Since the rotten news of Vin Garbutt's death, I have seen countless photos, video clips and verbal tributes. Among them all, what you see above speaks volumes for me since it couples two of the people from English folk that I most treasure, Vin with Kate Rusby.
Let me credit the CD's sleeve painting: Georgia Cox from Bath: visit her site
Steve Wickham: Beekeeper
After an utterly grim stream of news from home - from the London Bridge terrorist attack to the death of Vin Garbutt and now the appalling loss of life in the Grenfell Tower fire - it was as much a soothing relief as a joy to drive along the French Mediterranean coast and listen to Steve Wickham's album, Beekeeper.
This coastline knows its own trauma, of course. Nowhere is really safe from the threat of natural or unnatural disaster. Just for now, it feels peaceful and serene ahead of next month's invasion, one that transforms the population of my own little town from 6,000 to much more than 100,000.
I make no apology for returning to Vin Garbutt,the magnificent and much-loved Teesside singer, songwriter and storyteller who died last week aged 69. Vin's widow Pat and the rest of the family have announced that the funeral will take place at Middlesbrough Cathedral, Coulby Newham, on Friday at noon, after which Vin will be laid to rest at Eston Cemetery. It is to my immense regret, having heard the recent BBC Tees interview with Vin (see below), that I while I knew he had previously been unwell, I was unaware of his recent major surgery and therefore not prompted - as were many - to renew contact with a man I had known, albeit mostly at long distance, for most of my life.
My own little tribute appears here and I am grateful that many more people than usually visit the pages of Salut! Live have seen it.
My friend, former colleague and journalistic mentor Mike Amos, an award-winning if now semi-retired columnist for The Northern Echo knew Vin well. One of Mike's regular features was John North, a beautifully written daily look at North-eastern people and ways; the clip you see above is how Vin, in his own way with his song The Land of Three Rivers (John North), also captured the region's essence. Features Mike has written about Vin in the past appear to have fallen off that part of the world that is the Echo website.
But this is from Mike's own site, Grass Routes (well worth a read for anyone interested in the people of the North East: it calls itself "thumbs-up journey with North-east football folk" but is actually much more than that). It was published on the day of Vin's death, June 6 ...
Buy albums shown here at the Salut! Live Amazon link - click anywhere on this caption
When I previewed, reviewed and otherwise wrote on folk music and its various offshoots for The Daily Telegraph - I worked there for 29 years, mainly on news, without ever inhaling - my admiration for the work of Leon Rosselson was well known. It was even tolerated. The arts desk was quite flexible in any case but one of my devices was to praise his supreme wordcraft while injecting the occasional raised eyebrow at the subversive sentiments found therein. To me, I suppose, he was a great poet who happened to put his poetry to music.
Rosselson and I have occasional e-mail banter to this day. He sent this article to me with the typically challenging thought that I would be unlikely to agree with him on the case he advances - namely that to describe a song as poetry, far from being a compliment, is as insulting as it gets. What follows is a carefully argued but, in parts, hugely critical polemic that calls into question the value of all Leonard Cohen's work and some of Dylan's. Maybe I should stop practising their songs on my new guitar. I won't - but I may come back with a response to Rosselson's arguments ...
As we grow older, news of contemporaries dying becomes depressingly routine. Some deaths hit harder than most, however, and it is with immense sadness that I record the passing of a man I regard as probably the best solo performer on the British folk circuit, Vin Garbutt.
Vin was a charming, funny, self-deprecating man but also a quite wonderful artist who could draw an audience into the palm of his hand with that roaring voice, exemplary stage presence and down-to-earth wit.
A Boro lad through and through (despite his across-the-divide Orange and Green Irish parentage), he'd worked at ICI. The voice, it always seemed to me, could have come from nowhere else and I once wrote that if the river Tees could sing, it would sound like him.
The younger Tony B in more familiar guise: credit BBC
He irritates some, amuses or entertains others. I did see him once, deejaying at an old cinema in Ealing that's now a Christian centre. Whatever thoughts I've had about him (he does what he does and seems to do it well enough), I never had him down as a lapsed folkie. Learn about Tony Blackburn and the Swinging Bells, courtesy of this report of the BBC Folk Awards, which he presented ...l
Presenting Al Stewart with a lifetime achievement honour in BBC Radio 2's annual folk awards this week, Tony Blackburn made the startling announcement - confession? - that he is a recovering folkie.
His choice of occasion to "come out" was apt. It was with Stewart that he performed briefly in Tony Blackburn and the Swinging Bells. The name would surely have been enough to put him off, as it would have done me.
But no. "He was a wonderful guitarist except that he was so loud that he drowned out my voice totally," the DJ said. "[But he] seems to have forgotten I was the one who gave him his chance".