Virginia Kettle in Concert

By |July 3rd, 2019|0 Comments

For Ruthin Festival Week we always try to do something special and this year we ended up with something very special.

Virginia Kettle’s association with Ruthin AllStyles Music Club goes back way beyond her long-established role as front-lady with the award-winning folk-rock band, Merry Hell alongside brother-in-law Andrew Kettle.

Back in the club’s early years, when it was called Ruthin Folk Club, with The White Horse as it’s meeting place, Virginia Barrett, as she was back then, opened for none other than Kevin Dempsey and Joe Broughton of The Urban Folk Quartet.

Since then she has appeared at the club on numerous occasions as part of Merry Hell, as well as with her side-project Virginia and the Dreamkeepers, so it was lovely to have her back simply as Virginia, with just her acoustic guitar, to treat us to a lovely intimate concert.

The prolific songwriter that she is, we were treated to an evening filled with a fine blend of covers and original material including many of the familiar numbers that Virginia has written for Merry Hell.

She opened her first set with “Nobody Knows Me Like You” written for the band’s 2014 EP “The Ghost”, followed by a song about children growing up and leaving home, “Growing, Growing Gone”. And then a stripped-back a cappella version of “Bloodlines” from the album of the same name.

“Everybody Needs a Little Warm” was next from this lady who herself ouses ‘warm’, both in the lyrics of her songs and in their delivery. Her warm personality carries through to the tales she tells, along with the back-stories to her songs. She also has a wonderful way of engaging with the audience, who responded by enthusiastically joining in on many of the choruses. To this end, a prompt board, creatively constructed in the style of a ransom note, helped us through one of the more lengthy choruses.

For her song “Violet” she displayed a photo of  Annalisa Flanagan, a young primary school teacher who holds the world record for having the loudest recorded voice, reaching 121 decibels, and was the inspiration for the song.

The Audio-Visual continued with a glass of red magically appearing for a song that featured wine. The trend didn’t, however, extend to her rendition of “Bury Me Naked”. 😉

Virginia concluded her final set with a lovely acoustic version of the Waterboys’ 1985 hit “The Whole of the Moon” and then for an encore it was a bluesy number, “Straight Down the Middle”. It was a fine earworm upon which to end a fabulous evening with this lovely and talented lady.

As always, of course, we had some songs from a selection of our regulars to open both halves of the evening, twelve in total, each performing one of their favourite songs, providing the perfect ‘entree’ for the main course. They were: Lynda & Tom Degney, Richard Ruthin, Mike Hastings, Glyn Hudson, Joe Lyon, Neil Martin, Penni Neale, Mike Whitaker, Chris Birchall and Richard & Wendy Eastwood.

 

 

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”.

 

 

A superb sold-out concert by Gary Edward Jones

By |March 13th, 2019|1 Comment

Gary Edward Jones has spent the past two or three years writing his “Something About Simon” stage show, practising the songs of Paul Simon and honing his finger-style guitar skills to equal those of the master. Jayne and I were privileged to have been present during his 2017 ‘tester’ concert and at the official launch of the “Something About Simon” concert tour at Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre last November.

During this time though, he was still writing and building up a collection of his own new songs in preparation for a second album sometime in the not too distant future.

With the “Simon” Summer and Autumn tour dates rapidly filling up, Gary decided it would be nice to do a few early 2019 concerts showcasing his own material and we were delighted that he chose Ruthin AllStyles for one of the first. And as we suspected, it was a sell-out.

Opening his first set with a couple of new songs “I’m a Good Soul” and “Skin”, Gary followed up with “Free Falling To The End”, which is one of my personal favourites off his 2014 album, ‘The Cabinet Maker’.

Cycling between his Recording King Dreadnought, a custom Collings and a lovely parlour size twelve-string, we heard a fine mix of this brand new material including “Cheap Red Wine”, “Take Me Back”, and one that is so new it hasn’t even got a name yet. It was a beautiful tear-jerker of a ballad.

Gary’s wife Elizabeth was on hand for most of them, providing piano accompaniment and some lovely subtle vocal harmonies. But then, as a bonus, she treated us to a performance of one of her own latest songs, “Moth in the Wool”, written under the ‘Elfin Bow’ moniker, with Gary adding a rich bass line on a bass ukulele.

During the second half of the evening, Gary provided a little taste of his Paul Simon material with “The Boxer”, “America” and a cameo performance of “Still Crazy”.

Two more new songs, “She Moves Like the Summer Wind” and “King For a Day” were followed by a selection that we know and love from 2014, including “Mr Lonely Times” and “Bang Bang Bang”.

Then with about half an hour to go, Gary spotted a late arrival in the audience. It was Skeet Williams, who had toured with Gary in the past and featured on the Cabinet Maker album.

Skeet was dragged up onto the stage, protesting that he’d not played those songs for a few years. Apart from a few overheard quips of “What key is it in?” and “How does that go again?”, you would never have known. What followed was a testament to the camaraderie and musicianship of these guys as they tripped effortlessly through “Superheros”, “Real Life Paradise”, “Walk You Home” and the beautifully poignant “Oceans”.

Why is it that time always seems to fly when you are having fun. It was time to go – but not before they succumbed to the cries of ‘more’ by playing “All I Want is You” as an encore.

The opening support spot this evening came courtesy of Ruthin AllStyles regulars, Robin the Busker, Richard Ruthin, Glyn Hudson, Joe Lyon, Lynda and Tom Degney, Neil Martin, Chris Birchall and Penni Neale.

►For a special treat this summer, why not get your tickets booked for the “Something About Simon” show which is coming to Theatr Colwyn on the 5th of July.


 

A Warm Welcome

By |November 26th, 2018|1 Comment

Because Ruthin AllStyles is a club with hugely popular Singers’ Nights, we tend to limit the number of Guest Nights to just four or five concerts a year, plus a sprinkling of Showcase Spots.

On this basis, we try to ring the changes and will often book new artists who have previously turned up to do a floor spot that resulted in a good reception from our audiences.

On the other hand, there are one or two acts that we are always pleased to welcome back every couple of years or so. One such is the Chester based trio, Welcomme, Finnan and Chrimes.

Thumbs-up from birthday boy John Finnan

And we weren’t disappointed. As always, Frank, Andy and John treated us to a fabulous evening of uplifting entertainment, with musicianship and energy that belies their years. People talk about The Stones being brilliant in the autumn of their music careers. Well, I can tell you, these guys can give them a run for their money …and they look several decades younger than Jagger and co 😉

The most senior member of the band is John Finnan and it turned out that he was celebrating his 80th birthday on the very day of the gig. Pre-warned of this, we had commissioned our in-house pâtissier,  Glynis Hudson, to bake a cake. In the event, John’s wife Margaret had managed to smuggle in a cake too, so our audience on the night were very well catered for, both musically and gastronomically.

John Finnan and Andy Chrimes

The musical side of the menu was diverse and varied, with the three alternating between various guitars, banjos, accordions and the double bass.

They gave us songs from the British and American folk scene, and from the likes of Simon & Garfunkel, with John recounting the time he was at a Chester folk club in the sixties when a young American singer by the name of Paul Simon borrowed John’s guitar for a floor spot and breaking it in the process.

There was even a Merry Hell song in the set as the lads sang Virginia Kettle’s beautiful ballad “Arundale”.

And no Welcomme, Finnan and Chrimes gig would be complete without a bit of Procol Harlum. Andy Chrimes took lead vocals and with both he and Frank Welcomme playing their respective accordions, this version of “Whiter Shade of Pale” really did skip the light fandango and was something to behold.

As is always the case on our concert nights, the support act came in the form of floor spots from some of our regular members.

It was Robin the Busker who got the evening underway, followed by ten others, each contributing a two-song set.

Following a WFC finale comprising a medley of old favourites which saw pretty much everyone in the room joining in, when I hear comments like “wonderful” and “best night ever”, it makes me feel proud of our little club and its enthusiastic members. And it makes all the behind-the-scenes work well worthwhile.

The Floor Singers:
Lynda and Tom Degney, Richard Ruthin, Geoff Hollis, Geoff Durno, Chris Birchall, Robin the Busker,  Glyn Hudson, Joe Lyon, Peter Leslie and Neil Martin.

 

Red Hill Revisited

By |November 14th, 2018|2 Comments

We have been enjoying Alan Thompson’s music here at the club for going on four months now. Since he and his sister Linda discovered Ruthin AllStyles, their floor spots have become one of the highlights of our Thursday evening gatherings.

So this week we had a special treat as the pair not only performed a showcase but also brought in John Evans, the third member of their former band Red Hill, to join them on a few of the numbers.

It was a balanced and well thought-out set, comprising covers (did someone mention Ryan Adams? 😉 ) and some of Alan’s beautiful self-penned songs, all graced with some absolutely beautiful harmonies. Their voices really do work well together and their relaxed style makes it look so natural and so easy.

The former Red Hill line-up, Alan Thompson, Linda Thompson and John Evans

It was the second time we have used the new ‘split showcase’ format which seems to be going down well.  Alan and Linda opened the evening with two songs, opened the second half with four, and then did a couple of numbers in the finale, allowing plenty of opportunity for floor spots (in this case from twelve other performers). The overall result was a varied and balanced musical program.

One of those floor singers was their friend and colleague John Evans and it was their turn to back him as he performed one of his own songs just before the finale.

The rest of the Floor Spot singers were: Chris Birchall, Steve Bailey, Penni Neale, Lynda and Tom Degney, Glyn Hudson, Joe Lyon, Richard and Wendy Eastwood, John Williams and Richard Ruthin.

Altogether making for a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

Neil Wilkinson

By |October 30th, 2018|1 Comment

It is with immense sadness that we announce the passing of Neil Wilkinson.

Neil was a long-time member of Ruthin AllStyles Music Club. A quiet unassuming man, he was loved and respected by his fellow musicians and by the audiences who listened to his music. Over the years he has provided guitar accompaniment to singers like Christine Scott and more recently, Enid Toft. One of his last performances here was at the end of July, with fellow band members Llinos Finnie and John Rowell as part of their recently formed band ‘Breeze’.

I consider it a privilege to have known Neil and to have had the honour of introducing him, and being able to witness first hand his incredibly precise and polished style of guitar playing.

He will be sadly missed.

Update:

Neil’s funeral will take place at Pentrebychan Crematorium on Wednesday the 21st of October at 11.30 am.

 

Jon Coley in Concert

By |October 10th, 2018|0 Comments

Click below to hear Jon Coley singing Cocaine Blues

The function room at The Feathers was comfortably full as our guest musician Jon Coley opened with the very first song he’d ever learned to play. It was the Bert Jansch version of the traditional Irish folk song, “Down by the Black Waterside”.

He followed on with a selection of self-penned songs, many of them autobiographical, interspersed by some covers performed is his own unique style.

Playing on his trusty Gibson, we witnessed some nifty fingerstyle melodies and gained an insight into his skills as a wordsmith and storyteller.

One of my personal favourites from this set was a song he’d written for his sister, entitled “Good Girls Have Bad Dreams”. And of his covers, I fell in love with his interpretation of Woody Guthrie’s “The House Carpenter”. Watching Jon’s fingers made me feel dizzy as he executed the rolling riffs, and the bluesy Jerron Paxton number “Cocaine Blues” was just sublime.

Jon brought the first half of the evening to a close with the first public airing of a brand new song about living with your mistakes, “A Sweeter State of Mind”.

As is the norm for our concerts, both of our guest’s sets were preceded by a round of floor spots.  No fewer than eleven of our talented regulars performed up to two songs each, providing a fine and diverse mixture of genres and styles, acting as the perfect foil to Jon’s bluesy folk numbers.

For his second set, Jon brought his other two guitars into the equation, the most interesting of which was a lovely old f-hole jazz guitar dating back to 1935. This had been given to him by a fan whose father had played it back in the day with the Duke Ellington Band. Jon did the old guitar deserved justice as he delivered some lovely ragtime blues in the form of the Muddy Waters, song “Turn Your Lamp Down Low”.

More great songs followed, each one introduced with a little back story, and after his last song “Can’t Make It Rain”, Jon responded to the calls for more by abandoning the microphones and walking amongst us to perform his encore completely unplugged.

It was a beautiful finish to a lovely evening of fine music.

The floor spot performers tonight were:

Rhodri Hampson Jones, Wendy and Richard Eastwood, Richard Ruthin, Tom and Lynda Degney, Fuchsia Jones, Chris Birchall, Cath Bryan, Pete Kirkham and Penni Neale.

Click below to hear Jon Coley singing Can’t Make It Rain

Fuchsia’s Showcase

By |August 28th, 2018|0 Comments

Twelve months last May, a shy fifteen year old turned up to one of our Singers’ Nights armed with a guitar and two songs.

Since then we have watched her blossom as a performer, growing in confidence and developing her vocal and guitar-playing skills to the point where she has found herself performing at many events locally, including this year’s Graig Aid festival. And earlier in the year, opening at Rhyl Pavilion for the award-winning Scottish band, Skerryvore.

Having invited Fuchsia Jones to perform an extended spot at the club, we were delighted to see the function room at The Feathers packed with an appreciative audience as she showcased half a dozen or so of the songs that have defined her musical journey.

That audience included her family, of course, as well as her guitar tutor, Skeet Williams, who sat with baited breath as she opened her set with the lovely Welsh language song “Dy Lygaid Di”, written by Gwyneth Glyn.

She followed up with songs by Britney Spears, Ed Sheeran and Laura Marling

“Wicked Game”, by Chris Isaac, had been one of the very first songs on her first visit, along with Ray Lamontagne’s “Jolene”. Both had pride of place in tonight’s showcase which she drew to its conclusion with Paolo Nutini’s “One Day”.

Scarlet Jones

Floor Spots
The evening had begun with floor spots from nine musicians performing up to three songs each. We had “Carolina Star” from Lynda Degney, and her husband Tom delivered a protest song “For What It’s Worth” written by Stephen Stills.

Cath Bryan sang Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell. Penni Neale sang Willy Nelson and Paul Simon; and I sang Beatles and Bob Dylan.

It was good to welcome back two members who we’d not seen in a while. Peter Stevens gave us John Denver’s “Leaving on a Jet Plane” and “The Contender” (made famous by Christy Moore). Ron (from Wrexham) Stevenson sang the Russ Hamilton 1957 hit “We Will Make Love2, and the Five Penny Piece number “Ee By Gum”.

Peter Stevens

Fuchsia’s sister Scarlet has performed at the club once before and tonight we were treated to a lovely a cappella rendition of the Welsh language classic “Ar Hyd Yr Nos”.

It was Richard Ruthin who brought both the first and second rounds of floor spots to a close, doing so with “Moonshiner”, and the rousing classic “Putting on the Style” in the lively style of the ‘king of skiffle’,  Lonnie Donegan.

Finale time was upon us, so we brought Fuchsia back on stage to sing “Creep”, by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, and for an encore, “Liability” by the New Zealand singer, Lorde.

Raphael and The Baker’s Dozen

By |July 8th, 2018|0 Comments

In case you’re thinking that’s a cool name for a band… well it would be if it was, but it isn’t.

Raphael Callaghan is, of course, the mighty fine country blues singer who gave us an extended mid-evening showcase tonight, and the ‘baker’s dozen’ refers to the thirteen musicians who performed floor spots before and after.

Originally from Liverpool and now living on the North Wales Coast, Raphael has his own unique style of acoustic blues, gospel and roots. His performance and style of songwriting are the fruits of years of experience playing solo and in various groups and bands. The most recent, and indeed current position, of course, is as the fifth member of our own Tom, Dick and Harry band.

Tonight though, the stage was his and his alone, as he delivered a cracking set of eight songs, opening with “Living Blues”, followed by “Silk For Skin”. Some where old favourites, some were tracks from his latest album “Said and Done”.

As completely inconsistent as it was with the current heat wave, it was nevertheless refreshing to hear “Too Much Rain”.

“This Old Denim” and “Don’t Let the Devil Drive” were amongst the others we heard, Raphael accompanying himself on guitar and harmonica. He threw an a cappella number into the mix and kept us entertained with just the right amount of banter in between songs.

The function room at The Feathers was comfortably full, with a few new faces in the audience too. As well as those who had come to watch our guest perform, there were four gentlemen who were staying overnight in the area whilst walking the length of Offa’s Dyke. Their itinerary had been scheduled to include a stopover at the International Eisteddfod and a visit our little club. We were delighted when one of their group, Bill Hackwell, asked to borrow a guitar and perform a floor spot for us, singing “Putting on the Ritz”, followed by Richard Thompson’s “Beeswing”.

Another Rain Dance
It was also good to see the return of the globe-trotting Peter Leslie.

He too must be finding the heat a bit unbearable as he sang his own plea to the rain gods “Incessant Rain”.

We had a liberal sprinkling of country, folk and Americana from regulars Richard Davies, Tom and Lynda Degney. Some a cappella folk from Steve Bailey, some Scottish airs from Jim Cole, traditional Welsh folk from Rhodri Jones, and some memories of Merseyside from Joe Lyon.

The Eastwoods did what the Eastwoods do best: Don Williams from Richard and Patsy Cline from Wendy. And ‘Mr Blues’ himself, Brian Peters did us proud with his guitar, harp and stomp-box, singing “CC Rider” and “Sitting on Top of the World”.

It had been a superb, full and varied evening of music, with two songs each for the floor-spotters and eleven from Raphael.

Then it was over to our guest for the finale. He sang “Mercury Blues” (K. C. Douglas ) and his own song, “A Time to Leave”.

But it wasn’t quite time to leave, because we persuaded Raphael to do one more as an encore, with everyone in the room joining in on “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”. (Click ► to play)

 

 

Festival Week Frolics at The Feathers

By |June 30th, 2018|0 Comments

To help celebrate the 25th anniversary of Ruthin Festival, we held our own mini Woodstock with a Ruthin-centric Singer’s Night in which we showcased four local acts in the second half of the evening.

Fuchsia Jones
First up was Ruthin’s most promising, up-and-coming songstress, Fuchsia Jones. It was just thirteen months ago she made her first appearance at the club, since then we have watched this talented young lady blossom into a confident and polished performer.

The set comprised a string of lovely laid-back ballads that made the most of that beautiful pure voice of hers, and included “Tennessee Whiskey” and Lionel Richie’s “Easy Like Sunday Morning”. Fuchsia finished with the Chris Isaac classic, “Wicked Game”, which also happened to be the very first song she had sung for us back in May 2017.

Ceidwad y Gán
Another young performer whose progress we have followed is Harri Owen. He first turned up back in November 2016 with the only two songs he had learned to play. One of those was the Oasis song “Half a World Away” and we were knocked out by his gravelly, Gallagher-esque voice. Since then he has formed the band, Ceidwad y Gán, with bassist Oli Bradley-Hughes, percussionist Sam Moorcroft, guitarists Tomos Jones and Jake Vaughan-Evans. They played an absolute belter of a set that included a couple of good old sing-along Bob Dylan favourites “Wagon Wheel” and “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.


Earlier this year the band took part in the S4C Song For Wales competition, taking first place with “Cofio Hedd Wyn”, a song written and composed by Harri’s father, Bov Owen. And as they brought their set to a close with that song tonight, they roped Bov in to play the lead guitar part.

Chester and JonBass
Our third showcase act was Chester and JonBass. John Rowell has been a Ruthin AllStyles member since the club’s early days and his superb bass guitar skills have enriched a number of bands along the way, including Mantra, Raven and Breeze, earning him the affectionate nickname of John Bass.

This recent pairing with Chester Weiss has resulted in a steady stream of bookings all over the region and they are currently working on a soon-to-be-released album.

Chester is a master of the lap steel guitar and this evening we were treated to one of the finest blues performances you are likely to hear, concluding with the Robert Johnson classic, “Stop Breaking Down Blues”.

The Tom, Dick and Harry Band
John is, of course, still a very much valued member of the Tom Dick and Harry Band, and it was quite fitting that we should feature this popular ensemble in the finale spot.


The set began with a beautiful song written by Harry Robertson, “Til I Danced With You”, followed by a string of our old favourites including the likes of “Same Old Blues Again” and “The Letter”, with the lead vocals alternating between Harry and Richard Davies. And for an encore, they had the whole room joining in with “Stand By Me”.

It was a fabulous evening of music served up by four excellent sets of musicians, each with their own distinctive style and thoroughly enjoyed by the packed audience in the function room.

Not forgetting, of course, the first-half floor spots by Chris Birchall, Rhodri Hampden Jones, Joe Lyon, and Tom & Lynda Degney.