THE NEWslETTER OF TIGERFOLK
It has been a rather traumatic few weeks for your jovial editor since we last met at the Shades of Grey/Embrace evening at our new look Stumble Inn; in fact so traumatic that I had quite forgotten about the improvements to the room as we encountered them that night.
The big R word (redundancy or retirement – take your pick) has now become a reality but that was soon overshadowed when, as we were about to set off for a weekend in the Yorkshire Dales (damn these International breaks) my wife, in the process of picking up her hold all, took a tumble which resulted in a broken hip and the one night in Wigglesworth was upgraded to a four night stay in Derby Royal and a period of living downstairs and family rallying round has ensued.
It was therefore an immense pleasure to receive an e-mail during this period from my old friend, previous guest at TATT and currently the scourge of Mudcat Café, Jim Bainbridge. Jim had attached a piece that he had sent to his local newspaper The Leitrim Observer with regard to the area’s former coal industry and in particular the Arigna Mines; although there is plenty recorded history Jim did find that there were no mining songs connected with the area and since they were going to use The Arigna Mining Museum as the venue for the 2016 John McKenna Festival (named after the flautist who emanated from that area) he felt that was a great lapse and something needed to be done about it. The answer was to contact old friend Ed Pickford regarding this situation and send him literature regarding the history of these mines and the result was the receipt of a series of songs very soon after the request, one of which “In My Working Days” was published at the end of the article.
This got me thinking that had I not heard of Ed Pickford prior to October this year I certainly would have done by the end of the month! The Monday after my wife’s accident I was due to attend a get together of those of us who had contributed to Paul Mansfield’s dissertation on folk music as part of his Sheffield University course. The object was to discuss further some of the points that we had raised individually which Paul considered required further debate. One of the topics was regarding songs that we might think over before singing in various environments and anything to do with The Miner’s Strike was a prime candidate as there are still parts of the Midlands and South Yorkshire where you would have to tread with care on that subject. This was illustrated by Bill Wilkes who cited Ed’s “The T- Shirts and the Blood” which is a powerful commentary on that period but feelings are still running high. (Witness last night’s match against Leeds and the forthcoming clash versus Sheffield United will no doubt produce the chants of “scabs” towards us). This actually led into a discussion on Ed’s songs and the welcome recordings being made recently by, firstly, that fine singer Jim Sharpe who has a CD entirely of Pickford compositions and more recently where some of the major performers on the North East scene have recorded a compilation album of his songs.
Then just a few days after that on the aforementioned Mudcat Café someone opened a thread where he was asking where he could find the words of one of Ed’s compositions and prefaced his request by detailing the songs from Ed that he already had in his repertoire which prompted another contributor to exclaim “All those folk club standards!!”
But of course I have heard of Ed Pickford and I was aware of his songwriting talent within a few weeks of venturing onto the North East folk scene some 52 years ago. The very first night that I went to the Royal Turf folk club in Felling on Tyne back in May 1966 was virtually run between Ed and the late John Reavey and both had a rare amount of songs dealing in social commentary between them among their traditional songs. In a very short space of time Ed was performing entirely his own compositions and more than often accompanying himself on guitar. Prior to my arrival on the scene he had already established himself with such powerful standards as “Pound a Week Rise” and “The Seaham Harbour Lifeboat Disaster” but more, much more was to come. As Ed was a regular visitor to Birtley and The Marsden Inn folk clubs and no stranger to Chesters (now the Davey Lamp) and STF&B we were in the privileged position to hear some of these songs getting their first airing; some that we mightn’t hear again others that we are still singing today.
This all changed for me in 1978 with moving away and finding myself out of the loop and having to rely on visiting North Eastern singers, Benny Graham, Bob Fox, Tom McConville and Jim Bainbridge to keep me updated with his more recent compositions. Of course in more recent years with the advent of the Internet there is no excuse for not being bang up to date as there are plenty clips of Ed’s songs, either by him or fellow folkies, to savour.
So if you haven’t already done so I do advise you to search the likes of Facebook, YouTube or Ed Pickford’s own website so you too can see what my fellow Mudcat member meant by “All those folk club standards!!”
Letters to the Editor
Thanks for the review and reminder of The Other Music! I well remember the powerful presence of Philip Donnellan and the excitement of the recording sessions. My favourite part was the visit to Walter Pardon in his cottage. A pleasure to meet him and hear him sing comfortably in his own home. A shy man, I later spent some time with him at The National. He sat with me while I was minding the Topic record stall and I think hiding from people who wanted to talk to him!
All the best,
Sunday 4th November 2018
Surely Autumn is the wrong season for this guest; shouldn’t we be booking Dave at the start of the year? But he’s so much more than just The January Man; read the list on the Home Page of his website, go on, I challenge you; how many of you knew that he’d done all that? I understand Grand Central Railway will be working with us towards this booking, to mention just one string to Dave’s bow. We just want to hear him sing and play; don’t care about all his multifarious doings, he’s one of the pillars of the English folk scene and we can’t wait.
Sunday October 3rd 2018
Embrace / Shades of Grey
It’s really embarrassing to have to write a review of three people you’ve known for years, especially when you know you’ll be seeing them again every couple of weeks, if not more often. How do you go about this? How would the professionals do it?
Pretend I’ve never seen them before in my life? After all, TATTERS will be read by a fair number of people who aren’t active in the North Leicestershire / South Nottinghamshire folk club scene … OK, then:
This was a slightly unusual guest night for any club in that the guests were two separate acapella harmony groups, albeit groups who have performed in the same venues at several festivals across the midlands for some years now, and who share a common member: Karen Harris.
Karen is a fine solo singer who currently organises and runs the Grand Union Folk Club in Sileby, north of Leicester. She has a wide repertoire, favouring lyrical songs with a romantic touch which suit her high, sweet voice and expressive singing style. Don’t be fooled by Karen’s butter-wouldn’t-melt smile, however; she can turn off a performance of comic material with wicked effectiveness – there are enough characters in her acting portfolio to keep any audience guessing.
In Embrace, Karen has teamed up with Ed Butler, whose unassuming manner fronts a sweet and gentle voice of surprising strength which is a fine foil to Karen harmonies. In local singing sessions Ed is well known for wryly humorous comic songs with a good chorus but his melodious voice sustains the melancholy of ballads such as One Starry Night or Goodbye, Old Ship of Mine equally well. They packed seven songs into a 35 minute set, plus the rousing Martin Said to His Man in the taster session – no mean feat – and the mood switched seamlessly from rousing choruses – Fathom the Bowl / Sportsmen Arouse – to sentimental – Rose of My Heart – to downright beautiful: when they sang Sarah Morgan’s arrangement of the Irish blessing Warm Be The Sun, our usually full-throated audience joined in the chorus softly and quietly, tender of spoiling the mood they were creating.
In the third part of the evening Karen was back in a longer-standing musical partnership with Bill Wilkes, fellow organiser of the Grand Union Folk Club. Karen and Bill sang together for many years in GU4; following the dissolution of that quartet they continues to sing as a duo, named (eventually) Shades of Grey (a slander in Karen’s case, but I suppose Waves of Purple wouldn’t have worked for Bill). As with Embrace, Karen’s voice was mostly to be heard in the harmony role; Bushes and Briars showed Bill supporting her lead with a sensitive close harmony and served to show how well these two singers capture the varying moods of their chosen songs. Again, the audience had plenty of opportunities for chorus singing – The Holmfirth Anthem in the taster spot, Happy’s the Man to start the main set, with John Barleycorn and Young Banker along the way. There was more pensive fare on offer as well: The Passionate Shepherd to His Love isn’t something you hear every day in the clubs. They chose to end the evening with GU4’s familiar closing song, No Goodbyes – encores wouldn’t have worked with a mixed evening like this and Dave Sutherland wisely chose not to ask for any.
An excellent half dozen floor singers supported the team of residents during the course of the evening: John Ledbury demanded acting as well as singing from a willing audience for Simon John, Paul Mansfield gave us a goodnight ballad and Sam Stephens a Close Shave; Phil Hinds marked Goose Fair weekend with his own Nottingham Waltzer, Lyn Cooper sang of Millworkers’ Children and John Chambers of a Five Foot Flirt.
A first class evening all around.
“There has never been a better time than the present if you are a beer drinker”
This was a quote from my local landlord only the other evening and he was referring to all the weird and wonderful beers that are on the market from an ever increasing number of brewers. Indeed, there is always a plentiful supply in his micro pub, not only in bottles and cans but also on draught. They range from dark stouts, through Trappist beers, dunkel beers, sour beers, fruit beers, IPAs to this one that was on draught that night, ”Slim Pickens, a Sicilian Lemon Pie Pale Ale with cider and mead”. Now it is not unusual for people to come in and drink beers that a few years ago would have been thrown straight back over the bar. Not only are some of them hazy, they are downright cloudy. So much so that they look more like orange juice than beer and some even taste like it or more likely grapefruit juice. Thank goodness the pub also has traditional draught beers that gladden the heart of old topers like yours truly and they are always in excellent condition.
It just so happened that there was a recent article in “What’s Brewing” the monthly CAMRA paper all about Indian Pale Ales. The starting point was Worthington White Shield, a classic IPA of noble pedigree and went on to discuss the new arrivals, mainly from America or beers with American influences, especially in the hops varieties from over there. Now this got me a thinking.
What has been happening to beer is not that dissimilar to what has happened to folk music and song over the past century or so. The Victorian collectors with their preconceived notions took from the peasant fed the better off in society their ideal of folk song and tune. Fortunately, it must be said, there were some in their ranks, Baring-Gould and Sharp, for instances, who did keep their original notes, manuscripts, copies and these are now available. Some singers as well, fearing not to offend, modified their songs to appease the collectors. Any number of people from that time on have dabbled, delved, dissected songs and tunes and made them their own and with the advancement in technology, what isn’t going to be possible in the future. The great thing about folk songs and tunes is that they keep bouncing back. You can’t keep a good ‘un down. So what if some want to blast seven bells out of a traditional air or ballad sending it round a massive arena at a zillion decibels with all lights blazing, after all, you have the choice of being there or not.
My take on all of this can be summed up as follows;
Just because you can do something, does it mean you have to and when you have done it, don’t expect everyone to like it. It’s like all those fruity, spicy, coffee, toffee, chocolate and who knows what other flavoured brews, they might be beer but not as I know and as for those big hop variety IPAs, give me a good old Worthington White Shield.
To see more of our, bigger, wider, brighter, warmer club room than you can view in the picture below
hear some great songs from our guest Dave Goulder
come along on Sunday 4th November to
The Stumble Inn,
Tamworth Road, Long Eaton
Web Editor's note; the programme page of this website now has the details for the first two thirds of next year's guests - as far as John has booked , in mother words! Check out what's coming here: