Reviews 2009

Woodman Folk Club - Reviews

Joe Topping

Bryn Phillips 8 May 2009

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I hadn’t realised it was four years since Joe Topping had been to the Woodman; time passes, things get done, and then it’s round again. But this time round, rather than just a fine musician and singer, we were treated to a great entertainer.

The evening started off with, as always, a well received performance from Nothing to Prove (minus Trev, so they were introduced as Nothing to P … hmmm?) followed by a first appearance at the Ashwood Marina by Ian Sutherland. It was good to hear him again. Then we were treated to some Rockabilly music from Jack o’ Diamonds, which went down well and got everyone foot tapping and pecussioning along. And then it was time for Joe Topping …..

…. we had a clue what he’d be like from the collection of guitars neatly stowed on the stage. As well as a standard six string acoustic he had a National Steel and a Dobro, sitting there waiting to be brought into play. He picked up the National and launched into an old blues number (by Blind Willie someone or other – there’s a lot of Blind Willies about) and the magic began. He has a really sensitive style of playing slide, and a great voice which took me back four years to when he was here last. It was the contact with the audience and the easy chat between the songs that really struck me this time, though. He told us about the 11 week, 1,400 mile charity walk from North to South across America, guitar in hand. This was the introduction to one of the great songs of the evening “How High”. He told us about his ride in a truck only to turn round to find that the other passenger was covered in blood, as he’d apparently been “Seeing to his fighting chickens” and then there was the US doctor with a hidden room full of guns, which was the introduction to “Holding On To Love”. And so it went, he moved from slow to uptempo blues, some country influenced songs to ballads and all the time, interesting and amusing anecdotes. He also invited the audience to join in with the percussion (a thing only brave performers do at the Woodman). I must admit being a bit surprised, though, as after years of playing Little Red Rooster to the Woodman Crowd and getting an assortment of Cockerels crowing, dogs barking and hounds howling, I noted that they treated Joe Topping’s version of the legendary Willie Dixon’s number with silence and almost reverential respect. Maybe they just didn’t want to put him off. 

Did he have an encore? Well of course he did! For an encore he played something totally different for the (eclectic) Woodman audience “Georgia on My Mind”, which was a perfect end to a perfect evening. Joe Topping is a must for an early return visit; hope you’re on the case Ian.

Finally, special thanks to the Woodman audience for providing their usual high standard of chorus singing for me when I played The Throckmorton Coat after the interval. This is now sitting on YouTube for viewing by the Gloucestershire Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers who are taking part in the Throckmorton Coat Challenge this year.