Monday, 28 October 2013

Ralph McTell – Theatr Mwldan 25/10/2013

 Ralph McTell is, well, Ralph McTell. His genius song writing ability has gained him recognition throughout the world and his voice and skilful guitar playing are still as immaculate as ever. His current ‘One more for the Road’ tour, in which Ralph is touring both old and new material, is going to venues all over the UK. The concert at Theatr Mwldan was sold out and most of the audience, as far as I could tell, were long term fans or Ralph’s music. Armed with 6 guitars (although he did not use all of them) and a grand piano, he did a two hour performance without an interval during the middle. I am not sure of the motive behind this; however it seemed to work effectively.

He began by singing a song called ‘The London Apprentice’ from his album ‘Somewhere down the Road’ which was released in 2010. The song was immediately attention grabbing and catchy and a brilliant way to start the gig. I really enjoyed the traditional feel to this song and the fitting guitar accompaniment. It had a very different feel to some of Ralph’s earlier material; however, it is a lovely song and was incredibly enjoyable to listen to. He did a few other songs with a similar folk feel later on in the set. One of these was the song ‘Girl from the Hiring Fair’ which Ralph wrote for Fairport Convention to play. It is a song about a man who falls in love at the Hiring fair with a girl who he ends up working with. It is a rare folk song with a happy ending. Again this song has a distinct memorable tune that made it stand out to me.

Ralph mentioned for each venue he plays a different set list, including requests that he has been given. Every time he played a song someone had requested he would start by saying how long it is since he played the particular song, this was normally several years. Remarkably, he still managed to play the songs perfectly and beautifully, proving his tremendous talent.  His guitar skills are astonishing and his voice is strong and very pleasant to listen to. His songs are comfortable and relaxing. Even though I can not distinguish every single song he sang, it was a lovely, enjoyable evening. One of my favourite songs of the evening was ‘Dreamtime’. This song was written about Australia for Billy Connolly’s tour there. The song focuses on the ecosystem of Australia and how, although how everything is burnt to the ground during forest fires, the country recovers and forests spring up again. It is a really beautiful song.  

The best moment of the performance has to be when he sung ‘Streets of London’. He suggested that the audience may like to join in during the chorus. Not only did everyone do this, many people sung the verses as well. This was truly magical and poignant, as it is clear how much the song means for so many people. Although this song was written over 30 years, it is still shockingly relevant today. For this, Ralph got a tremendous round of applause.

Ralph McTell showed of some different styles of guitar playing. He spoke about Reverend Davies and his guitar playing influence. He played a song which he had written using Rev. Davies’ style and I have to say incredibly different to any of his other songs. His masterful guitar playing really suited the lyrics and tune. It was very different but a style that suited him. Ralph also showed off some of his ‘noodling’. Noodling is when you play an instrument casually and improvise a piece and Ralph has recently just recorded an album of tunes he has created from noodling. The tune he played was called ‘Housewives’ Choice’. It was a catchy tune and showcased Ralph’s amazing guitar playing.

I think my favourite song though was the encore song which was ‘Around the Wild Cape Horn’. Like the first song he played it had a very traditional feel, as the name suggests. This song has not yet appeared on any of Ralph’s albums, but it has a lovely, rhythmic guitar accompaniment and Fairport Convention have again done a version of it. 

Link to Ralph McTell's website -

YouTube video of Ralph McTell playing 'Streets of London' -

YouTube video of Ralph McTell playing 'Dreamtime' -

YouTube video of Ralph McTell playing 'Girl From the Hiring Fair' -

YouTube video of Fairport Convention playing 'Girl From the Hiring Fair' -

YouTube video of Ralph McTell playing 'Around the Wild Cape Horn' -

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