Paverty Reunion

Paverty 35th Anniversary Reunion Concert, Folkus Room 30 October

Thinking about the year 1974. It seems so long ago and so far away from the vantage point of 2009 (ahem… ’10 – Ed.). Remember 1974? It was the year of Cyclone Tracy, Watergate, Abba’s Eurovision win AND the birth of Franklyn B Paverty, Australia’s bush band of renown.

Details of Franklyn B Paverty’s very first gig seem to be lost but original and current band member, Mal Bennett, thinks it was in the bar of the Canberra College of Advanced Education back in late 1974. Now, half of three score years and ten later and time to celebrate, we can look back on career highlights that include playing at the official opening of Australia’s new Parliament House as well as at its 10th and 20th anniversary celebrations, performing Aussie music for guests at a lunch in honour of visiting US President, George W Bush, frequently entertaining at The Lodge for the Prime Minister’s Australia Day festivities and sharing stages with such luminaries as The Dubliners, Billy Connolly, Eric Bogle, The Fureys, Gerry and the Pacemakers and Slim Dusty. Paverty (as the band is affectionately known) has appeared at most of Australia’s major music festivals, toured extensively, appeared on television and radio and produced a discography that lists nine albums (one of which was a 3-CD set), the most recent, 35 Years On: Our Selection, produced to mark this significant milestone.

On the night, the punters in the Folkus Room’s audience seemed pretty excited as they waited for the festivities to begin. With good reason.

Humbug, the support act for the evening, has been described as the ‘love child’ of Paverty as its line-up, which sees nine people on stage, includes a number of current and former Paverty members. The nine are Bronwyn Todd on violin; Tanya Caldwell on flute and whistle; Mal Bennett on guitar; Ros Hales on ukulele and percussion; Naone Carrel on bodhran; Graham Chalker on mandolin; Tim Field on guitar; Jim Roberts concentrating on vocals; and Frank Nizynski on bass. The voices of these five guys and four women add up to a formidable vocal presence and there can be anything up to six stringed instruments being played at a time! In their own words, ‘Take some folk musicians, 60s rock guitarists, a classical flautist and a few community choir singers and you have Humbug! The common thread is a love of Celtic music.’ Since getting together in 2007, the band regularly plays at the Canberra Burns Club and The Merry Muse folk club and festival credits include Beechworth Celtic Festival, Music at the Creek, the National Folk Festival, Turning Wave Festival and the inaugural Snowy Mountains of Music and Tuross Music Festivals.

It was an extra special evening for Humbug, having chosen the occasion to launch a new CD, For All That. Ballads of Robbie Burns and other Celtic Favourites. Their set showcased seven songs from the new CD (Step it out Mary, Both Sides the Tweed, Dumbarton’s Drums, Spanish Lady, Ye Jacobites By Name, Caledonia, and Belfast Mill) as well as some of their more familiar numbers. Standout tracks for me were Ros singing a truly lovely version of the gorgeous Caledonia, the strength of Tanya’s Ye Jacobites By Name, and the dreamy sweet start to Dunbarton’s Drums, which featured Humbug’s male voices in its beautiful rich bass. As always, I also enjoyed Dainty Davey with its layered harmonies and the incredibly powerful Three Score and Ten. A special guest appearance from Jo Boyd, a former member of the band who had moved on to other things since the recording, was a nice surprise. By the way, Humbug will be presenting a Robbie Burns Tribute at the 2010 National Folk Festival and I can happily recommend it.

Paverty’s plan was to kick off with the current six-piece line-up, which has been together for almost a decade, of Mal Bennett on vocals, acoustic guitar, banjo and fiddle; Paverty ‘old-boy’ and Humbugger, Frank Nizynski, on vocals and bass guitar, (standing in for Bob Buckley, who was interstate and sadly unable to be there on the night); Graham Chalker, on vocals, mandolin, snare-drum and lagerphone; Peter Hobson on vocals, fiddle, mandolin and bouzouki; Peter Logue on vocals, accordion and piano; and Bryan Rae on vocals, acoustic guitar and spoons. Then over the course of the evening, special guests, in the form of ‘old’ boys and girls, would join in. And it worked brilliantly. They started with a bunch of faves – old bush songs – and moved on through to some of their more recent stuff. In the first set, we were delighted by Lazy Harry’s, Flash Jack From Gundagai, Billy Of Tea, Another Fall Of Rain, the great sing-along number, Black Velvet Band, featuring Peter Logue’s fabulous accordion, Peter Hobson’s Farewell to Jindabyne, Diamantina Drover, sung beautifully by Bryan Rae whose gorgeous voice was backed with a glorious blend of vocals from the rest of the band.

After the break, we were treated to the appearance of some of Paverty’s former members. (Over the years many fine musicians have played with the band, including David Chalker, Ros Haskew, Dave O’Neill, Frank and Bernie Nizynski, Tony Hunter, John Taylor, Donal Baylor, Fiona Mahoney, Jeff Evans, Mark Tandy, Jim Lavis, Louise Hildyard and Chris Johnstone.) First up was a fiddle tune featuring Donal Baylor, whose fiddle solo was simply sensational. Bob McInnes and Dave O’Neill were soon in on the act and by the time the band was tackling a pair of Slim Dusty numbers, there were ten people on stage.

It was truly a night of wondrous voices and exquisite instrumentation. Bryan started off Ryebuck Shearer then passed on the lead and, as each took their turn, it was obvious that the whole band was having great FUN, which was evident in the broad smiles all round. At this point, Sue Hobson, who plays with the band for bush dances, joined in the jam bringing the tally of musos on stage to eleven. An up-up-tempo Maggie May provoked plenty of toe-tapping and a robust South Australia showcased the sheer number of instruments, for example FOUR fiddles, contributing to the complex, rich sounds we were all enjoying. Mal’s amazing voice produced a passionate Wild Rover, which had the audience indulging in some very hearty clapping and it was followed by the song that had traditionally signalled the end of the Ainslie pub gigs, and which now was being offered to wrap up our evening, the very jolly 1891. But Paverty wasn’t getting away so easily and, when pressed for an encore, we were offered ‘something traditional’, which turned out to be surfing fave, Hanging Five. I honestly do not know how they all managed to keep such straight faces throughout that!

What a wonderful evening, what a terrific celebration. Paverty has good reason for celebration and it was a great privilege to be able to share in it.

Words and all concert images: Shelley Clarke
Early Days images: Unknown

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