Ray Black wrote in Tykes News:
The evening was a stunning success in terms of both money raised and enjoyment by all who attended. The event was sold out before the doors opened and I would like to apologise to those we had to turn away, I'm afraid this was unavoidable. The enthusiastic dancing was proof that not everyone on the planet eats pizzas and chips and lives the life of a couch potato! The energy and stamina shown throughout the evening suggests there were some very fit people in that hall.
Lyn Geddes and Kevin Loughran provided two very professional sounding song spots and Betty Lupton's Ladle Lakers (a perfectly wonderful female morris team) added a splash of colour, as well as both elegance and precision. Throughout the evening the dancing was accompanied by the mighty Konfusalem who also entertained with some between dance instrumental music.
I have sent a cheque for £622 to the charity fund which was all raised by this one event. I would like to extend a warm thanks to everyone involved. A special thank you is also due to Andy Herrington who let us have free use of the wonderful venue.
Ray Black wrote in Tykes News:
This boy will go far! Martin's gig on Friday, December 10th, sold out so quickly that an extra gig was arranged for Thursday 9th. On the Thursday he was excellent, but then he is never less than that. His performance on the Friday however was a tour-de-force worthy of his legendary status. Apart from four songs to promote the new CD there were no repeats from the previous evening. How does he do it? He not only has a vast solo repertoire, but when he left Harrogate he was on his way to rehearse a Steeleye Span Christmas reunion show with an entirely different repertoire to remember. Then there is one each for Waterson/Carthy, Brass Monkey, his various one-off projects and odd duo involvements, all stored away in that famous memory of his. The strength of that memory showed itself to advantage in his live performance of 'The Famous Flower of Serving Men' on the Friday, I've never heard him try this live and he pulled it off to stunning effect. It was inspiring to see such a relaxed delivery belie such a sense of control. His engaging way with the audience throughout the performance communicated so much pleasure in what he was doing: clearly the reason he still plays small clubs when he no longer needs to. The folk club world should consider him a national treasure. To point out other highlights in the performance would be as difficult as it would be pointless - it was all highlight!
Debbie Koritsas wrote in Living Tradition:
There are some Scottish musicians whose names consistently crop up on gig listings throughout the UK, and Emily Smith, (along with compatriots such as Karine Polwart and Dick Gaughan), seems to relish taking her music out to small regional audiences. The Empress is an intimate venue (upstairs in a Harrogate pub) that always guarantees an appreciative, listening audience.
I arrived in time to hear Tom Bliss (of Bliss & Napper fame) performing
a short set of his own compositions really beautiful songs, including
The Silverlode of Sark, Flotsam and Jetsom, and Godspeed. Hes
a very fine song-craftsman and wordsmith, and the folk club regulars very
soon joined in with the words to every chorus.
Smiths voice was graceful and assured, and I doubt there were many in the audience who were not moved by the disarming beauty of Time Wears Awa, Always A Smile, Strong Winds For Autumn, Far Oer the Forth, and the sublime Fair Helen of Kirkconnel. Smiths own compositions have an honesty and power all of their own, but she seems to select all of her material with care. The audience joined in with lovely songs such as When We Go To Town and The Lochmaben Harper, and the entire set gave you that warm glow of a typical Kate Rusby gig an apt comparison in the circumstances, since Joe Rusby was doing the sound. This was a lovely evening, and Smith is a fine ambassador for live Scottish traditional music.
It was good to learn during the interval how upbeat Steve Byrne is feeling about the new Malinky line up it looks as though the band will completely re-launch itself now that Fiona Hunter and Ewen Macpherson have joined the line up I imagine that many Living Tradition readers will be watching this space eagerly for news of the New Malinkys inaugural gigs!
Bonny Labouring Boy
Ray Black wrote in Tykes News:
Now that Martin Simpson is finally recognised for his great talent, he is usually only found performing in large halls. I remember with fondness the warmth and intimacy of his performances in the days when folk clubs were his natural environment. I often wished it could be that way again; then, in a moment of inspiration, I realised it still could be and I booked him to play our small folk club. This proved to be a masterstroke as once again Martin wove his magic and charmed us into believing he was addressing each of us individually.
Martin is a guitar virtuoso, but not of the flashy "display without
substance" variety. Subtlety is the hallmark of his style. The sound
he gets from his Stefan Sobell guitar is beautiful and his precision is
as legendary as his tastefulness. Stefan once remarked that, in sport,
a ball appears to slow down for some people and allows them superhuman
accuracy. He light-heartedly suggested that Martin is a musical version
of this phenomenon and he might be right!
The programme was endlessly varied, giving us light and shade, hope and despair, joy and sorrow, all woven together with warm, humorous and informative introductions. I made a list of all the songs he sang, complete with notes, so that I could fill this review with detail. In the end, I decided not to bother, there were so many highs that it would have taken forever to write about them.
Ray Black wrote in the Living Tradition:
Having watched this duo develop with something akin to the eyes of a
proud father it was so gratifying to witness this gig. As a performance
it marked a new level in accomplishment, as if having served their apprentiship
they are now fully qualified. Their delivery was relaxed and confident,
the material and instrumentation varied and the presentation was informative
without being pedantic. They are clearly in love with what they are doing
- as well as with each other and it all comes together as a unified whole.
This duo has emerged from nowhere as a fully formed unit. The pooling
of their respective experience has enabled them to create a sense of ensemble
of a standard normally apparent only after years of playing together.
Tom Bliss writes songs that should become classics: the strong
'What of the other Tom'? I hear you ask. Just a bloomin' banjo player! You know all the jokes, but then so does he, with a sense of humour like his they can't hurt him. The banter between these two musicians makes for a very relaxed and entertaining stage show, where humour has its place but never compromises the integrity of the songs. Tom Napper's musical prowess makes a really powerful contribution to the duo's sound. By this I am not talking about his instrumental virtuosity despite it being clearly evident. This aspect of his playing is entirely subservient to the musicality of the arrangements. He knows the value of the songs and every note he plays both supports and enhances them. He sings well, plays several instruments, produces excellent arrangements of great subtlety. Subtlety? Banjo player? This is where the joke stereotype really takes a day off.
Buy the CD by all means, but for goodness sake don't miss out on seeing them live. They are a class act, make no mistake about it.