Reviews 2017

Woodman Folk Club - Reviews

Vicki Swan & Jonny Dyer

Bryn Phillips 17 February 2017

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This was the first visit of Vicki Swan and Jonny Dyer to the Woodman folk club, which is surprising as they are a very popular duo, and known to many club members from folk festival appearances. I have seen them several times before at Bridgnorth Folk Festival, Wheaton Aston, and only last year at Bromsgrove Folk Festival and I was looking forward to the evening, not least to seeing and hearing the famed nyckelharpa again. I wasn't disappointed; as soon as people arrived at the club they found leaflets on the tables giving a description of the instrument. That's something you don't get from guitarists!

Their performance comprises tunes played on various instruments, songs, a musical story and some good natured banter in between the songs. They started off the first half with a wedding tune, "The Processional", which was quite appropriate following their appearance on Holby City earlier in the year when they played at a Swedish Wedding. This featured Jonny on accordion, and Vicki on Swedish pipes, which resulted in a surprisingly pleasant mellow sound. After changing instruments, with Vicki on the nyckelharpa and Jonny on bouzouki, they treated us to a song, "Paper of Pins", the title track of their latest album. What struck me about their singing was the clarity of their diction and how well their voices blended together. Bearing in mind that by now we were only about ten minutes into their act, they already had the audience singing along to the chorus, and it was shaping into one of those perfect evenings. We had another song, "The Sheffield Apprentice", again with the audience singing along and then a couple more tunes. This time it was the nyckelharpa / accordion combo. We then had a production which added a spooky element to the evening. I say "production" as it wasn't a song, but more of a story told expressively by Vicki, interspersed with tunes - "The Legend of Stanton Drew". In this story the bride (weddings feature quite frequently in their performance) wants to carry on dancing through Saturday night into the Sabbath. The fiddler refuses and walks out. The bride (I was feeling sorry for the groom by now) announces that they would carry on dancing and she would call up a fiddler from hell if necessary. Well, if you're familiar with country music, you'll know that the Devil himself is a fiddle player - so guess who turns up. Scary stuff. Derry, wisely, resisted the temptation to play around with the reverb. They followed this up with another song, with a nice bouncy rhythm, that lifted the mood nicely. The uplifting mood continued to the break with "All Hail" followed by "Carnival in Venice", finishing with an audience participation song, "Three Cornered Hat". This involved not only singing, but actions - a good end to the first set. There was one event I haven't mentioned. During "Carnival in Venice" Jonny rang the Ashwood Marina Bell. To my knowledge this is the first time any of the Woodman artists have dared to do this. The bell rang, but nothing happened (apart from Derry running to the bar); there were no fire engines, no sprinklers, no fire drills - nothing. He might have set a trend. We'll see.

The second set continued in the same vein with another combination of tunes, songs and chat. We were treated to a couple of traditional songs "The Rambling Shuiller" and "Benjamin Bowmaneer" a rousing version of "Beer Glorious Beer" in which the audience were encouraged to shout "Hurrah!" at an appropriate point in the chorus although not much encouragement was required. We joined in everything, even the chorus to "Friends" a far more subdued song. The time just flew by, and before we knew it they were performing their last song "The Bold Fisherman". Of course there was an encore and this time it was a couple of tunes - one of which had a very lively "bottom swinging" rhythm, which Jonny and Vicki enacted enthusiastically on stage. Jonny told us he had checked out the chairs and they were suitable for bottom swinging but as I was at the front of the room I couldn't see how many of the Woodman audience joined in.

Support was enthusiastically provided by Barry and Corinne, Velvet Green and Bryn Phillips.

It was a wonderful night and as Les would have said if he had penned the review "a good time was had by all".