Review Chris Cleverley Downend Folk Club

Published on: 07 Sep 2015


What must it be like to come from a place that is so very, very NOT you?  What would it be like to come from, let’s say, Birmingham when you yearn for the sea and the sand?  To have a soul that longs to explore but lives in a boring midlands town?  To sing songs that need a vista but are trapped by tower blocks?  Ask Birmingham based Chris Cleverley; a folk singer with Pop Idol looks and an ear for a laid-back, wave flecked tune but one who is land locked.  He might describe Birmingham as a “land of rainbows and unicorns” but we don’t believe him.  
Over the course of yet another fantastic night at the Folk Club he tries to shake off his urban life and take us down to the sea.
Starting with the traditional, and sailor packed, “The Jolly Bold Robber” is a good way to begin.  A cappella and as folky as a knitted sweater and a big beard, Cleverley has a light touch and a sure sense with the song.  Singing your first song unaccompanied is something of statement of intent and he immediately has the audience holding its breath.  As it ends there’s a mutter of “beautiful” from a female voice.  All of this and he hasn’t even touched his guitar.
Ah.  The guitar.  Chris Cleverley is, undoubtedly, a guitarist.  In the same way that Bert Jansch, John Renbourn and Martin Simpson are guitarists.  That is to say that he’s fantastic.  Silvery streams cascade out of his instrument.  Metallic punctuation marks startle audience members and spidery traces wander about all over delicious folk-pop tunes.  
The evening is held together with a real pop sensibility.  In “Missing Persons” and “The Dawn Before the Day” Cleverley has written two proper, bona fide pop songs.  Hummable choruses, catchy melodies, the whole works.  The later song is the new single from the forthcoming “Apparitions” album.  It’s beautiful, about the end of a relationship; the closing of a day.  This is more sunset than the darkest hour though.  In fact the feeling of a sunset is ever present this evening.  You know those days at the end of the holiday?  When the sea stretches in front of you and the sand is still warm on your toes?  Chris Cleverley makes music that makes you feel like that.
For all of his guitar virtuosity and ability with a top tune the highlights happened when he moved away from folk and towards something more American.  On “Stables” he attempts an homage to  50s, hand-clapping, slip sliding soul and pulls it off with aplomb.  With “I’m Not Long For This World” he breaks out the banjo for a bit of 30s style, literary melancholia.  With every song Chris Cleverley leaves behind the tower blocks and takes us somewhere altogether better.
In support was Noey McElwee – a different singer entirely.  She sang seventies inspired, Fingerbobs Folk stirring up memories of Ralph McTell and Don Mclean.  Earnest, wordy and heartfelt.
Gavin McNamara

Next at Downend Folk Club

Sam Carter

(support from Said The Maiden)

Frenchay Village Hall,
Friday September 18, 2015
Doors open 7.30pm

2015 has developed into the most successful so far for Downend Folk Club. A series of well-attended events, both at their Frenchay base and occasional home Christ Church Downend has led to their enviable reputation being bolstered even further, and their Autumn series sees this success continued. Come September, they welcome Sam Carter, supported by Said The Maiden.
Sam is a gifted singer, songwriter and acoustic musician, with his fingerpicking style of guitar playing being rated by everyone from Jon Boden of Bellowhead to Nithin Sawney. Since his 2009 debut recording, Keepsakes, he has built a following, and a sound, all of his own.
From beginnings as an Emerging Artist In Residence at London’s South Bank Centre, Sam has gone on to support folk big band Bellowhead, perform all over the world with the British Council, and put together another full length album (2012’s The No Testament) as well as a recording of his live work at the Union Chapel. It’s safe to say that the Downend crowd are in for something special when Sam arrives on the September 18.
With elements of English traditional music, as well as that of American genres like gospel and spiritual music, and the shapenote hymn-singing tradition, Sam’s ideas and stories come across in new and exciting ways. Difficult to sum up in words, his performance has to be experienced first hand.
‘The work of a great songwriter in the making’ Guitar & Bass
‘His songs look set to stand the test of time and to be covered by others in turn’ R2
Sam plays in a combination of different groups and with different projects, including False Lights and the Sweet Liberties with Nancy Kerr, Maz O’Connor and Martyn Joseph. However, he only plays as a solo artist on the odd occasion. Be sure to get your tickets early for Sam Carter at Downend Folk Club, details are below.
Support in September comes from Said The Maiden, an award winning trio from Hertfordshire who perform traditional and contemporary English, Irish and American songs. With fiddles, flute, whistles, accordion, guitar and more, and vocals from all three members, Said The Maiden combine a range of influences and ideas to come up with something completely unique.
Downend Folk Club is looking forward to seeing guests at September’s gig, which features Sam Carter and Said The Maiden.
The event will be held at Frenchay Village Hall on Friday September 18, 2015. Doors open at 7.30pm and there will be a full bar serving GWB real ale, cider, wine and a range of soft drinks, as well as a raffle.
 Tickets are £10 in advance, £12 on the door, and are available from Melanie’s Kitchen, Bristol Ticket Shop and Members tickets are £9 and are available from the website or direct from Ant Miles.
 For further information, please contact Ant Miles on 0783 7881941 or email

Comments (0)

Add a new comment:* (Allowed tags: <b><i><br>)

*Mandatory fields