Saturday, June 17, 2017

RIP, Vin.


Vin Garbutt obituary.


Folk singer and songwriter known as the Teesside troubadour




With his repertoire of self-composed and traditional folk songs sung with passion and commitment, hilarious introductions and stories, a distinctive voice and a mop of hair that either hung in ringlets or resembled an untidy haystack, Vin Garbutt, who has died of heart disease aged 69, was one of the most popular singers on the British folk music circuit. Dubbed the Teesside troubadour, Vin found inspiration for his songs from his Irish mother’s family, as well as from the industrial landscape of his home town and stories of its townspeople. In addition to his skilful guitar playing, Vin was a highly accomplished player of the whistle, with a wide repertoire of Irish tunes.
He was born in South Bank, Middlesbrough, to Theresa (nee Kelly) and an English father, Alfred, who worked in the local steelworks. On leaving St Peter’s Catholic school, he worked at the ICI Wilton chemical plant on a six-year apprenticeship but, on its completion, left to spend the summer busking in bars in Spain. He had acquired his first guitar while at school, visiting the local folk club and learning the protest songs of Bob Dylan and the rousing Irish songs of the Clancy Brothers. He was also inspired by industrial songs from nearby Tyneside – local songs sung in a local accent, and later said that folk music gave him his sense of identity.
When he returned from Spain, Vin joined a folk group, the Teesside Fettlers, but was also determined to pursue a solo career. Touring clubs in north-east England, he was soon offered bookings, and developed his repertoire of mainly Irish songs.
Ron Angel’s The Chemical Worker’s Song
Frustrated by the lack of traditional folk songs from industrial Teesside and its rural hinterland, he started writing his own material about the area. Inspiration came from local songwriter Graeme Miles, as well as from Ron Angel, whose The Chemical Worker’s Song regularly featured in Vin’s performances.
Despite the region’s heavy and dirty industry, Vin looked to a better future, most notably in one of his best known songs, The Valley of Tees, which anticipated the industrial landscape becoming green again to match the surrounding Cleveland Hills. The song was the title track of his first solo album in 1972. Slaggy Island Farewell was a bittersweet lament for the decaying steelworks and changing social life in Slaggy Island, a local name for South Bank.


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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GA03UN0ssu4 Listen to the one off artist.

Vin’s Irish heritage was reflected in several songs that took the Northern Ireland troubles as their theme. With a Catholic mother and Protestant father, he was never partisan, typically treating the victims of all sides as individuals, and always pressing for peace. In Welcome Home Howard Green, he sang about the local men he grew up with who served in the Green Howards, one of the first regiments to serve in Northern Ireland, while in The Troubles of Erin he looked forward to a deserved peace.
Vin was never afraid to tackle controversial topics in his songs. The title track of his 1983 album, Little Innocents, dealt with the subject of abortion. His Catholic upbringing and strong faith indicated his viewpoint, but his stance cost him bookings and media coverage, although some opponents argued for his right to freedom of expression. The song Lynda told of a Teesside woman’s fight for medical treatment for her son, born with spina bifida, even though friends had suggested a termination. Other songs tackling subjects such as unemployment (The Loftus Emigrant), and the plight of asylum seekers (Teacher from Persia), were often based on the lives of local people.
Nevertheless, Vin’s songwriting was never parochial, tackling issues in East Timor and Nicaragua, among others. There was also humour and humanity in his songs, as well as in the patter in his introductions. Vin was a hilarious raconteur whose stories often involved a humorous play on words, taking him into flights of fantasy that delighted audiences.
After The Valley of Tees, Vin released a steady stream of albums, latterly on his own label, Home Roots, the most recent being Synthetic Hues in 2014. Two of his albums, When the Tide Turns (1989, re-released 1998) and The By-Pass Syndrome (1991) were produced by Alan Whetton of Dexy’s Midnight Runners, a dedicated fan. 
Several albums captured Vin in live performance, although accommodating his long introductions was always a challenge. In 2011, local film-maker Craig Hornby made an affectionate documentary, Teesside Troubadour, which played to packed houses in Middlesbrough’s Cineworld.


PinteresVin was one of the hardest working performers on the British folk scene, playing at clubs, concerts and festivals throughout the country. He also had a loyal following in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the far east, often making round-the-world tours. In 2001, Vin was judged best live act at the BBC Radio 2 folk awards, the same year he received an honorary degree from Teesside University.In 1977 he married Pat Austen. She survives him along with their four children, Emma, Tim, Katie and Louis.

 Vincent Paul Garbutt, folk singer, born 20 November 1947; died 6 June 2017. Guardian.