“What a lovely evening, it left me all warm and relaxed” said one of the Downend Folk Club faithful. “I didn’t think about the world once... the best cure for Brexit I know.”

It was that sort of evening, as the club returned after a month off in August. Back in the familiar surroundings of their Frenchay Village Hall headquarters, with one of the best folk singers the country on-stage, it would be nigh on impossible not to be transported to a different place, enveloped in a warm glow.

You see, that’s what JIM CAUSLEY does, and he does it better than most. He has such an easy going manner on stage, that you almost feel you’re having a one-on-one chat with him; there may be approaching a hundred people in the room, but you really feel that he’s talking to you. Engaging and playful, with a lovely dry wit, this consummate performer weaves tales about each song that draw you into the world in which it is set.

Tales of Devon tin miners and pirates on the high seas sit comfortable alongside witty anecdotes about his own sister and her ill-fated relationship (“she’s with another chap now, and that all seems fine... so far”, Jim reassures us), and the stories accompany a beautifully varied mix of traditional songs that he makes sound modern, and his own songs, mostly taken from his 2016 album Forgotten Kingdom, which somehow sound traditional. That’s quite a skill, and Jim has mastered it. Pride of The Moor is a real attention grabber... a sentiment clearly shared by the BBC’s Countryfile, who invited Jim to play it on the programme.

It’s about much more than the warm, witty stage presence, though. He has been nominated no less than six times at the annual BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards; last year he was nominated for the prestigious Folk Singer of the Year Award. And it’s easy to see why. His softly spoken voice that weaves us those tales is transformed when he sings. It’s a rich, full-bodied sound with such ‘oomph’ that Downend Folk Club’s faithful sound engineer Richard has to adjust the volume more than he ever has before. This is a singer who knows how to project! Delivering one or two unaccompanied numbers, alongside songs from the piano and the accordion for which he is perhaps best known, Jim also succeeds in getting the audience singing along with equal gusto.

Poetry is the other theme that runs throughout the evening. A distant relative of Charles Causley, Jim spent time in his cottage setting the great man’s poetry to music, and the album that emerged, Cyprus Well, is rightly revered as a classic. Many of the songs from it feature tonight, including the standouts Angel Hill and Eagle One, Eagle Two.

Before this masterclass in music and stagecraft, 19-year old singer-songwriter HANNAH WOOF made a mark of her own with a short support set taken mostly from her debut EP Sleepless Nights. Weaving her way through five songs, including an impressive take on Joni Mitchell’s A Case Of You, and the self-penned Addicted To You, Hannah reveals a pitch-perfect resonant voice and gently understated guitar style that has already caught the attention of Radio 1. Definitely one to watch.

But it’s Jim Causley’s night, and, if the queue for CDs is anything to go by, those who were there were in full agreement. Presumably, they felt the warm glow too...

Words: Ant Miles
Photo: Chris Dobson