The Tamworth Hotel, 25 January

When he arrived in Tamworth Danny Widdicombe had no idea he was going to play the afternoon slot at the Tamworth Hotel, where he was appearing in Karl Broadie’s band at night. But when the band that had been performing from 2 till 5 had to abandon ship, Widdicombe stepped in and gave everyone present a delightful afternoon of music, all the more special because it had been unexpected.

As rain pelted down on the garden stage, the instruments and equipment were moved into the front bar, allowing everyone to get cosy next to the pool tables. Accompanied by Fiddleboy a.k.a. Luke Moller a.k.a. ‘The Champ’ (for he had won the national bluegrass fiddling championships), Widdicombe plunged into over two hours of songs from his album The Transplant Tapes, as well as Beatles and Neil Young covers; the highlight was a sublime version of ‘Dear Prudence’. Having seen this duo play, and on other occasions seeing Karl Broadie and Johnny Kendall play together without accompaniment, I’ve decided that a guitar-and-fiddle duo is a wondrous thing (of course, you need the right guitarist and the right fiddler, but I’m not ruining a good theory over detail thanksverymuch).

After not even drawing breath for a set break, Widdicombe eventually stepped aside to give The Falls some time at the microphone, then regrouped with The Champ and brought in, separately, Kevin Bennett from The Flood, Michael Roberts from Karl Broadie’s band and the mighty Den Hanrahan – as well as a dude called Dax whose full name I don’t know – for a couple of songs each. It was the best kind of free-form musical love-in and you could tell that the punters felt they’d been treated to something very special. It’s again a mark of the kind of festival Tamworth is, that musicians of this calibre could all be found in one place and with enough time to take up this sort of opportunity and make something unique for everyone in the room. It was like the best kind of Christmas present.

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