July 20, 2008

A Vin-Tage Gig From Folk Hero

When the man who first introduced me to folk music as the last bastion of free speech arrives in the region, wild horses wouldn't keep me from the gig.

As a fledgling folkie, having dared to quit the security of the day job at ICI, Vin Garbutt performed some of his first gigs at my school in the home town of Middlesbrough we both share. So heartfelt, sincere and powerful were those performances that flagged up the issues that mattered, like unemployment and pollution, they have stayed with me ever since.

In the intervening years Vin has gone on to fulfil that early potential and to stamp his mark not only on the British folk scene but around the world.

So it was a thrill for me to be able to catch him at The Westward Inn, Lee Mill, the relatively new and wonderfully atmospheric home of Folk On The Moor, playing to a sell-out crowd on Sunday.

Floor spots from club stalwarts Ben Campbell - singing a couple of finely crafted compositions - writing partner Graham Searle - who gave us a beautiful poem, completed only the day before - and Hilary from Dorset - delivering a couple of exquisite unaccompanied trad ditties - got the evening off to a flying start.

Leading with his 'theme song' of The Land of Three Rivers 'where the Tyne, Wear and Tees meet the north rolling sea..." Vin proceeded to take us on his usual emotional roller-coaster ride throughout his set. Stand-out tracks Morning Informs, the heart-wrenching tale of marital break-up and consequences, was superbly articulated and movingly delivered as was Punjabi Girl, the equally powerful tale of cross-cultural marriage that united two young people but divided both families.

New tracks The Bloom of the Broom attacked the unnecessary use of harmful herbicides to eradicate unwanted shrubs, while a funky folk tune gently highlighted the plight of Philippino maids.

Thought-provoking and often emotive though his songs were, and always delivered with every last emotional sinew in his body, Vin's ability to lighten the load with hilarious inter-song patter proved yet again well worthy of any stand-up comedian. Themes this time around were less to do with his heart op, and more about local identity - are we from Teesside or Cleveland? No, now it's Tees Valley apparently! Wherever it is, this consummate composer, performer and all-round entertainer demonstrated to his Devon fans that he is still one of the very best the folk scene has to offer. Book early for his next visit.

Read Clare Robinson's interview with Vin Garbutt, on www.whatsonsouthwest.co.uk

(c) 2008 Plymouth Evening Herald, The. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.