I took my father to the Colchester Arts Centre tonight, to hear Martin Simpson, Nancy Kerr and Andy Cutting. The tickets were actually part of his birthday present, which was weeks ago, and it was fortuitous that the concert happened to be on Father's Day. It was not part of the normal folk club offering, which happens on Mondays, and Folk Club organisers take note, it is really brilliant when the doors open at seven and the performers you have come to see take the stage at half past seven on the dot, just like a real concert at the Royal Festival Hall or somewhere. The Arts Centre chairs are not truly very comfortable, as the management acknowledge given they have an appeal running for funds to buy new ones, and it's nice to get home just after half past ten even after dropping my father back at Wivenhoe rather than gone half past eleven like on normal folk club nights. I don't even have work in the morning, but lots of people do. A concert that's over by twenty to ten (like the Royal Festival Hall) is preferable to one running on until quarter to eleven. Trust me, Folk Club organisers, it is.
Martin Simpson is a very, very fine guitar player, and I was pleased that having brought his banjo along we heard plenty of it, rather than it appearing for only a couple of songs. I like the banjo, despite it being to folk instruments what the viola is to the rest of the orchestra. He lived in the United States for many years, and brings a welcome dose of the deep and not so deep South to the Simpson-Kerr-Cutting combination.
Andy Cutting is the go-to man of the English folk world for accordion and melodeon accompaniment. The Systems Administrator and I used to joke that it must be illegal to make an album of English folk music without featuring Andy Cutting, he crops up on so many records. I haven't done the exercise and I'm not going to, but my guess is that if I were to go through all my albums and list who appears on each of them, that Andy Cutting would appear in more different line ups than any other single musician. He has won Folk Musician of the Year three times at the Radio 2 Folk Awards, most recently in 2016 (Martin Simpson has notched up two Artist of the Year, an Album of the Year, and a Best Original Song of the Year).
Nancy Kerr was the 2015 Folk Singer of the Year, and is part of a group that picked up Best Group and Best Album in 2014. She is a fine fiddle player. I have to admit that she is not my favourite female vocalist, but that's a matter of personal taste, and on the whole I'm not overly keen on the songs she writes, which is a matter of personal taste as well. Writing songs is extremely difficult.
So the three of them represent the creme de la creme of English folk music. I enjoyed their instrumental numbers a great deal, some of the songs not so much. Blood was still circulating through my lower regions after an evening of the Arts Centre's chairs, though it reminded me that I have been lax about doing my back exercises recently and must get back into the routine of doing them oftener. The gig wasn't a sell-out: the central aisle was almost full but there were no extra chairs set out down the sides. I found that surprising and slightly disappointing, but maybe people don't want to go to folk concerts in the middle of June. Perhaps they are busy having barbecues or going sailing or on holiday, or just don't want to get themselves to central Colchester by half past seven and spend the rest of the evening sitting indoors. Or maybe folk music is simply a pitifully minority art form, and that's all the people who were interested.