Last Night's Fun

RabbleRouser RR004

It’s ten years since Chris Sherburn and Denny Bartley, who’d cut their musical teeth on the Irish theme pub circuit, turned professional and burst onto the folk club and festival scene. I recall the first time I saw them as much for Sherburn’s verbal jousting with the laconic Bartley as for the way they ripped through the tunes, Bartley’s guitar underpinning Sherburn’s digital gymnastics on the Anglo concertina. However, it wasn’t just the tunes; Bartley ‘s distinctive voice may have had a limited range but his phrasing cut to the heart of songs as diverse as Ewan MacColl’s ‘The Moving On Song’ and Bill Staines’ ‘The Roseville Fair’. For some reason, I failed to acquire that first album, Last Night’s Fun, at the gig. When I attempted to obtain a copy later, having seen the duo on several other occasions, it was no longer available.

In the meantime, Sherburn’s sister Jane joined the band on bodhran, as did Nick Scott on uillean pipes. For a while, the quartet were Sherbart; then they became Last Night’s Fun. Jane left to resume teaching but Nick stayed. Last year, there was a new CD, Tempered, which saw a maturing of the combined talent of all three musicians. Finally, in response to demand from a growing army of fans, the first CD has been re-released.

Sometimes, the reappearance of early recordings disappoints; playing them again simply makes one aware of their limitations in relation to subsequent work. However, listening again to songs like ‘Kilkelly’ and ‘Starry Night’ between those coruscating jigs and reels takes me back a decade to a gig at which there was electricity in the air for the audience and fire in the belly of the performers. Tempered is excellent and you should acquire it; but Last Night’s Fun is pure magic.

Dave Tuxford

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This album was reviewed in Issue 63 of The Living Tradition magazine.