Troubadours of our time from the home of Bourne Eau
Five albums in the space of six years is some going for four-piece folk-rock-blues band Pennyless.
But if founding pair Penny Stevens and Les Woods are to be believed, there is plenty more where In Spring and In Blue (2010), The Turning of My Days (2011), Tales from Tulgey Wood (2012), Hanging Moon (2014) and new album In The Park (reviewed on this page) came from.
The band name Pennyless came about after a compere in Stamford pronounced the names Penny and Les in “slurred speech”, a collision of names that the audience took to.
Les said: “When we first started, we played as a duo and didn’t have a name, so we were introduced as Penny and Les.
“But once when we were performing at Stamford Arts Centre, the compere slurred his speech as he was introducing us, so it came out as Pennyless and people came up to us to say they liked the name.”
Graham Dale joined the band soon after working on In Spring and In Blue and Les recalled: “He came from a background of playing world music and having recorded with Vicky Clayton of Fairport Convention.
One of the most common remarks we get at our concerts is ‘I don’t like folk music, but I really like what you’re doing’
“We were in the process of making our first album and Graham added some bits which improved it.”
It was another four years before Colin made the trio and foursome after playing on the band’s fourth album, Hanging Moon.
Penny said: “One of the reasons why Pennyless has such a varied reportoire is because we have four people with differing flavours in music.
“There’s quite a peaceful atmosphere between the four of us, but as there are different tastes in music as well between us, it can lead to some productive friction.
“On the other hand, if you get a guitarist, mandolin player, flautist and fiddle player together, you can be very successful”
Pennyless will be in action at the Smiths Beer Fest in North Street, Bourne, on August Bank Holiday Sunday from 3pm until 5pm.
Then they move onto the Charters Beer Fest, Town Bridge, Peterborough, on August Bank Holiday Monday and the Jolly Brewer Beer Fest, Foundry Road, Stamford, on Thursday, September 1.
Les said: “When we started out, we were thinking ‘are people going to head for this kind of music’?
“But I think the audience has found us and it’s come from where we least expected it - people who’ve never head this type of music before.”
Penny added: “One of the most common remarks we get at our concerts is ‘I don’t like folk music, but I really like what you’re doing’.
“Our songwriting is a bit on the enjoy and we enjoy pushing the boundaries in terms of melodies and interpretation of songs.
“I don’t see Pennyless as a folk band because our songwriting style and delivery aren’t like most other folk bands.
“But folk has become cool and the younger generation is moving into the folk world because it’s very rich in melodies and stories.”
Les revealed that the latest album, In The Park, took a year to complete and they are currently playing songs from it to live audiences, including Castle Bytham, Wansford, Langtoft and Leadenham.
“I like going to concerts with no expectations and it’s always a pleasant surprise when you’ve got a good audience who you can bring your ideas out to in the songs, regardless of whether other people like them,” Les said.
“Everywhere you look there’s a song, for instance unusual characters who are on the edge, English mythology and folklore.”
“We put our love of life into our songs and so we’re living out our fantasies to the point where it doesn’t matter whether anyone else believes in it or not.”