The Topic at 60 The view from 2016, by John Waller. This is not a comprehensive history - insteadJohn has put together a snapshot of the Topic as it is now, telling the story of how those currently responsible for the club's running came to be involved.
Topic Club Membership £5 a year from 1st January. That gives you £1 off concert tickets, and you can get more involved with running the club too if you are interested.
The Hall Brothers
After a lengthy (near total) absence from the live circuit, The Hall Brothers & John Carey are twitching back into life - along with rumours of a long-awaited new album on the horizon.
Their self-imposed exile has, if anything, enhanced their reputation as powerful live performers and made each rare show a must-see attraction.
Duncan Hall is a singer songwriter of rare empathy and an excellent finger style guitarist who has written some of the band’s most enduring songs. Together they produce the kind of harmonies only siblings can. Nick Hall’s much-celebrated singer songwriter and guitar abilities have seen him appear in (and write for) a forthcoming feature film, and have even taken him to the stage of the London Palladium with Al Stewart.
John Carey - as well as being the saviour of many a far-flung Dales bus service - is an excellent fiddle-player of rare ability. His fiery tune playing and unmistakable rich tone complete the circle.
The trio cannot wait for their return to the Topic - their eleventh official appearance (and Nick’s sixteenth!).
Ranagri is a contemporary folk/world music band featuring Dónal Rogers, Eliza Marshall, Ellie Turner & Joe Danks, consisting of flutes; Irish whistles; electric harp; bodhran; guitars; piano; bouzouki and voices..
Dónal Rogers' vocals, forcible and fresh with influences from folk to world music and a powerful message to boot. A band who exude good times and happiness but are not afraid to tackle serious issues like homelessness and the current trend for fake news which surrounds us.
Ranagri are delighted to have secured a new recording contract with Grammy Award Winning Record Label 'Stockfisch' early in2018 where they are currently recording a brand new (as yet untitled) album which will be released on SACD - CD & Vinyl in autumn 2018.
They have also published a book 'Song Folk Art' through Robinswood Press with an
accompanying Traditional Folk Album recorded throughout 2014 and the critically acclaimed 2016 album.
Serious Sam Barrett
Originally from Yorkshire, Sam has travelled extensively throughout the United States. His influences are mainly Americana and blues, but he has never strayed far from his Yorkshire roots. With several CDs, solo and in various collaborations to his credit, Sam has been making a name for himself, not only known as a musician but as a compulsive skateboarder. He has been playing the guitar for as long as he can remember, skateboarding for, perhaps, a little less.
The sustained brilliance of this playing is really something to behold - Bob Harris, BBC Radio 2
Songs that rattle with the ghosts of Appalachian folk, and southern blues, yet sound emphatically English - Uncut Magazine
Old before his years country-folk fellow who mixes intricate John Fahey finger-picking with confessional tales of dirty old Leeds - The Guardian
Lynne Heraud & Pat Turner
Individually, and in combination with a variety of well-known singers and bands, Lynne Heraud and Pat Turner have both served long apprenticeships on the shop-floor of folk music.
During the 1970's Lynne sang as part of a successful duo with Sue Ashby when they performed at many of the major clubs and festivals in the United Kingdom.
In the early 1980s she sang with Frank Lee and John Lambert as Tom, Dick and Harry. Lynne was also one half of a very successful duo with Keith Kendrick. They released a highly acclaimed CD Stars in my Crown in 2001.
Pat sang for six years with the harmony group Filigree with Pete Cunningham and Chris and Roger Jeffrey. They performed at most of the major festivals, recorded two albums and even released a single!
Between them they play guitar, recorder, English concertina and a variety of whistles, but their voices are their most important instruments.
Their style is a unique blend of stunning song and harmony - Broadstairs Folk Week
Singers' and Musicians' Night
A chance to sing a song or play a tune or just listen. Entry free.
Described by Nick Hall as 'West Yorkshire's best kept songwriting secret...a uniquely charismatic performer whose songs evoke tears of laughter and tears of poignancy in equal measure - superb'. Dave has too rarely entertained us before at the Topic: it has been said that he should “get out more” – for our benefit, that is. A hugely entertaining evening from this talented, slightly reticent performer is guaranteed.
Mind-boggling – Ilkley Gazette
Double Header: Ruth Nielsen; Kath Reade and Alison Dhuanna present “The Mermaid of Zennor”
Ruth is influenced by jazz and blues having completed her degree in Jazz Studies at Leeds College of Music 10 years ago, though she tends to rely on her own style rather than trying to fit into any particular idiom, improvisng and playing by ear to feel her way through the songs to express what they mean to her. Since settling in West Yorkshire in 2010 Ruth has also acquired influences from folk music. She has acquired a reputation for making each cover song her own.
Ruth performs as solo act on piano and vocals as well as collaborating with various musicians from time to time, namely Emi Hall, Joe Drury; and Reuben Wilkinson & Ian Kinsella (trio also known as Reubik).
The Mermaid of Zennor is a “mystery folktale” based on a Cornish legend, told in narration and song by well-known local singer/songwriter Kath Reade (also a published poet and sound healer) and Alison Dhuanna McCabe, astrologer, storyteller and poet. This unique presentation features songs written by Kath and Alison, some specifically for the presentation, as well as some by other noteworthy songwriters. A feature of the presentation is the use of unusual props, such as sacred sound instruments, ocean drum, Tibetan Singing Bowl, blue whale gong, wind chimes, guitar and shruti box (a kind of Indian harmonium).
Visit www.kathreade.com for more details about Kath and the production.
At times we see artists who have crafted a unique place for themselves within the genre. Chris Cleverley has emerged as a songwriter, performer and character who defies comparison. His innovative brand of 21st Century Alt-folk is characterised as much by his challenging songwriting as his blistering fingerstyle guitar technique. Described as ‘Impressive’ by The Telegraph, Chris is fast gaining the accolade of being among the most masterful, inventive and unique players on the scene. Continuing the legacy of heroes Nic Jones and John Martyn the essence of the folk revival abounds in his memorable songwriting and energetic traditional arrangements.
Haunting – The Sunday Times
Any tune could warrant a mention – R2
support: Atlas Bridge
Brand new acoustic 3-piece Atlas Bridge bring together the tuneful talents of Uilleann Piper and multi-instrumentalist Becky Taylor, with sensitive, honest vocals and melodic 5-string banjo from Madeline Smyth underpinned with inventive and energetic accompaniments by Steve Lacey who also adds a song or two to the mix.
Expect engaging, high energy, lively tune sets interspersed with thought-provoking songs with a multitude of different instruments between them and a fresh approach to more familiar material as well as vocal variety.
Dan Webster is described as ‘one of the U.K’s best kept musical secrets and one not to miss!’ and an ‘An insightful lyricist with a great voice’ (Acoustic Magazine). According to Americana UK - ‘He is the missing link, the joining point, where folk fuses with country – as good as you’ll hear on any record out of Austin or Nashville - beautiful – he is Anglicana’. Dan is a road seasoned English singer-songwriter, his music is influenced by the sounds and storytelling traditions of American and British Folk music, which he uniquely blends into his own distinct fusion of Folk and Americana.
A formidable live performer, having played too many shows to count over the years, Dan has shared the bill with acts such as The Levellers, Seth Lakeman, Glen Tilbrook, Martin Carthy and Midge Ure to name a few. Live, Dan inspires attention; pulling you into his work with finely crafted melodies and lyrics - delivered with a powerful and honest vocal...fantastic solo, or with his band.
Singers' and Musicians' Night
A chance to sing a song or play a tune or just listen. Entry free.
Double Header: Henry Parker and Katie Spencer
Influenced by the sounds of 1960’s folk guitar, progressive rock and modal jazz, Henry Parker creates a modern sound from these archaic influences, writing songs that lyrically entwine landscapes, people and politics. Traditional folk music contributes strongly to his sound, whilst a distinctive finger-picked guitar style calls to mind players as diverse as Bert Jansch and Bill Frisell.
Over the past four years that Henry has been performing live he has had the privilege of supporting many of his musical heroes including Wizz Jones, Michael Chapman, Bridget St John, Lau and Soft Machine. This cross over of folk and progressive rock is where much of his influence lies, informing his writing style and guitar playing.
His debut album Silent Spring was released in July 2019, recorded by David Crickmore (Steve Tilston, Pete Coe) and featuring the phenomenal flute talents of Theo Travis (Soft Machine, Travis & Fripp, Gong). It is set to be one of the most exciting folk debuts of this year.
Henry Parker has a beautifully clear and precise finger picking acoustic guitar style…this isn’t background folk club music, or filler, it’s quite simply gorgeous – FATEA
A gifted young guitar player who has been impressing local audiences with his dexterity and choice of material – Tykes News
A really excellent young guitarist/ songwriter – Steve Tilston
Bloody excellent – Wizz Jones
Drawing on influences such as John Martyn, Roy Harper and Laura Marling, Katie Spencer creates modern progressive folk music which owes as much the songwriters of the 60’s acoustic music heyday as it does the East Riding landscape where she has always felt a strong spiritual connection. Her striking vocals and deft songwriting are backed by an evocative and complex guitar style that takes her music to places that are both esoteric and beautiful.
Still in her early 20’s, Katie has already built up an extremely respected profile within the national acoustic music scene, receiving praise from the likes of Ralph McTell & Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople. She has shared the stage with world-class musicians such as Ted McKenna & Foss Paterson, and is due to be a part of next year’s Celtic Connections celebrations alongside Paul Weller & Eddi Reader playing at Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall.
With various releases already under her belt, Katie was awarded with the Yorkshire Gig Guide Outstanding Emerging Artist in 2018 and continues to receive glowing reviews of both her live performances and recorded works.
Weather Beaten is Katie Spencer’s debut full-length album, a flawless and flowing ten track journey that encapsulates her mesmerising live performance style, subtly embellished by the world-renowned instrumental dexterity of Tom Mason, Miles Bould and Martin Winning on double bass, percussion and woodwind. Produced by Spencer Cozens, long-time collaborator of John Martyn and Joan Armatrading, the sound of the album is clear and bright, bringing a precision and boldness reminiscent of the best ‘ECM’ modern jazz albums, which naturally pairs with the warm and hazy folk sound that envelops Katie’s style.
Katie’s guitar playing has echoes of my dear friend the late great Bert Jansch. Like a musical weaver she threads her poetic lyrics through the guitar’s strings and produces little tapestries of song – Ralph McTell
A fascinating evening in prospect….
Audiences everywhere rave over the harmonies of Kimber’s Men. They have appeared at Festivals in Ostende, Appingedam, Portmagee, Portsoy, Fano in Denmark, and all over the UK. Featured twice on Sunday brunch for Channel 4, they also starred in the BBC2 and BBC4 production of Sea Songs, with Gareth Malone; the latter being the most viewed programme of the year, on BBC 4.
Kimber’s Men possess probably the finest bass singer on the British folk scene today, in John Bromley. John has been singing folk songs since he was sixteen and has sung in several folk bands and is a solo artist. John plays guitar, whistle and bodhran.
Neil Kimber has been performing and singing since the late sixties and has a massive repertoire of songs at his disposal, he plays guitar and is the only real sailor in the group. Neil and Ros Kimber composed the wonderful song Don’t Take The Heroes, which is now being sung by many shanty bands all over the world, and describes the aftermath of the Penlee lifeboat disaster.
Kimber’s men are lucky to have long standing member Gareth Scott. He has a powerful and bluesy voice and is an accomplished guitarist, bringing another dimension to the sound they produce. Not forgetting Steve Smith the recent stowaway, who, as sound engineer and multi-instrumentalist, completes the group with his high harmonies.
Expect to laugh, sing and be generally entertained.
Dana & Susan Robinson
From Cabot, Vermont – Americana-roots and folk duo Dana and Susan Robinson combine vivid songwriting and storytelling, with fiddle tunes, banjo grooves, elegant melodies, and rich harmony singing.
Drawing upon experiences of more than twenty years of touring, Dana and Susan craft a performance that conveys the mystery and wonders of their journey. Their unique blend of original songwriting and traditional Appalachian music, bring to their performances a deep understanding of America’s musical heritage, and how it relates to our contemporary lives.
A native of the Pacific Northwest, Dana relocated to New England where he discovered both a thriving songwriters scene and the deep well of traditional mountain music. In the early 1980s, Dana settled in northern Vermont and built a house “off the grid” on 30 acres near the Canadian border. There he founded a popular bakery, café and music venue. Dana launched into full-time touring after the release of his 1994 debut CD, Elemental Lullabye, and after receiving a request to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City for Putumayo’s Shelter benefit project.
Susan grew up with her dad’s jazz big band rehearsing in the basement in Manchester, Vermont and learned classical piano as a child. As an adult she turned to oboe and Scottish fiddle. After Susan and Dana met in 2002, she took up old-time banjo and learned from the banjo-greats in and around Asheville, North Carolina. Since 2003 Dana and Susan have performed hundreds of concerts across the United States, Great Britain and Canada.