Live Review | The Rock, Maltby | Review by Allan Wilkinson
Tonight saw the preview of what might very well become the replacement for the Rock. The Rockingham Arms Folk Club has been running for over thirty years in the village of Wentworth near Rotherham and during that time has gained the reputation of being the premier acoustic music venue in the area. This has certainly been the case for me, for in all the time I’ve been involved on the scene, The Rock has provided the best nights. Even though I’ve helped run some good clubs in and around my own town, none of them have managed to create the same sort of atmosphere you get at the Rock. This has been largely due to Rob Shaw’s commitment to the music, his consistently eclectic taste and his ear for the good sound quality. If ever there’s someone visiting the area that you want to see and experience at their best, then you can trust Rob to get it right. Tonight was a special one-off concert prior to the re-opening in March of the club at the new venue, The Wesley Centre in Maltby near Rotherham. Jim Page is a Seattle based songwriter, who was due to play at The Rock as part of his British tour, so after the Rockingham Arms club closed due to the brewery insisting the club pay for room rental after over thirty years of allowing the club to run free of charge, Rob had to find a new venue quickly to allow ‘the show to go on’. There was a wonderful turn out to support the new venue, pretty much a full house. Familiar faces on the local folk scene gathered to lend their support, Roy Bailey, Ray Hearne, Mike Miller, Lou Marriott, Paul Pearson, George Hill and one John Law, who literally supported Jim by kicking off the night with a selection of classics such as “Dead Flowers” and “Back in the High Life Again”. Rob Shaw seemed to be relaxed, pleased and eager to start this new phase in his endeavours to provide good quality concerts in the area, which have become such an enormous contribution to the local acoustic scene. The new venue is more like a school assembly hall than the familiar barn setting of the Rock, but I thought it worked well. Once the lights are down and the music starts, it doesn’t really matter where you are as long as it has that Rob Shaw sound as a basis. Jim Page is a story teller of exceptional flair and virtuosity. I hate to make comparisons but I would advise purely as illustration, to think along the lines of both Arlo and Woody Guthrie rolled into one, with a sprinkling of Loudon Wainwright III, Guy Clark and Rambling Jack Elliott and a pinch of early Dylan, obviously. His opening number “Mr Ondo” was so reminiscent of “Simple Twist of Fate” that the Dylan comparison would be foolish to ignore. But this takes nothing away from Jim, who manages to roll it all up in a brand new package, and present it afresh. He played two long sets during the course of the night yet it was all over too quickly. Songs of such intensity and intelligence can just keep coming as far as I’m concerned, whether they be overtly political “Petroleum Bonaparte” and “Headful of Pictures”, heartfelt tributes to absent friends “Bobby Cortez” or just plain fun “Everything is Round” and “The Clone Song”, they all come over as desperately well-crafted songs, that you find yourself hanging on to each and every word. Despite being slightly jetlagged, having left a snowbound Seattle on Wednesday only to arrive and fight against gale force winds in the UK, Jim settled into his performance with surprising ease and composure and I would imagine the good turn-out did nothing but enhance an already promising night. Certainly a night befitting a new start, a new future.