Gig Review:
Danny Spooner
at the Spalding Folk Club
Lincoln Arms, Bridge St., Spalding, Lincolnshire,
Wednesday, 7th July 2004, 7.30pm
Photo of Danny Spooner
Danny Spooner - live and magnificent!
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Photo of Danny Spooner
Charismatic folk singer Danny Spooner,
accompanying himself on the
English concertina

Danny Spooner

at Spalding Folk Club
Lincoln Arms
Bridge St.

Wednesday 7th July 2004, 7.30pm


Danny Spooner
Mick Spooner
Bill Whaley & Dave Fletcher

and regulars of the Spalding Folk Club

Date of Review: 2004/07/20

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Photo of Danny Spooner, with Mick Spooner
Danny Spooner in a rousing duet with brother Mick Spooner

Danny Spooner at Spalding Folk Club - This is Folk!

Photo of Bill Whaley & Dave Fletcher
Lincolnshire's finest - Bill Whaley & Dave Fletcher,
aka Bill & Dave

Photo of Martin Browne and Elizabeth Padgett
Spalding Folk Club members
Martin Browne and Elizabeth Padgett

Photo of Mick Spooner
Mick Spooner from Essex

Photo of Spalding Folk Club performer
Dick George - a regular visitor from and resident of Wisbech Folk Club

At last, an opportunity had presented itself to review extraordinary Anglo-Australian folk singer Danny Spooner at a live gig on one of his British tours that I could make and that wasn't too far from home. I had first met Spooner through his brother, Mick Spooner, about two years earlier at the folk club the latter runs in Essex that is fairly local to me, but had been unable to arrange for a review on that occasion.

The Spalding Folk Club, which has been in existence since 1979, meets in an upstairs room at the intimate Lincoln Arms pub in the charming Lincolnshire market town of Spalding on the first Wednesday evening of the month. (Note: Since the original draft of this review in 2004, the club has moved to the South Holland Centre, Spalding, with a singaround at the Welland Yacht Club, Spalding, on the third Thursday every month. At the South Holland Centre, wheel chair access is available - for the Welland Yacht Club, please check with Spalding Folk Club.) Spalding Folk Club is a highly successful club and regularly features leading professional and semi-professional performers as well as local talent.

Tonight's main attraction was folk phenomenon Danny Spooner from Australia (originally England), here on a UK tour. Several of Spooner's albums are also reviewed here, so check these out for more information if you have not encountered him before.

At the appointed hour, the upstairs lounge at the Lincoln Arms filled up with a small and enthusiastic crowd, consisting of both performers and non-performing visitors.

Alas, the lighting proved to be abysmal, a very dim, horrendous mix of halogen and fluorescent light with, in the early part, some fading daylight for good measure. Far from ideal for photography, and with hindsight, maybe on this occasion it would have been better had indirect flash been used.

Photo of Spalding Folk Club performers
Spalding Folk Club stalwarts Paul Dickinson and Angela King

The evening opened with leading club members and local talent, Martin Browne and Elizabeth Padgett. A fine pair of folk singers, they soon got everybody into the right mood.

Mick Spooner, a semi-professional folk singer and brother of Danny Spooner, had also traveled up from Essex for the occasion. His big voice and wonderful performance had the crowd enthralled. He more usually performs as one half of folk duo Mick & Pete, renowned throughout Essex folk circles.

Described as "Lincolnshire's Finest", local professionals Bill Whaley & Dave Fletcher, aka Bill & Dave, gave a taste of how they acquired this enviable reputation with their superb blend of voices underscored by Bill's outstanding duet concertina. Their repertoire includes both ancient and modern material, but always presented in traditional style. Bill & Dave were also very strong on audience participation through a satisfying number of choruses.

Closing the first half of the evening, star attraction Danny Spooner delighted with his mix of easy banter, providing some background to each song, and his booming, expressive voice, accompanying himself on guitar and English concertina. In the best tradition of folk, Spooner got his audience to participate wherever possible and appropriate and had them in the palm of his hand with his charm and charisma. Danny Spooner's sheer power and voice projection, qualities shared with brother Mick Spooner, are extraordinary, especially so for someone without any formal voice training, and have to be heard to be believed. This is blended with Spooner's superb sensitivity in his renditions and his ability to tell a gripping tale through his song, aided by perfect diction. Add to this immense personal warmth and seemingly boundless energy. Danny Spooner had the small crowd completely enthralled, and by the end of his performance and hence the first half of this evening, I am sure everybody was more than ready for another round of drinks!

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Throats suitably re-lubricated after a break of some twenty minutes, the evening continued with various regulars of Spalding Folk Club, including a second spot by leading club lights Martin Browne and Elizabeth Padgett. The overall standard of all the club regulars and other visitors was really surprisingly high and just excellent, it needs to be said, and it is easy to see why this club is held in such high esteem in folk circles.

Also making a second appearance were Bill & Dave with another exquisite performance. Well known and loved throughout their native Lincolnshire, they are justly becoming renown much further afield as well. Their pleasing voices blend appealingly, and their enjoyment of their music and their enthusiasm carry over to their audience easily.

Photo of Danny Spooner with brother Mick
Danny Spooner with brother Mick -
bringing down the house

Star attraction Danny Spooner kept his audience utterly captivated and spellbound with his second set. Having heard many of his albums, including many of his older, original vinyl LPs, and seen and heard him live on one previous occasion, Danny Spooner always is an enchanting experience, and this was no different. His songs through his story-telling always seem to bring the past magically alive, whether the ancient or the more recent such as some of the protest songs of the second half of the 20th century. You are mysteriously transported onto a whaler battling arctic gales, or to the heat of the Australian outback and tough bushmen toiling hard to scrape a living, or even to more modern New Zealanders trying to keep their country and the Pacific nuclear free. Danny Spooner's performances are lent a special edge of authenticity through this being a man who has experienced it (nearly) all before himself, he's been there, done that, and got the T-shirt, and you can see it in his warm sparkling eyes.

For the closing songs of his set, Danny Spooner called upon his brother Mick Spooner to join him for a few duets. Their powerful voices blend superbly, and they pretty much brought down the house, as it were, with their boundless enthusiasm and enjoyment.

Alas, this magical evening of authentic acoustic folk music came to an end all too soon, and we retired to the bar with the Spooners for one last round of drinks. Congratulations to Spalding Folk Club for a hugely successful evening!

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Photo of Danny Spooner
Danny Spooner in full swing

Photo of Bill Whaley & Dave Fletcher
Bill & Dave captivating the crowd once more

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