Live Review | Montgomery Hall, Wath upon Dearne | Review by Allan Wilkinson
The Wath Festival has been going for more years than I care to mention and has always maintained that balance of great concerts and great pub sing arounds whilst keeping to the local traditions without anyone treading on each other’s toes (apart from those clumsy Morris men that is.) Jon Strong, whose songs are well crafted and mature, can throw in a most unexpected cover every now and then and in the case of this particular performance, Little Feat’s “Sailing Shoes” and Rod Stewart’s timeless “Mandolin Wind”. Chris Difford’s performance on the other hand was underwhelming, despite the fact that I’m keen on the repertoire of Squeeze. I love their songs, but these songs need a Glenn Tilbrook. “Up The Junction”, “Tempted”, “Labelled with Love”, “Pulling Mussels from a Shell”, they were all there but they sounded dull and lifeless. I don’t normally like to talk so disdainfully about a performer, especially one who actually co-wrote some of the best pop songs of all time, but I was just given the distinct impression that he was simply going through the motions. Skyhook played a set of mainly fiddle tunes with a few Scottish and Irish ballads thrown in, whilst John Tams, one of the nicest blokes on the folk scene with an engaging stage presence, joined keyboard player and singer Barry Coope on stage. The duo transformed a handful of well-known songs into something completely different, Ewan MacColl’s “Manchester Rambler” and Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice its Alright” for example. But it’s the richness of songs such as “Amelia” and “Steelos” that marks a new territory that belongs well and truly to John Tams. Ruth and Gary Wells kicked off the evening’s session and hand on heart I have never heard them play so well, especially with their rendition of Natalie Merchant’s “Motherland”. Pete Coe is an unusual performer who tends to use his entire body when performing. Whether it be banjo, bouzouki or dulcimer, he has to dance on the spot as well. Dougie Maclean was today’s headliner and perhaps stole the show, if not the entire weekend. He’s such an assured performer, something he proved when he got together with the country singer Kathy Mattea a few years ago for the Nashville to Dunkeld documentary, two more different worlds could not have collided. Songs such as “Caledonia”, “Broken Wings” and “This Love Will Carry” are priceless jewels for any repertoire and to have written them must be immensely satisfying.