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So far Chris Birchall has created 290 blog entries.

Be-Bop at the Hop

By |May 22nd, 2019|0 Comments

The be-bopin’ Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered

It was great to see Mama G and the Be-Bop Brunettes back at the club. At least that’s who they were when they arrived. However, as I added them to the list, they did mention they were looking for a new name. By the time their turn was called, the deed had been done and they were introduced as “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered”. I think it’s fair to say we were suitably beguiled by their beautiful close harmonies.

Penni Neale

Which just left us with ‘The Hop’

♫♪ Come on, let’s go to the hop
Well, you can swing it you can groove it
You can really start to move it at the hop… ♪♫

Or so the song goes. And one person who had all the moves was Penni Neale. Not wanting to let the small matter of a broken leg and a zimmer frame get in the way of the music, she put her best foot forward, stepped up to the mic and performed a belter of a set.

With the ladies outnumbering the gents six to five, we also had a helping of gospel from Lynda, and Glyn Hudson paid tribute to Doris Day, who sadly passed away this week at the age of 97, singing one of the star’s most memorable songs, “Que Sera Sera”.

Robin Spreckley

As for the men, we had some of the usual suspects putting together an eclectic selection of songs: Tom Degney, Chris Birchall, Robin Spreckley, Richard Ruthin and Bob Hall.

In terms of its maximum capacity, the room was just over half full (definitely not half empty 🙂 ) and it was altogether a grand evening.

Just one month from now, we have a solo concert by the lovely Virginia Kettle, of Merry Hell fame.

Get your tickets booked now. It’s highly subsidised at just £5 (from WeGotTickets). Regular members can buy theirs on a club night at the usual concessionary price.



More Tea Vicar?

By |May 15th, 2019|0 Comments

Deborah and Skeet

It was a much quieter night than usual with just eighteen in the room, exactly half of whom were performers, and we were all there to drink of the atmosphere.

The first round was on Deborah Jackson who was comparing the difference “Between Whiskey and You”.

Lynda Degney highlighted one of the problems that can come with too much whiskey, singing “Remember Who You Are”, whilst Tom Degney’s drinking buddy was “Catfish John”.

Chris sang about a woman on his lap drinking champaign, courtesy of Bob Dylan’s “Things Have Changed”, and Skeet Williams had us all intoxicated with his finger-picking skills, delivering his own unique arrangements to songs such as “The Entertainer”.

“Nancy Spain” and “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” were two of the beverages on Glyn Hudson ‘s menu, and Richard Ruthin decanted the “Hobo’s Lullaby” before declaring “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue”.

Andy and Andy “Wet the Tea”

‘Wet the Tea’ is good old scouse phrase for ‘making a brew’ or ‘having a cuppa’.

It also happens to be the name of a Chester/Merseyside based trio who perform a mix of traditional and modern folk songs and tunes all over the Merseyside area. Tonight we were delighted to welcome two of the band, Andy and Andy, who turned up to do a floor spot. They opened their first spot with a medley of Celtic jigs and reels, including the lively “Kiss the Maid Behind The Barrel”. Performing with a variety of wind and stringed instruments, they went down really well and I am personally looking forward to hearing them again when, hopefully, the cup will runneth over with the inclusion of their bassist Richie.

It had been a lovely evening with all nine performers doing four or more songs each but now it was time for one last brew before heading home. And what better ‘going home’ song than the beautiful traditional Scottish air, “The Parting Glass”, delivered to perfection by the two Andys.  (Click [►] below to hear it)

An Evening with Williams and Chisnall

By |May 8th, 2019|2 Comments

It was an evening that delivered all that was promised as we were treated to a lovely collection of covers and originals from two of Merseyside’s finest.

John Williams

John Williams, of course, is a frequent visitor to our regular Singer’s Nights when he travels from Prenton on the chance of a floor spot and every time he delights us with his music. Tonight he opened the first set with one of his own compositions “Wellington Road”.

Sitting across from him was fellow Wirralite Phil Chisnall. It was Phil’s first visit since the club moved from the Cross Keys to The Feathers. His apology for a sore throat was totally unnecessary. He’d handled it like a pro, dropping the key of his songs a semitone or two. You’d never have known there was a problem as he delivered his first song “Every Morning Blues”, which Phil described as a ‘happy blues’ song that he had written on one of life’s good days.

Phil Chisnall

The format for the evening worked really well. with both of our guests on stage at the same time, taking it in turns to perform their songs, occasionally accompanying each other, and with plenty of banter in between. It was nice to experience their individual songwriting talents as well as hearing some great covers as diverse as the Stereophonics’ hit, “Dakota” and Dylan’s “Wagon Wheel. And when Phil played “Albertross” on his acoustic, it drew audible gasps from the audience. Adding variety to the evening, Phil had everyone in stitches as he delivered a hilarious monologue,  Stanley Holloway, style “Albert and the Lion”.

Knowing how audiences like to join in with the choruses but are sometimes reluctant because they don’t know the words, John had placed a sheet of paper containing the lyrics of all the join-in choruses on every table. The gathered throng didn’t hold back; the room was ‘comfortably full’ and the atmosphere was wonderful.

Neil Martin

Before each of the Williams and Chisnall sets, we had a couple of songs each from a group of our regulars. To open the evening we had a duet from Penni Neale and Neil Martin. They sang the beautiful song written in 2016 by Sting, “The Empty Chair”. This first session also featured performances by Lynda and Tom Degney, Richard Ruthin and Joe Lyon.

After the break, Neil Martin and Penni Neale did their solo spots, as did Chris Birchall. Then we had a couple of songs from one of John and Phil’s former Merseyside mates, Gary Edward Jones. When I say ‘former’, they are still mates, it’s just that Gary moved to live in these parts a couple of years ago. 🙂 Merseyside’s loss is Ruthin’s gain.

Gary Edward Jones

John Williams opened their second set with the first song he’d ever written, “Peel Island”.

It was a great diverse set that included the fabulous Robert Johnson song “Walking Blues” by Phil on his resonator guitar and ending with the guys duetting on the rousing Old Crow Medicine Show/Bob Dylan song “Wagon Wheel”.

Then, before we hauled ourselves off home, they responded to the shouts for more with the Mark Knopfler song “Haul Away for Home”.



Storm Hannah: Nil – AllStyles: Ten

By |April 30th, 2019|0 Comments

The Amazing Clouds

After briefly invading Ruthin during the afternoon, Storm Hannah fizzled out like a damp squib and was no match for the enthusiasm of the ten musicians plus fifteen audience members gathered in the function room at The Feathers.

As the storm passed, we did see some Amazing Clouds – in the form of Pete, Di and Dom, who perform under that very name. The trio opened both halves of the evening in their usual lively fashion and gave us a grand ‘going home’ song at the end..

Tome (Fender) Degney

Richard Ruthin and the Degneys provided a wholesome helping of Americana, Joe Lyon doffed his cap to Ray Davies, whilst Bob Hall and Chris embraced Beatlemania.

Hardly a week goes by without Tom Degney turning up with a new instrument, many of which are banjos that he has built himself.  This week he produced the latest to emerge from his workshop, in the form of a solid bodied electric guitar (in Manchester United colours) which sounded just great.

John Williams

That wizard of The Wirral, John Williams, is a staunch supporter of our club, oft making the journey to attend our Singers’ Nights, just as he did tonight armed with his trusty tenor guitar.

John gave us a little taste of what we can expect next Thursday when we present “An Evening with John Williams and Phil Chisnall”. It will be a fabulous evening of original material and popular covers, performed by John and Phil individually and together, and no doubt with a fair degree of camaraderie and banter too.

The music will start at 7.30pm (doors at 7.00pm). Do come early to get your name down for a floor spot.



Time for Chocolate, Music and Bandits

By |April 21st, 2019|0 Comments

Fuchsia Jones

Our Easter-themed music night featured what must rank as the easiest Easter Egg Hunt in history. Nobody had to look very far, as there was a basket of choccie eggs on every table.

Nobody actually wore an Easter Bonnet, although Lynda Degney did wax lyrical about one in her cover of Irving Berlin’s “Easter Parade”.

The evening’s musical eggs-travaganza began with a cracking performance by Fuchsia Jones singing Laura Marling’s “Rambling Man” and Billy Bragg’s “A New England”.

We had Tom wishing he could “Shimmy Like his Sister Kate” before launching into his “Dr Jazz” medley and Joe Lyon harked back to the days of vinyl 45s with “Dansette Dreams”.

Chris went all Beatles and Penni Neale got by with “A Little Help From her Friends”, before getting all starry-starry-eyed with Don McLean’s “Vincent”.

Robin Spreckley

“Peace Love and Understanding” was the message from Neil Martin, following it up with a rather tasty version of Jerry Jeff Walker’s 1968 song “Mr Bojangles”.

We are used to Robin Spreckley’s lively performances on his trusty mandolin and tonight we saw him mastering the ukulele – not just any old ukulele, but a rather beautiful old example that had once belonged to his grandfather.

Glen Hansard’s “Falling Slowly” was the first song from Alan Thompson and his sister Linda. Then they were joined by their former ‘Red Hill’ bandmate, John Evans, for Alan’s lovely composition “When My Time Comes Around”, recorded by the band back in 1996.

John remained on stage to perform one of his own songs, the beautiful and poignant “Young Born Soldier”.

Tom, Dick and Harry were up next. Harry singing the Darrell Scott song, “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive” and Richard, “The Moonshiner “. Then they were joined by Enid Toft for “Sea of Heartbreaks” and “Raining In My Heart”.

It was almost home-time before we heard from Chester band, The Time Bandits, comprising Ian, Jamie, Katrina and two Helens. They played a huge variety of instruments, swapping them between songs (and occasionally mid-song) in a lively set of traditional folk songs that included “Bedlam Boys”, “Sweet Lemeney”, “The Shepherd and the Shepherdess”, and a traditional folk song in which nobody actually dies.

And then, when it came time for us to all go rolling home, the band sent us on our way with the John Tams song “When we go Rolling Home”, our heads full of beautiful music and our bellies full of chocolate.

The Time Bandits

12 Singers and a Gremlin

By |April 14th, 2019|0 Comments

The last time I saw anything the like of it, was at a Quo concert when Parfitt and Rossi both proceeded to play the same guitar at the same time. Tonight, however, it wasn’t showmanship, Richard had forgotten the intro to their song (happens to all of us) so Tom snuck up behind him with a hands-on reminder, much to the amusement of our thirty-strong audience.

The multi-instrumentalist that he is, Tom is usually restricted to three different instruments: two that he and Lynda bring and a borrowed guitar. Tonight it was the dobro and the mandolin but I could see his eyes light up as Steve Bailey produced a recently-purchased blue ukulele.

Steve, who usually sings a cappella, acquitted himself admirably, playing it in public for the first time ever, whilst singing “New York Girls”.

The temptation proved too much for Tom however, who later borrowed the little blue uke for a performance of “Ain’t She Sweet” but not before an unwelcome ‘gremlin,’ in the form of a power surge, rudely interrupted Tom by flickering the lights and putting one of our speakers into an uncontrollable howling feedback loop.

It took highly skilled technical know-how to fix it. Yes, that old “switch it off and back on again” trick saved the day 🙂

Alan Thompson pulled two new covers out of the bag, in the form of Pink Floyd’s iconic “Wish You Were Here” and Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song”.

Glyn Hudson gave us Christy Moore’s “Nancy Spain”, Lynda Degney took us up “Fool’s Hill”, Joe Lyon sang about “Colours” and I told the tale of a “Horse With No Name”.

Making a welcome return visit, Lizzy Pegler opened her set with one of my favourite John Lennon songs “Working Class Hero”.

For his second spot, Richard Davies recruited Enid Toft to duet with him on the lovely Welsh classic “Myfanwy”, with the ever-present Tom on mandolin.

Both halves of the evening had been opened by Raphael Callaghan (left) with some fine blues numbers including his self-penned “Living Blues” and “Too Much Rain”.

Finale Time
Earlier in the evening, Penni Neale had reminded us, Gershwin style, that it would soon be “Summertime”. And now, for the finale, she treated us to “Can’t Remember If We Said Goodbye” and for an encore, a lovely version of Led Zeppelin’s  “Stairway To Heaven”.

Roll Call:
Raphael Callaghan, Steve Bailey, Alan Thompson, Glyn Hudson, Lynda and Tom Degney, Chris, Lizzy Pegler, Joe Lyon, Richard Ruthin, Enid Toft and Penni Neale.

Next Week: It’s a Good Thursday Singers’ Night with added chocolate.

A Perfect Ten

By |April 11th, 2019|0 Comments

Joe Lyon

It was a quieter night than usual, with ten performers and just over double that number in the audience. Nevertheless, it was most enjoyable, with wide-ranging musical styles.

Tonight, Matthew, I was Dylan, Neil Martin was Cohen and Joe Lyon was a Beatle.

Robin the Busker was… well… Robin the Busker, performing for the first time minus the Gall Stone to which he had become rather attached.

Lynda Degney

Lynda Degney was insisting there is “Nothing in the World Like Bluegrass Music”, before taking a “Walk in the Irish Rain” with husband Tom.

As Lynda went to dry out, Tom gave his new banjo an outing. Then, the multi-instrumentalist that he is, Tom stayed on stage to accompany Richard Davies, first on mandolin and then on the Dobro.

Bob Hall was accompanied by Birch-hall as he sang “If I were a Carpenter” and “Always on my Mind”, followed by a wonderfully animated performance from the inimitable Robin Spreckley on his trusty mandolin.

Robin Spreckley

Alan Thompson produced some rather nice Ryan Adams covers as well as his own fine compositions, bringing the evening to a close with his beautiful new song “Only Human”, written in honour of the refugees stranded on the Greek island of Leros.

Alan and his sister Linda together with Penni Neale had participated in two of the “Music makes a difference” concerts that raised over £3,000 to help support the refugees detained in camps on the island. You can hear that song and watch highlights from one of the concerts on Alan’s blog about the plight of those refugees.


Roll Call
Chris, Joe Lyon, Neil Martin, Robin the Busker, Lynda and Tom Degney, Richard Ruthin, Bob Hall, Robin Spreckley and Alan Thompson.

March 28th Singers’ Night

By |March 31st, 2019|0 Comments

It started out looking like being a quiet night but ended up with the performers totalling a baker’s dozen and almost thirty in the audience.

Neil Martin opened the proceedings with The Beatles’ “All I Gotta Do”, followed by one of his own songs.

And in keeping with our convention that whosoever opens the evening, also opens the second half, we were treated to more later in the evening.

As it happened, the clock galloped along and there was no time for a second half, so after Neil had performed his second spot, we used the “Random Name Generator” to choose someone to end the evening. That someone was Skeet Williams and he chose to step into the shadows and accompany Deborah Jackson instead.

It was a lovely end to an evening that had seen a wealth of wonderful music from everybody involved, including a faultless guitar arrangement of “Albatross” by Skeet, that beautiful song for the refugees by Alan Thompson and his sister Linda, and some cello mandolin magic from Wirral’s John Williams and his new knee (yes you did read that right 🙂 )

Here is the evening’s full line up:
Neil Martin, Bob Neale, Mike Kendrick, Chris, Lynda and Tom Degney, Penni Neale, Deborah Jackson, Skeet, John Williams, Richard Ruthin, Peter Stevens, Alan Thompson and Linda Griffiths.


Hello to Spring

By |March 25th, 2019|0 Comments

Mike Kendrick

Spring is sprung,
The grass is riz,
I wonder where,
The music is.

It’s at The Feathers, that’s where!

And what a fine evening of music it was. No fewer than sixteen troubadours and balladeers trouped in to herald the first day of Spring – and with almost double that number in the audience, all with a spring in their step, it made for a lot of feet tapping along to the music.

It was good to welcome Mike Kendrick back. We don’t see enough of Mike, even though he lives in Ruthin, because he’s kept busy playing in two bands, the Shambolics and The Dansette Alligators.

Mike Hastings

Mike opened the first half in lively fashion with the 80s hit by John Hiatt & The Goners, “Like Your Dad Did”. Later in the evening, he celebrated Wales’s recent rugby win over Ireland with one of his own compositions, “The Llanfairfechan Horse”, a song that alludes to the notion St Patrick was, in fact, a Welshman!

Mold musician and Guitar Shop owner, Mike Hastings also made a welcome return for his second visit in as many years. He opened his set with Dinah Washington’s “Backwater Blues”.

As well as a fabulous array of performances by the usual suspects, drawn from our ever growing list of ‘regulars’, we welcomed a new face in the form of young Catrin Francis. Catrin had travelled over from Chirk with ‘Mr Narrowboat’ Mark Holdsworth to help promote and sell copies of the newly released Narrowboat Sessions charity double album. (We now have them for sale here at the club for just £8.50, or you can order online from https://thenarrowboatsessions.com/ for £10 including postage).

Catrin Francis

After enchanting us with two lovely numbers, performed a cappella, Catrin confessed she hadn’t really sung in public before.

Skeet Williams was very much in demand, accompanying both Glyn Hudson and Deborah Jackson in addition to his own spot, in which he held the entire room in awe with his finger-picking skills on two guitar solos including a medieval melody from 1538.

Just two weeks after wowing us with a wonderful concert night, Gary Edward Jones was back to officially announce that his “Something About Simon” show (see the trailer below) has been booked to play all 27 nights of the prestigious Edinburgh Festival in August.

Gary had spent the day going over his Paul Simon material with the show’s director Gareth Tudor Price, so for tonight’s floor spot he treated us to two of his own songs “Take Me Back” and “King for a Day”.

Gary’s wife Elizabeth also joined us, so we had an ‘Elfin Bow’ finale consisting of her own compositions, “Sister o Sister” and “Mother Said”, following up with an encore of “Prairie Madness”.

It was yet another fabulous evening of music.  We are so lucky to have such a wealth of talented and enthusiastic musicians turning up week after week.

It’s something that really comes home to you when hearing the remarks visitors make at the end of the night.

Visiting our lovely town for the first time, the aforementioned Gareth Tudor Price, a musical theatre director no less, was heard to say he was knocked out by all the performances and couldn’t believe such a great evening’s entertainment had cost just £1.50.

Ruthin AllStylers – you should be proud of yourselves, every last one of you.

The minstrel roll-call:
Mike Kendrick, Tom and Lynda Degney, Mike Hastings, Glyn Hudson, Skeet, Richard Ruthin, Enid Toft, Joe Lyon, Chris Birchall, Gary Edward Jones, Deborah Jackson, Catrin Francis, Geoff Durno, Penni Neale and Elfin Bow.

Farewell to Winter

By |March 21st, 2019|0 Comments

Penni Neale

It was the fourteenth of March, the last Thursday of Winter, and fourteen musicians turned up at The Feathers to say “good riddance” to wintertide and the grim weeks of Seasonal Affective Disorder.

That said, there was nothing SAD about our little gathering, with some thirty in total, enjoying the musical merriment.

Penni Neale opened the proceedings with Gary Edward Jones’s beautiful song “Oceans”

Rhyl’s Roland Hughes (aka Hugh Rowlands) performed a couple of his own songs aimed at encouraging both women and men to regularly check for the early tell-tale signs of cancer, both songs that could quite literally be a life-saver.

Hugh Rolands

The Fred Rose song, “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”, made famous by Willie Nelson, was made even more famous by Gryn Hudson.

Lynda and Tom Degney included Christy Moore’s “Ride On” in their set.

Next up were Tom, Dick & Harry who gave us a fine mix of Americana, Folk, and Harry’s home-grown material.

Next Saturday (23rd) Alan Thompson will be joining Penni and a host of other local heroes for a concert at Denbigh’s Theatr Twm or Nant. Entitled “Music Can Make a Difference” the concert has been organised to raise money to help pushchairs, cots and other equipment to aid the Syrian refugee mothers and children stranded on a Greek island. Tonight he sang a brand new song “Only Human”, that he has written about their plight. It was beautiful and poignant, and you can hear it by clicking the ► below.

Enid Toft

Some trad folk was delivered a cappella by Steve Bailey. I was in a Beatles mood and Bob Hall sang a tribute to a friend who had passed away suddenly a year ago that day.

Having injured his guitar hand, Geoff Durno recruited Tom, Dick and Harry to accompany him on “The Green Rolling Hills of West Virginia”.

Joe Lyon was in fine form as he honoured the 1950s musical ‘Calamity Jane’, with the “Black Hills of Dakota” and then turned a “Whiter Shade of Pale” as he delivered that fine Procol Harum song.

Next thing we knew, it was finale time and Tom, Dick and Harry returned to the stage to accompany Enid Toft on Buddy Holly’s “Raining in my Heart”.


Steve Bailey

All in all, a super night. So join us again next Thursday when we will be celebrating the first day of Spring.

Tom, Dick and Harry with Enid Toft

Hugh Rolands recruits some of our members to ‘Give Cancer the Finger’