What a great evening! I knew SUSIE DOBSON would be good, as I have heard her sing and play many times. However, I wasn’t expecting to be quite so bowled over by GILMORE & ROBERTS! No wonder there was a full house!

Katriona and Jamie absolutely blew me away with their wonderful singing and imaginative use of their instruments: guitar (Jamie) and the fiddle and mandolin (Katriona).

Particularly poignant was 'Dr. James', which had a powerful message even though it was somewhat macabre. Another favourite for me was 'Every Midnight Mile', a very quiet, tranquil song. They wrote the song and released it as a single to raise funds for Shelter. So far sales have reached over £500. This song was in stark contrast to many of their other songs, but just as amazing in its message and delivery.

We were also treated to songs from the latest album, of which some have already been covered by others. What an accolade! Their next song, 'Selfish Man', written by Jamie whilst on the Isle of Man, got us all singing along!

I asked the people sitting close to me, during the main interval what they thought of the session so far… ” very peaceable and sung very well. An amazing session”. Another comment was that it was one of the best Folk Club evenings they had been to.

Other songs included 'All I Have Known' and 'Billy Green'. The latter was written for the project “Songs For The Voiceless”, which was about recording stories from WW1. 'Billy Green' tells the story of someone in the trenches who, the night before he was due over the top, prayed for the safety of Billy Green, rather than his own safety. This was because in his opinion, Billy was more worthy of being saved from death.

After more wonderful songs, we were treated to a rock song as a lively finale to end the evening. Obviously there was an encore which, unusually, was performed unplugged. A wonderful end to a great evening.

Susie, accompanied by Joe Futak, opened the evening. In his introduction, Ant mentioned that people who have had the pleasure of hearing Susie, are sure "she is going places". Certainly her performance did nothing to make me doubt that!

Their opening song, The Staves' 'Facing West' was wonderfully performed, in a most poignant and evocative manner, while 'Why We Build The Wall' delivered a powerful message about the prevalence of inequality and poverty in the World. Joe’s voice as Hades, added an additional dimension, a perfect blend of voices, to this beautiful song.

This was followed by Passenger's 'A House On A Hill”, which Susie had sung at her debut with the Folk Club, early in 2015. Since then she has developed her delivery of it, to be even more beautiful. Their next song 'How Long Will I Love You' was very poignant despite the absence of a fiddle player! Susie and Joe concluded the set with 'Travelling Alone' and 'Underneath the Stars', the latter being a fitting finale to an amazing session.

So in conclusion, as I said at the beginning, what a most enjoyable evening!  Massive thanks are due to Susie, Joe, Katriona and Jamie. Oh, and by the way, also to Ant and the rest of the Downend Folk Club Committee, without whom such great evenings would not be posssible.

- Jan Bacon, DFC member

Photos by Chris Dobson

Yet more award-winning music is coming to the area this month, as GILMORE & ROBERTS headline our February event.

We are really excited for the upcoming gig, coming as it does on the back of the duo’s recent fourth album, and extensive touring all over the UK and the world. 

After gathering worthy attention for their songwriting and performing alike, Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts are now a mainstay in folk and acoustic circles. Their trip to Downend will be a chance to experience their exceptionally dynamic live show and prize-winning songs. Perfectly capturing mood, meaning and more in their songs, they ably accompany themselves on guitar (Jamie, just wait until you see how he plays it!), fiddle and mandolin (Katriona).

They’ve been nominated twice at the BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards, and have teamed up with producer Mark Tucker and musicians Matt Downer (Jamie Smith's Mabon), Phil Henry (Phillip Henry & Hannah Martin) and James 'Hutch' Hutchinson (Bonnie Raitt) for their latest album, ‘Conflict Tourism’. 

The range of styles which Gilmore & Roberts are able to easily demonstrate is impressive. “From the industrial weight of 'Cecilia' and the insistent energy of 'Peggy Airey' to the hauntingly hypnotic 'Jack O Lantern' Gilmore & Roberts' songwriting touches many emotions. 

As their career has progressed, from 2008’s ‘Shadow’s & Half Light’, to 2010’s ‘Up From The Deep’ and 2012’s ‘The Innocent Left’, the duo’s sound has diversified and grown in its confidence, and last year’s ‘Conflict Tourism’ is a wonderful expression of their vision of music and beyond. 

Support in February event comes from SUSIE DOBSON. Just 17 years old, Susie is contemporary folk singer from right here in Downend, with a real love of performing. She takes inspiration from a wide range of contemporary folk and acoustic artists, and her YouTube videos have really made people sit up and take notice. Since her debut performance at the club’s local showcase event last March, Susie has opened for Hattie Briggs and Said The Maiden, and will be performing at Bristol Folk Festival in May. She will be joined on stage by guitarist JOE FUTAK.

The event will be held at Frenchay Village Hall on Friday 19th February 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 are £12 but if you book by Friday 12th February they cost just £10. You can get tickets from Melanie’s Kitchen in Downend or online here. Members tickets are just £9 and can be bought from the Members Only area of the website, or direct from Ant Miles.


Now you’re probably reading that is because you have more than just a passing interest in folk or acoustic music. You’re on the Downend Folk Club website after all, so there’s a bit of a clue. Here’s a question for you then. When deciding which gig(s) to attend, do you go for a) your favourite artists because you know exactly what to expect, b) someone whose CD you enjoyed ten years ago because they might sound the same or c) someone you’ve never heard of because you know your local folk club won’t let you down.

Judging by the flurry of emails in early January ‘c’ does not appear to be the preferred option. The line about really needing to get out more now springs to mind.

Exeter-based duo TOBIAS BEN JACOB & LUKAS DRINKWATER may not be household names, even in their own household, but last Friday’s appearance in Frenchay was one of those little gems that you happen upon almost by accident. And the emails seemed to do the trick, judging by the numbers packed inside French Village Hall.

Photo: Alan Cole

Another duo, IAN ROLAND on guitar with Simon Yapp on fiddle, opened the evening. At times dangerously close to inflicting serious damage to the strings, Roland led us quickly through a series of short stories. Employing the "less talk, more music" principle we moved from the quiet song about being scared of wolves via the bouncy singalong, finishing appropriately with one about passing through. Definitely a name to look out for on this summer’s festival listings.

On to the main act, and within minutes at least one member of the audience was lost in a distant memory of early seventies American west coast harmonies.  Maybe not as smooth as the Eagles or rough as CSNY but that sort of Horse With No Name middle ground.  "Comfortable" and "layered" were the first two words I wrote in the notebook.

The "hit" single 'Burning Low' made an early appearance in the set. In folk terminology of course, "hit" may refer only to the Radio 2 airplay rather than actual sales (or is it downloads these days?) but it’s a convincing step in the right direction.

Now at this point we could discuss the list of the songs they played, but that alone wouldn’t do justice. This was more an impressionist landscape than a set of portraits, exemplified midway through the first half by the rambling mystical intro and whispering vocals on The Devil and Tobias ben Jacob. 

I’ve seen a few double bass players in similar settings over the years and they all add a warm feel to the basic melody. That's partly what made this evening just a bit special. And led to the regular surreal DFC moment when on this occasion the spike slipped through a gap in the stage and saw two grown men seamlessly getting down on their knees to continue the song ‘I Won’t Let You Down’ – yes really. Reappearing for the second half we noticed that the ever-helpful stage crew had marked off a "double bass spike" area to the amusement of those of us at the front. You probably had to be there.

Moving on, the audience listened intently, sang along with ‘Still A Beautiful World’, maybe recognised Dylan’s ‘Shelter from the Storm’ and chuckled at the 80's references in ‘Your Sweet Smiling Face – a fitting encore, catch it on YouTube.

Showing the professionalism gained from playing around eighty gigs last year, it was almost impossible to find fault with the overall performance, but if I was forced into being the teensiest bit picky I’d suggest that maybe a snappier title for the duo might not go amiss. I know they’re hoping to become a big name on the scene but this may be taking things too literally.

Generally though, two men virtually unknown at the start of the evening had certainly made an impression by the time they left the stage.

"I said you don’t know me" Tobias sang in Polyphonic Life. We do now.

- Cliff Woolley