they still managed to get a thrash metal-style ending in.
There was a change of pace then for 10,000 Miles Away, again from the new album and which had more of a feeling of a sea shanty.
Bellowhead's new album Broadside
The theatricals came out as Jon Boden's distinctive voice and his fellow musicians created a sinister somehow 1960s spy theme type music with The Old Dun Cow, a song about lock ins that developed a Tim Burtonish darkness before moving into almost a jazz funk phase.
By now the band were in full flow and saxophone, fiddles, accordions, trombones and guitars seemed to be flying everywhere.
They brought out a more traditional folk sound with Parsons Farewell, the strings of Rachel McShane, Paul Sartin and Sam Sweeney given free rein.
The packed out hall really came to life with one of Bellowhead's best known anthems Whisky Is The Life of Man.
With the precision of a vintage fairground steam organ, but not the restrictions, the musicians moved and leapt around slinging their instruments to and fro with almost reckless abandon as they manically banged out the full battle hymn that is Byker Hill followed quickly by their version of Jolly Bold Robber which had a weird, nightmarish fairground tinge mixed with European gypsy sounds and eventually loosening into a polka.
The brass of Andy Mellon and Justin Thurgur gave a northern colliery band feel to Go My Way, a ballad wrapped up in a sea shanty. Then it was back to the manic playing they are famous for with Lillibulero which relied on a heavy fiddle sound
This was followed by another explosion of chords in the Dockside Rant based around the concertina of John Spiers and was another sea shanty.
What's the Life of a Man has a bizarre medieaval opening which moves into something reminscent of the theme to Beetlejuice then weirdly into a cabaret-style sounds before building to an impressive crescendo.
Little Sally Racket brought out a punk like sound mixed with a crazy jazz beat and the drunken morality tale unfolded with something akin to New Orleans jazz. The Morris dancing was brought out for Sloe Gin and then towards the end of the set they again pulled out one of their favourites -New York Girls.

Sunday, 4 November 2012


Live Review

KatrionaGilmore & Jamie RobertsLadyMaisery

Town Hall, Birmingham

It was a triple folk treat with a line-up of diverse and talented young musicians who are all part of the new guard.

The Old Dance School
Seven-piece band The Old Dance School, who describe themselves as a cinematic folk septet, headlined the bill kicking off with a track from their Chasing The Light album, The Long Walk, which filled the hall with a tapestry of sound that weaved the violins of Helen Lancaster and Samantha Norman in among the wide array of instruments the talented crew wield.
The tempo was a little more muted for another track from the disc, Craigie Hill which featured versatile trumpeter Aaron Diaz, who gave the song’s folksy feel an undertone of 60s beat music almost reminiscent of the Get Carter theme. TODS let fly with a track inspired by a journey, while touring, from Exeter to Glasgow on a short haul flight which was a fast-paced full bodied sound that again featured the strong trumpet playing of Diaz.
In the true folk tradition many of the songs are inspired by experience and events such as Sula Sgier which is a rock off the coast of Lewis in the Hebrides of Scotland, UK and is noted as a massive gannet colony where locals still harvest the birds for food and, controversially, is also to be a site of a wind farm.
The band went through some of its impressive repertoire with the oddly titled The Taxidermist, and a new arrangement of The Real Thing which had a Celtic sound mixed with jazz and rock strands.
Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts
Samantha and Helen showed their prowess on the strings with the pizzicato start on Spaghetti Panic, inspired by the famous Brum junction on the M6, before it burst into life bringing in Laura Carter on the whistle. They brought the set towards the end with Swifts and Martins, a number which would not have been out of place at any Ceilidh.
Katriona Gilmore & Jamie Roberts are very much keeping the wandering minstrel strand of folk music going with their eclectic mix of songs gleaned from stories from family and friends and situations which occur in everyday life.
With Gilmore on fiddle and Roberts on guitar they took the audience through Doctor James, the story of woman who lived as a pioneering male doctor in the army without being discovered, The Scarecrow an ironic song about a guardian of the crops who didn’t seem to be doing a very good job and, Louis Was A Boxer, a character who frequented the subway store where Roberts worked part time while a student in Leeds.
Folk trio Lady Maisery
Trio Lady Maisery is an ultra-traditional folk band relying mainly on their strong vocal harmonies to tell stories of strange events and magical creatures.
Hannah James, Hazel Askew and Rowan Rheingans opened with Portland Town from their first album Weave & Spin -which I thoroughly recommend, an anti-war song Rowan learned from her mum.
The trio are also trying to reinvigorate the traditional vocal art of diddling, buy the album and you will understand what it is, and gave a wonderful example with two English songs the Primrose and the Bluebell Polkas with Hannah even throwing in some traditional clog dancing to boot.