Gig Review: Chuck Ragan (and the Camaraderie) + Skinny Lister + Tim Vantol @ Birmingham Institute (24/03)

Posted: April 1, 2015 in Liveage

Folk gigs can often be a tad overlong and wearisome, but this one was compact, varied and involved three great acts in Chuck Ragan, Skinny Lister and Tim Vantol. Dutch folk singer Tim Vantol was up first, playing to a fairly sizable crowd at the Institute, despite it being only 7.30pm. Vantol made the most of it, initiating sing-a-longs and encouraging the crowd to get involved. I have only relatively recently begun listening to him and while I’ve enjoyed him fine on record, he kind of blew me away live. Tim plays sometimes with a full band (and he said that he will be coming back to the UK with full-band shows, indeed), but here he played solo, yet that did not lessen the power of his show. He plays with an earnestness and heart-on-sleeve attitude not dissimilar to Chuck Ragan himself or Frank Turner in his earlier days. His voice is arguably as strong as Chuck’s, too, though nowhere near as gravelly or gruff. Tim largely focused on playing songs from his new record “If We Go Down, We’ll Go Together” (which will be reviewed on this site in the coming weeks), and the personal highlights of that included the title track and “Apologies, I Have Some”. Certainly an artist worth seeing live!

And then the party started! I had never previously heard of Skinny Lister before, but safe to say I was impressed with their party folk-punk shanty sing-alongs. Skinny Lister are a six piece, London-based traditional folk band, including an accordion player and a female lead singer, who has a perfect voice for this kind of music. This is campfire punk rock done well, with a tune and a party atmosphere; as Skinny Lister pass around their flagon of rum, you may not be able to resist jigging along to their little folk ditties. I like that they have diversity in their songs so it doesn’t get boring. There are slow-paced, vocal-centric, almost showtunes, as well as the fast-paced traditional folk sing-alongs. Highly enjoyable!

And then came on who most had been waiting for: the one and only Chuck Ragan, in support of his latest album “Till Midnight”. The last time I saw him live (supporting Frank Turner), he was great, but didn’t have too long to play for, so it was satisfying to see him (along with the Camaraderie) as the main act and play a proper set. Chuck played plenty of songs from his new album, but there was time for 2 or 3 songs from the classic Feast or Famine album back from 2007, which are a bit grittier in comparison to the newer material. I was pretty happy when he played “The Boat” from that album as the penultimate song, as I regard that as probably his best tune. Chuck’s voice is as strong as ever; I don’t know how he can carry that intensity and power throughout an hour long gig. All in all, this was a hell of an evening, managing to see Chuck for the first time in years, and discovering two relatively new folk artists.

DB

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