Chris While & Julie Matthews w/ Corrie Shelley – Over Hulton Folk Club: Live Review

Over the last two years, there have been some memorable nights at OHFC but few will surpass the treasured evening we were given by Julie Matthews & Chris While.

over hulton

It is 30 years since I first heard Chris and Julie perform as part of The Albion Band and their voices took my heart away then. Tonight they were as pure and fresh as that night, singing seemed natural and effortless and like a maturing wine has clearly stood the test of time. 

Our OH hosts must have dreamed of an evening like tonight and it was pertinent that one of them, Corrie, opened the night. No mean songstress herself she warmed us up with a short set of four pieces. Opening with Jokers, Thieves and Profiteers she left no one bemused by who her political dig was aimed at. From her last album, she sang her mum’s favourite The Box. Her family links to the mining industry have been immortalised in The Clock; inspired by her Grandad it will be included on a new album to be released next Spring. Delving into her personal history again, I Wish I’d Listened recalled a moment of young love gone wrong. She wallowed in the packed out audience and like all of us, tingled with anticipation for what was to come.

Here’s Corrie on What If I’d, accompanied by Henry Priestman:

It’s as though every song we were offered tonight was a private moment lovingly gifted to us all and this evening we learned that songwriting is a craft not just a job. Admitting to this period being an ‘in-between year’,  prolific songwriters Chris and Julie offered us a palette of new songs yet to be released and a selection of favourites from the past. On My Way was a lively opener and wielding a ukulele in Carved In Stone Julie displayed her multi-instrumental talents. A new album is also in the pipeline and in a tribute to Chris’s mum, a worldly-wise factory worker, told us that life is not long enough.

During a tour of Australia they learned of a close friend who moved their house in two stages and so wrote Two Halves Together showing that when there is a new venture in your life it is also good to take part of the past with you. Their social awareness is clearly displayed in Landfill but later this was balanced with  The Seventh Wave showing how we can have faith in the youth of today in undoing our environmental failings. Coming Out was inspired by a fellow who whilst being initially devastated by the news of his daughter’s sexuality,  overcame those feelings. It reminded me of the song Be The Man by The  Young’uns. Fortunately, this song had a happier ending.

I wouldn’t want to pinpoint what their music is. Modern folk or folk rock doesn’t do them justice as they can also delve into country which they did with Shadow Of My Former Self.    Their inspiration for songwriting also comes from many quarters; from a woman secretly educating girls in Afghanistan to starfish-filled beaches, the Barrow shipyards  and  the domestic garden and mistreated Aborigines, cherished sisters, they plunge into all these themes to offer us sensitive poignant songs that cheer us, move us and entrance whether their songs are lullabies, rocky, country, jolly or melancholy.  Ending the main set with If This  Was Your Last Day the evening had ended far too soon and those glorious voices filtered away into the cool autumn evening.

In a week when a regurgitated Beatles song was, so we were told, something to treasure, despite my love for nearly everything the Fab Four ever did I have to say that tonight’s experience shows that whatever our preference is whether it be the groundbreaking Beatles, the delicious harmonies of The Everly Brothers or the magnificence of Mozart, Chris and Julie represent the present and hopefully the future.

The seasonal folky celebrations begin with  Bandersnatch on 14th December and at  the OHFC Christmas Party on 20th December,  so check your diaries for these dates.

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