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!
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