Reviews on this page are written by members of the audience at Readifolk. If you have been to the club and would like to write a review for the website, contact Colin on firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you Readifolk guests, Na-mara for their blog of their recent appearance at the club. It was an excellent and well-attended evening.
Review of Guest Night - Mike Nicholson
Review by Miriam Wright
This article starts with a bit of a confession about my time at the Michael Nicholson evening with Readifolk. I turned up late, was 80p short and little out of breath after my sprint to the nearest ATM. I also knew very little about the group itself and am exceptionally new to the genre. After having encountered and written about several bands with a bit of a folk lilt to their recordings (whether they delved more into punk or otherwise) I was curious to discover the roots to their work , so I came along for the evening. And better yet, despite my terrible first impression, I was welcomed in by the warm people and atmosphere that occupied that room at RISC.
Within the first five minutes of my sitting cross legged behind a table near the back, I tentatively took my first photo. I began to feel that not only was my shuffling too loud, but even the tiny click of the shutter on my camera. But it didn’t stem from a feeling of awkwardness or embarrassment; it seemed an insult to break the spell that musicians had cast upon the room and thinking back on the night now, three particular performances stand out. I enjoyed the trio of the two accordions and mandolin with a shy clap or two followed by a memorable rendition of ‘Searching For Lambs’ performed with such a beautiful clarity of voice. Finally a husband and wife duet performance of a Rosie Thomas song that I am determined to find yet cannot remember the words to; I remember I loved it and seemed doomed to listen to Rosie Thomas songs until I find it. Then again, combined with several decent cups of tea and (several) cakes, I can’t think of a better use of a day.
Mike Nicholson arrived in time for the second half of the evening, already making a good impression having rung ahead to inform of his late arrival, then joking about the M25 traffic that caused his lateness. And his brilliant and friendly attitude shone through as soon as he stood up to sing. Whilst I had the fortune of knowing him, my Grandad instilled in me the love of a sonorous voice carrying a beautiful melancholic melody and Nicholson excelled at just that: a warm man with a rich voice. He especially urged audience participation, something I’m beginning to consider imperative to the beautiful spell that the folk songs cast.
It’s always fantastic to have a purpose behind a song; a story and a context. Folk songs are a story in themselves yet there is even more of a relish to the context and a connexion to everyday life. Nicholson spurned the anecdote for something meatier, a story or link to life, from his wife’s favourite flower being the daffodil , to explaining the miner walking down the street blackened with coal after being caught stealing from a fellow miner. Unable to wash in the baths, and thus marked as a thief and humiliated, connecting ‘ lonely black faced miner’ to the feelings of shame at a person’s secret made public never seemed more real or poignant than in the words and performance of Nicholson. This capturing relevancy was consistent throughout, another memorable moment (on the 50th anniversary of the Beatles first hit) was the rendition of ‘Let It Be’ embellished by the diverse voices of the crowd. I also loved the rendition of ‘The January Man’ which was apparently a slightly divisive performance in terms of the way it was played but to me it sounded wonderfully ominous and poignant.
In an age of guitars sounding like spaceships and keyboards as anything you program, a good (and perhaps rather innuendo riddled) chorus song still holds my imagination and keeps me smiling. The spell binding effect I love so much seems combination of words, melody, an apparent simplicity and being so communal in its performance both in the singing and the interactive nature. A commentary on the transitory nature of all things, no matter how strange the story seems, blends seamlessly with the more humorous side of the genre. And Nicholson, the same man who, that evening, sang to us ‘you still need the darkness to show you the stars’ also informed us at one point ‘I’m not as old as I look, I’be just had a really good time.’ The evening with Readifolk and Mike Nicholson was brilliant and their evenings will be highly recommended to others by me. I hope I will be enjoying their company and musical talent once again at Christmas when I return to Reading.