Black Swan Folk Club

E-Newsletter 58

Mid November 2006

After an exceptionally busy few weeks here I am back again with another long bulletin.

  1. FOLK SAVE THE CHILDREN. To begin with, a final reminder about the Charity Night at the Black Swan Inn this Thursday, 16 November, in aid of Save The Children. As explained in E-News 57, Kathryn Roberts & Sean Lakeman had to cancel their planned concert that night and for a variety of reasons I decided to switch the charity event originally scheduled for last Saturday to the 16th instead.
    Folk Save The Children is a compilation CD put together to raise funds for Save The Children. The review in October’s fRoots says: "charity album par excellence, proudly spotlighting sharp, savvy British f-roots (e.g. Pete Morton, Harriet Bartlett, Brian Peters). Selections mostly culled from existing releases, but many not easy to source, so at £10 it’s great value". To promote the CD, contributing artists are doing a series of shows around the country this month, of which our event is one.
    Headlining at the Black Swan are Gordon Tyrrall and Jim Eldon, who will be joined by one of the main men behind the project, J P Slidewell, with David Kidman doing the MC spot. Gordon is a favourite regular guest of ours − a singer, guitarist and flute player of rare ability. Jim Eldon is a singer and fiddle player equally at home with a traditional ballad or a Bruce Springsteen rock song. An occasional studio guest on Andy Kershaw’s radio show, he is also famous as the "Brid Fiddler", entertaining on the pleasure boats at Bridlington. J P Slidewell is a relatively new kid on the folk block − some people may have seen him in action at the City of York Folk Day last May. Entrance is just £6 on Thursday (concessions £5), with all proceeds going to the charity. Copies of the CD will also be on sale.

  2. MARRA RETURNS. One of the most impressive debut performances of recent years at the Black Swan was given by Scottish songwriter Michael Marra in 2004. Turnout that night was not great, but almost everyone there went home thinking they had witnessed a musical genius in action! Michael returns to the club on 23 November and this time there is every indication that the audience will be much larger, as his talent surely deserves. It is a standard pay-on-the-door event (£7/£6), but I will happily take reservations if you want to be sure of getting in.
    Michael Marra’s songwriting is pretty much unique and seldom fits into a neat pigeonhole, though one comparison that does make a bit of sense is "the Randy Newman of the North". Here is an extended quote from his biography: "He is creating a body of work that can be matched by few of his contemporaries. Who else has a repertoire where an alternative Scottish national anthem like Hermless can rub shoulders with a tribute to French pop star Johnny Hallyday, a burning criticism of religious stupidity in Chain Up The Swings, or the poignant tale of the divorcing, childless couple who must divide their joint record collection in Beefhearts And Bones?" Find out more at

  3. RACHEL UNTHANK & THE WINTERSET. There’s one more folk concert this season at the National Centre for Early Music, and it should be a good ’un. Rachel Unthank & The Winterset are one of the most adventurous and distinctive young bands of the moment. They are an all-women quartet, with four wonderful singing voices accompanied on piano, viola and occasionally cello, not to mention a few step dance displays by Rachel Unthank and her kid sister Becky. For an added bonus, Belinda O’Hooley will be using the NCEM’s concert grand piano. The band has picked up a lot of critical acclaim over the last two years (since they did an early club gig for us at the Black Swan), and their Cruel Sister CD was chosen as Folk Album of the Year by Mojo magazine in 2005.
    The fourth Winterset is Jackie Oates. By coincidence she has just issued her first solo CD, produced by Phil Beer, which has a glowing review in the December issue of fRoots alongside a feature article written by York’s own Helen Bell (one of whose songs Jackie covers on her record). Perhaps we’ll get a solo spot during the show?
    Opening proceedings on Monday 27 November at the NCEM will be York University student band OK Brandy (Tom, Claire, Pip & Laura), as seen at the City of York Folk Day and again at last Thursday’s packed club Singers Night, and Tom Fremlin will also be acting as MC. Tickets (£12/£10) have been selling steadily but there are still plenty left. You can buy them direct from me, or go to the NCEM Box Office on 01904 658338, online at

  4. BOOK SOON FOR DICK, MARTIN, NORMA ET AL. Tickets are available in advance for Dick Gaughan’s biennial club visit on Thursday 7 December and they are already roughly half sold. They cost £8 (concessions £6.50) and you can buy them over the bar at the Black Swan Inn (personal callers only, cash or cheque), or from me on Thursday evenings, or contact me by ’phone or email. Also selling fast are the tickets for Waterson:Carthy & Friends on Thursday 14 December at the Sir Jack Lyons Concert Hall, York University. All booking is via the University Box Office, 01904 432439,, online at, and prices range from £12 to £15, with a special student price of £5.

That’s enough sales talk for our own promotions. Here is some more general news:

  1. OPINION PIECE − THOUGHT FOR THE NEW YEAR. Club resident Tony Morris submits the following, which I am happy to reproduce. Your responses to Tony would be welcome, or any other opinion pieces for future inclusion here.
    "Some of the best nights at the Black Swan I have experienced are those where the artist has been an unknown quantity. Some of the worst nights have been where there has been a big name on.
    "Unfortunately, where the artists are unknown, those that have been able to share the experience have often been few. This is a sickness that pervades Society today and has a deleterious effect on the Arts in general, that is to say the mentality that audiences are reluctant to expose themselves to anything that has not been tried and tested but will only follow the crowd. Without more support for the concerts with unknown or lesser known artists, folk clubs like the Black Swan will become simply organisations that put on concerts for the already famous. This has already happened in Harrogate, to mention a name close to home
    "A little more support for the Club when it does not put on the already famous would make a big difference. You might even really enjoy the experience"

    Ah, the age-old grouse of music promoters everywhere! How can we tempt YOU, the punters, to share a bit more of your time and cash with the unknown, the unfamiliar and the up-coming? Answers on the back of a postcard, please...

  2. ROCK ’N’ REEL REBORN. Excellent news reaches me that the music magazine Rock ’n’ Reel is to be re-launched. With a genre-crossing remit covering "roots, rock, blues and beyond", R’n’R was always an informative and stimulating read during its 1990s heyday, covering ground often overlooked by fRoots, Living Tradition, etc. Previously a virtual one-man labour of love by Sean McGhee, R’n’R is reborn with Sean still in the editorial chair, but backed by a full-time staff and an experienced publisher.
    Starting from next month, the magazine will be issued six times a year, on a bi-monthly basis, in full colour throughout and with a cover-mount CD accompanying each edition. The December launch issue gives an indication of the magazine’s scope, with Shane MacGowan on the cover and features ranging from Nick Drake to Christy Moore, Dick Gaughan to James Yorkston, Spiers & Boden to London Punk Blues(!). The magazine should be available through "selected newsagents" and "all good record stores" at £4.25, or an annual postal subscription costs £28.70. Find out more and subscribe online at

  3. SITUATIONS VACANT (1) − HARMONICA TEACHER WANTED. Anthony Onslow is a young man working at the YHA hostel in York and he would like to find someone who could help him learn to play harmonica. Any budding tutors out there can contact him on See also item 14 below!

  4. SITUATIONS VACANT (2) − LEAD VOCALIST REQUIRED. Acoustic rock band "with Celtic influences" Lucid are looking for a new lead singer (male or female). The band performs mainly original material plus a few covers and works around the Yorkshire region, with rehearsals in the York/Leeds area. Anyone interested should contact the band’s violinist Elaine on 07974 018524,

  5. LOS YOBOS AT THE POST. An evening of "good time Western Swing" is promised on Saturday 18 November when Los Yobos return to The Winning Post on Bishopthorpe Road in York. Tickets are £5 on the door from 8pm, or £4 if bought in advance from Mike Tavener (01904 798738) or any other band member.

  6. JULIE FOWLIS AT SALTAIRE. Gaelic singer Julie Fowlis is a rising star in Scottish traditional music, as anyone will agree who saw her with Dòchas at NCEM last month (or on the BBC TV coverage of this year’s Cambridge Folk Festival). She is touring England this month with her own band and appears at the Victoria Hall in Saltaire, West Yorkshire, on Sunday 26 November. Éamonn Doorley of Danú plays bouzouki, Anna Massie is on guitar and there is also a fiddle player (possibly John McCusker). Support comes from Travels With Boris, alias the underrated Leeds duo of Matthew Kaunz & Zoe Killcross. All tickets are £12.50 and can be bought by post or from various local outlets. For more info, contact

  7. MIDWINTER SONGS AND CAROLS. Voices At The Door is a words and music programme of regional and historical carols, presented by Coope, Boyes and Simpson with Fi Fraser, Jo Freya and Georgina Boyes. Catching the spirit of an earlier Christmas, Voices At The Door brings together old village carols with stories of squabbling choirs, composers, collectors and controversy. CBS and friends have established a formidable reputation for their themed shows such as this one, which can be enjoyed on Friday 8 December at St Michael’s Church in Coxwold,, starting at 7.30pm. Tickets are £10 in advance, available from Shandy Hall, Coxwold, York, YO61 4AD. Ring 01347 868465 for more information, or go to

  8. ANOTHER SEASONAL SHOW. As well as the above show in Coxwold and our own Waterson:Carthy Frost and Fire performance in York, there’s a Midwinter Concert in the Institute at Glusburn (between Keighley and Skipton) on Sunday 17 December. Organised by the Yorkshire Dales Workshops, it features local all-star singing group Baccapella (based around the residents of Keighley’s famous Bacca Pipes Folk Club) and promises "amusing, gutsy and rousing renditions of well-known songs and Christmas carols, all wrapped up with lots of wonderful and very singable choruses". Tickets are £7.50 (£5 concessions) and can be booked on 01535 631166. Find out more at

  9. EFDSS SONGWRITING COMPETITION. The English Folk Dance & Song Society is getting in on the song contest business. For their 75th Anniversary next year, they are holding a competition for under-30s. "If you think you can write a song which will still make people laugh, cry or think in 50 or 100 years time, then have a go and send us your entry" they write. First prize is £100 plus free life membership of EFDSS, entrants have to be under age 30 on 18 February 2007, and the deadline for entries (on CD, cassette or on paper) is 12 December 2006. There is no entry fee, they point out, and songs remain the property of the writers.
    Shortlisted entrants will be notified by 16 January and will need to attend the Cheltenham Folk Festival (16-18 February) to perform their song in the final round in front of a panel of judges. I can supply more information if required, or try looking at

  10. ACOUSTIC BLUES IN EAST YORKSHIRE. The lively Pocklington Arts Centre is hosting an acoustic blues weekend on 1 − 3 December with workshops on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons and evening concerts on Saturday and Sunday. The tutors are Johnny Mars (blues harmonica), Michael Messer (bottleneck slide guitar) and Michael Roach (country blues guitar). The three tutors perform on the Saturday evening concert, while on Sunday Tommy Emmanuel is the star. A full weekend costs £120 (concessions £110), with Saturday and Sunday day rates also available, and concert-only tickets as well. Find out more on 01759 301547,

  11. LASTLY, LAST NIGHT’S FUN. Finally, a publicity request received just as we went to press. Last Night’s Fun appear at The Shire Hall in Howden on Saturday 25 November, with support from Dubl Handi (?). As this is almost a "home town" gig, at least for Chris Sherburn, a full house is likely so early booking is advisable. Tickets cost £10 and are available from Touchwood Homecare in Howden, 01430 431535 or 01430 431488. More info at

And that’s all for now folks. I think this has been the longest E-Newsletter yet! Hopefully I’ll be back once or twice more before Christmas.