Over the years Vin has received many fantastic reviews from around the world, for his albums, his live performances and other events. Here are just a small selection of them!
A sage at The Sage by Mark Reilly
Vin Garbutt – A sage at The Sage… Sunday 22nd September 2013 The Sage, Gatehead
Review by Mark Reilly
He arrived on stage exactly on time without fanfare. ‘I’m playing to a full house’, he says, ‘but I better explain why there are a few empty seats...’ Some of his friends tell him to his face that they’ll be there and some even buy tickets. But they never turn up on the night because ‘they just can’t bear to hear me sing!’ With that he launches into ‘Give me the Silver and Gold’ – the story of the ex-miner who takes up dress-making thus ‘giving up one seam for another!’ He even provides a ‘ventriloquist’s version’ of the chorus to allow the shy members of the audience to participate in the song without actually seeming to sing. The opener is followed by a stunning a cappella lament of the loss of 167 men who were killed in the Piper Alpha oil platform catastrophe in the North Sea exactly 25 years ago in 1988. His expression of the pain and the grief is both heartfelt and palpable. Whatever his absent ’friends’ might really think of his singing, he holds this audience throughout. His first set concludes with the haunting ‘Darwin to Dili’ – possibly one of his finest songs. Garbutt lets rip with lyrics and music that convey the human horror, the political hypocrisy and the utter barbarism of the slaughter in East Timor: ‘…oil on the bed of the ocean and blood on the shore…’ is a line neither easily forgotten nor forgiven. ‘This is a good finisher… no one ever asks for another song after this one!’ sighs Vin Garbutt with trademark self-deprecation as he plays out the end of the second set with ‘Linda’. Linda is the true story of the mother-to-be who refuses to abort her foetus knowing full well from the prenatal tests that the new born infant will have spina bifida. Garbutt is the 65-years-old Middlesbrough-born folk musician now in his fiftieth year of playing to the crowd. His one song encore – ‘even if you didn’t want an encore’ – is ‘Your Welcome Was so Warm’ and with that the audience applauds loudly and lovingly for a man who seems to give ever more to his art and profession as the years advance. Anyone seeing Vin Garbutt for the first time might reasonably wonder if this man is a musician who happens to dabble in comedy or a comedian who intersperses innate humour with inspired songs. Of course, he is both: the sheer grit of the lyrics and the texture of the music is leavened cleverly by the comedic yarns he kneads between songs. ‘Don’t stop me if you’ve heard this before…’, he has a habit of saying but somehow even after the third or fourth hearing of the same story over the years, its poignancy, absurdity or sheer stupidity never wanes. Almost like Ronnie Corbett in his storytelling style, his tales go off on diversions – each with tangents on tangents – but somehow he returns in three or four minutes to where he started with his trademark toast, ‘all the very best!’ and a gulp of wine. Then he slips effortlessly into the next song… Page 2 of 2 Vin Garbutt underplays his musical versatility on the tin whistle by saying the reel that he just played was only learned when he saw another guy called Vin Garbutt play the same tune on a DVD! The DVD to which he refers, is the recent film about his life made by BBC producer Craig Hornby. Garbutt is not just a man of music. He is a folk polymath – a man of nature, of language, of science and of art. In two hours, he not only ponders the infinity of space ‘well there could have been a wall up there...’ – pointing skywards – but also the fate of the black poplar (Populus nigra). And he’s not embarrassed at all by his recollection of private converse with his nematodes. His microscopic dissection and comparison of the dialects of Newcastle and Middlesbrough (shorts and shirts) is hilarious. His closely observed study of New Zealanders and their ritual abuse of the English language by ‘placing the wrong vowels in the wrong places’ is worthy of a paper in the Journal of Linguistics and a personal chair. Vin Garbutt played this stunning Tyneside venue at the end of a warm ‘Indian’ summer’s day. The average age of the audience was over 60. Does Vin Garbutt have wider appeal for a younger generation in the North East and elsewhere? That’s the perennial exam question for teachers of music and professors in the university of life. Many people under 30 years old today have not grown up with the same storytelling traditions of his youth but they would recognise the wisdom of what might be called his ‘forever’ lyrics and music. The power of Garbutt’s master class performance is made distinctive by the alchemy of words and music that spring from his deep well of passion for people and the innate wit that comes from his apparently casual but thoroughly forensic observation of life and love. ‘All the very best Vin…’ No one else comes close in breadth or depth, and far less in sincerity or warmth. Long may your own Indian summer bloom. Mark Reilly
Vin Garbutt - the original Teeside Troubadour... yet another excellent release (Synthetic Hues) from one of the hardest working performers in the business, comprising some choice selections from contemporary writers such as the late Graeme Miles and John wrightson, a lovely setting of Rudyard Kipling's If, choice traditional pieces and of course his own outstanding compositions addressing as ever the difficult issues that life can produce best exemplified by his song Teacher From Persia documenting the real life experiences of an Iranian teacher and musician caught betwixt and between - exiled from his homeland and yet invisible in his new country.
From Albion And Beyond KUAR FM89 8-9PM Len Holton (Little Rock, Arkansas, USA)
Synthetic Hues Review
Excerpts from the review in 'What's Afoot' Spring/Summer Issue 2015
This is a CD by one of our most enduring and popular performers and those who know and love Vin Garbutt will not be disappointed. ......Typical of Vin , he does not flinch from controversial or thought provoking issues..........Not one song fails to have an effect upon the listener........Here is a true folk singer who has something to say and says it, singing in his own native accent.........This album displays......his impeccable choice of material. Vin Garbutt is one of the great folk artists of his generation and this is a fine example of his work. John Blackburn
Synthetic Hues review from The Bailey Beat.
It’s been a pity that in the time he should have been out on the road promoting this new CD, Vin Garbutt was taken seriously ill and unable to gig. There are some cracking songs on this album – traditional rhymes, classic items, numbers written by lesser known songwriters and sterling stuff from Vin himself. There’s even a treatment of Rudyard Kipling’s ‘If’ which spoke to me more powerfully in song than it ever did in poetry. Topically, Eric Bogle’s anti-war song ‘No Man’s Land’ features here – and includes the famous last verse controversially left out in the version made for the 2014 Poppy Appeal. Also on a First World War theme, John Blanks and Mark Addison’s ‘The Fallen Of Fulstow’ commemorates the ‘ten young men’ of that village who went off to fight, never to return.
Accompaniment by the guest musicians is effective, especially Dave O’Neill’s mandolin on ‘Your Welcome Was So Warm’, Vin’s tribute to those who have lodged the much-loved troubadour on his travels. In ‘Teacher From Persia’ Vin covers ground spanning rock ‘n’ roll in Iranian pre-revolution days through to the ‘synthetic hues’ created by ICI in Grangetown. Tees-side and its environs are never far from Vin’s subject matter: he paints a vivid picture with Rob Fortune’s ‘Teesbay’ and pays tribute to Graeme Miles in his late mentor’s song ‘My Eldorado’.
Thankfully Vin’s now on the mend and should be out doing live performances soon. It will be a real treat to hear these songs live.
Colin Bailey The Bailey Beat 2014
fRoots Dec 2014 - Jan 2015
Synthetic Hues HRCD020
Vin celebrates an unbelievable half-century of performing in folk clubs by releasing his sixteenth album. And it’s a cracker. The man’s in abundantly fine voice; distinctive to a fault and typically arresting, every song chosen and sung with absolute, unwavering conviction; I’d swear that this latest finds Vin in even greater command of the dynamics for
which his delivery is renowned. Sure, his way with a song is as uncompromising as ever; you may not agree with all matters of tempo, attack or phrasing, but you can rest assured that it will always be delivered persuasively. This newly recorded batch of thirteen tracks (twelve songs and one snappy whistle tune) presents a generous handful of Garbutt
live classics (including five of his own original compositions) along with a healthy selection from the cream of contemporary songwriters (mostly from his native Teesside). The latter include the late Graeme Miles’ My Eldorado (done affectingly in a lilting calypso rhythm), Bob Fortune’s beautifully romantic portrayal of Redcar’s evening scene (Teesbay), and John Wrightson’s anthemic reminiscence Diary Of A Northumberland Miner (arguably taken a
touch too briskly). The war-themed The Fallen Of Fulstow, by North Lincolnshire’s Mark Addison and John Blanks, is aptly followed by a powerful and passionate account of Eric Bogle’s seminal No Man’s Land. Vin also treats us to a delectable, lightly-tripping slip-jig setting of Kipling’s famous homily If. The pick of Vin’s own songs here is probably
the tenderly elegiac The Black Poplar (written in 1999), but The Caver’s Song and Your Welcome Was So Warm are equally well crafted, with simplicity of sentiment, while The College proves a suitably cathartic look back at Vin’s formative years.
The title Synthetic Hues may imply some artificiality, but instead its adoption of the full studio recording process enables the creative use of natural acoustic backdrops that set the seal on Vin’s oft-underrated guitar skills; here, the talents of Stewart Hardy, Becky Taylor, Dave O’Neill and Kristen Peacock are deployed to brilliant effect, while Anthony Robb’s production is sympathetic and faithful to the special nuances of Vin’s unique musical personality. The disc’s attractively packaged too. Welcome back, Vin!
David Kidman http://www.frootsmag.com
Lothersdale Village Hall 7/6/14
Vin Garbutt – Lothersdale Live at Lothersdale Village Hall 7th June 2014
It’s always a bit daunting when a new venue starts. Is it the right location? Is the venue big enough? Have I booked the right artist? Have I done enough publicity?
Well judging from the opening night of Loversdale Live, I think the answer to all those questions is a resounding Yes.
The location is the pretty village of Lothersdale near Skipton, the venue The Village Hall, the artist the incomparable Vin Garbutt, publicised well as the Hall was well full.
The aim of this new venture is simple to provide a performance platform for acts that are maybe above the range of your average Folk Club.
Add to the mix a real Ale Bar provided by the brewers Bridgehouse at extremely reasonable prices and the scene is set.
The night started with MC on the night, Jim McDonald playing a few tracks from his new CD ‘Pieces of me’. He then introduced Vin Garbutt who played two longish sets with a beer break in between.
Vin has always been a hard act to characterise. He is fine writer of songs, an interpreter of other songwriters work and someone who’s stage presence and delivery is without equal. As the man himself said at the beginning ‘There are two types of people here tonight. Those that have already seen me and those, dragged along by friends, who haven’t a clue what I do’.
There was indeed that mix and this could be heard by the delay in some of the newbie’s getting the hang of Vin’s patter and humour.
On to his performance. We were treated to favourites and new material. Of his own songs we had ‘John You Are Gone’ ; ‘When The Tide Turns’ ; ‘Darwin to Dilli’; ‘Be As Children’; ‘Your Welcome Is So Warm’ along with material by other songwriters. The excellent ‘Silver and Gold’ about an ex miner turned embroiderer which has always been a favourite of mine. ‘If I Had a Son’ another powerful song about a father’s and his hopes.
A song by the late Graeme Miles ‘I Never Found My Elderado’ had particular resonance with Vin where he stated it was listening to Graeme Mile’s songs that got him interested in Folk Music in the first place.
However the finale was a song called ‘ Fallen of Fulstowe’. This emotional song about a village that refused a War Memorial because one name was omitted, that of a soldier who was executed in the First World War, despite having shell shock.
All in all an exemplary performance from the Teeside Troubadour and all bodes well for the second concert in this series when singer/songwriter Jez Lowe makes an appearance in October. Get your tickets now
Leftfield and quirky 6/6/14
Vin Garbutt’s off the wall patter is unique, his oddball humour downright infectious, and his songs pack a punch! Leftfield and quirky do not even begin to describe Teesside’s national treasure! If the folk scene had a Perrier Award – it would be Vin’s for life. Eberhard 'Paddy' Bort. Edinburgh Folk Club.
THE BREWERY ARTS CENTRE. KENDAL 2012
Vin has never shied away from writing about the difficult issues in life and is not afraid to share his personal feelings with his audience. He manages to prick our consciences in a sensitive way without resorting to mawkishness.
Sam Bracken. Folk North West & The Living Tradition
Teesside Troubadour DVD by John Robbins
This DVD is undoubtedly the best documentary of a working musician I have ever seen.
It is beautifully filmed by Craig Hornby, a fellow Teesider, who grabs you in the first minute of the film and doesn't let you go until the end.
The documentary takes you through Vin's life story, allowing us to be a fly-on-the-wall, it is interspersed with snippets of his performances from all over the world.
Vin introduces us to his wife, Pat, his children and his Mother Tessy. We are taken through moments that are emotional, serious, funny, and at one point even producing a tear or two!
This DVD is a must for anyone who loves our Vin, and is a must for those who appreciate the history of Teeside, and of course a must for those who appreciate excellent music, and patter!
As a bonus, following the 80 minute documentary, is a good hour of Vin's performances from all over the world.
I unreservedly recommend this DVD. Thank you Vin.
John Robbins. West Sussex
Bournemouth Folk Club
Vin Garbutt, Centre Stage
By Rebecca Perl
Even on a freezing Sunday evening, Vin Garbutt drew a loyal crowd to Bournemouth Folk Club at Centre Stage. The Teesside Troubadour may have been feeling somewhat under par (“if I stick to singing in D, I won’t cough”), but it certainly didn’t show in his two-hour performance.
He began with Silver and Gold, and, as ever, songs were punctuated with hilarious tall tales and a raised pint (“all the very best.”) The audience were persuaded to sing along to Punjabi Girl, When the Tide Turns and Man of the Earth, and toes were tapping when he played two tunes on his whistle.
In a world of shiny packaged pop, Vin is a national treasure who should arguably get more critical recognition. The songs – whether his own or other people’s – mean something. They all tell a story that we need to hear, and he means every word he sings. When he’d finished singing Chemical Workers’ Song, he said, “Ta very much. I’m knackered now – are you?”
He ended the show with Keith Hancock’s Absent Friends – a powerful and poignant way to finish a fantastic night. The audience went off into the night, grateful to have spent the evening with a musician, poet, storyteller, comedian, and a thoroughly genuine man.
Vin packs 'em in.
I can’t remember the last time I queued up to get into a folk club, writes Martin Sumpton.
When we pulled up in the car at Club Chesterfield at around 7.30pm, there were people queuing across the car park.
Chesterfield Folk Club closes for the summer and this was to be the first gig of the new season. Had someone not told us something? Was the concert not going ahead? Had someone forgotten to unlock the doors?
I never actually found out why we were standing outside but by the time I got through the doors it was a full house with a second queue rapidly forming at the bar.
The artist who had drawn such a large crowd was Vin Garbutt. Vin has been a professional on the folk scene since the late 60s.
He started off singing and playing a largely traditional repertoire becoming known, amongst other things, as a very proficient tin whistle player! These days he is known more for his poignant songs of social comment. Oh yes, and his side splittingly funny, off the wall sense of humour.
If I had to sum up a Vin Garbutt concert I would probably say it is a bit like watching one of those clowns in a circus who somehow ends up tottering along the tightrope looking like he’s just about to fall off. Of course, he never does and it is all hilariously funny at the same time. He told us rambling stories that defied logic but which led unerringly to an hilarious ending. Then his balance on the tightrope would be regained and he would sing deeply moving songs like ‘Neither widow nor wife’ or ‘The fallen of Fulstow’.
Vin put Rudyard Kipling’s poem ‘If’ to music. You had to be there really to appreciate the almost insane introduction to this part of the evening. If Spike Milligan had been around to hear it he would probably have offered Vin a part in a revived Goon Show there and then. The song itself was a masterpiece which sat on a razor’s edge between genius and music hall.
By the end of the evening it had become clear why Vin probably doesn’t know what an empty seat at a concert looks like.
Derbyshire Times. September 2012.
Stainsby Festival 2008
"Lump-in-the-throat" moment came when Vin Garbutt scored the first standing ovation in the history of the festival which was this year celebrated its ruby anniversary.
This performance saw Vin back at the top of his game, cracking jokes, singing sublimely, telling stories, and even playing a whistle which a heart operation had prevented him from doing so when he last graced the Stainsby stage three years ago.
The audience hung on every word, roaring with laughter at his tales of Antipodean adventures and the differences between English and Australian pronunciation, lapping up stories of Geordies and wallowing in songs like Morning Informs On My Dreaming and the magnificent When Oppressed Becomes Oppressor."
Gay Bolton, Derbyshire Times
Now don't all rush at once but yes he's coming back to the club! 30th April sees the one-off legend that is Vinnie ambling onto our floor. Powerful, hugely moving , warm, humane, inspired, funny and wrenchingly honest songs will have you crying for all sorts of reasons including mirth. This will be a roller coastwer of an evening.
Faversham Folk Club 2008
Port Fairy Folk Festival, Australia
The King of Port Fairy could easily be the title of a kids' fantasy tale.... I could make it a rambling fable with larger-than-life characters peopling the royal court of a land and with a instantly recognisable, unforgettable man in the leading, title role at the centre of it all.
What would that man be like? In most fairy stories, you have your good kings and bad kings. It's a safe bet that the king of Port Fairy would be a kindly soul, showering his subjects with wisdom, good humour, inspiration, and more than a little love as he tells his tales of the world's truths, triumphs and injustices.
He might be a little eccentric in his behaviour and in his appearance. You know, a real chatterbox; given to singing at every opportunity when he was tired of talking; that sort of stuff. He might have an unfeasibly long mane of hair despite the fact he is also as bald as a coot. He might have a strange accent and softly distinctive way of speaking that offers few clues to the power and even occasional stridency of his singing voice. He might look as much like a wizard as anything else. Can you picture him?
I met the King of Port Fairy last week - Port Fairy in Victoria, Australia, that is. The sleepy fishing port comes alive for four days every year with one of the world's finest annual folk and roots music festivals.
There were larger-than-life people everywhere you looked - Luka Bloom, Ralph McTell, Eric Bibb and Danny Thompson, Habib Koute, famous peers of the folk music realm - but at the centre of it all was the King, Middlesbrough's own Vin Garbutt.
He left his subjects - the thousands who crammed into the festival marquees to enjoy his two concerts during Port Fairy's four-day feast - in no doubt that he was a good king; a true musical monarch.
It's no mean feat to become king of Port Fairy. There is a hell of a lot of competition each year and the festival-goers are a pretty knowledgeable lot. But Vin Garbutt's humour, warmth, and humanity - not to mention his incredible voice, dextrous finger-picking guitar style and virtuoso tin-whistle playing - won everyone over.
I once saw Vin Garbutt in what seems like another world. I was a 22-year-old, wet-behind-the-ears rock and roller and cynical young journo who had never seen a folk gig in his life. Vin's inspired humour and gut-wrenchingly honest songs made a huge impression and stayed with me through all the intervening years. Seeing him play in my adopted country of Australia, 27 years on, was a curious experience.
It was as though those years had not occurred; there I was, back in the lounge of the Parkgate Hotel on the Wirral, wiping away tears of laughter then tears of emotion and empathy that I scarcely knew I possessed.
Those tears rolled again in Port Fairy and I loved every minute of it; every lovely melody and every poignant lyric.I wasn't alone. Songs like Morning Informs, Down By The Dockyard Wall, Punjabi Girl, and The Loftus Emigrant ensured Vin did a cracking trade, selling copies of his Persona Grata CD on which they all feature.
Come back soon, King Vin, you're missed already.
Melbourne, March 2007
Award Winning Folk Artist
Vin, for the uninitiated, offers quite the most emotionally-rounded night it's possible to encounter in the live music arena. One minute your sides will be splitting at his unabashedly comedic persona, the next you'll be jettisoning your own eyeballs in a Geneva Fountain of tears as he performs one of his characteristically heartfelt songs. An award winning folk artist, Vin transcends any of the genre's perceived limitations by the sheer power of his performances and the shining humanity that he radiates like a small sun. Don't miss him if you can possibly help it.
Dorset Echo, Marco Ross. 2006
The most sought after Act on the scene today
The most sought after Act on the scene today. ‘House Full!’ signs are the norm. Because of his popularity, life is one long tour for Vin..... doing what folk singers have done for ages and ages - presenting a different view to that expressed by the media. Vin Garbutt entertains in a unique manner. All his songs are quite serious in content, but the same cannot be said of his introductions! I cannot think of anybody, other than Mike Elliott, who can get away with fifteen minute introductions to a five minute song. Not only does he add new songs to his repertoire but he adds bits to his introductions as well. Half the fun on some of his numbers is spotting the story he has told you in the song he is singing, artistic license is an understatement to say the least!
Drenched in passionate fervour
Teesside's own venerable legend of the folk scene worldwide, Vin Garbutt, is one of those performers whose work is drenched in such passionate fervour one has to listen seriously.
Rock 'n' Reel
Grasps many a nettle that others would rather avoid
Garbutt’s blend of outlandish humour and powerful songs (usually self penned) turns a live performance into an emotional roller coaster ride. Not for him, songs of loves lost or the navel gazing of other songwriters. Whether he is singing of industrial workers in Britain, chemical weapons in Iraq, toxic sprays in New Zealand, or human embryo research, he grasps many a nettle that others would rather avoid. Share his opinions or not, one has to respect his diversity, intensity and integrity. These songs move the hardest of hearts.
The Real Groove
A generous live performer
Vin Garbutt’s zany humour can sometimes obscure the seriousness of his songs. He has covered every corner of the UK - and much of the rest of the world - presenting his unique mixture of folk songs, repartee and pleasing musicianship. He is admired as a generous live performer who presents a thoughtful and provocative message in his songs.
What's On Inside Cornwall
Still pulling no punches and pulling the crowds
Audiences remain faithful to this unique performer who can sting consciences with his songs one minute, and undermine bladder control with his lunatic mirth, the next. This dexterous balancing act, on full show in Perth recently, reveals more depth than the Vin of old.
The years of experience have sharpened the edge of both the humour and the penetrating social enquiry of the songs. These include two of his recent best Darwin To Dilli and When Oppressed Becomes Oppressor, both featured on his album Plugged! They show that he is a force to be reckoned with - not ignored -still pulling no punches and pulling the crowds around the world.
The Living Tradition
When he sings he becomes a shaman for social justice
Singer-songwriter Vin Garbutt is not a man to be shackled. Not for him the tyranny of a list of songs carved in stone for that night’s gig. Last night he told an expectant audience packed into the upstairs room of The Black Swan that he was in “random mode” which made the evening ripe for requests. And they came flying in as his fans called out song titles from his vast repertoire. Garbutt sang about the plight of the jobless, pollution, the tragedy of a teenage British soldier killed by an Argentine bullet in the Falklands and about his beloved North East. His patter between songs had the audience helpless with laughter. Yet the guffaws were quickly followed by silence as they connected with his singing and clever finger style guitar.
Garbutt believes in the power of song, which he uses to get his audience caring about the plight of those less fortunate. City of Angels highlights the scandal of child prostitution in Bangkok, the sex capital of the world, while another powerful composition, Darwin To Dili, explores the genocide of the Timorese people. Garbutt’s humanity shines through his art. He is both funny and serious in the same breath and when he sings he becomes a shaman for social justice. Long may he continue.
Richard Foster. The Yorkshire Evening Post on Vin at the Black Swan Folk Club, York, 25-04-2002
Vin has audience in his pocket
A slightly dishevelled middle-aged man meanders onto the stage - two hours later, Britain’s best folk act wanders off with the whole audience in his pocket. I was lucky enough to be part of that packed audience, at The Playhouse 2 theatre in Shaw on Saturday, when the best live folk act of last year (and Radio Two would know), Vin Garbutt, popped in.
The above description is made with all fondness - placed in a mob of the world’s greatest eccentrics, you still could not fail to notice him. Vin is from Middlesbrough, and must be one of the island’s best kept secrets. It is a tribute to his talent that I left the venue remembering his music, because his performances are as much stand-up as folk singer. He ambled onto the intimate stage with his shocks of red hair, pint, whistle and guitar and mumbled a typically warm introduction - but for a few moments I wondered whether he had been with the pint all afternoon. But no, it was a performer comfortable with his routine, which he then began with a tune he said he never began with - afterwards announcing that this merely was to shoot down any expectations we might hold of having a good night. He was unpredictable, witty and wandering in his speech, but often political in his song.
City Of Angels gives a tragic portrayal of Thailand’s millions of exploited children. And Dark Side Of The Moon (one of the few songs he plays which he did not write) refers to the experiences of a Falkland Islander during the war of 1982. Throughout the routine (although that is hardly the word), he emits fantastic mock singing noises, presumably to help tune tone and guitar for the next song ( but reminded me of Vic Reeves in club singer guise). And he frequently appears befuddled as to which song he has just done or what he plans to do next. He informs us that tonight he is in “random mode” and each song is a Christmas hit off his next record.
Introductions to songs become ten-minute sprawling stories. He frequently toasts the audience with his pint and is impressively quick-witted when improvisation and one-liners are called for.
Ben Turner. The Rochdale Observer on Vin at the Playhouse 2 Theatre, Shaw, 27-04-2002.
A mighty combination of song, voice and comedy...
It’s not hard to disregard hype but it is very difficult to ignore it, and I went to Stonehaven on Friday October 5 to listen to Vin Garbutt with my ears ringing with the phrase: “he’s the best folk singer in Britain and the world!”
That’s a view I had read in several different sources and, while puzzled that Britain and the world were spoken of as being distinct things, I was still expecting to see a top artist-more sources = corroboration = formative opinion.
By the time I was wending my way home I knew what I had to write about Vin Garbutt: a large opening paragraph consisted of one repeated word – “brilliant.” A second paragraph would state: “Vin Garbutt played at the St Leonard’s Hotel, Stonehaven, on Friday, October 5th.” And a third and final paragraph would read: “For more information contact www.vingarbutt.com.”
But that would have been just a visual trick that readers do not really deserve: you need to hear it properly that Vin Garbutt is an astonishing singer.
His song; “Morning Informs On My Dreaming” is about a man divorced from his wife who cannot accept the reality that she’s never coming back and looks to little daily things, like car head-lamps flashing across his bedroom window at night, as marking her return.
If you just for a minute think about the tragedy of such a man – he’s not living a real life is he? He’s little more than a ghost. Garbutt sang that emotion perfectly.
This heart-breaking song was followed by: “The Black Poplar,” a song he was commissioned to write about the rarest tree in England.
And there was also: “The Trouble of Eiren” Which is about the situation in Northern Ireland. I’ve heard one other internationally renowned folk singer sing about this topic and that man could not hold a candle up to what Vin Garbutt did. Garbutt did it right – a song full of sadness.
And between each of his songs Garbutt gave this comic routine, which at Stonehaven had the hall doubling over. It seemed to stem from a personality completely bemused by the world, and especially the world of his native Teesside.
He had one of those impenetrable comic personas - like Eric Morecambe or Tommy Cooper – the kind of thing that some TV stars (Vic Reeves, Ken Dodd) visibly strive so hard to achieve.
Between this comic persona of the highest order and a voice that has massive emotion and power you just didn’t get a rest at this concert – and that’s notwithstanding his musicianship on the guitar and tin whistle.
You just have to see this man perform to see why there is such hyperbole as “the greatest folk singer in the world.” I can’t vouch for that (having not heard all the world’s folk singers) but what I can say is, Vin Garbutt is a mighty combination of, song, voice, and comedy.
Go and see him perform – travel as far as is necessary.
Martin Bayliss. The Leader on Vin at St Leonard's Hotel, Stonehaven, Scotland. 5.10.01
Vin sets the standard for the Attic's New Season - Anticipation, Expectation and Surprise
We all get excited at the thought of Birthdays, Christmas and Treats as we imagine how things will turn out - sometimes it works out and occasionally it works out even better - and so it was for the opening concert of the current Attic Season.
With Vin Garbutt, an almost legendary folk superstar, topping the bill the concert was sold out as soon as tickets went on sale in June. As a bonus - support was to be provided by the local group, and Attic favourites, 'Old Pekuliar'
So, following the previous week's successful 'Attic' concert to mark 800 years of Chesterfield's Market, the audience were claiming their seats early, and by 7.15 choices were becoming decidedly limited.
Jim Clarke, the MC, introduced a late change to the program in the form of Bob Fox, nominated for the BBC's Folk Singer of the year in 2003 and 2004, who started the show with a three song set which must surely be an 'appetiser' for his own slot at some future Attic concert.
With more than thirty years in the business Bob wowed the audience with his easy and amusing 'chat' and his unique and polished style singing 'Elsie Marley', 'When the Boat comes In' and the 'Rambling Rover' - the appreciative audience would have asked for more if only there had been more time.
The support act of vocalist Paul Chisnell and Chris Jellis on Guitar are 'Old Pekuliar' who, despite their many appearances at the Attic, still admitted to 'stage fright' at the thought of appearing again after a year's absence, in this friendly, 80 seat venue.
As expected their first set was a mixture of 'modern' and 'traditional' favourites including Simon and Garfunkel's 'Kathy's Song', their own composition 'Home to Me', and Nigel Mazlyn Jones 'The Man and the Deer'. Their first set finished with a superb rendition of 'The Hangman and the Papist'.
Their second set was more of the same and ended with Nielsen's 'Everybody's Talkin'.
The audience and Jim Clarke (MC) then all contrived to get an encore and 'Old Pekuliar' finally finished with Lindisfarne's 'Meet me on the Corner' to loads of applause.
Vin Garbutt was introduced by Jim Clarke as 'The greatest solo performer in the world' which just proves that appearances can be deceptive – Vin looks like a middle aged escapee from a hippie band, who, as he claims himself, would be the person you would cross the street to avoid and wouldn't let loose near your children.
But surprise! surprise!, this amiable and exceptionally talented singer-songwriter will confuse your senses with his brand of humour and some of the most beautifully crafted and heartrending stories contained within his own compositions.
Vin last appeared at the Attic in February 2002 and regularly appears at other venues in the UK and abroad whilst on tour. Unbelievably Vin's first set only contained four songs – unbelievable because the chat and the stories just filled the time so enjoyably as he set the scene and built up to each one. The songs were 'In the land of the Three Rivers', the beautiful lament 'The Morning Informs on my Dreaming', the socially regretful 'The One Legged Beggar' and a north east protest song 'Not for the First Time'. Only the intervention of Jim Clarke as MC brought Vin's first set to a close in order to take the Interval.
The second set was, if possible, even better - every song had a story, every story had it's humour even when the focus included grief for the unexpected death's of loved ones. The first three songs covered an ex-coalminer who became a famous dressmaker – 'Silver and Gold', 'Neither Wife nor Widow' and Kieran Halpin's 'Nothing to Show for it All'.
Vin's longtime friend and occasional chauffeur, Bob Fox, came on stage at this point to provoke even more humorous 'crack'& banter' and to duet on 'Be as Children' which makes the point that in today's society even when children hurt themselves it is no longer PC, or acceptable, for a grown man to help and console someone else's child.
As 11pm neared and Vin and Bob made to leave the stage the usual demands for an encore arose, and so the evening ended with Vin and Bob singing Phil Millichip's 'In search of the Dirty Black Gold' and then Vin playing us out on the Whistle with the jig 'Catholic Boy', the reel 'Imelda Rolands' and the last jig 'The Green Gates'.
And so the Attic's current season started on a high and continues with the Cannons in October, Les Barker in November and John Howarth and Tony Downes in December.
Information for how to obtain tickets for these shows can be obtained from David Davidson on 01246-277591 or from the desk at the Attic's preceding show - most shows are often sold out on the night.
Review of the performances on Saturday the 18th September 2004
The Attic Folk Club
The Tullamore Hotel, Springbank Road, Chesterfield
Folk All review of Synthetic Hues
Thought provoking, barbed, witty and always, always sung with integrity. Danny Farragher
For the full review go to http://folkall.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/vin-garbutt.html
The Bypass Syndrome
The warmth of his voice is all enveloping and the execution and production are second to none. The calibre of the material is as high as ever. The thirteen cuts hit home with maximum impact. The standard of the man's song writing puts him alongside these islands' best. Throughout the recording he displays the quality that makes him the modest folk superstar he surely is and cannot fail to keep him in that position. Absolutely A1 PLUS!
Sean McGhee - Rock n Reel
Vin had found it necessary to record his previous albums in the south of England namely London and the surrounding counties. He also found himself using London based musicians most of whom had already received recognition in their own right . So it occurred t o Vin that it was about time that he recorded an album on his home ground making it a kind of showcase for the talented musicians to be found in the northeast of England . The CD created a demand for the musicians to perform live so The Vin Garbutt Band took to the road . Sadly the band were not able to sustain the expense of touring together so the fabulous celtic sound that they created can only be experienced on Bandalised. Some of the musicians involved are now in the band Cuig and their web site is linked to Vins.
Vin has used musicians on other recordings but word has it he is to tour with the band used on Bandalised. The band compliments Vin especially well on the Irish jigs, reels and hornpipes which are bound to be the highlight of his live show, allowing him to cut loose on the tin whistle. Vin's song writing has become progressively stronger with each release and so it is here. So another winner from Vin, confirming his stature as one of the country's foremost musicians.
Mike Ollier - Folk Roundabout
In this album are all the Vin Garbutt trademarks. The distinctive vocal style, the lightning whistle playing. the lovingly rendered traditional songs, tunes and rants against the ills of modern society. He still has the power of happiness and tears.
Jon Sims - Folk On Tap
This album was made in response to public demand for a 'live CD with all the patter!' So that is exactly what this is, a 'warts and all album'. Vin is renowned for his hilarious, shaggy dog stories which have the audience in stitches. Having lulled everyone into a false sense of security he then launches into a searingly poignant song of such seriousness that your tears of laughter turn into tears of sadness.
Vin has a history of being first with the news. As one magazine put it, "Vin was green before the Greens were green" as anyone who has a copy of Vin's very first album 'Valley Of Tees' (1972) will testify. . The track 'Darwin To Dili' which you will find on 'Plugged' was written in 1994 and the subject matter, the tragedy of East Timor, finally reached the front pages of the English press in 1999 sparking a revival of the song in the clubs.
It is impossible to recreate the atmosphere of a live Vin Garbutt concert on disc but this is as near as you are going to get!
Wings - The choice of 'Wings' written by Brian Bedford of 'Artisan' to start the set is typical of Vin's incredible perception to choosing exactly the right song to suit the moment. This is I think Brian's best song yet and Vin's sensitive interpretation and delivery of it should go a long way to ensuring it gets more of the acclaim it deserves. It certainly has the audience and listener spellbound immediately.
Ken Atkinson - Stirrings
An excellent song sung by a soaring gift of a voice.
Hector Christie - Living Tradition
Man Of The Earth - is a great song by Bernie Parry which gets new life in Vin's hands, though he sings it with such commitment and freedom it is impossible to join him in the chorus despite his invitation. As poignant and relevant today as it was when it was first written in the 70's.
Ken Atkinson - Stirrings
Fell Off The Back Of A Boat - is the only humorous song on the album and as Vin says something of a throw away item.
Ken Atkinson - Stirrings
Darwin To Dili - Of Vin's own songs on this album my favourite is 'Darwin To Dili', about the Indonesian invasion of East Timor and the awful slaughter of its people. For me it contains everything that is synonymous with the man and his music. Thought provoking and emotive lyrics with not a word wasted, backed up by a stirring tune and accompaniment and a memorable chorus that encourages everyone to be a part of it and the whole thing brought to life with the sheer commitment and dynamism of the performer. This is Vin at his best.
Ken Atkinson - Stirrings
Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms - I must admit to a love for 'Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms' and Vin's sensitive rendition of this beautiful song only serves to be a must for every Vin Garbutt fan.
Jim Hancock - Folk Talk
This CD is seventy one minutes of Vin at his very very best. Recorded live at The Red Lion Folk Club, Birmingham. The album combines Vin's massive song writing and performance talents with his unique style of presentation, with all its wit and perception. Each track comes complete with Vin's highly original pre-song patter, and altogether it's as close as a record can get to actually being there. Of all Vin's recordings this one must rate amongst the best, it is the work of a man whose ideas and music are still evolving. It leaves you with the impression that there is a lot more to come in the future.
Jim Hancock - Folk Talk
I doubt I'll hear anything better this year.
Hector Christie - The Living Tradition
Vin is more than just a singer, he's an all-round genius of entertainment. His concerts are as funny as they are musically superb and this album shows off Vin's music at it's best - played live. 10 out of 10.
Mike Potter - The Evening Gazette
When the Tide Turns Again
Vin's album 'When The Tide Turns' was released in 1989 but became unavailable to Vin shortly after and was therefore very difficult to get hold of. It was re-released in 1998 with the extra track 'The Court Of Cahirass' under the title, 'When The Tide Turns Again'. This album was a departure from Vin's past, solo, traditional style as he has a band of outstanding musicians accompanying him. Robbie McIntosh (of The Paul McCartney Band), Alan Whetton, (Dexys Midnight Runners) Simon Mayor, Hilary James and Phil Mulford, to name but a few, the best from the folk, rock and jazz worlds. The result is Vin's songs as we had never heard them before, with the punch of the folk-rock style music and the harder punch of Vin's uncompromising lyrics.
Word of Mouth
Released to coincide with Vin's '30 Years On The Road' tour. The album is a mixture of Vin's own compositions and songs which Vin has collected on his travels, often from floor singers. These songs are an example of the wealth of talent to be found in our folk clubs and Vin is proud to bring them to a wider audience. There are old and new songs from Vin's repertoire, none of which have been previously recorded. Vin's songs are as usual thought provoking and emotive.
City of Angels - Heartbreakingly evocative
Steve Caseman - Rock n Reel
Classic Garbutt. He examines the misery of the tourist sex trade of South East Asia through a narrative which gives that misery a name and a face.
Jim Hancock - Folktalk
Forty Thieves - How good to see Dave Evardson's song included. Good singers don't just sing songs they wear them and Vin wears this as if it were made to measure.
Jim Hancock - Folktalk
Dark Side Of The Moon - The writer Rock Berntsen steps outside politics to see the Falklands War from the point of view of humanity.
Jim Hancock - Folktalk
Sarajevo - Vin's ongoing trawl of 'unsung' song writing talent cannily nets (amongst others) York based Stan Graham's 'Sarajevo', a minor masterpiece of universal directness and touching simplicity.
Waits and Weeps - tells the story of the poverty and unemployment which drove so many to work offshore or abroad.
Jim Hancock - Folktalk
The outstanding song of the album, with the most memorable tune.
Jeff Gillett - Folkwrite
Time And Tide - Written by Beth Lyall and John Crookes, this song comments on the launching of The Richmond, the last great ship to be built at Swan Hunters on the River Tyne, signalling the end of a once prosperous ship building community. A suprisingly catchy song considering the subject matter.
The Troubles Of Erin - The poignant lyrics of 'The Troubles Of Erin' may well become a Garbutt classic.
Jed Mugford - ShireFolk
A peaen to peace following the ceasefire in Ireland, is a beautiful piece of work, well written and well sung. It ought to be number one in the charts; it never will be of course.
Richard Gibson - Lincolnshire Choice
Tearfully optimistic. Already a club classic.
If anyone is the voice of the ordinary working class in the mostly trendy, middle class world of the folk revival it is Vin Garbutt. In Vin and his concerns we see the concerns of the ordinary man and woman in the working man's club. Here are the gut reactions that brought such overwhelming support for the refugees of Kosovo. In many ways this is typical Garbutt. Everything is coated with wonderful melody, passionate singing and sharp recording.
This CD of brand new recordings, released to mark 30 years on the road for this highly individual performer, demonstrates why Vin's still such a big draw on the folk club circuit. What songs though! I've lost count of the number of times over the years when I've been captivated by a song new to me and been told "it's one of Vin's" or "Vin does it". A compelling, satisfying and essential disc.
Vin was never one to shirk the issue or avoid controversy. A truly fine album of thought provoking material from one of the best around. Highly recommended.
Dave Beeby - The Living Tradition
Above all else this album reflects all the talent, skill and integrity which have kept Vin at the top for so long.
Jim Hancock - Folktalk
Vin must be amongst the most in-demand performers this decade and he continues to produce the most stunning performances and albums.
Doug Porter - Folk On
The La Jeusseliniere Experience 2002
by Stan Graham
Take the best live performer on the folk scene today, mix in a great songwriter, add years of experience, a bucket full of humour, bags of personality and you have a recipe for success, or should I say "Coq Au Vin". Allow yourself time to relax, drink a glass or two of local wine over a thoughtfully prepared lunch, mix in some great music, good company, stir slowly for 5 days and you have "The La Jeusseliniere Experience"
In June of this year I decided to take up Martyn & Dani Wyndham-Read's invitation to join them at their charming farmhouse in the tranquil Mayenne countryside in Northern France. The idea was quite simple but inspired, to offer people the chance to share and develop their musical and performance skills in the company of some of the best musicians, performers and songwriters on the folk scene. The choice was daunting, Martyn himself would be working for the first week with Iris Bishop, two great songwriters and particular favourites of mine; Jez Lowe and Harvey Andrews would run weeks 2&3 and last but by no means least, the one and only Vin Garbutt, would be let loose on anyone foolish enough to venture across the channel for week 4. As a songwriter I was spoiled for choice, but after much soul searching and several Valium, I decided to join Vin and risk my sanity. My partner Julie, who didn't need much persuasion, decided to join me and take up Dani's offer of a leisurely week of arts and crafts or perhaps she would just put her feet up and relax.
I met my fellow students early on Monday morning as we presented ourselves at the door of the farmhouse. Martyn and Dani's kitchen was already a hive of activity, the aroma of fresh coffee and smiling faces set the scene for the week. No airs and graces here, get stuck in, grab a cup and make yourself at home. Our friendly hosts had worked hard during the winter months to provide the perfect setting for our musical extravaganza. The huge loft space, which ran the whole length of the building, had been converted into a music room, spacious art studio and later to be concert hall. We headed for the music room, crowded round our famous or should it be infamous leader, mouths open wide in anticipation, leaning forward, pens at the ready, doubts filled my mind. I think to myself, this has been a big mistake, what on earth are we going to do for a whole week?
I had no need to worry as we set off at a gallop, Vin started by giving us a fascinating and hilarious gallop through his colourful career and we sat spellbound as folk secrets of enormous proportions were laid bare on the table, budding blackmailers were furiously making notes. In no time at all the morning had flown by and we trooped downstairs to be greeted by Martyn, doing an excellent job as “Manuel” the wine waiter, and one of Dani's not to be missed and all too tempting lunches. Good food and wine, life was getting better by the minute, but going back to work in the afternoon was looking less likely.
So what did we do all week? Well, there were six students on the course, John our whistle player, Jane and Mick both songwriters, Ian on guitar, Richard (who did a bit of everything) and me of course. So we did all of that and much more, with Vin responding intuitively to our individual and group needs. We learned guitar licks to Vin's songs and spent hours trying to emulate his easy going but very effective style of accompaniment. We developed some of our own songs, with his valuable help and experience, and of course got to know each other and appreciate the many talents that were assembled in our own small but select group. At one stage like an enthusiastic group of 7 year olds, we played tunes on the penny whistle (my fingers and brain trying desperately to keep up with the numbers) and throughout tried unsuccessfully to maintain a serious academic atmosphere as Vin set off on yet another hilarious diversion, this time brought about by a chance remark picked up in the local bar the night before or was it his inability to pronounce the French word for chilblains. So we continued our French romp “Al a Garbutt” style, laughing and learning, eating and drinking our way through his endless witticisms and drawing on his remarkable talents as a performer, musician and songwriter. The group were getting on really well together and having a great time at “Le Jeusseliniere”. For all of us this was a great opportunity, just as Martyn had envisaged, to learn from Vin's 30 odd years of experience, and learn we did. Julie meanwhile had been producing major works of art, under Dani's gentle but firm guidance, colourful creations on canvas, bits of wood, glass jars and flower pots, I particularly admired the portrait she'd done of me as an ever youthful cherub, but next time can I please have some clothes on! On Wednesday we were given the afternoon off for good behaviour, so most set off to explore the delights of the local countryside or visit one the fascinating medieval towns or castles. Thursday evening after another brilliant day, we all treated ourselves to a memorable Gourmet Meal at one of the finest restaurants in the area “La Petit Auberge”. (why can't we eat this well and as cheap at home) After that there was only one thing to do, go out with a bang! So after another memorable day in the music room, we set about planning for the evenings Gala concert to be attended by the cream of the local nobility. The performances as you would expect were of the highest quality, with cameo appearances by Harvey Andrews, Martyn and Vin. The stars of course were the students, playing and singing out of tune but with remarkable confidence and gusto, instilled upon us by our ever-exuberant guide and mentor. The other highlight being, the massed student whistle band playing our hearts out, totally ignorant of tune or rhythm. Our surrogate parents and teacher looking on in amazement and admiration. The coup de grace was Jane's fluent translation of the evening's events in French for our non English speaking visitors. By now I think you might be getting the idea that we were quite enjoying ourselves.
Believe me this was a great “Experience” and one I would recommend to anyone keen to polish up their latent musical talents. I can only scratch the surface to give you a flavour of what you can expect on these fun filled weeks. But be warned, keep this information to yourself, there will only be 8 places on each course next year and one of them will be mine. For more information get in touch with:
PO BOX 341
Well that's it, all that remains for me to do is thank everyone I shared this fantastic week with especially Martyn and Dani for the inspired idea and all their hard work and enthusiasm over 4 weeks. I'm just off down to the hairdressers for my perm - I need to prepare for my forthcoming appearance on 'Stars In Their Eyes'.