Louise & Chris Rogan, Lawrence & Steve – Over Hulton Folk Club – 1st February 2023
The evening opened with a short but entertaining set from Lawrence and Steve: a familiar duo from the vibrant Wigan folk scene. A patriotic song paying a mournfully sung tribute to our nation The Face Of England.
Lawrence recorded an album based on the plight of Wiganers who were transported to Australia in the 18th century. interesting anecdotes from Lawrence introduced The Lady Penrhyn and another tragic tale sung by Steve about a case of injustice over the theft of eleven yards of string, The Fellow From Wigan. At a time when the holocaust is in our minds these crimes against humanity show our own governments can be equally as cruel. Complementing that train of thought came a sweet and poignant melody penned by Rob Johnson about the unfair society where funds are found for the rich but the poor are neglected( Ring any bells?) .
Lawrence, a past winner of the Harvey Kershaw Award, sang a tribute to Harvey and his promotion of the Lancashire dialect with the song No’ But aA Cock Stride Away. Their set concluded with another tragic story of migration, this time to America by Billy O Shea who nefariously didn’t complete the journey. Although thought-provoking with some grim subject manner the songs were delivered cheerfully using well-played variety of acoustic stringed instruments.
Louise and Chris Rogan took the stage to warm applause some of which was in gratitude for the selection of sweets placed on each table. Most of which had been consumed before Lawrence and Steve had completed their first number!! The touching gesture was much appreciated but not as much as the wonderful performance that followed.
On their return to Over Hulton, Louise and Chris took the opportunity to launch their new album Things That Matter. Immediately, Louise’s perfect vocal control of pitch and volume, which was immaculate, stunned the audience. The sweet-toned tuneful accompaniments on the piano and acoustic guitar to My Love He Sails With Nelson set the tone for the evening. There was a medieval musical flavour in The Ballad Of George Lyon, the last man to be hanged in Lancashire. Unlike his medieval counterpart Robin Hood his reputation may have been more of a thuggish highwayman lifestyle.
A contemporary Celtic lament, Evie’s Lullaby, showed Louise’s ability as a sensitive lilting balladeer and having an operatic quality too. It also demonstrated her songwriting skills. She wrote the lyrics to John McCusker’s Jessica’s Lullaby and with his blessing, brought the two pieces together in this song of superb quality. Chris is also no slouch when it comes to songwriting. His song Jeanie Johnston told the remarkable story of the ship which took Irish Emigrants to North America at the height of the Irish Famine – remarkable because of all its years of sailing, it didn’t lose a soul and gained a passenger on its maiden voyage, a baby boy named ‘Nicholas Johnston Riley’ of course.
The sea-faring theme is often visited in folk circles. It linked nicely to the song Sunny Days about Ethel ’ Sunny ‘ Lowry whose attempts to swim the channel nearly ended fatally when she went missing in a storm, only for her red cap to be illuminated by lighting. Later in the performance of the song The Scillonian Sailor we heard of how the bad judgement of a senior naval officer against a junior sailor, whose navigation skills were considerably better, results in a turn of fortunes. The folk-rock style rendition of the song was of such quality I could see the likes of the current Fairport lineup being happy to add it to their repertoire!
The first set ended with the title song from the new album, written during lockdown and showed how something with a beautiful flow could paradoxically come from a time when we endured so much angst and confusion but how we coped by appreciating the value of simple pleasures.
M.C. Corrie described the first set as “Well that was a bit of alright! It wasn’t! It was a LOT of alright!” and more ‘alright’ was to come!…
A selection of songs in the evening were modern interpretations by Chris and Louise to traditional folk songs like The White Cockade and She Moves Through The Fair and some learned from Rogan family singsongs like Bunclody and Mary Of Dungloe. These delightful new arrangements however still retained their Celtic authenticity. And if you’ve ever wondered why there is a statue of Abraham Lincoln in Brasenose Street, Manchester then No More The Slave will explain the link between the local mid-19th century Cotton Panic and the American Civil War.
The appreciation from the audience of a splendid night’s performance was equalled by that from Louise and Chris of the support they received. We returned to the sea for a singalong with a trip to Botany Bay, not as Louise pointed out the outlet bythe M61! ( Which sadly is now closed with the land at the side looking like a huge refuge for abandoned articulated lorries!…now there’s a theme for a song!!)
The encore came with a farewell song The Exiles Return and rounded off the evening in which there was a pleasant balance between tracks from the new album and earlier self-penned material and traditional songs. Sung away from the microphone it further highlighted her natural vocals ably supported by Chris’ harmonising and gentle vocal style too. The self-penned numbers they played tonight, which took up most of the set showed both Louise’s and Chris’ prowess as creative, original songwriters.
The duo recently won the Sunday audience vote at the Great British Folk Festival’s Introducing Stage. Their reputation as an extremely entertaining duo and with a growing gig list, should they be in your neighbourhood don’t miss the opportunity to see them.
Listen out for an interview with Louise and Chris next Thursday’s on Ron Armitage’s Bolton FM Folk Show which goes out between 12.00 am and 2.00 am. Over Hulton Folk Club’s very own Corrie is also being interviewed soon and details of when that is being aired will no doubt be on OHFC Facebook page.
Next up on the first Wednesday of March is talented local songwriter Len Pilkington.
Categories: Live Reviews