As many of you will know, our dear friend Cliff Woolley (pictured below) sadly passed away over the Summer. Cliff was a long-serving member of our committee, membership co-ordinator, bar volunteer and much, much more.
Cliff was a passionate music lover and could most often be found, with his wife Gaynor, at many concerts around Bristol and beyond, at loads of festivals, singing with various groups and dancing with Bristol Morris Men. And if he wasn't singing, dancing or listening to music, he was usually talking about it (or about his other passion, Aston Villa FC!). His musical tastes were very diverse; from Jethro Tull and Neil Young through to Jackie Oates and Martin Carthy.
We really wanted to do something to honour Cliff's memory, and we felt it should be something to reflect Cliff's passionate support of emerging talent on the folk scene, so we are delighted to announce THE CLIFF WOOLLEY MEMORIAL AWARD.
All support artists from September 2021 to July 2022 will automatically be entered into the award, with the winner decided by a panel that will include our own organising team as well as Gaynor. There will be a public vote element, where Downend Folk Club regulars will be invited to vote for their favourite from the list (please note that the public vote is not the only deciding factor!).
The winner will then receive a small bursary from the club for them to spend on advancing their career, and they will also be invited to headline THE CLIFF WOOLEY MEMORIAL CONCERT, which will take place on Friday 20th January 2023.
They will be joined on the bill by THE MAGNIFICENT AKs (pictured above), the group that Cliff got so much enjoyment from singing with. They will nominally be our "support artists" that evening, although we're going to flip it on its head and they will sing us out at the end of the night. Opening the entertainment will be the dancing of BRISTOL MORRIS MEN.
We hope to make both the award and the concert an annual event. The winners will be announced as part of our Spring 2023 Programme announcement in October next year, when tickets will also go on sale.
For more information, please get in touch via the usual channels. And do mark the date in your diary... it should be a brilliant way to honour the memory of a brilliant man.
Our Christmas Concert has been a staple in the diaries of local music lovers for many-a-year, with a series of memorable events since our formation almost eight years ago, and this year promises to continue that tradition with a visit from a bonafide folk “supergroup”.
Now in its seventh year, A WINTER UNION is a festive folk band like no other. From five leading lights of the British folk and roots scene, gig-goers can expect soaring vocals and exquisite musicianship as the band delight with a repertoire of folk songs from across the yuletide traditions. Glorious wassails, fresh arrangements of traditional carols both well-loved and little-known, and original songs heralding the joys of the season.
HANNAH SANDERS & BEN SAVAGE, Katriona Gilmore and Jamie Roberts (three times BBC Folk Award nominees GILMORE & ROBERTS) and Jade Rhiannon (THE WILLOWS) are excited to roll out their stunning festive show. These songs are stirred together with such beautiful 5-part harmonies, accompanied by dobro, fiddle, mandolin, dulcimer, guitars a-plenty and a shruti box thrown in for good measure.
The five-piece will be joined on the bill by folk singer-songwriter LIZZY HARDINGHAM, who has long been on the radar of our committee after a breakthrough year or two.
A South-East based folk musician and songstress, Lizzy is paving her way as a powerhouse performer with "beautifully delivered songs that sing straight to the heart". 2019 saw her storm the UK folk club and festival scene, including Cambridge Folk Festival, while in 2020 she captivated online audiences with "a voice that could fill a stadium and the sensitivity to bring a room to attentive silence". Having been nominated for FATEA's coveted Female Artist of The Year, Lizzy is currently being mentored by the English Folk Expo and working on "firmly nailing her place as one of the rising stars of the folk scene”.
Her debut album Dusk is "an incredibly strong, top drawer album that packs a punch with every song”.
Tickets for the event, which takes place at CHRIST CHURCH DOWNEND on Friday 17th December 2021, are available online at www.downendfolkclub.com and from MELANIE'S KITCHEN in Downend (cash only). They are priced at £15 each in advance or £17 on the door. There will be a bar, stocking cider, soft drinks, wine, hot drinks and locally-brewed real ale from Hambrook-based GREAT WESTERN BREWING CO. and cakes from Radstock's THE GREAT CAKE COMPANY, run by our former sound engineer Chris Webster! You are encouraged to bring you own glass/mug/tankard/bucket, as well as reusable bottles for water, as part of the club’s drive to be more environmentally aware. There is now a 50p discount for those bringing their own receptacles. There may be mulled wine and mince pies… watch this space!
Before the show began, the queue wound its way through the graveyard of Christ Church Downend. A decent amount of people still masked and keeping a polite distance. One woman turned to another and asked "have you read Where the Crawdads Sing yet?". The utterly delightful CARRIVICK SISTERS hadn't so much as plucked a string yet here were all of themes you needed. Right there: lost America, a love of the natural world, a bit of heartbreak, the merest smattering of death, delivered in the most perfect English stylings you're likely to see.
And so it proved. Twins Laura and Charlotte Carrivick have been playing their folk inflected bluegrass for over ten years. Six albums in, and they are insanely brilliant, full of love and longing. Just about as lovely as anything that Downend Folk Club has ever seen.
In proper bluegrass style, the sisters stand around a grand, single microphone, stepping forward when required, then falling back to harmonise and join seamlessly together. Banjo and fiddle or mandolin or guitar perfectly compliment Laura's voice as she tenderly relays old-timey standards and is-this-an-old-one new ones. Her voice is timeless; pure and simple, heartfelt and road-weary. When she sings, suburban Bristol falls away and vast American vistas can be seen in its place. Dusty highways and dustier saloon bars replace the pews and craft beer; she takes us somewhere else entirely.
All the more remarkable really because her sister, Charlotte, is practically out of action, a cold reducing her normal voice to a husky, backing vocal croak. She makes do by throwing extravagant rock star shapes whilst thrashing her mandolin instead. Or constructing clever, lightning fast guitar runs. The sisters laugh, re-start songs, swap instruments, talk over one another, tell rambling stories about over-wintering hedgehogs, laugh again and, pretty obviously, have the best of times.
With Charlotte's voice betraying her, the set is carefully curated to allow Laura to sing everything instead. Songs from their other bands - Midnight Skyracer and Cardboard Fox - are dusted off, old tunes are played with joyful abandon and a selection of covers show just how superb these two are.
If you're going to play bluegrass two of the touchstones are Emmylou Harris and Gillian Welch. In their first set of the evening, The Carrivick Sisters play Emmylou's One of These Days and both Annabelle and Dear Someone by Welch. All three are perfect. Add a dash of Buck Owens, some glorious fiddle playing, and there's no doubt that, even with one vocalist, The Carrivick Sisters are as authentic a bluegrass band as any from Devon could possibly be.
In a set of highlights, the cowboy swing of I Love You Honey zips along, bouncing jauntily, whilst If You Asked Me is a love song for those that don't want mushy romance. Breathtaking tunes Crate 223 and Making Horses have toes tapping, and a Dobro-drenched version of Midnight Skyracer's Virginia Rose is all virtuosity, good-natured humour and an abundance of brilliance.
Before that, THE LAST INKLINGS play a short, five song set. As befits a band who made up, in part, the fantastic Kadia, they intricately weave a spectral atmosphere with a cello and mandolin. Beautiful harmonies tell complicated folk tales of car crashes, hauntings and the last lullaby. Leonardo Mackenzie's cello is utterly lush; not "Bristol lush" but properly lush; deep and pastoral. Why don't more folk bands use it? In a twinkling they disappear, leaving only the ghost of their delicate songs.
If the woman in the graveyard ever does read Where the Crawdads Sing, she’ll find a story of beautiful Americana where adversity is overcome and the whole thing ends in pure delight. Quite similar to this evening really.
Words: Gavin McNamara
Photo: Barry Savell
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