Live Review
Ram Folk Club, Claygate
22 November 2002

The Ram Club website

From the front row of the Ram Club, the sheer energy of Dick Gaughan in full flow is startling. On stage it's not like a CD - there are no gaps between the tracks! He just carries on, tuning and talking, retuning and playing, always working, from the moment he steps on stage until he finally rests the guitar back in its case.

At one point a guitar string breaks. It's remarkable that it doesn't happen all the time, the way the man thumps and batters and snarls his way through songs like the bitter No Gods and Precious Few Heroes or Pete Seeger's Waist Deep in the Big Muddy. Unfazed, Dick fits and tunes a new string and continues, with barely a pause for breath.

Gaughan, in Brian McNeill's observation and by his own admission, has changed from an angry young man into a "bad-tempered old bastard". There are many vitriolic references, the most acerbic of them reserved for John Prescott, whom he considers "a union- bashing thug". Well, you didn't expect mellow during a national firefighters' strike, did you? What is striking though is the contrast between this rough political comment, and the often gentle, wistful admiration he has for "ordinary people doing extraordinary things". For John Muir, creator of the Yosemite National Park, revered in America but unknown in Scotland; or for carpenter and clockmaker John Harrison. These are the heroes of Dick Gaughan's world. Perhaps in deference to a Surrey audience he includes Gerrard Winstanley and the Diggers, via Leon Rosselson's World Turned Upside Down.

Highlights of the evening? Perhaps Robert Burns' haunting Now Westlin Winds, with that intricate guitar-work that seems to run in a different time-frame to the words, or Both Sides the Tweed, his encore. For me it would be the astonishing Why Old Men Cry, a real three-handkerchief song of weary men with sunken hollow eyes down the ages, in war and peace.

It was a pretty good way of spending seven quid. For entertainment and passion, it beats Celebrity Big Brother by a long long way.


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