Reviews 2013

Woodman Folk Club - Reviews


Malcolm Jeffrey 10 May 2013

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The Woodman kindly presents another opportunity to see the magnificent QuickSilver, and my two sons and I duly jump at the chance. I've been covering a few more of Grant Baynham's songs recently, including the frankly magnificent "First Kiss", from Grant's solo live "Listen..." CD (my advice to you is to Buy One and Be Amazed). I really should get him a pint in for this, and do so, while attempting to convince him that "First Kiss" would stand proudly in comparison with the best of the works of our heroes, mssrs Thackray, Lehrer, Flanders and Swann : but Grant dissembles like a true Englishman and is having none of it. I hope he got the message though.

The lights go down and Nothing To Prove are first up, starting with "Voyage To Australia", which has the Woodman regulars scurrying for their shakers straight away. NTP have added an almost prog-rock into to the song, and throughout their set it seems to me that they have become much tighter and musically inventive of late. Derry produces some very Lindisfarne-like bass on "Be My Downfall“ and their last song, “Folk Festival Virgin", has the Woodman laughing out loud. Next on stage is Barry Priest, who plays solo tonight, giving us a lovely "My Temporary Home" and one I'd not heard before, a Jimmy Nail song called "Big River" about the Tyne, both songs sung beautifully, as ever.

And then it's time for the mighty QuickSilver, who neither of my boys have ever seen, so it's the start of an evening's treat for them as Grant and Hilary open with "Sing In The Day" : neither of them seem to need much loosening up and are both quickly in the groove. They continue with their arrangement of Jake Thackray's "The Kiss" - Grant plays it in two alternating keys, one to suit each of their voices, complete with intricate linkings between the two keys : neither of my boys have ever seen it played quite like this before, and stare at me in astonishment. QuickSilver aren't going to let up, however, and follow it up with Richard Stilgoe's "La Mer", which has the audience in hysterics and features a beautiful Piaf-esque French vocal from Hilary.

Next, Grant introduces "Sabrina Fair", a song about memories of the old Arley ferry across the Severn at Northwood Halt : a gentleman in the seat next to me remarks to his wife that he used to be the ferryman on that ferry ! Grant Baynham is particularly twiddly and fluent in this song, even to the point of fine-tuning his guitar while still playing... There then follows a small chat of Grant and Hillary's recent trip to Canada, leading into a nice boating song, "Owen Sound / Steady As She Goes", which is warmly received by the Woodman crowd.

QuickSilver then teach us the chorus to "Not That Old Thing", a splendid ragtime song, during which Grant performs a proper Scott-Joplinesque bass line throughout despite the complexity of the chords : my notes here on his solo just say "fantastic"... and judging by the applause after the song, the Woodman audience think so too. This is followed by "Spencer's Cock", which Grant has included for tonight‘s more folkey audience, purely because it's a 14 verse version of "The Lover's Ghost" not found in the Childe Ballads ! It is, of course, an epic Mr Baynham original, and, as in many versions of "The Lover's Ghost", the hero is set a task to perform. And what a task ! I wouldn't dream of spoiling the surprise by telling you what it is... but the Woodman attendees seem to thoroughly appreciate it. The first half is brought to a rousing conclusion with Victoria Wood's "The Ballad Of Barry And Freda" (a.k.a. "Let's Do It"), with Grant matching Hilary, Northern accent for Northern accent, in tones that would fit in nicely on "dinnerladies".

Break time, and I scuttle off to the bar to recharge the Jeffrey provisions, and to have a chat with Rob O'Dell, the "new" recruit in Nothing To Prove : it's the first chance I've had to talk with him at length since he joined the band and in my opinion it has been entirely positive. Wandering over to the QuickSilver merchandising area, I learn that there is a new QuickSilver CD currently being made, but there, ready to buy, is that rarest of things, a new Mrs Acroyd CD, which I eagerly snaffle up (and have since been mining for new material! ). The raffle is drawn, and Hilary Spencer wins it herself. Ah well !

Part The Second, then, and QuickSilver open with Flanders and Swann's splendid "Have Some Madeira, M'Dear", a salutory warning concerning men with beards. Following that, having to correct the tuning of his guitar after only just starting, Grant tells us some of the history of it (it's a Russell Wooton hand-made guitar), and then goes on to explain why he's always used non-standard chord shapes. Turns out that his index finger, the one you or I would normally use for barring with, is so double-jointed that it doesn't really have the strength to hold all the strings down : accordingly, Grant devised his own family of chord shapes which allow him to play all types of G chord - minors, 7ths, susses etc - with minimal fingering changes (which he then goes on to demonstrate at impressive speed). Fascinating to learn about : though at the same time, I thought that the phrase "He might as well have written it in Chinese Braille, in code", a line from Grant's own 'Y420Q/A', was suitably appropriate ... :o)

Next up is "Blue Lagoon Café", a song featuring such a fabulous walking bass line from Mr Baynham that my sons and I exchange incredulous glances : this is followed by a folky "Michael On The Moor", played with a most Carthy-like tune, picked around open strings in a most skilful and controlled manner. One rhyming of "handsome" with "prince's ransom" evokes a big shared grin between Grant and Hilary... as does their effortless interplay in the next number, "Promise Tonight", which brings smiles to all of the audience.

"Fred Gittings" is the next song, featuring a rousing chorus (If I had all the money I've spent on beer... I'd spend it on beer !) which seems somehow to strike a chord with the enthusiastic Woodman crowd. They follow it up with the nicely pastoral "England Green", beautifully sung by both artistes, and harmonised on the chorus with gusto by the Woodman punters : and, in many ways, they've saved the beat till last, as the set is bought to an end with Hilary's exquisite rendition of Piaf's "La Vie En Rose", bringing loud and long applause at the end.

But they're not finished yet : and how could they be, at only 10 past 11 ? Dragged willingly and easily back to the stage, Spencer and Baynham perform a breakneck and flawless version (trust me, I know, and I was listening) of Tom Lehrer's "The Elements", and finally end their night with Grant Baynham's sweet "A Primrose". And then it's time to get off home and think about burning our guitars (or at least practising a shed-load harder)...

Thanks to Grant and Hilary for another splendid evening of quality performance, then. We'll be back when you are !