Reviews of 'The Whole Charade'
PAUL WALKER & KAREN PFEIFFER - The Whole Charade
This Anglo-German duo has a very strong following in and around The Potteries area, and is now beginning to gain some degree of national recognition, well outside the Staffordshire/Cheshire catchment area.
An Paul and Karen have done that latter ambition no harm with this mix of self-penned songs interspersed with the occasional Folk classic. The album arrives in a beautifully presented Digipak: one furthermore, that is a first for me, in that it features photos of exquisite sculptures of the duo’s heads (made by Gillie Nicholls at her Stafford studio).
From even first listening, one is aware that one is in the presence of two very skilled operators. (Three, if you include multi-instrumentalist and album producer Scott Ralph.)
The songs that the duo self-penned cover a range of subject matter, and are all as well-crafted as they are well-performed. Karen has a seriously impressive, mezzo-soprano voice: one that would not be out of place on the opera stage. Yet it is a singing voice that blends very well with Paul’s, and shows not a scintilla of a German accent, in that she sings mainly in RP English (although track 3 sees her sounding peculiarly Irish...or maybe I have my ears on wrong).
And those harmonies are quite stirring and almost Winter Wilsonish in beauty (particularly on the bridge of the title song, and the chorus of the powerful Peter Hames song, Ordinary Man).
Of the self-penned, the standout track is Lift This Weight. It is a song on the present industrial dereliction in Stoke-on-Trent, and a fond memory of very different days when there was the camaraderie to be cherished from what was otherwise a hard working life. Of the famous songs they have chosen to cover, they do very respectable versions of classics like Caledonia, What’s The Use Of Wings?, and The L&N Don’t Stop Here Any More: versions that don’t make me pine for the originals.
This album will get a thumbs up from me, but I want to end a favourable review with a word of warning. Please don’t flag-up the fact that you are offering two bonus tracks to the 11, when the track that opens the CD is (after a few seconds of a music box intro), just 52 seconds of Sir Samuel Ferguson’s The Lark In The Clear Air, which is marked as “Part One”, and track 11 is shown as “Part Two” of the same, and is timed at a similar 50 seconds.
Perhaps that breaking of the lovely Irish song in two (to turn 10 tracks into 11), has a deep meaning that has gone over my head. But I think not: it smacks of a pretentious gimmick. Dear Paul and Karen: don’t do it. You are too good for such ruses.
Folk North West, Spring 2018
Hungry Horse Folk Club, Ellesmere Port March 2018
Woodman Folk Club - Reviews
|Paul Walker & Karen Pfeiffer|
|Chris Irving||12 May 2017|| |
Click on photo to
|I’m wondering if Karen and Paul think I am stalking them? This is the third time I’ve seen them in as many months. First at Bromsgrove Folk Club, then at The Red Lion Folk Club and now at The Woodman. Each time has been a wonderful experience…. Music to make you feel happy, music to make you reflect…. Marvellous, melodic vocal harmonies complimented by skilful guitar accompaniment, you can’t help but enjoy their wonderful on-stage magical, musical chemistry. |
They sang a selection of songs, some self-penned and some covers, from their two albums ‘One by One’ and ‘Marble Town’ plus a couple of extras. They started with a dramatic interpretation of Dougie McLean's ‘Turning Away’ followed by a song ‘Lift This Weight’ written by Paul, about his home town Stoke.
Karen is from Sachsenheim in Germany and I suggest you Google images of it to see how lovely it is. She sang a German Folk Song, popular in that region….. and I think many of you may have been familiar with it…. ‘Muss I denn’………some American chap had a hit with it in 1960, fifty seven years ago! Another song which moved me was ‘Marble Town’. A love story set in Kilkenny, where the streets are paved in the local limestone. When it rains the pavements shine like marble. It reminded me of my visit to ‘Granite City’, Aberdeen… also known as Furry Boots. The locals ask “Furry Boots ye fram ?” The set also included Richard Thompsons deeply disturbing ‘Galway to Graceland’ a very different love song about an obsessional love. The first half closed with another of Paul and Karen’s own songs ‘Tell the Folks back Home.” Written after an encounter with ‘Stokies’ … Down-under. (Residents of Stoke visiting Australia and not what you thought!) We were all left to get our breath back after that and take a break.
The Second Spasm…..was opened by Bryn Phillips, our worthy M.C., with two songs…. And ‘The Raffle!’
On with the show… Karen and Paul re-opened with a song made popular by Vin Garbutt, ‘What’s the use of Wings?’ but what an extraordinary interpretation… first class! ‘Play me a Love Song’ takes place in that seedy, smoky bar, The Six Pack, open dusk till dawn, where the clientele are the lost and lonely. Under the one bright spotlight and through the cigarette haze, hunched over the piano, a beer glass and smoking cigarette balanced on the piano top, sits the Tom Waits or Jaques Brel type musician…. When a voice from the darkness pleads….”Play me a love song….” And so on. We’re on a roller coaster ride of emotion, romance, humour and chorus.
Then all too soon the finale…. Galway Farmer…Karen and Paul take us on a sensational ride to the flying finish…. They win by ten lengths and we’re all left gasping for an encore. Which they oblige with, and we all go home singing ‘Caledonia.’ What a terrific night!
Bryn thanks everyone…….including those other stalwarts of the club, Velvet Green and Nothing to Prove who opened the evening and broke the ice. Then we all wander off into the night with those songs and memories in our heads.
Rock music builds bridge between the countries
Rock music builds bridge between the countries
A summit meeting of musical kind was celebrated by the band ‘Westernberg Ost’ on Saturday evening in the ‘Alte Kelter’ in Besigheim. The trio met with Paul Walker from England and his German partner Karen Pfeiffer. Together they entertained the audience with rock-classics.
Five years ago Karen Pfeiffer from Ludwigsburg went to England in order to earn her living in music. An adventure as she states today. But one that ended positively. In the Midlands of England she met Paul Walker, a guitar player, who already made a name for himself on the music scene. Together they are now mainly touring the UK in order to entertain their audiences with classics of pop, rock, blues and their own compositions.
But once a year they return to Pfeiffer’s old home. Last Saturday they performed in the ‘Alte Kelter’ at the ‘Acoustic Song Night’, together with ‘Westernberg Ost’. ‘This is a magical place and we are very happy to perform here’, Pfeiffer praised the audience of about 70 people.
The guests could experience that the chemistry between her and Walker is exquisite in a large variety of songs: Walker’s guitar playing was perfectly tuned into the rhythm of the singer and he complemented her effortlessly with his harmonies.
Especially with ‘Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz’ by Janis Joplin, Pfeiffer could live the whole width of her voice and slide from a clear soprano into a croaky alto. The spectators thanked this with thundering applause.
Not less strong were the self-composed pieces of the duo. ‘Play me a love song’, inspired by a rather dull night in Cologne, was striking by its simplicity. ‘Another Man’ on the other side is themed with positive harmonies of stinging jealousy. ‘This is what I felt in the beginning when we were together’, said Walker in English. In the end of the song though it emerges, why the tone is in major and not in minor: Walker is singing about himself as the man on Pfeiffer’s side.
With happy enthusiasm the two played through their part of the gig and even performed a song in German. ‘Muss i denn’ changed from the Swabian goodbye song into the version of ‘Wooden Heart’ that was made famous by Elvis Presley.
In order to get a smooth change-over to Westernberg Ost’, the bands played a few songs together. In ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ Matthias Eckert of ‘Westernberg Ost’ let loose his rock voice. The evergreen ’99 Luftballons’ (=99 Red Balloons) by Nena benefited especially from Geoff Hoffmann on the Cajón, a box drum. He underlined the rather poppy presented song with edges and therefore rocky elements.
Together with Alban Wekenmann on guitar as well as harmonica the second part of the musical evening belonged to the three musicians from Markgröningen. They were dedicated to German rock of the 80s and 90s. So there was a re-union for the guests with Udo Lindenberg and Marius Müller-Westernhagen. In order to achieve a German-German balance (meaning east and west) the trio also performed songs of eastern German bands such as Karat and Puhdys.
The Album 'One By One' reviewed by Lisa Mary of Secret Sounds.
A year later, reporter Lisa Mary catches up with her very first interviewees, Paul and Karen, for a review of their album, ‘One by One’.
Having just returned from a spectacularly successful German tour (complete with reviews in the local papers), I was excited to catch up with Paul and Karen a year on from our first interview at Granvilles, Stone. Their freshly recorded CD, which was eagerly awaited, gleamed under the flashing neons and I happily sipped (not gulped, I promise!) some red, red wine, enjoying some highlights from the album.
Mostly recorded in the Church of St Peter in Maer, Staffordshire, the album has a rustic, folky edge. Having heard this duo play more than once, I thought I knew what to expect from their recorded album, but I was treated to a record even more delightful than anticipated.
Opening with ‘The Galway Farmer’, with a typical P&K a cappella opening, it is clear that the duo’s harmonies are even more en pointe than when I first reviewed them. The melody being sung by Paul in this case, with Karen providing thoughtful harmony, it opens on a spine-tingling note before breaking into an acoustically accompanied rendition. Followed closely by ‘Play Me a Love Song’, the mellow and striking voice of Karen is used to its full potential as she takes melody. A definitive piece in the album, it would strike a chord with even the coldest of hearts, especially when Paul’s harmony adds an additional texture to the sound. It is striking that this is an original song written by Paul and Karen themselves.
As an audience member put it at Granvilles, ‘Their original songs blend so well with their covers, that you could convince me that these are already huge hits.’
The next two songs ‘Another Man’ and ‘Land of Green’ pick up the pace. With some intricate guitar playing from Paul, Karen’s voice is brought through to its whole strength with its full, rich mezzo-soprano tone. These two folky numbers are then followed by the more traditional ‘Lizzie Lindsay’. Shared vocals between Karen and Paul allow Paul’s smooth, silky voice to breeze through the piece with Karen’s harmonies effortlessly floating above the melody.
Another original number follows: ‘I Don’t Wanna Go To Work Today’. This is a piece I raved about in my first review of them, so I will refrain from gushing … but its uncanny familiarity is striking. Another splendid song with beautifully shared vocals again. Sliding easily into a cover of ‘Just Hold Me’ (of Maria Mena fame), another successful melody lead by Karen showing the versatility of her vocal range.
The next track on the album is another original song, ‘One by One’ with its lovingly romantic lyrics, fitting the clear close relationship between this duo, who always perform with passion and love. A piece with a praise feel that runs into the more peaceful ‘Muss i Denn’ (Wooden Heart), closely followed by the final song on the album (and a Paul and Karen classic) ‘Mercedes Benz’. Giving a circular feel to the album, it is an a cappella rendition which is gradually added to with percussion. Karen’s voice here is simultaneously gritty and stunning; a pure, strong tone accompanied with Paul’s spot-on harmonies. A sensitive and accomplished ending to an impressive album.
All in all, I am surprised, shocked and in awe. Not only have they pulled it out of the bag, they have done so with a kick of harmony, a smattering of acapella and a rush of drums.
Bravo Paul and Karen or should I say Gratulation!
Songs with groove and goose bumps guaranteed
Translated from a review by Bettina Nowakowski, Bietigheimer Zeitung , Germany, 29th October 2013.
The ‘Acoustic Song Night’ with ‘Westernberg Ost’ and the duo ‘Paul Walker & Karen Pfeiffer’ offered on Saturday evening in the ‘Alte Kelter’ in Besigheim a programme of contrast, with groove and goose bumps.
They are still in existence, ‘lucky bags’, the discoveries of precious pearls in the music scene. This is what happened at the ‘Acoustic Song Night’ at the ‘Alte Kelter’ in Besigheim to which the band ‘Westernberg Ost’ had invited the British-German duo ‘Paul Walker & Karen Pfeiffer’, who are on their German tour at the moment.
The duo opened the night and already the second song, a rousing interpretation of ‘Mercedes Benz’ by Janis Joplin, provoked a goose bump feeling. The extraordinary voice of Karen Pfeiffer would absolutely be worthy to take part in ‘The Voice of Germany’. The entire jury would turn around in their armchairs within seconds of her singing.
Sometimes powerful with groove, sometimes poetically tender, with or without harmonies from her singing partner Paul Walker who was also playing the guitar, Karen Pfeiffer presented a mixture of folk, rock and own songs that enthused the audience. Being from Ludwigsburg, she has lived in England for five years and for three years she and her partner Paul Walker have been playing on British music stages together. With ‘One by One’ they have just released their first CD together which can be purchased on their website.
Once a year Paul Walker & Karen Pfeiffer come for a short tour to Germany. ‘Year after year we have more gigs here’ said Karen Pfeiffer happily. And no, despite her musicality, she is not related to the, in this region, famous musician family of Thomas Pfeiffer.
The varied repertoire reached from folk songs like ‘The Galway Farmer’ via Bob Dylan to their own compositions such as ‘Play Me a Love Song’. This ballad did not only from a singing point of view touch emotionally, but it also perfectly highlighted the coherent stage presence and likable harmony between Paul Walker and Karen Pfeiffer.
The contrasting programme was after the break offered by ‘Westernberg Ost’ including Alban Wekenmann, Geoff Hoffmann and Matthias Eckert. The latter was suffering a croaky voice, but presented it from a singing point of view, spot on and with routine German songs by Marius Müller-Westernhagen, Udo Lindenberg and the Eastern-German bands Karat, Puhdys and City. Paul Walker and Karen Pfeiffer came back to the stage for three songs and it clearly showed again that the stage presence of Karen Pfeiffer, in a duet with Matthias Eckert, ignited the audience.
Conclusion of the evening: Westernberg Ost offered solid casually interpreted ‘Deutschrock’ (German rock). But the British-German duo Paul Walker & Karen Pfeiffer was the real highlight of the evening and could as well on their own have made the ‘Acoustic Song Night’ into a first-class experience.
Review, 'Live @ Granvilles'
By Lisa Mary
Secret Sounds Reporter Lisa spends a serene evening at the quaint Granville’s in Stone with duo Paul Walker and Karen Pfeiffer.
There’s nothing like a Musmance, and that is what I discovered by meeting Paul and Karen on Thursday evening. Their mutual love for music blossomed when they met each other, and it didn’t stop there. Their relationship quickly blossomed and this love is seen throughout their performances, most specifically in their original songs. Sharing the vocal duties equally, Paul Walker and Karen Pfeiffer are a highly entertaining duo whose musical talents have led them not only to the stage, but to discover each other.
The first fascinating thing I discovered about Paul and Karen is the stories of their musical journeys; Paul learned guitar chords on a ruler before owning an instrument, whilst Karen began her singing career through guitar playing and later on busking in Germany. After gaining a wealth of experience, they only begun performing two years ago and excitingly they are currently in the process of recording a complication of original and cover songs. Their open nature and assertion that people who have a love of entertaining should just “go for it” is both refreshing and inspiring. This raw passion and ardent enjoyment powers through in their live performances.
Defining their sound is a tricky number, as the duo will freely admit. After a discussion they settled on folk-rock but this does not encompass all that Paul and Karen are capable of. Even though their main inspirations are drawn from The Beatles and 70s acoustic, they do not confine themselves to one genre, sticking to their aspiration of entertaining and in Karen’s words to “never be boring”. With a strong and wealthy musical background, Paul’s unexpectedly smooth vocals compliment the versatility of Karen’s voice as they blend effortlessly together, aided by their equally impressive vocal range. From the grungy-growls of their rendition of The Cranberries’ Zombie to the tranquil purity of their partly a capella version of Mercedes Benz throughto the soulful strong vocals of Duffy’s Mercy, it is impossible to pin down this duo to a singular musical genre. For a band who can take you on a European music tour (passing wonderfully through Germany for a bilingual rendition of 99 Red Balloons) and who during a two hour set managed to play what seemed like everything from The Beatles to P!nk to Evanesance, it seems that there is nothing that this duo cannot bring into fruition with their own unique style and passion. I was blown away by their sheer delight in performing and their interaction with the crowd. Those of you in music will know that getting a reaction from a pub crowd can be a tough gig; Paul and Karen seemed to do this naturally.
But it is not just covers that this duo performs. Paul and Karen were united when talking about their original songs, asserting that the most rewarding part of a live performance is the audience’s reactions to their original material. Paul said, “having someone come up to you at the end of the night and saying that they liked one of your songs is the best bit”. Karen concurred with this, expressing her delight at the crowd reaction during their latest tour of Germany where the whole pub waved lighters and candles in the air.
On Thursday night, we were lucky enough to be treated to original songs from the duo, the first of which Don’t Want to Go to Work Today is a catchy, mellow tune. Its upbeat yet relaxed tone, as well as the sentiment of the lyrics, had the whole pub nodding along, most certainly because we could relate to the casually-rhyming lyrics of the chorus: “No matter what the rule books say / I don’t want to go to work today.” This was followed later in the set by Sing Me a Love Song which shows the flowering effect of their lyrics as a myriad of images stems from one simple idea, with each lyric flowing seamlessly to another. It is clear that Paul and Karen’s equal admiration and care for each other drives through their set on stage; their music and lyrics clearly have an emotional significance to them and the chemistry between them adds to their charm.
Having had a fantastically entertaining night, listened to some astonishingly beautiful music and a good pub sing-along on the way, I for one will be watching out for more from Paul and Karen; clearly we have not yet seen all this duo has to offer.