Reviews 2014

Woodman Folk Club - Reviews

Rich McMahon

Photograph By: Gary Griffiths

Paul Bedingfield 14 March 2014

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Every year, for a week or so around St Patrick’s Day, it seems to me that zillions of people pop out of the woodwork performing traditional Irish songs with varying degrees of proficiency – from amazingly good to absolutely dreadful. It’s never been my thing, so perhaps I was not the best person to be asked to write this review. However, I guess it was inevitable that the Woodman would have its taste of Eire at this time, and so we had Rich for our delectation. “At least he’s a real Irishman” I thought to myself, only to find out he was born in Coventry but moved to Ireland in his childhood. Still, he seemed a nice enough chap, and so I pricked up my ears, picked up my pen and started to take notes.

Rich’s first two songs (his own compositions) were “The Imagined Nation” and “The Journey’s End”, one about displacement, and the other, (in his own words) a “reverse emigration song”. These were O.K. songs, and I thought perhaps my initial apprehension was a bit unfair. Then came the first traditional Irish offering – “The Black Velvet Band”. To be honest, I didn’t enjoy Rich’s performance of this but when I looked round I noticed most of the audience happily singing along. Maybe I’m just miserable? – It has been rumoured! Then came the two songs I enjoyed most of all from the first half – “Ten Thousand Miles From Dublin” and “Mother’s Lament”. Again, from Rich’s pen and actually pretty good stuff. We had some Dylan, some Waterboys/Greensleeves fusion and more, including vocal support from Rich’s sister Sam. Sam sang lead on the amusing “Tipping It Up To Nancy”.

So, for me, a mixed first half without much of the St Patrick’s Day overload I was fearing and in Rich’s self-penned material some interesting stuff.

We had a high energy start to the second half with Rich singing “The Rocky Road To Dublin” accompanied by nought but Deb’s bodhran. Now, that’s an Irish song I do actually like. More of Rich’s own material followed: “The Barman’s Tale”, and: “The Dissenters” and I really started to warm both to the man and his performance. Uncharacteristically for me, I even enjoyed the Appalachian “The Blackest Crow” (performed with sister Sam). Then Rich sang “The Leaving Of Liverpool”. A song not to my taste, but yet once again nearly everyone else was singing their hearts out. Once more, Rich followed up with something I really liked – his own “In Between Land” which I thought was a cracking song. The main set concluded with his “The Sea Between Us”. Rich then unplugged his guitar and did his wandering minstrel bit through the audience singing some familiar if, by his own admission, “cliché” material, but again the audience were happily singing along.

Summing up: I personally wasn’t that keen on the traditional Irish stuff, but everyone else seemed to be loving it. However, I really did begin to like Rich himself and I did enjoy his own material – and that’s where I think his real promise lies.

Nothing To Prove, Velvet Green and Bryn Phillips provided support.