Downend Folk Club August
Before the main act the MC for the evening sits on a low chair.
Sunjay in Concert
Friday July 15, Frenchay
Village Hall, 7.30pm.
Before the main act the MC for the evening sits on a low chair. A small man with a slow, soft, drowsy Bristol burr; he starts to reminisce. Slowly. Carefully. He tells of the "best time of my life". Of The Troubadour in Clifton, the home of Bristol’s folk and blues, and seeing some the greats of the 60s scene. Names tumble from the stage: Renbourne and Jansch. John Martyn and Paul Simon. Memories shrouded in incense and cider. He creates a world that seems a million miles from Pokemon Go, manufactured bands and Brexit. Then he introduces Sunjay - "He would have fitted right in". No pressure on a 22-year old from Stourbridge then.
Our MC's not far wrong though. Sunjay is a throwback in the best kind of way. From his 60s bowl cut and all-in-black beatnik garb to the Greenwich Village tunesmith-ery, you could imagine him sipping coffee through a fug of patchouli and cigarette smoke.
There's something else too though. Think about those nights when you were younger. When the third bottle of red wine was lying empty and the candles were almost burned down. When that cool friend of yours was telling stories, flipping through albums and playing just the very best tracks; ‘No Regrets’ by The Walker Brothers (or Tom Rush), ‘May you Never’ by John Martyn, an amazing version of ‘St James Infirmary Blues’. Each one accompanied by a yarn as daft and funny and as a practised as a stand-up. Sunjay makes us feel as though the sun is still hours away from coming up, that there are still tunes to hear and tales to tell. And, oh, can he play that guitar?
By all accounts he started playing at 4-years old. Strumming to 50s Rock & Roll at first but developing some serious finger picking blues after that. Time and time again he shows his virtuosity. ‘Can’t Do It Alone’ is filled with moments that are intricate and glistening. There’s something almost Led Zeppelin-esque about the opening bars of ‘Hold On’, a track from his forthcoming album, and the end of ‘Street Riot’ incorporates a snatch of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony No. 6. It’s the kind of playing that makes the Downend audience say, simply, “Wow”. And they do. More than once.
The set is littered with fantastic tunes. Covers of ‘Something Good’ by Herman’s Hermits (lovely singing everyone!), Tim Hardin’s ‘Reason to Believe’ and the peerless ‘Who Do You Love?’ by Bo Diddly sit together with songs of his own. ‘Ghost Train’, in particular, is pretty special. Shot through with a love of American culture and a need for heroes it perfectly showcases Sunjay at his best; brilliant playing, fine singing and the conjuring of a timeless mood.
Creating her own “mood” was the support for the evening. Lara Conley is another artist who nods towards the 60s. There are slightly off-kilter instruments (a stick dulcimer, anyone?) and the merest hint of psych-folk, there’s a touch of alt-folk genius Vashti Bunyan about her too. And that is no bad thing. Hidden amongst the delicate melodies and hushed tone there is an anger and a sense of purpose that shines through. Her best songs are the ones which explore the folklore and power of women; ‘Herd the Horses’ and ‘Wild Water’ are beautiful. By the end of her set you could hear a pin drop.
Both acts this evening create their own worlds and, on balance, theirs looks a whole lot better than ours at the moment.
- Gavin McNamara, Downend Folk Club regular
NEXT AT DOWNEND FOLK CLUB
Alex Cumming & Nicola Beazley
Friday August 19, Frenchay Village Hall, 7.30pm.
Downend Folk Club’s promise to bring some of the country’s top emerging folk talent to the area continues this month as they feature highly-rated duo Alex Cumming & Nicola Beazley.
Alex & Nicola are an exciting box & fiddle duo performing both songs and tunes from around England. They are both recent graduates of the Newcastle University Folk and Traditional Music Degree and were New Roots Finalist in 2014.
The last couple of years has seen Alex & Nicola build up a great reputation performing at some top venues and festivals including Towersey Village Festival, Whitby Folk Week, Sidmouth Folk Week, Bromyard Folk Festival, Sage Gateshead and more. Their show at Downend Folk Club is part of a nationwide tour to launch their much-anticipated debut album ‘Across The Water’.
With Alex's rhythmic danceable accordion style & strong voice and Nicola's stunning and gutsy fiddle playing, the duo create a big sound and give a new voice to the wonderful canon of English Folk Music.
"...their instrumental skills are wonderful" - Folk Radio UK
Alex Cumming started to learn Piano Accordion when he was six years old and has now become a regular on the English folk scene as an Accordionist, Singer and Ceilidh Caller. As well as performing with Nicola Beazley, Alex performs and records with vocal quartet, The Teacups, BBC Folk Award Nominee Ange Hardy, up and coming band KARA and ceilidh band Dyer:Cumming's. Alex has performed across the country at many top festivals, folk clubs and venues as well as appearing on BBCs Edwardian Farm, BBC Radio 2, and hosting his own folk show on Newcastle Student Radio.
“Highly skilled at their craft” – cloggin.co.uk
Nicola Beazley started learning the violin at the age of seven, and since then has been performing as a folk musician in many different guises across Europe. With her six-peice band, Ceol Tire, Nicola has toured the Czech Republic, Germany and Ireland with their debut album ‘Aeroplane Seats’, and has also performed on BBC Radio Lancashire’s Folk show The Drift. Nicola also plays with a Newcastle based harp, dulcimer and fiddle trio, Speldosa, and alongside performing with Alex Cumming, Nicola has performed, called ceilidhs and taught at many of the big Folk Festivals and Clubs. Nicola currently lives in Sheffield and works with folk organisation Soundpost.
Opening the show at the club’s regular home of Frenchay Village Hall will be local favourites Road Not Taken… or three of them anyway! With regular members Joe Hamlen and Claire Stobie enjoying a well-earned holiday, the original trio of Anita Dobson (vocals, kalimba), Ant Miles (guitar, harmonium, piano, mountain dulcimer, backing vocals) and Joe Brydon (slide guitar, harmonica, bouzouki) will kick off the evening by trying out a selection of new songs ahead of some high-profile local headline shows later this year.
The concert will be held on Friday 19th August at Frenchay Village Hall. Doors open at 7.30pm for an 8.00pm start, and there will be a full bar, serving GWB real ales, Severn Cider, a selection of wines, soft drinks and tea and coffee. You are encouraged to bring your own glass/tankard/mug as part of the club’s drive to cut down on waste. There will also be a raffle featuring some great prizes.
Tickets are available from Melanie’s Kitchen and from www.downendfolkclub.co.uk. They are priced at £11 each, but if you buy before Friday 12th August they’ll cost you just £9 as part of the ‘Early Bird’ scheme. Members tickets are a bargain £8 each and are available direct from Ant Miles or from the Members area of the website.
For more information, please visit www.downendfolkclub.co.uk, or find the club on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or YouTube.