Richard Digance, Sam Barrett -Over Hulton Folk Club – 3rd May 2023
Here in deepest Lancashire a splendid evening was had with visits from two artists who were far from local. One from the Dark Side and the other from London’s East End. I hope they both left enjoying the deserved welcome they were given and it was wonderful to see the room full again attracted by two top-class acts. Although both acts offered up completely different styles of folk music we were treated to a songwriting , guitar-skills fest.
Sam Barrett’s acapella opening, Derry Jail grabbed everyone’s attention and set us off for a superb evening with a traditional style song, his vocal skills rivaling those of better-known acapella vocalists like Jack Rutter or The YoungUns.
His song about his grandfather, Alf, a staunch trade unionist, had a bluegrass flavor. This and the next song about the ups and downs of family life on a shoestring budget showed some nifty finger picking and a touch of slide guitar and resonated with the toils and tribulations of family and current industrial issues of life today. He jovially imposed a traditional Yorkshire song about the adventures of a Yorkshire lad hitting the capital city (not Leeds!!) on the red rose audience. This and many of his songs showed his skilful reworking of songs while on Bushes And Briars he also displayed some nimble banjo playing.
With his next song he paid tribute to the unfairly denigrated clientele of the Duck & Drake in Leeds who deserve praise for supporting live music. More power to their elbow especially as these folk are the salt of the earth and are rightly supported in the cajun-style Last Of The Yorkshire Outlaws. Tonight’ s audience could hardly be described as ‘outlaws’ but they too are keeping live music prominent with their support of new and well-established national folk artists.
He completed his set with a Celtic style love song and brought the performance to a full circle as he once again tunefully sang unaccompanied. His adept musicianship, warm personality and cheery repartee endeared him so much that Corrie’s request for Sam to return for a full set in the future was warmly supported. Let’s hope his trip over the big hill to OHFC is not too long in the waiting.
During the 70’s there was a rich crop of folky comedic, raconteur, singer-songwriters from different areas of the country. Local hero Mike Harding, Brummy Jasper Carrot were amongst them who went on to different things but tonight’s top of the bill
Richard Digance can still magnificently entertain at the small folk club scene and still hold large audiences at a major music festival, earn lucrative affiliations with best-selling authors, compose musical fillers for daytime tv programs, appear in long stints at the Edinburgh festival or perform aboard P&O cruises. What a pity there aren’t more folk clubs around the country where artists of Richard’s quality can ply their trade.
Still being able to do this at his mature age one wonders if he has made a pact with a higher authority but his cheeky, sometimes irreverent yet always humorous songs , stories and jokes make you think he made a similar deal as Robert Johnson at the crossroads. Perhaps in his case at a roundabout on the North Circular!
His cleverly crafted songs, whether paying tribute to his Mum, or people he has met; telling tales of his life, the trial and tribulations of getting older or expressing his social conscience, always display a high level of musicianship. His ragtime guitar playing of Mississippi John Hurt’s Jitterbug Rag and his rendition of Dire Straits’ Local Hero (Going Home) are just two examples both of which were accompanied by fascinating, informative, and amusing tales. Whether his songs are witty or sensitive they are also poignant and resonate with the audience. His song about struggling to put his socks on certainly struck a nerve with the audience. Hecklers beware too as he averted performing Annie’s Song with aplomb.
You would have expected artists like Dylan, The Beatles or any 50’s or early 60’s star to be his inspiration to entertain but he paid an emotional tribute to an obscure magician Val Duval, who he saw at a very tender age whilst on holiday in 1955. His first live entertainment experience set the performing juices flowing as well as getting the audience thinking about who the first live performer they saw was.
Richard’s compositional skills are as versatile and broad as the subject matter he writes about. Whether it be annoying neighbours, short messages on Swizzel’s love hearts for OAP’s, the solar system, Sod’s Law, the building of a nation, the hardship faced by jobbing musician’s during the pandemic, his songs never fail to entertain and be poignant. His set ended with a Cropredy favorite inspired by his father’s philosophy of life What’s The Use Of Anything, with an added pleasant touch as he dedicated it to yours truly.
The evening however left me ever grateful to Val Duval, but for who, our jovial Eastender might have gone in a completely different direction.
Returning next month is the amazing duo Cobalt Tales, who supported Bandersnatch last December, so be sure to snatch a ticket for what should be a popular attraction after their excellent set.
Categories: Live Reviews