I’ve been listening to a lot of REM lately. Every now and then I need to remind myself that alongside all this folky stuff – gigs, festivals, morris dancing etc – there’s a whole raft of musical genres out there, many of which are actually pretty enjoyable. And then I think, “hey, why bother?”. Folk music comes in so many different guises. Last week it was a five-piece Celtic fusion band, next week it’s a mum from Dartmoor with an electric piano. And last Friday? Last Friday it was a bloke with a guitar.

LUKE JACKSON, though, is not just any bloke with a guitar. We knew that right from the start. The voice told us. Literally. Singing like a man whose instrument was almost an afterthought (we soon discovered it wasn’t), he instantly set the tone for the evening.  At this point I could try and find a new way to describe the voice but a quick glance at the “What They Say” section of his website suggests “sumptuous”, “extraordinarily rich”, “incredibly mature and expressive”, “truly wonderful”, “rich, bluesy and unmistakable”. I’m sure I could come up with something else but I’ll leave it there for now.

Photo: Julian Cox

‘Aunt Sally’ followed in much the same vein. Then ‘Finding Home’, appropriately written on tour and proving that there’s more to life on the road than just reading the latest paperbacks. It was at this point that my ears began thinking that maybe something a little more “ordinary” might be sensible.  But Jackson doesn’t do “ordinary” – that’s why he was Fatea’s “Male Artist of the Year” in 2014, with further awards surely not too far away. 

And also why he’s opened for some fairly hefty names on the British folk scene, which is strangely odd given the obvious American influence demonstrated in his set – ‘Kansas City Lights’, ‘Tennessee Whiskey’, ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’ from ‘Oh Brother, Where Art Thou’ – even if the English accent was much in evidence. You can take the man out of England but…

Then sometime around 9.15pm something very strange occurred. Well, strange for a folk club this early in the evening at least. ‘Georgia On My Mind’ – yes, the one that Ray Charles used to do – was as brilliant as it was unexpected. Either side of a few lines from ‘What a Wonderful World’ - yes, the one that Louis Armstrong used to do – this really was the sort of bluesy-jazzy stuff that the old guys do so well. I’ve no idea whether anyone actually stood for the ovation but it just didn’t matter given the volume of the applause.

But a folk club is not just about the music. Half-time sees little groups of people standing in what available space there is, discussing Brian’s van or Pete’s shoulder, artists mingling with punters, bar staff working overtime and organisers hoping the final third of the evening lives up to what’s gone before.

They needn’t have worried. It did.

Maybe it was my imagination, or maybe the excellent GWB real ale was playing a trick or two, but the second set seemed more melodic and less power ballad-y than the first. More time to notice the self-assured, almost conversation-like, patter between songs. Not to mention the occasional one-handed guitar accompaniment, the left hand beating the chest or gesticulating wildly.

Just room for one last song we’re told, a gentle childhood reminiscence about best friends climbing trees side by side. Sublime. But still a few minutes more before the final whistle, so time for an encore then – another of those unplugged, pin-drop moments for the American Civil Rights anthem, ‘A Change is Gonna Come’. This man will go far… starting at 6.30am next morning with a flight to Canada and more exposure.

With a lengthy list of support spots to his name, Jackson couldn’t begrudge HANNAH CUMMING a few minutes in the spotlight. A fiddle-singer from Ilminster, Hannah’s opening set featured Virginia Woolf’s suicide and a couple of Cyril Tawney folk club standards, in an endearingly nervous manner perhaps best illustrated by her ability to move from intro to song to intro without appearing to stop for breath. The highlight for me though was an unusual Tilbury Town, her bow scraping the strings providing a harmony line some way removed from the standard singaround version. And even Nan and Grandad were there to enjoy it.

They probably left before the post-gig party though. Well, I say ‘party’ – it’s more a sort of chair-stacking, lights-packing, poster-signing, rubbish-collecting wind-down. With a glance across at Luke Jackson enjoying the moment, but maybe forgetting the drive to Heathrow via Canterbury. Oh for the energy of youth.

But that’s enough folk for one evening. Now where did I put my new Kraftwerk CD?

- Cliff Woolley, DFC Member

With a talent that belies his tender years, LUKE JACKSON is a star both on the rise, and at the top of his zenith, and he will grace the stage at Frenchay Village Hall as he headlines our March concert.

As a singer and songwriter strongly in the roots vein, Canterbury-based Luke has already made a reputation for himself as a solo performer as well as with his trio. Festival appearances and support slots with the likes of Show of Hands, Steve Knightley, Martyn Joseph and Karine Polwart have wowed crowds up and down the country, including on two short tours of Scotland, where he’s played at the Belladrum and Edinburgh Fringe Festivals. His international touring has included Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany, and now brings his disarming singing and guitar playing to South Gloucestershire.

Click on the image for video

All of this hard work on the road has resulted in some great recognition. As well as nominations for the Horizon Award and the Young Folk Artist of the Year at the 2013 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, Luke was rightly named Fatea Magazine’s Male Artist of the Year.

Luke’s style is both rich and tender, with a percussive guitar technique to match his impressive voice. His songwriting, too, has come on leaps and bounds in the years he has been performing. His stories will envelop you in their words and melodies, and we just know he will be a hit with the Downend crowd. He’ll be performing songs from across his career, from debut More Than Boys to the 2015 EP This Family Tree. These releases are supplemented by 2014’s Fumes and Faith. Luke will also be playing songs from his new record, to be released later this year.

"Reminds me of Jeff Buckley, which can only be a good thing" – Mark Radcliffe, BBC Radio 2

“It’s been a great start to the year, and Luke’s appearance at Downend Folk Club just reinforces that,” said chairman Ant Miles. “Luke’s a very rootsy singer and player, and he is seriously talented. We fully expect yet another sell out, so we really would urge people to buy their tickets early."

Support on the night comes from the superb fiddle singer, HANNAH CUMMING. After classical training, Hannah learned a more folk-leaning style and has gone on to find success in the band Dyer:Cummings and performing and running workshops with her brother Alex. Playing at Towersey Festival as part of the Shooting Roots programme exposed Hannah to yet more influences, she joined young klezmer group The Klezbians whilst at University. She will kick off what is guaranteed to be a great night.

The event will be held at Frenchay Village Hall on Friday 18th March 2016. 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 cost £10 each, but you can get them for £9 if you book before Friday 11th March. They are available from Melanie’s Kitchen in Downend, Bristol Ticket Shop in the city, or online here. Members tickets are £8 eafh and are available from the Members Only area of this website or direct from Ant Miles (before Friday 1th March).

We are thrilled to reveal our fabulous line-up for Summer 2016!

Kicking us off on Friday 20th May will be JIMMY ALDRIDGE & SID GOLDSMITH, who will be launching their brand-new album at the event. Our visitors on Friday 17th June will be KIRSTY BROMLEY & LUCY WISE, who will be joined on stage by SIMON DUMPLETON as they bring the 'Two Hemispheres Tour' to the UK. Headlining our July event on  Friday 15th will be SUNJAY, who is touring his new album 'Black & Blues', while the programme is rounded off with another new album tour as ALEX CUMMING & NICOLA BEAZLEY visit us on Friday 19th August.

We also have some great support acts lined up, as KITTY MACFARLANE opens for Jimmy & Sid, STEVE PLEDGER joins us to kick of the June event. LARA CONLEY will get things underway in July, while local favourites ROAD NOT TAKEN open for Alex & Nicola in August.

All events will be held at Frenchay Village Hall and doors will open at 7.30pm.

Tickets for each event cost £11 (with an early-bird rate of £9) while members can get tickets for each event for just £8 each (up until a week before each gig), and they're available online here right now!