Review Ewan McLennan Downend Folk Club Support from Nibs Van Der Spuy

November 04 2015

IT happens as regular as clockwork. Someone, somewhere (normally a journalist from The Guardian or Billy Bragg) can be heard to mutter that there “just aren’t any political singers anymore”. They complain that no one cares, that there is no one to tell the stories or stoke the fires.


IT happens as regular as clockwork. Someone, somewhere (normally a journalist from The Guardian or Billy Bragg) can be heard to mutter that there “just aren’t any political singers anymore”. They complain that no one cares, that there is no one to tell the stories or stoke the fires.
They haven’t heard the latest visitor to Downend Folk Club; Ewan McLennan is exactly the kind of voice that Billy Bragg wants to hear.
A proud Scot who finds himself living a mighty long way from home, just up the road in Easton, McLennan has been making quite a name for himself over the last few years.
From a debut album that won him a Horizon Award at the BBC Folk Awards to an invitation to take part in the wonderful Transatlantic Sessions, he is quintessentially a “Downend Folk Club Artist”. Intelligent song-writing coupled with virtuoso playing, left-leaning political sensibility and a big book of dreadful banjo jokes, the perfect mix of new and traditional songs. He is everything that we gather for once a month.
After a slightly nervy start where he allowed his songs to speak for him, McLennan proved himself to be a charming host. As he relaxed into the evening so the songs flowed from him, hitting the spot like a fine whisky. They were timeless. On “Coat of Gold” and “Down the Line” he  soared above sun dappled and heather strewn landscapes painting pictures of a time that probably never existed, but we all wish had. His songs are romantic without being twee, powerful without being angry. He’s a great story teller too; a folk troubadour in the finest style and one that uses he roots to his advantage.  
It was the politics that kept shining through though. When folk music is at its very best it tells us stories of real people doing small things that have a huge impact. Stories of fights with Glasgow tenement landlords in 1916 stood shoulder to shoulder with a tale about Scottish engine makers foiling a coup in Santiago. It was Ian Campbell’s anti-war polemic “The Old Man’s Tale” that drew rapturous applause, however, with its final line, “I’m not sure how to change things, but by Christ we’ll have to try!” Who would have thought that we were such a revolutionary bunch!
As an encore McLennan gave us another Scottish Traveller tune, “I’m a Man You Don’t Meet Every Day”. How true that was.  
Before all of the rabble-rousing and romanticism there was something different altogether.  Nibs Van Der Spuy is a South African musician on a short UK tour. He bought the sunshine with him as well as the merest dash of Beatles-y whimsy. A sweet, high, nasal voice carried tunes that immediately transported the appreciative audience to somewhere altogether warmer than an October Frenchay evening. Supple and sensuous guitar playing added to the feeling of watching something really quite special.
It happens as regular as clockwork. Downend Folk Club put on yet another fantastic night with yet more fantastic singers. No one mutters a complaint. Billy Bragg would be pleased.

Gavin McNamara


Next at Downend Folk Club

The Young ‘Uns
(support from The Roaring Trowmen)

Frenchay Village Hall,
Friday November 20, 2015
Doors open 7.30pm

THE next gig in a real run of success for Bristol-based Downend Folk Club is a real coup, if we do say so ourselves. In an ever-expanding field, we always try to bring you, our audience, only the best. And we’ve got quite a show for you, with headliners The Young’Uns, alongside local support The Roaring Trowmen.
A night of glorious harmony singing awaits, as The Young’Uns welcome you into their world. Their close, involving sound will for perfectly into the intimate confines of DFC’s base at Frenchay Village Hall, and we encourage you to enter the spirit of the night, and, along with The Roaring Trowmen, sing along to your heart’s content.
Picking up a boat-load of awards this year, including BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards’ Best Group, Spiral Earth Awards’ Best Live Act and FATEA  Awards’ Best Group, Sean Cooney, Michael Hughes and David Eagle are described as a “force of nature on stage.” Blending alarmingly impressive harmonies, humour and social commentary, they have hit the heights of Glastonbury, and Cambridge Folk Festival,and regularly find success on BBC Radio 2 and beyond.
“Glorious harmonies, waspish wit, powerful songs and relentless banter…..irresistible” - The Guardian
Since their first tentative steps over a decade ago, they have tapped into the sound of their native North East, developing their identity and their mission, and performing in front of many thousands of appreciative people, from tiny pub sessions to huge events up and down the country.
Now onto their fourth album, Another Man’s Ground, which “celebrates working class heroes of the past and present with powerful and poignant tales of struggle, poverty and peace”, the group are set to be another highlight for Downend Folk Club.
 “Robust beauty…an evocative love letter to the North East. In Cooney, The Young’uns clearly have a songwriter of considerable talent” - Songlines
Support will come from The Roaring Trowmen, four hearty souls from old Bristol town, who supply sea shanties and songs of the salty deep. Rousing, rolling and roaring, the group are guaranteed to add a unique element to the night. New songs, old songs and everything in between, the Trowmen ply their trade at festivals, fundraisers, weddings, parties...and now Downend Folk Club!
As is fitting for a night of nautical expression, the event will also include a raffle in aid of the RNLI, and also an info stand to find out more about the organisation.
The event will be held at Frenchay Village Hall on Thursday November 20. Doors open at 7.30pm and there will be a full bar serving GWB real ale, cider, wine and a range of soft drinks, for which we encourage you to bring your own glass.  Tickets are £10 advance and £12 on the door.
Due to unprecedented advanced-sales for this event, we have currently suspended online sales. A very small number of tickets do remain, and will be on sale at October’s Ewan McLennan concert. Any that remain after that will be sold through Melanie’s Kitchen only from the Monday following the gig. If more than ten tickets remain will we make them available via the website again but this is very unlikely due to the number of tickets remaining at the time of writing.
For further information, please contact Ant Miles on 0783 7881941 or email