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Pilgrim's Way

Venue: Bothy Folk Song Club
Town: Southport
Date: 4/3/18

To borrow a phrase from songwriter Jamie Lawson "I wasn't expecting that". Tonight I went along to The Bothy Folk Club expecting an evening of reserved trad.folk and what did I get instead?

Well, what I got was a raucous , prog-folk, baroque'n' roll live performance of Pilgrims' Way's fabulous I'm a Jolly Highwayman concept album "Stand and Deliver" and it was great!

Pilgrims' Way have progressed exponentially since I first saw them when they were a trio. Since then ,original members Tom Kitching [fiddle and mandolin] and Edwin Beasant [drum kit and percussion] have been joined by three more amazing musicians , namely , Jude Rees , formerly of the excellent Isambarde, on English bagpipes, oboe , alto sax and lots of medieval instruments that go parp; Jon Loomes on guitar and concertina and , last but not least, Heather Sirrel on funky electric bass.

"Stand and Deliver" was released last year to great reviews ,including one in these pages from Ian Cripps, who described it as "an exceptional album that is fresh, innovative and fun" and I couldn't agree more having heard it played live in its entirety from start to finish.

Following excellent support slots from Bothy Resident singers Pete Rimmer and Bill Hackney, Ray Rooney and Bothy MC Clive Pownceby, Pilgrim's Way played a short set before the interval , as a warm-up for the main event, their magnum opus "Stand and Deliver".

This first set showed PW's intent as they gave us rocked-up Renaissance tunes , complex melodies with a funky beat and great versions of "Our Captain Cried All Hands" [appropriately set to the tune of "To Be a Pilgrim"] and "Oak,Ash and Thorn".

After the interval PW processed onto the stage in full highwayperson costumes to the beat of a solitary drum and launched into the fast-paced "Caveat for Cutpurses".

PW then took us on a spirited musical journey through their litany of songs about highwaymen , robbery and murder.

Particular highlights for me were "Shoot Them All [Box On Her Head]"; "Cadgwith Anthem" with its lovely 5-part harmonies and Jude's mournful oboe solo ; the heavy-metal-folk-rock of "Saucy Bold Robber" and , strangest of all , "Gaol Song" with its Ronnie Barker/Porridge-inspired introduction , jazzy alto-sax and exotic time signatures.

Even more bizarre was the medieval disco version of "Turpin Hero" ,complete with rotating mirror ball and excerpt from "YMCA" by The Village People" ,no kidding! This is folk ,Jim ,but not as we know it.

By way of total contrast ,we then had Edwin's sensitive rendition of "Adieu,Adieu" , about the fate of young robbers, beautifully accompanied by Jude's mellifluous oboe.

PW then diverged from the album with two excellent "bonus tracks" which they have yet to record , "Limbo" and a super version of "Sovay",which featured a great duet between Tom's fiddle and Jude's oboe.

Jon Loomes' fine solo spot consisted of a moving rendition of "The Elms of Tyburn", which describes the execution of a highwayman.

Finally, PW came to the one we'd all been waiting for ,the title track of "Stand and Deliver" which originates from the singing of those two well-known folkies Stuart Goddard [Adam Ant] and Marco Pirroni . Quite possibly the best highwayman song ever written, PW did full justice to this classic, complete with doowop "Qua qua da diddleys".

How could PW follow this showstopper? The obvious answer was an a cappella version of the classic 1990 folk ballad "Birdhouse In Your Soul", by They Might Be Giants.

And so ended an extraordinary , off-the-wall performance by Pilgrims' Way which shook The Bothy to its [folk] roots.

Peter Cowley

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Shoot The All (Box On Her Head)

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