Early November 2011
CLUB EVENTS AND NEWS
1. LISTEN-UP – KRISTINA’S BACK IN TOWN. This Thursday, 10th November, we are delighted to present the musical force of nature that is Kristina Olsen, one of the most entertaining and engaging performers that we know of. Kristina is a great instrumentalist, playing both acoustic and steel guitars as well as saxophone, concertina and piano. She is also a powerful singer with a big bluesy voice, a gifted songwriter and a born attention-grabbing stage performer, drawing audiences into her rich tapestry of brilliantly observed and often witty tales of human behaviour.
Born in San Francisco and raised in Haight-Asbury during the 1960's, Kristina's approach to music and life was formed in that world of cultural vitality, social activism and musical diversity. Over the last three decades she has performed across North America, Australia, New Zealand and the British Isles, appearing at major folk and world music festivals, concert halls and clubs with her diverse mix of strong songs in the troubadour tradition, some jazz-inspired sounds and stirring bottleneck blues.
Kristina first visited the Black Swan in 1997 and was an instant hit, returning in 2000 with her occasional musical partner, the cellist Peter Grayling, and again solo in 2002. Circumstances then conspired to keep her away from York for the last nine years, but at last we are able to welcome her back. Prepare to be royally entertained!
You can find out more at www.kristinaolsen.net and sample a video of one of her standout songs, The Truth Of A Woman. Doors open at 8pm on Thursday as usual, the club’s star resident Stan Graham acts as Master of Ceremonies, and tickets are £9 each, or £7 for concessions, on the door or booked beforehand through the online agency WeGotTickets.
2. DAVID FERRARD, JOURNEYMAN. After our monthly Singers Night on 17th November (hosted this time by Phil Cerny), we welcome back the young Edinburgh-based folk singer David Ferrard on 24th November. Born to a Scottish father and an American mother and brought up on both sides of the Atlantic, David is a veritable 'one-man transatlantic session' whose mixed roots can be clearly traced in his music, whether singing his own compositions or interpreting a traditional ballad or a song by Robert Burns.
David's new songs tell stories about his and others' lives and are usually marked by a strong commitment to social justice and peace. An ability to get under the skin of different characters and to convey their stories in song has won him several songwriting competitions and seen him compared with the likes of Woody Guthrie and Tom Paxton, while his sweet, crystal clear vocals have evoked John Denver and James Taylor references from some critics.
David has been building his UK reputation over the last five years or so. He tours extensively, does sell-out shows at the Edinburgh Festival fringe, has had songs covered by Roy Bailey and others, and runs his own songwriting project, Songs For Change. He first crossed our radar when he offered to do the unpaid support spot for Emily Smith at the NCEM in 2008. He impressed us greatly that night and soon returned for a proper club booking in spring 2009. Now we look forward to David’s second Black Swan performance, which comes at an opportune moment, just after the release of his third CD, Journeyman, which has already been chosen as an Album of the Week on BBC Radio Scotland and won a 4 star review in Scotland On Sunday.
“This is my most personal album to date” he says, “exploring issues of identity, childhood, relationship and family break-up”. The album opens with a song of reconciliation and hope (Bridges), and closes with The War Carries On (Turn, Turn, Turn), interweaving my own lyric with folk legend Pete Seeger’s 1960s peace anthem. Many songs are autobiographical, most of all I Am An Immigrant (I’m From Here), which looks at multicultural Britain through my own family's story. Though serious, I hope ultimately you will find the album uplifting and life-affirming.”
You can find out more, and sample David’s music, at www.davidferrard.com. Stan Graham again acts as MC and tickets are £7 (£6 concessions) at WeGotTickets or on the door.
3. URBAN FOLK QUARTET TO SET THE HOUSE ALIGHT. Our next concert at the Early Music Centre is fast approaching on Monday 28th November and promises to be a real foot-tapper of an evening with The Urban Folk Quartet.
The premise is simple: bring together four highly accomplished musicians, a dozen instruments and four voices and put on a high-energy show of grooving, globally-influenced folk music that will take your breath away. The musicians in question are Joe Broughton, Paloma Trigas, Frank Moon and Tom Chapman and the result is a show like no other. Blistering beats, burning fiddle tunes and elements from all four corners of the globe are delivered with boundless energy and humour. It is true fusion, not just the careless splicing together of genres. The UFQ are equally at home delivering a sombre slow air or harmonised Appalachian folk song as they are ripping into a rock-infused reel.
It is the band members’ diverse palette of musical experience that gives the UFQ its unique sound and approach. Having worked across the world with acts such as The Chieftains, Bellowhead, The Albion Band and Carlos Nunez, it's easy to see the folk pedigree. Add time spent with acoustic punks The Violent Femmes, gypsy maniacs The Destroyers, The Mediaeval Baebes, Cerys Matthews and Chris While into the mix and you get a sense of the band's multi-disciplinary credentials.
In just two years The UFQ have taken the European folk scene by storm, carrying their blinding brand of electrifying acoustic music across the continent, packing out concert halls and playing major festivals. This summer saw The UFQ embark on their biggest adventure yet, a rollercoaster ride of gigs across Spain, Germany, Canada, Italy and the UK, playing everything from secluded coves to 30,000 capacity festival fields. Get a flavour of the UFQ experience from their tour video diary at www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJyWLyVe8fQ or watch concert footage on their own website at www.theurbanfolkquartet.com.
"Heaven knows where you'd have to go to find a better band!" says Ric Sanders of Fairport Convention, while on Radio 2, Mike Harding said “Up there with the best of them – amazing playing”.
With her own globally-influenced musical approach, Paula Ryan makes the ideal local support for this one. Tickets are booking now at www.ncem.co.uk or on 01904 658338, priced at £13 full or £11 concessions.
4. CLUP UDATE – THE LATEST SITUATION. Thanks to those few of you who proffered feedback in response to my “Snakes and Ladders” piece in E-News 135. The main theme to emerge was, not surprisingly, the recession in a time of musical plenty. Many (most?) of us are having to watch where the money goes, yet there is more good live music than ever to choose from. As I regularly report (suicidally, perhaps) in these pages, most general music venues in York now programme a number of folk-related singers and bands each month, while there is also plenty of folk on offer at market town arts centres and rural village halls within driving distance of York, as well as a plethora of one-off events, informal singers’ clubs and sessions. In theory this is great news, but even when we are not looking at direct clashes on the same night (and there have been several of those), this is perhaps spreading our finite, financially-pressed and (let’s face it) minority audience a little too thinly.
We reached the 9 month stage in our club financial year at the end of October. We were still marginally ahead of where we were at the beginning of the year, but £700 down on the situation at the 6 month stage. That is a lot to lose in three months, when your total assets only come to around £4,000. To put that in context, bookings already contracted or agreed verbally between now and Christmas 2012 commit us to over £15,000 in fees!
One or two of you questioned the whole basis of the club as a professional “mini concert” venue. All I can say is that this has pretty much always been our role, ever since the 1970s, and that we have always been complemented by a range of other local sessions, singarounds and pub gigs for those whose primary folk music interest is a more active, participatory and informal one. We could revert to being far more of a Singers Club but I wonder how long we would survive in that format.
One person asked whether we are paying artists too much in fees. Well, I’ve been negotiating bookings with artists for over 20 years now, and I honestly think that I can judge pretty well what fee most artists merit. Some pitch it far too high, and get told as much, while a few are really too modest about their charges. At the end of the day most professional musicians in our field struggle to make anything like a decent living.
The next few weeks could be make or break. We had a full house for Wizz Jones, which was very gratifying for us and well deserved by him, and we did OK last week for the Young Performers despite being head-to-head with Chris Wood at the Duchess. Yet until Wizz we had not had a single club full house in 5 months, compared with 10 in the first 5 months of 2011. Our club and concert guests between now and Christmas are pretty expensive, for the most part, and if they don’t tempt you out in the numbers I anticipated when I made the bookings (which could have been up to a year beforehand), then that £4,000 bank account could be whittled away fast. Enough said!
5. LOOKING AHEAD TO 2012. Working on the optimistic assumption that things will pick up again (more ladders than snakes!), we have made a lot of bookings for 2012. Hopefully you will be tempted out by quite a few of these.
At the NCEM future guests include The Martin Simpson Trio (14th February), Kris Drever & Eamonn Coyne (7th March), The Jenna Reid Trio (11th April), The Hut People (24th April) and a special pairing of Boo Hewerdine & Brooks Williams (8th May), with Martin Carthy & Dave Swarbrick to follow in September.
At the Black Swan Inn, after the period covered by the present brochure and website listings, highlights include a solo show by Chris Wile (26th January), the return of Kieran Halpin (1st March), O’Hooley & Tidow (15th March), Duck Baker (22nd March), Dan Walsh & Will Pound (5th April), Jeana Miller & Siobhan Leslie (19th April), Andy Irvine (3rd May) and Chris Sherburn & Denny Bartley (17th May). Guests confirmed for later in the year include Will Kaufman, with another Woody Guthrie show, Debby McClatchy, David Francey, Dana & Susan Robinson, Clive Gregson, Nancy Kerr & James Fagan and Grace Notes.
6. THANKS TO OUR LOCAL LISTNGS SERVICES. Each month I mail out full events listing information to a wide variety of print, broadcast and online media, local, regional and national. The responses are, to put it mildly, very variable. I would single out for thanks two online resources that do us proud. The York Gig Guide, www.yorkgigguide.com, has been around a couple of years, offers a comprehensive guide to local live music, and always uses the material I send. More recently arrived on the scene is a broader guide to culture, leisure and recreation in York, York 360°. Not only have they included all the information I sent them, in a clear and uncluttered format, but they have hunted out appropriate pictures on the internet. Have a look at www.york360.co.uk/whats-on/black-swan-inn and see what I mean. They say their website had over 21,000 hits in September, which can’t be bad. I would compare those two with a long-established monthly glossy printed guide to York What’s On, where it seems it is impossible to get a listing these days unless (and even sometimes in spite of) buying paid advertising space.
7. WELL DONE PAULA. As well as doing support at our next NCEM concert, and as I write on tour in Scotland, local singer-songwriter Paula Ryan has a club booking coming up at the Morley Folk Club. That’s Wednesday 16th November at the Morley Dashers pub on the High Street. She is online at www.myspace.com/paularyansingersongwriter.
8. ARTIST NEWS: BOB FOX. Our congratulations to Bob Fox, who has landed the part of the Songman in the very successful West End production of War Horse. Bob is currently in rehearsal to take over the part later this month. It does mean, however, that he’ll have very little opportunity in the year ahead for folk club and festival bookings.
9. ARTIST NEWS: JOHNNY DICKINSON. Our best wishes go to Johnny Dickinson, who gave us such a brilliant start to the year at the Black Swan in January. He is suffering from a debilitating blood condition and has had to cancel all his gigs for the next few months. We understand that the condition is very responsive to the treatment and it is the medication more than anything else that has forced him to postpone his concerts. I'm sure you will join me in wishing him a full and speedy recovery.
OTHER EVENTS COMING UP IN & NEAR YORK
10. DANCE THE NIGHT AWAY IN STAMFORD BRIDGE. York’s long-established ceilidh band Hot Not Bothered tell me they are playing a public dance at Stamford Bridge Village Hall this Saturday, 12th November. It’s a 7.30 start, all welcome, tickets available from Di Midgely on 07851 042273 or 01759 372583.
11. KARINE POLWART PLUS TWO. Ace Scottish singer-songwriter Karine Polwart is at The Duchess on Wednesday 16th November, with local heroes Two doing the support slot. See www.theduchessyork.co.uk.
12. BROKEN GROUND IN FRIARGATE. Local contemporary folk quartet Broken Ground (“fine purveyors of foot-stompin’ alt-country/folk” it says here) headline a concert at Friargate Theatre in York on Friday 25th November. Holly Taymar and Plans TBC are also on the bill and Jessica Lawson acts as host. Tickets are £5.50 in advance on York 613000 or through WeGotTickets.
13. REMINDER: ALL STAR FUNDRAISER FOR THE LIT FEST. Here’s a reminder for the fundraiser event coming up on Saturday 26th November at the Black Swan Inn for the York Literature Festival 2012. There will be live music, poetry and storytelling from 6pm until late, with entry just £5 on the door and free chips to keep you physically as well as culturally nourished! Those taking part include Holly Taymar, Two, Sixpenny Wayke, Rob Nightingale, Allan & Liam Wilkinson, Root 64, David Swann and Kathy Crocker.
14. FINE COMPANIONSHIP IN MALTON. Also on Saturday 26th, York-based folk group The Fine Companions have a concert at The Milton Rooms in Malton. It’s from 7.30pm in The Studio, with tickets £7 available from Malton Tourist Information, 01653 600053.
And that had better be it, as it is now past midnight and I have work tomorrow. There were other events further afield I could have mentioned (Google Raise Your Banners in Bradford, or Leeds Irish Gathering or Kirkby Fleetham Winter Warmer). Keep supporting live music in general and the Black Swan in particular! We need you.