We don’t get to many folk clubs these days but by chance we were working in the New Forest when Hicks and Goulbourn were appearing at TwickFolk and having missed them a few weeks ago, at our local venue, we jumped at the chance. Our friend Juliet, who lives nearby, offered to give us a bed for the night so we were all set.
It’s a great wee club, one where the doors remain shut until the sound checks are completed, where people do not get up and move about to go to the bar or even talk while the artists are performing and it is very welcoming to strangers.
There were the usual floor spots before the main guests. All three were enjoyable but one stood out against the others.
Dom Prag, a young singer songwriter from Southampton, making his first appearance at the club, performed a couple of his own compositions. The first, Talitha, was a rather deep and unusual comment on counselling with an interesting and unusual guitar accompaniment. The arrangement of the second was in more familiar territory, making more than a slight nod to Patsy Cline. It even contained the words ‘walking after midnight’. If I were still organising festivals I would have booked him.
Now I have to declare an interest when it comes to Hicks and Goulbourn. They are my all time favourite duo. Steve and I used to belong to the same folk club many lifetimes ago when he lived in Scotland’s highest village and I play one of his magical guitars. Twenty odd years ago he was a superb guitarist but since then he has gone way off the scale and Duck Baker recently described him as one of the top four fingerstyle guitarists in the UK.
Lynn Goulbourn is possessed of a very versatile voice as well as the ability to write great songs and she’s a pretty decent guitarist in her own right. While they are both excellent musicians it is the combination of Steve’s guitar work and Lynn’s singing that gives this pair their edge. Trying to pigeon-hole their style is a waste of time. They have a totally eclectic set list and tend to do anything that takes their fancy. They kicked off with, Stranger on a Bus, a song Lynn wrote about a chance encounter Steve had with a fellow guitar freak on a Greyhound Bus journey in America. Two other Goulbourn songs featured including This is the Friend, a song she wrote about the value of friendship and I recognised the description of her constant companion, Bruno, her elderly and very lovable dog. Then they sung my favourite, Gone are the Cobles, about a vanishing way of life in the small Northumberland fishing village of Beadnell, where she lives for part of the year.
Moving through the rest of their set list there was a song from Elizabeth Cotton, Shake Sugaree, that got the audience joining in and that was quickly followed by Steve’s arrangement of Pentangle’s Light Flight, once the theme tune to the TV series Take Three Girls. And that led in turn to a couple of mediaeval guitar tunes played by Steve as a tribute to the late John Renbourne. Then it was a traditional song Go from my Window followed by a poem about the Scottish Midgie written by a friend whose widow had asked Lynn to put it to music. They finished the first half with an old standard, The House of the Rising Sun, with more audience participation but before that Steve produced his instrumental tour de force and played his arrangement of George Friedrich Handel’s Arrival of The Queen of Sheba. Just one guy, with one guitar and two hands playing what is usually performed on oboe and a stack of strings. Guitarists in the audience were watching in awe as his left hand flitted up and down the guitar neck, a flurry of fingers while his right hand looked like a demented spider in the throes of a multiple orgasm.
In the second half he was back giving Brahms’ Hungarian Dance Number 5 the Ragtime treatment and weaving other tunes into it like Hendrix’s Purple Haze.
It’s been over a year since I last saw Hicks and Goulbourn live. I believed then that they could not possibly get any better. I was wrong for at TwickFolk they were on fire and obviously enjoying every minute as much as the audience. There was not a weak number in either set but the highlights of the night for me, apart from Sheba, was their arrangement of Cry me a River where I think the mix of Steve’s guitar accompaniment and Lynn’s voice is at its very best. And of course Henri Mancini’s Moon River, which had the entire audience, joining in.
But for the fact that we live hundreds of miles away we would become regulars at TwickFolk but the three friends who joined us had such a great time that they intend going back. If you live nearby or are in the area why not give it a try. It’s on Sunday nights, doors open at 7.30. Find them on Facebook
Hugh Taylor is a freelance travel writer. He leads the team that produces FolknStuff, the weekly Folk Music show on Alive 107.3 the Dumfries based Community Radio Station. He is also the founder and former Artistic Director of Moniaive Folk Festival
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