Concert Review – Kimber’s Men / The Deacons / Jake Morgan

Concert Review – Kimber’s Men / The Deacons / Jake Morgan

Reviewed by: Ben Macnair

The opening night of L2F – Lichfield Festival of Folk pulled in a good crowd and Lichfield Arts provided suitably talented performers to start the festival with a swing.

Opening the night was local singer-songwriter Jake Morgan who plays guitar and harmonica, and whose singing suggests traces of Dylan of Donovan in has DNA.

Jake performed six original songs and, excellent though they were, the set might have benefitted from a cover or two. The bright, Dylanesque ‘Stay with me’ had a catchy chorus, whilst the bluesy drone of ‘A Long old Time’ dressed an old genre in bright new clothes. Jake’s considerable vocal range was employed during ‘Outside of Town’ and he closed the set with the lovely ‘Tell Her’. Jake frequently performs in the Lichfield area and is definitely worth catching live.

Second up were The Deacons. This local trio delivered a well-considered set, ranging from the capella ‘Ramble in the New Mown Hay’ to Ralph McTell’s ‘From Clare to Here’ featuring a fine violin solo from Martin Thompson. A downbeat reading of ‘Follow me down, Cousin Jack’ and the rollicking Bluegrass of ‘Rolling in my Sweet Baby’s Arms’ were amongst the highlights in a fine performance.

Headlining the evening were Kimber’s Men, acknowledged as one of the best Sea Shanty sides in the country. The quintet of Joe Stead, John Bromley, Gareth Scott, Neil Kimber and Mike Hepworth performed largely a capella versions of songs with the occasional instrumentation that brought depth to the performance.

They opened with the upbeat ‘Johnson Girls’, the sea ballads ‘Frobisher Bay’ and ‘Mary Ellinn’ whilst their own song ‘What Price the Catch?’ explored the tragedy of frequent casualties in the fishing trade. The rhythmic ‘Chicken on a Raft’ provided light relief and a gospel-tinged ‘Take this Hammer’ showed the links between many Folk genres. Kimber’s Men were joined by The Lichfield Lighthouse Company for a rousing ‘Bully in the Alley’ to close the first half.

The second set was started by John Bromley’s unaccompanied ‘Old Man River’, whilst ‘No More Auction Block’ and Willie Johnson’s ‘God Moves on the Water’ was a showcase of gospel intensity and chilling tonality, whilst a beautifully moving ‘Shenandoah’ was a musical highlight for many people in the audience, who’s rousing reception throughout the evening was a testament to the group’s musicianship and well developed stage-craft.

The group took up instruments for the final two songs – their own ‘Don’t take the Heroes’ and ‘The Mingulay Boat Song’, the audience joining in with gusto.

An encore of ‘Leave Her Johnny Leave Her’ was a fitting finale for this very popular and musically superior evening.

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