Kelly gives assured performance

February 04 2015

Review – Kelly Oliver Friday January 16, Frenchay Village Hall

Kelly Oliver, photo courtesy of Julian Cox

Review – Kelly Oliver

Friday January 16, Frenchay Village Hall


ANOTHER day, another sell-out gig. You’d think the organisers would slow down and give the hard-working volunteers a quiet evening behind the bar. But that, fortunately, is not the Downend Folk Club way. January’s guest was Kelly Oliver. No, me neither, but it’s just up the road and I no longer have much hair left to wash.

Sharing the stage with two guitars and various harmonicas, she treated the audience to a hugely enjoyable set drawing predominantly on two major influences – the gentle Irish lilt of Paul Brady and Andy Irvine, and the somewhat rougher-edged Americana of Steve Earle. Indeed, listening to the three Earle songs, particularly the 25-year-old Copperhead Road, set me wondering how his music had passed me by all this time.

Kelly spoke of her excitement at opening two gigs for Cara Dillon within the next few weeks, and the youthful innocence shone through as you’d expect from someone who’s been performing for only eighteen months. Contrast this with the remarkably assured performance which just exuded confidence – maybe that’s what happens when you return from backpacking around South America.

In an evening of generally unfamiliar music, it’s always nice to hear something recognisable, particularly when you can join in the chorus. I think it’s safe to say that no-one expected Molly Malone with her cockles and mussels, but it blended in perfectly. Throw in Kelly’s interpretation of Caledonia and a few originals, and that was it. Just time for one more song.

Now ‘Diamond Girl’ needs a second voice to do it justice, so a member of the audience was quickly dragged up on stage. As it turned out to be club founder Ant Miles, let’s just say that not much persuasion was needed. And didn’t he do well, as Brucie used to say.

Finally, a touch of self-deprecation for the misheard lyrics list. Next time I hear the delightful ‘Grandpa was a Stoker’ I’ll try really hard not to think of him as a stalker.

Overall, a shining performance from a young lady with a bright future.

The Portraits, who opened the evening’s entertainment, are an interesting bunch. Based around husband and wife duo Jeremy and Lorraine Millington they opened the evening with a short alt-folk set. The highlight was a live version of their charity single ‘The Rest of Time’ featuring around a hundred voices rather than the two thousand they collected for the record.

The following day I did a bit of internet research. It seems that Kelly Oliver has been fairly involved with Hitchin Folk Club over the past two years. Hitchin FC are former winners of a BBC Folk Award. If this club continues the way it’s been going in its short life …… well, just an idle thought.


Cliff Wooley

Downend Folk Club regular


Next at Downend Folk Club

Maz O’Connor 

Friday February 20,
Christ Church Downend


YET another award-winning songstress is set to wow audiences with a visit to Downend later this month.

Fresh from winning Female Vocalist of the Year at the prestigious Fatea Magazine Awards and a near-certainty for a BBC Radio 2 Folk Award this year, Maz O’Connor will be headlining February’s Downend Folk Club event on Friday February 20 at Christ Church.

Maz, who has been singing on the UK folk scene since she was 13-years-old, is a gifted singer of traditional and self-penned songs. In 2013 she was nominated for the BBC Folk Awards Horizon Award and selected for a creative fellowship with the English Folk Dance and Song Society at London’s Cecil Sharp House, funded by the BBC Performing Arts Fund. She sings both traditional folk songs and her own compositions, and accompanies her uniquely pure voice with guitar, shruti box, piano and harmonium.

But it was while at Cambridge reading English that she fell in love with the folk songwriters of the 1960s; Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, Neil Young. These influences, along with her literary leanings, make for a varied and intriguing body of work. She effortlessly blends traditional material such as the Child Ballad ‘The Grey Selkie’ with thoughtful, original songs like ‘Derby Day’ (which commemorates the death of suffragette Emily Wilding Davison) and ‘The Mississippi Woman’ (a feminist rewrite of the Adam-and-Eve story), which she was commissioned to write by Broadstairs Folk Festival.

Maz released her first album, ‘Upon a Stranger Shore’ in July 2012, just after leaving university, and 2013 was an even busier year: alongside her BBC fellowship, and singing Laura Marling’s music in the RSC’s ‘As You Like It’, she found time to team up with Downend Folk Club’s patron Jim Moray to record ‘This Willowed Light’, her extraordinary second album. Together they crafted this beautiful record which unites Maz’s contemporary sound with her love of traditional folk song. When ‘Derby Day’ was recently ‘Song of the Day’ on Folk Radio UK, Jim said of the album: “I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever worked on”. What higher recommendation is there than that?

Opening the evening will be Gloucestershire duo The Black Feathers. The perfectly paired voices of Sian Chandler and Ray Hughes intertwine effortlessly to create a genre defying sound, combining elements of folk, roots, Americana, and southern rock. The duo have been touring all over the UK for the past two years, winning over new fans of all ages everywhere they go.

Tickets for the event, which will be held on Friday February 20 at Christ Church Downend, are on sale now from Baguette Me Not or online from and Bristol Ticket Shop. They are priced at £10 in advance (£8 for members, £12 on the door). Doors open at 7.30pm and there will be a bar serving Great Western Brewing Co. real ales, Severn Cider and a range of wine, soft drinks and teas and coffees, as well as raffle during the interval.