Reviews 2014

Woodman Folk Club - Reviews

River City Portrait


Rob O'Dell 21 February 2014

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It’s always a bit of a gamble when new acts are booked for the club. Not when they are a big name that just happened to have escaped us in the past of course, but when they are (a) new to the club and (b) probably unheard of by most, if not all of the members/regulars. Will they be as professional as we are hoping, will the club manage to cover costs/expenses, but by far most importantly, will we be providing a great night’s entertainment for all of the folks who support the club week in and week out?

River City Portrait – the Stourbridge based duo of Dan Haynes and Robin Groucutt – took to the stage and were obviously a little nervous. They apologised for this then explained that they had not played together as this duo for over a year as they had been doing other things!

It was at this point that I began to get a feeling of some trepidation having been the guilty party who had suggested the band to Deb & Derry on the strength of hearing one track and doing a minimal amount of internet research. Suffice to say that the nervous duo had then become a trio, unknown to them!!

I need have had no such worries. From the opening number ‘Stung’, they began to deliver a wonderfully chilled, varied and musically beautifully understated evening of vocal and instrumental proficiency that I for one enjoyed immensely.

Individually they both had excellent voices, effortlessly reaching high tenor notes when required which combined with enviable guitar skills was just a joy to listen to. But when they sung in harmony it was simply magical. Comparisons with Simon & Garfunkel were inevitable and became understandable when they explained that Dan is one half of an S & G tribute act called Bookends and Robin works with them too. Hence the lack of recent gigging as RCP. The other obvious influence which was instantly recognisable in their style was Jack Johnson, the horizontally laid-back Hawaiian maestro of cool. Many of their own songs and the way they performed them were very Johnson-esque.

They relaxed easily into their set and it wasn’t long before the audience were completely won over. The first half was almost entirely self-penned songs, some of which had an almost latin/samba type feel to them, others gentle ballads and the set was then rounded off with ‘I Am A Rock’ and ‘America’ from the Simon & Garfunkel back catalogue.

The second half opened with ‘Rodeo Clowns’, a Jack Johnson number and here they stated that he was a big influence on them. The percussion featured heavily in this one with Dan playing cajon and claves at the same time! More percussion featured in the next song ‘You Come Alive’ with Rob taking to his Djembe. After a couple more they varied the set by each playing two solo numbers, the most memorable of which were Rob’s blistering performance of John Martyn’s ‘May You Never’ and Dan’s equally excellent version of Bert Jansch’s guitar piece ‘Angie’. Dan also acceded to Paul Beddingfield’s request to play ‘Kathy’s Song’, another S & G number. He told us that he hadn’t done this one for a very long time so as an aide memoire he managed to get the lyrics up on his phone which he then promptly balanced in the beer holder on the mic. A completely new take on a music stand I think you’ll agree (!?!) He didn’t need it, it was beautifully sung.

Robin announced that it was now just over 5 years since the death of his father, Kelly Groucutt, who was for many years a member of the Electric Light Orchestra, and so for their encore they did a wonderful acoustic version of the classic ELO hit ‘Showdown’. Thus concluded a brilliant night’s entertainment and I’m sure that they will be returning to the club at some future date.

We had no Bryn with us this week so support was provided by an extended set from Nothing to Prove and the ever dependable Velvet Green who were in fine form.