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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.

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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.

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