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FOLK PRESS REVIEWS
“The technical quality is first class and the editing exemplary. An indispensable portrait of a folk icon whose total artistic and personal integrity; and irrepressible sheer love of life radiates through every moment”
“ An incredibly uplifting film. If you ever doubted that music can change the world, watch this and be reassured."
"A must for every Garbutt fan and the uncommitted should be well impressed” R2
“Fans and followers of his music will feel a familiar warmth and even solidarity with this extraordinary musician when they watch this DVD. I especially recommend it to those to whom his name is new. You will want to see him soon, once you have watched it” Lancashire Folk
“We are blessed here with the chance to see an individual in context. Vin cuts through the bull, grasping those he meets firmly by the hand and shaking them up with a dose of laughter and tears. He should be prescribed on the National Health”
“This DVD tells you a lot about Garbutt’s life, his career, his family and his views on many things. If you don’t know about him, getting hold of this DVD is an excellent way to put that right” Puddingstone, Herts.
“Every Vin Garbutt fan will want a copy of this DVD - that much goes without saying! - but this film also has the power to convert non-believers to the cause, for it unquestionably conveys the essence of Vin the man, his unbridled integrity and his professionalism, his keen and unwavering artistry”
“Craig Hornby’s marvellous, fact-packed documentary captures Vin the turner who quit the steel mills to play guitar, the stupendous artist, great listener, voluble raconteur and family man - Among the extras, there’s a great 60-minute bonus of Vin in concert – well worth it” Taplas Magazine, Cardiff
“This is a rare glimpse at the life of a modern bard armed only with a guitar and a whistle, but whose charisma has carried him through. Buy this because of the quality of the film. The extras on the DVD include full performances of 14 songs plus some additional interview footage. You won’t be disappointed” ShireFolk, Luton & Home Counties
“This DVD is wonderful entertainment. With scenes of tours, folk clubs, working in his garden and the beautiful Yorkshire moors and photos of past times, Vin is not only a Teesside Troubadour but a worldwide troubadour who so enjoys life. Long may he continue to do so” AROUND KENT Magazine
“I’ve no doubt that you’ll come away from this film feeling you know him better and like him more. And if you already like his music, the bonus concert footage will be an hour well-spent, and one that you’ll want to spend again, on a regular basis” STIRRINGS magazine, South Yorks.
“The new DVD from Vin Garbutt is a celebration of his 40 years in folk music, and it shows this iconic performer at his best – singing, laughing, and playing his way to a unique place in the hearts of his fans” FOLK MONTHLY, Midlands
“If you appreciate true artistry buy this DVD. Vin is a one-off, you wont regret it one iota, if you see this DVD you'll become a fan, and trust me your life will be a little bit richer for your exposure to one of life's true gentlemen”
VITAL SPARK, Ontario, Canada.
REVIEWS IN FULL...
fROOTS magazine Aug-Sept 2011:
Vin is universally recognised as a legend in his own lifetime, a genuinely unique entertainer within a folk scene which has it’s fair share of ‘characters’. This new DVD, made by Craig Hornby, casts the spotlight gently but firmly on the man and his music, basically taking the form of a definitive documentary. The main feature details Vin’s special qualities: passionate songwriting and singing allied to the wit of genuine raconteur and a candid and philosophical look at life - ably mirroring his stage act, where humanity and hilarity ride in tandem (even though one or the other may sometimes threaten to fall off!).
The film naturally furnishes us with all the necessary biographical exposition as well as expounding many of the stories behind the songs (effectively told with a generous amount of rare archive material to give due perspective). Craig’s unashamedly affectionate portrait of Vin is no gushing PR job, but a proud, honest and loving - and accurate – portrayal of the very essence of the man. Vin’s is an impressive achievement: to have become an institution in the folk world, without the help of a major label deal or massive media profile but by dint of sheer hard work, exhaustive touring and of course real talent. Vin does what he does by doing what he does (as one interviewee puts it so succinctly), and brief soundbites from the likes of Martin Carthy, Jez Lowe and Ralph McTell leave us in no doubt as to how highly Vin is regarded by his fellow performers.
Although Vin is best known for performing his own songs and those of his contemporaries, the film also contains salutary reminders of his great aptitude for interpreting traditional song – and revelling in (seemingly effortlessly) playing whistle tunes at every opportunity! Craig has unearthed much invaluable club footage for us to savour, including a storming 1980 rendition of Ron Angel’s Chemical Worker’s Song, while among the most treasurable reminiscence sequence we encounter songwriter (and ex-Teesside Fettler) Graeme Miles and old mates Mick Sheehan and Pete Betts, and were also introduced to members of Vin’s family.
The whole film flows entirely naturally. The technical quality is first class and the editing exemplary. The supporting programme comprises 75 minutes of ‘extras’, including a glorious hour’s-worth of concert footage and a revealing auteur style interview with Craig. All of which adds up to an indispensable portrait of a folk icon whose total artistic and personal integrity, and irrepressible sheer love of life, radiates through every moment of the DVD.
LANCASHIRE WAKES magazine:
To his many fans in the UK and abroad, Vin Garbutt is a legend, but to the majority of people he is completely unknown. I first met him in 1971 and I have been an avid fan ever since. Craig Hornby’s new DVD, ‘Teesside Troubadour’ follows Vin around folk clubs, festivals and theatres in the UK, Canada, Australia, Malaysia and Europe and we get an insight into his thinking and his values. It gives us a picture to compliment the ones that Vin paints in his songs.
The DVD is a documentary of Vin’s life, his work and his travels. The camera follows him to his home by the coast in Loftus, where his family give us candid views on this challenging yet very warm man. Finally, it documents his achievements and his views on retirement. For those who do not know him, don’t worry – he has no immediate plans to stop!
As the story of Vin’s life and work unfolds, there are short clips of his singing, but very helpfully the producer has added a bonus section with the full version of each song recorded live in various parts of the world. This includes a rendition of ‘Populus Nigra Betufolia’ which, as far as I know, does not appear on any of Vin’s albums. (In case you’re wondering what that’s about: it’s a black poplar tree!)
Vin has a zany sense of humour but there are only snippets of his idiosyncratic introductions on the DVD. What does come through though is his warmth, his insight, and his passionate opposition to injustice. Martin Carthy says at one point in the film, that Vin is more effective by staying ‘under the radar’of wider fame and exposure. I’m not sure about this, but it is clear that his uncompromising stand on some issues have kept him firmly out of many peoples view.
Vin’s voice is warm and strong and his guitar playing compliments his singing well. It has often been said that he can make an audience laugh and cry in a minute. Fans and followers of his music will feel a familiar warmth and even solidarity with this extraordinary musician when they watch this DVD. I especially recommend it to those to whom his name is new. You will want to see him soon, once you have watched it.
SHIRE FOLK Magazine:
I approached this with some trepidation. I was expecting an amateur vanity production only of interest to Vin Garbutt diehard fans. How pleasantly surprised I was, then, to find a truly professional production replete with historical and social commentary that held my attention throughout. In fact, I’ll go further: I was fairly indifferent to Vin Garbutt before watching this film; now I have a new respect for a man who, controversial though some of his views may be, is never less than passionate – and funny! The film takes you through the various stages of his life as a troubadour, travelling from his home base in Teesside to Australia, Malaysia, USA, Canada and Europe making people laugh and cry in equal measure, juxtaposing daft humour with gut-wrenching songs. But always returning to where his heart lies – in his family and roots in the north-east of England.
Vin Garbutt has, like so many professional folk singers, never achieved fame and fortune. Yet, as the film confirms, he’s comfortable being ‘below the radar’, building a faithful following and having an influence when it matters. It becomes clear that you’re not watching an ‘act’; rather, you’re embracing a whole person, imperfections and all. He has the uncanny knack of drawing you into his world, a world where time and place are everything and where lives of ordinary people become mini epics in the songs that he writes. The songs are of steel workers, trees, love, injustices in East Timor and the rivers and valleys of Teesdale. He has the rough edge of someone who’s had to sing above the noise of a crowded pub; yet the film is also testament to the warmth and charm of a family man whose wife and four children clearly adore him.
So this is £15 worth of social history, a rare glimpse at the life of a modern bard armed only with a guitar and a whistle, but whose charisma has carried him through, even to the extent of being awarded an honorary MA from Teesside University for being an ‘ambassador’ for the region. The extras on the DVD include full performances of 14 songs plus some additional interview footage. So if all you want is Vin Garbutt in concert, you won’t be disappointed. Above all, though, buy this because of the quality of the film, the deep respect film maker Craig Hornby has for his subject, and because it’s a rare glimpse into the life of a folk singer who’s never tired of the road.
DVDs—we don’t get many of them at Stirrings Central. And when we do, they’re usually In Concert documents of our heroes working an audience in a well-lit auditorium. True, you get an hour’s worth of concert footage of Vin Garbutt here, but that’s essentially a bonus feature. Teesside Troubadour is a documentary-style melange of fly-on-the-wall, live concert and rare archive footage interleaved with interviews with Vin himself, his friends, family, fans and fellow musos. In fact it sets out to tell his “unique story”, a story of forty years on the road living the troubadour life.
Craig Hornby, the mastermind behind the highly-regarded A Century In Stone, followed Vin around Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Europe, and the pubs, street corners and sea cliffs of Teesside, trying to pin down the Garbutt magic. Does he succeed? On the whole, I think he does. It certainly left me with a renewed admiration for Vin the man as well as Vin the performer.
Vin Garbutt is not a man who floats everyone’s boat. He has a wild, declamatory singing style and a set of unfashionable opinions, and he has not been known to compromise with either. For all that, he enjoys a wide and fervent fan base, both in Britain and abroad. What’s his secret? Well, for one thing he seems to have that elusive quality, the common touch. People seem to be able to relate very closely and directly to what he says and sings about. And his patter is hilarious, his comic timing impeccable: these things help too. He first made an impact on the national folk scene in the early Seventies, and there’s some priceless period footage here of his tousled younger self filling festival marquees with gales of laughter and applause. At an early stage in his career he escaped the gravitational tug of Albion and established himself as a touring attraction in far-flung regions of the globe. In this he was often a pathfinder: today’s touring circuit in Australia is one that he pretty much staked out himself.
For all his globetrotting, however, Vin’s roots are sunk deep in his native Teesside. Songs such as Slaggy Island Farewell and Valley Of Tees are chronicles of times now lost, communities now scattered. It’s an area in which he’s always lived, growing up in industry-scarred South Bank and in later life picking up a cliffside cottage for a song (aptly enough) when it was virtually a shell, and transforming it into a desirable bijou residence through the sweat of his own brow—and that of his wife Pat. You’ll be impressed by the “before” and “after” shots.
A friend of his, interviewed here, depicts Vin as a “bardic” figure. “He even looks like a bard!” Cue an early Seventies shot of Vin with a funny-shaped guitar. In those days, of course, even The Spinners looked bardic; but traditionally it was the role of the bard to preserve the memories of the tribe, the community, and a good case can be made for Vin’s doing just that through his songs and the affectionate social detail of his inspired ramblings.
Documentary portraits can be a bit static, so it helps if there’s a bit of narrative shape to things. In Vin’s case, this is provided by two life-changing events. The first we’ll return to in a moment; the second was his recent heart attack. Typically, he manages to make a joke of it. As he tells it, he’s in the emergency ward awaiting life-saving surgery, and the consultant is reading his case notes. “Vincent Garbutt?” says the doc. “Fancy that. There’s a folk singer called Vin Garbutt who lives close to me.” Vin, from his bed: “He won’t be for much longer unless you get a move on...”
And the other one? In 1982 he released an album called Little Innocents. The title track was a passionate polemic against abortion on demand, at the time—and still today—a liberal shibboleth. A lot of people were confused and angered by this, especially as he was generally perceived as leaning towards the left politically. Controversy raged, he was heckled onstage at Cambridge Festival, his record company dropped him. He responded by writing other songs that challenged the left-liberal consensus, all of which were informed by his passionate Catholic faith. In the eyes of many, the cheeky chappie, the Slaggy Island bard had morphed into a reactionary pulpit-thumper. The ripples extended beyond the folk scene. There’s footage here of Vin being interviewed by Ludovic Kennedy on a tv discussion programme, sat next to two furious-looking unidentified women. This was the start of his life in the “media shadow”—which seems to consist largely of not being asked back to Cambridge, and being ignored by fRoots. Meanwhile, amid the pro-life philippics, he continues to sing songs like When The Tide Comes In and Where The Hell Are We Going To Live? which tick all the left-liberal boxes. A hard man to pin down.
Teesside Troubdour doesn’t pretend to be an objective warts-and-all portrait. The voice-over is admiring, everybody interviewed avers what a fine fellow he is, and he comes across in performance and in discussion as immensely likeable and sincere. There’s nothing remotely embarrassing or compromising in the so-called “fly-on-the-wall” sequences. In fact, there’s an occasional sense that not everything we see is as spontaneous and uncontrived as that description suggests. At one point, Vin emerges from a train, conveniently at the exact point on the platform where the camera is stationed. Elsewhere, he’s shown having a private, prayerful moment in a chapel, from three separate camera angles. Not exactly private, then...
But these are small cavils. You could argue that that’s just the nature of the medium: to show the truth you sometimes have to tell a little lie. I’ve no doubt that you’ll come away from this film feeling you know him better and like him more. And if you already like his music, the bonus concert footage will be an hour well-spent, and one that you’ll want to spend again, on a regular basis.
Tykes News - Autumn 2011:
Vin Garbutt, as any fool knows, is still major. But not as major as many that came the same route. Mike Harding, Jasper Carrott, Billy Connolly even, all leapt from folk club glory to television and new careers in sitcom, documentary presenting and hit singles, but not Vin. Why? Perhaps because Vin was always a musician who was a good chatterer; no, a brilliant chatterer while the others were comedians who happened to sing and play a bit. An inventive and natural comedic quality. And it is natural. I once, by chance, found myself sitting next to him on a train in Leeds. The conductor came round to sell tickets and approached Vin. ‘Return please.’ says Mr Garbutt. The conductor looked irritated. ‘Where to?’ ‘Err, back here to Leeds.’ said Vin with no sign on his face that he was joking. It was deadpan to match Chaplin. He is a patter man like generations of Garbutts before him, including his dad, which is one of the first things we learn on the DVD. The love of traditional, mainly Irish, music from his mother’s Irish side, the patter
And there they are with Kathy Kirby, a stunning blonde popstress who ended sadly with problems from lost fame. A vote then for which of the two would survive and still be touring in 2011 would have lost you money. So, then young Vin heads for Ireland and busks his way around in search of his family roots, returns to the UK, heads for the Med and plays for a passed round hat in bars. On return, the work in the steel works becomes a memory and he’s on the path to a life on the road. Well, I’m not here to tell his story because that’s the job of this DVD, a fabulous job it does.
The danger with these things is that they stand one viewing and the story is told, but the film’s creator, Craig Hornby, manages to make it interesting enough to bear repeated viewing. A mix of archive film, which, in common with much folk material, is thin on the ground, modern concert material, location shots (Vin sits on a rock above the Tees Valley playing whistle, Vin sits on the steps of Sydney Opera House playing whistle, Vin in a pub session, playing whistle, Vin in a school playing... well, you get the picture), stills, interviews with the likes of Martin Carthy, Ralph McTell, Jez Lowe and others are held together with skilful editing and production. His family play their part, sitting outside their house on the coast above Whitby, showing a genuine love of their father/husband. Perhaps the other reason that Vin remains big in folk, unknown everywhere else, was the stumble he took for his Catholic (with a capital C) views on abortion around the time of ‘Little Innocents’, and I did wonder how the film would tackle this. It doesn’t blanche, it confronts it, though doesn’t perhaps express the full power of the vitriol that came his way in the folk press at the time. So, the film entertains and informs and it is an item of digital media to grace any shelf, TV, computer, whatever. Finally, hoorah! Those clips of Vin performing are available in full in the extras, which at 60 minutes almost reaches the 82 minutes of the main feature. A few years back we nearly lost Vin as he was laid low by a heart attack... a great quote here, the doctor in A & E looks at Vin’s notes as he lies there and says ‘Vincent Garbutt? There’s a folk singer who lives round here with that name.’ ‘Not for much longer if you don’t get a move on!’ Replies Vin. A patter man, nearly, to the end.
ENGLISH SONG & DANCE Magazine:
So where to start with this interesting and unique portrait of one of our nearest and dearest? As fast as words arrived to describe him, others arrived to contradict – seer and clown, rooted and wanderer, champion and challenger. So, he’s never a straightforward character to locate. If you’re looking for a way to categorise this particular chap, get ready with an entire pigeon loft, because one roosting space is plainly not enough. Ever since the 1960s, Vin has been racking up the airmiles in a tantalising journey round the planet. For fans, this DVD provides an intriguing insight into the background and makeup of one of our bestloved, yet underrated entertainers, through snapshots of travels, concerts and conversations. Vin Garbutt draws upon tradition and moves it on his songs have the feel of always having been part of us and our history. In answer to the question ‘Where are you from?’ he offers time, place, family and an honesty which is both unnerving and humbling: he makes me think. bed by his future mother-in-law as a ‘Catholic Communist’, it was clear, even in the early part of his career, that Vin would stir things up. It’s clear that he is held dear by folks all over the globe; it’s also clear that his inability to keep quiet has stirred up the status quo and tested us all. Yet, as he observes, it’s the opting in to make things a little bit better which counts – the ripple effect. We are blessed here with the chance to see an individual in context: Vin Garbutt is the product of migration, of the conflict between the end of the industrial revolution and the emergence of a ostmodern individualism that leaves us all poorer. Vin cuts through the bull, grasping those he meets firmly by the hand and shaking them up with a dose of laughter and tears. It’s a true gift to be able to make us laugh and squirm at the same time, but Vin does both. He should be prescribed on the National Health.