Sunday, April 6, 2014 Leave a Comment
“The Acorn Folk Club’s guest Phil Underwood attracted a large audience on Saturday 5th April at the United Reformed Church Hall. Phil is a multi-instrumentalist, and also a talented composer and singer. Although living in Louisiana for many years, he has been coming regularly to Minehead for over 25 years to play for the Original Sailor’s Horse over the May Day celebrations, an ancient and much respected custom to welcome in the summer.
However, Phil gave us an incredibly wide variety of music, opening with the Cajun “Red Lady” on his one row accordion, leading on to English tunes on the same instrument. He later explained his two and a half row melodeon which plays in the keys of D and G, and another for C and F, before playing excellent renditions of Irish, American and French tunes. His bodhran and triangle suited his voice perfectly, the former for an Irish love song in Gaelic and the second for raw Cajun. He accompanied his own singing in French while playing the fiddle for “Mardi Gras viens de l’Angleterre”. His version of “Pretty Little Girl with a Blue Dress On” Applachian blues was a tremendous contrast in his ability and style.
A wonderful addition to his present programme is his performance of The Songman’s repertoire written by the songwriter John Tams for the acclaimed show “Warhorse”. Phil spoke of his steep learning curve at a course for which he auditioned alongside James Findlay, who has also guested at the Acorn Folk Club. They were tutored by leading artists on the current folk scene – Saul Rose (the original Songman), Bob Fox and Nancy Kerr – a hugely talented Northumbrian whom the Acorn was able to stage in her early career some years ago. For these songs about Joey the horse, a hunter, having to learn to plough, and “The Snow Falls”, Phil played exquisitely pianissimo introductions and sang in a very moving way. He also described how he had written music for a mystery play whilst attending the course inspired by the Abbotsbury Morris Horn Dance (the Morris men danced right through the night at Midsummer until the building of the M25 which ploughed through their site) – his song being named “Midsummer” followed by his own tune “Morning Light”.
Again the Acorn Folk Club was blessed with a wonderful variety of floor spots, with a young man, Sam Patten travelling from Bridgwater to perform songs learned from Barry Dransfield and Nic Jones most professionally, Tim Brown making his Acorn solo debut with George Butterworth’s arrangement of A E Housman’s “The Ploughboy” (rather apt for following on from the Warhorse items), Mike Dibble giving us “’Twas on One April Morning”, Di Dibble a moving anti-war song, John Henden proving himself an excellent storyteller, Rosemary Hanson making us really laugh with an hilarious poem about dog owners, our usual regular floor spots Benn Banks – a Dylan rendition, Geoff Williams – the traditional “Sally Gardens”, The Nightingales – Eileen Ann Moore & Jim Parham in harmony with “The Blue Cockade” – and this all MC’d so well by Fred Povey, who is also a poet and a comic, so that the evening was filled with both pathos and laughter.
And in anticipation of May Day, Chris Thresher pounded his drum alongside Phil’s expertise for The Minehead Hobby Horse tune to close the evening. Long may such evenings continue. EAM”