Reviews 2020

Woodman Folk Club - Reviews

Jack Blackman

Willow* 06 March 2020

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Hello, it’s Willow here. As part of my development plan for this year it has been agreed that I should step out of the background and write one or two reviews myself, as opposed to just chipping in the odd word when Woody writes them. I hope you like it.

When I was taught how to write reviews I was told, “Come up with a good opening sentence that will grip the readers”. So when Jack Blackman took to the stage and began to play I knew I would have no trouble. He is a superb exponent of Delta Blues, Ragtime, as well as a gifted writer of his own songs. An amazing guitarist who plays in a variety for tunings, changing from one to another swiftly and all without the aid of a guitar tuner of any sort – how does he do that?

I had thought to mention that he hails from Alcester “Where nothing happens”, he says, so what’s the point then? I have therefore, settled for something I heard said by several people as I was gazing around the club; “How is he able to play that well when he is so young?” Of course he may well be in his 90s and has engaged in some pact with the devil, but that aside it seems a reasonable start to me so here we go.

Jack’s two sets were, I think, enjoyed by all present, but I have to say that to be truly amazed by his skill and artistry it helps if you can at least have an idea of how to play a guitar yourself, just so you can appreciate how easy he makes it look when you know that personally you haven’t got any chance of getting beyond the first couple of notes.

About half of the material in both sets can be found on his cds, although not from his latest cd, which is surprising considering how good it is; but there you go.

In the first set we started with some of his own his own compositions, Hognose Gin; Nearly Man; Berwick Street Blues; Traveling Light (No not that one) and I Stay Blue. Lucky This Time is one he plays with his band – Jack Blackman and the Beautiful Wreck; Big Bill Broonzy’s Long Tall Momma; and Booker "Bukka" White’s Jitterbug Swing. He finished off this set with the Blind Blake ragtime Police Dog Blues.

The second set fell into much the same pattern Cold on the Calls; Citizen of Nowhere; Buddy Holly’s Ghost; Bottle Tree Blues were all from Jack’s pen, whereas Too Tight Rag belongs to Reverend Gary Davis; and No Silver Lining is a Beautiful Wreck song. There are four pieces I really feel I should pick out from the rest. Everybody’s Somebody Somewhere was a song Jack wrote with John Hill, a man who has been a great influence on him who regrettably died last year but having amongst other things played with John Bonham and Robert Plant before they became deities. When The Levee Breaks was written and sung by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie way back in 1929 and of course re-recorded by Led Zeppelin – see the link there? – Jack did it great justice thinking it would be his last song. Of course it wasn’t. The encore Dead Flowers was not only a knockout slow version of the Rolling Stones song from Sticky Fingers but had most of the audience still trying to recall it’s origins as they filed out of the club thoroughly delighted with their evening’s entertainment.

The evening had begun with a three songs slot from Nothing To Prove; Set Yourself Free; a new tune “borrowed” from Granny’s Attic – After The Flood and Cradley Means Home To Me. Velvet Green sang Paul’s Fool Too Long and Sandy Denny’s Fotheringhay. Bryn given the company we were in, chickened out of playing any slide guitar but bravely two blues related songs of his own making; Now I Only Listen To The Blues and Hard Seat Thin Cushion Blues.

So, for the first but hopefully not the last time, this is me, Willow, signing off.

And as Woody would usually say;

A wonderful night was had by all, here’s to the next one.



* Notes taken by Les Jones, who also typed up the review, but the views expressed are 
  those of Willow.