Tuesday 7 May 2013


Live Review

Newhampton Folk Club, Wolverhampton

This popular folk duo were making their third appearance to the snug venue of the upstairs room at the Newhampton Inn, Whitmore Reans and were welcomed by a pretty full house.

Dan Cassidy at the Newhampton Folk Club, Wolverhampton
Hickman from Shrewsbury has a slightly manic style of playing guitar while Cassidy, brother of tragic singer Eva, although he didn't play on or even mention it, from Maryland US is as laid back as it's possible to be without falling over.
They kicked off with Nothing but Dreams a blue grass number with Hickman on vocals and, strangely enough for an English folk vocalist started singing in an American accent, as he frantically strummed his guitar and flicked around the stage Cassidy provided the smooth harmonies on his fiddle.
Their next offering was a transportation song Jim Jones with Hickman reverting to native English with his soft nasal tones highlighted by the equally soft and precise playing of Cassidy.
This was followed by the Cajun sound of The Lovers' Waltz with Cassidy's superb tones this time taking the lead and Hickman filling in the harmonies.
Inspired by James Taylor and written by Hickman, I'm Beside You, tested his singing ability and the fast-paced ballad proved somewhat difficult as he tried to hit the top end of his range and Cassidy added a jazz slant for a little colour.
At the risk of sounding harsh this more than any other track from the evening highlighted the imbalance in the partnership in that, while Hickman is an impressive musician, Cassidy is in a different league and even though they have known each other for years, their personalities seem mismatched which doesn't really give any chemistry on stage.
Hickman does all the singing and most of the talking, sometimes too much engaging with the "hecklers" in the audience who were obviously familiar with them from past gigs. Cassidy has this sort of impassive staring quality speaking rarely and when he does it is with a laconic US drawl which seems to take an age for anything to be said.
James Hickman at the Newhampton Folk Club
Cassidy drew on his Celtic roots for the slip jig The Stray Away Child from the Boffy Band. He executed it with superb clarity and precision and even blended in a little swing.
Hickman turned his hand a Capella with Van Diemen’s Land and although he doesn't have the strongest of voices he does make the most of it and managed to pull it off.
When they mesh together they are good but there is no getting away from the fact that Cassidy is the more accomplished of the two musicians and this makes for a noticeable imbalance on tracks such as The Teetotallers which is a fast Scottish jig played superbly by Cassidy and again accented by Hickman.
His striking pizzicato style on the fiddle was the perfect highlight for Little Maggie which had a honky tonk feel and was once again a display of his incredible talent.
Unfortunately on the ballad The Shipyard Apprentice Hickman overstretched his vocal range at times but it didn't really detract from the overall performance.
The pair mixed it up throughout the show with perhaps one of the highlights being the lovely sound of Inisheer and Cassidy's slick and precise fiddle playing filling the room.
He then moved on to My Dearest Fling which was a swing/jazz number which is the other side of Cassidy's repertoire. He again brought this out with his own compositions Painter's Jig and The Tempest.
Towards the end of their set they pulled out a rather unique version of Scarborough Fair which didn't actually mention the title and brought things to an end with The Walls of Time a harder sounding bluegrass backwoods-style tune.

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