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Damien Barber and Mike Wilson, The Old Queen’s Head, Islington, March 10th 2010

March 12, 2010

Damien Barber is best known as the front-man for hi-energy folk-rock-urban-dance act The Demon Barber Roadshow, but his softer side is revealed in his collaboration with Mike Wilson, the youngest of the Wilson Family, a fine clan of Teesside folk-singers of the traditional English a cappella variety.

The Suit, N and I had warmed ourselves with a couple of delicious cocktails from round the corner, and turned up just as the Magpie’s Nest Folk Club open mic session was finishing. The evening was sparsely attended, which is a shame, as the two headline singers proved to be a wonderful example of the English folk-singing tradition.

Damien plays straightforward but evocative concertina as well as folk guitar in the percussive picking style, while Mike just makes use of his fine baritone voice. They kicked off with one of the evening’s several shanties, On Board A ’98’, followed by Ewan MacColl’s My Old Man. But this wasn’t just to be an evening of straight-up right-on traditional folk – the next number, from their great CD Under The Influence, was Al Stewart’s Nostradamus. Unexpected, but fun.

Many of the evening’s songs were from a mighty trio of British folk singers – Ewan MacColl, Dick Gaughan and Peter Bellamy. Highlights were the Napoleonic ballad The Green Linnet, Gaughan’s lovely Now Westlin Winds and Ewan MacColl’s moving The Joy Of Living:
  Take me to some high place of heather, rock and ling,
  Scatter my dust and ashes, feed me to the wind
  So that I may be part of all you see, the air you are breathing.
  I’ll be part of the curlew’s cry and the soaring hawk,
  The blue milkwort and the sundew hung with diamonds,
  I’ll be riding the gentle breeze as it blows through your hair,
  Reminding you how we shared in the joy of living.

Here’s a clip of them from last year’s Cheltenham Folk Festival enjoying a fine shanty:

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