Frank Carline

Live Review | Roots Music Club, Doncaster | Review by Allan Wilkinson

With the last scraps of turkey (or your own particular veggie option) well and truly disposed of and the multitude of tree pines almost completely swept up, together with those resolutions made and broken within minutes of one another, we step tentatively into the New Year with the first date on the Roots Music Club calendar, with a celebration of local talent. Where better to start than with local blues singer Frank Carline, whose presence on the Doncaster music scene over the last few decades has been one of the town’s greatest rewards. Whenever Frank settles himself onto his stool, surrounded by the tools of his trade, which usually comprises of a couple of guitars, one or two harmonicas ready locked in place within their holders, as well as the all important bottleneck tube standing atop the hand painted ‘fragile’ box beside him, created by his artist daughter Imogen, we know instinctively that we’re in for a good night.

Frank has the ability to stretch out his arms, run his hands along the walls until they come together and meet at the back of the room, holding his audience in a warm embrace – or at least that’s how it feels. Once you experience this almost tangible group hug, you know that you’re not just part of the audience, but a part of the show. We feel this closeness simply because Frank is one of those genuinely warm people who has time for everyone in his audience. The locals know Frank Carline and they’re well aware of his background in the music of such old masters as Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed and Robert Johnson, all of which featured in his set tonight with such songs as “I Wonder Who” (Waters), “Bright Lights, Big City” (Reed) and “Love in Vain” (Johnson).

What Frank adds to the mix these days, is a growing repertoire of songs from his own pen, no fewer than nine being included tonight. Each of these songs are delivered with soulful sensitivity and a graceful touch, any of which could conceivably fit into the repertoires of such former soul greats as Sam Cooke or Marvin Gaye. It’s soul music, plain and simple, but imbued with a personal touch, in Frank’s case, his own hometown, familiar locations such as Bowers Fold and the Market Place mentioned in Winter Sun.

If Frank’s opening set included some soul searching, his second set was more of a ‘knock about’ set, which included some familiar material from the pens of Lennon/McCartney “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away”, a Dylan medley “Watching the River Flow/Black Crow Blues” and the odd Jagger/Richards standard “Ruby Tuesday” as well as a handful of Frank’s own songs, “Everything is Going So Good”, “Blue River”, “Hollow Man” and the closer “Into the Music”.

No strangers to this stage, both Anya Wiltschinsky and Scarlett Kirwan provided a selection of contemporary songs, effectively kicking off each half, both very much a credit to young performers everywhere, who bring both their youth and their enthusiasm to this environment, expecting nothing in return but our ears, which tonight we were only too glad to give them. If Frank Carline is one of Doncaster’s best kept secrets, it’s about time the secret was shared widely. A fantastic start to the New Year and lots more to come.