Americana UK 2008 Report of the Warwick Folk Festival
Warwick Folk Festival at The Great Western Tavern Sunday 27th July 2008, by Paul Villers
Dust Bowl String Band/Under The Influence/Wes Finch and The Dirty Band/Cindy Archer/Kel Elliott/The Treehorns/Clayton Denwood/The Bellows
It was always going to be one of those days – pitching up on the back lawn of The Great Western in glorious sunshine, ‘well kept’ beer flowing (eventually into a torrent) and the prospect of a days music to keep one entertained…is there anything more perfect on an English summer’s day than this? No is the short and simple answer.
One imagines that some audience members were still applying their Factor 50 suncream when openers Dustbowl String Band took to the stage, hence there being a relatively small (but perfectly formed) crowd in attendance for a set of rather lovely ‘old time’ influenced music. The highlight of this set was the ‘boot’ dancing of singer Sue Hartland (think clog dancing but set to better music) and the tea chest bass playing of Keith Eardley. Why aren’t there more tea chest basses in the world one has to wonder.
A brief hiatus (another opportunity to get to the bar of course) and Under The Influence take the stage – a sort of orchestra of two playing groovy laid back acoustic originals and some very choice covers (Lyle Lovett and Eric Bibb for example). Steve Boyer and Mick Cox can play pretty much anything it appears, putting their bluesy harmonies and tight playing stamp all over it. Top song is their original “The Truth” which reimagines pretty much the whole of the West Coast movement, distilling it to two blokes in an English pub garden – works for me!
With things warming up nicely (both literally and metaphorically) its time for everybody’s new favourite band Wes Finch and The Dirty Band. True to the ‘collective’ nature of the band there are some guests sitting in whilst other members are off on tour. Nothing can prevent these guys from blowing up a storm though and a particularly energetic performance follows on their wholly original set – Libby Fielding once again steps up to the plate as one of the most exuberant singers and dancers around and Wes Finch is in fine voice. Talking of blowing, special mention should go to Bryan Lee who blows on his mouth organ like his life depends on it – shivers go up and down many spines as he makes his instrument sing. And they play a request for me – life is sweet and all is well with the world…
Scarcely a chance to gather more refreshments before Cindy Archer and The Dolly Rockets take to the stage. I am assured by the promoter that Cindy ‘is the real deal’ and frankly it’s hard not to concur. Canadian by birth, to find this country chartreuse in middle England’s leafy lanes is definitely Canada’s loss and our very considerable gain. In amongst the ‘authentic’ originals are such classics as ‘Jolene’, ‘Your Cheatin’ Heart’ and ‘Jackson’. No tribute act this though – each cover is treated as Cindy’s own and her waif like persona and delivery has even the most hard bitten of music fans surreptitiously dabbing the corner of a tear filled eye.
A short break, a large round of beer (it’s that kind of day) and there is the enticing prospect of Kel Elliott up next. As it turns out being unfamiliar as I am with Kelly’s work is something of a crime since here is a woman who can swing with the best of them (and play an upright bass whilst doing so) ably supported by a band that features a horn section. Smart, sassy and sensitive sum this set up. Some lovely originals are augmented by as eclectic a choice of covers as you could wish to hear (try “Don’t You Want Me” – yes that one – and “Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” for size). Kel belts it out, the band groove and the crowd are swinging. Which nicely sets up the next act…
The Treehorns are a four piece who remind us what it is we are all here for – the music (and not falling asleep in the sun). Mostly uptempo with an ‘indie’ overtone the eight songs they storm through here exhibit a country blues sensibility (some more great harp blowing). They are a great live prospect and a good ‘drinking’ band – which is just as well since most of us have taken fulsome advantage of the bar facilities by this stage. Foottapping back to said bar we are awaiting the next act.
The next act is in fact Clayton Denwood, another Canadian (and onetime resident of Woodstock) who gives us something of a masterclass in country folk. To call him Dylanesque would probably be lazy journalism (but remember he has done the Woodstock living thing) so instead I’ll alert you to the very favourable review of an album of his that our own Michael Mee wrote some time ago. Of more interest to gossip fans (!) is that he is the partner of Cindy Archer, Kel Elliott joins him on bass and a young man by the name of Jack Blackman (some fifteen years old) plays with the accomplishment of someone three times that age. The audience – by this stage of proceedings packing the garden area of The Great Western – really are being spoiled but there is still time for one last treat.
And that comes in the shape of The Bellows. These guys are a collective who swap instruments like they are trading cards. At any time you can expect to see flutes, banjos, mandolins, guitars, oboes, drums and of course the famous Jonny Nicholds megaphone. Their dark punky folk inspires the crowd to get up and dance and by the end of their seven numbers we are all happy, in great spirits and there is time for one last visit to the bar before we disappear into the balmy night air.