The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #132312   Message #2995082
Posted By: Brian Peters
28-Sep-10 - 06:50 AM
Thread Name: Boring, Bleating Old Traddy (Peter Bellamy)
Subject: RE: Boring, Bleating Old Traddy (Peter Bellamy)
I was prompted by this thread to dig out a review I wrote of a Bellamy performance for the then Folk Roots magazine, around six months before he died. He rang up on the day it appeared to say "NICE ONE!", so I guess he approved.

Peter Bellamy
Nook Folk Club, Holmfirth

The Nook is not the sort of pub you tend to see on Last Of The Summer Wine. Noisy, dingy and overflowing with spilt beer and bikers, it does nonetheless possess a certain seedy charm, and also hosts a folk club. Tiny rectangular room, fire flickering in the hearth, bench seats around the walls, a few stools and tables out on the floor, the Mean Fiddler it ain't but it manages to sustain an enviably intimate atmosphere and a quality guest list.

Peter Bellamy clearly likes it. He's spent the week playing a succession of duff clubs, and the friendliness of this one is bringing out the best in him. And when Bellamy is on form, there are few more exciting performers around. That voice, butt of Bleaty jokes and parodies, is a formidable instrument, soaring to impossibly high notes with coruscating clarity that sets hairs bristling and bone marrow a-tingle. Then there's the physical presence, an eye-rolling, lip-curling, brow-raising gamut of facial expressions, with body movements to match. His performance teeters on the edge of high camp and self parody, but always stays just the right side of assisting the song to tell its story.

Bellamy clamps his specially-made levers over the drone buttons of his concertina (no-one plays Anglo quite like this man) and launches into On Board A Ninety-Eight, a prime example of his talent for refurbishing the tradition, writing tunes that combine an authentic feel with unpredictable leaps and twists to test the singer's voice and rivet the listener. He introduces his setting of Bob Copper's poem The Old Songs with a barbed reference to performers who "used to sing traditional songs but now have more important things to sing about", and old songs there are in abundance, from Brisk Young Widow, sung in memory of Royston Wood, to an excellent ballad, Allan Tyne Of Harrow; from Adieu Sweet Lovely Nancy to a supreme Trees They Do Grow High that wrings out every drop of emotion. There's Kipling too, of course, though in restrained measure, with Big Steamers and a surprisingly entertaining account of a cholera epidemic. The night ends with what would be incongruous choices for most 'traddy' performers: a bluegrass song, followed by the cowboy classic Santa Fe Trail with Steve Tilston and Maggie Boyle roped in.

Peter Bellamy loves and respects the English tradition; simultaneously he subverts it, sends it up, re-invents it and revitalises it. But he never ignores it.
Brian Peters