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Music In General => Review Archive => Topic started by: Sir Robert Peel on September 08, 2005, 12:05:43 AM

Title: Review - 2005 Swarbaid Southwest
Post by: Sir Robert Peel on September 08, 2005, 12:05:43 AM
There was a strong rumour that we would be entertained by a Morris Side, and that explained the large open space in the middle of the floor, with chairs set out on the periphery. The stage was packed with so many instruments that it was difficult to see where the musicians would stand - two drum/percussion stations, keyboards, serried ranks of all kinds of stringed instruments with Miranda Sykes'’s double bass holding the line to my left. The ubiquitous Mr. Beer was everywhere - organiser, compere, musician, singer, logistics supervisor, time-keeper, team-leader and for all we knew, a Morris dancer, too. It was a hot night in Exeter, in both senses of the word.

Downes and Beer started off the proceedings with an update on the progress of Dave Swarbrick, followed by a medley of two tunes that celebrated the work of folk-rock’s best known fiddler. It was a fitting opening and tribute before the kick-off by Nuala and the Retrobates.

They were a five piece band with electric fiddle, bass, drums, percussiony bits (was the chap on the tom-toms really playing a wok at one stage?) and the charming Nuala herself - all frothy hair, winsome smile and a voice that would smack you round the ear when you least expected it. Part KT Tunstall, part Sandy Denny, with a little bit of early Alanis Morrisette thrown in - the songs were their own, they were varied and delivered with confidence.

Up next came the extraordinarily talented fiddle player and the very beautiful Jackie Oates.(Sister of Jim Moray, but she keeps quiet about that, for some reason.) She sang us traditional songs of murder, violence, desertion and abandonment with a large dollop of sex thrown in, (at least I think that's what they were about) while accompanying herself. Her voice is strong, clear and good on the ear. It was a honour to hear someone on the brink of fame - it's obvious that she has something special.

I wasn’t sure whether singer-songwriter- acoustic guitarist Mike Silver was up my street and I adjourned to the bar for a snifter and a chat to the chaps with bells on their socks. He was about eight bars into his first song, and I found myself hot-footing it back to my seat for an enthralling assembly of spell-binding songs and humorous interludes. What a find!

The Joyce Gang was another revelation. Self-penned songs delivered in a jazzy, rootsy, dancey vibe that got the toes tapping and the fingers popping. They played a cover version of ’Every Kind of People’, popularised by the late Robert Palmer, and written by none other than Andy Fraser, the former bassist from Free. (I never knew that, did you?) It was terrific.

Fresh from their triumph at Towersey, entered the exuberant, balletic, ’tired and emotional’ (not really!) Great Western Morris to delight us with three dances. No, Mr. Beer was not among their number, or if he was, I didn’t spot him. No wonder we had had to keep a huge space in the middle of the floor free, because they took up every spare inch with their leppin’, sliding, leap-frogging, tossing each other about, and belting the bejasus out of each other with hankies and sticks. The audience roared at their antics, but it was obvious that they were as fit as flippin’ fleas, too.

And then the highlight of the night - the Phil Beer Band. Their set went far too fast for my liking, but while it lasted it was superb. I was surprised to see none other than Guy Fletcher (Litle Johnny England) at the drum station, but Phil announced that the unfortunate Steve Crickett had just been released from hospital in a brace, following a major back operation, and was understandably out of action. I’m sure we all send him our best wishes for a full recovery and a speedy return.

Where to start with such an enormously talented, tight team? The versatility or the clear, crystal singing of Miranda? The spellbinding rendition of ‘Henry Lee’ by Deb Sandland and Beer? (Incidentally - does anyone know if the PBB have recorded this song?) The astonishing sounds that Gareth Turner gets out of that squeeze-box, what’s it called, again? Sometimes it sounds like an harmonica, sometimes it sounds like a fiddle, and at others it’s the rhythm guitar - quite, quite brilliant.
Nicholas Aloysius Quarmby gave up his trademark bass, giving Miranda Sykes the floor as the band’s bassist, while he played with his brand new monster guitar.
Called from the bench at the last moment, Guy Fletcher came on to score the winning goal and was given the loudest applause for saving the day.
And then, we come to Mr. Beer. Words fail me - great guitarist, wonderful singer, amiable host, and hard-working top bloke.

It’s sad to think that this fantastic Phil Beer Band are to be put into storage for 2006, and that Mr. Beer will confine himself to Show of Hands, exclusively.  Shame, I say! I can only hope that when they re-emerge, blinking, into the spotlight, in 2007 or whenever, that they will do it with a big bang gig as memorable and as uplifting as Swarbaid Southwest.

Sir Robert Peel

Title: Re: Review - Swarbaid Southwest
Post by: Andy on September 08, 2005, 08:29:44 AM
Sir Bob, did you get a good turnout? And... any pictures?

Title: Re: Review - Swarbaid Southwest
Post by: Barry on September 08, 2005, 09:27:14 AM
Superb review, Bob .... made me feel like I was there!

Title: Re: Review - Swarbaid Southwest
Post by: Paul on September 08, 2005, 10:11:04 AM
I think Henry Lee might be on Deb Sandland's solo album Bob, I'll check when I get home. She is a great singer, really adds atmosphere to traditional murder ballads. Phil is a brilliant guitarist, especially for somebody who is known as a folk violinist - he rocks.


Title: Re: Review - Swarbaid Southwest
Post by: Andy on September 08, 2005, 11:25:10 AM
"Henry Lee" is indeed on Deb Sandland's 2002 CD, My Prayer.

Title: Re: Review - Swarbaid Southwest
Post by: Chris on September 08, 2005, 12:29:02 PM
Available from Debs website ( here (