Category Archives: Gig review

154. VICKI SWAN & JONNY DYER (+ Open Floor) at RFC. Tuesday, 14th March 2017

Dyer & Swan at RFC (Photo: Garry W)

Due to innumerable recommendations, I’d been meaning to get along to a Vicki Swan / Jonny Dyer gig for far too long without achieving this ambition. So when Garry Walker of RFC told me he’d booked the duo here at my local club, I didn’t even have to go far to see them… they came to me! The couple are based in Braintree, Essex (not a million miles from here), and have made quite a name for themselves in recent years – partly for their own noted performances as a duet, but also as much-in-demand multi-instrumentalists collaborating with others too.

Arriving at RFC on the evening and introducing myself, I was immediately struck by the sheer quantity and range of instruments that they’d brought along to the gig. In evidence were a left-handed 6-String acoustic guitar; what looked to me like a L/H 8-String Tenor guitar (which turned out to be a guitar body with a Bouzouki neck – how wrong can I have been?); Scottish Small Pipes; Swedish Pipes (I didn’t know there was such a thing!); several accordions; a flute; cow horn; swanee whistle; and of course Vicki’s trademark instrument, the remarkable Swedish Nyckelharpa (pronounced nook-uhl-hahr-puh) – an explanatory leaflet on which she kindly gave me, enlightening my ignorance by a few shades!

(Photo: Garry W)

Vicki and Jonny played an amazing and impressive two-part set of some very varied traditional arrangements as well as some of their own material. Introduced by MoS Alan Gore, they began with ‘Processional’ from their excellent last album Paper Of Pins (2016), a CD copy of which Vicki kindly gave me after the show. Some of their two-part set consisted of songs from this excellent album; and included: ‘Friends’; and ‘The Bold Fisherman’; as well as the title track.

Other tunes performed were ‘The Standing Stones of Stanton Drew’; the fun ‘Three-Cornered Hat’ (with actions); their amusing bus driver song; and ‘I’ve Lost My Cow’ (which featured some bizarre duelling between Jonny’s Cow Horn and Vicki’s Swedish Pipes); and others. The evening finished with an encore of a Swedish Polska, (not to be confused with a Polka). This was a fun tune in 3/4 time. And so the performance ended with much appreciative – and well deserved – applause.

At all times these tunes were performed with skill, professionalism – and a good measure of humour too. Vocals from both were excellent (although Vicki said she was struggling with her voice); and harmonies were likewise of superb quality. We, the audience, were encouraged to participate too. Its well worth going to see this duo if you can. I very much enjoyed their set.

Each of the Swan-Dyer half-sets were of course preceded by Open Floor spots; and all the regulars had a go. Best of all this week I thought was newcomer Cliff, who plugged in a Telecaster and played lead guitar over a 12-Bar Blues instrumental backing track called ‘Cascade’. Unusual to hear such a thing in such a club, but I love a bit of Blues, and Cliff played it very well – he even claimed that he’d not played to an audience before! Continuing with something in the same general genre – and celebrating my early retirement from work – when it was my turn I played my own acoustic number ‘Mid-Life Crisis Blues’.

Thanks to Vicki and Jonny; to the club staff; and all who took part. Another very good evening at RFC. PTMQ

The Swan-Dyer website

151. JO GREGORY (+ Open Floor) at RFC. Tuesday, 28th February 2017

Jo Gregory at RFC (Photo: Garry Walker)

Jo Gregory at RFC (Photo: Garry Walker)

It is always very satisfying for me to see one of my friends getting their own gig (as promoting my friends’ talents is originally what my website was designed to do). Jo Gregory is a fine singer who has been singing in pubs on and off for years. (She is also a published poet, and plays guitar a bit too). She has been a regular at Romford Folk Club for some time, and they gave her this Feature Night to show-case her talents. But Jo being Jo, she brought along several members of her very talented family to help out too – upon which, more anon…

The usual Open Floor spots preceded each of Jo’s half-sets of course. best among these this week I thought were the duet Mikanora covering ‘Spanish Castles’; and father and daughter team Steve and Hannah O’Driscoll doing ‘The Jolly Tinker’. I played my ‘Nan’s bread Pudd’n’… ably assisted by Rod Standen who played washboard for the first time ever! Cheers Rod! (For a review of Rod’s gig at RFC recently, see my review #139; and a review of Rod’s album Poetic Force #109).

L-R: Micky, Jackie, Me, Jo. (Photo: Garry Walker)

L-R: Micky, Jackie, Me, Jo. (Photo: Garry Walker)

Jo, who has a wide variety of musical influences, delivered a great range of songs during the course of her set; beginning the first half with her fine rendition of ‘The Skye Boat Song’ (the RL Stevenson lyric version); followed by the Trad Irish song ‘She Moved Through The Fair’. Both were sung by Jo, as usual, unaccompanied – and in her usual unique style. A complete change then ensued in the form of Patsy Cline’s ‘You Belong To Me’; and Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case Of You’. Then at this point Jo asked me to accompany her on guitar for ‘Killing Me Softly’; and her elder daughter Ellie for ‘The Rose’ – during which mother and daughter harmonised beautifully. And so ended the first half to great applause.

Half time included a discussion on a bombshell development that evening, that the host venue The Sun, had given RFC a month’s notice to quit their function room! So ideas were bandied about as to where the club could move to. This will be an ongoing topic for the club members, so watch this space. Not all bad news though… I won a Seasick Steve CD in the raffle! Anyway, after a couple more floor spots, Jo was back for part two.

Jo and Ellie (Photo: Garry W)

Jo and Ellie (Photo: Garry W)

She began her second set by reciting her published poem ‘At What Cost?’ – a short but poignant verse about three of her Great Uncles who died in the Great War. She followed this with ‘Let It Be’; before inviting her younger daughter Molly up for ‘A Thousand Years’. Again, Mum and daughter harmonised beautifully, and was received very well by the audience. ‘Nothing Compares 2u’ followed. It is one of the first songs that Jo ever sung in public, and has become a firm favourite. Jackie Gregory, another member of her truly talented family then joined her, along with Micky Brown on guitar and yours truly on percussion, for ‘Blanket On The Ground’. Then finally she finished with ‘Blooming Heather’, asking Gemma Boyd to accompany her on fiddle. This, like most of her songs, inspired everyone to join in. Encore was required of course; and Jo chose to sing ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’ with her elder daughter Ellie again. And thus ended another fine evening’s entertainment at RFC. Thanks to Jo and her clan for their performances; and to the club for hosting it. PTMQ

149. RICKY LEE at ‘THE KING HAROLD’, Harold Wood, Essex. Saturday, 18th February, 2017.

Ricky with Les at the Harold (Photo: PTMQ)

Ricky with Les at the Harold (Photo: PTMQ)

To be honest I wasn’t even planning to go to a gig on this particular night, but at short notice, my boy James recommended solo covers guitarist Ricky Lee, a local 25 year old, who was booked for my local pub The King Harold; so off we went. I don’t get myself down there much these days because I don’t normally have the time to review covers bands (excellent though some of them are), but its a good pub which I think hosts covers artists/bands every Saturday night; and was packed out as usual. I was glad I went on this particular night, and here’s why…

Strapping on his Les Paul and switching on his backing track, our man began his set with ‘How Long?’, following up with a great variety of well-chosen crowd-pleasing covers from the last six decades, such as ‘Lovely Day’; ‘Wonderful Tonight’; ‘Teenage Dirtbag’; ‘Johnny B Goode’; ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’; ‘You Really Got Me’; ‘Rebel Yell’; ‘Here I Go Again’; Rocking In The Free World’; and ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’ (unfortunately without a Slash-esque solo – but good all the same!)

Most popular with the ladies on the dance floor were ‘Valerie’; ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’; and ‘Summer Of 69’; but I was personally most impressed by his axe-work ‘Still Got The Blues’ and ‘Foxy Lady’ – leading me to think that the Blues-Rock genre is where he feels most at home. He looks and sounds too good to be doing just covers and I’d be interested to hear his own material. We had a chat at half-time, and he told me he was (not surprisingly) into Moore, Slash and Bonamassa, among others.

It was clear from the first number that Ricky knew his way round the fret-board of his Les Paul, which he handled with confidence and competence; changing from rhythm to lead with consumate ease – his right foot was more than a bit useful on the Cry Baby for the iconic solo of ‘Don’t Believe A Word’ too! Every song was easily recognisable – but not a slavish copy, leaving room for a little personal interpretation. There were no discernable mistakes and vocals were very good. A great performance and a fine set. Someone to look out for; and good luck to him. Thanks to all staff and punters at the King Harold… and to James for suggesting the gig in the first place! PTMQ

Ricky’s Facebook page

148. DANIEL NESTLERODE & PAUL BALLANTYNE (+ Open Floor) at RFC. Tuesday, 7th February, 2017

(Photo: Garry Walker)

Ballantyne and Nestlerode (Photo: Garry Walker)

At a gig recently, Paul Ballantyne told me he was booked, along with Daniel Nestlerode, to play at RFC (See my review # 146). Having seen Paul play on occasions (See review #59); and having been told by several people that Daniel was ‘well worth seeing’, I promised to go along.

As is usual at RFC, the guest’s set was split into two parts – both preceded by Open Floor spots. These were varied as usual. I thought Mikanora were again pick of the bunch with their funny and topical ‘Old People’ which is a song about the NHS – or rather the government’s attitude towards it!

Daniel and Paul’s set was basically a live performance of the tracks from Daniel’s album More Than A Little Guitar (a copy of which he gave me afterwards). Some of these Country/Folk songs are Traditional, and some penned by Daniel himself. Although Paul is not on the album, he works very well with Daniel and together they produced a fine live show, with Paul on guitars, and Daniel on mandos/vocals. Songs such as ‘Old Calapina’ and ‘Long Black Veil’ I thought were particularly good. Surprisingly they finished up with a cover of Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’, to which we all sang along. An enjoyable set.

Daniel is currently recording a new album and I look forward to hearing it. Thanks to the guests, the RFC, and all who took part. PTMQ

147. PAMELA WARD & PAUL CHERRINGTON (+ Open Floor) at RFC. 31st January 2017

Pam and Paul at RFC (Photo: Garry Walker)

Pam and Paul at RFC (Photo: Garry Walker)

To be honest I didn’t realise that there was a special guest booked for this particular evening at RFC; I was just expecting an Open Floor Night. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that Northamptonshire based duet Pamela Ward and Paul Cherrington had been asked to play at the club.

Their set was of course preceded by the usual Open Floor spots. Many of the regulars were in attendance and played a couple of good songs each; displaying the great variety of styles and abilities characteristic of these evenings. Pick of the bunch I thought was Mikanora‘s topical and amusing song about US President Trump… ‘Down Mexico Way’.  I did a duet with Jo Gregory playing ‘Killing Me Softly’; and a couple of my own songs too: ’40 Years, 40 Days, 40 Nights’ and ‘Don’t Blame Me If Me Washboard’s Out O’ Tune!’.

Jo and The Quill (Photo: Garry W)

Jo and The Quill (Photo: Garry W)

I had never seen Pamela and Paul perform before, and I was very impressed by their set. Of particular note were Pam’s lovely vocals; and Paul’s hauntingly beautiful alternative guitar tunings (reminding me of Giltrap at times). Their obvious skill at song-writing was evident; and the performance of them was excellent. They began with a couple of covers and then moved on to some of their own well-crafted songs; such as the tragic but beautiful ‘Sail On By’ (about a maritime accident in 1942 which Pam’s father survived); and two fine songs about the Sheffield cutlery trade: ‘Little Mesters’ and ‘Errand Lasses And Buffer Girls’. Preceding each song, Pam gave a good explanation of it; which is something I like to hear before any performance. So thanks to this fine duet for their short but superb set; to the club; for hosting it; and to all who took part.

I had a chat with Pam and Paul after the gig, and obtained three of their CDs: Pam’s Just An Old Fashioned Girl; Paul’s instrumental album Martin & Me; and their joint work Sail On By. Having had a quick spin of these albums I can report that they are all very good indeed. PTMQ

Here is a link to the Pamela and Paul’s website

146. DARIA KULESH (+ Open Floor) at The FaB Club, The White Hart PH, Grays, Essex. Sunday 22nd January, 2017. (+ a few words about the venue).

(Photo: PTMQ)

(Photo: PTMQ)

Preamble.  When my friend, singer/song-writer Daria Kulesh told me she had some solo gigs booked here in Essex, I of course said that I’d try to get along to one or two. Her second album Long Lost Home will be officially released soon, so she is busy gigging her way around the Home Counties and further afield too. I have heard the new collection, and I have reviewed it recently (See my article #145).

The FaB Club is held in the White Hart PH, Grays, Essex – half an hour’s drive through the lanes from Quill HQ – although I must admit I’ve never visited the venue before. The acronym FaB stands for ‘Folk, Acoustic and Blues’ and it is held on most Sunday afternoons (Check their website for details). They host regular Open Floor sessions and occasionally book a special guest such as Daria. I arrived early and was welcomed by MoS Liz Montgomery; and soundman / guitarist Paul Ballantyne – who was busy setting up a fine new Bose sound system. I have met and seen him perform before, at Romford Folk Club (See my article #59). Garry Walker of RFC is also a regular at the FaB and he turned up as well. Daria and husband Julian arrived soon after myself. I haven’t seen them for a year (since she played Haverfolk with her band KARA. See my review #78), so it was lovely to see them both.

(Photo: PTMQ)

(Photo: PTMQ)

The gig (Part One).  The afternoon was split into two parts – each began with some Open Floor spots, followed by a half-set from Daria. To get the ball rolling, Paul Ballantyne played a couple of songs, followed by  a guitar-bass-banjo trio, Keith, Maureen and John, who played a couple of fine songs. I was up next, and borrowing Keith’s lovely Washburn acoustic, played a couple of my own songs: ‘Mid-Life Crisis Blues’ and ‘Nan’s Bread Pudd’n’. Thanks Keith!

Daria began her first set with a Cossack drinking song, to which we all joined in after she had taught us some Russian words! Good fun. Taking up her Shruti Box, she then played the haunting ‘Tamara’ from her new album Long Lost Home (See my previous review #145); followed by the Trad Irish song ‘Tell Me Ma’ on her bodhrán. Three more fine renditions of songs from the new album were then played on her guitar: ‘Safely Wed’; ‘The Moon And The Pilot’; and on the shruti, ‘Heart’s Delight’ – all with heart-felt preambles. And so ended the first, very eclectic, set to great applause.

The gig (Part Two).  After a short break, a few more floor spots restarted the afternoon’s entertainment. As is usual in Folk/Acoustic clubs, a great variety of styles were represented; and very enjoyable they were too. Daria returned then for her second set; and began with a Trad Scottish song; then, bodhrán in hand, she followed this with ‘Begone!’, a favourite song from her live repertoire. It is a true story about a witch hunt – but sung from the point of view of the mob. It is menacing and primal in its intensity.

(Photo: PTMQ)

Keith, Maureen and John (Photo: PTMQ)

Apart from her solo work and being a member of Kara, Daria is also involved with The Company Of Players, a ten-piece group of young Folk musicians. ‘Lady MacBeth’ is a track on their album, and will also appear on the new Kara album too. It is played on the shruti. I hadn’t heard it before; and found it to be very haunting. She followed with the beautiful ‘Gone’ from the new album. Then she sang ‘Hairdresser’ from Eternal Child, and dedicated it to me – perhaps I need a haircut? Thanks Daria. Snip, snip!

The main set finished with a tri-lingual (English/Russian/French) cover of ‘Those Were The Days My Friend’ with which we all joined in of course. Encore was demanded, and duly given in the form of ‘Distant Love’ from Long Lost Home.

Fin.  I very much enjoyed Daria’s performance – she improves every time I see her. She’ll be performing at Cecil Sharp House, Camden, on 23rd Feb for her official album launch – check her website for more info. Thanks to her, the FaB Club and all the regulars who performed to make it a very entertaining afternoon. PTMQ

143. LAURENCE JONES BAND (+THE HEATERS) at THE NEW CRAWDADDY BLUES CLUB, Billericay, Essex. Friday, 20th January, 2017.

LJ at the NCBC (Photo: Karen R)

LJ at the NCBC (Photo: Karen R)

My first visit to the New Crawdaddy Blues Club of 2017 was a good one to be sure: it was the superb Laurence Jones Band, with support from house band, The Heaters. I’ve seen LJ a few times before – as an impressive 21 year-old jamming with his mentor Walter Trout (May 2013. Just before I started my website); then supporting Coco Montoya (May 2014. See my review #14); and supporting – and jamming with – Otis Grand (November 2014. See my review #30), He had noticeably improved in ability and confidence each time. So having not seen him for over two years, my son James and I were wondering if we’d notice any changes this time. We were to see….

But first on stage was the club’s house band, The Heaters. I’ve seen them many times before, but they never fail to impress with songs from their vast repertoire of covers – some of which I hadn’t heard them play before. On this occasion they played such favourites as ‘Hideaway’; ‘I’m Tore Down’; ‘Pretty Woman’ and ‘All Your Love’. But the highlight of their set was a fine rendition of Greeny’s ‘Fool No More’ featuring lead guitarist Chris Campbell. Excellent.

And so to the headline act. As the LJB climbed on stage, the first noticeable change was that band were completely different yet again. They now consist of Laurence himself of course on guitar and vocals; Phil Wilson on drums; and making his first appearance with the band, bassist Greg Smith. The LJB also now have a keyboard player in the shape of Bennett Holland. No longer being a three-piece opens up a lot more scope musically. This was the band’s first gig of 2017; and it was certainly a good start to the year.

(Photo: Karen R)

(Photo: Karen R)

The band immediately launched into the title track of the new album Take Me High. It was clear from the off that this new line-up were tight and confident together. A variety of Blues/Blues-based numbers followed, all on the Rock edge of the Blues spectrum, and all in LJ’s inimitable style. These were mainly songs from the last two albums, plus a couple from Temptation including ‘Soul Swamp River’; and a fine electric cover of the old Lead Belly tune ‘Good Morning Blues’ – nice use of wah-wah on this one. A good cover of ‘Cocaine’ was played too, with of course plenty of audience participation.

Highlights of the show for me were: the radio friendly single from the new album, ‘I Will’ (which I thought had a bit of a ‘Watchtower’ vibe about it). Also the Rock’n’Roller ‘Stop Moving The House’; and the obligatory slow number ‘Thunder In The Sky’ (apparently the first song that LJ ever wrote) – to which a couple of lovely ladies in black performed a cheeky dance – and why not? (I should have filmed it!) There was also a tasty bit of duelling between LJ and keys man Bennett on ‘You Wind Me Up’ too. Encore was demanded and delivered in the form of ‘Every Day I Have The Blues’ and ‘My Eyes Get In Me Trouble’.

(Photo: Karen R)

(Photo: Karen R)

Laurence and the boys are a fine young band, and I think they have a great deal more to offer over the coming years. The Blues genre needs young bands like this; and I noticed there were some younger people in the audience too – that can only be a good thing. If you like guitar-based Blues on the Rock edge, then you’ll enjoy their live performance if you haven’t seen them already.

Thanks to impresario Paul Dean and all the hard working volunteers at the NCBC who week in, week out, make this regular Friday night Blues club something special. Big thanks to Karen for the great photos too. PTMQ

 Laurence Jones’ website

New Crawdaddy’s website