REVIEW: Paul Rhodes’s verdict on John Smith and Native Harrow, Pocklington Arts Centre, April 5

John Smith: “Great balm for a spring Tuesday”. Picture: Paul Rhodes

JOHN Smith has a slippers-and-onesie type of voice; soft, comforting and a little frayed around the edges. Performing solo, this long-postponed gig was a great balm for a spring Tuesday.

As other have noticed before, Smith’s voice does sound like John Martyn (in his mid- Seventies prime before his lifestyle destroyed it). You could imagine Martyn covering Town To Town, a memorable travelling hangover of a song.

Smith, as his name denotes, is a songwriter with the common touch. As is often the case for songwriters who emerge from the folk scene and then seek to take the middle ground, Smith’s earlier material was the most striking.

Hummingbird was wonderful, as was the encore Winter, played with his guitar on his lap. Many of the newer songs were less memorable. Not all, as Star Crossed Lovers proved, thanks to its more unusual arrangement (and even better on record with Lisa Hannigan guesting). Smith is looking to regain the momentum he was developing pre-pandemic, but his style relies on not trying too hard, and tonight he pulled this off with aplomb.

For performers unaccustomed to this East Yorkshire town, the intensity of the audience’s silence while listening can come as a shock. Smith seemed worried that he’d lost the room by joking about other counties.

He needn’t have fretted, as the near sell-out crowd were quietly but determinedly on his side. With his humorous, wry between-song banter, and hilarious way of dealing with false starts, he took the show firmly in hand and steered it to a successful finale.

Native Harrow: “Would have been worthy headliners in their own right”. Picture: Paul Rhodes

Before all that, Native Harrow played a very welcome opening set. After the musical imagination on display on their 2020 album Closeness, their pared-back set seemed a little spartan. Some of the more standout moments from the record were absent, Smoke Burns and Shake most obviously, so the set didn’t exactly grab you by your lapels.

The husband-and-wife duo of Devin Tuel and Stephen Hams have a more subtle approach, and would have been worthy headliners in their own right.

Tuel has a beautiful voice that she uses to supreme effect. In dress, and perhaps in musical style, Carole King or Judee Sill would be influences, but as she said at the interval, the heart music of Tim Buckley was at play too.

Turn Turn could have sat, broodingly, on Buckley’s Blue Afternoon album. Hams’ fluid bass and elegant guitar work embellished skilfully, all in the service of the song. Their songcraft has grown better and better over their four albums to date and their career also seems on the upswing. Hopefully both acts will return soon.

Review by Paul Rhodes  

More Things To Do in York and beyond as the grand old dame is ready to frock’n’roll. List No 59, courtesy of The Pess, York

The boys and gal are back in town: AJ Powell, left, Suzy Cooper, Berwick Kaler, David Leonard and Martin Barrass return to the pantomime stage in Dick Turpin Rides Again at their new home of the Grand Opera House, York. Picture by David Harrison

DAME Berwick rides again, Adrian Mole surfaces, carol concerts abound and contrasting comedy cracks on, all demanding a place in Charles Hutchinson’s diary

Comeback of the week: Berwick Kaler and co in Dick Turpin Rides Again, Grand Opera House, York, December 11 to January 9

DAME Berwick Kaler last took to the pantomime stage in his 40th anniversary show, The Grand Old Dame Of York, on February 2 2019, having announced his retirement. Subsequently, he decided it was the “worst decision he had ever made”, a feeling only compounded by writing and co-directing Sleeping Beauty.

In the tradition of Clive Sullivan and Denis Law, he then switched to the other side in the same city, leaving York Theatre Royal to sign up with the Grand Opera House, along with panto teammates Martin Barrass, David Leonard, Suzy Cooper and AJ Powell.

Delayed by a year, Dame Berwick now resumes panto business at 75, writing, directing and starring in Dick Turpin Rides Again. Box office: 0844 871 7615 or at

Hannah King’s Dick Whittington is ready to stride out from York to London in Rowntree Players’ pantomime, Dick Whittington, from today

Community pantomime of the week: Rowntree Players in Dick Whittington, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, today until December 11

ROWNTREE Players should have presented Dick Whittington last year, but director Howard Ella and co-writer Andy Welch have now dusted off their script written by satellite in lockdown, freshening it up for 2021.

Martyn Hunter returns to the Players’ panto ranks as King Rat, as does Bernie Calpin as Kit The Cat, joining Hannah King’s Dick Whittington, Graham Smith’s Dame Dora, Gemma McDonald’s Duncan, Marie-Louise Surgenor’s Ratatouille, Geoff Walker’s Alderman Fitzwarren and Ellie Watson’s Alice Fitzwarren. Box office: 01904 501935 or at

Native Harrow’s Stephen Harms and Devin Tuel will be airing songs from their fourth album, Closeness, at the Fulford Arms

American gig of the week in York: Native Harrow, Fulford Arms, York, Tuesday, 8pm 

PENNSYLVANIAN folk/rock duo Native Harrow are on the final leg of their tour travels showcasing their beautiful fourth album, Closeness.

Now re-located to Brighton, guitarist-singer Devin Tuel and multi-instrumentalist Stephen Harms have a new single too, Do It Again, one of six songs recorded when they elected to return to the studio where they had made Closeness to continue living in that world, if only for a few more days. Box office:

The secret is out: Jack Hambleton will be one of two Adrian Moles in Pick Me Up Theatre’s musical premiere. Picture: Matthew Kitchen Photography

Musical premiere of the week in York: Pick Me Up Theatre in The Secret Diary Of Adrian Mole Aged 13¾, The Musical, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, Wednesday to December 18

PICK Me Up Theatre are returning to the Theatre@41 Monkgate stage for the first time since Covid’s first lockdown curtailed Tom’s Midnight Garden in March 2020.

In a change from the initially announced SpongeBob The Musical, director Robert Readman has jumped at the chance to present the British amateur premiere of Jake Brunger and Pippa Cleary’s musical version of Sue Townsend’s 1982 story of teenage diarist Adrian Mole. Ignore the official poster, there will be a 2pm Sunday matinee. Box office:  

Ryan’s laughter: Canada’s dry-humoured comic, Katherine Ryan, discusses life as a Missus at York Barbican

Comedy gig of the week: Katherine Ryan, Missus, York Barbican, Thursday, 8pm

CANADIAN comedian, writer, presenter and actress Katherine Ryan, 38, previously denounced partnerships but has since married her first love, accidentally.

A lot has changed for everyone, and now the London-based creator and star of Netflix series The Duchess and host of All That Glitters will be offering new perspectives on life, love and what it means to be Missus. Box office:

Ewa Salecka: Directing Prima Vocal Ensemble at Selby Abbey

Reunion of the week: Prima Vocal Ensemble and York Railway Institute Brass Band, Christmas Classics for Voices and Brass, Selby Abbey, December 11, 7.30pm

YORK choir Prima Vocal Ensemble and York Railway Institute Brass Band are uniting for a Christmas concert at Selby Abbey for the first time since 2018.

The choir will sing classical pieces by Morten Lauridsen, Gabriel Faure and John Rutter, while the band’s festive music will include Shepherd’s Song and Eric Bell’s Kingdom Triumphant.

Choir and band will join together for a finale of Gordon Langford’s joyous Christmas Fantasy. Tickets: on 07921 568826, from Selby Abbey or at

York singer Steve Cassidy: Performing at the York Community Carol Concert at York Barbican

Welcome back: York Community Carol Concert, York Barbican, December 12, 2pm

YORK’S Community Carol Concert returns after last year’s Covid-enforced cancellation, with all the participants who missed out in 2020 taking up the invitation to take part in 2021.

In the Sunday afternoon line-up will be the Shepherd Group Concert Brass Band, Dringhouses Primary School Choir, Clifton Green Primary School Choir, Stamford Bridge Community Choir and York singer Steve Cassidy, hosted by the Reverend Andrew Foster and BBC Radio York presenter Adam Tomlinson. Plenty of tickets are still available but online only at

Holly head: Kate Rusby, who coined that term for a Christmas tradition enthusiast, will be in festive mood in both Harrogate and York. Picture: David Lindsay

Carol concert with a difference: Kate Rusby At Christmas, Harrogate Royal Hall, December 12, and York Barbican, December 20, 7.30pm

BARNSLEY folk singer Kate Rusby, her regular band and “the brass boys” have created a Christmas tradition of their own, celebrating South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire pub carols, punctuated by her own winter songs.

For more than 200 years, from late-November to New Year’s Day, these carols have been sung on Sunday lunchtimes in pubs, having been frowned on in Victorian times for being too happy. Not for the first time, the Victorians were wrong. Box office: Harrogate, 01423 502116 or at; York,

Nothing to smile about? Jimmy Carr takes a Terribly Funny turn for a third time in York

Looking ahead to a “terrible” 2022: Jimmy Carr, Terribly Funny, York Barbican, April 15, doors, 7pm

CYNICAL comedian Jimmy Carr will complete a hattrick of York performances of his Terribly Funny tour show next spring.

After playing sold-out gigs at York Barbican on November 4 and the Grand Opera House five nights later, he will return to the Barbican on April 15 with the promise of “all-new material for 2022”.

Carr will be discussing terrible things that might have affected you or people you know and love. “But they’re just jokes,” he says. “Political correctness at a comedy show is like having health and safety at a rodeo.” Box office:

Native Harrow close in on Fulford Arms concert with new single Do It Again out now

Native Harrow’s Stephen Harms and Devin Tuel

PENNSYLVANIAN folk/rock duo Native Harrow are on the final leg of their tour travels showcasing their beautiful fourth album, Closeness. Close at hand is their York gig, booked for the Fulford Arms on December 7.

Now re-located to Brighton, guitarist-singer Devin Tuel and multi-instrumentalist Stephen Harms have just completed a string of European dates supporting American country singer Courtney Marie Andrews.

Native Harrow’s autumn concerts are accompanied by a new single, Do It Again, a song conceived during the sessions for Closeness, the album they released in September 2020 on Loose Music

Without the possibility of touring to support their most expansive record to date, Tuel and Harms elected to return to the studio where they had made Closeness to continue living in that world, if only for a few more days.

They recorded six new songs, again in tandem with drummer/engineer Alex Hall, and Do It Again emerges as the second and final single to be issued from the sessions. Tuel and Harms next will turn their focus towards a new sound, a new direction and the next era of Native Harrow.

Native Harrow’s artwork for September 2020’s album, Closeness, on the Loose label

“As much as someone could say this one speaks for itself, I don’t think it’s that simple,” says Tuel. “Yes, it could be only about the pandemic, but quite honestly this is how I felt before all of this unfolded.

“I am typically drawn to hiding away and being lost in my own dreamland; living for moments with nature and quiet. I read the news and see the lack of understanding going around, which has been accelerated by the utter state of chaos wreaking havoc on the world.

“The brains turn off and we seem to just putter along, ‘en routine’. We tell the same stories, each time embellishing upon them a little more. You still love the storyteller, but we have to have a sense of reality.”

Doors open at 7.30pm for Native Harrow’s 8pm gig (originally booked for March 1 until Lockdown 3 intervened). Box office: