August 2019: Downend Folk Club Review
Jack Rutter (support from Ellie Gowers) Friday July 19, Frenchay Village Hall
“YOU'RE not messing about, are you?” says the smiling young man from the stage, as he peers into the audience. “You’re going to give it some on this singing-along lark!”
Some people make it easy to sing along, and Downend Folk Club’s July guest Jack Rutter is certainly one of them. Much of his set is taken from the traditional canon, and Jack has chosen a good few that have easily rememberable choruses... but it’s much more than that. From the moment he steps onto the stage, he immediately puts you at your ease. He’s amiable, chatty, self- effacing and relaxed. He occasionally bumbles in his northern accent, which is most endearing.
He’s something of a rarity, is Jack Rutter. He’s a folk musician, but he does something that’s become less and less common; he smiles on his album covers and in his promotional photos. And he carries that smile with him onto the stage, too... he clearly loves what he’s doing, and isn’t afraid to show it. He’ll smile at the lyrics in a song, but he’ll also smile as he nails a tricky looking riff on the guitar or bouzouki (and nail it he does, every time).
So when he asks the healthy audience to sing along, they are seemingly powerless to resist, and join in with great gusto on various numbers, including The Dalesman’s Litany (which rounds of the first half perfectly as the audience belt out “From Hull and Halifax and Hell, good Lord deliver me”) and Hey, John Barleycorn... a popular choice among folk singers lately, although Jack’s version is certainly amongst the best.
But to attribute the success of Jack Rutter entirely to his warm, infectious personality would be to do him a tremendous disservice, because he’s an immensely talented musician, and shows us frequently why he’s been so in-demand of late, playing with folk luminaries such as Seth Lakeman and Jackie Oates. Whether guitar or bouzouki, Jack is one of those players who looks totally at ease with his instrument... almost as though it’s an extension of his own body. Tricky riffs, like the one in I Was Once A Young Ploughboy (the lead single from Jack’s new album Gold Of Scar And Shale, out in October) fall from the instrument with seemingly little effort. Of course, that’s not the case... that ease comes from years and years of practice, and a good dose of natural ability too. And Jack can sing, too, as the second, unaccompanied song Down By The Derwent Side, proves beyond any doubt.
Before all Jack’s northern loveliness, there’s something from closer to home to get the evening underway. Ellie Gowers hails from Warwickshire but up until quite recently she’s been based in Bristol. But, no matter where she’s from and where she’s living, she is one to watch. With a crystal clear voice (the opener Robin has the audience spell-bound from the start) and a guitar style that sits somewhere between John Martyn and Joni Mitchell, Ellie delivers a six-song set that has the audience desperate to hear more. She’ll be back at Downend Folk Club, of that I’m certain.
So the club now has a well-earned month off before returning in September... but the Summer season left our hearts warm with the sound of singing. Long may it continue.
Words & Photo: Bea Furlong