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.