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168. FRANK STATESBORO (+MARTIN McNEILL & Open Floor) at RFC. Tuesday 9th May 2017.

Bluesman 1: Frank Statesboro (Photo: G.Walker)

Well, with Frank Statesboro as special guest, this particular night at Romford Folk Club was bound to get a bit Bluesy. Add to that, Martin McNeill (the maestro of Monday Blues At Peggy Sue’s) contacted me the day before asking about the club, and I suggested he come along too. So with several of the regulars also getting into the Blues vibe, it was sure to be a memorable night.

The preceding Open Floor spots were very varied as usual – although rather Blues dominated. Best among them I thought were of course, Martin McNeill with his ‘Feel So Good’ and ‘Unchain My Heart’ (which I’ve heard him play several times at Peggy Sue’s); Jo Gregory‘s a cappella cover of ‘Cry Me A River’; and Jackie Gregory‘s fine version of ‘Matty Groves’. Of course, I played my ‘Mid-Life Crisis Blues’; and Vern Waldie asked me to accompany him for his own Blues number ‘My Love’ – which I didn’t know, but enjoyed playing.

Bluesman 2: Martin McNeill (Photo: G.Walker)

Introduced by Nora Kelson (MoC for the night), the man in black, Frank Statesboro took to the performance area and began with Crudup’s ‘That’s Alright’. His imposing physical presence was only outweighed by his gravelly vocal and aggressive strumming style, which is characterised by strong bass runs and loudly muted chords. He got through two great sets of Blues classics, including: ‘Got My Mojo Working’; and ‘Mean Ol’ Frisco’.

Other varied songs in his repertoire were ‘What A Wonderful World This Would Be’; ‘Handbags And Gladrags’; ‘Rockin’ Robin’; ‘If Loving You Is Wrong’; and ‘Heartbreak Hotel’.

Highlight of the evening for me though, was when Frank invited Martin to jam with him on a couple of songs. Now, these two are very experienced Bluesmen (albeit with very different styles); yet they had never jammed together before. No problem – they steamed into a pacey Rock’n’Roller: ‘Gone, Gone, Gone’, with Martin on bottleneck, duelling with Frank. They followed this with a fine cover of Greeny’s classic ‘Black Magic Woman’. Again extended improvised solos from both guitarists that is rarely witnessed outside of a Blues club. Excellent!

Statesboro and McNeill (Photo: G.Walker)

Frank also included an entertaining medley of disparate songs of various styles. These were segued within two halves of ‘King Of The Swingers’. They included ‘The Drunken Sailor’; ‘Mama Don’t Like No Music’; and ‘Valerie’. Bizarre – but it worked a treat!

Martin was invited to return to the floor then for a well deserved encore of Bo Diddley’s ‘Before You Accuse Me’. An excellent rendition it was too; and the show finished to great applause.

All in all, a great Blues dominated evening – one of the best Guest Nights I’ve seen at the club. I thoroughly enjoyed it; so a big thank you to Mr.Statesboro; Mr.McNeill; the club officials; and all those who took part in making it a memorable evening once again at RFC. PTMQ.

165. STEVE & HANNAH O’DRISCOLL (+ Open Floor) at RFC. Tuesday, 25th April 2017.

The O’Driscolls at RFC. (Photo: G.Walker)

I always enjoy whatever father and daughter duet Steve and Hannah O’Driscoll come up with when they do their turn at Romford Folk Club. So as popular regulars, they were asked to perform a set at one of the club’s frequent Feature Nights; and I think I can speak for all the club members by saying that we were all looking forward to it.

Their two-part set was of course preceded by Open Floor spots. Best this week I thought were: Alan Gore‘s cover of Steve O’Donoghue‘s ‘Accident Of Birth’; and Trevor Attwaters‘ two songs: the trad ‘Black Waterside’, and his version of McDowell’s ‘Write Me A Few Of Your Lines’. I played my ‘Nan’s Bread Pudd’n’ at the request of Mrs.Attwaters!

The O’Driscolls were introduced for their first set and were warmly welcomed by the audience. Steve plays guitar with intriguing alternative tunings that give a very distinctive sound. Hannah is in charge of percussion and sits on her Cajon drum box. Their vocals are unique too, and characterised by an (often) melancholy vibe and some very fine harmonies. Their songs often have London or Irish themes, inspired by their ancestry.

They began with ‘Our Young Lady’. It was a great start and was followed by one of their self-penned songs: ‘Brave Boys’, which was the first song that they played together a year ago, at RFC. It is a wonderful song about the life of London dockers in the days of sail. Other songs from set 1 were ‘Thames Rose High’ which is based on an old folk tale; and ‘Mrs.Mary Smith’ about a Victorian knocker-upper from Limehouse. They finished the first set with ‘The Bow Bells Bride’ to well-deserved applause.

Set Two began with two tragic old Irish songs, ‘Old Woman In The Woods’ and ‘Well Below The Valley’. ‘The Good Old Times’ followed. It is about Steve’s Grandfather who moved from Ireland to Poplar, and was always harking back to his past. ‘London Beer Flood’ is based on a bizarre but, Steve assures us, true story from 1814 when a massive beer barrel flooded the St.Giles area, and killed several people – what a way to go! They finished their main set with ‘The Jolly Tinker’. It is a popular song from their repertoire, and they do it well. I’ve heard them play it a few times before. Great applause ensued as they finished, and encore was demanded. They gave this in the form of ‘Nelly Hang On The Bell’.

All in all really good set which was made the more enjoyable by Steve’s informative and funny spiel before each song. As far as I know their songs have not been recorded – but they need to be!  Another great night at RFC. Thanks to The O’Driscolls; all floor performers and club officials. PTMQ.

162. PHIL ERICSON (aka PHIL THE MUSIC QUILL) AND FRIENDS at RFC. Tuesday 28th March 2017. A review by Gemma Boyd.

Phil Ericson’s Feature Night at Romford Folk Club, The Sun pub, Romford, East London – 28 March 2017

From left to right: Nora Kelson, Phil Ericson, Jackie Gregory and Jo Gregory. Photograph by Charlie Martin.

Better known by some as Phil the Music Quill, singer-songwriter, guitarist and music journalist Phil Ericson’s feature night marked the last performance after 24 years at The Sun pub for Romford Folk Club members before their migration to a new venue; The White Horse pub in Chadwell Health.

Club regulars were out in force to support Phil, whose two sets featured a well-assorted choice of original songs penned by both Phil and others of his songwriter friends, much-loved classics such as ‘Wonderful Tonight’ by Eric Clapton, and a world premier! Especially warming was how Phil invited an array of his artist mates up on stage to join him, then served bread pudding to all with the introduction of his song (a personal favourite), ‘Nan’s Bread Pudd’n’’.

First up was ‘Mid-Life Crisis Blues’ by new retiree, Phil on vocals and guitar. His work is hallmarked by amusing but simultaneously poignant lyrics about his life and family, and for this number he was accompanied by Neal Price on Dobro. Neal’s stripped-down slide guitar solo added an authentic blues feel reminiscent of American Delta blues guitarist and singer, Booker White’s 1940 recording of ‘Aberdeen Mississipi Blues’.

Phil’s easy banter with the audience paved the way for his first ever performance of love song, ‘Two Hearts Become One’ (lyrics by Jose Gallindo-Herrador and music by Phil). This contained some pleasing modulations, an intriguing time signature, and was performed with real feeling.

For his song, ‘Grandad’s Seven Hats’, Phil added yet another layer of interest with his inclusion of comedian and author, Nick Barrett, who placed grandad’s seven hats on Phil’s head as he sang. You could hear a pin drop as the audience concentrated hard on, and resonated with his words: “Now I am a grandad and I wear an old flat cap. I look just like my own dad….”

‘Riding Thumb’ by Phil’s songwriter friend, Tony Partis, chugged along enjoyably, aided by Neal Price and Monzur Rahman on percussion. It’s a song about picking up a blonde hitchhiker who has “never-ending thighs” with a great twist at the end: The blonde turns out to be a mugger who pulls a gun on the narrator!

Following a round of cheering and thunderous applause from his audience, Phil concluded the evening with a fitting commemoration; his ‘Romford Folk Club Lament’, sung alongside Rod Standen on guitar and Glyn Protheroe on percussion. A ‘wet paint’ sign was hung on the wall behind them signalling the end of the club’s time in this soon to be commercially let basement.

One thing’s for sure, though – Phil Ericson and his music really put the ‘folk’ in Romford Folk Club, whose members will continue to meet every Tuesday at 8 pm to play acoustic folk, country and blues for years to come.

Gemma Boyd

160. MIKANORA (+ Open Floor) at RFC, “The White Horse” PH, Chadwell Heath. Tuesday, 11th April, 2017.

(Photo: G.Walker)

I have known the duet Mikanora (that is Mick Turner and Nora Kelson) for some time, as they are regular performers at (and involved with the running of) Romford Folk Club – now resident at The White Horse PH, Chadwell Heath. (For a description of the venue, but not the club, see my review #78). As is usual with RFC, regulars are often asked to perform an occasional Feature Night, and tonight was the turn of this popular duet.

The featured artists played a two-part set preceded by various Open Floor spots. Best of those this week I thought were The Rom Shanty Crew (now expanded to a six-piece vocal group) with their ‘Last Of The Great Whales’; and Gemma Boyd‘s newly written violin piece ‘The Boatman’s Mumbles’. I played a song by my friend, song-writer Tony Partis called ‘Riding Thumb’ with Rod Standen assisting on percussion.

(Photo: G.Walker)

Mikanora as usual had arrived armed with an array of diverse instruments: guitars; mandolin; mandola; concertina; bodhran; and low-D whistle. They began their set with ‘The Rout Of The Blues’, and included two of their amusing originals: ‘The Hermit’ and ‘South Of The Border’ (about US President Trump). Covers included: ‘The Bonny Ship The Diamond’; ‘Nancy Spain’; ‘Mantelito Blanco’ (a Spanish song about a tablecloth); ‘Donkey Riding’ (which is not about riding donkeys, but about logging); two Richard Thompson numbers ‘Crazy Man Michael’ and ‘Dimming Of The Day’ (‘You can’t have too many Richard Thompson songs’ said Mick!); and a fine version of ‘The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald’ on which Nora shone with concertina. A well deserved encore was called for, and given in the form of ‘Whiskey In The Jar-O’ which was performed with the aid of Gemma on fiddle.

It was another very entertaining evening at RFC thanks to Mikanora. Their set choice was varied, interesting and at times amusing. Thanks also due to MoC Smolowik; all the Open Floor performers; Garry Walker for the photos; and everyone at the club for organising the gig. PTMQ

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

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