American Folk Music, Old Time, Bluegrass & Folk-Blues - From Cornwall UK

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CAROLINA CALLING from St.Just way


From the St.Ives Times & Echo


Friday March 11th 2005 by Toni Carver

Carolina Calling Richard Plank & Nigel Wood Recently there has been a welcome return, for a couple of gigs, at The Queen's Hotel bar of Messrs Plank & Wood, performing their American folksong set. Oops, now that's already confusing since Dick Plank and Nigel Wood are the essential American 'set' of a whole bunch of the Penwith pub sessions crowd that kept the Western Hotel Kettle & Wink bar abuzz on Thursday nights back in Alan Gillam's day.

Prichard, Plank and Wood it will be remembered were the line up that supplied masses of American folk songs from old time and contemporary to a bit of bluegrass. The absence of sobering influence, Dick Plank, in the line-up usually heralded a wild shift to the Irish from fiddler Mike Prichard and Nigel Wood while a third musician would be seconded from the legendary Star Inn session at St. Just.

The musical versatility of Nigel Wood and Mike Pritchard, happy to cross all the boundaries that often restrict a respected musician's desire to innovate, always contrasted with Dick Plank's commitment to his own aesthetic. He knows how his music should sound and works very hard to get it that way. It is this commitment that undoubtedly set the tone and led to a new CD from, the duo, 'Carolina Calling' being heralded as: "Capturing the essence of American Folk music," by none other than the American master of the genre, Jack Lawrence.

It is no mean achievement to get a top American folk guitarist to write your CD sleeve notes for you. Particularly if you hail from Cam Galver rather than The Blue Ridge! It not only says a lot about the quality of this album but demonstrates the international reach of our local musicians. As well as the friendships established with American players there has also been the amazing work of The Acoustic Club, over the last few years in bringing top American Folk and Bluegrass performers over to St. Ives. While the whole local music scene in West Cornwall has been exploding for a decade now, it is the American folk and bluegrass fraternity that has probably done most to put St. Ives on the International music map.

So is Richard Plank and Nigel Wood's 'Carolina Calling' for you? Well I certainly hope so! If you're a fan of American folk music you should certainly enjoy it. For me Jack Lawrence saying "I enjoy the laid back quality of their performances," should make me run a mile in terror of being sent to sleep. But Dick Plank is a committed and accomplished exponent while Nigel Wood is so comfortable and proficient in their musical relationship that it converts even those of us who like our folk raw, Celtic and gnarly. There are times of the day when this is the only album you will want to be listening to.

"Dick and Nigel capture the essence of American folk music with this release 'Carolina Calling'. Being a Carolina boy, I quite like the title," writes Lawrence. Well somehow 'St. Just Calling' just wouldn't have been right for a CD with tracks like `Pallet on the Floor' and 'Dixie Cowboy', Jack's favourites. Interesting because these are the only two traditional tracks on the CD.

Since we are talking favourites, mine is by far and away Townes Van Zandt's 'Tecumseh Valley' a song regularly heard at the Cadgwith Cove and Top House sessions on the Lizard. Both the vocal delivery and musical arrangement here really hit the spot with me, and perhaps it is on this track and the other ballads that Nigel Wood's Irish folk influences gently filter in to add that extra bit of punch.

Sterling Whipple's 'Ain't No California' or Michael Reno Harrell's 'Sarah' is probably my second favourite. You will have yours. Maybe, one of the songs that in its day reached a much wider audience than that of folk; like Ricky Nelson's 'Garden Party' or Bill Halley's 'Roll Along Kentucky Moon'.

With 18 tracks at about a tenner this is a fine album well produced by Acousticart, mastered by Ron Angus and exceptionally well crafted with great musicianship by two of West Cornwall's best folk musicians.