You know when you get to a gig and let out an audible sigh because there’s a support act?

You’ve gone because you want to see the big name that’s headlining the evening, and you’re disappointed to discover that you have to sit through half-an-hour of someone that you may or may not have heard of before you get to hear your heroes play?

And you know that time when the support act is REALLY, REALLY GOOD and you can’t wait to hear more?

In February 2015, Maz O'Connor brought her beautiful show to Downend Folk Club. The opening act that evening was THE BLACK FEATHERS, a duo from just up the road in Gloucestershire.

The Black Feathers were REALLY, REALLY GOOD!

So much so that, ever since that evening, the Downend Folk Club faithful have requested - no, demanded - a headline slot for this talented pair. This month, two years on from that stunning night, those demands are met… and the Downend Folk Club committee are thrilled about it. Chairman Ant Miles told Downend Voice: “We’ve had some great support acts over the three years since we started the club, but none has ever had a reaction like The Black Feathers. Getting them back for a headline slot was a no-brainer as far as we were concerned, and I’m as excited as our regulars about hearing more from them!”

The Black Feathers, made up of Ray Hughes and Sian Chandler, first became aware of the magic between them while collaborating on several musical projects, becoming The Black Feathers and life partners in 2012.

Americana, folk, and acoustic indie-rock sensibilities coexist comfortably in their musical world, with Hughes’ guitar work buoying the kind of harmonies often only heard in family bands.

2016 was an incredible year for the The Black Feathers. Their debut album was met with critical acclaim and broke into the Top 10 in the iTunes Country chart and the Official UK Americana Chart.

Support on the evening will come from singer-songwriter SASKIA GRIFFITHS-MOORE, who tours the British folk and acoustic scene all year round and has a second album planned for release later this year.

Tickets for the event, which takes place at Frenchay Village Hall on Friday 21st April 2017, are available from MELANIE'S KITCHEN or online HERE. The club anticipates a sell-out, so do book quickly! There will be a full bar, stocking Severn Cider, soft drinks, wine, hot drinks and locally-brewed real ale from Hambrook-based GREAT WESTERN BREWING CO., and locally-made NAUGHTY BROWNIES. There will also be a raffle, featuring some great prizes including CDs, beer, chocolates and more. You are encouraged to bring your own glass/mug/tankard/bucket as part of the club’s drive to be more ecologically aware.

For me St Patrick’s Day conjures memories of raucous nights with friends, filled with laughter. This month’s Downend Folk Club fell on a blustery cold 17th March and we were treated to CHRIS SHERBURN, DENNY BARTLEY & EMILY SANDERS, with support from NIAMH BOADLE.

Sherburn, Bartley and Sanders are a joy to watch. Immediately on taking the stage they display an ease that comes from musicians who have a rich past and know each other well. They display a tangible sense of enjoyment in hearing each other play that pulls the audience into their skilfully woven world. Sherburn’s Yorkshire humour acts as the bridge between tunes and he interacts with the audience with the assured ease of a seasoned stand up comedian.

The heart of the songs comes from Bartley’s dexterous guitar playing and his singing, which is rich with personality and humanity. Accompanying the guitar is consummate concertina playing from Sherburn and beautiful, soaring violin from Sanders with additional vocal harmonies. The music is spell-binding and they get lost in the moment of playing together. A number of times Sherburn murmurs his appreciation of Bartley’s guitar and the audience was in full agreement. This is what music is meant to be about. Their set was exquisite and transported me to a place of nostalgia.

Niamh Boadle, the support act, helped this process by bringing deft guitar playing, clean vocals and a talent for both writing original songs and interpreting traditional tunes. For an individual playing solo, she brings great variation with guitar being the mainstay but with an a capella rendition of Banks Of The Lee and bodhrán playing on Creggan White Hare in the set too. Once again the Folk Club has introduced me to a new artist to look out for.

St Patrick’s Day should be about warmth, fun and companionship. We had all of this in abundance. Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Duit! Happy St Patrick’s Day!

Words: Mike Richards

Photo: Chris Dobson

The third Friday of the month happens to fall on St Patrick’s Day this year, and we intend to celebrate in true Irish fashion!

CHRIS SHERBURN AND DENNY BARTLEY have been bringing their unique sound to audiences across Europe and America since the early 1990s, when a chance meeting at a music session created one of folk music's most enduring partnerships.

Known for their soul stirring songs, exhilarating tunes and a love of the craic, Chris (concertina) and Denny (guitar and vocals) ensure that no two concerts are ever the same.

Chris grew up surrounded by folk music of all kinds - his home was a regular haunt for passing folk singers and musicians. Denny, born in Co. Limerick, is drawn to the inheritance of age-old slides, slow airs, slip jigs and wild reels.

Founder members of the band Last Night's Fun which received international acclaim and a loyal fan base over 11 years together, the duo are now joined by the wonderful fiddle player and singer EMILY SANDERS. Emily brings magic accompaniment and beautiful harmonies

Opening the evening’s entertainment will be NIAMH BOADLE.

Niamh is one of the new generation of performers who’ve been immersed in tradition from an early age… in her case not only that of English folk music but those of Irish song, music and dance too.

Tickets for the event, which takes place at Frenchay Village Hall on Friday 17 March 2017, are available from MELANIE'S KITCHEN or online HERE. We are anticipating a sell-out, so do book quickly! There will be a full bar, stocking cider, soft drinks, wine, hot drinks and locally-brewed real ale from Hambrook-based GREAT WESTERN BREWING CO., and now true chocolate indulgence from NAUGHTY BROWNIE. There will also be a raffle. You are encouraged to bring your own glass/mug/tankard/bucket as part of the club’s drive to be more ecologicaly aware.

There is a Facebook event where you can keep up with all the latest news about the evening HERE.