DAMIAN BARBER & MIKE WILSON - Folk at the Barlow

I had looked forward to this evening for several months, since I knew that the Club had booked Damian and Mike for this event. They had been one of our first guests when we moved to the Barlow in 2011 and it had been too long since I had seen them together.

Folk at The Barlow aim to achieve a balanced programme and this evening made a significant contribution to that aim. Their other major aim, which is less easy to achieve, is to promote young and emerging talent. The support act for the evening were The Harty Family, a local band from Brinscall consisting of mum Sorrell, dad Phil and their phenomenally talented young family. They opened their set with an arresting version of Nancy Kerr’s Santa Georgia, and after a tight and precise set, they finished with Young Banker, recognising as they introduced it that this is a standard of Mike’s other band with his brothers, The Wilsons.

Damian is a proud Norfolk man following in the tradition of such earlier Norfolk singers as Walter Pardon and Peter Bellamy, and sounding not unlike Bellamy at times. Damien is a stylish and distinctive singer, be it unaccompanied or alongside his guitar or English concertina. Mike Wilson is the youngest member of the inimitable Wilson Family, the powerful Teesside singing siblings who have raised the rafters at many a festival or folk club event over the years, including here at The Barlow. Together, Damien and Mike share an incredibly rich repertoire of traditional songs from around the country.

They also draw on the work of modern folk writers such as Peter Bellamy, Ewan MacColl and Mike Waterson, and we were treated to several examples of each. The highlights of a very entertaining evening for me were McColl’s The Joy of Living, and a moving interpretation of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, last sung on our stage by the person it was written for, Peggy Seeger.

We were treated to a programme of what one audience described to me as “proper folk music, or at least, ‘nearly’ folk music”.

The evening passed all too soon between the wonderful old songs and Damian and Mike’s funny yet informative introductions. We were even treated to some choreography as they tried, after two years away from performing due to Covid-19, to decide which way round they were going to stand. Every- one I spoke to were of the same opinion, that this had been a memorable night for all. Did Folk at The Barlow succeed in achieving their aims? I think so in very large measure.

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