Greg Russell & Ciaran Algar

Colchester Arts Centre

19th February 2018

Back again at this ever friendly venue, this time under the auspices of the lovely Elaine and the Colchester Folk Club for a gig by the above mentioned, arguably the best guitar/fiddle duo currently plying their wares on the British folk scene. That is a big claim, can it be justified? Before I make that attempt there is a support act to discover.

Rosewood are a trio composed of long time folk club alumni on melodeon, guitar and a variety of blown things ranging from recorder to saxophone. Their song choices being similarly wide ranging, encompassing the tradition and Kirsty McColl. Their set was well received by the audience, a fair number of whom must rank as acquaintances, but I was not moved to anger, despair or joy by their performance, just an accompaniment to a much needed coffee.

Next the main act, and an immediate sense of being in the presence of greatness, the easy grace with which they navigate “Warwick Road“, the opening set of tunes, and then go on to negotiate the much covered Stan Rogers song “Lock Keeper“, a brilliant song full of seafaring imagery that details a conversation between the stay at home man of the title and a sailor who only knows the ocean and its temporary harbours. Russell delivers an exquisite reading. The gems continue to fall like a necklace from a box all the way up to the interval, heralded by the Dominic Behan song “Crooked Jack“.

Do You Like the Battle Sir?” is a very clever song emphasising the irrationality of war, and brave to start the second half with such a thought provoking thing which could easily have provided the centre piece of the set. Next a completely off the cuff, gorgeous, slow air from the fiddle of Ciaran Algar, whilst Greg performed first aid on his guitar. Duo restored, “The New Railroad” seems to be a compilation of verses from the numerous ‘John Henry’ songs that are in existence, he being  the mythical railroad worker and patron saint of workaholics, but none the less wonderful for all that.

All too soon we came to the closing set of tunes but, of course, a closing set is no longer a closing set as the whole world knows that there will be an encore, in this case well deserved, it is the Pete Coe song “Rolling Down the Ryburn” a song about going home after an evening of folk song singing, who’d have thought.

So my big claim – you weren’t there so you don’t know, next time you should be and afterwards you can tell me I’m right.