review 2011 -2012

Acorn Folk Club Reviews from September 2012 - and continuing ... GOING BACK TO 1.10.11
On Saturday 1st December The Acorn Folk Club hosted Canadian singer/songwriter Dan McKinnon as their 62nd guest, on a 5 week tour of the UK. He has also toured the USA and Australia. "What a nice guy Dan is, and he plays exactly the music I love. He was very good and it is a pity that so many people missed out on an excellent evening of music." said Geoff Williams, who made a charming debut as MC, but of course, at this time of year there is a lot of competition - not least - all the fun at Porlock late shopping night. "We are very lucky that someone like Dan has the driving force to write songs, and the love of performing, to compel him to tour instead of sittting comfortably in a nice warm home" said another regular audience member.
Dan, from Nova Scotia, sang from Aesop's Fables written over 2,000 years ago, spoke of his childhood and his grandmother, and composed a song for her "In her heart she loved to go walking". Another rather good one of his own was "Some shoes", and spoke of Halifax, Nova Scotia where he lives. In two 40 minute sets he sang other superb items from the well known Stan Rogers, and "Christmas gave us respite from the war" by the American John McCutcheon, during which the silence of utter admiration was present. He finished with "Farewell to Nova Scotia" - part of a 6,000 Canadian Song Collection, this one having been performed by 85 year old Walter Rose.
Six floor singers supported him very well with two spots each, hot mincepies were served in the break, and the arrival of Mike and Di Dibble after being out West Gallery Singing, led to a rousing chorus of "The Dunster Carol" to finish.
Thanks are due to landlady Melanie Freshwater and staff of the Old Ship Aground who allow us to use their Pier Room - an ideal venue for the Acorn Folk Club. EAM
James Hickman and Dan Cassidy are a newly formed transatlantic folk and roots duo. Dan Cassidy (USA), provides an exciting
array of fiddling renditions, while James Hickman (UK), brings his driving guitar playing and wonderfully unique interpretations
of songs to their mixture of new and old folk music. James and Dan have recently released their debut CD -“Severn Street”
The Acorn Folk Club hosted the transatlantic duo Dan Cassidy (USA now living in Iceland), fiddler/composer, and James Hickman (UK/Shropshire) guitarist/vocalist/songwriter, on Saturday 3rd November in the Pier Room at The Old Ship Aground.

The guests reputation brought in a large audience, who were delighted from the start by a set of Irish tunes played quite stunningly on the fiddle by Dan, accompanied by James’ driving guitar style. There followed James’ own composition in Swing style “Catch Me If You Can”.

There was a very nice ambience in the Pier Room – a “modern” Acorn – with sympathetic amplification and subtle lighting.

Dan went on to play the beautiful tune “Inisheer” (Walsh) from off the coast of Galway. Here it was remarked that the duo’s musicianship was the best heard to date at the Acorn Folk Club, which is perhaps not exactly so as we have hosted a very good number of superb guests, but nevertheless an indication of their rapport with listeners and the exquisite fiddle tone.

James sang a wide selection of songs to include the Scottish writer Archie Fisher’s song “The Shadow of the Fairfield Crane” in Glasgow, an American Swing number from Gershwin’s Song Book “I’ve Got Rhythm”, with James telling of how Dan had taught him unusual guitar chords when he visited Iceland, the two having met many years ago, when James was only 7 year old in fact, and although firm friends, as a duo they formed in 2008 and in that respect it is “new”.

James opened the second half with Dylan’s “The Girl from the North Country” which has had much acclaim, and followed this with his own Blue Grass writing “Nothing but Dreams” relating the British Bank Crisis to the American Depression. Dan spoke, or rather “drawled” of his grandmother Sarah who emigrated to American, and played in her memory “The Teetotaller’s Reel. LISTEN TO 'THE GIRL FROM THE NORTHCOUNTRY'

It is always fascinating to listen to two musicians who have the ability to be soloists, to watch the interaction between them and to realise the high standard this brings to the duo, as seen in their performance of “Jim Jones” (trad), a song about transportation. After this the mood became light hearted with Dan demonstrating sounds on the fiddle from “electric guitar” through to “chickens”, “seagulls”, “watchdog” and Jethro Tull (standing on one leg)!

The guests praised the floor spots, and finished with a superb 1870 Blue Grass number “Little Maggie”, and gave a wonderful encore of Louis Armstrong’s 1918 Dixieland "Tiger Rag".

What a super occasion! A transatlantic duo who crossed genres as easily as oceans!



THE ACORN FOLK CLUB hosted the world renowned duo Brian Willoughby (UK) and Cathryn Craig (USA) on 6th October in the Pier Room at The Old Ship Aground, Minehead.

Their performance was utterly spellbinding, and one could have heard a pin drop, because although Cathryn had invited audience participation, for the most part (except in numbers like “Dixie” and “Cotton Fields”), the listeners preferred to do just that: listen. Brian’s guitar playing virtuosity is second to none, and Cathryn’s beautiful voice rightly placed her as Simon Mayo's star guest vocalist on his Radio2Day 2012 live from Nashville programme. Their moving "Alice's Song" was used by The National Autistic Society to promote their Year of Autism Awareness and it was also an Aled Jones "Highlight of the Year" on Radio 2.

Brian used two Yamaha guitars, one in normal tuning and one in open tuning, subtly enhanced by analogue and digital delay pedals. He seemed to have more fingers on both hands than any other guitar player seen to date at the Acorn Folk Club, and a listener was heard to remark “How does he do that?”

Each of their self-penned songs was introduced with an interesting story, sense of humour and emotional feeling for the subject, as in “Mr Jefferson”, “Spirit is Stronger than Truth”, “I Will” and their encore “My Window Faces South”. Brian talked about his long career having had his “Fingers Crossed” (written when he was 18) taken up by Mary Hopkin’s record label, since when his career has flourished going on to work with Roger Whittaker, Nancy Griffiths, The Strawbs for over 20 years, and many other prestigious names. Cathryn also related the tale of how Cecil Sharp collected one of her songs from her grandfather in 1918.

The Acorn was grateful to landlady Melanie for allowing an extension, and although running overtime, no-one in the full to capacity audience wanted to leave – with the length of applause indicating the quality of this exceptional duo’s performance.

Not only on the night, but in the mail and on the phone next day came the accolades: “Spectacular”, “Great”, “Wonderful", “Fantastic”, “We certainly enjoyed the evening", and not least “How does the Acorn book such high calibre artists?”

Another thing that was remarked upon was that the dozen floor spots were all very good too – making a complete composite of giving a platform for amateurs and professionals alike in a warm and friendly atmosphere, the ambience of the Club having received much praise too. From the floor spots it was good to welcome local poet John Gilman for the first time, who also received a good response. The charming professional guest duo listened and took an interest in everyone and were willing to talk during the interval and at the end of the evening.

The club was extremely fortunate in securing Brian and Cathryn, who kindly deputised for the previously booked duo Dana and Susan Robinson on tour from America, who had to cancel due to a hand injury, and the vibes were sent to wish Dana’s speedy recovery. It is hoped to rebook them in the future.


Saturday 8th September saw The Acorn Folk Club host its 59th guest night in the Pier Room at The Old Ship Aground! And wasn’t it a feast in more ways than one. Firstly a feast of floor spots including one who had emailed from his home in France to make sure of a place. Two birthdays to celebrate meant two birthday cakes to be consumed, and then the highlight of the night - the excellent a capella singing of the guests Thornbridge. We were treated to finely crafted singing of many delicious folk songs, some accompanied by guitar or violin or cello or any combination or none. The choice of material gave a splendid view of the English (mostly) folk song repertoire, and the beauty of this genre. The rapport with the audience was second to none, and radiated warmth and humour. In all aspects this was a fine start to the Acorn' s 11th season and I agree with the comment from the floor

"It was a great evening, with a good atmosphere. We thought the group harmonies were wonderful.

---- and not least Eileen Ann, a big thank you for all the thoughtful things you have done, especially the

delicious chocolate cake, yummy." (RH)


For Eileen Ann's Birthday Party on 18th August, we hosted The Bedlam Boys - not your average folk duo - but a couple of caring and
dynamic young men who present meaningful folk songs in a fast and rather up-to-date manner - good at heart - their carefully planned act added tremendously to the sense of fun on the evening, which was a subsidised guest night to thank everyone for their support throughout the year or to welcome newcomers.
The event took place in the Pier Room at The Old Ship Aground, where landlady Melanie had kindly decorated the tables with flowers.
There was a full house; Di Dibble provided a wonderful birthday cake, and Mike Dibble did a great job as MC by including absolutely all the talented floor spots, many of whom had travelled in from Bishop's Lydeard, Cossington, Taunton, Tiverton and the outlying villages such as Timberscombe and Old Cleeve. Founder Eileen Ann was kept busy, performing a solo, two songs with partner Jim Parham as "The Nightingales", and leading "The Singing TwinGers" (a singing for fun group from The Townswomen's Guild) in two moving songs incl. "Where Have All the Flowers Gone" with full audience participation. It is hoped that such excellent support and the sincerely happy atmosphere will continue for the Acorn's forthcoming 11th Season which has a line up of leading artists on the current folk scene and several international guests. THANKS AGAIN TO ALL WHO PARTICIPATED.


The Acorn Folk Club’s tenth Annual Dinner on Saturday 14th July was a great success - 21 present - the largest number so far - and landlady Melanie and staff at The Old Ship Aground laid out a smart white-clothed table in the Pier Room and served excellent meals very efficiently.

There followed a really nice evening MC'd by the wonderful Pat (Spoons) Smith of Llantrisant, and she and Ned Clamp over the evening performed two excellent spots of Welsh traditional, English contemporary songs and amazing spoon playing to Ned’s harmonica.

MARTIN CURTIS - the guest on tour from NEW ZEALAND - was a very interesting songwriter and poet, with rather good performances of his most amusing recitations inspired from stories heard on his travels and mountaineering. His ability with words held the audience’s attention, perhaps particularly in “This England”, “Tale of Two Keas” after a very comic introduction, “The Cry of the Kaka” and “The Gin and the Raspberry” – (gold rush hard miners’ unlikely sounding drink).

Supported by the Acorn’s own "The Nightingales" - Jim and Eileen Ann who had everyone in the audience singing Somerset songs with them - a very "at one" feeling - and good floor spots too, with a lovely cake provided by Di Dibble - it made a grand celebration of ten years of the Acorn Folk Club! Please click on the left hand margin to see photos and full programme of future events.


On 16th June 2012 over 40 members of Llantrisant Folk Club enjoyed a weekend visit to Minehead, booking local accommodation and using The Old Ship Aground as their base for meals and music on Friday 15th and Saturday 16th June.

On the Saturday, Llantrisant invited members of The Acorn Folk Club to join them for a superb dinner beforehand, followed by a lively evening of Breton dancing, excellent music from Pat (Spoons) Smith and Ned Clamp who lead Llantrisant Club and who have often performed at the Acorn Club, and a rousing singaround which included Llantrisant and Acorn floor spots.
Members of Llantrisant are super and did not utter a word of complaint about the wet weather on Saturday, when Acorn member Mike Dibble led them in a walk to Dunster to enjoy a visit to the Luttrell Arms, but is was rather good that the weather was so kind for their trip on the West Somerset Railway down to Bishop's Lydeard on Sunday 17th June. They all said they had had a lovely time in Minehead! EAM


At the Acorn Folk Club on Saturday, 26th May in the Pier Room at the Old Ship Aground, the guests Pat (Spoons) Smith and Ned Clamp gave a delightful performance of some traditional Welsh songs and tunes and also of some contemporary material, the latter being particularly related to the canals around Leeds (potentially an inland seaport). They were trying out some new material on the Acorn audience as they have a related future booking.

They really are a most animated duo – with Ned giving informative introductions to their superlative playing; Pat is a star on the concertina, her body language also expressing the music, and Ned’s guitar accompaniment is very dexterous and his harmonica skills are more than fitting.

Then, when Pat picks up her silver spoons the atmosphere is electrified – she is known in folk circles as Dame Patti Smith EPNS – and we have never seen anyone else play the spoons so sensitively, rhythmically or flamboyantly. Watch out for Acorn News as next year we have booked her to run a workshop and to open a folk concert with the “National Spoons Orchestra of Minehead” for the Minehead and Exmoor Festival’s fiftieth anniversary – that shows the high esteem in which we hold them.

The warm evening was relaxed with a happy atmosphere as ever, and the guests were supported by floor spots and The Acorn Crew (four singers and volunteers of the Club).


SATURDAY 5TH MAY 2012 - GUEST NIGHT NO 55 - CAJUN BAND - Phil Underwood, Charlie Skelton & Peter Dunhill
At the Acorn Folk Club's Guest Night Number 55 on the 5th May (5/5), the Pier Room at the Old Ship Aground was full to overflowing for Phil Underwood, a Louisiana experienced teacher and performer, who learned Zydeco and Cajun dancing first hand in the clubs there.
Phil, who lives in Milton Keynes, has recently formed an as yet unnamed band, with fellow Cajun musicians Peter Dunhill and Charlie Skelton from Leigh-on-Sea, in Essex. They met at a Cajun Festival last summer and it is a tremendous co-incidence that, Eileen Ann Moore used to live in Leigh-on-Sea and knew Peter and Charlie well from the very strong folk club there - The Hoy at Anchor - widely acknowledged by artists, and on which she and her late husband John modelled the Acorn Folk Club when they founded it in 2002.
Phil Underwood is an international award winning star on accordion, anglo concertina and fiddle, Charlie Skelton is a superb fiddler and pipe player, accompanied by Peter Dunhill's deft guitar playing both for rhythm and keys. They presented songs and tunes from the traditions of Britain and the American South, from the push and pull, rub and scrub music of the bayous of Louisiana and fiddle bowing guitar driving tunes of Appalachia, back home to the anglo concertina, melodeon led dance and song music of England, Ireland and Europe, these three fine musicians gave the audience a rich musical feast steeped in the transatlantic traditions. From the splendid opening with "Jolie Bassette", "The Rights of Man"(O'Carolan/French), Phil's original composition "Midsummer Song " and the Stanton Harcourt version of "Princess Royal", through to Phil Underwood's own "When Daylight Shines ", music and lyrics recently written when he attended a Warhorse Workshop at the National Theatre, and "Quand T'es Pas La", "Reel de Joie" and towards the end, Charlie Skelton's excellent "South Country", the music the music and whole programme was exceedingly good.
"The best we've had" said Mike Dibble, a regular performer who always pulls out "the right song for the occasion" - in this case, a fine May song. There is no doubt that it was a stupendous evening, but then so have many guests been this season, as the Acorn Folk Club has really pulled out the stops by booking the best the current folk scene has to offer to celebrate the Tenth Season. What is also particularly good is that there was a full spectrum of ages, from 9 - 90 with everything in between - teenagers, young and professional working people, early retired or retired locals and holiday makers, through to the most senior member who regales a sometimes unsuspecting audience with readings of hilarious poems.
The better the guest, the more and better the floor spots, who travel from as far afield as Cossington, Taunton and other outlying places; MC Eileen Ann managed to fit in all 15 spots, thus upholding the philosophy of "musicians, singers, listeners - everyone is given a warm welcome". Phil has been coming to Minehead and playing for the Original Sailor's Horse out of the Old Ship Aground for over 25 years with dedication to the tradition and to raising money for charity, and so, on request, the band finished this fantastic evening with the Minehead Hobby Horse tune, complete with local drummers, to bring in the Summer - which certainly seemed to have worked, as both Saturday and Sunday were much better days than forecast! What a night!! ED

The Acorn Folk Club hosted The Mrs Ackroyd Trio on 31st March in the Pier Room, at The Old Ship Aground. They perform the rather quirky, even eccentric work of folk poet Les Barker, with the lyrics being set to music in three ways - to traditional tunes, to the great standards of the contemporary music scene, and to the ingenious compositions and arrangements of keyboard player Chris Harvey (of Strawhead), his wizardry instrumentation being the perfect accompaniment to "that voice" - Hilary Spencer (who has performed at the Club before as part of the duo Quicksilver) and Alison Younger (who is also part the female trio Briony).
The poems have been performed since the 1970s by Les Barker himself, who would have his dog "Mrs Ackroyd" at his feet on the stage. He then invited musicians to join him for a wider appeal; unfortunately he is not in good health and has retired to Wales, performing only occasionally, but the trio continue the good work - which takes a prodigious memory, acting, musical and comic abilities to put across.
Outstanding were such numbers as "Non, je ne pas de courgettes" (Edith Piaff), "Don't play for me your concertina" (Lloyd Webber), "Spencer the Rover" (trad), and from their French set "My snails have not yet arrived" (Harvey). At the change of a hat or scarf, a bottle of cold tea to represent the real McKoy and a doggie costume to suit the "rover" - they gave a truly entertaining performance in all respects.
Low on floor spots and a slightly depleted audience probably because of change of date/petrol scare/other concerts in town, there was still nevertheless buzzing correspondence the next morning viz: "Well, what a triumph - we both thought it was a spectacular evening and the piece de resistance of course were the trio. For myself, it is the best that I have seen. The two ladies were in such good form - their synchronisation and harmonisation were superb, on top of which the lyrics were indeed very clever and very funny. They have to be a must for a repeat" and "Phenomenal evening's entertainment ...Kathleen Ferrier will never sound the same again!! (After "Blow the wind suddenly - they knew it was me".) Britain certainly has got talent in the Mrs Ackroyd trio." and "We all had a wonderful evening, one of the best and all those who did not come missed a treat." EAD

At the Acorn Folk Club in the Pier Room of The Old Ship Aground on Saturday March 3rd, the guests Mick Ryan and Paul Downes drew a large audience and quality floor spots - Mick's own words "It's fantastic to see a FULL FOLK CLUB with lots of FINE FLOOR SPOTS - young musicians too." They gave us a stunning performance - Mick has a prodigious songwriting ability and capacity to remember words, and Paul Downes' guitar accompaniment is nothing less than genius, but he's a fine singer too and together they are an absolutely leading duo on today's folk scene - as MC Eileen Ann Moore said "You could not have any better anywhere in London or at any Festival than we have heard at the Acorn this evening." And this from a Club member: "Wonderful evening.........enjoyed lovely composed relaxed performance of Mick Ryan, well balanced with the humourous personality of Paul Downes and of course his superb guitar abililty."

MICK RYAN is well known on the folk scene as a fine singer of traditional and original songs. He has written for radio and a series of highly successful folk musicals. PAUL DOWNES' sensitive, yet fun approach to live performances puts him among the most respected artists on the British acoustic music scene today. He has been introduced (to his embarrassment) as one of the greatest acoustic guitarist in the world. It is easy to see why when you see the dazzling array of styles he performs with effortless brilliance, but, at the same time, considers himself a singer of songs rather than a guitar technician. Paul has a rich musical background that has progressed through working with Phil Beer, Pete Seeger and, currently, The Joyce Gang as well as Mick Ryan. Over two hundred session credits have still left time for Paul to tour every concert venue, theatre and festival in Britain (including two appearances at the Royal Albert Hall with Show of Hands); plus many tours in the USA and Europe.

Together, then, Mick and Paul provide singing, music and entertainment of the very highest quality and this was evident throughout the evening in songs such as "The Bells", composed by Mick about a lady who was born at midnight as a new century was born in 1899. The title track of their new CD "Grand Conversation" - the story of Napoleon in 1807 was another stunning item, as was Mick's song "Christmas in Nomansland" from his show "Who Stole Christmas"
. For "I am the Foe" from Mick's 1995 show "A Day's Work" about WW1, Paul performed a breathtaking guitar introduction, and for the song "The Lark above the Downs", the lark having been heard before the execution of a conscientious objector, the guitar accompaniment matched the rhythm to every word. "Love is Life" is a very moving song which Mick wrote following his discovery that after his father's death the rest of the world was carrying on as normal.

Paul and Mick finished their two gripping 45 minute sets with the title track of "The Pauper's Path", Mick's amazing new folk musical show about a Victorian Workhouse,,,

which he has researched at the National Trust Workhouse Museum. It is incredible how the two of them manage to deliver all this thought provoking and moving material with

light hearted - even comic introductions.

There were over a dozen floor spots to support these fine artists, among them Marianne McAleer from Weston Super Mare who is a winner in several classes of the All

Britain Fleadh Cheoil (Irish for 'Competition in Music'), James Findlay who, as winner of the 2009 BBC Young Tradition Award, has been selected to take part in a

workshop on "Warhorse" with top professionals, and young songwriter Laurence Morgan, 17 years old from Taunton - his first appearance at The Acorn. Very entertaining

songs came from Gerry & Sue Mogg - fine performers from Bishop's Lydeard, James Mogg their nephew and George Ody on melodeons, Mike & Di Dibble, Benn Banks

and Geoff Williams - absolute stalwarts of the Acorn Folk Club, and of course Jim Parham and Eileen Ann Moore, who are the organisers of the Club. Throughout this, the

Acorn Folk Club's Tenth Season, leading guests of exceptionally high calibre have been booked. There are variations to the usual pattern of each first Saturday of the month;

dates and details of artists may be checked by clicking on Programme and Future Guests.

On Saturday 4th February 2012 the Acorn Folk Club hosted the respected folklorists Tom and Barbara Brown of Combe Martin, who presented a programme commissioned by founder Eileen Ann Moore entitled "The Three Sea Captains", in the Pier Room at The Old Ship Aground, which was a sell out. It was an evening of historic importance to Minehead, as Cecil Sharp came here in the early 1900s, with his friend the Rev Charles Marson who inspired Sharp to collect folk songs. They visited the Reverend Etherington of Minehead, and together they staged their first Folk Concert here in Minehead. The songs that Tom and Barbara brought to life with their research and depth of knowledge, Cecil Sharp specifically collected from Captain Vickery of Quay Street, Captain Lewis of Blenheim Road, and Captain Hole of Watchet.

Tom and Barbara are well known for other projects such as "This Farming Life" and an "Exmoor Garland" which feature songs of the country, and they have instigated a project of international importance entitled "Short Sharp Shanties", recording all 57 shanties which Sharp collected from John Short (Yankee Jack) of Watchet, featuring other leading folk singers including the American folk-archivist Jeff Warner. The important contrast with this new programme, is that the Captains did not only sing shanties, which Captain Hole explained to Cecil Sharp were rhythmical and suited to the job of work to be done, as in his version of "Noah's Ark Shanty". The Captains sang humorous songs - here from Captain Lewis "The Good Old Man" and ballads that had been written about historic events of only 50 years earlier, such as "The Greenland Fishery" in which five apprentice boys were lost in the process of trying to catch a whale; songs could also be of historic relevance as in the outcry to establish what happened to Franklin and his crew who were frozen in the 1845 attempt to find the Northwest Passage; in 1850 their disappearance was still unexplained. Alongside these would be songs of the country such as Captain Lewis' version of "The Lark in the Morning", and Captain Vickery's version of "The Seasons". Also songs of romance would be sung - such as "Devonshire Girls" and "Dashing Away with the Smoothing Iron", both from Captain Lewis. This was particularly interesting as at school we probably all learned the Combe Florey version with the line "she stole my heart away" whereas in Minehead Lewis sang "she looked so fine and gay" as the last line of the chorus.

Captain Vickery found the words of "The Sea Captain" on the flyleaf of an old book, but learnt the tune from an old man at Porlock Weir. Feedback from the the audience commended Barbara as "undoubtedly the shining star - her diction was perfect and her introductions and descriptions so interesting." This from Mike and Jane Pretty who live in the same house as Captain Lewis in Blenheim Road, and who said "When we got home on Saturday, we looked out the 1881 census and Captain Lewis was 45 then. He was living here with his wife and also a nephew. This cottage was built in the late 1870s (we think) and probably Lewis was the first tenant. When we went to bed we said 'Just fancy Captain Lewis would have slept in this bedroom - what a thought. Did he sing in our living room as well? Perhaps there are echoes around'."

Of the three Captains, it seems Captain Lewis was the most prolific singer who provided the greatest number of songs, and he must have had a very good voice as a wide vocal range is required to sing them. Tom and Barbara's rich voices were much enhanced by Tom's instrumentals on two guitars in different tuning, an octave mandola, concertina and melodeon, plus the addition of the Scandinavian Harpeliek for the accompaniment of "The Bonny Bunch of Roses" which signifies that the unity of England, Ireland and Scotland has never been broken.

Tom and Barbara are kindly making the songs available as public property, although they have worked hard on the research. For information please contact The Acorn Folk Club or Tom and Barbara Brown

It must be mentioned that when the Acorn Folk Club promotes guests of Tom and Barbara Brown's quality, then an audience is attracted from as far afield as Petherton, Uffculme (beyond Tiverton), Combe Martin, Taunton and Porlock as well as the wonderful support from Minehead, in spite of a bitterly cold night and treacherous conditions on higher ground. The weather did deter David Sutcliffe who should have been present to speak of his book "The Keys of Heaven" about the life of Charles Marson and including chapters of Cecil Sharp's song collecting specifically in Minehead. Also wonderful floor spots are attracted to hear and learn from pioneers, so the thirteen supporting floor spots (see the Acorn website), were all worthy of being heard. Compliments came to "The Nightingales" - ie Eileen Ann Moore and Jim Parham for their singing of "Sweet Nightingale" from Yankee Jack - a song of Cornish origin, and "Call the Yowes" by Robert Burns.



The Acorn Folk Club's Tenth Annual Party held on 7th January in the Pier Room at the Old Ship Aground was very well supported and the landlady and staff kindly gave a gift and card. Chloe Bix, singer. songwriter, fiddler, guitarist, an extremely talented performer from Bideford with a really noteable stage presence was an ideal choice to be the guest for the occasion, with her dexterous guitar accompanist Mick Pledge. She was so charming and said it was an honour to be booked to celebrate the Acorn's tenth anniversary.

Her programme contained a variety of songs from music hall "When Father Papered the Parlour" to superb tune playing as in the encore "Captain Pugwash" and "Sailor's Hornpipe". Other really noteable items with good introductions, for example, about Dartmoor legends, were "Sophia's Voice", "Purse of Riches" and the stunning title track of her recently launched CD "Volcano Child".

There were many really good floor spots with Mike Dibble's rendition of "The Bells were Ringing the New Year in and the Old Year out", and Rob & Jenny Williams songs collected in the Quantocks, a CD of which they will be launching next month.

It has become the tradition to wear a hat to the party, and the winners can be seen in the photograph above taken by Barry Cooper: Alan Jones, Greshna Dibble and her son William, with the guests Chloe Bix and Mick Pledge and their adorable pekinese who sleeps in her violin case during the performance, with founder and organiser of the club Eileen Ann Moore looking on. The evening was MC'd by Terry Matthews in his smart waistcoat and wealth of anecdotes. EAD


On Saturday 3rd December, in the Pier Room at the Old Ship Aground, the Acorn Folk Club hosted Andy Barnes, singer/songwriter from Combe Martin, who is internationally known for his remarkable song "The Last Leviathan", which he wrote thirty years ago, and which has been recorded by many leading folk artistes, and is still relevant today. The evening, advertised as "come prepared to join in", was exceptionally friendly, with the sharing of mince pies for the Christmas season, and a visit from Paul Stapleton from Brighton with his band The Bandana Collective, who were great fun, featuring their own songs as well as an excellent rendition of a Russian folk tune on fiddle.. Paul was visiting his parents in Minehead. Other musicians from Tiverton and Taunton swellled the floor spots.
Andy's rich singing included "So Long Mississippi" by the American songwriter Si Khan, "The Roses of Yne" from John Day of Derbyshire, Leon Rosselsohn's "We come in Peace", alongside his own songs such as "Nut Brown Ale" and "Seasons". He also treated us to a French tune on one of his bazoukis - having two bazoukis with him, one which he sometimes used to accompany himself. When he came towards his finale and sang "The Last Leviathan" it was spine-tingling. So in a small place like Minehead, competing with Dunster By Candlelight, it was remarkable that we should have such a wide spread of English musicians and international tunes!


THE ACORN FOLK CLUB back in the usual venue of The Old Ship Aground, hosted JODY KRUSKAL - international artist on tour from America - for their 51st Guest Night on Saturday 5th November, which date no doubt affected the size of the audience, when really his virtuosity deserved a larger hearing. That being said, it is wonderful how when the Acorn hosts an exceptional guest, many very interesting floor spots are drawn to attend, some travelling up the Exe Valley from Devon on a three hour round trip; also drawing in professionals from Combe Martin, performers from Taunton, Stogumber, and the outlying villages of Timberscombe, Wootton Courtenay and Old Cleve, as well as locals from Minehead. This specialist interest is very rewarding for the organisers, but of course, it was Jody's reputation as a unique anglo concertina player and his delivery of songs that were witty, gritty, true, humorous or full of pathos speaking of the human condition, interspersed with his charming introductions, which really drew such a keen interest. He explained that whilst the concertina is played in America for Irish or English traditional tunes, as far as he is aware he is the only performer who has re-invented the anglo concertina to suit old time American songs and he has become a virtuoso in this field.
This quote is from the Devon visitor Colin Andrews who publishes the Folk Magazine "What's Afoot": "We really enjoyed visiting the Acorn last night - a great, friendly atmosphere, and of course several floor singers that were new for us. Jody was excellent with a great presence, interesting and unusual songs and, for me as an anglo player, really inspiring box playing. Certainly worth making the long journey."
Jody's first forty minute set included "Down by the Railroad Track" with suitable concertina effects, "Don't play the concertina when you drive Daddy" (his own penmanship), a "real" American song from Hawai dated 1940 "Princess Poo-Poo-Ly's Got Plenty Papaya" (uproarious laughter) and "Gooseberry Pie" 1883 from the Fruit Growers' Association of Toronto's Magazine! He finished this half of proceedings by describing "Sing 'em and Weep" - an extra sad song "The Lightning Express" - again making his concertina describe the scene.
He opened his second set by simply enthralling the audience (for all of three minutes as he put it) with his Planchet Puppet "Henry" dancing on a board, controlled by a string attached to Jody's bell clad knee leaving his hands free for the superb concertina accompaniment. Although it is impossible to mention all items, "Broken Dreams" from the film Moulin Rouge has to be singled out as a spine-tingling instrumental. Throughout the evening Jody drew spontaneous participation from his listeners, and in response to the demand for an encore he led a real American song "Make Me Down a Pallet on Your Floor". MC Mike Dibble, who himself always pulls out the right songs for the right occasions - in this case "D Day Dodgers" and "Bampton Fair" - thanked Jody and the eighteen floor spots for a fantastic evening, and Jody in turn thanked the Acorn Folk Club for their singing. When he arranges a future English tour he will definitely be booked again! From the floor there were a couple of hilarious poetry readinga, including a debut (so topical about Wheelie Bins)! There was also a thirteenth birthday and a fifty-first wedding anniversary to celebrate with the sharing of chocolates - which shows the diversity of the support for this guest.


THE ACORN FOLK CLUB'S 50TH GUEST NIGHT on 1st October, which was held in the beautiful newly decorated Ball Room of the Hobby Horse Inn, attracted a very large audience even though the organisers had notified as many people as possible via email and word of month that the booked guests Tom & Barbara Brown were unable to present their commissioned programme "The Three Sea Captains" due to Tom's loss of voice! For good will the Acorn Folk Club offered a half price evening, and apologised to anyone who was unaware of the change. This being said, it was extremely fortunate that the young Devon folk singer Jim Causley, the pre-booked guest for 4th February 2012, was able to exchange with Tom & Barbara at short notice, so that the evening was a very successful event and it was possible to notify all present that in future the Club will be returning to the Pier Room at the Old Ship Aground, which is an ideal venue and where there has been good service, and that "The Three Sea Captains" programme is postponed until 4th February, and not actually cancelled. Thanks are extended to Derek Merson for allowing us the use of the Ball Room for this occasion.

Jim Causley became involved with traditional music from an early age via his family, the local folk scene and an historical tradition of wassailing in his home village of Whimple, East Devon. After studying Jazz & Popular Music at Exeter College he went on to study Traditional Music at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. During this time he became involved in the wider folk scene and gained great interest as a solo performer in folk clubs throughout the country.

He has toured with Steve Knightley of Show of Hands fame and his recording debut came in 2005 as part of Martyn Wyndham-Read’s Song Links project comparing English and Australian songs. Later that year he recorded the first of two solo albums and was nominated for Best Newcomer at the 2006 BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards. He also received another Folk Award nomination in 2007, and has toured with Waterson:Carthy for six consecutive years as part of their annual Frost & Fire Christmas show and joined them in the studio for their most recent album.

The Acorn Folk Club is extremely grateful to him for stepping in at such short notice, as he had only just returned from touring Germany, where he had sold out of all but two of his current CD. He is known for telling the story that goes with the song, and described how he has run children's workshops at Sidmouth Festival, and how his mother used to sing to him and his sister in the car and how he has a leaning towards "spooky songs" or it seemed - slightly melancholic songs such as "Death and the Lady".. However, during the first half his "Alphabet Song" was very amusing, as was "The Sucking Pig" published unexpurgated by the Devon song collector the Reverend Sabine Baring Gould, about whose life and early romance Jim was able to relate some very interesting and amusing details. From his personality and beautiful rich voice it is easy to see why one of his forthcoming projects includes recording an album of Devonshire songs with Phil Beer and working with the Charles Causley Trust to produce a CD of Jim’s ancestor’s poems set to music.

The evening (to conform with the advertised programme) contained some Cecil Sharp material sung by Eileen Ann Moore, who had also prepared a display about The Three Sea Captains from whom Cecil Sharp collected, and fortunately David Sutcliffe attended as arranged a gave an interesting presentation about his book "The Keys of Heaven" which includes details of how Cecil Sharp collected here in Minehead and was friends with the Reverend Etherington of Minehead parish in the early 1900s. There were also visiting and regular floor spots who all complemented the evening, including another professional - Taunton based James Findlay, and traditional chocolate cake shared with all to celebrate the 50th Guest Night during this, the Acorn's tenth season. EAM


Please click on Moor Music Trio Acorn Video on the left margin to see them performing!

This came from Jason: "Thanks once again for a lovely evening".

The Acorn Folk Club hosted THE MOOR MUSIC TRIO - part of the Dartmoor Pixie Band - on Saturday September 3rd for their GUEST NIGHT NO 49 which opened their Tenth Season. The Trio comprises Jason Rice (accordion, dance and vocals), Mark Bazeley (melodeons, concertina, guitar and puppets) and Rob Murch (banjo). These exceptionally talented musicians have breathed Dartmoor traditions all their lives, their late grandfather Bob Cann having started the Dartmoor Folk Festival 35 years ago to preserve Devon traditions and step dancing in particular. Many tunes were named after living people, such as "Uncle George's Waltz", but they also played Swedish tunes, displaying their virtuosity in turns on their instruments and then coming together as a trio. Rob gave stunning renditions on solo banjo, a really noteable one being "Blaze Away". Jason sang some amusing Devon songs such as "Don't Tell I, Tell 'E" from the singing of traditional Somerset singer Adje Cutler. Mark gave a breathtaking performance with his 100 year old puppet "Sailor Jan" and his dog, each step dancing on a board balanced on Mark's knee.

Jason plays a Beltuna Piano Accordion. Mark plays a Hohner Ouverture V melodeon in D & G, a C.Jefferies Anglo Concertina also in D&G and a Hohner one-row four-stop in C. They play traditional English dance music in their native Dartmoor style, with a youthful zeal and a spring in their step which is the essence of English country dance music today. Rob plays a Paramount Style F and Clifford Essex Paragon 5-string banjos, and is one of the finest classic fingerstyle banjoists in the country. He's also adapted this style to suit the box playing of Mark and Jason to achieve his own unique sound.
Jason described how the Dartmoor Stepdance is performed on a 15" square board, ideally placed on a farm wagon although usually on a floor, stage or sometimes a table. Traditionally the dance would have been performed on a farm wagon at village fayres or 'sports' as they were known during the early 1900's in the villages around the northern edge of the moor. A wagon is still used for the Dartmoor Stepdance competition every year and Jason is a former stepdance champion and demonstrated the dance as part of their concert act.
The well-loved Yetties have now retired after 40 years of playing, having been frequent guests at the Dartmoor Festival, but this wonderful Moor Music Trio are totally at the top of their game and ready to step into those old shoes. They played absolutely gorgeous foot tapping music, and gave an evening of excellent all round entertainment.
Supporting them there were 14 floor spots, who included Phil Underwood - Cajun musician who is to be a future guest, Susannah Billeter of Tiverton Folk Club with her very humourous self-penned song which was ideal for a party, and the loyal regulars, Mike, Di & Vera Dibble, Geoff Williams, Benn Banks and James Mogg, together with Eileen Ann Moore (MC) and Jim Parham who sing both solo and as the duo "The Nightingales". The Acorn Folk Club was also celebrating two members' birthdays and the ambience of the evening could not have been more perfect to celebrate the Tenth Season.