Folk Delivering Hope

Live Review | The Regent Hotel, Doncaster | Review by Allan Wilkinson

This latest Folk Delivering Hope concert followed the first successful AHS Foundation benefit concert last year, where such artists as Clive Gregson, Jez Lowe, Ray Hearne, Steve Womack and Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts gave their time and effort, not to mention memorable performances, to support this dedicated team headed by fund-raising co-ordinator Eileen Myles, to help victims of the tragic Kashmir earthquake in Pakistan.  Almost a year on, this latest concert was set up by Eileen, once again under the banner of Folk Delivering Hope, with a little help from a small band of friends and helpers, including a bunch of musicians and the local music promoter and enthusiast Hedley Jones, all giving their time freely to help this worthwhile cause.  After a warm introduction by Eileen Myles, who welcomed everyone to what promised to be a varied evenings programme of music and at the same time explaining the ongoing efforts in raising funds for Kashmir, the first artist to take the stage with a set of well chosen songs, was Sheffield singer-songwriter Charlie Barker, who had just negotiated a flurry of mid-week rush hour Doncaster traffic, with hardly enough time to prepare herself prior to taking the stage in order to kick the party off.  Apologising for wearing no makeup whatsoever (as if she needs it!), Charlie launched into her own laid-back set of inspiring songs, which included a couple of her own compositions, “Sleeping at the Station” and the moving “Poppies”, both of which sat equally alongside more familiar songs such as Marc Cohn’s “Silver Thunderbird”, Alison Krauss’s “Gravity” and Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “I Take My Chances”, which started her set.  This reviewer had one or two responsibilities of his own during the evening, including the privilege of introducing all of the artists as well as helping out the other home-grown Doncaster contributer on stage tonight, Liam Wilkinson.  Although it’s virtually impossible to comment on that performance objectively, having been a part of it, all I can say for certain is that from the stage, it did feel thoroughly fulfilling and exceptionally nice to be a part of such a worthwhile cause.  In my other role as concert MC, it was rather delightful to be able to introduce Bob Fox at last, an artist who has been trying to fit one of these concerts around his busy schedule for quite some time.  The date for tonight’s concert therefore was agreed upon according to Bob’s availability.  Taking the stage by mid-evening, Bob brought a taste of the North East to this ‘southern’ audience with familiar anthems such as “The Bonny Gateshead Lass” and “Dance to Your Daddy” as well as his version of Chris Leslie’s “My Love is in America”, “The Whitby Tailor” and a jazz inflected Ewan Maccoll song “Champion at Keeping Them Rolling”.  Finishing off with two songs in one, both connected by the same familiar natural landmark, the Tyne River, Bob sang the traditional “Waters of Tyne” along with Jimmy Nail’s surprisingly beautiful “Big River”, before leaving the stage with the sneaking suspicion that he might just make another appearance before the night’s end.  Nashville’s Elizabeth Cook took time out from her current UK tour to appear at the concert with her trio, which included husband/guitarist Tim Carroll and ex-Midnight Oil double bassist Bones Hillman.  Starting with the opening song from her latest record Welder, “All the Time” indicated an immediate shift towards country music, exemplified by Elizabeth’s unmistakable Southern drawl and laid-back Tennessee front-porch sensibility.  There was no doubt that the audience was witnessing the real sound of Nashville with songs like “Times are Tough in Rock ‘n’ Roll”, “Blackland Farmer” and “El Camino” together with Elizabeth’s take on The Velvet Underground and Nico’s song “Sunday Morning”, offering a recognisable touch to those as yet unfamiliar with Elizabeth Cook’s gutsy repertoire.  An artist in his own right, having written songs for John Prine and Asleep at the Wheel, Indiana-born Tim Carroll played a couple of songs from his own repertoire, firstly the Johnny Cash influenced The TGV, for which Elizabeth put on her dancing shoes to demonstrate how they do it in Tennessee, loosening up the change in the pockets of her unfeasibly tight jeans, followed by “What’ll We Do ‘Til Then” from Tim’s All Kinds of Pain record revealing a more sensitive side to his song writing.  The high points of Elizabeth’s set though rested with “Heroin Addict Sister” from which the title of the Welder album derives, the cathartic “Mama’s Funeral” and the regular finisher “Sometimes it Takes Balls to be a Woman”, rounding off the set on a high.  It was nice to see both Bob Fox and Jez Lowe deliberating quite amicably on the order of proceedings tonight, agreeing that Elizabeth Cook’s set should separate the two North East singers and both agreeing that Jez should finish the night off with some of his best loved songs from a vast repertoire spanning almost thirty years.  Starting with “Will of the People”, Jez alternated between guitar, cittern and mandolin, with a voice familiar to anyone with even the remotest interested in British folk music.  Recent songs such as “Bare Knuckle” and the hilarious “Potholer’s Song”, a country flavoured ballad, which addresses the unlikely membership of the ‘ex-pitman’s pot holing club quiz team’ complete with Geordie yippee-i-ays, blended well with the more familiar “Ballad of Tasker Jack” and from the much lauded Radio Ballad “The Ballad of the Big Ships” Jez’s superb “Taking on Men”.  For a fitting finale, Bob Fox joined Jez Lowe for a completely off-the-cuff, unrehearsed and impromptu performance, with the two North East singers completing an excellent and memorable night of music and song with Jez’s “Back in Durham Jail”, the union song “Union Miner” and a final encore of The High Part of the Town. The last words belonging to Bob as he quipped.. “not bad for a pair of buskers eh?”