Long before there was Skinny Lister and the Dropkick Murphy’s. Even before there was the Pogues, there was a ‘Folk Punk’ movement. Okay, it wasn’t so ‘in yer face’ as the later incarnations, but The Oysterband were up there singing crafted lyrics from a fire in their collective bellies. Now into their 43rd year, the fire is more a smoulder than a furnace, but after a half hour listening to the band on Thursday at Bonn Harmonie it was clear that the songs still matter – to both band and fans.
Can you name a wealthy Folk musician? It’s not a genre to make money in for sure. Oysterband violinist Ian Telfer revealed the secret of surviving for forty years: “You find someone wealthy… and marry them!” Telfer did manage some fame (and money?) through the notorious Pop/Folk ditty ‘Daytrip to Bangor’ when he was with Fiddlers Dram. Whether he is married to a millionairess is not documented. He is though rich in musical ability and dry British humour. as just noted, and when he strides confidently centre-stage between numbers, glances down at the set-list, about to pluck the first notes – only to stop, and exclaim “Oh, that’s not what I expected to be next…!”
You will already have seen from my review that The Oysterband don’t just plug and play, they talk to the fans. They entertain. The audience seems so in step with every song that you begin to think they’re all a part of the tour party and travel to each gig in a separate band coach. They’re all pretty fit too, judging by the dancing.
Lead singer John Jones has a fine Folk voice, with enough range to push into Light-Rock territory when necessary, as on the strident ‘Everywhere I go’ with its chorus of bleak disillusion:
“Everywhere I go, I hear what’s going on. And the more I hear, the less I know
Perfect words to describe the present world of information overflow. It’s Ian Telfer again who points out one of the advantages of a 40+ year existence: “Whatever happens in the World, there’s a good chance we’ve already got a song about it, which saves having to write a new one!” A case in point is ‘All That Way For This’. Despite being written in 1992, it’s a great anti-Brexit song:
Worth the labour, worth the wait
Then they take you up to the mountain
You see too late”
You can trust in the power of prayer
That I’m dancing, dancing, dancing
Dancing as fast as I can”