Alun Parry/Stuart Todd/Vinny T Spen

The Casa, Hope Street
28th August 2009

Reviewed by Matt Ford

Liverpool's Alun Parry launched his brand new album 'We Can Make The World Stop' - a collection of folk songs carrying a serious social message - at Hope Street's The Casa, with a little help from his friends. Not just another date on Parry's busy gigging schedule, this was something of a communal celebration of his songs and their power to bring working people together. Friends and associates packed into The Casa's intimate performance area, both to watch and to perform.

First on stage was Vinny T Spen, whose set consisted of a series of earnest, placid songs. Appearing on stage alone with his guitar, Spen fingerpicked his way through each number, while singing gentle, lilting melodies. The majority of his songs are relatively sedate and, at times, rather engaging. Elsewhere, the defiant 'Not While There's Breath In Me' displayed a swaggering social commentary, and came as a refreshing contrast to Spen's more laid-back, but no less enjoyable songs.

Stuart Todd gave a slightly more lively performance and, despite the fact that - as with Spen - he was the only musician on stage, many of his songs seemed to demand a larger scale presentation. Todd displayed a certain confidence and vitality in his performance, which lent the songs a sense of breadth perhaps more ideally suited to the rich dynamic of a full band. Nevertheless, his songs are well-crafted enough to shine through in a bare bones form, and the reflective, wistful '173' was a particular highlight, as Todd lightly plucked his guitar and meditated on the passage of time.

By the time Alun Parry began his celebratory set, The Casa was completely full. Backed by three other musicians, Parry's set was boosted by the additional range of sounds which boomed from the speakers. This was only fitting, as his songs are generally at their most powerful when presented in this way, and before an appreciative audience. Opening with 'All Hail To The Market' - the song which closes his new album, and was one of the few performed without a full band - Parry was relaxed and jovial with his abundant audience, feeding into the communal atmosphere. He maintained an affable presence throughout, while giving a self-assured performance which was thrilling to those in attendance. Mixing original material with a variety of cover versions, he provided ample opportunity for audience participation, which was most fruitful at the night's climax, with a triumphant rendition of 'Hey Jude'. Audience members stood on chairs and tables, danced, clapped their hands, stamped their feet and sang along.

The night ended with all concerned in visibly high spirits, such is the nature of Alun Parry's songs. They are songs for people; they draw people in, and they bring people together. This is perhaps Parry's greatest achievement, as he is able to unite his audience while singing about conflicts of interests, ideals and values.

For more information on these artists, visit the following websites:

Alun Parry's own Liverpool Working Class Music Festival runs from September 13th - 16th, and takes place at The Picket on Jordan Street. 'We Can Make The World Stop' is out now on Irregular Records, and can be purchased from Parry's website.

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