Reviews 2016

Woodman Folk Club - Reviews

Hicks & Goulbourn

Bryn Phillips 19 February 2016

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So there they were, a top of the range guitarist and luthier on the Woodman stage wearing a pinny, alongside his partner wearing a cloth cap and scarf, performing a sci-fi account of the "First Geordie". Did this number sum up the evening? Well no ....

This is the second visit as guest artists to the Woodman for Steve Hicks and Lynn Goulbourn, and I was particularly keen to see them as I had missed them the last time they came. Having played one of their albums on Spotify and watched a couple of their videos on YouTube I was particularly looking forward to "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning", and they didn't disappoint with this number being third on their set list. This is an old gospel number associated with Rev Gary Davis and was popularised in the 70s by performers such as Wiz Jones. Hicks and Goulbourn gave it a rather special treatment which came not only from Steve's immaculate guitar playing and Lynne's exquisite vocals, but also from Steve's accompanying gruff vocals which gave the song a real bluesy edge, bringing to mind early Blind Willie Johnson, who also performed this song. There were other blues numbers in the set, such as the classic "Deep River Blues", but if anything the overall feel of the evening veered more towards country music with a bluegrass feel to it. But it would be wrong to try pigeon hole them. As well as the blues, gospel and country music, there was also some jazz, classical guitar, self-penned songs, unaccompanied singing and of course, comedy. Their style and performance is unique.

One of the good things about a very varied performance such as this is that you get to hear music from various sources. For me, one of the treats of the evening was Jonathan Byrd's "Jesus was a Bootlegger" with the line "Jesus turned the water into wine, wouldn't that make him a bootlegger too?" it's a line that sums up the clever backwoods logic that permeates a lot of the best country songs. Most of the vocals were taken by Lynn with backing vocals from Steve, but Steve's vocals on John Renbourn's "So Clear" were particularly notable. The gruff blues voice had gone, and from the first few notes, it was almost as if John Renbourn, who sadly died last year, was back with us. It made the song particularly moving.

As well as the memorable guitar playing, the singing and great selection of songs, there was a lot of good humour, comedy and audience participation. The first half finished with Lynne singing "Secret Tree", with about a dozen (pre-primed) members of the audience getting up to do some impromptu Morris/barn dancing. They also managed to get everyone providing an "Uh-Huh" accompaniment to Stewball and ended the evening with a near perfect rendition of "Moon River" by the Woodman ensemble, who were in excellent voice, aided by some first rate miming from Lynn.

It's the sort of evening that you remember and, depending on your interests, you will take away something that made the evening particularly memorable for you. It could be:

- Lynne's wonderful vocals and infectious humour
- Steve's amazing guitar playing
- The blues and country songs
- The audience participation

or maybe for you it could be that surreal moment when Lynne dressed Steve up in rollers and a pinny.

Support was provided by the Woodman regulars, "Nothing to Prove", Dick Woodhouse and Bryn Phillips.