Tag Archives: the sun romford

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

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

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

139. ROD STANDEN (+ Open Floor) at ROMFORD FOLK CLUB. Tuesday 10th January, 2017

Rod with The Quill (Photo: Garry W)

Rod Standen with backing from The Quill (Photo: Garry W)

When my friend Rod Standen told me that Garry Walker of Romford Folk Club had given him a Feature Night, I was of course keen to go along. These monthly Feature Nights at RFC, are where one of the club’s regulars are asked to perform a set. The next one (in February) will be Jo Gregory.

I arrived at the venue after work, and Rod showed me his Set List, which comprised of a great variety of covers. Surprisingly, he didn’t want to perform any of the tracks from his album Poetic Force (which I reviewed last year. See entry #109). Another surprise was that although Rod often asks me to join him for the occasional number, this time he wanted me to accompany him for every song. Flattered, I of course agreed.

But first, the usual Open Floor section of the night. All the regulars played one or two good songs. Pick of the bunch this week were in my opinion, Smolovik’s cover of Robert Johnson’s classic ‘Crossroads’; and club boss Garry Walker’s self-penned ‘Romford Town’. As a tribute to Peter Sarstedt who died recently, I played his timeless classic ‘Where Do You Go To My Lovely’; and I was also requested to play my silly song ‘Grandad’s 7 Hats’.

Rod’s eclectic set included classics such as ‘Proud Mary’; ‘Sailing’; ‘Gypsy Rover’;  ‘Durham Town’; ‘Love Is All Around’; ‘Streets Of London’; ‘Country Roads’; and an old favourite of Rod’s ‘Travellin’ Down That Lonesome Road’. Rod’s instruments of choice, were an old banjo (that he’d bought as a wreck from Ebay and has recently restored to a very good condition indeed) and acoustic guitar of course. Encore was demanded; and Rod chose to play ‘Scarborough Fair’. The set finished with great applause. There was at all times, a great deal of audience participation during the set, and this is something that Rod was aiming for all along. I was glad to be asked to join him. A good evening’s entertainment. Thanks to Rod, the club, and all the regulars. PTMQ

136. IAN PETRIE (+ Open Floor) at ROMFORD FOLK CLUB. Tuesday 6th December 2016.

Mr.Petrie (Photo: Garry Walker, RFC)

Mr.Petrie (Photo: Garry Walker, RFC)

Ian Petrie is a name I’d been hearing on and off for some time; but I’d never seen him live so it was high time I put that right. So when I heard that this Kent-based singer / song-writer was to play my local Folk club, I of course went along. Ian has been around for a while, having been a member of several bands such as Dolphin Smile, Skinners Rats and his own outfit The Big Ian Petrie Band. On this occasion though, he was to play a two-part solo set.

But first, Ian’s set was preceded by the usual Open Floor spots. Best of the bunch this week were father and daughter duo Steve and Hannah O’Driscoll; and newcomer Liam who played a great cover of Knopfler’s ‘Romeo And Juliet’. And of course, a great variety of styles and abilities were represented by all who took part. I played Coverdale’s ‘Don’t Fade Away’.

Ian got through the gamut of his repertoire – songs which were funny, clever, and/or thoughtful; and at all times highly entertaining, such as: ‘Face Book Rant’; ‘Go For It’; and ‘Sixty Years’. He spoke a little about each of his songs beforehand – which is something I like to hear. He stated that you can write a song about anything; then treated us to his amusing song that is about nothing at all: ‘Nobody’.

At one point he pulled out an Omnichord and played a singular and excellent cover of Dylan’s / Adele’s ‘Make You Feel My Love’. And at half time, he spoke to some of us about it and I had a play with it. A really interesting instrument that I’ve not encountered before.

I had a chat with Ian after the gig and he gave me his band’s two albums (I Wish That I Could Fly; and Along The B2000!) and his two solo EPs: Sketchbook; and Sketchbook 2). If you like clever and funny songs, I’d recommend getting along to one of Ian’s gigs if you can. An enjoyable evening was had by all. PTMQ

132. YAEL BEBB (+ Open Floor) at ROMFORD FOLK CLUB, in The Sun PH. Tuesday, 22nd November, 2016.

Yael Bebb at RFC (Photo: Garry Walker)

Yael Bebb at RFC (Photo: Garry Walker)

Recently, Garry Walker of RFC told me he had booked Yael Bebb for a feature session at the club, and recommended that I come along. I was intrigued as I knew nothing about the lady or her music. He had met and seen her play at Rochester and Dartford earlier this year, and was impressed enough to invite her to the club. I met and had a chat with Yael before the evening’s proceedings began. She has apparently recently moved from Kent to Essex, and plays a lot around her new county home; and is involved in the Dengie Folk Music Sessions around the East Essex area. She also performed (and went down well by all accounts) at the Leigh Folk Festival this summer. She had arrived with a group of friends (some of whom would join her shortly for part of her set); but let’s leave them sitting at their table for a while….

As is usual with these feature sessions at RFC, the night begins with an Open Floor spot where anyone who so desires can perform a couple of songs. And as usual, a wide range of styles and abilities is represented; all admirable in their way. Master of Ceremonies for the night was Smolowik who got the ball rolling with a couple of good songs. Notable among those present were club boss Garry who sang two fine trad songs; Rod Standen who has recently released an album called Poetic Force. (See my review #109); singer Jo Gregory who sang a beautiful rendition of ‘She Moved Through The Fair’ and will perform a feature set at RFC next February; a gentleman called Keith who played an oud (a remarkable instrument of Middle-Eastern origin related to the lute); and a lady called Jan who recited an impressive Shakespearean sonnet that she’d written. I played David Coverdale’s ‘Soldier Of Fortune’ and my own song ‘The Boys Of The Old 83rd’… but I offer no critique of my own performance!

Ken, Yael, and Janice (Photo: Garry Walker)

Ken, Yael, and Janice (Photo: Garry Walker)

After a short break it was time for this week’s feature spot. Accordion in hand, Yael seated herself in the performance area and began her short but eclectic, and internationally flavoured set, which included French, Scottish, and English tunes; and the African-American Spiritual ‘Wade In The Water’, for which the audience joined in. I particularly enjoyed her version of Fairport’s ‘Crazy Man Michael’. At one point Yael invited two friends to join her – regulars from the Dengie Sessions. These were Janice Higgins on recorder; and Ken Saunders on accordion. They played well together as a unit and are obviously well-practiced. A thing that I like when seeing musicians play live is a little explanation before each song; and Yael did not disappoint in this. I quite enjoyed her set, and so did everyone present – as evidenced by a demand for encore. I’d recommend seeing her and her friends if you are into Folk music and live in the Essex area. Thanks to Garry of RFC. PTMQ.

Link to the Dengie Folk Sessions FaceBook page

109. ROD STANDEN “Poetic Force: Poetry In Emotion” (2016)

Poetic Force (Pic; Rod Standen)

Poetic Force (Pic; Rod Standen)

I bumped into Rod Standen at a gig at Romford Folk Club a short while ago (see my review #99) He played ‘Voices Of The Night’, (a track from his album Poetic Force: Poetry In Emotion) during the Open Floor session at the club before the headline act. It was an interesting piece. I had a chat with him afterwards and he kindly gave me a CD copy of the album for review.

Poetic Force: Poetry In Emotion is a concept album. There are seven tracks in all. Lyrically each is a famous poem of the Romantic genre put to Rod’s music.  Blake; Wordsworth; Gregory Smith; John Clare; and William Henley’s work are all represented; and there are two poems from Longfellow. Talking to Rod after that gig, he was enthusing about the power of verse to inspire his music. I can see that myself, because at the age of about fifteen I remember naively trying to set the words of Tennyson’s ‘Charge Of The Light Brigade’ to my own Rock music – and with only a limited knowledge of the guitar at the time, had to give up. (Thank God I have never been tempted to reawaken that project!) But the concept has long been in my head; so I warmed to Rod’s idea immediately. (Something slightly overlapping this work is Ange Hardy‘s recent concept album on the life and works of Coleridge: Esteesee – see my review #72).

Rod has produced a very interesting album. It is clear, I think, that the music is merely a vehicle for the verse – and fair enough too. These classic poems need no appraisal from me – and nor am I qualified to do so. Musically it is good, although the accusation of ‘saminess’ may be levelled at the collection by some. Each track has a busy acoustic guitar part which is fine but a little repetitive (although I must emphasise, played by Rod very well indeed); and there is little variation in vocal melody from track to track. Even so, I found it very pleasant to listen to as I worked at home recently – and it is for listening to after all, due to the use of the classic verse.

Rod seems to have done almost everything himself on this project: from writing the music and recording the songs; to designing the sleeve; writing the notes on the excellent enclosed leaflet – and even personally sticking the label on the CD. He told me that he recorded the whole album whilst his wife was on a shopping trip one day! This is a unique collection, and Rod is to be highly commended for it – and at only a fiver, it is real value for money! I’d say buy it if you have an appreciation of the Romantic poets; or even if you just like something a bit different. PTMQ.

Rod will be playing a live session at Romford’s TIME FM 107.5 (Karen Lennon Show); this Saturday, 25th June at 11AM. Worth having a listen, I think.

The CD is available from Rod’s Ebay page

Or, for those local to Romford,  from Fairkytes Arts Centre, Hornchurch Essex

Contact Rod …  rodstanden62@gmail.com

99. THE VICTORY ARMS (+ BILL FARROW and others) at ROMFORD FOLK CLUB, in “The Sun” PH. Tuesday 19th April, 2016,

The Victory Arms at RFC (Photo: Garry Walker)

The Victory Arms at RFC (Photo: Garry Walker)

When I heard that The Victory Arms were to play Romford Folk Club, I was keen to go along and see them…firstly because I hadn’t seen them before; secondly because I haven’t yet written anything on their genre of music (which the band describe as ‘1940s Pub Singing’); and thirdly because I’ve recently written a couple of silly Cockney songs that I thought may be appropriate for the evening and I wanted to try them out at the RFC’s Open Floor spot prior to the gig – on which more later.

fter

The Victory Arms are a married couple consisting of Chris (vocals and miming); and husband Martin (ukelele and guitar). Some years ago they worked as a duet in Folk clubs, but Chris gave it up to bring up their children; whilst Martin continued to perform. But now they are working together again on this new project. Chris has a great interest in the Second World War; and it was whilst visiting relevant history shows that she realised that all the musical acts at these events were American in substance. The couple decided that this wasn’t good enough, and decided to put things right – and quite right too! ‘The golden rule of the act is that we’re not allowed to do any songs from after 1941’ explained Martin (ie, before the US involvement in the conflict). The result was The Victory Arms. (They do however break their rule for gigs such as this, and would do so tonight as we’ll see)

'When I'm Cleaning Windows' (Photo: Garry Walker)

‘When I’m Cleaning Windows’ (Photo: Garry Walker)

I’ll let them describe their act for themselves (from their Facebook page)….

‘A 1940’s Entertainment set in a fictional London pub during the blitz. Join landlady Joaney & her potman Albert in a right old East End ding dong!  Picture the scene. It’s the East end of London, 1940. Last night’s bombing has left everyone’s favourite local “The Victory Arms” a little bruised, but relatively unscathed. Joaney, the landlady is getting ready to call last orders whilst the general dogs body and pot man Albert is collecting glasses and chatting to the regulars. To cheer things up before everybody has to head off into the black out, somebody calls for a song.
Join Joaney and Albert in a right old East End ding dong as they lead their regulars (that’s you!) through the music and stories of the times. Armed only with a Guitar, a Ukulele and an Accordion they pay tribute to the wartime spirit of the people of the United Kingdom and their allies. Without whom, none of this would have been possible.’

'There'll Always Be An England' (Photo: Garry Walker)

‘There’ll Always Be An England’ (Photo: Garry Walker)

So ‘The Victory Arms’ is more of a show than a gig. Its an interesting concept – and maybe unique. We were to see a two-part set. The couple began Part One appropriately with air raid sirens and a snippet from Churchill’s Battle Of Britain Speech, and the content was strictly pre-1941. The second half was a mixture of the act; other wartime songs; and some of their own composition.

In some ways I got what I expected (and that is in no way a criticism); but there were many things that made it a bit different; and therefore more entertaining and amusing. It was obvious that Martin and Chris had put a lot of thought into the details of their performance, The props; Chris’s landlady Joaney’s actions and miming; the well-led audience participation; and the charming scripted dialogue between the characters, for example, were very good indeed, and enhanced the act no end. A few interesting facts were thrown in too; such as the sobering observation that on this very night in 1941, 63 people were killed in air raids on Romford and the surrounding area!

Bill Farrow: 'Ain't It Good?' (Photo: Garry Walker)

Bill Farrow …who’s Gibson is that you’re playing Bill? (Photo: Garry Walker)

A variety of early Second World War songs were sung (+ a few others outside the main act in Part Two). Some from the earlier Great War too, such as ‘Pack Up Your Troubles’ and ‘Long Way To Tipperary’. Numbers that you’d expect like ‘When I’m Cleaning Windows’; ‘Kiss Me Goodnight Sergeant-Major’; and ‘Keep The Home Fires Burning’ were very well represented. Best of all I thought were a cover of the It Ain’t Half Hot Mum version of The Ink Spots’ ‘Whispering Grass’ (including a good impersonation of Windsor Davies as the Sergeant Major by Martin!); a beautifully sung and well-played cover of Vera Lynn’s ‘A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square’; and a fine impersonation by Chris, of Gracie Fields singing and miming the ‘The Thing-ummy-bob’.  

The show ended with a rousing rendition of the patriotic ‘There’ll Always be An England’; and a well deserved encore of their own composition ‘Standing On The Home Front Line’.

Each part of The Victory Arms set was preceded by an Open Floor spot of course. There was only time for those of us that wanted to perform, to do one song each – with the exception of Bill Farrow who was allowed two. (Bill will be headlining at the club later in the year). As is usual with these Open Floor spots, there was a huge variety of genre, instrumentation and quality present – each admirable in their way. Many of the club’s regulars were present – some I hadn’t seen before (although I must admit shamefully that I don’t get down there very much!) Best among the many good turns I thought, were Bill, of course, who played two of his own inimitable songs: ‘You Can’t Take It With You’ and ‘Ain’t It Good?’; Steve O’Driscoll who played his London themed song ‘The Bow Bells Bride’; and Rod Standen who played ‘Voices Of The Night’ off his debut album Poetic Force. (He later gave me a copy to review). And finally, I played one of my silly songs: ‘Nan’s Bread Pudd’n’; which got a few laughs and some compliments afterwards I’m proud to say – but I offer no critique on the subject!

Thanks to Garry Walker and the team (Chris; Mick; Nora; and Eve at the door) for organising and running the evening. A great night… me dear old Mum would’ve loved it too! PTMQ

Here is a link to The Victory Arms’ Facebook page

Here is a link to Romford Folk Club’s Facebook page

For some details about the Romford Folk Club and its venue The Sun, see my article #59

59. DEVONBIRD (+ BILL FARROW & others) at ROMFORD FOLK CLUB, in THE SUN (PH). Tuesday 7th July, 2015. + a few words about the club and the venue.

Devonbird at RFC (Photo: PTMQ)

Devonbird at RFC (Photo: PTMQ)

These days my friends Kath, Sophia and Rob of Folk band Devonbird are flying high, with gigs ever further afield than their Exeter home base. And this is a measure of their increasing popularity and success. They’ve been all over the West Country, and have ventured into Wales on occasions; but the nearest they’ve been to my neck of the woods is when they played Hadfest in Hertfordshire back in 2013. This was the first time that they’d been to the Romford area though. Actually, the band’s guitarist Rob was brought up not far away, and has played The Sun on numerous occasions in the past. As for me, I live local too, so there was no doubt that I’d be along for this gig.

My regular readers will know, of course, that I was down in Devon recently at the invitation of the band (see my previous two Blog entries #57 and #58), who were making a video for their song ‘Greenwood Tree’. It was nice to have them in my Manor for a change on this occasion though. Another person who came along to the gig and was delighted to see Rob was the Blues guitarist Bill Farrow who is also a local man. Rob was once in Bill’s band, simply called Farrow. Nowadays, of course, Bill plays in the Milton-Farrow Skiffle’n’Blues Band (see my Bog entries #22 and #33). He has also played The Sun many times.

Romford Folk Club has been held down in the basement function room of The Sun, on London Road, Romford, for almost twenty years now; and they’ll be celebrating the 25th anniversary of the club’s existence next February. The RFC meet regularly on Tuesday nights. Its usually an Open Floor; but sometimes a named band / artist is booked. This evening, of course, it was the latter. Micky Brown and Garry Walker who run the club were very welcoming and informative; as were all the regulars that I spoke to. For any level of talent, its a good place to try out a few songs – new or old – in an amiable and encouraging atmosphere.

Bill Farrow at RFC (Photo: PTMQ)

Bill Farrow at RFC (Photo: PTMQ)

The Sun itself I haven’t visited for some years, and the main part of the pub has been done up very smartly; so that I wouldn’t have recognised it. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the basement function room, which is in dire need of redecorating – or even a good clean up! I think the RFC deserve better than that – especially considering that there were more thirsty people attending the Folk Club than present in the main bar that night! The barmaids were very friendly and helpful though; so thank you ladies!

I arrived at the venue quite early. The band arrived soon after, and I helped get their kit downstairs and set up for the sound check. When Garry Walker arrived he explained that the evening would be in two parts: an Open Floor followed by Devonbird’s first set; and the same again for part two. After a little informal jam from Mick Brown, Paul Ballantyne and Richie Barratt;  we were ready to begin.

Several regulars were keen to do a turn for the first Open Floor section. There was a great variety of musical style, performed with varying degrees of talent – yet all admirable in their way – and it was nice to see everyone supporting and encouraging each other.  Best among them were Paul Ballantyne with a good rendition of Richard Thompson’s ‘Vincent Black Lightning’; and there was some fine fiddling from Richie Barratt.

Devonbird were on next. Starting with ‘The Snows’, they played several songs from their first album Hangman’s daughter; including ‘Velvet’; ‘Fairleigh Well Olde England’ and, my personal favourite from the debut album, ‘The Brae’. They interspersed these with fine traditional jigs, reels and slides from their repertoire. Also, from their eagerly awaited forthcoming album Turning Of The Year, they played the excellent title track for us.

Informal jam at RFC (Photo: PTMQ)

Jamming at RFC (Photo: PTMQ)

After a short break, Part Two commenced in the same manner as the first, with various regulars doing a single song. Again very diverse in content and quality; but kudos due to anyone who had a go. It was nice to hear the duet, Martin and Jackie, because they played Fairport’s ‘Meet On The Ledge’ which I like but had totally forgotten about! So thanks to them for reminding me. Finally, the inimitable Bill Farrow played two of his numbers with a borrowed guitar: ‘Ain’t It Good’ which is great fun for a sing-song, and in which fiddler Richie Barratt busked along. Next he played his ‘Rain, Lotsa Rain’, which is inspired by the music of Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Personally, I like a bit of upbeat acoustic Blues and I could quite happily sit and listen to Bill playing all evening; but tonight however was Devonbird’s night!

My friends from Devon began their second set with the oft-covered Sydney Carter anti-war song ‘The Crow On The Cradle’ which I haven’t heard them do before. And an interesting version it was too. They followed this with two more fine new songs from the forthcoming album: ‘Rose’ and ‘Mary’. I’m familiar with both of these new ones, and I think the latter is an especially good song. After another jig medley, next on the playlist was the title track from their debut album Hangman’s Daughter. Also from the first album, they gave us ‘Purty Jane’; the song sung in quaint Devonshire dialect. After another foot-tapping jig medley  they finished with the wonderful ‘Greenwood Tree’.

I’ve seen the band play on numerous occasions now, and I have followed their developing live set with interest over the last couple of years – near enough since their inception, in fact. In that time they’ve gone from strength to strength. They are very tight as a musical unit; which is a result of their constant gigging. This is especially noticable in medleys, where the trio move as one – shifting seamlessly through changing time signatures with ease. These jigs are also remarkable for the faultless unison of Sophia’s fiddle and Kath’s whistle. Rob’s vocal harmonies are also enriching the overall tapestry of sound on the songs to a great extent now too. All in all, a fantastic performance which went down well with the small but enthusiastic audience.

Set finished; it was time to pack away the kit and load up. After a little chat and some fond farewells, Bill and I left the band, and I gave him a lift home.

Devonbird’s second album will be released in September; and I’ll be reviewing it on this Blog as soon as its available; so watch this space. I’ve heard the finished product already, and I can reveal that its a corker – even better than their debut. PTMQ

For more on Devonbird, see my Blog entries #4; #28; #57; and #58.

Here is a link to Devonbird’s website…. http://www.devonbird.co.uk/

Here is a link to Romford Folk Club’s site…  http://www.romfordfolkclub.com/