Eric Bogle – Devonport Folk Music Club: Oct 31, 2022

Eric Bogle, legendary Scottish Ocker folk musician and poet laid out his special charms in songs to a full house at Devonport’s iconic Bunker venue.

Bogle was raised in Peebles, Scotland and emigrated to Australia in 1969. There is no trace of an Aussie accent. With him, two regular associates. Pete Titchener (Colcannon) on guitar, who also emigrated from the UK to Stryia, and doubles as a comedian. Emma Luker (Fiddle Chicks) plays fiddle, but she’s also a virtuoso violinist from Adelaide.

The Bunker resembles the original jails that British criminals and political dissidents were sent to in Australia in the eighteenth century. It’s a museum piece though, with history on its walls. It is hot and humid inside. There is a special acoustic warmth in here, though.

There were TWO types of original British colonisers. Convicts and Jailers. Bogle carries the torch for the Dissidents.


The best folk musicians are storytellers, or more accurately songsters. All the news that’s fit so sing. Strong elements of social protest and activism. An ancient human tradition of social media. It can be subject to repression because of its ability to come in under the radar and communicate directly under the guise of entertainment.

They start with The Old Dog’s Song. A reminiscence of good times and bad times which frolics and swings easily. The fiddle immediately has a special uplifting tone which is carried through the entire show. I’d call it total empathy Bogle has said in past interviews.

One of seven songs performed off his latest album The Source of Light, released in February this year and available nowhere, Bogle informs us. It’s on Spotify, whilst you track down a CD copy somewhere.

The title song is addressing Yemen, and the prolonged conflict there with an emphasis on the tragedy for children. Eastern melodies on the guitars lead off. Echoes the unsettling tenderness of the Smiths’ Suffer the Children.

Embers could be a fading Boomers eulogy. Fading evening light/ Melancholy mood/ Short years hurry past. The fiddle weeps and Bogle’s subtle phrasing is to the fore. You could think of Johnny Cash with Rick Rubin in his American music series. Not so many cigarettes but certainly whiskey.

If She Ever Dreamed is about mother Nancy. There are men, there are women and the third sex, mothers, he explains. True, even if it is out of step with current liberal hysteria. Maybe he is closer to AP Carter in voice these days. There is a frailty to his singing with a slight choke.

Like the Original Carter Family, the songs are as naked as newborns. They work on subtle variations of tone to amplify emotions and impressions.

Tired is the story of social protest. He talks about music being a flag to march behind. A nice upbeat folkie workout, even as he sings, I’m tired of singing “We Shall Overcome”.

The Flag is an anti-Fascist song with no punches pulled. Fiercely on the side of social conscience and morality. Left and Right are obsolete descriptions. Maybe Libertarian is accurate.

He’s a folk minstrel, so there is plenty of humour and levity this evening. Along with a few good jokes.

The Dalai Lama’s Candle is a rolling and tumbling reel. He uses words like groovy, cool, and karma.

When I’m Dead. Stand-up comedy vaudevillian folk. Complete with clown horns. A Cottage in the Country is to be happy growing marijuana.

The Armageddon Waltz from the current album goes straight into the heart of the climate change debate. He addresses it with a light touch and somehow, I can’t help sensing the irony in, enough to sink ten thousand Titanics/ We’re all gonna die!

He has a vast songbook and many covers by celebrated artists.

No Man’s Land is also called The Green Fields of France as done by the Fureys. Tony Blair called it his favourite anti-war poem.

And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda. Close to being the Pogues signature song. He had Vietnam in mind when this was written in the early Seventies. People had gotten tired of it topically by then. The same sentiment was transferred to World War One, the Anzac’s and Gallipoli. He has a quieter and wistful approach, a version in excelsis. It has the stoical acceptance of suffering and transcendence that Robert Johnson’s original version of Love in Vain has. The old men still answer the call.

Closing song for the evening, The Gift of Years. Old friend, I told you I’d be back. Beautiful guitar codas remind me of country jazz Jerry Garcia workouts.

Eric Bogle and the band deliver classic and timeless folk. War, sadness, our pathway in life with lots of laughs along the way. If he writes a song about the Terminator, then he will be back!

Rev Orange Peel

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