Quite a few weeks ago I went to a Sunday night gig at The Cabbage Patch in Twickenham. It was a very good night out and I told the performer that I would write a blog about it, but then paid writing got in the way and I didn’t do it. So, better late than never, here’s my review of Alan Prosser at Twickenham Folk Club.
What do you think of when you hear the words ‘folk club’? Even as a folk and acoustic music fan, it conjures up less than appealing images for me. Stereotypically middle-aged people wearing socks with sandals. Cable knit jumpers by the dozen. That sort of thing.
But unless you are a lily-livered wuss, and as long as you are sufficiently interested in hearing great music, you will put aside any preconceived ideas and potential prejudice and go along to whatever gigs you’re invited to.
This is how I happened to be at the Alan Prosser gig. It was a very entertaining evening. Although he is a musician and songwriter through and through, it felt a little bit like a comedy gig because he’s rather self deprecating and perhaps a little nervous about performing solo. He was very concerned, for instance, about saying ‘ok’ between each song. Folk musicians often give a bit of background to a song before they play it, so he would tell the story and then say ‘ok’ before launching into the song. It was rather endearing that he was so bothered about it!
Folk music often means story songs and if you think about it, writing a story that is set to music and works as a song is no mean feat. After a tune inspired by Canadian wildlife, Prosser performed two modern folk songs about a Canterbury tramp named Willy. If these songs endure the way some other folk songs have and continue to be sung for hundreds of years then they’ll provide a chronicle of the times we live in. Maybe homelessness and ruined lives will be a thing of the past by then, but given humanity’s track record, I doubt it.
Prosser then worried me by singing a song in which he seemed to sing a line about an ‘alpha slut’. This appeared to be a reference to a woman who was keen to have sex. Hmmm. Not sure what to think about that. He referred to the man in the same line of the song as a ‘brainiac’. I’m hoping I misheard or misunderstood, which is possible, but I was concerned that he was making a negative statement about women who enjoy sex (of which I am one).
Folk gigs are usually a game of two halves, meaning there tends to be two sets divided by an interval. Prosser had become more comfortable by the second half and things went up a gear. He opened with a song called Mississippi Summer, a lovely, moody song written by Si Kahn. June Tabor recorded a version with Oysterband that is just magic, but Prosser’s version was still pretty powerful. There followed a sort of journey through musical styles, with a country and western number, some tunes in 5/4 time (!), some very touching love songs and something that sounded a bit like Progressive Rock to my ears, but which Prosser described as ‘his pop song’.
I don’t want to write anything unkind about Alan Prosser, as he provided a good, honest evening’s entertainment and came across as a gentle, friendly fellow – but maybe that’s the issue. I remember enjoying the evening and I made notes about the songs, but with the exception of Mississippi Summer (which I already knew) I can’t recall any of the others. I might recognise them if I heard them again, but I couldn’t sing them to you.
I am wondering whether Alan Prosser is too shy as a performer to make a big impact, which is a shame as he is undoubtedly talented and has a decent enough voice.
Then again, it probably depends on your tastes. My favourite band is the melodic/folk/rock band New Model Army. Their gigs are incredibly dynamic – and that’s what I want from live music. I want it to take me into another world. Alan Prosser didn’t do this for me. Instead he gave me a pleasant, worthwhile and not entirely unmemorable evening – but he didn’t set my world on fire. That’s not a crime of course and it certainly isn’t meant as condemnation. It’s worth you going to see him to make up your own mind.
See Alan Prosser for yourself! Live Dates:
- 14 May 8pm Kingswinford Folk Club, Kingswinford
- 8 June 8pm The Ranelagh, Brighton
Don’t take my word for it, find out more about Alan Prosser, and listen to some of his music, here: http://www.myspace.com/makerfield