“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
Downend Folk Club’s Summer programme kicks off this month with a visit from one of the most well-loved and respected figures of today’s contemporary roots and folk scene.
During the past decade, JIM CAUSLEY has been nominated no less than six times for a BBC Radio 2 Folk Award; last year he was nominated as “Singer of the Year” at the 2017 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards; won the Spiral Earth Singer of the Year award in 2014; presented his own folk music show on BBC Radio Devon; and in 2015 he worked with BBC TV historian Dr Sam Willis to create the music for his show 'Highwaymen, Outlaws and Villains' and was asked to perform his song about Dartmoor tin mining 'Pride of the Moor' on BBC TV's Countryfile - Dartmoor Special.
Cornish filmmaker Jane Darke made a specially commissioned biographical film about the life of Charles Causley this year (2017) which aired on BBC4 TV on 1st October as part of the Centenary celebrations. The soundtrack to the film was composed entirely by Jim and featured music from his 2013 album ‘Cyprus Well’.
A prolific collaborator, Jim is hugely admired for his work with iconic groups The Devil’s Interval and Mawkin:Causley as well as playing, touring and recording alongside Waterson:Carthy, John McCusker, Eddie Reader, Graham Coxson, Shirley Collins, Michael Morpurgo, Show of Hands, Kate Rusby, David Rotheray of Beautiful South fame and many more. He was described by Mojo Magazine as “the finest singer of his generation” and they put Forgotten Kingdom in their Top Ten Folk Albums of 2016 list. West Country father of folk Geoff Lakeman described Causley as possessing “A voice in a million” in a recent interview in the Western Morning News, some accolade indeed!
Opening the evening’s entertainment will be singer/songwriter HANNAH WOOF. At only 18 years old, Hannah has already been played on BBC Radio 1, performed to sell out crowds and released an “Enthralling” debut EP Sleepless Nights.
Growing up in Warwickshire, Hannah began writing and singing songs from an early age. As well as singing 60s and 70s classics, her own songs showed a maturity beyond her years. She took these songs into the retirement homes of the area to delight audiences, growing in confidence all the time. She is currently writing material for her next release, due in 2018, and gigging around the country to captivated audiences.
Tickets for the event, which takes place at Frenchay Village Hall on Friday 21st September 2018, are available from MELANIE'S KITCHEN or online HERE. They are priced at £12 each in advance (£10 for members), or £14 on the door. There will be a full bar, stocking Severn Cider, soft drinks, wine, hot drinks and locally-brewed real ale from Hambrook-based GREAT WESTERN BREWING CO., and also locally-made NAUGHTY BROWNIES. There will be a raffle with prizes including CDs, gift boxes of beer and sweet treats. You are encouraged to bring your own glass/ mug/tankard/bucket, as well as reusable bottles for water, as part of the club’s drive to be more environmentally aware.
We don't do shows in August... but this one was too good not to get involved in! We have partnered with BRISTOL FOLK HOUSE to bring one of the hottest international acts to Bristol as part of their Summer tour!
Meet THE FITZGERALDS - a family group consisting of fiddling and step dancing sensations Tom, Kerry & Julie Fitzgerald. These siblings, from Canada’s renowned Ottawa Valley, have come a long way from their small town roots. Featuring 3-time Canadian Grandmaster Fiddle Champions and Ontario Open Step Dance Champions, this unique act features high-energy fiddling and mind-blowing step dancing. Joining the siblings on guitar, lead vocals, and onstage antics is Nate Douglas (guitarist for Cape Breton’s Natalie MacMaster in 2013). It is the rare combination of exceptional musicianship, incomparable step dancing, audience interaction, evident love of performing, and genuine sibling connection that resonates with audiences of all ages and sets this group apart.
The Fitzgeralds were raised in a musical household, and toured internationally with their family band “Everything Fitz”. Growing up in the Ottawa Valley, they were immersed in the rich tradition of Canadian Old Time fiddling and step dancing that evolved with the arrival of Irish, Scottish and French immigrants. Over time, they have developed their art form to include various styles of fiddle music including Celtic, jazz, bluegrass, French-Canadian, and pop. They have also explored other forms of dance including tap and Irish. The siblings continue to push boundaries by fusing traditional and modern styles of fiddle and dance to create their own unique sound and style. Their creativity and passion for experimentation has led them to compose original tunes and arrangements, resulting in a groovy and catchy new sound and look that appeals to all ages.
Tickets for the event, which takes place at Bristol Folk House on Friday 31st July 2018, are available from the venue or online HERE. Members tickets are on-sale now in the Members Only area, using the username and password that you were given when you signed up for membership. They are priced at £15 each in advance (£13 for members), or £17 on the door. There will be a full bar in the cafe area.
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