Usually when I go to a gig, I have a fair idea what to expect. Not so when I went along to see the latest event in North West Leicestershire District Council’s ‘On Tour’ programme.
The star of the show was Shep Woolley. I have to admit I had never heard of him apart from the ‘blurb’ that said he was ‘A not to be missed’ folk singing comedian – Well I had read about, and seen a few ‘not to be missed’ acts before, so I went in with expectations that were really not too high, but I have to admit the advertising was ‘Spot On.’
If Shep has an identity problem, it’s because he doesn’t fit neatly into a single category. Yes - he sings folk songs, but he’s much more than a folk singer. He sang some country songs but with a great deal more panache and technique than your average ‘Cowboy Joe.’ He told jokes – good ones - with a timing and style that suggested he should be playing on a bigger pitch than the village hall circuit.
There were amusing ditties like the cheeky pastiche of Tom Paxton – the previous week’s main attraction - with which he opened the set ‘In the interest of continuity.’ He then went into a long comical collection of anecdotes about his early years living in the Midlands, rounding them off with a song dedicated to his Granddad ‘The ballad of the fanatical pruner Greenhouse Graham.’
Other highlights were the hilarious ode to the Queen Mother to the tune of Old Man River, and a wonderful impression of Bob Dylan performing George Formby’s When I’m Cleaning Windows.
On a more serious note, there were songs with a social conscience about not letting your sons go digging for the ‘Dirty Black Coal’ and the plight of the ‘Cornish Boys’ whose proud traditions of tin mining and fishing have all been lost, leaving them with few prospects other than pandering to holidaymakers.
There were songs of love, songs of life and songs of total stupidity. Amusing observations such as the school nativity play, viewed form the back end of the donkey, taking your mum in law to Christmas parties and the perils of holidays in Norfolk. Lots of one liners and quick fire retorts to audience heckles, all put together in a great set that kept the
audience rolling with mirth, shouting for more and applauding with gusto.
So what/who is Shep Woolley? Is he a singer who tells jokes or a comedian who sings?
I came to the conclusion that he’s just a great all-round performer ‘That’s not to be missed.’
If you didn’t get along to see him this time, watch out for his next appearance.
Great songs, Good clean fun that never gets any saucier than a seaside postcard. Which, on a last note proves you can get laughs and be a fresh comedian without resorting to a barrage of four letter words?
Shep Woolley – ‘Not To Be Missed’ 11 out of 10!