Folk Delivering Hope

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

The third Folk Delivering Hope concert once again brought together an impressive line-up of singers and musicians, all of whom descended upon The Regent Hotel in Doncaster’s town centre.  The hotel has enjoyed notable links with the music business for many years, not least for being the hotel that looked after The Beatles when they played next door at the tragically now demolished (to make way for a car park seemingly) and much missed Gaumont Theatre.  With Eileen Myles at the helm, Doncaster once again played host to seven outstanding acts, some from as far afield as Australia and Atlanta, Georgia.  All the guest artists gave their time for free in order to help raise funds for local charities under the Folk Delivering Hope banner, which is starting to make a name for itself in the town and surrounding area.  Folk Delivering Hope also registered today’s concert as one of the many concerts taking place around the world in the name of the Daniel Pearl Foundation.  The concert started with a message from President Obama, read out on stage, whose letter was sent to organisers of such events during this month long celebration.  The message was clear; music is good, therefore enjoy it.  After an introduction by Folk Delivering Hope organiser and fund-raiser Eileen Myles, who explained the aims and future plans of the charity, that good music began with a relative newcomer.  Making his Doncaster debut, young London-based singer-songwriter and guitarist Fabian Holland got things underway with a short set of self-penned songs including “The Landlord’s Daughter” and “Home”, both incorporating his own distinctive style of finger-picked guitar.  Fabian generously cut his opening set short in order for the following two acts to play and then head over to their respective evening concerts in Liverpool and Wakefield.  The first of these acts to drop by enroute to their own gigs was Australian singer-songwriter Emily Barker with her band the Red Clay Halo, featuring Jo Silverston on cello, Anna Jenkins on violin and Gill Sandell on accordion and flute.  The band had played at the Wombwell Wheelhouse the night before and had just enough time to appear at this concert before heading over to Liverpool for their next gig.  With a set that included a selection of songs from Emily’s established repertoire including “Blackbird” and the haunting “Nostalgia”, the theme song from the BBC Drama Wallander, together with a couple of new songs including the band’s new single “Little Deaths” and starting with a Neil Young cover “Look Out For My Love”, the band demonstrated just how sweet acoustic music can be in the right hands.  There’s also a sense of fun and camaraderie within the ranks of this band, with Emily at one point being reduced to the giggles as Gill Sandell struggled to equip the singer with her harmonica rack, after she forgot to put it on before starting “This Is How It’s Meant to Be”.  The effort nevertheless proved futile upon discovering that Gill had got the harmonica upside down.  Gill was given a more serious spotlight as she performed one of the songs from her own debut solo album Tarry Awhile, the John Douglas song “Wild Mountainside”, which was both delicate and beautiful.  Emily and Co finished their set with another song from the brilliant Despite the Snow album, “Disappear”.  The most eagerly anticipated set of the day came from the second band to have dropped in enroute to elsewhere.  Atlanta-based quartet Girlyman, whose intuitive harmonies and fine sense of melody, transferred effortlessly from record to live performance with ten well chosen examples of their craft.  Starting with “Easy Bake Ovens”, from the band’s most recent album Everything’s Easy, with all its Watergate-era references, the quartet of Doris Muramatsu (guitar, banjo), Tylan Greenstein (guitar, percussion), Nate Borofsky (guitar) and relative newcomer and ex-Po’ Girl JJ Jones (drums), performed an astonishingly tight set, exposing their command over three part harmony and melodic song structures throughout their forty-five minute set, which in all honesty, seemed more like just five.  Weaving a set made up of both up-tempo songs such as “On the Air”, to the sensitive “Say Goodbye”, “Maori” and the wonderfully moving “Everything’s Easy”, the band showed their versatility as individual song writers as well as first rate singers and musicians.  At one point the audience was introduced to an entirely new genre in music, Girlygrass, with Doris’s banjo-led “Kittery Tide” from their Little Star album.  Returning for their well-deserved encore, the original three members of the band performed an a cappella song in front of the stage they had just left, with a song that truly demonstrated the best of their vocal prowess, the utterly gorgeous “Up to the Sea”, as JJ looked on in silent appreciation.  After a short break, Fabian Holland returned to the stage to complete the performance he started at the beginning of the concert, with a few more delicate songs from his repertoire, played in an emotive yet thoroughly assured style.  The York-based singer-songwriter Holly Taymar, along with multi-instrumentalist partner Chris Bilton, gave a relaxed performance of self-penned songs such as favourites “Bush Song” and “Toes”, together with a couple of covers that were possibly as varied as it gets; Joni Mitchell’s sublime “A Case of You” and Outkast’s “Hey Ya!”  Holly and Chris also provided a couple of newer songs “For the Sake of it” and “Beautiful Days”.  Often jokingly likened to “Stairway to Heaven”, Holly’s song “Went to War” was this evening prefaced by the first verse of the Zep classic.  Holly’s infectious personality brought a smile to the Regent audience as well as a handful of beautifully executed song performances.  John Tams refers to Dave Wilson as a ‘magnificent songwriter’, an opinion that makes perfect sense once you’ve heard a handful of Dave’s songs.  As a vehicle for those songs, who better to team up with Dave than his own life partner, his wife Kip Winter, whose versatile vocal credentials help bring those songs alive, leaving a lasting impression.  Kip brought a taste of that vocal dexterity to the Regent this evening, despite being unfortunately plagued with laryngitis for the entire week leading up to this performance.  With a selection from the duo’s soon to be released album Milestones, including “Turn Turn Turn” and “What Mother’s Do”, dedicated to Dave’s own mum, together with one or two from their more established repertoire, such as “Matter of Time”, “One Step From Heaven” and the optimistic feel-good finisher “This Day Is Mine”, the duo demonstrated professionalism and experience as seasoned performers.  “Storm Around Tumbledown”, probably Dave’s most revered song, was even generously given over to Anthony John Clarke to sing in the last hour of the concert.  Singer-songwriter Rebekah Findlay provided the penultimate performance of the concert, making her Folk Delivering Hope debut with a set of songs ranging from Seth Lakeman’s “Farewell My Love” to Damien Rice’s “Volcano”, with a handful of songs from her debut album Northern Skies.  Alternating between fiddle and guitar, Rebekah performed a good cross section of her repertoire including two of her own songs, the beautifully evocative “Luskentyre by the Sea” and the title song from her album as well as the traditional “The Blacksmith”.  Unafraid to tackle the lengthy Tom Bliss ballad “Violin”, Rebekah had one more surprise up her sleeve.  Just when we thought Holly Taymar had performed the biggest eyebrow raiser of the day with a folked-up version of Outkast’s “Hey Ya!”, Rebekah startled the audience further with her own gentle interpretation of “You’re the One That I Want” (yes the very one!).  With husband Lee joining her on stage for the final song, a version of the strangely inexplicable yet utterly enjoyable Damien Rice song “Volcano”, Rebekah once again won a few new admirers in Doncaster tonight.  The finale of today’s concert came courtesy of Belfast-born, now Liverpool-based singer-songwriter, raconteur and storyteller Anthony John Clarke, whose mixture of songs and stories, peppered with his own views on the world we live in, reached an attentive audience at The Regent tonight.  With audience favourites such as “Tuesday Night is Karaoke Night” and “Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich”, mixed with the tender “The Broken Years” and a fitting tribute to the songwriting of Dave Wilson with the aforementioned “Storm Around Tumbledown”, whilst its author looked on, Anthony John Clarke performed a fitting finale to a great day of music, entertainment and worthwhile fund raising.