If a folk club is about anything then it’s about community, friendships and trust. It’s a place to gather every month to chat, share a beer and listen. A place where friends old and new are always welcome.
JIMMY ALDRIDGE AND SID GOLDSMITH have played here before, of course. About a year ago. They were supporting then but felt like the main act. Then they were assured and smart, wonderful songs tumbling, ramshackle from the stage. They were warm and welcoming, honest and real. Tonight they will be all of these things and plenty more too.
But first there's KITTY MACFARLANE. 22-years old with Laurel Canyon looks. All sun splashed blonde and sparkling teeth. She looks a little bemused. Is this down to her recent relocation from Somerset to Bristol? Or the hushed reverence that her short set is held in? Her songs are firmly rooted in a place. If the likes of Bella Hardy and Jackie Oates reflect their own corners of this island, so Kitty Macfarlane sings of Somerset and the Bristol Channel, she sings of nature and birds, time and tide. And it's beautiful. Even when she bravely tilts at Tim Buckley's 'Song to the Siren' she doesn't take a false step. It's less other-worldly, more earth-bound, than the original, but has grass beneath its feet rather than fairies in its hair. Another support act destined for headline status? Without a doubt. There are moments when her lyrics betray her youth, sometimes it’s too wide-eyed, too naive... but she is an absolute delight and we are bound to hear much more from her.
And so this is where we came in. Jimmy & Sid; warm and humble, affable and amiable. They are a proper "Folk Club" act. No pretentions, no delusions of grandeur, no "rock star” posing. Just fantastic musicians playing brilliant songs to a crowd that hangs on every moment.
Photo: Chris Dobson
There’s something about two people who clearly know each other ridiculously well harmonising and playing together. There’s the sound of the banjo and guitar becoming way more than the sum of their parts. Likewise the voices, that alone sound ordinary, become extraordinary when put together. On the a capella opening of 'Hold the Lantern High', the duo remind us all exactly why it is that Downend Folk Club were desperate to see them again. It’s the voices. Robust and earthy; they are true storytellers opening their hearts. Better still is the short set of instrumentals that follows; culled from places as diverse as Norfolk and the Appalachians, they are wonderfully dynamic.
In true "Folk Club" fashion, though, Jimmy and Sid are at their very best when they reveal their social conscience. A version of the Ron Angel classic 'The Chemical Worker’s Song' is full of fire with a cracking chorus, as is their own 'Moving On', a brilliant modern folk song about social housing in London, that has a sense of purpose and place.
As great as these songs are it is at the end of the second set when everything comes together in a delightfully satisfying way. 'Night Hours' is a new song from their forthcoming album. It drifts beautifully, echoing those calm moments of a cityscape at night. This is followed by the only love song of the night, 'Let the Wind Blow High or Low', and then a terrific version of Chris Wood's 'The Cottager’s Reply'. It’s yet another song that follows the theme of the evening; that a sense of community and place are vital to us all.
The community of Downend took Jimmy and Sid to their hearts once more and welcomed Kitty Macfarlane too. We will see them all again soon.
- Gavin McNamara, DFC regular
In May last year, Downend Folk Club featured a fast-rising duo as their support act… and they were so popular that the regulars DEMANDED to hear more!
So, back by popular demand, the club’s headline guests this month will be JIMMY ALDRIDGE AND SID GOLDSMITH.
Jimmy and Sid play traditional and original folksong of the British Isles. They tell stories of hardship, joy, struggle and celebration held together with driving banjo and guitar arrangements and close vocal harmonies.
They have both been heavily influenced by the songs and singers of East Anglia, where they both grew up, but their music also reflects the diversity of voices within the folk and acoustic world. They weave traditional English folksong with Irish, Scottish and American tunes, and their own compositions draw on many different styles.
“A cracking album, full of really terrific songs” – Mike Harding
The songs on their new album have been picked up from sessions, singarounds, gigs, recordings and learned from friends. The stories are varied but there is a common thread of political struggle and resistance, and the decline of the industries that were the backbone of England for many generations.
Opening the evening will be KITTY MACFARLANE, a 22-year old Somerset-based singer and songwriter. Her lyrics combine honest snapshots of everyday humanity with the bigger questions that have connected minds and voices for centuries, driven by her own fingerpicked guitar.
Kitty’s debut EP, ‘Tide and Time’, was released in March to critical acclaim… so it really is two great acts for the price of one!
The concert will be held at Frenchay Village Hall on Friday 20th May. Doors open at 7.30pm, and the music will start at around 8.00pm. There will be a full-bar in the foyer area, open from 7.00pm, serving locally-brewed GWB real ale, Severn Cider, wine, a range of soft drinks and tea and coffee. You are encouraged to bring your own glass/tankard/bucket/mug as part of the club’s drive to be environmentally aware.
Tickets are priced at £11 each, but if you buy before Friday 13th May, you can get them for the ‘early-bird” price of just £9 each. Tickets are available from Melanie’s Kitchen in Downend, Bristol Ticket Shop or online here. Members tickets are a bargain £8 each (before Friday 13th May) and are available from the Members Area of this website or direct from Ant Miles.
What a night! I woke up Saturday morning and remembered, just before he took to the stage to welcome the excited audience at Christ Church, Ant had asked me to write a short review of the evening. I jotted down some notes… now where did I put them? Ah yes, on the back of my Summer Programme flyer. What does it say? “Inflatable Unicorn Horn”. “Musical Flowers”, “Bottle of Botanist”, “T Shirts in March (with thigh slaps a la Motown)”, “Highland line dried washing” etc.
What? Had I drank more of the wonderful and literally, ‘Bees Knees’ brew from GWB than I had thought? Or had I inadvertently picked up Cliff's and Gaynor’s shopping list by mistake?
OK I'll come clean: for me, MAIREARAD & ANNA's performance was superb; so great was the experience that I soon forgot about writing notes and just let the beautiful music wash over me.
I was not alone… so many people after were saying the same: “wonderful musicians”, “great atmosphere”, “the music just brings a smile to your face”, “loved the stories between the tunes and songs”, “Lovely personalities”. Roger said “I just loved soaking up the whole buzz of the evening” (and he was not referring to the PA!).
Photo: Brian Smith
The evening got off to great start with a couple of old friends of the club, STEFFAN LEWIS & RACHEL FOSTER, from Yate and Totterdown respectively. I love the music they make. Beautiful harmonies, great guitar work and unique material. Their songs are delivered in an Americana/country style but the subject matter is much closer to home. The Battle of Lansdown, Chipping Sodbury's Mop Fair and my favourite Stover Road, in the country tradition of a trucking song but set on the Stover Road Trading Estate. Steffan and Rachel have an infectious enthusiasm combined with great musicality, we look forward to seeing them again.
Then to the main act of the evening, Mairearad Green and Anna Massie. Mairearad played accordion and for one, (all too short) tune to open the second half, highland bagpipes. Anna played, guitar fiddle, tenor banjo. And wow can they play! I bought Anna's CD 'Glad Company' when it first came out in 2003 and have followed and loved her and Mairearad's music since that time. I have to say Friday’s gig only served to heighten my enthusiasm for their music.
I can't list all of the music they played, for the above stated reason, but as far as I remember from my sketchy notes, they played; five reels, at least three jigs, at least one polka, two hornpipes and a couple of waltzes as well as six songs, several of which we joined in with the chorus and on one occasion Motown-esque thigh slapping.
But if, as most did, you bought the CDs you will not need me to tell you what they played. At the beginning of the evening I was looking at the merchandise desk and seeing the mountain of CDs they had brought, and I have to confess I thought “that’s a bit optimistic”. But Mairearad and Anna know the power of their music better than I do, and at the end of the evening they were at the desk selling and signing CDs like hot cakes! I jumped in and grabbed mine, thrust my tenner into Mairearad's hand and received a smile that was worth every penny... so much so that I couldn't resist buying another one! I now possess that rarity, an unsigned Mairearad and Anna CD.
Do you know what was refreshing? I never once, all evening, heard the words 'I'm sorry this is yet another depressing sad ballad'. Not that the evening did not contain pathos and its reflective moments, in, for instance, the Dougie MacLean song, 'She Loves Me When I Try', or Nanci Griffith's song 'Always Will'.
Ok, for me it was probably the best Downend Folk Club evening, but maybe I'm biased; I’m a jigs and reels junky. But more like this please… I know I'm not the only one!
- Steve Johnson, DFC Committee Member
P.S What about the inflatable unicorn horn? Well, you had to be there... but you could become a member, then you will be able to see the photo on the members page!