ALLAN TAYLOR - The Willows Folk Club, The Institute, Wrea Green

The Willows Folk Club is happy to be back at The Institute in Wrea Green. In front of a full house, resident Mary Hassett sang an international selection of songs with her usual warmth and clarity. Then Liz Walmisley introduced Allan Taylor, making a rare appearance at a folk club. As a schoolboy, Allan was inspired by the beat poet Jack Kerouac, author of On The Road. He found a folk club in Brighton, and a long, distinguished career began, with Allan taking his guitar and songs around the world.

His songs draw heavily on the journeys he has made and the company he has kept, some fleeting aquaintances, some lasting friendships. With such a large catalogue of songs, he said it had been difficult to draw up his set list, and began with ‘Down The Years I Travelled’. He arrived in New York in the late 1960s, and witnessed the great social changes happening there. Later, he put them into a single song, his epic ‘New York In The 70s’. In ‘The Veteran’, he introduces a soldier who suffered from his service in Vietnam. And in ‘Los Companeros’, the heroes of the Cuban revolution look back from their homes in Little Havana, Florida.

Lockdown has given him the chance to think about the future, and he looked forward optimistically in ‘The Giant Red Balloon’, a metaphor for hope. Life on the road is not always glamorous! He considered the romance and trials of living on the road in ‘Running On Dreams’ and ‘Kerouac’s Dream’. Seize your opportunities was the advice of ‘Colour To The Moon’, while ‘The Last Train’ represented the end of the day.

He had never performed ‘The Joker’s Hand’ before. Written with Jacob Dinesen, a singer famous in Denmark, it compared the lives of a young and an old singer. Banjoman remembered his great friend Derrol Adams, who moved from America to live in Belgium. The Stranger – about a fictional travelling musician – was written on his way home after visiting the dying Adams. A new song, ‘When Billy Plays The Banjo’, was dedicated to Billy Connolly, now living with Parkinson’s Disease in the Florida Keys. And ‘Let The Music Flow’ was written at the request of Slovenian celebrity, Vlado Kreslin.

Allan said how much he had enjoyed his return to the stage of a folk club. Indeed, there was that buzz of excitement in the room that existed in folk clubs forty or fifty years ago! So he finished his concert with ‘It’s Good To See You’, a song that has been recorded more than a hundred times. Everybody joined in. Meeting the demand for an encore, he announced the appropriate ‘I’m Going Home’.

Allan Taylor belongs to the generation of Woody’s Children, the singers who followed where Woody Guthrie led. Tom Paxton is still active as their leader. Andy Irvine is putting the final touches to his long-awaited CD of Woody Guthrie songs. And Allan Taylor’s new CD, ‘The Road Well Travelled’, will come out shortly.

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