Woodman Folk Club - Reviews
|Malcolm Jeffrey||22 September 2006|
Arriving at The Woodman, Pete sorts me out my new season's membership card and I spot Dave Sealey over by the bar. I've recently seen his Stanley Holloway show in Worcester and have a chat with him : Dave looks well, sporting a dusting of grey at the temples (I should talk...) and, as ever, responds quietly, genuinely and humbly when I compliment his show.
Five minutes later, Ian Munro kicks off the proceedings with a tale of woe (for him) concerning a troublesome pc hard drive, only made all the more amusing (for us) because Ian is a technology teacher... :o) : then he calls up tonight's first floor spot, Terry Pitt. While plugging his guitar in, the lead briefly picks up the radio - that old chestnut ! - but it's soon all sorted out and Terry plays us Dylan's "Don't Think Twice" as a well-received opener. Terry's second song is one co-written by him at Martin Wyndham Read's guitar workshop in France, called "The Last Ship From The Tyne" : it proves a well-crafted, quality song which honestly wouldn't sound out of place in Vin Garbutt's repertoire if adopted in a Bryn-esque fashion.
Young Bryn Phillips himself is next up with a cheery "Hi, folks !", and after a brief update on his mole problems (you'll have to ask him) he begins his self-penned spot with "Anchorite", a crowd-pleasing ode to voluntary self-imprisonment which affords many an opportunity for the Naughty Corner to ring a calling bell. Unusually for a Bryn Phillips number, only one person dies in the course of the song : but the situation is soon redressed by his second song, "The Ghost Of The Ironbridge Ferry", which bumps the Bryn Index up to a healthy 27 when the ferry of the title goes down with all hands, all the while proving an intriguing and entertaining tale.
Ian's co-band-member Barry Priest is the next performer up, proving as ever in fine voice with an excellent rendition of Pete Abbott's ''Windy Harbour" and following up with a heart-felt number concerning the moral choice between "Drugs Or Jesus" : Barry's set is warmly received. Concluding the opening spots is the "one half of" supporting stalwarts Nothing To Prove that comprises Medium Paul and Trevor Durdon, who perform an earnest version of Paul's own "Building Walls" and a bouncy "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" which has the audience merrily joining along, and then it's time for the main event of the evening and an eager Woodman audience welcome Dave Sealey to the stage.
Dave checks his tuning and he's straight off with a tongue-in-cheek audience participation number, "Things Are Worse In Russia", following it up with a favourite from his Cosmotheka days, Sam Mayo's "The Night Began To Fall", both rousing and popular set-openers. Next comes a part of Dave's night that I particularly enjoyed the previous time he played at The Woodman, a song in Music Hall style written by Dave himself. This next song is in the style of the Prime Minister of Mirth himself, Sir George Robey, which Dave illustrates by giving us a snatch of Sir George's "The Fact Is", and his self-penned song, "They Rang Down The Curtain On Me", is a pretty convincing and authentic-sounding number which amuses us all.
A comparatively more contemporary song is next with Arthur Askey's ode to WWII War Effort girls "The Thingummybob", which sees the Woodman crowd making a valiant stab at the song's particularly fiendish chorus, and this is followed by a rather jolly number aiming to bring the landed gentry down a peg or two, "I'll Fight Him For It" : Dave's mischievous grins and self-evident enjoyment in performing his set easily carry over to his audience. Next, revisiting his recent success in his Stanley Holloway show, we get a top rendition of "Albert Down Under", Billy Williams' merry "The Kangaroo Hop'', and the first half comes to an end with a well-appreciated and rousing chorus of Gus Elen's Cosmotheka favourite "If It Wasn't For The Houses In Between".
Break-time now, but Ian is keen to push on tonight and there's hardly enough time to restock the Theakstone's and get some (shortly to prove unsuccessful !) raffle tickets before Ian calls yours truly to the stage to deliver what I euphemistically call "entertainment". Beginning with the premise that they're less likely to be offended if it's a new song, I soften them up with "Freda", a previously unreleased Jake Thackray number from the recently released boxed set. Encouraged by their sympathetic response, I give them Tom Lehrer's rather more advanced "National Brotherhood Week", and scarper sharpish after Thackray's "Romance", before any vegetables are thrown. Phew !
Dave Sealey now retums to the stage to begin his final set, leading us in a rousing rendition of Alec Hurley's "Harry, Harry, Harry, Harry", and after our applause has died down, he recites us a fine Rob Wilton monologue where he has to buy a birthday present for his sister, but which sees him progressively scaling down the price tags until his final choice of gift is his "kindest regards" ! This is followed by a splendid "It's A Great Big Shame", a Cosmotheka-era favourite by Gus Elen, and then Dave treats us to another of his own fine music-hall-style compositions, "Never Do Today What You Can Do Tomorrow" - if he didn't tell you that he had written them, I really don't think you could tell...
Another great Gus Elen song, "Mrs Carter", proves a further crowd-pleaser, as does another, drily mischievous Rob Wilton monologue, "Back Answers". Next is a sweet "Little Dolly Daydream, Pride Of Idaho", from the repertoire of G H Eliott, who, cheekily,Dave reminds us is "not to be confused with T S Eliott, who was known as the 'Chocolate Coloured Poet'..." ! Then it's a chance for Dave to show his not inconsiderable, and often overlooked, skills with guitar chordwork with Irving Berlin's "After You Get What You Want You Don't Want It" - some very tasty, jazzy progressions to complement Dave's fine voice and the Woodman crowd are quick to show their approval. Finally, and all too soon, Mr Sealey plays us another one of his self-penned numbers, "Put It In Your Pipe And Smoke It, Rupert", a glorious celebration of the songwriting formula of Harry Champion, which has us all unabashedly singing along : and the set is brought to an end with a highly tittersome and compulsively sing-a-long "You Are A Liar-ty" which triggers genuine and warm applause.
Ian isn't going to let him get away with it that easily, though, not with it being 10 past 11 and all :o) so he calls Dave back to the mike for a nostalgic bit of audience participation with a gently performed "April Showers" - and, when Ian is thanking the other performers and winding up the night, Dave (who has moved off to the left of the stage) can be seen, vigorously waving cheerio underneath the left PA speaker with a huge grin on his face !
Another splendid night then, in the company of Dave Sealey. For a seasoned performer who was nonetheless rarely the front man, he's developed more of an engaging and confident stage persona each time you see him, and his own songs are easily the peers of his Cosmotheka-era material. A genuine pleasure to see him entertain again.