Reviews 2016

Woodman Folk Club - Reviews

Mad Jocks and Englishmen

Mad Jocks & Englishmen

Les Jones 18 November 2016

Click on photo to 
Click on photo to 
see larger image

Before you read this review, I want to make a confession, which is, despite their never having performed at the club before I am an ardent fan of Mad Jocks and Englishmen and have been for the last 40 plus years. They would be disappointed and even amazed if I did not say that one of their greatest attributes is consistency. That is, they have consistently and persistently sung the same songs and told the same jokes for all that time. But every time it is worth every second. Tonight, was no exception. To try to maintain some kind of balance to the review I have asked opinions from people who were there. I think they will agree with every word I write.

The band comprises: Andy Brownlie; Lead vocals, guitar and mandolin (Scottish), George Gallagher; Lead vocals and guitar (Scottish). Nick Weston; Supporting vocals, 5-string banjo and dojo (The solitary and much maligned Englishman). They formed the band in 1974 and whilst the line-up has hosted various supporting players and singers over the years the core members have remained the same. Their music is eclectic but remains firmly rooted in folk. Their humour is very difficult to classify. Jokes, off the cuff remarks and shaggy dog stories that may or may not contain any truth at all, I have never been able to work it out. Serious songs, often Scottish traditional, parodies of well-known pop songs and self-penned songs which are just down right hilarious. The basis of their on-stage persona is two Celts who detest the lone Englishman and one Englishman who gives back as much as he takes. I cannot finish this section without mentioning; “Nick is one of the best 5 string banjo players in the country – in the city he is not so good” sic – one of their jokes that hides the fact that he has in fact performed Duelling Banjos with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms. True. Not bad huh. Still makes him a banjo player though.

Anyway, the first set kicked off with the audience being split into roughly four equal parts so they could sing the chorus to the old Manfred Mann song Fox on the Run – I feel sorry for the last section that got the high bit. The Bonny Broom followed – a beautiful two-part harmony love song. Nick then gave us the first of his instrumental tunes – an Earl Scruggs piece entitled Randy Lynn Rag. It gave him chance to demonstrate how to play a tune by turning the tuning pegs as well as fretting the strings in the usual way. How on earth does he remember where he is? We were next honoured if that is the right phrase to the first public outing of Andy’s composition Down the Lane. Risky giving it to us to try out but it worked very well. Keep it in lads. The Mad Jocks version of Caledonia was the first I ever heard and again tonight it did not disappoint. There followed Don Reno’s Banjo Signal from Nick before they finished the first half with Step It Out Mary – another love song with some great mandolin playing from Andy. We all then had a much-needed rest.

The second set began again with a traditional Scottish song – Ye Jacobites By Name – please note here that my spell checker will not recognise plural Jacobite – why? I have not heard anyone sing Tom Paxton’s Leaving London for a very long time until this evening – one of several TP songs the band did in the early days that has been resurrected. There then followed an interlude during which we were treated to a short hilarious history of the band’s early days trying to break into the Birmingham folk scene. I cannot say too much in case you have not seen it but it did include a beautiful “Acapulco” version of Pinball Wizard and I would you to think before you speak when they play any Buddy Holly. We had to have Duelling Banjos of course this time minus the LSO but brilliant none the less. The Dutchman is an old favourite heard many times at the club and always welcome. I find it impossible to explain “The Tattooed Lady” but here goes. Take several well-known Scottish songs from I Love a Lassie to The Mull of Kintyre (Ok that’s not Scottish) distribute them at strategic points over a woman’s body; alter the lyrics and Glasgow Belongs to Me. I can say no more if you need any further explanation go and see the band live. One for The Road is another Andy Brownlie song which used to finish the evening not so this time as by request (Thanks Lads) we were then treated to their unique version of The Beatles I’ve Just Seen a Face – a cappella folk and bluegrass banjo – brilliant. Much joining in as there had been all night with Ewan McColl’s Dirty Old Town and I’ll Fly Away which is in fact a hymn written in the late 1920s. There was predictably an encore which was a song taught to the band by Andy’s aged grandmother some years ago; not strictly traditional as American Pie is a Don Mclean song she learned from his album. A suitable end to the evening I think.

Musical support was given at the start of both halves by Dick (Thackeray) Woodhouse, Velvet Green and Bryn Phillips who as usual compered the whole evening.

I am going to finish with a blatant piece of advertising. If you thought this evening was good, then get yourself to The Red Lion Folk Club in Kings Heath Birmingham on 21st December – when Mad Jocks will amongst other things perform their annual pantomime. But get there early seats are hard to come by later.

Don’t forget though that we have the Woodman Panto on Friday 16th December.
Am I allowed to say I’ve heard its Aladdin?
No oh, I’m not.
Forget I said it then.

As for tonight – An Extra Special Wonderful Time Was Had by All.