Dave’s a master of his craft

Dave Burland performing at Chesterfield Folk Club's concert
Dave Burland performing at Chesterfield Folk Club's concert

Unplugged, acoustic music, roots, folk....whatever the name, it seems always to be around.

These days bands such as Mumford and Sons and Noah and the Whale have taken up the baton. Some names, however, have endured much longer and are still admired and even revered by the new vanguard.

One such stalwart of the scene is Dave Burland, who appeared before an almost full house at Chesterfield Folk Club’s first concert of 2012 on Friday, January 13.

I was lucky enough to have a quick chat with Dave and learned that he had actually spent the first years of his working life as a policeman in Barnsley.

Having grown up listening to early rock and roll, he then heard some skiffle which led him down the path to folk music. After serving the usual apprenticeship, doing floor spots in folk clubs he turned professional in 1968 and his first album, ‘A Dalesman’s Litany’, was recorded way back in 1971.

First up on stage at Club Chesterfield, however, were support act, Soapstone Dragon. They performed a variety of songs and instrumentals all underpinned by a sympathetic fiddle accompaniment. Their set included the somewhat dark humour of ‘Add Me’, a contemporary, satirical song about the dangers of social networking. The instrumentals were a vehicle for the fiddle skills of Jamie Burney and featured the entertaining hornpipe theme tune from ‘Captain Pugwash’ and Jamie’s own ‘Dark Waters’.

Dave Burland’s set started a little tentatively and somewhat low key, I thought. However, it wasn’t long before he showed the audience just what it means to be a master of your craft. He guided us through a truly varied set from Richard Thompson’s House of Cards’, via the staunchly traditional ‘Peggy and the Soldier’ to a poignant self-penned song about the volunteer troops mustered in South Yorkshire and sent off to fight in Flanders in 1914. And, as if to confirm that he really is an all-round entertainer, the whole evening was liberally peppered with his laconic, self- mocking Barnsley sense of humour.

Burland has a laidback, understated delivery that hides an intricate guitar accompaniment. This was highlighted for me by his ability to seamlessly incorporate syncopated, fluid rock ‘n’ roll licks into traditional English ballads. What is most enjoyable about Dave Burland is his ability to take any song and turn it into his own, strikingly innovative, interpretation. In particular his treatment of ‘Girl of the North Country’ with driving, chunky guitar behind silky vocals surely puts it up there with some of the best versions of this Bob Dylan classic.

Dave Burland is not an energetic performer. He didn’t set out to grab his Chesterfield audience by the throat. He didn’t need to. Instead, he coaxed us into a warm hearted appreciation of his seemingly effortless skill. Not bad for an ex-copper from Barnsley.

MARTIN SUMPTON