Mail Train – Over Hulton Folk Club – 16th March 2022
Tonight I witnessed proof that the folk club night within these shores is still alive, kicking and screaming. On a night when the stage should have been graced by the 70’s legends The Strawbs a time warp of a different style emerged.
In a set which included folk night traditional songs ( A Roving, a roving), a selection of quirky and amusing ditties, a Joni Mitchell cover of Big Yellow Taxi with ‘shoe, bap, bap, bap’ refrain), Flanders And Swan and a lovely instrumental lament ( The Dark Island) veteran folkie Bernard Cromarty played his accordion and assorted guitars to warm up a small but appreciative Over Hulton Folk Club for an hour. His anecdotes displayed his long folk club experience and extensive knowledge of years gone by in the folk world. One which is also available to hear on his Oldham Community radio show.
In the second part of the evening, we were superbly entertained by the excellent Mail Train, a local 4 piece Americana/ Country/bluegrass band playing their own songs and favourite covers with a countrified Stones/Elvis encore.
The vocals were ably shared by guitarist and co-founder Peter Moore and a wonderfully talented and natural singer Jan Hough, who, she told me, followed a career in Social Services instead of a professional career in the folk world. Folk’s loss was social services gain, her warmth, personality and her bodhran playing endeared herself to the audience.
A strong feature of the set was Stuart Hartley’s original style banjo playing never once showing that after only a few rehearsals he was a newcomer to the band. Their set included many of their self-penned songs including Sing Me, which had a trad jazz feel to it, Songbird, Cinder Path about an illicit relationship. They touched a relevant nerve about the rise in the cost of living with Pin Stripe Suit, the jolly Rambling Shoes preceded a celebration of St Patrick’s Day with Belle From Belfast City which neatly merged into their signature tune, a bouncy country hop called Ride The Mailtrain. Interspersed were a selection of songs which fitted in perfectly with their own material, covers of Jean Ritchie, Merry Hell, Decemberists, and country standard Wayfaring Stranger also covered by Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris. The whole set was driven along by Peter’s son Frank with his subtle bass runs, his harmonic backing vocals enhanced the whole performance. The evening was rounded off nicely with a country-stomping version of That’s Alright Mama.
Most of the numbers in the set can be found on their current CD, Mail Train Album #1. This album was recorded with banjo/songwriter Terry Bailey, who has now left the band with additional contributions from Elliot Moore and John Kettle. You can get the CD by contacting the group on their Facebook page – see below – (CD £10, digital £8).
A spot at a national folk festival would raise their profile and deservedly increase awareness of this talented band and award them regular gig spots.
Mail Train will be hosting an acoustic session at the Mason’s Arms at Billinge on 10th April from 3pm until 5pm. Their forthcoming gigs include spots at:
Coppull Folk Festival 11th June at 8pm
Crooke Festival, Wigan, details to be confirmed
The Folk scene in Bolton was once fervent and strong with club nights running through the week at several venues around the town. Tribute must be made to host Corrie Shelley and her colleagues for their efforts to revitalise folk nights at Over Hulton Conservative Club. Check out their website for forthcoming events including Cropredy MC Anthony John Clarke up next in early April.
Thanks to Corrie Shelley at Over Hulton Folk Club for the use of the photo.
Mail Train online: Facebook