Live Reviews

Len Pilkington / Tony Winstanley – Over Hulton Folk Club: Live Review

Len Pilkington / Tony Winstanley – Over Hulton Folk Club: Live Review – 1st March 2023

Local talent was very much to the fore again at Over Hulton Folk Club. Beginning with the enigma who is Tony Winstanley. His chirpy personality made him instantly likeable. Despite a friend’s attempts to burst his ego by highlighting any vocal shortcomings, his amusing self-penned songs made for entertaining listening through his short opening set. 

His cover of John Otway’s version of the House Of The Rising Sun, with personal barracker in the audience providing the mid-song banter,  got the chuckle-muscles moving before he flew into a song detailing his cheeky observations whilst bird-watching in his garden. I hope any avid RSPB members were not offended by his double entendres, some of which would have had the writers of Carry On films blushing. Great fun though!! 

Wigan has their Uncle Joe’s Mint Ball song,  Bury it’s Black Pudding Song now Tony has given Manchester its Vimto song. This brought back happy childhood memories of hot Vimto (a fruity drink invented by a lad from Blackburn!) at a local tuck shop after playing school football. Like its contemporaries, I hope this song brought similar memories of days gone by within the room. The fun continued with his blatant plagiarism in Biscuit In The Jar. His taste for nearly every type of biscuit was matched by hilarious attempts to play Thin Lizzy’s guitar riff on a ukulele and brought tears to the eyes. Joyful ones that is! Tony showed his sensitive side with a sentimental tribute to close friend Andy Clark in a song about the relentless lonely existence of a jobbing musician in Life Tn The Road. The culprit in destroying Tony’s ego, Joe Boe, was revealed in a merry George Formby-style song to close the set. 

I’m glad Tony found enough resolve to plod on performing and provide folk music in the Fylde area for all to enjoy. Finally, on behalf of Tony I’ll pass on a little advice if you are thinking of performing on the OHFC stage with sheet music….. Don’t write the chords in red! Just saying!!

Local singer-songwriter Len Pilkington took the opportunity to launch his debut album  A Few Words In The Rain. A regular club visitor turned headline act provided us with an evening of his soothing, dulcet  tunes. Simplicity is Len’s keyword for this performance. Simple messages in the lyrics without over-flowery words or deep meanings; simple songs without elaborate tunes, a simple tuneful delivery that is easy on the ear. All in all the performance was… simply wonderful!

Len, accompanied by his brother on flute for a handful of songs, warmly invited us into his family with many songs dedicated to family members and his friends, past and present.  Teddy featured his father in a song about leaving home to war; a song of gratitude for maternal support You Were There and a sensitive love song Girl With The Golden Hair for his wife. There were emotional memories about past friends too. Little Bird, accompanied by brother Russell with some haunting flute was an example of many of his songs that captivated the audience the whole evening and exuded warmth within the room. A look back to ancestors inspired by research told of the horrors and tragedy of being condemned to time spent in the Victorian workhouses and seeking escape from it. A song written for a friend’s wedding Teach Me To Talk showed the value of true love between partners. 

There was a healthy chunk of songs from the new album amongst them were the skiffle-y This Train Is Leaving, resisting the traveling life and put down roots. Speak To Me In My Sleep, a dreamy musical letter to a past love was accompanied by Russell on flute giving a lovely Celtic touch and Give Me Hope concludes the album and the first set looking for solace from life’s troubles with the company of a loving friend.  But as MC John informed us, Len has a huge selection of songs to his repertoire which were added to the set tonight including songs from his 2022 barge sessions was an emotional memory to a close friend hoping for a return to happier times.

Len’s social conscience was expressed in a few more politically focused songs too. Farewell To England had an English – folky flavour and How Much You Can Give,  a poignant song about the rich getting richer, was about as angry as Len gets!

Len looks inwards too in his songs reflecting on an imaginary conversation with his younger self in King of Thieves. Advice on being content with who you are was offered up in  Be Happy, Be Happy Be You. Inspired by a conversation between Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen,  Walking With Spirits touched on the situation of battling against lack of support yet still reaching the heights. Hopefully, Len’s rise from obscurity will develop into a wider acknowledgment of his talents within the folk scene.

The only cover of the evening was Len’s encore rendition of Eva Cassidy’s version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow which ended a truly soothing, melodious performance.

over hulton

A review of events at OHFC can not go by without a reference to the weather! Yes again it was horrible but the Folk Club faithful turned out for a heartwarming, entertaining evening, which the lucky attendees could take away with them as with the admission fee everyone was given a copy of Len’s excellent album.

On 5th April,  Henry Pressman and Les Glover headline at Over Hulton with a helping of chaos and hilarity guaranteed. 

If you wish to travel further afield a visit to Fleetwood Folk club run by tonight’s support artist Tony would not be amiss with a St Patrick’s theme night planned for 16th March. Quality acts like Pelican Babies , Den Miller, Phil Hare,  Rogan and Rogan are planned for the future as well as their annual festival at the end of  August. 

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