Saturday, 11 July 2015

The Young'uns

Crail Town Hall

9th July 2015

I like to believe my musical tastes to be eclectic, catholic (small c, of course) and yet discerning.  Wife tends to take the view that the term indiscriminate best sums it up.  And it could be argued, I suppose, that the contrast between the two gigs I attended over the last 48 hours could be used to back up either assertion.  For the evening after Wife, Daughter and I had, in the company of 13,000 other bods, enjoyed a Fleetwood Mac gig at the Glasgow Hydro; here I was in the dinky little Crail Town Hall to see The Young’uns perform to an audience of 53 (I counted).

I had seen The Young’uns (Sean Cooney, David Eagle, Michael Hughes) a few months back supporting The Unthanks where their rumbustious shanty-chanting, foot-stamping a capella performance had gone down a storm, and I was keen to hear more.  With the evening pretty much to themselves – a few locals got up and performed during the interval – The Young’uns were given free rein to indulge their wide ranging catalogue of traditional Northern English folk songs, their three part harmony arrangements of more contemporary stuff, as well as a selection of their own material.  And what a rather special evening it proved to be. 

Their rendition of James Taylor’s You Can Close Your Eyes was as beautiful as at The Queens Hall, but it was a number of their newer self-penned compositions which stood out tonight.  Private Hughes, Brewster and Wagner and The Streets of Lahore were all heartbreakingly poignant songs based upon true stories.  The last named, relating the honour killing of a young Pakistani women in Lahore showed there is a depth and maturity to Sean Cooney’s songwriting which goes beyond the table-thumping socialism which can often overwhelm left-wing leaning folk music.

The onstage banter was clearly as spontaneous as it was entertaining; with Michael and Sean often showing glimpses of real impatience as David’s never less than entertaining interjections interrupted yet another song introduction.  The pair, I guess, have long come to accept it as all part of the package that comes with the slightly eccentric Mr Eagles.  

The boys clearly revelled in the intimate atmosphere of the venue, commenting upon how wonderful it was to be able to perform without the need for microphones.  The unamplified voices and effortless harmonies making me think: goodness it looks so simple I sure even I could do it.  Silly boy.

I had asked the band beforehand if they minded if I took a few photographs if I promised not to use a flash, and they were happy with that.  But when the gig started I noted the lighting set up was eccentric to say the least.  The lads were lit from above by a single small rig of red spotlights, with the only other illumination being two angle poise lamps turned to face the wall behind them.  With the result they were in shadow for the entire gig - not too dark to prevent us seeing them but certainly too dark be for me to get any decent photos, I felt. 

But then towards the end of the set with David playing accordion and Michael strumming his guitar, it finally dawned upon me what a magical image the three silhouettes against a red backdrop made.  However, but the time I had fumbled my camera out and adjusted it to the appropriate settings the song had finished and the moment was gone. Sadly forever.

I did subsequently take a few snaps of the boys standing singing a capella, but without the instruments it did not have quite the wow factor.

Thankfully the music more than made up.

The Young'uns - Crail July 2015


Between The Wars
Shawnee Town
Private Hughes
You Won’t Find Me On Benefits Street
The Streets Of Lahore
Jimmy Go Down To Your Uncles
The Brisk Lad
Tilbury Town
Brewster & Wagner
You Can Close Your Eyes
The Battle of Stockton
School Days Over
The King’s Horse/Dawson’s Prisoners/The Calculation
Tom Payne’s Bones
A Lovely Cup Of Tea


John Ball

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